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Title: The Blue Birds' Winter Nest
Author: Roy, Lillian Elizabeth, 1868-1932
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Blue Birds' Winter Nest" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



[Illustration: The Blue Birds and Bobolinks were deep in the work of
constructing a magazine. (Page 259) ("The Blue Birds' Winter Nest.")]

------------------------------------------------------------------------

THE BLUE BIRDS' WINTER NEST

By
LILLIAN ELIZABETH ROY

Author Of
"The Blue Birds of Happy Times Nest," "The Blue Birds' Uncle Ben,"
"The Blue Birds at Happy Hills," "The Five Little Starrs Series,"
"The Girl Scouts' Country Life Series," etc.

A. L. BURT COMPANY
Publishers--New York

Printed in U. S. A.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Copyright, 1916, by
THE PLATT & PECK COMPANY

Printed in U. S. A.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                 CONTENTS

   CHAPTER                                                          PAGE

         I. How Aunt Selina Flew                                       7
        II. A Sunday Walk and Its Results                             26
       III. The Blue Birds' Inspiration                               45
        IV. The Bobolink Boys Founded                                 62
         V. Uncle Ben's Business Talk                                 81
        VI. Beginning the Winter Work                                 96
       VII. Blue Bird Wisdom and Bobolink Work                       114
      VIII. Aunt Selina's Civil War Story                            135
        IX. How the Yankees Took Possession                          160
         X. Beginning To Spell Success                               179
        XI. The Winter Nest Council                                  199
       XII. The Story of an Alaskan Trip                             219
      XIII. A Winter in the Frozen North                             238
       XIV. The B. B. & B. B. Magazine                               259
        XV. How the Magazine Went Out                                285

------------------------------------------------------------------------



THE BLUE BIRDS' WINTER NEST

CHAPTER I

HOW AUNT SELINA FLEW


"Sally! I say, Sally! Come here!" cried a peevish voice, belonging to a
querulous old lady who was huddled up on a couch in the bright morning
room of her fine old mansion.

"I'se here, Miss S'lina--comin' straight an' fas' as mah laigs kin
brings me!" replied a cheerful colored woman, bustling around, and
moving some toast so it would not scorch.

"Are you quite sure you told Abe to meet the eleven-thirty train at
Greenfields station? Just fancy how dreadful it would be to have Miss
Ruth get off the train and not find anyone there to meet her!"
complained Miss Selina, her face twitching with pain as she raised her
hands to emphasize her remark.

"Laws'ee, Miss S'lina! Don' you be 'fraid dat I han't tended to
eberyt'ing for little Miss Rufie's welcome! Leave it to ole Sally, what
likes dat chile like her own kin!"

"Well, then, Sally, hurry with my toast and tea--and for goodness' sake,
don't you bring scorched toast again! There, I can smell it burning this
very minute! How many times must I tell you that I will not trust those
electric toasters? The old-fashioned coal fire is good enough for
me--and it would be for you, too, if it were not for your ridiculous
ideas of being progressive and having all these electric fol-de-rols put
up in the house. My house, too! Think of it! A servant to order these
contraptions and use them in my very own home and make me pay for them,
when I prefer the ways of my forefathers." Then utterly wearied with her
long complaint, Miss Selina collapsed, and closed her eyes.

Sally, the old family servant who had lived all her days with the
Talmage family at Happy Hills, had been a playmate of Miss Selina's; in
fact, she had grown up with all the children of the "big house." She
smiled indulgently at her mistress' words, as she bent over a fresh
piece of toast.

"Pore chile--Sally knows a heap of time is saved 'twixt 'lectricity an'
coal, an' she's goin' to cleave to the bestes' way ever foun' yit--an'
she knows what dem old rheumaticks is a-doin' to your temper,"
soliloquized the astute servant.

The toast was nicely browned, and the tea brewed perfectly, and Sally
placed them on a dainty tray which she carried over to the couch.

"Want I should leave you alone, or he'p you break the bread?" asked
Sally, soothingly.

Miss Selina opened her eyes and answered, "If I were sure you had Miss
Ruth's room all ready, and everything else as it should be, I would let
you pour that tea for me; but I suppose you have neglected half your
work to be in here with me."

Sally's broad grin wrinkled the corners of her mouth, as she took the
teapot and poured the fragrant beverage into a Japanese cup. At the same
time her mind seemed to dwell upon a pleasant subject.

"Does you 'member, Miss S'lina, de las' time little Rufie visited us?
Dat's de time she was all full of a plan for havin' some kin' of a
bird's nest at home. I wonder ef she ever did fix it up?"

Miss Selina forgot to find fault for a few moments, as Sally's words
caused her to remember the plan her grand-niece had talked over.

"Seems to me, her mother wrote something in a letter about a Blue Bird
Nest they were going to start. But I haven't the slightest idea what it
is. I should think they would build nests for robins and birds who are
plentiful in our country places. Blue Birds are not very numerous in our
woods."

"T'wan't for real birds--don' you recomember? It was jus' de name dey
was goin' to use fer a li'l 'sociation like!" corrected Sally, as she
held the plate of toast within reach of the invalid's hand.

"No, I don't remember! How should I?--with all this pain forever tying
me into knots!" mumbled Miss Selina, as a toothsome morsel of toast
entered her mouth.

Suddenly, the crunching of wheels on the gravel drive was heard, and
Sally craned her neck to look from the window.

"There goes Abe now," she said.

The same day the Blue Birds of Happy Times Nest, at Oakdale, had become
"Fliers," little Ruth Talmage, the favorite of the Nest, had received an
invitation to spend a week at her Aunt Selina's house, and Abe was now
on his way to the station to meet her.

Aunt Selina was an unpleasant old lady, and few of her relatives cared
to visit her; so, when she had her attacks of rheumatism she generally
had to spend her time on the couch with no one to amuse her. She had
invited Ruth the previous Spring, and had enjoyed the little girl's
visit so much, that she had sent for her now when helpless with another
attack.

Of course, when the telegram came to Ruth's home, asking the little girl
to visit Aunt Selina, the Blue Birds felt sorry for her, knowing what a
miserable time Ruth would have. Then, too, Ruth's father was expected
home that Saturday, and Ruth had not seen him for almost a year.

Ruth, however, was willing to sacrifice her own pleasure to help Aunt
Selina--as every Blue Bird tries to follow the Golden Rule--so she left
her playmates Saturday morning, with promises to write every day until
she returned, and they, in turn, earnestly promised to explain to her
father just why she went away the day he was expected home.

Now, Happy Hills, Aunt Selina's home, was several miles from Greenfields
Station, and the country about this section of Pennsylvania was so
beautiful and healthful that city people gradually settled upon estates
and spent their summers there. Beautiful carriages and automobiles daily
passed over the fine old road that divided Happy Hills in half. But no
one had much of an opportunity to admire the place as high board fences
had been built on either side of the road as far as the property fronted
it.

Happy Hills was an old family estate comprising more than two thousand
acres, half woodland and half cultivated fields and green pastures. A
spring of clear water, hidden among the rocks of the highest hill at the
back of the farm, furnished plenty of water for the noisy brook that
tumbled from rock to rock on the hillside, and, after splashing in and
out among the trees, ran like a broad ribbon through the green meadows.

The entire property was enclosed with a high fence, even the woodland
being carefully hemmed in so no little children could get in to play in
the brook, or pick wild berries and flowers that decayed in profusion
year after year.

Sally was a trusted old housekeeper who had her mistress' confidence;
Abe was her husband who had driven the Talmage coupé ever since he came
North at the time of the Civil War.

Miss Selina had not always been so disagreeable. She had old-fashioned
pictures of herself at the age of eighteen when hoop-skirts were the
fashion, and the young women wore their hair in "water-falls." At that
time a handsome young man was in love with her, but he was shot in the
war, and she brooded over her loss so long that she lost all the
sweetness of living. The older she grew the more disagreeable she
became, until, not one of her relatives wanted to be with her, but
managed to keep far from her complaining voice.

And for this old lady, Ruth had waived the anticipated home coming of
her dear father!

Breakfast over, Sally propped Miss Selina up on the cushions and left
her for a time.

After wondering how long it would take Abe to drive back from the
eleven-thirty train, Miss Selina started to think of something she had
been pondering the last few days. What should she do with her vast
estate if she died? She had never made a will, for she abhorred the idea
of dying and having any strangers in her home. But she couldn't take it
with her, and she was nearing seventy years of age with all the signs of
old age breaking over her defenceless head.

She tried to think of someone to whom she really wanted to leave her
home, but there was no one. She generally sighed at this point and
dropped the unpleasant thought. To-day, however, she wondered if her
nephew and his wife could be plotting to get her property by having Ruth
visit whenever she was invited. This idea seemed to take hold of her,
and she frowned as she made up her mind to ask Ruth questions about her
mother's intentions and opinions regarding Aunt Selina and Happy Hills.

Miss Selina had been so engrossed in her thoughts that the sound of
carriage wheels on the drive failed to reach her. Therefore, it was with
a start of surprise that she heard the door flung open and a happy
child's voice cry:

"Aunt Selina! I'm here! Are you glad to have me?" while a pair of soft
little arms were gently placed about her withered old neck and fresh
little lips pressed her cheek.

The caress was such an unusual experience that Miss Selina forgot to
wince or complain, and before she did remember, Ruth was bubbling over
with news.

"What do you think is to happen to-day?--Oh! Aunt Selina, we all have
new names at home; even mother is now called Mother Wings and I am
Fluff. The other Blue Birds have names they chose for themselves, and
Ned is an Owl, and prints our weekly paper called the _Chirp_. Now,
instead of Aunt Selina, I want to call you a bird-name, too. May I?"

Aunt Selina smiled sympathetically at Ruth's words, but, recalled to her
condition by a twinge of pain, she moaned, "Child, poor old Aunt Selina
would make a wretched specimen of a bird nowadays. The only kind I feel
that I could represent truly is a raven--for it always croaks."

Ruth laughed consolingly, but cried, "Oh, Aunt Selina, that is just
because you feel blue with those old rheumatics. Mother says we always
look at life through dark spectacles when we're in pain, and we b'lieve
the lovely world has lost all its brightness. Now, I've come to make you
forget your blues and I _must_ have a new name to say, because there is
so _much_ to tell you that I would lose time if I had to say 'Aunt
Selina' every time. Besides, a new name will make you forget yourself."

"What could you call me?" questioned her aunt, trying to fall in with
the child's whim.

"We'll have to think! It isn't as easy as it may sound to find a name to
suit. We had a dreadful hard time to do it."

"'Fluff' suits you beautifully. Who found it?" said the old lady
interestedly.

"I chose two, but we can only have one. One was 'Flutey' the other
'Fluff'; Ned and the Blue Birds liked 'Fluff' best, and they have called
me by that name ever since we were christened in the Nest."

"When I was a little girl like you I used to enjoy whistling about the
place so much that father called me his little flute. I can still see
the shocked expression of my aunt who visited us, when she heard me
running about whistling like a boy. She was a grand dame of society in
New York, and _her_ girls were doing embroidery and being taught how to
curtsey and behave in the drawing-room." And Miss Selina smiled at Ruth
who fully understood the remark and clapped her hands delightedly at her
aunt who had been a hoyden so long ago.

"I just love to whistle, too. Ned says I can pipe higher and carry a
tune better than anyone he knows!" declared Ruth, and aunt and
grand-niece felt a common bond of unity.

Ruth was about to demonstrate her accomplishment to Aunt Selina, when
her face puckered into a funny expression and her shoulders hunched up
about her ears as they usually did when some secret thought gave her a
surprise. She leaned over the couch and confidentially whispered, "Aunt
Selina, I'll tell you what! We both love to whistle, don't we? Then, you
shall be christened with my other name! You shall be 'Flutey,' eh?"

"Oh, dear child, it would be sarcasm to name me that now! Why, the only
claim I have to that name would be because of my fluted skin. Just look
at my neck and face!" said Aunt Selina.

"No such thing!" retorted Ruth. "I never saw any flutes on your face
until this very minute when you made me see some little wrinkles. Your
skin is soft and white, so don't you ever tell folks what you said to
me, 'cause they won't see anything but a nice face."

Of course, Aunt Selina felt elated to hear such comforting words, but
Ruth gave her no time to meditate.

"Do you like the name I, as your god-mother, give you?" laughed the
merry little girl.

"Yes, indeed, it is fine, but we must keep it a secret. Just fancy Sally
or Abe, or any of the servants, calling me 'Miss Flutey!'" And Aunt
Selina laughed aloud just as the door opened and Sally popped her head
through the aperture. Seeing the happy faces and hearing the unusual
laughter, she immediately closed the door, without having been seen or
heard. Out in the wide hall she lifted both arms high toward the ceiling
and rolled her eyes devoutly upward as she murmured, "Praise be to the
Lud, dat dat little tree is come wif healin' in its leaves." After this
strange remark, Sally hurried out to tell Abe of the miracle.

Aunt Selina, in spite of her age, felt a childish delight in having a
secret with Ruth, and after a few moments said, "I shall have to call
you Fluff, and you must call me Flutey, I suppose, if we are to belong
to the same Nest."

"Yes, that's the way," replied Ruth, clapping her hands softly. "Now,
let me tell you all the wonderful things we did this summer."

Then began a recital of how the Blue Birds of Happy Times Nest started;
about each member and her name; the nest in the old cherry-tree; how
they had earned money to bring some poor children from the city to spend
the hot weeks in the country; and, best of all, how they had interested
all of the citizens of Oakdale in helping a hundred poor city children
to spend a few weeks in the beautiful village of Oakdale.

At this moment a loud knock at the door caused Aunt Selina to sit up and
call out, "Come in!"

"Shall you hab lunch in de dinin' room, or serbed here?" said Sally.

"Lunch! Why, is it time--is it one o'clock?" gasped Miss Selina.

"Ya'as'm--pas dat hour, too," replied Sally, smiling broadly at Ruth,
who returned the good-natured feeling.

"Well, well; I feel much better, Sally," admitted Aunt Selina. "Nothing
like having young folks around when one feels blue, eh? I guess you'd
better bring the lunch tray here, and Miss Ruth and I will picnic this
noon."

In a few moments the waitress brought in a huge tray while Sally
followed with a folding table which she placed by the side of the couch.

A joysome hour passed in "picnicking" the lunch, then Sally rang for the
maid to remove the dishes. After she had gone, Sally turned to her
mistress and, with the familiarity of an old servant, said, "Miss Rufie
shore is de bestes tonic you ebber took. You'se et more lunch, Miss
Selina, dan I'se seen yo' et in six mont!"

Then whisking a few tiny crumbs from the couch afghan, Sally gathered up
the doilies and went out, smiling contentedly.

That afternoon worked a remarkable change in Aunt Selina. She forgot all
about herself and her misery while listening to her grand-niece's story
of sacrifice for others.

She listened attentively to every word, until Ruth concluded with the
words, "Now, we are planning some great work for our winter nest, but
we don't know just what we will choose."

So impressed was Aunt Selina with the movement started by the New York
Organization, that she determined to help the cause in every way she
could.

In the evening with the help of a cane and Sally, Aunt Selina managed to
reach the dining-room for dinner. "For," said she, "it is a shame to
keep Ruth cooped up in my morning room all day long."

During dinner she marveled at the improvement in her physical condition
and worried lest her ailments return suddenly. But Ruth reassured her.

"No, indeed, Flutey, we have so much to do and plan while I am here,
that you won't have time to think of getting sick again."

Aunt Selina looked dumbfounded for a moment.

"Ruth, do you suppose that's what ails me--nothing to do but think of
myself all of the time?" said she.

"Flutey, not only with you, but with lots of folks!" replied Ruth,
wisely. "You see, anyone who is busy and has something to do all the
time never gets sick, because they haven't time to worry 'bout
themselves if they feel a bit of pain. Why, this summer I saw lots of
beginnings of sickness stopped just because everyone had to get through
their work for the city children. Even me: when mother told me that
father--oh, oh--oh!" and Ruth doubled over her plate and giggled
immoderately.

"Now what ails you, child?" inquired Aunt Selina, smiling in sympathy
with her guest's merry laugh.

"Oh, Aunt Selina, this goes to prove what I just said! Here I have been
with you all day, so full of the story of our Nest and all we did, that
I forgot to feel sorry for myself. Why, think of it! Father is expected
home to-night, and I'm not there! When your telegram came asking me to
come here, and mother told me father was expected the same day, I felt
dreadfully bad about it, but mother said I might help the winter nest a
great deal by coming to show you how to fly, so I really made up my mind
not to feel sorry about not seeing father. And here I am all this time,
forgetting my disappointment about leaving home to-day, and now,
laughing over it. Don't you see?"

Aunt Selina nodded her head comprehendingly as she said, "Yes, I see!
Yes, I see what has been my undoing all these years. Child, you have
done something for me that all my years have failed in showing me. God
bless you, Ruth, for coming, and when I tell your father about it he
will be proud of his little Blue Bird that brought such peace to me."

As she concluded, Aunt Selina's eyes were brimful of tears, but they
were tears of gratitude, and such tears always wash away much of our
stubborn selfishness.

Sally hovered about the table to be on hand to assist her querulous
mistress if necessary and she, too, felt the effect of Ruth's words and
silently praised God for the blessing.

After Aunt Selina and Ruth were comfortably seated in the soft
easy-chairs of the former's bedroom, Ruth asked permission to write the
letters she had promised the Blue Birds at home. Aunt Selina nodded
cheerfully, and sat watching the little girl write until her eyelids
drowsed slowly over her eyes.

The first and most important letter was written to Ruth's dear father
and mother. The next to Ned, and the third to all of the Blue Birds of
Happy Times Nest. Here, she wrote as she pleased and told them about her
trip, how interested Aunt Selina seemed to be, about the secret name she
had given the new Blue Bird and all of the fine things Aunt Selina was
going to do just as soon as plans could be talked over. As the letter
drew to a close, Ruth begged her friends to write every day and not
undertake any important work until she came home.

The last letter took a long time to write and Aunt Selina was fully
awake before Ruth had finished.

"Laws, Child! Do you know the time? What would your mother say if she
knew I kept her daughter out of bed until after nine o'clock? If the
letters are finished you must go straight to your room." And Aunt Selina
rang for Sally.

That night as Ruth slept soundly, Aunt Selina lay thinking over all her
grand-niece had told her. As she thought of all her wasted years and of
all the wonderful good she might have done with her leisure time and
wealth, she turned her face to the wall and shed bitter tears of regret.

Then recalling Ruth's advice to fill her mind with something good and
helpful, the old lady vowed to pick up the frayed ends of her life and
ask Ruth how to use her money and time to create some lasting good for
others. As she smiled contentedly over the idea of her grand-niece of
tender years advising and helping her, an old lady of three score and
ten, the Bible text flashed into her mind--"And a little child shall
lead them."

Then Aunt Selina fell into a restful, health-giving sleep such as she
had not had in years.



CHAPTER II

A SUNDAY WALK AND ITS RESULTS


Ruth was out-of-doors early the following morning, enjoying the sweet,
crisp breeze with its odor of dew-laden meadows. After sniffing
delightedly for a few moments, she skipped up and down the long veranda,
calling to the birds and snapping her fingers at some curious squirrels.
Sally heard the joyous child and came out to bid her a good-morning.

"Sally, what a beautiful farm Aunt Selina has! It looks lovelier this
morning than ever, but it makes me sad when I think that no one can
enjoy it except the folks that live here," said Ruth, in a tone of
regret.

"Ya'as, Chile, I feels sorry dat Miss S'lina had dem high board fences
put up to keep anjoyin' eyes from de propaty. An' den agin, I kin s'cuse
de little chillern dat sneak fru de back fences jus' to pick wilets an'
paddle in de brok up dere;" and Sally looked toward the inviting
woodland, whence came the sound of running water.

"If Aunt Selina is to be a really truly Blue Bird she will remove
whatever keeps others from enjoying what she has," commented Ruth,
seriously.

A bell, tinkling from an upper room, summoned Sally hurriedly indoors,
so Ruth sat down in a large wicker rocker to await her aunt's coming.

Sally soon came and told Ruth breakfast was ready and there sat Miss
Selina welcoming her with a cheery smile!

"Do you feel as happy and free as a Blue Bird, Flutey?" asked Ruth,
giving Aunt Selina a hearty embrace.

Unaccustomed to such healthy demonstrations of affection, she suffered
her lace cap to be pulled over one ear while her other was uncomfortably
doubled under Ruth's plump little arm.

"Yes, Fluff, I feel unusually well this morning. I slept like a babe all
night," replied her aunt.

"That's the way all Blue Birds sleep. Not one of us would stay in bed a
minute just because something tried to make us feel too tired or sick to
get up early in the morning! You know, the Camp Fire Girls receive
honors for keeping free from illness, and some day the Blue Birds expect
to join the bigger girls in their Camp Fires. So we begin to practice
good health now," explained Ruth.

The breakfast passed quickly with not a sound or sigh from Aunt Selina
about rheumatism. Sally was the most astonished of all, for it had
become second nature with her mistress to talk about her pains and woes
at all times.

"While I was waiting on the piazza, this morning, I planned to take you
for a nice long walk," said Ruth.

"Why, my dear, I simply cannot walk out of doors. I could hardly hobble
about the house this morning."

"Oh, I s'pose you couldn't walk very well, but I can walk and you can
ride in the wheel-chair. I will push it, and we will go down the meadow
path toward the summer-house," said Ruth.

Aunt Selina looked dubiously at Sally, but the latter was very busy
placing some of the family silver in the chest, and her back was turned.

After a few moments' hesitation she said, "I never take that chair off
of the porch, and I am afraid you are too little to push it."

"Oh, no, indeed I'm not. It won't hurt the chair, and even if it did,
your pleasure just now is better than ten chairs!" decided Ruth.

After several weak attempts to turn Ruth from her purpose, Aunt Selina
surrendered with a sigh.

As Sally left the room just then she chuckled to herself, "Dat chile
will shorely 'juvenate Miss S'lina!"

After breakfast aunt and grand-niece went out on the veranda and Ruth
soon had the chair down the steps and waiting for her aunt.

Aunt Selina felt a bit conscious at being wheeled like a baby, but Ruth
was too merry to permit anything but joy to prevail.

Ruth turned the chair into a path that ran along the brook, and chatted
merrily until Aunt Selina forgot herself in listening. At the end of the
path stood a rustic summer-house from which could be seen the wide
expanse of meadow and woodland. Having reached this spot, Ruth placed
the chair so her aunt could look about and admire her beautiful lands.

"Flutey, don't you ever go to church on Sunday mornings?" asked Ruth.

"The only church is so far away that I would have to drive for half an
hour to reach it; then, too, it is not a denomination that I approve
of," she replied, coolly.

But a little thing like a cold reply or a curt tone never daunted Ruth
when she was after any particular information.

"What is the difference between one denomination and another? I don't
exactly know the meaning of that word, but I know it means something
about churches."

"Well, some churches believe in worshipping God one way and some in
another. These different beliefs are called 'denominations.' Now, all of
our family were brought up to believe the Baptist manner of worship to
be the only true one, and this church at Greenfields is Presbyterian. Of
course, everyone knows that pre-destination is all wrong," said Aunt
Selina emphatically.

Ruth's eyes opened wider and wider as she listened, for she had been
taught a very simple faith. She had been told that to live and follow
the "Golden Rule" was the highest form of obedience, and that it was
true worship. So she answered quietly:

"I love Jesus, and I believe he taught everyone the same way, and I
believe he just loved everybody the same way."

"We will not discuss religion, Ruth. Just keep on thinking and doing as
Mother has taught you."

"Well, I was only going to say, that as we cannot go to church such a
lovely morning, we might sit here and thank God for all these fields,"
explained Ruth.

Aunt Selina looked about the land in the light of a new revelation.

"I was thinking," continued Ruth, "how I should love to have this farm
near Oakdale. I could come over so often to tell you what we are doing,
and then, too, you could use all of that wonderful woodland for Blue
Birds' Camps in the summer."

Aunt Selina looked across the fields and woods but said nothing, so Ruth
continued.

"When the two Ferris children came out to Mrs. Mason's farm, they were
so happy to see real flowers and grass that they soon got well and
strong. That made me wish that I had hundreds of farms just like it
where sick children could go and get well. That was one thing that made
the Oakdale folks help get the hundred city poor children out to our
country for a few weeks in August and the lovely time the children had
made everyone wish to do bigger things this next summer. Nothing has
really been planned yet, but everyone is trying to think of some way to
do something. This morning when I saw this wonderful farm and so few
folks to live on it, I just wished it was near Oakdale so a big crowd of
poor children could enjoy it next summer."

As Ruth concluded and looked wistfully over the fertile land, her aunt
sat thinking for a time, then answered.

"Fluff, I determined to be a Blue Bird with all of my heart and soul.
Now, we can't move this farm over to Oakdale, but the city children can
be moved out to this farm! You can do the planning from Oakdale, and I
can look after them when they get here."

Ruth gasped in amazement at the splendid idea, then jumped up and down
with delight while she shouted aloud.

"Oh, oh! Flutey! that is great! Why, just think of all the streets full
of poor children who can enjoy these wonderful woods!"

Aunt Selina winced at the word "street children," but she spoke with
determination.

"I suppose we would have to build some sort of little houses, or
temporary camps for them to sleep in, and a long shed in which to serve
the meals. It will need a lot of planning."

"Dear me, I wish we could run and ask mother about it," murmured Ruth,
impatiently. "Now, if you were only visiting me instead of me being here
with _you_!"

"If I had gone to you, you might never have had the idea of using these
woods for the children," ventured her aunt.

"No, that's so," admitted Ruth. "And we can go back to the house and
write all our plans down on paper and send them to mother, can't we?"

Aunt Selina consenting, Ruth wheeled the chair back to the house. When
they reached the steps the invalid felt so strong that she lifted
herself out of the chair and climbed up the low steps with only Ruth to
lean upon.

"Why, I never felt a twinge in my joints all this time! I never knew
rheumatism to disappear so quickly as it has this time," she said, as
she sank down in a low chair.

"Let's hope it won't come back again," added Ruth. "If it stays away
you could pack up and go to Oakdale with me, couldn't you?"

Aunt Selina, who never visited and seldom left her home, looked
horrified for a moment. But Ruth continued innocently,

"We could get all of mother's advice for the farm plans besides seeing
father and being home with him!"

Sally, who had seen Miss Selina coming up the steps without a cane,
thought some miracle had been performed. So, wishing to hear all about
it, she hurried out with the announcement that dinner was almost ready.

"Dinner! Why, Sally, we just finished breakfast. I'm sure I don't want
anything to eat so soon," replied Miss Selina.

"It's pas' one o'clock, Miss S'lina, an' you allus likes de meals to be
on time," ventured Sally.

"I'm sure I feel as if it was dinner time, 'cause I'm so hungry," added
Ruth, who always had a healthy appetite.

Aunt Selina laughed indulgently as she rose and limped slowly indoors.

Immediately after dinner Ruth hurried to the library and brought forth
a pencil and paper. Meeting her aunt in the hall she said, "Now, we'll
sit down and put all of our plans on paper."

The greater part of the afternoon was passed in this engrossing work.

That night Aunt Selina again sought her bed with a great sense of
gratitude that she could enjoy the rest without any pain. She slept all
through the night and awoke in the morning feeling strong and energetic.
Almost every trace of her lameness had disappeared.

The mail lay upon a silver tray beside her plate, and she smiled as she
handed two letters to Ruth.

"May I read them, Flutey?" asked Ruth, as soon as she had peeped at the
post marks.

Aunt Selina nodded, and Ruth tore open the one from the Blue Birds
first, saying in an explanatory tone, "I like to leave the best for the
last."

The Blue Birds had written her because they promised to do so, but there
had not been time for anything of importance to happen, so Ruth laid
aside their short note and took up her mother's letter. The first
sentence made her gasp, and at the second, she giggled outright. Aunt
Selina waited patiently to hear the news.

"Just think, Flutey, I didn't miss father, anyway--and just see all we
have accomplished by my coming here to you! Mother writes that she had a
telegram from father late Saturday night, saying the steamer was
detained at quarantine on account of some suspects in the steerage who
seemed to have symptoms of yellow fever. He is not sure when they will
get off, but he will wire mother each day they are detained."

Aunt Selina nodded understandingly, and Ruth continued: "Wish you and I
could be there to welcome father when he comes! Flutey, you are so well
this morning, _don't_ you think you could go with me in our automobile,
if we traveled very carefully?"

Her aunt was so aghast at the proposition that she failed to answer, and
Ruth continued, believing that she was thinking it over.

"You see, Flutey, we really need to get to the Blue Birds and mother to
talk over this fine farm plan, and I am sure the visit will do you a
heap of good, for I have heard folks say that a change is a great thing
when you have been sick and tired of the same things about you."

Still Aunt Selina said not a word, so Ruth returned to her letter to
read it aloud. As she did so, her aunt sent a covert glance at Sally's
direction to see what effect Ruth's invitation had had upon the old
servant. But Sally, the wise, appeared not to have overheard a word.

Later, as Ruth stood beside her aunt's rocker on the veranda, she again
broached the subject.

"Flutey, the air is so warm and balmy like it always is in Indian
summer, and our car is so comfy, you wouldn't know but what you were in
an easy chair. I don't see why you can't come home with me."

"Fluff, do you know, that I could almost say 'Yes, I will go,' for I
think I would like to see all of your little friends, but I really
wouldn't know what to do with the house if I went away on a visit," said
Aunt Selina.

"Goodness me! The house won't run away. What does it do when you are
sick in bed and can't walk about to look after it? It can go on just the
same when you are in Oakdale as when you are in bed," replied practical
Ruth.

Never before had Aunt Selina been brought face to face with the fact
that Sally was the actual manager. She began to feel a certain
resentment against her faithful old servant, and then she thought what a
relief it was to have someone upon whom she could depend.

"I never did ride in one of those machines, dearie. I have said that I
never would. I always use my victoria, or coupé," she observed.

"You never rode in an automobile! Why, Flutey, you have the treat of
your life waiting, then," exclaimed Ruth, surprised. "It only goes to
show how careful we should be about saying things we are not sure of;
now, you see, you are going to ride in an auto and so prove to yourself
that you were wrong."

Ruth took for granted that the visit and method of traveling had been
decided upon, and, after some more futile excuses, Aunt Selina was won
over to considering going the next day if it were clear.

"But the sky looks cloudy, Fluff, and your mother may not spare the car
to-morrow," she objected, making a last brave stand against the
persistent little girl.

"Oh, no, those clouds are not rain clouds--they are wind and mother
would borrow Mrs. Catlin's car if she had to go anywhere rather than
disappoint me by not sending Ike with ours," replied Ruth, very certain
of her mother's loving coöperation.

"Well, I shall have to break the news to Sally and see if she can spare
me for a few days," sighed her aunt, tingling with anticipation at the
unusual event, but loath to forego the hope that her presence was
necessary at home.

"I'll run and ask her to come here at once, so we can telegraph mother
about the car," said Ruth, as she ran to call Sally.

One never had to go far to find Sally, for wherever Miss Selina was,
there would Sally be found hovering about, also. Ruth caught hold of the
plump brown hand and dragged her out to the piazza.

When the important question was put before her, Sally was diplomatic
enough to stand considering whether the household could possibly be
managed without the mistress. After some time, she said, "If it t'want
dat dis wisit is jus' what you need to put you on yer feet, I would
say, 'I don' see how we'all kin manage.' But, seein' dat all de fruit
is dun up an' de fall house-cleanin' not yet due, I adwise you to be
shore an' go an' fin' healin' in de change of air."

Aunt Selina was so pleased at Sally's answer that she told her to help
Ruth telegraph at once for the car. Sally bowed and hurried away to the
telephone where the message was sent to Greenfields to be wired to Mrs.
Talmage.

The rest of the day was spent in pleasant excitement, with Ruth and her
aunt wondering what to pack in the small steamer trunk, while the whole
household felt the unusual stir of their mistress' going away for a
visit.

That evening an answering telegram came saying that Ike would leave
Oakdale at dawn in the morning so as to get to Happy Hills by noon. If
they were ready to start back at once they could arrive at Mossy Glen
before night set in.

Ruth was so joyous over the happy termination of her visit that she
could hardly stand still long enough for Sally to tie her hair ribbon.
As for Aunt Selina, she looked from her bedroom windows before retiring,
anxiously scanning the sky for any possible rain clouds. She felt as
excited as a child over its first journey away from home. Seeing the
sky a deep blue with myriads of stars gleaming down at her, she smiled
and turned out the light.

Ike arrived earlier than expected, for he made record time from Oakdale.

"Ike, do the Blue Birds know I'm coming?" she asked.

"Sure thing, Miss Ruth," replied Ike.

"And Ned--did he miss me?" queried the little girl.

"Master Ned, he went 'round like a bear wid a sore head. He was just
lost without the head of the Blue Birds," grinned Ike.

"And mother--and Ike, father? Did father wonder why I left without
seeing him," half-whispered Ruth.

Ike dropped his wrench and stood up.

"Why, Miss Ruth, I forgot to tell you! Mr. Ta'mage ain't home yet. A
wire came late last night saying he expected to get off the boat to-day,
so they are looking for him this noon."

"Oh, oh, Ike! how could you keep such grand news from me all this time!"
exclaimed Ruth, racing indoors to tell her aunt.

When Ike said he was ready to start, Aunt Selina and Ruth were helped
to the comfortable seat and robes were tucked in about them, while the
servants stood in a semi-circle about the car, smiling and nodding
good-byes.

Ike honked the siren for the benefit of the servants, then started the
easy-running machine.

Aunt Selina felt so very comfortable that she admitted the fact to Ruth.

"I never knew these cars were so easy-riding."

After passing a stretch of bad road Ike put on more speed and Aunt
Selina leaned forward to admonish him.

"Don't go fast enough to be dangerous! Are we going about eight miles an
hour?"

Ike smiled to himself as he heard the question.

"We're travelin' a bit more than eight, ma'am. I s'pose you are
'customed to that speed from drivin' horses?"

"Yes, that's it. I never like to go faster than that rate, but you are
not going too fast, yet. Be sure to slow up going around corners--we
might run into someone," she returned, settling herself comfortably back
in the robes.

Ike promised to be most careful, but dared not hint at the actual speed
they were traveling, and would have to keep up, to enable them to reach
Oakdale before night.

With the sun shining brightly, and the beautiful autumn coloring in the
foliage, the journey was most enjoyable.

About six o'clock the car reached Mason's farm and Ruth told her aunt
that there the first little city children lived all summer. Next, the
car passed Betty's home, but no one was in sight, although Ruth watched
for Betty to appear. Mrs. Catlin's beautiful home on the hill was
pointed out to the interested old lady, and then Ike turned off of the
main road and drove along the woodland road that ran by the swimming
pool. Ruth told all about it, and hoped the Nest in the cherry-tree
could be seen in the twilight.

Ike stopped under the old tree and Ruth spied all of the Blue Birds in
the Nest. She jumped out to greet them and they ran down the steps to
crowd about her. Aunt Selina was introduced and received a quaint little
curtsey from each child. Then the children said good-night and Ike drove
on to the house.

There, on the lower step, stood the long-looked-for father, and the
moment Ruth saw him, she gave a cry of joy. Mrs. Talmage and Ned stood
back in the shadow to enjoy Ruth's first sight of her father.

After the greetings were over, Aunt Selina was made to feel quite at
home in the cheery library until dinner was announced. The travelers
were too tired to dress for dinner, so they were soon seated about the
table and the conversation naturally turned to Blue Bird talk.

Ruth went to bed soon after dinner, for the day had been tiresome, and
Aunt Selina also felt the need of rest. She admitted that she enjoyed
the trip very much, but her old bones felt the strain of the long day.



CHAPTER III

THE BLUE BIRDS' INSPIRATION


School was to re-open on Thursday, and the Blue Birds had but one day
more of vacation in which to meet and plan for the Winter Nest. Of
course, they could meet after school, or Saturdays, but it seemed more
like a meeting to be able to have the whole day for planning.

By nine o'clock on Wednesday, therefore, they gathered in their Nest
while Mrs. Talmage entertained Aunt Selina on the veranda with past
doings of the children.

Mr. Talmage had to go to the city, and he said that Uncle Ben might come
back with him for a few days' visit. Uncle Ben was his only brother, the
one who had given Ned the printing outfit for a Christmas gift.

Ruth told the Blue Birds all about Happy Hills and Aunt Selina's plan
for the city children.

"Now, how shall we manage to find the children that will need the
country next summer?" asked Ruth.

"Did your aunt say who would look after so many children?" asked Norma.

"No, that is one of the things we shall have to talk over. We only got
as far as deciding that the farm was great!" said Ruth.

"Indeed, it is a fine offer," said several little girls.

"I think we will have to get the opinion of the grown-ups about the
whole plan," ventured Betty.

"Mrs. Talmage and Miss Selina are on the porch now--let's run over and
ask them what they have thought of," suggested Edith.

As the others were of the same mind the Nest was deserted. Upon reaching
the veranda, the Blue Birds were pleased to see that Mrs. Catlin was
sitting there with the other ladies. As Mrs. Catlin was a powerful ally,
she was always welcome when planning was to be done.

While the group on the piazza was deeply concerned talking over winter
work and next summer's plans, Ned came out of the house and went down
the woodland path toward the Starrs' home.

Meredith Starr and his chum, Jinks, were under an old apple-tree in the
garden orchard, and Ned joined them.

"Aunt Selina's at the house, and what do you think?"

Meredith and Jinks shook their heads and Ned continued solemnly, "She's
given Happy Hills to the Blue Birds for their poor children next
summer."

"She has! My goodness, but they will have more than they can look after
if they ever accepted such a place," cried Jinks.

"Oh, they accepted it, all right! They're just crazy about it. But the
grown-ups will have to help it along. I suppose they'll have to have so
much printing done that we'll be out of it after this winter,"
complained Ned.

"If you think that why can't we have some organization of our own?"
asked Meredith.

"Yes! why wait to be invited out of the way by the Blue Birds? Get some
club of our own going, and surprise them if they find us in the way,"
added Jinks.

"Oh, it takes a grown-up to help along such things?" objected Ned. "Why,
where do you suppose these girls would have been if it hadn't been for
mother's ideas and help?"

"I guess you're right," admitted the other boys, rolling over in the
grass again, whence they had popped up their heads at Meredith's
suggestion.

After a few moments' silence, however, Meredith sat up again and said
tenaciously: "I don't see why we can't! Daddum would help us with his
advice and your father, too, Ned. Jinks hasn't any grown-ups, but he can
get some of the fathers of the Blue Birds interested in us."

"What could we do, or where would we start?" asked Ned.

"Well, first of all, don't let's call it 'The Owls!' That name may be
all right for the editor of a paper, but I don't like it for a club,"
complained Meredith.

"We need a name that will sound so respectable that every mother will
consent to having her boy join us," said Ned.

"We might call it 'Junior Boy Scouts,'" suggested Jinks.

"Then everyone'll expect us to do just as the Boy Scouts do, and the
fact is we won't! We will have a sort of club for boys under twelve for
the purpose of having a nice time, and helping them with their work or
suggesting plans for outdoor sports," said Ned.

"If we could think of some name that would appeal to the mothers who are
so interested in the Blue Birds!" said Jinks.

After many names had been laughed down, Meredith said, "Why not call
ourselves 'The B. B. Club.' Everyone likes a secret society and the
mothers can believe we are so fond of the Blue Birds that we wanted to
keep their name for ourselves."

"Oh, but they will think we had to steal their name for want of finding
one for ourselves," scorned Ned.

"Well, if you can find anything better, tell it!" exclaimed Meredith,
vexed at his friend's laughter.

Just then, Jim, the handy man about Oakwood, joined the boys. He saw
some signs of trouble and asked what they were doing.

Ned explained about Miss Selina and the Blue Birds, and his plan for the
younger boys. Jim pondered for a few moments and then muttered, "Is
there any bird you know that goes by those same initials--'B. B.'?"

Ned thought rapidly for a few minutes, then said, "Blue Jay, no, not
that--Black Bird!"

"Bull Finch!" replied Jinks, laughing.

"Neither! What bird whistles like this?" and Jim imitated so naturally
the notes of the Bobolink that the boys knew.

"Ho! Bobolink, eh?" shouted Ned, slapping Jim on the back.

"Where would the 'B. B.' come in on that?" asked Jinks.

"Would you divide it like 'Bo-Bolink'?" asked Meredith.

"Sure not! Just plain 'Bobolink Boys' to offset the Blue Bird Girls,"
answered Jim, as he rose to go on toward the barns.

"Hurrah, Jim! I think you're a life-saver," cried Ned.

"Three cheers for the god-father of the Bobolink Boys!" shouted Jinks,
while the others cheered Jim.

"There's Don and another little chap--try the name on them and see what
they say," suggested Jim, pointing toward the front driveway where two
boys of about ten years could be seen.

"That's right. We'll see what they think of it all," returned Meredith,
rising to whistle through his fingers to attract the boys' attention.

Immediately upon hearing the shrill call from his brother, Don turned
in the direction of the apple orchard. As the two lads ran up, Ned
constituted himself chief counsel.

"Don, how old are you?" was the first question.

"Nine, goin' on ten. Why?" answered Don.

"How old is your friend?" was the next question.

"I'm ten next month," replied the little fellow.

"What's your name?" asked Ned.

"Tuck. That is what everyone calls me, but the name they gave me when I
was too little to know better, was awful--it's Reuben Wales. Just
because my great grandfather had it, they made me take it, too." And
poor little Tuck felt very much abused.

"Never mind, Tuck," laughed Ned, while the other boys rolled over in the
grass to smother their laughter.

"I don't most of the time, but when someone has to know the real end of
my name, I feel dreadful about it."

"Well, Tuck, we are planning a club for you boys and you can choose a
new name if you join," consoled Jinks.

"What's the game, Jinks?" asked Don, eagerly.

"We hope to form an organization for boys under twelve to be known as
Bobolink Boys," explained Meredith.

"What for--to build nests and then sew doll clothes, or make paper
furniture?" growled Don, who had been greatly offended to think that his
twin sister Dot would leave him for the Blue Birds.

The older boys who understood his attitude and its cause, laughed, but
Meredith explained more fully.

"Just for the sake of having fine times and getting something going for
the boys so the girls won't run the whole town. If we start a movement
called Bobolinks we can demand help from the grown-ups just as the girls
have done. We can manage to do something as big as the Blue Birds ever
did, besides having our outings and games at a club-room."

"That sounds fine," ventured Tuck.

"Fine! Why, there's my hand on it, Mete!" declared Don, as he thrust a
grimy little hand under his brother's nose.

Ned and Jinks laughed as Meredith looked doubtfully at Don's hand before
accepting it as a pledge.

"What'll we do first?" asked Don, eager to begin.

"Tuck and you must ask as many nice boys as you know if they would like
to join a club, and tell them what for," replied Ned.

"How many can we ask?" questioned Tuck.

"Oh, about thirty, I guess. I can take charge of one Nest, Jinks of
another, and Mete of another," said Ned.

"All right, we're in for it," cried Don.

"We'll report to-morrow afternoon--where?" asked Tuck.

"Better say at Jim's cottage--up by the barn."

The two younger boys ran away to seek members and the other boys looked
at each other.

"Quick work, eh? We're in for it now, so we'd better get some plans
going," laughed Meredith.

"We'd better go to your room and figure things out on paper," advised
Ned.

So the three boys who started the Bobolink Boys went to the house and
locked themselves in Meredith's den to make plans for the organization.

In the meantime, the Blue Birds had joined the ladies on the Talmage
veranda and their conversation turned to the work to be done that
winter.

"I wonder where Ned went," said Mrs. Talmage as Ruth drew a low stool to
her mother's side.

"He went over to my house to see Mete," replied Dot Starr. "Shall I go
and bring him back?"

"Oh, no, it can wait. I just wanted him to hear some of our plans so he
could print it in the next paper," said Mrs. Talmage. Then she turned to
the others.

"You see, Blue Birds, since Aunt Selina joined our ranks and proffered
Happy Hills for next summer's use, it gives us an entirely new incentive
for work. We had rather expected to take matters easy this winter, for
school does not leave much time for other work. But we have afternoons
and Saturdays."

"And Wednesdays, too, Mrs. Talmage! We all get out at two o'clock
Wednesdays, you know," added Norma.

"If I could skip music that day, I could have a long afternoon with
you," said May, hopefully.

"Well, if anyone who has studies at home for Wednesdays, could arrange
to attend to them at another time, we could have every Wednesday
afternoon for a regular meeting, too," admitted Mrs. Talmage.

Miss Selina was so interested in the children that she smiled when they
did, and puckered her brow into a frown when they did. Mrs. Catlin
amused herself watching the old lady and almost rocked off the steps in
her enjoyment.

"One thing we must discuss to-day is a suitable nest for winter. We
cannot occupy the one in the cherry tree much longer, for it is growing
windy and cool. Then, too, there must be some home-work planned for each
one to report at our meetings," said Mrs. Talmage.

"Won't there be any benefits or bazaars?" asked Ruth, who had visions
of fun in the school-house assembly room.

"We will have to earn money in some manner to help the poor children,
but that will have to be discussed later," replied Mrs. Talmage.

After an hour's discussion, Mrs. Catlin left with the parting
injunction, "Call upon me for anything--I will be on hand."

Late in the afternoon Mr. Talmage returned with his brother who was the
editor of a prominent magazine in New York. The Blue Birds had gone, and
Ruth welcomed her uncle whose visits were always a source of pleasure to
Ned and herself.

He sat down on the steps beside her and listened to her story of the
wonderful work Ned's printing press had done that summer, and of the
work required of it for the coming summer. Uncle Ben smiled as he
listened.

"Ned will be walking in my footsteps soon, won't he?" said Uncle Ben, as
Ruth concluded.

Before Ruth could reply her mother came out to welcome the visitor and
tell him of Aunt Selina's presence.

"Aunt Selina! You don't say so! Why, I haven't seen her since my
graduation from college," remarked Uncle Ben, in pleased surprise.

"She is in her room dressing for dinner," said Mrs. Talmage. "You will
find a great change working in her. Why, just think of her offer of
Happy Hills for the poor children next summer." And she proceeded to
tell the story of Aunt Selina's desire to help the Blue Bird work.

"Now that Uncle Ben is here, maybe he can help us plan some way to earn
the money for next summer," suggested Ruth.

"I believe you can! What we need is to find some way of reaching the
right children, and then to start some work that will bring us in a
regular income during the winter, for it will take a heap of money to
run a large place like Happy Hills with several hundred starved little
children living there," admitted Mrs. Talmage.

"As a man who is so mixed up in publishing, you would naturally expect
me to know some way out of your troubles, eh?" laughed Uncle Ben. "Well,
well, let me think it out."

At that moment the dinner bell rang and no further opportunity was given
for discussing ways and means.

So absorbing was the theme, however, that talk soon drifted around to
the subject of farms, work and plans.

"You can get a list of names of poor children at the Bureau of Charity,"
said Uncle Ben.

"That only records names of families who will apply for assistance; but
the ones like the Ferris family, never are heard from in this way. Those
are the children we want," said Mrs. Talmage.

"When I return to the city I will see if there is any way of getting a
list like you want. As for institutions--you can find all of the asylums
and homes in the New York Directory. From them you can select numbers of
crippled or sick children," suggested Uncle Ben.

"Ben, do you believe circulars are a good means of letting people know
what you want?" asked Mrs. Talmage.

"I can't say that I do. In my experience I have found that a circular
letter meets the same end as an undesirable advertisement. Most of them
are thrown into the waste basket."

"We need philanthropic women to help us next summer. Mrs. Starr offered
me her woods at Oakwood if her family goes to Maine, and Mrs. Catlin
wishes to rent the Mason farm for children. So now, with Happy Hills on
our list, we will need just the right kind who will love the work with
us," said Mrs. Talmage.

"Better send someone to visit the women you hear about," advised Mr.
Talmage.

"But I need to find the women first," returned Mrs. Talmage,
plaintively.

"What's the matter with the _Chirp_? Can't we print a story in that and
mail it to a list of folks in New York?" asked Ned.

"That sounds good to me! I should say the _Chirp_ would do the work
better than a letter or circular," said Uncle Ben.

"Yes, it does seem like a fine suggestion," admitted Mrs. Talmage. "We
will talk it over this evening, Ned."

"Why, when the _Chirp_ comes to my office," said Uncle Ben, "I generally
drop all of my important work until I see what new scheme the children
have worked up. I sit back and enjoy every word there."

"Maybe that is because your nephew edits it--sort of family pride in one
who is following in your footsteps," teased Mr. Talmage.

"Not a bit of it! It is because the lad is original enough to fill a
gap, and persistent enough to keep a good thing going. I haven't the
least idea but that the Blue Birds would never have been heard of
outside of their little Nest if it hadn't been for Ned and his _Chirp_,"
commended Uncle Ben.

"We are all certain of that," assented Mrs. Talmage.

"And we are very grateful to Ned for all he has done to help us along,"
added Ruth, smiling at her proud brother.

"Mother, you said you wanted to speak to Uncle Ben after dinner, but may
I have him alone for a few moments before you get hold of him?" asked
Ned, in a worried manner, as if Uncle Ben would be used up if the ladies
talked to him first.

Everyone laughed, and Mrs. Talmage said, "Why, certainly, Son, if Uncle
Ben is courageous enough to trust himself to your hands."

"I'm shaking in my boots already," said Uncle Ben, "for I'm sure some
dark plot will be uncovered."

"Just wait and see!" laughed Ned, as he excused himself and ran to his
den.

As the rest of the family rose to leave the table, Uncle Ben said in an
aside to Mr. Talmage, "I believe that this farm idea will require a
regular organization to take proper charge of its affairs. Just a few
ladies and children cannot handle so important a task."

"I think you are right, Ben," said Mr. Talmage.

Ned was waiting for his uncle as he came down the hall, and catching
hold of his hand, dragged him into his sanctum where the _Chirp_ was
printed each week.

Uncle Ben sat down in the one arm-chair and waited while Ned locked the
door and pulled down every window shade.

"This is a great secret, you know," explained Ned.



CHAPTER IV

THE BOBOLINK BOYS FOUNDED


"Now, Uncle Ben, we can make ourselves at home," said Ned, as he sat
upon a box in front of his uncle.

"Oh, maybe you'd like to smoke, Uncle Ben?" continued Ned, recalling
that most men liked an after-dinner smoke. "I shall never use tobacco
myself, because I have studied just what effects it has on one's system,
but I won't object to your smoking if you wish."

Uncle Ben threw back his head and laughed uproariously.

"Does that mean that you will sit calmly by and see me ruin my health
with tobacco, and not interfere?" laughed he.

"Oh, no, you know I didn't mean it that way, although it did sound
funny, didn't it?" replied Ned.

"Well, Son, I never smoke, either. I believe a man is a better thinker
and cooler business man without it," said Uncle Ben. "But, tell me,
what is the tremendous secret that made you lock the door and pull the
blinds?"

"Here it is," whispered Ned, leaning over toward his uncle. "You see,
when the Blue Birds started, I hadn't a thing to do, because the Starr
boys were at camp and many of the other boys away with their families;
so I undertook to print the _Chirp_ for the girls. I liked it, too. But
they are planning so much for next summer that it will take a regular
printer to turn out their work. Their organization freezes out the boys,
yet we helped in every way this summer."

Uncle Ben nodded comprehendingly.

"Well, this afternoon, we boys got together and said, 'What's to hinder
us from getting up a club for boys under twelve?' We all thought it
would be great, so we started, and have the name, but not the plans.
What do you think of it?" asked Ned.

"You haven't told me enough about it to judge," replied Uncle Ben. "Have
you founded the club for any purpose?"

"Oh, yes! We will gather all the little chaps under twelve years of age
into one organization, and take them on hikes, teach them work, play
games, and do other things," said Ned.

"And the name of this?"

"We thought that Bobolink Boys--B. B., you see--would be great as the
initials stand for Blue Birds, too. Of course, we won't sew dolls'
clothes, or bake cakes, but we will help the Blue Birds whenever we can,
or be independent if we wish. The girls wear bird uniforms, but the boys
will wear jumpers of a certain color, with stripes for grade. We haven't
gone any further. Our first meeting was held in Starr's orchard this
afternoon," grinned Ned.

Uncle Ben sat thinking very seriously for a long time, then he asked,
"What about the _Chirp_? Drop it?"

"Oh, no! That's one reason we want something of our own to back us up.
We can all help print the _Chirp_, and with the little boys to deliver
them, or run errands, it will be easier for all of us. Then, if the
girls get up some bazaar, or entertainment and we have to print cards,
etc., it will be much easier."

"Then your plan is more for coöperation than competition?" asked Uncle
Ben.

"Cooperation in everything a boy can help in, but not to belong to a
Nest that has to do things the Blue Birds do," explained Ned.

Uncle Ben sat wrapped in thought, and Ned wondered what he was thinking
of. Suddenly, the older man slapped his knee and chuckled with delight.

"Now what, Uncle? I know it is something good, from your face!"
exclaimed Ned, eagerly.

"Yes, sir. I believe we can pull it off--we'll try, at any rate!"
declared Uncle Ben, half to himself.

"Do tell me!" begged Ned.

"Ned, did you ever see our magazine come out? I mean did I ever show you
over the whole plant, and show you what work it takes to produce a nice
little paper book each month?"

"Once, when father and I were at your office, you took me over the
place. I told you then that I wanted to be a publisher, and you laughed
and promised to start me on the right track when I was a man. Last
winter you sent me the printing press and told me to practice," said
Ned.

"Yes, I know, but I wanted to see if you remembered. Now, I think I have
a plan that will go a long way toward giving you elementary experience
in publishing, and at the same time provide just what your Bobolinks
would like to do. It will help the Blue Birds along for next summer, and
keep them busy to prevent the Bobolinks from making all the music." And
Uncle Ben slapped his knee again, laughing as he thought of how the boys
would unconsciously start a race between the two--Blue Birds and
Bobolinks.

"I wish you'd tell me your idea!" coaxed Ned, impatiently.

"I haven't it all in shape to explain, yet, but I will hammer it
together in some way to tell you to-morrow. Where do you boys expect to
meet at your weekly, or daily meetings?" asked Uncle Ben.

"If there are but a few, I thought we could meet in this den of mine.
But later, if there is a crowd, we might secure the Y. M. C. A. boys'
room, or the reception room of the school," replied Ned.

"By Thanksgiving time you ought to be in working trim to assume any
large work I might think of, eh?" asked Uncle Ben.

"Oh, surely! Long before Thanksgiving, I should think."

"Now, don't be too sure. Boys are just as hard to muster and understand
as girls, and the plan that suddenly suggested itself for you boys to
try out is a secret ambition that I have nursed ever since I went into
the publishing business--and that was over twenty-five years ago. I have
never had time to take it up alone, and never found anyone to whom I
could trust so precious a hobby. I see how this combination of Blue
Birds and Bobolinks might bring the idea to success, but I shall have to
think it over before speaking further," explained Uncle Ben.

"Uncle, I surely am grateful for your confidence, and I shall be glad to
know when you can tell us all," said Ned.

"I wish to talk the matter over with your father first, but you may call
together some of the boys to-morrow afternoon and I will talk with them
to see how many are willing and able to help."

"Well, I suppose I must wait, but I did hope we could organize our boys
to-morrow at recess," said Ned, with an air of disappointment.

"What's to hinder your doing it?" asked Uncle Ben.

"How--until we know what we're going to do?"

"Oh, just make your plans broad enough to take in any ideas that come
along," responded Uncle Ben, rising to go.

That night after everyone had retired, Uncle Ben took Mr. Talmage down
the drive toward the woods. As they walked slowly along in the bright
moonlight, they discussed various plans suggested by the ladies of the
Blue Bird society. Uncle Ben led up, quite naturally, to the new
organization of Bobolinks.

"Al, those boys are wide awake, all right! If we were to give them a
boost now and then, there is no saying how great a philanthropic success
this undertaking may be. It may grow so far out of Oakdale limits that
the whole world may take part in it. I, for one, have decided to lend my
support and see what comes of it," said Uncle Ben, seriously.

"Great Scott! Ben; you _must_ be interested; I haven't seen you so
enthusiastic over anything in years," laughed Mr. Talmage.

"You know how interested I have always been in the publishing
work--even as a boy, like Ned is now. Well, one thing you, and no one
else, ever did know, was the hope of being able some day to circulate a
model magazine for children. I have known for years that the little
souls craved something more than the wishy-washy stuff that is given
them in the name of 'juvenile reading'--Heaven forgive the criminals!
Why, our little ones of to-day are as wide awake as grown-ups, and they
demand--unconsciously, perhaps--the same strong quality of bread and
meat reading as adults have been digesting of late years. Educational,
adventurous, interesting, work-a-day reading! But the books and
magazines in the main have not advanced to meet the demand for better
children's literature. I have long dreamed of just what I would like to
give the children of to-day." And Uncle Ben lapsed into silence.

"I never gave the subject much thought, but I suppose you are right,
Ben," admitted Mr. Talmage.

"That's just it!" cried Uncle Ben, excitedly. "No one ever stops to
think about it, but keeps right on filling the minds of their children
with stuff that never benefits them a particle. How many boys of to-day
want to read 'Mother's Brave Little Man,' or 'Jerry the Newsboy'? Bosh!
Boys of to-day want 'True Tales of an Indian Trapper,' or 'Boy Scout
Adventures,' or good clean stories--school life, or outdoor sports.
It's LIFE and HEALTH they want."

"Guess you're right, Ben," said Mr. Talmage, smiling at his brother's
denunciation of present-day literature for children.

"All right, then! Help me bring about a reform in this line. I have
studied this problem from every point of view and I really believe that
the growing youth of to-day would not acquire bad habits so readily if
they were given some occupation that would thoroughly interest them.
It's worth trying, at any rate. Let's fill them with some great plan or
ambition and see how many children will fall into the snares and
pitfalls of the past!"

Uncle Ben so inspired his brother with his enthusiasm that he, too,
declared he would do all he could to help.

"Here's a few women who accomplished wonders this summer with the little
girls. We have a crowd of boys wasting their time day by day for want
of something interesting to do. Let the fathers follow the mothers'
example and help their boys band together for some good cause!" said
Uncle Ben.

"We'll get the men together and propose it--they'll see the value of the
suggestion, just as I have," promised Mr. Talmage.

"Well, Al, now that you're interested, I have an especially fine plum to
drop into your hands. Your own son was the one to start an organization
of boys and name it Bobolink Boys."

"My Ned!" exclaimed Mr. Talmage, joyfully. "That makes me very happy!"

"That is what he wished to tell me when we went to his den. He has
organized a club for boys under twelve, just as the Blue Birds have done
for girls, and the initials are the same--B. B.;--also, they wish to
cooperate with the girls, whenever possible," explained Uncle Ben.

"Well, well!" ejaculated Mr. Talmage, smiling to himself.

"When I heard Ned outline his plan I decided to encourage the movement
if possible by confiding my pet plan to them to experiment on," said
Uncle Ben.

"When the fathers hear of this they will be as happy as I am. The
problem of keeping a boy actively engaged in some uplifting work is a
sufficient one. Ned and you seem to have solved it for Oakdale,"
admitted Mr. Talmage.

"Think so! Then you get busy and gather the fathers together to-morrow
night for a conference. We will see how many will agree to help along
the work. I will donate all of my ideas accumulated during the past
years."

"I'll telephone everyone I know the first thing in the morning. Where
shall we meet--in the library?" asked Mr. Talmage.

"Yes, and if there are too many of us we will have to adjourn to a
larger place," said Uncle Ben.

Before breakfast the next morning the Starrs' telephone rang, and Mr.
Starr was informed that he was wanted at a meeting to be held in
Talmage's library that night. Meredith and Donald knew nothing of Uncle
Ben's talk with Mr. Talmage, but they felt sure the meeting had
something to do with their plans.

Mr. Wells and Mr. Stevens were the next ones to be invited to the
meeting, and after that a score or more of fathers were invited.

Uncle Ben, who had hoped to take a few days' rest in his brother's quiet
country home, found himself very busy in working out his idea so that it
could be simply presented to the meeting of boys and men. He spent the
entire morning in jotting down ideas as they came to him.

Luncheon over, Ned caught Uncle Ben's hand and said, "You haven't
forgotten the date we made, have you?"

"You wouldn't think so if you had seen me working all morning,"
complained Uncle Ben.

"That's all right then; we boys will meet you in the big empty carriage
house this afternoon at three-thirty," nodded Ned.

"I'll be there!" laughed Uncle Ben, as Ned ran off.

The big room in the carriage house had not been used since the garage
had been built.

Ned and Ike found some chairs in the store-room, and Simon provided
several empty boxes. Long planks were placed across the boxes, making
very good benches for the boys to sit upon. A large packing case stood
a few feet in front of the benches to be used as the speaker's stand.

At three-thirty every boy who had expressed a desire to join the
Bobolinks was there with expectant looks. Uncle Ben soon arrived and
took a seat by the large box. He spread his papers out in front of him
in a very business-like way.

"Boys, I will go straight to the business under consideration this
afternoon," said Uncle Ben, standing up the better to impress his
audience.

"I think the first thing to do is to appoint a secretary."

Ned was selected, so he sat down behind the packing case to jot down his
notes.

"Have you boys formed any kind of an organization?" asked Uncle Ben,
turning to Ned.

"No, sir, not yet," replied Ned.

"Then let us attend to that now. You must have officers, and rules and
by-laws for governing the boys and meetings. Now, I should suggest that
we begin properly, and hold an election of officers."

Uncle Ben then told them the proper way to proceed, and the boys were
greatly impressed with the importance of what they were doing. When the
election was completed, Ned had been chosen President, Meredith
Treasurer and Jinks Secretary.

"Now," said Uncle Ben, "with your permission I will preside at this
meeting, instead of your new President. I will read to you what I have
written on this paper:

"First: The undersigned have met together to form an organization to be
known as Bobolink Boys.

"Second: The purpose of this organization is to provide a club for boys
under twelve years of age, that will plan healthful sport, social
meetings, and assist the Blue Birds in their work and play.

"Third: Meetings shall be arranged for by vote of members, and all other
important matters shall be discussed and decided upon at these meetings.

"Fourth: An initiation fee of ten cents shall be charged each boy
desiring to become a member of the Bobolinks, and dues of five cents a
month shall be collected from every member. Should any member find it
impossible to pay these costs he may be discharged from the obligation
by filing an acceptable excuse with the treasurer.

"Fifth: A bank account shall be opened at the Oakdale National Bank and
all funds deposited there. All bills must be paid by check signed by the
treasurer and secretary.

"Sixth: Any member found deliberately breaking any of the rules and
by-laws shall be expelled from the organization, after a meeting held to
investigate the misdemeanor."

Uncle Ben looked up from the paper and said,

"Is that the plan of organization that you boys feel will cover what you
want?"

"Oh, yes, that's fine!" cried several boys.

The others still felt too over-awed at the business-like terms just
heard, to make any sign, favorable or otherwise.

"Well, if this paper is acceptable a motion to make it official will be
received. I want to get to the principal thing for which we have
gathered," said Uncle Ben.

"Now, I shall make some suggestions," continued Uncle Ben, after the
outline had been accepted by a vote. "Are there any boys here who do not
wish to become members?"

All of the twenty-three boys wished to become Bobolinks.

"Are there any boys present who cannot pay the initial fee and regular
dues?" continued Uncle Ben.

None thought this impossible.

"After this you write down the names and addresses of every boy who
applies for membership."

Ned made a note of it in his book.

"Now for a catechism: This is very important," said Uncle Ben, looking
about at the boys. "And answer truthfully!"

"Ever smoke?"

"Ever drink?"

"Ever gamble?"

"Ever swear?"

"Ever steal?"

"Ever fight?"

"Ever play hookey?"

"Ever strike anyone weaker than yourself?"

"I noticed that most of the boys smiled when I said 'hookey,'" ventured
Uncle Ben, critically. "But let me tell you! 'Hookey' is an
innocent-looking vice that leads to great trouble. It is the seed of
being unreliable. A man who is unreliable is a failure in the beginning.
So, boys, beware of 'hookey'!"

The boys felt the serious import of the words and each vowed to forego
the delight in playing hookey when fishing was good, or when baseball
was being played in town ten miles away.

"Have any of you boys ever been in a printing plant and watched the
process of turning out papers?" asked Uncle Ben.

Almost every boy raised his hand instantly in answer to this question,
for what boy had not stood at the village printer's yearning to set type
or run one of the fascinating presses?

"Fine!" smiled Uncle Ben. "And now how many can set type or do small
jobs on the press?"

Very few could do this, but the Starr boys and Jinks often helped Ned
with printing the _Chirp_ on his small press, and a few other boys knew
something of the work.

"Well, I'll have to explain to you what kind of work is required of a
firm that prints papers or publishes a magazine. You may think this has
nothing to do with your organization, but you will soon see," said Uncle
Ben.

As the speaker turned to take up several sheets of paper, a noisy
chatter was heard outside the house and in another moment all of the
Blue Birds, accompanied by Mr. and Mrs. Talmage, Mrs. Catlin, and Miss
Selina, entered the room.

"In passing, we heard the harangue going on in here, and found out from
Mr. Talmage that a secret meeting was under way. We would love to hear
the motive and perhaps suggest an idea now and then," laughingly said
Mrs. Talmage.

The Bobolinks looked at each other, and Uncle Ben said, "Members, shall
these intruders be ejected, or shall this organization extend the first
courtesy to one we hope to assist in the future?"

The boys giggled, for the manner of presenting the case appealed to
every one of them, and eliminated any feeling of intrusion from the Blue
Birds.

"One item to be written in our by-laws must be: 'Consider the ladies
first,'" announced Ned, standing.

"The visitors are welcome!" said Uncle Ben, making a ceremonious bow.

"But please remember, visitors, this is a business meeting, not a social
function, so I must ask the ladies to find their own seats and not
disturb the gentlemen," said Mr. Talmage.

The ladies were soon seated in a corner where Ike placed some boxes, and
the Blue Birds squatted upon carriage robes spread out on the floor by
Simon. When all was orderly again, Uncle Ben proceeded with his
discourse.



CHAPTER V

UNCLE BEN'S BUSINESS TALK


"Ladies and gentlemen!" said Uncle Ben, bowing politely to each group;
"You may not know that I have always had one hobby--something like my
nephew here--and that is still, printing. My present position as editor
of a magazine does not satisfy my craving for the printer's workshop,
but it is as near as I can come to it, so I have bided my time until an
opportunity like the present one offers.

"Before I confide to you what the present offer is, I wish to explain
somewhat the working of a magazine plant. I believe it is necessary to
tell you how much hard work is attached to the business, and some of the
enjoyments when the magazine is ready to go out.

"The first thing is to have the right kind of a story, or article. To
find this it is necessary to read many, many manuscripts. We employ
'readers' for this work of selecting what we can use. The manuscripts
we cannot use are returned to the writers. After the first reader passes
on a story, another reader goes over it, and if it seems suitable, it is
handed to the editor. The editor decides whether or not to accept it. If
accepted, he has to go over it very carefully. Sometimes words are
changed, lines inserted, or whole paragraphs cut out.

"If the story needs illustrating an artist is sent for. If a soft-toned
illustration is desired, the artist makes a 'wash drawing'--meaning a
black and white painting done with brushes, as in a water color. The
'wash drawing' is then sent to the engravers and a 'half-tone' plate
made for use in the magazine. 'Half-tones' are made of copper sheets
with the picture photographed upon them.

"Sometimes we want an outline to illustrate the story. A pen and ink
sketch is required for this, and is made about twice as large as it will
appear in the magazine. This is reproduced on a zinc plate, and is
called a 'line cut.'

"Then the story is given to the linotypers. A linotype machine is very
interesting. It has a key-board almost like a typewriter. When a letter
is struck on the board, a piece of brass containing the impression of
that letter moves into place just like a soldier starting to form a
line. When the next letter is struck, the corresponding brass soldier
hurries into place beside the first one. This continues until a whole
line has been 'set.' Then the operator touches a lever, the line of
brass pieces moves to a new position, and molten type-metal is poured
into the mold which the brass pieces help to form. The lead at once
hardens, and the whole line is ready for printing, in one solid piece.
All of this is done very fast--much faster than I can tell you about it.
It is hard to believe that a machine can do all these things so quickly
and so accurately.

"When the linotype work is completed the printer places the lines of
type on a 'galley.' Then the type is covered with ink, a piece of paper
is laid on, and a heavy roller passed over it. This impression is called
the 'galley proof.' If the linotyper has made any mistakes in spelling
or printing, they have to be corrected.

"After the 'galley proofs' are corrected, the dummy--a blank-page book
just the size the magazine will be--is made.

"Before us, are all the pictures and reading matter to be used. These
are arranged and pasted into the dummy in the order in which they are to
be printed. Sometimes a page has a little space left at the bottom, and
this must be filled with a neat ornament or a verse. Sometimes an
article is too long, and then it must be cut down and made to fit the
allotted space.

"Thus, the whole magazine is 'dummied' with pages of cut-up galley
proofs and picture proofs, until it looks more like a child's scrap book
than a magazine model.

"This dummy goes back to the printer, who picks out the galley-type and
measures it off to compare with the pages of the dummy. This done, he
places the type in a form the size of the page, places the numeral of
the page at the top or bottom, with the name of the magazine at the
top--this is known as the 'running head,' as it runs along the top of
each page throughout the book.

"The printer next makes a page proof. That is, he makes a proof of each
page. These pages are sent into the editorial room again, and are gone
over carefully and compared with the galley proofs; if everything is
correct each page is 'O.K'd.' If, however, there are errors, note is
made of it in the margin on the page proof.

"When all the pages are 'O.K'd.' the page forms are 'locked up'
together, sixteen, thirty-two or sixty-four, in one big form, and
arranged so that when the sheet of paper is printed and folded, the
pages will come in the right order."

So Uncle Ben continued his talk about magazine making. He explained the
workings of different kinds of printing presses, how some print directly
from the type "made ready" on a flat bed, the paper being fed into the
press in flat sheets, and how some of the big presses print from curved
plates that fit around a big roller, the paper running into the press
continuously from an immense big roll as wide as the press. He told
about the wonderful folding and stitching machines, and many other
interesting things.

During Uncle Ben's talk, everyone had been so interested that not a
sound was heard. When he concluded, however, the tension relaxed and his
audience began asking questions.

"This is most instructive, but I can't see where it helps the Bobolink
Boys in their organization," said Mr. Talmage, quizzically.

At mention of the name "Bobolink Boys" the Blue Birds looked at each
other, and then at their elders for information.

Uncle Ben saw their wonderment, and laughingly explained the plot. The
girls were delighted, and had so much to say to one another that it
seemed as if no further business could be attended to that day.

Uncle Ben, however, rapped loudly upon the box.

"We have many important things to attend to," he said, "and all are
requested to sit still and listen. I am going back to New York in a few
days, and in the meantime I should like to help start the boys on the
right road to success. Now, what you all want to know is, 'How does my
talk about magazines help the Bobolink Boys?'

"Well, this is the way: For the past half-score of years or more, I have
longed to issue a magazine for young folks that could reach out into
every plane of life; for the poor children in institutions; for the slum
children; for rich children, for children in the city and children in
the country--for every one of them!

"I would like to give so much instructive reading matter on its pages
that the schools will circulate it among the pupils; I would like to
have the pictures of the very best; I would like it to inspire boys and
girls to read better books, and make them ambitious to make the most of
their chances; I would like it to teach them to make things and do
things for themselves; in fact, I would like to make it the best and
finest magazine ever published! But I haven't had time to experiment
with my hobby and being an old bachelor I am afraid I do not understand
children well enough to know how to write for them. The plan that I have
been figuring out seems to fit most beautifully with the Blue Birds' and
Bobolinks' work."

Uncle Ben hesitated a second, but not a sound was heard. Then he
continued:

"Mother Talmage asked me last night about how much it would cost to send
circulars to people who might be interested in the farms next summer. I
propose that we start a children's magazine and use its pages whenever
there is an announcement of importance. If you want donations of money
or help of other kinds, ask for them through the pages of the magazine.

"With the Blue Birds to write articles each month telling other children
what they are doing, or how to make the things they are being taught to
make, and the Bobolink Boys to write the experiences of their daily work
and play, and some of the grown-ups to contribute poems and stories, of
course it would be necessary to have contributions also from some of our
best writers, and I know I can get them for you."

The idea of such a stupendous undertaking made the children gasp, but
Mr. Talmage said, "All you have said is fine, Uncle Ben, but who will
set type, buy paper, print, bind and circulate such a magazine?"

"That's just the thing! Don't you see? My very great interest in this
plan will compel me to help in every way and all the time, and the boys
will be kept busy at profitable and interesting work. When all the
manuscript is in, and turned over to me I will see that it is set, and
the proofs sent back to the children. The Blue Birds will enjoy making
the dummies, pasting in the pictures, and arranging the pages; and the
Bobolinks can proceed to print the magazines. If you don't expect to use
this carriage house for anything it may as well be turned into a
print-shop. With all these boys to work, the printing ought to be great
sport and not much trouble to get out a magazine."

The Blue Birds were clapping their hands in excitement while the
Bobolinks jumped up, and in their eagerness, crowded about Uncle Ben,
overwhelming him with so many questions that he was quite overcome.

Then Miss Selina stood up in the road-wagon, and after silencing the
noisy crowd, made an announcement.

"I'll pay for the paper that will be needed for the experiment the first
month!"

"Hurrah, hurrah! for Aunt Selina!" shouted Uncle Ben, and the rest
joined in with such good will that Aunt Selina sat down and held her
hands over her ears.

"I'll pay postage on a sample issue!" called Mrs. Catlin.

Again the joyous young publishers-to-be burst forth into cheers.

"What can I pay for?" laughed Mrs. Talmage.

"You'll soon find that you are paying the heaviest tax of all in
overseeing the publishers," replied Uncle Ben.

"How soon can we start?" demanded the Bobolinks.

"What shall we write?" asked the Blue Birds.

Uncle Ben raised both hands for silence, and as soon as order was
restored again, he spoke.

"We have just installed new machines in our printing plant in New York
and intend selling the old ones to some small job printer who can use
second-hand machines. Now, I can pick out a small press, stitcher, and
other things that you will need, and ship them out here. You have
electricity here, and a small motor will furnish the power. When you are
ready to go to press, I will send out an experienced man from our shop
to direct the work and see that everything is done properly. The
addressing and wrapping can be done by all of you. Of course, as far as
we have gone, it all sounds like great sport, but there is another side
to this plan that must be thoroughly agreed upon before we go any
further. If you start this undertaking, you will have to keep on with
it. At a certain date each month your periodical must be ready for
mailing. You will have to write and edit, and print, whether the skating
is fine, or the gymnasium is at your disposal, or whether Thanksgiving
dinner makes you feel lazy, or a toothache keeps you awake all night.
Publishing work is very interesting, most instructive, and profitable,
but it is work, work, work, and not all play!"

"Oh, we know that, Uncle Ben," said Ned. "And we'll promise to take all
of the consequences that go with the game."

The other boys seconded Ned's statement, and the Blue Birds eagerly
agreed to the plan, so Uncle Ben really had no further objections to
make.

"Oh, I can hardly wait to begin my page," cried Ruth.

"I'd rather see the magazine--maybe it will be a home-made looking
thing!" exclaimed Dot Starr.

"It will not! Not with us boys to boss the plant!" bragged Don, her
twin.

"If it is home-made, you'll have to do it all again," commented Uncle
Ben.

"That is where Mrs. Talmage's work comes in," laughed Mr. Talmage.

"It will be a regular magazine, all right!" exclaimed Mrs. Talmage
emphatically.

"We boys will see to it that no magazine is mailed that will make folks
laugh at us," guaranteed Ned.

"I'm sure I placed my hobby in the right hands, for you children seem to
take a pride in doing things well," commended Uncle Ben.

"And with a nephew stepping right in his uncle's footprints, why
shouldn't things be done right?" laughed Mr. Talmage.

"Say, Uncle Ben, how long must we wait before we can begin?" asked Don
Starr.

"Get as busy as you like to-morrow after school," replied Uncle Ben.
"I'll run into town and attend to having the things shipped here as long
as you have agreed to my plans; you boys may start making benches,
tables, or whatever will be needed in the plant."

"They'll need a desk, some chairs, a table and a few other things,"
suggested Mr. Talmage, looking around. "It might be advisable for them
to partition off a corner of this room for an office."

"I have a good roll-top desk in the store-room at home; it has never had
any use since Mr. Catlin passed away. The boys shall have that," offered
Mrs. Catlin.

"And I can spare that long table we used to have in the dairy before we
installed the patent butter machines," added Mrs. Talmage.

"In case I find any other pieces of Mr. Catlin's office furniture I will
send them over with the desk," said Mrs. Catlin.

"About those machines, Ben! How much will they cost the boys?" asked Mr.
Talmage.

"I thought of assuming the cost, and any time the publishers give up the
work I can easily sell them in the city. The children can pay the
freight charges, which will not be very heavy," replied Uncle Ben.

"Then, there will really be no heavy expense to start with, will there?"
asked Mrs. Talmage.

"No, but a tax of application and interest will be necessary," smiled
Uncle Ben.

"We will agree to pay all of that you want," promised several of the
boys.

The Blue Birds did not have much to say about the machines and workshop,
but each felt that it was to be their very own magazine, so that their
interest and pleasure in every new development were keyed to the top
pitch.

"Betty, what page do you want to take charge of?" asked Norma, eagerly,
as they left the carriage house.

"I think we had better defer discussing that part of the work until we
can all sit down quietly and talk it over," said Mrs. Talmage.

The men and boys remained with Ike to decide what boards and lumber
would be needed for the morrow, so work could begin on their workrooms.

"Let's have a sign for the front over the door," suggested Jinks. "I'll
paint it at home."

"Call it 'Bobolink Boys Publishing Company,'" ventured Meredith.

"Oh, that wouldn't be fair to the Blue Birds if they are going to help
in the work," said Ned.

"Name it 'Blue Bird & Bobolink Company,'" said Uncle Ben.

This last suggestion struck everyone as being just right, but Mr.
Talmage made a good amendment.

"Why not have a mysterious combination? Every mortal is interested in
finding out a puzzle, or secret. The more elusive a thing is the more
they chase it. Now, get folks guessing over your name and they will not
forget you so soon. I just thought of the name of 'B. B. & B. B.
Company.'"

"That's great, father, but we haven't thought of a name for the
magazine," cried Ned.

"Add a few more 'B's' to the others," laughed Uncle Ben. "We'll name it
the 'B. B. B. B.,' published by the 'B. B. & B. B. Co.'"

"What does 'B. B. B. B.' stand for?" asked Mr. Talmage.

"'Blue Bird Bobolink Bulletin,'" replied Uncle Ben.

"That's mystery enough, I'm sure," laughed Mr. Talmage.

After a few more remarks, the first meeting of the organization whose
influence was to be far greater than had been hoped for by Uncle Ben, or
the boys who had started it, was dismissed.



CHAPTER VI

BEGINNING THE WINTER WORK


It is needless to say that the moment school was dismissed the following
afternoon every boy and girl who was interested in the new Publishing
Company, ran toward the carriage house at Mossy Glen. The teachers,
pupils, and even some of the members of the Board of Education had heard
of the plans made the day before--for in a small community like Oakdale,
news travels rapidly--and the men on the school board were as much
interested in the success of the children's work as if it had been their
own undertaking.

Ike had found some splendid pine boards, a number of two-by-four joists,
plenty of odds and ends of railing, posts, moulding, and other trim that
would make a boy delight in amateur carpentry work.

Nails, screws, hammers, saw, and tools of all kinds were provided, so
that each boy could work without delaying or inconveniencing the others.
Ike and Simon were to superintend the construction and show the boys
how to put things together properly.

Uncle Ben and Mr. Talmage, who went to the city early in the morning to
attend to the shipping of the machinery, had not yet returned.

The Blue Birds gathered merrily in their Nest in the cherry tree, with
several little girls who had been away during the summer and were eager
to join the Nest.

Miss Selina insisted upon walking along the path from the house when
Mrs. Talmage started for the Nest and, upon arriving at the foot of the
steps that led up to the Nest, looked up imploringly.

"Flutey, I believe you can get up here if I help you!" exclaimed Ruth,
seeing her aunt's expression.

"Oh, no, dearie! What about the rheumatism in my ankles?" groaned Miss
Selina.

"Leave it behind!" laughed Ruth, gayly hopping down from the Nest.

"I wish I could!" declared Aunt Selina, taking a firm hold on the
handrail and trying to lift up her foot.

"Ouch! that hurt my knee-joint!" cried she.

"Flutey! That's no way to leave that rheumatism behind!" reprimanded
Ruth. "Now, make up your mind to walk right up and forget the nasty
little pain."

Mrs. Talmage and the Blue Birds were hovering over the railing of the
Nest to advise the two at the foot of the steps. Dot Starr, with her
usual bluntness and funny way of expressing herself, called down to Miss
Selina:

"Flutey, you just feel those twinges in your joints because you're
spoiled. Mumzie says I am always sicker if I let myself be fussed over
and spoiled. _She_ just says, 'Try to forget it.' Now, if you were me,
you never would be down there a second, but you'd jump here two steps at
a time. So, I say like Mumzie would, forget you're not me, and we'll see
you pop up here like magic!"

Aunt Selina felt like rebuking Dot, but the children smiled
sympathetically and knew Dot was sincere in her desire to help the old
lady, so the invalid replied instead,

"Dot, that is just the trouble! I can't forget the habits of seventy
years. I wish I could make-believe I was as young and spry as you are."

"If you wish, then you can! Remember the story of Sarah Crewe?" cried
Ruth, helping Miss Selina to the next step.

"I saw an old lady up in Casco Bay town last summer who was older than
you and she never had time to remember her age, because she had to work
all day for other folks. She said she slept like a baby every night.
Daddum said one reason she looked so young was that she hadn't time to
worry about growing old," said Dot.

"If I had had to work for others instead of being pampered until I
couldn't do a thing for myself, maybe I would feel as young as anyone,"
admitted Aunt Selina.

Meantime, without being conscious of the act, the old lady was being
helped up the steps by Ruth, until, at the last words, she reached the
top.

"Why, I'm up and never knew it!" she laughed.

"That's just the way to forget!" cried Dot, clapping her hands.

"And you've left your troubles behind as I told you to," added Ruth.

A chair was placed for Aunt Selina who looked about the Nest with keen
interest.

"Mary Talmage, I just wager this was all your idea, wasn't it?" she
commented, as she noted the sides of the Nest covered with straw
matting, and the cute wicker table and chairs.

"Yes, Flutey, it was. But listen until we tell you how we found this
Nest and the furniture," said Ruth, and all the Blue Birds chirped in to
tell the story about the Nest and how the furniture was found hidden in
unexpected places about the lawn and in the shrubbery.

Aunt Selina chuckled, but Mrs. Talmage spoke with some seriousness.

"Blue Birds, time is flying, and we must talk about our magazine."

Ruth then explained the presence of the children who wished to join the
Nest. Mrs. Talmage looked sorry.

"Dearies, I would like to have you with us, but really I cannot take
proper charge of more than I have at present. I want to do the work
right and that will be impossible with too many in one Nest. But I have
a suggestion to offer. Mrs. Catlin is so interested with us in the work
that I am sure she will gladly start you in a Nest of your own. She has
plenty of time, and a beautiful place, so you will be just as happy
there as here. We can all meet when necessary and talk over affairs
together. I will write a note to her and explain, then you can take it
over."

"I know Mrs. Catlin! We live on the same street!" exclaimed one of the
children.

"I guess we all know Mrs. Catlin, and like her; if we can't join Ruth's
Nest, I'd like to be in one of Mrs. Catlin's," said another little girl.

After bidding them good-by as they ran across the lawn, the Blue Birds
settled down to hear the plans for work on the magazine.

"I have some ideas which I would like to present to save time," said
Mrs. Talmage.

"I apportioned a page to each one of you to edit and expect you to have
the line of writing that best suits your ability.

"For instance," continued Mrs. Talmage: "To Dot Starr, who did the
cut-out paper furniture so well at the school-house this summer when we
made the paper doll houses for the city children, I gave a page called,
'What Can Be Made of Paper.'

"To Edith, who always makes such good candy, I gave the 'Candy Kettle.'

"To Betty, who is clever with her pencils, I gave the 'Drawing Lesson.'

"To Ruth, who loves housekeeping, I gave 'Household Hints.'

"To Norma, who likes to sew, I gave the 'Doll's Wardrobe.'

"To May, who takes such good kodak pictures, I gave the 'Camera Corner.'

"To Frances, who is an adept at puzzles and games, I gave 'Puzzledom.'

"There are besides many other pages to edit which I think will have to
be done by the boys, and some grown-ups, so I just jotted down the names
of the boys that I think are capable of doing it.

"I gave Ned a page for 'Domestic Animals,' Meredith Starr can have a
page on 'Wild Animals,' and Jinks a page on 'Insects and Reptiles.'

"Then, there will be need for other articles which the other boys can
supply, and they can all help with the publishing. I shall write to an
old friend who was judge of the Juvenile Court for years, and most
likely has very interesting stories to tell. Another well-known writer
of children's books lives in Washington, D. C., and I feel quite sure
of her interest when I tell her what our plans are. Besides, Uncle Ben
knows people who will contribute, as he told us so."

"Oh, Mrs. Talmage, do you really believe the magazine will be so good
that folks will subscribe for it?" questioned Norma.

"Why, of course! Didn't you hear Uncle Ben say that he would be ashamed
to send anything less than a real magazine through the mail?--That we
would have to do our work over again if it was poorly done?" said Mrs.
Talmage.

"Just think! My name on a magazine page with my cut-out furniture on
it!" cried Dot, hugging her sides.

"How many folks will get one, do you suppose?" asked Betty.

"The more the merrier," laughed Mrs. Talmage.

"Mother Wings, how do people get a list of names where children want a
magazine?" asked Ruth.

"Oh, different ways. Uncle Ben may have a list of families where there
are children. I know dozens of friends who have children; Mrs. Catlin
does, too. Then, there are the Wells, Stevens, Starrs, and so on: all
families who know other families where there are children. Why, friends
of mine in England and Germany will take this magazine if I send them a
sample copy. And so a list grows when everyone tries to help."

"If we are only printing this magazine to help along our farms for poor
children I don't see why anyone in Europe would want to take the paper,"
said Dot.

"Don't you be so sure about that, Miss Dot!" said Aunt Selina. "After
this organization gets agoing I believe it will make such a stir that
its light won't 'be hidden under a bushel' very long. Only keep your
magazine at high-water mark, and you will see a marvel before the year
is over."

Aunt Selina's remark made such an impression on Mrs. Talmage that she
suddenly realized how important their venture might turn out to be,
providing everyone did their best.

A loud halloo coming from the direction of the carriage house called the
Blue Birds' attention to the open door. Mr. Talmage and Uncle Ben were
standing there beckoning for the Blue Birds.

Aunt Selina found she could get down from the Nest quite nimbly, and
all started toward the building which was to be known in the future as
the "Publishing House."

Inside, about twenty boys were sawing, hammering, and calling to each
other while Ike and Simon bossed the work. At one side of the entrance
the front corner of the large room had been measured off, and a
partition about six feet high erected. This office had a wide window in
front, and a closet on the side wall. The partition was of oak-stained
ceiling boards that had been taken out of an attic chamber of the
Talmage residence when that room had been refinished. The partition had
a door to match, and the boys' work was exceptionally good. Six boys
were busy completing the nailing of the partition and two more were so
engaged upon hanging the door that the visitors were scarcely noticed.

"Hi, there! Jinks, start that screw, will you?" called Ned, trying to
balance the door on his toes while the hinge insisted upon slipping out
of the notch that had been made for it.

"I will, if you will stop wriggling the old thing!" replied Jinks, who
had pinched his finger several times and had become wary of the
unsteady door.

Ike saw the difficulty the boys were having and, while the Blue Birds
stood watching the struggle, came over and offered to help them.

"This scene is as good as a vaudeville, Mary," laughed Uncle Ben.
"That's why I wanted you to see it."

"Oh, I think they have done wonderfully well," replied Mrs. Talmage,
with interest.

"They have, and Ben is so tickled with the boys' whole-hearted support
of the plan, that he is having the time of his life," added Mr. Talmage.

The other boys had made a strong bench to sit upon, and a rude table
with a board top.

The whole interior of the place was covered with sawdust, shavings, and
pieces of timber. Planes and chisels were in constant demand, and
hammers, screw-drivers and saws were all making a veritable bedlam of a
noise, when Ike called "Time."

"Too dark to see what you are doing," he explained.

"Turn on the electric lights, Ike," said Ned.

"Better not--you boys have done far more than we thought you could and
there is no use in 'driving a willing horse to death,'" advised Mr.
Talmage.

As the boys dropped tools and stretched tired arms, or bent backs, they
realized that the unusual work had made muscles ache.

"Get on your caps and coats, Bobolinks, and come out on the lawn to hear
of my trip to the city," said Uncle Ben.

In a few moments the room was empty and the children crowded about Uncle
Ben who sat cross-legged on the soft grass, while Ike placed chairs for
Aunt Selina and Mrs. Talmage.

"Well, to start at the beginning, I took the eight-ten train this
morning, and I was introduced to the Oakdale Commuters as 'Uncle Ben of
the Blue Birds and Bobolinks.' That was reference enough for anyone. I
was looked upon as a man to be envied and I even saw covert glances from
some jealous eyes that looked me up and down and saw no especial favor
to have boosted me in the estimation of the B. B. & B. B. Company."

"Now, Uncle Ben, stop your fooling and tell us about the trip," rebuked
Ruth.

"I am, Fluff, but I want to begin at the right end of the story,"
teased Uncle Ben.

"Oh, begin anywhere, only get somewhere!" cried Mr. Talmage, laughing.

With a sigh that indicated that he was misunderstood, Uncle Ben
continued his story.

"Mr. Wells, Mr. Stevens, Mr. Starr, Mr. Wilson, and many other men you
know promised to advise and assist the boys in every way possible."

"What did Daddum say?" cried Dot, eagerly.

"Don't interrupt, Dot!" admonished Meredith, sternly.

"Well, Mr. Starr offered a series of articles on his experiences in
lumber camps, and, besides, he promised to take hold of any part of the
plan in which we could use him," replied Uncle Ben. "Mr. Wells has a
book that will prove valuable for our undertaking. It is a directory of
benevolent institutions and contains the names and addresses of every
asylum or home in the country."

"Why, Uncle Ben, that is exactly what we need to find our sick children
for the farms, isn't it?" said Ruth, happily.

Uncle Ben nodded his head and continued.

"Then, Mr. Stevens offered to have his solicitors try to secure some
advertising for the magazine. His agency is one of the best in the city
and I think his offer a fine one."

At the idea of having advertisements appear in the magazine, the Blue
Birds and Bobolinks looked at each other in surprise.

"We never thought of _that_!" ventured Ned.

"Sounds like real work, when you hear the words 'solicitors' and
'advertisements,' doesn't it?" commented Jinks.

"I've been trying to make you understand from the first that this will
mean work as well as pleasure," insisted Uncle Ben.

"They'll all wake up to that fact soon enough, Ben--go on with your
story," laughed Mr. Talmage.

"Mr. Wilson, who is connected with the Oakdale Paper Mills, then offered
to donate enough paper to get out several months' issues, so I accepted
that offer with delight, thinking you could make use of Aunt Selina's
offer in some other way. Mr. Wilson is going to bring some samples of
paper over to the Publishing House soon and let us make our selections.
A man whom I just met offered to speak to the Manhattan Subscription
Agency about taking subscriptions for you and giving the magazine a
good position in their next catalogue."

"So much good luck actually turned Uncle Ben's head," laughed Mr.
Talmage, during a moment's silence. "Why, he hardly knew what he went to
the city for, and I had to guide him by the arm to show him the way to
his office."

"Of course, my friends here know better than to believe any such
scandalous tales about me!" replied Uncle Ben, looking at his brother as
if to dare him to tease any more.

The children always enjoyed these make-believe quarrels between the two
brothers, and Ned generally egged them on. To-day, however, he was too
eager to hear about the trip to the city and so urged Uncle Ben to
finish the story.

"We found the machinery that I think you can best use here, and had it
prepared for shipment. Just as we were leaving the store-room a man came
down with a load of type.

"'Where are you taking that?' I asked him.

"'Boss said to send it off to be melted down,' replied the man.

"'Just leave it on top of this packing case--I'll see that it is taken
care of,' I told him, and he did as I said.

"Now, boys, all of that type is coming out here for you to work with. I
had it charged to my account at the office, for it was a 'big find' to
get hold of some type just at the time we needed it," concluded Uncle
Ben, taking a long breath of relief.

"And now, I'll tell you of all the things Uncle Ben forgot to mention,"
laughed Mr. Talmage.

"When we left the stock-room and went to his office, he picked up the
telephone and called up more friends than I ever thought he knew. Two or
three of them were invited to lunch with us, and the others were told
about the wonderful work the Oakdale children were planning. Every one
of his friends was told to help along or suggest some way to boost the
magazine. Of course, they had to promise."

Uncle Ben chuckled to himself as his brother told about the telephone
experiences.

"Now, we come to the time when this crafty uncle of yours met his
friends at lunch. What do you think his plot was? Well, just listen and
I will tell you," and Mr. Talmage nodded his head warningly at his
brother.

"One of his guests was Mr. Connell, the man that owns one of the largest
engraving plants in the city. This Uncle Ben told his story in such an
engaging way that that business man actually offered to turn out the
plates you needed for the magazine at actual cost for several months. We
all know what that means--several hundred dollars on the credit side of
the ledger."

All eyes were turned toward Uncle Ben for confirmation of the great
offer, and he nodded his head smilingly.

"One of the best business advisers I know in New York said that he
thought you children had an unusually good idea for a successful
business investment, and hoped that you would keep it up until you were
adults and saw the financial benefit in it," said Uncle Ben, seriously.

The girls were pleased at this news, but the boys were hilarious to find
that a clever business man approved of the plan they were working out.

"When will the machinery be here, Uncle Ben?" asked Ned.

"It is coming by freight and will take a few days, but you will be kept
busy until then in finishing the shop-work," returned Uncle Ben.

"Yes, indeed, we will have to build some stands for type, too, with the
boxful you got for us," answered Ned.

"We Blue Birds spent all of our afternoon engaging editors to take
charge of the pages," ventured Ruth, who thought the Blue Birds had been
quiet too long.

"You'll have to have all the pages ready to hand over to me by the tenth
of October, you know; I'll need about three days for making linotype and
then you can have the proofs back," said Uncle Ben.

"Oh, we will have everything ready long before the tenth," laughed Mrs.
Talmage.

"From the way the Blue Birds are working, I should say that each one
will have about five hundred pages written by that time," added Aunt
Selina, smilingly.

"In that case, we will have to have each page add a notice at the
bottom: 'To be continued in our Nest.'"



CHAPTER VII

BLUE BIRD WISDOM AND BOBOLINK WORK


"There! my page is all done!" exclaimed Ruth, holding a sheet of paper
away to admire the neatly written notes for "Household Hints."

"Mine's done, too, but I'm going to copy it over to-night to make it
look neat as a pin," said Norma.

"Did you get any new candy recipes?" asked Dot eagerly.

The little Blue Bird who took charge of the "Candy Kettle" smacked her
lips emphatically.

"I haven't started to ink the pencil lines of my cut-out paper
furniture, but that won't take long," explained Dot. "I started with the
kitchen because Mumzie said no good housekeeper would furnish a parlor
if she had no kitchen equipment."

"I did my drawing lesson, but I haven't written the lesson telling the
children how to make the picture," said Betty, with a worried look
toward Mrs. Talmage.

"Plenty of time, dear," soothed Mrs. Talmage. "You know Uncle Ben said
we would have until the tenth of the month."

The Blue Birds were gathered in the cherry-tree Nest after school, one
day, waiting for the signal from the Publishing House which would tell
them they might run over and inspect the huge pieces of machinery that
had arrived that day from New York. Ike and Simon had to help the three
truckmen as they placed rollers under the press and rolled it from the
truck and into the room. The stitcher, cutter and other pieces were not
so unwieldy to move and place. At noon, Ned saw the men struggling with
the press and so refrained from going near the house, but he told the
other Bobolinks, and immediately after school was dismissed a crowd of
boys ran to their shop.

The Blue Birds had been enjoined to keep out of the way while the boys
cleared things up and investigated the various pieces of machinery. It
was a strain on their patience, however, to remain in their Nest and
listen to the laughs, exultant shouts, and sounds of satisfaction coming
from the carriage house.

All things have an end, so Uncle Ben soon appeared at the wide doorway
of the Publishing House and gave a shrill whistle for the Blue Birds.
Instantly, seven little girls took flight down the steps and across the
lawn, leaving Mrs. Talmage to assist Aunt Selina.

The Blue Birds ran in and looked about. The great, ugly, black machines
with wheels, rollers and arms everywhere, did not impress them very
favorably.

"Can't make head or tail of the thing!" scorned Dot.

"No one expects a girl to understand," replied her brother Don.

"I would be afraid of that dreadful looking knife!" shuddered Betty,
standing at a safe distance and pointing to the wide blade of the paper
cutter.

Then the children crowded about the stitcher while Uncle Ben showed the
wonderful work the machine did.

The electric attachments had not yet been completed, so the
demonstration of the machines had to be by gestures. But Uncle Ben was
equal to it, and the children felt that they could almost _see_ the
machines running as they listened to his explanations.

"Well, Uncle Ben, I don't see how we can start this work without you
superintending us," ventured Meredith.

"It all seemed simple enough when we were talking about printing a
magazine, but this job is more than I can do," admitted Jinks.

"I am at home with my little press, Uncle Ben, but these big fellows
make me want to run away from the contract we made with you," added Ned,
seriously.

The Blue Birds and younger Bobolinks heard the older boys with anxious
concern lest the entire plan should fail.

"I thought of just such a contingency and provided for it," replied
Uncle Ben, with his optimistic manner. "I realize that you all go to
school and afternoons after school do not give you much time to
experiment on these machines, so I found two young men who used to do
good work for us who were pleased to come out here for a few weeks and
show you boys how to do things. They won't come until the galley proofs
arrive, but then, they will help you get out the first issue and teach
you everything there is to know about these machines. They will take
them all apart and teach you how to put them together again. A machine
is like a man's valuable animal--if you pay no attention to its welfare,
it does not last long enough to pay you for its keep."

"We'll look after our machinery all right, Uncle Ben," agreed Ned, with
the look of the workman who truly loves his tools.

"I'm sure you will, and I hope the Blue Birds will have as much pride in
turning out commendable articles for us to print," added Uncle Ben,
looking at Mrs. Talmage.

"Oh, Uncle Ben, there's one question I want to ask--may we each sign our
own name to our page or must we make up a pretend name?" asked Ruth.

"Why, sign your very own name, of course; that is one way of making you
keep up to the mark. If you only had a pretend name on your page you
might get careless and say, 'Oh, no one knows who it is, anyway, so I
don't care if this story isn't as good as it ought to be.'"

Mrs. Talmage and Aunt Selina smiled, for they could see the wisdom of
the remark.

"I guess my father will be proud to see my name in a magazine," boasted
Dot Starr.

"All depends on what you tack your name to, Dot," laughed Meredith.

"It'll be fine, all right!" exclaimed Dot, nodding her head
emphatically.

"Shall we have our names at the top or at the bottom of the pages, Ben?"
asked Mrs. Talmage.

"Oh, please, Uncle Ben, do put them at the _top_! I am afraid no one
will stop to read our names if you have them at the bottom," worried
little Betty.

Everyone laughed, but Uncle Ben assured her that the name would be
placed directly under the name of the article.

Then, while the Blue Birds watched the boys placing type in the cases,
Uncle Ben sat down beside Mrs. Talmage and had a quiet talk about
affairs in general.

In concluding he said, "Now don't you worry if the children should
neglect a page now and then, for I can turn in heaps of good stories and
articles any time we may need them."

"Oh, these children are so reliable that they would rather do without
food or sleep than neglect anything that promises funds for next
summer's farms," returned Mrs. Talmage.

"Glad to hear it, and hope they keep it up. Now, what pages have you
provided for each month--and have you any to spare for some prominent
writers who are friends of mine and feel deeply interested in this
venture?" asked Uncle Ben.

"Oh, yes!" replied Mrs. Talmage. "We have seven pages taken by the Blue
Birds and four by the Bobolinks. Then there is a story Aunt Selina has
been thinking of writing, and a page for music that her friend in New
York will contribute. Mrs. Catlin promised to give us some tale of
adventure each month and that will take two pages. So, let me see--that
takes up, in all, sixteen pages. How many pages shall we have in the
magazine?"

"About forty-eight is the usual size for such a paper," replied Uncle
Ben, figuring out Mrs. Talmage's number of pages and making a memorandum
of the balance remaining for use.

"Gracious! then we will have to find much more manuscript than I
thought," worried Mrs Talmage.

"No, I do not think so--that is what I want to find out to-day. A very
good friend of mine who had charge of Field's Museum for four years, so
heartily endorsed this plan that he offered to supply a page article on
plant life each month. His name alone is valuable to a paper, and it
will certainly give weight to our magazine. Then, besides him, a very
close friend, who has been connected with a prominent book concern for
more than twenty years, called me up to say that this idea was just what
he has been hoping for. Both he and his wife are eager to assist in some
way. I suggested that they supply a page on bird life and give us some
valuable hints about our feathered friends. This man has published
numerous books on the subject of birds and is just the one to speak with
authority. The moment I mentioned it, he accepted my invitation; so we
have two renowned writers for most interesting and instructive pages
each month," said Uncle Ben.

"Why, how wonderful!" exclaimed Aunt Selina, who had been silent during
the conversation. "I don't see how you ever accomplish such miracles!"

Mrs. Talmage looked at Uncle Ben and said, laughingly, "Maybe it's
because we never take 'no' for an answer. We keep at an idea until it is
hammered into everyone's heart and mind."

"And the moment our friends have it well hammered in they get so
interested in succeeding that others are sought by them and the same
story hammered into another head and heart," added Uncle Ben.

"Well, I'm hammered and rooted in the work, and am anxious to have
friends in it, too. Is that the way you do?" asked Aunt Selina.

"That's just it! and before anyone else knows what's going on, dozens of
folks are working on the same idea," replied Mrs. Talmage.

"Mary said something about a story that you wished to contribute, Aunt
Selina--what is it?" asked Uncle Ben.

"An experience I had in the Civil War when I was visiting my old school
chum, Rebecca Crudup. You have never heard any of my tales of that
visit, but I assure you they are exciting."

"And you were there! Why, Aunt Selina, your manuscript would be valuable
to any magazine! I wish you would let me read it before you turn it over
to the Blue Birds," said Uncle Ben eagerly, the business instinct for
new material for his magazine pushing the Blue Birds' magazine into the
background.

"You may see it after it is published in the children's paper," quietly
replied Aunt Selina.

Uncle Ben took the rebuke in the right spirit, and said, "Is your friend
alive to-day?"

"She was until last year, but her daughter is the musician I wish to get
'rooted' in this work for a music page. I haven't her studio address, or
I would have written to her about this."

"Give me her name and the last address you knew of, and I will locate
her as soon as I get back to the city," offered Uncle Ben.

Uncle Ben wrote the name and late address in a book then turned to the
ladies with a suggestion.

"Aunt Selina's story will surely take more than the two pages you spoke
of, so why not make a serial story of her Civil War experience?"

"Splendid! That is just the thing," cried Mrs. Talmage.

"I could make it as long as you wanted it to run, for Rebecca visited me
after the war and told me plenty of her wild adventures after I returned
home from the South. Why, my coachman, Abe, was one of the Crudup
slaves. He says they all stuck close to the family, for they loved them
and wanted to remain, but Mr. Crudup lost most of his wealth in the war
and had no place or means for so many servants," related Miss Selina.

The children had made a thorough inspection of the machinery and type by
this time and had joined the grown-ups.

"What was that you were telling mother, Aunt Selina?" asked Ned, who
overheard the word "war" and was interested.

"Why, we just discovered that Aunt Selina had a very exciting time in
the South during the Civil War and she is going to write it up for your
magazine," explained Uncle Ben.

"Oh, goody, goody!" exclaimed a chorus of voices.

"It's strange that you never told us any of those stories, Aunt Selina,"
ventured Mrs. Talmage.

"Oh, it all happened so long ago, dearie, that I never thought anyone
would be interested. Besides, it turns to a page of my life that I
always wanted to keep closed," sighed Aunt Selina.

The others, respecting her reticence, changed the subject. Uncle Ben
smiled at her and made a comforting remark.

"Aunt Selina, when we finish our first year's work I am going to write a
most interesting treatise and call it, 'Aunt Selina's Recipes for
Youth.'"

"What do you mean?" she questioned.

"Just what I said," replied he, laughing. "Since you have taken an
interest in this work you have grown years and years younger in looks
and actions."

"Ben, you're making fun of me!" declared Aunt Selina.

"No, he's not, Aunt Selina; you really are looking fine," said Mrs.
Talmage.

"Aunt Selina, isn't that what I prescribed for you at Happy Hills?"
cried Ruth, exultantly.

"Yes, Fluffy, you did, and all the glory of this old conquest belongs to
you," admitted Aunt Selina, patting the little girl upon the head.

Just then, an expressman drove up and spoke to Ike.

"Right to the front door--that is the B. B. & B. B. Publishing
Company's shop," replied Ike with pride.

Uncle Ben signed for the safe delivery of a large flat box and the
children crowded about to watch Ned and Jinks open it.

The box was marked "Glass" and "Handle with Care," so Ruth ran over to
her uncle to inquire about it.

"Do you know what is in it?" asked she.

"I believe it is the box that failed to arrive with the other things,"
he replied, smiling.

"Do tell what it is," persisted Ruth.

"Why? You'll soon see, and it would spoil the surprise if I told you,"
said Uncle Ben.

Ruth skipped back to the circle formed about the case watching Ned take
out the nails very carefully. Soon Jinks and he had the top boards off
and then started to lift out the excelsior. This disposed of, a flat
paper parcel was seen. Ned lifted it out, and seeing another one
underneath, Jinks took it out also. Meredith and Don looked to see if
there were any more, but excelsior seemed to fill the bottom of the box.

"Who has a knife?" asked Ned, not finding his own in his pocket.

"Here, here! hurry up and cut the twine!" shouted Don.

Ned took Don's knife with the broken blade and rusty handle, and smiled
as he hacked away at the twine. After several vigorous efforts the
string parted and several hands hurried to tear off the heavy paper.

A large picture of Benjamin Franklin, in a heavy oak frame, came out
from its wrappings.

"Oh, isn't that fine!" cried several voices.

"Just our man, isn't he?" laughed Ned, pleased as could be.

"If I had a head like that I could invent machines, too," grumbled Don,
feeling of his round little head in disgust.

While the others laughed at the remark, Meredith turned to the other
parcel which Jinks held on the floor. The twine was soon cut and the
papers taken off to reveal the strong features of Abraham Lincoln.

"Ho, that's best yet!" cried the boys who felt a deep admiration for the
man whose picture stood before them.

Mr. Talmage and Mrs. Catlin came in during the exhibition of pictures,
and the former said, "Just what you needed to complete the office
appearance."

"Yes, indeed, Uncle Ben, and we thank you heaps and heaps!" exclaimed
Ned, carrying his picture into the office.

Jinks followed and Don started to drag away the box that stood in the
midst of the circle of children.

"Better see if there are any more!" called Uncle Ben, warningly.

Don dropped upon his knees and sought in the excelsior.

"Oh! here's some more and I almost threw them away!" he cried, as he
dragged forth several small packages.

Upon being opened they proved to be a number of pictures of famous
publishers and inventors of printing machinery.

"Won't they look just great, though!" came from several pleased boys.

"Why, come to think of it," said Mrs. Catlin, "my husband has a number
of fine plates of machines and things of that kind. He was connected
with the Vivla Machine Company, you know, and they manufactured presses
and printers' tools. They might look well if added to this collection."

Everyone agreed that the more the better, and then Dot remembered that
Mrs. Catlin had not seen the office and machinery.

"Walk right over and see how officey our office looks with your desk and
table," she cried.

"And Mrs. Talmage sent in the chairs," added Betty.

"And my mother sent the carpet," added Norma, pointing to the green rug.

"And father says we may have his typewriting machine and table here when
he's away from home," said Ruth, eagerly.

Mrs. Catlin praised the arrangement, and then asked to be shown the
wonderful machinery that was to do such great work.

"Dear me, I heartily regret that I am not a little girl so that I might
glory in this office and work," sighed Mrs. Catlin, coming back to the
grown-ups.

"You don't have to be 'little,' Therese," laughed Mrs. Talmage. "You are
one of this juvenile club as surely as if you were but ten. Why, you
couldn't pass the place without coming in to ask for news."

"To tell the truth, I was going to the village, but I heard the happy
shouts away out on the road and so I just wanted to know the cause,"
confessed Mrs. Catlin, smiling.

"I hope I may live a few years longer to see the results of this work,"
sighed Aunt Selina.

"You will, Flutey, you will!" cried Dot, enthusiastically. "What Uncle
Ben told you was really truly true!"

"And just think, Mrs. Catlin, Flutey is going to write a long serious
story for our magazine all about the war that she was in!" cried Betty
Stevens.

The grown-ups smiled at Betty's idea of a "serial" story, but Mrs.
Catlin looked surprised.

"Why, I never knew you were from the South?"

"I'm not, but I was visiting there during an exciting time, and Ben
thinks my experience will make a readable story," replied Aunt Selina.

Mrs. Catlin looked at the aged lady with interest and said how much she
would like to hear the tale. Suddenly, however, she slapped her gloved
hands together and spoke.

"Now, what reason is there that I should not have some pages in this
magazine?" she asked.

"Show us any good reason for taking our space and you may have it,"
teased Mrs. Talmage.

"Then put me down for another serial. I have a collection of short
stories that Mr. Catlin wrote of his adventures in Alaska. It does not
seem much like an adventure to go to Alaska nowadays, but forty years
ago it was as if one were leaving this hemisphere for the unknown. Some
of his tales are intensely interesting," said Mrs. Catlin.

"Why, friends, we are getting so many notable articles and writers
together that we will soon have to raise the subscription price,"
laughed Mr. Talmage.

"That reminds me that we never thought of a charge. We ought to decide
what subscription price we wish to ask," said Uncle Ben.

"Has anyone thought of that?" asked Mrs. Talmage, looking about at Blue
Birds and Bobolinks.

Heads were shaken and Ned asked, "How can we tell how much to charge
until we know what the magazine will cost?"

"I can help you figure that out, I think," offered Uncle Ben, sitting
down at the table and taking paper and pencil from the drawer.

"Figure how much five hundred--or say, a thousand will cost," ventured
Ned.

"A thousand! Where will you send them?" cried Jinks.

"I should say, figure on five thousand--or ten," said Uncle Ben,
quietly.

"What!" gasped several boys.

"Yes, because ten thousand will not cost much more than three hundred."

"How's that?" asked the boys.

"Plates, linotype, lock-up, make-ready, will cost as much for one
magazine as for one thousand. The only extra cost in getting out a
quantity is in paper, ink and time. Now, I firmly believe that we will
be able to send out ten thousand by the time you have them ready."

"Well, Uncle Ben, it sounds _awful_ big to us, particularly as we
haven't one single subscription, yet," said Ruth.

"Here--here, Fluff, don't let that bother you!" said Mr. Talmage,
throwing a five-dollar bill upon the table.

"And here's for ten more!" laughed Aunt Selina, taking a twenty-dollar
bill from her purse.

"Here's for five orphan asylums," added Mrs. Catlin placing a ten-dollar
note on the table.

"How now, Fluff--where are your blues, eh?" teased Uncle Ben.

The children saw the crisp notes lying on the table and felt the joy of
a successful start.

"From what Aunt Selina and Mrs. Talmage offered, it looks as if the
price should be two dollars per year. Now, let us figure out how close
we come to that," said Uncle Ben.

After counting up cost of production plus cost of mailing, it was
decided that two dollars would be a just price, but there would be
little profit unless more money could be gotten for advertising, or some
saving made.

"Guess we've about completed our business for to-day," ventured Uncle
Ben, as he noticed the children growing restless.

"Yes, let us go to the house and have some nice cool lemonade and
cookies," suggested Mr. Talmage.

Eager looks turned toward Mrs. Talmage, and she laughed.

"We're always ready for something good to eat, father, so you show us
the way to the picnic."

It took but a few moments for the children to reach the wide veranda and
settle down comfortably until the maids brought out the refreshments.

"A day's work always ought to finish like this," mused Don, munching a
delicious piece of cake.



CHAPTER VIII

AUNT SELINA'S CIVIL WAR STORY


The children thoroughly enjoyed their refreshments. Aunt Selina did not
care for any, so she sat smiling as she watched them.

"As long as Flutey isn't busy, wouldn't it be nice to have her tell us a
teeny-weeny bit of that war story?" ventured Dot Starr.

"Oh, yes! Please do! Flutey, do tell!" came from various directions.

"Why, that would be lovely, Aunt Selina, if you will," added Mrs.
Talmage.

Thus besieged, Aunt Selina decided to yield to the children.

"Let me see," she began. "I must have been about eighteen when my
dearest friend, Rebecca Crudup, invited me to spend Easter Holidays at
her Southern home. We had been chums from the moment we met at Miss
Wyland's Seminary for Young Ladies, and the Christmas before the time I
just mentioned, Rebecca had visited my home at Happy Hills. Mother
liked Rebecca immensely, but she feared the fighting in the South might
create trouble for me if I went with Becky. We reassured her, however,
and an unwilling consent was written from home.

"A week before the vacation began, Becky received a letter asking her to
start home as soon as she received the word, as important matters in the
family had to be looked after.

"As this would give us an extra week's holiday we hailed the letter with
joy. The girls stood about enviously watching us pack our carpetbags and
Rebecca's trunk. I packed many of my things in her trunk to save the
trouble of transporting two to Tennessee. We left the next morning
'midst shouts reminding us to be sure to be on hand when school
re-opened.

"We enjoyed the journey during the first part of the way, but, as the
train sped on, the country showed signs of the desolation wrought by
war, and we sobered from our happy laughter to serious contemplation.

"The nearer to Nashville that we came, the deeper the evidence that war
was an awful thing. We saw burned homes, devastated land and
forlorn-looking families as we passed by.

"Rebecca's father met us at the station in Nashville and welcomed me
with a surprised manner. Turning to his daughter, he spoke in a serious
tone.

"'We will endeavor to give your friend an enjoyable visit, daughter, but
it doesn't seem promisin'. Evidently you did not receive our telegram?'

"'Only this letter, father,' replied Becky, showing him the last letter
received by her.

"'Hum! well, we will live up to our reputation, Miss Selina, and be the
true Southern hosts.'

"As we came out of the station and walked toward the carriage-posts,
Rebecca looked about for the family equipage.

"Mr. Crudup led us toward a great spring wagon which was drawn by two
raw-boned farm horses. An old darky sat on the front seat.

"'Why, father! Surely we are not going home in _this_!' cried Rebecca
with deep chagrin.

"'Sorry, daughter, but it must be so,' returned her father in a grieved
voice. 'You will find many changes here since the fightin' began.'

"'Selina, I'm awful sorry you have to ride this way, and I can't
understand why it is. Father seems to know,' said Becky, in an
apologetic tone.

"'I don't mind, Becky. Really and truly, I don't. I love the country so,
that I would just as soon ride a plow if we had to, to get to your
home.'

"'Well, I'm glad your little friend is so sensible, Rebecca,' commended
Mr. Crudup.

"We climbed into the back seat after the baggage had been stowed away,
and the horses started off.

"'Father, why didn't you drive Jerry and Jim?' asked Rebecca,
wonderingly.

"'Becky, your brothers, I trust, are astride them, showin' the Yankees
how to fight!'

"'Daddy!' cried Rebecca in dismay.

"Mr. Crudup looked dreadfully sorry, but said nothing.

"'Daddy, have Newell and Ed left home?'

"'Yes, child. And I'm mighty sorry to say that most of your friends and
cousins are with them. Some will nevah return--but we are prayin'
constant, that our boys will win honahs for the South--and come home to
enjoy them.'

"Becky and I sat as stiff as sticks as we realized what this meant.

"'Still, I don't see why _some_ of our carriage horses couldn't have
come for us!' insisted Rebecca.

"'The horses have been used by some of the boys who had none, and the
spring wagon has to come in often with supplies for the troops. This
happened to be one of the days. So mothaw thought her girl would not
mind, particularly as we believed you received the telegram,' explained
Mr. Crudup.

"I was almost sorry I had come, so unexpected did my appearance seem to
be, but Becky cheered up when she saw me grow uncomfortable, and tried
to amuse me by pointing out neighboring plantations.

"As we drove about a bend in the road, Rebecca's beautiful old home
could be seen situated upon a knoll that commanded a view of the
surrounding country. We entered the grounds by a road that ran through a
dense wood, and then ascended gradually until we reached the
porte-cochère. The house itself, large, solid and in perfect condition,
was a landmark from every point of view round-about.

"Mrs. Crudup and her two older daughters welcomed me to their home and
made me feel more at ease. Rebecca, being the youngest member of the
family, was petted and made much of, and I came in for my share of it
for being her best friend.

"After our baggage was placed in our rooms, we were escorted upstairs
and left to prepare for dinner, which was generally at noon, but had
been delayed for Rebecca's arrival.

"My, but that was a delicious dinner! I can almost taste the tender
chicken with corn waffles, hot and crisp, this minute!

"Not a word had been said about the reason of calling Rebecca home a
week earlier than usual. Toward evening, however, vehicles of all
descriptions drove to the side yard and were left to the care of the
negro servants. As the neighbors came to the house they went directly to
a large room which had been closed and locked since our arrival, until
now. Rebecca and I were invited to join the sewing meeting, but neither
of us liked sewing, and we had planned to visit the horses before it
grew too dark. However, I saw heaps of flannel garments, half-finished
socks on knitting needles, warm caps, and clothes of all kinds being
made up for the Confederate soldiers.

"Becky and I strolled down toward the stables, but it was too dark to
inspect the thoroughbreds I had heard so much about, so we returned to
the house.

"As we passed the great barn we saw men busily engaged in packing all
kinds of produce and supplies in long hemp sacks to be carted to
Nashville the following day. In the sewing room the ladies were still
plying needles that flashed in and out as if speed would save a life.

"At eight o'clock a hot supper was served, and at nine the neighbors
left for their homes.

"That night, after we retired to our rooms, Rebecca came into my room
for a cozy chat. She looked very pretty as she sat on the corner of the
bed hugging her knees up in her arms.

"'Selina, it's a shame you are dragged into such a vacation! I declare,
had I known that all of the boys were away, nothing would have tempted
me to bring you. Even the girls are too busy sewing for their
sweethearts to bother with parties or sociables,' pouted Rebecca.

"'I came to visit you--not to see the boys or go to parties, and I want
you to believe that I don't mind a bit having you all to myself,' I
said.

"'You're a good little mouse to say that, but, all the same, I will trot
you all over the country on our saddle horses. You will have plenty of
fresh air, and that is what Miss Wyland said you needed for your
paleness,' replied Becky.

"Rebecca kissed me good-night, but I felt ill at ease in that Southern
home for being one of the 'detested Yankees.' Never, by word or sign,
was such a thought given out, but I felt that everyone would have been
more at ease had I never come.

"Every other afternoon Mr. Crudup went to Nashville with a load of bags
for the commissary department. One afternoon, about a week after our
arrival, he came back from the city earlier than usual and we noticed a
troubled look on his face.

"'How now, father?' asked sweet Mrs. Crudup.

"'Reports in Nashville say that the fighting is turned toward this part
of the country,' he said.

"'Someone has to bear the burden--perhaps the Lord has selected us to
carry a share,' returned Mrs. Crudup, reverently.

"'The one thing that worries me is that our place is well known in this
part of the country, and our fertile acres are known to produce the
finest edibles. Then, too, the fact that we raise some of the best-bred
horses in Tennessee may cause the Yanks to come down on us at any time
and raid the stables. In that case, they will carry off everything--not
even a plow-horse will be left.'

"'Father, our boys have had all they could use for this conflict, and
wouldn't it be bettah to ship our horses to Nashville fo' the army to
use?' asked Mrs. Crudup.

"'I would rather see every head of cattle dead than in the hands of a
Yankee!' cried Sally Crudup, bitterly, for her sweetheart had been
killed in a battle a few weeks previous.

"'Sally, Sally! let no bittehness feed your sorrow!' reproved the gentle
mother, patting me upon the back as if in apology for her daughter's
breach of etiquette.

"Mr. and Mrs. Crudup walked away in private converse, and Becky and I
started for the paddocks which I had not yet visited.

"'Selina, I'm plannin' a desperate deed!' said Becky, in a whisper, as
we passed down the shady lane that led to the stables and pastures.

"I looked at her in surprise, for her tone was shaky.

"'I have not introduced you to Imp. Imp is the most valuable horse on
the place and would bring a high price in Nashville. My only relief is
that no one can ride him, manage, or harness him but Tim and me. When
Imp was born Tim was there, and when Imp's mother died soon after his
birth, she turned her eyes on Tim and seemed to ask him to look after
her baby. I got there just as she turned back her head and saw me. I
took her head upon my lap and promised that I would adopt her boy, and I
always felt that she knew what I said and died happier for it. From that
minute, I took charge of Imp and fed him on a bottle until he could eat
alone. Tim and I have had sole charge of his training, but he is surely
an Imp when anyone else tries to come near him.' Becky almost wept as
she told me the story of the poor mother-mare.

"'Imp understands everything one says to him, but he can't talk;
however, his eyes tell you what he wishes to say! Now, if any stranger
should raid the stables and spy Imp, they would certainly try to steal
him first, for he is the finest thoroughbred that ever stepped over
Tennessee soil! But, he will bite, and kick, and bolt with anyone who
dares to trifle with him. Then do you know what will happen? They'll
either put a bullet through his heart, or hitch him to an army
ambulance, which will break his heart just the same.'

"Rebecca walked along in silence after that, until we reached a stile
that divided the house lands from the pastures.

"'Selina, there's only one thing to do--take him away and hide him until
this war is over. From what I gather from the servants about the place,
this plantation is in a straight line for Nashville, the point the
Yankees are making for. So, the sooner Imp is hidden the better!'

"'Becky,' asked I, in alarm, 'will these slaves desert or sell you out
to the Yankees?'

"'Mercy, no, Selina! They are like children to us. It may be that one
or two would like the novelty of going North, but they would soon be
squelched if it was found out. Why, father and mother treat their old
slaves like their family--asking advice of Tim, or Martha the
housekeeper, as the case might be. As for our old mammy--and the
cook--gracious, Selina! I'd die for either one of them, and so would any
one of us, and they know it. They'd stick to us even if we lost this
war--which we won't!' cried Rebecca.

"I felt somewhat piqued, but said nothing, for I was a guest of
Rebecca's. She sensed that she had said something difficult to forget,
and hugged me laughingly.

"'You wouldn't give a fig for a friend that could hope anything but
success for her country, would you?' she asked.

"I made no reply, and she continued in a low voice.

"'Selina, I'm going to take you into a secret that no one but Tim and
father knows about. Father hasn't an idea that I know about it, and Tim
won't tell him that I know. I found it myself years ago, and I always go
there when I want to be all alone. I have driven Imp right through and
he knows the cave and has no fear of the water, now.'

"I listened in surprise to the words but knew nothing of what she meant.

"After we had walked about a mile down the lane, Becky turned off across
the field. We came to a lovely little patch of woods where I could hear
the roar of a rushing stream. Rebecca led me by crooked paths until we
came to the brink of this torrent where it tumbled over a ledge of rock
about twenty feet high, and made a most beautiful waterfall. The
current was so swift above the falls that the water shot over making an
arch as it fell. The steep banks at either side were mossy and tall
ferns almost covered them.

"Rebecca led me straight to the falls. I hesitated as I saw her take a
step toward the back-rock under the falls and suddenly disappear in the
spray, calling upon me to follow.

"I was sure she knew what she was doing, so I too went headlong into the
spray to find myself behind the arched falls on a huge flat rock which
lay before a deep crevice opening straight into the cliff. Not a drop of
water penetrated here, but the spray made a thick curtain between the
cave and the outer world.

"Rebecca led me by the hand along a tunnel, and, after we had gone about
twenty feet, it opened into a high-vaulted cavern. Soon Rebecca found
the lantern and lighted it. I looked about in surprise; the place was
quite comfortably furnished with a chair, a rough table and a mattress
with bedding upon it.

"'I made Tim carry these things over here from the store-room and made
him swear never to tell father. Tim is almost seventy years old and he
believes in an oath as firmly as he does in Heaven. As far as I know,
Tim and Daddy are the only ones beside myself who know of this cave. The
reason I am bringing you here--a Yankee, too--is because I feel in my
bones that you will have to help me in some danger or need. Here is
where Imp is going to be hidden and I shall have to see if I can get him
to make friends with you, for you may have to claim him some day and
take him North with you.'

"'Oh, Becky, don't talk like this! You frighten me! I wish you were all
at Happy Hills with me where you would be safe.'

"'Do you think that one of us would seek another safer home while we
are needed here?' asked Rebecca, sternly.

"I made no reply and Rebecca carried the lantern ahead, bidding me
follow her out. We reached the extreme end of the cave, when Rebecca
handed me the lantern to hold down close to some lichen. I did so and
found that the mass of roots and moss that hung there swayed slowly back
and forth in a current of air. This, then, was the cause of the cave
being so well ventilated. Becky stooped, pushed aside the mossy curtain
and crawled into a small tunnel, taking the lantern from me after she
had entered.

"I followed close behind, upon hands and knees, through an opening the
size of a bushel basket. Finally, we reached a wider opening where we
could stand upon our feet again. We crept through this queer tunnel for
a long time and then I felt that we were ascending gradually and that
the air was growing purer. In a few moments more, we emerged from
another narrow crevice hidden under the gnarled roots of a live-oak.
Moss, lichen and fern covered this opening so completely that no one
would have dreamed there was an entrance there to a secret cave.

"We were in a grassy dell hemmed in by a thin ribbon of woods which
ended in a grove of tall pines upon a knoll.

"Rebecca extinguished the light and led me toward this grove. She
selected an old veteran pine and climbed up into its wide branches until
a comfortable notch was reached. I did likewise. As we sat there
admiring the wonderful view of distant mountains, Rebecca clutched my
arm, and pointed with one hand toward the low range of mountains about
fifty miles away.

"I looked and saw a heavy cloud of smoke hanging low over the crests. At
intervals we heard the echo of a 'boom.'

"'Oh, Selina, there's no time to lose, now! The fighting is so near that
we can hear the cannon over the mountain!'

"'What shall we do?' I cried helplessly.

"'Do!' almost screamed Rebecca, as she tore her clothes on the pine
boughs in her rapid descent. 'Why, I'll run Imp down to the cave, while
you race to the house and tell Timothy the news. Order him to bring
oats, bedding, blankets, and whatever Imp might need for a long siege.
Tell him you know the secret and will help me take care of Imp. Then, on
to the house, warning the negroes as you go, and tell the folks at the
house. If they ask how we know, answer that we were on the ridge and saw
it. Don't tell them that we were in the pine tree!'

"Calling these hurried directions as she went, Becky ran back through
the glade until we reached the woods near the lane. She pointed toward
the house, which could be seen in the distant haze, then ran for the
shed where Imp was kept.

"I did as I was ordered, wondering all the way why I was placed in such
an undesirable position--a Northerner plotting, as it were, against my
own people. I cared little about the war at that time, for I knew
nothing of war or its toll.

"However, I reached the outer buildings where the slaves lived and my
news acted like an electric current upon the inmates. Immediately they
ran in different directions, seemingly bent upon doing a part of a work
that had been carefully planned and arranged. I found out later, that
such was the case. The older slaves, who were trusted implicitly, set
to work burying (as I supposed) whatever fruit, vegetables, smoked
meats, and other edibles they could find--in fact, everything stored in
cellars or store-rooms.

"I was curious to see how they could prevent the articles from coming in
contact with the soil, and found that a chain of bricked cellars had
been built a short time before, and the bushes and weeds carefully
replaced on the dirt that covered the roofs. A door, opening into the
first of the chain of cellars, was made in a steep bank of earth. It was
merely a large hole in the ground covered with a flat stone that turned
upon a pivot. About this spot the soil and grass had been very cleverly
arranged to conceal any sign of what lay beneath.

"By afternoon not a piece of extra linen, bedding, or silver could be
found about the house. The jewelry, valuable bits of art and pictures,
heirlooms and a valuable library, had disappeared as if by magic. I knew
it had all been placed in some safe place and felt relieved at the
knowledge.

"I wandered about feeling lonesome for Rebecca and wishing I might
assist Tim who seemed busy in some undertaking. I watched him tie down
a canvas covering over a loaded cart and caught his glance, which seemed
to beckon me. I walked over to the mule's side and patted its head while
Tim spoke.

"'Miss Becky, she say you'se come wif me. I'se got'ter take dis load
down to der paddock!' Tim looked about as he spoke and winked at me
knowingly.

"I walked beside him as he drove the mule along the lane. The cart
seemed laden and the mule walked slowly, but we reached the wall that
divided the gardens from the farm, and then Tim made the beast go as
fast as possible, all the while looking covertly about for a run-away
negro or a Yankee scout.

"I suspected where we were going, and, sure enough! As we reached the
woods by the lane, Rebecca called softly, 'No further, Tim!' and came
out with several huge market baskets.

"Tim tied the mule to a tree by the roadside and removed the canvas
covering. There was everything one would need for light housekeeping for
several weeks. Besides the food and clothing, there were bandages,
medicine, bedding, lanterns, an oil-stove, dishes, and numerous other
necessities. These were piled in the baskets and carried to the cave
where they were placed in crannies for some future emergency.

"'Imp, I want you to be introduced to my best friend,' said Rebecca,
after we had brought in our first basket.

"I heard a whinny and looked about in the gloom.

"Rebecca went over to a corner near the spot whence fresh air entered
the cavern, and held the lantern up for me to see her pet.

"I stood making friendly advances to the beauty and, to Becky's
amazement, he never moved an inch, but wrinkled his nose for sugar.

"'Witch! that is what you are!' laughed Becky, as Imp poked his nose
under my arm. 'I have never known him to do such a thing.'

"Imp stood listening to his mistress as if he thoroughly understood the
situation.

"I turned to tell Rebecca what a beauty he was, and he deliberately
poked his nose out against my face.

"After all the supplies were stacked away, Rebecca slipped the halter
over Imp's head and led him to a ring cemented in the solid rock.

"'Now, Imp, you will have to be good and not whinny or make a sound. I
know what is good for you, and you must do just as I tell you, or a bad
Yankee soldier will catch you and then you will see!' warned Rebecca,
shaking her finger at him.

"The horse stood looking at her as if striving to understand what that
strange word 'Yankee' meant; then he threw up his head and shook it
defiantly.

"We said good-by to Imp and returned to the cart where Tim waited. We
sent Tim to the barns with the mule and we went back to the house.

"That was such a busy day that everyone felt weary and glad when the sun
showed its slanting rays over the trees. It must have been about four
o'clock when sounds of approaching cavalry reached the house. It was the
company Newell and his brother had formed a few months before. They had
been driven over the mountainside and decided to spend the night in
hiding at home.

"The sewing room was filled with neighbors whose boys were members of
the company, so you can imagine the joy of seeing them again.

"The boys were covered with mire halfway to the waist, and their horses
looked as if they must drop where they stood. Many of the soldiers were
hatless, powder smirched, and, oh, so tired!

"Rebecca took me to her room and locked the door.

"'Selina, did you see that tall dark officer--the one that kept smiling
at us? Well, he is my best friend, and I want you to fall in love with
him. He knows all about you and I showed him your picture a long time
ago, so he knows you quite well, you see.'

"I laughed merrily at Becky's match-making.

"'Oh,' she sighed, as her thought rushed to something else. 'Wasn't it
just like Providence that we got Imp and all of those supplies hidden
away in time?'

"'Yes, but it is not necessary with the rebels in command of the place,'
I said, using the term 'rebel' quite unconsciously, for the first time.

"Rebecca noticed it, too, but said nothing at the time.

"'Well, I showed you just how to get in and out of that cave in case you
are the only one who can take care of Imp. One never knows what may
happen, but you, being my guest, are safe with our friends, and, being a
Yankee, will be taken care of in case the enemy take the place. But,
remember, if Imp is to be taken from me, I would rather you had him than
anyone on earth--and you must assert your ownership if necessary to take
him home with you.'

"That was a great reunion, that dinner! Besides all of the young
soldiers, their families were there, listening to their account of the
struggle.

"The happy families had finished dinner and were about to have coffee
when a colored boy raced up the steps of the piazza. His face was gray
with fear as he gasped, 'De Yanks am comin'--oh, dey am comin' pell mell
foh dis house! oh, Lud, Lud!'

"'Tell all the folks, Jeremiah, quick!' shouted Becky, as she sprang
forward to warn her friends.

"'The horses--quick, Tim! The horses--rush them to the house!' yelled
Newell, as he grabbed his gun and threw on his cap.

"'Mother, good-by,' cried Ed, as he caught a kiss from her lips, and
Newell hurriedly did the same.

"The next minute all was confusion as the soldier boys jumped into the
saddle, while still buckling on knapsacks and ammunition belts.

"Five minutes after Jeremiah had given the alarm, the boys were lost in
a cloud of dust galloping on the way to Nashville. But not soon enough!"

Here, Aunt Selina leaned back in her chair and looked away over the
lawns as if she saw again the scurrying horses racing for dear life in
one direction, while from the opposite direction she saw another picture
she had not yet mentioned.

"If you are wearied, Aunt Selina, we will postpone the story for another
day," suggested Mrs. Talmage.

"Oh, no! please don't!" begged the excited children.

"Oh, Flutey, I simply couldn't wait until to-morrow to find out what
happened," cried Ruth, beseechingly.

Aunt Selina smiled at the children, and Uncle Ben added: "They are
right! I don't want to wait either!"

"Really! is it as good as that?"

"Good! I should say it is! It's a big 'seller' if it was only in a
book!" returned Uncle Ben.

"Well, then, after the magazine is done with it suppose we sell it to a
publisher for the benefit of the children," ventured Aunt Selina,
eagerly.

"Fine idea! We will try it!" said Uncle Ben.

Aunt Selina moved her chair to keep the rays of the setting sun from her
eyes, and then continued with her story.



CHAPTER IX

HOW THE YANKEES TOOK POSSESSION


"I think the rest of this story is the most interesting of all,"
murmured Aunt Selina, as she permitted her memory to roam in years long
gone.

The children waited patiently for Aunt Selina to begin and, after a
short moment, she sat up erect, looking fearfully out over the lawn, and
spoke hurriedly.

"Right there before our very eyes we saw the Yankee regiment tear down
the lane and swerve toward the road just taken by the Southern boys.
They were still to be seen making for the woods just over the slope of
the hill toward Nashville.

"We heard the captain shout, 'Halt! Aim! Fire!' and, as a volley rang
out, many of the ladies on the piazza screamed or fainted, while Rebecca
and I stood petrified at the result of that happy dinner.

"Almost at the same time the Yankees fired there came the rattle of
musketry from the woods which the boys had reached.

"From the veranda I saw several of the Yankees' horses leap up and two
of them rolled over on the ground. One man threw up his hands, fell over
on his horse's neck, and dropped his gun. The horse, frightened, started
galloping directly toward the house. Tim, who was coming down the side
steps, ran forward and caught hold of the bridle. Mr. Crudup and some of
his friends lifted the young soldier from the saddle and carefully
carried him up the piazza steps, and placed him on the floor.

"While much of my attention was distracted by this incident, the company
of Yankees spurred their horses on toward the patch of woods where the
Southerners were hidden.

"The firing continued for half an hour, while everyone at the house
waited, fearing the worst and hoping against hope that their boys had
gotten away to Nashville.

"Rebecca's two brothers, cousins and old friends were all in that
handful of men, and naturally those gathered at the house would wait
until the outcome of the skirmish could be known.

"They had not long to wait, for, just as twilight deepened into night,
the negroes came in with the report that all of the boys had been
captured and were being taken as prisoners to the old school-house. In
another half-hour the officers rode up to the door, followed by
orderlies and an ambulance corps bringing in the wounded. Slaves were
dispatched here and there for hot water, bandages, beds, bedding and
medicine. We all hastened to prepare a place for those who needed our
care and attention so sorely.

"As the wounded were carried up the steps and past the neighbors, who
stood by watching for their own, Rebecca's mother saw her youngest boy
lying unconscious with his face white as death and his hair matted with
blood that oozed from a wound in his neck. She almost fainted, but
Rebecca held her firm, saying, 'Mother, now is the time to brace up and
take care of Newell that he may soon recover.'

"Of the Yankees, one was killed outright and five badly wounded, while
the Southern boys sustained more serious injuries. Two were killed and
nine wounded. The house was immediately turned into a hospital, both
sides receiving the same attention.

"The officers were very considerate but insisted upon having their
rights observed. When it was found that some foraging parties were in
the neighborhood, the captain sent an orderly to say that the Crudup
Plantation was well supplied. The Yankees, receiving the message, rode
over, took what was needed, food, cattle and horses, and went away.

"Mr. Crudup spared his family the harrowing details of the raid, but
looked upon it as the fortune of war and thanked heaven that so much of
his property was safely buried.

"When the store-rooms, linen-presses, blanket-trunks, and cellars were
found almost empty, the officer in charged looked surprised and wondered
aloud.

"'Most unusual to find so large an establishment short of all supplies,
and a retinue of servants to feed, to say nothing of the droves of
neighbors always coming in for supper.'

"Mr. Crudup overheard the soliloquy and replied courteously.

"'Sir, do not forget that your company is not the first to stop here
and demand my hospitality. Naturally, we would lavish our all upon our
own men, you know.'

"The officers were very polite and interesting young men, but Rebecca
and I had to go about the plantation very warily, for we never knew when
we might be spied upon. Imp had to be cared for daily, so we found
plenty of amusement in eluding the Yankees.

"The youngest of the officers was a handsome boy and it was not long
before we became very friendly. When he learned that I was a Yankee and
how I happened to be South, he insisted upon my returning home at once,
saying that the neighborhood about Nashville soon would be an impossible
place to live.

"When he found that my home was at Happy Hills he was greatly pleased.

"'Why, I have called at your home many times; my sister and yours are
school friends.' He described his home and how his sister looked when
she came to visit us, and I faintly recalled seeing him with the others
who were some years my senior.

"From that day he became the sworn ally of Rebecca and myself. He
understood there was a secret between us and often managed to screen us
when we left the house to creep to the cavern to look after Imp.

"The wounded were getting along beautifully, and nothing exciting had
occurred for a fortnight. Foraging parties that stopped at the house and
found Yankees in possession moved on. It seemed more like a house-party.

"But a change soon took place.

"It was afterward learned that Ed Crudup escaped during the transfer of
the prisoners from the school-house to the army; he found out from some
of the Crudup slaves that the Yankees who shot his brother and
imprisoned himself were holding the premises until further orders from
Headquarters. So he raised a small company at Nashville and drilled them
for a few days, planning to surprise the men at the house and take them
prisoners.

"One day, while some of the Yankees were out foraging, Ed and his men
came upon them suddenly and a skirmish ensued.

"Ed was shot down and so was our young officer who was in command of the
foragers that day. The others fought like madmen, hand to hand, until
the men at the house, hearing the shots, ran out to their assistance.

"The Southerners, outnumbered, took flight, but were pursued and
captured.

"The two men, Ed and Vernon, lay still as death in the tall grass, and
no one missed them at the time of the pursuit.

"Tim, however, on his way to water Imp, found his young master shot
through the heart, and the young Yankee unconscious. In his faithful
loyalty to the family, he decided to make a prisoner of the Yankee, so
he dragged Vernon over to the waterfall, carried him through the spray,
and laid him down on the mattress in the cave. The cold water which had
fallen upon Vernon's face had partially revived him, and he moaned as if
in pain.

"Tim lighted the lantern and examined him. He found a clean bullet hole
in his chest, but very little bleeding. He decided the best thing to do
would be to notify the master. So, after attending to Imp, he crept out
of the cave and went over to the remains of the young master. He managed
to carry him until he met some of the slaves, then had them improvise a
stretcher to carry the body to the house.

"There was great sorrow in the household, and his death changed the
attitude of the Crudups toward the Yankee officers.

"When it was found that young Vernon was missing, with no trace of him
anywhere, it was thought that he had been taken captive by a few of the
Confederates who got away. Rebecca and I felt dreadfully lonesome after
our friend was missing, and I wished, for the first time since I came
South, that I could go home.

"Then one morning, Rebecca and I decided to go through the hole in the
live-oak tree and crawl to the cave to see Imp. We had not dared to
visit him for some days, as a Yankee sentry was stationed in the woods
by the waterfall.

"Rebecca hid a small lantern under her cloak and we strolled
unconcernedly down the lane toward the dell. We looked carefully about
to make sure no spies were watching, and in another minute both of us
disappeared. We groped along until we reached the opening into the cave
and as we crawled out near Imp's bed, he greeted us with a joyful
whinny. Rebecca ran over and placed her hand over his mouth, so she did
not see the apparition that stared at me from the mattress. Had I held
the lantern I would have dropped it. As it was, I almost dropped myself,
so frightened was I.

"I clutched Rebecca's arm and she turned about to see what ailed me. In
a second she recognized Vernon and ran over with the lantern. As he
could not tell us how he came there, but confided that Tim and Mr.
Crudup came daily to attend to him, we learned that they knew of his
whereabouts. Rebecca snapped her teeth close and her eyes blazed at the
thought of her father keeping this man a prisoner in such a suffocating
place.

"While we were there, Tim and Mr. Crudup crept through the tunnel and
found us talking to the sick man.

"'Becky, better leave this business to us,' suggested Mr. Crudup.

"'Father, how could you keep this man in such a place?' cried Rebecca,
unguardedly.

"'Ssh!' warned Tim, apprehensively.

"Mr. Crudup told Rebecca how Tim had carried Vernon here to square
accounts for Ed's death; how he had shown Tim the folly of the deed,
and that being done, it had to be made the best of, or disclose the
secret of the cave. Tim was so repentant that he agreed to remain in the
cave and nurse the prisoner.

"After our discovery, Rebecca spent several hours with Vernon each day
reading or talking to him, while Imp began to show his fondness for
Vernon in every way a horse can.

"Matters at the house became troublesome, for the larder was empty, and
there was no way to get at the great store-rooms dug out of the ground
without letting the Yankees into the secret.

"Tim had been very meek since he found the serious blunder he had made
with Vernon, and he was eager to make amends in any way.

"From the time that Tim heard of the threatened famine he was seldom
seen about the place. Now and then, one of the family would meet him
coming from the basement with his face and hands smeared with black, but
he never confided in anyone as to his work or whereabouts, and being an
aged favored man, Mr. Crudup never questioned him.

"One morning the cook entered the room where the family was gathered
and announced: 'There ain't no aigs fer brekfus.'

"'Have plain ham or bacon,' suggested Mrs. Crudup.

"'De ham an' bacon done all et up, too,' said cook.

"Mrs. Crudup looked deeply concerned, but said: 'Then we'll have just
coffee and muffins.'

"'Done used all de flour yistiddy--not a smitch lef'.'

"Here, indeed, was a quandary! Nothing to eat!

"This was Tim's opportunity.

"He came in, bowed with old hat in his hand, and turned to the cook with
the request, 'You please 'scuse yo-se'f fum de room whiles I conflab wid
de missus?'

"Cook tossed her head and went out, followed by everyone except Mr. and
Mrs. Crudup.

"Tim turned his hat about in his hands for a time and then looked up
smilingly and said: 'I done squared myself wid you all fer makin' dat
blunner 'bout the Yank. I done gone and dug a tunnel fru fum de coal
cellah to the fust storehouse on de fiel'. I fixed a doh to the cellar
an' heah's de key to de padlock.'

"'You what!' exclaimed Mr. Crudup, in amazement.

"'Yas'm, das whad I did!' said Tim.

"Mr. Crudup threw back his head and laughed while he slapped Tim on the
back and said, 'Tim, it will take more than a company of Yankees to
starve us out while you are about!'

"But Mrs. Crudup took Tim's hand and thanked him with tears in her eyes.

"The supply question was easily solved after that. No one but Tim knew
where the tunnel was, for Mr. Crudup never allowed anyone to be about
when the old servant started his daily trip to the underground
store-rooms. Oftentimes, the officers expressed their wonder as to how
Southern cooks could manage the way they did, with so little on hand to
cook with. If they suspected the truth they never hinted at it.

"The secret of Vernon's prison had been kept, and several weeks after
the fight that disabled him, his company was ordered to join the main
army. The moment the place was entirely freed from the Yankees, Mr.
Crudup ordered one of the guest-rooms prepared, and, to the surprise of
Mrs. Crudup, told her he had a prisoner to bring in. That night Vernon
was blindfolded, placed upon a stretcher, and taken to the house.

"As soon as he could sit up and come down upon the veranda, we wondered
what to do with him. He was our prisoner but we had no use for him.
Everyone liked him and disliked sending him to the dirty barrack-jail in
Nashville.

"Suddenly Rebecca was inspired with a brilliant plan.

"When the Yankee officers left the place they took the convalescent
prisoners with them. Now Rebecca suggested that negotiations be started
to exchange Vernon for Newell.

"Mr. Crudup immediately sent Tim to Nashville to see if this could be
done, and friends there promised to attend to it without delay.
Consequently, in a few days, a number of soldiers from Nashville rode to
the Crudup house and carried away the prisoner, giving Mrs. Crudup the
slip of paper that stated that Newell's freedom would be granted upon
the return of Vernon.

"We all felt sorry about losing Vernon, but he promised to visit me at
Happy Hills when the war was over."

Aunt Selina stopped and the children began plying questions.

"Aunt Selina, what became of Imp?" asked Dot.

"We kept him in the cave for a few days more, and then, one morning, the
negroes all turned green with fear when they saw Rebecca riding Imp down
the road from the paddock, for they believed Imp to have been taken with
the other horses, and were sure that this was a ghost of the real Imp."
And Aunt Selina laughed as she recalled Rebecca's mad ride down the lane
and the high wall Imp vaulted before he stopped stock still in front of
the quaking, superstitious slaves.

"Did Newell come back home?" asked Betty, whose sympathy was all for the
mother who lost one boy and then had the other one taken prisoner.

"We received word of his transfer from the Yankee army to his own. He
went into active service again and fought all through the rest of the
war. He won many honors for bravery before the Confederate Army was
disbanded."

"Do you know what became of him afterwards?" asked Don, interested in
such a fighter.

"He married and settled out West upon a large ranch. Now and then
Rebecca's daughter has a letter from him, giving news of his children or
the grandchildren."

"Oh, then, Rebecca married too. Did you know who it was?" asked several
curious voices.

"Yes," smiled Aunt Selina. "She married the very beau she had selected
for me."

"I am so anxious to know if that fine old house is still there and if we
could find the cave and underground store-rooms if we ever went there?"
asked Norma.

"No, dear; the beautiful old mansion was entirely destroyed by fire
started from a shell during the time the battle line closed about
Nashville. I was not there at the time, but Rebecca wrote and told me of
the dreadful scenes. Almost every family for miles about was left
homeless and destitute. The Pines, Rebecca's home, stood as long as any
and sheltered every homeless Southerner round about."

"I guess Rebecca liked to remember that, didn't she?" said Ruth.

"Yes, indeed, Fluff."

"Aunt Selina, you didn't tell us what became of Imp and Rebecca that
day she rode up to the house," reminded Ned.

"Rebecca laughed at the servants' fear and rode Imp over to the steps of
the piazza. We stood watching her as she jumped off and led Imp right up
to the rail. 'Lady,' said she to me, 'this horse just told me that he
was going North on a little visit. As there is no one here but you who
can take him there, I believe he intends taking you home.' Although
Rebecca's eyes filled with tears and her voice trembled, we all laughed
and made a great fuss over Imp.

"Later, she confided to me that she had entrusted Vernon with the
request to secure a passport for Selina Talmage and her horse, Imp,
going home to Happy Hills, Pennsylvania. The passport came that day in a
letter for Rebecca explaining how I was to go and to whom I was to
entrust myself. A note for me was inclosed in the letter, and I read it
with a smile. Vernon said he would demand payment for the favor given me
as soon as he reached Happy Hills. Rebecca teased me about that note and
said that she knew what the favor would be, for Vernon was in love with
me. I pooh-poohed the suggestion but felt very glad to pack my clothes
for home. In a few days word came that I was to ride to a certain town
where an escort would meet me and conduct me to the nearest railroad.
And so Imp and I went home."

"And now tell us, Aunt Selina, did Vernon come home and ask that favor?"
wondered Norma, interested in a love-story.

"Oh, yes! He had leave of absence for several months to fully recover
from the wound that had partially punctured a lung. He used to ride over
to Happy Hills every day, and I tell you we missed him when he returned
to his regiment."

"Where is he now, Aunt Selina?" asked Ruth.

"Gone--his name is carved on the monument at Washington for bravery in
the Battle of Bull Run," whispered Aunt Selina.

"Oh, oh, Aunt Selina! Is _he_ the same one you told me about last
spring?" gasped Ruth.

Aunt Selina dabbed her tear-moistened eyes and tried to smile as she
said, "The same, Honey."

"What's that--tell us, Aunt Selina; we never heard about it," cried
several children.

"Well, Vernon came back North about a year after his leave of absence
expired with important letters for a general in Philadelphia. After
delivering the letters he was to have two days' leave in which to go
home and see his folks. He rode over to our house one evening and asked
my father and mother if he might pay court to me when the war was over.
My parents were delighted, for they knew him and liked him. Vernon and I
walked out to the very summer house that Ruth was in when she thought of
the farm plan, and there he told me what he had said to my parents. He
would not bind me, for he said he might never come back. But I said it
would make no difference to me--if he never returned I would wait just
the same. We exchanged rings--one which had been given me for my
birthday and one he had received on his twenty-first birthday. When he
left that night mother gave him a paper, but I never knew what was in it
until later. When news of his bravery and death came home, the letter
contained a ring and a small daguerreotype picture of me. Then mother
said he had asked for it the night he went away."

"Oh, Aunt Selina, how lovely of you!" cried several little girls as
they crowded about the old lady and hugged her.

"Rebecca did not return to school again, but as soon as the war was over
we wrote and invited Mr. and Mrs. Crudup to bring Rebecca North to visit
us. The elders were too heart-sore to come to a country they blamed for
all their losses, but Rebecca came and stayed a long time."



CHAPTER X

BEGINNING TO SPELL SUCCESS


Another nest of Blue Birds had been formed under Mrs. Catlin's
supervision, and these little girls were chosen to act as agents to
secure subscriptions for the forthcoming magazine. They were also
permitted to donate short stories or pictures to the magazine and, being
so young a branch of the first Nest, felt this was a special privilege.

Aunt Selina had written her interesting Civil War story and had it ready
for Uncle Ben, but Mrs. Catlin was still busy trying to arrange her
chapters so they would make a good serial.

The Blue Birds had written their pages over and over, and finally Mrs.
Talmage said they would lose all sense in the telling if they kept on
rewriting. So the pages were taken as they were and corrected by Uncle
Ben.

As the various short articles came in to the Publishing House, Mrs.
Talmage took charge of them. Many a pleased surprise she had as she
read the different articles submitted by the boys, and the suggestions
and hints sent in by the girls.

The Bobolinks spent every afternoon at their Publishing House, setting
type, trying to run machines, and find out various things about
business. The two young men promised by Uncle Ben were not expected
until actual work on the magazine began.

So much talk had been heard at various dinner-tables in Oakdale, that
fathers manifested enough curiosity in the work to ask for an invitation
to the Publishing House. The habit of "dropping in to watch the boys"
grew to be regular meetings, and the men enjoyed the social evenings as
much as the boys did. Naturally, the work did not lose any of its value
by the suggestions and ideas given by the older, experienced business
men, but the Blue Birds grew envious over the evident interest shown in
the Bobolinks while they were never about.

One afternoon the Blue Birds gathered about Mrs. Talmage with a
complaint.

"Mother Wings, those Bobolinks will be 'way ahead of us in this fun,
unless you get the mothers to meet once in a while to suggest things for
us to do," said Ruth, dolefully.

"And from something I heard Don tell Mete, those fathers have promised
to help the Bobolinks do the _work_, too!" broke in Dot Starr.

"Since Ned has moved his printing stuff to the carriage house his den is
vacant--we might use that for our Winter Nest, until we find something
better," suggested Mrs. Starr, after thinking seriously of what had just
been said.

"That will be all right, but it won't boost our work like the boys are
being boosted," fretted Norma.

"I shall have to think of it," replied Mrs. Talmage, deeply concerned
over the discontent of the Blue Birds; but Aunt Selina, who had been a
silent listener of the complaint, spoke.

"Are those Bobolinks and the men actually helping the success of the
magazine?"

"No, not that we can see; they just use paper and fool away every
evening running those machines," snapped Dot, who generally heard all
the doings from her brothers.

"Then they are not getting ahead so fast with success as you seem to
think," replied Aunt Selina, calmly. "The principal things in making a
magazine pay are its circulation and the advertising contracts. If these
are not being thought of and tried, the Bobolinks are wasting their
precious time."

"But they are so well acquainted with the machines that they say they
can print anything!" said Dot.

"All right, suppose we take them at their word and ask them to give us
proof of some circulars," laughed Mrs. Talmage.

"I suppose they would, but where would we use them?" asked Norma.

"This is what I would suggest--we'll play the game of the 'Tortoise and
the Hare,' and they'll be left asleep at their work while we win the
race," declared Aunt Selina.

The Blue Birds gathered closer to Aunt Selina's chair, and she continued
her instruction.

"We'll have Mother Wings write a letter and ask Mr. Wells to bring down
that Institution Book he promised us, as we wish to use it at once. Then
we'll count up the number of institutions where we could send a magazine
and circular. Some of these will subscribe most likely, while the
circular letter will reach the hands of some of the wealthy patrons of
the Homes. We'll compose a letter and order those Bobolinks to print ten
thousand for us. I guess that will keep them busy for a time and at the
same time make them wonder what _we_ are doing without their knowledge
or consent."

"Shall we mail the letters when they are printed?" asked Betty.

"No, I thought we could address large-sized envelopes with the names of
the institutions and as soon as the magazines are printed we can place a
letter and a magazine in each envelope. Of course, we inclose a
subscription blank, too; this work of folding and sealing the letters
and magazines is where we will invite the mothers to help. After that we
can send out some samples to other folks, but we will make the Bobolinks
wonder why the mothers are here so often."

The Blue Birds laughed and thought the plan very good, and Dot Starr
added, "We're surely glad you're here, Aunt Selina."

"And we will keep all of our papers and work in the den and no one will
see what is being done," added Mrs. Talmage.

"You must keep the key, Mother Wings," advised Ruth.

The letter for Mr. Wells was written without delay, for Norma was to
hand it to her father that evening. After this was finished the
important work of composing a letter for folks who would receive the
magazine was started.

This letter provoked many suggestions and criticisms, but finally was
concluded and read aloud to the children, who declared it just right.

"But we haven't a bit of paper for the printing," exclaimed Ruth.

"Maybe Aunt Selina and I can go to the paper mills in the morning and
see if they have any small lot that will do," suggested Mrs. Talmage.

This offer cheered the Blue Birds again, as a few hours' delay would not
matter very much.

"Now, that's done, what next?" asked Dot.

"Next thing is to say 'good-afternoon' and go home," laughed Mrs.
Talmage, looking at her watch.

"Oh, dear, mother, it cannot be dinner-time," said Ruth.

"It is almost six o'clock, and I have some matters to look after,
dear," returned her mother.

"Well, we can invite our mothers to join us, anyway, can't we, Mrs.
Talmage?" said May.

"Yes, but I wouldn't mention the fact that we feel that we must have
them to enable us to get ahead of the Bobolinks, for your fathers will
hear of it and plan some way to win out in spite of us," advised the
astute Aunt Selina.

"We won't! We'll just say that as long as the boys have their fathers
with them, we girls are going to invite our mothers," explained Norma,
while the others nodded approval.

"May we come to-night?" asked Betty.

"How about school lessons?" asked Mrs. Talmage.

"And I want to revise several parts of my story to-night, besides the
paper mills have not yet been visited, you know," objected Aunt Selina.

"Girls, we'd better wait until to-morrow; that's Friday and we won't
have to go to bed so early as other evenings," suggested Ruth.

"All right, we'll meet in the den to-morrow afternoon and report how
many mothers will be here," consented Dot.

"And I'll have Mrs. Catlin here in the evening," added Mrs. Talmage.

"Mother Wings, if we use that old room of Ned's, why couldn't we call it
our Winter Nest? We can move in our cherry-tree Nest furniture when it
grows colder and make the room look real comfy," said Ruth.

The other Blue Birds approved of the suggestion and Mrs. Talmage said
she had no objection to having the Winter Nest in the den, so it was
decided then and there.

Ruth accompanied her friends to the steps and as they stood vainly
wishing there were several extra hours to add to an afternoon, Dot saw
Don jump out of the wide-open door of the Publishing House and laugh
derisively at someone inside.

"Now I wonder what that boy is up to?" she said.

"Oh, say, wouldn't it be fun to creep in back of the carriage house and
peep in at the windows to watch the boys!" suggested Edith.

"I know a better way," answered Ruth. "We will ask Ike to let us go up
in the loft from the small room and we can look down through the wide
chinks of the floor."

"Oh, do let's!" cried the Blue Birds, as they hurried back of the house
to steal noiselessly over to the garage.

Ike understood the rivalry growing between them, and decided to be
perfectly impartial, so he unlocked the door of the small room where the
stairs led to a loft over the Publishing House.

The Bobolinks were making such a noise that they never heard the
creaking of the floor overhead, or the giggles of the girls as they
glued their eyes to the crevices between the boards.

"Now it's Tuck's turn to be an advertising solicitor!" called Don, who
evidently had been discharged from some make-believe service when he was
so unexpectedly put out of the door.

"Ah, I'd never make a solicitor of any kind," grumbled Tuck Stevens.

"But you've got to play the game as we all promised," coaxed some of the
boys.

"I'll be the man you want to see," persuaded Jinks.

"Come on, Tuck. We'll have to go home pretty soon, so get busy,"
commanded Ned.

The girls began to understand that the Bobolinks were not playing, but
practicing their duty for the future, so they silently looked at each
other and nodded understandingly.

"Here goes, then," ventured Tuck, bravely.

He strutted across the floor toward the office and met one of the boys
stationed there.

"Good-morning, sir; do you wish to see anyone?" asked the impromptu
clerk.

"I have an appointment with Mr. Slamhim," quivered Tuck, as if the visit
was an actual affair.

The boys tittered with glee as Tuck turned red and white.

"Your name, please?" asked the polite clerk.

"Reuben Stevens," replied Tuck, in a whisper.

"Ha! the name'll queer you, Tuck!" laughed Don, behind his chum's back,
but the older boys hushed Don.

The clerk rapped upon the office door and a voice said, "Come in."

"Reuben Stevens to see you, sir. He has an appointment."

"Show him in," said the voice which Ruth recognized as a disguised bass
of Ned's.

Tuck walked to the office and then turned about and asked the other
boys: "Now, what shall I say--I've forgotten."

Immediately there was a loud chorus of laughter, and a scuffle and Tuck
was ousted in the same manner that Don had been.

"Didn't I say that name would spoil you?" teased Don.

"Next!" called one of the boys who had a list of names which he marked
down "good, indifferent, bad."

The boy whose turn came next carried off the rehearsal as if he had been
a solicitor all of his short life. The other boys cheered his efforts
and even the Blue Birds were tempted to clap their hands.

"Well, Bobolinks, I think this will do for to-day; we have drilled three
of the boys after the manner shown us last night, but Don and Tuck seem
to be hopeless cases," said Ned.

"I'll practice it at home on Dot, and show you what I can do to-morrow,"
eagerly promised Don.

Dot looked up at her friends when she heard this and shook her head
energetically.

The Bobolinks carefully covered the machines with the canvas covers and
started to go out. At the same time the girls in the loft crept across
the floor toward the steps. The boys were not making so much noise as
when the Blue Birds went up in the loft, and Meredith stood surprised
when he heard something moving over his head.

"Where's Ike?" he whispered to Ned.

"Just outside the door--why?" replied Ned.

"Don't you hear those footsteps?"

"What--where? Yes, of course!" exclaimed Ned.

Simon was seen crossing the lawn and Ike stood outside with the boys, so
who could be upstairs?

Meantime, Ruth overheard Meredith's exclamation and hurried the girls
down and out, and pushed them inside the garage before any of the boys
could persuade Ike that someone was upstairs. Finally he allowed them to
drag him to the small carriage room and ascend the steps.

The Blue Birds lay hidden in the bottom of the automobile and almost
suffocated trying to keep from laughing outright at the way the
Bobolinks were hoodwinked.

Every one of the boys trudged up the steps, but found the loft empty. As
soon as they were out of sight in the small room, the girls jumped out
of the car and ran madly for the shrubbery which sheltered the kitchen
gardens from the lawns. Here, they could creep toward home without being
seen from the barns.

Ike looked carefully about the loft but hid a smile when his back was
turned.

"There, I told you no one was here!" he said.

"Well, I don't care, I _heard_ them!" retorted Ned.

"Maybe it was rats!" ventured Ike.

"No, sir, you said that you were never pestered with rats; besides, this
noise was just like walking would sound," insisted Ned.

Ike kept the boys upstairs arguing for a sufficient time to permit the
Blue Birds to get out of the way, then he started down.

"Well, I'll keep the door locked and the key in my room," promised Ike,
as the boys waited for him to lock up.

"If it was a tramp, Ned, he couldn't move our machinery, so what's the
use bothering?" said Don.

"He could steal our type and other things, and sell them," grumbled Ned,
still unassured.

Ruth was walking slowly up from the main gates when Ned reached the
veranda. She was stooping over a chrysanthemum blossom to note its
beautiful coloring when Ned whistled to attract her attention.

"Better hurry in and wash up for dinner--it's almost seven, and mother
doesn't like dinner delayed, you know," Ned said, as Ruth skipped up
smilingly.

Not a word was said, and the Bobolinks never found out how the Blue
Birds watched them practice their future business tactics.

The next morning Mrs. Talmage and Aunt Selina had Ike drive them to the
paper mills.

Mrs. Talmage explained her errand and selected some samples of
stationery paper. The manager then showed them over the mills and Aunt
Selina whispered aside to Mrs. Talmage: "What an interesting article
this work would make."

"Indeed, yes!" replied Mrs. Talmage, turning to the manager to tell him
of the new venture of the Blue Birds and ask him to write up a story
about the manufacture of paper.

"That I will! I like to write, and often, when I'm tired or worried, I
sit down to write a funny sketch. I have sold a number of them to Sunday
papers," was the surprising reply.

The two ladies were escorted to the manager's office and chairs were
placed for them while a price list was prepared for the convenience of
the Blue Birds.

This done, the manager sat back in his office chair.

"Have the children planned any campaign for securing circulation?" he
asked.

"Why, no, Mr. White, we intended talking that matter over with the
mothers to-night. We are all so inexperienced in this undertaking that I
suppose a business man would laugh at our way of putting 'the cart
before the horse,' as the saying is," laughed Mrs. Talmage.

"The fact is, this whole proposition is so sudden and different from
anything the children had dreamed of!" added Aunt Selina, in defence of
their mistakes.

"I know! When I heard of the daring of the children I certainly admired
their spunk, but I couldn't help shaking my head, too, for it is no
joke to start a real business, as they are doing," said Mr. White,
seriously.

"Well, we will need the help of all of our friends," smiled Mrs.
Talmage.

"You'll have it, too. Why, everybody in Oakdale felt the Blue Birds'
work last summer was wonderful; now, this new venture will have the
support of all of the townsfolks."

"It is very encouraging to hear you speak so, and if you think of any
way to boom our circulation, I wish you would come over some evening and
tell us all about it," replied Mrs. Talmage.

Suddenly the manager sat upright and looked toward the book-shelves,
which contained rows of business-like looking reference books.

"I believe we have the idea!" exclaimed he, jumping up and going over to
the shelves to take down a heavy volume.

"This book contains all the names and addresses of stationery stores in
the United States and Canada. It is only a year old, so most of these
addresses will be up-to-date. We use it for mailing samples of our
paper, but I have an idea that you would get plenty of subscriptions and
make willing agents of these storekeepers. If you send a sample of your
magazine and give them a liberal commission there is no reason why these
firms would refuse to act as agents. Anyway, it would do no harm to try
out the suggestion," said Mr. White.

"Why, Mr. White, do you know that you are a direct answer to my prayer!"
cried Aunt Selina.

"I am grateful to be favored," laughed Mr. White, "but it must be your
faith that brought the answer."

"Well, to tell the truth," continued Aunt Selina, "I am so very anxious
to have this movement of the children a fine success that I have been
praying in season and out for the way to open that we might be blessed
in this work. All we needed for the next step was a hint for
circulation."

"And I'll confide a secret, too," said Mrs. Talmage, leaning over toward
the desk. "The boys have had their fathers meet with them every evening,
advising and drilling them in ways and means to succeed, while my girls
have had to do the best they can with Aunt Selina and me. This book will
boost us far ahead of the Bobolinks and give the men who are advising a
fine surprise."

Mr. White laughed as he understood the rivalry between the two factions,
and promised to send his wife to the meetings of the mothers to convey
any advice or suggestions he might think of.

"Oh, splendid! We expect to hold our first meeting at our house
to-night. Do bring her over!" cried Mrs. Talmage.

As the three were going out to the automobile, Mr. White ventured a
remark.

"I have been told that the paper for the sample issue was to be sent
over when you wished it. Now, I thought of making an advertising
proposition to the corporation at their next meeting. If the magazine
would mention that all the paper used by them for letters, circulars and
magazines was furnished by the Oakdale Mills, it would be a good
exchange if the company donated the paper needed for the first year's
work."

The ladies stood amazed at the generous idea.

"Every paper mill in the country will try to place a contract with the
children as soon as news of this plan is out. Now, the Oakdale Mills can
secure its contract for future years by being wide-awake for the
present. It is a strictly business proposition, you see," explained Mr.
White.

"It may seem so to you, but I know that it is a proposition that no
other firm would offer, and we are deeply grateful for your interest,"
replied Mrs. Talmage, sagaciously.

"I'll suggest it, and you find out if the magazine is willing to give us
the mention I hinted at," said Mr. White.

Handing the huge book of addresses to Ike, Mrs. Talmage shook hands with
Mr. White and reminded him to bring his wife to the meeting.

"Well! that was the best hour's business yet!" exclaimed Aunt Selina, as
the car sped away.

"Wonderful, isn't it? I hope everything will glide along as nicely as it
has up to the present," said Mrs. Talmage.

Being Friday, school closed an hour earlier than usual. The moment the
Blue Birds could catch their hats from the pegs in the cloak-rooms, they
ran out to join Ruth, who was hopping from one foot to the other in a
vain effort to calm her impatience.

"Hurry, girls! Don't you know Mother Wings went to the mills this
morning for samples of paper?" called one to the other as they ran up
to Ruth.

It was not long thereafter that seven eager little girls crowded about
Mrs. Talmage on the veranda to hear the news.

"I'll show you the samples, but we will wait for the mothers' opinion
to-night. But this great secret I will give to you now!" and, forthwith,
Mrs. Talmage told the Blue Birds all about Mr. White's interest and
ideas, and showed them the precious volume loaned them.



CHAPTER XI

THE WINTER NEST COUNCIL


Before eight o'clock that night the Blue Birds and their mothers were
assembled in the living-room ready for a council. The children had not
seen the den for a few days and stared in delight as they filed into the
room. Mrs. Talmage had purposely had all meet together before mentioning
that they might as well spend the evening in the Winter Nest.

"Why, Mother Wings, when _did_ you fix this up?" asked Ruth, as much
surprised as the others.

Mrs. Talmage smiled, but said nothing.

The guests looked about and admired the unique charm of the Blue Bird
quarters for the winter, and Betty ventured the question: "What has
become of our other chairs?"

The room had all been renovated. The windows were hung with snow-flake
madras, and the floor covered with heavy knotted white rag carpet that
looked like snow freshly packed. The walls had been repapered with a
sparkling white paper which glistened like ice in the electric light.
From the wainscoting to the picture rail branches of dark green spruce
and pine were fastened and upon these green needles were caught flakes
of make-believe snow--made of white cotton-batting with diamond dust
powdered on it. The furniture of the summer Nest had been brought in
late that afternoon and the slip covers, which had been made for it,
were slipped over until the thick white covers hid the familiar chairs
under the novelty cloth that looked like snow-drifts. The whole effect
was so beautiful that the children danced about with joy.

"Well, we must get at our work," reminded Aunt Selina, after enough
chairs had been brought in for all.

"I walked over with Mr. Wells and he was quite surprised to find I was
coming to the house," said Mrs. Wells, laughingly.

"I never said a word to Mr. Talmage or his brother," confided Mrs.
Talmage, smiling at the secret.

"Mr. Stevens knows I am at this council with Betty, but he hasn't the
faintest idea for what," admitted Mrs. Stevens.

And so it was that not one of the men who had formed the habit of
dropping in to help the Bobolinks could imagine what their wives were
doing with the Blue Birds.

If the inmates of the Winter Nest that night could have seen the
questioning faces of the boys and men when it was known that a meeting
of mothers was being held, they would have felt the balm of satisfaction
applied to wounded pride.

Mrs. Talmage showed the sample of paper and, after a discussion of merit
and price, a selection was made of an artistic grey paper to be printed
in blue--the colors of the Blue Birds.

"We must have envelopes to match, mother," said Ruth.

"I never thought of that, but it is so!" admitted Mrs. Talmage.

"I know the address of a firm where Mr. Wells has all of his
'made-to-order' envelopes made--we will get them to do it," suggested
Mrs. Wells.

"What a relief to hear that offer!" sighed Mrs. Talmage. "I was just
wondering where I could find anyone who would make them for us."

"It also goes to prove that many heads gathered to discuss Blue Bird
affairs are better than one, and I suggest that we meet at least once a
week," suggested Aunt Selina.

So it was then and there agreed that the mothers would come regularly to
hold a council in the Winter Nest with the Blue Birds.

"Just as soon as the envelopes come back we can begin to address from
mother's big book, can't we?" asked Norma.

"If there's only one book, how can all of this crowd read it at the same
time and then write down the names?" demanded Dot Starr.

"Why, we won't have to do that work," added Mrs. Wells. "There's a firm
in the city that addresses envelopes for a dollar a thousand."

"Another fine hint! I'm sure I'd rather pay my share than risk Dot's
ruining dozens of envelopes with ink," laughed Mrs. Starr, patting Dot
on the hand.

"We wouldn't want to write 'em in here, because the snow would freeze
our fingers so the ink would spatter all over," said Dot, ludicrously.

"Yes, I suppose these lovely covers would be speckled black by the time
the Blue Birds completed, say, fifty thousand addresses," laughed Aunt
Selina.

"I would vote against Edith's writing--I fear the person would never get
the letter--it would go straight to the Dead Letter Office," said Mrs.
Wilson, pulling Edith's curls.

As everyone knew how Edith hated writing and never could write a legible
hand, a laugh went up, in which Edith joined heartily.

So the Blue Birds were spared the arduous task of copying thousands of
names.

"I have heard that these large addressing bureaus prefer to employ
children--I wonder why?"

"Because children just finishing grammar school are more careful in
forming letters and can write much better than adults. Besides, they
have to pay children but a third that an adult would demand for his
labor," explained Mrs. Wells.

"Why, isn't that just as bad as working children in a factory?"
questioned Miss Selina.

"The rooms that I visited are just as bad. The girls are crowded close
together in a wretchedly lighted room without ventilation, and they sit
writing all day with their poor backs bent double and fingers grown
crooked from habit," said Mrs. Wells.

"Goodness! Can't we do something to stop it?" cried Mrs. Starr.

"They have to have the money for home needs, and it isn't quite as bad,
you know, as working all day in cold water to your knees, opening
oysters at a cent a hundred."

"Oh, dear, dear! don't tell me any more," half wept Aunt Selina. "I feel
like a criminal to think I lost all of these years with money piling up
in the bank that could have helped hundreds of these little workers.
Let's get busy this minute!"

"It would be nice to take all these little workers to the country,
wouldn't it?" queried Mrs. Talmage.

"Yes, yes! But, Mary, don't delay me longer in this work--I have so many
years to make up, and so little time to do it in," mourned Aunt Selina.

"All right! Now that is settled--we hire a firm to do the addressing,
and Mrs. Wells will see to the envelopes. What next?" said Mrs. Talmage.

"Oh, Mother Wings, don't forget about that book--you know?" reminded
Ruth.

"Oh, of course! One of our great secrets! Here is a volume loaned us by
Mr. White, of the Oakdale Paper Mills, and it has the addresses of all
the stationers in the country," explained Mrs. Talmage. "He suggested
that we send a sample magazine to each, with a letter stating agents'
commissions and price of subscription."

"And that reminds me--the book you wrote for was given me to bring in
to-night, and I left it out in the hall," said Mrs. Wells, turning to
Frances and asking her to get it.

The institution book was brought in, and its pages eagerly scanned.

"My! what a lot of poor children there are!" said Dot sympathetically.

"It doesn't seem possible, does it?" said Mrs. Starr, turning to the
others.

"We never realize what needs there are for help until we face something
of this sort," said Mrs. Talmage, turning page after page. Suddenly she
stopped.

"Has anyone here an idea of how many dependent little ones there are in
the United States alone?"

Heads were silently shaken, and Mrs. Talmage continued:

"There are 87,000 children's institutions--homes, hospitals, asylums,
and homes for cripples that are mostly supported by gifts, philanthropy,
or legacies. About one-fourth of these are partially controlled by the
state. The number of inmates in these institutions amounts to 1,740,520
children. Think of it! Practically a million and three-quarters! How
terrible!" And Mrs. Talmage had to find her handkerchief to dry her eyes
at the picture of so many, many dear little ones bereft of home and
mother-love.

"Mary, Mary, I shall have to run away from here if you keep on!" cried
Aunt Selina.

"But, Aunty, it is not your fault, and you must not feel this way,
especially as you are doing so much to improve the conditions," said
Mrs. Talmage.

"Well, mother, I should say that if there are 87,000 addresses to send
letters to, we'd better begin that letter now, and not spoil Flutey's
pleasure by thinking of all the things she never did," advised Ruth,
very sensibly.

"Yes, that letter is very important--let us compose it," said Aunt
Selina.

After an hour of writing and rewriting, Mrs. Talmage read aloud the
result of their labor:

"Dear Friend:

"The Blue Birds of Oakdale have started a philanthropic work which must
appeal to everyone who is willing to help our poor children. A magazine
is being published, a sample of which is being sent you, that will
contain instructive, helpful, interesting articles.

"Perhaps you know that there are 87,000 benevolent institutions in this
country filled with over a million and a half poor children, to whom
this magazine will prove a welcome visitor. The cost of producing this
magazine is partially paid for by donations, and the profit of the work
is all devoted to a settlement in the country where the city children
can spend the summer.

"Inclosed find a subscription blank. Make all checks payable to 'Blue
Birds of Happy Times Nest.'"

"Wish we had time to run over to the Bobolinks and order fifty thousand
of these letters," suggested Dot.

"Oh, wouldn't it be fun to see their faces!" laughed Norma.

"Maybe we will have time--it is only five minutes to nine," announced
Mrs. Talmage, looking at her watch.

"We can try it--we will walk down the path, and if we find they are
leaving we can keep our own council until another night," said Mrs.
Talmage, as everyone rose hurriedly to go.

The children hurried on before, while the ladies followed more sedately.

The heavy doors were closed, but an opening about a foot wide left space
enough for Ruth to squeeze through and pull one of the sliding doors
along the groove to admit the other visitors.

The men had been lounging about, talking and watching their sons work,
but upon the entrance of the ladies everyone arose in surprise.

"Rather a late hour for a call, dear," ventured Mr. Stevens.

"Oh, not at all. We were attending a business meeting, and found it
necessary to leave an order with the Bobolinks."

"An order--what kind of an order?" questioned Ned dubiously.

Mrs. Talmage handed over the copy of the letter she wanted printed, and
directed the company to get out a proof as soon as possible, for they
would need about fifty thousand.

"Fifty thousand!" gasped the boys, while the men looked incredulous.

The Blue Birds could not restrain a giggle at the utter amazement of the
Bobolinks, and the ladies thoroughly enjoyed their husbands' surprise.

"Oh, well, I suppose it will take you a long time to run off so many, so
you may do ten thousand at a time," said Mrs. Talmage.

The Bobolinks could find no words with which to reply, and the men
seemed to have lost their tongues also. While Mrs. Talmage waited for an
answer, Don scowled at his twin sister.

"I am still waiting to hear you accept the order," smiled Mrs. Talmage,
feeling that the Blue Birds had scored a point.

"Maybe you are not yet ready to do business," suggested Mrs. Wells, with
just a touch of sarcasm.

"Of course we are ready!" exclaimed several boys, faintly echoed by the
men.

"Then tell us how long will it be before you can show us a proof?" asked
Mrs. Talmage.

"H'm! We will have to consult," replied Ned, as he beckoned some of the
Bobolinks to the rear of the room.

The Blue Birds were so delighted at catching the Bobolinks napping that
they danced up and down, finding it very difficult to keep their secret.

Don was the first to come over to the ladies.

"Say, what do you want that letter for? Where will you ever get paper
enough to print ten thousand--we can't buy it for you," he growled.

"Don, come back here and mind your business!" shouted Meredith.

"When you return to the boys, please ask them to hurry, as we have
another letter to ask them about--we may need 100,000 of these," said
Mrs. Starr sweetly.

The Blue Birds noticed that their fathers looked sceptical at the last
sentence.

"You never made up a list like that!" grunted Don, looking at the Blue
Birds with fire shining in his eyes.

"What do you think we were doing while you spent your evenings having a
good time?" retorted Dot.

"Humph!" was the only reply Don granted his sister.

"Folks said this summer that we Blue Birds were little hustlers, but I
never paid much attention to them then; but _now_ I think we are
hustlers when I see the way you Bobolinks poke away for two weeks and
nothing to show for it," teased May.

Mr. Wells was called over to join the conference of the Bobolinks before
an answer was given the Blue Birds.

"We will set this type and run off a proof by to-morrow evening; will
that do?" said Ned, coming forward with the letter.

The Blue Birds thought it would take the boys about three days to set
type and give a proof, so it was their turn to be surprised. Mrs.
Talmage seemed to understand, however, and replied in a very
condescending voice:

"Oh, yes, to-morrow will be Saturday, and Uncle Ben will be here at
noon. That will be fine, for, of course, he will show you what to do;
and I am sure he knows just what he would like for the purpose."

The looks exchanged between the Bobolinks and Mr. Wells were sufficient
proof that Mrs. Talmage was right in her surmise, but the Blue Birds
were too polite to say anything more.

The men said it was long past closing hours, so the lights were
extinguished, and the whole party went out into the cool night air.

Early Saturday morning the Blue Birds met again in their pretty Winter
Nest, and Mrs. Talmage told them what she had thought over since the
night before.

"Since Uncle Ben will be here all afternoon to supervise the work, I
think it would be as well for us to form the letter for the
philanthropists, too; then he can help the Bobolinks set the type."

The Blue Birds agreed that this was a wise plan, and so the letter was
discussed and composed. This done, they went to the Publishing House
with the copy, and told the boys what they wanted. The Bobolinks were
hunting for the right style of type and fussing about the machines so as
to have them in readiness for the afternoon.

Uncle Ben arrived at noon, and the boys placed their work under his
supervision. From the expression on his face when he read the letters,
it appeared that he understood the plans the Blue Birds were keeping so
quiet.

"What are you smiling at, Uncle Ben?" asked Ned, keen to find out what
the Blue Birds were planning.

"At the remarkable progress the Blue Birds have made since I last
visited you," returned Uncle Ben.

"Why, they haven't done anything--much," grumbled Don.

"Only fixed up these two letters for us to print," added Meredith.

"They haven't done their usual sewing and playing in the cherry-tree
nest, either," said Jinks.

"Is that so? Well, how do you know _what_ they have been doing without
your knowledge?" asked Uncle Ben laughingly.

The boys looked at him, and their eyes asked the question, "What?"

"As an old magazine man, I can see signs in these two letters that tell
me of two tremendous pieces of work being started--and being very nicely
handled, too. Why, I would not be surprised to have the Blue Birds fly
down upon this Publishing House some day and settle here long enough to
say that they had a paid-up subscription list of ten thousand! At any
rate, you boys had better prepare to print about fifty thousand sample
copies of the first magazine."

The faces of the Bobolinks looked as if their owners must sit down or
collapse. Uncle Ben laughed heartily at them.

"Ah, you're only fooling us, as usual," ventured Ned.

"No, siree! I am not. Wait and see," returned Uncle Ben.

Without further discussion, Uncle Ben showed the boys the proper style
of type to use for a letter, then helped them run off a proof of both
letters.

"This will show the Blue Birds that we are not so slow but that we can
turn out samples in up-to-date style," said Ned, as he admired the
printing.

"Now, run off a few letters on this paper," ordered Uncle Ben, producing
some beautiful bond paper.

"My, but it's pretty! Where'd you get it, Uncle Ben?" asked Ned.

"I brought it out for the Blue Birds' inspection, but I shouldn't doubt
but that they have already attended to that detail, so we will present
our proof all finished on my paper."

"Now, tell us, Uncle Ben, why you think the Blue Birds have a big plan
of their own," entreated Ned.

Uncle Ben smiled and reminded the boys to keep his words from becoming
public property.

"I should say that the fact that the Blue Birds have not been near their
old Nest all week, when the weather is so glorious, proves that they
have a deeper interest elsewhere. Now, what can that be? Here you have a
hint of part of the interest," and Uncle Ben waved the letters at the
boys. "How do I know?

"Take these two letters--either one of them would startle a slow
circulation manager in the city if he thought a competitor suddenly
produced it! Why, in some way the Blue Birds have found a way to reach
book stores, stationers, and similar business places. Then, too, the
mention of needing thousands shows me they have found a mine of
addresses that is worth a large price to a publisher."

"Ah, Uncle Ben, you're wrong there! The Blue Birds haven't gone
anywhere, and no one has been here to tell them how to get such names,"
said Ned.

Without replying to Ned's words, Uncle Ben continued:

"Then, too, they must have the institution work well under consideration
or they would not have ordered the form letter--and hinted at the size
of the order."

The boys shook their heads, unwilling to admit that Uncle Ben's surmises
sounded practical.

"Lastly, they have their paper selected, because they told you the size
this sheet of printing is to be; and therefore they must know how deep a
margin they will need. To get the size of their printing correct, they
would have to know how many sheets will cut out of a large sheet of
paper, and order it cut accordingly."

"If they have done all those things that you say they have, they are
'way ahead of us Bobolinks," grumbled Don.

Uncle Ben laughed and advised:

"Boys, work _with_ these Blue Birds, not against them or ahead of them.
Do not think that just because they are girls, and you are boys, that
they are going to remain in the shade and let you boys come out and
shine in the light. If you boys ever do business in the city, you will
find that a woman will contest your right at every step, for to-day's
women are equal in every way to the men--I rather think a number of them
are superior to the men. These Blue Birds are but a proof of what I say.
They will not permit the Bobolinks to walk off with the honors that are
due them." And Uncle Ben chuckled at the idea.

"Well, Uncle Ben, you'll help us in every way until we are even with the
girls, won't you?" asked Ned.

"And you won't help the Blue Birds any more, will you?" asked Don.

"I am absolutely neutral," replied Uncle Ben, holding both hands up over
his head. "I won't take sides, but I will help the work along in every
way, for I want it to succeed. I'll help you when you need it, and I'll
help these little Blue Birds. But do as I said: Work together, not in a
spirit of rivalry, for that will only sow seeds of strife and
discontent."

"Come on, boys, let's take Uncle Ben to the house and show our letter
proofs to the Blue Birds," said Ned.

So the Bobolinks were taught their lesson in trying to win a race by
running for a time and then resting.



CHAPTER XII

THE STORY OF AN ALASKAN TRIP


When the Bobolinks reached the house, they found the veranda occupied by
the Blue Birds, who sat in a semi-circle about three ladies in rocking
chairs--Mrs. Talmage, Aunt Selina, and Mrs. Catlin. The latter had a
roll of paper in her lap, and evidently had been explaining something to
the audience.

"Oh, boys, you're just in time!" cried Ruth.

"Mrs. Catlin's got her story all written for our magazine, and she was
just going to read it," explained Dot.

"May we hear it?" asked Ned, for the Bobolinks.

"Why, certainly. Sit right down on the steps," said Mrs. Catlin.

As soon as the boys were comfortable, she continued:

"I was about seventeen when I read the exciting tales of gold in
California and the wealth to be obtained in Seattle--a town that was
boomed in a night. I knew my father would never consent to my leaving
home, so I said nothing, but pawned my watch and ring, drew my savings
from the bank, and raised enough money to pay my way West. I worked part
of my way, and stole rides on freight cars part of the way, until I
found myself in Seattle. I was not particular where I went as long as it
was in the West. Well, in Seattle I found that the fever of gold mining
in Alaska was reaching a boiling point, and every steamer bound for
Sitka was already overloaded, but I managed in some way to steal aboard
and hide until the captain could not turn me off. I had to do some
awfully dirty work, however, and had very little to eat.

"We arrived at Sitka, and there I spent some more of my money for a
passage to Juneau City. There I landed with forty dollars left in my
pockets. Ten of this was paid out for a hard bed and some scanty food,
and I soon feared that I would be left without a cent unless I started
somewhere for the gold mines. I heard all kinds of stories about the
gold found up on the Yukon River, so I found a shed where outfits were
sold, and paid twenty dollars for an outfit that was said to be all I
would need. I still had a few dollars left when I started on the road,
with my outfit strapped to my back, visions of finding millions of
dollars' worth of gold always before my eyes.

"I walked along a trail that seemed to be well traveled, and felt glad
to get away from the drink-sodden town. I had tramped for hours, when
the outfit began to rub painfully on my back. I was hungry, too, for the
food given me at the eating-houses was unfit to eat. In buying my
outfit, I added a strip of bacon and a loaf of black bread, so I decided
to rest for a bit and have my dinner.

"The country, as far as I could see, was very beautiful, so I sat down
beside the trail and dropped my pack. I took out the tiny frying pan and
cut some bacon into it. I gathered some sticks, and then tried to light
one of the matches that was in the waterproof box, but it merely
sputtered and went out. I used so many matches in this way that I became
nervous lest the supply give out. Finally I ate my bread and bacon as it
was, and was about to strap the outfit together again when I spied a
caravan leaving the town several miles beyond the point where I sat. I
was so interested in watching the long line, as it lengthened out along
the trail, that I forgot how soon night comes down in this country. I
had no plans for the night, and expected to go much farther before I
struck camp. When the caravan had come halfway the distance from town
toward me, I picked up my pack and started on.

"I found the pack dreadfully heavy this time, and had to rest several
times. I was thus resting on a large rock when the caravan passed me.

"The sledges were piled high with camp equipment. At the end of the line
was a cumbersome-looking affair that was covered with canvas and drawn
by four horses. A grizzled man drove these horses, and seemed intent
upon his job.

"So interested was I in watching them go by that I was startled when one
of the men in the sledge called to me:

"'Hello, Kid! What are you doing--picking flowers?'

"A number of the men laughed, but the younger one who sat with the man
in the sledge shouted: 'Want to join us as far as your road lies? This
is no place for a boy to travel alone. Beasts on two and four legs are
too powerful about here.'

"I felt an irresistible desire to join them, but they never stopped.
However, taking it for granted that they wanted me or they wouldn't have
spoken, I ran after the caravan and tried to keep up with them. The pack
grew heavier every moment, and at last I decided to give it up. Just
then one of the leading horses of the four stumbled down upon his knees.

"This caused a halt while the driver got down and examined the horse. I
had the opportunity that I needed, so I took a deep breath and shouted,
at the same time running as fast as my weary legs would carry me.

"'How are you comin'?' asked the driver.

"'Coming!' I cried, so tired I could have wept. 'Why, I've been coming
ever since the man asked me.'

"'Some run, eh?' asked the old man, smiling.

"'Didn't they mean it?' I asked, in a tremble lest I be left again.

"'Guess so. Don't believe they gave you another thought. But, now that
you're here, you kin sit with me,' said the man gruffly, as I thought,
while he rubbed the skinned knee with whale-oil.

"I climbed up and sat in the seat beside the driver. He gathered the
reins together and started the horses again before he spoke another
word.

"'Kid, I watched you runnin' after this crew, and I jus' said to mysel',
"Old Hal, keep an eye on that kid and see what stuff he's made of." I
reckon you'll win out, even if this brazen outfit loses. I'm goin' to
take a likin' to ye, kid, d'ye hear that!' grinned the old man, as he
chirked to the horses.

"I sat still and pondered what he said.

"'Thar ain't many men as kin say that Old Hal the Guide took a likin' to
'em, kid,' he continued, watching the trail where his horses stepped.

"I had overheard the men at the town talking about a guide called 'Old
Hal,' and the conjectures as to how much the swell outfit had to pay him
to get him to take charge of their expedition.

"I felt unduly elated at hearing the man address me so comradely, and I
decided to be as friendly as I could.

"'What's the great hulk under this canvas?' I asked, nodding my head
toward the load back of us.

"'Hulk! You're right, sonny, it is a great big hulk. These men from the
East think they know a lot about goin' on a expedition like this--they
git their learnin' from the books. But I could have saved 'em heaps of
money hed they consulted me fust. Now, this pertickler hulk is dead
trash! _They_ call 'em canoes, but the fust little jolt one of 'em gits
in the end of its nose--down she goes!'

"'Canoes, eh?' I said wonderingly.

"'How many did yeh bring in yer outfit?' asked Hal, nudging me in the
ribs.

"'I may have all of those to take care of if you don't watch the
horses,' I growled.

"'Right choo are, kid! Did yeh ever hear the verse, "From the mouths of
babes, etc."? Guess yeh didn't know I ever read Scripter, did yeh?'
laughed the old man.

"'Guess you don't or you wouldn't joke that way about such a good Book,'
I replied.

"'Right choo are agin, kid! My, but you are a lucky find fer Hal to
have. Jus' fancy all the fun we will have durin' the long winter
nights,' said the guide, in a conciliatory tone.

"'Hope so! If I ever get the chance to show you that I am thankful for
this help, I surely will,' I said, full of gratitude that I was not
dragging my feet along the tiresome trail at that very moment.

"'Now, that's the kind of a heart to have--one that kin thank a feller
without feelin' 'shamed to show his colors! I see where you and me are
goin' to make a fine team!' said Hal.

"After some silence, the old man asked: 'Where'er yeh bound fer,
anyway?'

"'Don't know--just going out to find gold,' I said.

"He turned square around and stared at me for a few moments, then
gasped: 'Father an' mother dead?'

"I had to gulp hard before I could answer this question, then I said:
'No. Had my own money in the bank, and so I just came.'

"'How fer?' he asked abruptly.

"'All the way from New York state. I worked my way out and worked part
of my way on the Seattle boat,' I said, with great pride in my
achievement.

"'Why, yeh little fool!' cried the irate guide.

"'What's the matter?'

"'An' I s'pose yeh hev ben payin' fer full board an' keep to yer mother
ever sence yeh wuz borned, eh?' scoffed Hal.

"I was silent. I was looking at the matter from a new point of view.

"'S'pose yer pa an' ma was on'y too glad to git yeh out'en the way, eh?'
he continued.

"Again I had to gulp when I thought of my mother.

"'I see the hull fool thing. Yeh jus' went crazy readin' trashy papers,
an' yeh run away widdout tellin' a soul, 'cause yeh knew they wouldn't
let yeh come otherwise.'

"I marveled at how close he had come to the truth.

"'Well, yer here, kid, an' I s'pose Old Hal's got to see yeh through wit
it, so thet worritin' mother of yourn'll see yeh agin, some day.' And he
swung the whip over the horses' heads with a crack that saved me from
his ire.

"We came to a bad grade then, and Old Hal had to keep a wary eye on the
trail, for the horses were not as sure-footed as the dogs and deer.

"It must have been four o'clock before we halted. The air was growing
colder as we advanced, and I was glad enough to open my pack for a chunk
of bread and a slice of bacon.

"'Hist, kid, stow that away!' whispered Hal, as he began to unhitch the
horses for the night.

"In a short time the two men from the sledge came up.

"'Hello, youngster! You did come, after all, didn't you?' said the older
man.

"As the supper was being cooked by an Indian guide, I was welcomed in
the circle sitting about a blazing fire and asked about myself. To each
question I replied truthfully, and wondered at the smiles and surprise
shown at my answers.

"One of the two men who owned the expedition turned to the old guide
after a time and said: 'Hal, what shall we do with the kid? Send him
back home?'

"'If 'twere me, I'd give him his fill. He'll be safe enough wid us, an'
we kin git heaps of work outen him; but he'll never 'mount to nothin' ef
yeh send him home, 'cause he'll allus think of the gold he might have
got,' said Hal astutely.

"'Guess you've hit the nail on the head, Hal,' laughed the younger man,
as he looked at me.

"So I became a member of the Yukon Gold Expedition, under the management
of John Herrick and Julius Dwight, engineers.

"We traveled over hundreds of miles of snow, for we were trying to reach
a certain trail that Old Hal knew, before the thaw set in.

"We did not quite get there, however, before the general thaw struck us.
Then the canoes were needed. I had wondered why we delayed our traveling
to cart those canoes with us, for there were no streams or lakes to
cross, but the moment the thaw set in it seemed that every piece of ice
and snow in the North was turning to water. Instead of trails, we had to
travel by green-blue rivers, or over deep, dark seas.

"Well, after losing one canoe and two of the Indians, Old Hal hit his
trail and led us up toward the mountains.

"All of that short summer was passed in the usual work of prospecting:
digging, panning, washing, or testing for gold. Permanent camp had been
built by the men, and a number of Indian servants took precaution that
every emergency should be provided for in case of a hard, long winter.
Every kind of edible bird or beast was trapped and prepared for food,
while the skins and pelts of animals were cured and made into garments
and covers.

"I was the youngest in camp, so I was known as the 'Kid,' and Old Hal
took the office of guardian toward me from the first and ordered me
about--always for my good, be it known--and kept a watchful eye over my
doings and the men I happened to work with.

"Toward the end of the short summer we struck a rich vein of gold!

"I shall never forget the change in everyone's character the moment the
gold was discovered in the shining sand. Some became savages, others
grew crafty and cunning, and Old Hal had his hands full to keep
discipline in the camp. Dwight and Herrick saw the tendency of their
hired men to mutiny against Hal and themselves, and perhaps jump the
claim when the owners were out of the way, but they were farsighted men,
and Hal was no greenhorn in handling Esquimo and half-breed Indians.

"A large tract of land on both sides of the creek was staked off and a
diagram of the area carefully drawn by Herrick, to be filed in the
office at Forty-Mile Station, where a legal land-office was maintained
by the government.

"As it was most necessary to file this claim before winter came on, a
conference was held between Hal and the two engineers. Hal said he could
easily make the trip to Forty-Mile and back again before winter froze
everything solid, so he was ordered to take a canoe, with two of the
mutinous men, and start immediately. Two dogs were placed in the canoe,
in case they would be needed for sledging, and a store of food and pelts
were packed under the seats. At the last moment, Hal was led to take his
own canoe, which he had made that summer, and ask for my company. I was
delighted to know I could accompany my old friend, so one of the dogs
and a sledge were placed in Hal's canoe, and but one of the men got in,
while I was placed in the other canoe, with the other man.

"We started in good order and made quick time. We had no route, map, or
survey, for there were none in those days, but Hal knew every foot of
the way, unless unusual conditions prevailed. We made camp that night,
and rested, all unmindful of the plot the two mutinous men were hatching
against us to get possession of the claim papers.

"In the morning, after an early breakfast, we started, and had gone but
a short distance before our canoes ran out of the stream into a broad
expanse of water that was unfamiliar to Hal.

"He looked carefully around for some landmark to guide him, and saw,
some miles further on, what he believed to be a blazed spot. So he
directed his man to paddle for that place.

"When Hal was about ten feet in advance of us, and as I sat in the stern
of our canoe, I saw the man paddling our canoe suddenly raise a
rifle--where he got it no one knows--take aim, and shoot. It was all
done so quickly that I could scarcely move. Hal always held his revolver
ready to enforce obedience from his men, and the moment I heard the shot
I saw his arm jerk spasmodically and his revolver fly out and fall in
the bottom of the canoe. At the same time I tore my revolver out of my
belt and covered the man who had shot.

"I was so occupied in this that I had no time to see what Hal was doing,
but I heard him yell: 'Go overboard this second or I'll shoot you dead!'

"I immediately followed suit, and cried: 'Go overboard, and swim ashore,
or I'll shoot you!'

"The man sat and stared at me for a moment, as he never dreamed I had
the spirit to do what I had. I was so nervous, and my heart seemed to
bulge out in my throat so that I could hardly swallow. The man still sat
and looked at his pal, who had jumped overboard and was swimming for
shore. I never knew how it happened, for I had no idea of shooting him,
but in that moment that he turned his look from me to his pal my fingers
twitched with dread, and the revolver rang forth its shot, and the
fellow fell into the water. I was so frightened that I clung to the neck
of the dog and hid my eyes. Meantime, the fellow who was swimming saw
what had occurred, and went under water to escape being shot.

"Soon Hal had his canoe alongside, and said: 'Step in here, Kid.'

"My canoe was fastened to the other one, and the transfer made without
further mishap. I looked about for the swimmer, but could see nothing of
him. He might have drowned or gone ashore.

"We managed to travel pretty well until night, when we again camped on
shore, but Hal seemed worried at the strangeness of the land.

"After a few days' futile seeking for the trail, we felt a sudden chill
in the air. Hal was concerned, and sought in every direction for some
familiar object.

"We made camp one night while the dogs sniffed ravenously about for
food, for our stock had run so low that Hal had to economize to make it
last another day. The next morning I awoke to find snow blowing in every
direction. The change was so unlooked for that I rubbed my eyes to make
sure I was awake.

"'Well, Kid, this settles our trip to Forty-Mile for some time,'
admitted Hal forlornly.

"'What do you mean, Hal?' I asked.

"'If we don't make camp quick, we'll be caught in the cold and frozen.
If I was alone, I'd try to make some Esquimo hut or die, but havin' you
I can't take a chance.' Hal's manner of speech had improved a great
deal during his intercourse with cultured men, and I took note of it as
he spoke--such queer things will impress one when a sudden calamity
presents itself.

"That morning Hal set me to cutting down some small trees. He said he
would take the sledge and the dogs and try to find the trail. I begged
him not to leave me alone, and he promised that this would be the last
effort if he was unsuccessful.

"I felt the terrible fear of being alone in this wilderness all winter,
but I kept busy chopping down trees. All day long I worked and prayed,
and before dark settled down I rejoiced to see Hal coming back. I could
tell in a moment that he had not found any trail, so I said nothing.

"That night Hal saw all the signs of winter breaking upon us, and he
worked fast and furious to make camp so that we might survive the cold
months.

"In his search the day before, he had found a stream whose banks were
well covered with sheltering pines. Here he proposed to build a hut.
While, with the help of the dogs, he hauled the small logs I had cut to
the stream, I was ordered to fish and hunt for all the supplies I could
gather before the waters froze solid.

"I went to work with a forlorn hope of ever living to see another year,
but the fish were plentiful, and the task of preparing them for winter
use kept me from thinking too much.

"Hal set traps for animals, and this game we skinned; the meat we dried
and the pelts we hoped to use in the winter. The fats I dried out and
kept in a skin pouch Hal made. Some of the game could not be eaten, so
we used that for bait.

"Hal built a rude log hut about eight feet wide, with a smoke hole at
the top. The wide chinks were plastered full of clay from the
river-bank. A door was made of split logs and fastened together with
rope and strips of skin. We had brought no nails or screws, and had to
use whatever came to hand. The hinges of the door were made of tough
strips of hide and fastened to the logs with some nails Hal took out of
the sledge.

"A rude fire-bowl was made in the center of the hut and some flint-rock
carefully placed in a chink in the wall. The hut completed, Hal felt
relieved, for the winter seemed to hold off for our benefit.

"We chopped wood, and stacked it on one side of the wall, inside, and
then started to pile up more on the outside near the door. Some of our
food was buried in a pit just outside the hut, but Hal hung all there
was room for to the logs of the roof.

"We were feeling quite contented one night, when Hal remarked: 'Kid,
she's comin' down on us. I kin tell by the queer sounds through those
pines.'

"'Let her come. We are ready,' I laughed.

"'All but the beds. I'll have to go out now and bring in those balsam
branches I have been savin' all these days.'

"That night we slept upon our fresh balsam beds. When I rose I could not
have told whether it was twilight or dawn. The blizzard howled outside,
but Hal had a cheerful fire cracking inside."



CHAPTER XIII

A WINTER IN THE FROZEN NORTH


"For ten days that blizzard raged, and I began to think we never would
get out again. Then one morning Hal called me to see the beautiful snow.
I stretched and got up. Hal had managed to chop away some of the drift
that had piled against the door, and after some digging we squeezed
through an aperture and stood without.

"My, but it was grand! One great world of sparkling white, with drifted
mountains of snow all over. Even our hut was but a smaller drift in the
general picture. While I stood and admired, Hal brought out two pails
which we had had in the canoes, and told me how important it was to get
some water from the stream. We carried the water carefully to the hut,
and then I watched Hal set a bear trap, as well as a trap for small
game.

"The dogs enjoyed being out once more and lapped the water greedily
while we filled the buckets. We worked several hours taking wood from
outside the hut and piling it up on our depleted stack inside. Long
before we were done, I heard a distant howling, and looked toward Hal
for its meaning.

"'Wolves! They scent our meat,' he said laconically.

"We managed to fasten our door again, and sat down by the fire while the
dogs went over to their corner to sleep.

"That night the thermometer dropped to thirty degrees below zero and
stayed there for a week. Everything that could froze up solid, and the
wild beasts could catch no more fish or small game, so took long jaunts
away from their lairs to find food.

"Inside of forty-eight hours I heard every kind of a growl and howl
imaginable, as bears prowled about the hut sniffing at the buried food,
or scratching at our hut to get in.

"'Wish we could get some of 'em in the traps,' I said.

"'They'd be torn to pieces and soon et up by the other wild beasts,'
replied Hal, as he made another notch in a log where he was keeping
record of the days.

"It wasn't very pleasant that week, for the room was small, and the dogs
and meat began to make the air reek, so we were mighty glad, one
morning, to wake and find it warmer. Without delay, Hal and I chopped
the door out of the ice and snow and got out, followed by the dogs. The
air was still so cold that it felt like a knife going through my lungs,
but it was sweet and fresh. The dogs, too, were glad to have a run.

"The only thing to mark the hut from the other humps of snow round about
was the dirty spot where the smoke came out. While we aired the room we
cleaned up whatever débris lay about and filled the pails with some ice
that Hal chopped out of the frozen stream.

"Meantime, the dogs were scenting about in the drifts and growling and
yelping. Hal looked up and saw that they were off following some tracks.
He ran after them for a few rods and then came back, calling them to
come in.

"'Those were bear tracks,' he explained, as the dogs obeyed most
unwillingly. 'I wish I had some way to trap them without having the fur
ruined by other animals.'

"'Couldn't you set a trap right in range with the chink of the door, and
if you hear other animals about you can shoot them,' I said.

"'But it would waste a lot of valuable ammunition,' he replied.

"He set the trap where I had suggested, however, and said he would wait
and see what happened.

"We felt better for that day's fresh air, but the storm settled down
again during the night, and it was several days before it stopped
snowing. The cold held on longer, but we knew it was clear by the bright
gleam of light that filtered through our smoke-hole.

"'I wonder if we can get out to-day?' I asked, but at the same time
howls were heard coming from the pines.

"'Guess you will do better to stay in to-day,' smiled Hal.

"That night we found it impossible to sleep, for the wolves howled madly
just outside the hut, and some of them pawed at the smoke-hole so that
Hal finally picked up a red-hot firebrand and poked it up through the
opening just as one of the beasts tried to nose down into the hut. It
must have caught him well, for he set up a terrific howling.

"The next night, as the wolves came back again to pay their nightly
visit, we heard a new growl coming from a distance. I looked at Hal for
information, and he chuckled with satisfaction.

"'Ha! I thought so! I was sure a bear would come along before long.'

"'A bear! Oh, I wish we could get him in that trap!'

"'Will he attack the wolves?' I asked.

"'He will come sniffing about that pit for meat, and if the wolves
bother him they will most likely get into trouble,' said Hal, laughing.

"'Gracious, Hal! S'pose he gets our meat--what will we do?'

"'We'll have to prevent him from gettin' it, that's all,' said Hal,
looking at his rifle to see that it was in good order.

"'How are you going to do it?'

"'Shoot him while he's busy with the wolves, or try and get him while he
is digging at the pit.'

"'Wait and try the last plan. Let him kill off a pack of hungry wolves,
and when he has driven them away he will come to the pit. Then is your
time,' I said.

"'Kid, you're comin' on fine! Another season in the north and you will
be a regular hunter,' laughed Hal.

"I saw that I pleased the old man, and felt happy that I could do it so
easily. But my attention was attracted by the din of battle outside, as
howls and snarls mixed together so furiously that the dogs huddled down
in a corner of the hut and showed their teeth at the doorway.

"We couldn't tell from the sounds which was being worsted, but the fact
that the wolves were so numerous led us to believe that they could
finally tear to pieces any bear. Then, while we were checking off the
howls, quite a singular snarl came from the opposite direction.

"We could tell from the noises that another bear had taken a hand in the
fight, which continued for a long time. Then all was quiet.

"All that night we heard something scratching at the door and climbing
up to the smoke-hole, but a firebrand always met the inquisitive nose,
for we could hear the snarl of rage as a hasty retreat was made. One
queer thing, though, was the fact that we only heard one beast clawing
about.

"When light came again, Hal placed his ear to a chink in the door and
listened. He seemed satisfied that the coast was clear, so we started to
chop out the snow that bound the door on the outside.

"We got the door open about an inch, and Hal peeped out, but could see
nothing. Then we managed to push it open a little further, and still
nothing but snow was visible.

"Then suddenly a dark shadow fell across the light from outside. I stood
rigid while Hal took a good aim.

"'Why don't you shoot?' I cried, as I saw the largest bear I had ever
seen standing there scenting the air.

"'He isn't in perfect range yet. I'd only ping him and make him run, if
I shoot now,' whispered Hal, still holding his finger on the trigger.

"'If he'd only move a foot this way!' I sighed.

"As if the brute felt my wish, he turned his head in our direction.
Instantly a deafening report seemed to blow up the cabin, and powder
smoke hung thick over our heads. The dogs were so startled that they
yelped and rolled over on the floor.

"There was not a sound from outside, and Hal smiled to himself.

"'Bet I got him first try. Didn't hear any objections from him, did
you?'

"'Gee! I wish we could open this door and drag him in before those
wolves come back,' I said, digging frantically.

"'They won't get back straight off. They have been whipped for the time
and will be feared to try it again unless they get the scent of the dead
bears,' said Hal, digging away at the top of the drift while I scooped
at the bottom.

"We finally managed to open the door enough to get out.

"The bear had dropped dead in his tracks. At his feet--but out of range
of the chink of our door--lay the other, literally ripped to pieces by
the wolves during the night's battle. She had put up a fine fight,
though, for the area all about her was covered with the bodies of the
wolves she had slaughtered, and the snow was all trampled and red.

"The dogs ran out, their hair bristling along their spines as they
sniffed at the carcasses.

"We heard the wolves' howls from the pine woods, so we hurriedly dragged
the bear Hal had shot inside the hut. We put the carcass in one corner
of the room, which left us scarcely enough space to move around in.

"Hardly had the door been closed before the pack of wolves were upon it,
scratching and tearing at the logs.

"We had a difficult time skinning the bears and trying to cut the steaks
properly; the grease we kept for oil after it had been melted down. I
used to implore Hal to throw out the whole dreadful mess, but he knew
the value of bear-grease and steaks, so kept his own counsel and minded
me not at all.

"Parts that could not be used, however, and refuse were thrown to the
wolves, thus keeping a howling horde of them in our vicinity constantly.
This, as it happened, proved our salvation.

"We sat cross-legged one morning, figuring out by the notch calendar how
many weeks of winter remained. Suddenly a most startling sound rose
above the din of the snarling, fighting beasts outside.

"A shot rang out, followed by a shrill yelp of pain from one of the
beasts; again a rifle cracked, and one more wolf was struck, judging
from the noise and confusion that ensued.

"Hal and I looked at each other as if in a dream; then we comprehended,
and almost choked with joy. The beasts outside slunk away as the
strangers who had dealt death so swiftly among them approached. Hal and
I both raised our voices and shouted and called as loudly as we could. I
thought of his rifle, and brought it to him.

"'Shoot through the rifle-hole in the door,' I said, excitedly.

"'Sure thing!' he cried, raising his gun to his shoulder and shooting
toward the sky.

"We heard an answering shot, and then voices approaching to within a few
yards of the hut. We pried the door open far enough to hand out the
spade. The unknown visitors already had one spade, and between the two
we were soon excavated, the door was opened, and we leaped forth! There
stood an Indian squaw with a boy of about twelve.

"Fancy our chagrin and sinking hearts! Hal said afterward that he
thought a rescue party had started out to find us, although he knew this
was practically impossible.

"The squaw and Hal could speak, after a fashion, and he explained to me
that she and her son were hunting the day before, and had been caught by
night's swift approach. They were forced to rest in a cave until
morning. Here they had to keep the wild animals at bay, although they
could see them moving around in the shadows just outside the circle of
their campfire, and heard them howling all through the night. When light
came again, they started to find their way home, and had seen the beasts
prowling around a hump in the snow from whence issued a thin stream of
smoke. They knew immediately that some human being was there, and tried
to drive away the animals long enough to investigate.

"Hal explained how we had come to be there--and how grateful we would be
to get away. The squaw managed to tell us that she would return to her
tribe at once and find out whether or not we would be welcomed among
them.

"Hal made her understand how much money she would have if she would help
us reach Forty-Mile, where he had 'much money' waiting for him in the
bank.

"The squaw had heard of 'Old Hal,' the guide, and was evidently
surprised to find him lost while so near the trail.

"'With this kid, I couldn't take any chance at hunting for the trail any
longer,' he explained, 'but decided to follow the most sensible course,
and wait until Spring!'

"We offered the squaw the bear-pelts if she would return with help and
rescue us. In the native manner of 'hearing without speaking' she
stalked away, and we were not sure as to whether she would return or
not.

"In a few days, however, we again heard the sound of a shot which came
from the direction of the woods, and after forcing the door open we
found the squaw with two young men from her tribe.

"'Trail--him all right,' mumbled the squaw.

"We found the weather clear enough to enable us to travel, so we packed
all of our belongings upon the sledge, leaving the canoe in the
snowbank, where it lay hidden against the house. The bear-steaks were
almost gone, but Hal showed the squaw where the other food was buried,
and told her she could use the hut any time she liked. She nodded, and
as soon as the dogs were hitched to the sledge, we proceeded on our
journey, guided by the squaw and the two boys.

"We had only a few hours in which to travel, but in that time we reached
the cave the squaw had told us of, and there spent the night. The
following morning, we continued the journey, reaching the village before
dark.

"The settlement was small, comprising but a dozen families and about six
huts, but it seemed like a town to us, who had been lost all Winter with
nothing but wild animals and snow around us.

"Our dogs were delighted at being able to join some of their breed
again, and, upon the whole, we were all treated as well as could be
expected.

"We stayed there for two nights, then made an early start on the third
morning for Forty-Mile.

"The faithful squaw and her two boys accompanied us a short distance,
until Hal had gotten his bearings and said he would be all right.

"We started on the trail at a goodly speed, and reached a small
settlement by night-fall. The next day we arrived at the first real
colony of white people we had encountered since we left the camp, and a
week after we had left the squaw we came to the town of Forty-Mile,
where we filed the papers for the claim Herrick and Dwight had staked
out.

"Hal knew this was an important matter, and wondered if the rascal who
stranded us had found his way to the land-office first.

"I was sitting in the little smoking-room in the place they called
'Hotel' one morning, while Hal was in our room sewing his gold-dust belt
a bit safer inside of his shirt.

"I had changed so much in appearance--with a boyish growth of beard over
my chin, and my hair as long as a poet's--that a villainous-looking man
who came in and asked for whiskey failed to recognize me; but I knew
him at once as being the man who had escaped from our canoe.

"I managed to get out of the room without being seen, and ran to Hal.

"'What do you think! The murderer is downstairs!'

"'Who?--Sit down and talk sensible,' said Hal.

"'One of the Indians who got away from the canoe,' I cried in a hoarse
whisper.

"Old Hal leaped to his feet. He strapped on his belt and swung his gun
over his arm. After making sure his revolver was all right, he crept
downstairs. I was not going to be cheated out of anything as exciting as
this promised to be, so I cautiously followed him.

"The tavern-keeper and by-standers knew Hal well, and, of course, would
stake their all on his word; so when he entered the bar-room and cried:
'Hands up!' to the Indian, everyone took sides with him, and we soon had
the fellow safely bound.

"'Now, let me see those papers you forged for our claims,' snarled Hal,
fishing through the man's dirty pockets, but finding nothing.

"The man's face showed too much elation for an old guide like Hal to be
fooled, and he ordered the boys standing about to help him strip the
Indian, and there--fastened to his back with strips of plaster--were
found the drawings rudely sketched, somewhat like the set of surveys Hal
had already filed.

"They were ripped off and thrown into the fire and the villain was
chained to a post out in the shed with the dogs, with his arms tied
behind him to prevent his escape, until the Sheriff should come in the
morning.

"Hal told the crowd all about the treachery of the Indians, and they
promised to attend to this man after we were gone.

"A public sledge was about to leave for Dyea in a few days, and Hal
engaged seats for himself and me. He paid the tavern-keeper to keep the
dogs until he returned.

"I had refrained from asking Hal about my future while there was any
doubt of our getting to the Coast, but this seemed to be the best time
to speak of it.

"'What you going to do with me?' I asked.

"'We'll skip right down to Juneau, and see if there are any letters
there. It all depends,' he replied.

"In a few days more we reached Dyea, where Hal secured some trustworthy
men into whose charge he could commit the mining work. Then we took the
boat and started for Juneau.

"After a rough voyage of more than ten days, we docked at the wretched
little city, and went to the post-office for our mail.

"Three letters awaited me--but every one of them were from chums to whom
I had sent cards from Seattle. My mail had been forwarded to me from
Seattle to Juneau, but there was no word from my parents.

"As Hal and I stood reading our letters, the postmaster--a
shrivelled-up, little old man, peered at me over the rim of his
spectacles, and called out:

"'Be you the one thet jist got some old letters from the East?'

"'Yes, sir,' I returned, going over to the counter.

"'Waal, heah's one thet cum a long time ago, an' I meant to send it
back, but somehow fergot it. I cum across it yistiddy, and made up my
mind to do somethin' with it sure, so heah ye aire.'

"With relief I recognized my father's writing, but the letter was dated
two months previous.

"I opened the letter and read it through with intense emotion. First, I
learned that my Mother had died after a brief illness. Next, my Father
had lost his fine saw-mill by fire. Third, my oldest sister had married,
and the home was broken up, Father having gone to live with her in New
York.

"I wondered where I would go if I went home. There was no Mother
waiting, no home, and my Father was in a strange city with his
son-in-law.

"I turned and handed the letter to Hal. He read and comprehended.

"'Guess it's Alaska for ye, Kid. Want to go back with me?'

"Did I?--well, I just guess I did, and I fairly jumped at the hand that
was held out to me.

"'Glad myself, Kid, to have you. I sure would have missed you tol'able
ef I saw you sailin' away from me, headed for Seattle.'

"'Hal, will the bosses think it is all right now?' I asked.

"'Sure thing, when they read this letter, Kid. And, say, I never told
anyone this, but seein' thet I am to be your 'dopted father, now, I may
as well tell yeh--I am to have a tenth-share in the claim up there, and,
as my 'dopted son, you come in fer a part of mine--see?'

"'Hal, do you mean you will take me under your wing?' I cried, all
forgetful of the goldmine.

"This pleased the old guide so much that he laughed as he retorted, 'I
knew I wasn't wrong on the stuff you're made of. That was a lucky day
when my horse stumbled, eh?' and he slapped me kindly on the back.

"Well, we went back to Dyea, and waited for a caravan to start on the
trail. We joined the very first one out, and Hal earned our passage and
keep all the way, as guide.

"We found the camp in excellent condition, and the new miners we had
chosen in place of the villainous Indians proved to be all that could be
desired.

"Some machinery was purchased by Hal at Dyea, and as soon as it was
delivered at our camp, all hands set to work.

"I stayed at that camp with Hal for three years before we sold out our
interests and took a vacation. The bosses had only remained until the
gold was panning out well, then they sent for experts to come and value
the entire mine.

"Hal had filed some property claims for himself and me adjoining the
Dwight mine, and after the experts had rendered their verdict on the
property we were able to sell them at a big price.

"Hal and I decided to go to Seattle for a while, and then travel a bit;
if we found the life too lazy we could easily get back to Alaska.

"We put in a year of pleasure-seeking together, but the life and climate
was too mild for the old guide who had always been accustomed to work
and cold, and one night I found him breathing hard, and he complained of
pains in his chest. In a week he had passed away, leaving me with all of
his wealth to add to my own.

"I had written father, and sent him some money several times during the
year, and now I wrote to tell him I was coming home.

"Needless to say, we were overjoyed to see each other again, and then I
told him I was going to take him on a little trip.

"We went straight to our old home town, and to his surprise I took him
to the old homestead where I was born, telling him that I had
repurchased it from the folks who had bought it from him. He trembled
with happiness as we entered the door and found all of the familiar old
furniture there, too. Above all, there stood his maiden-sister, in the
dining-room door, smiling a welcome!

"I explained how I had found Aunt Delia, and made her promise to keep
house for him, and how we had collected the old furniture that the
village-folks bought when mother died. I was always thankful that my
money enabled me to make his last days happy."



CHAPTER XIV

THE B. B. & B. B. MAGAZINE


By the fifteenth of October the Blue Birds and Bobolinks were deep in
the work of constructing a magazine. Uncle Ben sent out the two young
men he had spoken of, and they showed the children what to do and how to
do it.

The Oakdale Paper Mills passed a vote to supply the paper for one year,
and the B. B. & B. B. Company had agreed to give the mills advertising
credit for the donation.

The two important letters which had caused such consternation in the
Bobolink nest were all printed on beautiful grey paper in blue ink, and
the envelopes all addressed and packed in boxes ready to be used.

All the stories, articles and lessons had been given to Uncle Ben before
the tenth of the month and he had sent back the linotype by the
thirteenth as he promised he would. Then work began in real earnest.

The Bobolink Boys had to make a galley proof of the printing, and the
Blue Birds had to read it (or at least their mothers did) and construct
the dummy. This last work was great fun.

Every evening fathers and mothers visited the Publishing House and the
Winter Nest and assisted where they could, or watched progress when they
were not needed; after every meeting it became the custom for one or the
other of the fathers to treat the publishing company and guests to
refreshments. This, Don thought, was reward enough for every aching back
or arm. To keep the children from tiring of the treats, the fathers
planned each morning, while going into the city, just what new kind of a
surprise to furnish that night.

The interest shown at first had not abated--possibly due to the fact
that so much fun was always to be had from unexpected sources--and the
two men from the city said it was a marvel that children could produce
such splendid work.

"Goodness! those Bobolinks ought to! they spent heaps and heaps of time
fooling with those machines to learn how to work 'em!" said Dot Starr,
overhearing what the men said.

"And just see how the fathers help!" added Norma.

"I guess the magazine wouldn't be much of a paper if the Blue Birds
hadn't done their part so well," said May.

"And the Blue Birds' mothers!" reminded Ruth.

The Blue Birds were sitting on the steps of the piazza waiting for Mrs.
Talmage and Aunt Selina to join them, when Dot told them of the
"city-man's" commendation of the work.

"Here comes Flutey, now," said Ruth, hearing the slow steps of her aunt.

"Well, Blue Birds, how's the song this morning?" cried Aunt Selina,
happily.

The children all turned with one accord and looked at her. Some great
happiness must have been sent her, for she was bubbling over with secret
joy and her face looked as young as one of the Blue Bird's. She took a
chair near the children.

"Say, Flutey, you won't be offended if I ask you a very happy question,
will you?" asked Dot, in a half-whisper.

"Why, of course not! Ask it, child," smiled Aunt Selina.

"Well, you look so happy, you know, I thought maybe _that_ soldier-man
came back to marry you--maybe his being shot was all a mistake and he
has been a prisoner all this time and just got away," said Dot with
horror and awe in her tones.

Mrs. Talmage had stepped out just in time to overhear the funny little
girl's remark and she had to run inside and smother her laughter in a
handkerchief, for Dot was most serious in her statement, and it would
never do to make her feel badly by laughing at her sympathy.

"Oh, no, dearie, those prisons were abandoned soon after the war. But
this surprise I have for the Blue Birds is entirely different from
anything personal," replied Aunt Selina.

"Oh, what is it?" asked several voices.

"I have a letter here," said Aunt Selina, taking it from her reticule,
"in reply to one I wrote an old-time friend a short time ago. This
friend started an advertising business in Philadelphia many years ago
and has been very successful. Let us see what advice this friend gives
about securing contracts for advertising."

The Blue Birds hovered about Aunt Selina's chair eager to hear the
letter read.

The letter was short, but to the point. Mr. Sphere said he was delighted
to hear from his old friend and hoped his information would give her
little friends the satisfaction they deserved for their undertaking. He
said that one of his best representatives had been told to call at Mossy
Glen to interview the Blue Birds and to do just as the ladies directed.
This man would tell them how to get advertising.

"Oh, Flutey! is that all he said?" murmured Ruth.

"Why, I don't call that such a piece of 'happy' news to smile over as
you did!" pouted Dot.

"He didn't ask you how you had been all the time since you two knew each
other, and he never said a word about our magazine," grumbled Norma,
feeling a personal offence in the letter.

"Why, children! _I_ think it is a wonderful piece of good news to hear
that he takes enough interest in the work to send one of his best men
down here to talk matters over," said Mrs. Talmage.

"If you knew my friend you would understand this letter better, for he
always was a quiet chap who listened to others, but said little
himself," explained Aunt Selina.

The following day while the Blue Birds were at the Publishing House
watching the wonderful process of stitching and trimming completed
magazines, a very alert young man rang the bell at the Talmage house.

Mrs. Talmage and Aunt Selina welcomed the visitor.

Shouts of excitement reached the house where the ladies were talking
with Mr. Sphere's representative, and soon a crowd of boys and girls
swarmed up the steps and ran pell-mell for Mrs. Talmage, nothing daunted
by seeing the stranger.

"Mother, mother, see, see!" cried Ruth, dragging Jinks by the sleeve.

"Oh," gasped little Betty, "see our magazine!"

"It's perfectly lovely, Mrs. Talmage!" cried Dot.

The older boys were more subdued when they saw the stranger.

Mrs. Talmage introduced the gentleman, Mr. Richards, one of the New York
advertising solicitors for the Philadelphia agency. He smiled in a
condescending way when Don asked, "Want to see our magazine?"

"Yes, indeed! It is such an unusual thing to find such dear little
children interested in such a way," replied Mr. Richards, looking about
at the boys and girls.

Don looked at Dot with a glance that said as plain as day, "Pooh! he's
trying to pat us on the back!"

And Dot said to the visitor: "Don't think that we like to be fussed over
just because we are working!"

The rest of the publishing company looked uncomfortable at the very
evident tendency to humor them on account of their work.

The fact was, that the man couldn't understand why his firm (such a
sensible lot of business men) should send him away from his important
work in New York to call upon some wealthy ladies and a number of
children, to talk about advertising pages in a toy magazine.

The two copies of the completed magazine had been given to Aunt Selina
and Mrs. Talmage and they expressed such satisfaction at the appearance
of the work that the man turned his attention to Mrs. Talmage. She
handed him her copy.

When Mr. Richards saw the magazine, he was surprised out of his usual
self-possession and exclaimed,

"Why, who did this?"

"Blue Birds and Bobolinks," replied Ned, with head tilted on one side
the better to see the precious book the man held.

"But this is first-class work!" exclaimed the visitor.

"Sure! did you think we were going to turn out anything else?" asked
Jinks, insulted.

"Oh, of course not, but it takes experienced hands to do anything as
good as this," continued Mr. Richards, turning the pages slowly and
examining each one carefully.

"Well, Uncle Ben knew the kind of workers we were when he trusted us
with his pet hobby!" declared Ned, proudly.

Mr. Richards looked rather helpless, so Mrs. Talmage explained who
"Uncle Ben" was and what part he had taken in the enterprise.

Light gradually began to break in upon the young man's brain as he heard
the story of the magazine. Suddenly he sat up as if electrified with a
new idea. He looked about at the children, the house, lawns, and ladies;
finally he took his return railroad ticket from his pocket and noted the
name printed on the card--Oakdale.

"Well, well, well! is this place called 'Mossy Glen'?" he asked.

"It is," replied Mrs. Talmage, wonderingly.

"And these youngsters, the same that set folks agog last summer with
their 'Fresh Airs'?"

Mother Wings bowed affirmatively, but the Blue Birds, who had never
dreamed that their doings had ever been heard of outside of their own
little community, were as surprised as their visitor.

The solicitor looked everyone over with a new interest after that, and
breathed softly to himself, "Great Scott! What a piece of luck to get
the lead in this idea!"

"We do not understand exactly what you mean," said Mrs. Talmage, with
dignity.

"Well, I was present at a meeting a short time ago when the talk veered
to a project evolved by some children. It was creating quite a little
interest among the older men, but I paid little attention to it at the
time, for I had my mind full of other matters. But I remember hearing
one of the leading publishers state that he believed we would hear of
this undertaking in the future, for he knew some of the children who
were in it. Now, here I am, unconsciously dropped into the heart of it."

From that moment Mr. Richards was the enthusiastic collaborator of the
company. He went over the pages of the magazine again and made some
valuable suggestions for the future. When he expressed a desire to visit
their plant, everyone jumped up ready to show him the B. B. & B. B.
Publishing House.

Another great surprise awaited Mr. Richards. He had an idea that the
work was done upon toy machinery, or hand presses; but, to find a shop
equipped with electric motors and up-to-date machines, to say nothing of
type-stands and a real office, was more than he could comprehend.

"I'm not surprised at the statement that man made at the meeting--he
must have known you children, indeed!"

"Seems to me that we are getting this young man 'rooted' in this work,"
laughed Aunt Selina, who liked the expression ever since Mrs. Talmage
told her how to interest friends in the work.

"Well, I'm 'grafted' upon this idea even if I'm not 'rooted,'" returned
Mr. Richards, laughingly. "So much so, in fact, that I am going to make
a suggestion that I think will meet with the approval of all of you."

The children came closer to await his proposition.

"At present I am an advertising man, but I used to be on one of the
large newspapers in the city, and whenever any unusual story came in I
was supposed to 'dress it' for publication. Now, in my opinion, this
whole affair will make a fine story for the press and at the same time
give this magazine the publicity it needs." Mr. Richards looked at the
ladies for approval.

"It doesn't seem valuable enough for a paper to print," ventured Mrs.
Talmage.

"It is the _unusual_ that papers are always after," replied Mr.
Richards. "Show me anything more unusual than this (waving his arm about
to embrace the children, the plant and the work) and I will run after
it!"

"What would you say in the story?" asked Aunt Selina.

"Well, I'd take kodak pictures of this office, of the plant, and of the
Winter Nest you have been telling me about. Then we would group the
children on the lawn in front of the house and have a picture of the
Blue Birds and Bobolinks who own and publish this magazine."

"What would Mr. Sphere say if he saw the story in the papers?" asked
Aunt Selina.

"He'd say, 'Richie, old boy, I always knew you had a grain of sense in
your head!'" laughed Mr. Richards.

"I have a fine camera in case you want to use it," said Ned, eagerly.

"And we have everything in good shape to have a picture taken," added
Meredith.

"If the ladies consent we will lose no more time, but get the pictures
while the sun is right," Mr. Richards said, as he turned toward the
ladies and Blue Birds.

"Yes, yes, Mother Wings, let's do it!" cried several Blue Birds. So Aunt
Selina and Mrs. Talmage smiled a consent.

Ned brought his camera and Mr. Richards grouped the Bobolinks about the
machines in as workman-like poses as possible, and managed to get a good
picture of them. Next, the office, with Jinks at the typewriter and Ned
at the desk, was photographed. Outside, the Blue Birds and Bobolinks
grouped themselves in front of the door and another picture was taken.
The Blue Birds were given their pose as editors in the large library of
the house, where books and writing material could be utilized in the
picture. The Winter Nest was the last picture to be taken.

"Now, watch the papers for a story of your entire plan and achievement,
with illustrations, and if you don't tell me the next time I come out
that my idea was the best publicity plan imaginable, then you'll be
ungrateful, indeed!" said Mr. Richards, pleased as he could be with the
success of his visit.

"When will the papers come out?" asked Ned.

"I'll keep you posted day by day. I'm not going to lose sight of such a
promising crowd of young folks, _I tell you!_" laughed the young man as
he placed the film in his pocket and started to say good-by.

"Say, here, are you going to take that magazine with you?" cried Don,
seeing the magazine rolled up in the visitor's hand.

"Well, I guess! I'm going to exploit this everywhere I go," said Mr.
Richards, tapping the paper with his hand.

"And tell the newspaper man that lots of famous folks have promised to
write for us," said Ruth, who desired the magazine to have all the glory
possible.

"And tell him to be sure and say that Aunt Selina will be glad to have
grown-ups write to ask her about Happy Hills," added Aunt Selina,
anxious to have the children's farm advertised.

"I'll make them write everything I can think of, and more too, if
possible," laughed the young man as he started down the steps.

"Oh, Mr. Richards, I forgot to tell----" Don started to say something,
but Ike interrupted from the automobile which had been waiting for some
time in front of the house.

"There'll just be time to jump aboard that train if we get off at once!"

Mr. Richards jumped in and raised his hat to the ladies, while Ike
started the car at full speed, the children meantime waving their hands
and shouting reminders after the visitor.

Back to the Publishing House trooped the bevy of workers, more eager
than ever to continue their work.

"Now, he's what I call an 'all right' man!" declared Don Starr,
emphatically, as he accented his words with punches at the stitcher.

"What a piece of luck for us," exclaimed Ned, overjoyed at the promised
newspaper story.

"I always said I wanted to go through college," said Tuck Stevens,
thoughtfully; "but what's the use? When I have such a good business to
work in and will be all ready to live on my money by the time I'm a man,
why should I bother?"

"That's so, Tuck; better have a good time on that money," laughed Jinks.

"Better 'not count your chickens before they're hatched' or they may
never come out of the shell," teased Ned.

The Blue Birds had been equally busy talking, while folding pages, but
the work soon engrossed too much of their attention to keep up any
conversation.

After several hours' work the Blue Birds began to feel tired and
decided to carry the finished magazines to the house.

As each little girl came up the steps carrying a heap of neatly finished
magazines, the two ladies stopped talking and turned to watch the girls
deposit the magazines on the table in the hallway.

"What were you saying about Happy Hills, mother?" asked Ruth.

"Aunt Selina was telling me all about the three beautiful hills at the
back of the estate. She said what pretty kodak pictures they would make
if we wanted to use them for the magazine, and I said it might be a good
plan to write up a short story about our plan for next month's issue."

"Oh, yes, that would be a fine start for the farm," cried Ruth.

"And we think that we would need all of the time we can get to make sure
of next summer's success," added Aunt Selina.

"Aunt Selina, how many poor children do you think we can keep at Happy
Hills?" asked Ruth.

"We could not tell without having expert help to show how many camps can
be built there," said Aunt Selina.

"Oh, are you going to build camps, Aunt Selina?" asked Norma.

"I thought the children were going to live in the woods," said Dot.

"But you didn't expect them to sleep on the ground and dress behind the
bushes, did you?" said May.

"I never thought what they would do," returned Dot.

"Will you have nests to live in like ours in the cherry-tree?" asked
Betty.

"No, dearie, I am planning to build little houses that will hold about
six or eight bunks, and a locker for each child. These houses will have
a floor and a roof with posts to hold it up, but the walls will be made
of canvas curtains that we can roll up when we want the house wide open.
The long building where the children will gather to eat or have games,
will be centrally located if we build it in the valley between the three
hills," explained Aunt Selina.

"Are we going to give the camp a name?" asked Edith.

"Why, we hadn't thought of that--we can use the name 'Happy Hills,'
couldn't we?" said Mrs. Talmage.

"Nobody will know the camp is any different then. The place has always
been called Happy Hills, so how is a stranger going to know that it is
the same where the children are living?" said Dot.

"The name 'Hills' sounds all right, but you can't call the big house in
the valley by the name of 'Hills'; we ought to have a new name for
_that_ so the children will know what place we mean when we talk about
the dining-room," suggested Norma.

"Just say 'Valley where the long house is,'" said Edith.

"That doesn't sound nice, a bit! Everything else we have have such nice
names," complained Ruth.

"But, why do you children want a name for the valley and one for the
children's camps?" asked Aunt Selina.

"Doesn't everything in the world have a name?" asked Dot.

The others laughed, but Ruth added, "Dot's right; we have a name for our
cherry-tree nest, and one for the new nest; and Mrs. Catlin is going to
call her Blue Birds' nest 'Hill Top Nest'--'Blue Birds of Hill Top
Nest.'"

"But this is different," argued Mrs. Talmage.

"No, it isn't, Mrs. Talmage," insisted Dot. "We call our house 'Oakwood'
and you call this place 'Mossy Glen'--and our town we call Oakdale. Why,
what for? Everyone knows where the Starrs live, and where the Talmages
live, and we all know where the town lives, so what's the use of having
names?"

"Dot, you hit the nail on the head every time," said Aunt Selina, as all
of the others laughed at Dot's explanation.

"Yes, but that's why we want a name for our children's camp and the
valley," said Ruth.

"Really, it doesn't matter to us how many names you choose to give
it--just please yourselves about it," said Aunt Selina.

"All right, then, if you don't mind, we'll try to get a real lovely name
for it," said Betty, smiling at Aunt Selina.

For quite a time, silence reigned, for the Blue Birds were trying to
think of a pretty name for the farm.

"In 'Pilgrim's Progress' there is a 'Valley of Humility,'" suggested
May.

"I'll run and get the Bible Concordance--that will have some valley
names in it," said Ruth, running indoors to get the book.

"Now, listen while I read some for you," continued Ruth, bringing the
book over to the wicker table.

"Here's one--'Inhabitants of the Valley'--turn that about and call it
'Valley of Inhabitants.'"

"No, that isn't nice!" objected several voices.

"Then comes a lot of hard-spelled names of valleys that won't do,
either. Next comes: 'valley of passengers' and 'valley of vision.'"

"We don't want either one," grumbled Dot.

"Would you like the name 'Valley of Joy'?" asked Aunt Selina.

After a few moments' thought the children replied, "Better, but not
right yet."

Aunt Selina smiled and thought how difficult to please were these Blue
Birds; but Mrs. Talmage smiled, knowing that the children knew just what
they wanted.

After much thinking and suggesting, Ruth said, "We ought to have a name
that will fit with Happy Hills, you know."

After "pleasure," "fun," "contentment" and other names had been
suggested, Aunt Selina suddenly mentioned "delight."

"Valley of Delight," repeated Mrs. Talmage to hear the sound of it,
while the Blue Birds hailed the name as just right.

"Happy Hills in the Valley of Delight!" said Aunt Selina, as pleased as
the children were.

"Write it down--that's its name from now on," cried Dot.

"We want it printed on all of our letter paper that will be used for
farm purposes," said Mrs. Talmage.

"Oh, yes; won't it look fine to send out letters asking folks to send
donations for the poor children of 'Happy Hills in the Valley of
Delight!' and let them see the name on top of some nice grey paper,"
cried Edith.

"Wish we could find a name for those poor children. I never like to say
that word--'poor,'" complained Ruth.

"Neither do I," added Norma.

"I know I wouldn't like a country child to be always calling me 'poor
city child,'" declared Betty.

"Then you ought to find a nice name for all of them, too, so we won't
have to say 'poor' any more," said Mrs. Talmage.

All heads were bent down again while busy brains tried to find a
suitable name for the protégés coming from the city.

"Could they be called 'birds' like us?" asked Dot.

"I do not think city children would care for such a name. You see, dear,
they are so precocious from their daily experiences that they might
think a bird-name silly," said Mrs. Talmage.

"Maybe they would like the name 'Little Soldiers,'" ventured Norma.

"Oh, that makes you think of 'Onward Christian Soldiers' and they would
guess we were goin' to make them join a Sunday School class right off!"
objected Dot.

Everyone laughed at Dot's viewpoint, but Aunt Selina was given an idea
by Norma's suggestion.

"How would 'Little Workers' sound?" she asked.

"Then they will all fear you are going to make them work," laughed Mrs.
Talmage.

"'Little Lambs'--'Little Folks'--'Little Friends,'" recited Dot,
zealously, then waited for a verdict.

Heads were shaken in negation of the names, and Ruth started a list of
names.

"'Little Americans'--how's that?"

"Better, but not good enough," replied her mother.

"Oh, here's one--everything that lives in a forest is called a 'denizen'
of the forest--let's call our children 'Little Denizens,'" cried Norma.

"Wish someone could find a name that would mean the same as Americans
and woods folks," came from Betty wistfully.

"How does 'Little Citizens' sound?" asked Ruth.

"Wait! say it again!" exclaimed Mrs. Talmage, while the children and
Aunt Selina seemed to like the name.

"Little Citizens--of Happy Hills in the Valley of Delight," rehearsed
Ruth.

"Why, just the thing--it's lovely!" cried Aunt Selina.

"Yes, Fluff, couldn't be better," said several of the Blue Birds.

"Sounds almost like a book story-name, it's so pretty," commended Mrs.
Talmage.

There was no more leisure to admire their new names, because shouts were
heard in the direction of the Publishing House, and the boys came out,
each carrying a stack of magazines piled up in their arms. They reached
the steps and Mrs. Talmage hurried to the hallway to show them in which
closet to place them.

"My, but that was a big load!" exclaimed Don.

"Big piece of work, that!" said Jinks.

"More fun than I've ever had," commented Meredith.

"But it makes a fellow awful hungry to work so hard. I wish it was night
so the men could treat," hinted Don.

The last remark from Don made the children laugh at him, but Mrs.
Talmage said, "Don, if you will take Ned into the dining-room you will
find something there which you can carry out here."

Don looked surprised, but Ned led him indoors to find what the surprise
could be.

Soon both boys appeared again carrying a tray of cakes and dishes, while
the maid followed with a huge platter upon which stood a high brick of
ice-cream.

The refreshments were so delicious that the boys said they could start
another day's work if they were sure of being treated with more
ice-cream afterward.

"How many magazines do you suppose you finished to-day?" asked Ruth, of
her brother.

"Guess."

"I don't know; we girls carried in 'most a hundred, but our piles were
not so high as the ones you boys brought in."

"Well, we counted before we left the office; there were thirty in a
pile, and we brought over thirty piles--that made nine hundred all told,
but the hundred you girls carried in makes just one thousand copies.
Isn't that great?" cried Ned.

"Then we can begin mailing copies to our philanthropists to-night, can't
we?" asked Norma.

"Yes, and bring your mothers with you, to help," said Mrs. Talmage.

As everyone felt eager to get the thousand copies wrapped and mailed,
the children soon said good-by and went home to tell the great news of
the day's work.



CHAPTER XV

HOW THE MAGAZINE WENT OUT


Before nine o'clock that night the magazines had all been wrapped, ready
for Ike to take to the post-office. The children were just as eager to
continue the work, but Mrs. Talmage said that nine o'clock was time to
go home.

"We'll all be here Monday afternoon to help some more, Mrs. Talmage,"
promised the Blue Birds as they skipped away beside their mothers.

It took the Bobolinks all of that week, working every moment after
school, and many of the evening hours, to finish the rest of the
magazines. Everyone had decided that ten thousand would be enough for
the first issue, for it took so long to wrap each copy that no extra
time could be given to printing.

The first week of November results began to appear. One day the Blue
Birds came to the Winter Nest and found several letters lying on the
table, addressed to the "Blue Birds of Oakdale."

"Oh, oh! who do you s'pose they are from?" eagerly asked Norma.

Dot was trying to look right through the envelope and the others laughed
at her expression.

"Let's open them and see!" said sensible Ruth.

Mrs. Talmage entered the room just then and the letters were given her
to open and read aloud.

"Maybe they are subscriptions," suggested Mrs. Talmage, as she slipped a
paper-knife under the flap of an envelope.

"Goodness! suppose they are?" whispered Betty.

"What would we do with them?" said Dot.

As this was an entirely new and unexpected problem, the Blue Birds
looked at each other and then at Mrs. Talmage.

"I think we will have to invite the Bobolinks to a conference to-day and
talk this matter over," said Mother Wings.

Norma was sent to the Publishing House to invite the boys to be present
at the meeting that afternoon at five. As it was four-thirty, the boys
hurried to wash their hands and pull down their shirt sleeves, for
almost all of them had taken off their coats and rolled up their
sleeves.

The meeting proved to be very important in the judgment of the
children, for the letters were found to contain money orders and checks
which had to be deposited in some bank.

After looking over the papers, Ned said, "We must sign these and send
back a receipt, eh, mother?"

"Yes, and we must select some bank in which to place our account; shall
we say the Oakdale Trust Company?" said Mrs. Talmage.

So that was agreed upon and the secretary told to stop at the bank in
the morning and get the necessary blanks for the company to fill in.

"What a heap of money the magazines must make," said Dot. "Just look at
all the money we have already with no list."

"But you forget we have really no costs to pay at present so all that is
paid in is profit. But the city publishers have heavy expenses to pay
out of all their income," explained Mrs. Talmage.

"Uncle Ben says that hardly any magazine published could pay its
expenses on the subscriptions only; it is the advertising that pays for
the work," said Ned.

"We ought to get busy on our advertising, then," urged Jinks.

"If we don't we won't pay costs after all of these free donations of
paper and postage are over," added Meredith.

"You boys practised that part of the work, so why don't you try and call
upon some big firms and ask for contracts?" asked Dot.

"How do you know we practised?" questioned Ned, looking at the Blue
Birds, who started giggling as they recalled the visit to the loft over
the carriage house.

"Ho, didn't you?" insisted Dot.

"No one but we boys knew it--we kept the doors closed while we tried to
see which one could do it best," replied Don.

"A little bird whispered it in our ears," teased Ruth.

"Say, Jinks! do you remember the time I heard those noises in the loft?"
asked Ned.

The Bobolinks saw that the girls were laughing at them.

"I wonder when Mr. Richards will get that story printed in the
papers--that will help so much!" sighed Betty.

"Don't be impatient, little girl," said Mrs. Talmage. "Remember, we
have only just begun, and I think there have been marvelous steps
taken."

"And when it once gets started, the subscription list will grow very
rapidly," added Aunt Selina.

And so it proved. In a few weeks' time the letters containing checks and
money orders for subscriptions reached such proportions that Mrs.
Talmage was distracted trying to attend properly to the clerical work.
Mr. Talmage saw that it was such tiresome application to detail that he
telephoned Uncle Ben to send out a competent filing clerk; in a few days
a nice young girl of about eighteen arrived and took charge of all the
mail, and Mrs. Talmage heaved a deep sigh of relief.

Uncle Ben had made it a custom to visit his brother's family every
week-end since the inception of the magazine, and one Saturday he
arrived unusually early--in time for lunch.

"Ned, can you call a meeting of the B. B. & B. B.'s at the Publishing
House for two o'clock?" asked Uncle Ben.

"The Bobolinks will be there anyway, but I am not so sure about the
Blue Birds," said Ned, looking at Ruth.

"We had something to talk over in the Winter Nest, but we can postpone
it until afterward," said Ruth.

So at two o'clock all of the children were gathered about Uncle Ben to
hear the news he had to tell them.

Uncle Ben made a great fuss clearing his throat as if in preparation for
an oration, then took a packet of letters from his pocket.

"The sample issue of your magazine made such a stir in various
publishing circles, that one of the officers of the Publishers'
Association asked me Thursday night who was back of all this business
that a lot of youngsters had started down at Oakdale.

"I didn't reply right away, and a man sitting near me said, 'Oh, some
folks, probably, who have a smattering of how to do printing!'

"Some of my friends laughed hilariously, for they thought it a good joke
on me, but the President of the association was not satisfied.

"'This is no amateurish work, Mackensie,' he said; 'here is a copy of
the magazine and I tell you it can compete with any juvenile publication
in the country. Why, man, the names of some of the contributors are
familiar to me, for I know of offers made to induce these same writers
to throw us morsels of their wisdom.'

"Then a friend of mine spoke.

"'This whole affair sounds very much like the pet hobby of a friend--he
told me about it years ago.'

"The other men laughed at the explanation, but my friend looked at me
and said, 'Talmage, what do _you_ know about it?'

"Then I said, 'My niece and nephew belong to the Blue Birds and
Bobolinks that started the poor children's outing at Oakdale, last
summer. They have become so interested in the work that they propose
raising enough money this winter to take over a farm of a few thousand
acres and send out hundreds of children for all of next summer.'

"'They what?' exclaimed every man present.

"'Say that again!' commanded the President, so I gladly told them the
story in detail.

"Well, B. B. & B. B.'s--do you want to know the result of that
meeting?"

The children shouted and begged to be told at once, so Uncle Ben
continued with evident pleasure in the telling.

"Those great publishers talked for hours of ways and means in which to
help along your good work. Some promised to interest prominent people
they knew, and others offered to insert advertising cards in their own
publications to tell about the magazine and its purpose. Almost every
one of them offered to make special clubbing offers with their own
magazines to induce readers to subscribe for yours.

"Now, these letters are the results of some of the promises already kept
by these men. I will read them to you."

Uncle Ben then proceeded to read aloud the letters from prominent people
and philanthropists who had responded to the call made by friends. They
commended the interest shown by the younger generation and hoped the
sympathetic work done for the sick and poverty-stricken little ones of
the cities would win success. To this end a donation was inclosed.

As Uncle Ben read the last letter, he took from his wallet a package of
checks and handed them over to Ned.

Ned saw the figure written on the face of the first check on top and
held the package as if it were dangerous.

"Heigh, there, Ned, they aren't loaded, are they?" laughed Jinks.

"Read it off, Ned," urged the boys and girls.

"This top one is from the Cage Foundation and is for five hundred
dollars--subscriptions to be sent to hospitals. The next one----" and
Ned gasped again as he took up the second paper.

Uncle Ben laughed at his evident amazement.

"The second is from the Sarnegie Fund and is made out for a thousand
dollars, subscriptions to be sent to homes and orphanages.

"And here's another for five hundred dollars from Harriet Rowld. Then
there's--let me see! One--two--three--four--for a hundred dollars each
for cripples' homes."

When Ned finished the children were too surprised to say a word, but
Uncle Ben spoke for them.

"Well, Chicks--I mean Birds--you see that any time you grow weary of
working out this scheme there will be no difficulty in selling the
business for cash. Any wide-awake publisher will jump over the moon to
get this magazine from you."

"Oh, Uncle Ben! what a dreadful thing to say!" cried Ruth.

"As if we ever would sell out such a wonderful plan," murmured several
of the children.

"If every one of you feel the same about this matter, why not pass a
resolution that we will never sell out this business for mere commercial
reasons?" suggested Uncle Ben.

It was instantly agreed upon and the resolution made a part of the
by-laws of the company.

"Now, for a social proposition," said Uncle Ben, smiling in his
possession of a pleasant secret.

"I was thinking that we ought to get out an extra fine Christmas number,
and send out as many samples as could be turned off the press. To do
this you would have to have several men working during your school
hours, so I thought it best to ask the men already here to wait for
further orders. With all of this money on hand you can easily pay their
salary and that of another good man that I should like to send out here
to boss the work. Ike says he can fix up some rooms in the loft overhead
and the men can take their meals with him. The two men who are working
here like it very much and will remain if you want them to."

"But we would be crowded out of our work if the men did all of it,"
complained Don.

"Not a bit of it! I said: 'During school hours,' so an extra large
number of magazines can be printed for Christmas. You boys worked every
moment of your time but could only finish ten thousand this month,"
explained Uncle Ben.

So it was cheerfully agreed to have the men help them with the next
month's magazine.

"You said 'social,' but I don't see anything social in having the men
help with the work," grumbled Don.

"Now that you will have the men to help with the work you will have time
to think of the social side of the plan I am going to suggest," replied
Uncle Ben, winking at Don to cheer him up. "So many of my friends in New
York have heard of this B. B. & B. B. Company that I am constantly
answering questions as to your ages, looks, and other personal matters.
I think it will be a splendid plan to have all of you meet them soon and
spare me so many extra words and time, to say nothing of wear and tear
on my vocal cords."

"I know you've got a lovely surprise to tell us--I can tell it in your
voice!" cried Ruth, jumping up and hugging her uncle about the neck.

"I don't know whether it is or not--how can I say until the others tell
me whether it is," said Uncle Ben, trying to look troubled over the
doubt.

"Out with it, Uncle Ben!" laughed Ned.

"Well, if I must, I must!" groaned Uncle Ben. "I have discovered a very
amusing play that has Saturday matinées. Of course, I suppose Birds
could get into a theatre, couldn't they? Well, if we went to see the
show in the afternoon and then went to a hotel where we could have a
dining-room all to ourselves and give a little party to all of my
friends, it would save me so much trouble for the future."

Mere words failed to express the excitement and delight of the children
as they fully realized what Uncle Ben meant.

"Oh," said Betty, "I've never been to a theatre in my life--and to
think of going to one in New York, oh!"

"Neither have I, Betty," replied May. "Can you go?"

"Will mother go with us, Uncle Ben?" asked Ruth.

"Most assuredly, for you Blue Birds will have to have a Mother Wing to
cover you--and Aunt Selina, too, if she will come," said Uncle Ben.

"When can we go?" asked Don, eagerly.

"Have you decided to come?" teased Uncle Ben.

The storm of acceptance made him laugh.

"Well, then, let's say a week from next Saturday, if everyone can
arrange it for that time. I will invite my friends to be at our party at
six o'clock sharp, for afterward we will have to come home on the nine
o'clock train."

"And will some of those real publishers be there, Uncle Ben?" asked Ned,
sceptically.

"Some of the greatest in America, my boy," said Uncle Ben, seriously, as
he understood Ned's ambition to meet them and his doubt of having the
desire fulfilled.

"What must we wear?" asked Norma.

"The prettiest that you have, for I want to show off my publishing
company to the very best advantage," replied Uncle Ben.

Just then Mr. Talmage appeared at the doorway and said,

"Do you know that dinner is almost ready and no one there to sit down to
table?"

Then everyone began to tell of the party to be given in New York, and
Mr. Talmage seemed very much surprised.

"If that is the case, you will all have to do your very best to have a
fine Christmas magazine so that the friends you meet in New York will
want to come to another party at some other time. Perhaps if the
magazine was very, very attractive they would feel so proud of being
acquainted with you that they would take the trouble to come all the way
out to Oakdale to have a party this winter," ventured Mr. Talmage.

"Wouldn't it be fun to invite them all here at the Christmas Holidays
and give them a real country Christmas tree with Uncle Ben for Santa
Claus!" cried Betty, expectantly.

"And sleigh-rides from the train, and bob-sledding down Oakdale Hill,
then over to our Publishing House for the Tree," added Dot.

"And have a present for everyone like we had on our Fourth-of-July
tree," cried Ruth.

"And after all the fun is over, a great big feast with plum-pudding,"
sighed Don, making them all laugh.

"Yes, I think that will be fine, and I don't believe one of those New
Yorkers will stay away if you tell them all the fun you propose giving
them," laughed Uncle Ben.

"But, first, let us have our party with you, Uncle Ben, then we can talk
about the Christmas one," advised Ned.

Families in Oakdale were entertained that Saturday night by hearing the
children tell of the plans made by Uncle Ben for the social side of the
B. B. & B. B.'s life. Many were the dreams of all the fun to be had when
that New York party came off.

While the children were home talking over the anticipated dinner-party,
the grown-ups at Mossy Glen were engaged in perfecting plans for the
party. Invitations on grey paper, printed in blue ink, with a flight of
birds shadowed across the sheet was the suggestion of Aunt Selina. The
favors for the table and the tokens presented for speech-making were
suggested by Mrs. Talmage, while the dinner and decorations were planned
by Mr. Talmage and Uncle Ben.

Much fun was the result of the party in New York. The guests accepted
the B. B. & B. B.'s invitation to have a Christmas Tree at the
Publishing House with great eagerness. But it will take another book to
tell about everything that happened.

This book, called "THE BLUE BIRDS' UNCLE BEN," is the third of the
series.

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For Girls 12 to 16 Years All Cloth Bound Copyright Titles

PRICE, 65 CENTS EACH

Splendid stories of the Adventures of a Group of Charming Girls.

THE BLUE GRASS SEMINARY GIRLS' VACATION ADVENTURES;
    or, Shirley Willing to the Rescue.

THE BLUE GRASS SEMINARY GIRLS' CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS;
    or, A Four Weeks' Tour with the Glee Club.

THE BLUE GRASS SEMINARY GIRLS IN THE MOUNTAINS;
    or, Shirley Willing on a Mission of Peace.

THE BLUE GRASS SEMINARY GIRLS ON THE WATER; or,
    Exciting Adventures on a Summer's Cruise Through the Panama Canal.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

THE MILDRED SERIES
BY MARTHA FINLEY

For Girls 12 to 16 Years.

All Cloth Bound Copyright Titles

PRICE, 65 CENTS EACH

A Companion Series to the famous "Elsie" books by the same author.

MILDRED KEITH
MILDRED'S MARRIED LIFE
MILDRED AT ROSELAND
MILDRED AT HOME
MILDRED AND ELSIE
MILDRED'S BOYS AND GIRLS
MILDRED'S NEW DAUGHTER

For sale by all booksellers, or sent postpaid on receipt of price by the
Publishers

A. L. BURT COMPANY
114-120 EAST 23rd STREET NEW YORK

------------------------------------------------------------------------

THE RADIO BOYS SERIES
BY GERALD BRECKENRIDGE

A new series of copyright titles for boys of all ages.

Cloth Bound, with Attractive Cover Designs

PRICE, 65 CENTS EACH

THE RADIO BOYS ON THE MEXICAN BORDER
THE RADIO BOYS ON SECRET SERVICE DUTY
THE RADIO BOYS WITH THE REVENUE GUARDS
THE RADIO BOYS' SEARCH FOR THE INCA'S TREASURE
THE RADIO BOYS RESCUE THE LOST ALASKA EXPEDITION
THE RADIO BOYS IN DARKEST AFRICA
THE RADIO BOYS SEEK THE LOST ATLANTIS

For sale by all booksellers, or sent postpaid on receipt of price by the
Publishers

A. L. BURT COMPANY
114-120 EAST 23rd STREET NEW YORK

------------------------------------------------------------------------





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