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Title: Helen in the Editor's Chair
Author: Wheeler, Ruthe S.
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 "Helen in the Editor's Chair" ***

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HELEN IN THE EDITOR'S CHAIR

by

RUTHE S. WHEELER



The Goldsmith Publishing Company
Chicago

Copyright, 1932
The Goldsmith Publishing Company
Made in U. S. A.



CHAPTER CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                                 PAGE
     I. The Weekly Herald.                                  13
    II. Startling News.                                     22
   III. In The Editor's Chair.                              34
    IV. Through the Storm.                                  50
     V. Reporting Plus.                                     62
    VI. A New Week Dawns.                                   75
   VII. The First Issue.                                    93
  VIII. Mystery in the Night.                              111
    IX. Rescue on Lake Dubar.                              124
     X. Behind the Footlights.                             139
    XI. New Plans.                                         160
   XII. Special Assignment.                                177
  XIII. Helen's Exclusive Story.                           195
   XIV. The Queen's Last Trip.                             209
    XV. Success Attends.                                   225



Helen in the Editor's Chair



                               CHAPTER I
                          _The Weekly Herald_


Thursday!

Press day!

Helen Blair anxiously watched the clock on the wall of the assembly room.
Five more minutes and school would be dismissed for the day. How those
minutes dragged. She moved her books impatiently.

Finally the dismissal bell sounded. Helen straightened the books in her
desk and, with the 162 others in the large assembly of the Rolfe High
School, rose and marched down to the cloak room. She was glad that school
was over for, to her, Thursday was the big day of the week.

Press day!

What magic lay in those two words.

By supper time the _Rolfe Herald_ would be in every home in town and,
when families sat down to their evening meal, they would have the paper
beside them.

Helen's father, Hugh Blair, was the editor and publisher of the _Herald_.
Her brother, Tom, a junior in high school, wrote part of the news and
operated the Linotype, while Helen helped in the office every night after
school and on Saturdays.

On Thursday her work comprised folding the papers as they came off the
clanking press. Her arms ached long before her task was done, but she
prided herself on the neatness of the stacks of papers that grew as she
worked.

"Aren't you going to stay for the final sophomore debate tryouts?" asked
Margaret Stevens. Margaret, daughter of the only doctor in Rolfe, lived
across the street from the Blairs.

"Not this afternoon," smiled Helen, "this is press day."

"I'd forgotten," laughed Margaret. "All right, hurry along and get your
hands covered with ink."

"Come over after supper and tell me about the tryouts," said Helen.

"I will," promised Margaret as she turned to the classroom where the
tryouts were to be held.

The air was warm and Helen, with her spring coat over her arm, hurried
from the high school building and started down the long hill that led to
the main street.

Rolfe was a pretty midwestern village tucked away among the hills
bordering Lake Dubar, a long, narrow body of water that attracted summer
visitors from hundreds of miles away.

The main street, built along a valley that opened out on the lake shore,
was a broad, graveled street, flanked by a miscellaneous collection of
stores and shops. Some of them were of weather-beaten red brick, others
were of frame and a few of them, harking back to pioneer days, had false
fronts. In the afternoon sun, it presented a quiet, friendly scene.

Helen reached the foot of the school house hill and turned on to the main
street. On the right of the street and just two blocks from the lake
shore stood the one-story frame structure housing the postoffice and her
father's printing plant. The postoffice occupied the front half of the
building and the _Herald_ office was the rear.

Helen walked down the alleyway between the postoffice and the Temple
furniture store. She heard the noise of the press before she reached the
office and knew that her father had started the afternoon run.

The _Herald_, an eight page paper, used four pages of ready print and
four pages of home print. Each week's supply of paper was shipped from
Cranston, where four pages filled with prepared news and pictures, were
printed. The other four, carrying local advertisements and news of Rolfe
and vicinity were printed on the aged press in the _Herald_ office.

Helen hurried up the three steps leading to the editorial office. Its one
unwashed window shut out the sunlight, and the office lay in a
semi-shadow. Unable to see clearly after the brightness of the sunlight,
she did not see her father at his desk when she entered the office.

"Hello, Dad," she called as she took off her tam and sailed it along the
counter where it finally came to rest against a stack of freshly printed
_Heralds_.

Her father did not answer and Helen was on the point of going on into the
composing room when she turned toward him. His head still rested on his
arms and he gave no sign of having heard her.

Concerned over his silence, she hurried to his desk.

"Dad, Dad!" she cried. "What's the matter! Answer me!"

Her father's head moved and he looked up at her. His face was pale and
there were dark hollows under his eyes.

"I'm all right, Helen," he said, but the usual smile was missing. "Just
felt a little faint and came in here to take a few minutes rest. I'll be
all right shortly. You go on and help Tom. I'll be with you in a while."

"But if you don't feel well, Dad, you'd better go home and rest,"
insisted Helen. "You know Tom and I can finish getting out the paper. Now
you run along and don't worry about things at the office."

She reached for his hat and coat hanging on a hook at one side of the
desk. He remonstrated at the prospect of going home with the work only
half done, but Helen was adamant and her father finally gave in.

"Perhaps it will be best," he agreed as he walked slowly toward the door.

Helen watched him descend the steps; then saw him reach the street and
turn toward home.

She was startled by the expression she had just seen on her father's
face. He had never been particularly robust and now he looked as though
something had come upon him which was crushing his mind and body.
Illness, worry and apprehension had carved lines in his face that
afternoon.

Helen went into the composing room where the Linotype, the rows of type
cases, the makeup tables, the job press and the newspaper press were
located. At the back end of the room was the large press, moving steadily
back and forth as Tom, perched on a high stool, fed sheets of paper into
one end. From the other came the freshly printed papers of that week's
edition of the _Herald_.

"Shut off the press," called Helen, shouting to make herself heard above
the noise of the working machinery.

"What say?" cried Tom.

"Shut it off," his sister replied.

Tom scowled as he reached for the clutch to stop the press. He liked
nothing better than running the press and when he had it well under way,
usually printed the whole edition without a stop unless the paper became
clogged or he had to readjust the ink rollers.

"What's the idea?" he demanded. "I'm trying to get through so I can play
some baseball before dark."

"Dad's sick," explained Helen, "and I made him go home. Do you know
what's the matter?"

"Gosh, no," said Tom as he climbed down from his stool. "He wasn't
feeling very well when I came down from school and said he was going in
the office to rest, but I didn't know he felt that badly."

"Well, he did," replied Helen, "and I'm worried about him."

"We always take him more or less for granted. He goes on year after year
working in the office, getting enough together to make us all comfortable
and hoping that he can send us to college some day. We help him when we
can, but he plugs away day after day and I've noticed lately that he
hasn't been very perky. Mother has been worried, too. I can tell from the
way she acts when Dad comes home at night. She's always asking him how he
feels and urging him to get to bed early. I tell you, Tom, something's
wrong with Dad and we've got to find out and help him."

"Let's go get Doctor Stevens right now," said the impetuous Tom, and he
reached to shut off the motor of the press.

"Not now," said Helen. "If Dad thought we weren't getting the paper out
on time he'd worry all the more. We'll finish the paper and then have
Doctor Stevens come over this evening. We can fix it so he'll just drop
in for a social call."

"Good idea," said Tom as he climbed back on his stool and threw in the
clutch.

The press started its steady clanking and Helen picked up a pile of
papers and spread them out on one of the makeup stones. Her father had
printed two of the pages of home news during the morning and these sheets
were stacked in a pile in one corner. She arranged two piles of papers on
the makeup table, one pile which her father had printed and one of papers
which were coming off the press as fast as Tom could keep it rolling.

Helen put on a heavy, blue-denim apron to protect her school dress and
went to work. With nimble hands she put the sheets of paper together,
folded them with a quick motion and slid the completed paper off the
table and onto a box placed close by for that purpose.

The press, of unknown vintage, moved slowly and when Helen started at the
same time as Tom she could fold the papers as rapidly as they were
printed. But that day Tom, who had managed to be excused half an hour
early, had too much of a start and when he finished the press run Helen
still had several hundred papers to fold.

Tom stopped the press, shut off the motor, raised the ink rollers and
then pulled the forms off the press and carried them to the other makeup
table. After washing the ink off the type with a gasoline-soaked rag, he
gathered an armful of papers Helen had folded and carried them into the
editorial office. There he got out the long galleys which held the names
of the subscribers. He inked each galley, placed it in the mailing
machine, and then fed the papers into the mailer. They came out with the
name of a subscriber printed at the top of each paper.

The young Blairs worked silently, hastening to complete their respective
tasks so they could hurry home. Tom had forgotten his plans to play
baseball and all thought of the outcome of the debate tryouts had left
Helen's mind. There was one thought uppermost in their minds. What was
the matter with their father?



                               CHAPTER II
                            _Startling News_


The last paper folded, Helen removed the heavy apron and washed her hands
at the sink behind the press. When she entered the editorial office Tom
was putting the last of the papers through the mailer. They gathered them
up, placed them in a large sack and carried them into the postoffice.

"We won't stop to sweep out tonight," said Helen. "Let's lock up and then
see Doctor Stevens on our way home. He's usually in his office at this
time."

Tom agreed and, after putting away the mailing machine, locked the back
door, closed the windows in the shop and announced that he was ready to
go.

Helen locked the front door and they walked down main street toward the
white, one-story building which housed the office of Doctor Stevens, the
town's only physician.

Tom was tall and slender with wavy, brown hair and brown eyes that were
always alive with interest. Helen came scarcely above his shoulder, but
she was five feet two of concentrated energy. She had left her tam at the
office and the afternoon sun touched her blond hair with gold. Her eyes
were the same clear blue as her mother's and the rosy hue in her cheeks
gave hint of her vitality.

They entered Doctor Stevens' waiting room and found the genial physician
reading a medical journal.

"Hello, Helen! How are you Tom?" He boomed in his deep voice.

"We're fine, Doctor Stevens," replied Helen, "but we're worried about
Dad."

"Why, what's the matter with your father?" asked the doctor, adjusting
his glasses.

"Dad wasn't feeling very well when I came down from school at
three-thirty," said Tom, "and when I started the afternoon press run, he
went into the office to rest a while. When Helen came in a little after
four, Dad looked pretty rocky and she made him go home."

"How did he look when you talked with him?" Doctor Stevens asked Helen.

"Awfully tired and mighty worried," replied Helen. "It was his eyes more
than anything else. He's afraid of something and it has worried him until
he is positively ill."

"And haven't you any idea what it could be?" asked the doctor.

"I've been thinking about it ever since Dad went home," said Helen, "and
I don't know of a single thing that would worry him that much."

"Neither do I," added Tom.

"What we'd like to have you do," went on Helen, "is to drop in after
supper. Make it look like a little social visit and it will give you a
good excuse to give Dad the once over. We'll be ever so much relieved if
you will."

"Of course I will," the doctor assured them. "You're probably worrying
about some little thing and the more you think about it, the larger it
grows. Possibly a little touch of stomach trouble. What have you been
trying to cook, lately?" he asked Helen.

"Couldn't be my cooking," she replied. "I haven't done any for a week and
you know that Mother's good cooking would never make anyone ill."

"I'll come over about seven-thirty," promised Doctor Stevens, "and don't
you two worry yourselves over this. Your father will be all right in a
day or two."

Helen and Tom thanked Doctor Stevens and continued on their way home.
They went back past the postoffice and the _Herald_ and down toward the
lake, whose waters reflected the rays of the setting sun in varied hues.

A block from the lake shore they turned to their right into a tree-shaded
street and climbed a gentle hill. Their home stood on a knoll overlooking
the lake. It was an old-fashioned house that had started out as a three
room cottage. Additions had been made until it rambled away in several
directions. It boasted no definite style of architecture, but had a
hominess that few houses possess. From the long, open front porch, there
was an unobstructed view down the lake, which stretched away in the
distance, its far reaches hidden in the coming twilight. A speed boat,
being loaded with the afternoon mail for the summer resorts down the
lake, was sputtering at the big pier at the foot of main street. A bundle
of _Heralds_ was placed on the boat and then it whisked away down the
lake, a curving streak of white marking its passage.

Helen found her mother in the kitchen preparing their evening meal.

Mrs. Blair, at forty-five, was a handsome woman. Her hair had decided
touches of gray but her face still held the peachbloom of youth and she
looked more like an older sister than a mother. She had been a teacher in
the high school at Rolfe when Hugh Blair had come to edit the country
paper. The teacher and the editor had fallen in love and she had given up
teaching and married him.

"How's Dad?" Helen asked.

"He doesn't feel very well," her mother replied and Helen could see lines
of worry around her mother's eyes.

"Don't worry, Mother," she counselled. "Dad has been working too hard
this year. In two more weeks school will be over and Tom and I can do
most of the work on the paper. You two can plan on a fine trip and a real
rest this summer."

"I hope so," said Mrs. Blair, "for your father certainly needs a change
of some kind."

Helen helped her mother with the preparations for supper, setting the
table and carrying the food from the kitchen to the dining room where
broad windows opened out on the porch.

Tom, who had been upstairs washing the last of the ink from his hands,
entered the kitchen.

"Supper about ready?" he asked. "I'm mighty hungry tonight."

"All ready," smiled his mother. "I'll call your father."

Helen turned on the lights in the dining room and they waited for their
father to come from his bedroom. They could hear low voices for several
minutes and finally Mrs. Blair returned to the dining room.

"We'll go ahead and eat," she managed to smile. "Your father doesn't feel
like supper right now."

Tom started to say something, but Helen shook her head and they sat down
and started their evening meal.

Mrs. Blair, usually gay and interested in the activities of the day, had
little to say, but Helen talked of school and the activities and plans of
the sophomore class.

"We're going to have a picnic down the lake next Monday," she said.

"That's nothing," said Tom, who was president of the junior class. "We're
giving the seniors the finest banquet they've ever had."

Whereupon they fell into a heated argument over the merits of the
sophomores and juniors, a question which had been debated all year
without a definite decision. Sometimes Tom considered himself the victor
while on other occasions Helen had the best of the argument.

Supper over, Helen helped her mother clear the table and wash the dishes.
It was seven-thirty before they had finished their work in the kitchen
and Mrs. Blair was on her way to her husband's room when Doctor Stevens,
bag in hand, walked in.

A neighbor for many years, the genial doctor did not stop to knock.

"Haven't been in for weeks," he said, "so thought I'd drop over and chin
with Hugh for a while."

"Hugh isn't feeling very well," said Mrs. Blair. "He came home from the
office this afternoon and didn't want anything for supper."

"Let me have a look at him," said Doctor Stevens. "Suppose his stomach is
out of whack or something like that."

Tom and Helen, standing in the dining room, watched Doctor Stevens and
their mother go down the hall to their father's bedroom.

The next half hour was one of the longest in their young lives. Tom tried
to read the continued story in the _Herald_, while Helen fussed at first
one thing and then another.

The door of their father's room finally opened and Doctor Stevens
summoned them.

Neither Tom nor Helen would ever forget the scene in their father's
bedroom that night. Their mother, seated at the far side of the bed,
looked at them through tear-dimmed eyes.

Their father, reclining on the bed, looked taller than ever, and the
lines of pain which Helen had noticed in his face that afternoon had
deepened. His hands were moving nervously and his eyes were bright with
fever.

"Sit down," said Doctor Stevens as he took a chair beside Hugh Blair's
bed.

Tom was about to ask his father how he felt, when Doctor Stevens spoke
again.

"We might as well face this thing together," he said. "I'll tell you now
that it is going to be something of a fight for all of you, but unless
I'm mistaken, the Blairs are all real fighters."

"What's the matter Doctor Stevens?" Helen's voice was low and strained.

"Your father must take a thorough rest," he said. "He will have to go to
some southwestern state for a number of months. Perhaps it will only take
six months, but it may be longer."

"But I can't be away that long," protested Hugh Blair. "I must think of
my family, of the _Herald_."

"Your family must think of you now," said Doctor Stevens firmly. "That's
why I wanted to talk this over with Tom and Helen."

"Just what is wrong, Dad?" asked Tom.

Doctor Stevens answered the question.

"Lung trouble," he said quietly. "Your father has spent too many years
bent over his desk in that dark cubbyhole of his--too many years without
a vacation. Now he's got to give that up and devote a number of months to
building up his body again."

Helen felt the blood racing through her body. Her throat went dry and her
head ached. She had realized only that afternoon that her father wasn't
well but she had not been prepared for Doctor Stevens' announcement.

The doctor was talking again.

"I blame myself partly," he was telling Hugh Blair. "You worked yourself
into this almost under my eyes, and I never dreamed what was happening.
Too close to you, I guess."

"When do you think Hugh should start for the southwest?" asked Helen's
mother.

"Just as soon as we can arrange things," replied Doctor Stevens. "This is
Thursday. I'd like to have him on the way by Saturday night. Every day
counts."

"That's impossible," protested Hugh Blair, half rising from his bed. "I
don't see how I can possibly afford it. Think of the expense of a trip
down there, of living there. What about the _Herald_? What about my
family?"

A plan had been forming in Helen's mind from the time Doctor Stevens had
said her father must go to a different climate.

"Everything will be all right, Dad," she said. "There isn't a reason in
the world why you shouldn't go. Tom and I are capable of running the
_Herald_ and with what you've saved toward our college educations, you
can make the trip and stay as long as you want to."

"But I couldn't think of using your college money," protested her father,
"even if you and Tom could run the _Herald_."

"Helen's got the right idea," said Doctor Stevens. "Your health must come
above everything else right now. I'm sure those youngsters can run the
_Herald_. Maybe they'll do an even better job than you," he added with a
twinkle in his eyes.

"We can run the paper in fine shape, Dad," said Tom. "If you hired
someone from outside to come in and take charge it would eat up all the
profits. If Helen and I run the _Herald_, we'll have every cent we make
for you and mother."

Mrs. Blair, who had been silent during the discussion, spoke.

"Hugh," she said, "Tom and Helen are right. I know how you dislike using
their college money, but it is right that you should. I am sure that they
can manage the _Herald_."

Thus it was arranged that Tom and Helen were to take charge of the
_Herald_. They talked with the superintendent of schools the next day and
he agreed to excuse them from half their classes for the remaining weeks
of school with the provision that they must pass all of their final
examinations.

Friday and Saturday passed all too quickly. Helen busied herself
collecting the current accounts and Tom spent part of the time at the
office doing job work and the remainder at home helping with the packing.

Saturday noon Tom went to the bank and withdrew the $1,275 their father
had placed in their college account. The only money left was $112 in the
_Herald_ account, just enough to take care of running expenses of the
paper.

Hugh Blair owned his home and his paper, was proud of his family and his
host of friends, but of actual worldly wealth he had little.

Doctor Stevens drove them to the Junction thirty miles away where Hugh
Blair was to take the Southwestern limited. There was little conversation
during the drive.

The limited was at the junction when they arrived and goodbyes were
brief.

Hugh Blair said a few words to his wife, who managed to smile through her
tears. Then he turned to Tom and Helen.

"Take good care of the _Herald_," he told them, as he gave them a goodbye
hug.

"We will Dad and you take good care of yourself," they called as he
climbed into the Pullman.

Cries of "boooo-ard," sounded along the train. The porters swung their
footstools up into the vestibules, the whistle sounded two short, sharp
blasts, and the limited rolled away from the station.

Tom, Helen and their mother stood on the platform until the train
disappeared behind a hill.

When they turned toward home, Tom and Helen faced the biggest
responsibility of their young lives. It was up to them to continue the
publication of the _Herald_, to supply the money to keep their home going
and to build up a reserve which their father could call upon if he was
forced to use all the money from their college fund.



                              CHAPTER III
                        _In the Editor's Chair_


Sunday morning found Tom and Helen Blair entering a new era in their
lives. While their father sped toward the southwest in quest of renewed
health, they planned how they could develop the _Herald_.

Their mother was silent through breakfast and several times they saw her
eyes dim with tears.

"Don't worry, Mother," said Helen. "We'll manage all right and Dad is
going to pull through in fine shape. Why, he'll be back with us by
Christmas time."

"I wish I could be as optimistic as you are, Helen," said Mrs. Blair.

"You'll feel better in a few more hours," said Tom. "It's the suddenness
of it all. Now we've got to buckle down and make the _Herald_ keep on
paying dividends."

Tom and Helen helped their mother clear away the breakfast dishes and
then dressed for Sunday school. Mrs. Blair taught a class of
ten-to-twelve-year-old girls. Tom and Helen were in the upper classes.

The Methodist church they attended was a red brick structure, the first
brick building built in Rolfe, and it was covered with English ivy that
threatened even to hide the windows. The morning was warm and restful and
they enjoyed the walk from home to church.

The minister was out of town on his vacation and there were no church
services. After Sunday school the Blairs walked down to the postoffice.
The large mail box which was rented for the _Herald_ was filled with
papers, circulars and letters.

"We might as well go back to the office and sort this out," said Tom, and
Mrs. Blair and Helen agreed.

The office was just as Tom and Helen had left it Thursday night for they
had been too busy since then helping with the arrangements for their
father's departure to clean it up.

The type was still in the forms, papers were scattered on the floor and
dust had gathered on the counter and the desk which had served Hugh Blair
for so many years.

"I'll open the windows and the back door," said Tom, "and we'll get some
air moving through here. It's pretty stuffy."

Mrs. Blair sat down in the swivel chair in front of her husband's desk
and Helen pulled up the only other chair in the office, an uncomfortable
straight-backed affair.

"You're editor now," Mrs. Blair told Helen. "You'd better start in by
sorting the mail."

"Tom's in charge," replied Helen as her brother returned to the office.

"Let's not argue," said Tom. "We'll have a business meeting right now.
Mother, you represent Dad, who is the owner. Now you decide who will be
what."

"What will we need?" smiled Mrs. Blair.

"We need a business manager first," said Helen.

"Wrong," interjected Tom. "It's a publisher."

"Then I say let's make it unanimous and elect mother as publisher," said
Helen.

"Second the motion," grinned Tom.

"If there are no objections, the motion is declared passed," said Helen.
"And now Mother, you're the duly elected publisher of the _Rolfe
Herald_."

"I may turn out to be a hard-boiled boss," said Mrs. Blair, but her smile
belied her words.

"We're not worrying a whole lot," said Tom. "The next business is
selecting a business manager, a mechanical department, an editor, and a
reporter. Also a couple of general handymen capable of doing any kind of
work on a weekly newspaper."

"That sounds like a big payroll for a paper as small as the _Herald_,"
protested Mrs. Blair.

"I think you'll be able to get them reasonable," said Tom.

"In which case," added Helen, "you'd better appoint Tom as business
manager, mechanical department, and handyman."

"And you might as well name Helen as editor, reporter and first assistant
to the handyman," grinned Tom.

"I've filled my positions easier than I expected," smiled Mrs. Blair. "As
publisher, I'll stay at home and keep out of your way."

"Mother, we don't want you to do that," exclaimed Helen. "We want you to
come down and help us whenever you have time."

"But what could I do?" asked her mother.

"Lots of things. For instance, jot down all of the personal items you
know about your friends and about all of the club meetings. That would be
a great help to me. Sometimes in the evening maybe you'd even find time
to write them up, for Tom and I are going to be frightfully busy between
going to school and running the _Herald_."

"I'll tell the town," said Tom. "If you'd handle the society news,
Mother, you could make it a great feature. The _Herald_ has never paid
much attention to the social events in town. Guess Dad was too busy. But
I think the women would appreciate having all of their parties written
up. I could set up a nice head, 'Society News of Rolfe,' and we'd run a
column or so every week on one of the inside pages."

"You're getting me all excited, Tom," said his mother. "Your father said
I never would make a newspaper woman but if you and Helen will have a
little patience with me, I'd really enjoy writing the social items."

"Have patience with you, Mother?" said Helen. "It's a case of whether
you'll have patience with us."

"We're going to have to plan our time carefully," said Tom, "for we'll
have to keep up in our school work. I've got it doped out like this.
Superintendent Fowler says Helen and I can go half days and as long as we
cover all of the class work, receive full credit. The first half of the
week is going to be the busiest for me. I'll have to solicit my ads, set
them up, do what job work I have time for and set up the stories Helen
turns out for the paper. I could get in more time in the afternoon than
in the morning so Helen had better plan on taking the mornings on Monday,
Tuesday and Wednesday away from school."

"It will work out better for her, too," went on Tom. "Many of the big
news events happen over the week-end and she'll be on the job Monday
morning. I'll have every afternoon and evening for my share of the work
and for studying. Then we'll both take Thursday afternoon away from
school and get the paper out. And on Friday, Mother, if you'll come down
and stay at the office, we'll go to school all day. How does that sound?"

"Seems to me you've thought of everything," agreed Helen. "I like the
idea of doing my editorial work in the mornings the first part of the
week and I'll be able to do some of it after school hours."

"Then it looks like the _Herald_ staff is about ready to start work on
the next issue," said Tom. "We have a publisher, a business manager and
an editor. What we need now are plenty of ads and lots of news."

"What would you say, Mother, if Tom and I stayed down at the office a
while and did some cleaning up?" asked Helen.

"Under the circumstances, I haven't any objections," said their mother.
"There isn't any church service this morning and you certainly can put in
a few hours work here in the office to good advantage. I'll stay and help
you with the dusting and sweeping."

"You run on home and rest," insisted Helen. "Also, don't forget Sunday
dinner. We'll be home about two or two-thirty, and we'll be hungry by
that time."

Mrs. Blair picked up the Sunday papers and after warning Tom and Helen
that dinner would be ready promptly at two-thirty, left them in the
office.

"Well, Mr. Business Manager, what are you going to start on?" asked
Helen.

"Mr. Editor," replied Tom, "I've got to throw in all the type from last
week's forms. What are you going to do?"

"The office needs a good cleaning," said Helen. "I'm going to put on my
old apron and spend an hour dusting and mopping. You keep out or you'll
track dirt in while I'm doing it."

Tom took off the coat of his Sunday suit, rolled up his shirt sleeves and
donned the ink-smeared apron he wore when working in the composing room.
Helen put on the long apron she used when folding papers and they went to
work with their enthusiasm at a high pitch. Their task was not new but so
much now depended on the success of their efforts that they found added
zest in everything they did.

Helen went through the piles of old papers on her father's desk, throwing
many of them into the large cardboard carton which served as a
wastebasket. When the desk was finally in order, she turned her attention
to the counter. Samples of stationery needed to be placed in order and
she completely rearranged the old-fashioned show case with its display of
job printing which showed what the _Herald_ plant was capable of doing.

With the desk and counter in shape, Helen picked up all of the papers on
the floor, pulled the now heavily laden cardboard carton into the
composing room, and then secured the mop and a pail of water. The barber
shop, located below the postoffice, kept the building supplied with warm
water, and Helen soon had a good pail of suds.

Tom stopped his work in the composing room and came in to watch the
scrubbing.

"First time that floor has been scrubbed in years," he said.

"I know it," said Helen as she swished her mop into the corners. "Dad was
running the paper and Mother was too busy bringing us up to come down
here and do it for him."

"He'll never recognize the old place when he comes back," said Tom.

"We'll brighten it up a little," agreed Helen, as Tom returned to his
task of throwing in the type.

Helen had the editorial office thoroughly cleaned by one o'clock and sat
down in her father's swivel chair to rest. Tom called in from the back
room.

"You'd better plan your editorial work for the week," he said. "I want to
run the Linotype every afternoon and you'll have to have copy for me."

"What do you want first?" said Helen.

"Better get the editorials ready today," he replied. "They don't have to
be absolutely spot copy. Dad wrote the first column himself and then
clipped a column or a column and a half from nearby papers."

"I'll get at it right away," said Helen. "The exchanges for last week are
on the desk. After I've gone through them I'll write my own editorials."

"Better have one about Dad going away," said Tom and there was a queer
catch in his voice.

Helen did not answer for her eyes filled with a strange mist and her
throat suddenly felt dry and full.

Their father's departure for the southwest had left a great void in their
home life but Helen knew they would have to make the best of it. She was
determined that their efforts on the _Herald_ be successful.

Helen turned to the stack of exchanges which were on the desk and opened
the editorial page of the first one. She was a rapid reader and she
scanned paper after paper in quest of editorials which would interest
readers of the _Herald_. When she found one she snipped it out with a
handy pair of scissors and pasted it on a sheet of copy paper. Six or
seven were needed for the _Herald's_ editorial page and it took her half
an hour to get enough. With the clipped editorials pasted and new heads
written on them, Helen turned to the typewriter to write the editorials
for the column which her father was accustomed to fill with his own
comments on current subjects.

Helen had stacked the copypaper in a neat pile on the desk and she took a
sheet and rolled it into the typewriter. She had taken a commercial
course the first semester and her mastery of the touch system of typing
was to stand her in good stead for her work as editor of the _Herald_.

For several minutes the young editor of the _Herald_ sat motionless in
front of her typewriter, struggling to find the right words. She knew her
father would want only a few simple sentences about his enforced absence
from his duties as publisher of the paper.

Then Helen got the idea she wanted and her fingers moved rapidly over the
keys. The leading editorial was finished in a short time. It was only one
paragraph and Helen took it out of the machine and read it carefully.

  "Mr. Hugh Blair, editor and publisher of the _Herald_ for the last
  twenty years, has been compelled, by ill health, to leave his work at
  Rolfe and go to a drier climate for at least six months. In the
  meantime, we ask your cooperation and help in our efforts to carry out
  Mr. Blair's ideals in the publication of the _Herald_.
                                                                 Signed,

                                  Mrs. Hugh Blair, Helen and Tom Blair."

After reading the editorial carefully, Helen called to her brother.

"Come in and see what you think of my lead editorial," she said.

Tom, his hands grimy with ink from the type he had been throwing into the
cases, came into the editorial office.

He whistled in amazement at the change Helen had brought about. The
papers were gone from the floor, which had been scrubbed clean, and the
desk and counter were neat and orderly.

"Looks like a different office," he said. "But wait until I have a chance
to swing a broom and mop in the composing room. And I'm going to fix some
of the makeup tables so they'll be a little handier."

Helen handed him the editorial and Tom read it thoughtfully.

"It's mighty short," he said, "but it tells the story."

"Dad wouldn't want a long sob story," replied Helen. "Here's the clipped
editorials. You can put them on the hook on your Linotype and I'll bring
the others out as soon as I write them."

Tom returned to the composing room with the handful of editorial copy
Helen had given him and the editor of the _Herald_ resumed her duties.

She wrote an editorial on the beauty of Rolfe in the spring and another
one on the desirability for a paved road between Rolfe and Gladbrook, the
county seat. In advocating the paved road, Helen pointed to the increased
tourist traffic which would be drawn to Rolfe as soon as a paved road
made Lake Dubar accessible to main highways.

It was nearly two o'clock when she finished her labor at the typewriter.
She was tired and hungry. One thing sure, being editor of the _Herald_
would be no easy task. Of that she was convinced.

"Let's go home for dinner," she called to Tom.

"Suits me," replied her brother. "I've finished throwing in the last
page. We're all ready to start work on the next issue."

They took off their aprons and while Helen washed her hands, Tom closed
the windows and locked the back door. He took his turn at the sink and
they locked the front door and started for home.

"What we need now is a good, big story for our first edition," said Tom.

"We may have it before nightfall if those clouds get to rolling much
more," said Helen.

Tom scanned the sky. The sunshine of the May morning had vanished.
Ominous banks of clouds were rolling over the hills which flanked the
western valley of Lake Dubar and the lake itself was lashed by white
caps, spurred by a gusty wind.

They went down main street, turned off on the side street and climbed the
slope to their home.

Mrs. Blair was busy putting some heavy pots over flowers she wanted to
protect from the wind.

"Dinner's all ready," she told them, "and I've asked Margaret Stevens
over. She wants to talk with Helen about the sophomore class picnic
tomorrow."

"I won't have time to go," said Helen. "We'll be awfully busy working on
the next issue."

"You're on the class committee, aren't you?" asked Tom.

"Yes."

"Then you're going to the picnic. We'll have lots to do on the _Herald_
but we won't have to give up all of our other activities."

"Tom is right," said Mrs. Blair. "You must plan on going to the picnic."

Margaret Stevens came across the street from her home. Margaret was a
decided brunette, a striking contrast to Helen's blondness.

"We'll go in and eat," said Mrs. Blair. "Then we'll come out and watch
the storm. There is going to be a lot of wind."

Margaret was jolly and good company and Helen thought her mother wise to
have a guest for dinner. It kept them from thinking too much about their
father's absence.

There was roast beef and hashed brown potatoes with thick gravy, lettuce
salad, pickled beets, bread and butter, large glasses of rich milk and
lemon pie.

"I've never tasted a better meal," said Tom between mouthfuls.

"That's because you've been so busy at the office," smiled his mother.

"We were moving right along," agreed Tom. "I got the forms all ready for
the next issue and Helen has the editorials done."

"Won't you need a reporter?" asked Margaret.

"We may need one but Helen and Mother are going to try and do all the
news writing," said Tom.

"I mean a reporter who would work for nothing. I'd like to help for I've
always wanted to write."

"You could be a real help, Margaret," said Helen, "and we'd enjoy having
you help us. Keep your ears open for all of the personal items and tell
Mother about any parties. She's going to write the society news."

"We're getting quite a staff," smiled Tom. "I'm open for applications of
anyone who wants to work in the mechanical department."

"That's not as romantic as gathering and writing news," said Margaret.

"But just as important," insisted Tom.

The room darkened and a particularly heavy gust of wind shook the house.
From the west came a low rumbling.

Tom dropped his knife and fork and went to the front porch.

"Come here, Helen!" he cried. "The storm's breaking. You're going to have
your first big story right now!"



                               CHAPTER IV
                          _Through the Storm_


Tom's cry brought the others from the dinner table to the screened-in
porch which overlooked the lake. He was right. The storm was roaring down
out of the hills in the west in all its fury.

The black clouds which had been rolling along the horizon when Tom and
Helen had come home were massed in a solid, angry front. Driven by a
whistling wind, they were sweeping down on the lake. An ominous fringe of
yellow wind clouds dashed on ahead and as they reached the porch they saw
the waters of Lake Dubar whiten before the fury of the wind.

"Looks like a twister," shouted Tom.

His mother's face whitened and she anxiously scanned the sky.

Doctor Stevens ran across from his home.

"Better close all your windows and secure the doors," he warned. "We're
going to get a lot of wind before the rain comes."

"Tom is afraid of a tornado," said Mrs. Blair.

"The weather is about right," admitted the doctor. "But we won't worry
until we see the clouds start to swirl. Then we'll run for the storm
cellar under my house."

Helen and Margaret hurried to help Mrs. Blair close the upstairs windows
while Tom went around to make sure that the screens were secure. He
bolted all doors except the one to the porch and when he returned to join
the others, the tempo of the wind was increasing rapidly.

The wind suddenly dropped to a whisper and Doctor Stevens watched the
rolling clouds with renewed anxiety. The waters of the lake were calmer
and the dust clouds which the wind had driven over the water cleared
partially.

"Look!" cried Helen. "There's a motorboat trying to reach one of the
boathouses here!"

Through the haze of dust which still hung over the lake they could
discern the outline of a boat, laboring to reach the safety of the Rolfe
end of the lake.

"It's Jim Preston," said Doctor Stevens. "He goes down to the summer
resorts at the far end of the lake every Sunday morning with the mail and
papers."

"His boat's got a lot of water in it from the way it is riding," added
Tom. "If the storm hits him he'll never make it."

"Jim should have known better than to have taken a chance when he could
see this mess of weather brewing," snorted the doctor.

"His wife's sick," put in Mrs. Blair, "and Jim's probably taken an extra
risk to get home as soon as possible."

"I know," said Doctor Stevens.

"He's bailing by hand," cried Tom. "That means something has gone wrong
with the water pump on the engine."

"Can you see what boat he has?" asked Doctor Stevens.

"It looks like the Flyer," said Helen, who knew the lines of every
motorboat on the lake.

"That's the poorest wet weather boat Jim has," said Doctor Stevens.
"Every white cap slops over the side. She's fast but a death trap in a
storm. Either the Liberty or the Argosy would eat up weather like this."

"Jim's been overhauling the engines in his other boats," said Tom, "and
the Flyer is the only thing he has been using this spring."

"Instead of standing here talking, let's get down to the shore," said
Helen. "Maybe we can get someone to go out and help him."

Without waiting for the others to reply, Helen started running toward the
lake. She heard a cry behind her and turned to see Tom pointing toward
the hills in the west.

The wind was whistling again and when she turned to look in the direction
her brother pointed, she stopped suddenly. The black storm clouds were
massing for the main attack and they were rolling together.

In the seconds that Helen watched, she saw them swirl toward a common
center, heard the deafening rise of the wind and trembled as the clouds,
now formed in a great funnel, started toward the lake.

"Come back, Helen, come back!" Tom shouted.

Forcing herself to overcome the storm terror which now gripped her, Helen
looked out over the boiling waters of the lake.

The wind was whipping into a new frenzy and she could just barely see the
Flyer above the white-capped waves. Jim Preston was making a brave effort
to reach shore and Helen knew that the little group at her own home were
probably the only ones in Rolfe who knew of the boatman's danger. Seconds
counted and ignoring the warning cries from her brother, she hurried on
toward the lake.

The noise of the oncoming tornado beat on her ears, but she dared not
look toward the west. If she did she knew she would turn and race for the
shelter and security of Doctor Stevens' storm cellar.

The Flyer was rolling dangerously as Jim Preston made for the shore and
Helen doubted if the boatman would ever make it.

On and on the sleek craft pushed its way, the waves breaking over its
slender, speedy nose and cascading back into the open cockpit in which
Jim Preston was bailing furiously. The Flyer was nosing deeper into the
waves as it shipped more water. When the ignition wires got wet the motor
would stop and Preston's last chance would be gone.

Helen felt someone grab her arms. It was Tom.

"Come back!" he cried. "The tornado will be on us in another five
minutes!"

"We've got to help Mr. Preston," shouted Helen, and she refused to move.

"All right, then I stay too," yelled Tom, who kept anxious eyes on the
approaching tornado.

The Flyer was less than a hundred yards from shore but was settling
deeper and deeper into the water.

"It's almost shallow enough for him to wade ashore," cried Helen.

"Wind would sweep him off his feet," replied Tom.

The speedboat was making slow progress, barely staggering along in its
battle against the wind and waves.

"He's going to make it!" shouted Helen.

"I hope so," said Tom, but his words were lost in the wind.

Fifty yards more and the Flyer would nose into the sandy beach which
marked the Rolfe end of the lake.

"Come on, Flyer, come on!" cried Helen.

"The engine's dying," said Tom. "Look, the nose is going under that big
wave."

With the motor dead, the Flyer lost way and buried its nose under a giant
white-cap.

"He's jumping out of the boat," added Helen. "It's shallow enough so he
can wade in if he can keep his feet."

Ignoring the increasing danger of the tornado, they ran across the sandy
beach.

"Join hands," cried Helen. "We can wade out and pull him the last few
feet."

Realizing that his sister would go on alone if he did not help her, Tom
locked his hands in hers and they plunged into the shallow water.

Jim Preston, on the verge of exhaustion, staggered through the waves.

The Flyer, caught between two large rollers, filled with water and
disappeared less than ten seconds after it had been abandoned.

The boatman floundered toward them and Tom and Helen found themselves
hard-pressed to keep their own feet, for a strong undertow threatened to
upset them and sweep them out into the lake.

Preston lunged toward them and they caught him as he fell.

Tom turned momentarily to watch the approach of the tornado.

"Hurry!" he cried. "We'll be able to reach Doctor Stevens' storm cellar
if we run."

"I can't run," gasped Preston. "You youngsters get me to shore. Then save
yourselves."

"We'll do nothing of the kind," said Helen.

With their encouragement, Preston made a new effort and they made their
escape from the dangerous waters of the lake.

Alone, Helen or Tom could have raced up the hill to Doctor Stevens in
less than a minute but with an almost helpless man to drag between them,
they made slow progress.

"We've got to hurry," warned Tom as the noise of the storm told of its
rapid approach.

"Go on, go on! Leave me here!" urged Preston.

But Helen and Tom were deaf to his pleas and they forced him to use the
last of his strength in a desperate race up the hill ahead of the
tornado.

Doctor Stevens met them half way up the hill and almost carried Preston
the rest of the way.

"Across the street and into my storm cellar," he told them.

"Is the tornado going to hit the town?" asked Helen as they hurried
across the street.

"Can't tell yet," replied Doctor Stevens.

"There's a common belief that the hills and lake protect us so a tornado
will never strike here," said Tom.

"We'll soon know about that," said the doctor grimly.

They got the exhausted boatman to the entrance of the cellar, where Mrs.
Blair was anxiously awaiting their return.

"Are you all right, Helen?" she asked.

"A little wet on my lower extremities," replied the young editor of the
_Herald_. "I simply had to go, mother."

"Of course you did," said Mrs. Blair. "It was dangerous but I'm proud of
you Helen."

Mrs. Stevens brought out blankets and wrapped them around Jim Preston's
shoulders while Margaret took candles down into the storm cellar.

The noise of the storm had increased to such an intensity that
conversation was almost impossible.

Doctor Stevens maintained his watchful vigil, noting every movement of
the tornado.

The sky was so dark that the daylight had faded into dusk although it was
only a few minutes after three. The whole western sky was filled with
coal-black clouds and out of the center of this ominous mass rushed the
lashing tongue which was destroying everything it touched.

On and on came the storm, advancing with a deadly relentlessness. A farm
house a little more than a mile away on one of the hills overlooking the
lake exploded as though a charge of dynamite had been set off beneath it.

"It's terrible, terrible," sobbed Margaret Stevens, who had come out of
the cellar to watch the storm.

"We're going to get hit," Tom warned them.

"I've got to get home," said Jim Preston, struggling out of the blankets
which Mrs. Stevens had wrapped around him. "My wife's all alone."

"Stay here, Jim," commanded Doctor Stevens. "You couldn't get more than
three or four blocks before the storm strikes and your place is clear
across town. Everybody into the cellar," he commanded.

Mrs. Stevens and Helen's mother went first to light the candles. They
were followed by Margaret and Helen, then Tom and Jim Preston and finally
the doctor, who remained in the doorway on guard.

"What will this do to the _Herald_?" Helen whispered to Tom.

Her brother nudged her hard.

"Don't let Mother hear you," he replied. "There is nothing we can do now
except hope. The _Herald_ building may not be destroyed."

Helen dropped to the floor and her head bowed in prayer. Their father's
illness had been a blow and to have the _Herald_ plant destroyed by a
tornado would be almost more than they could bear.

The noise of the tornado was terrific and they felt the earth trembling
at the fury of the storm gods.

Helen had seen pictures of towns razed by tornadoes but she had never
dreamed that she would be in one herself.

Suddenly the roar of the storm lessened and Doctor Stevens cautiously
opened the door of the storm cellar.

"We're safe!" he cried.

They trooped out of the cellar. The tornado had swung away from Rolfe
without striking the town itself and was lashing its way down the center
of Lake Dubar.

"It will wear itself out before it reaches the end of the lake,"
predicted Jim Preston.

"I don't believe any houses in town were damaged," said Doctor Stevens.
"A hen house and garage or two may have been unroofed but that will be
about all."

"How about the farmers back in the hills?" asked Helen.

"They must have fared pretty badly if they were in the center of the
storm," said the doctor. "I'm going to get my car and start out that way.
Someone may need medical attention."

"Can I go with you?" asked Helen. "I want to get all the facts about the
storm for my story for the _Herald_."

"Glad to have you," said the doctor.

"Count me in," said Margaret Stevens. "I've joined Helen's staff as her
first reporter," she told her father.

"If you want to go down the lake in the morning and see what happened at
the far end I'll be glad to take you," suggested Jim Preston. "I'm mighty
grateful for what you and Tom did for me and I'll have the Liberty ready
to go by morning."

"What about the Flyer?" asked Tom.

"I'll have to fish her out of the lake sometime next week," grinned the
boatman. "I'm lucky even to be here, but I am, thanks to you."

Doctor Stevens backed his sedan out of the garage and Helen started
toward the car.

"You can't go looking like that," protested her mother. "Your shoes and
hose are wet and dirty and your dress looks something like a mop."

"Can't help the looks, mother," smiled Helen. "I'll have to go as I am.
This is my first big news and the story comes first."



                               CHAPTER V
                            _Reporting Plus_


Clouds which followed the terrific wind unleashed their burden and a gray
curtain of rain swept down from the heavens.

"Get your slickers," Doctor Stevens called to the girls and Helen raced
across the street for her coat and a storm hat.

"Better put on those heavy, high-topped boots you use for hiking," Tom
advised Helen when they had reached the shelter of their own home.
"You'll probably be gone the rest of the afternoon and you'll need the
boots."

Helen nodded her agreement and rummaged through the down stairs closet
for the sturdy boots. She dragged them out and untangled the laces. Then
she kicked off her oxfords and started to slide her feet into the boots.
Her mother stopped her.

"Put on these woolen stockings," she said. "Those light silk ones will
wear through in an hour and your heels will be chafed raw."

With heavy stockings and boots on, Helen slipped into the slicker which
Tom held for her. She put on her old felt hat just as Doctor Stevens' car
honked.

"Bye, Mother," she cried. "Don't worry. I'll be all right with the doctor
and Margaret."

"Get all the news," cautioned Tom as Helen ran through the storm and
climbed into the doctor's sedan.

Margaret Stevens was also wearing heavy shoes and a slicker while the
doctor had put on knee length rubber boots and a heavy ulster.

"We'll get plenty of rain before we're back," he told the girls, "and
we'll have to walk where the roads are impassable."

They stopped down town and Doctor Stevens ran into his office to see if
any calls had been left for him. When he returned his face was grave.

"What's the matter?" asked Margaret.

"I called the telephone office," replied her father, "and they said all
the phone wires west of the lake were down but that reports were a number
of farm houses had been destroyed by the tornado."

"Then you think someone may have been hurt?" asked Helen.

"I'm afraid so," admitted Doctor Stevens as he shifted gears and the
sedan leaped ahead through the storm. "We'll have to trust to luck that
we'll reach farms where the worst damage occurred."

The wind was still of nearly gale force and the blasts of rain which
swept the graveled highway rocked the sedan. There was little
conversation as they left Rolfe and headed into the hill country which
marked the western valley of Lake Dubar.

The road wound through the hills and Doctor Stevens, unable to see more
than fifty feet ahead, drove cautiously.

"Keep a close watch on each side," he told the girls, "and when you see
any signs of unusual damage let me know."

They were nearly three miles from Rolfe when Margaret told her father to
stop.

"There's a lane to our right that is blocked with fallen tree trunks,"
she said.

Doctor Stevens peered through the rain. A mail box leered up at them from
a twisted post.

"This is Herb Lauer's place," he said. "I'll get out and go up the lane."

The doctor picked up his medical case and left the motor running so the
heat it generated would keep ignition wires dry.

One window was left open to guard against the car filling with gas and
the girls followed him into the storm. They picked their way slowly over
the fallen trees which choked the lane. When they finally reached the
farmyard a desolate scene greeted them.

The tornado, like a playful giant, had picked up the one story frame
house and dashed it against the barn. Both buildings had splintered in a
thousand pieces and only a huddled mass of wreckage remained.
Miraculously, the corn crib had been left almost unharmed and inside the
crib they could see someone moving.

Doctor Stevens shouted and a few seconds later there came an answering
cry. The girls followed him to the crib and found the family of Herb
Lauer sheltered there.

"Anyone hurt?" asked Doctor Stevens.

"Herb's injured his arm," said Mrs. Lauer, who was holding their two
young children close to her.

"Think it's broken, Doc," said the farmer.

"Broken is right," said Doctor Stevens as he examined the injury. "I'll
fix up a temporary splint and in the morning you can come down and have
it redressed."

The doctor worked quickly and when he was ready to put on the splint had
Margaret and Helen help him. In twenty minutes the arm had been dressed
and put in a sling.

"We'll send help out as soon as we can," said Doctor Stevens as they
turned to go.

Helen had used the time to good advantage, making a survey of the damage
done to the farm buildings and learning that they were fully protected by
insurance. Mrs. Lauer, between attempts to quiet the crying of the
children, had given Helen an eye-witness account of the storm and how
they had taken refuge in the corn crib just before the house was swirled
from its foundations.

Back in the car, the trio continued their relief trip. The rain abated
and a little after four o'clock the sun broke through the clouds. Ditches
along the road ran bankful with water and streams they crossed tore at
the embankments which confined them.

"The worst is over," said Doctor Stevens, "and we can be mighty thankful
no one has been killed."

Fifteen minutes later they reached another farm which had felt the
effects of the storm. The house had been unroofed but the family had
taken refuge in the storm cellar. No one had been injured, except for a
few bruises and minor scratches.

At dusk they were fifteen miles west of Rolfe and had failed to find
anyone with serious injury.

"We've about reached the limit of the storm area," said Doctor Stevens.
"We'll turn now and start back for Rolfe on the Windham road."

Their route back led them over a winding road and before they left the
main graveled highway Doctor Stevens put chains on his car. They ploughed
into the mud, which sloshed up on the sides of the machine and splattered
against the windshield until they had to stop and clean the glass.

Half way back to Rolfe they were stopped by a lantern waving in the road.

Doctor Stevens leaned out the window.

"What's the matter?" he asked.

A farmer stepped out of the night into the rays of the lights of the car.

"We need help," he cried. "The storm destroyed our house and one of my
boys was pretty badly hurt. We've got to get him to a doctor."

"I'm Doctor Stevens of Rolfe," said Margaret's father as he picked up his
case and opened the door.

"We need you doctor," said the farmer.

Helen and Margaret followed them down the road and into a grassy lane.

Lights were flickering ahead and when they reached a cattle shed they
found a wood fire burning. Around the blaze were the members of the
farmer's family and at one side of the fire was the blanket-swathed form
of a boy of ten or eleven.

"One of the timbers from the house struck him while he was running for
the storm cave," explained the farmer. "He just crumpled up and hasn't
spoken to us since. It's as though he was asleep."

Doctor Stevens examined the boy.

"He got a pretty nasty rap on the head," he said. "What he needs is a
good bed, some warm clothes and hot food. We'll put him in my car and
take him back to Rolfe. He'll be all right in two or three days."

The doctor looked about him.

"This is the Rigg Jensen place, isn't it?" he asked.

"I'm Rigg Jensen," said the farmer. "You fixed me up about ten years ago
when my shotgun went off and took off one of my little toes."

"I remember that," said Doctor Stevens. "Now, if you'll help me carry the
lad, we'll get him down to the car."

"Hadn't I better go?" asked Mrs. Jensen. "Eddie may be scared if he wakes
up and sees only strangers."

"Good idea," said Doctor Stevens, as they picked up the boy and started
for the car.

Helen went ahead, carrying the lantern and lighting the way for the men.
They made the boy comfortable in the back seat and his mother got in
beside him.

"Better come along," Doctor Stevens told the father.

"Not tonight," was the reply. "Mother is with Eddie and I know he'll be
all right now. I've got to take the lantern and see what happened to the
livestock and what we've got left."

There was no complaint in his voice, only a matter-of-factness which
indicated that the storm could not have been prevented and now that it
was all over he was going to make the best of it.

Half an hour later they reached the gravel highway and sped into Rolfe.
Doctor Stevens drove directly to his office and several men on the street
helped him carry Eddie Jensen inside.

"You'd better run along home," he told the girls, "and get something to
eat."

When Helen reached home, Tom was waiting on the porch.

"Get a story?" he asked.

The young editor of the _Herald_ nodded.

"Anyone hurt?" Tom insisted.

"No one seriously injured," replied Helen, "but a lot of farm buildings
were destroyed."

"I've been checking up on the damage down the lake," said Tom, "that new
summer resort on the east shore got the worst of it. The phone office
finally got through and they estimate the damage at the resort at about
$50,000."

"Doctor Stevens believes the damage along the west half of the valley
will amount to almost a $100,000," said Helen.

"That's a real story," enthused Tom. "It's big enough to telephone to the
state bureau of the Associated Press at Cranston. They'll be glad to pay
us for sending it to them."

"You telephone," said Helen. "I'd be scared to death and wouldn't be able
to give them all the facts."

"You're the editor," replied Tom. "It's your story and you ought to do
the phoning. Jot down some notes while I get a connection to Cranston."

Tom went into the house to put in the long distance call just as Helen's
mother hurried across from the Stevens home.

"Are you all right, dear?" her mother asked.

"Not even wet," replied Helen. "The coat and boots protected me even in
the heaviest rain. Tom's just gone inside to call the Associated Press at
Cranston and I'm going to tell them about the storm."

"Hurry up there," came Tom's voice from inside the house. "The Cranston
operator has just answered."

"And I haven't had time to think what I'll say," added Helen, half to
herself.

Without stopping to take off her cumbersome raincoat, she hurried to the
telephone stand in the dining room and Tom turned the instrument over to
her.

"All ready," he said.

Helen picked up the telephone and heard a voice at the other end of the
wire saying, "This is the state bureau of the Associated Press at
Cranston. Who's calling?"

Mustering up her courage, Helen replied, "this is Helen Blair, editor of
the _Rolfe Herald_. We've had a tornado near here this afternoon and I
thought you'd want the facts."

"Glad to have them," came the peppy voice back over the wire. "Let's go."

Helen forgot her early misgivings and briefly and concisely told her
story about the storm, giving estimates of damage and the names of the
injured. In three minutes she was through.

"Fine story," said the Associated Press man at Cranston. "We'll mail you
a check the first of the month. And say, you'd better write to us. We can
use a live, wide-awake correspondent in your town."

"Thanks, I will," replied Helen as she hung up the receiver.

"What did he say?" asked Tom.

"He told me to write them; that they could use a correspondent at Rolfe."

"That's great," exclaimed Tom. "One more way in which we can increase our
income and it means that some day you may be able to get a job with the
Associated Press."

"That will have to come later," said Helen's mother, "when school days
are over."

"Sure, I know," said Tom, "but creating a good impression won't hurt
anything."

Mrs. Blair had a hot supper waiting, hamburger cakes, baking powder
biscuits with honey, and tea, and they all sat down to the table for a
belated evening meal.

Helen related the events of her trip with Doctor Stevens and Tom grew
enthusiastic again over the story.

"It's the biggest news the _Herald_ has had in years. If we were putting
out a daily we'd be working on an extra now. Maybe the _Herald_ will be a
daily some day."

"Rolfe will have to grow a lot," smiled his mother.

"I guess you're right," agreed Tom.

Tom and Helen helped their mother clear away the supper dishes and after
that Helen went into the front room and cleared the Sunday papers off the
library table. She found some copypaper and a pencil in the drawer and
sat down to work on her story of the storm.

The excitement of the storm and the ensuing events had carried her along,
oblivious of the fatigue which had increased with the passing hours. But
when she picked up her pencil and tried to write, her eyes dimmed and her
head nodded. She snuggled her head in her arms to rest for just a minute,
she told herself. The next thing she knew Tom was shaking her shoulders.

"Ten o'clock," he said, "and time for all editors to be in bed."

Helen tried to rub the sleep from her eyes and Tom laughed uproariously
at her efforts.

"It's no use," he said. "You're all tired out. You can write your story
in the morning. To bed you go."

"Have I been asleep all evening?" Helen asked her mother.

"Yes, dear," was the reply, "and I think Tom's right. Run along to bed
and you'll feel more like working on your story in the morning."

Goodnights were said and Helen, only half awake, went to her room, thus
ending the most exciting day in her young life.



                               CHAPTER VI
                           _A New Week Dawns_


Monday morning dawned clear and bright. There were no traces in the sky
of the storm which on the previous day had devastated so many farms west
of Rolfe. The air was warm with a fragrance and sweetness that only a
small town knows in springtime.

Helen exchanged greetings with half a dozen people as she hurried down
the street to start her first day at the office as editor of the
_Herald_.

Grant Hughes, the postmaster, was busy sweeping out his office but he
stopped his work and called to Helen as she turned down the alley-way
which led to the _Herald_ office.

"Starting in bright and early, aren't you?"

"Have to," smiled Helen, "for Tom and I have only half days in which to
put out the paper and do the job work."

"I know, I know," mused the old postmaster, "but you're chips off the old
block. You'll make good."

"Thanks, Mr. Hughes," said Helen. "Your believing in us is going to
help."

She hastened on the few steps to the office and opened the doors and
windows for the rooms were close and stuffy after being closed overnight.
The young editor of the _Herald_ paused to look around the composing
room. Tom had certainly done a good job cleaning up the day before. The
four steel forms which would hold the type for the week's edition were in
place, ready for the news she would write and the ads which it would be
Tom's work to solicit. The Linotype seemed to be watching her in a very
superior but friendly manner and even the old press was polished and
cleaned as never before.

Helen returned to the editorial office, rolled a sheet of copypaper into
her typewriter, and sat down to write the story of the storm. She might
have to change certain parts of the story about the condition of the
injured later in the week but she could get the main part of it written
while it was still fresh in her memory.

Hugh Blair had always made a point of writing his news stories in simple
English and he had drilled Helen and Tom in his belief that the simpler a
story is written the more widely it will be read. He had no time for the
multitudes of adjectives which many country editors insist upon using,
although he felt that strong, colorful words had their place in news
stories.

With her father's beliefs on news writing almost second nature, Helen
started her story. It was simple and dramatic, as dramatic as the sudden
descent of the storm on the valley. Her fingers moved rapidly over the
keyboard and the story seemed to write itself. She finished one page and
rolled another into the machine, hardly pausing in her rapid typing.

Page after page she wrote until she finally leaned back in her swivel
chair, tired from the strain of her steady work.

She picked up the half dozen pages of typed copy. This was her first big
story and she wanted it to read well, to be something of which her father
would be proud when he read the copy of the paper they would send him.
She went over the story carefully, changing a word here, another there.
Occasionally she operated on some of her sentences, paring down the
longer ones and speeding up the tempo of the story. It was nine-thirty
before she was satisfied that she had done the best she could and she
stuck the story on the copy spindle, ready for Tom when he wanted to
translate it into type on the Linotype.

Helen slid another sheet of copypaper into her typewriter and headed it
"PERSONALS." Farther down the page she wrote four items about out-of-town
people who were visiting in Rolfe. She had just finished her personals
when she heard the whistle of the morning train.

The nine forty-five in the morning and the seven-fifteen in the evening
were the only trains through Rolfe on the branch line of the A. and T.
railroad. The nine forty-five was the upbound train to Cranston, the
state capital. It reached Cranston about one o'clock, turned around there
and started back a little after three, passing through Rolfe on its down
trip early in the evening, its over-night terminal being Gladbrook, the
county seat.

Helen picked up a pencil and pad of paper, snapped the lock on the front
door and ran for the depot two blocks away. The daily trains were always
good for a few personals. She meant to leave the office earlier but had
lost track of the time, so intense had been her interest in writing her
story of the storm.

The nine forty-five was still half a mile below town and puffing up the
grade to the station when Helen reached the platform. She spoke to the
agent and the express man and hurried into the waiting room. Two women
she recognized were picking up their suit cases when she entered. Helen
explained her mission and they told her where they were going. She jotted
down the notes quickly for the train was rumbling into town. The local
ground to a stop and Helen went to the platform to see if anyone had
arrived from the county seat.

One passenger descended, a tall, austere-looking man whose appearance was
not in the least inviting but Helen wanted every news item she could get
so she approached him, with some misgiving.

"I'm the editor for the _Rolfe Herald_," she explained, "and I'd like to
have an item about your visit here."

"You're what?" exclaimed the stranger.

"I'm the editor of the local paper," repeated Helen, "and I'd like a
story about your visit in town."

"You're pretty young for an editor," persisted the stranger, with a smile
that decidedly changed his appearance and made him look much less
formidable.

"I'm substituting for my father," said Helen.

"That quite explains things," agreed the stranger. "I'm Charles King of
Cranston, state superintendent of schools, and I'm making a few
inspections around the state. If you'd like, I'll see you again before I
leave and tell you what I think of your school system here."

"I'm sure you'll thoroughly approve," said Helen. "Mr. Fowler, the
superintendent, is very progressive and has fine discipline."

"I'll tell him he has a good booster in the editor," smiled Mr. King.
"Now, if you'll be good enough to direct me to the school I'll see that
you get a good story out of my visit here."

Helen supplied the necessary directions and the state superintendent left
the depot.

The nine forty-five, with its combination mail and baggage car and two
day coaches, whistled out and Helen returned to the _Herald_ office.

She found a farmer from the east side of the valley waiting for her.

"I'd like to get some sale bills printed," he said, "and I'll need about
five hundred quarter page bills. How much will they cost?"

Helen opened the booklet with job prices listed and gave the farmer a
quotation on the job.

"Sounds fair enough," he said. "At least it's a dollar less than last
year."

"Paper doesn't cost quite as much," explained Helen, "and we're passing
the saving on to you. Be sure and tell your neighbors about our
reasonable printing prices."

"I'll do that," promised the farmer. "I'll bring in the copy Tuesday and
get the bills Friday morning."

"My brother will have them ready for you," said Helen, "but if you want
to get the most out of your sale, why not run your bill as an ad in the
_Herald_. On a combination like that we can give you a special price. You
can have a quarter page ad in the paper plus 500 bills at only a little
more than the cost of the ad in the paper. It's the cost of setting up
the ad that counts for once it is set up we can run off the bills at very
little extra cost."

"How much circulation do you have?"

"Eight hundred and seventy-five," said Helen. "Three hundred papers go in
town and the rest out on the country routes." She consulted her price
book and quoted the price for the combination ad and bills.

"I'll take it," agreed the farmer, who appeared to be a keen business
man.

"Tell you what," he went on. "If you'd work out some kind of a tieup with
the farm bureau at Gladbrook and carry a page with special farm news you
could get a lot of advertising from farmers. If you do, don't use
'canned' news sent out by agricultural schools. Get the county agent to
write a column a week and then get the rest of it from farmers around
here. Have items about what they are doing, how many hogs they are
feeding, how much they get for their cattle, when they market them and
news of their club activities."

"Sounds like a fine idea," said Helen, "but we'll have to go a little
slowly at first. My brother and I are trying to run the paper while Dad
is away recovering his health and until we get everything going smoothly
we can't attempt very many new things."

"You keep it in mind," said the farmer, "for I tell you, we people on the
farms like to see news about ourselves in the paper and it would mean
more business for you. Well, I've got to be going. I'll bring my copy in
tomorrow."

"We'll be expecting it," said Helen. "Thanks for the business."

She went around to the postoffice and returned with a handful of letters.
Most of them were circulars but one of them was a card from her father.
She read it with such eagerness that her hands trembled. It had been
written while the train was speeding through southwestern Kansas and her
father said that he was not as tired from the train trip as he had
expected. By the time they received the card, he added, he would be at
Rubio, Arizona, where he was to make his home until he was well enough to
return to the more rigorous climate of the north.

Helen telephoned her mother at once and read the message on the card.

"I'm going to write to Dad and tell him all about the storm and how happy
we are that everything is going well for him," said Helen.

"I'll write this afternoon," said her mother, "and we'll put the letters
in one envelope and get them off on the evening mail. Perhaps Tom will
find time to add a note."

Helen sat down at the desk, found several sheets of office stationery and
a pen, and started her letter to her father. She was half way through
when Jim Preston entered.

"Good morning, Miss Blair," he said. "I've got the _Liberty_ ready to go
if you'd like to run down the lake and see how much damage the twister
caused at the summer resorts."

"Thanks," replied Helen, "I'll be with you right away." She put her
letter aside and closed the office. Five minutes later they were at the
main pier on the lakeshore.

The _Liberty_, a sturdy, 28-foot cruiser, was moored to the pier. The
light oak hood covering the engine shone brightly in the morning sun and
Helen could see that Jim Preston had waxed it recently. The hood extended
for about fourteen feet back from the bow of the boat, completely
enclosing the 60 horsepower engine which drove the craft. The steering
wheel and ignition switches were mounted on a dash and behind this were
four benches with leather covered cork cushions which could be used as
life preservers.

The boatman stepped into the _Liberty_ and pressed the starter. There was
the whirr of gears and the muffled explosions from the underwater exhaust
as the engine started. The _Liberty_ quivered at its moorings, anxious to
be away and cutting through the tiny whitecaps which danced in the
sunshine.

Helen bent down and loosened the half hitches on the ropes which held the
boat. Jim Preston steadied it while she stepped in and took her place on
the front seat beside him.

The boatman shoved the clutch ahead, the tone of the motor deepened and
they moved slowly away from the pier. With quickening pace, they sped out
into the lake, slapping through the white caps faster and faster until
tiny flashes of spray stung Helen's face.

"How long will it take us to reach Crescent Beach?" asked Helen for she
knew the boatman made his first stop at the new resort at the far end of
the lake.

"It's nine miles," replied Jim Preston. "If I open her up we'll be down
there in fifteen or sixteen minutes. Want to make time?"

"Not particularly," replied Helen, "but I enjoy a fast ride."

"Here goes," smiled Preston and he shoved the throttle forward.

The powerful motor responded to the increased fuel and the _Liberty_
shook herself and leaped ahead, cutting a v-shaped swath down the center
of the lake. Solid sheets of spray flew out on each side of the boat and
Preston put up spray boards to keep them from being drenched.

Helen turned around and looked back at Rolfe, nestling serenely along the
north end of the lake. It was a quiet, restful scene, the white houses
showing through the verdant green of the new leaves. She could see her
own home and thought she glimpsed her mother working in the garden at the
rear.

Then the picture faded as they sped down the lake and Helen gave herself
up to complete enjoyment of the boat trip.

There were few signs along the shore of the storm. After veering away
from Rolfe it had evidently gone directly down the lake until it reached
the summer resorts.

In less than ten minutes Rolfe had disappeared and the far end of the
lake was in view. Preston slowed the _Liberty_ somewhat and swung across
the lake to the left toward Crescent Beach, the new resort which several
wealthy men from the state capital were promoting.

They slid around a rocky promontory and into view of the resort.
Boathouses dipped crazily into the water and the large bath-house, the
most modern on the lake, had been crushed while the toboggan slide had
been flipped upside down by the capricious wind.

The big pier had collapsed and Preston nosed the _Liberty_ carefully
in-shore until the bow grated on the fresh, clean sand of the beach.

Kirk Foster, the young manager of the resort, was directing a crew of men
who were cleaning up the debris.

The boatman introduced Helen to the manager and he willingly gave her all
the details about the damage. The large, new hotel had escaped unharmed
and the private cottages, some of which were nicer than the homes in
Rolfe, had suffered only minor damage.

"The damage to the bathhouse, about $35,000, was the heaviest," said the
manager, "but don't forget to say in your story that we'll have things
fixed up in about two weeks, and everything is insured."

"I won't," promised Helen, "and when you have any news be sure and let me
know."

"We cater to a pretty ritzy crowd," replied the manager, "and we ought to
have some famous people here during the summer. I'll tip you off whenever
I think there is a likely story."

Jim Preston left the mail for the resort and they returned to the
Liberty, backed out carefully, and headed across the lake for Sandy
Point, a resort which had been on the lake for more years than Helen
could remember.

Sandy Point was popular with the townspeople and farmers and was known
for its wonderful bathing beach. Lake Dubar was shallow there and it was
safe for almost anyone to enjoy the bathing at Sandy Point.

The old resort was not nearly as pretentious as Crescent Beach for its
bathhouses, cottages and hotel were weather beaten and vine-covered. Art
Provost, the manager, was waiting for the morning mail when the Liberty
churned up to the pier.

"Storm missed you," said the boatman.

"And right glad I am that it did," replied Provost. "I thought we were
goners when I saw it coming down the lake but it swung over east and took
its spite out on Crescent Beach. Been over there yet?"

"Stopped on the way down," replied Jim Preston. "They suffered a good bit
of damage but will have it cleaned up in a couple or three days."

"Glad to hear that," said Provost, "that young manager, Foster, is a fine
fellow."

Helen inquired for news about the resort and was told that it would be
another week, about the first of June, before the season would be under
way.

They left Sandy Point and headed up the lake, this time at a leisurely
twenty miles an hour. Helen enjoyed every minute of the trip, drinking in
the quiet beauty of the lake, its peaceful hills and the charm of the
farms with their cattle browsing contentedly in the pastures.

It was noon when they docked at Rolfe and Helen, after thanking the
boatman, went home instead of returning to the office.

Tom had come from school and lunch was on the table. Helen told her
brother of the sale of the quarter page ad for the paper and the 500
bills.

"That's fine," said Tom, "but you must have looked on the wrong page in
the cost book."

"Didn't I ask enough?"

"You were short about fifty cents," grinned Tom, "but we'll make a profit
on the job, especially since you got him to run it as an ad in the
paper."

"What are you going to do this afternoon?" Mrs. Blair asked Tom.

"I'll make the rounds of the stores and see what business I can line up
for the paper," said the business manager of the _Herald_. "Then there
are a couple of jobs of letterheads I'll have to get out of the way and
by the time I get them printed the metal in the Linotype will be hot and
I can set up Helen's editorials and whatever other copy she got ready
this morning."

"The storm story runs six pages," said Helen, "and when I add a few
paragraphs about the summer resorts, it will take another page. Is it too
long?"

"Not if it is well written."

"You'll have to judge that for yourself."

"I walked home with Marg Stevens," said Tom, "and she said to tell you
the sophomore picnic planned for this afternoon has been postponed until
Friday. A lot of the boys from the country have to go home early and help
clean up the storm damage."

"Suits me just as well," said Helen, "for we'll have the paper off the
press Thursday and I'll be ready for a picnic Friday."

Tom went to the office after lunch and Helen walked to school with
Margaret. Just before the assembly was called to order, one of the
teachers came down to Helen's desk and told her she was wanted in the
superintendent's office. When Helen reached the office she found
Superintendent Fowler and Mr. King, the state superintendent of schools,
waiting for her. The state superintendent greeted her cordially and told
Superintendent Fowler how Helen had met him at the train.

"I promised to give her a story about my visit," he explained, "and I
thought this would be a good time."

Superintendent Fowler nodded his agreement and the state school leader
continued.

"I hope you'll consider it good news," he told Helen, "when I say that
the Rolfe school has been judged the finest in the state for towns under
one thousand inhabitants."

"It certainly is news," said Helen. "Mr. Fowler has worked hard in the
two years he has been here and the _Herald_ will be glad to have this
story."

"I thought you would," said Mr. King, and he told Helen in detail of the
improvement which had been made in the local school in the last two years
and how much attention it was attracting throughout the state.

"You really ought to have a school page in the local paper," he told
Helen in concluding.

"Perhaps we will next fall," replied the young editor of the _Herald_.
"By that time Tom and I should be veterans in the newspaper game and able
to add another page of news to the _Herald_."

"We'll talk it over next August when I come back to get things in shape
for the opening of the fall term," said Superintendent Fowler. "I'm
heartily in favor of one if Tom and Helen can spare the time and the
space it will require."

Helen returned to the assembly with the handful of notes she had jotted
down while Mr. King talked. Her American History class had gone to its
classroom and she picked up her textbook and walked down the assembly,
inquiring eyes following her, wondering why she had been called into the
superintendent's office. They'd have to read the _Herald_ to find out
that story.



                              CHAPTER VII
                           _The First Issue_


At the close of school Helen met Margaret Stevens in the hall outside the
assembly room.

"What is my first assignment going to be?" asked Helen's reporting staff.

"I think it would be a good idea if you went to the teachers and got all
the school news," Helen suggested. "It is almost the end of the year and
most of the classes are planning parties and programs of various kinds."

"I'll do it right away," promised Margaret and she hurried off on her
first newspaper assignment.

Helen smiled at her friend's enthusiasm and she hoped that it wouldn't
wear off for Margaret was clever, knew a great many people and could be a
real help if she made up her mind to gather news. In return, all Helen
could offer would be the experience and the closer friendship which their
constant association would mean.

The young editor of the _Herald_ walked down the street alone, for most
of the students had left the building while she had been talking with
Margaret.

When she reached the _Herald_ office she heard the steady hum of the
electric motor of the Linotype and the clack of its long arm as Tom sent
the lines of matrices into the mould to come out in the form of shiny,
hot lead slugs--new type for their first edition of the _Herald_.

Tom rose from his chair before the Linotype keyboard and came into the
editorial office.

"That's a fine story on the storm," he told Helen. "It's so interesting I
can't make any time getting it into type; keep stopping to read your
descriptions again."

"I've got another good story," Helen replied, and she told her brother
all about the visit of the state superintendent of schools and of his
praise for the local school.

"What a front page we'll have to send to Dad," chuckled Tom. "And to
match your good news stories, I made the rounds of the stores the first
thing this afternoon and got the ads lined up. I couldn't get the copy
for all of them but I know just how much space each store will take.
We'll have a 'pay dirt' issue this week with a little more than 250
inches of ads and at 25 cents a column inch that means better than $60
worth of business. Not bad for a starter, eh?"

"Won't that crowd the inside pages?"

"A little," Tom conceded, "but we've got to make every cent we can. I've
been doing a little figuring on our expenses and how much business we
ought to have. We think of the _Herald_ as an eight page paper. That's
true, but four of the pages are printed at Cranston by the Globe Printing
Company with our serial story, pictures of news of the world, fashion and
menu suggestions and world news in general on them. We seldom if ever put
ads on our front page and that leaves only three pages for which we can
sell ads and on which we must earn enough to pay expenses, keep the
family going and build up a surplus to take care of Dad when he needs
more money. Those three six column pages have 360 column inches, 120 to
each page, and at our rate of 25 cents an inch for advertising we've got
to sell a lot to make the grade."

"I hadn't figured it out like that," Helen admitted, "but of course
you're right. Can't we expand the paper some way to get more business?
Only this morning the farmer that came in to see about the sale bills
said he wished we would run a farm page and the school superintendent
would like to have a school page next fall."

"The farm page," Tom said, "would undoubtedly bring us more business and
the first time I have a half day to spare I'll take the old car and go
down to Gladbrook and see the county agent.

"Maybe I can get some job work from the offices at the courthouse," he
added hopefully.

The telephone rang and Helen answered the call. It was from a woman who
had out-of-town guests and the young editor jotted the names down on a
pad of paper. That done she turned to her typewriter and wrote the item,
for with her half days to work she had to write her stories as soon as
she had them.

Margaret bounced in with a handful of notes.

"I've got half a dozen school stories," she exclaimed. "Almost every
teacher had something for me and they're anxious to see their school news
in the paper."

"I thought they would be," Helen smiled. "Can you run a typewriter?"

"I'm a total stranger," Margaret confessed. "I'll do a lot better if I
scribble my stories in longhand, if Tom thinks he can read my scrawls."

"I'll try," came the reply from the composing room, "but I absolutely
refuse to stand on my head to do it."

"They're not that bad," laughed Margaret, "and I'll try to do especially
well for you."

Helen provided her first assistant with copypaper and Margaret sat down
at the desk to write her stories. The editor of the _Herald_ then devoted
her attention to writing up the notes she had taken in her talk with the
state superintendent of schools. It was a story that she found slow to
write for she wanted no mistakes in it.

The afternoon was melting in a soft May twilight when Tom snapped the
switch on the Linotype and came into the editorial office.

"Almost six o'clock," he said, "and time for us to head for home and
supper."

Margaret, who had been at the desk writing for more than an hour,
straightened her cramped back.

"Ouch!" she exclaimed. "I never thought reporting could be such work and
yet so much fun. I'm getting the biggest thrill out of my stories."

"That's about all the pay you will get," grinned Tom.

They closed the office and started home together. They had hardly gone a
block when Helen stopped suddenly.

"Give me the office key, Tom," she said. "I started a letter to Dad this
morning and it got sidetracked when someone came in. I'm going back and
get it. I can finish it at home and mail it on the seven-fifteen when I
come down to meet the train."

"I'll get it for you," said Tom and started on the run for the office. He
got her half-finished letter, and rejoined Helen and Margaret, who had
walked slowly.

"I'll add a few lines to your letter," Tom said. "Dad will be glad to
know we've lined up a lot of ads for our first issue."

Doctor Stevens came out of his office and joined them in their walk home.

"How are all the storm victims?" asked Helen.

"Getting along fine," said the doctor. "I can't understand why there
weren't more serious injuries. The storm was terrific."

"Perhaps it is because most of them heard it coming and sought shelter in
the strongest buildings or took refuge in cellars," suggested Tom.

"I suppose that's the explanation."

"I'll finish my school stories tomorrow afternoon," promised Margaret as
she turned toward her home.

The twilight hour was the one that Helen liked best of all the busy hours
of her day. From the porch she could look down at the long, deep-blue
stretch of water that was Lake Dubar while a liquid-gold sun settled into
the western hills. Purple shadows in the little valleys bordering the
lake, lights gleaming from farm house windows on far away hills, the
mellow chime of a freight train whistling for a crossing and over all a
pervading calmness that overcame any feeling of fatigue and brought only
a feeling of rest and quiet to Helen. It was hard to believe that a
little more than 24 hours before this peaceful scene had been threatened
with total destruction by the fury of the elements.

Helen's mother called and the _Herald_ editor went into the dining room.
Tom, his hands scrubbed clean of printer's ink, was at the table when
Helen took her place.

Mrs. Blair bowed her head in silent prayer and Tom and Helen did
likewise.

"Didn't I see you working in the garden this morning when I went down the
lake with Jim Preston?" Helen asked her mother.

"Probably. I'm planning a larger garden than ever. We can cut down on our
grocery bills if we raise more things at home."

"Don't try to do too much," Tom warned, "for we're depending on you as
the boss of this outfit now. I'll help you with the garden every chance I
get."

"I know you will," his mother replied, "but I thoroughly enjoy working
outdoors. If you'll take care of the potato patch, I'll be able to do the
rest and still find time to write a few social items for the paper."

"Did you get any today?" Helen asked.

"Nearly half a dozen. The Methodist Ladies Aid is planning a spring
festival, an afternoon of quilting and a chicken dinner in the evening
with everyone invited."

"And what a feed they put out," added Tom. "I'll have to see their
officers and get an ad for the paper."

Supper over and the dishes washed, dried and put away, Helen turned her
attention to finishing the letter to her father. Tom also sat down to
write a note and when they had finished Mrs. Blair put their letters in
the envelope with her own, sealed it and gave it to Helen.

Margaret Stevens stuck her head in the door.

"Going up to school for the sophomore-junior debate?" she asked.

"I've got to meet the seven-fifteen first," Helen replied. "I'll meet you
at school about seven-thirty."

"Wait a minute, Marg," said Tom. "I guess I'll go along and see just how
badly the sophomores are beaten. Of course you know you kids haven't got
a chance."

"Be careful, Tom," Helen warned. "Margaret is captain of our debate
team."

"Oh, that's all right," chuckled Tom. "No offense."

"It will be an offense, though," smiled Margaret, "and the juniors will
be on the receiving end of our verbal attack."

"Look out for a counter attack," Tom grinned.

"We'll be home early, mother," said Helen as they left the house.

"I hope the sophomores win," her mother said. "Tom and his juniors are
too sure of themselves."

The seven-fifteen coughed its way into town, showering the few people on
the platform with cinders. Helen ran to the mail car and dropped her
letter into the mail slot.

Mr. King, the state superintendent of instruction, was the only passenger
leaving but there were several Rolfe people getting off the train. She
got their names and stopped to talk a minute or two with the agent.

"I'll have some news for next week's paper," he told her, but refused to
say another word about the promised story and Helen went on to the high
school.

The assembly was well filled with students and a scattering of parents
whose children were taking part in the inter-class debate. The senior
debaters had already eliminated the freshmen and the winner of the
sophomore-junior debate would meet the seniors for the championship of
the school.

Helen looked around for a seat and was surprised to see her mother beside
Mrs. Stevens.

"I didn't know you planned to come," Helen said.

"I didn't," smiled her mother, "but just after you left Mrs. Stevens ran
over and I decided to come with her."

The debate was on the question of whether the state should adopt a paving
program which would reach every county. The sophomores supported the
affirmative and the juniors the negative. The question was of vital
interest for it was to come to a vote in July and, if approved, Rolfe
would get a place on the scenic highway which would run along the western
border of the state, through the beautiful lake country. It would mean an
increased tourist trade and more business for Rolfe.

Margaret had marshalled her facts into impressive arguments and the
weight of the evidence was with her team but the juniors threw up a smoke
screen of ridicule to hide their weaker facts and Helen felt her heart
sinking as the debate progressed. Margaret made the final rebuttal for
the sophomores and gave a masterful argument in favor of the paved road
program but the last junior speaker came back with a few humorous remarks
that could easily confuse the judges into mistaking brilliant humor for
facts.

The debate closed and the judges handed their slips with their decisions
to Superintendent Fowler. Every eye in the assembly watched the
superintendent as he unfolded the slips and jotted down the results. He
stood up behind his desk.

"The judges vote two to one in favor of the sophomores," he announced.

There was a burst of applause and students and parents crowded around the
victorious team to congratulate it. When it was all over, Mrs. Blair,
Mrs. Stevens, Margaret, Helen and Tom started home together.

"And we didn't have a chance," Margaret chided Tom.

"I still think we have the best team," insisted Tom. "The judges got a
little confused."

"If they were confused, Tom," his mother said, "it was by the juniors.
Your team didn't have the facts; they resorted to humor and ridicule. I
think it is a fine victory for the sophomores."

Tuesday morning Helen looked over the stories Margaret had written the
afternoon before and wrote a long story about the sophomore-junior
debate, stressing the arguments in favor of the paving program which the
sophomores had brought out. She was thoroughly in agreement and meant to
devote space in the _Herald_, both editorially and from a news
standpoint, to furthering the passage of the good roads program.

The farmer who had called the day before came in with his copy for the ad
and sale bills.

"I've talked over the farm page idea with my brother," Helen told him,
"and we'll get one started just as soon as he can find the time to go to
Gladbrook and see the county agent."

"I'm glad to hear that," replied the farmer, "and I'll pass the word
around to our neighbors. Also, if you had a column of news each week from
the courthouse it would help your paper. A lot of farmers take one of the
Gladbrook papers just for that reason. They want courthouse news and
can't get it in the _Herald_."

"We'll see about that, too," promised Helen.

She had almost forgotten that she was to write to the state bureau of the
Associated Press and apply for the job as correspondent for Rolfe and the
nearby vicinity. She wrote one letter, was dissatisfied, tore it up and
wrote a second and then a third before she was ready to mail it. As Tom
had said, it would be one way of increasing their income and at the same
time might help her to secure a job later.

Margaret finished her school stories after school that afternoon and
Helen visited all of the stores down town in search of personals. Several
fishermen had been fined for illegal fishing and she got that story from
the justice of the peace. She called on the ministers and got their
church notices.

Wednesday was their big day and Helen worked hard all morning writing her
personals. The main news stories about the storm, the visit of the state
superintendent and the high school debate were already in type and Tom
had finished setting most of the ads.

When Helen came down after school Tom called her into the composing room.
He had the ads for the two inside pages placed in the forms. One of the
pages they devoted to the editorials and the other they filled with
personal items about the comings and goings of local people.

The ads were placed well in the pages and when Tom finished putting in
the type he stood back and looked at his handiwork.

"I call that mighty good makeup," he said. "Pyramiding the ads on the
left side of the page makes them look better and then we always have news
on the right-hand side."

Helen agreed that the pages were well made up and Tom locked the type
into the steel forms, picked up one of the pages and carried it to the
press. The other page was put on and locked into place.

Tom washed his hands and climbed up to take his place on the press. The
paper for that issue of the _Herald_ had come down from Cranston the day
before with four pages, two and three and six and seven already printed.
Pages four and five, filled with local news and ads, were on the press.
Tom would get them printed in the next two hours and on Thursday
afternoon would make up and print page one and page eight.

He smoothed the stack of paper on the feeding board, put a little
glycerine on his fingers so he could pick up each sheet and feed it into
the press, and then threw on the switch. The motor hummed. Tom fed one
sheet into the press and pushed in the clutch. The press shook itself out
of its week-long slumber, groaned in protest at the thought of printing
another week's issue, but at the continued urging of the powerful motor,
clanked into motion.

"See how the ink looks," Tom called and Helen seized the first few
papers. Her brother stopped the press and climbed down to look over the
pages for possible corrections.

"Looks all right," he conceded as he scanned the cleanly printed page.

"Wonder how Dad will like our new editorial head and the three column box
head I set for your personals?"

"He'll like them," Helen said. "The only reason he didn't do things like
that was because he didn't have the strength."

Tom nodded, wiped a tear from his eyes, and went back to feeding the
press. Helen kept the papers stacked neatly as they came out and it was
nearly six o'clock before Tom finished the first run.

"We'll go home and get something to eat," he said, "and then come back.
I've got some more copy to set on the Linotype and you write your last
minute stories. Maybe we'll have time to make up part of the front page
before we go home tonight. I'd like to have you here and we'll write the
heads together and see how they look."

"Are you going to head all of the front page stories?" asked Helen.

"If I have time," Tom replied. "It improves the looks of the paper; makes
it look newsy and alive."

Supper was waiting for them when they reached home and Tom handed his
mother a copy of the two inside pages they had just printed.

"It looks fine," enthused Mrs. Blair, "and the ads are so well arranged
and attractive. Tom, you've certainly worked hard, and, Helen, I don't
see where you got so many personals."

"We're going to use your column of social news on page eight," Tom went
on. "It's on the last run and in that way we can be sure of getting in
all of your news."

"I have three more items," said his mother. "They're all written and
ready to be set up."

"We're going back for a while after supper," said Helen, "but I don't
think it will take us over a couple of hours to finish, do you, Tom?"

"About nine-thirty," replied Tom, who was devoting himself
whole-heartedly to a large baked potato.

When they returned to the office Helen finished the last of her items in
half an hour. By eight-thirty Tom had all of the news in type and had
made the necessary corrections from the proofs which Helen had read.

"We need a head for the storm story," he said. "A three line, three
column 30 point one ought to be about right. You jot one down on a sheet
of paper and I'll try and make it fit."

Helen worked several minutes on a headline. "This is the best I can do,"
she said:

                    "TORNADO CAUSES $150,000 DAMAGE
                     NEAR ROLFE SUNDAY; MISSES TOWN
                     BUT STRIKES RESORT ALONG LAKE"

"Sounds fine," Tom said. "Now I'll see how it fits." He set up the
headline and Helen wrote a two column one for the story of the Rolfe
school being the best for its size in the state.

Tom put the headlines on the front page and placed the stories under
them. Shorter stories, some of them written by Margaret, filled up the
page and they turned their attention to page eight, the last one to be
made up.

Their mother's social items led the page, followed by the church notices
and the last of Helen's personals.

"We've got about ten inches too much type," said Tom. "See if some of the
personals can't be left out and run next week."

Helen culled out six items that could be left out and Tom finished making
up the page. Tomorrow he would print the last two pages and Helen would
assemble the papers and fold them. Their first issue of the _Herald_ was
ready for the press.



                              CHAPTER VIII
                         _Mystery in the Night_


Helen and Tom hurried home from school Thursday noon, ate a hasty lunch
and then went on to the _Herald_ office to finish their task of putting
out their first issue of the paper.

Helen stopped at the postoffice for the mail and Tom went on to unlock
the office, put the pages on the press and start printing the last run.

In the mail Helen found a letter postmarked Rubio, Arizona, and in her
Father's familiar handwriting. She ran into the _Herald_ office and on
into the composing room where Tom was locking the last page on the old
flat-bed press.

"Tom," she cried, "here's a letter from Dad!"

"Open it," he replied. "Let's see what he has to say."

Helen was about to tear open the envelope when she paused.

"No," she decided. "Mother ought to be the one to read it first. I'll
call her and tell her it's here. She'll want to come down and get it."

"You're right," agreed Tom as he climbed up on the press. He turned on
the motor and threw in the clutch. The old machine clanked back and
forth, gathering momentum for the final run of the week.

Helen eagerly scanned the front page as it came off the press. It was
heavy with fresh ink but she thrilled at the makeup on page one. There
were her stories, the one about the tornado and the other about the high
standing of the local school. Tom's heads looked fine. The paper was
bright and newsy--easy to read. She hoped her Dad would be pleased.

With the final run on the press it was Helen's task to assemble and fold
the papers. She donned a heavy apron, piled the papers on one of the
makeup tables and placed a chair beside her. With arms moving
methodically, she started to work, folding the papers and sliding them
off the table onto the chair.

Tom had just got the press running smoothly when there was a grinding
crash followed by the groaning of the electric motor.

Helen turned quickly. Something might have happened to Tom. He might have
slipped off his stool and fallen into the machinery of the press.

But Tom was all right. He reached for the switch and shut off the power.

"What happened?" gasped Helen, her face still white from the shock.

"Breakdown," grunted Tom disgustedly. "This antique has been ready for
the junk pile for years but Dad never felt he could afford to get a new
one or even a good second-hand one."

"What will we do?" asked Helen anxiously. "We've got to get the paper
out."

"I'll run down to the garage and get Milt Pearsall to come over. He's a
fine mechanic and Dad has called on him before when things have gone
wrong with the press."

Tom hastened out and Helen resumed her task of folding the few papers
which had been printed before the breakdown. Everything had been going so
smoothly until this trouble. Now they might be delayed hours if the
trouble was anything serious.

She heard someone call from the office. It was her mother and she
hastened out of the composing room.

"Here's the letter," she said, pulling it out of a pocket in her dress.
"We knew you'd be anxious to hear."

"Why didn't you open it and then telephone me?" her mother asked.

"We could have done that," Helen admitted, "but we thought you'd like to
be the first to open and read it."

"You're so thoughtful," murmured her mother. With hands that trembled in
spite of her effort to be calm, she opened the letter and unfolded the
single page it contained. Helen waited, tense, until her mother had
finished.

"How's Dad?" she asked.

"His letter is very cheerful," replied Mrs. Blair, handing it to Helen.
"Naturally he is tired but he says the climate is invigorating and he
expects to feel better soon."

"Of course he will," agreed Helen.

"Where's Tom?"

"The press broke down and he went to the garage to get Milt Pearsall."

"I hope it's nothing serious," said her mother. "Is there something I can
do?"

"If you've got the time to spare, I'd like to have you look over our
first issue. Here's a copy."

Helen's mother scanned the paper with keen, critical eyes.

"It looks wonderful to me," she exclaimed. "I like the heads on the front
page and you've so many good stories. Tom did splendidly on the ads. How
proud your father will be when he gets a copy."

"I thought perhaps you'd like to write his address on a wrapper and we'll
put it in the mail tonight when the other papers go out," said Helen.

Mrs. Blair nodded and addressed the wrapper Helen supplied.

"If you're sure there's nothing I can do at the office," she said, "I'll
go on to the kensington at Mrs. Henderson's."

"Don't forget to pick up all the news you can at the party," cautioned
Helen.

"I won't," promised her mother.

Helen had just finished folding the papers when Tom returned with Milt
Pearsall.

The mechanic was a large, heavy-set man with a mop of unruly hair, eyes
that twinkled a merry blue, and lips that constantly smiled.

"Hello, Editor," he boomed. "Press broke again, Tom says. Huh, expected
it to happen most anytime. Well, let's see what's the matter."

He eased his bulk down under the press, dug into his tool kit for a
flashlight and wormed his way into the machinery.

"Get me the long wrench," he directed Tom.

The request complied with, there followed a number of thumps and whacks
of steel against steel, a groan as Pearsall bumped his head in the
crowded quarters, and finally a grunt of satisfaction.

The mechanic crawled from under the press, a smudge of ink across his
forehead. He wiped his hands thoughtfully.

"Some day," he ventured, "that old press is going to fall apart and I
won't be able to tease it back again."

"What was the trouble?" asked Tom.

"Cross bar slipped out of place and dropped down so it caught and held
the bed of the press from moving. Good thing you shut off the power or
you might have snapped that rod. Then we'd have been out of luck until I
could have made a new one."

"How much will it be?" Tom asked.

The big mechanic grinned.

"Oh, that's all right, Tom," he chuckled. "Just forget to send me a bill
for my subscription. That's the way your Dad and I did."

"Thanks a lot for helping us out," said Tom, "and I'll see that you don't
get a subscription dun."

Tom climbed back to his place on the press, turned on the power and eased
the clutch in gently. Helen watched anxiously, afraid that they might
have another breakdown but the old machine clanked along steadily and she
picked up the mounting pile of papers and returned to her task of
folding.

Paper after paper she assembled, folded and slid onto the pile on the
chair. When the chair overflowed with papers she stopped and carried them
into the editorial office and piled them on the floor.

Tom finished his press run and went into the editorial office to get out
their old hand mailer and start running the papers through to stamp the
names and addresses on each one.

After an hour of steady folding Helen's arms ached so severely she
stopped working and went into the editorial office.

"Getting tired?" Tom asked.

She nodded.

"You run the mailer for a while and I'll fold papers," said her brother.
"That will give you a rest."

Helen agreed and they switched work. She clicked the papers through the
mailer at a steady pace.

"Papers ready?" called the postmaster from his office in the front half
of the _Herald_ building.

"The city list is stamped and ready," replied Helen. "I'll bring them in
right away."

"Never mind," said Mr. Hughes, "I'll save you a trip."

"Matter of fact," continued the postmaster when he entered the office, "I
wanted to see what kind of an issue you two kids got out."

Helen handed him an unstamped paper and he sat down in the one vacant
chair. She valued the old postmaster's friendship highly and awaited his
comment with unusual interest.

"One of the best issues of the _Herald_ I've ever seen," he enthused when
he had finished looking over the paper. "Your stories have got all your
Dad's 'get up and go' and these headlines are something new for the
_Herald_. Believe I like 'em."

"Some people may not," said Helen, "so we'll appreciate all of the
boosting you do."

"I'll do plenty," he chuckled as he picked up an armful of papers and
returned to the postoffice.

Margaret Stevens bustled in after school in time to help carry the last
of the papers to the postoffice and she insisted on sweeping out the
editorial office.

"You're just 'white' tired," she scolded Helen. "Sit down and I'll swing
this broom a few times."

"I am a little tired," admitted Helen. "How about you, Tom?"

"Me for bed just as soon as I get home and have something to eat," agreed
her brother. "Guess we were all worked up and nervous over our first
issue."

"You were a real help, Margaret," said Helen, "and I hope you'll like
reporting well enough to stick with us."

"I'm crazy about it," replied Margaret, wielding the broom with new
vigor.

Conversation among the sophomores the next morning at school was devoted
solely to the class picnic in the afternoon. The refreshment committee
had been busy and each member of the class was to furnish one thing.
Helen was to bring pickles and Margaret's mother was baking a large
chocolate cake.

The class was dismissed at noon for the rest of the day, to meet again at
one o'clock at Jim Preston's boat landing for the trip down the lake to
the picnic grounds on Linder's farm.

There were 18 in the sophomore class and it was necessary for the boatman
to make two trips with the _Liberty_ to transport them to the picnic
grounds. Helen and Margaret were in the first boat load and were the
first ones out on the sandy beach at Linder's. The rambling old
farmhouse, famous for its home cooked chicken dinners, set back several
hundred feet from the lake shore. To the left of the farm was a dense
grove of maples. The picnic was to be along the shore just in front of
the maples where there was ample shade to protect the group from the warm
rays of the sun.

Miss Carver, the class advisor, rented two rowboats at Linder's, and the
class took turns enjoying cruises along the shore, hunting unusual rocks
and shells for their collection at school.

The day previous Miss Carver and another teacher had come down the lake
and made arrangements for a treasure hunt. The first clue was to be
revealed at three o'clock and the class, divided into two groups, was to
compete to see which group could find the hidden treasure. The first clue
took them to the Linder farmyard, the second through the maples to an old
sugarhouse, and the third brought them out of the timber and along a
meadow where placid dairy cattle looked at them with wondering eyes. The
fourth clue was found along the stream which cut through the meadow and
Helen, leading one group, turned back toward the lake. A breeze was
freshening out of the west and the sun dropped rapidly toward the shadows
which were enfolding the hills.

The final clue took them back to their picnic ground and they arrived
just ahead of Margaret and her followers to claim the prize, a two pound
box of chocolates.

Miss Carver had laid out the baskets and hampers of food and the girls,
helped by the boys in their clumsy way, started serving the supper.

One of the boys built a bonfire and with the coming of twilight and the
cooling of the air its warmth felt good. The flames chased the shadows
back toward the timber and sent dancing reflections out on the ruffled
waters of Lake Dubar.

The afternoon in the open had whetted their appetites and they enjoyed
their meal to the fullest. Thick, spicy sandwiches disappeared as if by
magic, pickles followed in quick order and the mounds of potato salad
melted away.

They stopped for a second wind before attacking the cakes and cookies but
when those fortresses of food had been conquered the boys cut and
sharpened sticks and the girls opened a large sack of marshmallows.

More wood was heaped on the fire and they gathered around the flames to
toast the soft, white cubes.

With the wind whispering through the trees and the steady lap, lap, lap
of the waves on the shore, it was the hour for stories and they settled
back from the fire to listen to Miss Carver, whose reputation as a story
teller was unexcelled.

"It was a night like this," she started, "and a class something like this
one was on a picnic. After supper they sat down at the fire to tell ghost
stories, each one trying to outdo the other in the horror of the things
they told."

From somewhere through the night came a long drawn out cry rising from a
soft note to a high crescendo that sent shivers running up and down the
back of everyone at the fireside.

Helen laughed.

"It's only the whistle of a freight train," she assured the others, but
they all moved closer to the fire.

"While they told stories," went on Miss Carver, "the blackness of the
night increased, the stars faded and over all there was a canopy of such
darkness as had never been seen before. The wind moaned dismally like a
lost soul and the waters of the lake, white-capped by the breeze,
chattered against the rocky beach. The last ghost story was being told by
one of the boys. He told how people disappeared as if by magic, leaving
no trace behind them, uttering no sound. Some of the other stories had
been surprising, but this one gave the class the creeps and everyone
turned to see if the others were there."

Involuntarily Helen reached out to clasp Margaret's hand and when she
failed to find it, turned to the spot where Margaret had been sitting
beside her a few minutes before.

Margaret had disappeared!



                               CHAPTER IX
                         _Rescue on Lake Dubar_


Helen stared hard at the place where her friend should have been. Had the
magic of Miss Carver's story been so strong that she was imagining
things? She rubbed her eyes and looked again. There was no mistake.
Margaret had disappeared!

Helen's cry caught the attention of the other members of the class and
Miss Carver stopped her story.

"What's the matter, Helen?" the teacher asked.

"Look," cried Helen dazedly, pointing to the spot where Margaret had been
sitting, "Margaret's gone!"

Miss Carver's eyes widened and she gave a little shudder. Then she smiled
to reassure Helen and the other members of the class.

"Probably Margaret slipped away and is hiding just to add a thrill to my
ghost story. I'll call her."

"Margaret, oh, Margaret!" The teacher's voice rang through the night. She
cupped her hands and called again when there was no response to her first
one. Once more she called but still there was no answer from the massed
maples behind them or the dark waters of the lake.

"This is more than a joke," muttered Ned Burns, the class president.
"We'd better get out and have a look around."

He stepped toward the fire, threw on an armful of fresh, dry sticks, and
the flames leaped higher, throwing their reflection further into the
night.

"We'll take a look into the woods," he told Miss Carver, "and you and the
girls hunt along the lake shore. Margaret might have fallen and hurt
herself."

Miss Carver agreed and the girls gathered around her. There was a queer
tightness in Helen's throat and a tugging at her heart that unnerved
her--a vague, pressing fear that something was decidedly wrong with
Margaret.

The boys disappeared into the shadows of the timber and the girls turned
toward the lake shore.

They had just started their search when Miss Carver made an important
discovery.

"Girls," she cried, "One of the rowboats we rented this afternoon is
missing!"

Helen ran toward the spot, the other girls crowding around her. They
could make out the marks of the boat's keel in the sand and a girl's
footprints.

"Those prints were made by Margaret's shoes," said Helen. "You can see
the marks of the heel plates she has on her oxfords."

"We'll call the boys," said Miss Carver, and Helen thought she detected a
real note of alarm in the teacher's voice although Miss Carver was making
every possible effort to appear calm.

When the boys arrived, Miss Carver told them of their discovery and Ned
Burns took charge of the situation.

"We'll get in the other rowboat," he said, "and start looking for
Margaret. In the meantime, someone must go up to Linder's farmhouse and
telephone town. Margaret's father ought to know she's out on the lake in
the boat. Also call Jim Preston and if he hasn't started down with the
_Liberty_, have him come at once."

"I'll go to the farm," volunteered Helen.

"O. K.," nodded Ned as he selected two other boys to accompany him in the
rowboat. They pushed off the sandy beach, dropped the oars in the locks,
and splashed away into the night.

"Don't you want someone to go to the farmhouse with you?" Miss Carver
asked Helen.

But Helen shook her head and ran up the beach. She didn't want anyone
with her; she wanted to be alone. The other girls didn't realize the
seriousness of the situation. She could understand what Margaret had
done. Realizing that Miss Carver would tell them a first rate thriller of
a ghost story, Margaret had decided to add an extra thrill by
disappearing for a few minutes. But something had gone wrong and she
hadn't been able to get back.

Helen paused and looked over the black, mysterious waters of Lake Dubar.
What secret were they keeping from her? Thoughts of what might have
happened to Margaret brought the queer, choky sobs again and she ran on
toward Linder's where the welcome glow of light showed through the
windows of the farmhouse.

Old Mr. Linder came to the door in answer to Helen's quick, insistent
knocks.

"What's the matter, young Lady?" he asked, peering at her through the
mellow radiance of the kerosene lamp which he held in one hand.

"I'm Helen Blair," she explained, "and one of my classmates has
disappeared from our picnic party down the beach. One of the boats we
rented from you is missing and we're sure Margaret is adrift on the lake
and unable to get back. I'd like to use your telephone to let her father
know and to call Jim Preston."

"Why, certainly," said Mr. Linder, "I don't wonder at your hurry. Come
right in and use the phone. Who did you say the girl was?"

"Margaret Stevens," Helen replied.

"Must be Doctor Stevens' daughter," said the farmer.

"She is," Helen replied, as she reached the telephone in the hallway.

While Helen was ringing for the operator at Rolfe, Mr. Linder stuck his
head in the living room.

"Mother," he said, "Doctor Stevens' daughter is adrift somewhere on the
lake in one of our boats. I'm going down and see if I can help find her."

Mrs. Linder came into the hall and Helen heard her husband telling her
what had happened. Then the Rolfe operator answered and Helen gave her
the number of Doctor Stevens' office.

The doctor answered almost instantly and Helen, phrasing her sentences as
tactfully as possible so as not to unduly alarm the doctor, told him what
had happened.

"Sounds just like Margaret," he snorted. "I'll be right down. Now don't
worry too much, Helen," he added.

"I won't, Doctor Stevens," promised Helen with a shaky attempt at
cheerfulness.

Then she called Jim Preston's home and learned that he had left fifteen
minutes before and should be almost down to Linder's.

"We'll go down to the landing and wait for Jim," said Mr. Linder as he
lighted a lantern he had brought from the kitchen.

"Everything will come out all right," Mrs. Linder assured Helen.

The farmer led the way down to the landing. The wind was freshening
rapidly and Helen saw Mr. Linder anxiously watching the white caps which
were pounding against the sandy beach.

Down the beach their picnic campfire was a red glow and Helen could see
Miss Hughes and the girls huddled around it. The boys who had not
accompanied Ned Burns were walking up and down along the shore.

She turned and looked up the lake. Two lights, one red and one green, the
markers of the _Liberty_, were coming down the lake.

"Jim Preston will be here in another minute," said Mr. Linder, "and with
the searchlight he's got on the _Liberty_ it won't take us long to find
Doctor Stevens' daughter."

Helen nodded miserably as the _Liberty_ slowed down and swung its nose
toward the Linder pier. There was the grinding of the reverse gear as Jim
Preston checked the speed of his boat and left it drift against the pier.

"Don't shut it off, Jim," cried the farmer. "Doc Stevens' daughter is
adrift in the lake in one of my rowboats. We've got to go out and look
for her."

They climbed into the boat and Jim Preston backed the _Liberty_ away from
the pier.

"How did it happen?" he asked Helen. She told him briefly and he shook
his head, as though to say, "too bad, it's getting to be a nasty night on
the lake."

The boatman opened the throttle, the motor roared its response and the
_Liberty_ leaped ahead and down the lake. They ran parallel to the shore
until they were opposite the picnic ground. There Jim Preston slowed
down, got the direction of the wind, and turned the nose of the _Liberty_
toward the open and now wind-tossed lake. He snapped on the switch and a
crackling, blue beam of light cut a path ahead of the boat.

"Keep the searchlight moving," he directed the farmer, who stood up in
the _Liberty_, his hands on the handles of the big, nickel lamp.

The boatman held the _Liberty_ at about one third speed and they moved
almost directly across the lake while Mr. Linder kept the searchlight
swinging in an arc to cover the largest possible area.

A third of the way across they sighted a boat far to their right and Jim
Preston swung the nose of the _Liberty_ around sharply and opened the
throttle. They sliced through the white caps at a pace that drenched them
with the flying spray but they were too intent on reaching the distant
boat to stop and put up the spray boards.

Helen's keen eyes were the first to identify the boat.

"It's the boys," she cried. "They're beckoning us on."

Jim Preston checked the _Liberty_ carefully and nosed alongside the
tossing rowboat.

"No sign of Margaret," admitted Ned Burns, "and the lake's getting too
rough for us to stay out much longer. We've had half a dozen waves break
over us now."

"Better get in with us," advised Preston.

"Hand me the oars," said Mr. Linder, "and we'll let the rowboat drift.
I'll pick it up in the morning."

The boys tossed their oars into the _Liberty_ and scrambled up into the
motorboat.

Jim Preston threw in the clutch and the _Liberty_ leaped ahead to resume
its search for Margaret. Helen's lips were dry and fevered despite the
steady showers of spray and her heart hammered madly. Lake Dubar had
always had a nasty reputation for ugliness in a fresh, sharp wind but
Helen had never before realized its true danger and what a lost and
helpless feeling one could have on it at night, especially when a friend
was missing.

There was no conversation as the _Liberty_ continued across the choppy
expanse of the lake. The searchlight picked up the far shore of the lake
with the waves hammering against the rocks which lined that particular
section. It was a grim, unnerving picture and Helen saw Jim Preston's jaw
harden as he swung the _Liberty_ around the cross back to Linder's side
of the lake.

Back and forth the searchlight swung in its steady, never tiring arc, but
it revealed only the danger of Lake Dubar at night. There was no sign of
Margaret.

They reached the shore from which they had started and turned around for
a third trip across the lake. This time they slapped through the waves at
twenty-five miles an hour and every eye was trained to watch for some
sign of the missing boat and girl.

Helen caught a flash of white just as the searchlight reached the end of
its arc.

"Wait!" she cried. "I saw something far to the right."

Preston slapped the wheel of the _Liberty_ over and the speedboat roared
away in the direction Helen pointed, its questing searchlight combing the
waves.

"There it is again," Helen cried and pointed straight ahead where they
could discern some object half hidden by the waves.

"That's one of my boats," muttered old Mr. Linder as they drew nearer,
"but it doesn't look like there was anyone in it."

"Don't, don't say that!" cried Helen. "There must be someone there.
Margaret must be in it!"

In her heart she knew Mr. Linder was right. The boat was rolling in the
choppy waves and there was no one visible.

"It's half full of water," exclaimed Ned Burns as they drew nearer and
Jim Preston throttled down the _Liberty_ and eased in the clutch.

Helen pushed them aside and stared at the rowboat, fully revealed in the
glaring rays of the searchlight. Tragedy was dancing on the waters of
Lake Dubar that night, threatening to write an indelible chapter on the
hearts of Helen and her classmates for there was no sign of Margaret in
the boat.

"Maybe she shoved the boat out into the lake and hid in the woods," said
Ned Burns.

"She wouldn't do that," protested Helen.

They edged nearer the rowboat, Preston handling the _Liberty_ with care
lest the waves created by the boat's powerful propeller capsize the
smaller boat.

"There's something or someone in the back end," cried Ned Burns, who was
three or four inches taller than anyone else in the boat.

Helen stood on tip-toe.

"It's Margaret," she cried. "Something's wrong. It looks like she's
asleep."

But sleep in a water-logged rowboat in the middle of Lake Dubar was out
of the question and Helen realized instantly that something unusual had
happened to Margaret, something which would explain the whole joke which
had turned out to be such a ghastly nightmare.

Jim Preston eased the _Liberty_ alongside the rowboat and Mr. Linder
reached down and picked Margaret up. There was a dark bruise over her
left eye and her clothes were soaked.

The boatman found an old blanket in one of the lockers and they wrapped
Margaret in it and pillowed her head in Helen's lap.

Margaret's eyes were closed tightly but she was breathing slowly and her
pulse was irregular.

"Hurry," Helen whispered to Jim Preston. "Head for Linder's. Her father
will be there by this time."

The boatman sensed the alarm in Helen's words and he jerked open the
throttle of the _Liberty_ and sent the boat racing through the night. In
less than five minutes they were slowing down for the pier. The lights of
a car were at the shore end of the landing and someone with an electric
torch was awaiting their arrival. It was Doctor Stevens, pacing along the
planks of the landing stage.

"Have you found Margaret?" he cried as the _Liberty_ sidled up to the
pier.

"Got her right here," replied Jim Preston, "but she's got a bad bump on
her head."

Doctor Stevens jumped into the boat and turned his flashlight on
Margaret's face. Helen saw his lips tighten into a thin straight line. He
felt her pulse.

"Run ahead," he told Ned Burns, "and tell Mother Linder to open one of
those spare beds of hers and get me plenty of hot water."

He stooped and picked Margaret up in his arms, carrying her like a baby.
Mr. Linder hurried ahead to light the way.

Helen stopped to talk with Jim Preston for a moment.

"I think you'd better take the class home," she said. "There's nothing
more they can do here."

"Will you go back with them now?" asked the boatman.

"No, I'm going to stay here tonight. I'll phone mother."

Helen turned and ran toward the farmhouse. Inside there was an air of
quiet, suppressed activity.

Doctor Stevens had carried Margaret into the large downstairs bedroom
which Mother Linder reserved for company occasions. Two kerosene lamps on
a table beside the bed gave a rich light which softened the pallor of
Margaret's cheeks.

Doctor Stevens was busy with an injection from a hypodermic needle,
working as though against time. Tragedy had danced on the tips of the
waves a few minutes earlier but how close it came to entering the
farmhouse only Doctor Stevens knew at that hour for Margaret's strength,
sapped by the terrifying experience on the lake, was near the breaking
point and only the injection of a strong heart stimulant saved her life.

Two hours later, hours which had been ages long to Helen as she sat
beside the bed with the doctor, Margaret opened her eyes.

"Don't talk, Marg," begged Helen. "Everything is all right. You're in a
bedroom at the Linders and your father is here with you."

Margaret nodded slightly and closed her eyes. It was another hour before
she moved again and when she did Mother Linder was at hand with a
steaming bowl of chicken broth. The nourishing food plus the hour of calm
sleep had partially restored Margaret's strength and when she had
finished the broth she sat up in bed.

"I've been such a little fool," she said, but her father patted her hand.

"Don't apologize for what's happened," he said. "We're just supremely
happy to have you here," his voice so low that only Margaret and Helen
heard him.

"I thought it would be a good joke to disappear when Miss Carver started
telling the ghost story," explained Margaret. "I got the boat out into
the lake without anyone seeing me and let it drift several hundred feet.
When I tried to put the oars in the locks I stumbled, dropped them
overboard and that's the last I knew, except that for hours I was
falling, falling, falling, and always there was the noise of the waves."

Margaret slipped back into a deep, restful sleep when she had finished
her story. Helen, worn by the hours of tension, slid out of her chair and
onto the floor, and when Doctor Stevens picked her up she was sound
asleep.



                               CHAPTER X
                        _Behind the Footlights_


By the first of the following week the near tragedy of the picnic seemed
only a terrible nightmare to Helen and Margaret and they devoted all of
their extra time to helping Tom get out the next edition of the _Herald_.

Monday morning's mail brought a long letter from Helen's father, a letter
in which he praised them warmly for their first edition of the _Herald_.
He added that he had recovered from the fatigue of his long trip into the
southwest and was feeling much stronger and a great deal more cheerful.
The newsy letter brightened the whole atmosphere of the Blair home and
for the first time since their father had left, Tom and Helen saw their
mother like her old self, smiling, happy and humming little tunes as she
worked about the house.

Events crowded one on another as the school year neared its close. There
were final examinations, the junior-senior banquet, the annual sophomore
party and finally, graduation exercises.

The seniors had been rehearsing their play, "The Spell of the Image," for
a month and for the final week had engaged a special dramatic instructor
from Cranston to put the finishing touches on the cast. Helen had read
the play several times. It was a comedy-drama concerning the finding of
an ancient and valuable string of pearls in an old image. It had action,
mystery and romance and she thrilled when she thought that in two more
years she would be in her own class play.

The dramatic instructor arrived. She was Anne Weeks, a slender,
dark-haired girl of 25 who had attended the state university and majored
in dramatics. Every boy in high school promptly thought he was in love
with her.

The seniors rehearsed their parts every spare hour and every evening. The
play was to go on Thursday night with the graduation exercises Friday
evening.

Dress rehearsal was called for Tuesday and Helen went down to the opera
house to peek in and see how it was going. She found a disconsolate cast
sitting around the stage, looking gloomily at Miss Weeks.

"This looks more like a party of mourners than a play practice," observed
Helen.

"It's just about that bad," replied Miss Weeks. "Sarah Jacobs has come
down with a severe cold and can't talk, which leaves us in a fine
pickle."

"Won't she be able to go on Thursday night?"

"It will be at least a week before she'll be able to use her voice for a
whole evening," Miss Weeks said. "In the meantime, we've got to find
another girl, about Sarah's size, to play her part and every member of
the senior class is in the play now."

She stopped suddenly and looked at Helen.

"You're about Sarah's size," she mused, "and you're blonde and you have
blue eyes. You'll do, Helen."

"Do for what?" asked the astounded Helen.

"Why, for Sarah's part," exclaimed Miss Weeks. "Come now, hurry up and
get into Sarah's costume," and she pointed to a dainty colonial dress
which the unfortunate Sarah was to have worn in the prologue.

"But I don't know Sarah's part well enough," said Helen. "I've only read
the play twice and then just for fun."

"You'll catch on," said Miss Weeks, "if you're half as smart as I think
you are."

"Go on, Helen," urged the seniors. "Help us out. We've got to put the
play across or we'll never have enough money to pay Miss Weeks."

"Now you know why I'm so anxious for you to take the part," smiled the
play instructor.

"I'll do my best," promised Helen, gathering the costume under her arm
and hurrying toward the girls' dressing room.

Ten minutes later she emerged as a dainty colonial dame. Miss Weeks
stared hard at her and then smiled an eminently satisfactory smile.

"Now if she can only get the lines in two nights," she whispered to
herself.

Helen's reading of the play had given her a thorough understanding of the
action and they went through the prologue without a slip. Scenery was
shifted rapidly and the stage changed from a colonial ballroom to a
modern garden scene. Costumes kept up with the scenery and when the
members of the cast reappeared on the stage they were dressed in modern
clothes.

Helen poured over the pages of the play book and because she had only a
minor part in the first act, got through it nicely. The second act was
her big scene and she was decidedly nervous when it came time for her
cue. One of the seniors was to make love to her and she didn't especially
like him. But the play was the thing and the seniors certainly did need
someone to take the vacant part.

She screwed up her courage and played the rôle for all it was worth. Once
she forgot her lines but she managed to fake a little conversation and
they got back to the regular lines without trouble.

When the curtain was rung down on the third act Miss Weeks stepped out of
the orchestra pit where she had been directing the changes in minor
details of the action and came over to Helen.

"You're doing splendidly," she told the young editor of the _Herald_.
"Don't worry about lines. Read them over thoroughly sometime tomorrow and
we'll put the finishing touches on tomorrow night."

When Helen reached home Tom had returned from the office, his work done
for the night.

"Thought you were just going down the street to see how play practice was
coming?" he said.

"I did," Helen replied, "and I'm so thrilled, Tom. Sarah Jacobs, who has
the juvenile lead in the play is ill with a sore throat and Miss Weeks
asked me to take the part."

"Are you going to?"

"I have," smiled Helen. "That's where I've been. Rehearsing for the play
Thursday night."

"Well, you're a fine editor," growled Tom. "How am I going to get out the
paper?"

"Oh, you don't need to worry about copy," Helen assured him. "Margaret
has half a dozen stories to turn in tomorrow noon and I'll have all of
mine written by supper time. And I'll do my usual work Thursday
afternoon."

"I was just kidding," grinned Tom. "I think it's great that Miss Weeks
picked you to fill in during the emergency. Quite a compliment, I say."

Helen's mother, who had been across the street at the Stevens', came home
and Helen had to tell her story over again.

"What about your costumes?" asked her mother.

"The class rents the colonial dress for the prologue," explained Helen,
"and for the other acts Miss Weeks is going to loan me some smart frocks
from her own wardrobe. We're practically the same size."

"What a break for you," Tom laughed. "You'll be the smartest dressed girl
in the class if I know anything about Miss Weeks."

"Which you don't!" retorted his sister.

Helen's regular Wednesday morning round of news gathering took her to the
depot to meet the nine forty-five and she found the agent waiting.

"Remember I promised you a story this week?" he said.

"I'm ready to take it," Helen smiled. "What we want is news, more news
and then more news."

"This is really a good story," the railroad man assured her. "Wait until
you see the nine forty-five."

"What's the matter? Is it two or three hours late?"

"It will be in right on time," the agent promised.

Helen sat down on a box on the platform to await the arrival of the
morning local. Resting there in the warm sunshine, she pulled her copy of
the play book out of her pocket and read the second act, with her big
scene, carefully. The words were natural enough and she felt that she
would have little trouble remembering them.

She glanced at the depot clock. It was nine forty. The local should be
whistling for the crossing down the valley. She looked in the direction
from which the train was coming. There was no sign of smoke and she knew
it would be late.

She had picked up her play book and turned to the third act when a mellow
chime echoed through the valley. It was like a locomotive whistle and yet
unlike one.

"New whistle on the old engine?" Helen asked the agent.

"More than that," he grinned.

The _Herald's_ editor watched for the train to swing into sight around a
curve but instead of the black, stubby snout of the regular passenger
engine, a train of three cars, seemingly moving without a locomotive,
appeared and rolled smoothly toward the station.

As it came nearer Helen could hear the low roar of a powerful gasoline
engine, which gradually dropped to a sputtering series of coughs as the
three car train drew abreast the station.

"Latest thing in local trains," exclaimed the agent. "It's a gas-electric
outfit with the motive power in the front end of the first car. Fast,
clean and smooth and it's economical to run. Don't take a fireman."

Helen jotted down hasty notes. Everyone in the town and countryside would
be interested in seeing and reading about the new train.

The agent gave Helen a hand into the cab where the engineer obligingly
explained the operation of the gas-electric engine.

The conductor called "All aboo-ord," and Helen climbed down out of the
cab.

The gasoline engine sputtered as it took up the load of starting the
train. When the cars were once under way, it settled down to a steady
rumble and the train picked up speed rapidly and rolled out of town on
its way to the state capital.

"What do you think of it?" asked the agent.

"It's certainly a fine piece of equipment," said Helen, "but I hate to
see the old steam engines go. There's something much more romantic about
them than these new trains."

"Oh, we'll have steam on the freight trains," the agent hastened to add.
"Give us a good write up."

"I will," Helen promised as she started for the _Herald_ office to write
her story of the passing of the steam passenger trains on the branch
line.

Margaret came in with a handful of school stories she had written during
an assembly hour.

"Congratulations," she said to Helen. "I've just heard about your part.
You'll put it across."

"I'm glad you think so, Marg, for I'd hate to make a fizzle of it."

Helen finished writing her copy for the paper that afternoon after school
and before she went home to supper with Tom wrote the headlines for the
main stories on page one.

"Did you write a story about the sophomore picnic and what happened to
Margaret?" asked Tom.

"It's with the copy I just put on your machine," Helen replied. "Everyone
knows something about it and of course there is a lot of talk. I've seen
Doctor Stevens and Margaret and they both agree that a story is necessary
and that the simple truth is the best thing to say with no apologies and
nothing covered up."

"Doc Stevens is a brick," exclaimed Tom. "Most men would raise the very
dickens if such a story were printed but it will stop idle talk which is
certainly much worse than having the truth known."

"That's the way he feels," Helen said.

Margaret came over after supper to go down to the opera house with Helen
for play practice.

"I'm getting almost as big a thrill out of it as Helen," she told Mrs.
Blair, "only I wouldn't be able to put it across and Helen can."

Miss Weeks had brought three dresses for Helen to wear, one for each act
in the play. They were dainty, colorful frocks that went well with
Helen's blondness.

The stage was set with all of the properties for the prologue and Helen
hastened into the girl's dressing room to put on her colonial costume.
When she returned to the stage, Miss Weeks was addressing the cast.

"Remember," she warned them, "that this is the last rehearsal. Everything
is just as it will be tomorrow night. Imagine the audience is here
tonight. Play up to them."

The main curtain was dropped, the house lights went off and the battery
of brilliant electrics in the footlights blazed.

The curtain moved slightly; then went up smoothly and disappeared in the
darkness above the stage. The play was on.

The prologue went smoothly and without a mistake and when the curtain
dropped the stage became a scene of feverish activity.

"Five minutes to change," Miss Weeks warned them as they went to their
dressing rooms.

For the first act Helen was to wear a white sport dress with a blazing
red scarf knotted loosely around her neck. She wiggled into her outfit,
brushed her hair with deft hands, dabbed fresh powder on her cheeks,
touched up her lips with scarlet and was ready for her cue. She said her
lines with an ease and clearness that surprised even herself and was back
in the wings and on her way to the dressing room almost before she knew
it.

In the second act Helen had her big part and Miss Weeks had provided a
black, velvet semiformal afternoon gown. It was fashioned in plain,
clinging lines, caught around the waist with a single belt of braided
cloth of gold and with the neckline trimmed in the same material. Golden
slippers and hose and one bracelet, a heavy, imitation gold band,
completed the accessories.

Between acts Miss Weeks came into see how the costume fitted.

"Why, Helen," she exclaimed. "You're gorgeous--beautiful. Every boy in
town will be crazy about you."

"I'll worry about that later," Helen replied. "But I'm so glad you think
I look all right."

"You're perfectly adorable."

The praise from Miss Weeks buoyed Helen with an inner courage that made
her fairly sparkle and she played her part for all it was worth. Again
she forgot her lines but she managed to escape by faking conversation.

When the rehearsal was over, Margaret hastened to the stage.

"You'll be the hit of the show," she whispered to Helen. "And think of
it, one of the sophomores running away with the seniors play."

"But I don't intend to do that," Helen replied. "I'm only here to help
them out. Besides, I may forget my lines and make some terrible mistake
tomorrow night."

"You'll do nothing of the kind," Margaret insisted, as they left the
theater.

Thursday was Helen's busy day. Final examinations for two periods in the
morning and then to the office after lunch to help Tom fold and mail the
week's edition of the _Herald_.

Tom had put the two pages for the last run on the press before going home
for lunch so when they returned the press was ready for the afternoon's
work.

Advertising had not been quite as heavy as the first week and Tom had
used every line of copy Helen had written, but the paper looked clean and
readable.

Helen stacked the papers on the makeup table and started folding. When
Tom finished the press run he folded while Helen started stamping the
names of the subscribers on the papers. By four o'clock every paper was
in the postoffice and half an hour later they were ready to call it a day
and lock up the office.

When Helen reached home her mother made her go to her room and rest for
an hour before supper.

They were eating when Margaret hurried in.

"Here are your tickets," she told Mrs. Blair. "I managed to get them
exchanged so we'll all be together."

"But I thought you had decided not to go to the play?" Helen said to her
mother.

"That was before you had a part in it," smiled Mrs. Blair.

"Where are you going to sit?"

"You don't want to know," put in Tom. "If you did, it would make you
nervous. It's bad enough to know that we'll be there."

The cast had been called to meet on the stage at seven-fifteen for last
minute instructions. The curtain was at eight-fifteen and that would give
them an hour to dress and get into makeup.

Miss Weeks had little to say when she faced the group of seniors and the
lone sophomore.

"Remember that this is no different from last night's rehearsal," she
told them. "Play up to each other. If you forget a few lines, fake the
conversation until you can get back to your cues. You will disappoint me
greatly if you don't put on the best senior play ever given in Rolfe."

Then they were swept away in the rush of last minute preparations for the
first call. The girl's dressing room was filled with the excited chatter
of a dozen girls and the air was thick with the smell of grease paint and
powder. Colonial costumes came out of the large wardrobe which filled one
side of the room and there was the crisp rustle of silk as the girls
donned their costumes. Miss Weeks moved through the room, adding a touch
of makeup here and taking off a bit where some over-zealous young actress
had been too enthusiastic.

"Ten minutes," Miss Weeks warned the girls. "Everyone out and on the
stage."

There was a general checkup on costumes and stage properties. Through the
heavy curtain Helen heard the high school orchestra swing into the
overture. The electrician moved the rheostat which dimmed the house
lights. The banks of electrics in the flies about the stage awoke into
glaring brilliance as the overture reached its crescendo. The stage was
very quiet. Everyone was ready for the curtain.

All eyes were on Miss Weeks and Helen felt a last second flutter of her
heart. In another second or two she would be in the full glare of the
footlights. She was thankful that she had only a few lines in the
prologue. It would give her time to gain a stage composure and prepare
for her big scene in the second act.

Miss Weeks' hand moved. The man at the curtain shifted and it started
slowly upward. Helen blinked involuntarily as she faced the full glare of
the footlights. Beyond them she could see only a sea of faces, extending
row on row toward the back of the theater. Somewhere out there her mother
and Tom would be watching her. And with them would be Margaret and her
parents.

The play was on and Helen forgot her first nervousness. Dainty colonial
dames moved about the stage and curtsied before gallant white-wigged
gentlemen. The prologue was short but colorful. Just enough to reveal
that a precious string of pearls had been hidden in the ugly little image
which reposed so calmly on a pedestal.

As the curtain descended, a wave of applause reached the stage. It was
ardent and prolonged and Miss Weeks motioned for the cast to remain in
their places. The curtain ascended half way and the cast curtsied before
it descended again.

"You're doing splendidly," Miss Weeks told them. "Now everyone to the
dressing rooms to change for the first act. Be back on the stage ready to
go in five minutes."

The girls flocked to the dressing room. Colonial costumes disappeared and
modern dresses took their place. Helen slipped into her white sport
outfit with the scarlet scarf. Her cheeks burned with the excitement of
the hour. She dabbed her face with a powder puff and returned to the
stage. The scenery had been shifted for the first act and the curtain
went up on time to the second.

Helen felt much easier. Her first feeling of stage fright had disappeared
and she knew she was the master of her own emotions. She refused to think
of the possibility of forgetting her lines and resolved to put herself
into the character she was playing and do and act in the coming
situations, as that character would do.

Helen was on the stage only a few minutes during the first act and she
had ample time to change for the second. The dressing room was almost
deserted and she took her time. The heavy, black velvet dress Miss Weeks
had loaned her was entrancing in its rich beauty and distinctiveness.

She combed her blond hair until it looked like burnished gold. Then she
pulled it back and caught it at the nape of her neck. It was the most
simple hair dress possible but the most effective in its sheer
simplicity.

Other girls crowded into the room. The first act was over. Miss Weeks
came in and Helen stood up.

"Wonderful, Helen, wonderful," murmured the instructor, but not so loud
that the other girls would hear.

There was the call for the second act and Helen went onto the stage. The
senior she played opposite came up.

"All set?" he asked.

Helen smiled, just a bit grimly, for she was determined to play her part
for all it was worth.

The orchestra stopped playing and the curtain slid upward. She heard her
cue and walked into the radiance of the lights. She heard the senior, her
admirer in the play, talking to her. He was telling her of his recent
adventures and how, at the end of a long, moonlit trail, he had finally
come upon the girl of his dreams.

Then she heard herself replying, protesting that there was no such thing
as love at first sight, but that ardent young Irish adventurer refused no
for an answer and Helen backed away from him.

She heard a warning hiss from the wings but it was too late. She walked
backwards into a pedestal with a vase of flowers.

There was a sudden crash of the falling pedestal and the tinkle of
breaking glass.

The audience roared with laughter.

Helen was stunned for the moment. In her chance to make good in high
school dramatics she had clumsily backed into the stand and upset it,
breaking the vase. Tears welled into her eyes and her lips trembled. The
senior was staring at her, too surprised to talk.

The laughter continued, and Helen seized the only chance for escape.
Could she make it appear that the accident was a part of the play, a
deliberate bit of comedy?

"Smile," she whispered to the senior. "We can make it look like a part of
the play. Follow my cue." He nodded slightly to show that he understood.

The laughter subsided enough for them to continue their lines and Helen
managed to smile. She hoped it wouldn't look too forced.

"Look what you made me do," she said, pointing at the wreckage of the
vase.

"Sorry," smiled the senior. "I'm just that way about you."

Then they swung back into the lines of the play and three minutes later
Helen was again in the wings.

Miss Weeks was waiting for her and Helen expected a sharp criticism.

"Supreme comedy," congratulated the dramatic instructor. "How did you
happen to think of that?"

"But I didn't think of it," protested Helen. "It was an accident. I was
scared to death."

Miss Weeks stared at her hard.

"Well," she commented, "you certainly carried it off splendidly. It was
the best comedy touch of the show."

The third act went on and then "The Spell of the Image" was over. The
curtain came down on the final curtain call. The orchestra blared as the
audience left the hall while parents and friends trooped onto the stage
to congratulate the members of the cast.

Helen suddenly felt very tired and there was a mist in her eyes, but she
brightened visibly when her mother and Tom, followed by the Stevens,
pushed through the crowd. She listened eagerly to their praises and to
Tom's whole-hearted exclamations over her beauty and charm.

Then the lights of the stage dimmed. She had had her hour as an actress;
she knew she had acquitted herself well. The smell of grease, paint and
powder faded and she was a newspaperwoman again--the editor of the
_Herald_.



                               CHAPTER XI
                              _New Plans_


With the end of the school year Tom and Helen were able to give their
complete time and energies to the _Herald_. When Monday, the first of
June arrived, they were working on their fourth issue of the _Herald_ and
Helen had written a number of stories on the last week's activities at
school, the graduation exercises, the junior-senior dinner and the senior
class play. She praised Miss Weeks highly for her work with the class
play and lauded the seniors for their fine acting. Although urged that
she say something about her own part, Helen steadfastly refused and her
brother finally gave up in disgust and delved in to the ledger for on his
shoulders fell the task of making out the monthly bills and handling all
of the business details of the paper.

When Tom had completed his bookkeeping he turned to his sister.

"Helen," he began, "we're not making enough."

"But, Tom," she protested, "the paper is carrying more advertising than
when Dad ran it."

"Yes, but our expenses are high," said Tom. "We've got to look ahead all
the time. Dad will have used all of the money he took with him in a
little less than six months. After that it will be up to us to have the
cash in the bank. Right now we've just a little under a hundred dollars
in the bank. Current bills will take more than that, and our own living
expenses, that is for mother and we two, will run at least $100 a month.
With our total income from the paper only slightly more than $200 a month
on the basis of the present amount of advertising, you see we're not
going to be able to save much toward helping Dad."

"Then we'll have to find ways of increasing our volume of business," said
Helen.

"That won't be easy to do in a town this size," replied Tom, "and I won't
go out and beg for advertising."

"No one is going to ask you to," said Helen. "We'll make the _Herald_
such a bright, outstanding paper that all of the business men will want
to advertise."

"We'll do the best we can," agreed Tom.

"Then let's start right now by putting in a farm page," suggested Helen.

"But there won't be many farm sales from now on," argued Tom.

"No," conceded his sister, "but there is haying, threshing and then corn
picking and all of the stores have supplies to sell to the farmers."

"I believe you're right. If you'll do the collecting this afternoon, I'll
go down to Gladbrook and see if we can get the cooperation of the county
agent. Lots of the townships near here have farm bureaus and I'll get the
names of all of their leaders and we'll write and tell them what we plan
to do."

After lunch Tom teased the family flivver into motion and set out for
Gladbrook while Helen took the sheaf of bills and started the rounds of
the business houses. She had no trouble getting her money from all of the
regular advertisers and in every store in which she stopped she took care
to ask the owner about news of the store and of his family. She noticed
that it flattered each one and she resolved to call on them at least once
a week.

Tom returned from Gladbrook late in the afternoon. He was enthusiastic
over the success of his talk with the county agent.

"He's a fine chap," Tom explained. "Had a course in agricultural
journalism in college and knows news and how to write it. The Gladbrook
papers, the _News_ and the _Times_, don't come up in this section of the
county and he'll be only too glad to send us a column each week."

"When will he start?"

"Next week will be the first one. He'll mail his column every Tuesday
evening and we'll have it on the Wednesday morning mail. Now, here's even
better news. I went to several of the department stores at Gladbrook and
told them we were going to put out a real farm page. They're actually
anxious to buy space and by driving down there once a week I can get two
or three good ads."

"How will the local merchants feel?" asked Helen.

"They won't object," replied Tom, "for I was careful to stress that I
would only accept copy which would not conflict with that used by our
local stores."

"That was a wise thing to do," Helen said. "We can't afford to antagonize
our local advertisers. I made the rounds and collected all of the regular
accounts. There's only about eighteen dollars outstanding on this month's
bills and I'll get all but about five dollars of that before the week is
over."

"Want to go to Cranston Friday or Saturday?" asked Tom.

"I surely do," Helen replied. "But what for, Tom, and can we afford it?"

"One of us will have to make the trip," her brother said. "Putting on
this farm page means we'll have to print two more pages at home, six
altogether, and will need only two pages of ready-print a week from the
World Printing Company. We'll go down and talk with their manager at
Cranston and select the features we want for the two pages they will
continue to print for us."

"Our most important features in the ready-print now are the comics, the
serial story and the fashion news for women," said Helen.

"Then we'll have one page of comics," said Tom, "and fill the other page
with features of special interest to our women readers."

The next three days found the young Blairs so busy getting out the
current edition of the paper that they had little time to talk about
their plans.

They had decided to go to Cranston Friday but when Helen found that there
were special rates for Saturday, they postponed the trip one day. When
the Friday morning mail arrived, Helen was glad they had changed their
plans. While sorting the handful of letters, most of them circulars
destined for the wastepaper basket, she came upon the letter she had been
looking forward to for days. The words in the upper left hand corner
thrilled her. It was from the Cranston bureau of the Associated Press.

With fingers that trembled slightly, she tore it open. Would she get the
job as Rolfe correspondent? A green slip dropped out of the envelope and
Tom, who had come in from the composing room, reached down and picked it
up.

"Ten dollars!" he whistled.

"What's that?" demanded Helen, incredulously.

"It's your check from the Associated Press for covering the tornado,"
explained Tom. "Look!"

Helen took the slip of crisp, green paper. She wasn't dreaming. It was a
check, made out in her name and for $10.

"But there must be some mistake," she protested. "They didn't mean to pay
me that much."

"If you think there's a mistake," grinned Tom, "you can go and see them
when we reach Cranston tomorrow. However, if I were you, I'd tuck it in
my pocket, invite my brother across the street to the drug store, and buy
him a big ice cream soda."

"Wait until I see what the letter says," replied Helen. She pulled it out
of the envelope and Tom leaned over to read it with her.

"Dear Miss Blair," it started, "enclosed you will find check for your
fine work in reporting the tornado near Rolfe. Please consider this
letter as your appointment as Rolfe correspondent for the Associated
Press. Serious accidents, fires of more than $5,000 damage and deaths of
prominent people should be sent as soon as possible. Telegraph or
telephone, sending all your messages collect. In using the telegraph,
send messages by press rate collect when the story is filed in the
daytime. If at night, send them night press collect. And remember, speed
counts but accuracy must come first. Stories of a feature or time nature
should be mailed. We are counting on you to protect us on all news that
breaks in and near Rolfe. Very truly yours, Alva McClintock,
Correspondent in charge of the Cranston Bureau."

"He certainly said a lot in a few words," was Tom's comment. "Now you're
one up on me. You're editor of the _Herald_ and Associated Press
correspondent and I'm only business manager."

"Don't get discouraged," laughed Helen, "I'll let you write some of the
Associated Press stories."

"Thanks of the compliment," grinned Tom. "I'm still waiting for that ice
cream soda, Miss Plutocrat."

"You'll grumble until I buy it, I suppose, so I might as well give in
right now," said Helen. "Come on. I'm hungry for one myself."

Tom and Helen boarded the nine forty-five Saturday morning and arrived at
the state capital shortly after noon. It was Helen's first trip to
Cranston and she enjoyed every minute of it, the noise and confusion of
the great railroad terminal, the endless bobbing about of the red caps,
the cries of news boys heralding noonday editions and the ceaseless roar
of the city.

They went into the large restaurant at the station for lunch and after
that Tom inquired at the information desk for directions on how to reach
the plant of the World Printing Company. He copied the information on a
slip of paper and the two young newspaper people boarded a street car.

Half an hour later they were on the outskirts of the industrial district
and even before the conductor called their stop, Tom heard the steady
roar of great presses.

"Here we are," he told Helen as they stepped down from the car and looked
up at a hulking ten story building that towered above them.

"The Cranston plant of the _Rolfe Herald_," chuckled Helen. "Lead on."

They walked up the steps into the office, gave their names and indicated
their business to the office girl. After waiting a few minutes they were
ushered into an adjoining office where an energetic, middle aged man who
introduced himself as Henry Walker, service manager, greeted them.

"Let's see, you're from the _Rolfe Herald_?" he asked.

"My sister and I are running the paper while Dad is in the southwest
regaining his health," explained Tom. "We've got to expand the paper to
increase our advertising space and the only thing we can see to do is cut
down our ready-print to two pages."

"Explain just what you mean," suggested the service manager.

Tom outlined their advertising field and how they hoped to increase
business by adding two more pages of home print, one of which would be
devoted to farm advertising and news and the other to be available for
whatever additional advertising they could produce.

"We'll be sorry to have you drop two pages of ready-print," said Mr.
Walker, "but I believe you're doing the right thing. Now let's see what
you want on the two pages you'll retain."

"Helen is editor," Tom explained, "and it's up to her to pick out what
she wants."

"You're doing a splendid job on the _Herald_," the service manager told
Helen. "I get copies of every paper we serve and I've been noticing the
changes in make-up and the lively stories. However, I am sorry to hear
about your father but with you two youngsters to give him pep and courage
he ought to be back on the job in a few months."

"We're sure he will," smiled Helen as she unfolded a copy of their last
edition of the _Herald_. "I've pasted up two pages of the features I want
to retain," she explained as she placed them in front of the service
manager.

"I see," he said. "You're going to be quite metropolitan with a full page
of comics and a page devoted to women. I'm glad of that. Too many editors
of weeklies fail to realize that the women and not the men are the real
readers of their papers. If you run a paper which appeals to women and
children you'll have a winner. Comics for the youngsters and a serial
story with a strong love element and fashions and style news for the
women."

"How about cost?" asked Tom.

"Dropping the two pages won't quite cut your bill with us in half,"
explained Mr. Walker, "for you're retaining all of our most expensive
features. However, this new plan of yours will reduce your weekly bill
about 40 per cent."

"That's satisfactory," agreed Tom, "and we'd like to have it effective at
once. Helen has written the headings she wants for each page."

"We'll send the pages, made up in the new way, down at the usual time
next week," promised the service manager, "and when there is anything
else we can do, don't hesitate to let us know."

When they were out of the building, they paused to decide what to do
next.

"I liked Mr. Walker," said Helen. "He didn't attempt to keep us from
making the change. It means less money for his company yet he didn't
object."

"It was good business on his part," replied Tom. "Now we feel kindly
toward him and although he has lost temporarily he will gain in the end
for we'll give him every bit of business we can in the way of ordering
supplies for job printing and extra stock for the paper."

"If we have time," suggested Helen, "I'd like to go down to the
Associated Press office."

"Good idea," agreed Tom. "I'd like to see how they handle all of the
news."

They boarded the first down town street car and got off fifteen minutes
later in the heart of Cranston's loop district. Across the street was the
building which housed the _Cranston Chronicle_, the largest daily
newspaper in the state. They consulted the directory in the lobby of the
building and took the elevator to the fifth floor where the Associated
Press offices were located.

They stepped out of the elevator and into a large room, filled with the
clatter of many machines. A boy, his face smeared with blue smudges off
carbon paper, rushed up to them and inquired their business.

"I'm Helen Blair, a new correspondent at Rolfe," explained the editor of
the _Herald_, "and I'd like to see Mr. McClintock, the chief
correspondent."

"Okay," grinned the boy. "I'll tell him. You wait here."

The youngster hurried across the room to a large table, shaped like a
half moon and behind which sat a touseled haired chap of indeterminate
age. He might be 30 and he might be 40, decided Helen.

"Glad to know you, Miss Blair," he said. "You did a nice piece of work on
the storm."

"Thank you, Mr. McClintock," replied Helen. "But my brother, Tom,
deserves all of the credit. He suggested calling the story to you."

"Then I'll thank Tom, too," laughed the head of the Cranston bureau of
the Associated Press.

"We're here today on business for our paper," explained Helen, "and with
a few minutes to spare before train time hoped you wouldn't mind if we
came in and saw how the 'wheels go round' here."

"I'll be happy to show you the 'works'," replied Mr. McClintock, and he
took them over to a battery of electric printers.

"These," he explained, "bring us news from every part of the country,
east, south and far west. In reality, they are electric typewriters
controlled from the sending station in some other city. We take the news
which comes in here, sift it out and decide what will interest people in
our own state, and send it on to daily papers in our territory."

"Do these electric printers run all day?" asked Tom.

"Some of them go day and night," continued Mr. McClintock, "for the A.P.
never sleeps. Whenever news breaks, we've got to be ready to cover it.
That's why we appreciated your calling us on the storm. We knew there was
trouble in your part of the state but we didn't have a correspondent at
Rolfe. It was a mighty pleasant surprise when you phoned."

They visited with the Associated Press man for another fifteen minutes
and would have continued longer if Tom had not realized that they had
less than twenty minutes to make their train. The last two blocks to the
terminal were covered at a run and they raced through the train gates
just before they clanged shut.

"Close call," panted Tom as they swung onto the steps of the local and it
slid out of the train shed.

"Too close," agreed Helen, who was breathless from their dash.

"Had to make it, though," added Tom, "or we'd have been stranded here
flat broke with the next train for home Monday night."

"Don't worry about something that didn't happen," Helen said. "I've
enjoyed every minute of our trip and we're all ready now to start our
expansion program for the _Herald_ in earnest."

Adding two more pages of home print to the paper meant more work than
either Tom or Helen had realized. There was more news to be written and
more ads to be set and another run to be made on the press.

With early June at hand the summer season at the resorts on the lower end
of Lake Dubar got under way and Helen resolved to make a trip at least
once a week and run a column or two of personals about people coming and
going. She also gave liberal space to the good roads election in July,
stressing the value the paved scenic highway would be to Rolfe.

The two pages of ready-print arrived on Tuesday and Tom and Helen were
delighted with the appearance of the comic page and the feature page for
women readers.

"We'll have the snappiest looking paper in the county," chuckled Tom.
"Dad won't know the old paper when he sees this week's issue."

The county agent kept his promise to send them at least a column of farm
news and Helen made it a point to gather all she could while Tom went to
the county seat Tuesday morning and solicited ads for the page. The
result was a well-balanced page, half ads and half news. Careful
solicitation of home town merchants also brought additional ads and when
they made up the last two pages Thursday noon they felt the extra work
which increasing the size of the paper meant was more than repaid in
extra advertising.

"I'm printing a number of extra copies this week," explained Tom. "There
are lots of people around here who ought to take the _Herald_. With our
expansion program we may pick up some extra subscriptions and we might
get a chance at the county printing."

"Tom!" exclaimed Helen. "Do you really think we might get to be an
official county paper."

"I don't see why not," said Tom. "Of course the two Gladbrook papers will
always be on the county list but there are always three who print the
legal news and the third one is the _Auburn Advocate_. Auburn isn't any
larger than Rolfe and I know darned well we have almost as many
subscriptions as they do."

"How do they decide the official papers?" Helen wanted to know.

"The county board of supervisors meets once a year to select the three
official papers," Tom explained, "and the three showing the largest
circulation are selected. It would mean at least $2,000 extra revenue to
us, most of which would be profit."

"Then why didn't Dad try for it?" Helen asked.

"I'm not sure," said Tom slowly. "There are probably several reasons, the
principal one being that he wasn't strong enough to make the additional
effort to build up the circulation list. The other is probably Burr
Atwell, owner and publisher of the _Auburn Advocate_. I've heard Dad
often remark that Atwell is the crookedest newspaperman in the state."

"How much circulation do you think the _Advocate_ has now?" Helen asked.

"Their last postoffice statement showed only 108 more than ours," replied
Tom.

"And when do the supervisors have their annual meeting?"

"About the 15th of December," said Tom. "Now what's up?"

"Nothing much," smiled Helen. "Only, when the supervisors meet next the
_Rolfe Herald_ is going to have enough circulation to be named an
official county paper.

"Why Tom," she went on enthusiastically, "think what it would mean to
Dad?"

"I'm thinking of that," nodded her brother, "but I'm also thinking of
what Burr Atwell might do to the _Herald_."



                              CHAPTER XII
                          _Special Assignment_


The enlarged edition of the _Herald_ attracted so much comment and praise
from the readers that Tom and Helen felt well repaid for their additional
efforts. Tom sat down and figured out the profit, deducted all expenses,
and announced that they had made $78 on the edition, which, they agreed,
was a figure they should strive to reach each week.

"If we can keep that up," commented Tom, "we'll be sitting on top of the
world."

"But if we were only an official county paper we'd have the moon, too,"
Helen said.

They discussed the pros and cons of getting enough additional circulation
to beat the _Auburn Advocate_ and the danger of arousing the anger of
Burr Atwell, its publisher.

"We don't need to make a big campaign for subscriptions," argued Helen.
"We've taken the biggest step right now--improving and expanding the
amount of local and country reading matter. Whenever I have an extra
afternoon this summer I'll drive out in the country and see if I can't
get some people who haven't been subscribers to take our paper."

Tom agreed with Helen's suggestion and that very afternoon they took the
old family touring car, filled it with gas and oil, and ambled through
the countryside. Tom had a list of farmers who were non-subscribers and
before the afternoon was over they had added half a dozen new names to
the _Herald's_ circulation list. In addition, they had obtained at least
one item of farm news at every place they stopped.

"I call that a good afternoon's work," Helen commented when they drove
the ancient flivver into the garage at home.

"Not bad at all," Tom agreed. "Only, we'll keep quiet about our
circulation activities. No use to stir up Burr Atwell until he finds it
out for himself, which will be soon enough."

The remaining weeks of June passed uneventfully. The days were bright and
warm with the softness of early summer and the countryside was green with
a richness that only the middle west knows. Helen devoted the first part
of each week to getting news in Rolfe and on Fridays and Saturdays took
the old car and rambled through the countryside, stopping at farmhouses
to make new friends for the _Herald_ and gather news for the farm page.
The revenue of the paper was increasing rapidly and they rejoiced at the
encouraging news which was coming from their father.

The Fourth of July that year came on Saturday, which meant a two day
celebration for Rolfe and the summer resorts on Lake Dubar. Special
trains would be routed in over the railroad and the boats on the lake
would do a rushing business.

The managers of Crescent Beach and Sandy Point planned big programs for
their resorts and ordered full page bills to be distributed throughout
that section of the state. The county seat papers had usually obtained
these large job printing orders but by carefully figuring, Tom put in the
lowest bids.

Kirk Foster, the manager of Crescent Beach, ordered five thousand posters
while Art Provost, the owner of Sandy Point, ordered twenty thousand.
Crescent Beach catered to a smaller and more exclusive type of summer
visitors while Sandy Point welcomed everyone to its large and hospitable
beach.

There was not much composition for the posters but the printing required
hours and it seemed to Helen that the old press rattled continuously for
the better part of three days as Tom fed sheet after sheet of paper into
the ancient machine. The wonder of it was that they had no breakdowns and
the bills were printed and delivered on time.

"All of which means," said Tom when he had finished, "that we've added a
clear profit of $65 to our bank account."

"If we keep on at this rate," Helen added, "we'll have ample to take care
of Dad when he needs more money."

"And he'll be needing it sometime this fall," Tom said slowly. "Gee
whizz, but it sure does cost to be in one of those sanitariums. Lucky we
could step in and take hold here for Dad."

"We owe him more than we'll ever repay," said Helen, "and the experience
we're getting now will be invaluable. We're working hard but we find time
to do the things we like."

Helen planned special stories for the edition just before the Fourth and
visited the managers of both resorts to get their complete programs for
the day.

Kirk Foster at Crescent Beach explained that there would be nothing
unusual there except the special display of night fireworks but Art
Provost over at Sandy Point had engaged a line of free attractions that
would rival any small circus. Besides the usual boating and bathing,
there would be free acts by aerialists, a high dive by a girl into a
small tank of water, half a dozen clowns to entertain the children, a
free band concert both afternoon and evening, two ball games and in
addition to the merry-go-round on the grounds there would be a ferris
wheel and several other "thrill" rides brought in for the Fourth.

"You ought to have a great crowd," said Helen.

"Goin' to be mighty disappointed if I don't," said the old resort
manager. "Plannin' a regular rip-snorter of a day. No admission to the
grounds, but Boy! it'll cost by the time they leave."

"Going to double the prices of everything?" asked Helen.

"Nope. Goin' to have so many things for folks to do they'll spend
everything they got before they leave."

"In that case," replied Helen, "I see where I stay at home. I'm a
notorious spendthrift when it comes to celebrating the Fourth."

"I should say you're not goin' to stay home," said Mr. Provost. "You and
your mother and Tom are goin' to be my guests. I've got your passes all
filled out. Swim, ride in the boats, dance, roller skate, see the ball
games, enjoy any of the 'thrill rides' you want to. Won't cost you a
cent."

"But I can't accept them," protested Helen. "We'll pay if we come down.
Besides, we didn't give you all of those bills for nothing."

"Seemed mighty near nothin' compared with the prices all the other
printers in the county wanted," smiled Mr. Provost. "You've been down
every week writin' items about the folks who come here and, believe me, I
appreciate it. These passes are just a little return of the courtesy
you've shown me this summer."

"When you put it that way, I can scarcely refuse them," laughed Helen.

"As a matter of fact," she added, "I wanted them terribly for we honestly
couldn't afford to come otherwise."

When Helen returned to the office she told Tom about the passes and he
agreed that acceptance of them would not place the _Herald_ under
obligation to the resort owner.

"I always thought old man Provost a pretty good scout," he said, "but I
hardly expected him to do this. And say, these passes are good for both
Saturday and Sunday. What a break!"

"If we see everything Saturday we'll be so tired we won't want to go back
Sunday," Helen said. "Besides, Mother has some pretty strong ideas on
Sunday celebrations."

The telephone rang and Helen hastened into the editorial office to
answer.

She talked rapidly for several minutes, jotting down notes on a pad of
scratch paper. When she had finished, she hurried back into the composing
room.

"Tom," she cried, "that was Mr. Provost calling."

"Did he cancel the passes?"

"I should say not. He called to say he had just received a telegram from
the Ace Flying Circus saying it would be at Sandy Point to do stunt
flying and carry passengers for the Fourth of July celebration."

"Why so excited about that? We've had flying circuses here before."

"Yes, I know, Tom, but 'Speed' Rand is in charge of the Ace outfit this
year."

"'Speed' Rand!" whistled Tom. "Well, I should say that was different.
That's news. Why Rand's the man who flew from Tokyo to Seattle all alone.
Other fellows had done it in teams but Rand is the only one to go solo.
He's big news in all of the dailies right now. Everyone is wondering what
daredevil stunt he'll do next."

"He's very good looking and awfully rich," smiled Helen.

"Flies just for fun," added Tom. "With all of the oil land he's got he
doesn't have to worry about work. Tell you what, I'll write to the
_Cranston Chronicle_ and see if they'll send us a cut of Rand. It would
look fine on the front page of this week's issue."

"Oh," exclaimed Helen "I almost forgot the most important part of Mr.
Provost's call. He wants you to get out 10,000 half page bills on the Ace
Flying Circus. Here are the notes. He said for you to write the bill and
run them off as soon as you can."

The order for the bills put Tom behind on his work with the paper and it
was late Thursday afternoon before Helen started folding that week's
issue. But they didn't mind being late. The bill order from Sandy Point
had meant another piece of profitable job work and Mr. Provost had also
taken a half page in the _Herald_ to advertise the coming of his main
attraction for the Fourth. Mrs. Blair came down to help with the folding
and Margaret Stevens, just back from a vacation in the north woods with
her father, arrived in time to lend a hand.

"Nice trip?" Helen asked as she deftly folded the printed sheets.

"Wonderful," smiled Margaret, "but I'm glad to get back. I missed helping
you and Tom. Honestly, I get a terrific thrill out of reporting."

"We're glad to have you back," replied Helen, "and I think Mr. Provost
down at Sandy Point will be glad to give me an extra pass for the Fourth.
I'll tell him you're our star reporter."

"I'd rather go to Crescent Beach for the Fourth," said Margaret. "It's
newer and much more ritzy than Sandy Point."

"You'd better stop and look at the front page carefully," warned Tom, who
had shut off the press just in time to hear Margaret's words.

She stopped folding papers long enough to read the type under the two
column picture on the front page.

"What!" she exclaimed, "'Speed' Rand coming here?"

"None other and none such," laughed Tom. "Guaranteed to be the one and
only 'Speed' Rand. Step right this way folks for your airplane tickets.
Five dollars for five minutes. See the beauty of Lake Dubar from the air.
Don't crowd, please."

"Do you still want me to get a pass?" Helen asked. "It will be honored
any place at Sandy Point during the celebration and Mr. Provost says we
can all have rides with the air circus 'Speed' Rand is running."

"I should say I do want a pass," said Margaret. "At least it's some
advantage to being a newspaper woman besides just the fun of it."

The famous Ace air circus of half a dozen planes roared over Rolfe just
before sunset Friday night and the whole town turned out to see them and
try to identify the plane which "Speed" Rand was flying.

The air circus was flying in two sections, three fast, trim little
biplanes that led the way, followed by three large cabin planes used for
passenger carrying. Every ship was painted a brilliant scarlet and they
looked like tongues of flames darting through the sky, the afternoon sun
glinting on their wings.

The air circus swung over Rolfe in a wide circle and the leading plane
dropped down out of the sky, its motor roaring so loud the windows in the
houses rattled in their frames.

"He's going to crash!" cried Margaret.

"Nothing of the kind," shouted Tom, who had read widely of planes and
pilots and flying maneuvers. "That's just a power dive--fancy flying."

Tom was right. When the scarlet biplane seemed headed for certain
destruction the pilot pulled its nose up, levelled off, shot over Rolfe
at dizzying speed and then climbed his craft back toward the fleecy, lazy
white clouds.

"That's Rand," announced Tom with a certainty that left no room for
argument. "He's always up to stunts like that."

"It must be awfully dangerous," said Helen as she watched the plane, now
a mere speck in the sky.

"It is," agreed Tom. "Everything depends on the motor in a dive like
that. If it started to miss some editor would have to write that
particular flyer's obituary."

The morning of Saturday, the Fourth, dawned clear and bright. Small boys
whose idea of fun was to arise at four o'clock and spend the next two
hours throwing cannon crackers under windows had their usual good time
and Tom and Helen, unable to sleep, were up at six o'clock. Half an hour
later Margaret Stevens, also awakened by the almost continuous
cannonading of firecrackers, came across the street.

"Jim Preston is going to take us down the lake on his seven-thirty trip
before the special trains and the big crowds start coming in," said Tom.

"But I'd like to see the trains come in," protested Helen.

"If we wait until then," explained Tom, "we'll be caught in the thick of
the rush for the boats and we may never get to Sandy Point. We'd better
take the seven-thirty boat."

From the hill on which the Blair home stood they looked down on the shore
of Lake Dubar with its half dozen boat landings, each with two or three
motorboats awaiting the arrival of the first special excursion train.

Mrs. Blair called them to breakfast and they were getting up to go inside
when Margaret's exclamation drew their attention back to the lake.

"Am I seeing things or is that the old _Queen_?" she asked, pointing down
the lake.

Tom and Helen looked in the direction she pointed. An old, double decked
boat, smoke rolling from its lofty, twin funnels, was churning its way up
the lake.

"We may all be seeing things," cried Tom, "but it looks like the _Queen_.
I thought she had been condemned by the steamboat inspectors as unfit for
further service."

"The news that 'Speed' Rand is going to be at Sandy Point is bringing
hundreds more than the railroad expected," said Helen. "I talked with the
station agent last night and they have four specials scheduled in this
morning and they usually only have two."

"If they vote the paved roads at the special election next week,"
commented Tom, "the railroad will lose a lot of summer travel. As it is
now, folks almost have to come by train for the slightest rain turns the
roads around here into swamps and they can't run the risk of being
marooned here for several days."

The _Queen_ puffed sedately toward shore. They heard the clang of bells
in the engine room and the steady chouf-chouf of the exhaust cease. The
smoke drifted lazily from the funnels. Bells clanged again and the paddle
wheel at the stern went into the back motion, churning the water into
white froth. The forward speed of the _Queen_ was checked and the big
double-decker nosed into its pier.

"There's old Capt. Billy Tucker sticking his white head out of the pilot
house," said Tom. "He's probably put a few new planks in the _Queen's_
rotten old hull and gotten another O. K. from the boat inspectors. But if
that old tub ever hits anything, the whole bottom will cave in and she'll
sink in five minutes."

"That's not a very cheerful Fourth of July idea," said Margaret. "Come
on, let's eat. Your mother called us hours ago."

They had finished breakfast and were leaving the table when Mrs. Blair
spoke.

"I've decided not to go down to Sandy Point with you," she said. "The
crowd will be so large I'm afraid I wouldn't enjoy it very much."

"But we've planned on your going, Mother," said Helen.

"I'm sorry to disappoint you," smiled her mother, "but Margaret's mother
and I will spend the day on the hill here. We'll be able to see the
aerial circus perform and really we'll enjoy a quiet day here at home
more than being in the crowd."

"It won't be very quiet if those kids keep on shooting giant crackers,"
said Tom.

"They'll be going to the celebration in another hour or two and then
things will quiet down," said Mrs. Blair.

"How about a plane ride if the circus has time to take us?" asked Tom.

Helen saw her mother tremble at Tom's question, but she replied quickly.

"That's up to you, Tom. You know more about planes than I do and if
you're convinced the flying circus is safe, I have no objection." But
Helen made a mental reservation that the planes would have to look mighty
safe before any of them went aloft.

They hurried down the hill to the pier which Jim Preston used. The
boatman and his helpers had just finished polishing the three speed boats
Preston owned, the _Argosy_, the _Liberty_ and the _Flyer_, which had
been raised from the bottom of the lake and partially rebuilt.

"All ready for the big day?" asked the genial boatman.

"We're shy a few hours sleep," grinned Tom. "Those cannon crackers
started about four o'clock but outside of that we're all pepped up and
ready to go."

"About three or four years ago," reminded the boatman, "you used to be
gallivantin' around town with a pocketful of those big, red crackers at
sun-up. Guess you can't complain a whole lot now."

Tom admitted that he really couldn't complain and they climbed into the
_Liberty_.

"I'm takin' some last minute supplies down to the hotel at Sandy Point,"
said the boatman, "so we won't wait for anyone else."

He switched on the starter and the boat quivered as the powerful motor
took hold. They were backing away from the pier when the pilot of one of
the other boats shouted for them to stop.

A boy was running down Main Street, waving a yellow envelope in his hand.

Jim Preston nosed the _Liberty_ back to the pier and the boy ran onto the
dock.

"Telegram for you," he told Helen. "It's a rush message and I just had to
get it to you."

"Thanks a lot," replied Helen. "Are there any charges?"

"Nope. Message is prepaid."

Helen ripped open the envelope with nervous fingers. Who could be sending
her a telegram? Was there anything wrong with her father? No, that
couldn't be it for her mother would have received the message.

She unfolded the single sheet of yellow paper and read the telegraph
operator's bold scrawl.

"To: Helen Blair, _The Herald_, Rolfe. Understand 'Speed' Rand is at
Rolfe for two days. Have rumor his next flight will be an attempted
non-stop refueling flight around the world. See Rand at once and try for
confirmation of rumor. Telephone as soon as possible. McClintock, The
AP."

Helen turned to Tom and Margaret.

"I'm to interview 'Speed' Rand for the Associated Press," she exclaimed.
"Let's go!"



                              CHAPTER XIII
                       _Helen's Exclusive Story_


While the _Liberty_ whisked them through the glistening waters of Lake
Dubar toward Sandy Point, Margaret and Tom plied Helen with questions.

"Do you think Rand will give you an interview?" demanded Tom.

"I've got to get one," said Helen, her face flushed and eyes glowing with
the excitement of her first big assignment for the Associated Press.

"What will you ask him? How will you act?" Margaret wanted to know.

"Now don't try to get me flustered before I see Rand," laughed Helen. "I
think I'll just explain that I am the local correspondent for the
Associated Press, show him the telegram from Mr. McClintock and ask him
to confirm or deny the story."

"I'll bet Rand's been interviewed by every famous reporter in the
country," said Tom.

"Which will mean all the more honor and glory for Helen if she can get
him to tell about his plans," said Margaret.

"I'll do my best," promised Helen and her lips set in a line that
indicated the Blair fighting spirit was on the job.

They were still more than two miles from Sandy Point when a scarlet-hued
plane shot into sight and climbed dizzily toward the clouds. It spiralled
up and up, the roar of its motor audible even above the noise of the
speedboat's engine.

"There's 'Speed' Rand now!" cried Tom. "No one flies like that but
'Speed'."

The graceful little plane reached the zenith of its climb, turned over on
its back and fell away in twisting series of spirals that held the little
group in the boat breathless.

The plane fluttered toward the lake, seemingly without life or power.
Just before it appeared about to crash, the propeller fanned the
sunlight, the nose jerked up, and the little ship skimmed over the waters
of the lake.

It was coming toward the _Liberty_ at 200 miles an hour. On and on it
came until the roar of its motor drowned out every other sound. Helen,
Tom and Margaret threw themselves onto the floor of the boat and Jim
Preston crouched low behind his steering wheel.

There was a sharp crash and Helen held her breath. She was sure the plane
had struck the _Liberty_ but the boat moved steadily ahead and she turned
quickly to look for the plane.

The scarlet sky bird was limping toward the safety of the higher
altitudes, its under-carriage twisted into a grotesque knot.

"What happened?" cried Tom as he stared aghast at 'Speed' Rand's damaged
plane. "Did we get hit?"

"Nothing wrong with the _Liberty_," announced Jim Preston. "I don't know
what happened."

Helen glanced at the speedboat's wake where a heavy wave was being rolled
up by the powerful propeller.

"I know what happened," she cried. "'Rand' was just trying to give us an
extra Fourth of July thrill and he forgot about the heavy wave the
_Liberty_ pulls. He must have banged his landing gear into it."

"You're right, Helen," agreed Tom. "But I can't figure out why he didn't
nose over and dive to the bottom of the lake."

"I expect that would have happened to any flyer except Rand," said Helen.
"He's supposed to be a wizard in the air."

"Wonder how this accident will affect the crowd at Sandy Point. Think it
will keep them from riding with the air circus?" Margaret asked.

"Depends on how widely the story gets out," said Tom. "I'd hate to have
Old Man Provost's celebration ruined by wild rumors. He's spent a lot of
money getting ready to give the public a good time."

Helen had been watching the progress of Rand's plane. Instead of heading
back toward Sandy Point he was crossing the lake to the east side.

"He's not going back to Sandy Point," Helen cried. "Look, he's going to
land on the east side back in the hills."

"Then he'll leave the plane there and no one at Sandy Point will know
anything about the accident," exclaimed Tom. "That means we're the only
ones who know."

Helen was thinking rapidly. Here was just the chance she needed to get
hold of Rand and ask him about his world trip. She might be able to make
a trade with him. It was worth a try. She leaned forward and spoke to the
boatman.

"Will you swing over east, land and pick up the pilot of that plane?" she
asked Jim Preston.

Tom, divining the motive back of Helen's request, added, "We'll pay for
the extra time."

The boatman agreed and the nose of the _Liberty_ was soon cleaving a
white-crested path for the east shore. The scarlet plane had disappeared
but from the drone of the motor they knew it was somewhere in the hills
back from the lakeshore.

Jim Preston let the _Liberty_ drift to an easy landing alongside a rocky
outcropping and Tom, Helen and Margaret hopped out.

"We won't be gone long," they promised.

Back through the sparse timber along the lake shore they hurried and out
into a long, narrow meadow. The scene that greeted them held them
spellbound for a moment. Then they raced toward the far end of the
pasture.

"Speed" Rand had landed the damaged plane in a fence.

Tom was the first to reach the wrecked craft. He expected to find the
famous flyer half dead in the wreckage. Instead, he was greeted by a
debonair young fellow who crawled from beneath one wing where he had been
tossed by the impact when the plane struck the fence.

"My gosh," exclaimed Tom, "aren't you hurt?"

"Sorry," smiled Rand, "but I'll have to disappoint you. I haven't
anything more than a few bruises."

Helen and Margaret arrived so out of breath they were speechless.

Rand bowed slightly. Then his eyes glowed with recognition.

"Hello," he said. "Aren't you the folks in the speedboat?"

"We sure were," Tom said. "You scared us half to death."

"I scared myself," admitted Rand, his blue eyes reflecting the laughter
on his lips. "It's been so long since I've been in a speedboat I'd
forgotten all about the big wake one of those babies pull. I'm just lucky
not to be at the bottom of the lake."

"You're really 'Speed' Rand, aren't you?" asked Margaret.

He smiled and nodded and Margaret decided she had never seen a more
likable young man. His hair was brown and curly and his face was bronzed
by the sun of many continents.

"If you've got your boat around here, suppose you give me a lift back to
Sandy Point," suggested Rand.

"We'll be glad to," Helen replied. "I don't suppose you'll want it
broadcast about the accident this morning on the lake and your cracking
up in a fence over here?"

"What are you driving at? Trying to hi-jack me into paying you to keep
quiet?" The last words were short and angry and his eyes hardened.

"Nothing like that," explained Tom quickly. "We know that broadcasting
news of an accident to 'Speed' Rand will hurt Old Man Provost and his
celebration."

"Then what do you want?" Rand insisted.

"We want to know whether there is anything to the rumor that you're
considering a non-stop refueling flight around the world," said Helen.

Rand stopped and stared at the young editor of the _Herald_ in open
amazement.

"Great heavens," he exclaimed. "You sound like a newspaper reporter."

"I am," replied Helen. "I'm the editor of the _Rolfe Herald_ and also
correspondent for the Associated Press."

"And you want a story from me about my world flight in return for keeping
quiet about the accident."

"You can call it that," admitted Helen.

They had reached the shore of the lake and Rand did not answer until they
were in the _Liberty_ and Jim Preston had the craft headed for Sandy
Point.

"Suppose I deny the rumor," said Rand.

"You've already admitted it," Helen replied.

"I have?" he laughed. "How?"

"Less than five minutes ago you said 'And you want a story about my world
flight in return for keeping quiet about the accident?' That certainly
indicates that you are seriously considering such a project."

Rand laughed and shook his head.

"I guess I might as well give in," he chuckled. "I've been questioned in
every city I've been in and so far I've managed to evade confirming the
rumor but it looks like you've got me in a corner. If I don't tell you,
will you still spread the story about the accident?"

"No," replied Helen quickly. "Mr. Provost has too much at stake to risk
ruining his celebration. It was foolish on your part to take the risk you
did and we're trusting that there won't be any more such risks taken by
the air circus while it is here."

"You're right. There won't be," said Rand firmly, "and I've learned a
lesson myself."

"You're actually planning the world flight?" asked Tom, who wanted to get
Rand back on the subject of Helen's assignment.

"I can't get away from you," smiled the flyer, "so I might as well give
you all of the details. Got some copypaper?"

Helen fished a pad of paper and a pencil from a pocket and handed them to
Rand.

"If you don't mind," he explained, "I'll jot down the principal names of
the foreign towns where I'll make the refueling contacts. Some of them
have queer names and it will help you keep them straight."

The flyer drew a rough sketch of the world, outlining the continents of
the northern hemisphere. He located New York on the map and then drew a
dotted line extending eastward across the North Atlantic, over Great
Britain, Germany, Russia, Siberia, a corner of China, out over the
Kamchatka peninsula, across the Bering Sea, over Alaska and then almost a
straight line back to New York.

"This is my proposed route," he explained, "covering some 15,000 miles.
It will take about four days if I have good luck and am not forced down."

"But I thought the distance around the world was 25,000 miles," said
Margaret.

"That's the circumference at the equator," smiled Rand, "but I'm going to
make the trip well up in the northern latitudes. In fact, I'll be pretty
close to the Arctic circle part of the time."

Rand bent over his makeshift map again, marking in the names of the
cities where he intended to refuel while in flight.

"When will you take off from New York?" Helen asked.

"In about two weeks," replied Rand without looking up from the map.

Helen gasped. This, indeed, was news. Every paper in the land would carry
it on the front page.

"What kind of a plane do you intend to use?" Tom wanted to know.

"I'm having one built to order," said the flyer. "It's a special
monoplane the Skycraft Company is testing now at their factory in
Pennsylvania. I had a telegram yesterday saying the plane would be ready
the first of next week so when I leave Sandy Point I'll go directly to
Pennsylvania to get the plane and make the final tests myself. The air
circus will finish its summer tour alone."

Before they reached the landing at Sandy Point, Rand explained how he
intended to refuel while in flight, gave Helen the name of his mechanic
and described details of the plane.

When they touched the landing at Sandy Point a heavyset man dressed in
brown coveralls jumped into the boat.

"What in heaven's name happened?" he asked Rand excitedly.

"I flew too close to this motor boat," said the flyer, "and damaged my
landing gear on the wave it was pulling. Instead of coming back here to
crack up I went across the lake and landed in a meadow. These young
people followed and brought me back. I banged the ship up considerable
and in return for keeping them quiet, I gave them the story about my
world flight. They're newspaper folks."

The heavy man stared at Helen, Tom and Margaret.

"Well, I guess it had to come out some time," he admitted and Rand
introduced him as Tiny Adams, his manager of the air circus.

"Tiny runs the show when I go gallivanting around on some fool stunt,"
explained Rand.

Even at that early hour the crowd was gathering at Sandy Point. Motor
boats were whisking down the lake from Rolfe and the beautiful beach was
thick with bathers in for a morning dip in the clear waters of the lake.

They hurried off the boat dock and pushed their way through the crowd
along the lake shore.

"I'm going to the hotel and telephone my story to the Associated Press,"
said Helen. "And thanks so much, Mr. Rand, for confirming it."

"That's all right," grinned the famous flyer. "I guess you youngsters
deserve the break. You certainly were after the news and I appreciate
you're keeping quiet about my accident."

"We'll have to print it in our weekly," warned Tom.

"Oh, that's all right," said Rand. "The celebration will be over long
before your paper comes out. See you at the field later," he added as he
hurried away, followed by the manager of the air circus.

Helen stood for a moment looking after the tall flyer as he edged his way
through the ever-increasing crowd.

"Isn't he handsome?" sighed Margaret.

"What a story," commented Tom.

"Let's get going," said Helen, and she started for the hotel.

They reached the rambling old hotel which overlooked the lake and were
met at the door by Art Provost, the manager of the resort.

"Glad to see you down so early," he said as he welcomed them.

"We thought we'd get here before the crowd," Tom said, "but from the
looks of the young mob down at the beach now they must have started
coming in about sundown last night."

"They did," chuckled Mr. Provost. "Looks like the greatest celebration in
the history of Lake Dubar. It's the air circus that's drawing them in and
I hope there are no accidents."

Helen glanced at Tom, warning her brother not to reply.

"I've met 'Speed' Rand," she said, "and I think you'll find him a careful
flyer. I'm sure he'll insist on every possible precaution."

They went into the lobby of the hotel and Helen entered the telephone
booth. She started to put in a long distance call for the Associated
Press, then changed her mind and returned to where Tom and Margaret were
waiting.

"I'm so nervous I'm afraid I won't be able to talk," she said. "Feel my
hands."

Tom and Margaret did as Helen directed. They found her hands clammy with
perspiration.

"I think I'll sit down and write the story and telegraph it," said Helen.

"You'll do nothing of the kind," insisted Tom. "Here, I'll put the call
through and you just repeat what Rand told you. They'll write the story
at the Cranston bureau."

Helen nodded in agreement and Tom bolted into the telephone booth, got
the long distance operator at Rolfe and put in a collect call for the
Cranston bureau of the Associated Press.

Two minutes later Tom announced that the A.P. was on the line. Helen
entered the booth and took the receiver. Tom pulled the door shut and
Helen was closeted with her big story in the tiny room, the mouthpiece
before her connecting her with the bureau where they were waiting for the
story.

"Is Mr. McClintock in the office?" she asked.

"He's busy," replied the voice. "I'll take the message."

"Tell Mr. McClintock that Helen Blair is calling about the Rand story,"
she insisted.

She heard the connection switch and the chief of the Cranston bureau
snapped a question at her.

"What's the matter?" he asked. "Rand give you the usual denial?"

The sharpness of the words nettled Helen.

"No he didn't," she replied. "He gave me the whole story. He'll leave New
York within the next two weeks on a non-stop refueling flight around the
world."

"What!" shouted the A.P. chief.

Helen repeated her statement.

"You've got the biggest story in days," gasped McClintock. "Have you got
plenty of substantiation in case he tries to deny it later."

"Two witnesses," replied Helen, "and a map of his route which he drew and
signed for me."

"That's enough. Let's go. Give me everything he told you. Spell the names
of his foreign refueling points slowly. I'll take it directly on a
typewriter and we'll start the bulletins out on the main news wires."

The first excitement of the story worn off, Helen found herself
exceedingly calm. In short, clear sentences she related for McClintock
all of the information "Speed" Rand had given her.

"Send me the map he drew by the first mail," the A.P. correspondent
instructed. "It will make a great feature story. Thanks a lot, Miss
Blair. You're a real newspaperwoman."



                              CHAPTER XIV
                        _The Queen's Last Trip_


When Helen left the close confines of the telephone booth after
completing her call to the Associated Press she suddenly felt very weak
and tired.

"What's the matter?" Tom asked.

"I feel just a little faint," confessed Helen. "Guess the excitement of
getting the story and sending it in was a little too much."

"Take my arm," her brother commanded. "We'll go back to the restaurant
and get a glass of milk and a sandwich and you'll feel all right in a few
minutes."

The food restored Helen's strength and in less than half an hour she was
her old self, ready to enjoy the Fourth of July celebration.

Every boat from Rolfe increased the size of the crowd at Sandy Point. The
speedboats dashed down the lake carrying their capacity of passengers,
turned and sped back to the town for another load. The _Queen_ sedately
churned its way through the lake, its double decks jammed with humanity.
As they stood on the beach Helen wondered if the old lake boat would come
through the day without a mishap. Almost any small accident could throw
the passengers into a panic and the capsizing of the _Queen_ might follow
if they rushed to one side of the flat-bottomed old craft.

The _Queen_ sidled up to the big pier at Sandy Beach and Capt. Billy
Tucker stuck his white head out of a window in the pilot house and
watched his passengers rush for the beach.

"He's in his glory on a day like this," Tom said, "but it's probably the
last year for the _Queen_. The boat inspectors won't dare pass the old
tub next year no matter how much they like Captain Billy."

"What will he do if they don't license the _Queen_?" asked Margaret.

"Oh, he'll get along all right," said Tom. "Captain Billy has plenty
salted away. It's just that he loves the lake and the _Queen_."

The planes of the air circus were wheeling overhead and they left the
beach and started for the air field. The attractions along the midway
were gathering their share of the crowd and the mechanical band on the
merry-go-round blared with great gusto. The ferris wheel was swinging
cars loaded with celebrators into the tree-tops and the whip and other
thrill rides were crowded.

Beyond the midway was the large pasture which had been turned into a
landing field. A sturdy wire fence had been thrown across the side toward
the summer resort and it was necessary to have a pass or ticket to get
through the gate.

Two small stunt planes were taking off when the members of the _Herald_
staff arrived and the three large cabin planes were being filled with
passengers. Two of the planes carried eight passengers apiece while the
largest, a tri-motor, could accommodate 12. They were sturdy, comfortable
looking craft and Helen noticed that they appeared to be in the best
possible condition.

They presented their passes at the gate and were admitted to the field.

"Speed" Rand, hurrying along toward the largest plane, caught sight of
them.

"Want to ride?" he called.

The answer was unanimous and affirmative.

A minute later they were seated in the 12-passenger plane in comfortable
wicker chairs. The door was closed, the motors roared, they bumped over
the pasture and then floated away on magic wings.

The ground dropped away from them; the resort and the lake were
miniatures bordered by the rich, green lands of the valley and at the far
end of the lake, Rolfe, a handful of houses, basked.

It was glorious, thrilling, and Helen enjoyed every minute. They swung
over the lake where the speedboats were cutting white swaths through the
water. They did not cross to the east side and Helen guessed that the
pilots were afraid some passenger with unusually keen eyes might detect
the remains of the plane Rand had damaged that morning.

Then the trip was over. They drifted down to the field, the motor idling
as they lost altitude. Helen sat absolutely rigid for a few seconds,
wondering if the plane would land all right. The motors roared again, the
nose came up and they settled to earth with little more than a bump.

Rand greeted them when they stepped out of the plane.

"Like it?" he inquired.

"You bet," said Tom enthusiastically. "Biggest thrill I ever had."

"How about you?" Rand asked Helen.

"I loved every minute until we started to come down," she smiled. "Then I
wondered where we were going to stop and how, but everything came out all
right and I really did enjoy it."

"Get your story in to the A.P.?" asked the flyer.

"Just as soon as I could reach a telephone," Helen replied. "The bureau
chief appeared pleased."

"He should be," chuckled Rand. "It seems like every place I've gone for
the last month there's been a reporter waiting to ask me questions about
my world flight. Honestly, it got so I used to look under the bed at
night for fear I might talk in my sleep and wake up in the morning to
find a reporter had been hidden in my room."

Another flyer called Rand and the famous aviator slipped away through the
crowd. It was the last they were to see of him and they turned and went
back to the attractions of the midway.

They tried every ride, the merry-go-round and the ferris wheel, roller
skated, went bathing, listened to the band concert, munched hot dogs at
irregular intervals and wound up the afternoon almost exhausted and ready
to start for home. So were some other hundreds of people and they found
it impossible to get a place in one of the speedboats.

The _Queen_ puffed majestically at her pier and Capt. Billy Tucker pulled
twice on the whistle cord. Two long, mellow blasts echoed over the lake.
The _Queen_ would leave for Rolfe in five minutes.

"Looks like we'll have to take the _Queen_ if we want to get home in any
reasonable time," said Margaret.

Tom looked at the throngs waiting for the boats.

"You're right," he agreed. "We won't be able to get on one of the fast
boats for at least two hours and I'm getting hungry. I saw mother putting
some pie away in the ice box last night and there'll be plenty of cold
milk at home."

"Don't," protested Helen, "I'm so hungry now I'm hollow."

"Then let's take the _Queen_," urged Margaret.

They bought their tickets and hurried onto the main deck of the old lake
boat.

"It will be cooler on top," said Helen and they went up the broad stairs
to the upper deck. Perched on this deck was the pilot house where Captain
Billy ruled.

He saw them and motioned them to join him.

"Have a big celebration?" he asked when they entered the pilot house.

"Finest ever," said Margaret, "but we're ready to call it a day and start
home."

"Better set down on those benches," said Captain Billy, motioning toward
the leather-cushioned lockers which lined the walls of the pilot house.

The veteran lake skipper leaned out of the pilot house, watching the
crowd on the beach. The electric lights flashed on as twilight draped its
purple mantle over the lake and the whole scene was subdued. The cries
from the bathers were not as sharp, the music from the midway seemed to
have lost some of its sharpness and the whole crowd of holiday
celebrators relaxed with the coming of night.

Captain Billy glanced at his watch.

"Two minutes," he said, half to himself as he reached for the whistle
cord. Again the mellow whistle of the _Queen_ rang out and belated
excursionists hastened aboard.

The ticket seller at the pier head sounded his final warning bell, and
there was the last minute rush across the stubby gang plank. Captain
Billy signalled the engine room, bells rang in the depths of the boat and
the easy chouf-chouf of the twin stacks deepened as the engines took up
their work and the _Queen_ backed slowly away from the pier.

Two men who had tarried at the midway too long ran down the pier and
yelled at Captain Billy. The skipper picked up his megaphone.

"Sorry, too late," he shouted. "We'll be back in two hours."

"Gosh-dinged idiots," he grumbled to himself. "Here I wait as long as I
can and then they expect me to put back in shore. Not me, by Joe, when
I've got to make connections with one of them excursion trains."

"Have lots of business today?" asked Tom.

"Biggest day in the twenty odd years I've had the _Queen_ on the lake,"
he chuckled. "The old girl is about on her last legs but this season
looks like the best of all. If the paved road goes through they'll all
come in cars and the railroad and the _Queen_ will be out of luck."

"But you're not objecting to the paved road, are you?" asked Helen.

"Course not," he replied. "It's progress and you can't stop it."

The _Queen_, ablaze with lights, churned steadily up the lake and the
electrics along the beach at Sandy Point faded into a string of dots.
Speed boats, showing their red and green riding lights, raced past in
smothers of foam but the _Queen_ rocked only slightly as they passed and
continued steadily on her way.

The band on the after part of the top deck played slower, softer melodies
and the whole scene was one of calm and quiet, a fitting end for a great
celebration.

Of all the people on the _Queen_, only Captain Billy in the pilot house
and the crew in the black depths of the engine room were alive to the
dangers of the night. They knew how anything unusual and startling might
cause a panic which would capsize the _Queen_ or how careless navigation
on the part of Captain Billy might shove the _Queen_ onto one of the
jagged ledges of rock which were hazards to navigation in certain parts
of the lake. But the _Queen_ passed safely through the rock-strewn
sections of the lake and Captain Billy relaxed as the lights of Rolfe
came into view.

The _Queen_ was less than half a mile from her pier when the unexpected
happened. A speed boat, without lights, loomed out of the night.

Screams echoed from the lower deck. Before Captain Billy could twirl his
wheel and shift the blunt nose of the _Queen_, the speed boat knifed into
the bow of the old steamer.

There was the crash of splintering wood, and muffled cries from the men
and women in the smaller boat.

Captain Billy knew the danger even before the boats met. The crash of the
collision was still in their ears when he called to Tom.

"Take the wheel," he cried, "and keep the _Queen_ headed for the beach.
Don't change the course."

Then he leaned over the speaking tube to the engine room.

"Captain Billy speaking," he shouted. "A speed boat just hit us. Full
speed ahead until we ground on the sandy beach."

They could feel the _Queen_ trembling as the crowd on the lower deck
rushed forward toward the scene of the accident.

"The fools, the fools," muttered Captain Billy as he ran from the pilot
house.

The leader of the band ran forward.

"Get back and play," ordered the captain. "Play anything loud."

A deck hand, racing up from below, met Captain Billy at the head of the
stairs.

"They knocked a hole clear through us," he gasped. "We're taking water
fast."

"Shut up," snapped the captain. "Stay here and don't let anyone off the
upper deck."

The young people in the pilot house saw Captain Billy rush down the
stairs and they looked at one another in open amazement.

"He's every inch a skipper," said Tom as he clung to the wheel of the
_Queen_.

"I hope he pulls us through," said Margaret, staring at the lights of
Rolfe. A minute ago they had seemed so close; now they were so far away,
the longest half mile any of them would ever know.

"He'll get us there if it is humanly possible," Helen said hopefully.

The crowd on the upper deck milled excitedly but the deck hand forced
them back from the stairway and the steady playing of the band and
continued forward movement of the _Queen_ seemed to allay their worst
fears.

Sparks rolled from the twin funnels as the engines labored to the utmost
but Tom, his hands on the sensitive wheel, knew that the speed was
decreasing. The _Queen_ was harder to handle, the bow was settling lower
in the water but less than a quarter of a mile remained. He reached up
and pulled the whistle cord. Three short, sharp blasts shattered the
night. Three more and then three more. It was the signal for help but he
wondered how many would be in Rolfe to answer the call.

"How deep is the water from here in?" asked Helen.

"About twenty feet," replied her brother. "Better slip on those life
preservers and get ready to jump. We're taking water fast."

"There are several hundred in the lockers here," said Helen. "I'm going
to pass them out to the people on deck."

"It will only alarm them," said Tom.

"But they've got to have a chance if we go under," replied Helen and with
Margaret to help her, she hurled scores of life preservers out of the
pilot house onto the deck.

The passengers had lost their first panic. They knew the _Queen_ was
making a valiant fight to reach shore but the tenseness, the grimness of
the crew told them it was going to be close. In the emergency they used
their heads and put on the life preservers as fast as Helen and Margaret
could pull them from the lockers.

The lights of Rolfe were agonizingly close. Less than six hundred feet
separated them from the safety of the sandy shore. On the upper deck the
passengers were quiet, ready for the crisis.

Tom leaned close to the speaking tube. The chief engineer was talking.

"What's he saying?" Helen demanded.

"Water's in the engine room," replied her brother. "The fires under the
boiler will be out in another minute or two. Then blewy!"

"Isn't there enough steam to make shore?" asked Margaret desperately, for
after her experience on the lake earlier in the summer she had a very
real fear of Dubar at night.

"All we can do is hope," replied Tom. "They'll keep the engines turning
over as long as there is any steam left."

The warning from the whistle was bringing people from town and they were
gathering under the electrics along the beach. Helen wondered if they
knew that death was riding on the bow of the _Queen_, that tragedy was
waiting to swoop down on the old boat and its load of excursionists.

The _Queen_ staggered, wabbled dangerously, and the wheel jerked out of
Tom's hands. He grabbed the spokes and held the bow steady as the _Queen_
stumbled ahead. They could see the faces of the people on the beach now,
saw the look of horror that spread over them as they saw the stove-in bow
of the _Queen_. There were only two hundred feet to go but they were
still in deep water.

The voice from the speaking tube rolled into the pilot house.

"Steam's gone!"

On the echo of the words the steady beat of the engines slowed and it was
only by clinging to the wheel with all of his strength that Tom held the
_Queen_ in to shore.

The bow was almost even with the water now. They seemed to be plowing
their way into the depths of the lake. Then the bow lifted and grated on
the sand. The momentum carried the _Queen_ forward, shivering and
protesting at every foot it was driven into the beach.

There was a wild scramble on the main deck, cries of relief and happiness
as passengers by the score jumped into the knee deep water and ran for
shore. The men, women and children on the upper deck hurried down the
stairs while through it all the band kept up its steady blare, the crash
of brass on brass and the constant thump, thump of the bass drum.

The danger past, Tom stepped back from the wheel. His arms felt as though
they had been almost pulled from their sockets, so great had been the
strain of holding the _Queen_ on its course.

Helen and Margaret stripped off their life preservers and went down to
the main deck with Tom. There they found Captain Billy and the crew of
the _Queen_ gathered at the bow of the boat. A great hole had been torn
in the old steamer's hull by the speed boat and Tom marveled that they
had been able to make shore.

"Why didn't we sink out in the lake?" he asked Captain Billy.

"Guess we might have," smiled the captain, "but we managed to hold the
speed boat in the hole it had made until we were most to shore. Otherwise
we'd have filled and gone down inside a couple of minutes after they hit
us."

A decidedly sheepish young man broke through the group and faced Captain
Billy.

"I'm the owner of the boat that hit you," he explained. "We were going to
see how close we could come and one of the girls in the boat tickled me
and I swung the wheel the wrong way."

"You almost swung about four hundred people into the lake," Captain Billy
reminded him tartly.

"I'm terribly sorry," replied the owner of the speed boat, "and I'm
decidedly grateful to you for fishing us out of it after we hit you. I'm
Maxfield Hooker of Cranston and I'll be glad to pay for all of the damage
to your boat."

"We'll talk about that later," said Captain Billy. "I've got to see that
those excursionists all make their trains."

"Did you get that?" said Tom as he nudged Helen. "Maxfield Hooker of
Cranston, son of the multi-millionaire soap manufacturer. Captain Billy
can have a new _Queen_ if he wants one."

"My guess is that he won't want one," said Helen. "After all, the _Queen_
has had a long and useful career and she certainly proved herself in the
emergency tonight."

Captain Billy made sure that all of the excursionists were safely off the
boat and that done, he came back to where Tom, Helen and Margaret were
standing.

"I've a great deal to be thankful for," he told them. "It was only
through the nerve and calmness of the crew and such as you three that the
_Queen_ pulled through. Tom, I'm eternally grateful to you for sticking
in the pilot house and to you girls for having the presence of mind to
pass out the life preservers."

Before they could reply Captain Billy turned and hastened up to the pilot
house. Tom started to follow but Helen stopped him.

"Don't go," she said. "He wants to say good-bye to the _Queen_."



                               CHAPTER XV
                           _Success Attends_


Later that night the _Queen_ caught fire and burned to the water's edge.
Some said that Captain Billy, saddened by the tragedy which had almost
befallen the majestic old craft, had set the fire himself but none ever
knew definitely.

Helen telephoned the story of Captain Billy and the burning of the
_Queen_ to the _Associated Press_ at Cranston and found the night editor
there anxious for the story.

"Great human interest stuff," he said as he hung up.

The Blairs and Stevens watched the burning of the _Queen_ from the knoll
on which the Blair home was situated and later they saw the shower of
fireworks set off at Crescent Beach, far down the lake. It was well after
midnight when they finally called it a day, one which would long be
remembered by Tom and Helen Blair and Margaret Stevens.

The second day of the celebration, Sunday, they rested quietly at home
and planned for the coming week.

With the Monday morning mail came the papers from Cranston, a letter from
McClintock of the _Associated Press_ and new thrills for Helen.

The Cranston papers blazoned her story of "Speed" Rand's plans to circle
the globe in a nonstop refueling flight on the front page and the big
surprise was the first line which read: "By Helen Blair, Special
Correspondent of the Associated Press, Copyright 1932 (All Rights
Reserved)."

Helen gazed at the story in frank awe and amazement. She knew it was a
highly important story, but to get a by-line with the Associated Press
was an honor she scarcely had dared dream about.

The letter from McClintock commended her further for her work, promised
that her monthly check would be a liberal one and added that when she
finished high school he would be glad to consider her for a job with the
Associated Press.

Helen sat down and wrote a long letter to her father, telling in detail
the events of the Fourth and enclosing the Associated Press story and her
letter from McClintock. That done, she turned to the task of writing her
stories for the _Weekly Herald_. Tom was out soliciting ads, Margaret had
gone down the lake to check up at both summer resorts about possible
accidents and she had the office to herself that morning.

Which story should Helen write first, "Speed" Rand's world flight, the
celebration at Sandy Point or the story of Captain Billy and the _Queen_?
She threaded a sheet of copy paper into her typewriter and sought
inspiration in a blank gaze at the ceiling. Inspiration failed to come
from that source and she scrawled aimlessly with pencil and paper, her
mind mulling over the myriad facts of her stories. Then she started
typing. Her first story concerned Captain Billy and the _Queen_, for
Captain Billy and his ancient craft were known to every reader of the
_Herald_. They were home news. "Speed" Rand and his plans concerned the
outside world.

The events of the night of the Fourth were indelibly printed in Helen's
mind and the copy rolled from her typewriter, two, four, six, ten pages.
She stopped long enough to delve into the files and find the story which
the _Herald_ had printed 23 years before when the _Queen_ made her maiden
trip on Lake Dubar. Two more pages of copy rolled from her machine.

Helen picked up the typed pages, 12 altogether. She hadn't intended to
make the story that long but it had written itself, it was one of those
stories in which danger and heroism combine to make the human-interest
that all newspaper readers enjoy.

With the story of Captain Billy and the _Queen_ out of the way, Helen
wrote a short lead about "Speed" Rand and then clipped the rest of the
story for the _Herald_ from the one she had telephoned the Associated
Press. Even then it would run more than a column and with a long story on
the general Fourth of July celebration she felt that the _Herald_ would
indeed give its subscribers their money's worth of news that week.

There was a slight let-down in advertising the week following the Fourth
but they crammed the six home-printed pages of the _Herald_ full of news
and went to press early Thursday, for it was election day and the fate of
the paved road program was at stake. For the last month Helen had written
editorials urging the improvement of the roads and they went directly
from the office Thursday afternoon to the polling place to remain there
until the last ballot had been counted. The vote was heavy and Rolfe
favored the good roads 452 to 73.

Doctor Stevens, who announced the vote to the anxious crowd, added, "And
I think we can thank Helen Blair, our young editor of the _Herald_, for
showing us the value of better roads."

There was hearty applause and calls for speech, but Helen refused to
talk, hurrying away to telephone the Rolfe vote to the Associated Press.
The morning papers announced that the program had carried in the state as
a whole and that paving would start at once with Rolfe assured of being
on the scenic highway not later than the next summer.

News from their father in Arizona continued cheering and as their own
bank account increased steadily and circulation mounted, Tom and Helen
felt that they were making a success of their management of the _Herald_.

The remainder of July passed rapidly and the hot blasts of August winds
seared the valley of Lake Dubar. The only refreshing thing was the night
breeze from the lake which cooled the heat-baked town and afforded some
relief. Then came the cooler days of September and the return to school.

Superintendent Fowler arrived a week before the opening of the fall term
and Tom and Helen arranged to attend part time, yet carry full work.
Helen also worked out plans for a school page, news of every grade to be
written by some student especially designated as a reporter for the
"_School Herald_."

Tom and Helen had so systematized their work that the task of getting out
the paper was reduced to a minimum. With Margaret willing to help
whenever needed, they felt sure they could continue the successful
operation of the _Herald_.

Every spare hour Helen devoted to building up the circulation list and by
early October they had added 400 new subscribers, which gave the _Herald_
a total of 1,272 in the county and every one paid up.

"Gosh, I never thought we could get that many," said Tom as he checked
over the circulation records. "Now I'm sure we'll be named one of the
official county papers. What a surprise that will be for Dad."

"I thought you said we'd have a lot of trouble with Burr Atwell, editor
of the _Advocate_ at Auburn," chided Helen as she recalled her brother's
dire statements of what the fiery editor of the Auburn paper would do
when he found the _Herald_ was trying to take the county printing away
from him.

"We've just been lucky so far," replied Tom. "Atwell will wake up one of
these days and then we'll have plenty of trouble. He won't fight fair."

"Let's not borrow trouble until it arrives," Helen smiled.

Organization of the high school classes and election of officers followed
the opening of school and Helen found herself president of the juniors
while Tom was named secretary and treasurer of the seniors.

"I'm mighty proud of both of you," said Mrs. Blair when they told her the
news that night at dinner. "It is no more than you deserve but I hope it
won't be too much of a burden added to your work on the paper."

"It won't take much time," Tom assured her, "and since Marg Stevens is
vice president of the juniors Helen can turn a lot of the work over to
her."

They were still at the dinner table when a heavy knock at the front door
startled them. Tom answered the summons and they heard him talking with
someone with an exceedingly harsh voice. When Tom returned he was
accompanied by a stranger.

"Mother," he said, "this is Mr. Atwell, editor of the _Auburn Advocate_."

Mrs. Blair acknowledged the introduction and Tom introduced the visiting
editor to Helen. Mr. Atwell sat down heavily in a chair Tom offered.

"I suppose you know why I'm here?" he asked.

"I'm afraid not," replied Mrs. Blair.

"It's about the _Herald_ and the circulation tactics of these young
whipper-snappers of yours. I hear they're trying to take the county
printing away from me and become one of the official papers of the
county."

"Who informed you of that?" asked Helen, who had taken an instant dislike
to the pudgy visitor whose flabby cheeks were covered with a heavy
stubble of whiskers.

"Folks have been talking," he replied.

"When you want information like that you'd better come to those
concerned," retorted the energetic young editor of the _Herald_.

"That's just what I'm a-doing," he replied. "Are you?"

"Are we what?" interposed Tom.

"Are you trying to be a county paper?" snorted Atwell.

"Yes," replied Helen, "we are. This section of the county doesn't have an
official weekly and the people here want one."

"You're trying to rob me of my bread and butter for your own selfish
ends," stormed the visitor.

"We're not trying to rob anybody," replied Tom. "Get this straight. We've
as much if not more right to be a county weekly than you have. All we
have to say is be sure your records are correct when the supervisors meet
in December. Now get out of here!"

Atwell rose slowly, his heavy features suffused with anger and his hands
shaking.

"I serve notice on you," he stormed, "that you'll never win out." He
stomped from the room, slamming the front door as he went.

Mrs. Blair looked at Tom and Helen.

"Don't you think you were a little short with him?" she asked.

"Perhaps," admitted Helen, "but he can't tell us what to do."

"In that," smiled her mother, "you take after your father."

They refused to let the warning from the editor of the Auburn paper dim
their hopes or retard their efforts. Circulation mounted steadily until
by mid-November it had reached an even 1,400.

Tom continued his weekly trips to Gladbrook to get the county farm news
and to solicit advertising. From one of these trips he returned jubilant.

"I've been talking with the supervisors," he said, "and they're all in
favor of naming the _Herald_ the third official paper instead of the
_Advocate_. One of them suggested that we get an auditor from Cranston to
go over our circulation list and officially audit it and then have him
with us when we appear before the board."

"But wouldn't that cost a lot of money?"

"Probably $50 but having an audited list will practically insure us of
getting the county work. Also, I'm going to take our subscription records
and list over to the bank and keep them there until we need them every
Thursday."

"Why, what's the matter, Tom?"

"I heard some talk in the courthouse that Atwell had been boasting he'd
get even with us and I'm not going to take any chances with the records."

With characteristic determination Tom made the transfer that afternoon
and it was only mid-evening of the same day when the fire siren sounded
its alarm.

All of the Blairs hurried outside where, from the front porch of their
home, they could look down main street.

"The truck is stopping in front of the _Herald_ office!" gasped Helen.

Without a word Tom plunged down the hill, running full speed for the
office. Helen and her mother followed as quickly as possible.

Main street rapidly filled with excited townspeople and they caught the
odor of burning wood as they neared the _Herald_ building. Margaret
Stevens ran up to them.

"It doesn't look bad," she tried to reassure them, "and the firemen have
it under control."

Helen was so weak from the shock of the fire that she clung to Margaret
and her mother for support. Her head reeled as picture thoughts raced
through her mind. The threats of Burr Atwell, all of their months of hard
work, the expense of the fire, their father's need for money, Tom's
precautions in moving the circulation list.

Then it was over. The firemen dragged their line of hose from the
chemical tank back to the street and they crowded into the smoke-filled
rooms. The fire had started near the back door but thanks to the night
watchman had been detected before it had gained headway. The week's
supply of print paper was ruined and the two rooms blackened by smoke and
splattered with the chemical used to check the flames, but the press and
Linotype were undamaged.

Tom wanted to stay and clean up the office but Mrs. Blair insisted that
they all return home, herself instructing the night watchman to hire
several town laborers to work the rest of the night cleaning up the
office.

"That fire was deliberately set," raged Tom as they walked home. "The
fire chief saved the greasy rags he found in the corner of the composing
room where it started. Ten more minutes without discovery and we wouldn't
have had a newspaper."

"Who could have done such a thing?" protested his mother.

"Burr Atwell," declared Tom. "The editorial office had been ransacked for
the circulation records. It's a good thing I moved them this afternoon."

"Can we prove Atwell had a hand in this?"

"I don't suppose so," admitted Tom, "but we'll run a story in this week's
issue that will scare him. We'll say the fire chief is investigating and
may ask for state secret service men to help him run down the fire bug
who started it. That ought to give Atwell a queer feeling."

They telephoned for another supply of print paper for the week's issue
and the next morning were back at the office. The men who had worked
through the night had done a good job of cleaning and there was little
evidence of fire other than the charred casings of the back door and
smudgy condition of the walls and ceiling.

Thanksgiving was brightened by word from their father that he would be
able to return home in the spring but despite that it was a sad day in
the Blair home for there was none to fill his chair at the head of the
table.

"Christmas," thought Helen, "is going to be terribly lonesome for mother
with Dad so far away," and the more she thought about it the more
determined she became. Without saying anything to Tom or her mother, she
made several guarded inquiries at the station and elicited the desired
information.

The days before the annual meeting of the supervisors passed rapidly. The
ground whitened under the first snow of the year and the auditor for whom
Tom had arranged in Cranston arrived to audit their circulation list
officially. For a week before his arrival Tom and Helen concentrated
every effort on their circulation with the result that when the audit was
completed the _Herald_ could boast of 1,411 paid up subscriptions.

"You've done a remarkably fine piece of work," Curtis Adams, the auditor,
told Helen, "and I'm sure you young folks deserve the county work."

The supervisors met on Thursday, December 15th, and in order to attend
the meeting Tom and Helen worked most of Wednesday night getting the
final pages of the _Herald_ on the press, assembling and folding the
papers. It was three o'clock in the morning when they reached home and
their mother, who had been sleeping on a davenport awaiting their return,
prepared a hot lunch and then sent them to bed.

At nine o'clock Tom teased their venerable flivver into motion and with
their records and the auditor in the back seat, they started for
Gladbrook. It was well after ten o'clock when they reached the courthouse
and they went directly to the supervisors' rooms where a clerk asked them
to wait.

Half an hour later they were called and Helen went into the board room
with mixed emotions throbbing through her mind. What would be the answer
to their months of work? Would they get the county work which meant so
much or would Burr Atwell succeed in defeating them?

Her arms ached from the heavy task of folding the papers the night before
and she was so nervous she was on the verge of tears. If they won they
would be able to buy a folder for the press and she wouldn't have to fold
any more papers. That thought alone gave her new courage and she smiled
bravely at Tom as he stepped forward and told the supervisors why he
believed the _Herald_ should be the third county paper.

Then Mr. Adams, the auditor, presented his sworn statement of the
circulation of the _Herald_ and in conclusion, he added:

"I have never seen a sounder or better circulation than these young
people have built up. They have made no special offers nor have they
reduced rates. People who take the _Herald_ do so because it is one of
the best weekly papers I have ever seen."

The chairman of the board of supervisors looked expectantly around the
room.

"The Gladbrook papers, the _News_ and the _Times_, have made their
application and the _Herald_ has just been heard," he explained. "I
expected Mr. Atwell of the _Auburn Advocate_ would be here."

The board waited for fifteen minutes. Then there was a whispered
conference between members and the chairman stood up.

"The selection of official papers has been made," he announced. "_The
Gladbrook News_, the _Gladbrook Times_ and the _Rolfe Herald_ will be
known as the official papers for the ensuing year. The meeting is
adjourned until afternoon."

The editors of the Gladbrook papers offered Tom and Helen their
congratulations and expressed willingness to cooperate in every way.

When they were alone Tom looked at Helen through eyes that were dim.

"We won," he said huskily, "and it's all due to your hard work on
circulation."

Helen's eyes were just as misty as she smiled back.

"No," she replied, "it was your hunch in putting the records in the bank.
We'd have been ruined if you hadn't. I'm wondering why Mr. Atwell didn't
appear."

"I have a hunch he was afraid we had connected him with the fire," said
Tom. "Now let's phone mother and then send a wire to Dad."

That afternoon Tom completed the arrangements to publish the official
proceedings of the county supervisors and increased the amount of job
printing he was to get from the courthouse. He also hired a middle-aged
printer who agreed to come to Rolfe and work for $18 a week.

"But isn't that a little extravagant?" asked Helen.

"We must have help now," explained Tom, "and with the county printing
safely tucked away we can afford it. Also, I bought a second-hand folder
from the _Times_ here. It only cost me $50 and you'll never have to fold
papers again."

"Oh, I'm so happy," exclaimed Helen, "for I did hate to fold them. There
were so many along toward the end."

On the way home that afternoon they made further plans and checked up on
their funds in the bank.

"We've got a little over $900 right now," said Tom, "and that's deducting
all of my extravagances of an auditor and buying the second-hand folder.
Our bills are all paid and we're having a record December in advertising.
I'd say we were sitting pretty."

"I was thinking about Christmas," said Helen.

"It's going to be mighty lonesome without Dad," admitted Tom.

"Mother will miss him especially. They've never been away from each other
at the holidays before."

Something in Helen's voice caught Tom's attention and he glanced at her
sharply.

"Say, what the dickens are you driving at?" he asked.

"Give me a check for $200 and I'll show you," replied Helen. "It will
mean the happiest Christmas we've ever had."

"I'll do it and no questions asked until you're ready to tell me," agreed
Tom and when they reached Rolfe he went to the office and signed a check
for $200 payable to Helen Blair.

The following Thursday fell on the 22nd of December and there was so much
advertising they had to run two sections of the _Herald_. The printer
they had hired in Gladbrook was slow but thorough and they got the paper
to press on time. With the folder installed, Helen was spared the arduous
duties of folding all of the papers and she devoted her time to running
the mailing machine.

"Spent that $200 yet?" asked Tom as they walked home through the brisk
December evening, snow crunching underfoot.

"All gone," smiled Helen, "and the big surprise is here in my pocket.
Wait until we get home and I tell mother about it."

"Guess I'll have to," grinned Tom.

They found their mother in the kitchen busy with the evening meal.

"Mother, we've got a Christmas surprise for you," said Helen. "Come in
the living room."

Mrs. Blair looked up quickly.

"That's thoughtful of you," she said, "but I hope you didn't spend too
much money."

Wiping her hands on her apron, she preceded them into the living room.

"Where is it?" she asked.

"Over there on the library table," replied Helen, pointing to an envelope
tied with a band of red ribbon with a sprig of holly on top.

Mrs. Blair picked up the envelope, untied the ribbon and looked inside.
She pulled out two objects. One was a long, green strip of paper with
many perforations and much printing. The other was a small black book
similar to a check book.

She held the long slip with hands that trembled as she read it.

"It's a round trip ticket to Rubio, Arizona!" she gasped, "Oh, Helen!
Tom! How kind of you. Father and I will have Christmas together! And
here's a book of traveler's checks and Pullman reservations. I'm to leave
tomorrow."

Tom gave Helen a hearty hug.

"So that's where the $200 went," he whispered. "Are you sure it's
enough?"

"Plenty," she replied.

Mrs. Blair sat down in her favorite chair, the ticket and check book in
her hands, her eyes dim with tears.

"But I can't go away and leave you two here alone during holidays," she
said.

"Oh yes you can, Mother," said Tom. "We'll be happy just knowing that you
and Dad are together and you can tell him all about us and then, when you
come back, you can tell us all about him."

"You must go, Mother," insisted Helen. "I've let Dad in on the surprise
and we can't disappoint him now."

Doctor Stevens drove them to the junction where Mrs. Blair was to board
the Southwestern limited. Snow was falling steadily, one of those dry,
sifting snows that presage a white Christmas in the middle west.

The limited poked its dark nose through the storm and drew its string of
Pullmans up to the bleak platform. It paused for only a minute and the
goodbyes were hasty.

The limited whirled away into the storm and Tom and Helen, standing alone
on the platform, watched it disappear in the snow. It would be a quiet
Christmas for them but they were supremely happy knowing that their
father was on the road to health and that they had made a success of the
_Herald_.


                                THE END



                            BOOKS for GIRLS


                     THE MERRIWEATHER GIRLS SERIES
                           BY LIZETTE EDHOLM

The Merriweather girls, Bet, Shirley, Joy and Kit are four fun-loving
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  The Merriweather Girls in Quest of Treasure
  The Merriweather Girls at Good Old Rock Hill


                         CAMPFIRE GIRLS SERIES
                          BY MARGARET PENROSE

These stories take in the activities of several bright girls who become
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  Campfire Girls on Program
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                           EVERYGIRL'S SERIES

Grouped in the Everygirl's Series are five volumes selected for
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  The S.W.F. Club                                     Caroline E. Jacobs
  Jane Lends a Hand                                      Shirley Watkins
  Nancy of Paradise College                              Shirley Watkins
  Georgina Finds Herself                                 Shirley Watkins
  Helen in the Editors Chair                               Ruthe Wheeler


                          PEGGY STEWART SERIES
                       _By_ GABRIELLE E. JACKSON

  Peggy Stewart at Home
  Peggy Stewart at School

Peggy, Polly, Rosalie, Marjorie, Natalie, Isabel, Stella and Juno--girls
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                       _By_ GABRIELLE E. JACKSON

Against the colorful background of Annapolis and a picturesque southern
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  Peggy Stewart at Home
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                         The Motor Girls Series
                         _By_ MARGARET PENROSE

A dashing, fun-loving girl is Cora Kimball and she is surrounded in her
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  The Motor Girls
  On Tour
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  Through New England
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  In the Mountains


                      Helen In the Editor's Chair
                         _By_ RUTHE S. WHEELER

"Helen in the Editor's Chair" strikes a new note in stories for girls.
Its heroine, Helen Blair, is typical of the strong, self-reliant girl of
today. When her father suffers a breakdown and is forced to go to a drier
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their year on the _Herald_ will keep you tingling with excitement from
the first page to the last.


                           RED STAR CLASSICS

  Heidi                                                 By Johanna Spyri
  Treasure Island                              By Robert Louis Stevenson
  Hans Brinker                                       By Mary Mapes Dodge
  Gulliver's Travels                                   By Jonathan Swift
  Alice in Wonderland                                    By Lewis Carrol
  Pinocchio                                             By Carlo Collodi
  The Story of a Bad Boy                        By Thomas Bailey Aldrich
  Kidnapped                                    By Robert Louis Stevenson
  Stories from King Arthur                                        Retold
  The Little Lame Prince                                  By Miss Mulock

Boys and girls the world over worship these "Classics" of all times, and
          no youth is complete without their imagination-stirring
          influence. They are the time-tested favorites loved by
          generations of young people.


The Goldsmith Publishing Co.
CHICAGO



      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber's note:

--Obvious typographical errors were corrected without changing
  nonstandard spellings that might have been dialectical.





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