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Title: The Blue Birds at Happy Hills
Author: Roy, Lillian Elizabeth
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.

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[Illustration]



  THE BLUE BIRDS
  AT HAPPY HILLS


  BY
  LILLIAN ELIZABETH ROY

  AUTHOR OF THE “FIVE LITTLE
  STARRS” SERIES, ETC.


  New York
  THE PLATT & NOURSE CO.



  Copyright, 1919,
  BY
  THE PLATT & NOURSE CO.



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                                  PAGE

     I KEEPING UNCLE BEN’S APPOINTMENT                        7

    II WHO’S GOING TO HAPPY HILLS?                           27

   III UNCLE BEN’S DRILL CORPS                               43

    IV THE BLUE BIRDS VISIT HAPPY HILLS                      61

     V MISS MARTIN’S TALK                                    79

    VI LITTLE MOTHER MAGPIE                                  91

   VII UNEXPECTED GENIUSES FOUND AT HAPPY HILLS             112

  VIII THE STREET CLEANING SQUAD                            131

    IX THE LITTLE CITIZENS’ PICNIC                          143

     X MISS MARTIN’S NATURE STORIES                         164

    XI THE AMUSEMENT COMPANY                                179

   XII THE CIRCUS AT HAPPY HILLS                            192

  XIII THE SAWDUST RING                                     207

   XIV THE CITY HOME PLAN                                   219

    XV MISS MARTIN’S LITTLE STORIES OF GREAT PEOPLE         230

   XVI THE END OF A HAPPY SUMMER                            247



THE BLUE BIRDS AT HAPPY HILLS



CHAPTER I

KEEPING UNCLE BEN’S APPOINTMENT


“We are ready to start, but where are the twins?” exclaimed Jinks
impatiently. Jinks was Meredith Starr’s chum who lived next door to the
Starrs.

“Why, they were here but a moment ago!” said Mete.

“Perhaps they ran on to Mossy Glen without us,” came from Lavinia
Starr, two years older than the twins, who were eight.

A shrill whistle from the woods then told the three waiting children
that Don and Dot Starr were half-way to the meeting place. The Blue
Birds and Bobolinks were going to meet at the barn, known now as the
Publishing Offices, to start thence for the ten-forty train to New
York.

“Hurry up, we’ve wasted three minutes waiting for those awful twins!”
sighed Vene--the nickname for Lavinia.

At the Publishing Offices on the Mossy Glen estate, the three late
arrivals found all the members assembled. Ruth and Ned Talmage had not
far to walk as their home was at Mossy Glen, and the Starr children
including Jinks were now accounted for. Besides these two groups,
there were the other girl-members of the Blue Bird Club, or Nest, and
the boys who founded the society called Bobolinks, that published the
magazine and other important printed matter--such as tickets, notices,
programmes, etc.

“Here come Ike and Jim--can we all crowd into those two autos, do you
think?” asked Ned, anxiously.

“It will not be the first time they’ve carried such a load,” laughed
Jinks.

Just as the children climbed eagerly into the two cars, Mrs. Talmage
appeared hurrying along the path from the house.

“Now Ned--remember! Don’t allow anyone to go other than the way I’ve
directed you. This is the first time that we grown-ups consented to
have you children go to New York alone, and you must be careful to
follow all advices from us,” declared Mrs. Talmage, with a note of
anxiety in her tone.

“Oh, we’ll be all right, mother; don’t worry. Aren’t Mete and Jinks and
I almost grown up?” said Ned, soothingly.

“No, you’re not! You three boys are just as full of mischief as Don
Starr, and everyone knows what we have to endure from _him_!” sighed
Mrs. Talmage.

The children all laughed--Dot Starr the twin, laughing loudest, but Don
looked as dark as a thunder-cloud at his friends.

“Guess you all got out of bed with a left foot, this morning! That
accounts for the grouches!” grumbled Don.

Another laugh failed to bring harmony into Don’s discordant heart just
then, so Mrs. Talmage turned again to Ned:

“When you get off the train at Hoboken, you take the tube
uptown--remember now, uptown! Don’t get on the cars that go to Newark
or Cortlandt Street. Ask a guard which is the right train to carry you
to 23rd Street.

“Then walk across from the 23rd Street exit to Fourth Avenue, and up
Fourth to Uncle Ben’s address. You have it written on the letter, Ned,
so you simply can’t go wrong!”

“We won’t go wrong, Mother. You only _think_ we may!”

“Oh, for goodness’ sake--hurry up! We’ll miss that train,” complained
Don, who now had an opportunity to give vent to his ire.

“Good-by, children! I wish you would telephone me as soon as you arrive
at Uncle Ben’s offices, so I will know you are all right!” said Mrs.
Talmage as the cars rolled away.

The party had ample time to board the train at the little station of
Oakdale, and soon they found themselves in Hoboken--the terminal for
the Jersey suburban trains.

As they were passing the news-stand at the foot of the steps that led
to the tubes under the river, Don saw a variety of tempting candies.

“I’ve got my week’s allowance with me, Dot--do you want some
chewing-gum?” asked her twin.

“S-sh! They’ll hear you! And you know Vene won’t let us have
chewing-gum,” warned Dot, glancing at the other children. But they had
not heard Don, as they were interested in buying the tickets to New
York.

This was a perplexing matter, as tickets for Dot, Don, and Tuck
Stevens were to be at half-price, and those of the other children at
full-price. The twins took advantage of the problem to buy a box of gum
and a roll of chocolate disks.

“Oh! Looka here! We’ve got ten pieces of gum for a nickel!” chuckled
Don, delightedly, as he emptied the box into his palm.

“You take five and I’ll take five,” suggested Dot.

“Why, no! Didn’t I pay for them? You take one and when you want another
I’ll give it to you.”

“But I always go even shares with you when _I_ get anything at home,”
argued Dot.

“That’s different! You don’t pay out your hard-earned money for it,
and I had to. Why, just think how many times last week I had to be at
school on time! Didn’t that mean getting out of bed so early that I
’most got insomnia from it?”

Dot had an inspiration. She hastily began chewing the single piece of
white-candied gum and determined to ask for a second piece soon, as Don
had promised to give her another one when she wanted it.

Don now hastened in front of his sister, to join the other children,
but he was too preoccupied with the gum to notice where he went. He
heard a guard call: “All aboard!” and he rushed in dragging Dot after
him--just in time! The door was closed and away sped the train.

“Where’s Ned--and Jinks, and the others?” gasped Dot, the moment they
found themselves safe on the moving train.

Don could not reply. He seemed to have a great obstruction in his
mouth. Finally he shoved the obstacle over in the hollow of a cheek and
gurgled out:

“Guess they went in the car ahead to be nearer the exit gate when we
get there.”

“Don Starr! What have you got in your mouth?” demanded Dot, suspecting
the truth.

“Gum, of course! What have you got?” retorted Don.

“I’ve got _one_ piece! How many have you?”

“I’ve got what I paid for!” snapped Don, but he had the grace to blush
at his selfishness.

“I--I just wish you’d swallow it! So there!” cried Dot, who had
unwisely thrown away the gum she had, to induce her twin to give her a
new piece.

Don glared only--he could not speak comfortably. Dot was so offended
that she started to walk through the forward car in search of her
friends. “Where’er yeh goin’, Missy?” asked a guard, stopping her.

“To find the others. They must be in front,” said Dot.

“Got your ticket? I didn’t see you drop one in the box back yonder,
cuz I was watchin’ the two of yuh,” was the astonishing reply from the
guard.

“Ticket! Don, have you got a ticket?”

“No--Ned got all of them,” replied Don, but he was so hasty in moving
the gum out of his tongue’s way to permit him to speak, that it almost
slipped down his throat.

A tremendous coughing and choking spell caught Don, and his face turned
as red as a poppy, while Dot hammered his back exultantly--now she had
a chance to get even with him!

“Where’er yeh goin’--Jersey City?” now asked the guard.

“Jersey City! Why--no. We are to get off at 23rd Street,” explained
Dot, surprised for the time.

“This is a Newark train,” announced the guard, wondering what he could
do with two stray children.

“Oh, my goodness! Maybe Ned isn’t on this train. Was there another
train in the same station?” gasped Dot.

“Sure--one on either side of the platform, but we’re always hollerin’
out where we go so folks won’t get mixed,” returned the guard.

Don couldn’t allow Dot to take the lead in this exciting adventure, but
he could not speak with his mouth full, so he slyly dropped the gum in
one palm and held his hand in his pocket. Then he was free to take his
part.

“Which is the nearest stop to 23rd Street?” asked he.

“Well, we will now stop at the Erie Station; next is Jersey City, and
so on till we reach Newark. Why?” replied the man.

“I’m thinking we could get off and take some car back.”

“That’s what you’ll have to do anyway, ’cause you haven’t any ticket
to show. But I don’t see how you are goin’ to ride back again widdout
payin’ at all!” explained the man.

Then a light seemed to break in upon them at the same time! They caught
hold of the guard’s coat and laughed:

“Don’t you see! Ned had all the money and tickets, so he dropped them
for us when he went through the gateway!”

“And diden’ you’se spend your ticket money for candy?” asked the guard,
suspiciously, as he knew the weakness of youngsters, having a brood at
home.

“Cross my heart, we didn’t! I used my week’s spending money. Last week
I didn’t earn any cuz I owed it all!” said Don, anxiously.

“All out for Erie Railroad!” now yelled the guard, as the train pulled
in and it was his duty to open the doors.

“Git off here and wait fer a train what comes in on th’ other side the
platform!” called he, shoving Don and Dot out from blocking the doorway.

“Much obliged! Good-by!” called Don, about to wave his hand that had
been hidden in his pocket. The other hand grasped Dot’s sleeve.

The door slammed, the train moved out, and the twins were left standing
alone. Don found he could not withdraw his hand readily, and discovered
that the gum had not only stuck fast to his fingers but had also
clutched a hold on various articles a boy always carries in his pocket.

“Dot you go and ask the newspaper man how long before a New York car
comes in?” suggested Don, as he wished to be alone when that gum came
forth.

Dot, proud to be trusted by her brother with such an important mission,
ran away and Don hurriedly set to work. After much tugging the gum came
out and with it came a marble, a broken jackknife, a fish-hook, a brass
button, a sling-shot, and a few other treasures.

Don did his best to extricate his personal property from the gum
without wasting too much of the rare treat. So he carefully chewed
off every bit that clung to each article as he pulled it forth. He
replaced the treasures in his pocket and thrust the gum in his mouth
just as Dot came back.

“See that red sign--up there?” said she, pointing to an electric sign
overhead.

“Well, that reads where the trains go. This one just coming in is
uptown the man said.”

With that she dragged her twin aboard without ceremony--was he not
chewing that gum again, and did she have any? No, sir!

Dot refused to speak a word to Don as they were whisked along to the
Hoboken terminal. Here they jumped off and stood and looked about
anxiously for their friends. Not a child was to be seen besides
themselves.

“Did they go back to the train to find us?” asked Dot.

“No, they got on the New York cars and thought we were on, too. When
they get to 23rd Street they’ll miss us and wait there till we come,”
explained Don, taking the gum from his mouth again to speak.

“What shall we do?”

“Get on the first train for uptown,” replied Don.

“There’s one--I’m going to ask the man where it goes,” announced Dot,
running to a guard standing by his platform.

“Where do you go?” asked the little girl.

“Downtown, New York.”

“Thank you,” and Dot walked away.

Another string of cars pulled in, and other guards got off after the
passengers had left. Dot ran up to one and said:

“Where do you go?”

“Jersey City, Manhattan Junction, Harrison, and Newark!” called the
man, without paying any attention to the child.

“Guess that isn’t it, yet,” thought Dot, giving the man a scornful look
because he would not notice her.

The twins waited and waited, and then another train came in where the
downtown train had pulled out.

“Hurrah!--Read the sign in the windows! ‘Uptown New York,’ Dot!” cried
Don, crowding on before anyone could get in ahead of him.

Thus it happened that Don walked into a car without waiting for Dot,
and she, being small, was pushed back by the grown-ups till the last.
Just as she was about to step on, Jinks caught her skirt.

“Thank goodness! Here you are! We’ve all been hunting high and low for
the two of you.”

“Why--where did you come from?” questioned Dot.

“Just came in on that car over there--I saw you waiting, before my
train stopped, and tried to hurry out to prevent you from leaving us.”

As he spoke, Dot stepped back beside Jinks, and the guard shut the door
and pulled the signal cord. Instantly the train moved and carried Don
uptown alone. He had not seen Jinks and thought Dot was behind him as
he walked through the sections looking for his friends.

“There now! Don is gone!” cried Dot, stamping her foot.

“On that car!” gasped Jinks, trying hard to choke back a laugh.

“Yes, and now he’ll get losted, too!”

“Not if he gets out at 23rd! We left Vene there to grab you if you
reached that far,” explained Jinks.

“Where’s Ned and Mete, and the others?”

“Ned went to Cortlandt Street and agreed to meet me at Hoboken again.
Mete went to Jersey City and other stations to ask for you. We left
Ruth with the other Blue Birds and Bobolinks in care of Vene at 23rd
Street station. Here comes a downtown train.”

It stopped and Ned stepped off. He glowered at Dot and asked: “What
under the sun do you twins think we are, anyway?”

“Nuthin’ much, if you can’t take charge of a few children!” retorted
Dot, glowering as darkly as he.

Jinks burst out laughing. “No use feeling upset about it, Ned. No one
yet has been able to scold the twins!”

Another train now pulled in and Mete got off.

“I’d just like to know what right you trouble-makers had to leave us
and wander around by yourselves?” demanded he, angrily.

“We didn’t wander--we rode! And what’s more you just got off the same
kind of train we got on, so you went the same route!” exclaimed Dot,
scornfully.

Now the train from uptown came in on its last stop at Hoboken.
Off stepped Vene. She hurried over to join her friends with the
exclamation:

“Oh, I saw Don on the train, but he didn’t get off at 23rd Street where
I waited. Before I could call or get his attention, the cars moved on.
I waited but he didn’t come back and I don’t know what to do!”

“What did you come here for?” demanded Mete, impatiently.

“I knew you would be here and could tell me what to do.”

“Yes, and most likely, by the time we all get back to 23rd Street,
those other nuisances will have escaped! Then we’ll waste a whole day
in hunting them up, instead of visiting Uncle Ben on time!” cried Mete,
beside himself.

“No, no! I left them sitting in a row on the bench with a colored
porter to guard them. I promised him some money if he would keep them
right where they sat!”

“Fine! I tell you boys--Vene is a true suffrage girl! She uses her
wits as well as we men do!” exclaimed Jinks, approvingly, for he was
Lavinia’s chief admirer those days.

“Pooh! If she was your sister you wouldn’t think so!”

“All aboard--uptown train!” now bawled a guard, and all else was
forgotten in the scurry to get on.

Dot felt worried about her twin, but being in such disgrace already,
she did not add to her troubles by asking for Don.

Soon the guard announced “23rd Street” and the children trooped off.
There sat the members of the Blue Birds and Bobolinks in a row on a
bench, and a negro man standing beside them was apparently enjoying
himself, as he listened to an orator standing at one end of the long
bench. It was Don who held forth with such a flow of rhetoric.

“Say you, Don Starr! How came you here?” shouted half a dozen voices,
as as many individuals ran over and caught hold of the boy.

At the sudden shaking, Don dropped something. Dot saw it fall and gave
it a vicious kick. It was a huge ball of gum. Don saw it and knew what
had caused it to roll away. He glared at Dot, and then turned to the
boys.

“Mighty good thing I got my wits about me! You boys aren’t worth a
cent to look after a bunch of youngsters! _I_ know how to travel,
all right! I’ve been to Jersey City, Hoboken, Erie, and Christopher
Street, Ninth Street, Fourteenth Street, Eighteenth, Twenty-third,
Twenty-eighth and Thirty-third Streets, all in an hour--and here I am
as fresh as ever!”

“Fresh--of course you are! And I’m going to have Uncle Ben take a lot
of it out of you just as soon as we get to his office!” threatened Mete.

“No you won’t either! I telephoned him from the 33rd Street station to
ask him what to do and he said: ‘Go and wait at 23rd Street station
as planned, and bring them all over here as soon as possible. You
are almost an hour late for the appointment!’ so I am to take charge
now, and see that we all get over to the office as quickly as you can
travel!”

The children laughed at the order from Don, and then started up the
steps to the street, but did not see Don stoop to catch up the ball of
gum. He planned to wash it well at a drinking place he knew of in his
uncle’s office.

Without further mishap, they all reached the 18th floor where Uncle
Ben’s office was located, and Don slipped away. The gum was soon
washed, and he chewed as noisily as ever as he ran after the last one
to enter the door leading from the main hall to the offices.

“Don Starr! what are you chewing?” demanded Vene, in a disgusted tone.

“Nawthin’!”

“Yes, you are, too! Ned, see what he’s chewing! I just know it’s gum!”
from shocked Vene.

“Don, are you chewing gum?” asked Ned.

“I’m not chewing a thing--can’t you see my jaws are as quiet as
yours--quieter, cuz you’re talking!”

“_Were_ you chewing gum?” now came severely from Mete.

“Not that you noticed it!” said Don, saucily.

“Open that mouth of yours!” demanded Mete.

“Can’t--my tooth is hooked!” replied Don, a faint twinkle beginning to
wrinkle his eyes.

“I’ll yank the tooth out--open your mouth!” and Mete caught hold of his
younger brother’s shoulders and shook him.

A choking, a sputtering, and a great confusion followed as Don was
forced to give up the gum.

“Oh--you! you--you----” but Vene had no words to convey her horror at
the untruth she felt Don had told.

“Good gracious--what a chunk! How could you crowd it in at one time!”
gasped Mete, when he saw the size of the gum.

“He chewed nine pieces at once!” eagerly attested Dot.

“Did you chew the tenth?” was the unexpected query from Ned.

“Only the teeniest bit--just to get the flavor, then I threw it away!”
admitted Dot.

“Oh, really!” from several voices.

“And she got angry when I wouldn’t give her five even!” added Don,
scowling at everyone.

“Why did you say you couldn’t open your mouth ’cause your tooth was
fast? Didn’t you know you were fibbing?” asked Ned.

“I didn’t say one word that was a lie! Now you think! My tooth _was_
hooked. I had to use that gum to keep my tooth from getting cold and
aching again. The dentist told me always to keep the nerve covered when
I went outdoors. He said it was an exposed nerve that made a tooth
jump. So I did as he advised me, that’s all!” explained Don.

Not another word was said about the gum then, as the inner door to
Uncle Ben’s offices was reached and the Publishers went in where all
was quiet, and such a thing as gum was never thought of!



CHAPTER II

WHO’S GOING TO HAPPY HILLS?


“Hello, Finn--where’er yeh goin’ in sech a hurry?” asked a newsboy of a
pal who was hurrying past.

“Oh--hello, Skelly! I’m lookin’ fer that chap what knows about them
passes fer camp.”

“Hully chee, Finn! Yeh don’t tell me ye’re goin’ to that Sunday School
place--what?” jeered the boy called Skelly.

“’Tain’t a prayer-meetin’ camp, neider! It’s a regerler camp fer boys
and gals. I was told there’s not a bit of Sunday School stunts goin’ on
there,” replied Finn, defensively.

“Huh, all the same, you’ll come back actin’ like a little lady! Dey’ll
cure yuh of cigarettes, matchin’ pennies and all the udder fun we’ve
had,” scorned Skelly, bitterly.

“See here, now! I ain’t wantin’ the ticket fer meself--it’s only fer
my sick sister, yuh know. The Doc said she’d got to git out of that
hot, dark room in the tenement, and where kin I keep her--on’y in a
camp like this is?” explained the worried brother to the leader of the
Ludlow Street gang.

“Oh, I see,” returned Skelly, apologetically, “An’ so yeh want to find
Ike who’s got the address of the place!”

“That’s it! Have yeh seen him this mornin’?” asked Finn.

“He went uptown to see the man at the printin’ office. He tol’ me all
the tickets he had on hand were given out and he needed more. Why don’t
yuh trot up and see the man yourself instead of hangin’ ’round waitin’
fer Ike?” ventured Skelly.

“Guess I will--where is it?”

Skelly thereupon dug down into the pockets of a ragged pair of trousers
and finally brought to view a dirty scrap of paper. Upon it was
scrawled: “Benjamin Talmage, Manager of Blue Bird Camp at Happy Hills,
354 Fourth Avenue, New York.”

“Dat’s up near 23rd Street, yuh know,” Skelly added, as Finn read aloud
the address.

“I’ll git a hitch on a truck goin’ up, and try to see the boss right
away,” said Finn, his face expressing relief at having some tangible
plan to act upon.

Thanks and the verbal expression of gratitude were unknown to the
street Arabs of New York, but Skelly knew from Finn’s face that he
appreciated the information, and that was all that was required of a
friend.

A large auto-truck sped past the boys, and Finn was soon perched on the
tailboard, waving his old cap at Skelly. The truck turned in at 23rd
Street to go its way to the East Side, so Finn jumped off and scanned
the numbers of the tall office buildings as he started uptown.

“Hah! Here it is! Hully chee, what a swell shanty!” said he to himself
as he stood wondering whether to enter the tiled hall. Would the
elevator starter permit a boy so ragged and dirty to go up in one of
those shiny lifts?

He still pondered this momentous question when Ike ran out and almost
into him.

“Looka where yer goin’, why don’che?” grumbled Finn, then seeing that
it was Ike, he clapped him soundly on the back.

“Aw, I say, Ikey! Gim’me a ticket fer me sister?”

“Look out what’che crackin’, Finny! Dat’s my back lung what sounds
so holler when you beat it,” grinned Ike, the good-natured boy from
Rivington Street who had won fame as a ticket-distributor for Happy
Hills.

“Got one to spare?” anxiously continued Finn.

“Nope! Yeh got’ta apply personal. I’ll go up wid yeh if you wants one
bad,” offered Ike.

“Come along den--I need yeh to help talk;” so the two were soon going
up.

After leaving the elevator, the two boys walked down a very long
corridor with offices on either side. Said Ikey:

“Now, you’se wants to be careful how you’se talk in here, see? Mr.
Ta’mage is a fine chentlman and don’t like no slang. Mebbe yeh better
keep yer mouth shet altogether an’ let me do the talkin’--cuz, yeh
know, Finn, yeh do spill an awful lot of slang widger English!”

Finn was properly impressed and consented to have Ikey do all the
talking. By this time the boys reached the door leading to the suite of
offices they sought.

“Please, ma’am, tell Mr. Ta’mage Ikey Einstein is back yet--Micky Finn,
too, wants to make his acquaintance,” said Ikey to the pretty telephone
operator who sat near the door.

“Yank off yer cap, Finn--hurry up quick, before she sees it!” hissed
Ikey in his companion’s ear as they stood waiting for an answer. Ikey
had removed his apology for a hat when entering.

“Mr. Talmage says will you be seated, he’ll be out in a moment,”
announced the girl, with a smile at the young visitors.

Ikey knew the particular bench meant for waiting callers, and silently
led Finn to it. No sooner were they seated than the door by which they
had just entered was flung open and a number of children of their own
age came in.

“Hello, Miss Johnson! Uncle Ben in?” called the youngest boy in the
group.

“He’s busy now, and has two waiting to see him,” was the young lady’s
reply after she had acknowledged Don’s greeting--for the boy was our
old friend and favorite, Don Starr, and his companions were no less
than the officers of the Blue Bird and Bobolink Publishing Society
that issued the monthly magazine for Little Citizens.

At the nod of Miss Johnson’s head in the direction of the two who were
waiting, Don spun around and recognized one of them.

“Well, well, if this isn’t our friend Ikey!” said Don, in his tone and
manners for all the world like a grown man, as he caught Ikey’s hand
and shook it heartily.

The other children--Ned and Ruth Talmage, Meredith, Jinks, Lavinia, and
Dot Starr, turned at Don’s words to watch the two boys.

“Where under the sun did Don meet that boy?” whispered Lavinia to her
brother Meredith.

“Say, Vene, where does Don find anything he wants to get hold of!”
returned Meredith, chuckling at his younger brother.

“I know!” now declared Dot Starr, Don’s twin sister.

The others waited for her to explain, so she placed a hand at the side
of her mouth to prevent the two strange boys from hearing what she
whispered.

“They are newsboys who first heard of us at the ‘Tree of Light’ last
Christmas. Ikey is the thin one and he was at that Easter Egg Picnic
in Van Cortlandt Park, too. That’s where Don met him; Ikey had such a
lot of eggs that we asked where he got all of them, ’cause we knew he
couldn’t have had that many to start with. And he told----”

“S-sh! Not so loud, Dot! He’ll hear you. What did he tell you?”
interpolated Jinks.

“Why, you know he works in a newspaper printing place where they hire
boys to clean up messes of inks and trash, and run errands, too. Ikey
got a lot of free tickets from the printer to some lecture and he
traded them in, a ticket for every egg he could get. Then he told Don
he was going to sell those eggs downtown to his friends.”

“Did he?” asked Ruth, surprised that anyone would want to sell Easter
Eggs.

“I’m going over and find out--I guess that’s what Don is talking about
now,” replied Dot, joining her twin brother.

“Say, Dot, Ikey just told me he made 56 cents on those Easter eggs, and
now he’s set up in business--newspaper business of his own. He wants
me to go in as his partner--what do you think of it?” said Don in a low
voice, for fear his brother or Jinks might overhear the plan.

“Pooh! You couldn’t leave Oakdale for a newspaper business, and what’s
the good of having a business if you can’t look after it yourself?”
replied Dot.

“He could yust invest his money an’ I’d look after it,” hurriedly
explained Ikey, all for business.

“If Don looked after all he ought to at home, he’d have more interests
than he could take care of. No sir! You leave Ikey Einstein to manage
his own investment!” decided Dot, the practical.

“You’re jealous ’cause you were left out--that’s what!” said Don,
impatiently, as Dot pulled him back to his friends.

Uncle Ben came out just then, and shook hands with his Oakdale friends.
“Just go in that director’s room until I finish talking to these two
young men, will you?”

So the little Talmages and Starrs and Jinks left Uncle Ben with Ikey
and Micky Finn.

“Mr. Ta’mage, dis newspaper boy’s got a bad-off sister to which a Doc
says she must get away quick to the country fer fresh air or a grave.
Now Finn--he’s Micky Finn, you know, an’ a fren’ of mine--says he ain’t
got no country place an’ neider have we got a cemetery lot if Nelly
goes and dies, but mebbe you kin let her come right away, quick, to
Happy Hills so she kin get well and not need a grave.”

Ikey told the story in one breath so that at the last he was not very
distinct, but Uncle Ben knew the story--there were so many, many more
just like it in the city! If only Happy Hills had fifty times the
number of acres fitted up with fifty times the number of camp-nests!

“Micky, how old is your sister Nelly?” asked Mr. Talmage.

“She’s two years younger’n me,” stammered Finn.

“And how old are you, little man?” continued Uncle Ben, placing a
friendly hand on the urchin’s shoulder.

The touch and tone made Micky Finn brace his backbone with conscious
pride as he replied:

“I’m mos’ twelve, sur, an’ I’ve been the bread-winner fer th’ fam’ly
fer four years--ain’t I, Ikey?”

“Shure he has! An’ Nelly gits more’n lots of sick gals we know, ’cuz
Finn won’t play craps ner match pennies like the udder boys do!”
bragged Ikey, anxious to win a ticket for Micky.

“Well, let me see! Who will go with Nelly, to take care of her? Have
you any other sisters or family to travel with her?” asked Uncle Ben.

“We had a sister two years older’n us but she disappeared one night an’
we never hearn tell of her agin. She worked in a tobacco-shop. Since
then, I had all the supportin’ to do. That was last summer, she went
wid anudder gal to Coney Island an’ never got back.”

“I’ll have to write down your address, Finn, and send a lady down to
see Nelly. If everything is all right, she will arrange to take your
sister to the country at once. I’ll make out the ticket myself. Now you
can go out and spend week-ends with her if you like. And should you
take a summer vacation, you can go to Happy Hills free of cost for two
weeks,” explained Mr. Talmage.

Micky Finn was so overwhelmed with gratitude and surprise at this
unexpected invitation that he stood gaping at his benefactor, but said
not a word.

“T’ank the chentleman, Micky! Can’t che t’ank him nice, fer what he’s
gone and done fer you an’ Nelly?” Ikey said with a scowl at his friend
for whom he was sponsor.

“I do thank--Aw, get out, Ikey! De gentleman _knows_ the choky way I
feel in my windpipe! Don’che, Mister?” wailed Finn.

“Yes, Micky, I know just how you feel, and I feel just as happy as
if you had thanked me with every word known to convey the feeling of
gratitude,” said Mr. Talmage, smiling.

“Dat’s all right to say to him, Mr. Ta’mage, but I don’t like my
fren’s what I bring up here to do nuttin’ what ain’t all jus’ right.
We all gotta remember to say what folks like you’se say to each
udder, ef we’re goin’ to live at Happy Hills!” rebuked Ikey Einstein,
thoughtfully.

“That’s right, too, Ikey, but you have had more opportunities to
practice than Micky had; when he meets us often, he, too, will begin to
change his habits and ways of expressing himself.”

As Mr. Talmage spoke, Micky Finn recalled the words his pal Skelly had
said a short time before: something about becoming a little lady with
fine manners but no fun!

“Good gracious, Uncle Ben--aren’t you most done talking to those boys?”
called Don Starr from the door of the director’s room.

“Coming right now, Don! Well, Micky, let me know when you want to go
and spend Sunday with your sister. I’ll try and get her off in a day or
two,” said Mr. Talmage. Then the two street waifs took their departure.

Of course, you know what it is all about, don’t you? You remember what
Uncle Ben did in the last Blue Bird book, and how the camps at Happy
Hills progressed so that they might be ready to receive Little Citizens
as early as the last of May?

If you have forgotten how the Nests and other plans at Aunt Selina’s
country place were to be built, I will repeat the description.

The great estate and farm of Happy Hills in the Valley of Delight, had
a fine large woodland tract where the Nests were built. A shallow brook
ran through the woods, offering all sorts of fun and convenience to
the little campers. At one side of the woodland lay a fertile stretch
of land that was divided into many squares, one for each child at camp,
to be used as farms. In this soil, a Little Citizen might dig and plant
and harvest different kinds of vegetables and flowers and have them all
for his own. No one could trespass or take away what a child planted on
his or her own farm.

The Nests were large enough to hold six bunks and a bed. The bunks,
three on either side of the square room, were to be for the six Little
Citizens occupying that Nest, and the bed at the end would be for the
Mother Bird of that particular Nest. Besides the bunks and bed, there
was a locker and a clothes-tree at the head of each bunk. The lockers
had lids to be closed and locked to hold personal things belonging to
the child who was given that section of the Nest. It could also be used
as a seat.

Each Nest was about fifteen feet square, and posts held up a sloping
roof to shed the rain. This roof extended about two feet over the outer
line of the square room to protect the beds and lockers from the rain
when it stormed. Another arrangement to keep the inside of the Nest
dry, was a canvas curtain that rolled up on spring-rollers in fair
weather, but came down in wet or cold weather, to act as a wall or
screen. These curtains buttoned down the sides and at the bottom.

A gallery three feet wide extended about the outside of the Nest. This
narrow veranda was railed in safely by a three-foot fence to keep the
children from falling off the platform of the Nest which was raised a
few feet above the ground.

The Refectory was a large open building equipped with rain-proof
curtains also, but on fair days they were rolled up so that it was like
a great pavilion. Even the long tables and chairs folded up and could
be quickly stacked up at one end of the room if the space was wanted
for games or meetings.

Besides the sleeping Nests and the Refectory, there were a tool-house,
a carpenter shop for teaching carpentry, a machine-shop to teach
mechanics, a library with books and papers to read, and in fact many
other departments for the education of boys and girls.

As you read in the last chapter of “The Blue Birds’ Uncle Ben,” the
children published their June number of the magazine and planned to
suspend for July and August. In this June issue they showed photographs
of Happy Hills and the Nests ready to receive tenants for the summer.
And as every benevolent institution and child’s hospital, as well as
the Welfare Workers and physicians known to be interested in the poor
children received a copy of the June magazine, the boys and girls
publishing it felt sure there would be plenty of applicants to fill the
camp.

So work went on until the last of May, when all was ready at Happy
Hills, and Maggie Owens--you remember Maggie, don’t you?--already had
her little flock of brothers and sisters in one of the Nests. She was
the first Little Citizen to take up residence at the camp. Maggie had
been admitted without a ticket as her case was well known to the Blue
Birds and needed no investigation, but the tickets were ready for
distribution the day before Decoration Day and Uncle Ben was truly
surprised at the demand awaiting them.

Ikey Einstein had been suggested by the Big Brother’s Organization as
an honest, shrewd little fellow who could be of great assistance in the
matter of tickets, so the boy was interviewed and engaged at a salary
to furnish information about any of the numerous applicants from the
East Side, where Ikey lived.

And that is why Micky Finn sought out Ikey when he wanted to secure a
camp-ticket for Nelly.



CHAPTER III

UNCLE BEN’S DRILL CORPS


Little Nelly Finn had been admitted to the camp at Happy Hills, and
was the happiest little girl there. Never had she seen such grass
and flowers, to say nothing of the big trees and noisy brook in the
Valley of Delight. The day she had stood with a lady, and several other
children waiting for the train that left at noon for Happy Hills, Micky
promised her to save his pennies and come for a visit to the Camp that
Summer. Not only Micky, but Ikey, Skelly, and another boy, who had a
shoe-shine box, agreed to visit Happy Hills.

Nelly was established in the Nest next to Maggie, the Little Mother
of six younger children--Maggie was eleven. Because of her motherly
instincts, Maggie felt a grown-up interest in the newcomers, who were
about Nelly’s age.

“I see you don’t know what to do wid dese girls, Miss Martin,” said
Maggie, the afternoon of the new arrivals, as the Mother Wings of that
particular Nest seemed bewildered and worried.

“This is all new to me, little girl, and I am only here until a
school-teacher can take my place,” replied Miss Martin.

“My name’s Maggie,” suggested the Little Mother.

“How did you know my name?” queried the lady, curiously.

“I heer’n Miss Selina--she’s our Flutey Bird, you know what owns this
place--tell Uncle Ben that six more little gals was comin’ wid a Miss
Martin.”

“Maybe you can tell me where to find Uncle Ben now?” asked the city
lady eagerly.

“Yes’m! He’s beginnin’ a drill fer the boys. They has to grow to be
fine scouts, brave policemen, and extry-brave firemen. You see we’se
goin’ to have a regerler city-run camp here, and Uncle Ben says boys
must know how to proteck folks and guard us against fires and udder bad
t’ings,” explained Maggie.

“That’s fine! Where is the drill to take place? Maybe we can all go
and watch them,” said Miss Martin.

“We kin! I was just washin’ Freddy’s han’s to take him wid me--he’s too
little to leave behind, yeh see.”

Miss Martin’s little flock of six understood _that_ part of life, for
had not each one of them been scrubbed and polished with brown soap and
coarse rags just before leaving the city?

Freddy was soon cleansed from the results of making mud-pies near the
brook, and Maggie triumphantly led the way to the large green clearing
where the drill was to take place. On the way she pointed out other
Nests and explained who occupied them, then she showed Miss Martin the
hospital, or clinic, as Maggie called it.

“Dis Nest next to yourn is goin’ to have some blind kids in it, from
the asylum up in the Bronx. Miss Flutey tol’ me not one of ’em ever saw
anyt’ing on de outside world. She said all dey coul’ see was what was
inside dere minds--do you b’lieve dat?” asked Maggie, doubtfully.

“Oh yes, Maggie. Blind folks have no idea of the exterior world and so
picture it for themselves in their thoughts--that is anyone who has
been born blind and never saw material things.”

“I see!” murmured Maggie, slowly comprehending.

Then passing the next Nest, she continued explaining:

“Them’s where the boys are campin’ just now. All the Nests fer the boys
ain’t done yet, and most of dem have to live up in de row where all dat
noise is comin’ from.”

“How old are the boys already here?” asked Miss Martin.

“Half of ’em are cripples er sickly lookin’ kids what was in a asylum
er hospital, so dat’s why dey ain’t runnin’ aroun’ playin’ ball er
diggin’ farms.”

“After the drill I’d like you to show us the farms,” suggested the lady.

“All right--I’ll show you anyt’ing you likes to see,” replied Maggie,
graciously, but eyeing the six little strangers to see how they took
her importance.

They now reached a rustic bridge spanning the shallow creek, and Nelly
stopped to watch the fascinating ripples flow past under her feet.

“Oh looka! Looka--Miss Martin! Dere’s a fish!” screeched Nelly,
excitedly pointing at some tiny minnows darting about.

The others crowded close to the railing to follow the direction of
Nelly’s pointing finger, and great interest was manifested in the
unusual sight.

“Pooh! One of the bigger boys _caught_ a fish yistiddy! A real live
fish, it was, an’ he said it was swimming in the big crick what comes
from dis little one,” bragged Maggie, proudly.

“Caught a real fish!” gasped the group of astonished city waifs.

“Yep! And lemme tell you’se somet’ing else! Dere are _reel_ berries
a-growin’ on bushes over on dat hillside!” and Maggie pointed at a
sunny slope a short distance from the camp grove.

“My!” chorused most of the little girls.

“An’ birds, an’ bumblebees, an’ snakes, an’--oh, heaps of awful stinger
things what you’se have to run from er jump over!” warned Maggie with
awesome tones and rolling eyes to impress her hearers.

“Snakes won’t sting, Maggie, unless you tease them. And even then there
are many snakes quite harmless. As for a bumblebee! The big, clumsy
fellow is as good-natured as a puppy,” said Miss Martin.

“Say, Miss Martin, you knows an awful lot of stuff, don’t you?”
exclaimed Maggie, admiringly.

“I ought to, Maggie, as I am three times your age. Maybe you will know
more than I do, when you grow up to be my age,” replied the lady,
smiling at the earnest little face.

All during this walk, the other children had been silent, as they were
not yet quite at ease. All was so new and interesting that they had
no words with which to express their feelings, but Maggie had been a
Little Citizen almost two weeks, now, and so felt qualified to act as
official guide to newcomers.

“Mebbe Miss Marting will tell us somet’in’ about a bee er a snake?”
ventured Katy Kronen, a little girl of eight.

“When we get back to the Nest I will tell you all about some snakes
I have seen, and about the bees, too,” promised the Mother Wings, as
they reached the open field where outdoor games and drills were to take
place.

“Dere he is--ain’t he grand?” cried Maggie, excitedly.

“Who--where?” asked several voices.

“Our Uncle Ben--he’s really de Uncle to some kids what live in Oakdale.
Dey made up dis camp, and Miss Selina what’s got a heap of money is
lookin’ after us an’ payin’ de bills. Uncle Ben is her nephew, but
everyone calls him Uncle Ben, ’stead of Mr. Ta’mage, an’ he says he
likes to have so many nieces an’ nephews,” explained Maggie all in one
breath.

Miss Martin now had her first glance at the man she had heard so much
of--not only in the Welfare work but also from the papers at the time
of the Christmas Tree and Easter Picnic in New York.

She saw a tall well-built man with the happiest, cheeriest face she had
ever seen. No wonder everyone liked him so!

Maggie waved a hand energetically to attract his attention, and soon
the man smiled and waved his hat at her.

“Dere now--he’ll come over pritty soon,” sighed Maggie, with sublime
faith in her prophecy.

And sure enough! As soon as Uncle Ben had taken down the names of the
boys who were to enter a squad of Camp Police, he came over to welcome
the lady he had not yet met.

“Dis is my neighbor Mudder Wings, Uncle Ben,” said Maggie by way of
introduction.

The two smiled and felt much more at ease because of such an informal
introduction than if it had been given by a diplomat.

“I have heard of your educational work with the city children,” said
Uncle Ben.

“You have? Why I had no idea it was important enough to be remembered
by such a busy man as you are known to be,” commented Miss Martin.

“It is most important to all who are sincerely interested in the
welfare of our future citizens, because the work you are doing educates
and familiarizes the children with Nature, so that they will grow kind
and affectionate towards things that used to inspire fear and cruelty.
I trust we will be able to keep you here this summer to conduct a
series of Nature talks for the Little Citizens?” said Uncle Ben.

“I should like nothing better, Mr. Talmage, if I do not have to make
my usual summer tour of camps for the purpose of creating an interest
in Nature Study. I sent a few substitutes to try the work this year and
so I may not have to go personally,” rejoined Miss Martin.

“Let’s hope you may remain with us. We have a great work to accomplish
here, Miss Martin.”

“Yes, I can see that. How I should love to be connected with such a
plan, where money is no object, but the welfare of Little Citizens is
the main idea. Now let me see what you plan to do this afternoon with
the boys. I heard it was a drill.”

“Yes, I am just organizing a staff of helpers to look after the general
good of those at camp. Won’t you come over and stand under the shade of
the trees while I give the boys their first lesson?” said Uncle Ben.

So Miss Martin and her little companions followed Mr. Talmage across
the grass to the shady spot he had designated.

“Now boys! Attention! I shall open this first drill by giving you some
good rules to guide your life in camp, and later, the Blue Birds and
Bobolinks are going to distribute cards which they are now printing
with these same rules and regulations.

“First and foremost: You cannot repay the kind people and children who
made this lovely country camp possible for you in a better way than to
show kindness and thoughtfulness to everyone you meet. And when you go
back to the city, to take with you the rule of doing unto others as you
would be done by. If this Golden Rule is obeyed the world will be a
happy place for everyone.

“Every day, and every hour, you will find ways to show your gratitude
to Miss Selina for this camp. It may be that a child is frightened at
something--you can comfort and encourage it. Maybe a boys’ quarrel or
fight is on--you can separate them and make peace. It is more than
likely that someone will use slang or swear words, or call names or use
improper English! You can correct them in a thoughtful way that will
not be resented, but appreciated.

“‘The Guide for Little Citizens’ that we publish in the little magazine
each month, ought to be well known by most of you now--how many here
have had a copy of the magazine?”

Two-thirds of the hands went up and Uncle Ben nodded.

“Well, for the benefit of the few who have not had a copy of our fine
little monthly, I will explain:

“Our general motto is ‘Do something for Somebody.’

“Our seven Nest Resolutions are as follows:

“‘A Little Citizen makes himself useful to others and is loyal to all
friends, relatives, or foes, in thought and deed.

“‘A Little Citizen loves his Country and resolves to be a good citizen.
He loves everything in the land or sea--beast, bird, fish, or insect,
and will not injure or tease them.

“‘A Little Citizen loves and protects the trees, the flowers, and other
growing things in Nature’s creation.

“‘A Little Citizen will care for all beautiful things: books,
pictures, clothing, and everything useful, ornamental, instructive or
entertaining.

“‘A Little Citizen will refrain from discourtesy of any sort; from
using vulgar language or being disobedient. In following these ideals
each one will soon see the great improvement in all.

“‘A Little Citizen resolves to daily seek opportunity to accomplish
some good thing--something that will add to his character-building and
do good to others.

“‘A Little Citizen will help where help is needed, encourage the
unhappy and hopeless, and be true to others as he would be true to his
own best self.’

“If everyone will remember these rules and use them wherever possible,
you will find what a happy camp this will be for each one.

“Now I want to speak of my firemen--a squad of the older boys who can
be our official firemen for the summer camp. For this work I have
chosen the ten boys who are standing at the left, over there. Come
forward, firemen, and let me introduce you to the Little Citizens of
Happy Hills.”

Ten strong boys ranging from nine to twelve years of age now came over
to Uncle Ben’s side and stood eager to hear what he would have to say
to them.

“First of all, I want to tell you--and then have you tell and teach
the campers at Happy Hills--that most of the fires that destroy life
and property are not due to accident as much as to carelessness and
mischief. It is ignorance of what to do in case of a fire that permits
a small blaze to grow into a consuming flame that wrecks blocks of
buildings and wastes millions of dollars worth of property.

“If everyone knew just what to do and did it at once, you can
understand that there would be little danger. Of recent years, the
large schools in cities have introduced a course of lessons that take
up ‘First Aids’ and ‘Presence of Mind’ tests for the children so that
they may be ready to apply such knowledge when needed.

“You have most likely heard the proverb: ‘Fire makes a good servant,
but a bad master.’ Now just as long as we keep fire in its rightful
place to do all sorts of work for us, and to keep us warm in winter,
or to create steam in the water placed on it for many important
services, then fire is the servant. But once let it get the least bit
of headway through neglect, or mischief, or by any other cause, and it
immediately consumes whatever it touches and feeds upon all it burns
so that it becomes a raging demon.

“A child can control a fire in the stove or in a lamp--all one has to
do is to turn down the wick or pull out a damper. But once we let fire
leap from its bounds, we need a force to fight it. And that is what I
expect of you boys. To so train yourselves that in case of emergency,
you will know instantly how to fight the demon, fire.

“To help you all I can, I have invited one of New York’s Fire
Commissioners to visit us shortly and tell you many wise things I do
not know in connection with this work. But long before he comes I want
you to be practicing daily and have sham-fires. I have a hand-engine
waiting in the great barn back of the tool-house, and enough hose to
reach from the brook to any Nest or building in the woods.

“I have also ordered, but they have not yet arrived, a set of small
ladders and hooks and other implements useful in case of fire. All
apparatus for the Fire Department will be kept in this new shed back
of us, and no Little Citizen is ever to be allowed inside this door,
unless it be one of the boys detailed as a fireman.

“You ten boys will have a dark-brown camp-uniform to show you are
Firemen; and in case of a fire you will don the heavy overalls and caps
kept in the Fire-house.”

As Uncle Ben explained the plan and held up a sample fireman’s uniform,
the boys shouted and whistled and clapped with delight, for this sort
of thing was very unusual and gratifying.

“Now, Firemen, you may stand back while I call out our Police Force.
The twelve boys on the right will step up.”

The chosen Firemen retired after being introduced, and the twelve
policemen eagerly ran over to Uncle Ben’s side.

“These are to be our official policemen in camp. They are going to
be taught all that a policeman needs to do and know, and they are
responsible for the laws and good reputation of Happy Hills. If anyone
needs help or advice about matters here or in any personal problem, the
policeman must give what aid he can.

“The police must see that rules and regulations are carried out to the
letter, and all games, drills, or other public gatherings must be
ordered by them, and all nuisances removed.

“If a member of either Fire Department or Police Force is disloyal to
his fellow-man or breaks his vow to live up to the laws governing his
department, he will be discharged, and another boy elected to fill the
vacant place. But I hope no such vacancies will occur.”

Uncle Ben then mentioned other important things and good points in
managing the camp, and told the police he had blue uniforms for them to
wear when on duty. He held up a suit made of blue denim, and a cap to
match, but no clubs were to be given to this police force! Weapons were
tabooed by Uncle Ben.

“Now, boys, I want each of you to ‘do his bit’ in this camp, and to
drill well so that you can give a fine exhibition of your ability when
called upon to use it. I expect the Blue Birds and Bobolinks at Happy
Hills next week, and it will be a great surprise to them to see what we
have accomplished in so short a time.”

The boys quickly agreed to study and practice well, so Uncle Ben smiled
approvingly and called upon a group of girls to step forward. There
were six girls from ten to twelve years of age in one group, and four,
of thirteen years, in another group.

“Here you see six nurses who will have charge of the Little Citizens
who should accidentally be scratched, cut or have any other physical
trouble. These nurses will have the right to go to the infirmary and
use whatever they may need for a patient. But they will have to ask the
grown-up in charge of the infirmary for the needed remedy.

“These nurses will also see that Little Citizens are careful of their
manner of living in camp, and will report anyone who breaks the rules
or is careless of the welfare of others.

“The four big girls you see in the other group are Mother’s Helpers.
Everyone knows what a Mother’s Helper is, and with these four Helpers
to go about and offer help to any little Mother Wings, there ought to
be a chance for everyone to have a good time.

“Take Maggie, for instance! Maggie has six little brothers and sisters
to look after, and they are a handful. Now one of these official
Mother’s Helpers can help Maggie in the morning so that she need not
be late for breakfast on account of having so many little ones to wash
and dress,” explained Uncle Ben, smiling at Maggie.

The latter heaved a deep sigh and said: “Oh t’ank you, Uncle Ben!”

“Tomorrow morning at nine o’clock sharp, the Firemen will drill at this
place, and at ten o’clock the Police Force will meet and drill,” said
Uncle Ben, and the meeting was over for that day.



CHAPTER IV

THE BLUE BIRDS VISIT HAPPY HILLS


A week had passed by swiftly while the Firemen and Police Force
practiced and drilled constantly to become proficient in their work.
And the official nurses found many little ways in which to help with
the smaller children and when anyone was in trouble. Miss Martin had
thought out a plan, and was beginning a story-telling class to be held
directly after luncheon in the big Refectory. She purposely called it
story-telling so the Little Citizens wouldn’t think they were being
bored with lessons or class.

“Now, boys, show me what you can do today--for tomorrow our visitors
are coming, you know,” said Uncle Ben, as he called his Firemen and
Police together at the Big Park, as it was styled.

But there were still other squads waiting to show off what they could
do, and these groups had not yet been introduced to the general public.

“I’ll tell you, my friends, what I discovered after our last week’s
meeting. I found that we needed a Camp Cleaning Department and a Health
Department. The Camp Cleaners are elected every two weeks, and the
ones doing their work best during the two weeks win medals. Those in
the Health Department work a month, and are given a certificate if
the time has been well applied to duty. The reason for limiting the
Cleaning Department to two weeks is because there is much daily work to
attend to, and this Force really works more in two weeks than any other
department in a month.

“The Nurses are under the Health Department and both the Health and
Nurse Departments are supervised by the Infirmary Head.

“Tomorrow morning the Street Cleaning Department begins work. Each of
the twelve boys is equipped with a big round basket on a push-mobile,
and a broom and shovel. The paths that lead through or across the
camp-site will be cleaned of papers, or any other trash that is likely
to fly about where there are so many children. It is the duty of every
Mother Wings to have the trash-bag waiting in front of the Nest so the
Cleaning Department can remove the bags and leave empty ones in their
place--exactly as we do in New York.

“The Health Board must visit and inspect the Nests each day and report
any lack of attention or seeming cause for concern to the Mother’s
Helpers, Nurses, and Infirmary Head. Then the Helper investigates at
once and the Nurse sees if there is anything she can do, and both
report to the Infirmary. If it is serious the Head immediately attends
to it.

“Our Health Board wears this uniform,” and Uncle Ben held up white
percale overalls with blue stripes on the collar and cuffs of the
under-blouse that went with it.

“And our Street Cleaning Department wears this uniform,” then a pair
of white overalls without stripes, but a white helmet to match the
overalls, were shown to the enthusiastic Little Citizens.

“Isn’t this the most fun you ever heard of?” cried one boy, who was a
Health Officer.

“Oh! I wish we could live at Happy Hills all the time!” came from a
Policeman, wistfully.

“Now Little Citizens, we will stand back and watch a trial drill of
our brave Firemen,” called Uncle Ben.

The big boys belonging to the fire department now ran to the shed they
had called the “Fire-house,” and were soon in their uniforms. Then
they performed as only eager, enthusiastic boys can before a number of
spectators. They were applauded loudly and Uncle Ben said they were
ready for the Grand Exhibit on the morrow.

The Police Force drilled next, and they, too, were heartily applauded.
The second exhibition ended, Uncle Ben ordered all to fall in line and
march away to play.

“Wish we had a brass band, Mr. Ta’mage! Wouldn’t it be fun to have
parades!” called the Fire Chief.

“Say, Bill, that’s a fine idea! Are there any Little Citizens here who
can play on an instrument?” asked Uncle Ben.

“I kin play a fiddle!” squeaked a weak boy’s voice.

“I’ve got a mouth-organ,” called another.

“I beat the drum!”

“I ust to play a fife.”

“I can blow a horn--I got paid fer it on the East Side, when any
patent medicine quack wanted to get a crowd around to buy his stuff,”
admitted one of the big Firemen.

And a score or so of boys all cried that they wanted to play something
in the band. Uncle Ben knew music was a great thing in a community
even if it had a discordant sound at first; it would be helpful and
elevating for them even to try and play.

“I’m going to act on Bill’s suggestion at once! I will wire Mr.
Richards to pick out the instruments we may need to begin a Camp Band.
He will know what to buy,” declared Uncle Ben.

“Say, Mister Ta’mage, tell him not to waste his good money buyin’ ’em
new--he kin git all kinds and all sizes of music instruments at a
pawn-shop along the Bowery. Me brudder got a fine bass horn at one, fer
a quarter of what it was wuth!” bawled a big East Side German boy.

“Yah! Hear Dutchy talk! It takes your big brudder what was practicin’
music fer yer Kaiser, to grab a bargain!” jeered Young Italy.

“He didn’t not! My brudder is blowin’ his horn fer a enlist camp on
Long Island--so now! An’ my fadder and mudder are natural Americaners,
I want to tell you yet!” retorted Bill.

“Here, here, boys! No war arguments at Happy Hills! It is absolutely
forbidden! Bill is as good a citizen as I am and should anyone question
my veracity on the subject, he can leave camp now! We don’t want to
give our Police Force any unnecessary trouble and I know what such a
discussion will lead up to.”

“Mr. Ta’mage, I gotta cymbals to my house in New York. My uncle left
them wid us when he was drafted,” said another boy from the ranks.

“You write at once, Jimmy, and ask your mother to send them on to
us,--collect. You can play the cymbals in the band,” declared Uncle Ben.

But that brought down a flood of trouble upon his unsuspecting head, as
every boy at camp instantly yelled and begged for some position in the
new Brass Band, although many of them had not the slightest idea of the
difference between a half-note and a fish-worm.

“It all boils down to this: We’ve got to buy instruments and all take
part in the band. The girls will have to take up the choral work
and give musicals in singing while we accompany them in playing,”
determined Uncle Ben.

The Blue Birds and Bobolinks arrived about noon, the day following
the drill and the decision to start a brass band. As the noisy party
stopped before Aunt Selina’s door, each one tried to crane his neck for
a glimpse of the wonderful camp they had been the means of founding.
But the trees screened everything from curious eyes; still the shouting
and laughter could be heard, although even that was mellowed by the
distance from the house.

“Oh, Uncle Ben, we are wild to see the Little Citizens. Aunt Selina and
you have not written half enough to satisfy us!” cried Ruth Talmage, as
she jumped at her uncle, the moment the automobile stopped.

“Uncle Ben, Mr. Richards telephoned us this morning early, that he
couldn’t come with us. You must have told him to get some stuff in
New York. He said he would attend to it today and leave the city on a
midnight train, so’s to be here tomorrow,” said Ned Talmage, delivering
the message as he was asked.

“That’s fine, Ned! If Mr. Richards can get what I want there will be a
heap of fun at Happy Hills this summer,” replied Uncle Ben.

“As if there was no fun here!” laughed Miss Selina.

“Come on,--come on, and don’t stand there talking! I want to see the
camp,” called Don Starr, catching hold of Jinks’ hand to pull him away.

“Wait a moment! Don’t you want something to eat?” questioned Mr.
Talmage.

“But why can’t we eat in the Refectory with the Citizens?” wondered
Meredith Starr aloud.

“Sure thing, Uncle Ben! We don’t want a ready-made house with fine
furniture and things, when we have a dandy camp right at hand where
a fellow can rough it for a few days!” added Don, and he felt very
impressive with the manner in which he said “rough it.”

The Little Citizens were expecting their young benefactors, and the
whole camp was as spick and span as a Street Cleaning Department
could make it; and every child was polished till it shone, thanks to
the Mother’s Helpers; and the Police Force was uniformed and waiting
at cross paths of the camp ready to salute the group of Blue Birds
and Bobolinks the moment they passed the City Line. Only the Fire
Department was invisible, but they were waiting impatiently at the Fire
House for the signal that would bring them out in a glorious show.

For be it known, my friends, that the Police Force, the Street Cleaning
Department, and the Fire Company, had planned a secret all unknown to
Uncle Ben, or any Little Citizen--at least a non-official citizen--that
meant the girls, as every boy in camp belonged to some Civic Department
or other and wore its uniform.

The secret was so well guarded that not even I had a peep of it, but
it was dreadfully exciting as one could tell by the flushed faces and
meaning signals that passed between the important branches of the Camp
Government.

“Dere dey come--jus’ leavin’ de house!” called Jimmy, who was perched
up on an electric light pole to spy.

“Which way are dey takin’--Primrose Walk or Daffodil Lane?” asked an
eager voice from the crowd.

“Comin’ straight down Daffodil Lane--gee! dem boys what calls
demselves Bobolinks are swells all right!” said Jimmy, as he slid
quickly down the pole and joined his comrades.

“How many of ’em?” asked a boy.

“’Bout six er eight--big and little.”

“How little?” came from several small boys.

“Two look to be about eight, some look ten and de udders about Dutchy’s
age,” explained Jimmy, which goes to tell the reader that Bill, the boy
of German parentage had to suffer the nickname of “Dutchy” in spite of
Uncle Ben’s protests. A boy will be a boy the world over!

“Now--all ready for the cry!” warned the Fire Chief.

“One, two, three--yell!”

Just as Uncle Ben and his little friends came up to the camp-boundary
line, the Little Citizens gave a war-cry of:

  “Lit! Lit! Lit-tle Cits!
  Cit! Cit! Cit-i-zens!
  Unc! Unc! Uncle Ben!
  Hurrah for the Prince of Men!
  Bob! Bob! Bob-o-links!
  Blue! Blue! Blue Birds too!
  Aunt! Aunt! Aunt S’li-na!
  ’Rah! ’Rah! Flutey Mah!”

The concerted chorus, and the syncopated action of the scores of hearty
voices was deafening to the newcomers, especially as it was unexpected;
but it was most satisfying as the laughter and hurrahs attested the
moment the welcome was ended.

Aunt Selina laughed and laughed at the way the Little Citizens ’rahed
for Flutey Mah!

The Blue Birds and Bobolinks were then escorted about the wonderful
camp and shown everything important or otherwise. Even the mud-pies
made by Maggie’s baby brother that morning had to be shown and laughed
over!

“Now, my Publishing Friends, we will adjourn to the Fire-house and
watch the Fire Company drill,” announced Uncle Ben.

“What Fire Company?” asked Don, amazed--as were the other visitors, too.

“You’ll soon see! Have you failed to see the Police Squad keeping order
about the town?” laughed Uncle Ben.

So eager and curious about other things had the Blue Birds and
Bobolinks been, that they had not seen the stiff boys at guard in blue
uniforms.

“Well, I never!” exclaimed Ruth.

“Whose idea is that?” questioned Meredith.

Without reply, Uncle Ben gave a signal to his police and the men
saluted, turned upon their heel, and marched away in single file
towards the Fire-house.

“Oh! I want to be a fireman, too! Isn’t it fun!” cried Don, running
after the departing Force much as a small boy would at a circus parade.

“Now, come and see my Firemen drill,” added Uncle Ben, laughing at the
amazement on the faces about him.

“How lovely!” cried Vene Starr, as she realized what had been planned
by Uncle Ben for their entertainment.

Immediately after the Blue Birds and Bobolinks were stationed on a
small platform near the Fire-house, a Policeman rang the fire-gong
in the center of the camp-town. It was a great iron hoop hung upon a
cross-beam and was sounded by striking it with a bar of metal.

Not until this moment had Uncle Ben noticed anything unusual about the
Park, but now he saw a column of smoke issuing from a structure at
one end of the field that had not been there the day before. It was
loosely built of old boards and discarded lumber thrown aside by the
carpenters when building the Nests. He understood what it meant, too.

The moment the fire-gong sounded, the Little Citizens standing about to
watch the fun, began yelling at the top of their lungs: “Fire! Fire!
Save us from the fire!”

Then they all started to run for the temporary house at the end of the
field. At the same time, the Fire Department flung open the doors of
its house and rushed out pulling the hand-engine at their heels. The
boys with the hose reel followed, and last came the Hook and Ladder
Team.

All made for the now flaming structure and naturally, the visitors
ran too, to watch at close hand the daring and bravery of the Fire
Department. Uncle Ben hoped the sparks from the fire would not start
anything else as it was too near the Nests for safety.

The Fire-engine reached the scene, and while they were getting ready to
pump water from the creek into and through the hose-pipes, the other
firemen were screwing nozzles to the hose, and connecting up the
lengths so that it would reach the burning dwelling.

Other firemen were placing ladders against the side of the frail
structure to pretend they were climbing up to save lives, but Uncle Ben
protested quickly.

“Don’t dare too much, boys! The shack will collapse with a suddenness
that will give you no time to get away! Don’t scale the ladders!”

While he spoke, other boys were using axes and rams on the wooden frame
to show how a closed and locked house can be made to give way before a
fireman. But the advice reached the excited boys too late! The blows
from ram and axe had shaken the loose frame, and the flames on the
inside had eaten a way through the corner-posts that held up the shack.

Just as the weight of Bill was brought full against the side of the
building, the whole thing fell in like a house of cards. The ladder
and fireman fell with it. Instantly a dense smoke arose from the fresh
fuel, and sparks flew out in every direction.

“Life Savers! Life Savers!” yelled the few boys who had seen the
accident, and they rushed in to grab Dutchy from the leaping tongues
of flame that now licked up the wood.

The firemen at the creek heard shouting and calling but they thought it
was all part of the game so they began pumping water into the hose, and
momentarily expected to see a fine stream played upon the fire.

But the nozzle had been dropped when Bill fell headlong into the fire
and the two firemen ran to help drag him out; now the nozzle lay
pointing directly at the Blue Birds and Bobolinks who were intensely
concerned over pulling Bill safely out of the fire.

Suddenly a great stream of water shot out of the nozzle and quickly
drenched the girls standing in its pathway. Don, taking in the
situation at a glance, ran over to hold the hose properly and turn it
upon the blaze.

He secured the nozzle all right, but in turning toward the fire he had
to sweep it about in a circle, and in so doing, the rush of water from
the hose managed to drench everyone in the radius of its swirl.

Amidst the screaming from the girls and the shouting advices from the
boys, the firemen yelled and worked, while Don did his best to flood
everyone near the almost burnt-down building with the stream pouring
incessantly from the nozzle that was being so carelessly directed by
him.

“For goodness sake who’s driving that flood after me wherever I run to
get away from it?” now bawled Uncle Ben, as nearly angry as he had ever
been.

“Here, you! Gimme dat hose--cain’t ye see ye ain’t sendin’ a drop on de
fire but soakin’ yer fren’s!” shouted Jimmy, as he caught the nozzle
from Don, and poured one last flood down Dutchy’s back.

When poor Dutchy Bill could gasp again, he managed to say: “Did any of
you’se blockheads t’ink a feller coul’ burn wid all de creek emptyin’
itself on his back!”

But that was only his way of showing how thankful he was for the timely
aid given him by his companions. For he would have been seriously
injured had not the other boys been quick to drag him forth from the
flames.

“That was some fire, boys!” declared the Chief, delightedly, as he
ordered the Company back to their quarters.

“I thought it was a flood--not a fire!” commented Ned, as he tried to
wring out his light summer coat.

“We all look as if we had just come out of the ocean,” added Dot,
grinning at the clinging organdie dresses of her companions.

“Still, it was a good blaze and heaps of excitement, and that’s all
a fellow wants at a real fire, you know,” explained Jinks, as he
remembered the fire where Mete and he had saved some lives.

“If that were all that was needed at a fire then every city fire would
be a success as there is always excitement to be had and a big blaze if
you give it time,” said Uncle Ben, who had recovered his good-humor.

The fire apparatus was replaced in the house and the brave firemen
came out to be congratulated on their prowess. Don being the only dry
Bobolink of his party, stood watching the boys, and finally said:

“Uncle Ben, you ought to have given a medal for bravery! Bill scaled
the ladder in spite of danger to life and limb.”

“We’re going to give you the medal this time!” replied Uncle Ben,
seriously.

“Me! What for--what did I do?”

“You wasted more water than Happy Hills uses in a month, and you
spoiled a dozen or so good dresses and suits, so we will present you
with a leather medal!”

At that the older children laughed merrily, and Don knew a leather
medal was nothing to be proud of; still he kept his tongue under
control until he had had time to ask someone what a leather medal meant
anyway!



CHAPTER V

MISS MARTIN’S TALK


The Blue Birds and Bobolinks had to hurry to the kitchen where a
good-natured cook and kitchen girl offered to dry their wet clothes.
Meantime, the hapless boys and girls would have to wear overalls just
as the Little Citizens did for work.

The majority of the Little Citizens had followed their visitors to the
big kitchen and when the transformed Blue Birds came out in blue denim
jumpers, everyone laughed.

“What can we do while we’re waiting for our clothes to dry?” asked Dot
Starr, who never could keep quiet a moment.

“Let Miss Martin tell one of her stories!” suggested Nelly.

“She’s an awful good story-teller! You just oughter hear one,” added
Maggie, with the air of one who knows.

“If you will all sit down on the Refectory floor while we are waiting
for dry clothes, I will tell you a short story,” agreed Miss Martin.
And everyone sat down just where he or she happened to be.

“What shall it be?” asked the lady.

Just then a hop-toad jumped upon the platform of the Refectory floor
and almost landed in Betty Blue Bird’s lap.

“Oh, oh! A horrid toad!” cried she, jumping up to shake herself free
from the disagreeable contact.

“I’ll tell you a story about a _nice_ little toad!” laughed Miss
Martin, instantly.

“Oh yes, and cure Betty of her dread of wood-creatures,” added Dot,
eagerly.

“That little toad only hopped up to say, ‘Glad to see you in the
country, children!’ because he is so happy here himself, he wants
everyone to feel as happy as he does.

“You see Speckles--that is the toad’s name, I’m sure--had had a
dreadful long season of it last winter as he lay dozing under the old
tree-roots over there. You will find a deep hole running under the
roots, and in the fall the wind blows leaves and other dry material
into the opening to keep out the cold.

“Speckles has a wide mouth and great shining eyes, but his eyes could
see nothing to eat in the tunnel where he waited for spring, and his
mouth had chewed nothing since the cold blast of winter had driven him
to cover late in the fall.

“Speckles was too tired and cold and hungry to force a way out to the
open until he was quite sure there would be a fair-sized meal for
his empty stomach, so he waited and dozed some more. As he dozed he
wondered--and that made a dream you know--where Spot, his mate, could
be. Was she still sleeping or was she out and working for something to
eat?

“That made Speckles sit up! He rubbed his button eyes with a fore-foot
and yawned--oh what a yawn from that great mouth! He determined to go
out for some air. Perhaps, who knows--there might be a tidbit about
somewhere to ease the gnawing in his insides!

“The dry leaves were soon pushed out and forth came Speckles, but a
very different-looking toad from the fat one that went into winter
quarters the previous fall.

“‘Good-day, Mr. Cricket!’ said Speckles, politely, to a very
tender-looking cricket that sat just above his reach on a twig.

“Being once removed on the plane above a common toad, Mr. Cricket never
deigned to notice the polite greeting. Had the _toad_ been above, the
entire scene would have changed instantly! Perhaps proud Mr. Cricket
would have been the suppliant for life and liberty.

“Speckles hopped over to the tunnel to which he had escorted his mate
the season before, and now he churked a sickly roundelay to wake her
from her dreams. Spot was having a glorious dream of bugs and maggots
and all kinds of toothsome dainties, and the faint call from her mate
failed to rouse her the first time. Again he chirruped, a bit louder
and stronger this time, and Spot awoke with a shock to find her feast
vanish! It was but a dream!

“Spot then waddled out--she need not have waddled, as she was thin and
scrawny, but she was still dreaming that she had stuffed herself at
the feast, so she waddled. Then, too, her joints were stiff from the
cramped position she had been in for many months.

“‘Ha, Spot, my dear!’ saluted Speckles, as he saw his mate stumbling
from the winter resort.

“‘Well, Speck, have you found any dinner?’ was the first house-wifely
question from Spot.

“‘I met Mr. Cricket, but he seemed very lean and unsatisfying, so I
passed him up,’ replied Speckles.

“‘Oh, did you? Or did he hop up himself?’ tittered Spot.

“‘Isn’t it all the same, my dear? I did not eat him!’

“Spot gave a sleepy look at her spouse but said nothing.

“‘I have been thinking, my dear wife, that perhaps some of our friends
may hold a musicale at the frog-pond tonight--shall we hop down and
see? We may find some juicy bugs on the way, too.’

“‘Yes, let us be off! I must find a home for the children as soon as
possible, too, and perhaps the tepid water of the mud-hole will be just
right for the eggs.’

“So the pair hopped away from the trees and were soon at a small spot
beside the creek, where the water had made a tiny bay in the bank. On
the way they found a spider and a few thin ants, but what was such a
tiny mouthful to such hungry toads?

“On the muddy brink of the small inlet, Spot sat and wondered! Here she
had laid a number of tiny eggs the spring before, and these had hatched
out into fine, fat little tadpoles. How well she remembered the day the
tads turned into tiny toads with wide gaps for mouths and bright button
eyes like her own, and had hopped out of the water to prance about and
play with each other!

“Where now were all those dear children? Would any of them remember the
old home-spot and return to bring their grand-children, and gladden the
old frogs?

“‘Oh, well,’ sighed Spot, ‘It is the way of all human nature! Once
the child is grown it throws off all restraint and protecting care of
parents and plunges headlong into life!’

“But Speckles interrupted her thought by calling her attention to an
old decayed log under which he had just burrowed.

“‘Spot--come quick! A fine mess of bugs here!’

“And Spot jumped over to gorge herself on the feast--almost as
delicious a feast as in the dream, but far more satisfying than the
dream-feast had been.

“Spot then made her way carefully down the muddy bank and waddled out
to water that reached to her nose. The rest of her body was submerged.
There she sat all night, listening to the singing of the male toads who
serenaded their mates on the banks, while their wives were attending to
family duties.

“Speckles sang and sang, too, as he sat on the grassy bank just above
Spot where she was laying the yearly batch of eggs.

“At the first streak of dawn, Speckles whispered: ‘Spot, the day is
breaking--we must away to our home.’

“Spot scrambled out at that, and followed her mate to the woods, saying
as she went: ‘I wish we could have a grand family reunion this year,
Speckles. When the new eggs hatch out into polliwogs, I would like to
have our children of last year come home and meet the babies.’

“‘That is a silly mother’s sentiment! I suppose our large family of
last year is well-scattered in every direction this year.’

“Spot said nothing but sighed for she knew how useless it was to wish
an impossible wish!

“Some time after this event, the eggs laid by Spot that lovely
moonlight night, hatched into queer little black things with but two
legs and a slippery tail. Some of the saucy polliwogs whisking about in
the outside creek jeered:

“‘Pooh! You Tads! Where are your front legs?’

“‘They’ll grow soon, and when they do we’ll come out there and duck you
impudent Polliwogs!’ threatened one Tad, named Tibby.

“At the bare mention of ‘duck’ every Tad jumped and even Tibby Tad
shivered with apprehension, for it was well known that a duck was a
deadly foe to a Polliwog or a Tadpole.

“‘Quick--run to cover! Here comes a duck!’ shouted a Polliwog from the
larger creek.

“Instantly every Tad burrowed down through the muddy inlet and remained
hidden until they heard the Pollys’ laugh and jeer, then the Tads knew
they had been made sport of.

“‘I’m going to swim out there and slap that Polliwog’s face!’ exclaimed
Tibby Tad, as he started up from the soft mud.

“Just then a dreadful thing happened on the surface of the water above
him. A big black thing fell ker-splash into the pool, and the ripples
circled about as it tried to scramble forth again.

“The big black bug saw the Tads, however, and made a quick dive for
them. Alas! Some were caught and gobbled up, but Tibby escaped without
a scratch!

“‘That wasn’t a duck, but it was just as bad as one,’ said Tibby to
himself, as he decided not to swim out to the big creek that day but
stick close to the home-bank of mud.

“Some time after this, the other legs began to grow and the Tads who
had survived the raids of ducks, beetles, bugs and other enemies, found
they could hop feebly to the bank.

“‘Why this is our birthday--we are six weeks old today,’ exclaimed
Tibby, as he managed to scramble out of the puddle and sit up in the
grass, panting after the unusual exertion.

“He watched his brothers and sisters crawl up beside him, and after
a time, they began to jump and have the most fun! Leap-frog was too
strenuous for that day, as the little legs would wobble when they tried
to hop.

“‘Come with me, Tina,’ coaxed Tibby to his sister, as he found she was
the sturdiest of the lot who had hopped from the pool.

“As Tibby and Tina hopped away, a few of their brethren followed. Now
and then the Tads--or Toads they now were--stopped to feast upon an
unknown tidbit, but they ate it whether it was familiar and certified
by the Pure Food Commission or not! They ate and ate, every sort of bug
or worm they found, and not a single thought was wasted on Mr. Hoover
or his wartime rations! Tibby and Tina were not very patriotic in their
self-denial that first day out of the puddle!

“Tibby led the way, for he was the bravest of the party. Soon he came
to a tall grassy place where he heard a queer sound.

“‘Tina, do you hear?’ asked Tibby.

“‘Yes, brother, what is it?’

“‘No time to ask--run, Tina!’ cried Tibby, and the two made a mighty
leap just in time to escape a quail that pounced down upon the tiny
toads and gobbled one quickly out of sight.

“‘It was Clumsy that disappeared!’ sighed Tina, all sympathy for the
awkward little toad that could not escape death.

“‘Watch out for other assassins! We know not where the next may lurk,’
whispered Tibby, for he was poetical as well as practical, you see.

“Tina admired her big brother and watched carefully as he had advised,
so she was the first to spy a swift animal with a bushy tail. What was
it? How it did jump--almost as fast and high and far as a toad!

“‘Run, Tina, Run! It’s a squirrel!’ shouted Tibby, as the tiny toads
stood petrified with fear.

“The squirrel soon had the smallest and weakest of the family and that
left four to wander along heart-broken over their loss.

“‘I fear we shall end like the “ten little niggers that sat on a
gate,”’ wailed Tibby, the poem of those unlucky little black children
appealing to him at the moment.

“‘Tibby, will you or I be the last one to swing on the gate and then
fall off, so there was none?’ mournfully asked Tina.

“Suddenly, before Tibby could reply, there was a happy cry and two fat
toads appeared who greeted the four baby toads.

“‘Oh my darlings--it is Mamma Spot! Don’t you know me?’

“Then Speckles puffed up proudly as he saw young Tibby and the baby
brother, and said, ‘Tib, my son, I am glad to see you have brought the
children safely home.’

“What became of the other tads in the puddle I never could find out,
but the four we followed to the woods lived happily with Speckles and
Spot and as they grew up and married they raised their Tads in that
same puddle.

“The pretty toad that jumped into Betty’s lap a while ago was either
Father Speckles or Tibby, who sniffed something to eat and wondered
if we humans ate the same delicious bugs that he preferred above
everything else.”

Everyone clapped at the ending of the story and Betty laughed gayly, as
she admitted that she would like to find Tibby, just to tell him how
glad she was he had escaped from his enemies.



CHAPTER VI

LITTLE MOTHER MAGGIE


The clothes were dry, and the Blue Birds and Bobolinks were again
dressed, but Uncle Ben advised them to keep the overalls to protect
their good clothes while they were playing in camp.

Tea--it was called supper at Happy Hills--was served at 6 p. m. sharp
each day, and now the Refectory was soon arranged for the children.
As the Oakdale visitors intended having the evening meal at the camp
Refectory, a table was set out for them.

Maggie found the neighboring table the one occupied by the adored Blue
Birds, and very little did she eat that noon! Even the table manners of
her six little sisters and brothers failed to distract her attention
from watching the girls at Uncle Ben’s table.

Supper over, Uncle Ben said: “Now what shall we do?”

“Let’s go over and look at the Little Farms,” said Ned.

“Oh yes, Uncle, you see we want to know what to say in the next issue
of the magazine when we offer prizes to the farmers of Happy Hills,”
said Ruth.

The Little Citizens had gathered around and now looked eager to hear
more of the prize idea. Uncle Ben surmised as much and laughed.

“I doubt if the Little Citizens have heard of your plan to distribute
prizes. I will tell them now.

“Citizen Farmers, I beg to announce that the Blue Birds and Bobolinks
are about to give a prize for the best kept farm in camp, another for
the largest vegetable of ten varieties raised; the ten to be radishes,
beets, cabbage, carrots, turnips, squash, beans, potatoes, onions, and
corn.

“Another prize will be given for the greatest amount of good produce
raised on one farm this summer. Yet another will be awarded to the
farmer who makes the most of rotating crops. I have explained to you
what that is.

“As most of you have just started the farms you can all begin fairly to
try for the prizes. The age and size of the farmer will have much to
do with the judgment of the Blue Birds. So I suggest that the farmers
be divided in classes, one for boys of eight and over, one for girls
of eight and over; another class for children--boys and girls--under
eight years of age. The prize will be duplicated for these classes. Any
remarks?”

There were none, so Uncle Ben led his young visitors to inspect the
farms.

“Mr. Ta’mage, we’se gotta street cleanin’ squad, an’ a police force,
an’ a health board wid nusses, an’ to say nuttin’ of dem firemen, but
we hain’t got no head farmers in camp to show helpers all de time, what
we wants to know,” ventured a voice from the crowd that followed at
Uncle Ben’s heels.

“That’s so! Farmer Jones is master here, but he can’t be at everyone’s
beck and call. We’ll have to plan a farmer club tomorrow, and I will
send down books and pamphlets for all to read or study.”

“Why can’t some gals be in the farmer clubs as well as the boys that
have everyt’ing goin’,” remarked Mother Maggie.

“You’re right, Maggie! We men have to share alike with you women now
that you have the vote in New York State!” said Uncle Ben, smiling at
his Citizens.

At the Little Farms the visitors were delighted to see what had already
been done. Mr. Jones was there to explain things.

“You see, we worked very hard at digging the plots when the first
Little Citizens arrived at camp, and now, as new arrivals come each
day, they too are set to work at their farms; so we will have some
farms harvesting while others are just sprouting their first crop.

“I showed the children how to dig and work over the soil until it was
right for planting. Then I taught them how to choose the right seed for
this time of the year, and each child was shown how to plant the seed
chosen by him.

“Now you see, some plants are already growing fine, and some are just
sprouting from the ground. Some farms have been seeded and are not yet
sprouting, and some have just been made ready to plant.

“We farmers think it great fun to hunt the bugs and worms that would
injure our plants. We are very careful to keep the ground well watered
so the roots can keep healthy and feed the green shoots above the
earth. We have some fine radishes that will soon be large enough to
pull for dinner.

“Bill’s radishes are the best and finest, and he will soon be able to
pull some and sell them to the cook at the Refectory at market price.”

This attracted attention to Bill’s garden and the children took great
pride in the order and neatness of the farm-plot.

“Looks as if Bill might win a prize for neatness,” said Uncle Ben.

“You’se diden’ say what de prize was! Ef it’s going to be a choice of
t’ings, lemme take cash, ’cuz I’m goin’ to save all dis summer an’ lay
by to git a farm fer us all ferever!” vowed Maggie, enthusiastically,
as she waved her arm at her six brethren.

“We will consider that matter for you, Maggie, and decide what the
prize shall be,” agreed Uncle Ben.

As the children went from one well-kept farm to the next, something
interesting was learned from each plot.

For instance the Blue Birds heard from Farmer Jones that a radish was
really a root. Because of its red color it could be mistaken for fruit
or a bulbous vegetable, but it grows and produces stems with leaves, so
it must be classed with root vegetables.

“Besides all this, a thin root tapers from the round bulb. It is this
long tapering root that finds the food and drink in the deep, dark
ground for the plant above ground to grow upon,” explained the Farmer.

“Now the interesting thing about a radish is this: the plant stores
up food in its root for its own use. It takes the first half of its
life to make a great big root, and when the root is fully grown and
the upper green leaves are through, it dies. Then there shoots up a
long slender stem, and on top of this the flowers of the radish bloom.
As these in turn fade and die, the seeds form and the entire plant
dies--its work accomplished.

“If we dig up a dried radish plant we will find the round radish
entirely changed in appearance. Instead of a juicy red bulb we find a
shrivelled colorless root, because the stem and flowers that finally
turned to seed ate up all the nourishment the green leaves had given
to the radish-root. And the stored up food gone, there was nothing to
draw upon, so the root died, too.”

“How interesting! Do tell us some more, Mr. Jones,” exclaimed Vene
Starr.

“Well, then, here’s a potato. Is that a fruit, a root, a plant, or a
bulb?” asked Farmer Jones, smiling at his catch-words.

“It’s a root,” shouted Don.

“No, it’s a plant--a potato-plant,” said Ruth.

“I think it’s a bulb--like tulips or other bulbs,” added Vene.

“It’s neither, children--a potato is a stem!” said the tickled farmer.

“A stem--what to?” asked many curious voices.

“Let me tell you: A potato is an underground stem with all the
properties of a stem but it shoots downward instead of up above the
soil.

“You see a potato has many eyes, and these eyes grow when properly cut
and planted. The white shoot pushes itself up out of the ground and
bears leaves, which is the vine, or plant.

“The old potato which was planted to furnish food for the plant is
gradually used up as the green leaves open out and grow to be a large
healthy vine. Then, the old food-store being used, and the potato-plant
flourishing, new roots or stems grow downward from the plant; these
swell out, and out, and out, until all the little tendrils that would
be long thin roots in another kind of vegetable, are swollen bulb-like
tubers of the potato-plant.

“When the plant is exhausted and can furnish no more life and strength
to its underground tubers, it dies, and the potatoes stop growing.

“If a plant above ground kept on indefinitely furnishing life and food
to the potatoes underground, they would keep on increasing until one
hill would supply more than one ever saw. But the plant produces just
so many tubers and then stops.”

“Oh, that is funny! I never dreamed a potato worked so hard for us,”
giggled Dot Starr, as the farmer concluded his talk.

“Is a carrot or turnip a stem or bulb, too?” asked Don.

“No, a carrot, like the radish, is a root and is grown from seed. As
the seed bursts open, the sprout sends up two tiny leaves, while the
root goes down into the earth to seek food for its plant. The root
grows fatter and fatter as it keeps on feeding the green leaves that in
turn give the root sunshine and air. In the fall when the plant dies,
the carrot is ready to be dug out and used.

“If it remains in the ground through the winter, it freezes but does
not die. In spring, it sends up a new shoot and this flowers to make
seeds. The old carrot in the ground dies as its seeds are perfected,
for it has produced the wherewithal for many more plants.”

“I s’pose the turnip and beet and other swollen roots are all the same
then,” suggested Ned, who had been listening with great interest to
Farmer Jones’ talk.

“Just about, and you can quickly determine for yourself which class a
vegetable belongs to by examining the root or full-grown product. A
cabbage, kohlrabi, and similar vegetables are not roots.”

As the children passed other Little Farms, they found that some owners
had planted dwarf and bush peas; dwarf and climbing beans; and other
vegetables not commonly used by other Little Citizens.

Maggie appeared very eager as they neared her small farm, and finally,
Vene called out to the others:

“Oh, see that pretty plot. Full of flowers! Whose is it?”

“That’s Little Mother Maggie’s,” replied the farmer, smiling at the
wizened little girl.

“How neat and well-kept,” commended Uncle Ben.

“Yes, Maggie spends all her spare time here and takes great pride in
the plants. I told her the variety to plant to show quick results;
but now she has a box full of young plants at the Nest, where she is
starting later flowers for her garden when these are gone,” explained
Farmer Jones.

As Maggie could do with her garden what she pleased, she now went
carefully between the rows of flowers and gathered all that were
full-blown. These she presented to Uncle Ben and to the Blue Birds.

“Oh, Maggie, why did you pluck all the lovely blossoms?” cried Ruth.

“Farmer Jones says dey make twice as many flowers if I keep a-pickin’
dose wide open an’ ready to fade,” replied Maggie, astutely.

“For instance, take a pansy plant,” added the farmer. “A plant may only
produce a few blossoms and these will be very large and beautiful.
But cut them off as soon as they are fully opened and the plant will
send up more buds--not quite as large. If these are picked too, more
buds will appear, but will be still smaller, and so on. If you want to
produce an extraordinarily large and beautiful flower on a plant, you
pinch off every bud that appears excepting the one you wish over-fed
with the plant’s food. All the strength and vitality that would be
divided between many blossoms now goes to the one and produces an extra
large and fine single flower.”

“When I go home I’m going to plant flowers and try that idea,” said
Vene Starr.

The Little Citizens were almost finished with the inspection of the
farms when a signal sounded from the fire-gong. The visitors looked at
each other for an explanation.

“It is the call for evening song,” said Uncle Ben.

“Who started that idea?” asked Ned.

“Flutey. She said no child should go to bed without having its soul
lifted to a sense of harmony that would really affect its sleeping
hours. And we find the singing is really a good thing for us all,”
explained Uncle Ben.

The Little Citizens seemed to look forward to this song-exercise and
soon all were seated in the open Refectory, where a small upright piano
stood. One of the young women who helped with the Nests, sat down
before the instrument and played a gay little air; then the signal
sounded for silence.

Miss Selina made it her business to be present at these song-times, and
generally stood up after the prelude and offered a very short, simple
prayer. Then the Little Citizens sang.

In the short time they had been at Happy Hills, most of them had
memorized several sweet songs, and could sing really well. Uncle Ben
and his group sat in the back row the better to get the effect of the
chorus singing, and when the lovely song called “The Prince of Peace”
was finished he felt that he must wipe his eyes for they were moist.

The Blue Birds and Bobolinks encored this song with such enthusiasm
that Flutey smiled and said: “Little Citizens, our visitors appear to
favor that selection. Suppose we now treat them to the new one we have
been learning. How many think they can sing it in public?”

Someone had drawn out a large paper chart from back of the piano and
now it stood in the center of the room. Upon it the visitors saw the
words of the song plainly written for all to read or learn by heart.

The pianist played the air over once and some of the children hummed it
eagerly. Then they all stood up and sang.

It was “The Song of Love” and as the childish voices filled the place
and echoed from the woods and vale, Uncle Ben felt that this was one
way to introduce universal peace and brotherhood. However could such
a motley gathering of city waifs, whose parents most likely came from
every known country in Europe, return home feeling the same in mind
and soul as before spending this summer at Happy Hills! He knew it
was impossible, and that every child singing there that night must be
benefited permanently by the words and music of such songs as Miss
Selina had purposely selected.

Uncle Ben made another great discovery during that singing, but he made
no mention of it at the time. He was determined to investigate the
matter well before taking others into his secret.

Little Mother Maggie, because she had to keep her little family quiet
and in order during the singing, generally sat at the back of the
class. Uncle Ben sat directly beside her and so made his discovery.

When the Even Song was ended, the children trooped to their different
Nests to retire for the night. Uncle Ben asked the Blue Birds and
Bobolinks to escort Aunt Selina home while he helped Maggie with the
little ones. This they eagerly agreed to do. So Maggie was delighted to
have Uncle Ben walk to the Nest with her.

“Maggie, you seem to have your hands full with so many children,”
ventured Uncle Ben, after they had left the hall.

“Yes, sir, but dey’ll grow big some day an’ den I kin help myself.”

“What do you mean--help yourself?”

“I means, dat den I kin do somethin’ what I wants to fer myself,”
replied Maggie.

“Can’t you do it now?”

“Dere ain’t no time, when six kids is to be looked after--on’y maybe a
bit at night when dey is all in bed.”

“What is the something you want to do for yourself, Maggie? Maybe I can
help you a bit now,” offered Uncle Ben, hoping to win the little girl’s
confidence.

It was not difficult, as Maggie was frank and confiding by nature, so
she stopped short in the pathway and exclaimed rapturously:

“Oh Mister Uncle Ben! I loves de flowers growin’, I loves pickshers! I
loves pritty people like Miss Martin an’ de Blue Birds an’ you! An’ oh!
how I loves singin’!”

Uncle Ben had the information he wanted! But still he drew her out.

“Why, Maggie, no one would call Miss Martin or me pretty! And some of
the Blue Birds and Bobolinks are not nearly as good-looking as you
are,--if you were plump you would be as pretty as anyone.”

“Mister Uncle Ben, you don’t unnerstan’!” replied Maggie, with
a worried expression. “I diden’ mean looks, don’che know--I mean
somethin’ else, but I can’t call it like I wantta!”

“I understand, Maggie; and I know that you wish to call it
‘individuality,’ or the mental beauty of the soul. It is this grace of
each one’s thought-power that makes true beauty and attractiveness.”

“Dat’s it--yes, dat’s it, Mister Uncle Ben! But I diden’ know how to
say it!” cried Maggie, her eyes shining.

They had reached the Nest by this time, and Uncle Ben was so
interested, that he said he would step in and help put the six romping
sisters and brothers to bed. Maggie was over-awed!

Uncle Ben took quick notice of the cleanliness of the Nest, and the
crude attempts at decoration. Maggie had gathered wild flowers and
filled empty tin cans with water to hold the lovely blossoms. The very
arrangement of the colors and ferns showed her artistic temperament
that so pleased the visitor.

“Why did you remove all the paper from the cans, Maggie? Didn’t you
like the gay colors of the printing, and the pictures of tomatoes, and
corn, and squash on the outside?”

“Oh sakes alive! Dem ain’t pickshers! Dey is awful ink ads. what folks
have to make to boost dere stuff er not sell it!” returned Maggie,
scornfully.

Uncle Ben laughed aloud. Here was truth indeed!

“So you thought that flashy tin was better, eh?”

“Not much better, Mister Uncle Ben, but cleaner--besides de flowers
said dey wouldn’t stay fresh if dey had to drink water from a tin what
told everyone it had one time been full of beans!” said Maggie, with
disgust at the very idea!

Uncle Ben could hardly keep from laughing again, but he did not want to
offend the little girl he was questioning. Now he said:

“Maybe you’d like something nicer to hold flowers?”

“’Tain’t no use wishin’--I hain’t even got any green paint to paint
dese tin cans wid. If dey was green dey would look all right, ’cause
you see everyt’ing--the grass, the trees, the plants demselves, is all
green before the flower shoots up and opens. An’ a green can would look
more like leaves for the flowers to stick up from,” explained Maggie.

Uncle Ben now found that his hostess was logical and a student of
Nature’s ways and motives. He felt that his visit was teaching him more
about Maggie than he ever thought to know.

The six little ones were in bed by this time, and Maggie kept glancing
at the electric light which hung from the center of the sloping roof of
the Nest.

“What’s wrong with it, Maggie?” asked Uncle Ben.

“It’ll go out at nine sharp an’ leave you in the dark,” said she.

“Oh--then you want to go to bed?”

“No, I don’ go to bed when dere’s a full moon like dis one. I coulden’
sleep away such a lovely time! I likes to sit on de steps and think!”

“And think? Don’t you sing to the moon, Maggie?”

“Who tol’ you?” quickly countered the little girl.

“No one told me, but the moon ought to make you feel like singing, I
think,” returned Uncle Ben, soothingly.

“I sings soft-like so no one kin hear. It might wake up de children an’
make ’em cry, so I jus’ sing inside, you know!”

“So I thought. Well now, Maggie, I have a favor to ask. Suppose we ask
Miss Martin in the next Nest to keep her eye on the sleeping children
here, while you and I walk over to the lake and watch the moon sail
over the trees. There you can sing to me without disturbing anyone, you
see.”

Maggie looked at Uncle Ben and grasping his arm, said:

“I’ll do ennyt’ing for you, but you’ll wish you never ast me to sing!”

Miss Martin quickly consented to keep guard over Maggie’s brood as well
as the little ones in her own Nest; and Uncle Ben shared his secret
with her, while Maggie sought for a hat and an old pair of cotton
gloves--for was she not going for a walk with a real gentleman! Ladies
always wore gloves at such times.

Uncle Ben took Maggie’s hand to make her feel quite at ease with him,
and soon the two reached the Summer House built on the little bluff
overlooking the ornamental lake where Aunt Selina first heard Ruth plan
for Happy Hills.

All was quiet and peaceful and the faint lap, lap, lap of the water
as it was lightly rippled by the night-breezes, gave one a feeling of
being in another world. So thought Maggie.

She forgot where she was and who was with her as her soul drank in the
beauty of the scene, and when Uncle Ben whispered, “Sing ‘The Song of
Love,’ Maggie,” she sang it softly as if in accord with her own wishes
at the moment.

The melody came forth so pure and clear and free, yet so controlled,
that Uncle Ben marvelled. He had found a wonder indeed!

Maggie softly trilled every song she had learned at Happy Hills, and
then her silent companion took her hand and they walked back to the
Nest.

“Diden’ you like my singin’, Mister Uncle Ben?” queried Maggie,
wistfully, for he had not said a word.

“Maggie, it was so wonderful that I can’t speak!”

“I know! I know, how you’se feel! I always feels dat way when I stan’
outside a church an’ hears some angel singin’ inside. Den I want glad
rags an’ fine ways so I kin go in an’ _see_ de shinin’ wings an’ face
what’s singin’!” cried Maggie.

“Thank you very much for this treat, Maggie, and tomorrow I will treat
you in return,” said Uncle Ben, patting her head.

“Now hurry to bed, little girl. Good-night!” added the visitor, as
Maggie stood on the top step of the three that led to the Nest.



CHAPTER VII

UNEXPECTED GENIUSES FOUND AT HAPPY HILLS


Uncle Ben sat up with Flutey a long time that night, after he entered
the house, and when the two parted to go to bed, it had been decided to
experiment as Uncle Ben planned.

The following morning the Blue Birds and Bobolinks heard Uncle Ben
telephoning long-distance to New York. Having secured the number he
wanted, he talked for a long time over the wire.

“Whew! That call will cost Uncle Ben a lot of money,” ventured Don, who
was curious to know what it was all about.

“It will be money well invested if the returns are such as we look
for,” returned Flutey, smiling but not offering to inform anyone of the
cause.

“Well, Aunt Selina, it’s arranged! She’s coming down with Richards this
afternoon. I’m so glad I could reach her,” said Uncle Ben, entering the
breakfast room.

“And Mr. Richards said he would bring down that music teacher who used
to direct the band,” added Miss Selina.

“We’ll have quite an opera company as well as an orchestra at Happy
Hills,” laughed Uncle Ben, highly pleased at something.

“I guess I’ll stay at Happy Hills the rest of the Summer, Uncle Ben,
and help play the drum,” now ventured Don.

“Pooh! A lot you’d play! You’d only _beat_ it!” exclaimed Dot, for she
knew there would be no place for her in the band.

“He’ll _beat_ it from here, all right, when we go home again,” laughed
Jinks.

“As soon as I finish my breakfast, I’m going over to the camp and make
a tour of each Nest. I have important information to secure before
noon. What do you boys and girls propose doing?” now asked Uncle Ben.

“Can’t we go with you?”

“You can go to the camp but not with me on my tour of inspection. You
must amuse yourselves this morning.”

“All right! We’ll go and help the Street Cleaning Department,” offered
Don.

“And we girls can watch the Health Board work. I think it must be great
fun to see those girls teach the younger ones how to clean their teeth
and chew their food!” giggled Ruth.

Immediately after the morning meal had ended, Miss Selina ordered
Jackson to bring her wheelchair out and she sat in it, ready to start.

Flutey was no longer troubled with rheumatism, so it was not that she
_had_ to use the chair, but Happy Hills was at least a half mile from
the house so that a walk there and back, besides the walking about the
camp, or going in and out of the Nests, was too fatiguing for a lady
long past seventy years.

“We’ll push the chair, Jackson, as we want to be with Aunt Selina,”
said Ruth, as the manservant waited.

“All right, Jackson. You may attend to other duties,” added Flutey,
smiling.

Uncle Ben had gone, carrying his important secret with him, but once
the Blue Birds and Bobolinks were on their way to camp, they forgot
about his desertion of them.

Uncle Ben reached Miss Martin’s Nest and engaged her in conversation
over his secret. She was as eager as he, and soon they had decided
upon what was best to do.

“Maggie, I am going to have a little talk with you, to tell you how
much I liked your singing last night,” said Uncle Ben, walking up the
steps of Maggie’s Nest.

The little girl was sweeping up the floor of the Nest as her visitor
spoke, and quickly looking up, she smiled at him.

“I’ve decided to find someone to take the care of the children entirely
from your hands during the day, Maggie, and Miss Martin says she can
easily manage them as well as those she now has charge of.”

“What fur?” wondered Maggie.

“To give you plenty of time to sing.”

“Sing! Me--sing all day?” cried Maggie, amazed.

“Sing when you like and as often, but at certain times of each day you
must sing and practice just the way the teacher wants you to.”

“What teacher--have we a singin’ teacher here?” gasped Maggie.

“We intend having one, and she is coming down today to start those
pupils who really have good voices. I think you have a good voice but
she can judge better than I. If she says you can sing, will you promise
to practice?”

“Oh, Mister Uncle Ben,--_will I_?” came from Maggie in a trembling
whisper.

“Den maybe I kin sing like dose angels in Fift Avenoo churches, hey?”
added Maggie after a moment’s thought.

“Just like them, I hope--may be sweeter than they sing!”

“Oh no, Mister Uncle Ben! Never could a poor kid like me sing better’n
’em!”

“But you wouldn’t be poor if you had a fine voice,” ventured Uncle Ben,
carefully watching his protégé.

Maggie’s eyes opened wider and wider as this astounding statement
dawned upon her mind, and finally she dropped upon the floor beside the
broom.

“Dat’s so--I coul’ buy de children all dey need an’ git some nice
clo’es fer myself wid what was left!” sighed she, the tears of joy
coming to her eyes.

Uncle Ben now felt sure he had read the girl aright. Her first thought
had been of the little sisters and brothers who had never had what was
necessary--she came last--if anything was left!

“Well, Maggie, I’m going to give you a new name for the singing teacher
to use. You must always be ‘Margaret’ henceforth, and see to it, that
everyone is corrected should they call you ‘Maggie.’ Tell them it was
my order that you be called ‘Margaret.’”

“Oh, you’se sure kin read my wishes, Mister Uncle Ben! _How_ I always
hated that ‘Maggie’ widdout any soft music in its sayin’! But Margaret
is differunt! It’s low and smooth!”

Even in this degree was the girl’s sense of harmony so finely attuned
that she rebelled at hearing herself called by an inharmonious sound.

The teacher arrived with Mr. Richards and the music master on the one
o’clock train, and the car soon carried them to Miss Selina’s country
estate. A group of merry children met them on the steps of the veranda,
and after a noisy time at luncheon, all started for the camp.

Uncle Ben had gone over the camp-ground that morning and made a list of
names of those Little Citizens who showed any desire for music--to join
the band or chorus at Happy Hills.

Mr. Richards had personally attended to the order of securing
instruments made especially for half-grown young folks, and these
bulky boxes had been shipped by special delivery to the train at the
Pennsylvania railroad station that morning. They arrived at Happy Hills
on the same train with the teachers.

Great was the confusion that afternoon as many of the Little Citizens
tried to blow a cornet, bass horn or beat a drum. And such a squeaking
and squealing as issued from many throats when the singing was tried
out by the teacher!

Margaret had insisted all that morning on being called Margaret instead
of Maggie, and her head was held up an inch higher with the sense of
her promotion to a harmonious name.

She had allowed other girls and boys to precede her in the testing of
their voices, and now she came last. Uncle Ben waited anxiously for
this moment, and when she stood up beside the piano and did as the
others had done, singing “Ah, eh, oh, ooh” for the teacher, he listened
carefully.

“Now sing this: and close your eyes to keep out all sight of things
outside your mental vision of song,” advised the teacher, as she sang
the queer sounds she wished the little girl to try.

Margaret did them, and the lady had her try others, until the girl
laughed: “I kin sing songs better’n ’em funny noises!”

“Can you? Well then let me hear you sing ‘The Song of Love’ that I see
printed on that chart,” replied the teacher.

Margaret sang it with her natural childish voice and in spite of having
never had any idea of music other than that which inspired her soul,
the true placing of her voice and the volume in the tones so pleased
the teacher and music master that both exclaimed:

“Mr. Talmage, I am sure we have a wonder here! If she will show the
same ambition to learn properly as she does to sing naturally, we will
be amply rewarded.”

The training of Margaret began that summer, and so careful was the
teacher because of the girl’s youth and refined mentality, that the
course seemed to include everything except singing lessons.

Margaret was taught to walk and stand properly, and when seated or
lying down, to keep her body from sagging. She was given breathing
exercises daily, and taught to masticate her food thoroughly. She was
shown how to speak with a sweet, low voice, and to enunciate her vowels
carefully, always listening for a harsh note or discordant sound in her
speech.

Easy, simple songs were permitted the girl, but the majority of her
exercises were “Ohs and Ahs,” until she felt that singing was not quite
so easy to master as she had thought. But she persevered, and when her
growth was attained and her voice matured with the years, Margaret
became one of the most sought-after of all soprano church soloists!

Other voices were found at Happy Hills, but none so marvelous as
Little Mother Maggie’s. A strong tenor developed from a boy’s high
singing voice; and a contralto emerged from a Russian peasant child’s
low-pitched voice. Both became well-known public soloists and some
others who were trained that summer found success in chorus and choir
work, later in life.

The band was the greatest source of attraction for the boys, however.
The music master began instructions with ten pupils, each of whom,
having had some teaching at school, could read notes. At first, the
blare of instruments sounding from those young, hearty lungs, caused
the audience to muffle their ears. As Uncle Ben remarked:

“Seems to me, a barnyard is on a strike!”

Everyone laughed and the master said: “Once more, now boys; and show
Mr. Talmage how hens cackle, roosters crow, cows moo-oo, donkeys bray,
and horses neigh--all together!”

And the blast that resulted made Uncle Ben run away!

But harmony came from this chaos as the boys practiced faithfully day
after day, and before the band leader returned to New York he felt
encouraged to keep up the class through the winter months. Uncle Ben
hired an assembly room on the East Side and other boys joined the band,
each one eager enough to buy his own instrument. Before the following
spring, a band of forty boys could play quite well!

So much for the musical talent at Happy Hills!

A few days following the advent of the music teachers, Miss Martin
called Uncle Ben’s attention to little Nelly Finn.

“Have you seen the child use pencil and paper?” asked Miss Martin.

“No. But don’t tell me we have a born artist among us,” laughed Uncle
Ben.

“Really, Mr. Talmage, I think we have a designer with unusual talent,”
replied Miss Martin, anxiously.

“Designer! Why the child has never been outside of a dirty tenement
room. Being crippled, you know, she could not run about as other
children do. Where could she see anything to inspire her brain to
design?”

“Wasn’t Beethoven stone deaf? And didn’t he compose the sweetest music
and most perfect symphonies without ever having heard the sound of
them--other than in his own thoughts! That, as well as other wonders,
proves that it is not from without that we find inspiration and true
talent. It is solely from within, and one whose mind is seeking for the
beautiful and eternal will find it there, whether it be music, verse,
form, or color,” said Miss Martin.

“You’re a philosopher, Miss Martin, and a true one, at that,” said
Uncle Ben, highly pleased at his companion’s reply to his doubts.

“So you see, Mr. Talmage, Nelly Finn may be a great designer in mind,
and the fact that she does not lose her artistic ideas of what she sees
and feels in her thoughts, by coarse contact with the outside world,
leaves her original and expressive.”

“Well, show me some of the sketches you seem to think are so
marvelous,” said Uncle Ben.

As is generally the case, those who come to laugh go away to wonder,
and it was so with Uncle Ben. The moment he saw the lead-pencil lines
crudely drawn on yellow manila wrapping paper, he detected the talent
displayed. He took several of these samples with him to show Mr.
Richards.

“What do you think of this work, Richards?”

“Where did you get them?” asked the newspaper man instantly interested.

“Oh, one of our Little Citizens is an expert artist, I find,” laughed
Uncle Ben.

“Why, Talmage, this is quite clever! Do you know, we must change the
name of our campers? They are not Little Citizens. They are Little
Wonders! Now tell me truly, where did you get these sketches?”

“One of Miss Martin’s Nestlings, Richards. No less than puny Nelly
Finn,” replied Uncle Ben.

“What! The sister of Micky, our newsboy and boot-black?” cried the
astonished newspaper man.

“The same.”

“I can see myself resigning from the paper, Talmage, and giving all
my attention to discovering talent at Happy Hills. Then to find
teachers for such talent that it may bloom in full beauty,” laughed Mr.
Richards, but he was feeling quite serious over Nelly’s development.

“We won’t hide these talents ‘in a napkin’ whatever else we have to
do,” added Uncle Ben.

“But Nelly must just play and grow strong this summer, then we will
enter her in some class where she will be given all the help she needs
without ruining her original ideas. Who knows, Ben, but she may rule
the world of fashion with her designs?”

“No one would dare prophesy such a thing to look at the wisp of a
child now,” added Uncle Ben.

Nothing was said to Nelly about her gift, for they all agreed it might
create other ideas in her mind than those she loved to draw upon paper.
But it had been decided that she would be given a good home and a
teacher to train her childish ideals to conform with her talent.

“If we keep on digging up any more geniuses at Happy Hills, Flutey,
you will have to close your house this winter and take a big place in
New York just to prepare a home for your Little Wonders,” teased Mr.
Richards, that night after he had told about Nelly’s talent.

“Not such a bad idea, at that!” added Uncle Ben.

“Good gracious, Ben! You don’t mean it--really!” cried Miss Selina,
aghast.

“Why not! Richards and I are homeless city waifs, as well as the Little
Citizens, so we could live with you and help keep house,” replied Uncle
Ben.

“Ben, think of my age! And New York, too!”

“Why should I think of your age now, when you have proven without a
doubt that you are only fifty-five or sixty in reality! Years count
for nothing when one is as spry as you are,” laughed Mr. Talmage.

“Why Ben Talmage! How you talk! Only last year I was all tied in knots
with rheumatism and couldn’t walk!” cried Flutey.

“Oh Flutey, stop trying to make believe you want to be back where I
found you!” exclaimed Ruth, indignantly.

The other Blue Birds laughed teasingly at Miss Selina, and she smiled
too. “Yes, I suppose the surest way to charm back that rheumatic state
is to think of it!” said she.

“Well, it’s just the same with old age! If you keep talking and
thinking of it, pretty soon you _are_ old and helpless! And we know
you’re _not_--so there!” declared Ruth.

“Didn’t you trot everywhere with the Blue Birds and Bobolinks while you
were at Mossy Glen?” demanded Ned, her grand-nephew.

“Yes, but I was visiting and had nothing else to do!”

“Oh, is that it! Well, I’ll tell you what, Flutey! I’ll rent the big
house and ask you to visit me all winter. Then you can run about and
enjoy the Little Wonders we found at Happy Hills without thinking of
your age. If it is your own home that makes you so aged, we will never
allow you to return here!” said Uncle Ben.

“You’re all talking a lot of poppy-cock stuff! Flutey has been livelier
here at Happy Hills than I ever saw her before,” said Dot Starr, who
must have a word in everything.

“Sure! Doesn’t she visit the camp twice a day, and go up and down all
the steps to the Nests, to say nothing of going about the Little Farms,
and hospital and Refectory. If she can stand that, she can stand a
little of New York,” said Don, who felt a great attraction in this
sudden idea of a New York Home for Little Wonders!

“Well, we have all summer to plan such an outlandish thing as Uncle Ben
just sprang on us, so we will think it over,” said Mr. Richards, who
did not think it wise to urge matters further.

“What are we going to do tomorrow, Uncle Ben?” now asked Ned.

“Farmer Jones said he would show us what he does with all the wastage
from camp that the Street Cleaning Department wheels to the dump each
day,” said Jinks.

“That won’t take all morning--only an hour,” added Ned.

“And after that--what do you want to do?” said Uncle Ben.

“I say, let’s give the Little Citizens a picnic. We can all go in
installments in the autos to some other woods or lake and have
something to eat, then play games and come back,” suggested Don.

“Oh yes, give Don a ride and something good to eat and he is happy!”
jeered Meredith.

“I don’t think Don’s idea is so bad, Mete, especially as we can use
some of the large farm-wagons filled with straw for the older children.
They have not seen any part of the neighborhood as yet, and they ought
to have an outing. We can finish all chores at camp and see that the
little farms are all right for the day, and then leave Happy Hills
about eleven; have a picnic luncheon somewhere and return about five,”
said Uncle Ben.

“Where could we go?” asked several of the Blue Birds and Bobolinks.

“There is a beautiful lake nestling among the hills not ten miles from
here,” suggested Aunt Selina. “It is used by anyone giving a picnic,
and is considered free to the public, although the vast extent of woods
is owned by a Philadelphia man.”

“If it is commonly used by the public, it will be just the spot. No
harm will be done by going there,” said Mr. Richards.

“If we are going on a picnic tomorrow, we must plan all sorts of
goodies to eat,” ventured Don, anxiously.

“Why not take what we might have at the Refectory--cook it in the
woods, that’s all the difference,” said Uncle Ben.

“What’s a picnic without cake and ice-cream!” scorned Dot.

“I’ll see that the ice-cream gets there safely if Don and Dot will turn
the freezers,” laughed Ned.

“We have a great freezer at the camp which is turned by electric power,
so that need not worry you longer, Don,” said Flutey consolingly.

So it was decided to have a picnic the following day, and Miss Martin
was telephoned at once to ask the cook and other help if they could
prepare the necessities for the picnic dinner in time.

This was satisfactorily arranged, and everyone went to bed betimes
so that they might rise at an early hour and help in various ways to
enable all to get away on time for the outing.



CHAPTER VIII

THE STREET CLEANING SQUAD


It took little time for the news to spread around the camp that a
picnic was planned for that day, and many a Little Citizen forgot newly
acquired table manners, in the eagerness to talk it over.

Breakfast out of the way, the cook and her helpers went to work to
freeze cream, bake cookies, and prepare other delicious goodies for the
treat. The Little Mothers hurried to their Nests to attend to their
several duties.

The Health Board went its round conscientiously to see that all beds
were aired, all dust swept and wiped up carefully, all clothing dry and
clean, and above all, that everyone brushed and cleaned their teeth
properly.

The Blue Birds were present at these visits and enjoyed watching the
older girls of the camp take charge of things and order the children
around.

One of the Health Officers named Marybell was a red-haired, freckled
girl of twelve. She was a born captain and now found her opportunity in
life.

“Say you, Rebecca Einstein, who tol’ you’se to sweep that dust under de
crex rug?” said Marybell upon reaching the Nest where Rebecca had the
sweeping to do that day.

“Dere ain’t no dus’ pan,” complained Rebecca.

“Wall, you’se know where t’ git one, den! Go ’an git it!” ordered
Marybell, pointing a determined finger towards the kitchens.

Rebecca ran, glad to be away from the disconcerting gaze of the Blue
Birds.

“Now you Eliza--come here and show the ladies your teet’ an’
finger-nails,” said Marybell, selecting the girl she had the most
trouble with on those very scores.

“I ain’t all done wid dem yet,----lemme run an’ finish,” said Eliza,
hurriedly, but blushing at being caught so unexpectedly.

“Ain’ done! Laws me, sloven, yeh had more’n an hour since breakfast t’
do yer toilet!” exclaimed Marybell, frowning.

“She gits out of doin’ ’em all the time,” willingly tattled another
girl.

“Come right here, Emmy, an’ lemme see yer own nails!” said Marybell,
while the other little girls in the Nest tittered.

When Emmy slowly shuffled up and held out her fingers, Marybell
expressed disgust at the sight. “A black mark fer you’se, an’ one fer
Eliza! Yeh can’t be depended upon. Mebbe yeh better stay away from de
picnic an’ tend to yer teet’ an’ nails!”

“Oh no, no! Please not dat, Marybell! Give us all black marks, if yeh
wants to, but let us go today!” cried the two delinquents.

“Well den, git a hustle on an’ clean up before I git back,” said she,
shaking a warning head at them and going her way to the next Nest.

This inspection continued, the Blue Birds enjoying every phase of it,
until they arrived at one of the newest Nests--that is the tenants had
just come from the city. Marybell had been asked to look after them
until a regular Health Member was selected for that district of the
camp.

As the visitors came near the Nest they saw a little girl with
skirts pinned up about her waist, standing bare-legged in the creek,
which was up to her knees. She was bending over and doing something
energetically, but her back being turned to the Health Officer and the
Blue Birds, they could not see what it was that so occupied her time
and attention.

“What’s dat gals’ name--out in de brook?” Marybell asked one of the six
Little Citizens of the Nest.

“She’s Annie Markey,” said several voices obligingly.

“What’s she standin’ in de crick fer?”

“She’s scrubbin’ her teet’ like we wuz tol’ to do.”

“Scrubbin’ her teet’ in all dat water! How long’s she been at it?”
wondered Marybell.

“Ever since we came back from breakfus’, cuz she says she was tol’ all
dat grey had to come offen her front teet’, an’ she can’t rub it off,”
explained the oldest of the group.

Marybell hurried down to the creek and called: “Annie--hoh, Annie
Markey, come out here!”

Annie turned and saw the Officer beckoning her. She came up on the
bank, and Marybell saw she held a bit of broken mirror in one hand and
the brand-new toothbrush in the other.

“Open yer mout’,” said Marybell.

Annie obeyed--it opened widely.

“Back teet’ all gone--nuttin’ but holes left dere! Now skin yer
teet’--like dis!” And Marybell showed two rows of sharp front teeth as
she wrinkled up her face fearsomely.

Annie imitated the Officer and Marybell frowned. “You’se ain’t got no
kinda teet’ to clean, nohow! Dey gotta go to a dentis’ an’ be scoured
er pulled--I don’ know which, but I’ll report you to de hospital anyway
and let ’em do what dey says,” was Marybell’s terrifying verdict.

“Oh please don’ report me to a hospital--please! An’ I don’ want all
my teet’ pulled neider! I’ll run away firs’. I come here to eat all I
kin and have a good time, an’ now yeh wants to pull out my teet’ an’ I
can’t chew any more!” wailed Annie.

“Nah, I don’t, Annie! I on’y wants to git out dem bad ones what will
ache, an’ de udders kin be scoured to git de black off. What made ’em
so bad?” soothed Marybell.

“De school-teacher in Harlem says it was ’cause I eat so much candy--me
fadder keeps a candy store wid cigars, yeh see.”

“Hum--we unnerstan’--nuttin’ like trashy candy to eat up good teet’!”
declared Marybell, wisely, for she had just been told a few lessons
prior to this application, about the evil effects of sweets on the
teeth of children.

In the last Nest in the row, Marybell found that a roof had leaked
during a slight shower the preceding night. The bed-clothes of the bed
standing under the stream of rainwater were soaked, but so eager was
the child to finish its work and get away that the damp sheets were
used in making up the bed.

“Say--you chumps, who made dis bed?” shouted Marybell, as the six
Little Citizens ran up to await inspection.

“Franzy Bedell--it’s her bed!” cried five voices in unison.

“Franzy--pull off dem beddings!” ordered the Officer.

Franzy slowly removed the covers and exposed a large damp place at the
foot of the mattress.

“Diden’ yeh know any better! Why, even in Rivington er Ludlow Streets,
de mudders know better’n use soaked beddin’. Ye git a black mark fer
dat!” exclaimed the captain of the squad.

Franzy said nothing but awaited further punishment.

“Now spread each artick’l out on somethin’ to dry an’ don’t yeh dare
make dat bed till dey is good an’ dry--you hear?”

“Yes’sm!” quickly said Franzy, glad to get off so easy.

“I’m comin’ back, remember, so don’t yeh cheat again!” And with that
threat, Marybell led the Blue Birds away.

On the way back to the Infirmary where Marybell had to hand in her
reports, she said: “Sometimes dem ninnies jus’ pull de bed-covers up
an’ smooth ’em out, tryin’ to fool me to thinkin’ dey was all aired and
made fresh, but I kin tell! Yep, I kin tell every time!”

“What else do you have to watch, Marybell?” asked Ruth, who was highly
interested.

“Oh, some of de kids wear clo’es what is dirty or damp from the brook,
an’ I has to make ’em change er report ’em. Lots of dese East Siders
can’t see good, an’ lots got somethin’ wrong wid dere noses an’
t’roats. I has to watch ef dey breat’ hard. Den I tells de nurse at de
infirmary an’ she makes tests.”

“I guess there’ll be a lot of better children going back home after
this summer,” mused Vene, seriously.

“Yes, and it’s too bad the city can’t let girls like Marybell take
charge of certain school departments just as she is doing here at
camp,” said Ruth.

Marybell now reported to the superior at the Infirmary, and the Blue
Birds waited outside for her reappearance. Meantime, the Bobolinks were
entertained by the Captain of the Street Cleaning Squad.

“We begin on Primrose Lane--dat runs down de middle of de camp-ground.
One Member goes down Violet Lane while anudder goes down Daffodil Lane.
Each member of the Squad has his own streets to take care of--dere all
called by flower lanes and paths, but we fellers call ’em streets like
dey do in Noo York, yeh know!”

While the Squad was collecting the rubbish that was placed outside each
Nest in the morning, the Captain showed the boys how they worked for
promotion. A Captain held his office two weeks and at the expiration of
his term, if he was worthy, he was given a medal for service. Any boy
holding a medal would be allowed to come to camp the following year.
Every boy in the Squad was eager to be Captain of course, but such an
office was voted upon and decided by the deportment of the applicant,
during his stay in camp.

“Now come over to Farmer Jones’ dump-heap and I will show you what he
does with trash and debris,” said the Captain.

As the Bobolinks neared the extreme corner of the estate far removed
from camp and house, they noticed a disagreeable odor.

“Ha, ha! You smell our pigs!” laughed the Captain.

“Pigs! Whose pigs?” chorused the Bobolinks.

“Little Citizens’ pigs! We are raisin’ a hull litter of ’em on de
leavin’s of de table. I’ll show you.”

The Bobolinks were soon watching the fat little porkers who had so much
clean food to eat. All the garbage from the kitchens was carefully
sorted by a few of the Squad each day, and the peelings or bits of raw
fruit and vegetables were thrown into a great kettle near the sty. This
was boiled into mush and fed to the pigs. All bread, meat and other
refuse from table or kitchen, was mixed well and given to the pigs at
noon. The mushy food was fed in the morning and at night. The sty was
kept as clean as possible, and the pigs were scrubbed every day to keep
them clean and healthy.

“Goodness me! Who scrubs them?” laughed Ned.

“Oh, we draw lots for that work. Every feller in the Squad wants to do
it, but we take turns,” replied the Captain.

Then he showed the Bobolinks the other refuse heap. The papers were all
picked out and kept in bags to sell. All rags were also collected for
sale. Tin cans and other metals were picked out and thrown in a bin for
sale also. The money thus earned was to be used for an outing or for
some form of general good for the Little Citizens--such as a victrola,
or game, or other pleasure.

The Bobolinks followed their host back to the camp and found the Squad
had completed their rounds and were rolling the little basket-wagons
to the dump. So they said good-by to the captain and ran away to join
the Blue Birds who were coming from the Infirmary.

“Say, Uncle Ben has this plan worked down to a fine system, hasn’t he?”
said Ned, approvingly.

“Of course he has. I’d like to own one of those pigs myself, and try
for a county-fair prize,” said Jinks.

“It’s a wonder he hasn’t thought of keeping bee-hives for Little
Citizens, or mushroom cellars, and a lot of other things,” laughed
Meredith.

“Now say, Mete, that bee idea isn’t so bad. Let’s suggest it. Lots of
these boys would be glad to try it out, I should think.”

“I’ll mention it when we get home tonight,” said Meredith.

“There’s one thing they’ve overlooked thus far, boys,” said Jinks.

“Yes--what?” queried the others.

“Some scheme to get rid of these mosquitoes and flies! That always
takes the fun out of camping, I think,” replied Jinks.

“Maybe they have something planned, but it ought to work. That’s
another item we’ll ask him about tonight,” said Ned.

It happened that night, after everyone was seated on the piazza of Miss
Selina’s house, that the topics were mentioned and Uncle Ben had to
admit that he had not yet taken care of ridding the camp of flies and
mosquitoes.

“I’ll tell you what, boys! I wish you’d take charge of those two
important matters and I’ll attend to the bee idea. I believe the care
of bees will help the boys at camp a lot, and give them honey as well
as pastime.”

“We’ll do the fly and mosquito business, all right, Uncle Ben, but we
must have crude oil to sprinkle over the marshy or pool spots in the
woods,” said Ned.

“Easy enough to secure oil, and whatever else you may need for the
pests,” agreed Uncle Ben.

So the Bobolinks found an important work to do while they visited at
Happy Hills, and not only were the Little Citizens more comfortable
thereafter, but they found out how to keep free of flies and malarial
mosquitoes.



CHAPTER IX

THE LITTLE CITIZENS’ PICNIC


As the time drew near for the large farm-wagons to arrive at the camp
to convey the Little Citizens to the picnic ground, many eyes kept
turning in the direction of the farm-yard, and every few moments one
could hear a whisper of: “When will they come, do you think?”

Finally, however, a rumbling was heard and a great shout went up: “Here
they come! Is everybody ready?”

“Hurrah!” “Hurry up, everyone!” and other calls made the camp sound
like Bedlam for a time. The cook had ordered her assistants to pack the
large baskets with all sorts of goodies, and these most valuable items
of luggage were safely placed under the high seats of the farm-wagons.

While the men were superintending this work, some of the boys clambered
up on the front seat and sat beside the drivers--quite a post of
honor, too, to sit there! The other Little Citizens piled in wherever a
seat could be found, and soon the merry, noisy crowd was ready to start.

Meantime the two touring cars had gone on to find the place and see
that all was ready for the reception of the others.

On the way, the Mother’s Helpers and “First Aides” had much to do to
keep order and peace in the crowded wagons of happy children. Finally
the lake was seen and a loud clamoring came from throats eager to have
a rough-and-tumble frolic once more--such as was common in the city.

The Police and Firemen forgot their duties in the general scramble for
the boats, of which there were three.

“Citizens! Don’t anyone get into the boats--I find they are not
water-proof!” shouted Uncle Ben through his hand-megaphone.

“Oh gee! What’s the fun of comin’ here if we can’t sail?” grumbled one
of the Street Cleaning Department.

“Say, Muller, don’t you give de Boss any sass, now, er I’ll lock yeh up
fer de day!” threatened a Policeman, roused to an abnormal sense of
duty.

“Who’s givin’ him sass! Can’t a feller ask a question widdout de police
buttin’ in?” complained Jakey Muller.

“Dass all right! Jest don’t say nawthin’, see!” returned the Policeman,
as he hurried away to watch a base-ball drawing for pitcher and batter
in the forthcoming game.

“Humph! Think ye’re smart ’cause yuh got on a blue uniform. Ef I wants
to sail de boat, I does, so there!” mumbled Jakey to himself, as he
watched the Policeman disappear.

“Heigh, Jakey--come on over and see the fun!” now called a friend a
short distance away.

The discontented boy turned and saw some friends waiting for the
farm-hands to finish putting up some fine swings, but such a tame form
of sport failed to attract the Little Citizen, who had determined to
ride in a boat or do nothing at all.

Soon after this a score or more of children were having lots of fun
swinging and being the motive-power back of the swings, for “pushing”
the others so high that they would scream in dread of falling was more
delight than being in the swing screaming!

A group of Little Citizens were paddling in the edge of the pond,
watched over by Little Mothers and a few grown-ups. A group went
exploring up the hillside, feeling sure that a bear’s cave, or perhaps,
the secret home of the Wood Nymphs would be found on the expedition.

Uncle Ben and some of his helpers were clearing away the brush and
stones that were in the way of a smooth eating-spot. The grass must be
clean and level, for dinner to be safely served there. The boys were
wildly applauding a “home-run” and some of the riders in the swings
were “letting the old cat die,” when Jakey stepped into a boat just to
sit down and rock it for fun!

A crowd of little girls were playing “drop the handkerchief” and other
outdoor games, when Jakey felt lonely in the boat. He decided to ask
others to join him.

“Hey, H’lena Bissel--come on over and sit by me--it’s lots of fun
rockin’ t’ boat!” called he.

“Mister Uncle Ben told us not to an’ I won’t!” called back Helena.

“Don’t then! Sugar-lump!--sugar-lump, too good to melt!” taunted Jakey,
making a grimace at the little girl.

“I ain’t ‘sugar ner spice’ but you’re nuttin’ but ‘snails an’ puppy-dog
tails,’ so!” jeered Helena, who had heard the Mother Goose line and
wanted to repeat it at the first occasion.

“Mamma’s pet! Mamma’s pet--what can’t do what she wants cuz she’s too
goody-good!” replied Jakey, turning his back upon the angry little girl.

Helena marched away from his company, and soon Jakey saw Maggie’s
little sister Prunel with nothing to do.

“Come and play wid me, Prunel,” coaxed he, not mentioning the boat this
time as it seemed to inspire his hearers with doubt and fear.

Prunel (where Maggie had found the name is hard to say) was really
named Polly, but such harsh sounds could not be tolerated by Mother
Maggie, and when she took control of the six younger sisters and
brothers, she saw to it that each one had a beautiful name, thus Polly
became Prunel.

Prunel was about seven and very energetic for her age. It took much
of Maggie’s time and thought to keep Prunel out of mischief at Happy
Hills. In the city, Prunel had to attend school and look after a short
route of newspaper deliveries after school.

“What’che playin’, Jakey?” asked Prunel, coming over to the lake-side.

“Oh I’m a navy battle-ship and dat submarine’s tryin’ to blow me up. I
am shootin’ him all to pieces, see?”

As he explained, Jakey aimed stone after stone at the nearest boat
while he stood balancing himself in the other boat.

“Shall I be the German what shoots the torpedo?” asked Prunel, all
intense interest.

“Naw, you git in wid me and both of us kin sink him, I guess,” replied
Jakey.

“It won’t be half as much fun as if we had someone to really fight,”
suggested Prunel.

“I got a fine idea--you jus’ get in here quick!”

So Prunel, without knowing it had been forbidden, got in the boat with
Jakey, eager to hear his plan.

“I’m goin’ to break dis rope what holds the boat, yeh see, an’ float
around both dose submarines by holdin’ fast to dese overhanging
branches, see?”

“Don’t you let go on ’em--cuz yeh hain’t got no rope er oars to get
back wid,” warned Prunel, anxiously.

“Do you t’ink I’m such a silly?” said Jakey, as the boat swung about to
the great excitement of both sailors.

It bumped into the end of the other boat, and the children laughed
gayly as Jakey said: “Maybe I diden’ jar dat Hun dat trip, eh?”

“It would be heaps more fun if you’d get in anudder boat and play shoot
at mine. I could fire back, and we could see which one gets hit t’
most--den he would be sunk, you know!” said Prunel.

“It sounds good--say, you keep in dis boat while I jump in dat one.
You’ve got a lot of stones left but I kin get some from the bank in a
minute,” consented Jakey.

Jakey went to the end of the boat and stood upon the prow waiting
for an opportunity to spring over into the adjoining boat. This was
easy to do, and soon he jumped and landed safely in the bottom of the
flat boat, but the impetus he used when springing sent the other boat
out from under him and Prunel, being alone and without any hold on
willow-branch or rope, was floated out from shore.

“Say, Jakey Muller--hurry out and get me back!” called Prunel, but not
loud enough for the others to hear, as she knew it was not just what
she should have done without asking permission.

“S-sh! Wait a minute! I’ll wade out and pull you back!” replied Jakey,
in a low voice also.

He sat down and pulled off his sandals and stockings, but the boat had
caught the edge of the current that made a channel quite near shore at
this spot of the lake.

He endeavored to reach the end of the boat but it eluded his hand.
Then he waded deeper and tried again, still the boat moved outward and
Prunel was becoming frightened.

“Oh pshaw--I gotta jump fer it!” growled Jakey, and at that he reached
quickly while taking a far-advanced step. His foot went in a hole, and
he fell face downward into the lake. The boat sped onward now faster,
as it felt the carrying tide of the current.

Before Jakey could regain his footing and splutter out the water that
choked him and blinded his eyes, Prunel was at least fifty feet from
shore. She had remained perfectly quiet until now, thinking Jakey would
surely rescue her. But when she saw him fall, and get up again without
hope of reaching her, she began to whimper with fear.

Jakey took a last look at her and with fear in his eyes as he thought
of his disobedience, he turned to run away from the picnic grove--even
if he had to run all the way back to the city. He could not face Uncle
Ben’s stern rebuke, for he was sure he would be properly scolded and
punished for breaking a law.

Had not Maggie seen a boat with one passenger skim out in the direction
of the old grist-mill, Prunel might have met with more serious disaster
than that which befell her craft.

“Looka dere, Miss Marting! A little girl is out in a boat alone,”
called Maggie to her friend.

“Why--it’s----” Miss Martin quickly glanced at Maggie before completing
her sentence.

But Maggie, too, saw a resemblance to Prunel. She hurriedly hunted
about amongst the groups of children, and not finding her sister
anywhere, she shouted to one of the Policemen.

In the meantime, Miss Martin, understanding the situation, ran to tell
Uncle Ben what had happened to Prunel. He called upon the Police and
Firemen nearest him and all ran to the place where the three boats had
been tied but a short time before.

Here they saw Jakey wading from the water and taking to his heels so
the Policeman who had warned him cried: “Now what’che gone and done?”

Jakey trembled from head to foot as he was caught and brought back to
Uncle Ben. Then he explained how the accident had happened to Prunel.
As he hurriedly described the scene, the Police found that neither boat
had any oars so pursuit to bring back the water-waif in that way was
out of the question.

“Can anyone swim dat far?” questioned one of the firemen.

“Not in fresh water--I kin swim anywhere in salt water,” returned one
of the boys.

“Mebbe de boat’ll float in to shore down furder. Mister Uncle Ben,
dere’s a finger of land runs out way down, you see!”

“But there is also a mill-race just the other side of that finger of
land, and the current to the mill runs mighty fast about that jutting
bank. If the boat doesn’t come in or isn’t caught before it reaches
that place it is impossible to say what may be the consequences. An old
water-wheel turns the mill and the race feeds the wheel. The child is
in danger out there with no means of helping herself and we are here
with no way to reach her,” said Uncle Ben, anxiously.

“What’s all the excitement--anyone fall overboard?” called Jinks,
coming up and asking his question laughingly.

“Little Prunel is afloat in that boat--see her down the lake there?”
replied Mete, who was standing beside Uncle Ben.

“Great Scott! And all of you standing around here doing nothing?” cried
Jinks, scornfully, running away to the squad of Police who were still
umpiring the last game of ball.

“Hey there! Dutchy--did you bring your dog?” yelled Jinks, when he had
covered half the distance between the two groups.

“Yeh! Why?” came back the answer.

“What’s Jinks going to do with the dog?” asked Uncle Ben, starting to
run after the boy, and thus starting all the other boys on the ground
running after him. Inside of a minute the long line of boys running,
looked like a thriller in a moving-picture play.

“Leave it to Jinks to think up some way of rescue!” called Ned and
Mete, panting beside Uncle Ben.

“Remember that fire we went to when we were on the Canal trip?” added
Don, who came just too late to do all the talking to Jinks.

Before the crowd of curious boys reached the spot where Jinks had
hurriedly explained the situation to Bill, the two boys and a few of
the ball-players had started off along the shore, calling and whistling
to the great mongrel dog that was Bill’s beloved and particular care.

The shaggy, tawny hound came crashing from the bushes with tail wagging
joyously at the unusual outing he was given that day. When Bill saw
him, he snapped his fingers and called excitedly:

“Crummie go in and fetch! Fetch it out, good ol’ doggie!” and at the
same time, he threw a stone far out into the lake to attract the dog’s
attention to the water.

Crummie went in ker-splash and swam about for a short time looking for
the object which his master had thrown for him to bring out again.

“Say, Dutchy, Prunel is too far out for the dog to reach--let’s run
along shore till we get to the finger over there. You see, the current
runs quite close in to shore there and we can send Crummie out from
that spot. Maybe we can tie a rope to his collar and let him swim out
with it to the boat, then we can pull the girl in to shore,” quickly
explained Jinks.

“Fine! Say you, Dink Brown--run back and get a rope er somethin’ fer
us, will you? We’ll be down on that finger waitin’ fer you. Mebbe we
kin shout an’ make the kid hear what we want her to do,” replied Bill.

Before he had completed his sentence, Dink was running back to Uncle
Ben to ask for a rope. Then the other boys with the dog ran swiftly
away to the spot Jinks had designated.

As they ran, Jinks found a section of newspaper on the pathway, and
this he caught up and began rolling into a long tube.

“What’s ’at fer?” asked Bill.

“Make a megaphone for us to call through, you know.”

“Big idea! Make it wide at the open end so’s she can git the call
better. If you make it narrow the sound won’t go out so clear, you see.”

At the finger of land, Jinks stood out on a large rock and shouted and
shouted at Prunel who was crying fearfully and kneeling in the bottom
of the boat while clinging to the oar-lock.

At the echo of Jinks’ call she looked about but did not at first see
the boys standing where the channel curved in towards land. At the
second shout, however, she looked in the direction from which the sound
came, and stopped wailing as she saw the group of police waiting to
assist her.

Then she heard her name called and listened to what was said.

“We’re going to send the dog out to the boat--you call ‘Here Crummie!
here Crummie!’ as soon as he goes in the water. He will come to you
and then you will find a rope tied to his collar. Fasten the rope to
the ring in the boat and we will haul you in!”

It needed several trials before Prunel understood the plan, but once
she did it was all right, although the boat was fast reaching the place
where the current flowed in towards land so the dog had to hurry out
with the rope if it was to work as planned.

“Here I come--get him ready!” called the boy who had been sent for the
rope.

The boys turned and saw him racing along with a long coil of swing rope
that had been hastily cut down to use. Dink, being the swiftest runner
in camp, was soon back with the Police and Jinks.

One end of the rope was tied to Crummie’s old leather collar and then
he was sent in to bring out Prunel. At the same time Jinks shouted
through the megaphone:

“Call him, Prunel! Call him, again and again, till he reaches you with
the rope.”

Then they heard the little girl cry excitedly: “Here Crummie! Here
Crummie!”

“See her over there, Crummie? Fetch her out! Fetch her out, I say! Go
get it--get it--good doggie!” coaxed Bill.

And Crummie, sniffing over the water, saw the approaching boat and
heard the child’s cry for help. Instantly the yellow dog understood
what was required of him and in he went, dragging the long line of rope
after him.

The boys on shore held their breath so the dog would not be confused,
and Prunel kept on calling, “Here Crummie! Here Crummie! Good dog--come
to me, Crummie!”

And the dog swam as fast as he could in a direct line for the object he
saw on the surface of the lake. He came within five feet of it when it
swept past him in the current now running fast to the mill-race.

Groans and cries on shore showed that more than one anxious group
were watching the efforts of the brave dog. But Crummie was of the
nature that resents failure or trickery. He was of the dogged kind
that will fight harder in spite of all obstacles, and perseverance and
persistence always win out!

Crummie kept on swimming after the boat while Prunel continued calling
and pleading, and the boys on the bank kept on anxiously letting the
rope out and wondering if it was long enough to reach.

“Gee, Jinks, it’s the end!” gasped Bill.

And just as Jinks was about to give up in despair, one of the other
boys yelled: “By golly! Crummie’s got hold of the rope that dragged
after the boat!”

Everyone strained their eyes to see, and sure enough the dog had caught
hold of the rope that had tied the boat to the bank and was swimming
back the way he came against the current.

The struggling animal was not making much headway against the swift
stream and Jinks instantly saw that he would tire himself out and be
useless, so he signaled to Bill, and the two ran through the bushes
growing on the shore and reached a place opposite the boat. Then Jinks
called again to the dog.

“Here, Crummie! Crummie, come in here!”

At the strange voice, the dog stopped battling against the current but
did not turn. However, Bill saw through Jinks’ idea and quickly abetted
him.

“Here, good old Crummie! Fetch it home! Fetch it home!”

And at his master’s well-known call, the dog turned and swam for shore
where the two boys were waiting to help. Jinks pulled off his shoes and
stockings, rolled up his trousers and waded in as far as he could. When
Crummie came within arm’s reach, Jinks leaned out to catch hold of the
rope, but the dog growled fiercely.

“Ha, ha, ha! Crummie won’t let you interfere! He don’t know what you’re
after--mebbe you want to take away the prize he’s bringin’ in to me!”
laughed Bill, delightedly, now that the strain was over.

Even Jinks laughed at the treatment he had been given by the dog, but
Crummie dragged the rope straight up to his master and left it in his
hands. Then it was seen that the rope that had been tied to the old
collar had torn it away and was out in the lake.

“When did the swing rope break?” asked Don, who failed to understand.

“Soon after the strain came on it, most likely,” said Mete.

“I’ll tell you what I think!” ventured Uncle Ben, who had hurried up
with Maggie, and now stood patting Crummie’s wet, matted head.

The children all looked at him for an opinion, and he continued:

“I think that Crummie would have gone for that boat and found his own
way to drag it back to land, whether any of you boys had interfered
with him or not. Now, seeing that our hero dog lost his neck-band in
his effort to save a life, I shall award him the medal for bravery this
month. Anyone opposing this motion say ‘No!’; if there is no opposition
and everyone agrees with me that Crummie shall have the prize let us
all say ‘Aye!’”

Such a tremendous shout of “Ayes” went out instantly, that Crummie was
unanimously voted the hero for the month, and Bill was the proudest boy
in camp.

“What’s the prize going to be, Uncle Ben?” asked Don.

“Oh something that Crummie will appreciate and everyone will stop to
admire and read. I’m thinking a wonderful studded collar with his
name and the story of the rescue engraved on a silver plate might be
suitable.”

“Oh yes--yes, indeed!” chorused most of the Blue Birds and Bobolinks.

“And, Uncle Ben, spend a lot of money on it to make it as big and shiny
as you can,” advised Dot Starr.

“How much money do you think will do?” asked Uncle Ben, teasingly.

“Well, you know how much a funeral for Prunel would have cost if
Crummie hadn’t saved her life, so you might as well spend that much
anyway,” replied Dot in all seriousness.

“Oh, I’ve got an idea!” cried Don, inspired by his twin’s words. “Have
it tell on the collar that the prize is a souvenir of a watery grave
that was never filled by the saved child ’cause Crummie was here to
fly to the rescue--you might say ‘swim’ to the rescue, only it doesn’t
sound as grand as ‘fly.’”

Everyone laughed heartily at Don’s suggestion, and Ned said: “Don’s
growing a streak of poesy and we all had better beware or he’ll rhyme
us into jingles some day.”

Don scorned such ideas, and after giving Ned a meaning look, he said:
“I wouldn’t be anything so silly as a jingler like Ned Talmage is! I’m
going to buy Crummie and start a kennel of fine life-saving dogs to
send to the Allies! So there!”

“Ha! that’s why Don wants Uncle Ben to spend all that funeral money
on a collar. He’ll sell the collar and keep the money to found the
kennels!” laughed Mete, in a big brother’s tone of voice.

“Say, you kids! Don’t fool yourselves on dat score! Dis dog is mine and
he stays mine till the las’ trumpet blows--see!” was the last word from
Crummie’s master, and the yellow dog wagged his tail approvingly as he
blinked up into Bill’s blue-green eyes.



CHAPTER X

MISS MARTIN’S NATURE STORIES


The picnic was declared a grand success in spite of the fright little
Prunel had had, for such a thrill as the Little Citizens had been
treated to at the danger and escape of one of their members was not to
be had every day! So that event added glory to the occasion and was one
long to be remembered.

The day after the outing, most of the Little Citizens were seated at
the Auditorium (as they called the Refectory when other occasions
demanded its use) waiting for the Blue Birds who had promised to come
and hear Miss Martin’s nature story that day.

Miss Martin was seen coming from her Nest and soon after she had
greeted the children, the Blue Birds were heard laughing and talking as
they hurried down Harebell Road.

When all were seated Miss Martin began:

“I’m going to tell you about some pests we have in camp, and your
Uncle Ben agreed to be present so he could hear what a nuisance they
are. I see him coming from the Fire-house so he will soon be here.
Before he arrives, however, I want to ask you children a favor. When my
story is finished I shall call upon you to ask how many will volunteer
to work in the Health Department for a few days to get rid of flies and
mosquitoes, and I wish everyone here to offer their services to Uncle
Ben.”

“Oh we will! You don’t have to ask us a favor like that--we’d do it
anyway!” replied one of the Health Inspectors.

“Am I late?” asked Uncle Ben, now coming over to the group gathered to
hear the stories.

“Just in time,” replied Ruth, making a place for him.

“My first story will be about a mosquito that settled down at Happy
Hills and founded the colony of pests that annoys us so at camp.

“Skinny was a malarial mosquito that happened to crawl from the reeds
near the lake into a carpenter’s tool-chest while the man was eating
his lunch late last fall. As his job was completed, the carpenter
caught up the tool-box and hurried towards Miss Selina’s place to
leave it in the tool-house.

“Skinny was very sleepy because of the cold air, and the tool-box being
left in a snug, sunny spot on a shelf in the tool-house, she soon fell
asleep for the long cold winter months.

“But in the spring the warm sun-rays roused her and she began to
open her sleepy eyes and stretch her stiffened legs; her poor wings
she could not use at once--they were so nerveless and stiff that it
took some practice to whip them into general use again. She succeeded
somewhat, just as the carpenter came in and took up the tool-chest.

“‘Where’re you goin’ to work, Pete?’ asked a man standing outside the
shed.

“‘Down at Happy Hills Camp. I’m goin’ to build some Nests for the Blue
Birds’ Little Citizens, you know.’

“‘Well, thar ain’t no mosquitoes around er no flies, either, so you
won’t be pestered any, I guess,’ said the first man, as Pete walked
away down Daffodil Lane.

“Skinny heard the conversation and smiled. ‘Not a mosquito on the
place, eh? Well I will have to get busy and change that lonesome state
of affairs mighty quick!’

“So poor Pete carried the little pest along in his harmless tool-chest,
and while he left it standing in the sunshine until he could find
the boss carpenter, the sun-rays made Skinny feel so lively that she
decided to try her wings and soar a bit.

“This was easier than she had thought possible, so she flew down to a
little shallow pool in the creek for a drink of water. Here she found
a slimy little back-water puddle so warm and comfortable that she soon
chose that spot for the eggs she proposed laying to found the mosquito
colony of Happy Hills.

“Early the following morning, Mrs. Spot Toad saw hundreds of
oblong-shaped eggs floating on the slimy pool, but it was none of her
business so she did not report the matter to the Board of Health as one
of the Little Citizens would have done. In fact Spot was so busy with
her own family cares that she forgot all about the mosquito larvæ soon
after she had seen the small sooty specks floating on the water.

“Skinny left her eggs to hatch and went her way rejoicing, but not for
long!

“She had hardly reached a tree where a dozing carpenter tempted her to
eat, when a mother Blue Bird swooped down from her nest and caught up
the lean, lanky mosquito to feed to her babies. Of course there was no
nourishment in a poor thing like Skinny, but it would help fill the
gaping mouths of the baby-birds a bit!

“Inside of twenty-four hours, Skinny’s eggs began to hatch out, but
they were not mosquitoes--they were wrigglers. In appearance they
resembled wooly, little caterpillars, but one end of the squirming body
was the breathing tube for air. The fuzzy part of the wriggler was
the means of its moving about, and they all wriggled or jerked about
continually. Some grew faster than others, but all grew very fast,
their heads seeming to grow faster than their bodies.

“In about six days’ time the wrigglers had grown so strong that they
floated on the top of the water in the hot sunshine, so that the heat
might crack open the skins that enclosed the young mosquitoes. As one
shell opened after another, the insects crawled out and waited upon the
tops of their little boats to dry their wings and legs. The sun soon
accomplished this work, and then the hundreds of young mosquitoes were
flying about waiting for an opportunity to eat something good.

“About this time the first Little Citizens appeared at Camp, and many
of the children ran down to the creek to play in the water. Of course
Skinny’s family sniffed the sweet young blood of the children there,
and many a young mosquito ate till it almost burst open, and the Little
Citizen had an irritating bite on arms or legs.

“Many, many of the young mosquitoes remained near the creek and laid
eggs for a new family, and others flew away to the puddles in the
woods, or settled on the eaves of the roof where rainwater had left
tiny pools. Others saw the lake, and still others found water in pails
or bottles and vessels of all sorts. In a very short time every one of
Skinny’s children was laying a multitude of eggs that would hatch out
in a day or two, and in ten to twelve days there would be a pest of
mosquitoes at Happy Hills.

“By the time Little Citizens were running about these woods, playing,
or digging by the creek, or making mud-pies from the soft mud in the
little pools, thousands and thousands of nasty mosquitoes were flying
and humming everywhere, while hundreds of thousands were being hatched
from the wrigglers that had been the outcome of eggs laid by every
mosquito in the place.

“Finally the Little Citizens had such itching red spots on their
bodies, and so many of the younger children had to keep away from the
fascinating little brook because of the pesky, stinging insects, that
Uncle Ben said something must be done at once to rid Happy Hills of
this menace.

“But what can we do to so many? If we have to catch every wriggler or
mosquito about Happy Hills, it will take ten times the number of Little
Citizens here to catch and kill them--and then there will be thousands
of insects left to breed new pests.

“Ah, but there is a way that will smother all the young and kill the
old mosquitoes! Now listen carefully!

“We will get kerosene or crude oil, and pour a little on the surface of
the water wherever we think a mosquito has laid her eggs. While we are
doing it, we will oil all the still waters so no mosquito will dare to
settle anywhere and lay new eggs.

“You see the oil will spread out over the surface of the water and
keep the wrigglers from getting air for their bodies--this will soon
smother them and they will sink to the bottom of the pool, dead! The
old mosquitoes that should come to visit the pond or pools, will light
upon the glassy, oiled water and instantly find it impossible to remove
their hairy legs; besides, their noses will be filled with the fumes
and soon choke them so that they, too, will sink down to the bottom of
the stagnant pool or float dead upon the oil.

“Happy Hills will then become a comfortable place at night and a more
enjoyable camp for the children at day.”

Miss Martin concluded her first story and the children showed their
interest by the many questions they asked. Among other things, she was
asked if there was more than one kind of mosquito, and this brought up
an explanation of the difference between the malarial mosquito and the
simply poisonous, stinging kind.

“The mosquito that causes malaria by its bite can be detected if you
see it sting, for it always stings with head pointed downward and its
tail and hind legs held straight up in the air. The common mosquito
stands with its body on a horizontal line when it stings, but both
kinds are poisonous and are of no use whatever. The sooner the country
is cleared of such plagues the better.”

“You have done a good work, Miss Martin, by telling us how to rid the
camp of mosquitoes. I ordered several barrels of unrefined petroleum
oil and Jones told me this morning that they are at the freight
station. He is there now with a wagon to bring them back. When he
comes, we will all start in with cans and anything we can find to hold
oil, to hunt mosquitoes,” remarked Uncle Ben.

“There’s another pest to be gotten rid of, Mr. Talmage,” suggested Miss
Martin.

“And have you a story ready for it?” laughed Ned.

“It won’t take a moment to weave one just as long as we may need for
the occasion,” replied Miss Martin.

“Is it the fly that you have such an antipathy to?” continued Uncle Ben.

“Yes, it is, and if you will do as I advise, Happy Hills will soon be
rid of flies as well as mosquitoes,” rejoined Miss Martin.

“Well, tell us a story and we will judge of the importance of the
battle against the fly,” said Uncle Ben.

So Miss Martin sat thinking for a few seconds before she began:

“‘Oh, Flossy, did you know Uncle Ben Talmage has started a camp
at Happy Hills for the Little Citizens?’ cried a noisy fly to her
companion one nice day in June.

“‘Really! How interesting; but what good will that do us here? We are
keeping house in the pig’s trough, so how could we hope to reach camp
so far away?’

“‘I’ll tell you about a plan I have, Flossy. Of course, there will be
lots of children staying the summer at Happy Hills, and where there
are little ones there is sure to be food and things lying about for
flies to picnic upon. Now we can steal a ride from the pig-sty to the
camp when Farmer Jones feeds the pigs. We can sit in the bottom of his
swill-cans and sneak into camp without anyone seeing us. Once there we
can set up housekeeping at any of the Nests. Soon we will have a large
family and found a great fly-colony.’

“‘How wise you are, Noisy! Let us sit in the dark corner and wait for
the farmer’s can,’ replied Flossy, eagerly.

“So the two flies were carried from the smelly pig-sty to the nice
clean, brand-new Nest built for Miss Martin and her Little Citizens.
But Miss Martin didn’t know the two wicked flies had arrived to live in
her Nest.

“No one knew the two flies were perched on the edges of the
milk-glasses with their filthy, fuzzy legs and feet, and leaving all
kinds of foreign matter on the glass rim where little babies’ lips
would soon sip the milk! Neither did anyone know that one of the pesky
flies had just deposited its filth on a slice of buttered bread for one
of the children. But so it happened just the same!

“There had been a few other flies in the pig-sty when the two
adventurers started forth, and they too decided to follow their
friends. So a number of dirty insects caught hold of the horse’s legs
and belly and thus were brought to camp. Here they sought out Flossy
and Noisy and suggested that they all go to housekeeping together.

“‘Where shall we set up housekeeping?’ asked Noisy.

“‘Well, when we rode into camp on old Dobbin, we passed by the stables.
There are a number of choice apartments about the building, and I
located one in the manure heap outside. Another good flat-house is over
where the dump-ground is. We can always find decaying fruit or rotting
stuff there,’ returned one of the new arrivals.

“So Flossy and her husband started housekeeping in the dump-ground,
while Noisy and her spouse settled in the manure heap by the barns.
Noisy crawled about over the damp straws that had been swept out from
the stable-stalls and soon found a fine spot to deposit her eggs.

“That evening Noisy and her husband flew back to camp to visit Little
Citizens and see what they could do to interfere with the wholesome
plans of Uncle Ben and Miss Martin.

“The hundreds of tiny white eggs laid in the manure heap by Mother
Noisy, as her first brood of children for that summer, and the hundreds
laid by Flossy in the dump-heap to found her big family, began
instantly to hatch out into queer worm-like creatures. In less than
twenty-four hours a swarm of these pests were stirring about as lively
as could be, and in less than a day after they were hatched from the
eggs, they cast off their skins. It took another day for them to shed a
second coat, and then a day or two later they got rid of a third skin.

“Now they looked like little oval grubs that remained as quiet as if
there was no life within them, but at the end of a week, the shells
cracked open and a multitude of young flies crept out to fly away just
as Noisy did from the pig-sty where she was born.

“The thousands of flies hatched out of the manure heap and
dumping-ground now feasted on all the filth and decaying mess they
could find and soon they were laying eggs wherever a smelly dirty spot
could be found, because flies prefer filth to cleanliness.

“Thousands more hatched from these eggs and in three generations of
flies, and in three weeks’ time, there were millions of horrid pests
flying about camp. Millions buzzed in our ears and slapped their dirty
wings in our faces. Millions crept over our food leaving the nasty
trails of their hairy feet everywhere--but so fine a dirt that we could
not see it with our naked eyes. There were millions to bite baby’s
sweet rosy lip, to tickle our noses with their fuzzy legs and tails,
to drop into the butter, or swim about in our water and milk, always
leaving their filth as a mark of their nuisance!

“Then along came the man with the barrels of oil from the station, and
the pools and damp places about camp were soon saturated with kerosene.
It was noticed that the flies kept away from such spots.

“‘Suppose we try oil on the hatching places of the flies, Miss Martin?’
asked Uncle Ben.

“‘It will kill the eggs anyway, and may catch some of the flies. But we
can keep everything securely covered and screened so a fly will have to
starve and then be forced to eat from the poisoned saucer filled with
water. Soon we can kill off all the old flies and with the breeding
spots disinfected there will be no flies to sicken us,’ replied Miss
Martin, and so it was.

“Little Citizens hated the flies almost as much as did Miss Martin and
the other grown-ups at Happy Hills, and as soon as the oil-barrels were
opened and ready for use, everyone started out to find breeding nests
of flies and soak them well with oil.

“And what a lovely summer the rest of that season was at camp, without
flies or mosquitoes to annoy the very life out of one!”

“Ha, ha! That’s a better story than the first! Here comes Jones with
the farm-wagon bringing in the barrels! Come on, Police and Health
Board--to work to rid the camp of pests!”

At Bill’s call to Little Citizens, they jumped up and hurriedly
thanking Miss Martin for her stories, ran off to meet the driver with
the oil-cans.

“There, that is one way to plant ambition for better conditions,”
sighed Miss Martin, feeling she had invested her half-hour to some good
purpose.



CHAPTER XI

THE AMUSEMENT COMPANY


The next few days were very busy ones for the Little Citizens, but the
comfort and peace about camp was remarked by everyone, especially Uncle
Ben.

“I declare, I never dreamed flies and mosquitoes could make folks so
miserable and irritable with each other!” said he.

“Now that those two pests are diminishing, I wish to mention another
cause of impatience and concern in camp. The boys and girls past the
age of eight or nine, who are not actively engaged with the Police,
Firemen, or other departments established at Happy Hills, really need
something to occupy their thoughts and time. In the city they have so
many ways of working or entertaining themselves--often detrimental,
too, that time begins to hang heavily on their hands now that the
novelty of country-life is wearing off,” explained Miss Martin.

“But I don’t know of anything more we can do to keep them busy,”
replied Uncle Ben, with an anxious frown.

“I have an idea and it may work out to the benefit and amusement of
everyone.”

“I’ll be glad to try anything you say,” returned Uncle Ben,
encouragingly.

“Let us start ‘An Amusement Company.’ Elect managers of the different
departments and ‘stars’ and ‘supers’ and have the Band furnish music.
If you think well of my idea we may even go so far as to reward the
actors and musicians who entertain us best. Let it be known that this
company is formed more as a means of starting various contests for
music, oratory, and acting, and is open for all entries, young, aged,
small or large citizens.”

“Humph! Who is there to teach them such things?”

“I do not believe the street children of a large city need much
teaching in entertaining. They are so precocious and experienced from
their life in general, that they only need suggestions to boost their
ideas,” laughed Miss Martin.

“Well, it will cost us nothing to try out your idea anyway, and no
harm will be done if it fails to inspire your performers as you think
it will.”

“And I know just what you think, Mr. Talmage! You are secretly laughing
at the failure you are sure will follow this endeavor,” retorted Miss
Martin.

“I really hope you will not be disappointed in your high appraisal of
these city children’s brilliant possibilities,” returned Uncle Ben.

“We’ll see! If you will find some sort of a ‘drop-curtain’ even if
it does not drop--we can draw it on rings slipped over a pole; and
a raised stage, it will be all I shall ask of you. The stage can be
a bare platform raised about two feet above the Refectory floor. It
can be built on a rough framework, and take little time or cost to
construct.”

“I will get some of the older boys to help me build it, and the
Bobolink Boys will revel in sawing and hammering, I know.”

“Well then, you announce the new society to Little Citizens and have
all who wish to enter the contests register with me during the next
three days, and I will examine each one to find what each one is
capable of doing.”

Uncle Ben smiled indulgently at what he believed to be Miss Martin’s
mistaken judgment, and agreed to call the Little Citizens together that
evening to tell them of the plan for their amusement.

The plan for starting an amusement company met with great approval as
was shown in various ways, and the next morning Miss Martin was sought
by those who wished to join the new club. In fact some of the children
appeared at her Nest before breakfast so as to be listed in parts they
hoped to fill.

“Children, suppose you wait until I have had something to eat and then
we will go into this work,” laughed Miss Martin.

“Well, don’t you let anyone take our place--remember we came first!”
warned several voices.

“This Nest will be too small to hold you all so I suggest that we use
a folding-table as a desk and find some secluded spot in the grove
where we will be away from the confusion of camp work. If one has to be
tried out in any line he can perform without feeling embarrassed by
others watching or hearing him,” said Miss Martin, to the group waiting
anxiously for her.

“I’ll carry the folding-table over when you’re ready to go!” quickly
offered Bill, who had an idea of what he would do in the new company.

“And I’ll take the chair!” added Joe.

“All right, boys; now let us have breakfast and do our camp
chores--then we will be ready to begin our fun!”

Camp work was through sooner than ever that morning and before ten
o’clock Miss Martin was seated before the impromptu desk in the quiet
shady grove.

“Now, Molly Brown--you were so anxious to sign up this morning--what
can you do to entertain an audience?” said Miss Martin, smiling at the
ten-year-old girl.

“I kin ride bareback!” was the startling answer.

“Ride bareback--but what good will that do us in a show-house?” gasped
Miss Martin.

“You’se don’t have to keep yersels to one show, does you? In Noo York
der’s a theayter an’ a hippodrome, too!” was Molly’s quick reply.

This opened vast possibilities before Miss Martin’s vision, and before
she could collect herself to speak wisely, one of the boys said:

“I t’ink dat’s a good idee! Lots of us kin do stunts dat goes wid a
hippodrome show what can’t be did on a stage in a regerler theayter.”

“Very well, then; Molly, will you sit down at my left hand side where I
will place all the circus actors, and the stage performers can go to my
right,” said Miss Martin, hastily postponing her other answer.

Molly sat down upon the grass with a satisfied manner--was she not
going to be robed in tarletan and tinsel some day and leap gracefully
from an Arabian horse’s back, then throw kisses at an admiring
audience? That is how Molly pictured herself.

“Bill, what do you propose doing?” asked the investigator of the
theatrical company.

“Well, I kin do lots of stunts, but best of all I kin blow my horn. I
will like to stay in de band wedder you’se have it for the theayter or
fer de circus.”

“All right, Bill, then I’ll enter you as cornetist. But you must
practice and render a solo every now and then for a prize, you know?”

“Yes’m, I knows!”

Bill’s name was entered and he signed himself as a solo-cornetist in
the company. As he was about to place the pen back on the table he had
a brilliant idea.

“Miss Marting, why can’t I enter Crummie fer a show?”

“Ah yes, Miss Martin--Crummie is a swell show-dog! He does lots of
tricks what oughter be known by a real circus man; he would get paid a
lot of money fer ’em,” added several voices back of Bill.

“Really! How interesting! Of course we will enter Crummie with the
other actors. He can’t sign for himself, but we will let Bill do it,”
explained Miss Martin.

A chorus of laughter made her look about at the amused faces, and Bill
placed his two fingers between his lips and gave a shrill whistle.
Crummie had roamed away from the group at the desk in search of
squirrels or chipmunks, but at that call he came bounding back to his
master’s side.

“Say, Crummie, Miss Marting says ye can’t sign yer name! She t’inks yer
a fool dog an’ it’s up t’ you t’ show her she’s mistaken,” laughed
Bill, delightedly, as he took up the pen he had laid aside and dipped
it in the ink.

Miss Martin instantly suspected the act that was to be performed for
her benefit; that it was generally known to the other children was
evidenced by the way they laughed when she suggested that Bill sign for
the dog.

Crummie stood upon his hind legs and placed his fore-paws carefully on
the edge of the table. Then Bill pushed the sheet of paper over under
his nose, and the dog took hold of the pen-handle with his teeth. By
moving his head up and down and from side to side, he managed to scrawl
a number of circles and lines, then he lifted his nose high in the air
to take the pen-point from the paper and when he brought it down again
he made a period very near the ending of his writing.

Everyone laughed and cried “Good doggie” and Miss Martin patted his
head as she laughingly said: “Crummie is truly a wonder. He is our
first performer for the public pleasure.”

“Dat’s nuttin, Miss Marting; Crummie kin do lots of stunts better’n
dat!” bragged Bill.

It took some time to assure Crummie that he need not show off any
more of his tricks that time, as there was too much clerical work to
accomplish to stop for him. But the dog resented the business-like tone
of Miss Martin, and when she would have removed the pen from his teeth
he wheeled about and ran off to the woods with it.

Bill gave hot pursuit but Crummie was fleet-footed, so everyone laughed
at the trick the dog had turned on the company. After a time, Bill
returned with the pen, but it showed signs of having been through
sharp-pointed teeth before it was recovered.

“He was jus’ goin’ to dig a hole and bury it when I crept up behind and
caught hol’ on his tail. Dat made him open his mouth, y’ know, and the
pen dropped out,” laughed Bill.

No further unexpected interruptions took place, so Miss Martin
proceeded with the programme of actors.

“What is your specialty, Jim?” to a freckle-faced lad of eleven.

“Me fadder was a champeen clog-dancer in Dublin, an’ he teached me de
dance afore he died. I kin clog to beat de band!” said Jimmy, eagerly.

“Oh fine! Will you show us a sample of it, some time?” replied Miss
Martin as she wrote down Jim’s accomplishment.

“Shure, but not on de grass, ye know, Miss Marting! It needs wood
floors and wood clogs.”

“Yes, and we will have you dance on the Refectory floor soon.”

From Jim she went to one of the girls, who appeared impatient to tell
of her talents.

“Well, Jenny, your turn next.”

“Miss Martin, I kin take off anyone you wants me to! I does it for fun
at home an’ teacher says I’m the funniest girl she ever saw!”

“Jenny, suppose you impersonate Dinah, the cook?” said Miss Martin.

Dinah was a true southerner and spoke with all the old-time darkey
accent. Jenny beamed at the simple trial given her, and cleared her
throat to begin.

“Oh yo’ Jenny! Come yeah, Ah say, chile! Doan yo’ heah yo’ Mammy
callin’ yo? Heah I’se waitin’ fo’ to carry yo’ ober Jordan an’ yo’ don’
heah me, nohow!”

Jenny’s manner and voice, to say nothing of the expression on her face,
was so exactly the counterpart of Dinah’s that everyone screamed with
enjoyment.

“Jenny, that is very clever! Can you imitate my ways as well?” laughed
Miss Martin, after the fun had subsided.

“Oh you’se is easy to do, but don’che git mad at me?” pleaded Jenny.

“Of course not, child. It is all done in a spirit of fun.”

Then Jenny mimicked Miss Martin to such perfection that Uncle Ben, who
had quietly approached the group, clapped his hands and laughed.

Examination went on merrily after Uncle Ben’s appearance, and many
talents were discovered in the number of Little Citizens who applied
that morning. And so diversified were the abilities signed up for, that
Miss Martin felt sure of succeeding not only with a theater company but
with a circus troupe as well.

“I have discovered an embryo Buffalo Bill among the boys, and he will
have charge of the lassoing and broncho busting,” said Miss Martin
looking at her lists.

“And Molly rides bareback. Several boys are pugilists and target
shooters. With practice they will be able to take the part of Indians
in fighting and shooting, then we can have the old scene of Buffalo
Bill’s stage-coach hold-up in the West.

“A dozen boys wish to form a string orchestra, and half of the boys
here are already interested in the Brass Band. With all the other
talent I have discovered, I should say we might give an excellent
circus--lacking only the wild animals and freaks.”

“If I agree to supply the freaks and wild animals will you promise to
produce a good circus troupe for a show?” asked Uncle Ben, seriously,
yet his eyes twinkled humorously.

Miss Martin looked steadfastly at him for a few moments before she
said: “Are you serious?”

“Certainly I am. Don’t you think the Little Citizens ought to give an
entertainment to all the friends who have worked so hard to make this
camp a success?”

“There is nothing they’d rather do, I’m sure, than to give a circus.
It will be the natural outlet of much pent up energy,” laughed Miss
Martin.

“Then let us have a circus, by all means. We’ll get Richards to make
an announcement of it to all the people who are interested in this
venture.”

So it was decided to experiment with the talent at camp, and see if
there would be anything to work on in giving a huge circus to which all
friends and acquaintances would be invited.



CHAPTER XII

THE CIRCUS AT HAPPY HILLS


“Mister Uncle Ben, ain’t che goin’ to ask no money fer our circus?”
asked Joe Brennan, when he heard of the entertainment.

“Why no, Joe, this is to be a treat given by us to the people who did
so much for Little Citizens. It will cost them a lot of money just to
get here, as it is.”

“Dey all got autermobiles what dey will use. Dey don’t have to buy
car-tickets,” argued Joe.

“The autos use gasoline, you know, and it is a long ride. Besides, Joe,
why do you ask such a question. The cash taken in wouldn’t do you any
good?” wondered Uncle Ben.

“I was t’inkin’--we could start a fund fer dat city home yeh know--de
one you’se said oughter be run fer Little Citizens. I ain’t got no home
to live in when I gets back to Noo York and it’s cold in winter, lemme
tell you!”

“Joe, I am going to take up that very subject with these people when
they get here and show them the good that home-life has done for you
all. Now if you will promise to keep this secret, I’ll explain just why
I’m anxious to have them see you boys and girls perform and do your
best in some way.”

Joe eagerly agreed to keep the secret, and Uncle Ben continued:

“I’ve been planning about that City Home ever since we discovered
Maggie could sing and Nelly could design, and some of you boys could
play so well on musical instruments. I see that it will be necessary
to bring all those interested welfare workers together here to see
for themselves just what good a home in the city will do to you all.
It isn’t the circus so much, as the idea to get them here and see the
improvement in Little Citizens.”

Joe grinned at the confidence shared with him and said he would do all
he could to make the show a success.

Uncle Ben then stopped at Mother Maggie’s Nest to ask her which of
her songs she had decided to sing at the entertainment. Maggie was so
joyously happy at the opportunity to sing in public that she rattled
off ten songs, one on each fingertip as she counted--or she would have
forgotten some.

“Oh, Mister Uncle Ben, if we only had gold wagons and an elephant! But
of course we can’t have such wonders!”

“Some of the boys want a steam calliope to play the music for the
parade,” ventured Uncle Ben.

“Hoh never! You woulden’ let any such awful thing come an’ whistle
itself to pieces around Happy Hills, would you?” cried Maggie fearfully.

“No; besides, it is impossible to get a calliope without hiring a lot
of performers with it, and we are going to supply our own talent, you
see.”

“Thank goodness! If one of them screech-enjuns came here I’d run and
run till I was out of hearin’ of it!” said Maggie, decidedly.

“I suppose you heard that we are to have wild animals and other
wonderful side-shows, eh?” asked Uncle Ben.

“Yes, an’ I wuz thinkin’, Mister Uncle Ben: You’d have to be mos’
pertickler about handlin’ them animals! It takes a man what knows wild
beasteses to look after ’em proper. You might git bitten er killed if
you don’t look out. I saw some at Central Park Zoo, an’ at the Bronx
too, an’ the keeper had to keep safe away from ’em, I _tell you_!”

“My wild animals won’t hurt anyone. In fact the ‘lion shall lie down
with the lamb’ and the wolf will never think of killing,” laughed Uncle
Ben.

“Is it a joke?”

“If I tell you my secret, will you promise never to tell anyone?”
whispered Uncle Ben.

Maggie quickly agreed, and thereupon she heard the most remarkable
secret as was yet connected with the circus.

“Oh Mister Uncle Ben! How funny! Won’t everyone laff!” said she after a
hearty laugh. But she kept the secret.

Uncle Ben proceeded to the Big House where the Blue Birds and Bobolinks
were awaiting him. As he drew near, Miss Selina remarked:

“He’s smiling as if he had something funny to tell us.”

But he said nothing, and all the coaxing and urging to tell what had
occurred at Happy Hills to amuse him availed nothing.

While Uncle Ben was training the Blue Birds and Bobolinks to do their
part in the circus all unknown to Miss Martin, the latter was gradually
absorbing every inhabitant at Happy Hills camp into her company.
Even Dinah and her assistants offered to do their share. That share
consisted of baking pyramids of good cookies and ginger-snaps, and
preparing lemonade, for a stand just beside the entrance to the arena.

If the day was bright and clear, the circus would take place in the
clearing where the firemen exhibited their prowess. If it was rainy, it
would have to be curtailed in many acts but could be given in part at
the Refectory, called “Hippodrome Hall” for the occasion.

The morning dawned bright and cloudless to the great joy and relief
of many worrying circus people. The benches were quickly placed at
the upper side of the base-ball diamond, and several large canvases
borrowed from a house-painter in the nearest town, were hung up as
screens for the side-shows.

The Fire-house was decorated with greens and flags but the apparatus
was pulled out and left to dazzle all eyes at one side of the building.
The inside was to be used for other purposes.

Uncle Ben had supervised his police and firemen in erecting temporary
pens behind the canvas screens, and here his wild beasts were to be
exhibited. Adjoining the pens were a number of large piano cases raised
upon posts so that they were about eighteen inches from the ground. The
front sides of these great boxes were gone but wooden laths made “bars
to the cages.” On the top facing each box was painted the name of the
wild thing within.

The first case was to hold a fierce Numidian lion, said to be the
only one ever caught and tamed at Happy Hills. Next to this was a red
wolf--a man-eating wolf at that! Then one was to see the wild man from
Borneo with a great ring through his nose that he might be made to obey
without danger to his keeper.

Then there was to be an Albino girl, and a few savage Zulus with
poisoned arrows to shoot at passers-by. There was a placard over one of
the cages saying that the strange animal shown was the only one of its
kind ever found, and being a native of the Valley of Delight, it was
considered as very valuable.

There were other curiosities to see in the side-shows, but the greatest
interest centered about the animal cases. The boys who had helped build
the cages told the other Little Citizens, and naturally it created
much guessing and excitement. Would Mister Uncle Ben really have wild
animals there?

Maggie was in the secret, but so well did she keep it that no one even
guessed she knew the truth about the plan.

Inside the Fire-house, Uncle Ben and Ned and Jinks worked hard for
several hours before circus time, then the door was shut and padlocked
to keep out all curious sight-seers.

At two-thirty sharp, the Happy Hills’ Brass Band struck up a patriotic
air and the visitors and friends who had assembled to witness the show
given by the Little Citizens, hurried to the circus grounds.

The side-shows had to be visited first, as they would not be continued
after the general performance began. The Fire-house was the first in
the row so, not only visitors, but Little Citizens as well, filed in
to see what Uncle Ben had prepared for them.

The side walls of the small building were covered with Navajo blankets
and other barbarous-colored draperies. Spears and weapons from Aunt
Selina’s cozy-corner and oriental collection were gleaming dangerously
from corners. Freshly cut hay was thrown on the floor to make a carpet
of green, and upon this sat a group of Hopi Indians. Don and Dot Starr
were young ones while Babs was a papoose strapped in a wicker basket
and stood up in a corner.

A tent was rigged up in one corner and before this a brave who strongly
resembled Meredith, sat smoking a long peace pipe. But no one could see
any smoke rising from the bowl or from the lips of the stolid Indian.
He was in war-paint and wore all his trophies of scalps and wild
beasts’ teeth or skulls, so he seemed savage indeed. Two squaws, one
beading a pair of moccasins and another cooking over a camp-fire, were
too industrious to look up at the curious visitors.

“The squaw-cook what’s poking at the kettle without any fire burning
under it, looks a heap like Miss Lavinia,” whispered Maggie, in a
stage-tone.

Everyone laughed and even the squaw had to turn away her face or ruin
the effect of the whole Indian village scene. Dot and Don in streaked
upper-bodies and gaudy skirts from the waist down, grinned pleasantly
at their New York friends, and posed in a true twin-picture when Mr.
Richards took a snap-shot of the Hopis.

From the Fire-house the crowds went to the first case: a ferocious
lion! Here the visitors saw an astonishing sight! As the truth dawned
upon them, the New Yorkers laughed heartily but said nothing that might
keep away other curious visitors.

A great lion-skin from Miss Selina’s library had been sewed together so
that it appeared as real as when it was alive on the plains of Africa.
Inside this skin, Ned had carefully placed himself, and then Uncle Ben
had sewn him up in the seam where the two sides of the skin met.

The poor lion must have been frightfully hot inside that skin, and he
had to pace up and down the limited cage-room on his hands and feet,
for it would never do to stand up on his hind legs and try to get a
breath of cool air!

As the sight-seers filed past the lion’s cage, the fierce animal pawed
threateningly at the weak, wooden laths which was all that kept him
from springing out at the people.

Most of the circus-goers were already past when a strange howl came
from the inside of that lion-skin:

“Heigh, Uncle Ben! For pity’s sake rip me out of this--I’m smothering
to pieces!”

Some of the visitors were lingering to study the Wild Man from Borneo
in the next cage and heard the freak lion that could talk, and everyone
laughed uproariously.

Jinks was the “Wild Man” and looked the part, too. Chains of corn and
large lima-beans, with here and there a red kidney-bean, strung on
strings were profusely hung about his neck. Wide armlets and anklets
of tin were wound about his limbs and his hair, which was made of a
close-fitted skull-cap with great bunches of hair taken from a mattress
found in the attic of Aunt Selina’s house. His face was frightfully
scarred with _red crayon_ cuts where he had fought men and beasts and
survived; his single garment was a long strip of sheep’s skin wound
about his waist. His body was dark red and shiny with oil, and his
hands toyed dangerously with barbed arrows and a slender bow that now
and then was aimed at his tormentors. Such actions were accompanied
with wild grins that showed fierce orange-rind teeth fitted into the
mouth of the man-eating human!

The red wolf looked so like Crummie that many of the Little Citizens
were tempted to call it by name, and strange to say, the animal acted
as if it knew that name! Overhead, however, the placard plainly stated
that the red wolf exhibited was one of the dangerous kind found in the
Valley of Delight.

“No one kin fool me dat dat’s a wolf! I knows Crummie if no one else
does. Diden’ he save my life in de boat dat day of de picnic?” came
from Prunel in no weak voice, and everyone laughed again at the poor
red wolf. Thereupon the animal wagged its tail.

A strange animal never known to Nature before, was seen in a small
case next to the wolf. It was green and red and white streaked, and
had a stub tail that was orange colored. The nose was snubbed and a
fear-inspiring gleam of teeth projecting from an under-shot jaw would
have made one’s flesh creep had the beast been free. But everyone
heaved sighs of relief to find Aunt Selina’s old pet Bull dog safely
chained in a cage.

“Laws sake! Now how did this dreadful thing happen to poor old Billy.
Ben! Ben! did you paint Billy like this?” cried Miss Selina when she
saw her dog.

“S-sh! don’t spoil the side-shows!” warned a hissing voice behind her,
and Flutey turned to see Mr. Richards’ laughing face close to hers.

“But how will we ever get Billy clean again?” said she.

“It’s only colored grease paint such as movie people use--we’ll drop
him in boiling water and soon scald off the paint,” laughed her
tormentor.

Meredith Starr was the strongest man on earth and was seen lifting
great balls of iron and heavy bars of metal. The spheres he picked up
as easily as if they were feathers were marked 5,000 lbs. each, and
were as large as a barrel.

“Mr. Richards, do tell me what he is lifting?” queried Aunt Selina.

“Can’t you see they are marked iron?”

“Oh, but they aren’t really! They look like hollow paper cubes bronzed
over to look like rusty iron,” replied Flutey.

“Maybe you’re right at that,” laughed Mr. Richards.

The last side-show was a huge cage with a curtain hanging before its
opening. On the curtain was a notice stating:

“This is the smallest baby-elephant ever exhibited in a circus, and the
visitor is requested not to feed it peanuts or crackers, as it does not
yet know how to eat alone.”

Whenever a large crowd gathered before this cage, one of the Police
would make a great flourish of drawing back the curtain. Necks would
crane and those visitors standing in the back could not see the
elephant at all. But a loud shout of merriment would tell all that it
was a good joke, so they waited till the others left when they could go
closer and see the elephant.

It was a little papier-maché toy-elephant such as are sold at Christmas
time for the children’s nursery. There it stood in the center of the
great box and beside it was a great dish of water and a huge bundle of
hay for food.

The fake side-shows being over, the visitors began to fear their old
tease, Mr. Talmage, had played a joke upon them in bringing them so far
to witness nothing at all. So they walked away from the cages wondering
what would take place next; then a few of the Police directed them to
the seats at one end of the diamond.

“What next? Are you going to play a few more jokes on us?” demanded one
of the visitors of a Policeman.

“Naw--the reel circus is jus’ goin’ to start! You see Miss Martin has
charge of our show whiles Mister Uncle Ben agreed to provide side-shows
and wild animals. Now he’s done with his’n.”

“Oh, I see,” said one visitor.

“Thank goodness,” said another.

But the majority of them laughed at the fun and said it was all part of
the game as Barnum said: “An American public loves to be fooled.”

Soon after the audience was seated on the hard wooden benches that
reminded them of the real circus seats at a dollar a seat, Mr.
Richards appeared in the sawdust ring to speak. He was immediately
welcomed with shouts and claps and such a noise from his city friends
that he could not be heard.

When the tumult died down and he began to speak, the noise would begin
anew, and finally he shook his head and stood waiting. The men in the
audience finally grew tired of teasing him, however, and he had his say.

It was to the effect that all the talent about to be seen and heard had
been found and trained at Happy Hills inside of the past month. All
allowance should be made for the handicaps met with in a country camp,
but the patrons would find there was plenty of genuine talent in the
different performers about to make their first appearance in public as
entertainers.



CHAPTER XIII

THE SAWDUST RING


The audience felt the usual circus thrill as they took their places on
the narrow board seats; the tent that always gives a twilight dimness
to the inside of a circus arena was not in evidence, there being no
canvas large enough to borrow for that purpose, but the ground was
thickly sprinkled with sawdust for the performers’ circle.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” began Uncle Ben, as he walked to the center of
the ring. “The first number on our programme will be the Great Circus
Parade in which all members of the Side Shows and the regular circus
will take part. The music is furnished by the Little Citizens’ Brass
Band. Kindly refrain from making remarks during the exhibition.”

The moment Uncle Ben concluded his short speech, Mr. Richards sprang
up and said: “I surmise that we may make as many remarks as we like
_before_ the exhibition, so I wish to know who elected you Master of
Ceremonies?”

The audience laughed and some clapped their hands at the question asked
Uncle Ben. But he was equal to it.

“Not ‘Master of Ceremonies,’ my dear sir, but simply the ‘Ring
Master,’” replied Uncle Ben, with a low bow.

“Then I take objection to being made to sit here and see a Ring Master
without the customary long waxed mustachios and high silk hat--to say
nothing of the lack of a swallow-tail coat and silver-handled whip!”

Of course everyone knew it was all in fun, so they laughed because
Uncle Ben had no retort ready. After a moment’s hesitation, however, he
said:

“I have been given authority to maintain order, and if I hear
any further objections from one who came to see this show on a
_complimentary_ ticket, I will forcibly expel him from the premises.”

The threatening tones and the scowl on the Ring Master’s face caused a
great chorus of laughter from the audience, and from those performers
who knew that Uncle Ben and his dear friend Mr. Richards were trying to
get the best of each other in the fun-argument.

But the blare of horns coming from back of the canvas curtain
interrupted any further attacks, so the Ring Master retired to attend
to the order of march.

A drum-major led the band. He was dressed in a high bearskin hat
with gold tassels draped in front of it. His blue uniform was also
elaborately trimmed with tinsel and gold ornaments that reminded
everyone of Christmas Tree trimmings. In fact that is just what they
were!

The Brass Band followed and blew its instruments so lustily that no
attention was paid to time or notes. Noise, and plenty of it, was what
every member was eager to accomplish.

After the band, the freaks and wild animals followed, but the Numidian
lion had thrown back its head-piece and the boy’s hot face peeping out
looked very strange as it surmounted the shaggy lion rug.

After the side-show members came the regular circus performers--bareback
riders, acrobats, pugilists, etcetera.

Every Little Citizen in camp wished to be in the Grand Parade and
everyone had some odd bit of decoration to distinguish his or her
connection with so illustrious a company.

Some of the little girls had gathered great quantities of daisies and
buttercups and other wild flowers, and had sewed them all over their
camp dresses. Many of the little boys, too small to take part in the
acting, were costumed in foliage-covered clothes or in fancy paper
suits.

The parade over, the troupe sought refuge back of the canvas curtain
to await the call of each performer. The selected “pieces” of the
Brass Band now took their seats in front of the canvas and showed the
audience what a volume of sound six members of the band could send
forth.

“Our first number will be a clog dance. This is the public début
of our famous Little Citizen Dancer, so I wish all present to take
particular notice of his accomplishment,” announced the Ring Master,
who now appeared with the drum-major’s bearskin upon his head, and the
drum-major’s tinsel-decorated baton for a stick.

Uproarious applause followed the announcement, but it was never known
whether the clapping was for the hat and stick or for the début of the
clog-dancer.

The visitors were sincerely interested in the dancing and felt
gratified that one of the Little Citizens should have been found with
such ability--it became apparent that something might be made of the
boy.

Following the clog-dancer, came Maggie to sing her songs. Miss Martin
had had the piano moved from the Refectory to the ring, and now played
the accompaniment while the little girl sang her favorite songs taught
her by the Settlement Worker of the East Side.

As the pure tones of the “Prince of Peace,” then the inspired words and
air of “Our America” were heard, the audience showed more than ordinary
interest. The little singer was encored again and again and she smiled
happily as she stepped to the Ring again and sang her other favorites.
The visitors whispered together at the wonderful genius discovered in
their midst, and again Maggie was encored to sing yet one more song.
This last one was “Love’s Lullaby,” and was Maggie’s solace in times of
trouble.

The applause given Maggie was a great encouragement to the other
performers, so the orator of the camp, the elocutionist, and many other
talented Little Citizens, found their efforts welcomed by the audience.

When the “Stars” had concluded their parts, Uncle Ben announced that
the thrillers would take place.

“Miss Goldie Silverheels will now show her superb bareback riding,”
said he, with a bow.

Immediately after this introduction, Miss Goldie rode in on Farmer
Jones’ young horse. The steed was gorgeous in his colored trappings,
and Miss Goldie was in the seventh heaven of delight, for she had on a
tarletan dress all beflounced, and a wreath of flowers in her hair.

The horse, Bob, moved sedately about the sawdust ring, and it took some
urging from his rider to coax him into a gallop.

The bareback rider was fearless and daring in her tricks and showed an
unusual understanding of horses and the way to control them.

“Do you know what that girl can become? A wonderful instructor in a
Riding Academy,” remarked one lady to another, as Miss Goldie rode out
of the ring with applause sounding acceptably in her ears.

“Yes, but I should hate to have her become a circus actor, don’t you
know,” replied the lady.

“That’s just why she should be taken in hand at once, to train her
for something worthy before a third-rate circus troupe discovers her
courage and ability.”

“Make a note of it and refer the matter to Mr. Talmage,” advised the
lady, and it was written down on a small pad.

“We have a most remarkable treat in store, now, for our New York
friends. You have never seen anything better at a dog show, nor at a
Circus or Hippodrome,” called Uncle Ben.

“This is Crummie, the dog-hero that saved one of our Little Citizens
from drowning a short time ago,” he added.

At mention of his name, Crummie ran out into the Ring. But what a
different-looking Crummie from the dirty, matted-wool dog that won the
medal for bravery the day of the picnic!

Uncle Ben had superintended the task of clipping him, so that he
presented a distinctly aristocratic appearance. His main body had been
shaven, leaving tawny patches of wool on ankles, neck and head. The
tail, too, had a thick bunch of wool on its end and a ring of wool
about the base. The long hair on his forehead was tied in a knot with a
fancy ribbon.

“Crummie, salute the ladies!” said Uncle Ben.

The dog faced the audience and bowed politely to them. A general laugh
rewarded him. Then Uncle Ben said:

“Now, Crummie, call for your master to take charge.”

The dog turned and looked at the Band and barked again and again, but
no result followed.

“Crummie, go over and escort your master to the Ring.”

Then the dog ran directly to Bill and pulled at his feet. Bill
laughingly arose, and the dog immediately took hold of his hand with
his teeth and led him out. This brought a loud clapping from the
visitors.

Then Bill put Crummie through his letter-writing trick, through his
prayers, his dancing on hind legs, his lately acquired trick of playing
fireman (taught him by the Fire Brigade) and the other things he
could do. The audience thoroughly appreciated it all and thought the
performance was over when they saw Crummie run back of the curtain.

But he soon returned rolling a small drum before him. He left it just
before his master and ran away again. This time he returned with the
two drum sticks in his mouth. He held them until Bill took them from
him, and Uncle Ben said:

“Crummie has just joined the Brass Band and has only been taking
lessons in playing the drum for a week. If he does not keep good time,
or hold the sticks according to the book, you must overlook the fact.”

Bill placed a drum-stick in the dog’s mouth and Crummie sat upon his
haunches before the drum and began to rat-tat rat-tat-tat! rat-tat,
rat-tat-tat! r-r-r-at-tat-tat! r-r-r-tat-tat! Er-r-r-r-r-rat!
er-r-r-r-r-tat! er-r-r-r-r-rat-tattat-tattoo.

This syncopated playing he kept up until Bill laughingly clapped his
hands, then Crummie dropped the stick and pranced about his master,
showing how thoroughly he enjoyed music. The clapping was prolonged
until the audience found Crummie had still another form of music to
render for them.

This time, Bill attached the cymbal to Crummie’s tail and tied a small
hammer to one paw. The other paw had a string tied to it, and this
string pulled a lever that sounded a whistle. Then the dog was given
the drum-stick again, and the signal for music was sounded by his
master.

This time, Crummie thumped the cymbals with his tail, while striking
the glass-cylinders with the hammer fastened on his left paw. The
string was jerked irregularly to sound the whistle, but the drum fared
badly, as the dog was so intent on the other three instruments that he
forgot to beat with the stick held between his teeth, except at rare
intervals. But the sagacity shown by the animal won tremendous applause
from the audience, so that both master and dog felt amply repaid for
the tedious hours of practice.

“Now we have a scene between two Roman Gladiators in the open arena.
This will end our performance, but the guests are all invited to the
Refectory, where the Little Citizens wish to serve refreshments to
them.”

After some arguing back of the canvas curtain, the visitors
were amused to see a Roman chariot appear. Bob and Dobbin were
hitched tandem to a two-wheeled dump-cart. But the cart had been
white-washed--wheels and body, and festooned with wild flowers until
it presented a gala appearance. The two horses balked at pulling the
familiar cart _à la tandem_ and Bob wished to precede Dobbin, and the
latter wished to stop to investigate a sweet-smelling bunch of clover
right in his pathway to glory.

Therefore, the two Gladiators who stood in the cart endeavoring to coax
their steeds to more speed, felt abashed at the laughter accorded their
entrance into the arena.

But once the imperfectly-matched horses had drawn the cart to its goal,
the two athletic-looking boys jumped lightly out and posed in attitudes
approved in boxing rings.

This last number was wildly applauded by the men present, but the
ladies said they could see nothing entertaining in boxing! The bout
being ended, the two contestants shook hands and looked about for
the chariot which was to carry them back to the dressing room. The
attention of all present was thus attracted to the cart and horses,
and a general laugh echoed over the field.

Dobbin being unaccustomed to the wreaths of wild clover blossoms and
daisies hung about his neck and farm-harness, had managed to pull
part of his decoration around to one side and stood calmly chewing
it up. Bob on the other hand, had so resented being hitched to an
old-fashioned nag as Dobbin was that he had twisted and backed and
pulled until the not-too-secure tandem-harness hastily contrived of
rope and bits of strap, broke and left him to gambol away to the fresh
green grass growing on the banks of the brook.

So the exit of the Romans was made on their own pedals and Farmer Jones
was sent to capture his two steeds and cart.



CHAPTER XIV

THE CITY HOME PLAN


At the Refectory the guests were treated to cakes and lemonade and were
waited upon by the Little Citizens who had been taught to wait on each
other properly, or when visitors were present to attend to their needs
first.

Everyone was talking about the success of the circus, and but few
remembered the Side Shows that had given Uncle Ben so much trouble to
arrange. It was the unusual talents shown by the young performers that
caused most of the comments.

“Now you can see why I had you come to Happy Hills,” said Uncle Ben, as
he heard the city friends exchanging their views.

“Yes, but what further good can we do than hope for the future of each
of these children?” asked one of the men.

“Now that you have heard and seen for yourselves, instead of being told
by others of the budding genuises to be found in our Little Citizens,
I have a plan to propose. It is something that will need immediate
decision if Richards is to go ahead with the scheme and have things
ready for September occupancy.

“This is the plan I wish to lay before you all today:

“We expect a number of new arrivals at camp next week, and no one knows
what talent may be hidden in the heart of each one of those Little
Citizens. We have already found valuable material to work upon here,
and it must be educated and taken care of--we must not permit it to die
for lack of nourishment--mental and moral, you know.

“I have discussed this plan with Miss Selina, Miss Martin, and Mr.
Richards, and they agree with me that it is not only feasible, but
necessary, if we are to keep up the ambition and education of these
talented children.

“Mr. Richards has agreed to hunt up a large house in New York at a
moderate rental--one that we can remodel to suit ourselves, thereby
being able to have a long lease at a reduced rent. We have even thought
of the name of such a home. How do you like ‘Blue Bird Home for Little
Wonders’ or just the ‘Blue Bird and Bobolink Home,’ or perhaps some of
you would prefer the name of ‘Little Citizens’ Home’?”

“Mr. Talmage, I think the name is the last consideration to worry over.
Let us first decide whether there is to be a home,” called out one of
the gentlemen visitors.

“Oh, there will be a home, all right, even if a few of us have to
support it,” declared Mr. Richards, positively.

“After hearing and seeing our gifted Little Citizens we all think the
same as Mr. Richards--there must be some form of home provided until
the children are self-supporting,” added a lady.

“The thing to decide upon is, how many of you will join in this
endeavor and enlist others to help support the home. Miss Selina has
promised to close up this country place for the winter and take up
her residence at the Home. Miss Martin, who is a most valuable and
experienced Settlement Worker and Nature teacher, has also agreed to
help Flutey look after the house and children. I, too, will agree to
take up a permanent residence at the place to be on hand during the
evenings and holidays to advise and help in any way I can. There will
be other friends who will eagerly offer their time and help also, I
am sure. The sum of money we may have to use for this venture will
determine the size of the house we can secure and pay for.”

“You will need a regular asylum to house all these Little Citizens,
and those extra ones you still expect from the city,” remarked a
pessimistic man.

“Oh, it isn’t at all likely that everyone here this summer will take
up a residence in the city home. In fact, the invitation is only open
to those who can prove themselves efficient in some manner of work or
study. Not that we shall discriminate between trades or professions--we
shall not--but in order to be an inmate of our home a Little Citizen
must prove that he is steady, ambitious, moral, and obedient to rules,
before he can become a member in our family.

“We will not consider the application of anyone who is resentful or
malicious in thought, or disobedient in purpose as well as in deed.
Anyone who will willingly mislead a companion to disregard rules and
regulations cannot be accepted, as one child can upset a whole colony
in a little time.”

“Well, Mr. Talmage, you seem to have decided upon having such a home
and it only remains for us to join the number who have already agreed
to experiment with the idea for the future welfare of our little ‘Jenny
Lind,’ the budding ‘Thomas Edison,’ the great band leader ‘Sousa,’ and
a few other famous people or their young namesakes,” said one of the
Committee chosen for the Easter Outing that spring.

“That’s about it,” acknowledged Uncle Ben.

“Then count on me--or count on my check which is more to the point,”
laughed the man.

“There now--Richards, hand Sam the agreement to sign at once before he
changes his mind. Sam you can mention the size of the check you will
donate after you sign your name. You will find several names already
signed,” said Uncle Ben, passing the long legal paper to Mr. Richards
to hand over to the man.

The first visitor to join the new organization read the paper handed
him and then stood up.

“I think I will read aloud the names of the members who have already
joined and donated to this Winter Home--it may inspire others to ‘go
and do likewise.’

  “‘The Blue Bird Society of Oakdale’--collectively      $500
        Each individually                                  10

  “‘The Bobolink Society of Oakdale’ each individually     10

  “‘The Bobolink Publishing Society’                      500

  “Mr. Benj. Talmage, each month for Home donation        100

  “Mr. Benj. Talmage, for starting Home and furnishing  1,000

  “Mr. F. H. Richards                                     500

  “Miss Selina Talmage, monthly for expense account       500

  “Miss Selina Talmage, to start fund of Home           5,000

  “Miss Martin, each month during life of the Home         50

  “Mr. and Mrs. Starr of Oakdale--monthly                 100

  “Mr. and Mrs. Talmage of Oakdale, monthly               100

  “Mrs. Catlin of Oakdale, for starting fund              500

  “Mrs. Catlin of Oakdale, monthly for expenses           100

  “Parents of Blue Birds and Bobolinks collectively     1,000

“So you see, my friends, we already have a goodly sum to add our mites
to. Mr. Talmage, I will agree to start with a thousand dollars, and
pay a monthly sum of a hundred dollars. If you find yourselves in need
of financial support let me know and I will pull you out to a certain
extent.”

The Blue Birds and Bobolinks had been most interested listeners to the
discussion which would mean a successful launching of the city home
for their Little Citizens, and when the last speaker concluded and had
agreed to donate so liberally, Ned sprang up and shouted:

“Three cheers for the Home for Little Wonders!”

And the rousing cheer that replied to his call showed everyone that the
interest was genuine and not for display purposes as is the case in so
many charitable gifts that are made.

The agreement to donate passed through every hand of the visitors
present and when it was returned to Uncle Ben, it was filled with
names. The grand total was more than enough to assure success to the
venture for the first year at any rate.

As the result of the visit and circus entertainment was made known to
all, the Little Citizens looked dumb with surprise. Such a lot of money
as these people agreed to spend just to give them a good winter home!

Then Bill jumped upon his feet--he had been kneeling in a corner of
the Refectory listening with all his might.

“Say, you kids, wassa matter wid cheerin’ Uncle Ben and all his
fren’s--not a sickly cheer but a good healthy one!”

“Nuttin’s de matter wid dat! Hey all! Git ready now! One-two-t’ree!”
yelled Joe, and he swung his old cap as he counted.

“Hip! Hip! Hurrah! fer everybuddy here!” shouted every lusty youngster
present, and the din spoke well for their health.

“Heigh--once more--whad’s de matter wid Uncle Ben?” called Bill,
excitedly.

“He’s all right! Hip! Hip! Hurrah fer all!”

Then Bill seemed to remember an important matter.

“Mister Uncle Ben, please kin I say somethin’?”

“Certainly Bill--speak.”

“What kin we do to help a poor dog what is a genius?”

Everyone laughed at the question, but Bill took no offence as he was
too concerned about finding a home for Crummie, where the canine
intelligence might be expanded.

“Why, it stands to reason that if you prove yourself efficient enough
to join our home this winter, Crummie will be most valuable in helping
Miss Selina to keep away tramps and those who have no business about
our house. At odd times the dog can practice his own profession and
report to you at night.”

Bill grinned joyfully and Crummie, who had been crouching beside him,
thumped his tail upon the floor in satisfaction.

The time was at hand when all the automobiles were summoned to carry
the visitors back to New York, and soon after the last whirr of wheels
was heard going down the driveway, the Little Citizens scattered to
their evening tasks. Some to see that the precious Fire-engine was
safely housed again, some to Police the community where laxity had
prevailed all day and Little Citizens had broken the strict laws laid
down by the Chief of Police; but the majority of the children were too
tired and sleepy to think of anything but a cup of milk and a piece of
bread and butter, before tumbling into their Nests for the night.

At Flutey’s house, the Blue Birds and Bobolinks were too excited to
think of supper or bed. The sum total of the donations signed up that
afternoon amounted in their opinions to such an enormous lot of money
that they thought it possible to buy outright a big ready-made Home
somewhere in the city.

“You country children do not understand the value of city real estate.
Why all of Mossy Glen and Oak Crest together would not sell for enough
cash to pay for one dirty old tenement on the East Side. So you can
understand that the sum which has been promised us will not seem so
much after a few months’ rent is paid in advance. Besides we must have
good plumbing and ventilation, and repairs cost money, too.”

“Then don’t choose an old house--get a brand-new one,” suggested Dot
Starr.

“But a new one will cost a great deal more to start with, and every
month besides. We can lease an old one and renovate it to suit
ourselves, with lots of little rooms for chambers and great big
assembly rooms on the first floor, and the rent will be but half as
much as if the owner makes repairs,” explained Mr. Richards.

“I don’t see why the Starr family has to stay in Oakdale all winter.
Other folks go to live in the city when it’s cold--why can’t we?”
grumbled Don, who would have preferred living with the Little Citizens
wherever they were to be located.

“If the Talmages and Starrs moved to New York this winter where could I
take the Little Citizens every Saturday for the weekly outing?” asked
Uncle Ben.

Don had not thought of this, and he brightened up instantly. Then Dot
thought of something.

“Besides, if we all went to live in the city how would the magazine
ever get published? And without a magazine you would have no way to pay
that donation.”

“It seems to me, that everything is arranged wisely and well, so there
is no need for Blue Birds or Bobolinks to wish they were in other
birds’ nests,” added Flutey.



CHAPTER XV

MISS MARTIN’S LITTLE STORIES OF GREAT PEOPLE


The Blue Birds and Bobolinks had only a few days more to stay at Happy
Hills, and they all wanted to make the most of them. They were at camp
from early morning till late at night, and in that time they became
better acquainted with the lives and hopes of their Little Citizens
than years of casual visits would have accomplished.

Miss Martin had formed a daily story-telling class for anyone
who wished to sit and listen. But she was most determined about
interruptions. If you wanted to hear the story you were welcome, but
you must not scuffle across the Refectory floor when the tale was half
finished, and once you came quietly in to listen, you must remain till
the end!

So it became a custom for many of the Little Citizens to so manage
their play and work that they might have the noon hour to spare for the
story-telling.

The day after the circus, Miss Martin pleased her hearers by saying:

“The theme of the story today, friends, is about some famous people.
But they will be such short stories that it will be necessary for each
one to look up the longer story and history of my heroes and heroines
in the large book here on this table. I will leave it for Jinks or Ned
to read from if anyone wishes to hear the full account of the famous
ones I shall mention.

“My first story will be of a poor little peasant boy who became a great
poet.

“It was a cold night in winter, and in the old-time kitchen of an
English abbey, a number of servants were seated about a blazing fire.

“Now an abbey is a place built to shelter and protect the people who
need sanctuary in times of strife or war. And in olden times the people
needed such refuges as there was constant warring and fighting with
lawless men.

“So this abbey, half-house and half-church, had a number of servants to
keep it in order. These men now sat resting after the day’s work was
done, talking or singing songs as the wind whistled out-of-doors.

“‘Whose turn is it now?’ asked the head-servant.

“And so they took turns in singing their favorite songs until the
cow-herd saw it would soon be his turn to sing. He thought he could not
sing a note and he dreaded being jeered at by his companions, so he
crept quietly away and hid in with the cows in the straw in the stable.
Here he remained waiting for the men to retire and forget about him.

“Then, suddenly, he seemed to fall into a deep sleep, and a glorious
figure appeared before him. The humble fellow thought it was an angel,
and when she spoke in stern yet loving tones, he trembled and wanted to
run away.

“‘Sing,’ said she.

“The cow-herd gazed pitifully up at her, but could not open his mouth
to utter a sound. He was as mute as when he feared his companions in
the kitchen.

“‘Sing of God and his Creation!’ continued the angel.

“Then the frightened lad tried to make a sound and to his astonishment
he sang several pure notes, so he continued. As he sang of the
Spiritual Creation which was made so perfect and eternal by the Father
of All, the kine turned their heads and listened. When the farmer-boy
had overcome his shyness in singing such wonderful truths, the angel
disappeared but the singer knew it not. He was now so uplifted by his
singing that he even failed to hear the men who came running from the
kitchen to see who the great singer could be.

“Fancy their amazement when they found their humble cow-herder singing
in the stable. Then they waited, breathless, till he had concluded, and
led him back to the house. There he was made to sing for the mistress
and other women who took charge of the abbey.

“They, too, listened in hushed surprise and as the inspiring lines
poured forth, they bowed their heads in reverence, for they knew that
the Lord had given the lowly shepherd the gift with which to voice His
praise.

“And so this cow-herd, whose name was Cædmon, became a great singer and
poet of England.”

Miss Martin concluded the first story and Maggie was greatly pleased,
as she took the story to herself, but some of the boys who were
beginning to show a gift in singing, also felt that the story was told
for their benefit.

“Now I’m going to tell you how a very humble man became rich and
famous. He was poorer than any of you Little Citizens could ever be,
for he was a slave. He was the property of another man and even though
he worked very hard, he could never have anything of his own while he
was a slave.

“But one day, his master found he would have to sell his slaves, so he
had them all go to a slave-market in a distant city.

“Each slave had to carry a load of goods, as the master expected
to sell many of his valuable possessions at the same time that he
accompanied the slaves.

“In those days there were no carriages or beasts to ride and carry
baggage, for the slaves were expected to do this labor. Great bundles
were made up so that each slave might have a goodly-sized load. These
were waiting for them to shoulder when the procession came from the
house.

“The young slave who was a deep thinker, had pondered over the various
pieces of baggage, and thus had discovered which one held the food for
the three days’ journey for the entire party.

“This great package, Æsop chose for his burden. The other slaves
laughed at his foolish selection for their own burdens were smaller
and lighter. But the young slave said nothing. He started away with
his load, and the others followed him, jeering. The master rode last
and also wondered why the best young slave he had should choose so
cumbersome a load.

“They had started out at daybreak and after travelling several hours,
stopped by a well for the morning meal. Æsop opened his baggage and
spread out the rations for breakfast. All ate, and the slave again
shouldered his load, but it was a bit lighter.

“At noon they stopped and ate again, and the load was then much smaller
and still lighter. That night, the entire party ate supper, and the
burden grew still lighter and much smaller.

“The three meals the following day more than lessened half the burden
Æsop carried, and before the travellers reached the city, hot, weary,
and exhausted from carrying such loads so far, Æsop had nothing to
carry as the food was eaten and the load was gone.

“The master was so impressed at this wisdom shown by the slave that he
told the story to the men in the city. They said that Æsop was a wise
man and must bring a goodly sum to his owner.

“A very rich man heard the story when he came to the slave-market to
select a servant, and he determined to secure Æsop, so he bid high and
purchased him.

“Xanthus, the new master, took Æsop to Samos, his home, and there the
slave became known everywhere for his wisdom and judgment. He always
had a fable to apply to any need or cause, so that he was sought by
rich and poor alike for advice and help.

“Finally, Xanthus gave Æsop his freedom and the man who once had been a
slave with no rights to own anything--not even himself--became famous
and was sought by kings and statesmen for his wisdom.”

As this story was ended, one of the boys shouted, “That’s what I’m
goin’ to be--a wise judge!”

“To be a wise judge, you must first learn to think and do only right
and just things yourself; then you can find the wisdom to judge
others,” replied Miss Martin.

“That’s what I’m goin’ to do, Miss Marting,” promised the eager lad.

“Now another short story that I will tell you, is about always speaking
the truth. Truth is a great power in the world, and we may sometimes
think we have been wrong to adhere strictly to the truth, but in the
end we find we have gained in everything.

“A great Persian king named Cyrus sent his son to a far city to study
in a famous school that he might be ready to reign over Persia at the
King’s death.

“Otanes had always been taught the great value of truth, and as he
stood ready to depart from his home with the company of men who were to
see that he arrived safely, his parents again reminded him to always
adhere to truth and he would lose _nothing_!

“The caravan had travelled all day and halted at sun-down for rest when
a band of outlaws rode from ambush and demanded all that the travellers
possessed. There was no use in resisting so large a company of thieves,
so the merchants gave up their property. One of the rascals spied
Otanes who was silently watching the proceedings, so he called to the
boy:

“‘Have you anything to give me?’

“‘I have gold,’ replied the lad.

“‘Gold! How much and where do you carry it?’

“‘In my hat, and it is enough to pay my way.’

“‘Ha, ha, ha! That’s a good joke,’ laughed the man as he passed by.

“Then the Chief of the band rode up to the boy, and said: ‘Well, I
don’t suppose you carry anything of value--you are too young to be
trusted with gold.’

“Otanes said nothing to this as it required no answer, but when the
Chief looked at the silent boy, and said again:

“‘But have you anything of value about your person? What do you happen
to have?’

“‘I have gold for my journey and education.’

“‘Gold! Why, you’re a mere boy! Where do you hide it?’

“‘In my hat.’

“‘Let me see,’ ordered the robber.

“Otanes removed his hat and displayed the gold. The Chief stood in
surprise for a moment, and then said:

“‘Why did you tell us you had it--we would never have dreamed that you
had gold hidden on your person?’

“‘Did you not ask me?’ wondered Otanes.

“‘Yes, but you could have denied it, you see.’

“‘That would have been an untruth, and I am not a coward that I must
lie to any man!’ replied Otanes, proudly.

“The Chief was so impressed with the lad’s words that he gave back his
gold and said: ‘May you always live up to that ideal.’

“And Otanes did, for he became one of the great and famous men of his
day.”

There was silence as Miss Martin concluded this tale, then one of the
boys said: “Maybe Otanes wouldn’t have been so honest about giving up
dat money if it was all he had; but he knew he could git more from his
fadder when he got to de city.”

“I am quite sure Otanes would have acted exactly the same whether he
were a newsboy in New York or the king’s son in Persia. Besides, he
could _not_ send back home for more money from his father, as it took
a long time to cross the desert and it might be months, or a year,
before another caravan would reach his father and be able to bring back
money for the boy. So that was not the reason of his telling the truth,
you see,” replied Miss Martin.

“Miss Marting, won’t you please tell us somethin’ about children what
made pickshers an’ grew into fine painters!” asked one of the children,
and little Nelly Finn smiled with anticipation.

“I told you about the great Raphael in my last talk and also about the
slave who watched his master and thus educated himself to become even
greater than his teacher. Now I will tell you about a simple shepherd
lad who used to make pictures on the rocks and pieces of bark, with a
burnt stick for crayon.

“He was working with such interest one day that he failed to see a
man approach him. The stranger watched the work for a time and was so
amazed at the talent shown that he touched the boy on the shoulder.

“The lad sprang up and courtesied, then the man said: ‘Who taught you
to draw like that?’

“‘Myself, master.’

“‘Who are you, and whose sheep are those?’

“‘My name is Giotto and I am the shepherd-boy to a rich man who lives
near here,’ replied the boy.

“‘Would you like to know how to paint pictures of other things as well
as of trees and sheep?’

“Giotto’s joy was answer enough, so the man called upon the owner of
the sheep and told him what a great painter he thought the lad would
make. Then he also went to the humble home of the shepherd-boy and
asked the father to let him take his son to be educated.

“The stranger turned out to be Cimabue, the greatest painter of his
day, and Giotto accompanied him to Florence where he was taught to
paint wonderful pictures. In fact, Giotto became even a greater painter
than his master, and the simple shepherd-lad was the friend of many
great men at that time.”

Nelly expressed her satisfaction at the story, and the other Little
Citizens who liked to draw, also clapped their hands. Then Miss Martin
stood up and the children sighed for they did not want her to end her
stories so soon.

“Ah, tell us somethin’ ’bout our own American people, Miss Marting!”
begged one of the boys.

“Yeh, Miss Martin! Tell us about Thomas Edison, and Mister Colonel
Roosevelt, and McKinley, and other famous men of now!” added many
voices.

Miss Martin laughed, as she replied: “Why you children know as much
about our present-day heroes and great men as I do, but perhaps you do
not know about Robert Fulton, or the poets and painters of recent years
in America.”

“No, no--tell us!” quickly demanded a chorus of voices.

“Well, Robert Fulton was a little country boy who loved to fish and
swim and paddle about the creeks just like any other little boy does in
summer-time.

“One day he and his chum were fishing but the boat was heavy and
lumbering, and had to be pushed about by means of a long pole. It was
slow work and as Bob was trying to reach a spot in the stream where the
fish might bite better, he grumbled at the arduous task of moving the
tub.

“‘Why don’t we use a row-boat the next time?’ asked his friend.

“‘Even rowing is hard work, and there ought to be an easy way for boys
to push their boats about,’ said Robert.

“So the next day Bob called his friend and together they went to the
wood-shed to make something Robert had thought out the night before as
he lay in bed.

“‘What is it, anyway?’ asked his chum.

“‘You’ll see--it’s something to move our boat about without much work.’

“After a great deal of sawing and hammering, the two boys came from the
wood-shed with two cumbersome looking things that looked like small
fans on an old wind-mill.

“‘What’s that you’ve got, Bob?’ called a boy in passing the lads.

“‘Oh, we’ve got a scheme to make a boat go without working!’ replied
Bob.

“The older boy laughed and passed on his way, but the two friends
hurried to their scow with the heavy paddle-wheels and managed to
fasten them, one on each side of the boat. An old rod reached across
the boat from one wheel to the other, and when all was ready, the boys
jumped in.

“Bob Fulton sat on the seat and took hold of the iron bar. This he
turned like one would turn the crank on a well-handle. In revolving,
this bar turned the paddles around in the water and the propelling
moved the boat through the water.

“The boys were so delighted at the success of the plan that they did
nothing else all day but ride up and down the stream.

“That night the boys told of their invention and fun, and Bob was
praised for his work. Then he thought of the value such an idea might
have for others, and he worked and planned until he finally evolved the
side-wheel boats. Later, he invented the way to propel boats by steam
instead of horse-power in turning the wheels.

“From this small beginning, we have today the great ocean steamers and
other craft that sail our seas.”

“Dat’s a fine story, Miss Martin. Tell us anudder like it,” said the
children.

“You Little Citizens are always hungry for more,” laughed the
story-teller.

“Well, yeh see, Miss Marting, a feller can’t never get enough of truth,
kin he?” remarked a young wonder.

Miss Martin was so struck by the logic of this reply that she sat down
and looked at the little speaker in amazement. Then she said: “For
that remarkable sentence, Jimmy, I will tell you a true story of King
Solomon, the wisest judge and man of words that ever lived.

“Of course you have heard me speak of the Queen of Sheba and how she
tried to catch Solomon in many ways but failed!

“One day she brought in two garlands of flowers exactly alike. One
could not tell one from the other, so alike were they.

“‘Oh, King, I have here two garlands of flowers for you to see and tell
me which is the real and which the false,’ said the Queen, after the
ceremony of presentation was over.

“As Solomon gazed at the lovely flowers he was at a loss to say which
was Nature’s result and which the one made by the cunning of man.

“Then he looked from the window to think how he might detect the false
wreath. As he did so, he saw some bees buzzing in and out of the
blossoms hanging from a vine over the window casement. This gave him
the idea he needed.

“He ordered a slave to open wide the window, and it was done. Soon
after, a bee flew in and circled about for a moment, but scenting the
sweet flowers, made straight for the wreath in the Queen’s left hand.
Another bee followed almost immediately after and settled upon the
honey-laden blossoms. Other bees flew in and began sipping the nectar
from the cups of the flowers and Solomon said: ‘You have your answer, O
Queen!’”



CHAPTER XVI

THE END OF A HAPPY SUMMER


“Say Micky, dis is some trip from Noo York to Happy Hills, ain’t it?”
remarked Skelly, as he fidgeted in the seat.

“It’s cuz yeh are so anxious to git there. Now I’m a lookin’ out the
winder at all the trees and little houses we pass an’ I ain’t so tired
wid de ride,” replied Micky.

“Mick, do yeh really t’ink dey kin make a real artist of Nelly? Why,
she’s on’y a kid,” said Skelly to whom it seemed impossible that quiet
and meekness should have any power hidden under its cloak.

“Dat’s what Mister Uncle Ben tol’ me last week in his office, yeh know.”

“Why ain’t you or me got some such talent in our heads?” persisted
Skelly, complainingly.

“Maybe we have, but we are so chuck full of work and fight that the
quiet t’ings ain’t got time to sift out, yeh see. Ef we was to settle
down quiet-like for a week at Happy Hills mebbe somethin’ would show
up fer us, too.”

“Well, t’ank goodness we got a ticket to take a vacation anyway! I hope
to goodness, dey don’t make you sing church hymns and pray every udder
minute of de day!” muttered Skelly.

“Don’tche go an’ spoil everyt’ing at camp wid your kickin’, Skelly! Ef
you don’t like de way t’ings are run yeh kin always go back to de city,
yeh know. It ain’t costin’ yuh nuttin’,” advised Micky, with anxious
concern.

“Oh, I’ll try and stick it out fer a week, as long as you t’ink you’ll
stay too.”

When the station was called out where the two boys had to leave the
train, they looked eagerly about at the lovely scene. Green grass,
green trees, green bushes everywhere and no sign up: “Keep Off, Private
Grounds”--or familiar boards such as they knew of in the city parks
which read: “Keep off the Grass”--“Don’t pick flowers.”

“Gee, Micky! Even de sky looks green wid de udder green t’ings
a-shinin’,” breathed Skelly, softly.

A lark suddenly began his lay and the two boys looked at each other,
then about them for the songster.

“Dis is somethin’ like, eh, Skelly?” chuckled Micky.

“Bet’cher life, pard! Come on, le’s hurry to camp an’ see what it’s
like. Ef it’s anything like dis, I kin stand a week of it,” replied
delighted Skelly.

Before either boy could see which country road to take, a touring car
sped up and Uncle Ben hailed the travellers.

“Oh, there you are, my boys! I was delayed down the road by a blow-out
or I would have been here when the train pulled in.”

The boys grinned and looked at each other. Were _they_ going to ride in
that swell car?

“Jump in now, and we’ll soon be whisked back to Happy Hills where your
friends are waiting to greet you.”

So the two over-worked little newsboys scrambled in and dropped upon
the soft leather cushions with a sigh.

“Hully gee! Dis is de life, all right, Mister Uncle Ben,” gurgled Micky.

“While we are passing this lovely country-side you can look about and
see what an ideal place it is for boys and girls. See the big lake for
the older boys where they can fish and swim? Over there is a stretch
of forest land where we often go to hunt up wild flowers and other
interesting things in Nature. And just a few miles on the other side of
the station there is quite a town where we can buy anything we might
need during the summer. Now when we reach Happy Hills you will see how
complete everything is there for an outdoor life for Little Citizens.”

The boys paid attention to the remarks and agreed with Uncle Ben that
the location was ideal for everyone. Then the car neared the woods from
whence rose a noisy babel of sound--happy laughter and singing, or
calling, of many children.

“Here we are, boys--and there comes Nelly!”

Micky could not believe his eyes. Was that rosy, plump little girl
who was running to meet him, his sickly, crippled little sister? Even
the precocious, hardened little Skelly was impressed by the great
improvement in the little girl.

“Oh, Micky, I’m so glad you are here! And Micky I kin make pickshers of
ladies’ dresses all de time now, and make money for you and me, some
day!” cried Nelly, flinging her arms about her brother’s neck.

From that moment, Skelly was a subdued young man, for he was too
interested to remember his threats about going back to the city, and he
saw so many familiar faces of children--yet not familiar as they had
been once, for these faces were round and rosy, and the children happy
and always busy about something which is the secret of true happiness
and contentment.

Little Mother Maggie was introduced to Nelly’s two visitors, and after
a time, the little hostess asked Maggie to sing and show the boys how
she was improving.

Without demur, Maggie sang her old favorites, and even though they
sounded suspiciously like “the goody-goody hymns” he had heard before,
Skelly sat and listened, keenly appreciative.

“Come and see my prize asters, now,” said Maggie, turning to lead the
way to the Little Farms.

“Oh, and Micky, what you think?” exclaimed Nelly, eagerly.

“What?”

“Dutchy Bill what blows de brass horn, won a prize fer best playin’ dis
month!” said Nelly, delightedly.

“An’ Ikey Einstein, your friend, took the medal for courage when Bob,
the horse, ran away wid on’y two little kids in the buckboard. Ikey
jumped out and hung on de horse’s neck till Mister Uncle Ben could
catch up and help,” added Maggie.

“We raised seven fine hogs for market, boys. But Mister Uncle Ben
bought them from us hisself, and is going to use ’em in the Blue Bird
and Bobolink Home dis winter, you know,” laughed Nelly, eagerly.

So the four rattled on, telling great bits of news--at least it was
great for Little Citizens--and finally they reached the garden plots.

Micky and Skelly were surprised at seeing all the fine vegetables and
flowers growing in each square, and when Nelly told them of string
beans, radishes, lettuce, and other produce that the children had
gathered and sold to the housekeeper at Happy Hills, the two city boys
began to see how profitable and pleasant a life on a farm must be. Ten
times more profitable than selling papers!

Maggie’s pet aster was admired to her heart’s content, but when Skelly
bent down to sniff at it, that he might please Maggie by praising its
perfume, he could not truthfully say a word in its defence.

Maggie laughed merrily. “You don’t like de smell, do you?”

“Hully chee, Maggie! I t’hot it was sweet like roses, but it’s just
like medicine smell!” said Skelly.

A few Police sauntered up, eager to be introduced to the two strangers,
and because the newcomers were a year older than the other boys at
camp, they were shown about with much pride.

The Fire House and apparatus were displayed and admired, then the
base-ball diamond and the team that was practicing for a match game
against the Police Team was visited.

After this, the pigs had to be exhibited, and the Street Cleaning
Squads were interviewed. By the time Micky and Skelly had met the
Health Board, and the many other Squads and Boards formed that summer,
they had met every Little Citizen at Camp, for everyone was a member of
one or more organizations.

Miss Martin was very pleasant to the strangers and took them to the
Refectory for some refreshments although it was not suppertime and
dinner was long past. Later they were shown the Nest they might occupy
for their visit, and when Skelly was removing his shoes that night
preparatory to retiring, he whispered to Micky:

“Say, Mick! Ain’t dis a place, dough! Wish to goodness we had come out
here sooner and stayed longer, eh?”

“It’s fine, all right, but yeh see, ef we hed been here and tooken up
the place fer two sickly boys, it wouldn’t-a been right! We’se is big
and healthy and didn’t need country-life like some of dem poor little
kids we saw coming away from Noo York dat day in summer,” replied
Micky, thoughtfully.

The next day was the Saturday preceding Labor Day and on the following
Tuesday, the Camp would close at Happy Hills and all the Little
Citizens were to be taken back to the city: some to take up a residence
in the new home, and some to join their families or friends again,
after a long, wholesome summer in the country.

That morning after Miss Martin’s usual story-hour, Uncle Ben stood up
to address the children.

“Our New Home, thanks to the efforts of Mr. Richards and others, is now
ready to receive all those who will belong to our family this winter.
Those who hold passports for this privilege will stand over to my left
side.”

In a short time a crowd of boys and girls had grouped themselves as
directed. Then the speaker continued:

“Now I have some good news to offer the others. One of the visitors
who was present at our circus saw a great need for a good home for
other children than those who had some talent to develop, and she went
to work and secured the large house adjoining our home. This she has
renovated and turned into a lodging-house for those boys and girls who
earn a living, or for those who do not wish to live separate from their
brothers or sisters. For a small weekly fee, a Little Citizen can live
comfortably and well in the next-door house to our home.

“Now I wish to know if there are any present who would like to engage a
room with board at this house, so we can tell how many to provide for
on the day we all go back to the city.”

“Oh, hully chee! What wouldn’t I give to be a Little Citizen right
now!” sighed Skelly, while Micky looked wistful, too.

Bill overheard the remark and a thought came to him.

“Hey, Mister Uncle Ben! Can’t anyone like an outsider what is workin’
fer his livin’ join dis house?”

“The new house is open for anyone who can pass a satisfactory
examination by the Board. Of course, you all know we have to question
every applicant so as to keep out bad characters. Any honest,
respectable boy can secure a home at this house.”

At that Micky and Skelly exchanged looks, and Ikey Einstein ran over to
join them.

“Gee whiz! Boys le’s join quick! What a fine home we will have next to
Mister Uncle Ben’s place!”

Miss Martin laughed as she heard the cause for rejoicing and called out:

“It will not be because you live next to Uncle Ben, but because you
will be half of his family, as he will not leave you without his
company once we are settled down for the winter.”

A score of boys had started towards Uncle Ben to sign an application
for a home, when Micky and Skelly followed close upon Ikey’s heels to
secure permission to live in such a heavenly place as Ikey described it
to be.

While they were waiting in line to sign, or place a mark after their
applications, Ikey whispered to his chums:

“Miss Marting said dey got a music-box and lots of good records fer de
boys to play. Dey got a tank in de cellar fer us to swim in, and a big
back room what is made over into a gym. And every feller’s got a bed
and burear fer himself. He can lock de drawers, too, and ef he wants to
be alone, he kin pull his curtains about his room and shet himself away
from de udders!”

“I guess ye’re talkin’ about de swell home fer de gurls and talents,
ain’t cher?” remarked Skelly, skeptically.

“Naw! _Dey_ got _real_ rooms fer demselves! Little square ones all
fixed up fine! And downstairs in de big living room is a _real_ piano
fer music makers. And all sorts of new-fangled things fer good times.
Oh, dat Blue Bird and Bobolink City Home is one grand place, I kin tell
yuh!”

“Who tol’ you all about it?” queried Micky.

“Maggie, what is called ‘Margaret’ by the grown-ups!” bragged Ikey.

“Well, as fur as I care, de camp kin shet down now and start us all
back to dat city home. I never had a home, es I kin remember, in all my
life!” said Skelly.

“Your turn next, Skelly,” called Uncle Ben at this moment, and the two
city boys quickly went up and signed their names on the register.

“And you will be there Tuesday without fail?” asked Uncle Ben.

“Of course, we will, Mister Uncle Ben!” declared the newsboys.

And so they were. Not only were they eagerly welcomed to the first good
home they had ever known, but the “Little Wonders” found at Happy Hills
were welcomed to _their_ “Blue Birds’ City Nest” where many interesting
and wonderful things came to pass that year, all about which will be
told to you in the next book, entitled “Blue Birds’ City Nest.”



TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES:


  Italicized text is surrounded by underscores: _italics_.

  Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

  Inconsistencies in hyphenation have been standardized.



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