THE BLUE BIRDS' WINTER NEST
By LILLIAN ELIZABETH ROY
Author Of "The Blue Birds of Happy Times Nest," "The Blue Birds' Uncle Ben," "The Blue Birds at Happy Hills," "The Five Little Starrs Series," "The Girl Scouts' Country Life Series," etc.
A. L. BURT COMPANY Publishers—New York
Printed in U. S. A.
Copyright, 1916, by THE PLATT & PECK COMPANY
Printed in U. S. A.
I. How Aunt Selina Flew 7 II. A Sunday Walk and Its Results 26 III. The Blue Birds' Inspiration 45 IV. The Bobolink Boys Founded 62 V. Uncle Ben's Business Talk 81 VI. Beginning the Winter Work 96 VII. Blue Bird Wisdom and Bobolink Work 114 VIII. Aunt Selina's Civil War Story 135 IX. How the Yankees Took Possession 160 X. Beginning To Spell Success 179 XI. The Winter Nest Council 199 XII. The Story of an Alaskan Trip 219 XIII. A Winter in the Frozen North 238 XIV. The B. B. & B. B. Magazine 259 XV. How the Magazine Went Out 285
THE BLUE BIRDS' WINTER NEST
HOW AUNT SELINA FLEW
"Sally! I say, Sally! Come here!" cried a peevish voice, belonging to a querulous old lady who was huddled up on a couch in the bright morning room of her fine old mansion.
"I'se here, Miss S'lina—comin' straight an' fas' as mah laigs kin brings me!" replied a cheerful colored woman, bustling around, and moving some toast so it would not scorch.
"Are you quite sure you told Abe to meet the eleven-thirty train at Greenfields station? Just fancy how dreadful it would be to have Miss Ruth get off the train and not find anyone there to meet her!" complained Miss Selina, her face twitching with pain as she raised her hands to emphasize her remark.
"Laws'ee, Miss S'lina! Don' you be 'fraid dat I han't tended to eberyt'ing for little Miss Rufie's welcome! Leave it to ole Sally, what likes dat chile like her own kin!"
"Well, then, Sally, hurry with my toast and tea—and for goodness' sake, don't you bring scorched toast again! There, I can smell it burning this very minute! How many times must I tell you that I will not trust those electric toasters? The old-fashioned coal fire is good enough for me—and it would be for you, too, if it were not for your ridiculous ideas of being progressive and having all these electric fol-de-rols put up in the house. My house, too! Think of it! A servant to order these contraptions and use them in my very own home and make me pay for them, when I prefer the ways of my forefathers." Then utterly wearied with her long complaint, Miss Selina collapsed, and closed her eyes.
Sally, the old family servant who had lived all her days with the Talmage family at Happy Hills, had been a playmate of Miss Selina's; in fact, she had grown up with all the children of the "big house." She smiled indulgently at her mistress' words, as she bent over a fresh piece of toast.
"Pore chile—Sally knows a heap of time is saved 'twixt 'lectricity an' coal, an' she's goin' to cleave to the bestes' way ever foun' yit—an' she knows what dem old rheumaticks is a-doin' to your temper," soliloquized the astute servant.
The toast was nicely browned, and the tea brewed perfectly, and Sally placed them on a dainty tray which she carried over to the couch.
"Want I should leave you alone, or he'p you break the bread?" asked Sally, soothingly.
Miss Selina opened her eyes and answered, "If I were sure you had Miss Ruth's room all ready, and everything else as it should be, I would let you pour that tea for me; but I suppose you have neglected half your work to be in here with me."
Sally's broad grin wrinkled the corners of her mouth, as she took the teapot and poured the fragrant beverage into a Japanese cup. At the same time her mind seemed to dwell upon a pleasant subject.
"Does you 'member, Miss S'lina, de las' time little Rufie visited us? Dat's de time she was all full of a plan for havin' some kin' of a bird's nest at home. I wonder ef she ever did fix it up?"
Miss Selina forgot to find fault for a few moments, as Sally's words caused her to remember the plan her grand-niece had talked over.
"Seems to me, her mother wrote something in a letter about a Blue Bird Nest they were going to start. But I haven't the slightest idea what it is. I should think they would build nests for robins and birds who are plentiful in our country places. Blue Birds are not very numerous in our woods."
"T'wan't for real birds—don' you recomember? It was jus' de name dey was goin' to use fer a li'l 'sociation like!" corrected Sally, as she held the plate of toast within reach of the invalid's hand.
"No, I don't remember! How should I?—with all this pain forever tying me into knots!" mumbled Miss Selina, as a toothsome morsel of toast entered her mouth.
Suddenly, the crunching of wheels on the gravel drive was heard, and Sally craned her neck to look from the window.
"There goes Abe now," she said.
The same day the Blue Birds of Happy Times Nest, at Oakdale, had become "Fliers," little Ruth Talmage, the favorite of the Nest, had received an invitation to spend a week at her Aunt Selina's house, and Abe was now on his way to the station to meet her.
Aunt Selina was an unpleasant old lady, and few of her relatives cared to visit her; so, when she had her attacks of rheumatism she generally had to spend her time on the couch with no one to amuse her. She had invited Ruth the previous Spring, and had enjoyed the little girl's visit so much, that she had sent for her now when helpless with another attack.
Of course, when the telegram came to Ruth's home, asking the little girl to visit Aunt Selina, the Blue Birds felt sorry for her, knowing what a miserable time Ruth would have. Then, too, Ruth's father was expected home that Saturday, and Ruth had not seen him for almost a year.
Ruth, however, was willing to sacrifice her own pleasure to help Aunt Selina—as every Blue Bird tries to follow the Golden Rule—so she left her playmates Saturday morning, with promises to write every day until she returned, and they, in turn, earnestly promised to explain to her father just why she went away the day he was expected home.
Now, Happy Hills, Aunt Selina's home, was several miles from Greenfields Station, and the country about this section of Pennsylvania was so beautiful and healthful that city people gradually settled upon estates and spent their summers there. Beautiful carriages and automobiles daily passed over the fine old road that divided Happy Hills in half. But no one had much of an opportunity to admire the place as high board fences had been built on either side of the road as far as the property fronted it.
Happy Hills was an old family estate comprising more than two thousand acres, half woodland and half cultivated fields and green pastures. A spring of clear water, hidden among the rocks of the highest hill at the back of the farm, furnished plenty of water for the noisy brook that tumbled from rock to rock on the hillside, and, after splashing in and out among the trees, ran like a broad ribbon through the green meadows.
The entire property was enclosed with a high fence, even the woodland being carefully hemmed in so no little children could get in to play in the brook, or pick wild berries and flowers that decayed in profusion year after year.
Sally was a trusted old housekeeper who had her mistress' confidence; Abe was her husband who had driven the Talmage coupe ever since he came North at the time of the Civil War.
Miss Selina had not always been so disagreeable. She had old-fashioned pictures of herself at the age of eighteen when hoop-skirts were the fashion, and the young women wore their hair in "water-falls." At that time a handsome young man was in love with her, but he was shot in the war, and she brooded over her loss so long that she lost all the sweetness of living. The older she grew the more disagreeable she became, until, not one of her relatives wanted to be with her, but managed to keep far from her complaining voice.
And for this old lady, Ruth had waived the anticipated home coming of her dear father!
Breakfast over, Sally propped Miss Selina up on the cushions and left her for a time.
After wondering how long it would take Abe to drive back from the eleven-thirty train, Miss Selina started to think of something she had been pondering the last few days. What should she do with her vast estate if she died? She had never made a will, for she abhorred the idea of dying and having any strangers in her home. But she couldn't take it with her, and she was nearing seventy years of age with all the signs of old age breaking over her defenceless head.
She tried to think of someone to whom she really wanted to leave her home, but there was no one. She generally sighed at this point and dropped the unpleasant thought. To-day, however, she wondered if her nephew and his wife could be plotting to get her property by having Ruth visit whenever she was invited. This idea seemed to take hold of her, and she frowned as she made up her mind to ask Ruth questions about her mother's intentions and opinions regarding Aunt Selina and Happy Hills.
Miss Selina had been so engrossed in her thoughts that the sound of carriage wheels on the drive failed to reach her. Therefore, it was with a start of surprise that she heard the door flung open and a happy child's voice cry:
"Aunt Selina! I'm here! Are you glad to have me?" while a pair of soft little arms were gently placed about her withered old neck and fresh little lips pressed her cheek.
The caress was such an unusual experience that Miss Selina forgot to wince or complain, and before she did remember, Ruth was bubbling over with news.
"What do you think is to happen to-day?—Oh! Aunt Selina, we all have new names at home; even mother is now called Mother Wings and I am Fluff. The other Blue Birds have names they chose for themselves, and Ned is an Owl, and prints our weekly paper called the Chirp. Now, instead of Aunt Selina, I want to call you a bird-name, too. May I?"
Aunt Selina smiled sympathetically at Ruth's words, but, recalled to her condition by a twinge of pain, she moaned, "Child, poor old Aunt Selina would make a wretched specimen of a bird nowadays. The only kind I feel that I could represent truly is a raven—for it always croaks."
Ruth laughed consolingly, but cried, "Oh, Aunt Selina, that is just because you feel blue with those old rheumatics. Mother says we always look at life through dark spectacles when we're in pain, and we b'lieve the lovely world has lost all its brightness. Now, I've come to make you forget your blues and I must have a new name to say, because there is so much to tell you that I would lose time if I had to say 'Aunt Selina' every time. Besides, a new name will make you forget yourself."
"What could you call me?" questioned her aunt, trying to fall in with the child's whim.
"We'll have to think! It isn't as easy as it may sound to find a name to suit. We had a dreadful hard time to do it."
"'Fluff' suits you beautifully. Who found it?" said the old lady interestedly.
"I chose two, but we can only have one. One was 'Flutey' the other 'Fluff'; Ned and the Blue Birds liked 'Fluff' best, and they have called me by that name ever since we were christened in the Nest."
"When I was a little girl like you I used to enjoy whistling about the place so much that father called me his little flute. I can still see the shocked expression of my aunt who visited us, when she heard me running about whistling like a boy. She was a grand dame of society in New York, and her girls were doing embroidery and being taught how to curtsey and behave in the drawing-room." And Miss Selina smiled at Ruth who fully understood the remark and clapped her hands delightedly at her aunt who had been a hoyden so long ago.
"I just love to whistle, too. Ned says I can pipe higher and carry a tune better than anyone he knows!" declared Ruth, and aunt and grand-niece felt a common bond of unity.
Ruth was about to demonstrate her accomplishment to Aunt Selina, when her face puckered into a funny expression and her shoulders hunched up about her ears as they usually did when some secret thought gave her a surprise. She leaned over the couch and confidentially whispered, "Aunt Selina, I'll tell you what! We both love to whistle, don't we? Then, you shall be christened with my other name! You shall be 'Flutey,' eh?"
"Oh, dear child, it would be sarcasm to name me that now! Why, the only claim I have to that name would be because of my fluted skin. Just look at my neck and face!" said Aunt Selina.
"No such thing!" retorted Ruth. "I never saw any flutes on your face until this very minute when you made me see some little wrinkles. Your skin is soft and white, so don't you ever tell folks what you said to me, 'cause they won't see anything but a nice face."
Of course, Aunt Selina felt elated to hear such comforting words, but Ruth gave her no time to meditate.
"Do you like the name I, as your god-mother, give you?" laughed the merry little girl.
"Yes, indeed, it is fine, but we must keep it a secret. Just fancy Sally or Abe, or any of the servants, calling me 'Miss Flutey!'" And Aunt Selina laughed aloud just as the door opened and Sally popped her head through the aperture. Seeing the happy faces and hearing the unusual laughter, she immediately closed the door, without having been seen or heard. Out in the wide hall she lifted both arms high toward the ceiling and rolled her eyes devoutly upward as she murmured, "Praise be to the Lud, dat dat little tree is come wif healin' in its leaves." After this strange remark, Sally hurried out to tell Abe of the miracle.
Aunt Selina, in spite of her age, felt a childish delight in having a secret with Ruth, and after a few moments said, "I shall have to call you Fluff, and you must call me Flutey, I suppose, if we are to belong to the same Nest."
"Yes, that's the way," replied Ruth, clapping her hands softly. "Now, let me tell you all the wonderful things we did this summer."
Then began a recital of how the Blue Birds of Happy Times Nest started; about each member and her name; the nest in the old cherry-tree; how they had earned money to bring some poor children from the city to spend the hot weeks in the country; and, best of all, how they had interested all of the citizens of Oakdale in helping a hundred poor city children to spend a few weeks in the beautiful village of Oakdale.
At this moment a loud knock at the door caused Aunt Selina to sit up and call out, "Come in!"
"Shall you hab lunch in de dinin' room, or serbed here?" said Sally.
"Lunch! Why, is it time—is it one o'clock?" gasped Miss Selina.
"Ya'as'm—pas dat hour, too," replied Sally, smiling broadly at Ruth, who returned the good-natured feeling.
"Well, well; I feel much better, Sally," admitted Aunt Selina. "Nothing like having young folks around when one feels blue, eh? I guess you'd better bring the lunch tray here, and Miss Ruth and I will picnic this noon."
In a few moments the waitress brought in a huge tray while Sally followed with a folding table which she placed by the side of the couch.
A joysome hour passed in "picnicking" the lunch, then Sally rang for the maid to remove the dishes. After she had gone, Sally turned to her mistress and, with the familiarity of an old servant, said, "Miss Rufie shore is de bestes tonic you ebber took. You'se et more lunch, Miss Selina, dan I'se seen yo' et in six mont!"
Then whisking a few tiny crumbs from the couch afghan, Sally gathered up the doilies and went out, smiling contentedly.
That afternoon worked a remarkable change in Aunt Selina. She forgot all about herself and her misery while listening to her grand-niece's story of sacrifice for others.
She listened attentively to every word, until Ruth concluded with the words, "Now, we are planning some great work for our winter nest, but we don't know just what we will choose."
So impressed was Aunt Selina with the movement started by the New York Organization, that she determined to help the cause in every way she could.
In the evening with the help of a cane and Sally, Aunt Selina managed to reach the dining-room for dinner. "For," said she, "it is a shame to keep Ruth cooped up in my morning room all day long."
During dinner she marveled at the improvement in her physical condition and worried lest her ailments return suddenly. But Ruth reassured her.
"No, indeed, Flutey, we have so much to do and plan while I am here, that you won't have time to think of getting sick again."
Aunt Selina looked dumbfounded for a moment.
"Ruth, do you suppose that's what ails me—nothing to do but think of myself all of the time?" said she.
"Flutey, not only with you, but with lots of folks!" replied Ruth, wisely. "You see, anyone who is busy and has something to do all the time never gets sick, because they haven't time to worry 'bout themselves if they feel a bit of pain. Why, this summer I saw lots of beginnings of sickness stopped just because everyone had to get through their work for the city children. Even me: when mother told me that father—oh, oh—oh!" and Ruth doubled over her plate and giggled immoderately.
"Now what ails you, child?" inquired Aunt Selina, smiling in sympathy with her guest's merry laugh.
"Oh, Aunt Selina, this goes to prove what I just said! Here I have been with you all day, so full of the story of our Nest and all we did, that I forgot to feel sorry for myself. Why, think of it! Father is expected home to-night, and I'm not there! When your telegram came asking me to come here, and mother told me father was expected the same day, I felt dreadfully bad about it, but mother said I might help the winter nest a great deal by coming to show you how to fly, so I really made up my mind not to feel sorry about not seeing father. And here I am all this time, forgetting my disappointment about leaving home to-day, and now, laughing over it. Don't you see?"
Aunt Selina nodded her head comprehendingly as she said, "Yes, I see! Yes, I see what has been my undoing all these years. Child, you have done something for me that all my years have failed in showing me. God bless you, Ruth, for coming, and when I tell your father about it he will be proud of his little Blue Bird that brought such peace to me."
As she concluded, Aunt Selina's eyes were brimful of tears, but they were tears of gratitude, and such tears always wash away much of our stubborn selfishness.
Sally hovered about the table to be on hand to assist her querulous mistress if necessary and she, too, felt the effect of Ruth's words and silently praised God for the blessing.
After Aunt Selina and Ruth were comfortably seated in the soft easy-chairs of the former's bedroom, Ruth asked permission to write the letters she had promised the Blue Birds at home. Aunt Selina nodded cheerfully, and sat watching the little girl write until her eyelids drowsed slowly over her eyes.
The first and most important letter was written to Ruth's dear father and mother. The next to Ned, and the third to all of the Blue Birds of Happy Times Nest. Here, she wrote as she pleased and told them about her trip, how interested Aunt Selina seemed to be, about the secret name she had given the new Blue Bird and all of the fine things Aunt Selina was going to do just as soon as plans could be talked over. As the letter drew to a close, Ruth begged her friends to write every day and not undertake any important work until she came home.
The last letter took a long time to write and Aunt Selina was fully awake before Ruth had finished.
"Laws, Child! Do you know the time? What would your mother say if she knew I kept her daughter out of bed until after nine o'clock? If the letters are finished you must go straight to your room." And Aunt Selina rang for Sally.
That night as Ruth slept soundly, Aunt Selina lay thinking over all her grand-niece had told her. As she thought of all her wasted years and of all the wonderful good she might have done with her leisure time and wealth, she turned her face to the wall and shed bitter tears of regret.
Then recalling Ruth's advice to fill her mind with something good and helpful, the old lady vowed to pick up the frayed ends of her life and ask Ruth how to use her money and time to create some lasting good for others. As she smiled contentedly over the idea of her grand-niece of tender years advising and helping her, an old lady of three score and ten, the Bible text flashed into her mind—"And a little child shall lead them."
Then Aunt Selina fell into a restful, health-giving sleep such as she had not had in years.
A SUNDAY WALK AND ITS RESULTS
Ruth was out-of-doors early the following morning, enjoying the sweet, crisp breeze with its odor of dew-laden meadows. After sniffing delightedly for a few moments, she skipped up and down the long veranda, calling to the birds and snapping her fingers at some curious squirrels. Sally heard the joyous child and came out to bid her a good-morning.
"Sally, what a beautiful farm Aunt Selina has! It looks lovelier this morning than ever, but it makes me sad when I think that no one can enjoy it except the folks that live here," said Ruth, in a tone of regret.
"Ya'as, Chile, I feels sorry dat Miss S'lina had dem high board fences put up to keep anjoyin' eyes from de propaty. An' den agin, I kin s'cuse de little chillern dat sneak fru de back fences jus' to pick wilets an' paddle in de brok up dere;" and Sally looked toward the inviting woodland, whence came the sound of running water.
"If Aunt Selina is to be a really truly Blue Bird she will remove whatever keeps others from enjoying what she has," commented Ruth, seriously.
A bell, tinkling from an upper room, summoned Sally hurriedly indoors, so Ruth sat down in a large wicker rocker to await her aunt's coming.
Sally soon came and told Ruth breakfast was ready and there sat Miss Selina welcoming her with a cheery smile!
"Do you feel as happy and free as a Blue Bird, Flutey?" asked Ruth, giving Aunt Selina a hearty embrace.
Unaccustomed to such healthy demonstrations of affection, she suffered her lace cap to be pulled over one ear while her other was uncomfortably doubled under Ruth's plump little arm.
"Yes, Fluff, I feel unusually well this morning. I slept like a babe all night," replied her aunt.
"That's the way all Blue Birds sleep. Not one of us would stay in bed a minute just because something tried to make us feel too tired or sick to get up early in the morning! You know, the Camp Fire Girls receive honors for keeping free from illness, and some day the Blue Birds expect to join the bigger girls in their Camp Fires. So we begin to practice good health now," explained Ruth.
The breakfast passed quickly with not a sound or sigh from Aunt Selina about rheumatism. Sally was the most astonished of all, for it had become second nature with her mistress to talk about her pains and woes at all times.
"While I was waiting on the piazza, this morning, I planned to take you for a nice long walk," said Ruth.
"Why, my dear, I simply cannot walk out of doors. I could hardly hobble about the house this morning."
"Oh, I s'pose you couldn't walk very well, but I can walk and you can ride in the wheel-chair. I will push it, and we will go down the meadow path toward the summer-house," said Ruth.
Aunt Selina looked dubiously at Sally, but the latter was very busy placing some of the family silver in the chest, and her back was turned.
After a few moments' hesitation she said, "I never take that chair off of the porch, and I am afraid you are too little to push it."
"Oh, no, indeed I'm not. It won't hurt the chair, and even if it did, your pleasure just now is better than ten chairs!" decided Ruth.
After several weak attempts to turn Ruth from her purpose, Aunt Selina surrendered with a sigh.
As Sally left the room just then she chuckled to herself, "Dat chile will shorely 'juvenate Miss S'lina!"
After breakfast aunt and grand-niece went out on the veranda and Ruth soon had the chair down the steps and waiting for her aunt.
Aunt Selina felt a bit conscious at being wheeled like a baby, but Ruth was too merry to permit anything but joy to prevail.
Ruth turned the chair into a path that ran along the brook, and chatted merrily until Aunt Selina forgot herself in listening. At the end of the path stood a rustic summer-house from which could be seen the wide expanse of meadow and woodland. Having reached this spot, Ruth placed the chair so her aunt could look about and admire her beautiful lands.
"Flutey, don't you ever go to church on Sunday mornings?" asked Ruth.
"The only church is so far away that I would have to drive for half an hour to reach it; then, too, it is not a denomination that I approve of," she replied, coolly.
But a little thing like a cold reply or a curt tone never daunted Ruth when she was after any particular information.
"What is the difference between one denomination and another? I don't exactly know the meaning of that word, but I know it means something about churches."
"Well, some churches believe in worshipping God one way and some in another. These different beliefs are called 'denominations.' Now, all of our family were brought up to believe the Baptist manner of worship to be the only true one, and this church at Greenfields is Presbyterian. Of course, everyone knows that pre-destination is all wrong," said Aunt Selina emphatically.
Ruth's eyes opened wider and wider as she listened, for she had been taught a very simple faith. She had been told that to live and follow the "Golden Rule" was the highest form of obedience, and that it was true worship. So she answered quietly:
"I love Jesus, and I believe he taught everyone the same way, and I believe he just loved everybody the same way."
"We will not discuss religion, Ruth. Just keep on thinking and doing as Mother has taught you."
"Well, I was only going to say, that as we cannot go to church such a lovely morning, we might sit here and thank God for all these fields," explained Ruth.
Aunt Selina looked about the land in the light of a new revelation.
"I was thinking," continued Ruth, "how I should love to have this farm near Oakdale. I could come over so often to tell you what we are doing, and then, too, you could use all of that wonderful woodland for Blue Birds' Camps in the summer."
Aunt Selina looked across the fields and woods but said nothing, so Ruth continued.
"When the two Ferris children came out to Mrs. Mason's farm, they were so happy to see real flowers and grass that they soon got well and strong. That made me wish that I had hundreds of farms just like it where sick children could go and get well. That was one thing that made the Oakdale folks help get the hundred city poor children out to our country for a few weeks in August and the lovely time the children had made everyone wish to do bigger things this next summer. Nothing has really been planned yet, but everyone is trying to think of some way to do something. This morning when I saw this wonderful farm and so few folks to live on it, I just wished it was near Oakdale so a big crowd of poor children could enjoy it next summer."
As Ruth concluded and looked wistfully over the fertile land, her aunt sat thinking for a time, then answered.
"Fluff, I determined to be a Blue Bird with all of my heart and soul. Now, we can't move this farm over to Oakdale, but the city children can be moved out to this farm! You can do the planning from Oakdale, and I can look after them when they get here."
Ruth gasped in amazement at the splendid idea, then jumped up and down with delight while she shouted aloud.
"Oh, oh! Flutey! that is great! Why, just think of all the streets full of poor children who can enjoy these wonderful woods!"
Aunt Selina winced at the word "street children," but she spoke with determination.
"I suppose we would have to build some sort of little houses, or temporary camps for them to sleep in, and a long shed in which to serve the meals. It will need a lot of planning."
"Dear me, I wish we could run and ask mother about it," murmured Ruth, impatiently. "Now, if you were only visiting me instead of me being here with you!"
"If I had gone to you, you might never have had the idea of using these woods for the children," ventured her aunt.
"No, that's so," admitted Ruth. "And we can go back to the house and write all our plans down on paper and send them to mother, can't we?"
Aunt Selina consenting, Ruth wheeled the chair back to the house. When they reached the steps the invalid felt so strong that she lifted herself out of the chair and climbed up the low steps with only Ruth to lean upon.
"Why, I never felt a twinge in my joints all this time! I never knew rheumatism to disappear so quickly as it has this time," she said, as she sank down in a low chair.
"Let's hope it won't come back again," added Ruth. "If it stays away you could pack up and go to Oakdale with me, couldn't you?"
Aunt Selina, who never visited and seldom left her home, looked horrified for a moment. But Ruth continued innocently,
"We could get all of mother's advice for the farm plans besides seeing father and being home with him!"
Sally, who had seen Miss Selina coming up the steps without a cane, thought some miracle had been performed. So, wishing to hear all about it, she hurried out with the announcement that dinner was almost ready.
"Dinner! Why, Sally, we just finished breakfast. I'm sure I don't want anything to eat so soon," replied Miss Selina.
"It's pas' one o'clock, Miss S'lina, an' you allus likes de meals to be on time," ventured Sally.
"I'm sure I feel as if it was dinner time, 'cause I'm so hungry," added Ruth, who always had a healthy appetite.
Aunt Selina laughed indulgently as she rose and limped slowly indoors.
Immediately after dinner Ruth hurried to the library and brought forth a pencil and paper. Meeting her aunt in the hall she said, "Now, we'll sit down and put all of our plans on paper."
The greater part of the afternoon was passed in this engrossing work.
That night Aunt Selina again sought her bed with a great sense of gratitude that she could enjoy the rest without any pain. She slept all through the night and awoke in the morning feeling strong and energetic. Almost every trace of her lameness had disappeared.
The mail lay upon a silver tray beside her plate, and she smiled as she handed two letters to Ruth.
"May I read them, Flutey?" asked Ruth, as soon as she had peeped at the post marks.
Aunt Selina nodded, and Ruth tore open the one from the Blue Birds first, saying in an explanatory tone, "I like to leave the best for the last."
The Blue Birds had written her because they promised to do so, but there had not been time for anything of importance to happen, so Ruth laid aside their short note and took up her mother's letter. The first sentence made her gasp, and at the second, she giggled outright. Aunt Selina waited patiently to hear the news.
"Just think, Flutey, I didn't miss father, anyway—and just see all we have accomplished by my coming here to you! Mother writes that she had a telegram from father late Saturday night, saying the steamer was detained at quarantine on account of some suspects in the steerage who seemed to have symptoms of yellow fever. He is not sure when they will get off, but he will wire mother each day they are detained."
Aunt Selina nodded understandingly, and Ruth continued: "Wish you and I could be there to welcome father when he comes! Flutey, you are so well this morning, don't you think you could go with me in our automobile, if we traveled very carefully?"
Her aunt was so aghast at the proposition that she failed to answer, and Ruth continued, believing that she was thinking it over.
"You see, Flutey, we really need to get to the Blue Birds and mother to talk over this fine farm plan, and I am sure the visit will do you a heap of good, for I have heard folks say that a change is a great thing when you have been sick and tired of the same things about you."
Still Aunt Selina said not a word, so Ruth returned to her letter to read it aloud. As she did so, her aunt sent a covert glance at Sally's direction to see what effect Ruth's invitation had had upon the old servant. But Sally, the wise, appeared not to have overheard a word.
Later, as Ruth stood beside her aunt's rocker on the veranda, she again broached the subject.
"Flutey, the air is so warm and balmy like it always is in Indian summer, and our car is so comfy, you wouldn't know but what you were in an easy chair. I don't see why you can't come home with me."
"Fluff, do you know, that I could almost say 'Yes, I will go,' for I think I would like to see all of your little friends, but I really wouldn't know what to do with the house if I went away on a visit," said Aunt Selina.
"Goodness me! The house won't run away. What does it do when you are sick in bed and can't walk about to look after it? It can go on just the same when you are in Oakdale as when you are in bed," replied practical Ruth.
Never before had Aunt Selina been brought face to face with the fact that Sally was the actual manager. She began to feel a certain resentment against her faithful old servant, and then she thought what a relief it was to have someone upon whom she could depend.
"I never did ride in one of those machines, dearie. I have said that I never would. I always use my victoria, or coupe," she observed.
"You never rode in an automobile! Why, Flutey, you have the treat of your life waiting, then," exclaimed Ruth, surprised. "It only goes to show how careful we should be about saying things we are not sure of; now, you see, you are going to ride in an auto and so prove to yourself that you were wrong."
Ruth took for granted that the visit and method of traveling had been decided upon, and, after some more futile excuses, Aunt Selina was won over to considering going the next day if it were clear.
"But the sky looks cloudy, Fluff, and your mother may not spare the car to-morrow," she objected, making a last brave stand against the persistent little girl.
"Oh, no, those clouds are not rain clouds—they are wind and mother would borrow Mrs. Catlin's car if she had to go anywhere rather than disappoint me by not sending Ike with ours," replied Ruth, very certain of her mother's loving cooeperation.
"Well, I shall have to break the news to Sally and see if she can spare me for a few days," sighed her aunt, tingling with anticipation at the unusual event, but loath to forego the hope that her presence was necessary at home.
"I'll run and ask her to come here at once, so we can telegraph mother about the car," said Ruth, as she ran to call Sally.
One never had to go far to find Sally, for wherever Miss Selina was, there would Sally be found hovering about, also. Ruth caught hold of the plump brown hand and dragged her out to the piazza.
When the important question was put before her, Sally was diplomatic enough to stand considering whether the household could possibly be managed without the mistress. After some time, she said, "If it t'want dat dis wisit is jus' what you need to put you on yer feet, I would say, 'I don' see how we'all kin manage.' But, seein' dat all de fruit is dun up an' de fall house-cleanin' not yet due, I adwise you to be shore an' go an' fin' healin' in de change of air."
Aunt Selina was so pleased at Sally's answer that she told her to help Ruth telegraph at once for the car. Sally bowed and hurried away to the telephone where the message was sent to Greenfields to be wired to Mrs. Talmage.
The rest of the day was spent in pleasant excitement, with Ruth and her aunt wondering what to pack in the small steamer trunk, while the whole household felt the unusual stir of their mistress' going away for a visit.
That evening an answering telegram came saying that Ike would leave Oakdale at dawn in the morning so as to get to Happy Hills by noon. If they were ready to start back at once they could arrive at Mossy Glen before night set in.
Ruth was so joyous over the happy termination of her visit that she could hardly stand still long enough for Sally to tie her hair ribbon. As for Aunt Selina, she looked from her bedroom windows before retiring, anxiously scanning the sky for any possible rain clouds. She felt as excited as a child over its first journey away from home. Seeing the sky a deep blue with myriads of stars gleaming down at her, she smiled and turned out the light.
Ike arrived earlier than expected, for he made record time from Oakdale.
"Ike, do the Blue Birds know I'm coming?" she asked.
"Sure thing, Miss Ruth," replied Ike.
"And Ned—did he miss me?" queried the little girl.
"Master Ned, he went 'round like a bear wid a sore head. He was just lost without the head of the Blue Birds," grinned Ike.
"And mother—and Ike, father? Did father wonder why I left without seeing him," half-whispered Ruth.
Ike dropped his wrench and stood up.
"Why, Miss Ruth, I forgot to tell you! Mr. Ta'mage ain't home yet. A wire came late last night saying he expected to get off the boat to-day, so they are looking for him this noon."
"Oh, oh, Ike! how could you keep such grand news from me all this time!" exclaimed Ruth, racing indoors to tell her aunt.
When Ike said he was ready to start, Aunt Selina and Ruth were helped to the comfortable seat and robes were tucked in about them, while the servants stood in a semi-circle about the car, smiling and nodding good-byes.
Ike honked the siren for the benefit of the servants, then started the easy-running machine.
Aunt Selina felt so very comfortable that she admitted the fact to Ruth.
"I never knew these cars were so easy-riding."
After passing a stretch of bad road Ike put on more speed and Aunt Selina leaned forward to admonish him.
"Don't go fast enough to be dangerous! Are we going about eight miles an hour?"
Ike smiled to himself as he heard the question.
"We're travelin' a bit more than eight, ma'am. I s'pose you are 'customed to that speed from drivin' horses?"
"Yes, that's it. I never like to go faster than that rate, but you are not going too fast, yet. Be sure to slow up going around corners—we might run into someone," she returned, settling herself comfortably back in the robes.
Ike promised to be most careful, but dared not hint at the actual speed they were traveling, and would have to keep up, to enable them to reach Oakdale before night.
With the sun shining brightly, and the beautiful autumn coloring in the foliage, the journey was most enjoyable.
About six o'clock the car reached Mason's farm and Ruth told her aunt that there the first little city children lived all summer. Next, the car passed Betty's home, but no one was in sight, although Ruth watched for Betty to appear. Mrs. Catlin's beautiful home on the hill was pointed out to the interested old lady, and then Ike turned off of the main road and drove along the woodland road that ran by the swimming pool. Ruth told all about it, and hoped the Nest in the cherry-tree could be seen in the twilight.
Ike stopped under the old tree and Ruth spied all of the Blue Birds in the Nest. She jumped out to greet them and they ran down the steps to crowd about her. Aunt Selina was introduced and received a quaint little curtsey from each child. Then the children said good-night and Ike drove on to the house.
There, on the lower step, stood the long-looked-for father, and the moment Ruth saw him, she gave a cry of joy. Mrs. Talmage and Ned stood back in the shadow to enjoy Ruth's first sight of her father.
After the greetings were over, Aunt Selina was made to feel quite at home in the cheery library until dinner was announced. The travelers were too tired to dress for dinner, so they were soon seated about the table and the conversation naturally turned to Blue Bird talk.
Ruth went to bed soon after dinner, for the day had been tiresome, and Aunt Selina also felt the need of rest. She admitted that she enjoyed the trip very much, but her old bones felt the strain of the long day.
THE BLUE BIRDS' INSPIRATION
School was to re-open on Thursday, and the Blue Birds had but one day more of vacation in which to meet and plan for the Winter Nest. Of course, they could meet after school, or Saturdays, but it seemed more like a meeting to be able to have the whole day for planning.
By nine o'clock on Wednesday, therefore, they gathered in their Nest while Mrs. Talmage entertained Aunt Selina on the veranda with past doings of the children.
Mr. Talmage had to go to the city, and he said that Uncle Ben might come back with him for a few days' visit. Uncle Ben was his only brother, the one who had given Ned the printing outfit for a Christmas gift.
Ruth told the Blue Birds all about Happy Hills and Aunt Selina's plan for the city children.
"Now, how shall we manage to find the children that will need the country next summer?" asked Ruth.
"Did your aunt say who would look after so many children?" asked Norma.
"No, that is one of the things we shall have to talk over. We only got as far as deciding that the farm was great!" said Ruth.
"Indeed, it is a fine offer," said several little girls.
"I think we will have to get the opinion of the grown-ups about the whole plan," ventured Betty.
"Mrs. Talmage and Miss Selina are on the porch now—let's run over and ask them what they have thought of," suggested Edith.
As the others were of the same mind the Nest was deserted. Upon reaching the veranda, the Blue Birds were pleased to see that Mrs. Catlin was sitting there with the other ladies. As Mrs. Catlin was a powerful ally, she was always welcome when planning was to be done.
While the group on the piazza was deeply concerned talking over winter work and next summer's plans, Ned came out of the house and went down the woodland path toward the Starrs' home.
Meredith Starr and his chum, Jinks, were under an old apple-tree in the garden orchard, and Ned joined them.
"Aunt Selina's at the house, and what do you think?"
Meredith and Jinks shook their heads and Ned continued solemnly, "She's given Happy Hills to the Blue Birds for their poor children next summer."
"She has! My goodness, but they will have more than they can look after if they ever accepted such a place," cried Jinks.
"Oh, they accepted it, all right! They're just crazy about it. But the grown-ups will have to help it along. I suppose they'll have to have so much printing done that we'll be out of it after this winter," complained Ned.
"If you think that why can't we have some organization of our own?" asked Meredith.
"Yes! why wait to be invited out of the way by the Blue Birds? Get some club of our own going, and surprise them if they find us in the way," added Jinks.
"Oh, it takes a grown-up to help along such things?" objected Ned. "Why, where do you suppose these girls would have been if it hadn't been for mother's ideas and help?"
"I guess you're right," admitted the other boys, rolling over in the grass again, whence they had popped up their heads at Meredith's suggestion.
After a few moments' silence, however, Meredith sat up again and said tenaciously: "I don't see why we can't! Daddum would help us with his advice and your father, too, Ned. Jinks hasn't any grown-ups, but he can get some of the fathers of the Blue Birds interested in us."
"What could we do, or where would we start?" asked Ned.
"Well, first of all, don't let's call it 'The Owls!' That name may be all right for the editor of a paper, but I don't like it for a club," complained Meredith.
"We need a name that will sound so respectable that every mother will consent to having her boy join us," said Ned.
"We might call it 'Junior Boy Scouts,'" suggested Jinks.
"Then everyone'll expect us to do just as the Boy Scouts do, and the fact is we won't! We will have a sort of club for boys under twelve for the purpose of having a nice time, and helping them with their work or suggesting plans for outdoor sports," said Ned.
"If we could think of some name that would appeal to the mothers who are so interested in the Blue Birds!" said Jinks.
After many names had been laughed down, Meredith said, "Why not call ourselves 'The B. B. Club.' Everyone likes a secret society and the mothers can believe we are so fond of the Blue Birds that we wanted to keep their name for ourselves."
"Oh, but they will think we had to steal their name for want of finding one for ourselves," scorned Ned.
"Well, if you can find anything better, tell it!" exclaimed Meredith, vexed at his friend's laughter.
Just then, Jim, the handy man about Oakwood, joined the boys. He saw some signs of trouble and asked what they were doing.
Ned explained about Miss Selina and the Blue Birds, and his plan for the younger boys. Jim pondered for a few moments and then muttered, "Is there any bird you know that goes by those same initials—'B. B.'?"
Ned thought rapidly for a few minutes, then said, "Blue Jay, no, not that—Black Bird!"
"Bull Finch!" replied Jinks, laughing.
"Neither! What bird whistles like this?" and Jim imitated so naturally the notes of the Bobolink that the boys knew.
"Ho! Bobolink, eh?" shouted Ned, slapping Jim on the back.
"Where would the 'B. B.' come in on that?" asked Jinks.
"Would you divide it like 'Bo-Bolink'?" asked Meredith.
"Sure not! Just plain 'Bobolink Boys' to offset the Blue Bird Girls," answered Jim, as he rose to go on toward the barns.
"Hurrah, Jim! I think you're a life-saver," cried Ned.
"Three cheers for the god-father of the Bobolink Boys!" shouted Jinks, while the others cheered Jim.
"There's Don and another little chap—try the name on them and see what they say," suggested Jim, pointing toward the front driveway where two boys of about ten years could be seen.
"That's right. We'll see what they think of it all," returned Meredith, rising to whistle through his fingers to attract the boys' attention.
Immediately upon hearing the shrill call from his brother, Don turned in the direction of the apple orchard. As the two lads ran up, Ned constituted himself chief counsel.
"Don, how old are you?" was the first question.
"Nine, goin' on ten. Why?" answered Don.
"How old is your friend?" was the next question.
"I'm ten next month," replied the little fellow.
"What's your name?" asked Ned.
"Tuck. That is what everyone calls me, but the name they gave me when I was too little to know better, was awful—it's Reuben Wales. Just because my great grandfather had it, they made me take it, too." And poor little Tuck felt very much abused.
"Never mind, Tuck," laughed Ned, while the other boys rolled over in the grass to smother their laughter.
"I don't most of the time, but when someone has to know the real end of my name, I feel dreadful about it."
"Well, Tuck, we are planning a club for you boys and you can choose a new name if you join," consoled Jinks.
"What's the game, Jinks?" asked Don, eagerly.
"We hope to form an organization for boys under twelve to be known as Bobolink Boys," explained Meredith.
"What for—to build nests and then sew doll clothes, or make paper furniture?" growled Don, who had been greatly offended to think that his twin sister Dot would leave him for the Blue Birds.
The older boys who understood his attitude and its cause, laughed, but Meredith explained more fully.
"Just for the sake of having fine times and getting something going for the boys so the girls won't run the whole town. If we start a movement called Bobolinks we can demand help from the grown-ups just as the girls have done. We can manage to do something as big as the Blue Birds ever did, besides having our outings and games at a club-room."
"That sounds fine," ventured Tuck.
"Fine! Why, there's my hand on it, Mete!" declared Don, as he thrust a grimy little hand under his brother's nose.
Ned and Jinks laughed as Meredith looked doubtfully at Don's hand before accepting it as a pledge.
"What'll we do first?" asked Don, eager to begin.
"Tuck and you must ask as many nice boys as you know if they would like to join a club, and tell them what for," replied Ned.
"How many can we ask?" questioned Tuck.
"Oh, about thirty, I guess. I can take charge of one Nest, Jinks of another, and Mete of another," said Ned.
"All right, we're in for it," cried Don.
"We'll report to-morrow afternoon—where?" asked Tuck.
"Better say at Jim's cottage—up by the barn."
The two younger boys ran away to seek members and the other boys looked at each other.
"Quick work, eh? We're in for it now, so we'd better get some plans going," laughed Meredith.
"We'd better go to your room and figure things out on paper," advised Ned.
So the three boys who started the Bobolink Boys went to the house and locked themselves in Meredith's den to make plans for the organization.
In the meantime, the Blue Birds had joined the ladies on the Talmage veranda and their conversation turned to the work to be done that winter.
"I wonder where Ned went," said Mrs. Talmage as Ruth drew a low stool to her mother's side.
"He went over to my house to see Mete," replied Dot Starr. "Shall I go and bring him back?"
"Oh, no, it can wait. I just wanted him to hear some of our plans so he could print it in the next paper," said Mrs. Talmage. Then she turned to the others.
"You see, Blue Birds, since Aunt Selina joined our ranks and proffered Happy Hills for next summer's use, it gives us an entirely new incentive for work. We had rather expected to take matters easy this winter, for school does not leave much time for other work. But we have afternoons and Saturdays."
"And Wednesdays, too, Mrs. Talmage! We all get out at two o'clock Wednesdays, you know," added Norma.
"If I could skip music that day, I could have a long afternoon with you," said May, hopefully.
"Well, if anyone who has studies at home for Wednesdays, could arrange to attend to them at another time, we could have every Wednesday afternoon for a regular meeting, too," admitted Mrs. Talmage.
Miss Selina was so interested in the children that she smiled when they did, and puckered her brow into a frown when they did. Mrs. Catlin amused herself watching the old lady and almost rocked off the steps in her enjoyment.
"One thing we must discuss to-day is a suitable nest for winter. We cannot occupy the one in the cherry tree much longer, for it is growing windy and cool. Then, too, there must be some home-work planned for each one to report at our meetings," said Mrs. Talmage.
"Won't there be any benefits or bazaars?" asked Ruth, who had visions of fun in the school-house assembly room.
"We will have to earn money in some manner to help the poor children, but that will have to be discussed later," replied Mrs. Talmage.
After an hour's discussion, Mrs. Catlin left with the parting injunction, "Call upon me for anything—I will be on hand."
Late in the afternoon Mr. Talmage returned with his brother who was the editor of a prominent magazine in New York. The Blue Birds had gone, and Ruth welcomed her uncle whose visits were always a source of pleasure to Ned and herself.
He sat down on the steps beside her and listened to her story of the wonderful work Ned's printing press had done that summer, and of the work required of it for the coming summer. Uncle Ben smiled as he listened.
"Ned will be walking in my footsteps soon, won't he?" said Uncle Ben, as Ruth concluded.
Before Ruth could reply her mother came out to welcome the visitor and tell him of Aunt Selina's presence.
"Aunt Selina! You don't say so! Why, I haven't seen her since my graduation from college," remarked Uncle Ben, in pleased surprise.
"She is in her room dressing for dinner," said Mrs. Talmage. "You will find a great change working in her. Why, just think of her offer of Happy Hills for the poor children next summer." And she proceeded to tell the story of Aunt Selina's desire to help the Blue Bird work.
"Now that Uncle Ben is here, maybe he can help us plan some way to earn the money for next summer," suggested Ruth.
"I believe you can! What we need is to find some way of reaching the right children, and then to start some work that will bring us in a regular income during the winter, for it will take a heap of money to run a large place like Happy Hills with several hundred starved little children living there," admitted Mrs. Talmage.
"As a man who is so mixed up in publishing, you would naturally expect me to know some way out of your troubles, eh?" laughed Uncle Ben. "Well, well, let me think it out."
At that moment the dinner bell rang and no further opportunity was given for discussing ways and means.
So absorbing was the theme, however, that talk soon drifted around to the subject of farms, work and plans.
"You can get a list of names of poor children at the Bureau of Charity," said Uncle Ben.
"That only records names of families who will apply for assistance; but the ones like the Ferris family, never are heard from in this way. Those are the children we want," said Mrs. Talmage.
"When I return to the city I will see if there is any way of getting a list like you want. As for institutions—you can find all of the asylums and homes in the New York Directory. From them you can select numbers of crippled or sick children," suggested Uncle Ben.
"Ben, do you believe circulars are a good means of letting people know what you want?" asked Mrs. Talmage.
"I can't say that I do. In my experience I have found that a circular letter meets the same end as an undesirable advertisement. Most of them are thrown into the waste basket."
"We need philanthropic women to help us next summer. Mrs. Starr offered me her woods at Oakwood if her family goes to Maine, and Mrs. Catlin wishes to rent the Mason farm for children. So now, with Happy Hills on our list, we will need just the right kind who will love the work with us," said Mrs. Talmage.
"Better send someone to visit the women you hear about," advised Mr. Talmage.
"But I need to find the women first," returned Mrs. Talmage, plaintively.
"What's the matter with the Chirp? Can't we print a story in that and mail it to a list of folks in New York?" asked Ned.
"That sounds good to me! I should say the Chirp would do the work better than a letter or circular," said Uncle Ben.
"Yes, it does seem like a fine suggestion," admitted Mrs. Talmage. "We will talk it over this evening, Ned."
"Why, when the Chirp comes to my office," said Uncle Ben, "I generally drop all of my important work until I see what new scheme the children have worked up. I sit back and enjoy every word there."
"Maybe that is because your nephew edits it—sort of family pride in one who is following in your footsteps," teased Mr. Talmage.
"Not a bit of it! It is because the lad is original enough to fill a gap, and persistent enough to keep a good thing going. I haven't the least idea but that the Blue Birds would never have been heard of outside of their little Nest if it hadn't been for Ned and his Chirp," commended Uncle Ben.
"We are all certain of that," assented Mrs. Talmage.
"And we are very grateful to Ned for all he has done to help us along," added Ruth, smiling at her proud brother.
"Mother, you said you wanted to speak to Uncle Ben after dinner, but may I have him alone for a few moments before you get hold of him?" asked Ned, in a worried manner, as if Uncle Ben would be used up if the ladies talked to him first.
Everyone laughed, and Mrs. Talmage said, "Why, certainly, Son, if Uncle Ben is courageous enough to trust himself to your hands."
"I'm shaking in my boots already," said Uncle Ben, "for I'm sure some dark plot will be uncovered."
"Just wait and see!" laughed Ned, as he excused himself and ran to his den.
As the rest of the family rose to leave the table, Uncle Ben said in an aside to Mr. Talmage, "I believe that this farm idea will require a regular organization to take proper charge of its affairs. Just a few ladies and children cannot handle so important a task."
"I think you are right, Ben," said Mr. Talmage.
Ned was waiting for his uncle as he came down the hall, and catching hold of his hand, dragged him into his sanctum where the Chirp was printed each week.
Uncle Ben sat down in the one arm-chair and waited while Ned locked the door and pulled down every window shade.
"This is a great secret, you know," explained Ned.
THE BOBOLINK BOYS FOUNDED
"Now, Uncle Ben, we can make ourselves at home," said Ned, as he sat upon a box in front of his uncle.
"Oh, maybe you'd like to smoke, Uncle Ben?" continued Ned, recalling that most men liked an after-dinner smoke. "I shall never use tobacco myself, because I have studied just what effects it has on one's system, but I won't object to your smoking if you wish."
Uncle Ben threw back his head and laughed uproariously.
"Does that mean that you will sit calmly by and see me ruin my health with tobacco, and not interfere?" laughed he.
"Oh, no, you know I didn't mean it that way, although it did sound funny, didn't it?" replied Ned.
"Well, Son, I never smoke, either. I believe a man is a better thinker and cooler business man without it," said Uncle Ben. "But, tell me, what is the tremendous secret that made you lock the door and pull the blinds?"
"Here it is," whispered Ned, leaning over toward his uncle. "You see, when the Blue Birds started, I hadn't a thing to do, because the Starr boys were at camp and many of the other boys away with their families; so I undertook to print the Chirp for the girls. I liked it, too. But they are planning so much for next summer that it will take a regular printer to turn out their work. Their organization freezes out the boys, yet we helped in every way this summer."
Uncle Ben nodded comprehendingly.
"Well, this afternoon, we boys got together and said, 'What's to hinder us from getting up a club for boys under twelve?' We all thought it would be great, so we started, and have the name, but not the plans. What do you think of it?" asked Ned.
"You haven't told me enough about it to judge," replied Uncle Ben. "Have you founded the club for any purpose?"
"Oh, yes! We will gather all the little chaps under twelve years of age into one organization, and take them on hikes, teach them work, play games, and do other things," said Ned.
"And the name of this?"
"We thought that Bobolink Boys—B. B., you see—would be great as the initials stand for Blue Birds, too. Of course, we won't sew dolls' clothes, or bake cakes, but we will help the Blue Birds whenever we can, or be independent if we wish. The girls wear bird uniforms, but the boys will wear jumpers of a certain color, with stripes for grade. We haven't gone any further. Our first meeting was held in Starr's orchard this afternoon," grinned Ned.
Uncle Ben sat thinking very seriously for a long time, then he asked, "What about the Chirp? Drop it?"
"Oh, no! That's one reason we want something of our own to back us up. We can all help print the Chirp, and with the little boys to deliver them, or run errands, it will be easier for all of us. Then, if the girls get up some bazaar, or entertainment and we have to print cards, etc., it will be much easier."
"Then your plan is more for cooeperation than competition?" asked Uncle Ben.
"Cooperation in everything a boy can help in, but not to belong to a Nest that has to do things the Blue Birds do," explained Ned.
Uncle Ben sat wrapped in thought, and Ned wondered what he was thinking of. Suddenly, the older man slapped his knee and chuckled with delight.
"Now what, Uncle? I know it is something good, from your face!" exclaimed Ned, eagerly.
"Yes, sir. I believe we can pull it off—we'll try, at any rate!" declared Uncle Ben, half to himself.
"Do tell me!" begged Ned.
"Ned, did you ever see our magazine come out? I mean did I ever show you over the whole plant, and show you what work it takes to produce a nice little paper book each month?"
"Once, when father and I were at your office, you took me over the place. I told you then that I wanted to be a publisher, and you laughed and promised to start me on the right track when I was a man. Last winter you sent me the printing press and told me to practice," said Ned.
"Yes, I know, but I wanted to see if you remembered. Now, I think I have a plan that will go a long way toward giving you elementary experience in publishing, and at the same time provide just what your Bobolinks would like to do. It will help the Blue Birds along for next summer, and keep them busy to prevent the Bobolinks from making all the music." And Uncle Ben slapped his knee again, laughing as he thought of how the boys would unconsciously start a race between the two—Blue Birds and Bobolinks.
"I wish you'd tell me your idea!" coaxed Ned, impatiently.
"I haven't it all in shape to explain, yet, but I will hammer it together in some way to tell you to-morrow. Where do you boys expect to meet at your weekly, or daily meetings?" asked Uncle Ben.
"If there are but a few, I thought we could meet in this den of mine. But later, if there is a crowd, we might secure the Y. M. C. A. boys' room, or the reception room of the school," replied Ned.
"By Thanksgiving time you ought to be in working trim to assume any large work I might think of, eh?" asked Uncle Ben.
"Oh, surely! Long before Thanksgiving, I should think."
"Now, don't be too sure. Boys are just as hard to muster and understand as girls, and the plan that suddenly suggested itself for you boys to try out is a secret ambition that I have nursed ever since I went into the publishing business—and that was over twenty-five years ago. I have never had time to take it up alone, and never found anyone to whom I could trust so precious a hobby. I see how this combination of Blue Birds and Bobolinks might bring the idea to success, but I shall have to think it over before speaking further," explained Uncle Ben.
"Uncle, I surely am grateful for your confidence, and I shall be glad to know when you can tell us all," said Ned.
"I wish to talk the matter over with your father first, but you may call together some of the boys to-morrow afternoon and I will talk with them to see how many are willing and able to help."
"Well, I suppose I must wait, but I did hope we could organize our boys to-morrow at recess," said Ned, with an air of disappointment.
"What's to hinder your doing it?" asked Uncle Ben.
"How—until we know what we're going to do?"
"Oh, just make your plans broad enough to take in any ideas that come along," responded Uncle Ben, rising to go.
That night after everyone had retired, Uncle Ben took Mr. Talmage down the drive toward the woods. As they walked slowly along in the bright moonlight, they discussed various plans suggested by the ladies of the Blue Bird society. Uncle Ben led up, quite naturally, to the new organization of Bobolinks.
"Al, those boys are wide awake, all right! If we were to give them a boost now and then, there is no saying how great a philanthropic success this undertaking may be. It may grow so far out of Oakdale limits that the whole world may take part in it. I, for one, have decided to lend my support and see what comes of it," said Uncle Ben, seriously.
"Great Scott! Ben; you must be interested; I haven't seen you so enthusiastic over anything in years," laughed Mr. Talmage.
"You know how interested I have always been in the publishing work—even as a boy, like Ned is now. Well, one thing you, and no one else, ever did know, was the hope of being able some day to circulate a model magazine for children. I have known for years that the little souls craved something more than the wishy-washy stuff that is given them in the name of 'juvenile reading'—Heaven forgive the criminals! Why, our little ones of to-day are as wide awake as grown-ups, and they demand—unconsciously, perhaps—the same strong quality of bread and meat reading as adults have been digesting of late years. Educational, adventurous, interesting, work-a-day reading! But the books and magazines in the main have not advanced to meet the demand for better children's literature. I have long dreamed of just what I would like to give the children of to-day." And Uncle Ben lapsed into silence.
"I never gave the subject much thought, but I suppose you are right, Ben," admitted Mr. Talmage.
"That's just it!" cried Uncle Ben, excitedly. "No one ever stops to think about it, but keeps right on filling the minds of their children with stuff that never benefits them a particle. How many boys of to-day want to read 'Mother's Brave Little Man,' or 'Jerry the Newsboy'? Bosh! Boys of to-day want 'True Tales of an Indian Trapper,' or 'Boy Scout Adventures,' or good clean stories—school life, or outdoor sports. It's LIFE and HEALTH they want."
"Guess you're right, Ben," said Mr. Talmage, smiling at his brother's denunciation of present-day literature for children.
"All right, then! Help me bring about a reform in this line. I have studied this problem from every point of view and I really believe that the growing youth of to-day would not acquire bad habits so readily if they were given some occupation that would thoroughly interest them. It's worth trying, at any rate. Let's fill them with some great plan or ambition and see how many children will fall into the snares and pitfalls of the past!"
Uncle Ben so inspired his brother with his enthusiasm that he, too, declared he would do all he could to help.
"Here's a few women who accomplished wonders this summer with the little girls. We have a crowd of boys wasting their time day by day for want of something interesting to do. Let the fathers follow the mothers' example and help their boys band together for some good cause!" said Uncle Ben.
"We'll get the men together and propose it—they'll see the value of the suggestion, just as I have," promised Mr. Talmage.
"Well, Al, now that you're interested, I have an especially fine plum to drop into your hands. Your own son was the one to start an organization of boys and name it Bobolink Boys."
"My Ned!" exclaimed Mr. Talmage, joyfully. "That makes me very happy!"
"That is what he wished to tell me when we went to his den. He has organized a club for boys under twelve, just as the Blue Birds have done for girls, and the initials are the same—B. B.;—also, they wish to cooperate with the girls, whenever possible," explained Uncle Ben.
"Well, well!" ejaculated Mr. Talmage, smiling to himself.
"When I heard Ned outline his plan I decided to encourage the movement if possible by confiding my pet plan to them to experiment on," said Uncle Ben.
"When the fathers hear of this they will be as happy as I am. The problem of keeping a boy actively engaged in some uplifting work is a sufficient one. Ned and you seem to have solved it for Oakdale," admitted Mr. Talmage.
"Think so! Then you get busy and gather the fathers together to-morrow night for a conference. We will see how many will agree to help along the work. I will donate all of my ideas accumulated during the past years."
"I'll telephone everyone I know the first thing in the morning. Where shall we meet—in the library?" asked Mr. Talmage.
"Yes, and if there are too many of us we will have to adjourn to a larger place," said Uncle Ben.
Before breakfast the next morning the Starrs' telephone rang, and Mr. Starr was informed that he was wanted at a meeting to be held in Talmage's library that night. Meredith and Donald knew nothing of Uncle Ben's talk with Mr. Talmage, but they felt sure the meeting had something to do with their plans.
Mr. Wells and Mr. Stevens were the next ones to be invited to the meeting, and after that a score or more of fathers were invited.
Uncle Ben, who had hoped to take a few days' rest in his brother's quiet country home, found himself very busy in working out his idea so that it could be simply presented to the meeting of boys and men. He spent the entire morning in jotting down ideas as they came to him.
Luncheon over, Ned caught Uncle Ben's hand and said, "You haven't forgotten the date we made, have you?"
"You wouldn't think so if you had seen me working all morning," complained Uncle Ben.
"That's all right then; we boys will meet you in the big empty carriage house this afternoon at three-thirty," nodded Ned.
"I'll be there!" laughed Uncle Ben, as Ned ran off.
The big room in the carriage house had not been used since the garage had been built.
Ned and Ike found some chairs in the store-room, and Simon provided several empty boxes. Long planks were placed across the boxes, making very good benches for the boys to sit upon. A large packing case stood a few feet in front of the benches to be used as the speaker's stand.
At three-thirty every boy who had expressed a desire to join the Bobolinks was there with expectant looks. Uncle Ben soon arrived and took a seat by the large box. He spread his papers out in front of him in a very business-like way.
"Boys, I will go straight to the business under consideration this afternoon," said Uncle Ben, standing up the better to impress his audience.
"I think the first thing to do is to appoint a secretary."
Ned was selected, so he sat down behind the packing case to jot down his notes.
"Have you boys formed any kind of an organization?" asked Uncle Ben, turning to Ned.
"No, sir, not yet," replied Ned.
"Then let us attend to that now. You must have officers, and rules and by-laws for governing the boys and meetings. Now, I should suggest that we begin properly, and hold an election of officers."
Uncle Ben then told them the proper way to proceed, and the boys were greatly impressed with the importance of what they were doing. When the election was completed, Ned had been chosen President, Meredith Treasurer and Jinks Secretary.
"Now," said Uncle Ben, "with your permission I will preside at this meeting, instead of your new President. I will read to you what I have written on this paper:
"First: The undersigned have met together to form an organization to be known as Bobolink Boys.
"Second: The purpose of this organization is to provide a club for boys under twelve years of age, that will plan healthful sport, social meetings, and assist the Blue Birds in their work and play.
"Third: Meetings shall be arranged for by vote of members, and all other important matters shall be discussed and decided upon at these meetings.
"Fourth: An initiation fee of ten cents shall be charged each boy desiring to become a member of the Bobolinks, and dues of five cents a month shall be collected from every member. Should any member find it impossible to pay these costs he may be discharged from the obligation by filing an acceptable excuse with the treasurer.
"Fifth: A bank account shall be opened at the Oakdale National Bank and all funds deposited there. All bills must be paid by check signed by the treasurer and secretary.
"Sixth: Any member found deliberately breaking any of the rules and by-laws shall be expelled from the organization, after a meeting held to investigate the misdemeanor."
Uncle Ben looked up from the paper and said,
"Is that the plan of organization that you boys feel will cover what you want?"
"Oh, yes, that's fine!" cried several boys.
The others still felt too over-awed at the business-like terms just heard, to make any sign, favorable or otherwise.
"Well, if this paper is acceptable a motion to make it official will be received. I want to get to the principal thing for which we have gathered," said Uncle Ben.
"Now, I shall make some suggestions," continued Uncle Ben, after the outline had been accepted by a vote. "Are there any boys here who do not wish to become members?"
All of the twenty-three boys wished to become Bobolinks.
"Are there any boys present who cannot pay the initial fee and regular dues?" continued Uncle Ben.
None thought this impossible.
"After this you write down the names and addresses of every boy who applies for membership."
Ned made a note of it in his book.
"Now for a catechism: This is very important," said Uncle Ben, looking about at the boys. "And answer truthfully!"
"Ever play hookey?"
"Ever strike anyone weaker than yourself?"
"I noticed that most of the boys smiled when I said 'hookey,'" ventured Uncle Ben, critically. "But let me tell you! 'Hookey' is an innocent-looking vice that leads to great trouble. It is the seed of being unreliable. A man who is unreliable is a failure in the beginning. So, boys, beware of 'hookey'!"
The boys felt the serious import of the words and each vowed to forego the delight in playing hookey when fishing was good, or when baseball was being played in town ten miles away.
"Have any of you boys ever been in a printing plant and watched the process of turning out papers?" asked Uncle Ben.
Almost every boy raised his hand instantly in answer to this question, for what boy had not stood at the village printer's yearning to set type or run one of the fascinating presses?
"Fine!" smiled Uncle Ben. "And now how many can set type or do small jobs on the press?"
Very few could do this, but the Starr boys and Jinks often helped Ned with printing the Chirp on his small press, and a few other boys knew something of the work.
"Well, I'll have to explain to you what kind of work is required of a firm that prints papers or publishes a magazine. You may think this has nothing to do with your organization, but you will soon see," said Uncle Ben.
As the speaker turned to take up several sheets of paper, a noisy chatter was heard outside the house and in another moment all of the Blue Birds, accompanied by Mr. and Mrs. Talmage, Mrs. Catlin, and Miss Selina, entered the room.
"In passing, we heard the harangue going on in here, and found out from Mr. Talmage that a secret meeting was under way. We would love to hear the motive and perhaps suggest an idea now and then," laughingly said Mrs. Talmage.
The Bobolinks looked at each other, and Uncle Ben said, "Members, shall these intruders be ejected, or shall this organization extend the first courtesy to one we hope to assist in the future?"
The boys giggled, for the manner of presenting the case appealed to every one of them, and eliminated any feeling of intrusion from the Blue Birds.
"One item to be written in our by-laws must be: 'Consider the ladies first,'" announced Ned, standing.
"The visitors are welcome!" said Uncle Ben, making a ceremonious bow.
"But please remember, visitors, this is a business meeting, not a social function, so I must ask the ladies to find their own seats and not disturb the gentlemen," said Mr. Talmage.
The ladies were soon seated in a corner where Ike placed some boxes, and the Blue Birds squatted upon carriage robes spread out on the floor by Simon. When all was orderly again, Uncle Ben proceeded with his discourse.
UNCLE BEN'S BUSINESS TALK
"Ladies and gentlemen!" said Uncle Ben, bowing politely to each group; "You may not know that I have always had one hobby—something like my nephew here—and that is still, printing. My present position as editor of a magazine does not satisfy my craving for the printer's workshop, but it is as near as I can come to it, so I have bided my time until an opportunity like the present one offers.
"Before I confide to you what the present offer is, I wish to explain somewhat the working of a magazine plant. I believe it is necessary to tell you how much hard work is attached to the business, and some of the enjoyments when the magazine is ready to go out.
"The first thing is to have the right kind of a story, or article. To find this it is necessary to read many, many manuscripts. We employ 'readers' for this work of selecting what we can use. The manuscripts we cannot use are returned to the writers. After the first reader passes on a story, another reader goes over it, and if it seems suitable, it is handed to the editor. The editor decides whether or not to accept it. If accepted, he has to go over it very carefully. Sometimes words are changed, lines inserted, or whole paragraphs cut out.
"If the story needs illustrating an artist is sent for. If a soft-toned illustration is desired, the artist makes a 'wash drawing'—meaning a black and white painting done with brushes, as in a water color. The 'wash drawing' is then sent to the engravers and a 'half-tone' plate made for use in the magazine. 'Half-tones' are made of copper sheets with the picture photographed upon them.
"Sometimes we want an outline to illustrate the story. A pen and ink sketch is required for this, and is made about twice as large as it will appear in the magazine. This is reproduced on a zinc plate, and is called a 'line cut.'
"Then the story is given to the linotypers. A linotype machine is very interesting. It has a key-board almost like a typewriter. When a letter is struck on the board, a piece of brass containing the impression of that letter moves into place just like a soldier starting to form a line. When the next letter is struck, the corresponding brass soldier hurries into place beside the first one. This continues until a whole line has been 'set.' Then the operator touches a lever, the line of brass pieces moves to a new position, and molten type-metal is poured into the mold which the brass pieces help to form. The lead at once hardens, and the whole line is ready for printing, in one solid piece. All of this is done very fast—much faster than I can tell you about it. It is hard to believe that a machine can do all these things so quickly and so accurately.
"When the linotype work is completed the printer places the lines of type on a 'galley.' Then the type is covered with ink, a piece of paper is laid on, and a heavy roller passed over it. This impression is called the 'galley proof.' If the linotyper has made any mistakes in spelling or printing, they have to be corrected.
"After the 'galley proofs' are corrected, the dummy—a blank-page book just the size the magazine will be—is made.
"Before us, are all the pictures and reading matter to be used. These are arranged and pasted into the dummy in the order in which they are to be printed. Sometimes a page has a little space left at the bottom, and this must be filled with a neat ornament or a verse. Sometimes an article is too long, and then it must be cut down and made to fit the allotted space.
"Thus, the whole magazine is 'dummied' with pages of cut-up galley proofs and picture proofs, until it looks more like a child's scrap book than a magazine model.
"This dummy goes back to the printer, who picks out the galley-type and measures it off to compare with the pages of the dummy. This done, he places the type in a form the size of the page, places the numeral of the page at the top or bottom, with the name of the magazine at the top—this is known as the 'running head,' as it runs along the top of each page throughout the book.
"The printer next makes a page proof. That is, he makes a proof of each page. These pages are sent into the editorial room again, and are gone over carefully and compared with the galley proofs; if everything is correct each page is 'O.K'd.' If, however, there are errors, note is made of it in the margin on the page proof.
"When all the pages are 'O.K'd.' the page forms are 'locked up' together, sixteen, thirty-two or sixty-four, in one big form, and arranged so that when the sheet of paper is printed and folded, the pages will come in the right order."
So Uncle Ben continued his talk about magazine making. He explained the workings of different kinds of printing presses, how some print directly from the type "made ready" on a flat bed, the paper being fed into the press in flat sheets, and how some of the big presses print from curved plates that fit around a big roller, the paper running into the press continuously from an immense big roll as wide as the press. He told about the wonderful folding and stitching machines, and many other interesting things.
During Uncle Ben's talk, everyone had been so interested that not a sound was heard. When he concluded, however, the tension relaxed and his audience began asking questions.
"This is most instructive, but I can't see where it helps the Bobolink Boys in their organization," said Mr. Talmage, quizzically.
At mention of the name "Bobolink Boys" the Blue Birds looked at each other, and then at their elders for information.
Uncle Ben saw their wonderment, and laughingly explained the plot. The girls were delighted, and had so much to say to one another that it seemed as if no further business could be attended to that day.
Uncle Ben, however, rapped loudly upon the box.
"We have many important things to attend to," he said, "and all are requested to sit still and listen. I am going back to New York in a few days, and in the meantime I should like to help start the boys on the right road to success. Now, what you all want to know is, 'How does my talk about magazines help the Bobolink Boys?'
"Well, this is the way: For the past half-score of years or more, I have longed to issue a magazine for young folks that could reach out into every plane of life; for the poor children in institutions; for the slum children; for rich children, for children in the city and children in the country—for every one of them!
"I would like to give so much instructive reading matter on its pages that the schools will circulate it among the pupils; I would like to have the pictures of the very best; I would like it to inspire boys and girls to read better books, and make them ambitious to make the most of their chances; I would like it to teach them to make things and do things for themselves; in fact, I would like to make it the best and finest magazine ever published! But I haven't had time to experiment with my hobby and being an old bachelor I am afraid I do not understand children well enough to know how to write for them. The plan that I have been figuring out seems to fit most beautifully with the Blue Birds' and Bobolinks' work."
Uncle Ben hesitated a second, but not a sound was heard. Then he continued:
"Mother Talmage asked me last night about how much it would cost to send circulars to people who might be interested in the farms next summer. I propose that we start a children's magazine and use its pages whenever there is an announcement of importance. If you want donations of money or help of other kinds, ask for them through the pages of the magazine.
"With the Blue Birds to write articles each month telling other children what they are doing, or how to make the things they are being taught to make, and the Bobolink Boys to write the experiences of their daily work and play, and some of the grown-ups to contribute poems and stories, of course it would be necessary to have contributions also from some of our best writers, and I know I can get them for you."
The idea of such a stupendous undertaking made the children gasp, but Mr. Talmage said, "All you have said is fine, Uncle Ben, but who will set type, buy paper, print, bind and circulate such a magazine?"
"That's just the thing! Don't you see? My very great interest in this plan will compel me to help in every way and all the time, and the boys will be kept busy at profitable and interesting work. When all the manuscript is in, and turned over to me I will see that it is set, and the proofs sent back to the children. The Blue Birds will enjoy making the dummies, pasting in the pictures, and arranging the pages; and the Bobolinks can proceed to print the magazines. If you don't expect to use this carriage house for anything it may as well be turned into a print-shop. With all these boys to work, the printing ought to be great sport and not much trouble to get out a magazine."
The Blue Birds were clapping their hands in excitement while the Bobolinks jumped up, and in their eagerness, crowded about Uncle Ben, overwhelming him with so many questions that he was quite overcome.
Then Miss Selina stood up in the road-wagon, and after silencing the noisy crowd, made an announcement.
"I'll pay for the paper that will be needed for the experiment the first month!"
"Hurrah, hurrah! for Aunt Selina!" shouted Uncle Ben, and the rest joined in with such good will that Aunt Selina sat down and held her hands over her ears.
"I'll pay postage on a sample issue!" called Mrs. Catlin.
Again the joyous young publishers-to-be burst forth into cheers.
"What can I pay for?" laughed Mrs. Talmage.
"You'll soon find that you are paying the heaviest tax of all in overseeing the publishers," replied Uncle Ben.
"How soon can we start?" demanded the Bobolinks.
"What shall we write?" asked the Blue Birds.
Uncle Ben raised both hands for silence, and as soon as order was restored again, he spoke.
"We have just installed new machines in our printing plant in New York and intend selling the old ones to some small job printer who can use second-hand machines. Now, I can pick out a small press, stitcher, and other things that you will need, and ship them out here. You have electricity here, and a small motor will furnish the power. When you are ready to go to press, I will send out an experienced man from our shop to direct the work and see that everything is done properly. The addressing and wrapping can be done by all of you. Of course, as far as we have gone, it all sounds like great sport, but there is another side to this plan that must be thoroughly agreed upon before we go any further. If you start this undertaking, you will have to keep on with it. At a certain date each month your periodical must be ready for mailing. You will have to write and edit, and print, whether the skating is fine, or the gymnasium is at your disposal, or whether Thanksgiving dinner makes you feel lazy, or a toothache keeps you awake all night. Publishing work is very interesting, most instructive, and profitable, but it is work, work, work, and not all play!"
"Oh, we know that, Uncle Ben," said Ned. "And we'll promise to take all of the consequences that go with the game."
The other boys seconded Ned's statement, and the Blue Birds eagerly agreed to the plan, so Uncle Ben really had no further objections to make.
"Oh, I can hardly wait to begin my page," cried Ruth.
"I'd rather see the magazine—maybe it will be a home-made looking thing!" exclaimed Dot Starr.
"It will not! Not with us boys to boss the plant!" bragged Don, her twin.
"If it is home-made, you'll have to do it all again," commented Uncle Ben.
"That is where Mrs. Talmage's work comes in," laughed Mr. Talmage.
"It will be a regular magazine, all right!" exclaimed Mrs. Talmage emphatically.
"We boys will see to it that no magazine is mailed that will make folks laugh at us," guaranteed Ned.
"I'm sure I placed my hobby in the right hands, for you children seem to take a pride in doing things well," commended Uncle Ben.
"And with a nephew stepping right in his uncle's footprints, why shouldn't things be done right?" laughed Mr. Talmage.
"Say, Uncle Ben, how long must we wait before we can begin?" asked Don Starr.
"Get as busy as you like to-morrow after school," replied Uncle Ben. "I'll run into town and attend to having the things shipped here as long as you have agreed to my plans; you boys may start making benches, tables, or whatever will be needed in the plant."
"They'll need a desk, some chairs, a table and a few other things," suggested Mr. Talmage, looking around. "It might be advisable for them to partition off a corner of this room for an office."
"I have a good roll-top desk in the store-room at home; it has never had any use since Mr. Catlin passed away. The boys shall have that," offered Mrs. Catlin.
"And I can spare that long table we used to have in the dairy before we installed the patent butter machines," added Mrs. Talmage.
"In case I find any other pieces of Mr. Catlin's office furniture I will send them over with the desk," said Mrs. Catlin.
"About those machines, Ben! How much will they cost the boys?" asked Mr. Talmage.
"I thought of assuming the cost, and any time the publishers give up the work I can easily sell them in the city. The children can pay the freight charges, which will not be very heavy," replied Uncle Ben.
"Then, there will really be no heavy expense to start with, will there?" asked Mrs. Talmage.
"No, but a tax of application and interest will be necessary," smiled Uncle Ben.
"We will agree to pay all of that you want," promised several of the boys.
The Blue Birds did not have much to say about the machines and workshop, but each felt that it was to be their very own magazine, so that their interest and pleasure in every new development were keyed to the top pitch.
"Betty, what page do you want to take charge of?" asked Norma, eagerly, as they left the carriage house.
"I think we had better defer discussing that part of the work until we can all sit down quietly and talk it over," said Mrs. Talmage.
The men and boys remained with Ike to decide what boards and lumber would be needed for the morrow, so work could begin on their workrooms.
"Let's have a sign for the front over the door," suggested Jinks. "I'll paint it at home."
"Call it 'Bobolink Boys Publishing Company,'" ventured Meredith.
"Oh, that wouldn't be fair to the Blue Birds if they are going to help in the work," said Ned.
"Name it 'Blue Bird & Bobolink Company,'" said Uncle Ben.
This last suggestion struck everyone as being just right, but Mr. Talmage made a good amendment.
"Why not have a mysterious combination? Every mortal is interested in finding out a puzzle, or secret. The more elusive a thing is the more they chase it. Now, get folks guessing over your name and they will not forget you so soon. I just thought of the name of 'B. B. & B. B. Company.'"
"That's great, father, but we haven't thought of a name for the magazine," cried Ned.
"Add a few more 'B's' to the others," laughed Uncle Ben. "We'll name it the 'B. B. B. B.,' published by the 'B. B. & B. B. Co.'"
"What does 'B. B. B. B.' stand for?" asked Mr. Talmage.
"'Blue Bird Bobolink Bulletin,'" replied Uncle Ben.
"That's mystery enough, I'm sure," laughed Mr. Talmage.
After a few more remarks, the first meeting of the organization whose influence was to be far greater than had been hoped for by Uncle Ben, or the boys who had started it, was dismissed.
BEGINNING THE WINTER WORK
It is needless to say that the moment school was dismissed the following afternoon every boy and girl who was interested in the new Publishing Company, ran toward the carriage house at Mossy Glen. The teachers, pupils, and even some of the members of the Board of Education had heard of the plans made the day before—for in a small community like Oakdale, news travels rapidly—and the men on the school board were as much interested in the success of the children's work as if it had been their own undertaking.
Ike had found some splendid pine boards, a number of two-by-four joists, plenty of odds and ends of railing, posts, moulding, and other trim that would make a boy delight in amateur carpentry work.
Nails, screws, hammers, saw, and tools of all kinds were provided, so that each boy could work without delaying or inconveniencing the others. Ike and Simon were to superintend the construction and show the boys how to put things together properly.
Uncle Ben and Mr. Talmage, who went to the city early in the morning to attend to the shipping of the machinery, had not yet returned.
The Blue Birds gathered merrily in their Nest in the cherry tree, with several little girls who had been away during the summer and were eager to join the Nest.
Miss Selina insisted upon walking along the path from the house when Mrs. Talmage started for the Nest and, upon arriving at the foot of the steps that led up to the Nest, looked up imploringly.
"Flutey, I believe you can get up here if I help you!" exclaimed Ruth, seeing her aunt's expression.
"Oh, no, dearie! What about the rheumatism in my ankles?" groaned Miss Selina.
"Leave it behind!" laughed Ruth, gayly hopping down from the Nest.
"I wish I could!" declared Aunt Selina, taking a firm hold on the handrail and trying to lift up her foot.
"Ouch! that hurt my knee-joint!" cried she.
"Flutey! That's no way to leave that rheumatism behind!" reprimanded Ruth. "Now, make up your mind to walk right up and forget the nasty little pain."
Mrs. Talmage and the Blue Birds were hovering over the railing of the Nest to advise the two at the foot of the steps. Dot Starr, with her usual bluntness and funny way of expressing herself, called down to Miss Selina:
"Flutey, you just feel those twinges in your joints because you're spoiled. Mumzie says I am always sicker if I let myself be fussed over and spoiled. She just says, 'Try to forget it.' Now, if you were me, you never would be down there a second, but you'd jump here two steps at a time. So, I say like Mumzie would, forget you're not me, and we'll see you pop up here like magic!"