"Here comes Flutey, now," said Ruth, hearing the slow steps of her aunt.
"Well, Blue Birds, how's the song this morning?" cried Aunt Selina, happily.
The children all turned with one accord and looked at her. Some great happiness must have been sent her, for she was bubbling over with secret joy and her face looked as young as one of the Blue Bird's. She took a chair near the children.
"Say, Flutey, you won't be offended if I ask you a very happy question, will you?" asked Dot, in a half-whisper.
"Why, of course not! Ask it, child," smiled Aunt Selina.
"Well, you look so happy, you know, I thought maybe _that_ soldier-man came back to marry you--maybe his being shot was all a mistake and he has been a prisoner all this time and just got away," said Dot with horror and awe in her tones.
Mrs. Talmage had stepped out just in time to overhear the funny little girl's remark and she had to run inside and smother her laughter in a handkerchief, for Dot was most serious in her statement, and it would never do to make her feel badly by laughing at her sympathy.
"Oh, no, dearie, those prisons were abandoned soon after the war. But this surprise I have for the Blue Birds is entirely different from anything personal," replied Aunt Selina.
"Oh, what is it?" asked several voices.
"I have a letter here," said Aunt Selina, taking it from her reticule, "in reply to one I wrote an old-time friend a short time ago. This friend started an advertising business in Philadelphia many years ago and has been very successful. Let us see what advice this friend gives about securing contracts for advertising."
The Blue Birds hovered about Aunt Selina's chair eager to hear the letter read.
The letter was short, but to the point. Mr. Sphere said he was delighted to hear from his old friend and hoped his information would give her little friends the satisfaction they deserved for their undertaking. He said that one of his best representatives had been told to call at Mossy Glen to interview the Blue Birds and to do just as the ladies directed.
This man would tell them how to get advertising.
"Oh, Flutey! is that all he said?" murmured Ruth.
"Why, I don't call that such a piece of 'happy' news to smile over as you did!" pouted Dot.
"He didn't ask you how you had been all the time since you two knew each other, and he never said a word about our magazine," grumbled Norma, feeling a personal offence in the letter.
"Why, children! _I_ think it is a wonderful piece of good news to hear that he takes enough interest in the work to send one of his best men down here to talk matters over," said Mrs. Talmage.
"If you knew my friend you would understand this letter better, for he always was a quiet chap who listened to others, but said little himself," explained Aunt Selina.
The following day while the Blue Birds were at the Publishing House watching the wonderful process of st.i.tching and tr.i.m.m.i.n.g completed magazines, a very alert young man rang the bell at the Talmage house.
Mrs. Talmage and Aunt Selina welcomed the visitor.
Shouts of excitement reached the house where the ladies were talking with Mr. Sphere's representative, and soon a crowd of boys and girls swarmed up the steps and ran pell-mell for Mrs. Talmage, nothing daunted by seeing the stranger.
"Mother, mother, see, see!" cried Ruth, dragging Jinks by the sleeve.
"Oh," gasped little Betty, "see our magazine!"
"It's perfectly lovely, Mrs. Talmage!" cried Dot.
The older boys were more subdued when they saw the stranger.
Mrs. Talmage introduced the gentleman, Mr. Richards, one of the New York advertising solicitors for the Philadelphia agency. He smiled in a condescending way when Don asked, "Want to see our magazine?"
"Yes, indeed! It is such an unusual thing to find such dear little children interested in such a way," replied Mr. Richards, looking about at the boys and girls.
Don looked at Dot with a glance that said as plain as day, "Pooh! he's trying to pat us on the back!"
And Dot said to the visitor: "Don't think that we like to be fussed over just because we are working!"
The rest of the publishing company looked uncomfortable at the very evident tendency to humor them on account of their work.
The fact was, that the man couldn't understand why his firm (such a sensible lot of business men) should send him away from his important work in New York to call upon some wealthy ladies and a number of children, to talk about advertising pages in a toy magazine.
The two copies of the completed magazine had been given to Aunt Selina and Mrs. Talmage and they expressed such satisfaction at the appearance of the work that the man turned his attention to Mrs. Talmage. She handed him her copy.
When Mr. Richards saw the magazine, he was surprised out of his usual self-possession and exclaimed,
"Why, who did this?"
"Blue Birds and Bobolinks," replied Ned, with head tilted on one side the better to see the precious book the man held.
"But this is first-cla.s.s work!" exclaimed the visitor.
"Sure! did you think we were going to turn out anything else?" asked Jinks, insulted.
"Oh, of course not, but it takes experienced hands to do anything as good as this," continued Mr. Richards, turning the pages slowly and examining each one carefully.
"Well, Uncle Ben knew the kind of workers we were when he trusted us with his pet hobby!" declared Ned, proudly.
Mr. Richards looked rather helpless, so Mrs. Talmage explained who "Uncle Ben" was and what part he had taken in the enterprise.
Light gradually began to break in upon the young man's brain as he heard the story of the magazine. Suddenly he sat up as if electrified with a new idea. He looked about at the children, the house, lawns, and ladies; finally he took his return railroad ticket from his pocket and noted the name printed on the card--Oakdale.
"Well, well, well! is this place called 'Mossy Glen'?" he asked.
"It is," replied Mrs. Talmage, wonderingly.
"And these youngsters, the same that set folks agog last summer with their 'Fresh Airs'?"
Mother Wings bowed affirmatively, but the Blue Birds, who had never dreamed that their doings had ever been heard of outside of their own little community, were as surprised as their visitor.
The solicitor looked everyone over with a new interest after that, and breathed softly to himself, "Great Scott! What a piece of luck to get the lead in this idea!"
"We do not understand exactly what you mean," said Mrs. Talmage, with dignity.
"Well, I was present at a meeting a short time ago when the talk veered to a project evolved by some children. It was creating quite a little interest among the older men, but I paid little attention to it at the time, for I had my mind full of other matters. But I remember hearing one of the leading publishers state that he believed we would hear of this undertaking in the future, for he knew some of the children who were in it. Now, here I am, unconsciously dropped into the heart of it."
From that moment Mr. Richards was the enthusiastic collaborator of the company. He went over the pages of the magazine again and made some valuable suggestions for the future. When he expressed a desire to visit their plant, everyone jumped up ready to show him the B. B. & B. B.
Another great surprise awaited Mr. Richards. He had an idea that the work was done upon toy machinery, or hand presses; but, to find a shop equipped with electric motors and up-to-date machines, to say nothing of type-stands and a real office, was more than he could comprehend.
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