"WHERE are you going, Mother?" asked Brother, when he saw the rubbers.
"I'm not going out," smiled Mother. "You are going for me, dear. These are your rubbers and coat—hop into them and run across the street to Grandma's with this apron pattern."
"Will you bake my dough-man, Molly?" begged Brother, struggling into his coat and taking the small parcel Mother gave him. "Is Betty coming?"
"Not this time," answered his mother. "It is raining too hard. Yes, Molly will bake your dough-man and you may eat him for lunch. Run along now."
Grandmother Hastings lived almost directly across the street from the Morrison house and she was putting her beautiful Boston fern out to get the rain when Brother tramped sturdily up her side garden path.
"Bless his heart, he's a regular little duck!" cried Grandma, giving him a tremendous hug.
That is the way grandmothers are, you know, whether they live across the street from you and see you every day, or whether they live miles away and come to visit you Christmas and summer times. A grandmother is always glad to see you.
Grandmother Hastings was short and plump, and her white hair was curly and her eyes were blue. She had pink cheeks and wore a blue dress and a white apron with a frilly bib, and altogether, Brother thought privately, she looked very nice indeed.
"I'm very glad to get that pattern," she told him, patting the long leaves of the fern and spreading them out to catch the rain. "I've a magazine you can take back to Mother, dearie, and an old fashion book Sister will like for paper dolls. Come into the sitting-room while I find them for you. Take off your rubbers, child."
Brother followed her into the house and there Aunt Kate swooped upon him and tickled him as she always did. Aunt Kate was a school teacher. In summer she tutored backward pupils. She was on her way to give a lesson now and in a few minutes she went away merrily into the driving rain. That left Grandmother and Brother to entertain each other.
"Do you know what Ralph is going to give me for a birthday present, Grandmother?" Brother asked, dropping flat on his stomach to play jungle with the tigerskin that lay before the fireplace. "He says if I'm not tall enough I can't have it. But he's bought it all ready— he said so."
Brother, you see, would be six years old in a few days. He couldn't help thinking a great deal about his birthday.
Grandmother and Brother had no secrets from each other, though sometimes they planned surprises for the other members of the family.
"No, I don't know what Ralph plans to give you," admitted Grandmother. "Don't try to find out, dearie. It is much nicer to be surprised. Why, you know you wouldn't have a bit of fun next Wednesday if you knew what your presents were to be."
Brother was willing to be surprised, because Wednesday wasn't so long to wait. Still he thought he would like to know what Ralph's present was. Ralph was his dearest brother, and he had a happy knack of always giving Brother and Sister exactly what they wanted. Louise and Grace were apt to make them presents which were useful, like pretty socks and hair-ribbons for Sister, and gloves and handkerchiefs for Brother, but Ralph never did anything like that.
"I've dropped a stitch in my knitting," said Grandmother suddenly. "Brother, I wonder if you could run upstairs and bring me my glasses? I think they are on the bureau in my room."
Brother ran upstairs and went into Grandmother's pretty bedroom. There were white and silver things on her bureau and a little gold jewel box and several bottles of different colors. But, though Brother looked carefully, he could not find the glasses.
He went out into the hall.
"Oh, Grandma!" he called. "Your glasses aren't on the bureau."
"Dear, dear," sighed Grandmother. "'Let me see, where can they be? Do you know, Brother, I'm afraid I have left them in my black silk bag on the closet shelf. Can you get it, or shall I come up?"
"I can get it," answered Brother confidently. "You wait, Grandma."
The closet shelf was pretty high, but Brother carried a chair to the closet door and by standing on it he was able to reach the shelf. Goodness, what was more, he could see the things on the shelf.
And they were bundles!
One—two—three—Brother counted three mysterious paper bundles, tied with brown string.
Now you know if you had a birthday due most any minute and your head was full of the presents you hoped to receive, and you saw three bundles on the shelf in your grandma's closet, you know you would probably do just what Brother did; poke your finger into the top bundle.
Brother poked. Then he prodded. The top bundle slipped and carried the other two with it. Brother was brushed off the chair and three bundles and one boy landed in a heap on the floor.
"Brother!" cried Grandma, who had come up to see what kept him so long. "Are you hurt?"
"No'm," answered Brother, rather foolishly. "I was just feeling these bundles, Grandma, to see—to—see—"
"Whether they were birthday presents?" smiled Grandma. "Well, dearie, they are nothing but blankets tied up to send to the cleaners. I'm glad, for your sake, they were, for you might have hurt yourself, otherwise, as it is, they were soft and thick for you to fall on."
"I'll get the glasses now," murmured Brother hastily.
He climbed up on the chair again and this time found without any trouble the black bag which held Grandma's glasses.
"Mother is waving a handkerchief—that means she wants you," said Grandmother, glancing from the window. "Scoot along, dear, and don't think too much about the birthday till it comes. Here are the magazines. And here's a drop-cake for you."
Brother paddled down the steps, went halfway to the front hedge, and then turned.
"Oh, Grandma!" he shouted. "Do you know what I think Ralph is going to give me? I think it's a toolchest!"
On to chapter 3
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