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BEFORE Sister could say anything, in pranced Brother, very pink and clean from his hot bath and treading on his gray bathrobe at every other step.
"Have you been meddling with my things again?" demanded Dick. "Mother, I've an engagement at eight o'clock and it's quarter past now; every blessed collar button is gone from my chiffonier!"
Mother Morrison, who had followed Brother into the room, looked anxiously at him.
"Brother, you haven't been in Dick's room today, have you ?" she asked him.
Then Sister, whose memory had been waking up, spoke.
"Please, Dick," she said in a very little voice. "Please, I had the buttons."
"Oh, you did!" Dick quite forgot to smile at her. "What did you want 'em for? Where are they now?"
"You see, I was playing jackstones with Nellie Yarrow, and afterward I—I left them in my pocket—" Sister's voice trailed off.
She recollected that the dress she had been wearing was now down the laundry chute.
"Mother, something's got to be done!" fumed Dick. "I can't have the kids going through my stuff and helping themselves to whatever they want; those buttons were my solid gold ones and my good studs were in the same box. There's the telephone!—Nina will be furious! Sister, where did you say that dress was?"
Dick rushed downstairs to answer the telephone, leaving a sorrowful Sister curled up in a forlorn little heap on the bed.
"My blue dress is way down in the laundry," she wailed. "The buttons are in the pocket. Oh, Mother, it's awful far down there, and it's dark on the stairs!"
"What's all the racket about?" inquired Ralph, coming to the door. "Is Sister crying? And Dick is trying to smooth down Nina Carson, who seems to be in a bad way. Want any help with these young ones, Mother? Anyway, tell a fellow the cause of the excitement."
Sister smiled through her tears. "Young "ones" was what Molly's country sister had once called them, and Ralph always said it when he meant to make her laugh.
"I really think Sister should go down and get the buttons from her dress pocket," said dear Mother Morrison decidedly. "I have forbidden her, time and again, to touch anything in Dick's room. Take your kimona and slippers, Sister, and hurry; I'll have your bath ready for you when you come back."
More tears ran down Sister's round cheeks. Her eyes were so full of salt water she couldn't find the armholes of her pink kimona, and Ralph had to help her.
"I'll go with her, Mother," he offered. "I'll sit on the stairs and wait while she hunts for the buttons; and after this you will leave Dick's things alone, won't you, Sister?"
Sister promised joyfully, and paddled off downstairs with Ralph. The dark stairs that led to the laundry didn't frighten her one bit, and while Ralph sat on the last step and held the door open, Sister snapped on the light and found the blue dress on top of the basket that stood under the chute. Surely enough, the buttons were in the pocket just as she had left them. She took the box and hurried back to Ralph.
"Where's Dick going?" she asked him, as they went upstairs.
"Oh, out somewhere, to see some girl," replied Ralph, who seldom went to call on a girl. "Scoot now, Sister—I'm going out on the porch and read. You've made poor old Dick half an hour late as it is."
Ralph went out on the screened front porch, where Daddy Morrison was reading beside the electric lamp, and had just picked up his magazine, when there was a patter of little feet and Sister threw her arms around him breathlessly.
"I love you, Ralph!" she said quickly, hugging him and then turning to run.
"Here, here!" cried Daddy Morrison in surprise. "Thought you were in bed long ago. Don't I get any kissing?"
"Mother is waiting to bathe me," explained Sister hurriedly, "and Dick wants his collar buttons, so I have to go, Daddy."
Her father caught her as she rushed past him and gave her a quick kiss.
"Sister!" called Mother Morrison. "Sister, are you coming?"
Sister, the box of buttons clutched tightly in her hand, ran upstairs. Dick, glowering, met her at the top.
"For goodness' sake!" he ejaculated. "I'd about given up hope—and if you ever touch one of my things again—"
"I won't!" promised Sister hastily. "Honest Injun, I won't. You aren't mad, are you, Dick?'
Dick was wrestling with a stiff collar before the glass in the hall.
"No, I'm not mad, but I shall be in a minute," he announced grimly. "Don't stand there and watch me, please; you make me nervous."
"Come and take your bath, dear," called Mother Morrison.
"Don't you hear Mother? What are you waiting for?" demanded Dick.
"Waiting for you to kiss me good-night," answered Sister composedly.
Dick stared at her. Then he laughed.
"There!" he said, picking Sister up and kissing her soundly. "Now will you leave me in peace, you monkey?"
Sister was satisfied and hurried off to her bathing. When she came out of the bathroom, she found Brother sleepily waiting for her, sitting up, in his bed.
"If you hear Ralph in the morning," he told her earnestly, "you call me, 'cause I want to see my own birthday present before you do."
"Can't I look at it if you're not awake?" asked Sister hopefully.
"No, you mustn't," said Brother firmly. "It's my birthday present, and I want to see it first. Now you remember!"
Mother Morrison kissed them both, put a screen in another window, for the night was warm, and snapped off the light. It was time for Brother and Sister to be asleep.
"Roddy!" whispered Sister softly.
"Uh-huh?" came sleepily from Brother.
"Suppose I can't help looking when Ralph opens the door?"
Brother roused himself.
"You mustn't," he repeated. "It's my birthday. I wouldn't look first if it was your birthday present. You can shut your eyes, can't you?"
Sister sighed, and a big yawn came and surprised the sigh.
"Maybe he'll have it tied in a paper," she murmured hopefully. "Then I can't see it."
On to chapter 6
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