THE sun rose bright and early on Brother's birthday morning. Not any earlier than usual, perhaps, but it certainly woke Brother a whole half-hour earlier than he usually opened his eyes.
Almost at the same moment that his brown eyes opened wide, and he sat up in bed, Sister's dark eyes also opened wide and she sat up in her little white bed.
"Oh!" she said, blinking. "Oh, it's your birthday, Roddy! Many happy returns of the day—and I have a present for you!" She slipped out of bed and ran over to the chest of white drawers that held her own possessions.
"You can play with them a little while and then you can eat 'em," she explained, returning with a flat, white box which she put on Brother's lap.
"Out rolled a fat, brown-and-white collie puppy-dog" [image appears between pgs. 32-33]
The present proved to be a pound of animal crackers, of which Brother was very fond, and Sister was telling him how she had carefully picked out as many horses and elephants as she could—for indulgent Grandma Hastings had bought several pounds of the crackers, and allowed Sister to select the two kinds of animals that were Brother's favorites—when they heard Ralph's quick step in the hall.
"Here comes Ralph! Don't look!" commanded Brother hastily.
Sister promptly dived under the bedclothes, and when Ralph softly opened the door—lest the children were still asleep—he saw Brother staring eagerly toward him and a little lump in the middle of Sister's bed.
"Well, young man, how does it feel to be six years old?" Ralph asked merrily, putting down the basket he carried on the floor, and coming over to Brother, who stood up to hug him.
"Just as nice," gurgled Brother, standing still to receive the six "spanks" without which no birthday could be properly celebrated.
"Can I look yet?" asked a muffled voice meekly.
"Why, sweetheart, what have they done to you?" demanded Ralph in amazement, uncovering a very warm and flushed little girl. "I thought you were asleep, honey. Don't you feel well?"
"Oh, I feel all right," Sister assured him cheerfully. "Only I promised Brother I wouldn't look at the present before he did."
"That's so, I did bring a present, didn't I?" said Ralph, pretending to have forgotten. "Well, Brother, stand up while I measure you once more; I must be sure that you are tall enough and that means that you drank your milk every time without grumbling."
"Couldn't he grumble?" asked Sister, watching while Ralph stood brother against the wall and made a tiny mark with a pencil. "You never said he couldn't grumble, Ralph."
"Didn't I?" Ralph said. "Well, then, I should, because that is very important. You will grow, you know, if you drink your milk and grumble about it, but not half as fast as you will grow if you drink the milk and make no fuss. That's true, Sister—I'm not joking."
"I didn't grumble much, did I, Sister?" interposed Brother. "Haven't I grown, Ralph?"
"Yes, I think you have—enough to have what I have brought you," returned Ralph cheerfully. "Here, now, tell me what you think of this."
He stooped down and lifted the lid of the basket. Then he tipped it over on one side and out rolled the fattest brown and white collie puppy dog you ever saw!
"Oh! Oh! Oh!" shrieked Brother and Sister together. "What a perfectly dear little puppy!"
"He's yours, Brother," said Ralph, smiling like the dear big brother he was. "Yours to take care of and love, and to name."
"Hasn't he any name?" asked Brother, hugging the fat puppy, who seemed to like it and tried to say so with his little red tongue. "I don't know what to name a puppy dog."
"Call him 'Brownie,' " suggested Sister, down on her knees on the floor, watching the dog with shining eyes. "I think that is a nice name."
"So do I," agreed Brother.
"I do, too," said Ralph. "And now you must get dressed if you are not to be late for breakfast; and I must go down now—1 have to take an earlier train in."
"Won't you come to the party?" begged Sister, as Ralph stood up to go.
"Don't believe I'll be home in time," he answered. "But you can tell me all about it and that will be almost as nice."
Mother Morrison came in to help them dress and she kissed Brother six times because it was his birthday. He wore a new blue sailor suit, and Sister put on her next-to-the-best hair-ribbon in his honor.
"I like birthdays," sighed Brother, slipping into his seat at the breakfast table and eyeing the little heap of bundles at his plate with great delight. "Look at my puppy dog, Dick."
"Well, that is a nice pup," admitted Dick, putting down his paper. "Have you named him yet?"
"Name's Brownie—Betty thought of it," replied Brother. "Can he have cereal, Mother? And Daddy wrote on this box, didn't he?" The little boy picked up a box wrapped in paper.
"Now just a minute," said Mother Morrison firmly. "The dog can't eat at the table, dear; put him down until you have finished breakfast. I don't want you to open the parcels, either, until you have had your milk and cereal. But those two on top you may open—they are from Daddy and Dick and they're going to leave in ten minutes."
Brother opened the two packages eagerly. That from Daddy Morrison was a little wooden block and a set of rubber type with an ink-pad, so that Brother might play at printing. He knew his letters and, if someone helped him, could spell a number of words. Dick's parcel contained a little silver collar for the new puppy, so made that it could be made larger for him as he grew.
"Oh, Dick!" Brother flung himself upon that pleased young man and kissed him heartily. Somehow Brother seldom kissed Dick, although he loved him dearly. "It's the nicest collar!"
"All right, all right," said Dick hastily. "Glad you like it. Coming, Dad?"
Brother had to thank Daddy Morrison for his gift and kiss him good-bye, and then the interrupted breakfast went on. As soon as they had all finished, they gathered around Brother to watch him open his birthday gifts.
On to chapter 7