WITH so many birthdays in one family, we must not give elaborate or expensive presents ever," Mother Morrison had once said, and she had made that a rule.
So Brother's presents, while representing a great deal of beautiful love, were simple and mostly home-made.
Louise had made him an entire set of new sails for his ship Swallow; Grace had cleverly painted and cut out a set of paper soldiers, and set them in tiny wooden blocks so that they stood upright; Jimmie's present was a set of little garden tools; Molly brought in a gingerbread man, very wide and tall and most handsomely decorated with pink sugar icing. And Mother Morrison gave him a box of watercolor paints and a painting book.
Just as Brother had unwrapped the last of his gifts, dear Grandmother Hastings hurried in. Under her arm she carried a large square box, and her eyes twinkled as she set it down.
"For the birthday boy!" she said.
"A toolchest!" shouted Brother in delight. "Look, Grandma, Ralph gave me a puppy!"
"I hope you said 'thank you!' just like that!" laughed Grandmother, as Brother bugged her so tightly she could scarcely get her breath. "Let me give you six kisses, dearie. Why, Brother, what is the matter?"
"I never said 'thank you' at all," mourned Brother. "Did I, Sister? And Ralph gave me such a nice puppy dog."
"But you can say 'thank you' tonight, can't he, Grandma?" protested' Sister loyally.
"Why, of course, dear. Don't worry, Brother —Ralph knew you were very happy to have the doggie. Now come and tell me what you are going to call him."
There were many things to be done to get ready for the party that afternoon, and while Brother and Sister introduced Brownie to their grandmother, the rest of the family scattered to their work. Presently Grandmother Hastings declared she must run home and put a lace collar on her best frock so that she could come to the party, and Brother and Sister were left alone with the new presents.
"Let's take Brownie out for a walk," suggested Sister. "Have you fed him, Roddy?"
Brother shook his head. No, Brownie had had no breakfast.
"I wish I'd said 'thank you' to Ralph," worried Ralph's little brother. "Maybe he won't come home to supper tonight, and I'll be in bed when he comes."
"Telephone him," said Sister, stroking one of Brownie's velvet cars.
"I don't know the name of the law school," objected Brother.
"Ask Daddy," promptly responded Sister. "He'll know."
The chilren [sic] knew the number of Daddy Morrison's big office in the city, and both could telephone very nicely. The 'phone booth was under the hall stairs and Brother knew no one in the house could hear him when he took down the receiver.
"Please give me 6587 Main," he said politely, while Sister and Brownie sat down on the floor to wait and listen.
Dick was in his father's office, and unless the person calling asked for Mr. Morrison, senior, the switchboard operator gave them Mr. Morrison, junior. That was Dick, who was named for Daddy Morrison.
"Hello, hello!" came Dick's voice over the wire in answer to Brother's call.
"I want Daddy," said Brother distinctly.
"Is that you, Brother?" asked Dick in surprise. "Did Mother ask you to call him? Is anything wrong at home?"
"No, only I want to speak to him," said Brother impatiently.
"He's busy—if you are only trying to amuse yourself, I advise you to stop it," answered Dick rather sharply. "You know you are not supposed to use the 'phone, Brother."
"I guess I can talk to my father," asserted Brother indignantly. "You tell him I want to speak to him, Dick Morrison!"
Dick apparently made the connection, for in another moment Brother heard his father's voice.
"Yes, Son?" it said gently. "What can I do for you?"
"Oh, Daddy!" Brother spoke rapidly, his. words tumbling over each other. "I never said 'thank you' to Ralph for the puppy dog! An' sometimes he doesn't come home to supper, and I don't see him till tomorrow morning. I want to tell him how much I like Brownie, and I don't know the name of the law school. Will you tell me so I can ask 'Central' for the number and call Ralph up?"
There was a pause. Daddy Morrison was apparently thinking.
"I'll tell you, son," he said presently. "I do not believe Ralph's school allows their pupils to be called from a class to answer the telephone, so you had better not try that plan. But Ralph is coming to the office this noon to go to lunch with Dick. You tell Mother that I said you were to be permitted to telephone the office at half-past twelve. In that way you'll catch Ralph here and can say what you want to him. How will that do?"
"That's fine, Daddy!" replied Brother gratefully. "Thank you ever so much—wait a minute. Daddy—"
"I'm just saying the good-bye," called Sister, who loved to telephone.
"Good-bye, youngsters," said Daddy Morrison, laughing as he hung up the receiver.
"Well, for goodness' sake, what are you two doing here?" demanded Louise, coming through the hall with something hidden in her apron. "Who said you could telephone? Whom did you call up?"
"Daddy," answered Brother serenely. "He said I could call the office again at half-past twelve. What you got, Louise?"
"Secrets," said Louise mysteriously. "People with birthdays shouldn't ask questions."
She hurried on toward the kitchen and in a few moments the children heard her laughing with Molly.
"I think Brownie is hungry," insisted Sister. "Aren't you ever going to feed him?"
"Of course he's hungry," chimed in Grace, who had overheard. "There's a bowl of bread and milk Mother fixed for him before breakfast, out on the back porch, with a plate over it to keep the cats out. Take him out there and feed him, Brother."
Brownie was indeed very hungry and the children enjoyed watching him eat the bread and milk Mother Morrison had fixed for him. After he had eaten it all up, they took him out on the grass to play, but that fat little brown puppy, instead of playing with them, curled up and went to sleep.
"Never mind—here comes the party!" cried Sister, whose bright eyes had spied a wagon turning into the drive.
On to chapter 8
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