"THE party" happened to be the ice-cream, and Brother and Sister watched eagerly as the delivery boy carried the heavy wooden tub in which the cream was packed, up the back steps.
"Going to have a party?" he smiled at them as he came back to his wagon. "Have a good time!"
The pretty little notes of invitation, which Mother Morrison had written to six boys and six girls, friends of Brother's and Sister's, two weeks ago, had said from "four to six," so it was time to dress in the best white clothes soon after lunch. Indeed, Brother's collar bow was not tied before the doorbell rang, and Nellie Yarrow arrived.
"I suppose she lived so far away, she thought she might be late," said Louise.
She ran downstairs and showed Nellie where to put the present she had brought for Brother.
After that the other boys and girls came, one by one, and Brother soon had a little pile of presents on the living-room table. He opened each one, and said thank you to the child who had brought it, and he forgot to be shy, so that he really enjoyed it all very much.
Charlie Raynor and his sister, Winifred, were the last to come, and Winifred was excited over something.
"I had the most awful time with Charlie!" she announced earnestly, to sympathetic Mother Morrison. "He acted dreadful!"
Winifred was two years older than Charlie and felt responsible for him.
"Give Roddy his present now," Winifred urged Charlie. "Hurry, I tell you."
Silently Charlie held out a little paper bag of candy.
"I had all I could do to keep him from eating it on the way here," his sister explained. "He just loves candy!"
Brother took the bag of candy and put it with his other gifts on the table. Then the children began the peanut hunt, which was the first game Louise and Grace had planned for them.
This was played outdoors, and it was fully half an hour before all the peanuts had been discovered. Then, as several of the girls wanted to start the old, old game of "Going to Jerusalem," and Grace offered to play the music, they all trooped back to the living-room.
"Why, Roddy, your candy is gone!" announced Sister in surprise. "When did you eat it?"
Brother came up to her where she stood by the table of presents.
"I didn't eat it," he said wonderingly. "I left it right there on top of that book. Isn't that funny!"
"Well, it's gone," asserted Sister. "Someone ate it!"
Winifred had heard, and now she turned on the unfortunate Charlie.
"Charles Eldridge Raynor!" she said sternly. "Did you eat Roddy's candy that you brought him? Did you?"
Charlie nodded miserably. He had slipped into the room, unnoticed during the peanut hunt, and unable to longer withstand the temptation. had calmly eaten up his birthday gift.
"I hope," stammered Winifred with very red cheeks, "I hope you will excuse him, Mrs. Morrison. I never knew him to do such a thing before!"
"Oh, it isn't anything so very dreadful," declared Mother Morrison, smiling. "Any laddie with a sweet tooth might easily do the same thing. Come, children, Grace is waiting to play for you."
They played "Going to Jerusalem" and "Drop the Handkerchief," and all the time there was the mysterious fishpond back of the table! But they could not fish till after they had had ice-cream.
As they were playing a noisy game of "Tag" out on the lawn, Molly came to the door to ask them to come into the dining-room.
Such a pretty table met their eyes! It seemed to be all blue and white, and in the center was the big birthday cake—-iced as only Molly could ice it, and showing no trace of the starch Sister had tried to cover it with. Six candles twinkled merrily on the top.
"Make six wishes, Brother," said Mother Morrison.
"Then he blows, and as many candles as he blows out he will have wishes come true," explained Sister quaintly.
Brother made his wishes—they must not be spoken aloud—and then took a deep breath.
Pouf! Three of the candles went out.
"Three wishes!" shouted the children. "You'll have three wishes come true!"
It was a lovely birthday supper. Everyone said so. They had chicken sandwiches, and cocoa, and vanilla and strawberry ice-cream and of course the birthday cake, which Brother cut in slices himself with the big silver cake knife.
"Why—look!" ejaculated Sister in surprise, glancing up from her cake at the doorway.
Mother Morrison stood there, smiling, and in her hands she carried what seemed to be a very large pudding or pie baked in a milk pan.
"What is it?" said Brother curiously. "What is it?"
"It's a secret," answered his mother mysteriously. "Grandmother Hastings planned it for you."
"And you and Louise bought part of it," Grandmother Hastings assured him, nodding and smiling from the other doorway, the one that led into the hall.
She had come over, in her prettiest white and lavender gown, to see the end of the party.
Mother Morrison came up to the table with the pie and the children saw that the paper crust was full of little slits and that from each slit a ribbon hung out. Some were blue and some were pink.
"Each girl must choose a blue ribbon," said Mother Morrison. "The pink ones are for the boys. You pull first, Lucy."
Lucy Reed pulled one of the blue ribbons. She hauled out a little celluloid doll dressed in a gay red frock.
"How lovely!" Lucy cried. "Do we all get something?"
Each child was eager to pull a ribbon, and, wasn't it strange?—there were just enough ribbons to go round! After every one, including Brother and Sister, had had his turn, the "crust" was all torn, and not a single present or ribbon was left.
"Half-past five!" said Louise then, looking at her little wrist-watch. "We must hurry with the fishing."
So they went into the living-room and had a delightful time fishing in the pond back of the table. There was a gift for everyone who fished, and when six o'clock struck, and it was time to go home, each small guest had a package to take along.
"We've had the nicest time," they called to Mother Morrison as they said good-bye. "We hope Roddy has a party every year."
On to chapter 9
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