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Christmas Holidays at Merryvale

CHAPTER IV

CHUCK'S RUDE AWAKENING

The day before Christmas dawned bright and cold. Mother Brown, who had been up early, made some wonderful Christmas pies and a pudding before Toad and Chuck were awake.

It was eight o'clock before Toad opened one eye.

"What's the use of getting up," he thought, "I'm so warm and comfortable here in bed. My, but something smells awfully good. Wonder if it's breakfast."

Suddenly he sat up straight in bed.

"Look at that lazy thing," he declared. "Bet he'd sleep until noon if I'd let him, and with all we have to do to-day."

Chuck continued to snore peacefully.

"But I won't—I'll have some fun," thought Toad, as quietly, with as little noise as possible, he crept from his bed to the basin in one corner of the room. It took him only a few seconds to wet a large sponge with cold water, then, creeping very carefully back to the foot of Chuck's bed, he took careful aim.

The sponge flew through the air true to its mark and landed "kersplash" on Chuck's tousled brown head.

"W-w-w-what's the matter?" spluttered Chuck, sitting up and blinking his eyes. Then, as he felt the water trickling down his cheeks and caught sight of Toad, doubled up with laughter, he jumped out of bed and, running across the room, he pushed Toad flat on his back on the bed and sat upon his chest.

"Let me up," pleaded Toad. "I couldn't help it, you looked so sweet."

"What'll you give me if I do?" laughed Chuck. "You've got to pay for that smart trick before I let you up."

"Nothing!" gasped Toad, trying very hard to free himself.

"Oho!" laughed Chuck. "You won't, eh? Well," he added, "I don't mind sitting here all day. I'm real comfortable."

At this moment there came a knock at the door and before either of the boys could answer Father Brown entered.

"What's up?" he inquired.

"Toad hit me in the face with a wet sponge while I was asleep," explained Chuck, "and he's going to give me something for it."

"Then why are you sitting on him?" asked Father.

"Because he says he won't," replied Chuck with a grin.

"I suppose you'll have to pay up Thomas," laughed Father. "Anyway, I hope you'll both be down to breakfast soon," he added—"before all the cakes are gone. I've a terrible appetite this morning," and with these words he left the room.

"Do you give up now?" asked Chuck.

"No, sir," persisted Toad.

"Remember what he said about the cakes. They'll be hot ones with lots of maple syrup," teased Chuck.

"Well, you're missing them, too," retorted Toad.

"I guess I'll let you off this time," relented Chuck, "but if you ever do it again," he threatened, "I'll hold you down for a week, cakes or no cakes."

"You'd starve to death in that time," argued Toad, with a laugh as he commenced to hurry into his clothing.

The boys were seated at the table, a half hour later, and had just eaten the last of the griddle cakes, when Reddy's whistle was heard. Toad, jumping up from the table, ran over to the window and beckoned to Reddy to come into the house.

"What are you going to do this morning?" was Reddy's first remark as he entered the room.

"We're going for Christmas greens and Dad's going to cut our tree from away up on the hillside," Toad told him, "and," he added, "we're going to take one of the horses with us to drag it home."

"Oh, that's great!" replied Reddy. "Do you start soon?"

"Don't you want to go, too?" asked Chuck. "And maybe we can get Fat and Herbie, too," he added.

"If such a crowd goes, and everybody gathers greens," laughed Toad, "what will we ever do with all of them?"

Mother Brown answered him from the doorway.

"Why not take some of them to the church? I'm sure the ladies who are trimming it will be glad to use all that you can give them."

"That's a splendid idea," declared Father Brown, rising from his seat by the fireplace. "Come, boys, bundle up well, because it's going to be a cold drive."

"I'll run ahead to get the others," called Chuck as he hurried from the room.



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