When they reached home Chuck drove the sleigh up to the side door, where the boys quickly unloaded the greens. They then lifted the tree to the piazza and when this had been done Chuck drove the horse to the stable.
"Let's go in and get our hands warm before we take in the greens," suggested Toad, and soon they were all laughing and talking before the great fire in the library.
Fat had just asked the others if they remembered the day Mr. Brown had told them about the Indians that used to live in the woods where they found the tree, when a man's voice was heard from the hall.
"It's going to be a sad Christmas for them, I'm afraid, for both parents are ill and the three helpless children are waiting for Santa Claus to come," the boys heard Father Brown say.
"How sad," was Mrs. Brown's answer, as they both went into the kitchen and the boys could hear no more.
"They must be talking about the O'Reillys," commented Fat. "Mike's a friend of mine and I'm sorry he isn't going to have any Christmas."
"So am I," echoed Herbie, after a short silence.
Chuck said he'd hate to awaken Christmas morning and not find any presents.
"Guess I've been mighty selfish wanting so many things," he thought.
Toad and Reddy, who had moved away from the other boys, were talking together in low, excited whispers. Then, when the others went to the window to look at the green outside, they slipped from the room and hurried down the hall to the kitchen.
"Mother," called Toad from the doorway, "may we speak to you for a minute?"
Mother Brown handed the bowl in which she had been stirring something to the cook and crossed the room toward the boys, saying as she did so:
"I can only spare a few minutes to-day, Thomas, for I am very busy."
"But, Mother," exclaimed Toad, "we have a great idea!"
"It's a Christmas surprise party," chimed in Reddy, "for the O'Reillys," and together the two boys went on to tell Mrs. Brown of their plans.
"If we could just have the horse and sleigh to get around in," ventured Toad. "Do you think Father would allow us to hitch old Meg to the big sleigh?"
"It's a wonderful idea," agreed Mother Brown. "Suppose you ask him. But how about presents for the three children? Have you thought of that?"
"If it were only after Christmas we could give away some of our new things," sighed Toad.
"But would you give them away?" asked his mother. "Supposing you were going to get a sled,—the kind you have been wanting," and she paused to hear Toad's answer.
He thought very hard for a moment, then answered:
"Yes, because I always get a lot of things and it might be the only present Mike would get."
"Well," remarked his mother, "I have bought you a sled, and you may give it to him."
Reddy looked at Toad, as Mother Brown turned toward the kitchen.
"Are you sorry now that you said 'yes'?" he asked.
"No, I'm not," returned Toad.
"Well, I'll ask Mother to let me give them something new of mine, too," declared Reddy consolingly, putting his arm about Toad's shoulder.