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Christmas Holidays at Merryvale

CHAPTER VII

THE BOYS PLAN A SURPRISE

At two o'clock the sleigh was ready, for Father Brown had willingly given the boys permission to use it that afternoon. It was planned to have Chuck drive, for Toad, Reddy, Fat and Herbie expected to be too busy calling at the different houses to gather the presents which they hoped to collect for the O'Reillys.

"Let's stop at Bailey's first," suggested Fat, "as we're sure to get something there."

"Who'll go to the door?" questioned Herbie.

"All go," answered Chuck. "That's the best way." So in a group they rang the bell and waited, Chuck remaining in the sleigh.

No one came in answer to their ring.

"All out," sighed Fat; but Toad gave the bell another pull.

"Bet they're all in the kitchen baking things and didn't hear it," he remarked.

"There's someone coming now," whispered Reddy, and as the door opened:

"Good afternoon," said all the boys in chorus.

"Mercy upon us, where did you all come from?" exclaimed Mrs. Bailey, and, as Toad held forth a card that Father Brown had printed for them, she asked:

"Am I to read this?"

"Yes, Mrs. Bailey, that explains everything," Reddy told her.

She read:—

"In one little home there may be no Christmas cheer; the father and mother are both ill. There are three children; a boy of nine years, another of five, and a girl of seven. They need coal, clothing, food and toys. What will you give?"

"So you're all playing at being Santa Claus," remarked Mrs. Bailey with a smile. "Well, I believe I can find something that will please you, so just stop in on your way back and I'll have it all ready for you."

"Oh, thank you!" cried all the boys, together, as they started for the sleigh, happy over the success of their first call.

"Have any luck?" asked Chuck. "But I can see you did, because you're all grinning," he added, as they told him what Mrs. Bailey had promised.

After several more visits, with the promise of something from each place if they would call later, Herbie proposed that they stop at Mrs. Lee's home, as Mary Lee had a great many dolls and might give them one of them for the little O'Reilly girl.

"That's a good idea," they all agreed, and the idea was carried out.

When Mrs. Lee had read the card she asked the boys if there was anything they needed that had not been promised.

"We wondered," replied Herbie, "if Mary would give us a doll for that little girl?"

Mrs. Lee smiled and said:

"I think I can promise you that she will. If you will call later it will give me a chance to get her."

"We'll be glad to," promised the boys, "and thank you."

At five o'clock a sleigh piled high with bundles and boys was seen turning into the Brown's driveway.

"What'll we do now?" asked Toad of the others.

"Let's drive into the barn and leave the things in the sleigh," suggested Chuck; "then we can meet here early tonight and take the things to the O'Reillys."

"All right," assented the others. "What time shall we meet?"

"At seven o'clock," said Toad.



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