After dinner that night Chuck and Toad spent a little time helping to trim the big tree that had been put in place in the library during their absence of the afternoon. Chuck was on the top of a stepladder, tying shiny colored balls to the upper branches, when Toad, who had been busy with candy canes and popcorn balls, suddenly stopped and looked at the clock on the mantel.
"It's seven o'clock, Chuck," he cried, "and the others will be wondering why we don't come out," and at this he ran into the hall to get into his coat and cap.
Chuck took but a second to follow Toad out into the yard to meet the boys.
Mother Brown had sent her bundle and Toad's new sled to the barn by John, the stableman, who put them into the sleigh with the other things while the boys were at dinner.
"Hello, boys! Everybody here?" inquired Toad as he joined the group of boys in front of the barn.
"All but Fat," laughed Reddy, "and he'll be along in a minute. He said I walked too fast for him."
"Is everything in the sleigh?" asked Herbie, as John was hitching up.
"Everything's in all right," Toad assured him.
When about to start they found that the sleigh was so full of bundles that some of the boys had to stand on the runners. Just as they reached the street, Fat was seen coming toward them.
"Hurry up, lazy bones," called Reddy, "or you'll get left," but John good-naturedly stopped the horse until Fat had climbed aboard.
There was a full moon and the sky was bright with stars. The snow was hard beneath the horse's feet, which made the going easy, so they traveled along at a brisk pace.
"Where shall I stop?" asked John as they drew near the O'Reilly's cottage.
"Just a little this side of the house," directed Toad, "so they won't hear us."
"All off, now," ordered Reddy, as John pulled up the horse, "and help unload. Don't let's make any more noise than we can help."
"We can pile everything on the front steps," whispered Herbie, as the boys, each heavily laden with packages of all sizes and shapes, walked very quietly up the path toward the house.
Each carefully placed his bundles or boxes where Herbie had suggested and just as silently they now returned to the sleigh.
"Suppose someone comes along and takes all the things before they get up in the morning?" argued Fat. "I don't think it's safe to leave them there all night, do you?"
"Well, maybe we'd better throw some snowballs at the door," proposed Chuck, "to bring them out now."
This was accepted as a good plan, and "Bang, bang, bang!" went the balls against the door.
The sleigh, in which the boys took refuge, was well hidden behind a pine tree, so they could not be seen from the house.
"There's a light!" said Reddy in a low voice. "Someone is opening the door."
"It's Mike!" answered Herbie, excitedly. "I'll bet he can't believe his eyes."
It did seem to the others that what Herbie said was true, for, framed in the doorway of the cottage stood a boy, gazing at a great heap of bundles and boxes on the steps before him as if dazed. Once he rubbed his eyes as if to make sure he was awake, then he slowly stretched out one hand toward the beautiful new sled, hardly daring to believe it was real. Then suddenly, as the boys watched eagerly, the sled was in his arms and he was jumping up and down with joy, calling to those of his family who could, to come out to see the wonderful surprise.
"Time for us to be getting home now," whispered Chuck, and Toad, feeling very happy, answered:
"I guess you're right."
By nine o'clock Chuck and Toad were sound asleep, and the stockings, tied to the end of each bed, fell limp and empty.