Saturday, October 29, 2016

HALLOWE'EN AT MERRYVALE by ALICE HALE BURNETT (Part I)


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Alice Hale Burnett was an American author of children's books. 

She is best known for writing books set in a small town called Merryvale. 

Her books were originally published by The New York Book Company early in the Twentieth century.


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CHAPTER I

GETTING READY FOR THE PARTY


"What's Hallowe'en mean, Father?" asked Thomas Brown as the family was seated at breakfast one morning late in October.

"It means the evening before All Saints Day," answered Father Brown.

"Do you remember what fun we had last year, Chuck?" remarked Toad, for Thomas was called "Toad" by his friends, and Charley was known as "Chuck."

"I should say I do," he answered.

The Browns had always lived in the town of Merryvale in a large, white house, set far back from the street, and not far away was the home of Toad's best friend Reddy and his brother Frank nick-named "Fat."

"We had great fun when I was a boy," resumed Father Brown, "for my birthday anniversary falls on Hallowe'en and your grandmother would always have me invite the boys in the neighborhood to a party on that night."

"Oh, I wish mine weren't two days later or I might have a party too," sighed Toad.

"There's no reason, Thomas," said his mother, with a smile, "why you can't celebrate your birthday on Hallowe'en, if you'd like to."

"Oh, Mother, that's fine," cried Toad, jumping up from the table and running around to his mother's place to give her a hearty hug. "You always make things right," he added.

"We'd better ask all the fellows in school today," suggested Chuck, "for Saturday is Hallowe'en."

Toad lost no time when he reached school that morning in giving his invitations to the party and all the boys were glad to accept, for they always had a fine time at Toad's house.

When Saturday morning arrived, Mother Brown sent Toad off to the barn to get some large red apples.


"Be sure they have strong stems," she warned him, "or I shall not be able to use them."

The apples had been packed in barrels with plenty of straw to keep them from freezing, and when Toad reached the barn he pulled out one after another until he thought he had plenty. Just as he was wondering how many trips he would have to make to get all the apples to the house, a face peeped around the doorway.

"Hello, Reddy," laughed Toad, "come on in and help me with these apples. I've got to carry them up to the house," he explained, "they're for the party tonight."

"Couldn't we eat just one now?" asked Reddy, picking up from the floor a shining red apple.

"Hey, not that one," cried Toad, "take one without a stem."

"Huh," protested Reddy, "what difference does that make? I wasn't going to eat the stem."

Toad laughed.

"Mother wants strong stems on them. I don't know why," he explained.

"What's a Hallowe'en party like?" inquired Reddy, seating himself on the top of a potato barrel.

"Fat says," he continued, "that there's always ghosts."

"Aw, who's afraid of baby things like ghosts," jeered Toad.

"Well, I'm not either," protested Reddy. "I knew he was only trying to scare me."

After the boys had carried the apples up to the house Mother Brown looked them over and exclaimed:

"They're just what I want, such fine strong stems."



CHAPTER II

THE FUN BEGINS


At about half past seven o'clock that night the boys who had been invited to the party began to arrive at the Brown's home where they were met at the door by a figure in white. It had queer rabbit ears, made from tying up the corners of a pillow slip that had been placed over its head. The eyes were holes cut in the slip.

The large hall was lighted by many candles set in hollowed-out pumpkins which had queer grinning faces cut in them.

"Wow, but this is spooky," giggled Fat, at which the other boys laughed.

Now the figure in white, which was really Toad, asked the boys to follow him as he led them to Father Brown's study. Here they were met by Chuck, also in white.

"Good evening, Mr. Ghost," greeted Reddy, bowing low.

"How do," nodded the ghost and Chuck could scarcely keep from laughing as he added in a deep voice, "Put on these slips and hurry up," pointing to a pile of them on the floor.

"Oh, I know who you are," laughed Fat, "but I won't tell," and he hastened to scramble into a pillow slip, which he twisted around his head until he got the slits for the eyes in the right place.

"My ears are longer than yours are," boasted Herbie, as he danced about.

"All the better to hear you, my dear," laughed Linn Smith.

As all were now ready, Chuck led the queer looking party of long-eared figures into the library where they were met by Father and Mother Brown dressed in black gowns with tall witches' caps on their heads. There was a large black pot hanging in the fireplace and Mother Brown began to stir something in it with a long iron spoon.

Fat walked directly over to the fireplace and peeped into the pot.


"If ghosts had noses," he sniffed, "I'd say that smelt awfully good."

Father Brown now went about, pinning a number on each boy's back.

"What's that for?" asked Hopie.

"Well, you all look so much alike," laughed Mr. Brown, "that I can't tell you apart. And," after a pause, "there's going to be a prize for this game."

"That's great," shouted Herbie, "hope I get it."

Chuck now left the room, returning a moment later with a huge pumpkin which he placed on a chair in the corner.

"Who's number one?" he asked, at the same time lifting high into the air the stem of the pumpkin, which had been cut off close to its base.

"I am," announced Hopie Smith from his place before the fire where he had been helping Mother Brown stir the contents of the great black pot.

"Well, hurry and come over here, if you're first," called Toad, "and I'll turn your slip around so you can't see."

"Here's the stem," said Chuck, placing it in Hopie's outstretched hand.

Father Brown now took Hopie by the shoulders and slowly turned him around again and again.

"I believe you've had enough turns to wonder where you are," he said, adding, "now see if you can place the stem on the pumpkin."

Hopie started off, both hands held out before him.

"You musn't feel anything with your hands," called Herbie, "it isn't fair."

"All right," was the answer as he walked straight for the corner where Fat was sitting, watching the fun.

"Keep perfectly still," whispered Chuck in Fat's ear, as Hopie drew near, then as he paused before Fat and placed the stem upon his head the boys broke into shouts of laughter.

"Oh, you pumpkin head," gasped Reddy.

Hopie pulled off his pillow slip and stared in wonder about him, then he too laughed.

"I was so sure I had it on the pumpkin!" he exclaimed.

"Better be careful, Fat," warned Toad, "If mother takes you for a pumpkin she'll put you in a pie."

Numbers two, three and four hadn't much better luck for Herbie stuck the stem on the center table, Chuck on a book stand and Reddy tried very hard to put it into the pot but Mother Brown held out her hand just in time to save it from falling in.

Linn's turn came next.

"Watch me," he said. "I'm going to do it."

"Bet you don't," challenged Reddy.

Then Father Brown gave him a few quick turns and away he started. After taking two or three steps forward he paused, then, stretching out his hands he walked slowly toward the fireplace. When he had reached it he turned about and faced the room.

"Now, I know where I am," he thought, "I'll walk right over to the corner by the door."

"Look," whispered Chuck to Herbie, "he knows where he's going, all right."

Each boy held his breath as Linn drew closer and closer to the chair which held the pumpkin. Then as his knees struck against the edge of it he stopped and placed the stem on the top of the pumpkin.

"Good for you, Linn," cried Toad. "I didn't think you could do it."

"Oh, it was easy," boasted Linn. "The heat of the fire told me where the fireplace was, then when I turned and faced the other way I knew I only had to walk to the left to reach this corner."

"Here's the prize," announced Chuck, stepping up to Linn and handing him a box.

"Hurry up and open it," cried Hopie, "we want to see what's in it." And as the lid came off the box, Linn exclaimed:

"A baseball, just what I've been wanting," and he tossed it up into the air.

"That's as lively as a cricket," commented Herbie, as he caught the ball and bounced it on the floor.



CHAPTER III

THE SWINGING APPLES


Mother Brown now whispered something in Fat's ear and with a broad grin Fat disappeared through the door leading to the kitchen. In another moment he reappeared carrying two large, well-greased pans in his hands. At once the boys all crowded about the fireplace trying to help and in less time than it takes to tell, the taffy that had been boiling in the large pot was poured into the pans and set away to cool.

"By jiminy, I hope it tastes as good as it smells," observed Toad.

"I'm sure it will," replied Mother Brown, with a smile.

"Stand in line," ordered Chuck, "while I tie your hands behind your backs."

"You're not going to spank us, are you?" wailed Fat, making believe to cry.

"No, silly," laughed Chuck, adding, "Everyone take off his slip, now. We need our whole faces to play this game."

Toad, with the help of Father Brown, then placed a long pole so that the ends rested on the top of two bookcases and from it hung many bright red apples, tied on with strings.

"Now," said Chuck, "the fellow who can take one good bite out of an apple without using anything to steady it with, gets a prize."

"Me first," cried Herbie.

"All right," was the reply, "go ahead." And Herbie started.

At first it seemed very easy, but whenever he got ready to take a good bite the apple always slipped away. The boys all laughed as Herbie made one dive after another.

"Ah, have a bite," cried Reddy. "I picked that one out for you."

Herbie then gave the apple a push and stood with his mouth wide open, awaiting the return swing, but instead of getting a bite, the apple landed on his nose.

Fat fairly rolled over with laughter and after a few more attempts Herbie gave up his place to Linn Smith. Then Father Brown took Herbie's apple off the string and, tossing it to him, said:

"Here's the Boobie prize."

Linn had no better luck than Herbie, although he tried his hardest. The apple always bobbed about his head, rolling away just as he thought he had it.

"You're next," called out Toad, as Fat stepped forward toward the apples.

"Good evening," said Fat, bowing low, "I've a very empty feeling, would you like to step inside?"

"Ah, hurry up," shouted Reddy, "I want a turn some time tonight."

"So do I," chimed in Hopie Smith.

Fat grinned. "Don't be in such a hurry; it never pays," he retorted.

Again and again he tried but did no better than the rest. Hopie Smith, who followed, had no success, and then came Reddy's turn. Bending down, he brought his face up under the lower end of the apple and opening his mouth very wide and bringing his teeth together with a quick snap he succeeded in biting a piece out of the apple.

"Dandy," shouted Toad, "he gets the prize," and as he handed the winner a box Reddy opened it and exclaimed:

"Oh, it's a knife, that's great, and I needed one too."

"That's a beauty," declared Herbie, "You're lucky, Red."


CHAPTER IV

THE CANDY PULL


"Don't you think the candy's cold by this time?" whispered Fat to Toad.

"Let's find out," suggested Toad, and the two boys walked over to the table where the pans had been placed to cool. Very gently placing his finger tips upon the candy, Fat exclaimed:

"Oh, it's just right; plenty cool enough to pull."

"Hey, come on, everybody," shouted Toad, "the candy's ready."

"I'll get some butter," offered Chuck, running off to the kitchen, saying as he went: "Wait until it comes; it keeps the candy from sticking."

When he returned the boys all greased their fingers well with butter and set to work pulling the taffy.

"Let's see which one can make his the lightest," suggested Linn. "I used to be pretty good at this work when I was young," he laughed.

"Well, Grandpa, I'll beat you this time," boasted Toad.

"Won't somebody help me out of this?" wailed Herbie, holding up before him two very sticky hands. He had been so anxious to commence pulling his taffy that he had not waited for the butter.

"You're a sad looking sight," laughed Fat. "Why didn't you wait to see how I did it," he chuckled.

"You'd better go and wash it all off," suggested Father, "and make a fresh start, for there's plenty of taffy."

Herbie took his advice.

"Reddy, what was that the teacher said in school the other day about too much candy being bad for little boys?" inquired Chuck from his corner by the fireplace, at which Reddy laughed.

"Come on," he said, "let's see who's taffy's the lightest."

"Yes, everyone hold out his piece," proposed Linn.

"Oh, yours is," admitted Toad as he saw Linn's cream-colored taffy.

"Looks like a lock of Mary Lee's hair," observed Herbie, glancing at Linn's piece.

"You're always talking about her," teased Fat.

"Am not," denied Herbie stoutly, his face turning red.

"Oh, look at the little dear blush," cried Toad in great glee, just dodging the sofa pillow aimed at his head by Herbie.

Hopie, leaning back comfortably against the side of the fireplace, heaved a sigh of contentment.

"Got a tummy ache?" asked Reddy.

"Nope, just enjoying myself," was the answer as he took another bite from his piece of taffy.

"What'll we do next?" inquired Chuck, turning to Father Brown.

"I'm expecting a witch at nine o'clock to tell fortunes," was the reply. "I hope she doesn't disappoint us."

"A witch," shrieked Fat in a high, thin voice, making believe to be very much alarmed. "I hope she won't change me into a snake."

"Oh, you'd make a better turtle—you're so fond of walking slow," laughed Linn.

"She'll turn Herbie into a sleeping Prince, and Mary Lee will be the Princess who kisses him and wakes him up," said Chuck, teasingly, at which all the boys roared with laughter.

As Herbie started off after Chuck a merry chase followed which the other boys enjoyed, at times holding Chuck until Herbie was almost upon him and then letting him go, only to catch Herbie and hold him in turn. Suddenly in the midst of the uproar there came a sharp rap on the door.

"One—two—three."

"Hush," whispered Chuck, "it's the witch."



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