THE WITCH TELLS FORTUNES
"Come in," invited Father and the boys, standing in a group watching the knob of the door turn slowly. As it opened silently they saw standing on the threshold a little, old woman, all bent over, a long black cape and hood covering her from head to foot. She carried a cane with a crook in it and leaned very heavily upon it as she walked.
Muttering to herself she crossed the room and took a seat by the fire. Her coarse, gray hair fell in straggly locks about her face almost hiding it from view.
Suddenly the lights went out, leaving the room in darkness, save for the firelight.
"Place the pot before me," she ordered, in a high, broken voice, shaking her stick at Fat.
"Yes, Ma'am," said Fat, hurrying to obey.
"She's got Fat scared to death," giggled Toad to Reddy.
From under her cape she now took a small paper bag and poured the contents into the pot before her, then standing up she hobbled around it three times, waving her arms and humming a queer little tune. Soon a dull red light glowed from within the pot, getting brighter and brighter.
"It's magic," whispered Toad to Hopie Smith.
The old witch now sat down again and took from beneath her cape a small pad, a long quill pen and a queer little bottle filled with milky white fluid.
"If you drink any of that you'll get as small as a flea," said Fat in a low voice.
The old witch rapped hard on the floor with her cane.
"Herbie, come forward," she commanded.
"Go ahead," giggled Reddy, giving him a little push and Herbie stepped before the witch.
She did not notice him at first, being very busy writing upon a slip of paper with the quill pen which she dipped into a little bottle. Presently she raised her head and handed him the paper.
"Bend low thine ear," she said, and Herbie obeyed.
"Keep this until I am gone," she added, "then hold it over yonder candle light, for thy fortune is written there."
Each boy was now called in turn and received a slip of paper. Then the old witch arose.
"To those who obey my commands, good luck; to those who disobey, ill fortune," she cried, shaking her stick in the air, and in another moment she had quickly hobbled from the room.
Chuck now turned on the lights and Linn exclaimed:
"Where on earth did she ever come from?"
"Why, witches come out of the air," explained Toad. "They travel on a broomstick."
"Let's see what she wrote on the papers," proposed Hopie Smith.
"Yes," agreed Reddy, "she told me to hold it over the candle light," at which Chuck came forward with a candle that he placed on the center table, holding his slip of paper over the flame. The other boys eagerly gathered about to watch.
Soon the paper got hot and letters began to appear.
"Look, there's an 'a' and two 'e's,' and, and," cried Chuck, "it's quite plain now. I can read it."
"Go on," shouted Reddy, "let's hear it."
"If your head will rule your heart,
From a cent you'll never part;
So tell your heart to rule your head,
And all will mourn you when you're dead."
"That means if you're stingy no one will care when you're gone," explained Linn, at which Chuck laughed with the others.
Herbie now held his over the light, and as the letters appeared, he read:
"Don't always be in too great haste,
It often means a dreadful waste;
Await your turn and take with ease,
The piece you want with fingers greased."
"That's you and the molasses candy," laughed Reddy, adding, "Here's mine:
"Your hair may be of brilliant hue,
But this should never bother you;
For when the winter winds blow most,
Your head will be as warm as toast."
"That's great," cried Reddy as all the boys laughed.
Fat now held his slip over the flame, and, as the words appeared read slowly:
"If you should eat a pound of lemons every other day,
You'd grow as lean as any pole, for so I've heard folks say;
But if, upon the other hand, you keep on eating pie,
You'll grow so big and round and tall, you'll almost reach the sky."
"You'd better be careful, Fat, and buy a barrel of lemons," suggested Toad.
"I'll order a wagon-load," grinned Fat.
Hopie now held his paper near the candle, and in a moment read:
"If you're the lad, to find the coin
That's hidden in the flour,
You, the highest will enjoy,
Of health, and wealth and power."
Toad's turn now came and upon his paper was written:
"You're very fond of teasing all the girls,
And pulling off the ribbons from their curls;
But mark my words, these tricks you'll surely rue,
For when you're grown, a few they'll play on you."
"That's a good one for you to remember, Toad," laughed the others.
Linn now read:
"Your mouth may be large, as I've oft heard you say,
But your words show a brain that is working;
You'll go to the top of the ladder because,
You do what you do without shirking."
"The old witch must have liked you, Linn," commented Reddy. "That's the best yet."
BLOWING OUT THE CANDLES
"Let's try to blow out the candles next," suggested Toad, to which the others agreed.
"Bet I win this," boasted Fat, "I've got a lot of wind."
"Reddy ought to win," laughed Chuck, "he's always blowing about what he can do."
A tray with ten candles was now placed upon the table by Toad and the boys got in line while Father Brown lighted the candles. Then, with paper and pencil he stood near at hand to keep the score.
"Only one puff each, remember, so make it a big one," he laughed.
Fat and Herbie, from their places in the line, began at once puffing and blowing.
"Hey, what are you trying to do," called Linn Smith, "start a cyclone?"
"No, we're only practising," was the laughing reply.
"I'll puff, and I'll puff 'till I blow your house in," sang Herbie, adding, "here's where I win."
Hopie Smith, first in line, filled out his chest with all the air it would hold, and stepped forward.
"How many?" shouted the others.
"Five," counted Father Brown, "that's a good beginning."
Reddy then gave Fat a poke with his elbow.
"Move up," he urged.
Toad came next and turned around three times for luck and then took a long breath. Puff!
"One, two, three, four," called Father.
"What," cried Toad in surprise, "only four—why, I was sure they would all go out."
Linn came next. Standing upon his toes and holding his hands together high above his head he turned slowly around, then, leaning down he gave a great blow.
"Six," counted Father Brown, "that's the best yet."
"Watch me," cried Chuck, who stood next, and placing his hands upon his hips he started dancing about before the table.
"Ha, look at the funny dancer," shouted Hopie.
Chuck gave a puff and blew out six candles which tied Linn's score.
Fat, who was now next in line, leaned far over. Placing his hands on the floor he lifted his right foot and shook it three times, then standing up he puffed out his cheeks for a mighty blow.
"Look out, you'll bust," warned Herbie.
"By jiminy, he did it," cried Toad, "good boy, Fat," as every candle went out.
"Reddy may tie him," suggested Father. "Let's see."
Reddy turned three somersaults for luck and standing before the candles blew with all his strength, and seven went out.
"Fat gets the prize and it's just what he likes most," cried Toad.
"Oh, but I'm glad I came," sighed Fat, as he opened the big box of candy that Toad had handed him.
"Now all be good children," he added, "and I'll give you each a piece."
THE SEARCH FOR THE SILVER COIN
"Shall we try to find the dime in the flour now?" asked Toad of Father Brown, after the boys had all tried some of Fat's candy and found it very much to their liking.
"Fine," agreed Father, "and I'll go to get the pan." When he returned a few moments later he carried a large tin dish-pan in his hands with an inch of flour in the bottom of it.
As Toad thought the floor the best place for this trick, the pan was placed there.
"How do you do it?" asked Reddy, standing with his back to the fire.
"It's very easy," answered Chuck with a grin. "There's a ten cent piece on the bottom of that pan and you've got to pick it up with your lips without using your hands to help."
"I'd have left my hands at home tonight, if I'd known they were to be of so little use," laughed Herbie.
"Oh, you'll need them later on," replied Chuck, "see if you don't."
"Three at a time," called out Father, "in a three minute try to see who can find the dime. Hopie, you, Toad and Fat try first."
Down went all three boys on their knees before the pan of flour and down into the flour went the three faces. Such a puffing and blowing that the flour rose like a white cloud and settled on the heads of the three who were pushing each other about in their efforts to find the money.
"They look like a lot of hungry pigs," laughed Reddy.
"You're not sick, are you Toad?" asked Herbie, "your face looks so pale," at which everyone laughed.
Suddenly Hopie Smith jumped up with the flour falling from his face and the dime held fast between his lips.
"Hurrah; three cheers for Hopie," shouted all the boys.
The pan was now carried out for a supply of fresh flour and a new dime. The three boys were brushed off and soon were watching the others trying to find the dime.
"Say, Reddy, you're an old man," cried Toad, "your hair is turning gray."
"Look out there, Linn," warned Fat, "you'll turn into a pancake if you eat all that flour."
At this Linn laughed, causing a great cloud of flour to rise from the pan.
"Chuck's digging for sil...." but before Hopie could finish Reddy stood up, his dancing blue eyes shining like two stars. Between his lips he held the dime.
"Good for you, Red," shouted Toad, "I knew you'd win it."
THE WONDERFUL PIE
Mother Brown now appeared in the doorway.
"Won't you come into the dining room?" she requested, and the boys lost no time in accepting the invitation.
"That means something to eat," whispered Herbie. "Wonder what it'll be."
As the boys entered the dining room they started with surprise, for there, hanging over the table, was the huge grinning face of a jack-o-lantern.
"Well," exclaimed Fat, "what a sweet face!" which brought a round of laughter from the others.
In the center of the table was a large paper pie and seven ribbons came from under the crust, each of them having a card on the end. A plate of paper snap-crackers of bright colors and the fancy yellow paper napkin at each place gave the table a gay look.
"What a funny pie," laughed Hopie. "What's inside?"
"Each one find the card with his name on it. Then we'll all pull together," directed Chuck, "and find out."
"Here's yours, Fat," called out Linn.
"You're over here, by me, Reddy," announced Toad.
"The fun's going to begin in a minute," cried Herbie. "Come on, Hopie, here's yours."
"Everyone ready now," cried Toad as each one held on to his own ribbon. "Now, one, two, three, pull," and, with a tearing of paper out came the contents of the pie.
Huge wiggly spiders, toads that hopped about the table, mice that looked real enough to frighten any girl, long striped paper snakes and giant grasshoppers were on the ends of those ribbons.
The boys screamed with laughter as the queer-looking things hopped, rolled and bumped about on the table.
"Look at what I've got," shrieked Hopie, holding an ugly looking spider up to view.
"If that was real I'll bet you wouldn't be within ten feet of it," said Fat.
"I'm going to scare our girl into fits with this mouse," laughed Herbie. "She'll just take one look at it then hop up on a chair; and won't she be mad when she finds out it isn't real?"
"Say, fellows, watch this frog jump," cried Fat, winding up a green and yellow one made of tin.
"Bet mine can beat it," boasted Reddy. "Let's race them."
"Thought yours could hop further than my little Heinie, didn't you?" teased Fat a minute later after his frog had won.
"Well, you wait until I get mine oiled up," warned Reddy, "and we'll try it again."
When the boys pulled the snappers, the gay paper hats caused great merriment, Fat having a baby cap with long strings which he tied under his chin.
"Ah, here comes the ice cream!" exclaimed Herbie. "Look at the funny figures it's in," he added, as a large platter, holding many odd little shapes, was placed before Toad.
"Youngest first," announced Toad. "What do you choose, Hopie?"
"I'll take, let's see; guess I'll have a pumpkin," finally decided Hopie and a yellow ice-cream pumpkin was placed before him.
"You're next, Reddy," said Chuck.
"Am not; Herbie's younger than I am," protested Reddy.
"I'll take the rabbit," laughed Herbie. "I like chocolate and vanilla best."
Reddy now chose a pink and white wind mill, Chuck a pony.
"Don't I wish it was real," he said.
"Well, the turtle looks like it might taste pretty good," said Fat, and then it was Linn's turn.
"It doesn't seem fair for you to be last, Toad, when you ought to have come after Reddy," remarked Linn.
"Oh, well, it's my party, so I have to be last," was the answer.
"Well," agreed Linn, "if that's so I'll have the ship."
"Oh, good," cried Toad, "that leaves the engine for me and I wanted it more than anything else."
"This turtle makes better ice cream than he would soup," grinned Fat as he took another spoonfull.
"I'm eating my rabbit's ears first," chirped Herbie.
"Well, I'm eating the smoke from my engine, first," Toad chimed in.
"Here's the cake, you'll have to cut it, Toad," Linn informed him, "for it's bad luck to let any one else cut a birthday cake for you."
It was covered with white icing and ablaze with candles.
"Now watch the candles go out," and Toad gave a great puff. "All over," he declared, laughing, "now I'll cut the cake."
"There is a piece of silver in it, Thomas," said his mother, "and the one who gets it will be the lucky one in life, and a thimble for the one who is going to be a bachelor."
At this the boys urged Toad to hurry and when the cake had been cut and passed around each boy looked his piece over carefully.
"Hurrah, I've got the money," shouted Hopie, holding up a bright dime so all could see.
"And I've got the thimble," wailed Chuck. "Now I'll have to sew on all my own buttons."
"Hopie's lucky all right; he won the money in the flour, too," observed Herbie.
It was now growing late so the boys, much against their will, found their hats and bade good-night to Father and Mother Brown.
"We've had a fine time, Toad," said Fat, "hope you have another birthday next year."
"I'm very sorry to have to do it," announced Linn, grasping Toad and turning him over his knee, "but you must have nine spanks and one for good luck."
"Why didn't we think of it before?" agreed the others, helping to hold Toad until each one had his turn.
"Well, I ought to be good for a year, now," laughed Toad, after he managed to get away. "Wait 'till it's your turn, Linn, won't I give you some good ones?"
"Good-night," responded Linn, "we've had a dandy time."
"You bet we have," echoed all the others.
"Good-bye, good-bye," called Chuck and Toad, standing in the doorway as the boys disappeared in the darkness.