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- Marjorie's Vacation - 20/34 -
"What shall we do?" said Grandma, in despair. "It isn't seven o'clock, we haven't lighted the lanterns yet for the evening, and the ice cream is all gone! I never dreamed we'd have such a crowd."
"We'll light the lanterns, anyway," declared Uncle Steve, "for if the ice cream is gone they'll want to buy the lanterns next!"
And sure enough they did. When the people came in the evening and learned that everything was sold out but the lanterns, they declared they would buy them for souvenirs. So the merry guests walked about the grounds, carrying the lighted lanterns they had bought (at astonishing prices), and it lent a fantastic effect to the scene to see the lanterns bobbing about among the trees and shrubs on the lawn.
Marjorie was so sorry not to have wares to offer her would-be customers that she ran up to her room several times, gathering up books, pictures, or toys that she thought she could by any possibility spare. She would fly with them down to the porch, mark them at exorbitant prices, and in a few moments they would be sold to the amiable and generous buyers.
It was an unusual experience for a fancy fair, as often there are many unsold wares left to be auctioned off or sold at reduced rates.
When it was all over and the last guests had departed, swinging their lanterns, Marjorie, very tired but very happy, displayed a well-filled cash-box.
"How much do you suppose?" she cried gayly to Uncle Steve.
"Fifty dollars," guessed that jovial gentleman.
"Nonsense," cried Marjorie, "you know there's more than that! But I rather think you'll be surprised when I tell you that there's a little over two hundred dollars!"
"Fine!" exclaimed Uncle Steve. "That will keep the Elegant Ella in fans and sashes for some time!"
"Indeed, it won't be used for that," declared Marjorie. "We're going to give it to Grandma and let her use it for the Dunns just as she thinks best. Little girls can have a fair and earn the money, but it takes older people to manage the rest of it."
"That's true enough, Midge," said Grandma, "but you certainly shall have a share in the pleasure of bestowing it upon our poor neighbors."
"Mopsy," said Uncle Steve one morning, "I understand that next week Thursday has the honor of being your birthday."
"Yes, Uncle Steve, and I'll be twelve years old."
"My gracious goodness! What an old lady you are getting to be! Well, now for such an occasion as that we must celebrate in some way. So I'm going to give you a choice of pleasures. Would you rather have a party, a picnic, or a present?"
Marjorie considered. She well knew that a present which would balance against a party or a picnic would be a fine present, indeed. And so, after a moment's thought, she replied:
"I'll take the present, thank you, Uncle Steve; for somehow I feel sure we'll have picnics this summer, as we always do; and I don't care much about a party, because I know so few children around here."
"All right, then, Midget; a present it shall be, but with this stipulation: you must promise not to go down into the south orchard from now until next Thursday."
"Why not?" asked Mopsy, her eyes wide open with astonishment.
"Principally, because I tell you not to, and I want you to obey me; but I don't mind explaining that it is because I shall be there, at least part of the time, making your present; and as I want it to be a surprise, you mustn't come peeping around."
"All right, Uncle Steve, I won't; but why do you make it down there? Why not make it up here at the house?"
"Midget, your curiosity will some day get you into trouble. I prefer to do the work in the meadow. Perhaps it is sewing, and I shall take my work-basket and sit under the big maple-trees to sew."
Marjorie laughed to think of Uncle Steve sewing, but was really burning with curiosity to know what he was going to do.
However, she had given her word, and she conscientiously kept it. Not once during those intervening days did she so much as look toward the south meadow, though if she had done so she would not have been able to discover what her birthday surprise was to be.
Every day she discussed the subject with Molly and Stella, and each formed an opinion. Stella thought it was a new flower garden that Uncle Steve was making for Midge; Molly thought he was having a swing put up, because she had seen Carter carrying some long timbers over that way. But the girls considered themselves bound by Mopsy's promise to her uncle, and conscientiously refrained from going down to the meadow to investigate.
Grandma, of course, was in the secret, and as a result she often shut herself into her own room, telling Marjorie she must not come in. She would stay there for hours at a time, and Mopsy felt sure she was sewing on something connected with the birthday surprise, as indeed she was.
As the day came nearer, all the members of the household seemed to be in a state of great excitement. Carter was running about, bringing mysterious-looking parcels from the express office, and taking them to the barn to unpack them.
Eliza was concocting delicious-looking creams and jellies, but they, Marjorie knew, were for the birthday feast, which would, of course, be a hilarious festival, although not a party.
At last Thursday morning came, and Marjorie awoke bright and early; and very soon, arrayed in a fresh, pink gingham frock, went dancing downstairs.
So early was she that the others had not yet come down, and she went out into the kitchen to talk to Eliza.
"Oh, me!" she sighed. "I wish Uncle Steve would hurry. It just seems as if I couldn't wait any longer to know what my birthday surprise is going to be. Do you know, Eliza?"
"Faix, an' I do, Miss Midge, an' it's a foine gift yer uncle has for ye!"
"Don't tell me, Eliza, because Uncle Steve said I mustn't ask questions about it; but do you think I'll like it?"
"'Like it,' is it? 'Deed an' you will thin! Ye'll go crazy as a loonytic wid joy and delight! An' I'm thinkin' you and Miss Molly will be after breaking your necks in it, but the little lady Stella,--I'm feared she won't get in it at all, at all; she'll be too sheared."
"Then it IS a swing," exclaimed Midget, and she felt a little disappointment, for though a swing was lovely to have, yet she had one at home, so it was no especial novelty; and, too, she hadn't thought Uncle Steve would make such a fuss about having a swing built.
"I'm not sayin' it isn't a swing," said Eliza, "and I'm not sayin' it is. And I'm not sayin' it isn't a merry-go-around-about, or whativer ye call thim noisy things that they do be havin' down by the circus tent, and I'm not sayin' it is."
"Don't say any more about what it is or isn't, or I'll guess."
"Indeed you wouldn't, Miss Mopsy, if ye guessed from now until ye're gray-headed."
This made Midget think that the gift was not a swing, as she had already guessed that,--and then she heard Uncle Steve's voice calling her, and she ran gayly back to the dining-room.
The birthday breakfast was a festival indeed. Marjorie's place was decorated with flowers, and even the back of her chair was garlanded with wreaths.
At her plate lay such a huge pile of parcels, tied up in bewitching white papers and gay ribbons, that it seemed as if it would take all day to examine them.
"Goodness me!" exclaimed Midget. "Did anybody ever have so many birthday gifts? Are they all for me?"
"Any that you don't want," said Uncle Steve, "you may hand over to me. I haven't had a birthday for several years now, and I'd be thankful for one small gift."
"You shall have the nicest one here," declared Marjorie, "and I don't care what it is, or who sent it."
"The nicest one isn't here," observed Grandma, with a merry twinkle in her eye, and Marjorie knew that she was thinking of the surprise in the orchard.
"Of course, I mean except the swing," said Marjorie, looking roguishly at Uncle Steve to see if she had guessed right.
"You've been peeping!" he exclaimed, in mock reproach, and then Marjorie knew that whatever it was, it wasn't a swing.
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