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Agnes Taylor Ketchum

The Birthday Present

B ERT could hardly sleep. He tossed and turned so on his bed that Frank, who slept with him, was in danger of being landed on the floor more than once.

He thought it never  would be morning. At last, when it seemed as though he had laid awake for hours, he fell asleep, and lay quietly upon his pillow till the sun shone through his open window right into his face.

Would you like to know why Bert was so excited?

I am in the secret, so if we go down the ladder-like stairs, out through the little kitchen, and on into the shed at the back of the house, we shall find out the cause of all Bert's excitement. There, in the corner, in part of an old basket, sits Mrs. Hen, rather excited herself this morning.

But what can that have to do with Bert's excitement? Well, Bert has one little sister—golden-haired, blue-eyed Maggie, whom he loves very dearly. "What can I do for Maggie?" is his one thought. For weeks he saved all his pennies, and ran all sorts of errands for the neighbors, so that he might have money for Maggie's birthday present.

Maggie will be four to-morrow, and Mrs. Hen has been sitting there in that basket for three long weeks, and the chickens ought to be out to-morrow, and Maggie does not know anything about it yet.

How Bert has had to watch to keep Maggie away from the shed, and how carefully he has attended to Mrs. Hen's few wants!

When the sun shines full in Bert's face, he wakes up. One spring carries him almost across the room to his clothes. He wakes Frank, and they hurry on their clothes and on down to the shed. He trembles so, for fear they will not find things as he wants them, that he can scarcely lift the latch to the shed door. But when once inside, he feels sure that he hears the tiny, "Chirp, chirp."

Down on his knees he goes, and, in spite of Mrs. Hen's pecks at his hands, he can feel under her two, three or even four  little balls of down.

Running into the house, and waking them all with the happy shout, "Maggie, it is your birthday!" he snatches Maggie from her bed and hurries her down to the shed.

All his self-denial is fully repaid now by Maggie's delight, for she at once takes one of the little soft chickens up in her hands and kisses and kisses it.

Her delight has to be cut short for a time, though, when her mother came to get Maggie to dress her, for Bert, in his excitement, had carried her off in her night clothes.