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Under the Lilacs

Ben's Birthday
A superb display of flags flapped gayly in the breeze on the September morning when
Ben proudly entered his teens. An irruption of bunting seemed to have broken out all over
the old house, for banners of every shape and size, color and design, flew from chimney-
top to gable, porch and gate-way, making the quiet place look as lively as a circus tent,
which was just what Ben most desired and delighted in.
The boys had been up very early to prepare the show, and when it was ready enjoyed it
hugely, for the fresh wind made the pennons cut strange capers. The winged lion of
Venice looked as if trying to fly away home; the Chinese dragon appeared to brandish his
forked tail as he clawed at the Burmese peacock; the double-headed eagle of Russia
pecked at the Turkish crescent with one beak, while the other seemed to be screaming to
the English royal beast, "Come on and lend a paw." In the hurry of hoisting the Siamese
elephant got turned upside down, and now danced gayly on his head, with the stars and
stripes waving proudly over him. A green flag with a yellow harp and sprig of shamrock
hung in sight of the kitchen window, and Katy, the cook, got breakfast to the tune of "St.
Patrick's day in the morning." Sancho's kennel was half hidden under a rustling paper
imitation of the gorgeous Spanish banner, and the scarlet sun-and-moon flag of Arabia
snapped and flaunted from the pole over the coach-house, as a delicate compliment to
Lita, Arabian horses being considered the finest in the world.
The little girls came out to see, and declared it was the loveliest sight they ever beheld,
while Thorny played "Hail Columbia" on his fife, and Ben, mounting the gate-post,
crowed long and loud like a happy cockerel who had just reached his majority. He had
been surprised and delighted with the gifts he found in his room on awaking and guessed
why Miss Celia and Thorny gave him such pretty things, for among them was a match-
box made like a mouse-trap. The doggy buttons and the horsey whip were treasures,
indeed, for Miss Celia had not given them when they first planned to do so, because
Sancho's return seemed to be joy and reward enough for that occasion. But he did not
forget to thank Mrs. Moss for the cake she sent him, nor the girls for the red mittens
which they had secretly and painfully knit. Bab's was long and thin, with a very pointed
thumb, Betty's short and wide, with a stubby thumb, and all their mother's pulling and
pressing could not make them look alike, to the great affliction of the little knitters. Ben,
however, assured them that he rather preferred odd ones, as then he could always tell
which was right and which left. He put them on immediately and went about cracking the
new whip with an expression of content which was droll to see, while the children
followed after, full of admiration for the hero of the day.
They were very busy all the morning preparing for the festivities to come, and as soon as
dinner was over every one scrambled into his or her best clothes as fast as possible,
because, although invited to come at two, impatient boys and girls were seen hovering
about the avenue as early as one.