Produced by Robert Rowe, Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
BROTHER AND SISTER
BY JOSEPHINE LAWRENCE
“BROTHER AND SISTER’S SCHOOLDAYS”
“BROTHER AND SISTER’S HOLIDAYS”
BROTHER AND SISTER SERIES
BY JOSEPHINE LAWRENCE
1. BROTHER AND SISTER
2. BROTHER AND SISTER’S SCHOOLDAYS
3. BROTHER AND SISTER’S HOLIDAYS
BROTHER AND SISTER
I. THE MORRISONS
II. GRANDMA HASTINGS
III. SISTER IN MISCHIEF
IV. PARTY PREPARATIONS
V. DICK’S BUTTONS
VI. RALPH’S PRESENT
VII. MORE PRESENTS
VIII. THE PARTY
IX. OUT IN THE BARN
X. THE HAUNTED HOUSE
XI. JIMMIE’S SURPRISE
XII. A LITTLE SHOPPING
XIII. A BIG DISAPPOINTMENT
XIV. TWO IN TROUBLE
XV. TROUBLE AGAIN
XVI. MISS PUTNAM COMPLAINS
XVII. MAKING UP WITH JIMMIE
XVIII. MICKEY GAFFNEY
XIX. A VERY SICK DOLL
XX. PLANS FOR MICKEY
XXI. BROTHER AND SISTER PAY A CALL XXII. MICKEY OWNS UP
BROTHER AND SISTER
“Brother,” said Mother Morrison, “you haven’t touched your glass of milk. Hurry now, and drink it before we leave the table.”
Brother’s big brown eyes turned from his knife, which he had been playing was a bridge from the salt cellar to the egg cup, toward the tumbler of milk standing beside his plate.
“I don’t have to drink milk this morning, Mother,” he assured her confidently. “Honestly I don’t. It’s raining so hard that we can’t go outdoors and grow, anyway.”
Louise, his older sister, said sharply. “Don’t be silly!” but Ralph, who was in a hurry to catch his train, stopped long enough to give a word of advice.
“Look here, Brother,” he urged seriously, “better not skip a morning. Your birthday is next week, isn’t it? Well, if you’re not tall enough by Wednesday morning, you can’t have the present I bought for you last night. Too short, no present–you think it over.”
He stooped to kiss his mother, tweaked Sister’s perky bow of hair- ribbon, and with a hasty “Good-bye” for the others at the table, hurried out into the hall. They heard the front door slam after him.
Spurred by Ralph’s mysterious hint, Brother drank his milk, and then the Morrison family scattered for their usual busy day.
Brother and Sister were left to clear the breakfast table. They always did this, carrying out the dishes and silver to Molly in the kitchen. Then they crumbled the cloth neatly. Molly declared she could not do without them.
“What do you suppose Ralph is going to give you?” speculated Sister, carefully folding up the napkin Louise had dropped, and slipping it into the white pique ring embroidered with an “L.” “Maybe it’s a train?”
“No, I don’t believe it’s a train,” said Brother slowly, crumbling a bit of bread and beginning to build a little farm with the crumbs. “No, I guess maybe he will give me a tool-chest.”
“Come on, and bring the bread tray,” suggested Sister practically. She never forgot the task in hand for other interests. “Mother says we mustn’t dawdle, Roddy, you know she did. It’s my turn to feed the birds, so I’ll crumb the table. Could I use your saw if you get a tool-chest?”
Brother answered dreamily that he supposed she could. He watched Sister and her crumb-brush sweep away his nice little bread-crumb fences, while he planned to build a real fence if Ralph’s present should turn out to be the long-coveted tool-chest.
When Sister had swept up every tiny crumb, she and Brother went out to scatter the bits of bread to the birds who, winter and summer, never failed to come to the back door and who always seemed hungry.
This morning there were robins, starlings, a pair of beautiful big blue jays, and, of course, the rusty little sparrows. Each bird seemed to be pretending to the others that he was looking for worms, and each one slyly watched the Morrison back door in hopes that two small figures would presently come out and toss them a breakfast of breadcrumbs.
Sister flung her crumbs as far as her short arm would send them, and managed to hit an indignant old starling squarely in the eye. He glared at her crossly.
“Birds don’t mind getting wet, do they?” said Brother, as the sparrows hopped about in the driving rain and pecked gratefully at the crumbs. “Let’s hop the way they do, Betty.”
Sister obediently hopped, looking not unlike a very plump little robin at that, with her dark eyes and bobbing curls. Only, you see, she and Brother were much heavier than any birds, and they made so much noise that Molly came to the door to see what they were doing.
“Another rainy day and the two of you bursting with mischief!” she sighed good-naturedly. “Will you be quiet for an hour if I let you make a dough-man while I’m mixing my bread?”
Brother and Sister loved to make dough-men, and so while Molly kneaded her bread, they worked busily and happily at the other end of the table, shaping two men from the bit of sponge she gave them and quite forgetting to scold about the unpleasant weather which kept them indoors.
Their real names, you must know, were Rhodes and Elizabeth Morrison. Rhodes was six, and Elizabeth five, and sometimes they were called “Roddy” and “Betty,” but most always Brother and Sister.
This was partly because they were so many Morrisons.
There was Daddy Morrison, who was a lawyer and who went to town every morning to a busy office that seemed, to Brother and Sister, when they visited him, to be all papers and typewriters.
There was dear Mother Morrison, who was altogether lovely, with brown eyes like Brother’s, and dark curly hair like Sister.
There were Louise and Grace, the twins; they were fifteen and went to high school, and were very pretty and important and busy.
Then there was Dick, the oldest of them all, and Ralph, who went to law school in the city, and Jimmie, who was seventeen and the captain of the high school football team.
Counting Brother and Sister, seven children, you see, and as Molly truly said, “a houseful.” Molly had lived with Mother Morrison since Louise and Grace were babies, and they would not have known what to do without her. She was as much a part of the family as any of them.
The Morrison house was a big, shabby, roomy place with wide, deep porches and many windows. There was a large lawn in front and an old barn in back where the older boys had fitted up a gymnasium with all kinds of fascinating apparatus, most of which Brother and Sister were forbidden to touch.
The Morrisons lived in Ridgeway, a thriving suburb of the city, where Daddy Morrison, Dick and Ralph went every day.
And now that you are introduced, we’ll go back to Brother and Sister making dough-men in Molly’s kitchen.
“What makes my dough-man kind of dark?” inquired Sister, calling Molly’s attention to the queer-shaped figure she had pieced together.
Sure enough Sister’s dough-man, and Brother’s, too, was a rather dark gray, while the bread Molly was mixing was creamy white.
Mother Morrison, coming into the kitchen carrying Brother’s rubbers and raincoat, saved Molly an explanation.
“Where are you going Mother?” asked Brother, when he saw the rubbers.
“I’m not going out,” smiled Mother. “You are going for me, dear. These are your rubbers and coat–hop into them and run across the street to Grandma’s with this apron pattern.”
“Will you bake my dough-man, Molly?” begged Brother, struggling into his coat and taking the small parcel Mother gave him. “Is Betty coming?”
“Not this time,” answered his mother. “It is raining too hard. Yes, Molly will bake your dough-man and you may eat him for lunch. Run along now.”
Grandmother Hastings lived almost directly across the street from the Morrison house and she was putting her beautiful Boston fern out to get the rain when Brother tramped sturdily up her side garden path.
“Bless his heart, he’s a regular little duck!” cried Grandma, giving him a tremendous hug.
That is the way grandmothers are, you know, whether they live across the street from you and see you every day, or whether they live miles away and come to visit you Christmas and summer times. A grandmother is always glad to see you.
Grandmother Hastings was short and plumpy and her white hair was curly and her eyes were blue. She had pink cheeks and wore a blue dress and a white apron with a frilly bib, and altogether, Brother thought privately, she looked very nice indeed.
“I’m very glad to get that pattern,” she told him, patting the long leaves of the fern and spreading them out to catch the rain. “I’ve a magazine you can take back to Mother, dearie, and an old fashion book Sister will like for paper dolls. Come into the sitting-room while I find them for you. Take off your rubbers, child.”
Brother followed her into the house and there Aunt Kate swooped upon him and tickled him as she always did. Aunt Kate was a school teacher. In summer she tutored backward pupils. She was on her way to give a lesson now and in a few minutes she went away merrily into the driving rain. That left Grandmother and Brother to entertain each other.
“Do you know what Ralph is going to give me for a birthday present, Grandmother?” Brother asked, dropping flat on his stomach to play jungle with the tigerskin that lay before the fireplace. “He says if I’m not tall enough I can’t have it. But he’s bought it all ready–he said so.”
Brother, you see, would be six years old in a few days. He couldn’t help thinking a great deal about his birthday.
Grandmother and Brother had no secrets from each other, though sometimes they planned surprises for the other members of the family.
“No, I don’t know what Ralph plans to give you,” admitted Grandmother. “Don’t try to find out, dearie. It is much nicer to be surprised. Why, you know you wouldn’t have a bit of fun next Wednesday if you knew what your presents were to be.”
Brother was willing to be surprised, because Wednesday wasn’t so long to wait. Still he thought he would like to know what Ralph’s present was. Ralph was his dearest brother, and he had a happy knack of always giving Brother and Sister exactly what they wanted. Louise and Grace were apt to make them presents which were useful, like pretty socks and hair-ribbons for Sister, and gloves and handkerchiefs for Brother, but Ralph never did anything like that.
“I’ve dropped a stitch in my knitting,” said Grandmother suddenly. “Brother, I wonder if you could run upstairs and bring me my glasses? I think they are on the bureau in my room.”
Brother ran upstairs and went into Grandmother’s pretty bedroom. There were white and silver things on her bureau and a little gold jewel box and several bottles of different colors. But, though Brother looked carefully, he could not find the glasses.
He went out into the hall.
“Oh, Grandma!” he called. “Your glasses aren’t on the bureau.”
“Dear, dear,” sighed Grandmother. “‘Let me see, where can they be? Do you know, Brother, I’m afraid I have left them in my black silk bag on the closet shelf. Can you get it, or shall I come up?”
“I can get it,” answered Brother confidently. “You wait, Grandma.”
The closet shelf was pretty high, but Brother carried a chair to the closet door and by standing on it he was able to reach the shelf. Goodness, what was more, he could see the things on the shelf.
And they were bundles!
One–two–three–Brother counted three mysterious paper bundles, tied with brown string.
Now you know if you had a birthday due most any minute and your head was full of the presents you hoped to receive, and you saw three bundles on the shelf in your grandma’s closet, you know you would probably do just what Brother did; poke your finger into the top bundle. Brother poked. Then he prodded. The top bundle slipped and carried the other two with it. Brother was brushed off the chair and three bundles and one boy landed in a heap on the floor.
“Brother!” cried Grandma, who had come up to see what kept him so long. “Are you hurt?”
“No’m,” answered Brother, rather foolishly. “I was just feeling these bundles, Grandma, to see–to–see—-“
“Whether they were birthday presents?” smiled Grandma. “Well, dearie, they are nothing but blankets tied up to send to the cleaners. I’m glad, for your sake, they were, for you might have hurt yourself, otherwise, as it is, they were soft and thick for you to fall on.”
“I’ll get the glasses now,” murmured Brother hastily.
He climbed up on the chair again and this time found without any trouble the black bag which held Grandma’s glasses.
“Mother is waving a handkerchief–that means she wants you,” said Grandmother, glancing from the window. “Scoot along, dear, and don’t think too much about the birthday till it comes. Here are the magazines. And here’s a drop-cake for you.”
Brother paddled down the steps, went halfway to the front hedge, and then turned.
“Oh, Grandma!” he shouted. “Do you know what I think Ralph is going to give me? I think it’s a tool-chest!”
SISTER IN MISCHIEF
“I hope it’s like this to-morrow!”
Brother stood on the front porch, flattening his nose against the screen door and sniffing the fragrant June sunshine.
Ever since his unsuccessful attempt to find out from Grandma Hastings what Ralph’s present was to be, it had rained. That was three days ago, so you may be sure the whole Morrison family were very glad to see the sun again. Especially as the very next day was Brother’s birthday.
“Brother, I’m going down town to buy the favors for your party,” announced Louise, who sat in the porch hammock crocheting a sweater. “Wouldn’t you like to go with me?”
Brother thought he would.
“Take me?” begged Sister, falling over the small broom she carried, in her eagerness to be one of the party. “It’s my turn, Louise, honestly it is.”
“Well, you see, I can’t very well take you both,” explained Louise kindly. “Mrs. Adams is going to call for me with her car, and it wouldn’t be polite to ask her to take two children; and as it is Brother’s birthday, he ought to be the one to go–don’t you think so?”
Sister nodded, though her lower lip trembled suspiciously. And when Mrs. Adams drove her shiny automobile up to the curb, and Louise and Brother were whisked away in it, two big tears rolled down Sister’s round cheeks.
“Why, honey!” Grace, the other twin sister, swinging her tennis racquet, came through the hall and saw the tears. “What you crying for?” she asked. “Everyone gone and left you? I’ll tell you what to do–you go out in the kitchen and take a peep at what is on the table and you won’t feel like crying another moment.”
“What is it?” asked Sister cautiously.
She wasn’t going to stop crying and then find out she had been cheated.
“You go look,” answered Grace mysteriously.
So sister started for the kitchen and Grace ran off to her game of tennis with Jimmie.
The kitchen was in perfect order and very quiet. Molly was upstairs making the beds, and Mother Morrison was planning the party with Grandmother Hastings.
“Oh!” said Sister softly as she saw what was on the table. “Oh, my!”
For right in the center of the white-topped table, on a large pink plate, perched Brother’s birthday cake! It was a beautiful cake, perfectly round and very smooth and brown.
“But the icing!” said Sister aloud. “There’s no ICING! I s’pose Molly didn’t have time.”
If Sister had stopped to think, she would have remembered that all the birthday cakes Molly made–and she made seven every year for the Morrisons, and one for Grandmother Hastings–were always iced with pink or white or chocolate icing.
But, you see, she didn’t stop to think, and when she discovered a bowl of lovely creamy white stuff on the small table between the windows, this small girl decided that she would ice the cake and save Molly the trouble.
There was a little film of water over the top of the bowl, but Sister took a wooden spoon and stirred it carefully, and the water mixed nicely with the white stuff, so that she had a bowl filled with the smoothest, whitest “icing” any cook could ask for.
“I’ll get a silver knife to spread it with,” said Sister, who had often watched Molly, and knew what to do.
She brought the knife from the dining-room and had just put one broad streak of white across the top of the cake when Molly came down the back stairs and saw her.
“Sister!” cried Molly. “What are you doing with my cold starch?”
“I’m icing the cake,” answered Sister calmly. “You forgot it, I guess.”
Poor Molly grabbed the bowl from Sister’s hands.
“Can’t I leave the kitchen one minute that you don’t get into mischief?” she scolded. “This isn’t ICING–it’s STARCH for Mr. Jimmie’s collars. I’m going to make a beautiful chocolate icing for the cake this afternoon and write Brother’s name on it in white frosting.”
“Oh!” said Sister meekly.
“Go on upstairs, do,” Molly urged her. “I’ve my hands full today getting ready for the party; can’t you find something nice to do upstairs?”
Thus sped on her way, Sister reluctantly mounted the stairs to the second floor.
“I could play jacks with Nellie Yarrow,” she said to herself. “Only she’s lost her jackstones and I can’t find mine. What’s that on Dick’s bureau?”
Ralph and Jimmie roomed together, but Dick had a room of his own, and though Sister was strictly forbidden to meddle with his things, they had a great attraction for her. She could just see the top of Dick’s chiffonier from the floor and now she dragged a chair up to it and climbed up to see what the shining thing was that had caught her eye.
It was a gold collar button, and Dick, she found, had a box of pearl and gold buttons that Sister was sure she had never seen before. She played with them, tossing them up and down and watching them glitter, until a sudden thought struck her.
“They’d make lovely jackstones,” she whispered. “I could use ’em and put them right back. I know Nellie has a ball.”
Dick had several new ties, and Sister had to admire these before she could leave the chiffonier. Finally she slipped the box of pretty buttons in her pocket and jumped down. She put the chair where she had found it, and ran downstairs and through the hedge that separated the Morrison house from that of Dr. Yarrow’s.
“Nellie, oh, Nellie!” called Sister. “Come on, let’s play jackstones.”
“Haven’t any,” answered Nellie Yarrow, a little girl a year or so older than Sister. “All I have left is my ball.”
“Well, get that and we can play,” Sister told her. “I’ve found something we can use–see!”
Nellie admired the collar buttons immensely and thought it would be great fun to play with them. She ran and got her ball and the two little friends sat down on the concrete walk to play jackstones, heedless of the hot morning sun.
Sister had won one game and Nellie two, when they heard Louise calling.
“Sister! Sister! Where are you? If you want to help fix the fishpond, you’ll have to come right away.”
Sister stuffed the buttons in her pocket and ran home, eager to see what Louise and Brother had bought.
When Mother Morrison had suggested a fishpond for the party, Louise and Grace had protested.
“Oh, Mother!” they cried. “That’s so old!”
“But the children like it,” said Mother Morrison mildly.
“It’s fun,” urged Brother. “It’s fun to fish over the table and catch something!”
Sister, too, had asked for the pond, so it was decided to have one. Louise and Grace might not care for such things at their birthday parties, but this, as Sister said, was “different.”
“We bought bushels and bushels,” Brother informed Sister as she bounded through the hedge and up to the front porch. “Little colored pencils, and crayons, and games, and dolls, and oh!– everything!”
Louise, whose shopping bag was certainly bulging with parcels, laughed merrily.
“We bought all the little gifts for the fish-pond and for the –there! I almost told you.” She clapped her hand over her mouth and laughed again.
“For the what?” teased Sister. “Tell me, Louise–I won’t tell.”
“No, Mother said no one was to know,” declared Louise firmly. “Now all these packages you may open, and after lunch I’ll help you tie them up again and fix the pond. But these other parcels go upstairs to Mother’s room and no one is to touch them.”
She tumbled half the contents of her bag on the porch floor and then ran upstairs with the rest.
“Let’s look at them,” said Sister eagerly. “What’s the matter, Roddy?”
“I was thinking,” explained Brother, making no move to open the packages. “We saw a little boy down town and his foot was all tied up in a rag, and I know it hurt him ’cause he limped.”
“Maybe he sprained his ankle,” said Sister. “Like Dr. Yarrow’s cousin, you know.”
“It wasn’t his ankle–it was his foot,” insisted Brother. “And I told Louise Mother said we mustn’t go on the ground without our sandals, and she said she guessed the boy didn’t have any sandals; she said he prob’bly didn’t have any shoes, either.”
“Nor any stockings–just rags?” asked Sister in pity. “I like to go barefoot, Roddy, but I like my new patent leather slippers, too.”
“Maybe he has some for Sunday,” comforted Brother, trying to be hopeful. “Everybody has to wear shoes on Sunday.”
“Yes, of course they do,” agreed Sister, who had never heard of a boy and girl who didn’t wear shoes on Sunday and every day in the week except when they were allowed to go barefoot as a great treat.
The tempting packages were not to be forgotten one moment longer, and they decided to “take turns” opening them.
“Isn’t it fun!” giggled Sister. What do you s’pose Mother is going to make you, Roddy?”
“I don’t know,” replied Brother absently. “I keep thinking about Ralph’s present. He says that he thinks I’ll be tall enough to have it by tomorrow.”
“Did you drink all your milk for breakfast?” asked Sister anxiously.
Ralph was most particular about the children’s milk. He insisted that they couldn’t grow properly without enough milk, and as both were anxious to grow tall, Brother and Sister usually drank their milk without fussing.
Brother had finished his to the last drop that morning, he said, and when they were called in to lunch presently, he drank another glass so that he would surely grow enough to please Ralph.
“And now we’ll do up the fishpond presents,” said Louise, when they had finished lunch.
She and Grace both helped, for Mother Morrison was busy in the kitchen with Molly, and of course none of the brothers were home during the day except Jimmie, and he was usually busy out in the barn where the gymnasium was.
You have probably “fished” in a fishpond yourself at parties, and know what it is. Little gifts are placed somewhere out of sight, and each small guest is given a fishing rod and line with a hook at the end. He dangles this over the back of a sofa, or over a table, and when he draws it up there is a “fish,” or the present, attached to it.
Louise had plenty of nice white paper and pink string, and each gift was carefully wrapped and tied. Dark blue crepe paper was tacked around three sides of a table and this table placed across one corner of the parlor. This was the “ocean.” The presents were placed on the floor back of the table, and Brother and Sister knew, from past pleasant experience, that when it came time to fish, the packages would obligingly attach themselves to the hooks.
“Tomorrow’s ever so long off,” sighed Brother, when the fishpond was ready and Louise and Grace had gone over to the library to take back some books.
He and Sister were not wanted in the kitchen and they were asked not to touch the clean white clothes spread out on the guest room bed for them to wear to the party. There really did not seem to be anything for them to do.
“Let’s go out and watch for Ralph?” suggested Sister.
Ralph was the best loved brother, after all, though, of course, the children loved Dick and Jimmie dearly. But no one was quite as patient as Ralph, no one had time to read to them as often as he did, no one told them stories without coaxing as Ralph did.
He and Dick came up the street from the station together this night, and though Dick kissed Sister and said, “Hello, kid,” to Brother, he dashed into the house, while Ralph stayed to talk.
“Birthday tomorrow, Brother?” he asked teasingly, though he knew very well that Brother would be six years old.
“Oh, Ralph!” Brother was so excited he nearly stuttered. “Ralph, couldn’t you tell me what the present is now? I’m just as tall, and it’s almost my birthday. Please, Ralph?”
Ralph swung Sister up and sat her on the fence-post.
“Well, I don’t believe I could do that,” he replied slowly. “Let’s see, did you drink your milk today without grumbling?”
“Yes, I did–didn’t I, Sister?” said Brother eagerly.
“Yes,” nodded Sister. “He drank all of his for lunch, too, Ralph, and didn’t spill any.”
“That’s certainly fine,” praised Ralph. “I’m sure you’ve grown a little bit every day, too. Well, Brother, I tell you what I’ll do –tomorrow morning I’ll bring the present up to your room before breakfast. How will that do?”
Brother was more excited than ever, and for once he was ready to go to bed that night without a protest. He and Sister trailed sleepily off upstairs, wishing for the morning to come so that they might know what this mysterious present was.
They had two little white beds in the same room and they could undress themselves very nicely if they helped each other with the buttons. Mother Morrison usually came up before they were ready for bed, and on bath nights she always came up with them and stayed till they were in bed.
The night before a birthday party was, of course, a bath night, and Sister was very willing to let Brother take his bath first because she had a picture book she wanted to look at. She was lying on her bed, in her nightie, looking at the pictures while Brother splashed in the tub and Mother Morrison waited for him to stop playing and use the soap to lather himself, instead of pretending it was a boat, when Dick knocked on the door.
“Look here!” he said, opening it and thrusting in his head. “Have either of you kids been in my room today?”
“How nice you are!” cried Sister, sitting up to look at Dick, who, indeed, did seem very nice, though he was without his coat.
“I’m twenty minutes late now,” growled Dick. “I’ve hunted everywhere for my collar buttons and studs, and I can’t find them.”
Before Sister could say anything, in pranced Brother, very pink and clean from his hot bath and treading on his gray bathrobe at every other step.
“Have you been meddling with my things again?” demanded Dick. “Mother, I’ve an engagement at eight o’clock and it’s quarter past now; every blessed collar button is gone from my chiffonier!”
Mother Morrison, who had followed Brother into the room, looked anxiously at him.
“Brother, you haven’t been in Dick’s room today, have you?” she asked him.
Then Sister, whose memory had been waking up, spoke.
“Please, Dick,” she said in a very little voice. “Please, I had the buttons.”
“Oh, you did!” Dick quite forgot to smile at her. “What did you want ’em for? Where are they now?”
“You see, I was playing jackstones with Nellie Yarrow, and afterward I–I left them in my pocket–” Sister’s voice trailed off.
She recollected that the dress she had been wearing was now down the laundry chute.
“Mother, something’s got to be done!” fumed Dick. “I can’t have the kids going through my stuff and helping themselves to whatever they want; those buttons were my solid gold ones and my good studs were in the same box. There’s the telephone!–Nina will be furious! Sister, where did you say that dress was?”
Dick rushed downstairs to answer the telephone, leaving a sorrowful Sister curled up in a forlorn little heap on the bed.
“My blue dress is way down in the laundry,” she wailed. “The buttons are in the pocket. Oh, Mother, it’s awful far down there, and it’s dark on the stairs!”
“What’s all the racket about?” inquired Ralph, coming to the door. “Is Sister crying? And Dick is trying to smooth down Nina Carson, who seems to be in a bad way. Want any help with these young ones, Mother? Anyway, tell a fellow the cause of the excitement.”
Sister smiled through her tears. “Young ones” was what Molly’s country sister had once called them, and Ralph always said it when he meant to make her laugh.
“I really think Sister should go down and get the buttons from her dress pocket,” said dear Mother Morrison decidedly. “I have forbidden her, time and again, to touch anything in Dick’s room. Take your kimona and slippers, Sister, and hurry; I’ll have your bath ready for you when you come back.”
More tears ran down Sister’s round cheeks. Her eyes were so full of salt water she couldn’t find the armholes of her pink kimona, and Ralph had to help her.
“I’ll go with her, Mother,” he offered. “I’ll sit on the stairs and wait while she hunts for the buttons; and after this you–will leave Dick’s things alone, won’t you, Sister?”
Sister promised joyfully, and paddled off downstairs with Ralph. The dark stairs that led to the laundry didn’t frighten her one bit, and while Ralph sat on the last step and held the door open, Sister snapped on the light and found the blue dress on top of the basket that stood under the chute. Surely enough, the buttons were in the pocket just as she had left them. She took the box and hurried back to Ralph. “Where’s Dick going?” she asked him, as they went upstairs.
“Oh, out somewhere, to see some girl,” replied Ralph, who seldom went to call on a girl. “Scoot now, Sister–I’m going out on the porch and read. You’ve made poor old Dick half an hour late as it is.”
Ralph went out on the screened front porch, where Daddy Morrison was reading beside the electric lamp, and had just picked up his magazine, when there was a patter of little feet and Sister threw her arms around him breathlessly.
“I love you, Ralph!” she said quickly, hugging him and then turning to run.
“Here, here!” cried Daddy Morrison in surprise. “Thought you were in bed long ago. Don’t I get any kissing?”
“Mother is waiting to bathe me,” explained Sister hurriedly, “and Dick wants his collar buttons, so I have to go, Daddy.”
Her father caught her as she rushed past him and gave her a quick kiss.
“Sister!” called Mother Morrison. “Sister, are you coming?”
Sister, the box of buttons clutched tightly in her hand, ran upstairs. Dick, glowering, met her at the top.
“For goodness’ sake!” he ejaculated. “I’d about given up hope–and if you ever touch one of my things again–“
“I won’t!” promised Sister hastily. “Honest Injun, I won’t. You aren’t mad, are you, Dick?”
Dick was wrestling with a stiff collar before the glass in the hall.
“No, I’m not mad, but I shall be in a minute,” he announced grimly. “Don’t stand there and watch me, please; you make me nervous.”
“Come and take your bath, dear,” called Mother Morrison.
“Don’t you hear Mother? What are you waiting for?” demanded Dick.
“Waiting for you to kiss me good-night,” answered Sister composedly.
Dick stared at her. Then he laughed.
“There!” he said, picking Sister up and kissing her soundly. “Now will you leave me in peace, you monkey?”
Sister was satisfied and hurried off to her bathing. When she came out of the bathroom, she found Brother sleepily waiting for her, sitting up, in his bed.
“If you hear Ralph in the morning,” he told her earnestly, “you call me, ’cause I want to see my own birthday present before you do.”
“Can’t I look at it if you’re not awake?” asked Sister hopefully.
“No, you mustn’t,” said Brother firmly. “It’s my birthday present, and I want to see it first. Now you remember!”
Mother Morrison kissed them both, put a screen in another window, for the night was warm, and snapped off the light. It was time for Brother and Sister to be asleep.
“Roddy!” whispered Sister softly.
“Uh-huh?” came sleepily from Brother.
“Suppose I can’t help looking when Ralph opens the door?”
Brother roused himself.
“You mustn’t,” he repeated. “It’s my birthday. I wouldn’t look first if it was your birthday present. You can shut your eyes, can’t you?”
Sister sighed, and a big yawn came and surprised the sigh.
“Maybe he’ll have it tied in a paper,” she murmured hopefully. “Then I can’t see it”
The sun rose bright and early on Brother’s birthday morning. Not any earlier than usual, perhaps, but it certainly woke Brother a whole half-hour earlier than he usually opened his eyes.
Almost at the same moment that his brown eyes opened wide, and he sat up in bed, Sister’s dark eyes also opened wide and she sat up in her little white bed.
“Oh!” she said, blinking. “OH, it’s your birthday, Roddy! Many happy returns of the day–and I have a present for you!”
She slipped out of bed and ran over to the chest of white drawers that held her own possessions.
“You can play with them a little while and then you can eat ’em,” she explained, returning with a flat, white box which she put on Brother’s lap.
The present proved to be a pound of animal crackers, of which Brother was very fond, and Sister was telling him how she had carefully picked out as many horses and elephants as she could–for indulgent Grandma Hastings had bought several pounds of the crackers, and allowed Sister to select the two kinds of animals that were Brother’s favorites–when they heard Ralph’s quick step in the hall.
“Here comes Ralph! Don’t look!” commanded Brother hastily.
Sister promptly dived under the bedclothes, and when Ralph softly opened the door–lest the children were still asleep–he saw Brother staring eagerly toward him and a little lump in the middle of Sister’s bed.
“Well, young man, how does it feel to be six years old?” Ralph asked merrily, putting down the basket he carried on the floor, and coming over to Brother, who stood up to hug him.
“Just as nice,” gurgled Brother, standing still to receive the six “spanks” without which no birthday could be properly celebrated.
“Can I look yet?” asked a muffled voice meekly.
“Why, sweetheart, what have they done to you?” demanded Ralph in amazement, uncovering a very warm and flushed little girl. “I thought you were asleep, honey. Don’t you feel well?”
“Oh, I feel all right,” Sister assured him cheerfully. “Only I promised Brother I wouldn’t look at the present before he did.”
“That’s so, I did bring a present, didn’t I?” said Ralph, pretending to have forgotten. “Well, Brother, stand up while I measure you once more; I must be sure that you are tall enough and that means that you drank your milk every time without grumbling.”
“Couldn’t he grumble?” asked Sister, watching while Ralph stood brother against the wall and made a tiny mark with a pencil. “You never said he couldn’t grumble, Ralph.”
“Didn’t I?” Ralph said. “Well, then, I should, because that is very important. You will grow, you know, if you drink your milk and grumble about it, but not half as fast as you will grow if you drink the milk and make no fuss. That’s true, Sister–I’m not joking.”
“I didn’t grumble much, did I, Sister?” interposed Brother. “Haven’t I grown, Ralph?”
“Yes, I think you have–enough to have what I have brought you,” returned Ralph cheerfully. “Here, now, tell me what you think of this.”
He stooped down and lifted the lid of the basket. Then he tipped it over on one side and out rolled the fattest brown and white collie puppy dog you ever saw!
“Oh! Oh! Oh!” shrieked Brother and Sister together. “What a perfectly dear little puppy!”
“He’s yours, Brother,” said Ralph, smiling like the dear big brother he was. “Yours to take care of and love, and to name.”
“Hasn’t he any name?” asked Brother, hugging the fat puppy, who seemed to like it and tried to say so with his little red tongue. “I don’t know what to name a puppy dog.”
“Call him ‘Brownie,'” suggested Sister, down on her knees on the floor, watching the dog with shining eyes. “I think that is a nice name.”
“So do I,” agreed Brother.
“I do, too,” said Ralph. “And now you must get dressed if you are not to be late for breakfast; and I must go down now–I have to take an earlier train in.”
“Won’t you come to the party?” begged Sister, as Ralph stood up to go.
“Don’t believe I’ll be home in time,” he answered. “But you can tell me all about it and that will be almost as nice.”
Mother Morrison came in to help them dress and she kissed Brother six times because it was his birthday. He wore a new blue sailor suit, and Sister put on her next-to-the-best hair-ribbon in his honor.
“I like birthdays,” sighed Brother, slipping into his seat at the breakfast table and eyeing the little heap of bundles at his plate with great delight. “Look at my puppy dog, Dick.”
“Well, that is a nice pup,” admitted Dick, putting down his paper. “Have you named him yet?”
“Name’s Brownie–Betty thought of it,” replied Brother. “Can he have cereal, Mother? And Daddy wrote on this box, didn’t he?” The little boy picked up a box wrapped in paper,
“Now just a minute,” said Mother Morrison firmly. “The dog can’t eat at the table, dear; put him down until you have finished breakfast. I don’t want you to open the parcels, either, until you have had your milk and cereal. But those two on top you may open –they are from Daddy and Dick and they’re going to leave in ten minutes.”
Brother opened the two packages eagerly. That from Daddy Morrison was a little wooden block and a set of rubber type with an ink- pad, so that Brother might play at printing. He knew his letters and, if someone helped him, could spell a number of words. Dick’s parcel contained a little silver collar for the new puppy, so made that it could be made larger for him as he grew.
“Oh, Dick!” Brother flung himself upon that pleased young man and kissed him heartily. Somehow Brother seldom kissed Dick, although he loved him dearly. “It’s the nicest collar!”
“All right, all right,” said Dick hastily. “Glad you like it. Coming, Dad?”
Brother had to thank Daddy Morrison for his gift and kiss him good-bye, and then the interrupted breakfast went on. As soon as they had all finished, they gathered around Brother to watch him open his birthday gifts.
“With so many birthdays in one family, we must not give elaborate or expensive presents ever,” Mother Morrison had once said, and she had made that a rule.
So Brother’s presents, while representing a great deal of beautiful love, were simple and mostly home-made.
Louise had made him an entire set of new sails for his ship Swallow; Grace had cleverly painted and cut out a set of paper soldiers, and set them in tiny wooden blocks so that they stood upright; Jimmie’s present was a set of little garden tools; Molly brought in a gingerbread man, very wide and tall and most handsomely decorated with pink sugar icing. And Mother Morrison gave him a box of watercolor paints and a painting book.
Just as Brother had unwrapped the last of his gifts, dear Grandmother Hastings hurried in. Under her arm she carried a large square box, and her eyes twinkled as she set it down.
“For the birthday boy!” she said.
“A toolchest!” shouted Brother in delight. “Look, Grandma, Ralph gave me a puppy!”
“I hope you said ‘thank you!’ just like that!” laughed Grandmother, as Brother hugged her so tightly she could scarcely get her breath. “Let me give you six kisses, dearie. Why, Brother, what is the matter?”
“I never said ‘thank you’ at all,” mourned Brother. “Did I, Sister? And Ralph gave me such a nice puppy dog.”
“But you can say ‘thank you’ tonight, can’t he, Grandma?” protested Sister loyally.
“Why, of course, dear. Don’t worry, Brother–Ralph knew you were very happy to have the doggie. Now come and tell me what you are going to call him.”
There were many things to be done to get ready for the party that afternoon, and while Brother and Sister introduced Brownie to their grandmother, the rest of the family scattered to their work. Presently Grandmother Hastings declared she must run home and put a lace collar on her best frock so that she could come to the party, and Brother and Sister were left alone with the new presents.
“Let’s take Brownie out for a walk,” suggested Sister. “Have you fed him, Roddy?”
Brother shook his head. No, Brownie had had no breakfast.
“I wish I’d said thank you’ to Ralph,” worried Ralph’s little brother. “Maybe he won’t come home to supper tonight, and I’ll be in bed when he comes.”
“Telephone him,” said Sister, stroking one of Brownie’s velvet ears.
“I don’t know the name of the law school,” objected Brother.
“Ask Daddy,” promptly responded Sister. “He’ll know.”
The children knew the number of Daddy Morrison’s big office in the city, and both could telephone very nicely. The phone booth was under the hall stairs and Brother knew no one in the house could hear him when he took down the receiver.
“Please give me 6587 Main,” he said politely, while Sister and Brownie sat down on the floor to wait and listen.
Dick was in his father’s office, and unless the person calling asked for Mr. Morrison, senior, the switchboard operator gave them Mr. Morrison, junior. That was Dick, who was named for Daddy Morrison.
“Hello, hello!” came Dick’s voice over the wire in answer to Brother’s call.
“I want Daddy,” said Brother distinctly.
“Is that you, Brother?” asked Dick in surprise. “Did Mother ask you to call him? Is anything wrong at home?”
“No, only I want to speak to him,” said Brother impatiently.
“He’s busy–if you are only trying to amuse yourself, I advise you to stop it,” answered Dick rather sharply. “You know you are not supposed to use the ‘phone, Brother.”
“I guess I can talk to my father,” asserted Brother indignantly. “You tell him I want to speak to him, Dick Morrison!”
Dick apparently made the connection, for in another moment Brother heard his father’s voice.
“Yes, Son?” it said gently. “What can I do for you?”
“Oh, Daddy!” Brother spoke rapidly, his words tumbling over each other. “I never said ‘thank you’ to Ralph for the puppy dog! An’ sometimes he doesn’t come home to supper, and I don’t see him till tomorrow morning. I want to tell him how much I like Brownie, and I don’t know the name of the law school. Will you tell me so I can ask ‘Central’ for the number and call Ralph up?”
There was a pause. Daddy Morrison was apparently thinking.
“I’ll tell you, son,” he said presently. “I do not believe Ralph’s school allows their pupils to be called from a class to answer the telephone, so you had better not try that plan. But Ralph is coming to the office this noon to go to lunch with Dick. You tell Mother that I said you were to be permitted to telephone the office at half-past twelve. In that way you’ll catch Ralph here and can say what you want to him. How will that do?”
“That’s fine, Daddy!” replied Brother gratefully. “Thank you ever so much–wait a minute, Daddy–“
“I’m just saying the good-bye,” called Sister, who loved to telephone.
“Good-bye, youngsters,” said Daddy Morrison, laughing as he hung up the receiver.
“Well, for goodness’ sake, what are you two doing here?” demanded Louise, coming through the hall with something hidden in her apron. “Who said you could telephone? Whom did you call up?”
“Daddy,” answered Brother serenely. “He said I could call the office again at half-past twelve. What you got, Louise?”
“Secrets,” said Louise mysteriously. “People with birthdays shouldn’t ask questions.”
She hurried on toward the kitchen and in a few moments the children heard her laughing with Molly.
“I think Brownie is hungry,” insisted Sister. “Aren’t you ever going to feed him?”
“Of course he’s hungry,” chimed in Grace, who had overheard. “There’s a bowl of bread and milk Mother fixed for him before breakfast, out on the back porch, with a plate over it to keep the cats out. Take him out there and feed him, Brother.”
Brownie was indeed very hungry and the children enjoyed watching him eat the bread and milk Mother Morrison had fixed for him. After he had eaten it all up, they took him out on the grass to play, but that fat little brown puppy, instead of playing with them, curled up and went to sleep.
“Never mind–here comes the party!” cried Sister, whose bright eyes had spied a wagon turning into the drive.
“The party” happened to be the ice-cream, and Brother and Sister watched eagerly as the delivery boy carried the heavy wooden tub in which the cream was packed, up the back steps.
“Going to have a party?” he smiled at them as he came back to his wagon. “Have a good time!”
The pretty little notes of invitation, which Mother Morrison had written to six boys and six girls, friends of Brother’s and Sister’s, two weeks ago, had said from “four to six,” so it was time to dress in the best white clothes soon after lunch. Indeed, Brother’s collar bow was not tied before the doorbell rang, and Nellie Yarrow arrived.
“I suppose she lived so far away, she thought she might be late,” said Louise.
She ran downstairs and showed Nellie where to put the present she had brought for Brother.
After that the other boys and girls came, one by one, and Brother soon had a little pile of presents on the living-room table. He opened each one, and said thank you to the child who had brought it, and he forgot to be shy, so that he really enjoyed it all very much.
Charlie Raynor and his sister, Winifred, were the last to come, and Winifred was excited over something.
“I had the most awful time with Charlie!” she announced earnestly, to sympathetic Mother Morrison. “He acted dreadful!”
Winifred was two years older than Charlie and felt responsible for him.
“Give Roddy his present now,” Winifred urged Charlie. “Hurry, I tell you.”
Silently Charlie held out a little paper bag of candy.
“I had all I could do to keep him from eating it on the way here,” his sister explained. “He just loves candy!”
Brother took the bag of candy and put it with his other gifts on the table. Then the children began the peanut hunt, which was the first game Louise and Grace had planned for them.
This was played outdoors, and it was fully half an hour before all the peanuts had been discovered. Then, as several of the girls wanted to start the old, old game of “Going to Jerusalem,” and Grace offered to play the music, they all trooped back to the living-room.
“Why, Roddy, your candy is gone!” announced Sister in surprise. “When did you eat it?”
Brother came up to her where she stood by the table of presents.
“I didn’t eat it,” he said wonderingly. “I left it right there on top of that book. Isn’t that funny!”
“Well, it’s gone,” asserted Sister. “Someone ate it!”
Winifred had heard, and now she turned on the unfortunate Charlie.
“Charles Eldridge Raynor!” she said sternly. “Did you eat Roddy’s candy that you brought him? Did you?”
Charlie nodded miserably. He had slipped into the room, unnoticed during the peanut hunt, and unable to longer withstand the temptation, had calmly eaten up his birthday gift.
“I hope,” stammered Winifred with very red cheeks, “I hope you will excuse him, Mrs. Morrison. I never knew him to do such a thing before!”
“Oh, it isn’t anything so very dreadful,” declared Mother Morrison, smiling. “Any laddie with a sweet tooth might easily do the same thing. Come, children, Grace is waiting to play for you.”
They played “Going to Jerusalem” and “Drop the Handkerchief,” and all the time there was the mysterious fishpond back of the table! But they could not fish till after they had had ice cream.
As they were playing a noisy game of “Tag” out on the lawn, Molly came to the door to ask them to come into the dining-room.
Such a pretty table met their eyes! It seemed to be all blue and white, and in the center was the big birthday cake–iced as only Molly could ice it, and showing no trace of the starch Sister had tried to cover it with. Six candles twinkled merrily on the top.
“Make six wishes, Brother,” said Mother Morrison.
“Then he blows, and as many candles as he blows out he will have wishes come true,” explained Sister quaintly.
Brother made his wishes–they must not be spoken aloud–and then took a deep breath.
Pouf! Three of the candles went out
“Three wishes!” shouted the children. “You’ll have three wishes come true!”
It was a lovely birthday supper. Everyone said so. They had chicken sandwiches, and cocoa, and vanilla and strawberry ice- cream, and of course the birthday cake, which Brother cut in slices himself with the big silver cake knife.
“Why–look!” ejaculated Sister in surprise, glancing up from her cake at the doorway.
Mother Morrison stood there, smiling, and in her hands she carried what seemed to be a very large pudding or pie baked in a milk pan.
“What is it?” said Brother curiously. “What is it?”
“It’s a secret,” answered his mother mysteriously. “Grandmother Hastings planned it for you.”
“And you and Louise bought part of it,” Grandmother Hastings assured him, nodding and smiling from the other doorway, the one that led into the hall.
She had come over, in her prettiest white and lavender gown, to see the end of the party.
Mother Morrison came up to the table with the pie and the children saw that the paper crust was full of little slits and that from each slit a ribbon hung out. Some were blue and some were pink.
“Each girl must choose a blue ribbon,” said Mother Morrison. “The pink ones are for the boys. You pull first, Lucy.”
Lucy Reed pulled one of the blue ribbons. She hauled out a little celluloid doll dressed in a gay red frock.
“How lovely!” Lucy cried. “Do we all get something?”
Each child was eager to pull a ribbon, and, wasn’t it strange? –there were just enough ribbons to go round! After every one, including Brother and Sister, had had his turn, the “crust” was all torn, and not a single present or ribbon was left.
“Half-past five!” said Louise then, looking at her little wrist- watch. “We must hurry with the fishing.”
So they went into the living-room and had a delightful time fishing in the pond back of the table. There was a gift for everyone who fished, and when six o’clock struck, and it was time to go home, each small guest had a package to take along.
“We’ve had the nicest time,” they called to Mother Morrison as they said good-bye. “We hope Roddy has a party every year.”
OUT IN THE BARN
“The party was a great success, eh?” asked Ralph at the breakfast table the next morning. “I judged so, because it was one o’clock before I could leave Dad’s office to get some lunch. He and Dick insisted on holding me there till quarter past.”
Brother looked at Sister. Sister looked at Brother. They had both forgotten they meant to telephone Ralph at half-past twelve!
“Don’t worry over it, Brother,” said Ralph, laughing. “No serious harm was done, old chap. I made Dad tell me the mysterious reason of the wait, and when you didn’t ‘phone in we all three concluded the party had been too much for you. I’m glad you liked the dog.”
“Oh, yes!” Brother seized upon this safe topic. “It is the nicest dog, Ralph. And I did mean to say thank you,’ only I forgot.”
After Daddy Morrison and Ralph and Dick had gone off to the station, Brother and Sister began to have queer feelings. Yes’m, they both felt “somehow different,” as Brother said.
“I don’t want to clear off the table,” complained Sister, drawing pictures on the tablecloth with a fork, a practice which Molly had always sternly forbidden.
“Neither do I,” agreed Brother. “Let’s go out in the barn and play.”
“Jimmie won’t like it,” suggested Sister, taking up a cup so carelessly that some of the coffee left in it slopped over on the clean cloth.
“Jimmie doesn’t own the barn,” sniffed Brother crossly. “I guess we can just play in it without hurting any of his stuff.”
“Here, here, what are you talking so long about?” demanded Molly good-naturedly.
She came to the dining-room door and inspected the table critically.
“Just as I thought,” she said grimly. “Too much party yesterday! Sister, give me that cup and stop marking the cloth. Run off and play, both of you, till you get over being cross. I’d rather do the work myself than listen to you grumble.”
Thus dismissed, Brother and Sister wandered off to the barn. They ought to have felt happy with the extra time for play, but, for some reason, they were decidedly uncomfortable.
“Everybody’s busy,” grumbled Brother. “Nobody cares what we do. Louise and Grace are sewing, and Mother is going to make strawberry jam. Let’s try the rings, Betty.”
They were inside the old barn now, and the swinging rings had always fascinated Sister. But she knew that Jimmie had said they were not to touch them, and indeed Daddy Morrison had warned the children not to play in the barn unless some of the older boys were with them.
“It is really Jimmie’s and Ralph’s gymnasium,” he had explained. “They know how to use the apparatus, and you don’t. When you are older, Jimmie will teach you and you may play there all you wish.”
Sister looked longingly at the rings when Brother suggested them.
“Where’s Jimmie?” she asked cautiously.
“Up in his room studying,” answered Brother confidently.
Jimmie had been “conditioned” in the June examinations, and now spent part of every vacation day studying so that he might take another test before school opened in the fall.
“All right,” agreed Sister, assured that Jimmie was not likely to walk in upon them. “How’ll we get the rings untied?”
The rings were fastened up out of the way, tied to a nail on the side wall, so that when not in use they did not take up any room. Jimmie could reach this nail easily, but, of course, it was far above Brother’s head.
“I’ll get the step-ladder,” announced Brother confidently. “You hold it for me.”
The step-ladder was an old one and inclined to wobble. Brother mounted it slowly, and Sister sat down on the lowest step to hold it steady. Her weight was not enough to anchor the ladder, and it still shook crazily when Brother reached the highest step and stood on his tiptoes to reach the string that held the swings on the nail.
“What are you kids up to now?” a voice asked suddenly.
It was Jimmie! He had come out to the barn to get a book he had left in the corner cupboard.
Sister jumped to her feet, startled. Her elbow brushed the wobbily ladder and over it went, carrying Brother with it. He was too surprised to cry out.
“Are you hurt? Of all the crazy actions?” Jimmie scolded vigorously as he rushed to his small brother’s rescue.
Fortunately for him, Brother had landed on one of the heavy, thick, quilted pads that were on the floor. The boys used them when on the apparatus in case they fell. Brother was not hurt at all, but he was frightened, and when Jimmie picked him up he was crying bitterly.
“I’ve a good mind to tell Father,” continued Jimmie, who, of the three older boys, was less inclined to leniency with the performances of Brother and Sister. “Next time you might be badly hurt, and then it would be too late to punish you. Come here, Sister.”
Sister came reluctantly.
“What were you trying to do?” said Jimmie grimly.
“Trying to use the swinging rings,” answered Sister meekly.
“There’s nothing to do,” wailed Brother forlornly. “Everybody’s busy and no one wants to play. And you don’t own this barn, Jimmie Morrison–so there!”
“Perhaps I don’t,” retorted Jimmie. “But Dad happens to have given me the use of it. And you’re going to stay out if I have to put a padlock on the door. You’ve got all outdoors to play in–can’t you find something pleasant to do?”
“Betty! Roddy!” called Nellie Yarrow from her side of the hedge. “Betty! Come on out, I want to tell you something.”
Brother and Sister ran toward the door.
“Wait a second!” shouted Jimmie. “Turn around.”
They looked back at him. He was smiling.
“No hard feelings?” he suggested.
Sister dimpled and Brother laughed.
“No hard feelings,” they chuckled and ran on down to the hedge.
That was the way the Morrison family always smoothed out their disputes. There was so many of them that they really could not be expected to be always pleasant and never quarrel, but every disagreement was, sooner or later, sure to end with the cheerful announcement, “No hard feelings.”
“I suppose they ought to have a place of their own to play in,” said Jimmie to himself when the children had gone. “I wonder if–“
He had an idea which for the present he meant to keep to himself.
THE HAUNTED HOUSE
“Hello!” Nellie Yarrow greeted Brother and Sister. “What do you think?”
“What?” asked Sister, apparently unable to think.
Nellie Yarrow pointed her finger as one having important news to tell.
“The haunted house is rented!” she said, excitedly.
The “haunted” house was an object of curiosity to every child in Ridgeway. It was a small, shabby brown shingled dwelling on one of the side streets, and it was whispered that a man had once seen a “ghost” sitting at one of the windows. That was enough. Ever after no boy or girl would go past the house at night, if it were possible to avoid it, and the more timid ran by it even in the day time. Of course they should have known there are no such things as “ghosts,” but some of them didn’t.
“Who is going to live in it?” asked Sister curiously. “Don’t you suppose they will be afraid?”
“Well, I wouldn’t live in it,” declared Nellie positively. “Some folks don’t care anything about ghosts, though. Let’s go down and watch ’em carry in the furniture.”
Not many new families moved into Ridgeway during the year, and a June moving was something of an event. The children found a little group of folk watching the green van backed up to the gate. Two colored men were carrying in furniture, and an old lady with her head tied up in a towel was sweeping off the narrow front porch.
“Gee, she’s got a parrot!” cried a ragged, redheaded little boy who was trying to walk on top of the sharp pickets.
He was barefooted and the pickets were very sharp, so when the moving–van man, having put down the parrot and its cage on the porch, pretended to run straight toward him, the boy lost his balance and fell. He was up in a moment and running down the street as fast as though the furniture man were really chasing him.
“Sister!” Brother spoke excitedly. “That’s the little boy I told you about. We saw him downtown, Louise and I, when we were buying things for the fishpond for my birthday; remember? Only he didn’t have a rag on his foot today.”
“He used to be in my class at school,” said Nellie. “Oh, look at all the boxes of books!”
Brother meant to ask Nellie what the redheaded boy’s name was, but she had danced out to the van to see how large it was inside, and when she came back Brother had forgotten his question.
“My father says an old lady is going to live here,” volunteered Francis Rider, a freckle-faced lad of ten or twelve. “She lives all by herself, and she doesn’t like noise. Her name is Miss Putnam.”
Neither, they were to learn, did Miss Putnam like company, especially that of boys and girls.
When the last piece of furniture had been carried in, and the van had driven creakingly off down the street, the old lady, with her head tied in the towel, was seen approaching the fence.
“That’s Miss Putnam,” whispered Francis.
“Get off that fence!” cried Miss Putnam, brandishing her broom. “Get off! I’m not going to have my fence broken down by a parcel of young ones. Go on home, I tell you!”
The children scrambled down and scattered like leaves. Francis, when he was a safe distance up the street, put out his tongue and made a face at Miss Putnam. The old lady continued to stand by the gate and shake her broom threateningly as long as there was a child in sight.
“The Collins house is rented at last,” said Daddy Morrison at the supper table that night. “I came through there on my way home from the station, and there was a light in the kitchen window. I wonder who has taken it?”
“I know, Daddy,” answered Louise quickly. “An aunt of Mrs. Collins has rented it. She is a Miss Putnam and she makes lovely braided rugs for the art and craft shops in the city. Sue Loftis told me.”
“Well, she’s cross as–as anything!” struck in Brother severely. “She chased us all off her fence this morning; didn’t she, Betty?”
“Yes, she did,” nodded Sister. “And we weren’t doing a thing ‘cept watch her move in. Francis Rider stuck out his tongue at her, and she called him a ‘brat.'”
Daddy Morrison glanced at her sharply.
“Don’t let me hear of either of you annoying Miss Putnam in any way, “he said sternly. “I know how children can sometimes, without meaning it, bother an elderly and crochety person. Miss Putnam has every right to keep her house and yard for herself, and if she is ‘cross,’ as you call it, that is her affair, too. My advice to you youngsters is to stay away from the Collins house.”
“Now will you be good?” said Ralph, catching Sister by her short skirts as she attempted to slip past him as he sat in one of the comfortable porch rockers.
The family had scattered after supper, and only Ralph and Jimmie were on the front porch.
“The day after a party is always unlucky,” observed Jimmie, tweaking his little sister’s hair-ribbon playfully. “You and Brother have had more than your share of scolding today, haven’t you, Sister?”
To his surprise, and Ralph’s, Sister’s small foot in its patent leather slipper and white sock struck at him viciously.
“Why, Elizabeth Morrison!” exclaimed Ralph, lifting the little girl to his lap and holding her firmly there in spite of her struggles. “I’m astonished at you. What are you kicking Jimmie for?”
“Go way!” cried Sister furiously, as Jimmie tried to see her face. “Go way–you’re a mean, hateful boy!”
“Quit it!” commanded Ralph, giving her a little shake. “Stop acting like this, Sister, or I’ll take you in and put you to bed!”
Sister knew he was quite capable of doing this very thing and she stopped struggling.
“Jimmie is just as mean!” she sobbed, burying her head in Ralph’s coat.
“What have I done?” demanded Jimmie, much surprised.
“You’ve gone and put a padlock on the barn door!” flashed Sister, sitting up and drying her eyes.
Jimmie laughed, and Ralph laughed a little too.
“Well, I haven’t locked the door for the reason you think,” explained Jimmie kindly. “It isn’t just to keep you and Brother out, Sister. I’m making you something nice, and I don’t want you to see it until it is all finished.”
“All right,” conceded Sister graciously. “I thought maybe you didn’t want Brother and me to play in the barn.”
“No hard feelings, then?” inquired Jimmie, holding out his hand.
And–“No hard feelings,” admitted Sister, smiling after the “salt- water shower.”
The “haunted” house continued to be an attraction to the children of the neighborhood even after Miss Putnam moved in, and the ghost might reasonably be supposed to have moved out. Alas, it was Miss Putnam herself who now supplied the thrills.
Miss Putnam, you see, had never had much to do with children, and she thought she disliked them very much indeed. Boys, in her opinion, made a great deal of noise and girls always giggled and were silly. So whenever she saw a child hanging over her gate, or even stopping to glance at her house, she was apt to come charging out at them with a broom. The younger ones were afraid of her and the older, larger boys naughtily enjoyed provoking the poor old lady. So it was soon a common sight to see several boys flying up the street, Miss Putnam after them, waving her broom wildly.
Brother and Sister, mindful of Daddy Morrison’s warning, never actually did anything to make Miss Putnam chase them. But it must be confessed that they used to walk through the street on which she lived, in the hope of seeing her chase someone. Ridgeway was a quiet place in summer time, and any excitement was welcome.
For several days after Sister’s outburst because of the locked barn door, Jimmie worked away busily in his beloved gymnasium. He would not let either Brother or Sister as much as put their noses inside the door, and when they tried to find out from Molly what he was doing–for Molly could usually be depended upon to know what everyone in the family was up to–she simply shook her head and said she had promised not to tell.
“I wish,” said Sister for the tenth time one warm morning, “I wish there was something new to do.”
“So do I,” agreed Brother. “There’s Jimmie–he’s beckoning to us.”
Jimmie stood in the barn doorway, motioning the children to come in.
Brother and Sister jumped down the three back steps in one leap and raced toward the barn.
“Want to see what I’ve been making?” asked Jimmie proudly, “Come on in, and look–there!”
The tools from the carpenter’s bench which occupied one side of the barn were scattered about on the floor where Jimmie had been using them. All Brother and Sister could see was a wide, rather shallow box, painted a dark green.
“Is it–is it a boat?” ventured Sister doubtfully.
“What’s it for?” asked Brother.
“It’s for you to play with,” explained Jimmie. “I thought maybe you would help me carry it out under the horsechestnut tree in the side yard.”
“But how do we play with it?” insisted Brother. “Is it a game, Jimmie?”
“Put your hand in that bag back of you,” directed Jimmie. “Perhaps then you can guess.”
A burlap bag, opened, stood close to Sister. She and Brother plunged their hands in and drew them out filled with something that trickled swiftly through their fingers.
“Sand!” they shouted. “Seashore sand! Oh, Jimmie, is it a sandbox?”
Jimmie nodded, smiling. He knew they had long wanted a sandbox, and like the dear, good brother he was, he had spent his mornings sawing and fitting and smoothing off boards to make a nice, strong box.
“What fun!” Sister bounced up and down with pleasure. “Can we play with it right away?”
“Don’t know why not,” said Jimmie. “You two take one end, and we’ll carry it out under the tree. Mother thought that was the best place because it will be shady most of the day for you.”
They carried the box out to the tree, and then Jimmie brought the bag of sand on the wheelbarrow and dumped it into the box.
“Just like the seashore!” beamed Brother. “Thank you ever so much, Jimmie.”
“Yes, thank you ever so much, Jimmie,” echoed Sister, jumping up and standing on tiptoe to kiss Jimmie. “It’s the nicest box!”
Jimmie pretended that it wasn’t much to do, but of course he was very much pleased that his little brother and sister should be so delighted. Big brothers often pretend that they don’t want anyone to make a fuss over the presents they give or the nice things they do, but just the same they are secretly glad when their efforts are appreciated.
“Here’s fifty cents for each of you,” announced Jimmie, pulling some change from his pocket and handing two quarters to Brother and a shiny half-dollar to Sister. “If Mother is willing for you to go downtown you can get some sand-toys.”
Mother Morrison was willing they should go if they would remember to be careful about automobiles and if they would promise to be back within an hour.
The Morrison house was not very near the section of Ridgeway which contained the shops and stores, but the children often took the long walk alone. There were no trolleys to be careful about, except the one line that ran to the city, but the automobile traffic was rather heavy and one had to remember to stop and look both ways before crossing a street.
“Let’s take Brownie with us,” suggested Brother, when they were ready to start out to spend their wealth. “We can carry him if he gets tired.”
The fat little collie puppy wagged his tail cordially. He loved to go walking and felt that too often he was neglected when he should have been invited. He always wore his silver collar, and Louise had given Brother a little leather leash that could be snapped on when he took the dog outside the yard.
“Want to go, Brownie?” asked Sister. “Want to go out?”
Brownie barked sharply. Indeed, he did want to go!
Brother and Sister took turns leading him, and before they had gone very far they met Nellie Yarrow. She offered to go with them and she was much interested to hear that there was a new sandbox in the Morrison yard.
“I’ll come over and play with you this afternoon,” she promised. “Let me lead Brownie, Roddy?”
Brother gave her the leash, watching her anxiously. Nellie was sometimes careless with other people’s property, he had learned, though she was so generous with her own it was hard to refuse her anything.
“Don’t let him get away,” he cautioned.
Nellie opened her mouth to say “I won’t,” when with a sudden jerk Brownie tore the leather line from her hand and dashed into the road.
“Here comes a big motor-truck!” screamed Sister. “Brownie will be run over and killed!”
A LITTLE SHOPPING
The foolish little puppy crouched down directly in the path of the lumbering motor-truck. The children could feel the ground quivering as the weight of the heavy wheels jarred at every turn.
Brother forgot that he had promised to be careful about automobiles. He forgot that, bad as it would be for a motor-driver to run over a puppy dog, it would be twenty times worse for him to run down a little boy. He forgot everything except the fact that his dog was in danger!
“Look out!” shrieked Nellie Yarrow. “Roddy, come back!”
A huge red touring car, filled with laughing girls, whizzed past him, and after that a light delivery car that had to swerve sharply to avoid striking him. As Brother reached the dog he thought the motor-truck was going to roll right over him, and he closed his eyes and made a grab for Brownie. When he opened them, the truck was standing still, two wheels in the ditch, and three men were climbing down and starting toward him.
“Are you hurt, Roddy?” cried Sister, skipping into the road, followed by Nellie. “My, I thought that truck was going to run over you sure!”
“Come out of the road, you kids!” ordered one of the men roughly, pushing the three children not unkindly over in the direction of the ditch. “This is no place to stand and talk–hasn’t your mother ever told you to keep out of the streets?”
The driver of the truck, who was a young man with blue eyes and a quick smile, patted Brownie on the head gently.
“I saw the dog,” he explained to Brother. “I wouldn’t have run over him, anyway. Next time, no matter what happens, don’t you run into the road. Cars going the other way might have struck you, and I didn’t know which way you were going to jump after you got the dog. No driver wants to run over a dog if he can help it, and you children only make matters worse by dashing in among traffic.”
“I didn’t mean to,” said Brother sorrowfully. “Only I didn’t want Brownie to get hurt. I hardly ever dash among traffic, do I, Sister?”
“No, he doesn’t,” declared Sister loyally, while Nellie stood silently by. “Mother always makes us promise to be careful ’bout dashing.”
The three men laughed.
“Well, as long as you don’t make it a practice, we won’t count this time,” said the man who had told them not to stand talking in the road. “Now scoot back to the sidewalk–or, here, George, you take them over. That’s a nice dog you have.”
George, it proved, was the driver, and he took Sister by one hand and Brother by the other. Nellie held Sister’s other hand and Brother carried Brownie, and in this order they made their way safely back to the pavement on the other side of the street.
“Good-bye, and don’t forget about keeping out of the street,” said the truck-driver cheerfully, when he had them neatly lined up on the curb.
They watched him run back to his machine–as Brother observed, he didn’t look to see whether any motor-cars were likely to run him down, but then, of course, he was grown up and used to them–saw him mount to the high seat, and waved good-bye to all three men. Then they walked on, for the sand-toys were still to be bought.
Brother and Sister were the most careful of shoppers, and with Nellie to help them by suggestions, they managed to find a set of tin sand-dishes, a windmill that pumped sand, a little iron dumpcart that would be very useful to carry loads, and a string of tin buckets that went up and down on a chain and filled with sand and emptied again as long as anyone would turn the handle.
“Come over after lunch and we’ll play,” said Sister as Nellie left them at her own hedge.
Nellie did come over and the three children had a wonderful time with the new toys and the clean white sand, while Brownie slept comfortably under the tree. Before Nellie was ready to go home, however, a thunder storm came up and her mother called her to come in. Mother Morrison came out and helped Brother and Sister to carry their box into the barn, where the sand would not get wet.
“You don’t want to play with the sandbox all the time, dearies,” she said, leading the way back to the house. “If you play too steadily with anything, presently you will find that you are growing tired of it. Now play on the porch, or find something nice to do in the house, and tomorrow Jimmie will put the box under the tree again for you.”
It was very warm and sticky, and Sister tumbled into the comfortable porch swing, meaning to stay there just a few minutes. She fell asleep and slept all through the storm, waking up a little cross, as one is apt to do on a hot summer afternoon. The rain had stopped and Brother had gone over to see Grandmother Hastings.
“Hello, Sister,” Louise greeted her when she raised a flushed, warm face and touseled hair from the canvas cushions. “You’ve had a fine nap. Want me to go upstairs with you and help you find a clean dress?”
“No,” said Sister a bit crossly.
“You’ll feel much better, honey, when your face is washed and you have on a thinner frock,” urged Louise, putting down her knitting. “Come upstairs like a good girl, and I’ll tell you what I saw Miss Putnam doing as I came past her house this afternoon.”
Sister toiled upstairs after Louise, feeling much abused. She had not intended to take a nap, and now here she had slept away good playtime and was certainly warmer and more uncomfortable than she had been before she went to sleep.
But after Louise had bathed her face and hands in cool water and had brushed her hair and buttoned her into a pretty white dress with blue spots, Sister was her own sunny self. She had not been thoroughly awake, you see, and that was the reason she felt a little cross.
“What was Miss Putnam doing?” she asked curiously, watching Louise fold up the frock she had taken off.
“She was out in her yard nailing something on the fence,” said Louise. “I saw her when I was a block away, hammering as though her life depended on it. A crowd of boys were watching her–at a safe distance–and when I came near enough I saw she had a roll of wire in the yard. She was nailing barbwire along the fence pickets!”
“How mean!” scolded Sister. “No one wants to climb over her old fence, or swing on her gate.”
“Well, I think it is a shame the way the boys torment her,” declared Louise severely. “Jimmie says he caught a little red- headed boy the other day throwing old tin cans over her fence. You