THE HAUNTED HOUSE
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"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, red-headed 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 red-headed 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 I" 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 sec her face. "Go way—you're a mean, hateful boy I"
"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."
On to chapter 11
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