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HOWEVER, they were allowed to go with Ralph to the movies the next Saturday. Ralph himself explained to Daddy Morrison that he had promised to take them and then found he had a previous engagement. He thought, and Daddy Morrison did, too, that having to stay in the yard for a whole week was punishment enough even if one exception was permitted.
So Brother and Sister went down to the "big" theatre with Ralph the next Saturday afternoon, and then they had to stay in their yard all day Sunday and all day Monday, and after that they might again go where they pleased.
"Let's go see if Norman Crane's aunt sent him a birthday present," suggested Sister the first morning they were free to leave the yard. Norman Crane was a little friend who lived several blocks away, and whose aunt in New York City sent him wonderful presents at Christmas time and on his birthday. He had had a party a few days before, and of course Brother and Sister could not go—all because they would go to those unlucky movies!
Brother was willing to stop at Norman's house, but when they reached there they found Norman had gone to the city with his mother for a day's shopping.
"I smell tar," declared Brother, as they came down the steps and turned into the street where Miss Putnam lived in the haunted house—only it wasn't called that any longer. "Oh, look, Betty, they're mending something."
There was a little group of children about a big pot of boiling tar and workmen were mending the roofs of three or four houses that were built exactly alike and were owned by the same man. These houses were always repaired and painted at the same time every year.
Nearest to the boiling pot—indeed, with his red head almost in the hot steam—was the little boy Brother and Sister had noticed walking on Miss Putnam's picket fence. A puddle of tar had splashed over on the ground and the red-headed boy was stirring it with a stick held between his bare toes.
"Now don't hang around here all day," said one of the workmen, kindly enough. "Run away before you get burned. Hey, there, Red! Do you want to blister your foot?"
The red-haired lad grinned mischievously.
"I'd hate to spoil my shoes," he jeered, "but you watch and I'll kick over your old pot! I can, just as easy."
The other children drew nearer, half-believing the boy would tip over the pot of boiling tar.
"Here," said another and younger workman, "if we give each of you a little on a stick will you promise to go off and leave us in peace?"
There was an eager chorus of promises, and the good-natured young roofer actually stuck a little ball of the soft tar on each stick thrust at him and watched the small army of boys and girls march up the street, smiling.
"That Mickey Gaffney thinks he's smart," said Nellie Yarrow, who had found Brother and Sister in the crowd, as the red-headed boy dashed past them, waving his stick of tar wildly and shouting like an Indian.
"Do you know him?" asked Sister. "Doesn't he ever wear shoes?"
"I guess so—1 don't know. I don't like him," replied Nellie indifferently.
"I don't believe he has any shoes, not even for Sunday," Brother said to himself. "His coat was all torn and his mother sewed his pants up with another kind of cloth so that it shows. I wonder where'bouts he lives?"
He opened his mouth to ask Nellie, when Miss Putnam swooped down to the fence as they were passing her house.
"Go way!" she called, leaving her weeding to wave a rake at them. "Go long with you! Don't you drop any of that messy tar on my sidewalk!"
"What lovely flowers!" whispered Sister as they obediently hurried past.
Indeed, Miss Putnam had made a beautiful garden and lawn of her small yard, and she did all the work of taking care of it herself.
Sister and Brother carried their tar home with them and left it in the sand heap. Jimmie had six boys playing in the gymnasium with him and they all stayed to lunch. Molly and Mother Morrison were used to having unexpected guests, and no matter how many there were, in some mysterious manner plenty of good things to eat appeared on the table.
"Can we come out and watch you?" asked Brother when the boys were going back to the barn.
"We're going swimming," answered Jimmie.
"Can't we go swimming?" inquired Sister hopefully.
"You can not!" retorted Jimmie. "Why don't you take a nap, or—something?"
"Come on out to the barn, Roddy," Sister urged Brother when Jimmie and his friends had gone whistling on their way to the river.
"Now don't you be meddling with any of those things out there," warned Molly, clearing the table. "Your brother doesn't like you to touch his exercises, you know."
Molly called all the apparatus the boys used "exercises."
"We're not going to touch 'em!" declared Sister. "We're only going to look."
Jimmie seldom snapped his padlock, for lately the children had not bothered the gymnasium in the barn. They found the door open this afternoon.
"Bet you can't jump off that!" said Sister, pointing to a home-made "horse" that Jimmie had ingeniously contrived.
(If you don't know the kind of "horse" they use in a gymnasium, ask your big brother or sister.)
"Bet I can!" challenged Brother.
They took turns jumping until they were tired, and they went about poking their little fingers and noses into whatever they could find to examine. Sister's investigations ended sadly enough, for she succeeded in pulling down a tray of butterflies that Jimmie was mounting (he had thought the gymnasium a safe place to keep them out of everyone's way), and now broken glass and crumbled butterflies were scattered all over the floor.
"Now you've done it!" cried Brother. "Jimmie will be just as mad!"
They found an old broom and swept the broken glass under one of the heavy floor pads. Then, very much subdued, they went into the house and were so quiet for the rest of the afternoon and through supper that Mother Morrison wondered if they were sick.
They were having dessert v/hen the doorbell rang and Molly went to the door. She came back in a moment, her eyes round with wonder and looking rather frightened.
"It's Mr. Dougherty, sir," she said to Daddy Morrison. "He wants to see you."
Mr. Dougherty was Ridgeway's one and only policeman.
On to chapter 16
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