CHAPTER XX

PLANS FOR MICKEY


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THE last pill had disappeared down little red lane, when Ralph was seen to turn the corner.

"Well, Chicks, why so solemn?" he asked cheerfully. "Sister, have you been crying?" Sister held out the broken doll silently. "Why, that's too bad!" exclaimed Ralph, sitting down on the step beside his little sister. "What happened to Muriel Elsie?"

"Brownie jerked her out of the hammock and she fell on her head," Brother explained. "Can you mend her, Ralph?"

"I'm afraid not," said Ralph regretfully. "Mending faces is ticklish work; I might manage an arm or leg, but not a face. I tell you, Sister—you take Muriel Elsie down to the Exchange and see if Miss Arline can't mend her. Leave her there, ask how much it will cost and when she will be ready, and I'll give you the money."

"I'll go with you, Betty," Brother offered. "Let's go now."

Molly tied the box up with paper and string and hand in hand Brother and Sister started.

"Certainly I can mend the dollie," announced Miss Arline when they reached her house and had shown her Muriel Elsie and explained the accident. "I think I'll take her into the city with me tomorrow to a doll's hospital. You come for her a week from today and she will be ready for you. I can't tell how much it will cost, you tell your brother, until I find out what the hospital will charge me."

On their way home, Brother and Sister met Mickey Gaffney. They had not seen him since he played school with them, and the sight of him at once suggested something to Brother.

"Say, Nellie Yarrow says you're going to be in the first grade at school this term," he said to Mickey. "I'm going to be in first grade, too. We'll be in the same room."

"Don't know as I'm going to school" declared Mickey perversely. "I didn't go much last year."

"Wouldn't—wouldn't your father let you?" suggested Sister timidly.

Mickey flushed a little.

"Aw, it wasn't so much his fault, leastways he said he didn't care if I went," he muttered, digging his bare foot into the gravel on one side of the stone flagging. "After they had him arrested he said I had to go."

"Didn't you want to go?" urged Brother, round-eyed. "I think it's lots of fun to go to school."

"Guess you wouldn't think so if you didn't have some shoes and a good coat," retorted Mickey. "I ain't going to school this year, either, if I can't have things to wear. None of the boys go barefoot."

"But Nellie says Mr. Alexander got some shoes for you to wear," said Brother quickly.

"How would you like to wear somebody else's shoes?" inquired Mickey with scorn. "They belonged to Ted Scott and he was always looking at my feet when I wore 'em. I want some shoes of my own!"

I "Couldn't your father buy you just one pair?" I Sister asked.

"No, he couldn't," Mickey answered desperately. "He doesn't like to work, and we had to sell Ted Scott's shoes this summer for fifty cents. When the old man does work it takes all he makes to buy grub. My mother takes in washing to pay the rent."

Mickey told them this jerkily, as though against his will, and kind-hearted little Brother thought perhaps they had asked too many questions.

"Maybe you could earn money yourself," he said presently. "I'm going to ask Daddy. You just wait, Mickey."

"I wouldn't mind earning some money," admitted Mickey cautiously. "But it takes a lot for new shoes. And they got to be new."

Brother and Sister hurried home, eager to see Daddy Morrison, and ask his advice. They found him reading on the porch and waiting for dinner.

"Oh, Daddy!" Sister rushed for him. "Daddy, how can Mickey Gaffney earn enough money to buy a whole pair of new shoes?"

"A whole pair of shoes?" repeated Daddy, laughing. "Why, Daughter, I suppose a way can be found, if he must have them. Who is this Mickey Gaffney?"

Sister told about Mickey, and Brother helped her, and when they had finished, Daddy Morrison knew all about Mickey and his school troubles.

"Being red-headed and Irish, I don't suppose he will let me give him the money," he mused. "Let's see, what can a chap that age do? He must be seven or eight years old—I've seen him hanging around the station, ready to carry suitcases. I wonder if he couldn't help the boys with the garden?"

"I'll pay him if he can weed," grinned Jimmie, who had been listening. "And Ralph was saying last week that he wasn't going to have time to take his turn at garden work—he wants to go in on an earlier train."

"All right, we'll tell Ralph that Mickey is open for an engagement," said Daddy Morrison. "We'll start him in the garden and then perhaps other odd jobs will turn up."

"Dinner is ready, folks," called Mother Morrison, and they all went into the dining-room.

"I want Mickey to earn a whole lot of money," declared Sister that night as they were getting ready for bed. "Pulling weeds is such slow work. He'll have to pull an awful lot to work an hour."

After Mother had kissed them good-night and put out the light, a big idea came to Sister.

"I know what we'll do!" she asserted, sitting up in bed. "Listen, Roddy, Ellis Carr said his father said Miss Putnam worked too hard. Well, why can't Mickey help her?"

"Maybe he can," murmured Brother sleepily. "Only she wont like him, 'cause he's a boy."

On to chapter 21

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