BROTHER AND SISTER PAY A CALL
SISTER'S first thought in the morning was Mickey and Miss Putnam.
"It's too bad he is a boy," she admitted, referring to Mickey, "because Miss Putnam doesn't like children. But if Mickey was grown up he wouldn't have to have shoes to wear to school, because he wouldn't go to school."
"Sister, your reasoning is all right," Ralph praised her. "Perhaps you will grow up to be a lawyer like your father and brothers."
"Oh, no," said Sister positively and sweetly. "When I grow up I'm going to be a farmer."
After breakfast, she helped Brother clear the table and brush the crumbs, and then she dragged him out to the porch steps to consult with him.
"We have to go see Miss Putnam," she whispered. "About Mickey, you know."
Brother looked frightened.
"She won't let us in," he said in alarm. "She thinks we threw tar on her porch. 'Sides, can't Mickey go see her?"
"No, we want to have it all fixed for him," explained Sister patiently. "Mickey is scared of her, too, and maybe he wouldn't go. But if she says yes, he can work for her, he'll go work 'cause he wants the shoes. Come on, Roddy, I'm not afraid."
"Will you do the talking?" suggested Brother.
Sister promised to "do the talking," and without saying anything to anyone in the house, the small boy and girl set out for the "terrible" Miss Putnam's.
In her heart of hearts, Sister was very much afraid of the cross old lady, and when they turned in at her gate she was almost ready to run home. But she remembered Mickey and how sadly he needed the new shoes, so she lifted the brass knocker on the white door and waited as bravely as she could.
"Land sakes!" gasped Miss Putnam when she came to the door. "What on earth do you want?"
This wasn't a very gracious welcome, and Sister stuttered a little from nervousness as she said they wanted to speak to her.
"Come in, then," said Miss Putnam shortly.
"Mind you wipe your feet, and don't scratch the rounds of the chairs with your heels."
She led them into a tiny sitting-room and Brother and Sister sat down on two hard, straight chairs while Miss Putnam took the only rocker.
"Well?" she asked expectantly.
"We've come about Mickey Gaffney," said Sister hurriedly. "He hasn't any shoes to wear to school and he wants to earn money to buy 'em. He's going to work for us, some, but school starts in about three weeks and we're afraid he won't have enough money."
"And couldn't he work for you?" chimed in Brother bravely, determined not to let his sister have to do all the talking.
"Why, I do need a man to do odd jobs," said Miss Putnam quite mildly. "Is he very strong?"
You see, she hadn't listened very carefully to Sister, or else she didn't stop to think—no man wants shoes to wear to school.
"Yes'm, he's pretty strong," Sister assured her earnestly. "He's eight years old and big for his age."
"Eight years old!" echoed Miss Putnam. "Why, that's a mere baby! What can such a child do to earn money?"
"Mickey can run errands and sweep and weed the garden," recited Brother, gaining confidence since Miss Putnam neither shouted at them nor chased them from her house. "He can dry dishes, too—he says he does 'em for his mother."
Miss Putnam thought for a few moments.
"I'm going to need someone to do errands for me this winter when I can't get around," she said slowly. "And I've about broke by [sic] back in the garden this summer. But boys are noisy, careless creatures—1 don't know as I could stand a boy around me."
"Oh, Mickey is nice," Sister hastened to explain. "He's going to grow up and support his mother. He won't make any more noise than he can help."
Miss Putnam smiled grimly.
"I guess that's true," she said. "Well, tell your Mickey to come round and see me, and if he doesn't charge too much, perhaps we can suit each other."
Brother and Sister trotted home, well-pleased with the success of their errand. It was something to have secured the promise of more work for Mickey.
"There he is now!" exclaimed Brother, spying the flaming red head of the Gaffney boy ahead of them. "Hey, Mickey!"
Mickey was on his way to the grocery store for soap, he informed them.
"Wait a minute," said Brother. "We want to tell you—Daddy says you can help Jimmie and Ralph in our garden and they will pay you, by the hour, Ralph says. And Miss Putnam says you can run errands for her."
"Miss Putnam?" repeated Mickey, surprised. "Miss Putnam wouldn't have a boy in her yard."
"Yes, she will," declared Sister. "She said so. And you can run errands after school this winter when she can't get around—she said so, didn't she, Roddy?"
"It would be kind of nice to have a job this winter, wouldn't it?" said Mickey thoughtfully. "My mother would like that. Well, if you're sure Miss Putnam won't come out with a broom when she sees me, I'll go."
"No, she won't," Sister assured him. "I don't believe she's so cross when you know her."
" 'Cept about tar," said Brother sorrowfully.
Mickey looked at them, mystified.
"What about tar?" he asked. "Has Miss Putnam any?"
On to chapter 22