OUT IN THE BARN
SO 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.
On to chapter 10
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