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Little Men: Life at Plumfield With Jo's Boys
by Louisa May Alcott

TO
FREDDY AND JOHNNY
THE LITTLE MEN
TO WHOM SHE OWES SOME OF THE BEST AND HAPPIEST
HOURS OF HER LIFE
THIS BOOK IS GRATEFULLY DEDICATED
BY THEIR LOVING
AUNT WEEDY

Contents

CHAPTER I. NAT
CHAPTER II. THE BOYS
CHAPTER III. SUNDAY
CHAPTER IV. STEPPING-STONES
CHAPTER V. PATTY PANS
CHAPTER VI. A FIRE BRAND
CHAPTER VII. NAUGHTY NAN
CHAPTER VIII. PRANKS AND PLAYS
CHAPTER IX. DAISY'S BALL
CHAPTER X. HOME AGAIN
CHAPTER XI. UNCLE TEDDY
CHAPTER XII. HUCKLEBERRIES
CHAPTER XIII. GOLDILOCKS
CHAPTER XIV. DAMON AND PYTHIAS
CHAPTER XV. IN THE WILLOW
CHAPTER XVI. TAMING THE COLT
CHAPTER XVII. COMPOSITION DAY
CHAPTER XVIII. CROPS
CHAPTER XIX. JOHN BROOKE
CHAPTER XX. ROUND THE FIRE
CHAPTER XXI. THANKSGIVING

LITTLE MEN

Life at Plumfield with Jo's Boys

CHAPTER I NAT


Please, sir, is this Plumfield?asked a ragged boy of the man who
opened the great gate at which the omnibus left him.
Yes. Who sent you?



Mr. Laurence. I have got a letter for the lady.

All right; go up to the house, and give it to her; she'll see to you,
little chap.

The man spoke pleasantlyand the boy went onfeeling much
cheered by the words. Through the soft spring rain that fell on
sprouting grass and budding treesNat saw a large square house
before him a hospitable-looking housewith an old-fashioned
porchwide stepsand lights shining in many windows. Neither
curtains nor shutters hid the cheerful glimmer; andpausing a
moment before he rangNat saw many little shadows dancing on
the wallsheard the pleasant hum of young voicesand felt that it
was hardly possible that the light and warmth and comfort within
could be for a homeless "little chap" like him.

I hope the lady will see to me,he thoughtand gave a timid rap
with the great bronze knockerwhich was a jovial griffin's head.

A rosy-faced servant-maid opened the doorand smiled as she took
the letter which he silently offered. She seemed used to receiving
strange boysfor she pointed to a seat in the halland saidwith a
nod:

Sit there and drip on the mat a bit, while I take this in to missis.

Nat found plenty to amuse him while he waitedand stared about
him curiouslyenjoying the viewyet glad to do so unobserved in
the dusky recess by the door.

The house seemed swarming with boyswho were beguiling the
rainy twilight with all sorts of amusements. There were boys
everywhereup-stairs and down-stairs and in the lady's chamber,
apparentlyfor various open doors showed pleasant groups of big
boyslittle boysand middle-sized boys in all stages of evening
relaxationnot to say effervescence. Two large rooms on the right
were evidently schoolroomsfor desksmapsblackboardsand
books were scattered about. An open fire burned on the hearthand
several indolent lads lay on their backs before itdiscussing a new
cricket-groundwith such animation that their boots waved in the
air. A tall youth was practising on the flute in one cornerquite
undisturbed by the racket all about him. Two or three others were
jumping over the deskspausingnow and thento get their breath
and laugh at the droll sketches of a little wag who was caricaturing
the whole household on a blackboard.

In the room on the left a long supper-table was seenset forth with
great pitchers of new milkpiles of brown and white breadand
perfect stacks of the shiny gingerbread so dear to boyish souls. A
flavor of toast was in the airalso suggestions of baked apples
very tantalizing to one hungry little nose and stomach.

The hallhoweverpresented the most inviting prospect of allfor
a brisk game of tag was going on in the upper entry. One landing
was devoted to marblesthe other to checkerswhile the stairs
were occupied by a boy readinga girl singing a lullaby to her doll
two puppiesa kittenand a constant succession of small boys
sliding down the banistersto the great detriment of their clothes
and danger to their limbs.

So absorbed did Nat become in this exciting racethat he ventured
farther and farther out of his corner; and when one very lively boy
came down so swiftly that he could not stop himselfbut fell off
the banisterswith a crash that would have broken any head but


one rendered nearly as hard as a cannon-ball by eleven years of
constant bumpingNat forgot himselfand ran up to the fallen
riderexpecting to find him half-dead. The boyhoweveronly
winked rapidly for a secondthen lay calmly looking up at the new
face with a surprisedHullo!

Hullo!returned Natnot knowing what else to sayand thinking
that form of reply both brief and easy.

Are you a new boy?asked the recumbent youthwithout stirring.

Don't know yet.

What's your name?

Nat Blake.

Mine's Tommy Bangs. Come up and have a go, will you?and
Tommy got upon his legs like one suddenly remembering the
duties of hospitality.

Guess I won't, till I see whether I'm going to stay or not,returned
Natfeeling the desire to stay increase every moment.

I say, Demi, here's a new one. Come and see to him;and the
lively Thomas returned to his sport with unabated relish.

At his callthe boy reading on the stairs looked up with a pair of
big brown eyesand after an instant's pauseas if a little shyhe put
the book under his armand came soberly down to greet the
new-comerwho found something very attractive in the pleasant
face of this slendermild-eyed boy.

Have you seen Aunt Jo?he askedas if that was some sort of
important ceremony.

I haven't seen anybody yet but you boys; I'm waiting,answered
Nat.

Did Uncle Laurie send you?proceeded Demipolitelybut
gravely.

Mr. Laurence did.

He is Uncle Laurie; and he always sends nice boys.

Nat looked gratified at the remarkand smiledin a way that made
his thin face very pleasant. He did not know what to say nextso
the two stood staring at one another in friendly silencetill the
little girl came up with her doll in her arms. She was very like
Demionly not so talland had a rounderrosier faceand blue
eyes.

This is my sister, Daisy,announced Demias if presenting a rare
and precious creature.

The children nodded to one another; and the little girl's face
dimpled with pleasureas she said affably:

I hope you'll stay. We have such good times here; don't we,
Demi?

Of course, we do: that's what Aunt Jo has Plumfield for.


It seems a very nice place indeed,observed Natfeeling that he
must respond to these amiable young persons.


It's the nicest place in the world, isn't it, Demi?said Daisywho
evidently regarded her brother as authority on all subjects.


No, I think Greenland, where the icebergs and seals are, is more
interesting. But I'm fond of Plumfield, and it is a very nice place to
be in,returned Demiwho was interested just now in a book on
Greenland. He was about to offer to show Nat the pictures and
explain themwhen the servant returnedsaying with a nod toward
the parlor-door:


All right; you are to stop.


I'm glad; now come to Aunt Jo.And Daisy took him by the hand
with a pretty protecting airwhich made Nat feel at home at once.


Demi returned to his beloved bookwhile his sister led the
new-comer into a back roomwhere a stout gentleman was
frolicking with two little boys on the sofaand a thin lady was just
finishing the letter which she seemed to have been re-reading.


Here he is, aunty!cried Daisy.


So this is my new boy? I am glad to see you, my dear, and hope
you'll be happy here,said the ladydrawing him to herand
stroking back the hair from his forehead with a kind hand and a
motherly lookwhich made Nat's lonely little heart yearn toward
her.


She was not at all handsomebut she had a merry sort of face that
never seemed to have forgotten certain childish ways and looks
any more than her voice and manner had; and these thingshard to
describe but very plain to see and feelmade her a genial
comfortable kind of personeasy to get on withand generally
jolly,as boys would say. She saw the little tremble of Nat's lips
as she smoothed his hairand her keen eyes grew softerbut she
only drew the shabby figure nearer and saidlaughing:


I am Mother Bhaer, that gentleman is Father Bhaer, and these are
the two little Bhaers. Come here, boys, and see Nat.


The three wrestlers obeyed at once; and the stout manwith a
chubby child on each shouldercame up to welcome the new boy.
Rob and Teddy merely grinned at himbut Mr. Bhaer shook hands
and pointing to a low chair near the firesaidin a cordial voice:


There is a place all ready for thee, my son; sit down and dry thy
wet feet at once.


Wet? So they are! My dear, off with your shoes this minute, and
I'll have some dry things ready for you in a jiffy,cried Mrs. Bhaer
bustling about so energetically that Nat found himself in the cosy
little chairwith dry socks and warm slippers on his feetbefore he
would have had time to say Jack Robinsonif he had wanted to try.
He said "Thank youma'am instead; and said it so gratefully that
Mrs. Bhaer's eyes grew soft again, and she said something merry,
because she felt so tender, which was a way she had.


There are Tommy Bangs' slippers; but he never will remember to
put them on in the house; so he shall not have them. They are too
big; but that's all the better; you can't run away from us so fast as if
they fitted."



I don't want to run away, ma'am.And Nat spread his grimy little
hands before the comfortable blazewith a long sigh of
satisfaction.

That's good! Now I am going to toast you well, and try to get rid
of that ugly cough. How long have you had it, dear?asked Mrs.
Bhaeras she rummaged in her big basket for a strip of flannel.

All winter. I got cold, and it wouldn't get better, somehow.

No wonder, living in that damp cellar with hardly a rag to his
poor dear back!said Mrs. Bhaerin a low tone to her husband
who was looking at the boy with a skillful pair of eyes that marked
the thin temples and feverish lipsas well as the hoarse voice and
frequent fits of coughing that shook the bent shoulders under the
patched jacket.

Robin, my man, trot up to Nursey, and tell her to give thee the
cough-bottle and the liniment,said Mr. Bhaerafter his eyes had
exchanged telegrams with his wife's.

Nat looked a little anxious at the preparationsbut forgot his fears
in a hearty laughwhen Mrs. Bhaer whispered to himwith a droll
look:

Hear my rogue Teddy try to cough. The syrup I'm going to give
you has honey in it; and he wants some.

Little Ted was red in the face with his exertions by the time the
bottle cameand was allowed to suck the spoon after Nat had
manfully taken a dose and had the bit of flannel put about his
throat.

These first steps toward a cure were hardly completed when a
great bell rangand a loud tramping through the hall announced
supper. Bashful Nat quaked at the thought of meeting many
strange boysbut Mrs. Bhaer held out her hand to himand Rob
saidpatronizinglyDon't be 'fraid; I'll take care of you.

Twelve boyssix on a sidestood behind their chairsprancing
with impatience to beginwhile the tall flute-playing youth was
trying to curb their ardor. But no one sat down till Mrs. Bhaer was
in her place behind the teapotwith Teddy on her leftand Nat on
her right.

This is our new boy, Nat Blake. After supper you can say how do
you do? Gently, boys, gently.

As she spoke every one stared at Natand then whisked into their
seatstrying to be orderly and failing utterly. The Bhaers did their
best to have the lads behave well at meal timesand generally
succeeded pretty wellfor their rules were few and sensibleand
the boysknowing that they tried to make things easy and happy
did their best to obey. But there are times when hungry boys
cannot be repressed without real crueltyand Saturday evening
after a half-holidaywas one of those times.

Dear little souls, do let them have one day in which they can howl
and racket and frolic to their hearts' content. A holiday isn't a
holiday without plenty of freedom and fun; and they shall have full
swing once a week,Mrs. Bhaer used to saywhen prim people
wondered why banister-slidingpillow-fightsand all manner of
jovial games were allowed under the once decorous roof of


Plumfield.

It did seem at times as if the aforesaid roof was in danger of flying
offbut it never didfor a word from Father Bhaer could at any
time produce a lulland the lads had learned that liberty must not
be abused. Soin spite of many dark predictionsthe school
flourishedand manners and morals were insinuatedwithout the
pupils exactly knowing how it was done.

Nat found himself very well off behind the tall pitcherswith
Tommy Bangs just around the cornerand Mrs. Bhaer close by to
fill up plate and mug as fast as he could empty them.

Who is that boy next the girl down at the other end?whispered
Nat to his young neighbor under cover of a general laugh.

That's Demi Brooke. Mr. Bhaer is his uncle.

What a queer name!

His real name is John, but they call him Demi-John, because his
father is John too. That's a joke, don't you see?said Tommy
kindly explaining. Nat did not seebut politely smiledand asked
with interest :

Isn't he a very nice boy?

I bet you he is; knows lots and reads like any thing.

Who is the fat one next him?

Oh, that's Stuffy Cole. His name is George, but we call him Stuffy
'cause he eats so much. The little fellow next Father Bhaer is his
boy Rob, and then there's big Franz his nephew; he teaches some,
and kind of sees to us.

He plays the flute, doesn't he?asked Nat as Tommy rendered
himself speechless by putting a whole baked apple into his mouth
at one blow.

Tommy noddedand saidsooner than one would have imagined
possible under the circumstancesOh, don't he, though? And we
dance sometimes, and do gymnastics to music. I like a drum
myself, and mean to learn as soon as ever I can.

I like a fiddle best; I can play one too,said Natgetting
confidential on this attractive subject.

Can you?and Tommy stared over the rim of his mug with round
eyesfull of interest. "Mr. Bhaer's got an old fiddleand he'll let
you play on it if you want to."

Could I? Oh, I would like it ever so much. You see, I used to go
round fiddling with my father, and another man, till he died.

Wasn't that fun?cried Tommymuch impressed.

No, it was horrid; so cold in winter, and hot in summer. And I got
tired; and they were cross sometimes; and I didn't get enough to
eat.Nat paused to take a generous bite of gingerbreadas if to
assure himself that the hard times were over; and then he added
regretfully: "But I did love my little fiddleand I miss it. Nicolo
took it away when father diedand wouldn't have me any longer
'cause I was sick."


You'll belong to the band if you play good. See if you don't.

Do you have a band here?Nat's eyes sparkled.

Guess we do; a jolly band, all boys; and they have concerts and
things. You just see what happens to-morrow night.

After this pleasantly exciting remarkTommy returned to his
supperand Nat sank into a blissful reverie over his full plate.

Mrs. Bhaer had heard all they saidwhile apparently absorbed in
filling mugsand overseeing little Tedwho was so sleepy that he
put his spoon in his eyenodded like a rosy poppyand finally fell
fast asleepwith his cheek pillowed on a soft bun. Mrs. Bhaer had
put Nat next to Tommybecause that roly-poly boy had a frank and
social way with himvery attractive to shy persons. Nat felt this
and had made several small confidences during supperwhich
gave Mrs. Bhaer the key to the new boy's characterbetter than if
she had talked to him herself.

In the letter which Mr. Laurence had sent with Nathe had said:

DEAR JO: Here is a case after your own heart. This poor lad is an
orphan now, sick and friendless. He has been a street-musician;
and I found him in a cellar, mourning for his dead father, and his
lost violin. I think there is something in him, and have a fancy that
between us we may give this little man a lift. You cure his
overtasked body, Fritz help his neglected mind, and when he is
ready I'll see if he is a genius or only a boy with a talent which may
earn his bread for him. Give him a trial, for the sake of your own
boy,

TEDDY.

Of course we will!cried Mrs. Bhaeras she read the letter; and
when she saw Nat she felt at once thatwhether he was a genius or
nothere was a lonelysick boy who needed just what she loved to
givea home and motherly care. Both she and Mr. Bhaer observed
him quietly; and in spite of ragged clothesawkward mannersand
a dirty facethey saw much about Nat that pleased them. He was a
thinpale boyof twelvewith blue eyesand a good forehead
under the roughneglected hair; an anxiousscared faceat times
as if he expected hard wordsor blows; and a sensitive mouth that
trembled when a kind glance fell on him; while a gentle speech
called up a look of gratitudevery sweet to see. "Bless the poor
dearhe shall fiddle all day long if he likes said Mrs. Bhaer to
herself, as she saw the eager, happy expression on his face when
Tommy talked of the band.

So, after supper, when the lads flocked into the schoolroom for
more high jinks Mrs. Jo appeared with a violin in her hand, and
after a word with her husband, went to Nat, who sat in a corner
watching the scene with intense interest.

Nowmy ladgive us a little tune. We want a violin in our band
and I think you will do it nicely."

She expected that he would hesitate; but he seized the old fiddle at
onceand handled it with such loving careit was plain to see that
music was his passion.

I'll do the best I can, ma'am,was all he said; and then drew the
bow across the stringsas if eager to hear the dear notes again.


There was a great clatter in the roombut as if deaf to any sounds
but those he madeNat played softly to himselfforgetting every
thing in his delight. It was only a simple Negro melodysuch as
street-musicians playbut it caught the ears of the boys at once
and silenced themtill they stood listening with surprise and
pleasure. Gradually they got nearer and nearerand Mr. Bhaer
came up to watch the boy; foras if he was in his element now
Nat played away and never minded any onewhile his eyes shone
his cheeks reddenedand his thin fingers flewas he hugged the
old fiddle and made it speak to all their hearts the language that he
loved.

A hearty round of applause rewarded him better than a shower of
pennieswhen he stopped and glanced about himas if to say:

I've done my best; please like it.

I say, you do that first rate,cried Tommywho considered Nat
his prot‚g‚.

You shall be the first fiddle in my band,added Franzwith an
approving smile.

Mrs. Bhaer whispered to her husband:

Teddy is right: there's something in the child.And Mr. Bhaer
nodded his head emphaticallyas he clapped Nat on the shoulder
sayingheartily:

You play well, my son. Come now and play something which we
can sing.

It was the proudesthappiest minute of the poor boy's life when he
was led to the place of honor by the pianoand the lads gathered
roundnever heeding his poor clothesbut eying him respectfully
and waiting eagerly to hear him play again.

They chose a song he knew; and after one or two false starts they
got goingand violinfluteand piano led a chorus of boyish voices
that made the old roof ring again. It was too much for Natmore
feeble than he knew; and as the final shout died awayhis face
began to workhe dropped the fiddleand turning to the wall
sobbed like a little child.

My dear, what is it?asked Mrs. Bhaerwho had been singing
with all her mightand trying to keep little Rob from beating time
with his boots.

You are all so kind and it's so beautiful I can't help it,sobbed
Natcoughing till he was breathless.

Come with me, dear; you must go to bed and rest; you are worn
out, and this is too noisy a place for you,whispered Mrs. Bhaer;
and took him away to her own parlorwhere she let him cry
himself quiet.

Then she won him to tell her all his troublesand listened to the
little story with tears in her own eyesthough it was not a new one
to her.

My child, you have got a father and a mother now, and this is
home. Don't think of those sad times any more, but get well and
happy; and be sure you shall never suffer again, if we can help it.


This place is made for all sorts of boys to have a good time in, and
to learn how to help themselves and be useful men, I hope. You
shall have as much music as you want, only you must get strong
first. Now come up to Nursey and have a bath, and then go to bed,
and to-morrow we will lay some nice little plans together.

Nat held her hand fast in hisbut had not a word to sayand let his
grateful eyes speak for himas Mrs. Bhaer led him up to a big
roomwhere they found a stout German woman with a face so
round and cheery that it looked like a sort of sunwith the wide
frill of her cap for rays.

This is Nursey Hummel, and she will give you a nice bath, and
cut your hair, and make you all 'comfy,' as Rob says. That's the
bath-room in there; and on Saturday nights we scrub all the little
lads first, and pack them away in bed before the big ones get
through singing. Now then, Rob, in with you.

As she talkedMrs. Bhaer had whipped off Rob's clothes and
popped him into a long bath-tub in the little room opening into the
nursery.

There were two tubsbesides foot-bathsbasinsdouche-pipesand
all manner of contrivances for cleanliness. Nat was soon
luxuriating in the other bath; and while simmering therehe
watched the performances of the two womenwho scrubbedclean
night-gownedand bundled into bed four or five small boyswho
of coursecut up all sorts of capers during the operationand kept
every one in a gale of merriment till they were extinguished in
their beds.

By the time Nat was washed and done up in a blanket by the fire
while Nursey cut his haira new detachment of boys arrived and
were shut into the bath-roomwhere they made as much splashing
and noise as a school of young whales at play.

Nat had better sleep here, so that if his cough troubles him in the
night you can see that he takes a good draught of flax-seed tea,
said Mrs. Bhaerwho was flying about like a distracted hen with a
large brood of lively ducklings.

Nursey approved the planfinished Nat off with a flannel
night-gowna drink of something warm and sweetand then
tucked him into one of the three little beds standing in the room
where he lay looking like a contented mummy and feeling that
nothing more in the way of luxury could be offered him.
Cleanliness in itself was a new and delightful sensation; flannel
gowns were unknown comforts in his world; sips of "good stuff"
soothed his cough as pleasantly as kind words did his lonely heart;
and the feeling that somebody cared for him made that plain room
seem a sort of heaven to the homeless child. It was like a cosy
dream; and he often shut his eyes to see if it would not vanish
when he opened them again. It was too pleasant to let him sleep
and he could not have done so if he had triedfor in a few minutes
one of the peculiar institutions of Plumfield was revealed to his
astonished but appreciative eyes.

A momentary lull in the aquatic exercises was followed by the
sudden appearance of pillows flying in all directionshurled by
white goblinswho came rioting out of their beds. The battle raged
in several roomsall down the upper halland even surged at
intervals into the nurserywhen some hard-pressed warrior took
refuge there. No one seemed to mind this explosion in the least; no
one forbade itor even looked surprised. Nursey went on hanging


up towelsand Mrs. Bhaer laid out clean clothesas calmly as if
the most perfect order reigned. Nayshe even chased one daring
boy out of the roomand fired after him the pillow he had slyly
thrown at her.


Won't they hurt 'em?asked Natwho lay laughing with all his
might.


Oh dear, no! We always allow one pillow-fight Saturday night.
The cases are changed to-morrow; and it gets up a glow after the
boys' baths; so I rather like it myself,said Mrs. Bhaerbusy again
among her dozen pairs of socks.


What a very nice school this is!observed Natin a burst of
admiration.


It's an odd one,laughed Mrs. Bhaerbut you see we don't
believe in making children miserable by too many rules, and too
much study. I forbade night-gown parties at first; but, bless you, it
was of no use. I could no more keep those boys in their beds than
so many jacks in the box. So I made an agreement with them: I
was to allow a fifteen-minute pillow-fight every Saturday night;
and they promised to go properly to bed every other night. I tried
it, and it worked well. If they don't keep their word, no frolic; if
they do, I just turn the glasses round, put the lamps in safe places,
and let them rampage as much as they like.


It's a beautiful plan,said Natfeeling that he should like to join
in the fraybut not venturing to propose it the first night. So he lay
enjoying the spectaclewhich certainly was a lively one.


Tommy Bangs led the assailing partyand Demi defended his own
room with a dogged courage fine to seecollecting pillows behind
him as fast as they were throwntill the besiegers were out of
ammunitionwhen they would charge upon him in a bodyand
recover their arms. A few slight accidents occurredbut nobody
mindedand gave and took sounding thwacks with perfect good
humorwhile pillows flew like big snowflakestill Mrs. Bhaer
looked at her watchand called out:


Time is up, boys. Into bed, every man jack, or pay the forfeit!


What is the forfeit?asked Natsitting up in his eagerness to
know what happened to those wretches who disobeyed this most
peculiarbut public-spirited school-ma'am.


Lose their fun next time,answered Mrs. Bhaer. "I give them five
minutes to settle downthen put out the lightsand expect order.
They are honorable ladsand they keep their word."


That was evidentfor the battle ended as abruptly as it began a
parting shot or twoa final cheeras Demi fired the seventh pillow
at the retiring foea few challenges for next timethen order
prevailed. And nothing but an occasional giggle or a suppressed
whisper broke the quiet which followed the Saturday-night frolic
as Mother Bhaer kissed her new boy and left him to happy dreams
of life at Plumfield.


CHAPTER II THE BOYS


While Nat takes a good long sleepI will tell my little readers
something about the boysamong whom he found himself when he
woke up.



To begin with our old friends. Franz was a tall ladof sixteen now
a regular Germanbigblondand bookishalso very domestic
amiableand musical. His uncle was fitting him for collegeand
his aunt for a happy home of his own hereafterbecause she
carefully fostered in him gentle mannerslove of childrenrespect
for womenold and youngand helpful ways about the house. He
was her right-hand man on all occasionssteadykindand patient;
and he loved his merry aunt like a motherfor such she had tried to
be to him.

Emil was quite differentbeing quick-temperedrestlessand
enterprisingbent on going to seafor the blood of the old vikings
stirred in his veinsand could not be tamed. His uncle promised
that he should go when he was sixteenand set him to studying
navigationgave him stories of good and famous admirals and
heroes to readand let him lead the life of a frog in riverpond
and brookwhen lessons were done. His room looked like the
cabin of a man-of-warfor every thing was nauticalmilitaryand
shipshape. Captain Kyd was his delightand his favorite
amusement was to rig up like that piratical gentlemanand roar out
sanguinary sea-songs at the top of his voice. He would dance
nothing but sailors' hornpipesrolled in his gaitand was as
nautical in conversation to his uncle would permit. The boys called
him "Commodore and took great pride in his fleet, which
whitened the pond and suffered disasters that would have daunted
any commander but a sea-struck boy.

Demi was one of the children who show plainly the effect of
intelligent love and care, for soul and body worked harmoniously
together. The natural refinement which nothing but home
influence can teach, gave him sweet and simple manners: his
mother had cherished an innocent and loving heart in him; his
father had watched over the physical growth of his boy, and kept
the little body straight and strong on wholesome food and exercise
and sleep, while Grandpa March cultivated the little mind with the
tender wisdom of a modern Pythagoras, not tasking it with long,
hard lessons, parrot-learned, but helping it to unfold as naturally
and beautifully as sun and dew help roses bloom. He was not a
perfect child, by any means, but his faults were of the better sort;
and being early taught the secret of self-control, he was not left at
the mercy of appetites and passions, as some poor little mortals
are, and then punished for yielding to the temptations against
which they have no armor. A quiet, quaint boy was Demi, serious,
yet cheery, quite unconscious that he was unusually bright and
beautiful, yet quick to see and love intelligence or beauty in other
children. Very fond of books, and full of lively fancies, born of a
strong imagination and a spiritual nature, these traits made his
parents anxious to balance them with useful knowledge and
healthful society, lest they should make him one of those pale
precocious children who amaze and delight a family sometimes,
and fade away like hot-house flowers, because the young soul
blooms too soon, and has not a hearty body to root it firmly in the
wholesome soil of this world.

So Demi was transplanted to Plumfield, and took so kindly to the
life there, that Meg and John and Grandpa felt satisfied that they
had done well. Mixing with other boys brought out the practical
side of him, roused his spirit, and brushed away the pretty cobwebs
he was so fond of spinning in that little brain of his. To be sure, he
rather shocked his mother when he came home, by banging doors,
saying by George" emphaticallyand demanding tall thick boots
that clumped like papa's.But John rejoiced over himlaughed at
his explosive remarksgot the bootsand said contentedly


He is doing well; so let him clump. I want my son to be a manly
boy, and this temporary roughness won't hurt him. We can polish
him up by and by; and as for learning, he will pick that up as
pigeons do peas. So don't hurry him.

Daisy was as sunshiny and charming as everwith all sorts of
womanlinesses budding in herfor she was like her gentle mother
and delighted in domestic things. She had a family of dollswhom
she brought up in the most exemplary manner; she could not get
on without her little work-basket and bits of sewingwhich she did
so nicelythat Demi frequently pulled out his handkerchief display
her neat stitchesand Baby Josy had a flannel petticoat beautifully
made by Sister Daisy. She like to quiddle about the china-closet
prepare the salt-cellarsput the spoons straight on the table; and
every day went round the parlor with her brushdusting chairs and
tables. Demi called her a "Betty but was very glad to have her
keep his things in order, lend him her nimble fingers in all sorts of
work, and help him with his lessons, for they kept abreast there,
and had no thought of rivalry.

The love between them was as strong as ever; and no one could
laugh Demi out of his affectionate ways with Daisy. He fought her
battles valiantly, and never could understand why boys should be
ashamed to say right out that they loved their sisters. Daisy
adored her twin, thought my brother" the most remarkable boy in
the worldand every morningin her little wrappertrotted to tap at
his door with a motherly "Get upmy dearit's 'most breakfast
time; and here's your clean collar."

Rob was an energetic morsel of a boywho seemed to have
discovered the secret of perpetual motionfor he never was still.
Fortunatelyhe was not mischievousnor very brave; so he kept
out of trouble pretty welland vibrated between father and mother
like an affectionate little pendulum with a lively tickfor Rob was
a chatterbox.

Teddy was too young to play a very important part in the affairs of
Plumfieldyet he had his little sphereand filled it beautifully.
Every one felt the need of a pet at timesand Baby was always
ready to accommodatefor kissing and cuddling suited him
excellently. Mrs. Jo seldom stirred without him; so he had his little
finger in all the domestic piesand every one found them all the
better for itfor they believed in babies at Plumfield.

Dick Brownand Adolphus or Dolly Pettingillwere two eight
year-olds. Dolly stuttered badlybut was gradually getting over it
for no one was allowed to mock him and Mr. Bhaer tried to cure it
by making him talk slowly. Dolly was a good little ladquite
uninteresting and ordinarybut he flourished hereand went
through his daily duties and pleasures with placid content and
propriety.

Dick Brown's affliction was a crooked backyet he bore his burden
so cheerfullythat Demi once asked in his queer wayDo humps
make people good-natured? I'd like one if they do.Dick was
always merryand did his best to be like other boysfor a plucky
spirit lived in the feeble little body. When he first camehe was
very sensitive about his misfortunebut soon learned to forget it
for no one dared remind him of itafter Mr. Bhaer had punished
one boy for laughing at him.

God don't care; for my soul is straight if my back isn't,sobbed
Dick to his tormentor on that occasion; andby cherishing this
ideathe Bhaers soon led him to believe that people also loved his


souland did not mind his bodyexcept to pity and help him to
bear it.

Playing menagerie once with the otherssome one said

What animal will you be, Dick?

Oh, I'm the dromedary; don't you see the hump on my back?was
the laughing answer.

So you are, my nice little one that don't carry loads, but marches
by the elephant first in the procession,said Demiwho was
arranging the spectacle.

I hope others will be as kind to the poor dear as my boys have
learned to be,said Mrs. Joquite satisfied with the success of her
teachingas Dick ambled past herlooking like a very happybut a
very feeble little dromedarybeside stout Stuffywho did the
elephant with ponderous propriety.

Jack Ford was a sharprather a sly ladwho was sent to this school
because it was cheap. Many men would have thought him a smart
boybut Mr. Bhaer did not like his way of illustrating that Yankee
wordand thought his unboyish keenness and money-loving as
much of an affliction as Dolly's stutteror Dick's hump.

Ned Barker was like a thousand other boys of fourteenall legs
blunderand bluster. Indeed the family called him the
Blunderbuss,and always expected to see him tumble over the
chairsbump against the tablesand knock down any small articles
near him. He bragged a good deal about what he could dobut
seldom did any thing to prove itwas not braveand a little given
to tale-telling. He was apt to bully the small boysand flatter the
big onesand without being at all badwas just the sort of fellow
who could very easily be led astray.

George Cole had been spoilt by an over-indulgent motherwho
stuffed him with sweetmeats till he was sickand then thought him
too delicate to studyso that at twelve years oldhe was a pale
puffy boydullfretfuland lazy. A friend persuaded her to send
him to Plumfieldand there he soon got waked upfor sweet things
were seldom allowedmuch exercise requiredand study made so
pleasantthat Stuffy was gently lured alongtill he quite amazed
his anxious mamma by his improvementand convinced her that
there was really something remarkable in Plumfield air.

Billy Ward was what the Scotch tenderly call an "innocent for
though thirteen years old, he was like a child of six. He had been
an unusually intelligent boy, and his father had hurried him on too
fast, giving him all sorts of hard lessons, keeping at his books six
hours a day, and expecting him to absorb knowledge as a Strasburg
goose does the food crammed down its throat. He thought he was
doing his duty, but he nearly killed the boy, for a fever gave the
poor child a sad holiday, and when he recovered, the overtasked
brain gave out, and Billy's mind was like a slate over which a
sponge has passed, leaving it blank.

It was a terrible lesson to his ambitious father; he could not bear
the sight of his promising child, changed to a feeble idiot, and he
sent him away to Plumfield, scarcely hoping that he could be
helped, but sure that he would be kindly treated. Quite docile and
harmless was Billy, and it was pitiful to see how hard he tried to
learn, as if groping dimly after the lost knowledge which had cost
him so much.


Day after day, he pored over the alphabet, proudly said A and B,
and thought that he knew them, but on the morrow they were gone,
and all the work was to be done over again. Mr. Bhaer had infinite
patience with him, and kept on in spite of the apparent
hopelessness of the task, not caring for book lessons, but trying
gently to clear away the mists from the darkened mind, and give it
back intelligence enough to make the boy less a burden and an
affliction.

Mrs. Bhaer strengthened his health by every aid she could invent,
and the boys all pitied and were kind to him. He did not like their
active plays, but would sit for hours watching the doves, would dig
holes for Teddy till even that ardent grubber was satisfied, or
follow Silas, the man, from place to place seeing him work, for
honest Si was very good to him, and though he forgot his letters
Billy remembered friendly faces.

Tommy Bangs was the scapegrace of the school, and the most
trying scapegrace that ever lived. As full of mischief as a monkey,
yet so good-hearted that one could not help forgiving his tricks; so
scatter-brained that words went by him like the wind, yet so
penitent for every misdeed, that it was impossible to keep sober
when he vowed tremendous vows of reformation, or proposed all
sorts of queer punishments to be inflicted upon himself. Mr. and
Mrs. Bhaer lived in a state of preparation for any mishap, from the
breaking of Tommy's own neck, to the blowing up of the entire
family with gunpowder; and Nursey had a particular drawer in
which she kept bandages, plasters, and salves for his especial use,
for Tommy was always being brought in half dead; but nothing
ever killed him, and he arose from every downfall with redoubled
vigor.

The first day he came, he chopped the top off one finger in the
hay-cutter, and during the week, fell from the shed roof, was
chased by an angry hen who tried to pick his out because he
examined her chickens, got run away with, and had his ears boxed
violent by Asia, who caught him luxuriously skimming a pan of
cream with half a stolen pie. Undaunted, however, by any failures
or rebuffs, this indomitable youth went on amusing himself with
all sorts of tricks till no one felt safe. If he did not know his
lessons, he always had some droll excuse to offer, and as he was
usually clever at his books, and as bright as a button in composing
answers when he did not know them, he go on pretty well at
school. But out of school, Ye gods and little fishes! how Tommy
did carouse!

He wound fat Asia up in her own clothes line against the post, and
left here there to fume and scold for half an hour one busy Monday
morning. He dropped a hot cent down Mary Ann's back as that
pretty maid was waiting at table one day when there were
gentlemen to dinner, whereat the poor girl upset the soup and
rushed out of the room in dismay, leaving the family to think that
she had gone mad. He fixed a pail of water up in a tree, with a bit
of ribbon fastened to the handle, and when Daisy, attracted by the
gay streamer, tried to pull it down, she got a douche bath that
spoiled her clean frock and hurt her little feelings very much. He
put rough white pebbles in the sugar-bowl when his grandmother
came to tea, and the poor old lady wondered why they didn't melt
in her cup, but was too polite to say anything. He passed around
snuff in church so that five of the boys sneezed with such violence
they had to go out. He dug paths in winter time, and then privately
watered them so that people should tumble down. He drove poor
Silas nearly wild by hanging his big boots in conspicuous places,


for his feet were enormous, and he was very much ashamed of
them. He persuaded confiding little Dolly to tie a thread to one of
his loose teeth, and leave the string hanging from his mouth when
he went to sleep, so that Tommy could pull it out without his
feeling the dreaded operation. But the tooth wouldn't come at the
first tweak, and poor Dolly woke up in great anguish of spirit, and
lost all faith in Tommy from that day forth.

The last prank had been to give the hens bread soaked in rum,
which made them tipsy and scandalized all the other fowls, for the
respectable old biddies went staggering about, pecking and
clucking in the most maudlin manner, while the family were
convulsed with laughter at their antics, till Daisy took pity on them
and shut them up in the hen-house to sleep off their intoxication.

These were the boys and they lived together as happy as twelve
lads could, studying and playing, working and squabbling, fighting
faults and cultivating virtues in the good old-fashioned way. Boys
at other schools probably learned more from books, but less of that
better wisdom which makes good men. Latin, Greek, and
mathematics were all very well, but in Professor Bhaer's opinion,
self knowledge, self-help, and self-control were more important,
and he tried to teach them carefully. People shook their heads
sometimes at his ideas, even while they owned that the boys
improved wonderfully in manners and morals. But then, as Mrs. Jo
said to Nat, it was an odd school."

CHAPTER III SUNDAY

The moment the bell rang next morning Nat flew out of bedand
dressed himself with great satisfaction in the suit of clothes he
found on the chair. They were not newbeing half-worn garments
of one of the well-to-do boys; but Mrs. Bhaer kept all such cast-off
feathers for the picked robins who strayed into her nest. They were
hardly on when Tommy appeared in a high state of clean collar
and escorted Nat down to breakfast.

The sun was shining into the dining-room on the well-spread table
and the flock of hungryhearty lads who gathered round it. Nat
observed that they were much more orderly than they had been the
night beforeand every one stood silently behind his chair while
little Robstanding beside his father at the head of the table
folded his handsreverently bent his curly headand softly
repeated a short grace in the devout German fashionwhich Mr.
Bhaer loved and taught his little son to honor. Then they all sat
down to enjoy the Sunday-morning breakfast of coffeesteakand
baked potatoesinstead of the bread and milk fare with which they
usually satisfied their young appetites. There was much pleasant
talk while the knives and forks rattled brisklyfor certain Sunday
lessons were to be learnedthe Sunday walk settledand plans for
the week discussed. As he listenedNat thought it seemed as if this
day must be a very pleasant onefor he loved quietand there was
a cheerful sort of hush over every thing that pleased him very
much; becausein spite of his rough lifethe boy possessed the
sensitive nerves which belong to a music-loving nature.

Now, my lads, get your morning jobs done, and let me find you
ready for church when the 'bus comes round,said Father Bhaer
and set the example by going into the school-room to get books
ready for the morrow.

Every one scattered to his or her taskfor each had some little
daily dutyand was expected to perform it faithfully. Some
brought wood and waterbrushed the stepsor ran errands for Mrs.


Bhaer. Others fed the pet animalsand did chores about the barn
with Franz. Daisy washed the cupsand Demi wiped themfor the
twins liked to work togetherand Demi had been taught to make
himself useful in the little house at home. Even Baby Teddy had
his small job to doand trotted to and froputting napkins away
and pushing chairs into their places. For half and hour the lads
buzzed about like a hive of beesthen the 'bus drove roundFather
Bhaer and Franz with the eight older boys piled inand away they
went for a three-mile drive to church in town.

Because of the troublesome cough Nat prefered to stay at home
with the four small boysand spent a happy morning in Mrs.
Bhaer's roomlistening to the stories she read themlearning the
hymns she taught themand then quietly employing himself
pasting pictures into an old ledger.

This is my Sunday closet,she saidshowing him shelves filled
with picture-bookspaint-boxesarchitectural blockslittle diaries
and materials for letter-writing. "I want my boys to love Sundayto
find it a peacefulpleasant daywhen they can rest from common
study and playyet enjoy quiet pleasuresand learnin simple
wayslessons more important than any taught in school. Do you
understand me?" she askedwatching Nat's attentive face.

You mean to be good?he saidafter hesitating a minute.

Yes; to be good, and to love to be good. It is hard work
sometimes, I know very well; but we all help one another, and so
we get on. This is one of the ways in which I try to help my boys,
and she took down a thick bookwhich seemed half-full of writing
and opened at a page on which there was one word at the top.

Why, that's my name!cried Natlooking both surprised and
interested.

Yes; I have a page for each boy. I keep a little account of how he
gets on through the week, and Sunday night I show him the record.
If it is bad I am sorry and disappointed, if it is good I am glad and
proud; but, whichever it is, the boys know I want to help them, and
they try to do their best for love of me and Father Bhaer.

I should think they would,said Natcatching a glimpse of
Tommy's name opposite his ownand wondering what was written
under it.

Mrs. Bhaer saw his eye on the wordsand shook her headsaying
as she turned a leaf

No, I don't show my records to any but the one to whom each
belongs. I call this my conscience book; and only you and I will
ever know what is to be written on the page below your name.
Whether you will be pleased or ashamed to read it next Sunday
depends on yourself. I think it will be a good report; at any rate, I
shall try to make things easy for you in this new place, and shall be
quite contented if you keep our few rules, live happily with the
boys, and learn something.

I'll try ma'am;and Nat's thin face flushed up with the earnestness
of his desire to make Mrs. Bhaer "glad and proud not sorry and
disappointed." "It must be a great deal of trouble to write about so
many he added, as she shut her book with an encouraging pat on
the shoulder.

Not to mefor I really don't know which I like bestwriting or


boys she said, laughing to see Nat stare with astonishment at the
last item. YesI know many people think boys are a nuisancebut
that is because they don't understand them. I do; and I never saw
the boy yet whom I could not get on capitally with after I had once
found the soft spot in his heart. Bless meI couldn't get on at all
without my flock of dearnoisynaughtyharum-scarum little lads
could Imy Teddy?" and Mrs. Bhaer hugged the young roguejust
in time to save the big inkstand from going into his pocket.

Natwho had never heard anything like this beforereally did not
know whether Mother Bhaer was a trifle crazyor the most
delightful woman he had ever met. He rather inclined to the latter
opinionin spite of her peculiar tastesfor she had a way of filling
up a fellow's plate before he askedof laughing at his jokesgently
tweaking him by the earor clapping him on the shoulderthat Nat
found very engaging.

Now, I think you would like to go into the school-room and
practise some of the hymns we are to sing to-night,she said
rightly guessing the thing of all others that he wanted to do.

Alone with the beloved violin and the music-book propped up
before him in the sunny windowwhile Spring beauty filled the
world outsideand Sabbath silence reigned withinNat enjoyed an
hour or two of genuine happinesslearning the sweet old tunes
and forgetting the hard past in the cheerful present.

When the church-goers came back and dinner was overevery one
readwrote letters homesaid their Sunday lessonsor talked
quietly to one anothersitting here and there about the house. At
three o'clock the entire family turned out to walkfor all the active
young bodies must have exercise; and in these walks the active
young minds were taught to see and love the providence of God in
the beautiful miracles which Nature was working before their eyes.
Mr. Bhaer always went with themand in his simplefatherly way
found for his flockSermons in stones, books in the running
brooks, and good in everything.

Mrs. Bhaer with Daisy and her own two boys drove into townto
pay the weekly visit to Grandmawhich was busy Mother Bhaer's
one holiday and greatest pleasure. Nat was not strong enough for
the long walkand asked to stay at home with Tommywho kindly
offered to do the honors of Plumfield. "You've seen the houseso
come out and have a look at the gardenand the barnand the
menagerie said Tommy, when they were left alone with Asia, to
see that they didn't get into mischief; for, though Tommy was one
of the best-meaning boys who ever adorned knickerbockers,
accidents of the most direful nature were always happening to him,
no one could exactly tell how.

What is your menagerie?" asked Natas they trotted along the
drive that encircled the house.

We all have pets, you see, and we keep 'em in the corn-barn, and
call it the menagerie. Here you are. Isn't my guinea-pig a beauty?
and Tommy proudly presented one of the ugliest specimens of that
pleasing animal that Nat ever saw.

I know a boy with a dozen of 'em, and he said he'd give me one,
only I hadn't any place to keep it, so I couldn't have it. It was white,
with black spots, a regular rouser, and maybe I could get it for you
if you'd like it,said Natfeeling it would be a delicate return for
Tommy's attentions.


I'd like it ever so much, and I'll give you this one, and they can
live together if they don't fight. Those white mice are Rob's, Franz
gave 'em to him. The rabbits are Ned's, and the bantams outside
are Stuffy's. That box thing is Demi's turtle-tank, only he hasn't
begun to get 'em yet. Last year he had sixty-two, whackers some of
'em. He stamped one of 'em with his name and the year, and let it
go; and he says maybe he will find it ever so long after and know
it. He read about a turtle being found that had a mark on it that
showed it must be hundreds of years old. Demi's such a funny
chap.

What is in this box?asked Natstopping before a large deep one
half-full of earth.

Oh, that's Jack Ford's worm-shop. He digs heaps of 'em and keeps
'em here, and when we want any to go afishing with, we buy some
of him. It saves lots of trouble, only he charged too much for 'em.
Why, last time we traded I had to pay two cents a dozen, and then
got little ones. Jack's mean sometimes, and I told him I'd dig for
myself if he didn't lower his prices. Now, I own two hens, those
gray ones with top knots, first-rate ones they are too, and I sell
Mrs. Bhaer the eggs, but I never ask her more than twenty-five
cents a dozen, never! I'd be ashamed to do it,cried Tommywith
a glance of scorn at the worm-shop.

Who owns the dogs?asked Natmuch interested in these
commercial transactionsand feeling that T. Bangs was a man
whom it would be a privilege and a pleasure to patronize.

The big dog is Emil's. His name is Christopher Columbus. Mrs.
Bhaer named him because she likes to say Christopher Columbus,
and no one minds it if she means the dog,answered Tommyin
the tone of a show-man displaying his menagerie. "The white pup
is Rob'sand the yellow one is Teddy's. A man was going to drown
them in our pondand Pa Bhaer wouldn't let him. They do well
enough for the little chapsI don't think much of 'em myself. Their
names are Castor and Pollux."

I'd like Toby the donkey best, if I could have anything, it's so nice
to ride, and he's so little and good,said Natremembering the
weary tramps he had taken on his own tired feet.

Mr. Laurie sent him out to Mrs. Bhaer, so she shouldn't carry
Teddy on her back when we go to walk. We're all fond of Toby,
and he's a first-rate donkey, sir. Those pigeons belong to the whole
lot of us, we each have our pet one, and go shares in all the little
ones as they come along. Squabs are great fun; there ain't any now,
but you can go up and take a look at the old fellows, while I see if
Cockletop and Granny have laid any eggs.

Nat climbed up a ladderput his head through a trap door and took
a long look at the pretty doves billing and cooing in their spacious
loft. Some on their nestssome bustling in and outand some
sitting at their doorswhile many went flying from the sunny
housetop to the straw-strewn farmyardwhere six sleek cows were
placidly ruminating.

Everybody has got something but me. I wish I had a dove, or a
hen, or even a turtle, all my own,thought Natfeeling very poor
as he saw the interesting treasures of the other boys. "How do you
get these things?" he askedwhen he joined Tommy in the barn.

We find 'em or buy 'em, or folks give 'em to us. My father sends
me mine; but as soon as I get egg money enough, I'm going to buy


a pair of ducks. There's a nice little pond for 'em behind the barn,
and people pay well for duck-eggs, and the little duckies are pretty,
and it's fun to see 'em swim,said Tommywith the air of a
millionaire.


Nat sighedfor he had neither father nor moneynothing in the
wide world but an old empty pocketbookand the skill that lay in
his ten finger tips. Tommy seemed to understand the question and
the sigh which followed his answerfor after a moment of deep
thoughthe suddenly broke out


Look here, I'll tell you what I'll do. If you will hunt eggs for me, I
hate it, I'll give you one egg out of every dozen. You keep account,
and when you've had twelve, Mother Bhaer will give you
twenty-five cents for 'em, and then you can buy what you like,
don't you see?


I'll do it! What a kind feller you are, Tommy!cried Natquite
dazzled by this brilliant offer.


Pooh! that is not anything. You begin now and rummage the barn,
and I'll wait here for you. Granny is cackling, so you're sure to find
one somewhere,and Tommy threw himself down on the hay with
a luxurious sense of having made a good bargainand done a
friendly thing.


Nat joyfully began his searchand went rustling from loft to loft
till he found two fine eggsone hidden under a beamand the other
in an old peck measurewhich Mrs. Cockletop had appropriated.


You may have one and I'll have the other, that will just make up
my last dozen, and to-morrow we'll start fresh.


Here, you chalk your accounts up near mine, and then we'll be all
straight,said Tommyshowing a row of mysterious figures on the
side of an old winnowing machine.


With a delightful sense of importancethe proud possessor of one
egg opened his account with his friendwho laughingly wrote
above the figures these imposing words


T. Bangs & Co.


Poor Nat found them so fascinating that he was with difficulty
persuaded to go and deposit his first piece of portable property in
Asia's store-room. Then they went on againand having made the
acquaintance of the two horsessix cowsthree pigsand one
Alderney "Bossy as calves are called in New England, Tommy
took Nat to a certain old willow-tree that overhung a noisy little
brook. From the fence it was an easy scramble into a wide niche
between the three big branches, which had been cut off to send out
from year to year a crowd of slender twigs, till a green canopy
rustled overhead. Here little seats had been fixed, and a hollow
place a closet made big enough to hold a book or two, a
dismantled boat, and several half-finished whistles.


This is Demi's and my private place; we made itand nobody can
come up unless we let 'emexcept Daisywe don't mind her said
Tommy, as Nat looked with delight from the babbling brown water
below to the green arch above, where bees were making a musical
murmur as they feasted on the long yellow blossoms that filled the
air with sweetness.


Ohit's just beautiful!" cried Nat. "I do hope you'll let me up



sometimes. I never saw such a nice place in all my life. I'd like to
be a birdand live here always."

It is pretty nice. You can come if Demi don't mind, and I guess he
won't, because he said last night that he liked you.

Did he?and Nat smiled with pleasurefor Demi's regard seemed
to be valued by all the boyspartly because he was Father Bhaer's
nephewand partly because he was such a soberconscientious
little fellow.

Yes; Demi likes quiet chaps, and I guess he and you will get on if
you care about reading as he does.

Poor Nat's flush of pleasure deepened to a painful scarlet at those
last wordsand he stammered out

I can't read very well; I never had any time; I was always fiddling
roundyou know."

I don't love it myself, but I can do it well enough when I want to,
said Tommyafter a surprised lookwhich said as plainly as words
A boy twelve years old and can't read!

I can read music, anyway,added Natrather ruffled at having to
confess his ignorance.

I can't;and Tommy spoke in a respectful tonewhich
emboldened Nat to say firmly

I mean to study real hard and learn every thing I can, for I never
had a chance before. Does Mr. Bhaer give hard lessons?

No; he isn't a bit cross; he sort of explains and gives you a boost
over the hard places. Some folks don't; my other master didn't. If
we missed a word, didn't we get raps on the head!and Tommy
rubbed his own pate as if it tingled yet with the liberal supply of
rapsthe memory of which was the only thing he brought away
after a year with his "other master."

I think I could read this,said Natwho had been examining the
books.

Read a bit, then; I'll help you,resumed Tommywith a
patronizing air.

So Nat did his bestand floundered through a page with may
friendly "boosts" from Tommywho told him he would soon "go
it" as well as anybody. Then they sat and talked boy-fashion about
all sorts of thingsamong othersgardening; for Natlooking down
from his perchasked what was planted in the many little patches
lying below them on the other side of the brook.

These are our farms,said Tommy. "We each have our own
patchand raise what we like in itonly have to choose different
thingsand can't change till the crop is inand we must keep it in
order all summer."

What are you going to raise this year?

Wal, I cattleated to hev beans, as they are about the easiest crop
a-goin'.

Nat could not help laughingfor Tommy had pushed back his hat


put his hands in his pocketsand drawled out his words in
unconscious imitation of Silasthe man who managed the place for
Mr. Bhaer.

Come, you needn't laugh; beans are ever so much easier than corn
or potatoes. I tried melons last year, but the bugs were a bother,
and the old things wouldn't get ripe before the frost, so I didn't
have but one good water and two little 'mush mellions,' said
Tommyrelapsing into a "Silasism" with the last word.

Corn looks pretty growing,said Natpolitelyto atone for his
laugh.

Yes, but you have to hoe it over and over again. Now, six weeks'
beans only have to be done once or so, and they get ripe soon. I'm
going to try 'em, for I spoke first. Stuffy wanted 'em, but he's got to
take peas; they only have to be picked, and he ought to do it, he
eats such a lot.

I wonder if I shall have a garden?said Natthinking that even
corn-hoeing must be pleasant work.

Of course you will,said a voice from belowand there was Mr.
Bhaer returned from his walkand come to find themfor he
managed to have a little talk with every one of the lads some time
during the dayand found that these chats gave them a good start
for the coming week.

Sympathy is a sweet thingand it worked wonders herefor each
boy knew that Father Bhaer was interested in himand some were
readier to open their hearts to him than to a womanespecially the
older oneswho liked to talk over their hopes and plansman to
man. When sick or in trouble they instinctively turned to Mrs. Jo
while the little ones made her their mother-confessor on all
occasions.

In descending from their nestTommy fell into the brook; being
used to ithe calmly picked himself out and retired to the house to
be dried. This left Nat to Mr. Bhaerwhich was just what he
wishedandduring the stroll they took among the garden plotshe
won the lad's heart by giving him a little "farm and discussing
crops with him as gravely as if the food for the family depended on
the harvest. From this pleasant topic they went to others, and Nat
had many new and helpful thoughts put into a mind that received
them as gratefully as the thirsty earth had received the warm spring
rain. All supper time he brooded over them, often fixing his eyes
on Mr. Bhaer with an inquiring look, that seemed to say, I like
thatdo it againsir." I don't know whether the man understood the
child's mute language or notbut when the boys were all gathered
together in Mrs. Bhaer's parlor for the Sunday evening talkhe
chose a subject which might have been suggested by the walk in
the garden.

As he looked about him Nat thought it seemed more like a great
family than a schoolfor the lads were sitting in a wide half-circle
round the firesome on chairssome on the rugDaisy and Demi
on the knees of Uncle Fritzand Rob snugly stowed away in the
back of his mother's easy-chairwhere he could nod unseen if the
talk got beyond his depth.

Every one looked quite comfortableand listened attentivelyfor
the long walk made rest agreeableand as every boy there knew
that he would be called upon for his viewshe kept his wits awake
to be ready with an answer.


Once upon a time,began Mr. Bhaerin the dear old-fashioned
waythere was a great and wise gardener who had the largest
garden ever seen. A wonderful and lovely place it was, and he
watched over it with the greatest skill and care, and raised all
manner of excellent and useful things. But weeds would grow even
in this fine garden; often the ground was bad and the good seeds
sown in it would not spring up. He had many under gardeners to
help him. Some did their duty and earned the rich wages he gave
them; but others neglected their parts and let them run to waste,
which displeased him very much. But he was very patient, and for
thousands and thousands of years he worked and waited for his
great harvest.

He must have been pretty old,said Demiwho was looking
straight into Uncle Fritz's faceas if to catch every word.

Hush, Demi, it's a fairy story,whispered Daisy.

No, I think it's an arrygory,said Demi.

What is a arrygory?called out Tommywho was of an inquiring
turn.

Tell him, Demi, if you can, and don't use words unless you are
quite sure you know what they mean,said Mr. Bhaer.

I do know, Grandpa told me! A fable is a arrygory; it's a story that
means something. My 'Story without an end' is one, because the
child in it means a soul; don't it, Aunty?cried Demieager to
prove himself right.

That's it, dear; and Uncle's story is an allegory, I am quite sure; so
listen and see what it means,returned Mrs. Jowho always took
part in whatever was going onand enjoyed it as much as any boy
among them.

Demi composed himselfand Mr. Bhaer went on in his best
Englishfor he had improved much in the last five yearsand said
the boys did it.

This great gardener gave a dozen or so of little plots to one of his
servants, and told him to do his best and see what he could raise.
Now this servant was not rich, nor wise, nor very good, but he
wanted to help because the gardener had been very kind to him in
many ways. So he gladly took the little plots and fell to work. They
were all sorts of shapes and sizes, and some were very good soil,
some rather stony, and all of them needed much care, for in the
rich soil the weeds grew fast, and in the poor soil there were many
stones.

What was growing in them besides the weeds, and stones?asked
Nat; so interestedhe forgot his shyness and spoke before them all.

Flowers,said Mr. Bhaerwith a kind look. "Even the roughest
most neglected little bed had a bit of heart's-ease or a sprig of
mignonette in it. One had rosessweet peasand daisies in it here
he pinched the plump cheek of the little girl leaning on his arm.
Another had all sorts of curious plants in itbright pebblesa vine
that went climbing up like Jack's beanstalkand many good seeds
just beginning to sprout; foryou seethis bed had been taken fine
care of by a wise old manwho had worked in gardens of this sort
all his life."


At this part of the "arrygory Demi put his head on one side like
an inquisitive bird, and fixed his bright eye on his uncle's face, as
if he suspected something and was on the watch. But Mr. Bhaer
looked perfectly innocent, and went on glancing from one young
face to another, with a grave, wistful look, that said much to his
wife, who knew how earnestly he desired to do his duty in these
little garden plots.

As I tell yousome of these beds were easy to cultivatethat
means to take care of Daisyand others were very hard. There was
one particularly sunshiny little bed that might have been full of
fruits and vegetables as well as flowersonly it wouldn't take any
painsand when the man sowedwellwe'll say melons in this bed
they came to nothingbecause the little bed neglected them. The
man was sorryand kept on tryingthough every time the crop
failedall the bed saidwas'I forgot.' "

Here a general laugh broke outand every one looked at Tommy
who had pricked up his ears at the word "melons and hung down
his head at the sound of his favorite excuse.

I knew he meant us!" cried Demiclapping his hands. "You are
the manand we are the little gardens; aren't weUncle Fritz?"

You have guessed it. Now each of you tell me what crop I shall
try to sow in you this spring, so that next autumn I may get a good
harvest out of my twelve, no, thirteen, plots,said Mr. Bhaer
nodding at Nat as he corrected himself.

You can't sow corn and beans and peas in us. Unless you mean we
are to eat a great many and get fat,said Stuffywith a sudden
brightening of his rounddull face as the pleasing idea occurred to
him.

He don't mean that kind of seeds. He means things to make us
good; and the weeds are faults,cried Demiwho usually took the
lead in these talksbecause he was used to this sort of thingand
liked it very much.

Yes, each of you think what you need most, and tell me, and I will
help you to grow it; only you must do your best, or you will turn
out like Tommy's melons, all leaves and no fruit. I will begin with
the oldest, and ask the mother what she will have in her plot, for
we are all parts of the beautiful garden, and may have rich harvests
for our Master if we love Him enough,said Father Bhaer.

I shall devote the whole of my plot to the largest crop of patience
I can get, for that is what I need most,said Mrs. Joso soberly that
the lads fell to thinking in good earnest what they should say when
their turns cameand some among them felt a twinge of remorse
that they had helped to use up Mother Bhaer's stock of patience so
fast.

Franz wanted perseveranceTommy steadinessNed went in for
good temperDaisy for industryDemi for "as much wiseness as
Grandpa and Nat timidly said he wanted so many things he
would let Mr. Bhaer choose for him. The others chose much the
same things, and patience, good temper, and generosity seemed the
favorite crops. One boy wished to like to get up early, but did not
know what name to give that sort of seed; and poor Stuffy sighed
out,

I wish I loved my lessons as much as I do my dinnerbut I can't."


We will plant self-denial, and hoe it and water it, and make it
grow so well that next Christmas no one will get ill by eating too
much dinner. If you exercise your mind, George, it will get hungry
just as your body does, and you will love books almost as much as
my philosopher here,said Mr. Bhaer; addingas he stroked the
hair off Demi's fine foreheadYou are greedy also, my son, and
you like to stuff your little mind full of fairy tales and fancies, as
well as George likes to fill his little stomach with cake and candy.
Both are bad, and I want you to try something better. Arithmetic is
not half so pleasant as 'Arabian Nights,' I know, but it is a very
useful thing, and now is the time to learn it, else you will be
ashamed and sorry by and by.

But, 'Harry and Lucy,' and 'Frank,' are not fairy books, and they
are all full of barometers, and bricks, and shoeing horses, and
useful things, and I'm fond of them; ain't I, Daisy?said Demi
anxious to defend himself.

So they are; but I find you reading 'Roland and Maybird,' a great
deal oftener than 'Harry and Lucy,' and I think you are not half so
fond of 'Frank' as you are of 'Sinbad.' Come, I shall make a little
bargain with you both, George shall eat but three times a day, and
you shall read but one story-book a week, and I will give you the
new cricket-ground; only, you must promise to play in it,said
Uncle Fritzin his persuasive wayfor Stuffy hated to run about
and Demi was always reading in play hours.

But we don't like cricket,said Demi.

Perhaps not now, but you will when you know it. Besides, you do
like to be generous, and the other boys want to play, and you can
give them the new ground if you choose.

This was taken them both on the right sideand they agreed to the
bargainto the great satisfaction of the rest.

There was a little more talk about the gardensand then they all
sang together. The band delighted Natfor Mrs. Bhaer played the
pianoFranz the fluteMr. Bhaer a bass violand he himself the
violin. A very simple little concertbut all seemed to enjoy itand
old Asiasitting in the cornerjoined at times with the sweetest
voice of anyfor in this familymaster and servantold and young
black and whiteshared in the Sunday songwhich went up to the
Father of them all. After this they each shook hands with Father
Bhaer; Mother Bhaer kissed them every one from sixteen-year-old
Franz to little Robhow kept the tip of her nose for his own
particular kissesand then they trooped up to bed.

The light of the shaded lamp that burned in the nursery shone
softly on a picture hanging at the foot of Nat's bed. There were
several others on the wallsbut the boy thought there must be
something peculiar about this onefor it had a graceful frame of
moss and cones about itand on a little bracket underneath stood a
vase of wild flowers freshly gathered from the spring woods. It
was the most beautiful picture of them alland Nat lay looking at
itdimly feeling what it meantand wishing he knew all about it.

That's my picture,said a little voice in the room. Nat popped up
his headand there was Demi in his night-gown pausing on his
way back from Aunt Jo's chamberwhither he had gone to get a cot
for a cut finger.

What is he doing to the children?asked Nat.


That is Christ, the Good Man, and He is blessing the children.
Don't you know about Him?said Demiwondering.

Not much, but I'd like to, He looks so kind,answered Natwhose
chief knowledge of the Good Man consisted in hearing His name
taken in vain.

I know all about it, and I like it very much, because it is true,
said Demi.

Who told you?

My Grandpa, he knows every thing, and tells the best stories in
the world. I used to play with his big books, and make bridges, and
railroads, and houses, when I was a little boy,began Demi.

How old are you now?asked Natrespectfully.

'Most ten.

You know a lot of things, don't you?

Yes; you see my head is pretty big, and Grandpa says it will take a
good deal to fill it, so I keep putting pieces of wisdom into it as
fast as I can,returned Demiin his quaint way.

Nat laughedand then said soberly

Tell on, please.

And Demi gladly told on without pause or punctuation. "I found a
very pretty book one day and wanted to play with itbut Grandpa
said I mustn'tand showed me the picturesand told me about
themand I liked the stories very muchall about Joseph and his
bad brothersand the frogs that came up out of the seaand dear
little Moses in the waterand ever so many more lovely onesbut I
liked about the Good Man best of alland Grandpa told it to me so
many times that I learned it by heartand he gave me this picture
so I shouldn't forgetand it was put up here once when I was sick
and I left it for other sick boys to see."'

What makes Him bless the children?asked Natwho found
something very attractive in the chief figure of the group.

Because He loved them.

Were they poor children?asked Natwistfully.

Yes, I think so; you see some haven't got hardly any clothes on,
and the mothers don't look like rich ladies. He liked poor people,
and was very good to them. He made them well, and helped them,
and told rich people they must not be cross to them, and they loved
Him dearly, dearly,cried Demiwith enthusiasm.

Was He rich?

Oh no! He was born in a barn, and was so poor He hadn't any
house to live in when He grew up, and nothing to eat sometimes,
but what people gave Him, and He went round preaching to
everybody, and trying to make them good, till the bad men killed
Him.

What for?and Nat sat up in his bed to look and listenso
interested was he in this man who cared for the poor so much.


I'll tell you all about it; Aunt Jo won't mind;and Demi settled
himself on the opposite bedglad to tell his favorite story to so
good a listener.

Nursey peeped in to see if Nat was asleepbut when she saw what
was going onshe slipped away againand went to Mrs. Bhaer
saying with her kind face full of motherly emotion

Will the dear lady come and see a pretty sight? It's Nat listening
with all his heart to Demi telling the story of the Christ-child, like
a little white angel as he is.

Mrs. Bhaer had meant to go and talk with Nat a moment before he
sleptfor she had found that a serious word spoken at this time
often did much good. But when she stole to the nursery doorand
saw Nat eagerly drinking in the words of his little friendswhile
Demi told the sweet and solemn story as it had been taught him
speaking softly as he sat with his beautiful eyes fixed on the tender
face above themher own filled with tearsand she went silently
awaythinking to herself

Demi is unconsciously helping the poor boy better than I can; I
will not spoil it by a single word.

The murmur of the childish voice went on for a long timeas one
innocent heart preached that great sermon to anotherand no one
hushed it. When it ceased at lastand Mrs. Bhaer went to take
away the lampDemi was gone and Nat fast asleeplying with his
face toward the pictureas if he had already learned to love the
Good Man who loved little childrenand was a faithful friend to
the poor. The boy's face was very placidand as she looked at it
she felt that if a single day of care and kindness had done so much
a year of patient cultivation would surely bring a grateful harvest
from this neglected gardenwhich was already sown with the best
of all seed by the little missionary in the night-gown.

CHAPTER IV STEPPING-STONES

When Nat went into school on Monday morninghe quaked
inwardlyfor now he thought he should have to display his
ignorance before them all. But Mr. Bhaer gave him a seat in the
deep windowwhere he could turn his back on the othersand
Franz heard him say his lessons thereso no one could hear his
blunders or see how he blotted his copybook. He was truly grateful
for thisand toiled away so diligently that Mr. Bhaer saidsmiling
when he saw his hot face and inky fingers:

Don't work so hard, my boy; you will tire yourself out, and there
is time enough.

But I must work hard, or I can't catch up with the others. They
know heaps, and I don't know anything,said Natwho had been
reduced to a state of despair by hearing the boys recite their
grammarhistoryand geography with what he thought amazing
ease and accuracy.

You know a good many things which they don't,said Mr. Bhaer
sitting down beside himwhile Franz led a class of small students
through the intricacies of the multiplication table.

Do I?and Nat looked utterly incredulous.

Yes; for one thing, you can keep your temper, and Jack, who is


quick at numbers, cannot; that is an excellent lesson, and I think
you have learned it well. Then, you can play the violin, and not
one of the lads can, though they want to do it very much. But, best
of all, Nat, you really care to learn something, and that is half the
battle. It seems hard at first, and you will feel discouraged, but
plod away, and things will get easier and easier as you go on.

Nat's face had brightened more and more as he listenedforsmall
as the list of his learning wasit cheered him immensely to feel
that he had anything to fall back upon. "YesI can keep my temper
father's beating taught me that; and I can fiddlethough I don't
know where the Bay of Biscay is he thought, with a sense of
comfort impossible to express. Then he said aloud, and so
earnestly that Demi heard him:

I do want to learnand I will try. I never went to schoolbut I
couldn't help it; and if the fellows don't laugh at meI guess I'll get
on first rate you and the lady are so good to me."

They shan't laugh at you; if they do, I'll I'll tell them not to,cried
Demiquite forgetting where he was.

The class stopped in the middle of 7 times 9and everyone looked
up to see what was going on.

Thinking that a lesson in learning to help one another was better
than arithmetic just thenMr. Bhaer told them about Natmaking
such an interesting and touching little story out of it that the
good-hearted lads all promised to lend him a handand felt quite
honored to be called upon to impart their stores of wisdom to the
chap who fiddled so capitally. This appeal established the right
feeling among themand Nat had few hindrances to struggle
againstfor every one was glad to give him a "boost" up the ladder
of learning.

Till he was strongermuch study was not good for himhowever
and Mrs. Jo found various amusements in the house for him while
others were at their books. But his garden was his best medicine
and he worked away like a beaverpreparing his little farm
sowing his beanswatching eagerly to see them growand
rejoicing over each green leaf and slender stock that shot up and
flourished in the warm spring weather. Never was a garden more
faithfully hoed; Mr. Bhaer really feared that nothing would find
time to growNat kept up such a stirring of the soil; so he gave
him easy jobs in the flower garden or among the strawberries
where he worked and hummed as busily as the bees booming all
about him.

This is the crop I like best,Mrs. Bhaer used to sayas she
pinched the once thin cheeksnow getting plump and ruddyor
stroked the bent shoulders that were slowly straightening up with
healthful workgood foodand the absence of that heavy burden
poverty.

Demi was his little friendTommy his patronand Daisy the
comforter of all his woes; forthough the children were younger
than hehis timid spirit found a pleasure in their innocent society
and rather shrunk from the rough sports of the elder lads. Mr.
Laurence did not forget himbut sent clothes and booksmusic and
kind messagesand now and then came out to see how his boy was
getting onor took him into town to a concert; on which occasions
Nat felt himself translated into the seventh heaven of blissfor he
went to Mr. Laurence's great housesaw his pretty wife and little
fairy of a daughterhad a good dinnerand was made so


comfortablethat he talked and dreamed of it for days and nights
afterward.

It takes so little to make a child happy that it is a pityin a world so
full of sunshine and pleasant thingsthat there should be any
wistful facesempty handsor lonely little hearts. Feeling thisthe
Bhaers gathered up all the crumbs they could find to feed their
flock of hungry sparrowsfor they were not richexcept in charity.
Many of Mrs. Jo's friends who had nurseries sent her they toys of
which their children so soon tiredand in mending these Nat found
an employment that just suited him. He was very neat and skillful
with those slender fingers of hisand passed many a rainy
afternoon with his gum-bottlepaint-boxand kniferepairing
furnitureanimalsand gameswhile Daisy was dressmaker to the
dilapidated dolls. As fast as the toys were mendedthey were put
carefully away in a certain drawer which was to furnish forth a
Christmas-tree for all the poor children of the neighborhoodthat
being the way the Plumfield boys celebrated the birthday of Him
who loved the poor and blessed the little ones.

Demi was never tired of reading and explaining his favorite books
and many a pleasant hour did they spend in the old willow
revelling over "Robinson Crusoe Arabian Nights Edgeworth's
Tales and the other dear immortal stories that will delight
children for centuries to come. This opened a new world to Nat,
and his eagerness to see what came next in the story helped him on
till he could read as well as anybody, and felt so rich and proud
with his new accomplishment, that there was danger of his being
as much of a bookworm as Demi.

Another helpful thing happened in a most unexpected and
agreeable manner. Several of the boys were in business as they
called it, for most of them were poor, and knowing that they would
have their own way to make by and by, the Bhaers encouraged any
efforts at independence. Tommy sold his eggs; Jack speculated in
live stock; Franz helped in the teaching, and was paid for it; Ned
had a taste for carpentry, and a turning-lathe was set up for him in
which he turned all sorts of useful or pretty things, and sold them;
while Demi constructed water-mills, whirligigs, and unknown
machines of an intricate and useless nature, and disposed of them
to the boys.

Let him be a mechanic if he likes said Mr. Bhaer. Give a boy a
tradeand he is independent. Work is wholesomeand whatever
talent these lads possessbe it for poetry or ploughingit shall be
cultivated and made useful to them if possible."

Sowhen Nat came running to him one day to ask with an excited
face:

Can I go and fiddle for some people who are to have a picnic in
our woods? They will pay me, and I'd like to earn some money as
the other boys do, and fiddling is the only way I know how to do it


Mr. Bhaer answered readily:

Go, and welcome. It is an easy and a pleasant way to work, and I
am glad it is offered you.

Nat wentand did so well that when he came home he had two
dollars in his pocketwhich he displayed with intense satisfaction
as he told how much he had enjoyed the afternoonhow kind the
young people wereand how they had praised his dance musicand


promised to have him again.

It is so much nicer than fiddling in the street, for then I got none
of the money, and now I have it all, and a good time besides. I'm in
business now as well as Tommy and Jack, and I like it ever so
much,said Natproudly patting the old pocketbookand feeling
like a millionaire already.

He was in business trulyfor picnics were plenty as summer
openedand Nat's skill was in great demand. He was always at
liberty to go if lessons were not neglectedand if the picnickers
were respectable young people. For Mr. Bhaer explained to him
that a good plain education is necessary for everyoneand that no
amount of money should hire him to go where he might be
tempted to do wrong. Nat quite agreed to thisand it was a
pleasant sight to see the innocent-hearted lad go driving away in
the gay wagons that stopped at the gate for himor to hear him
come fiddling home tired but happywith his well-earned money
in one pocketand some "goodies" from the feast for Daisy or little
Tedwhom he never forgot.

I'm going to save up till I get enough to buy a violin for myself,
and then I can earn my own living, can't I?he used to sayas he
brought his dollars to Mr. Bhaer to keep.

I hope so, Nat; but we must get you strong and hearty first, and
put a little more knowledge into this musical head of yours. Then
Mr. Laurie will find you a place somewhere, and in a few years we
will all come to hear you play in public.

With much congenial workencouragementand hopeNat found
life getting easier and happier every dayand made such progress
in his music lessons that his teacher forgave his slowness in some
other thingsknowing very well that where the heart is the mind
works best. The only punishment the boy ever needed for neglect
of more important lessons was to hang up the fiddle and the bow
for a day. The fear of losing his bosom friend entirely made him go
at his books with a will; and having proved that he could master
the lessonswhat was the use of saying "I can't?"

Daisy had a great love of musicand a great reverence for any one
who could make itand she was often found sitting on the stairs
outside Nat's door while he was practising. This pleased him very
muchand he played his best for that one quiet little listener; for
she never would come inbut preferred to sit sewing her gay
patchworkor tending one of her many dollswith an expression of
dreamy pleasure on her face that made Aunt Jo saywith tears in
her eyes: "So like my Beth and go softly by, lest even her familiar
presence mar the child's sweet satisfaction.

Nat was very fond of Mrs. Bhaer, but found something even more
attractive in the good professor, who took fatherly care of the shy
feeble boy, who had barely escaped with his life from the rough
sea on which his little boat had been tossing rudderless for twelve
years. Some good angel must have been watching over him, for,
though his body had suffered, his soul seemed to have taken little
harm, and came ashore as innocent as a shipwrecked baby.
Perhaps his love of music kept it sweet in spite of the discord all
about him; Mr. Laurie said so, and he ought to know. However that
might be, Father Bhaer took pleasure in fostering poor Nat's
virtues, and in curing his faults, finding his new pupil as docile and
affectionate as a girl. He often called Nat his daughter" when
speaking of him to Mrs. Joand she used to laugh at his fancyfor
Madame liked manly boysand thought Nat amiable but weak


though you never would have guessed itfor she petted him as she
did Daisyand he thought her a very delightful woman.

One fault of Nat's gave the Bhaers much anxietyalthough they
saw how it had been strengthened by fear and ignorance. I regret to
say that Nat sometimes told lies. Not very black onesseldom
getting deeper than grayand often the mildest of white fibs; but
that did not mattera lie is a lieand though we all tell many polite
untruths in this queer world of oursit is not rightand everybody
knows it.

You cannot be too careful; watch your tongue, and eyes, and
hands, for it is easy to tell, and look, and act untruth,said Mr.
Bhaerin one of the talks he had with Nat about his chief
temptation.

I know it, and I don't mean to, but it's so much easier to get along
if you ain't very fussy about being exactly true. I used to tell 'em
because I was afraid of father and Nicolo, and now I do sometimes
because the boys laugh at me. I know it's bad, but I forget,and
Nat looked much depressed by his sins.

When I was a little lad I used to tell lies! Ach! what fibs they
were, and my old grandmother cured me of it how, do you think?
My parents had talked, and cried, and punished, but still did I
forget as you. Then said the dear old grandmother, 'I shall help you
to remember, and put a check on this unruly part,' with that she
drew out my tongue and snipped the end with her scissors till the
blood ran. That was terrible, you may believe, but it did me much
good, because it was sore for days, and every word I said came so
slowly that I had time to think. After that I was more careful, and
got on better, for I feared the big scissors. Yet the dear
grandmother was most kind to me in all things, and when she lay
dying far away in Nuremberg, she prayed that little Fritz might
love God and tell the truth.

I never had any grandmothers, but if you think it will cure me, I'll
let you snip my tongue,said Natheroicallyfor he dreaded pain
yet did wish to stop fibbing.

Mr. Bhaer smiledbut shook his head.

I have a better way than that, I tried it once before and it worked
well. See now, when you tell a lie I will not punish you, but you
shall punish me.

How?asked Natstartled at the idea.

You shall ferule me in the good old-fashioned way; I seldom do it
myself, but it may make you remember better to give me pain than
to feel it yourself.

Strike you? Oh, I couldn't!cried Nat.

Then mind that tripping tongue of thine. I have no wish to be hurt,
but I would gladly bear much pain to cure this fault.

This suggestion made such an impression on Natthat for a long
time he set a watch upon his lipsand was desperately accuratefor
Mr. Bhaer judged rightlythat love of him would be more powerful
with Nat that fear for himself. But alas! one sad day Nat was off
his guardand when peppery Emil threatened to thrash himif it
was he who had run over his garden and broken down his best hills
of cornNat declared he didn'tand then was ashamed to own up


that he did do itwhen Jack was chasing him the night before.

He thought no one would find it outbut Tommy happened to see
himand when Emil spoke of it a day or two laterTommy gave
his evidenceand Mr. Bhaer heard it. School was overand they
were all standing about in the halland Mr. Bhaer had just set
down on the straw settee to enjoy his frolic with Teddy; but when
he heard Tommy and saw Nat turn scarletand look at him with a
frightened facehe put the little boy downsayingGo to thy
mother, b•bchen, I will come soon,and taking Nat by the hand
led him into the school and shut the door.

The boys looked at one another in silence for a minutethen
Tommy slipped out and peeping in at the half-closed blinds
beheld a sight that quite bewildered him. Mr. Bhaer had just taken
down the long rule that hung over his deskso seldom used that it
was covered with dust.

My eye! He's going to come down heavy on Nat this time. Wish I
hadn't told,thought good-natured Tommyfor to be feruled was
the deepest disgrace at this school.

You remember what I told you last time?said Mr. Bhaer
sorrowfullynot angrily.

Yes; but please don't make me, I can't bear it,cried Natbacking
up against the door with both hands behind himand a face full of
distress.

Why don't he up and take it like a man? I would,thought
Tommythough his heart beat fast at the sight.

I shall keep my word, and you must remember to tell the truth.
Obey me, Nat, take this and give me six good strokes.

Tommy was so staggered by this last speech that he nearly tumbled
down the bankbut saved himselfand hung onto the window
ledgestaring in with eyes as round as the stuffed owl's on the
chimney-piece.

Nat took the rulefor when Mr. Bhaer spoke in that tone everyone
obeyed himandlooking as scared and guilty as if about to stab
his masterhe gave two feeble blows on the broad hand held out to
him. Then he stopped and looked up half-blind with tearsbut Mr.
Bhaer said steadily:

Go on, and strike harder.

As if seeing that it must be doneand eager to have the hard task
soon overNat drew his sleeve across his eyes and gave two more
quick hard strokes that reddened the handyet hurt the giver more.

Isn't that enough?he asked in a breathless sort of tone.

Two more,was all the answerand he gave themhardly seeing
where they fellthen threw the rule all across the roomand
hugging the kind hand in both his ownlaid his face down on it
sobbing out in a passion of loveand shameand penitence:

I will remember! Oh! I will!

Then Mr. Bhaer put an arm about himand said in a tone as
compassionate as it had just now been firm:


I think you will. Ask the dear God to help you, and try to spare us
both another scene like this.

Tommy saw no morefor he crept back to the halllooking so
excited and sober that the boys crowded round him to ask what
was being done to Nat.

In a most impressive whisper Tommy told themand they looked
as if the sky was about to fallfor this reversing the order of things
almost took their breath away.

He made me do the same thing once,said Emilas if confessing
a crime of the deepest dye.

And you hit him? dear old Father Bhaer? By thunder, I'd just like
to see you do it now!said Nedcollaring Emil in a fit of righteous
wrath.

It was ever so long ago. I'd rather have my head cut off than do it
now,and Emil mildly laid Ned on his back instead of cuffing
himas he would have felt it his duty to do on any less solemn
occasion.

How could you?said Demiappalled at the idea.

I was hopping mad at the time, and thought I shouldn't mind a bit,
rather like it perhaps. But when I'd hit uncle one good crack,
everything he had ever done for me came into my head all at once
somehow, and I couldn't go on. No sir! If he'd laid me down and
walked on me, I wouldn't have minded, I felt so mean,and Emil
gave himself a good thump in the chest to express his sense of
remorse for the past.

Nat's crying like anything, and feels no end sorry, so don't let's say
a word about it; will we?said tender-hearted Tommy.

Of course we won't, but it's awful to tell lies,and Demi looked as
if he found the awfulness much increased when the punishment
fell not upon the sinnerbut his best Uncle Fritz.

Suppose we all clear out, so Nat can cut upstairs if he wants to,
proposed Franzand led the way to the barntheir refuge in
troublous times.

Nat did not come to dinnerbut Mrs. Jo took some up to himand
said a tender wordwhich did him goodthough he could not look
at her. By and by the lads playing outside heard the violinand said
among themselves: "He's all right now." He was all rightbut felt
shy about going downtill opening his door to slip away into the
woodshe found Daisy sitting on the stairs with neither work nor
dollonly her little handkerchief in her handas if she had been
mourning for her captive friend.

I'm going to walk; want to come?asked Nattrying to look as if
nothing was the matteryet feeling very grateful for her silent
sympathybecause he fancied everyone must look upon him as a
wretch.

Oh yes!and Daisy ran for her hatproud to be chosen as a
companion by one of the big boys.

The others saw them gobut no one followedfor boys have a great
deal more delicacy than they get credit forand the lads
instinctively felt thatwhen in disgracegentle little Daisy was


their most congenial friend.

The walk did Nat goodand he came home quieter than usualbut
looking cheerful againand hung all over with daisy-chains made
by his little playmate while he lay on the grass and told her stories.

No one said a word about the scene of the morningbut its effect
was all the more lasting for that reasonperhaps. Nat tried his very
bestand found much helpnot only from the earnest little prayers
he prayed to his Friend in heavenbut also in the patient care of the
earthly friend whose kind hand he never touched without
remembering that it had willingly borne pain for his sake.

CHAPTER V PATTYPANS

What's the matter, Daisy?

The boys won't let me play with them.

Why not?

They say girls can't play football.

They can, for I've done it!and Mrs. Bhaer laughed at the
remembrance of certain youthful frolics.

I know I can play; Demi and I used to, and have nice times, but he
won't let me now because the other boys laugh at him,and Daisy
looked deeply grieved at her brother's hardness of heart.

On the whole, I think he is right, deary. It's all very well when you
two are alone, but it is too rough a game for you with a dozen
boys; so I'd find some nice little play for myself.

I'm tired of playing alone!and Daisy's tone was very mournful.

I'll play with you by and by, but just now I must fly about and get
things ready for a trip into town. You shall go with me and see
mamma, and if you like you can stay with her.

I should like to go and see her and Baby Josy, but I'd rather come
back, please. Demi would miss me, and I love to be here, Aunty.

You can't get on without your Demi, can you?and Aunt Jo
looked as if she quite understood the love of the little girl for her
only brother.

'Course I can't; we're twins, and so we love each other more than
other people,answered Daisywith a brightening facefor she
considered being a twin one of the highest honors she could ever
receive.

Now, what will you do with your little self while I fly around?
asked Mrs. Bhaerwho was whisking piles of linen into a
wardrobe with great rapidity.

I don't know, I'm tired of dolls and things; I wish you'd make up a
new play for me, Aunty Jo,said Daisyswinging listlessly on the
door.

I shall have to think of a brand new one, and it will take me some
time; so suppose you go down and see what Asia has got for your
lunch,suggested Mrs. Bhaerthinking that would be a good way
in which to dispose of the little hindrance for a time.


Yes, I think I'd like that, if she isn't cross,and Daisy slowly
departed to the kitchenwhere Asiathe black cookreigned
undisturbed.

In five minutesDaisy was back againwith a wide-awake facea
bit of dough in her hand and a dab of flour on her little nose.

Oh aunty! Please could I go and make gingersnaps and things?
Asia isn't cross, and she says I may, and it would be such fun,
please do,cried Daisyall in one breath.

Just the thing, go and welcome, make what you like, and stay as
long as you please,answered Mrs. Bhaermuch relievedfor
sometimes the one little girl was harder to amuse than the dozen
boys.

Daisy ran offand while she workedAunt Jo racked her brain for
a new play. All of a sudden she seemed to have an ideafor she
smiled to herselfslammed the doors of the wardrobeand walked
briskly awaysayingI'll do it, if it's a possible thing!

What it was no one found out that daybut Aunt Jo's eyes twinkled
so when she told Daisy she had thought of a new playand was
going to buy itthat Daisy was much excited and asked questions
all the way into townwithout getting answers that told her
anything. She was left at home to play with the new babyand
delight her mother's eyeswhile Aunt Jo went off shopping. When
she came back with all sorts of queer parcels in corners of the
carry-allDaisy was so full of curiosity that she wanted to go back
to Plumfield at once. But her aunt would not be hurriedand made
a long call in mamma's roomsitting on the floor with baby in her
lapmaking Mrs. Brooke laugh at the pranks of the boysand all
sorts of droll nonsense.

How her aunt told the secret Daisy could not imaginebut her
mother evidently knew itfor she saidas she tied on the little
bonnet and kissed the rosy little face insideBe a good child, my
Daisy, and learn the nice new play aunty has got for you. It's a
most useful and interesting one, and it is very kind of her to play it
with you, because she does not like it very well herself.

This last speech made the two ladies laugh heartilyand increased
Daisy's bewilderment. As they drove away something rattled in the
back of the carriage.

What's that?asked Daisypricking up her ears.

The new play,answered Mrs. Josolemnly.

What is it made of?cried Daisy.

Iron, tin, wood, brass, sugar, salt, coal, and a hundred other
things.

How strange! What color is it?

All sorts of colors.

Is it large?

Part of it is, and a part isn't.

Did I ever see one?


Ever so many, but never one so nice as this.

Oh! what can it be? I can't wait. When shall I see it?and Daisy
bounced up and down with impatience.

To-morrow morning, after lessons.

Is it for the boys, too?

No, all for you and Bess. The boys will like to see it, and want to
play one part of it. But you can do as you like about letting them.

I'll let Demi, if he wants to.

No fear that they won't all want to, especially Stuffy,and Mrs.
Bhaer's eyes twinkled more than ever as she patted a queer knobby
bundle in her lap.

Let me feel just once,prayed Daisy.

Not a feel; you'd guess in a minute and spoil the fun.

Daisy groaned and then smiled all over her facefor through a
little hole in the paper she caught a glimpse of something bright.

How can I wait so long? Couldn't I see it today?

Oh dear, no! It has got to be arranged, and ever so many parts
fixed in their places. I promised Uncle Teddy that you shouldn't
see it till it was all in apple-pie order.

If uncle knows about it then it must be splendid!cried Daisy
clapping her hands; for this kindrichjolly uncle of hers was as
good as a fairy godmother to the childrenand was always
planning merry surprisespretty giftsand droll amusements for
them.

Yes; Teddy went and bought it with me, and we had such fun in
the shop choosing the different parts. He would have everything
fine and large, and my little plan got regularly splendid when he
took hold. You must give him your very best kiss when he comes,
for he is the kindest uncle that ever went and bought a charming
little coo Bless me! I nearly told you what it was!and Mrs. Bhaer
cut that most interesting word short off in the middleand began to
look over her billsas if afraid she would let the cat out of the bag
if she talked any more. Daisy folded her hands with an air of
resignationand sat quite still trying to think what play had a "coo"
in it.

When they got home she eyed every bundle that was taken outand
one large heavy onewhich Franz took straight upstairs and hid in
the nurseryfilled her with amazement and curiosity. Something
very mysterious went on up there that afternoonfor Franz was
hammeringand Asia trotting up and downand Aunt Jo flying
around like a will-o'-the-wispwith all sort of things under her
apronwhile little Tedwho was the only child admittedbecause
he couldn't talk plainbabbled and laughedand tried to tell what
the "sumpin pitty" was.

All this made Daisy half-wildand her excitement spread among
the boyswho quite overwhelmed Mother Bhaer with offers of
assistancewhich she declined by quoting their own words to
Daisy:


Girls can't play with boys. This is for Daisy, and Bess, and me, so
we don't want you.Whereupon the young gentlemen meekly
retiredand invited Daisy to a game of marbleshorsefootball
anything she likedwith a sudden warmth and politeness which
astonished her innocent little soul.

Thanks to these attentionsshe got through the afternoonwent
early to bedand next morning did her lessons with an energy
which made Uncle Fritz wish that a new game could be invented
every day. Quite a thrill pervaded the school-room when Daisy was
dismissed at eleven o'clockfor everyone knew that now she was
going to have the new and mysterious play.

Many eyes followed her as she ran awayand Demi's mind was so
distracted by this event that when Franz asked him where the
desert of Sahara washe mournfully repliedIn the nursery,and
the whole school laughed at him.

Aunt Jo, I've done all my lessons, and I can't wait one single
minute more!cried Daisyflying into Mrs. Bhaer's room.

It's all ready, come on;and tucking Ted under one armand her
workbasket under the otherAunt Jo promptly led the way upstairs.

I don't see anything,said Daisystaring about her as she got
inside the nursery door.

Do you hear anything?asked Aunt Jocatching Ted back by his
little frock as he was making straight for one side of the room.

Daisy did hear an odd cracklingand then a purry little sound as of
a kettle singing. These noises came from behind a curtain drawn
before a deep bay window. Daisy snatched it backgave one
joyfulOh!and then stood gazing with delight at what do you
think?

A wide seat ran round the three sides of the window; on one side
hung and stood all sorts of little pots and pansgridirons and
skillets; on the other side a small dinner and tea set; and on the
middle part a cooking-stove. Not a tin onethat was of no usebut
a real iron stovebig enough to cook for a large family of very
hungry dolls. But the best of it was that a real fire burned in itreal
steam came out of the nose of the little tea-kettleand the lid of the
little boiler actually danced a jigthe water inside bubbled so hard.
A pane of glass had been taken out and replaced by a sheet of tin
with a hole for the small funneland real smoke went sailing away
outside so naturallythat it did one's heart good to see it. The box
of wood with a hod of charcoal stood near by; just above hung
dust-panbrush and broom; a little market basket was on the low
table at which Daisy used to playand over the back of her little
chair hung a white apron with a biband a droll mob cap. The sun
shone in as if he enjoyed the funthe little stove roared beautifully
the kettle steamedthe new tins sparkled on the wallsthe pretty
china stood in tempting rowsand it was altogether as cheery and
complete a kitchen as any child could desire.

Daisy stood quite still after the first glad "Oh!" but her eyes went
quickly from one charming object to anotherbrightening as they
lookedtill they came to Aunt Jo's merry face; there they stopped
as the happy little girl hugged hersaying gratefully:

Oh aunty, it's a splendid new play! Can I really cook at the dear
stove, and have parties and mess, and sweep, and make fires that


truly burn? I like it so much! What made you think of it?

Your liking to make gingersnaps with Asia made me think of it,
said Mrs. Bhaerholding Daisywho frisked as if she would fly. "I
knew Asia wouldn't let you mess in her kitchen very oftenand it
wouldn't be safe at this fire up hereso I thought I'd see if I could
find a little stove for youand teach you to cook; that would be
funand useful too. So I travelled round among the toy shopsbut
everything large cost too much and I was thinking I should have to
give it upwhen I met Uncle Teddy. As soon as he knew what I
was abouthe said he wanted to helpand insisted on buying the
biggest toy stove we could find. I scoldedbut he only laughedand
teased me about my cooking when we were youngand said I must
teach Bess as well as youand went on buying all sorts of nice
little things for my 'cooking class' as he called it."

I'm so glad you met him!said Daisyas Mrs. Jo stopped to laugh
at the memory of the funny time she had with Uncle Teddy.

You must study hard and learn to make all kinds of things, for he
says he shall come out to tea very often, and expects something
uncommonly nice.

It's the sweetest, dearest kitchen in the world, and I'd rather study
with it than do anything else. Can't I learn pies, and cake, and
macaroni, and everything?cried Daisydancing round the room
with a new saucepan in one hand and the tiny poker in the other.

All in good time. This is to be a useful play, I am to help you, and
you are to be my cook, so I shall tell you what to do, and show you
how. Then we shall have things fit to eat, and you will be really
learning how to cook on a small scale. I'll call you Sally, and say
you are a new girl just come,added Mrs. Josettling down to
workwhile Teddy sat on the floor sucking his thumband staring
at the stove as if it was a live thingwhose appearance deeply
interested him.

That will be so lovely! What shall I do first?asked Sallywith
such a happy face and willing air that Aunt Jo wished all new
cooks were half as pretty and pleasant.

First of all, put on this clean cap and apron. I am rather
old-fashioned, and I like my cook to be very tidy.

Sally tucked her curly hair into the round capand put on the apron
without a murmurthough usually she rebelled against bibs.

Now, you can put things in order, and wash up the new china. The
old set needs washing also, for my last girl was apt to leave it in a
sad state after a party.

Aunt Jo spoke quite soberlybut Sally laughedfor she knew who
the untidy girl was who had left the cups sticky. Then she turned
up her cuffsand with a sigh of satisfaction began to stir about her
kitchenhaving little raptures now and then over the "sweet rolling
pin the darling dish-tub or the cunning pepper-pot."

Now, Sally, take your basket and go to market; here is the list of
things I want for dinner,said Mrs. Jogiving her a bit of paper
when the dishes were all in order.

Where is the market?asked Daisythinking that the new play got
more and more interesting every minute.


Asia is the market.

Away went Sallycausing another stir in the schoolroom as she
passed the door in her new costumeand whispered to Demiwith
a face full of delightIt's a perfectly splendid play!

Old Asia enjoyed the joke as much as Daisyand laughed jollily as
the little girl came flying into the room with her cap all on one
sidethe lids of her basket rattling like castanets and looking like a
very crazy little cook.

Mrs. Aunt Jo wants these things, and I must have them right
away,said Daisyimportantly.

'Let's seehoney; here's two pounds of steakpotatoessquash
applesbreadand butter. The meat ain't come yet; when it does I'll
send it up. The other things are all handy."

Then Asia packed one potatoone applea bit of squasha little pat
of butterand a rollinto the baskettelling Sally to be on the
watch for the butcher's boybecause he sometimes played tricks.

Who is he?and Daisy hoped it would be Demi.

You'll see,was all Asia would say; and Sally went off in great
spiritssinging a verse from dear Mary Howitt's sweet story in
rhyme:

Away went little Mabel,

With the wheaten cake so fine,

The new-made pot of butter,

And the little flask of wine.

Put everything but the apple into the store-closet for the present,
said Mrs. Jowhen the cook got home.

There was a cupboard under the middle shelfand on opening the
door fresh delights appeared. One half was evidently the cellarfor
woodcoaland kindlings were piled there. The other half was full
of little jarsboxesand all sorts of droll contrivances for holding
small quantities of flourmealsugarsaltand other household
stores. A pot of jam was therea little tin box of gingerbreada
cologne bottle full of currant wineand a tiny canister of tea. But
the crowning charm was two doll's pans of new milkwith cream
actually rising on itand a wee skimmer all ready to skim it with.
Daisy clasped her hands at this delicious spectacleand wanted to
skim it immediately. But Aunt Jo said:

Not yet; you will want the cream to eat on your apple pie at
dinner, and must not disturb it till then.

Am I going to have pie?cried Daisyhardly believing that such
bliss could be in store for her.

Yes; if your oven does well we will have two pies, one apple and
one strawberry,said Mrs. Jowho was nearly as much interested
in the new play as Daisy herself.

Oh, what next?asked Sallyall impatience to begin.

Shut the lower draught of the stove, so that the oven may heat.


Then wash your hands and get out the flour, sugar, salt, butter, and
cinnamon. See if the pie-board is clean, and pare your apple ready
to put in.


Daisy got things together with as little noise and spilling as could
be expectedfrom so young a cook.


I really don't know how to measure for such tiny pies; I must
guess at it, and if these don't succeed, we must try again,said
Mrs. Jolooking rather perplexedand very much amused with the
small concern before her. "Take that little pan full of flourput in a
pinch of saltand then rub in as much butter as will go on that
plate. Always remember to put your dry things together firstand
then the wet. It mixes better so."


I know how; I saw Asia do it. Don't I butter the pie plates too?
She did, the first thing,said Daisywhisking the flour about at a
great rate.


Quite right! I do believe you have a gift for cooking, you take to it
so cleverly,said Aunt Joapprovingly. "Now a dash of cold water
just enough to wet it; then scatter some flour on the boardwork in
a littleand roll the paste out; yesthat's the way. Now put dabs of
butter all over itand roll it out again. We won't have our pastry
very richor the dolls will get dyspeptic."


Daisy laughed at the ideaand scattered the dabs with a liberal
hand. Then she rolled and rolled with her delightful little pinand
having got her paste ready proceeded to cover the plates with it.
Next the apple was sliced insugar and cinnamon lavishly
sprinkled over itand then the top crust put on with breathless
care.


I always wanted to cut them round, and Asia never would let me.
How nice it is to do it all my ownty donty self!said Daisyas the
little knife went clipping round the doll's plate poised on her hand.


All cookseven the bestmeet with mishaps sometimesand Sally's
first one occurred thenfor the knife went so fast that the plate
slippedturned a somersault in the airand landed the dear little
pie upside down on the floor. Sally screamedMrs. Jo laughed
Teddy scrambled to get itand for a moment confusion reigned in
the new kitchen.


It didn't spill or break, because I pinched the edges together so
hard; it isn't hurt a bit, so I'll prick holes in it, and then it will be
ready,said Sallypicking up the capsized treasure and putting it
into shape with a child-like disregard of the dust it had gathered in
its fall.


My new cook has a good temper, I see, and that is such a
comfort,said Mrs. Jo. "Now open the jar of strawberry jamfill
the uncovered pieand put some strips of paste over the top as
Asia does."


I'll make a D in the middle, and have zigzags all round, that will
be so interesting when I come to eat it,said Sallyloading the pie
with quirls and flourishes that would have driven a real pastry
cook wild. "Now I put them in!" she exclaimed; when the last
grimy knob had been carefully planted in the red field of jamand
with an air of triumph she shut them into the little oven.


Clear up your things; a good cook never lets her utensils collect.
Then pare your squash and potatoes.



There is only one potato,giggled Sally.

Cut it in four pieces, so it will go into the little kettle, and put the
bits into cold water till it is time to cook them.

Do I soak the squash too?

No, indeed! Just pare it and cut it up, and put in into the steamer
over the pot. It is drier so, though it takes longer to cook.

Here a scratching at the door caused Sally to run and open itwhen
Kit appeared with a covered basket in his mouth.

Here's the butcher boy!cried Daisymuch tickled at the ideaas
she relieved him of his loadwhereat he licked his lips and began
to begevidently thinking that it was his own dinnerfor he often
carried it to his master in that way. Being undeceivedhe departed
in great wrath and barked all the way downstairsto ease his
wounded feelings.

In the basket were two bits of steak (doll's pounds)a baked peara
small cakeand paper with them on which Asia had scrawledFor
Missy's lunch, if her cookin' don't turn out well.

I don't want any of her old pears and things; my cooking will turn
out well, and I'll have a splendid dinner; see if I don't!cried
Daisyindignantly.

We may like them if company should come. It is always well to
have something in the storeroom,said Aunt Jowho had been
taught this valuable fact by a series of domestic panics.

Me is hundry,announced Teddywho began to think what with
so much cooking going on it was about time for somebody to eat
something. His mother gave him her workbasket to rummage
hoping to keep him quiet till dinner was readyand returned to her
housekeeping.

Put on your vegetables, set the table, and then have some coals
kindling ready for the steak.

What a thing it was to see the potatoes bobbing about in the little
pot; to peep at the squash getting soft so fast in the tiny steamer; to
whisk open the oven door every five minutes to see how the pies
got onand at last when the coals were red and glowingto put two
real steaks on a finger-long gridiron and proudly turn them with a
fork. The potatoes were done firstand no wonderfor they had
boiled frantically all the while. The were pounded up with a little
pestlehad much butter and no salt put in (cook forgot it in the
excitement of the moment)then it was made into a mound in a
gay red dishsmoothed over with a knife dipped in milkand put in
the oven to brown.

So absorbed in these last performances had Sally beenthat she
forgot her pastry till she opened the door to put in the potatothen
a wail arosefor alas! alas! the little pies were burnt black!

Oh, my pies! My darling pies! They are all spoilt!cried poor
Sallywringing her dirty little hands as she surveyed the ruin of her
work. The tart was especially patheticfor the quirls and zigzags
stuck up in all directions from the blackened jellylike the walls
and chimney of a house after a fire.


Dear, dear, I forgot to remind you to take them out; it's just my
luck,said Aunt Joremorsefully. "Don't crydarlingit was my
fault; we'll try again after dinner she added, as a great tear
dropped from Sally's eyes and sizzled on the hot ruins of the tart.

More would have followed, if the steak had not blazed up just
then, and so occupied the attention of cook, that she quickly forgot
the lost pastry.

Put the meat-dish and your own plates down to warmwhile you
mash the squash with buttersaltand a little pepper on the top
said Mrs. Jo, devoutly hoping that the dinner would meet with no
further disasters.

The cunning pepper-pot" soothed Sally's feelingsand she dished
up her squash in fine style. The dinner was safely put upon the
table; the six dolls were seated three on a side; Teddy took the
bottomand Sally the top. When all were settledit was a most
imposing spectaclefor one doll was in full ball costumeanother
in her night-gown; Jerrythe worsted boywore his red winter suit
while Annabellathe noseless darlingwas airily attired in nothing
but her own kid skin. Teddyas father of the familybehaved with
great proprietyfor he smilingly devoured everything offered him
and did not find a single fault. Daisy beamed upon her company
like the wearywarmbut hospitable hostess so often to be seen at
larger tables than thisand did the honors with an air of innocent
satisfactionwhich we do not often see elsewhere.

The steak was so tough that the little carving-knife would not cut
it; the potato did not go roundand the squash was very lumpy; but
the guests appeared politely unconscious of these trifles; and the
master and mistress of the house cleared the table with appetites
that anyone might envy them. The joy of skimming a jug-full of
cream mitigated the anguish felt for the loss of the piesand Asia's
despised cake proved a treasure in the way of dessert.

That is the nicest lunch I ever had; can't I do it every day?asked
Daisy as she scraped up and ate the leavings all round.

You can cook things every day after lessons, but I prefer that you
should eat your dishes at your regular meals, and only have a bit of
gingerbread for lunch. To-day, being the first time, I don't mind,
but we must keep our rules. This afternoon you can make
something for tea if you like,said Mrs. Jowho had enjoyed the
dinner-party very muchthough no one had invited her to partake.

Do let me make flapjacks for Demi, he loves them so, and it's
such fun to turn them and put sugar in between,cried Daisy
tenderly wiping a yellow stain off Annabella's broken nosefor
Bella had refused to eat squash when it was pressed upon her as
good for "lumatism a complaint which it is no wonder she
suffered from, considering the lightness of her attire.

But if you give Demi goodiesall the others will expect some
alsoand then you will have your hands full."

Couldn't I have Demi come up to tea alone just this one time?
And after that I could cook things for the others if they were
good,proposed Daisywith a sudden inspiration.

That is a capital idea, Posy! We will make your little messes
rewards for the good boys, and I don't know one among them who
would not like something nice to eat more than almost anything
else. If little men are like big ones, good cooking will touch their


hearts and soothe their tempers delightfully,added Aunt Jowith
a merry nod toward the doorwhere stood Papa Bhaersurveying
the scene with a face full of amusement.

That last hit was for me, sharp woman. I accept it, for it is true;
but if I had married thee for thy cooking, heart's dearest, I should
have fared badly all these years,answered the professorlaughing
as he tossed Teddywho became quite apoplectic in his endeavors
to describe the feast he had just enjoyed.

Daisy proudly showed her kitchenand rashly promised Uncle
Fritz as many flapjacks as he could eat. She was just telling about
the new rewards when the boysheaded by Demiburst into the
room snuffing the air like a pack of hungry houndsfor school was
outdinner was not readyand the fragrance of Daisy's steak led
them straight to the spot.

A prouder little damsel was never seen than Sally as she displayed
her treasures and told the lads what was in store for them. Several
rather scoffed at the idea of her cooking anything fit to eatbut
Stuffy's heart was won at once. Nat and Demi had firm faith in her
skilland the others said they would wait and see. All admired the
kitchenhoweverand examined the stove with deep interest.
Demi offered to buy the boiler on the spotto be used in a
steam-engine which he was constructing; and Ned declared that
the best and biggest saucepan was just the thing to melt his lead in
when he ran bulletshatchetsand such trifles.

Daisy looked so alarmed at these proposalsthat Mrs. Jo then and
there made and proclaimed a law that no boy should touchuseor
even approach the sacred stove without a special permit from the
owner thereof. This increased its value immensely in the eyes of
the gentlemenespecially as any infringement of the law would be
punished by forfeiture of all right to partake of the delicacies
promised to the virtuous.

At this point the bell rangand the entire population went down to
dinnerwhich meal was enlivened by each of the boys giving
Daisy a list of things he would like to have cooked for him as fast
as he earned them. Daisywhose faith in her stove was unlimited
promised everythingif Aunt Jo would tell her how to make them.
This suggestion rather alarmed Mrs. Jofor some of the dishes
were quite beyond her skill wedding-cakefor instancebull's-eye
candy; and cabbage soup with herrings and cherries in itwhich
Mr. Bhaer proposed as his favoriteand immediately reduced his
wife to despairfor German cookery was beyond her.

Daisy wanted to begin again the minute dinner was donebut she
was only allowed to clear upfill the kettle ready for teaand wash
out her apronwhich looked as if she had a Christmas feast. She
was then sent out to play till five o'clockfor Uncle Fritz said that
too much studyeven at cooking stoveswas bad for little minds
and bodiesand Aunt Jo knew by long experience how soon new
toys lose their charm if they are not prudently used.

Everyone was very kind to Daisy that afternoon. Tommy promised
her the first fruits of his gardenthough the only visible crop just
then was pigweed; Nat offered to supply her with woodfree of
charge; Stuffy quite worshipped her; Ned immediately fell to work
on a little refrigerator for her kitchen; and Demiwith a
punctuality beautiful to see in one so youngescorted her to the
nursery just as the clock struck five. It was not time for the party to
beginbut he begged so hard to come in and help that he was
allowed privileges few visitors enjoyfor he kindled the fireran


errandsand watched the progress of his supper with intense
interest. Mrs. Jo directed the affair as she came and wentbeing
very busy putting up clean curtains all over the house.

Ask Asia for a cup of sour cream, then your cakes will be light
without much soda, which I don't like,was the first order.

Demi tore downstairsand returned with the creamalso a
puckered-up facefor he had tasted it on his wayand found it so
sour that he predicted the cakes would be uneatable. Mrs. Jo took
this occasion to deliver a short lecture from the step-ladder on the
chemical properties of sodato which Daisy did not listenbut
Demi didand understood itas he proved by the brief but
comprehensive reply:

Yes, I see, soda turns sour things sweet, and the fizzling up makes
them light. Let's see you do it, Daisy.

Fill that bowl nearly full of flour and add a little salt to it,
continued Mrs. Jo.

Oh dear, everything has to have salt in it, seems to me,said
Sallywho was tired of opening the pill-box in which it was kept.

Salt is like good-humor, and nearly every thing is better for a
pinch of it, Posy,and Uncle Fritz stopped as he passedhammer
in handto drive up two or three nails for Sally's little pans to hang
on.

You are not invited to tea, but I'll give you some cakes, and I
won't be cross,said Daisyputting up her floury little face to
thank him with a kiss.

Fritz, you must not interrupt my cooking class, or I'll come in and
moralize when you are teaching Latin. How would you like that?
said Mrs. Jothrowing a great chintz curtain down on his head.

Very much, try it and see,and the amiable Father Bhaer went
singing and tapping about the house like a mammoth woodpecker.

Put the soda into the cream, and when it 'fizzles,' as Demi says,
stir it into the flour, and beat it up as hard as ever you can. Have
your griddle hot, butter it well, and then fry away till I come back,
and Aunt Jo vanished also.

Such a clatter as the little spoon madeand such a beating as the
batter gotit quite foamedI assure you; and when Daisy poured
some on to the griddleit rose like magic into a puffy flapjack that
made Demi's mouth water. To be surethe first one stuck and
scorchedbecause she forgot the butterbut after that first failure
all went welland six capital little cakes were safely landed in a
dish.

I think I like maple-syrup better than sugar,said Demifrom his
arm-chair where he had settled himself after setting the table in a
new and peculiar manner.

Then go and ask Asia for some,answered Daisygoing into the
bath-room to wash her hands.

While the nursery was empty something dreadful happened. You
seeKit had been feeling hurt all day because he had carried meat
safely and yet got none to pay him. He was not a bad dogbut he
had his little faults like the rest of usand could not always resist


temptation. Happening to stroll into the nursery at that momenthe
smelt the cakessaw them unguarded on the low tableand never
stopping to think of consequencesswallowed all six at one
mouthful. I am glad to say that they were very hotand burned him
so badly that he could not repress a surprised yelp. Daisy heard it
ran insaw the empty dishalso the end of a yellow tail
disappearing under the bed. Without a word she seized that tail
pulled out the thiefand shook him till his ears flapped wildly
then bundled him down-stairs to the shedwhere he spent a lonely
evening in the coal-bin.

Cheered by the sympathy which Demi gave herDaisy made
another bowlful of batterand fried a dozen cakeswhich were
even better than the others. IndeedUncle Fritz after eating two
sent up word that he had never tasted any so niceand every boy at
the table below envied Demi at the flapjack party above.

It was a truly delightful supperfor the little teapot lid only fell off
three times and the milk jug upset but once; the cakes floated in
syrupand the toast had a delicious beef-steak flavorowing to
cook's using the gridiron to make it on. Demi forgot philosophy
and stuffed like any carnal boywhile Daisy planned sumptuous
banquetsand the dolls looked on smiling affably.

Well, dearies, have you had a good time?asked Mrs. Jocoming
up with Teddy on her shoulder.

A very good time. I shall come again soon,answered Demiwith
emphasis.

I'm afraid you have eaten too much, by the look of that table.

No, I haven't; I only ate fifteen cakes, and they were very little
ones,protested Demiwho had kept his sister busy supplying his
plate.

They won't hurt him, they are so nice,said Daisywith such a
funny mixture of maternal fondness and housewifely pride that
Aunt Jo could only smile and say:

Well, on the whole, the new game is a success then?

I like it,said Demias if his approval was all that was necessary.

It is the dearest play ever made!cried Daisyhugging her little
dish-tub as she proposed to wash up the cups. "I just wish
everybody had a sweet cooking stove like mine she added,
regarding it with affection.

This play out to have a name said Demi, gravely removing the
syrup from his countenance with his tongue.

It has."

Oh, what?asked both children eagerly.

Well, I think we will call it Pattypans,and Aunt Jo retired
satisfied with the success of her last trap to catch a sunbeam.

CHAPTER VI A FIRE BRAND

Please, ma'am, could I speak to you? It is something very
important,said Natpopping his head in at the door of Mrs.
Bhaer's room.


It was the fifth head which had popped in during the last half-hour;
but Mrs. Jo was used to itso she looked upand saidbriskly

What is it, my lad?

Nat came inshut the door carefully behind himand said in an
eageranxious tone

Dan has come.

Who is Dan?

He's a boy I used to know when I fiddled round the streets. He
sold papers, and he was kind to me, and I saw him the other day in
town, and told him how nice it was here, and he's come.

But, my dear boy, that is rather a sudden way to pay a visit.

Oh, it isn't a visit; he wants to stay if you will let him!said Nat
innocently.

Well, I don't know about that,began Mrs. Bhaerrather startled
by the coolness of the proposition.

Why, I thought you liked to have poor boys come and live with
you, and be kind to 'em as you were to me,said Natlooking
surprised and alarmed.

So I do, but I like to know something about them first. I have to
choose them, because there are so many. I have not room for all. I
wish I had.

I told him to come because I thought you'd like it, but if there isn't
room he can go away again,said Natsorrowfully.

The boy's confidence in her hospitality touched Mrs. Bhaerand
she could not find the heart to disappoint his hopeand spoil his
kind little planso she said

Tell me about this Dan.

I don't know any thing, only he hasn't got any folks, and he's poor,
and he was good to me, so I'd like to be good to him if I could.

Excellent reasons every one; but really, Nat, the house is full, and
I don't know where I could put him,said Mrs. Bhaermore and
more inclined to prove herself the haven of refuge he seemed to
think her.

He could have my bed, and I could sleep in the barn. It isn't cold
now, and I don't mind, I used to sleep anywhere with father,said
Nateagerly.

Something in his speech and face made Mrs. Jo put her hand on
his shoulderand say in her kindest tone:

Bring in your friend, Nat; I think we must find room for him
without giving him your place.

Nat joyfully ran offand soon returned followed by a most
unprepossessing boywho slouched in and stood looking about
himwith a half boldhalf sullen lookwhich made Mrs. Bhaer say
to herselfafter one glance


A bad specimen, I am afraid.

This is Dan,said Natpresenting him as if sure of his welcome.

Nat tells me you would like to come and stay with us,began
Mrs. Join a friendly tone.

Yes,was the gruff reply.

Have you no friends to take care of you?

No.

Say, 'No, ma'am,' whispered Nat.

Shan't neither,muttered Dan.

How old are you?

About fourteen.

You look older. What can you do?

'Most anything.

If you stay here we shall want you to do as the others do, work
and study as well as play. Are you willing to agree to that?

Don't mind trying.

Well, you can stay a few days, and we will see how we get on
together. Take him out, Nat, and amuse him till Mr. Bhaer comes
home, when we will settle about the matter,said Mrs. Jofinding
it rather difficult to get on with this cool young personwho fixed
his big black eyes on her with a hardsuspicious expression
sorrowfully unboyish.

Come on, Nat,he saidand slouched out again.

Thank you, ma'am,added Natas he followed himfeeling
without quite understanding the difference in the welcome given to
him and to his ungracious friend.

The fellows are having a circus out in the barn; don't you want to
come and see it?he askedas they came down the wide steps on
to the lawn.

Are they big fellows?said Dan.

No; the big ones are gone fishing.

Fire away, then,said Dan.

Nat led him to the great barn and introduced him to his setwho
were disporting themselves among the half-empty lofts. A large
circle was marked out with hay on the wide floorand in the
middle stood Demi with a long whipwhile Tommymounted on
the much-enduring Tobypranced about the circle playing being a
monkey.

You must pay a pin apiece, or you can't see the show,said
Stuffywho stood by the wheelbarrow in which sat the band
consisting of a pocket-comb blown upon by Nedand a toy drum


beaten spasmodically by Rob.

He's company, so I'll pay for both,said Nathandsomelyas he
stuck two crooked pins in the dried mushroom which served as
money-box.

With a nod to the company they seated themselves on a couple of
boardsand the performance went on. After the monkey actNed
gave them a fine specimen of his agility by jumping over an old
chairand running up and down ladderssailor fashion. Then Demi
danced a jig with a gravity beautiful to behold. Nat was called
upon to wrestle with Stuffyand speedily laid that stout youth upon
the ground. After thisTommy proudly advanced to turn a
somersaultan accomplishment which he had acquired by painful
perseverancepractising in private till every joint of his little frame
was black and blue. His feats were received with great applause
and he was about to retireflushed with pride and a rush of blood
to the headwhen a scornful voice in the audience was heard to
say

Ho! that ain't any thing!

Say that again, will you?and Tommy bristled up like an angry
turkey-cock.

Do you want to fight?said Danpromptly descending from the
barrel and doubling up his fists in a business-like manner.

No, I don't;and the candid Thomas retired a steprather taken
aback by the proposition.

Fighting isn't allowed!cried the othersmuch excited.

You're a nice lot,sneered Dan.

Come, if you don't behave, you shan't stay,said Natfiring up at
that insult to his friends.

I'd like to see him do better than I did, that's all,observed
Tommywith a swagger.

Clear the way, then,and without the slightest preparation Dan
turned three somersaults one after the other and came up on his
feet.

You can't beat that, Tom; you always hit your head and tumble
flat,said Natpleased at his friend's success.

Before he could say any more the audience were electrified by
three more somersaults backwardsand a short promenade on the
handshead downfeet up. This brought down the houseand
Tommy joined in the admiring cries which greeted the
accomplished gymnast as he righted himselfand looked at them
with an air of calm superiority.

Do you think I could learn to do it without its hurting me very
much?Tom meekly askedas he rubbed the elbows which still
smarted after the last attempt.

What will you give me if I'll teach you?said Dan.

My new jack-knife; it's got five blades, and only one is broken.

Give it here, then.


Tommy handed it over with an affectionate look at its smooth
handle. Dan examined it carefullythen putting it into his pocket
walked offsaying with a wink

Keep it up till you learn, that's all.

A howl of wrath from Tommy was followed by a general uproar
which did not subside till Danfinding himself in a minority
proposed that they should play stick-knifeand whichever won
should have the treasure. Tommy agreedand the game was played
in a circle of excited faceswhich all wore an expression of
satisfactionwhen Tommy won and secured the knife in the depth
of his safest pocket.

You come off with me, and I'll show you round,said Natfeeling
that he must have a little serious conversation with his friend in
private.

What passed between them no one knewbut when they appeared
againDan was more respectful to every onethough still gruff in
his speechand rough in his manner; and what else could be
expected of the poor lad who had been knocking about the world
all his short life with no one to teach him any better?

The boys had decided that they did not like himand so they left
him to Natwho soon felt rather oppressed by the responsibility
but too kind-hearted to desert him.

Tommyhoweverfelt that in spite of the jack-knife transaction
there was a bond of sympathy between themand longed to return
to the interesting subject of somersaults. He soon found an
opportunityfor Danseeing how much he admired himgrew
more amiableand by the end of the first week was quite intimate
with the lively Tom.

Mr. Bhaerwhen he heard the story and saw Danshook his head
but only said quietly

The experiment may cost us something, but we will try it.

If Dan felt any gratitude for his protectionhe did not show itand
took without thanks all that was give him. He was ignorantbut
very quick to learn when he chose; had sharp eyes to watch what
went on about him; a saucy tonguerough mannersand a temper
that was fierce and sullen by turns. He played with all his might
and played well at almost all the games. He was silent and gruff
before grown peopleand only now and then was thoroughly
sociable among the lads. Few of them really liked himbut few
could help admiring his courage and strengthfor nothing daunted
himand he knocked tall Franz flat on one occasion with an ease
that caused all the others to keep at a respectful distance from his
fists. Mr. Bhaer watched him silentlyand did his best to tame the
Wild Boy,as they called himbut in private the worthy man
shook his headand said soberlyI hope the experiment will turn
out well, but I am a little afraid it may cost too much.

Mrs. Bhaer lost her patience with him half a dozen times a dayyet
never gave him upand always insisted that there was something
good in the ladafter all; for he was kinder to animals than to
peoplehe liked to rove about in the woodsandbest of alllittle
Ted was fond of him. What the secret was no one could discover
but Baby took to him at once gabbled and crowed whenever he
saw him preferred his strong back to ride on to any of the others


and called him "My Danny" out of his own little head. Teddy was
the only creature to whom Dan showed an affectionand this was
only manifested when he thought no one else would see it; but
mothers' eyes are quickand motherly hearts instinctively divine
who love their babies. So Mrs. Jo soon saw and felt that there was
a soft spot in rough Danand bided her time to touch and win him.

But an unexpected and decidedly alarming event upset all their
plansand banished Dan from Plumfield.

TommyNatand Demi began by patronizing Danbecause the
other lads rather slighted him; but soon they each felt there was a
certain fascination about the bad boyand from looking down upon
him they came to looking upeach for a different reason. Tommy
admired his skill and courage; Nat was grateful for past kindness;
and Demi regarded him as a sort of animated story bookfor when
he chose Dan could tell his adventures in a most interesting way. It
pleased Dan to have the three favorites like himand he exerted
himself to be agreeablewhich was the secret of his success.

The Bhaers were surprisedbut hoped the lads would have a good
influence over Danand waited with some anxietytrusting that no
harm would come of it.

Dan felt they did not quite trust himand never showed them his
best sidebut took a wilful pleasure in trying their patience and
thwarting their hopes as far as he dared.

Mr. Bhaer did not approve of fightingand did not think it a proof
of either manliness or courage for two lads to pommel one another
for the amusement of the rest. All sorts of hardy games and
exercises were encouragedand the boys were expected to take
hard knocks and tumbles without whining; but black eyes and
bloody noses given for the fun of it were forbidden as a foolish and
a brutal play.

Dan laughed at this ruleand told such exciting tales of his own
valorand the many frays that he had been inthat some of the lads
were fired with a desire to have a regular good "mill."

Don't tell, and I'll show you how,said Dan; andgetting half a
dozen of the lads together behind the barnhe gave them a lesson
in boxingwhich quite satisfied the ardor of most of them. Emil
howevercould not submit to be beaten by a fellow younger than
himselffor Emil was past fourteen and a plucky fellowso he
challenged Dan to a fight. Dan accepted at onceand the others
looked on with intense interest.

What little bird carried the news to head-quarters no one ever
knewbutin the very hottest of the fraywhen Dan and Emil were
fighting like a pair of young bulldogsand the others with fierce
excited faces were cheering them onMr. Bhaer walked into the
ringplucked the combatants apart with a strong handand saidin
the voice they seldom heard

I can't allow this, boys! Stop it at once; and never let me see it
again. I keep a school for boys, not for wild beasts. Look at each
other and be ashamed of yourselves.

You let me go, and I'll knock him down again,shouted Dan
sparring away in spite of the grip on his collar.

Come on, come on, I ain't thrashed yet!cried Emilwho had
been down five timesbut did not know when he was beaten.


They are playing be gladdy what-you-call-'ems, like the Romans,
Uncle Fritz,called out Demiwhose eyes were bigger than ever
with the excitement of this new pastime.

They were a fine set of brutes; but we have learned something
since then, I hope, and I cannot have you make my barn a
Colosseum. Who proposed this?asked Mr. Bhaer.

Dan,answered several voices.

Don't you know that it is forbidden?

Yes,growled Dansullenly.

Then why break the rule?

They'll all be molly-coddles, if they don't know how to fight.

Have you found Emil a molly-coddle? He doesn't look much like
one,and Mr. Bhaer brought the two face to face. Dan had a black
eyeand his jacket was torn to ragsbut Emil's face was covered
with blood from a cut lip and a bruised nosewhile a bump on his
forehead was already as purple as a plum. In spite of his wounds
howeverhe still glared upon his foeand evidently panted to
renew the fight.

He'd make a first-rater if he was taught,said Danunable to
withhold the praise from the boy who made it necessary for him to
do his best.

He'll be taught to fence and box by and by, and till then I think he
will do very well without any lessons in mauling. Go and wash
your faces; and remember, Dan, if you break any more of the rules
again, you will be sent away. That was the bargain; do your part
and we will do ours.

The lads went offand after a few more words to the spectators
Mr. Bhaer followed to bind up the wounds of the young gladiators.
Emil went to bed sickand Dan was an unpleasant spectacle for a
week.

But the lawless lad had no thought of obeyingand soon
transgressed again.

One Saturday afternoon as a party of the boys went out to play
Tommy said

Let's go down to the river, and cut a lot of new fish-poles.

Take Toby to drag them back, and one of us can ride him down,
proposed Stuffywho hated to walk.

That means you, I suppose; well, hurry up, lazy-bones,said Dan.

Away they wentand having got the poles were about to go home
when Demi unluckily said to Tommywho was on Toby with a
long rod in his hand

You look like the picture of the man in the bull-fight, only you
haven't got a red cloth, or pretty clothes on.

I'd like to see one; there's old Buttercup in the big meadow, ride at
her, Tom, and see her run,proposed Danbent on mischief.


No, you mustn't,began Demiwho was learning to distrust Dan's
propositions.

Why not, little fuss-button?demanded Dan.

I don't think Uncle Fritz would like it.

Did he ever say we must not have a bull-fight?

No, I don't think he ever did,admitted Demi.

Then hold your tongue. Drive on, Tom, and here's a red rag to
flap at the old thing. I'll help you to stir her up,and over the wall
went Danfull of the new gameand the rest followed like a flock
of sheep; even Demiwho sat upon the barsand watched the fun
with interest.

Poor Buttercup was not in a very good moodfor she had been
lately bereft of her calfand mourned for the little thing most
dismally. Just now she regarded all mankind as her enemies (and I
do not blame her)so when the matadore came prancing towards
her with the red handkerchief flying at the end of his long lance
she threw up her headand gave a most appropriate "Moo!"
Tommy rode gallantly at herand Toby recognizing an old friend
was quite willing to approach; but when the lance came down on
her back with a loud whackboth cow and donkey were surprised
and disgusted. Toby back with a bray of remonstranceand
Buttercup lowered her horns angrily.

At her again, Tom; she's jolly cross, and will do it capitally!
called Dancoming up behind with another rodwhile Jack and
Ned followed his example.

Seeing herself thus besetand treated with such disrespect
Buttercup trotted round the fieldgetting more and more
bewildered and excited every momentfor whichever way she
turnedthere was a dreadful boyyelling and brandishing a new
and very disagreeable sort of whip. It was great fun for thembut
real misery for hertill she lost patience and turned the tables in
the most unexpected manner. All at once she wheeled short round
and charged full at her old friend Tobywhose conduct cut her to
the heart. Poor slow Toby backed so precipitately that he tripped
over a stoneand down went horsematadoreand allin one
ignominious heapwhile distracted Buttercup took a surprising
leap over the walland galloped wildly out of sight down the road.

Catch her, stop her, head her off! run, boys, run!shouted Dan
tearing after her at his best pacefor she was Mr. Bhaer's pet
Alderneyand if anything happened to herDan feared it would be
all over with him. Such a running and racing and bawling and
puffing as there was before she was caught! The fish-poles were
left behind; Toby was trotted nearly off his legs in the chase; and
every boy was redbreathlessand scared. They found poor
Buttercup at last in a flower gardenwhere she had taken refuge
worn out with the long run. Borrowing a rope for a halterDan led
her homefollowed by a party of very sober young gentlemenfor
the cow was in a sad statehaving strained her shoulder jumping
so that she limpedher eyes looked wildand her glossy coat was
wet and muddy.

You'll catch it this time, Dan,said Tommyas he led the
wheezing donkey beside the maltreated cow.


So will you, for you helped.

We all did, but Demi,added Jack.

He put it into our heads,said Ned.

I told you not to do it,cried Demiwho was most broken-hearted
at poor Buttercup's state.

Old Bhaer will send me off, I guess. Don't care if he does,
muttered Danlooking worried in spite of his words.

We'll ask him not to, all of us,said Demiand the others assented
with the exception of Stuffywho cherished the hope that all the
punishment might fall on one guilty head. Dan only saidDon't
bother about me;but he never forgot iteven though he led the
lads astray againas soon as the temptation came.

When Mr. Bhaer saw the animaland heard the storyhe said very
littleevidently fearing that he should say too much in the first
moments of impatience. Buttercup was made comfortable in her
stalland the boys sent to their rooms till supper-time. This brief
respite gave them time to think the matter overto wonder what
the penalty would beand to try to imagine where Dan would be
sent. He whistled briskly in his roomso that no one should think
he cared a bit; but while he waited to know his fatethe longing to
stay grew stronger and strongerthe more he recalled the comfort
and kindness he had known herethe hardship and neglect he had
felt elsewhere. He knew they tried to help himand at the bottom
of his heart he was gratefulbut his rough life had made him hard
and carelesssuspicious and wilful. He hated restraint of any sort
and fought against it like an untamed creatureeven while he knew
it was kindly meantand dimly felt that he would be the better for
it. He made up his mind to be turned adrift againto knock about
the city as he had done nearly all his life; a prospect that made him
knit his black browsand look about the cosy little room with a
wistful expression that would have touched a much harder heart
than Mr. Bhaer's if he had seen it. It vanished instantlyhowever
when the good man came inand said in his accustomed grave
way

I have heard all about it, Dan, and though you have broken the
rules again, I am going to give you one more trial, to please
Mother Bhaer.

Dan flushed up to his forehead at this unexpected reprievebut he
only said in his gruff way

I didn't know there was any rule about bull-fighting.

As I never expected to have any at Plumfield, I never did make
such a rule,answered Mr. Bhaersmiling in spite of himself at the
boy's excuse. Then he added gravelyBut one of the first and most
important of our few laws is the law of kindness to every dumb
creature on the place. I want everybody and everything to be happy
here, to love and trust, and serve us, as we try to love and trust and
serve them faithfully and willingly. I have often said that you were
kinder to the animals than any of the other boys, and Mrs. Bhaer
liked that trait in you very much, because she thought it showed a
good heart. But you have disappointed us in that, and we are sorry,
for we hoped to make you quite one of us. Shall we try again?

Dan's eyes had been on the floorand his hands nervously picking
at the bit of wood he had been whittling as Mr. Bhaer came inbut


when he heard the kind voice ask that questionhe looked up
quicklyand said in a more respectful tone than he had ever used
before

Yes, please.

Very well, then, we will say no more, only you will stay at home
from the walk to-morrow, as the other boys will and all of you
must wait on poor Buttercup till she is well again.

I will.

Now, go down to supper, and do your best, my boy, more for your
own sake than for ours.Then Mr. Bhaer shook hands with him
and Dan went down more tamed by kindness than he would have
been by the good whipping which Asia had strongly
recommended.

Dan did try for a day or twobut not being used to ithe soon tired
and relapsed into his old wilful ways. Mr. Bhaer was called from
home on business one dayand the boys had no lessons. They liked
thisand played hard till bedtimewhen most of them turned in
and slept like dormice. Danhoweverhad a plan in his headand
when he and Nat were alonehe unfolded it.

Look here!he saidtaking from under his bed a bottlea cigar
and a pack of cardsI'm going to have some fun, and do as I used
to with the fellows in town. Here's some beer, I got if of the old
man at the station, and this cigar; you can pay for 'em or Tommy
will, he's got heaps of money and I haven't a cent. I'm going to ask
him in; no, you go, they won't mind you.

The folks won't like it,began Nat.

They won't know. Daddy Bhaer is away, and Mrs. Bhaer's busy
with Ted; he's got croup or something, and she can't leave him. We
shan't sit up late or make any noise, so where's the harm?

Asia will know if we burn the lamp long, she always does.

No, she won't, I've got a dark lantern on purpose; it don't give
much light, and we can shut it quick if we hear anyone coming,
said Dan.

This idea struck Nat as a fine oneand lent an air of romance to the
thing. He started off to tell Tommybut put his head in again to
say

You want Demi, too, don't you?

No, I don't; the Deacon will rollup eyes and preach if you tell
him. He will be asleep, so just tip the wink to Tom and cut back
again.

Nat obeyedand returned in a minute with Tommy half dressed
rather tousled about the head and very sleepybut quite ready for
fun as usual.

Now, keep quiet, and I'll show you how to play a first-rate game
called 'Poker,' said Danas the three revellers gathered round the
tableon which were set forth the bottlethe cigarand the cards.
First we'll all have a drink, then we'll take a go at the 'weed,' and
then we'll play. That's the way men do, and it's jolly fun.


The beer circulated in a mugand all three smacked their lips over
itthough Nat and Tommy did not like the bitter stuff. The cigar
was worse stillbut they dared not say soand each puffed away
till he was dizzy or chokedwhen he passed the "weed" on to his
neighbor. Dan liked itfor it seemed like old times when he now
and then had a chance to imitate the low men who surrounded
him. He drankand smokedand swaggered as much like them as
he couldandgetting into the spirit of the part he assumedhe
soon began to swear under his breath for fear some one should
hear him. "You mustn't; it's wicked to say 'Damn!' " cried Tommy
who had followed his leader so far.

Oh, hang! don't you preach, but play away; it's part of the fun to
swear.

I'd rather say 'thunder turtles,' said Tommywho had composed
this interesting exclamation and was very proud of it.

And I'll say 'The Devil;' that sounds well,added Natmuch
impressed by Dan's manly ways.

Dan scoffed at their "nonsense and swore stoutly as he tried to
teach them the new game.

But Tommy was very sleepy, and Nat's head began to ache with
the beer and the smoke, so neither of them was very quick to learn,
and the game dragged. The room was nearly dark, for the lantern
burned badly; they could not laugh loud nor move about much, for
Silas slept next door in the shed-chamber, and altogether the party
was dull. In the middle of a deal Dan stopped suddenly, and called
out, Who's that?" in a startled toneand at the same moment drew
the slide over the light. A voice in the darkness said tremulouslyI
can't find Tommy,and then there was the quick patter of bare feet
running away down the entry that led from the wing to the main
house.

It's Demi! he's gone to call some one; cut into bed, Tom, and don't
tell!cried Danwhisking all signs of the revel out of sightand
beginning to tear off his clotheswhile Nat did the same.

Tommy flew to his room and dived into bedwhere he lay
laughing till something burned his handwhen he discovered that
he was still clutching the stump of the festive cigarwhich he
happened to be smoking when the revel broke up.

It was nearly outand he was about to extinguish it carefully when
Nursey's voice was heardand fearing it would betray him if he hid
it in the bedhe threw it underneathafter a final pinch which he
thought finished it.

Nursey came in with Demiwho looked much amazed to see the
red face of Tommy reposing peacefully upon his pillow.

He wasn't there just now, because I woke up and could not find
him anywhere,said Demipouncing on him.

What mischief are you at now, bad child?asked Nurseywith a
good-natured shakewhich made the sleeper open his eyes to say
meekly

I only ran into Nat's room to see him about something. Go away,
and let me alone; I'm awful sleepy.

Nursey tucked Demi inand went off to reconnoitrebut only


found two boys slumbering peacefully in Dan's room. "Some little
frolic she thought, and as there was no harm done she said
nothing to Mrs. Bhaer, who was busy and worried over little
Teddy.

Tommy was sleepy, and telling Demi to mind his own business
and not ask questions, he was snoring in ten minutes, little
dreaming what was going on under his bed. The cigar did not go
out, but smouldered away on the straw carpet till it was nicely on
fire, and a hungry little flame went creeping along till the dimity
bedcover caught, then the sheets, and then the bed itself. The beer
made Tommy sleep heavily, and the smoke stupified Demi, so they
slept on till the fire began to scorch them, and they were in danger
of being burned to death.

Franz was sitting up to study, and as he left the school-room he
smelt the smoke, dashed up-stairs and saw it coming in a cloud
from the left wing of the house. Without stopping to call any one,
he ran into the room, dragged the boys from the blazing bed, and
splashed all the water he could find at hand on to the flames. It
checked but did not quench the fire, and the children wakened on
being tumbled topsy-turvy into a cold hall, began to roar at the top
of their voices. Mrs. Bhaer instantly appeared, and a minute after
Silas burst out of his room shouting, Fire!" in a tone that raised
the whole house. A flock of white goblins with scared faces
crowded into the halland for a minute every one was
panic-stricken.

Then Mrs. Bhaer found her witsbade Nursey see to the burnt
boysand sent Franz and Silas down-stairs for some tubs of wet
clothes which she flung on the bedover the carpetand up against
the curtainsnow burning finelyand threatening to kindle the
walls.

Most of the boys stood dumbly looking onbut Dan and Emil
worked bravelyrunning to and fro with water from the bath-room
and helping to pull down the dangerous curtains.

The peril was soon overand ordering the boys all back to bedand
leaving Silas to watch lest the fire broke out againMrs. Bhaer and
Franz went to see how the poor boys got on. Demi had escaped
with one burn and a grand scarebut Tommy had not only most of
his hair scorched off his headbut a great burn on his armthat
made him half crazy with the pain. Demi was soon made cosyand
Franz took him away to his own bedwhere the kind lad soothed
his fright and hummed him to sleep as cosily as a woman. Nursey
watched over poor Tommy all nighttrying to ease his miseryand
Mrs. Bhaer vibrated between him and little Teddy with oil and
cottonparegoric and squillssaying to herself from time to time
as if she found great amusement in the thoughtI always knew
Tommy would set the house on fire, and now he has done it!

When Mr. Bhaer got home next morning he found a nice state of
things. Tommy in bedTeddy wheezing like a little grampusMrs.
Jo quite used upand the whole flock of boys so excited that they
all talked at onceand almost dragged him by main force to view
the ruins. Under his quiet management things soon fell into order
for every one felt that he was equal to a dozen conflagrationsand
worked with a will at whatever task he gave them.

There was no school that morningbut by afternoon the damaged
room was put to rightsthe invalids were betterand there was
time to hear and judge the little culprits quietly. Nat and Tommy
told their parts in the mischiefand were honestly sorry for the


danger they had brought to the dear old house and all in it. But
Dan put on his devil-may-care lookand would not own that there
was much harm done.

Nowof all thingsMr. Bhaer hated drinkinggamblingand
swearing; smoking he had given up that the lads might not be
tempted to try itand it grieved and angered him deeply to find that
the boywith whom he had tried to be most forbearingshould take
advantage of his absence to introduce these forbidden vicesand
teach his innocent little lads to think it manly and pleasant to
indulge in them. He talked long and earnestly to the assembled
boysand ended by sayingwith an air of mingled firmness and
regret

I think Tommy is punished enough, and that scar on his arm will
remind him for a long time to let these things alone. Nat's fright
will do for him, for he is really sorry, and does try to obey me. But
you, Dan, have been many times forgiven, and yet it does no good.
I cannot have my boys hurt by your bad example, nor my time
wasted in talking to deaf ears, so you can say good-bye to them all,
and tell Nursey to put up your things in my little black bag.

Oh! sir, where is he going?cried Nat.

To a pleasant place up in the country, where I sometimes send
boys when they don't do well here. Mr. Page is a kind man, and
Dan will be happy there if he chooses to do his best.

Will he ever come back?asked Demi.

That will depend on himself; I hope so.

As he spokeMr. Bhaer left the room to write his letter to Mr.
Pageand the boys crowded round Dan very much as people do
about a man who is going on a long and perilous journey to
unknown regions.

I wonder if you'll like it,began Jack.

Shan't stay if I don't,said Dan coolly.

Where will you go?asked Nat.

I may go to sea, or out west, or take a look at California,
answered Danwith a reckless air that quite took away the breath
of the little boys.

Oh, don't! stay with Mr. Page awhile and then come back here;
do, Dan,pleaded Natmuch affected at the whole affair.

I don't care where I go, or how long I stay, and I'll be hanged if I
ever come back here,with which wrathful speech Dan went away
to put up his thingsevery one of which Mr. Bhaer had given him.

That was the only good-bye he gave the boysfor they were all
talking the matter over in the barn when he came downand he
told Nat not to call them. The wagon stood at the doorand Mrs.
Bhaer came out to speak to Danlooking so sad that his heart
smote himand he said in a low tone

May I say good-bye to Teddy?

Yes, dear; go in and kiss him, he will miss his Danny very much.


No one saw the look in Dan's eyes as he stooped over the criband
saw the little face light up at first sight of himbut he heard Mrs.
Bhaer say pleadingly

Can't we give the poor lad one more trial, Fritz?and Mr. Bhaer
answer in his steady way

My dear, it is not best, so let him go where he can do no harm to
others, while they do good to him, and by and by he shall come
back, I promise you.

He's the only boy we ever failed with, and I am so grieved, for I
thought there was the making of a fine man in him, spite of his
faults.

Dan heard Mrs. Bhaer sighand he wanted to ask for one more
trial himselfbut his pride would not let himand he came out with
the hard look on his faceshook hands without a wordand drove
away with Mr. Bhaerleaving Nat and Mrs. Jo to look after him
with tears in their eyes.

A few days afterwards they received a letter from Mr. Pagesaying
that Dan was doing wellwhereat they all rejoiced. But three
weeks later came another lettersaying that Dan had run awayand
nothing had been heard of himwhereat they all looked soberand
Mr. Bhaer said

Perhaps I ought to have given him another chance.

Mrs. Bhaerhowevernodded wisely and answeredDon't be
troubled, Fritz; the boy will come back to us, I'm sure of it.

But time went on and no Dan came.

CHAPTER VII NAUGHTY NAN

Fritz, I've got a new idea,cried Mrs. Bhaeras she met her
husband one day after school.

Well, my dear, what is it?and he waited willingly to hear the
new planfor some of Mrs. Jo's ideas were so drollit was
impossible to help laughing at themthough usually they were
quite sensibleand he was glad to carry them out.

Daisy needs a companion, and the boys would be all the better for
another girl among them; you know we believe in bringing up little
men and women together, and it is high time we acted up to our
belief. They pet and tyrannize over Daisy by turns, and she is
getting spoilt. Then they must learn gentle ways, and improve their
manners, and having girls about will do it better than any thing
else.

You are right, as usual. Now, who shall we have?asked Mr.
Bhaerseeing by the look in her eye that Mrs. Jo had some one all
ready to propose.

Little Annie Harding.

What! Naughty Nan, as the lads call her?cried Mr. Bhaer
looking very much amused.

Yes, she is running wild at home since her mother died, and is too
bright a child to be spoilt by servants. I have had my eye on her for
some time, and when I met her father in town the other day I asked


him why he did not send her to school. He said he would gladly if
he could find as good a school for girls as ours was for boys. I
know he would rejoice to have her come; so suppose we drive over
this afternoon and see about it.

Have not you cares enough now, my Jo, without this little gypsy
to torment you?asked Mr. Bhaerpatting the hand that lay on his
arm.

Oh dear, no,said Mother Bhaerbriskly. "I like itand never was
happier than since I had my wilderness of boys. You seeFritzI
feel a great sympathy for Nanbecause I was such a naughty child
myself that I know all about it. She is full of spiritsand only needs
to be taught what to do with them to be as nice a little girl as
Daisy. Those quick wits of hers would enjoy lessons if they were
rightly directedand what is now a tricksy midget would soon
become a busyhappy child. I know how to manage herfor I
remember how my blessed mother managed meand "

And if you succeed half as well as she did, you will have done a
magnificent work,interrupted Mr. Bhaerwho labored under the
delusion that Mrs. B. was the best and most charming woman
alive.

Now, if you make fun of my plan I'll give you bad coffee for a
week, and then where are you, sir?cried Mrs. Jotweaking him
by the ear just as if he was one of the boys.

Won't Daisy's hair stand erect with horror at Nan's wild ways?
asked Mr. Bhaerpresentlywhen Teddy had swarmed up his
waistcoatand Rob up his backfor they always flew at their father
the minute school was done.

At first, perhaps, but it will do Posy good. She is getting prim and
Bettyish, and needs stirring up a bit. She always has a good time
when Nan comes over to play, and the two will help each other
without knowing it. Dear me, half the science of teaching is
knowing how much children do for one another, and when to mix
them.

I only hope she won't turn out another firebrand.

My poor Dan! I never can quite forgive myself for letting him
go,sighed Mrs. Bhaer.

At the sound of the namelittle Teddywho had never forgotten his
friendstruggled down from his father's armsand trotted to the
doorlooked out over the sunny lawn with a wistful faceand then
trotted back againsayingas he always did when disappointed of
the longed-for sight

My Danny's tummin' soon.

I really think we ought to have kept him, if only for Teddy's sake,
he was so fond of him, and perhaps baby's love would have done
for him what we failed to do.

I've sometimes felt that myself; but after keeping the boys in a
ferment, and nearly burning up the whole family, I thought it safer
to remove the firebrand, for a time at least,said Mr. Bhaer.

Dinner's ready, let me ring the bell,and Rob began a solo upon
that instrument which made it impossible to hear one's self speak.


Then I may have Nan, may I?asked Mrs. Jo.

A dozen Nans if you want them, my dear,answered Mr. Bhaer
who had room in his fatherly heart for all the naughty neglected
children in the world.

When Mrs. Bhaer returned from her drive that afternoonbefore
she could unpack the load of little boyswithout whom she seldom
moveda small girl of ten skipped out at the back of the carry-all
and ran into the houseshouting

Hi, Daisy! where are you?

Daisy cameand looked pleased to see her guestbut also a trifle
alarmedwhen Nan saidstill prancingas if it was impossible to
keep still

I'm going to stay here always, papa says I may, and my box is
coming tomorrow, all my things had to be washed and mended,
and your aunt came and carried me off. Isn't it great fun?

Why, yes. Did you bring your big doll?asked Daisyhoping she
hadfor on the last visit Nan had ravaged the baby houseand
insisted on washing Blanche Matilda's plaster facewhich spoilt
the poor dear's complexion for ever.

Yes, she's somewhere round,returned Nanwith most
unmaternal carelessness. "I made you a ring coming alongand
pulled the hairs out of Dobbin's tail. Don't you want it?" and Nan
presented a horse-hair ring in token of friendshipas they had both
vowed they would never speak to one another again when they last
parted.

Won by the beauty of the offeringDaisy grew more cordialand
proposed retiring to the nurserybut Nan saidNo, I want to see
the boys, and the barn,and ran offswinging her hat by one string
till it brokewhen she left it to its fate on the grass.

Hullo! Nan!cried the boys as she bounced in among them with
the announcement

I'm going to stay.

Hooray!bawled Tommy from the wall on which he was perched
for Nan was a kindred spiritand he foresaw "larks" in the future.

I can bat; let me play,said Nanwho could turn her hand to any
thingand did not mind hard knocks.

We ain't playing now, and our side beat without you.

I can beat you in running, any way,returned Nanfalling back on
her strong point.

Can she?asked Nat of Jack.

She runs very well for a girl,answered Jackwho looked down
upon Nan with condescending approval.

Will you try?said Nanlonging to display her powers.

It's too hot,and Tommy languished against the wall as if quite
exhausted.


What's the matter with Stuffy?asked Nanwhose quick eyes
were roving from face to face.

Ball hurt his hand; he howls at every thing,answered Jack
scornfully.

I don't, I never cry, no matter how I'm hurt; it's babyish,said Nan
loftily.

Pooh! I could make you cry in two minutes,returned Stuffy
rousing up.

See if you can.

Go and pick that bunch of nettles, then,and Stuffy pointed to a
sturdy specimen of that prickly plant growing by the wall.

Nan instantly "grasped the nettle pulled it up, and held it with a
defiant gesture, in spite of the almost unbearable sting.

Good for you cried the boys, quick to acknowledge courage
even in one of the weaker sex.

More nettled than she was, Stuffy determined to get a cry out of
her somehow, and he said tauntingly, You are used to poking your
hands into every thingso that isn't fair. Now go and bump your
head real hard against the barnand see if you don't howl then."

Don't do it,said Natwho hated cruelty.

But Nan was offand running straight at the barnshe gave her
head a blow that knocked her flatand sounded like a
battering-ram. Dizzybut undauntedshe staggered upsaying
stoutlythough her face was drawn with pain

That hurt, but I don't cry.

Do it again,said Stuffy angrily; and Nan would have done itbut
Nat held her; and Tommyforgetting the heatflew at Stuffy like a
little game-cockroaring out

Stop it, or I'll throw you over the barn!and so shook and hustled
poor Stuffy that for a minute he did not know whether he was on
his head or his heels.

She told me to,was all he could saywhen Tommy let him
alone.

Never mind if she did; it is awfully mean to hurt a little girl,said
Demireproachfully.

Ho! I don't mind; I ain't a little girl, I'm older than you and Daisy;
so now,cried Nanungratefully.

Don't preach, Deacon, you bully Posy every day of your life,
called out the Commodorewho just then hove in sight.

I don't hurt her; do I, Daisy?and Demi turned to his sisterwho
was "pooring" Nan's tingling handsand recommending water for
the purple lump rapidly developing itself on her forehead.

You are the best boy in the world,promptly answered Daisy;
addingas truth compelled her to doYou hurt me sometimes, but
you don't mean to.


Put away the bats and things, and mind what you are about, my
hearties. No fighting allowed aboard this ship,said Emilwho
rather lorded it over the others.


How do you do, Madge Wildfire?said Mr. Bhaeras Nan came
in with the rest to supper. "Give the right handlittle daughterand
mind thy manners he added, as Nan offered him her left.


The other hurts me."


The poor little hand! what has it been doing to get those blisters?
he askeddrawing it from behind her backwhere she had put it
with a look which made him think she had been in mischief.


Before Nan could think of any excuseDaisy burst out with the
whole storyduring which Stuffy tried to hide his face in a bowl of
bread and milk. When the tale was finishedMr. Bhaer looked
down the long table towards his wifeand said with a laugh in his
eyes


This rather belongs to your side of the house, so I won't meddle
with it, my dear.


Mrs. Jo knew what he meantbut she liked her little black sheep
all the better for her pluckthough she only said in her soberest
way


Do you know why I asked Nan to come here?


To plague me,muttered Stuffywith his mouth full.


To help make little gentlemen of you, and I think you have shown
that some of you need it.


Here Stuffy retired into his bowl againand did not emerge till
Demi made them all laugh by sayingin his slow wondering way


How can she, when she's such a tomboy?


That's just it, she needs help as much as you, and I expect you set
her an example of good manners.


Is she going to be a little gentleman too?asked Rob.


She'd like it; wouldn't you, Nan?added Tommy.


No, I shouldn't; I hate boys!said Nan fiercelyfor her hand still
smartedand she began to think that she might have shown her
courage in some wiser way.


I am sorry you hate my boys, because they can be well-mannered,
and most agreeable when they choose. Kindness in looks and
words and ways is true politeness, and any one can have it if they
only try to treat other people as they like to be treated themselves.


Mrs. Bhaer had addressed herself to Nanbut the boys nudged one
anotherand appeared to take the hintfor that time at leastand
passed the butter; said "please and thank you yessir and
noma'am with unusual elegance and respect. Nan said nothing,
but kept herself quiet and refrained from tickling Demi, though
strongly tempted to do so, because of the dignified airs he put on.
She also appeared to have forgotten her hatred of boys, and played
I spy" with them till dark. Stuffy was observed to offer her



frequent sucks on his candy-ball during the gamewhich evidently
sweetened her temperfor the last thing she said on going to bed
was

When my battledore and shuttle-cock comes, I'll let you all play
with 'em.

Her first remark in the morning was "Has my box come?" and
when told that it would arrive sometime during the dayshe fretted
and fumedand whipped her dolltill Daisy was shocked. She
managed to existhowevertill five o'clockwhen she disappeared
and was not missed till supper-timebecause those at home
thought she had gone to the hill with Tommy and Demi.

I saw her going down the avenue alone as hard as she could pelt,
said Mary Anncoming in with the hasty-puddingand finding
every one askingWhere is Nan?

She has run home, little gypsy!cried Mrs. Bhaerlooking
anxious.

Perhaps she has gone to the station to look after her luggage,
suggested Franz.

'That is impossibleshe does not know the wayand if she found it
she could never carry the box a mile said Mrs. Bhaer, beginning
to think that her new idea might be rather a hard one to carry out.

It would be like her and Mr. Bhaer caught up his hat to go and
find the child, when a shout from Jack, who was at the window,
made everyone hurry to the door.

There was Miss Nan, to be sure, tugging along a very large
band-box tied up in linen bag. Very hot and dusty and tired did she
look, but marched stoutly along, and came puffing up to the steps,
where she dropped her load with a sigh of relief, and sat down
upon it, observed as she crossed her tired arms,

I couldn't wait any longerso I went and got it."

But you did not know the way,said Tommywhile the rest stood
round enjoying the joke.

Oh, I found it, I never get lost.

It's a mile, how could you go so far?

Well, it was pretty far, but I rested a good deal.

Wasn't that thing very heavy?

It's so round, I couldn't get hold of it good, and I thought my arms
would break right off.

I don't see how the station-master let you have it,said Tommy.

I didn't say anything to him. He was in the little ticket place, and
didn't see me, so I just took it off the platform.

Run down and tell him it is all right, Franz, or old Dodd will think
it is stolen,said Mr. Bhaerjoining in the shout of laughter at
Nan's coolness.

I told you we would send for it if it did not come. Another time


you must wait, for you will get into trouble if you run away.
Promise me this, or I shall not dare to trust you out of my sight,
said Mrs. Bhaerwiping the dust off Nan's little hot face.

Well, I won't, only papa tells me not to put off doing things, so I
don't.

That is rather a poser; I think you had better give her some supper
now, and a private lecture by and by,said Mr. Bhaertoo much
amused to be angry at the young lady's exploit.

The boys thought it "great fun and Nan entertained them all
supper-time with an account of her adventures; for a big dog had
barked at her, a man had laughed at her, a woman had given her a
doughnut, and her hat had fallen into the brook when she stopped
to drink, exhausted with her exertion.

'I fancy you will have your hands full now, my dear; Tommy and
Nan are quite enough for one woman,said Mr. Bhaerhalf an
hour later.

I know it will take some time to tame the child, but she is such a
generous, warm-hearted little thing, I should love her even if she
were twice as naughty,answered Mrs. Jopointing to the merry
groupin the middle of which stood Nangiving away her things
right and leftas lavishly as if the big band-box had no bottom.

It was those good traits that soon made little "Giddygaddy as they
called her, a favorite with every one. Daisy never complained of
being dull again, for Nan invented the most delightful plays, and
her pranks rivalled Tommy's, to the amusement of the whole
school. She buried her big doll and forgot it for a week, and found
it well mildewed when she dragged it up. Daisy was in despair, but
Nan took it to the painter who as at work about the house, got him
to paint it brick red, with staring black eyes, then she dressed it up
with feathers, and scarlet flannel, and one of Ned's leaden
hatchets; and in the character of an Indian chief, the late
Poppydilla tomahawked all the other dolls, and caused the nursery
to run red with imaginary gore. She gave away her new shoes to a
beggar child, hoping to be allowed to go barefoot, but found it
impossible to combine charity and comfort, and was ordered to ask
leave before disposing of her clothes. She delighted the boys by
making a fire-ship out of a shingle with two large sails wet with
turpentine, which she lighted, and then sent the little vessel
floating down the brook at dusk. She harnessed the old
turkey-cock to a straw wagon, and made him trot round the house
at a tremendous pace. She gave her coral necklace for four
unhappy kittens, which had been tormented by some heartless lads,
and tended them for days as gently as a mother, dressing their
wounds with cold cream, feeding them with a doll's spoon, and
mourning over them when they died, till she was consoled by one
of Demi's best turtles. She made Silas tattoo an anchor on her arm
like his, and begged hard to have a blue star on each cheek, but he
dared not do it, though she coaxed and scolded till the soft-hearted
fellow longed to give in. She rode every animal on the place, from
the big horse Andy to the cross pig, from whom she was rescued
with difficulty. Whatever the boys dared her to do she instantly
attempted, no matter how dangerous it might be, and they were
never tired of testing her courage.

Mr. Bhaer suggested that they should see who would study best,
and Nan found as much pleasure in using her quick wits and fine
memory as her active feet and merry tongue, while the lads had to
do their best to keep their places, for Nan showed them that girls


could do most things as well as boys, and some things better.
There were no rewards in school, but Mr. Bhaer's Well done!" and
Mrs. Bhaer's good report on the conscience booktaught them to
love duty for its own sakeand try to do it faithfullysure sooner or
later the recompense would come. Little Nan was quick to feel the
new atmosphereto enjoy itto show that it was what she needed;
for this little garden was full of sweet flowershalf hidden by the
weeds; and when kind hands gently began to cultivate itall sorts
of green shoots sprung uppromising to blossom beautifully in the
warmth of love and carethe best climate for young hearts and
souls all the world over.

CHAPTER VIII PRANKS AND PLAYS

As there is no particular plan to this storyexcept to describe a few
scenes in the life at Plumfield for the amusement of certain little
personswe will gently ramble along in this chapter and tell some
of the pastimes of Mrs. Jo's boys. I beg leave to assure my honored
readers that most of the incidents are taken from real lifeand that
the oddest are the truest; for no personno matter how vivid an
imagination he may havecan invent anything half so droll as the
freaks and fancies that originate in the lively brains of little people.

Daisy and Demi were full of these whimsand lived in a world of
their ownpeopled with lovely or grotesque creaturesto whom
they gave the queerest namesand with whom they played the
queerest games. One of these nursery inventions was an invisible
sprite called "The Naughty Kitty-mouse whom the children had
believed in, feared, and served for a long time. They seldom spoke
of it to any one else, kept their rites as private as possible; and, as
they never tried to describe it even to themselves, this being had a
vague mysterious charm very agreeable to Demi, who delighted in
elves and goblins. A most whimsical and tyrannical imp was the
Naughty Kitty-mouse, and Daisy found a fearful pleasure in its
service, blindly obeying its most absurd demands, which were
usually proclaimed from the lips of Demi, whose powers of
invention were great. Rob and Teddy sometimes joined in these
ceremonies, and considered them excellent fun, although they did
not understand half that went on.

One day after school Demi whispered to his sister, with an
ominous wag of the head,

The Kitty-mouse wants us this afternoon."

What for?asked Daisyanxiously.

A sackerryfice,answered Demisolemnly. "There must be a fire
behind the big rock at two o'clockand we must all bring the things
we like bestand burn them!" he addedwith an awful emphasis on
the last words.

Oh, dear! I love the new paper dollies Aunt Amy painted for me
best of any thing; must I burn them up?cried Daisywho never
thought of denying the unseen tyrant any thing it demanded.

Every one. I shall burn my boat, my best scrapbook, and all my
soldiers,said Demi firmly.

Well, I will; but it's too bad of Kitty-mouse to want our very
nicest things,sighed Daisy.

A sackerryfice means to give up what you are fond of, so we
must,explained Demito whom the new idea had been suggested


by hearing Uncle Fritz describe the customs of the Greeks to the
big boys who were reading about them in school.

Is Rob coming too,asked Daisy.

Yes, and he is going to bring his toy village; it is all made of
wood, you know, and will burn nicely. We'll have a grand bonfire,
and see them blaze up, won't we?

This brilliant prospect consoled Daisyand she ate her dinner with
a row of paper dolls before heras a sort of farewell banquet.

At the appointed hour the sacrificial train set fortheach child
bearing the treasures demanded by the insatiable Kitty-mouse.
Teddy insisted on going alsoand seeing that all the others had
toyshe tucked a squeaking lamb under one armand old
Annabella under the otherlittle dreaming what anguish the latter
idol was to give him.

Where are you going, my chickens?asked Mrs. Joas the flock
passed her door.

To play by the big rock; can't we?

Yes, only don't do near the pond, and take good care of baby.

I always do,said Daisyleading forth her charge with a capable
air.

Now, you must all sit round, and not move till I tell you. This flat
stone is an altar, and I am going to make a fire on it.

Demi then proceeded to kindle up a small blazeas he had seen the
boys do at picnics. When the flame burned wellhe ordered the
company to march round it three times and then stand in a circle.

I shall begin, and as fast as my things are burnt, you must bring
yours.

With that he solemnly laid on a little paper book full of pictures
pasted in by himself; this was followed by a dilapidated boatand
then one by one the unhappy leaden soldiers marched to death. Not
one faltered or hung backfrom the splendid red and yellow
captain to the small drummer who had lost his legs; all vanished in
the flames and mingled in one common pool of melted lead.

Now, Daisy!called the high priest of Kitty-mousewhen his rich
offerings had been consumedto the great satisfaction of the
children.

My dear dollies, how can I let them go?moaned Daisyhugging
the entire dozen with a face full of maternal woe.

You must,commanded Demi; and with a farewell kiss to each
Daisy laid her blooming dolls upon the coals.

Let me keep one, the dear blue thing, she is so sweet,besought
the poor little mammaclutching her last in despair.

More! more!growled an awful voiceand Demi criedthat's the
Kitty-mouse! she must have every one, quick, or she will scratch
us.

In went the precious blue belleflouncesrosy hatand alland


nothing but a few black flakes remained of that bright band.

Stand the houses and trees round, and let them catch themselves;
it will be like a real fire then,said Demiwho liked variety even
in his "sackerryfices."

Charmed by this suggestionthe children arranged the doomed
villagelaid a line of coals along the main streetand then sat
down to watch the conflagration. It was somewhat slow to kindle
owing to the paintbut at last one ambitious little cottage blazed
upfired a tree of the palm specieswhich fell on to the roof of a
large family mansionand in a few minutes the whole town was
burning merrily. The wooden population stood and stared at the
destruction like blockheadsas they weretill they also caught and
blazed away without a cry. It took some time to reduce the town to
ashesand the lookers-on enjoyed the spectacle immensely
cheering as each house felldancing like wild Indians when the
steeple flamed aloftand actually casting one wretched little
churn-shaped ladywho had escaped to the suburbsinto the very
heart of the fire.

The superb success of this last offering excited Teddy to such a
degreethat he first threw his lamb into the conflagrationand
before it had time even to roasthe planted poor Annabella on the
funeral pyre. Of course she did not like itand expressed her
anguish and resentment in a way that terrified her infant destroyer.
Being covered with kidshe did not blazebut did what was worse
she squirmed. First one leg curled upthen the otherin a very
awful and lifelike manner; next she flung her arms over her head
as if in great agony; her head itself turned on her shouldersher
glass eyes fell outand with one final writhe of her whole body
she sank down a blackened mass on the ruins of the town. This
unexpected demonstration startled every one and frightened Teddy
half out of his little wits. He lookedthen screamed and fled
toward the houseroaring "Marmar" at the top of his voice.

Mrs. Bhaer heard the outcry and ran to the rescuebut Teddy could
only cling to her and pour out in his broken way something about
poor Bella hurted,a dreat fire,and "all the dollies dorn."
Fearing some dire mishaphis mother caught him up and hurried
to the scene of actionwhere she found the blind worshippers of
Kitty-mouse mourning over the charred remains of the lost darling.

What have you been at? Tell me all about it,said Mrs. Jo
composing herself to listen patientlyfor the culprits looked so
penitentshe forgave them beforehand.

With some reluctance Demi explained their playand Aunt Jo
laughed till the tears ran down her cheeksthe children were so
solemnand the play was so absurd.

I thought you were too sensible to play such a silly game as this.
If I had any Kitty-mouse I'd have a good one who liked you to play
in safe pleasant ways, and not destroy and frighten. Just see what a
ruin you have made; all Daisy's pretty dolls, Demi's soldiers, and
Rob's new village beside poor Teddy's pet lamb, and dear old
Annabella. I shall have to write up in the nursery the verse that
used to come in the boxes of toys,

The children of Holland take pleasure in making

What the children of Boston take pleasure in breaking."

Only I shall put Plumfield instead of Boston."


We never will again, truly, truly!cried the repentant little
sinnersmuch abashed at this reproof.

Demi told us to,said Rob.

Well, I heard Uncle tell about the Greece people, who had altars
and things, and so I wanted to be like them, only I hadn't any live
creatures to sackerryfice, so we burnt up our toys.

Dear me, that is something like the bean story,said Aunt Jo
laughing again.

Tell about it,suggested Daisyto change the subject.

Once there was a poor woman who had three or four little
children, and she used to lock them up in her room when she went
out to work, to keep them safe. On day when she was going away
she said, 'Now, my dears, don't let baby fall out of window, don't
play with the matches, and don't put beans up your noses.' Now the
children had never dreamed of doing that last thing, but she put it
into their heads, and the minute she was gone, they ran and stuffed
their naughty little noses full of beans, just to see how it felt, and
she found them all crying when she came home.

Did it hurt?asked Robwith such intense interest that his mother
hastily added a warning sequellest a new edition of the bean story
should appear in her own family.

Very much, as I know, for when my mother told me this story, I
was so silly that I went and tried it myself. I had no beans, so I
took some little pebbles, and poked several into my nose. I did not
like it at all, and wanted to take them out again very soon, but one
would not come, and I was so ashamed to tell what a goose I been
that I went for hours with the stone hurting me very much. At last
the pain got so bad I had to tell, and when my mother could not get
it out the doctor came. Then I was put in a chair and held tight,
Rob, while he used his ugly little pincers till the stone hopped out.
Dear me! how my wretched little nose did ache, and how people
laughed at me!and Mrs. Jo shook her head in a dismal wayas if
the memory of her sufferings was too much for her.

Rob looked deeply impressed and I am glad to say took the
warning to heart. Demi proposed that they should bury poor
Annabellaand in the interest of the funeral Teddy forgot his
fright. Daisy was soon consoled by another batch of dolls from
Aunt Amyand the Naughty Kitty-mouse seemed to be appeased
by the last offeringsfor she tormented them no more.

Bropswas the name of a new and absorbing playinvented by
Bangs. As this interesting animal is not to be found in any
Zoological Gardenunless Du Chaillu has recently brought one
from the wilds of AfricaI will mention a few of its peculiar habits
and traitsfor the benefit of inquiring minds. The Brop is a winged
quadrupedwith a human face of a youthful and merry aspect.
When it walks the earth it gruntswhen it soars it gives a shrill
hootoccasionally it goes erectand talks good English. Its body is
usually covered with a substance much resembling a shawl
sometimes redsometimes blueoften plaidandstrange to say
they frequently change skins with one another. On their heads they
have a horn very like a stiff brown paper lamp-lighter. Wings of
the same substance flap upon their shoulders when they fly; this is
never very far from the groundas they usually fall with violence if
they attempt any lofty flights. They browse over the earthbut can


sit up and eat like the squirrel. Their favorite nourishment is the
seed-cake; apples also are freely takenand sometimes raw carrots
are nibbled when food is scarce. They live in denswhere they
have a sort of nestmuch like a clothes-basketin which the little
Brops play till their wings are grown. These singular animals
quarrel at timesand it is on these occasions that they burst into
human speechcall each other namescryscoldand sometimes
tear off horns and skindeclaring fiercely that they "won't play."
The few privileged persons who have studied them are inclined to
think them a remarkable mixture of the monkeythe sphinxthe
rocand the queer creatures seen by the famous Peter Wilkins.

This game was a great favoriteand the younger children beguiled
many a rainy afternoon flapping or creeping about the nursery
acting like little bedlamites and being as merry as little grigs. To
be sureit was rather hard upon clothesparticularly trouser-knees
and jacket-elbows; but Mrs. Bhaer only saidas she patched and
darned

We do things just as foolish, and not half so harmless. If I could
get as much happiness out of it as the little dears do, I'd be a Brop
myself.

Nat's favorite amusements were working in his gardenand sitting
in the willow-tree with his violinfor that green nest was a fairy
world to himand there he loved to perchmaking music like a
happy bird. The lads called him "Old Chirper because he was
always humming, whistling, or fiddling, and they often stopped a
minute in their work or play to listen to the soft tones of the violin,
which seemed to lead a little orchestra of summer sounds. The
birds appeared to regard him as one of themselves, and fearlessly
sat on the fence or lit among the boughs to watch him with their
quick bright eyes. The robins in the apple-tree near by evidently
considered him a friend, for the father bird hunted insects close
beside him, and the little mother brooded as confidingly over her
blue eggs as if the boy was only a new sort of blackbird who
cheered her patient watch with his song. The brown brook babbled
and sparkled below him, the bees haunted the clover fields on
either side, friendly faces peeped at him as they passed, the old
house stretched its wide wings hospitably toward him, and with a
blessed sense of rest and love and happiness, Nat dreamed for
hours in this nook, unconscious what healthful miracles were
being wrought upon him.

One listener he had who never tired, and to whom he was more
than a mere schoolmate. Poor Billy's chief delight was to lie beside
the brook, watching leaves and bits of foam dance by, listening
dreamily to the music in the willow-tree. He seemed to think Nat a
sort of angel who sat aloft and sang, for a few baby memories still
lingered in his mind and seemed to grow brighter at these times.
Seeing the interest he took in Nat, Mr. Bhaer begged him to help
them lift the cloud from the feeble brain by this gentle spell. Glad
to do any thing to show his gratitude, Nat always smiled on Billy
when he followed him about, and let him listen undisturbed to the
music which seemed to speak a language he could understand.
Help one another was a favorite Plumfield motto, and Nat
learned how much sweetness is added to life by trying to live up to
it.

Jack Ford's peculiar pastime was buying and selling; and he bid
fair to follow in the footsteps of his uncle, a country merchant,
who sold a little of every thing and made money fast. Jack had
seen the sugar sanded, the molasses watered, the butter mixed with
lard, and things of that kind, and labored under the delusion that it


was all a proper part of the business. His stock in trade was of a
different sort, but he made as much as he could out of every worm
he sold, and always got the best of the bargain when he traded with
the boys for string, knives, fish-hooks, or whatever the article
might be. The boys who all had nicknames, called him Skinflint
but Jack did not care as long as the old tobacco-pouch in which he
kept his money grew heavier and heavier.

He established a sort of auction-room, and now and then sold off
all the odds and ends he had collected, or helped the lads exchange
things with one another. He got bats, balls, hockey-sticks, etc.,
cheap, from one set of mates, furbished them up, and let them for a
few cents a time to another set, often extending his business
beyond the gates of Plumfield in spite of the rules. Mr. Bhaer put a
stop to some of his speculations, and tried to give him a better idea
of business talent than mere sharpness in overreaching his
neighbors. Now and then Jack made a bad bargain, and felt worse
about it than about any failure in lessons or conduct, and took his
revenge on the next innocent customer who came along. His
account-book was a curiosity; and his quickness at figures quite
remarkable. Mr. Bhaer praised him for this, and tried to make his
sense of honesty and honor as quick; and, by and by, when Jack
found that he could not get on without these virtues, he owned that
his teacher was right.

Cricket and football the boys had of course; but, after the stirring
accounts of these games in the immortal Tom Brown at Rugby
no feeble female pen may venture to do more than respectfully
allude to them.

Emil spent his holidays on the river or the pond, and drilled the
elder lads for a race with certain town boys, who now and then
invaded their territory. The race duly came off, but as it ended in a
general shipwreck, it was not mentioned in public; and the
Commodore had serious thoughts of retiring to a desert island, so
disgusted was he with his kind for a time. No desert island being
convenient, he was forced to remain among his friends, and found
consolation in building a boat-house.

The little girls indulged in the usual plays of their age, improving
upon them somewhat as their lively fancies suggested. The chief
and most absorbing play was called Mrs. Shakespeare Smith;" the
name was provided by Aunt Jobut the trials of the poor lady were
quite original. Daisy was Mrs. S. S.and Nan by turns her daughter
or a neighborMrs. Giddygaddy.

No pen can describe the adventures of these ladiesfor in one short
afternoon their family was the scene of birthsmarriagesdeaths
floodsearthquakestea-partiesand balloon ascensions. Millions
of miles did these energetic women traveldressed in hats and
habits never seen before by mortal eyeperched on the beddriving
the posts like mettlesome steedsand bouncing up and down till
their heads spun. Fits and fires were the pet afflictionswith a
general massacre now and then by way of change. Nan was never
tired of inventing fresh combinationsand Daisy followed her
leader with blind admiration. Poor Teddy was a frequent victim
and was often rescued from real dangerfor the excited ladies were
apt to forget that he was not of the same stuff their longsuffering
dolls. Once he was shut into the closet for a dungeonand
forgotten by the girlswho ran off to some out-of-door game.
Another time he was half drowned in the bath-tubplaying be a
cunning little whale.Andworst of allhe was cut down just in
time after being hung up for a robber.


But the institution most patronized by all was the Club. It had no
other nameand it needed nonebeing the only one in the
neighborhood. The elder lads got it upand the younger were
occasionally admitted if they behaved well. Tommy and Demi
were honorary membersbut were always obliged to retire
unpleasantly earlyowing to circumstances over which they had no
control. The proceedings of this club were somewhat peculiarfor
it met at all sorts of places and hourshad all manner of queer
ceremonies and amusementsand now and then was broken up
tempestuouslyonly to be re-establishedhoweveron a firmer
basis.

Rainy evenings the members met in the schoolroomand passed
the time in games: chessmorrisbackgammonfencing matches
recitationsdebatesor dramatic performances of a darkly tragical
nature. In summer the barn was the rendezvousand what went on
there no uninitiated mortal knows. On sultry evenings the Club
adjourned to the brook for aquatic exercisesand the members sat
about in airy attirefrog-like and cool. On such occasions the
speeches were unusually eloquentquite flowingas one might say;
and if any orator's remarks displeased the audiencecold water was
thrown upon him till his ardor was effectually quenched. Franz
was presidentand maintained order admirablyconsidering the
unruly nature of the members. Mr. Bhaer never interfered with
their affairsand was rewarded for this wise forbearance by being
invited now and then to behold the mysteries unveiledwhich he
appeared to enjoy much.

When Nan came she wished to join the Cluband caused great
excitement and division among the gentlemen by presenting
endless petitionsboth written and spokendisturbing their
solemnities by insulting them through the key-holeperforming
vigorous solos on the doorand writing up derisive remarks on
walls and fencesfor she belonged to the "Irrepressibles." Finding
these appeals in vainthe girlsby the advice of Mrs. Jogot up an
institution of their ownwhich they called the Cosy Club. To this
they magnanimously invited the gentlemen whose youth excluded
them from the other oneand entertained these favored beings so
well with little suppersnew games devised by Nanand other
pleasing festivitiesthatone by onethe elder boys confessed a
desire to partake of these more elegant enjoymentsandafter
much consultationfinally decided to propose an interchange of
civilities.

The members of the Cosy Club were invited to adorn the rival
establishment on certain eveningsand to the surprise of the
gentlemen their presence was not found to be a restraint upon the
conversation or amusement of the regular frequenters; which could
not be said of all ClubsI fancy. The ladies responded handsomely
and hospitably to these overtures of peaceand both institutions
flourished long and happily.

CHAPTER IX DAISY'S BALL

Mrs. Shakespeare Smith would like to have Mr. John Brooke, Mr.
Thomas Bangs, and Mr. Nathaniel Blake to come to her ball at
three o'clock today.

P.S. Nat must bring his fiddleso we can danceand all the boys
must be goodor they cannot have any of the nice things we have
cooked."

This elegant invitation wouldI fearhave been declinedbut for
the hint given in the last line of the postscript.


They have been cooking lots of goodies, I smelt 'em. Let's go,
said Tommy.

We needn't stay after the feast, you know,added Demi.

I never went to a ball. What do you have to do?asked Nat.

Oh, we just play be men, and sit round stiff and stupid like
grown-up folks, and dance to please the girls. Then we eat up
everything, and come away as soon as we can.

I think I could do that,said Natafter considering Tommy's
description for a minute.

I'll write and say we'll come;and Demi despatched the following
gentlemanly reply

We will all come. Please have lots to eat. J. B. Esquire.

Great was the anxiety of the ladies about their first ballbecause if
every thing went well they intended to give a dinner-party to the
chosen few.

Aunt Jo likes to have the boys play with us, if they are not rough;
so we must make them like our balls, then they will do them
good,said Daisywith her maternal airas she set the table and
surveyed the store of refreshments with an anxious eye.

Demi and Nat will be good, but Tommy will do something bad, I
know he will,replied Nanshaking her head over the little
cake-basket which she was arranging.

Then I shall send him right home,said Daisywith decision.

People don't do so at parties, it isn't proper.

I shall never ask him any more.

That would do. He'd be sorry not to come to the dinner-ball,
wouldn't he?

I guess he would! we'll have the splendidest things ever seen,
won't we? Real soup with a ladle and a tureem [she meant tureen]
and a little bird for turkey, and gravy, and all kinds of nice
vegytubbles.Daisy never could say vegetables properlyand had
given up trying.

It is 'most three, and we ought to dress,said Nanwho had
arranged a fine costume for the occasionand was anxious to wear
it.

I am the mother, so I shan't dress up much,said Daisyputting on
a night-cap ornamented with a red bowone of her aunt's long
skirtsand a shawl; a pair of spectacles and large pocket
handkerchief completed her toilettemaking a plumprosy little
matron of her.

Nan had a wreath of artificial flowersa pair of old pink slippersa
yellow scarfa green muslin skirtand a fan made of feathers from
the duster; alsoas a last touch of elegancea smelling-bottle
without any smell in it.

I am the daughter, so I rig up a good deal, and I must sing and


dance, and talk more than you do. The mothers only get the tea and
be proper, you know.

A sudden very loud knock caused Miss Smith to fly into a chair
and fan herself violentlywhile her mamma sat bolt upright on the
sofaand tried to look quite calm and "proper." Little Besswho
was on a visitacted the part of maidand opened the doorsaying
with a smileWart in, gemplemun; it's all weady.

In honor of the occasionthe boys wore high paper collarstall
black hatsand gloves of every color and materialfor they were an
afterthoughtand not a boy among them had a perfect pair.

Good day, mum,said Demiin a deep voicewhich was so hard
to keep up that his remarks had to be extremely brief.

Every one shook hands and then sat downlooking so funnyyet so
soberthat the gentlemen forgot their mannersand rolled in their
chairs with laughter.

Oh, don't!cried Mrs. Smithmuch distressed.

You can't ever come again if you act so,added Miss Smith
rapping Mr. Bangs with her bottle because he laughed loudest.

I can't help it, you look so like fury,gasped Mr. Bangswith most
uncourteous candor.

So do you, but I shouldn't be so rude as to say so. He shan't come
to the dinner-ball, shall he, Daisy?cried Nanindignantly.

I think we had better dance now. Did you bring your fiddle, sir?
asked Mrs. Smithtrying to preserve her polite composure.

It is outside the door,and Nat went to get it.

Better have tea first,proposed the unabashed Tommywinking
openly at Demi to remind him that the sooner the refreshments
were securedthe sooner they could escape.

No, we never have supper first; and if you don't dance well you
won't have any supper at all, not one bit, sir,said Mrs. Smithso
sternly that her wild guests saw she was not to be trifled withand
grew overwhelmingly civil all at once.

I will take Mr. Bangs and teach him the polka, for he does not
know it fit to be seen,added the hostesswith a reproachful look
that sobered Tommy at once.

Nat struck upand the ball opened with two coupleswho went
conscientiously through a somewhat varied dance. The ladies did
wellbecause they liked itbut the gentlemen exerted themselves
from more selfish motivesfor each felt that he must earn his
supperand labored manfully toward that end. When every one
was out of breath they were allowed to rest; andindeedpoor Mrs.
Smith needed itfor her long dress had tripped her up many times.
The little maid passed round molasses and water in such small
cups that one guest actually emptied nine. I refrain from
mentioning his namebecause this mild beverage affected him so
much that he put cup and all into his mouth at the ninth roundand
choked himself publicly.

You must ask Nan to play and sing now,said Daisy to her
brotherwho sat looking very much like an owlas he gravely


regarded the festive scene between his high collars.

Give us a song, mum,said the obedient guestsecretly
wondering where the piano was.

Miss Smith sailed up to an old secretary which stood in the room
threw back the lid of the writing-deskand sitting down before it
accompanied herself with a vigor which made the old desk rattle
as she sang that new and lovely songbeginning

Gaily the troubadour

Touched his guitar,

As he was hastening

Home from the war.

The gentlemen applauded so enthusiastically that she gave them
Bounding Billows,Little Bo-Peep,and other gems of songtill
they were obliged to hint that they had had enough. Grateful for
the praises bestowed upon her daughterMrs. Smith graciously
announced

Now we will have tea. Sit down carefully, and don't grab.

It was beautiful to see the air of pride with which the good lady did
the honors of her tableand the calmness with which she bore the
little mishaps that occurred. The best pie flew wildly on the floor
when she tried to cut it with a very dull knife; the bread and butter
vanished with a rapidity calculated to dismay a housekeeper's soul;
andworst of allthe custards were so soft that they had to be
drunk upinstead of being eaten elegantly with the new tin spoons.

I grieve to state that Miss Smith squabbled with the maid for the
best jumblewhich caused Bess to toss the whole dish into the air
and burst out crying amid a rain of falling cakes. She was
comforted by a seat at the tableand the sugar-bowl to empty; but
during this flurry a large plate of patties was mysteriously lostand
could not be found. They were the chief ornament of the feastand
Mrs. Smith was indignant at the lossfor she had made them
herselfand they were beautiful to behold. I put it to any lady if it
was not hard to have one dozen delicious patties (made of flour
saltand waterwith a large raisin in the middle of eachand much
sugar over the whole) swept away at one fell swoop?

You hid them, Tommy; I know you did!cried the outraged
hostessthreatening her suspected guest with the milk-pot.

I didn't!

You did!

It isn't proper to contradict,said Nanwho was hastily eating up
the jelly during the fray.

Give them back, Demi,said Tommy.

That's a fib, you've got them in your own pocket,bawled Demi
roused by the false accusation.

Let's take 'em away from him. It's too bad to make Daisy cry,
suggested Natwho found his first ball more exciting than he
expected.


Daisy was already weepingBess like a devoted servant mingled
her tears with those of her mistressand Nan denounced the entire
race of boys as "plaguey things." Meanwhile the battle raged
among the gentlemenforwhen the two defenders of innocence
fell upon the foethat hardened youth intrenched himself behind a
table and pelted them with the stolen tartswhich were very
effective missilesbeing nearly as hard as bullets. While his
ammunition held out the besieged prosperedbut the moment the
last patty flew over the parapetthe villain was seizeddragged
howling from the roomand cast upon the hall floor in an
ignominious heap. The conquerors then returned flushed with
victoryand while Demi consoled poor Mrs. SmithNat and Nan
collected the scattered tartsreplaced each raisin in its proper bed
and rearranged the dish so that it really looked almost as well as
ever. But their glory had departedfor the sugar was goneand no
one cared to eat them after the insult offered to them.

I guess we had better go,said Demisuddenlyas Aunt Jo's voice
was heard on the stairs.

P'r'aps we had,and Nat hastily dropped a stray jumble that he
had just picked up.

But Mrs. Jo was among them before the retreat was accomplished
and into her sympathetic ear the young ladies poured the story of
their woes.

No more balls for these boys till they have atoned for this bad
behavior by doing something kind to you,said Mrs. Joshaking
her head at the three culprits.

We were only in fun,began Demi.

I don't like fun that makes other people unhappy. I am
disappointed in you, Demi, for I hoped you would never learn to
tease Daisy. Such a kind little sister as she is to you.

Boys always tease their sisters; Tom says so,muttered Demi.

I don't intend that my boys shall, and I must send Daisy home if
you cannot play happily together,said Aunt Josoberly.

At this awful threatDemi sidled up to his sisterand Daisy hastily
dried her tearsfor to be separated was the worst misfortune that
could happen to the twins.

Nat was bad, too, and Tommy was baddest of all,observed Nan
fearing that two of the sinners would not get their fair share of
punishment.

I am sorry,said Natmuch ashamed.

I ain't!bawled Tommy through the keyholewhere he was
listening with all his might.

Mrs. Jo wanted very much to laughbut kept her countenanceand
said impressivelyas she pointed to the door

You can go, boys, but remember, you are not to speak to or play
with the little girls till I give you leave. You don't deserve the
pleasure, so I forbid it.

The ill-mannered young gentlemen hastily retiredto be received


outside with derision and scorn by the unrepentant Bangswho
would not associate with them for at least fifteen minutes. Daisy
was soon consoled for the failure of her ballbut lamented the
edict that parted her from her brotherand mourned over his
short-comings in her tender little heart. Nan rather enjoyed the
troubleand went about turning up her pug nose at the three
especially Tommywho pretended not to careand loudly
proclaimed his satisfaction at being rid of those "stupid girls." But
in his secret soul he soon repented of the rash act that caused this
banishment from the society he lovedand every hour of
separation taught him the value of the "stupid girls."

The others gave in very soonand longed to be friendsfor now
there was no Daisy to pet and cook for them; no Nan to amuse and
doctor them; andworst of allno Mrs. Jo to make home life
pleasant and life easy for them. To their great afflictionMrs. Jo
seemed to consider herself one of the offended girlsfor she hardly
spoke to the outcastslooked as if she did not see them when she
passedand was always too busy now to attend to their requests.
This sudden and entire exile from favor cast a gloom over their
soulsfor when Mother Bhaer deserted themtheir sun had set at
noon-dayas it wereand they had no refuge left.

This unnatural state of things actually lasted for three daysthen
they could bear it no longerand fearing that the eclipse might
become totalwent to Mr. Bhaer for help and counsel.

It is my private opinion that he had received instructions how to
behave if the case should be laid before him. But no one suspected
itand he gave the afflicted boys some advicewhich they
gratefully accepted and carried out in the following manner:

Secluding themselves in the garretthey devoted several
play-hours to the manufacture of some mysterious machinewhich
took so much paste that Asia grumbledand the little girls
wondered mightily. Nan nearly got her inquisitive nose pinched in
the doortrying to see what was going onand Daisy sat about
openly lamenting that they could not all play nicely togetherand
not have any dreadful secrets. Wednesday afternoon was fineand
after a good deal of consultation about wind and weatherNat and
Tommy went offbearing an immense flat parcel hidden under
many newspapers. Nan nearly died with suppressed curiosity
Daisy nearly cried with vexationand both quite trembled with
interest when Demi marched into Mrs. Bhaer's roomhat in hand
and saidin the politest tone possible to a mortal boy of his years

Please, Aunt Jo, would you and the girls come out to a surprise
party we have made for you? Do it's a very nice one.

Thank you, we will come with pleasure; only, I must take Teddy
with me,replied Mrs. Bhaerwith a smile that cheered Demi like
sunshine after rain.

We'd like to have him. The little wagon is all ready for the girls;
you won't mind walking just up to Pennyroyal Hill, will you
Aunty?

I should like it exceedingly; but are you quite sure I shall not be in
the way?

Oh, no, indeed! we want you very much; and the party will be
spoilt if you don't come,cried Demiwith great earnestness.

Thank you kindly, sir;and Aunt Jo made him a grand curtseyfor


she liked frolics as well as any of them.

Now, young ladies, we must not keep them waiting; on with the
hats, and let us be off at once. I'm all impatience to know what the
surprise is.

As Mrs. Bhaer spoke every one bustled aboutand in five minutes
the three little girls and Teddy were packed into the
clothes-basket,as they called the wicker wagon which Toby
drew. Demi walked at the head of the processionand Mrs. Jo
brought up the rearescorted by Kit. It was a most imposing party
I assure youfor Toby had a red feather-duster in his headtwo
remarkable flags waved over the carriageKit had a blue bow on
his neckwhich nearly drove him wildDemi wore a nosegay of
dandelions in his buttonholeand Mrs. Jo carried the queer
Japanese umbrella in honor of the occasion.

The girls had little flutters of excitement all the way; and Teddy
was so charmed with the drive that he kept dropping his hat
overboardand when it was taken from him he prepared to tumble
out himselfevidently feeling that it behooved him to do
something for the amusement of the party.

When they came to the hill "nothing was to be seen but the grass
blowing in the wind as the fairy books say, and the children
looked disappointed. But Demi said, in his most impressive
manner,

Nowyou all get out and stand stilland the surprise party with
come in;" with which remark he retired behind a rockover which
heads had been bobbing at intervals for the last half-hour.

A short pause of intense suspenseand then NatDemiand
Tommy marched fortheach bearing a new kitewhich they
presented to the three young ladies. Shrieks of delight arosebut
were silenced by the boyswho saidwith faces brimful of
merrimentThat isn't all the surprise;andrunning behind the
rockagain emerged bearing a fourth kite of superb sizeon which
was printedin bright yellow lettersFor Mother Bhaer.

We thought you'd like one, too, because you were angry with us,
and took the girls' part,cried all threeshaking with laughterfor
this part of the affair evidently was a surprise to Mrs. Jo.

She clapped her handsand joined in the laughlooking thoroughly
tickled at the joke.

Now, boys, that is regularly splendid! Who did think of it?she
askedreceiving the monster kite with as much pleasure as the
little girls did theirs.

Uncle Fritz proposed it when we planned to make the others; he
said you'd like it, so we made a bouncer,answered Demi
beaming with satisfaction at the success of the plot.

Uncle Fritz knows what I like. Yes, these are magnificent kites,
and we were wishing we had some the other day when you were
flying yours, weren't we, girls?

That's why we made them for you,cried Tommystanding on his
head as the most appropriate way of expressing his emotions.

Let us fly them,said energetic Nan.


I don't know how,began Daisy.

We'll show you, we want to!cried all the boys in a burst of
devotionas Demi took Daisy'sTommy Nan'sand Natwith
difficultypersuaded Bess to let go her little blue one.

Aunty, if you will wait a minute, we'll pitch yours for you,said
Demifeeling that Mrs. Bhaer's favor must not be lost again by any
neglect of theirs.

Bless your buttons, dear, I know all about it; and here is a boy
who will toss up for me,added Mrs. Joas the professor peeped
over the rock with a face full of fun.

He came out at oncetossed up the big kiteand Mrs. Jo ran off
with it in fine stylewhile the children stood and enjoyed the
spectacle. One by one all the kites went upand floated far
overhead like gay birdsbalancing themselves on the fresh breeze
that blew steadily over the hill. Such a merry time as they had!
running and shoutingsending up the kites or pulling them down
watching their antics in the airand feeling them tug at the string
like live creatures trying to escape. Nan was quite wild with the
funDaisy thought the new play nearly as interesting as dollsand
little Bess was so fond of her "boo tite that she would only let it
go on very short flights, preferring to hold it in her lap and look at
the remarkable pictures painted on it by Tommy's dashing brush.
Mrs. Jo enjoyed hers immensely, and it acted as if it knew who
owned it, for it came tumbling down head first when least
expected, caught on trees, nearly pitched into the river, and finally
darted away to such a height that it looked a mere speck among the
clouds.

By and by every one got tired, and fastening the kite-strings to
trees and fences, all sat down to rest, except Mr. Bhaer, who went
off to look at the cows, with Teddy on his shoulder.

Did you ever have such a good time as this before?" asked Natas
they lay about on the grassnibbling pennyroyal like a flock of
sheep.

Not since I last flew a kite, years ago, when I was a girl,
answered Mrs. Jo.

I'd like to have known you when you were a girl, you must have
been so jolly,said Nat.

I was a naughty little girl, I am sorry to say.

I like naughty little girls,observed Tommylooking at Nanwho
made a frightful grimace at him in return for the compliment.

Why don't I remember you then, Aunty? Was I too young?asked
Demi.

Rather, dear.

I suppose my memory hadn't come then. Grandpa says that
different parts of the mind unfold as we grow up, and the memory
part of my mind hadn't unfolded when you were little, so I can't
remember how you looked,explained Demi.

Now, little Socrates, you had better keep that question for
grandpa, it is beyond me,said Aunt Joputting on the
extinguisher.


Well, I will, he knows about those things, and you don't,returned
Demifeeling that on the whole kites were better adapted to the
comprehension of the present company.

Tell about the last time you flew a kite,said Natfor Mrs. Jo had
laughed as she spoke of itand he thought it might be interesting.

Oh, it was only rather funny, for I was a great girl of fifteen, and
was ashamed to be seen at such a play. So Uncle Teddy and I
privately made our kites, and stole away to fly them. We had a
capital time, and were resting as we are now, when suddenly we
heard voices, and saw a party of young ladies and gentlemen
coming back from a picnic. Teddy did not mind, though he was
rather a large boy to be playing with a kite, but I was in a great
flurry, for I knew I should be sadly laughed at, and never hear the
last of it, because my wild ways amused the neighbors as much as
Nan's do us.

'What shall I do?' I whispered to Teddyas the voices drew nearer
and nearer.

'I'll show you,' he said, and whipping out his knife he cut the
strings. Away flew the kites, and when the people came up we
were picking flowers as properly as you please. They never
suspected us, and we had a grand laugh over our narrow escape.

Were the kites lost, Aunty?asked Daisy.

Quite lost, but I did not care, for I made up my mind that it would
be best to wait till I was an old lady before I played with kites
again; and you see I have waited,said Mrs. Jobeginning to pull
in the big kitefor it was getting late.

Must we go now?

I must, or you won't have any supper; and that sort of surprise
party would not suit you, I think, my chickens.

Hasn't our party been a nice one?asked Tommycomplacently.

Splendid!answered every one.

Do you know why? It is because your guests have behaved
themselves, and tried to make everything go well. You understand
what I mean, don't you?

Yes'm,was all the boys saidbut they stole a shamefaced look at
one anotheras they meekly shouldered their kites and walked
homethinking of another party where the guests had not behaved
themselvesand things had gone badly on account of it.

CHAPTER X HOME AGAIN

July had comeand haying begun; the little gardens were doing
finely and the long summer days were full of pleasant hours. The
house stood open from morning till nightand the lads lived out of
doorsexcept at school time. The lessons were shortand there
were many holidaysfor the Bhaers believed in cultivating healthy
bodies by much exerciseand our short summers are best used in
out-of-door work. Such a rosysunburnthearty set as the boys
became; such appetites as they had; such sturdy arms and legsas
outgrew jackets and trousers; such laughing and racing all over the
place; such antics in house and barn; such adventures in the tramps


over hill and dale; and such satisfaction in the hearts of the worthy
Bhaersas they saw their flock prospering in mind and bodyI
cannot begin to describe. Only one thing was needed to make them
quite happyand it came when they least expected it.

One balmy night when the little lads were in bedthe elder ones
bathing down at the brookand Mrs. Bhaer undressing Teddy in
her parlorhe suddenly cried outOh, my Danny!and pointed to
the windowwhere the moon shone brightly.

No, lovey, he is not there, it was the pretty moon,said his
mother.

No, no, Danny at a window; Teddy saw him,persisted baby
much excited.

It might have been,and Mrs. Bhaer hurried to the window
hoping it would prove true. But the face was goneand nowhere
appeared any signs of a mortal boy; she called his nameran to the
front door with Teddy in his little shirtand made him call too
thinking the baby voice might have more effect than her own. No
one answerednothing appearedand they went back much
disappointed. Teddy would not be satisfied with the moonand
after he was in his crib kept popping up his head to ask if Danny
was not "tummin' soon."

By and by he fell asleepthe lads trooped up to bedthe house
grew stilland nothing but the chirp of the crickets broke the soft
silence of the summer night. Mrs. Bhaer sat sewingfor the big
basket was always piled with socksfull of portentous holesand
thinking of the lost boy. She had decided that baby had been
mistakenand did not even disturb Mr. Bhaer by telling him of the
child's fancyfor the poor man got little time to himself till the
boys were abedand he was busy writing letters. It was past ten
when she rose to shut up the house. As she paused a minute to
enjoy the lovely scene from the stepssomething white caught her
eye on one of the hay-cocks scattered over the lawn. The children
had been playing there all the afternoonandfancying that Nan
had left her hat as usualMrs. Bhaer went out to get it. But as she
approachedshe saw that it was neither hat nor handkerchiefbut a
shirt sleeve with a brown hand sticking out of it. She hurried round
the hay-cockand there lay Danfast asleep.

Raggeddirtythinand worn-out he looked; one foot was barethe
other tied up in the old gingham jacket which he had taken from
his own back to use as a clumsy bandage for some hurt. He seemed
to have hidden himself behind the hay-cockbut in his sleep had
thrown out the arm that had betrayed him. He sighed and muttered
as if his dreams disturbed himand once when he movedhe
groaned as if in painbut still slept on quite spent with weariness.

He must not lie here,said Mrs. Bhaerand stooping over him she
gently called his name. He opened his eyes and looked at heras if
she was a part of his dreamfor he smiled and said drowsily
Mother Bhaer, I've come home.

The lookthe wordstouched her very muchand she put her hand
under his head to lift him upsaying in her cordial way

I thought you would, and I'm so glad to see you, Dan.He seemed
to wake thoroughly thenand started up looking about him as if he
suddenly remembered where he wasand doubted even that kind
welcome. His face changedand he said in his old rough way


I was going off in the morning. I only stopped to peek in, as I
went by.

But why not come in, Dan? Didn't you hear us call you? Teddy
saw, and cried for you.

Didn't suppose you'd let me in,he saidfumbling with a little
bundle which he had taken up as if going immediately.

Try and see,was all Mrs. Bhaer answeredholding out her hand
and pointing to the doorwhere the light shone hospitably.

With a long breathas if a load was off his mindDan took up a
stout stickand began to limp towards the housebut stopped
suddenlyto say inquiringly

Mr. Bhaer won't like it. I ran away from Page.

He knows it, and was sorry, but it will make no difference. Are
you lame?asked Mrs. Joas he limped on again.

Getting over a wall a stone fell on my foot and smashed it. I don't
mind,and he did his best to hide the pain each step cost him.

Mrs. Bhaer helped him into her own roomandonce therehe
dropped into a chairand laid his head backwhite and faint with
weariness and suffering.

My poor Dan! drink this, and then eat a little; you are at home
now, and Mother Bhaer will take good care of you.

He only looked up at her with eyes full of gratitudeas he drank
the wine she held to his lipsand then began slowly to eat the food
she brought him. Each mouthful seemed to put heart into himand
presently he began to talk as if anxious to have her know all about
him.

Where have you been, Dan?she askedbeginning to get out
some bandages.

I ran off more'n a month ago. Page was good enough, but too
strict. I didn't like it, so I cut away down the river with a man who
was going in his boat. That's why they couldn't tell where I'd gone.
When I left the man, I worked for a couple of weeks with a farmer,
but I thrashed his boy, and then the old man thrashed me, and I ran
off again and walked here.

All the way?

Yes, the man didn't pay me, and I wouldn't ask for it. Took it out
in beating the boy,and Dan laughedyet looked ashamedas he
glanced at his ragged clothes and dirty hands.

How did you live? It was a long, long tramp for a boy like you.

Oh, I got on well enough, till I hurt my foot. Folks gave me things
to eat, and I slept in barns and tramped by day. I got lost trying to
make a short cut, or I'd have been here sooner.

But if you did not mean to come in and stay with us, what were
you going to do?

I thought I'd like to see Teddy again, and you; and then I was
going back to my old work in the city, only I was so tired I went to


sleep on the hay. I'd have been gone in the morning, if you hadn't
found me.


Are you sorry I did?and Mrs. Jo looked at him with a half merry
half reproachful lookas she knelt down to look at his wounded
foot.


The color came up into Dan's faceand he kept his eyes fixed on
his plateas he said very lowNo, ma'am, I'm glad, I wanted to
stay, but I was afraid you


He did not finishfor Mrs. Bhaer interrupted him by an
exclamation of pityas she saw his footfor it was seriously hurt.


When did you do it?


Three days ago.


And you have walked on it in this state?


I had a stick, and I washed it at every brook I came to, and one
woman gave me a rag to put on it.


Mr. Bhaer must see and dress it at once,and Mrs. Jo hastened
into the next roomleaving the door ajar behind herso that Dan
heard all that passed.


Fritz, the boy has come back.


Who? Dan?


Yes, Teddy saw him at the window, and he called to him, but he
went away and hid behind the hay-cocks on the lawn. I found him
there just now fast asleep, and half dead with weariness and pain.
He ran away from Page a month ago, and has been making his way
to us ever since. He pretends that he did not mean to let us see
him, but go on to the city, and his old work, after a look at us. It is
evident, however, that the hope of being taken in has led him here
through every thing, and there he is waiting to know if you will
forgive and take him back.


Did he say so?


His eyes did, and when I waked him, he said, like a lost child,
'Mother Bhaer, I've come home.' I hadn't the heart to scold him,
and just took him in like a poor little black sheep come back to the
fold. I may keep him, Fritz?


Of course you may! This proves to me that we have a hold on the
boy's heart, and I would no more send him away now than I would
my own Rob.


Dan heard a soft little soundas if Mrs. Jo thanked her husband
without wordsandin the instant's silence that followedtwo great
tears that had slowly gathered in the boy's eyes brimmed over and
rolled down his dusty cheeks. No one saw themfor he brushed
them hastily away; but in that little pause I think Dan's old distrust
for these good people vanished for everthe soft spot in his heart
was touchedand he felt an impetuous desire to prove himself
worthy of the love and pity that was so patient and forgiving. He
said nothinghe only wished the wish with all his mightresolved
to try in his blind boyish wayand sealed his resolution with the
tears which neither painfatiguenor loneliness could wring from
him.



Come and see his foot. I am afraid it is badly hurt, for he has kept
on three days through heat and dust, with nothing but water and an
old jacket to bind it up with. I tell you, Fritz, that boy is a brave
lad, and will make a fine man yet.

I hope so, for your sake, enthusiastic woman, your faith deserves
success. Now, I will go and see your little Spartan. Where is he?

In my room; but, dear, you'll be very kind to him, no matter how
gruff he seems. I am sure that is the way to conquer him. He won't
bear sternness nor much restraint, but a soft word and infinite
patience will lead him as it used to lead me.

As if you ever like this little rascal!cried Mr. Bhaerlaughing
yet half angry at the idea.

I was in spirit, though I showed it in a different way. I seem to
know by instinct how he feels, to understand what will win and
touch him, and to sympathize with his temptations and faults. I am
glad I do, for it will help me to help him; and if I can make a good
man of this wild boy, it will be the best work of my life.

God bless the work, and help the worker!

Mr. Bhaer spoke now as earnestly as she had doneand both came
in together to find Dan's head down upon his armas if he was
quite overcome by sleep. But he looked up quicklyand tried to
rise as Mr. Bhaer said pleasantly

So you like Plumfield better than Page's farm. Well, let us see if
we can get on more comfortably this time than we did before.

Thanky, sir,said Dantrying not to be gruffand finding it easier
than he expected.

Now, the foot! Ach! this is not well. We must have Dr. Firth
to-morrow. Warm water, Jo, and old linen.

Mr. Bhaer bathed and bound up the wounded footwhile Mrs. Jo
prepared the only empty bed in the house. It was in the little
guest-chamber leading from the parlorand often used when the
lads were poorlyfor it saved Mrs. Jo from running up and down
and the invalids could see what was going on. When it was ready
Mr. Bhaer took the boy in his armsand carried him inhelped him
undresslaid him on the little white bedand left him with another
hand-shakeand a fatherly "Good-nightmy son."

Dan dropped asleep at onceand slept heavily for several hours;
then his foot began to throb and acheand he awoke to toss about
uneasilytrying not to groan lest any one should hear himfor he
was a brave ladand did bear pain like "a little Spartan as Mr.
Bhaer called him.

Mrs. Jo had a way of flitting about the house at night, to shut the
windows if the wind grew chilly, to draw mosquito curtains over
Teddy, or look after Tommy, who occasionally walked in his
sleep. The least noise waked her, and as she often heard imaginary
robbers, cats, and conflagrations, the doors stood open all about, so
her quick ear caught the sound of Dan's little moans, and she was
up in a minute. He was just giving his hot pillow a despairing
thump when a light came glimmering through the hall, and Mrs. Jo
crept in, looking like a droll ghost, with her hair in a great knob on
the top of her head, and a long gray dressing-gown trailing behind


her.

Are you in painDan?"

It's pretty bad; but I didn't mean to wake you.

I'm a sort of owl, always flying about at night. Yes, your foot is
like fire; the bandages must be wet again,and away flapped the
maternal owl for more cooling stuffand a great mug of ice water.

Oh, that's so nice!sighed Danthe wet bandages went on again
and a long draught of water cooled his thirsty throat.

There, now, sleep your best, and don't be frightened if you see me
again, for I'll slip down by and by, and give you another sprinkle.

As she spokeMrs. Jo stooped to turn the pillow and smooth the
bed-clotheswhento her great surpriseDan put his arm around
her neckdrew her face down to hisand kissed herwith a broken
Thank you, ma'am,which said more than the most eloquent
speech could have done; for the hasty kissthe muttered words
meantI'm sorry, I will try.She understood itaccepted the
unspoken confessionand did not spoil it by any token of surprise.
She only remembered that he had no motherkissed the brown
cheek half hidden on the pillowas if ashamed of the little touch of
tendernessand left himsayingwhat he long rememberedYou
are my boy now, and if you choose you can make me proud and
glad to say so.

Once againjust at dawnshe stole down to find him so fast asleep
that he did not wakeand showed no sign of consciousness as she
wet his footexcept that the lines of pain smoothed themselves
awayand left his face quite peaceful.

The day was Sundayand the house so still that he never waked till
near noonandlooking round himsaw an eager little face peering
in at the door. He held out his armsand Teddy tore across the
room to cast himself bodily upon the bedshoutingMy Danny's
tum!as he hugged and wriggled with delight. Mrs. Bhaer
appeared nextbringing breakfastand never seeming to see how
shamefaced Dan looked at the memory of the little scene last
night. Teddy insisted on giving him his "betfus and fed him like a
baby, which, as he was not very hungry, Dan enjoyed very much.

Then came the doctor, and the poor Spartan had a bad time of it,
for some of the little bones in his foot were injured, and putting
them to rights was such a painful job, that Dan's lips were white,
and great drops stood on his forehead, though he never cried out,
and only held Mrs. Jo's hand so tight that it was red long
afterwards.

You must keep this boy quietfor a week at leastand not let him
put his foot to the ground. By that timeI shall know whether he
may hop a little with a crutchor stick to his bed for a while
longer said Dr. Firth, putting up the shining instruments that Dan
did not like to see.

It will get well sometimewon't it?" he askedlooking alarmed at
the word "crutches."

I hope so;and with that the doctor departedleaving Dan much
depressed; for the loss of a foot is a dreadful calamity to an active
boy.


Don't be troubled, I am a famous nurse, and we will have you
tramping about as well as ever in a month,said Mrs. Jotaking a
hopeful view of the case.


But the fear of being lame haunted Danand even Teddy's caresses
did not cheer him; so Mrs. Jo proposed that one or two of the boys
should come in and pay him a little visitand asked whom he
would like to see.


Nat and Demi; I'd like my hat too, there's something in it I guess
they'd like to see. I suppose you threw away my bundle of
plunder?said Danlooking rather anxious as he put the question.


No, I kept it, for I thought they must be treasures of some kind,
you took such care of them;and Mrs. Jo brought him his old
straw hat stuck full of butterflies and beetlesand a handkerchief
containing a collection of odd things picked up on his way: birds'
eggscarefully done up in mosscurious shells and stonesbits of
fungusand several little crabsin a state of great indignation at
their imprisonment.


Could I have something to put these fellers in? Mr. Hyde and I
found 'em, and they are first-rate ones, so I'd like to keep and
watch 'em; can I?asked Danforgetting his footand laughing to
see the crabs go sidling and backing over the bed.


Of course you can; Polly's old cage will be just the thing. Don't let
them nip Teddy's toes while I get it;and away went Mrs. Jo
leaving Dan overjoyed to find that his treasures were not
considered rubbishand thrown away.


NatDemiand the cage arrived togetherand the crabs were
settled in their new houseto the great delight of the boyswhoin
the excitement of the performanceforgot any awkwardness they
might otherwise have felt in greeting the runaway. To these
admiring listeners Dan related his adventures much more fully
than he had done to the Bhaers. Then he displayed his "plunder
and described each article so well, that Mrs. Jo, who had retired to
the next room to leave them free, was surprised and interested, as
well as amused, at their boyish chatter.


How much the lad knows of these things! how absorbed he is in
them! and what a mercy it is just nowfor he cares so little for
booksit would be hard to amuse him while he is laid up; but the
boys can supply him with beetles and stones to any extentand I
am glad to find out this taste of his; it is a good oneand may
perhaps prove the making of him. If he should turn out a great
naturalistand Nat a musicianI should have cause to be proud of
this year's work;" and Mrs. Jo sat smiling over her book as she
built castles in the airjust as she used to do when a girlonly then
they were for herselfand now they were for other peoplewhich is
the reason perhaps that some of them came to pass in reality for
charity is an excellent foundation to build anything upon.


Nat was most interested in the adventuresbut Demi enjoyed the
beetles and butterflies immenselydrinking in the history of their
changeful little lives as if it were a new and lovely sort of fairy tale
foreven in his plain wayDan told it welland found great
satisfaction in the thought that here at least the small philosopher
could learn of him. So interested were they in the account of
catching a musk ratwhose skin was among the treasuresthat Mr.
Bhaer had to come himself to tell Nat and Demi it was time for the
walk. Dan looked so wistfully after them as they ran off that Father
Bhaer proposed carrying him to the sofa in the parlor for a little



change of air and scene.

When he was establishedand the house quietMrs. Jowho sat
near by showing Teddy picturessaidin an interested toneas she
nodded towards the treasures still in Dan's hands

Where did you learn so much about these things?

I always liked 'em, but didn't know much till Mr. Hyde told me.

Oh, he was a man who lived round in the woods studying these
things I don't know what you call him and wrote about frogs, and
fishes, and so on. He stayed at Page's, and used to want me to go
and help him, and it was great fun, 'cause he told me ever so much,
and was uncommon jolly and wise. Hope I'll see him again
sometime.

I hope you will,said Mrs. Jofor Dan's face had brightened up
and he was so interested in the matter that he forgot his usual
taciturnity.

Why, he could make birds come to him, and rabbits and squirrels
didn't mind him any more than if he was a tree. Did you ever tickle
a lizard with a straw?asked Daneagerly.

No, but I should like to try it.

Well, I've done it, and it's so funny to see 'em turn over and stretch
out, they like it so much. Mr. Hyde used to do it; and he'd make
snakes listen to him while he whistled, and he knew just when
certain flowers would blow, and bees wouldn't sting him, and he'd
tell the wonderfullest things about fish and flies, and the Indians
and the rocks.

I think you were so fond of going with Mr. Hyde, you rather
neglected Mr. Page,said Mrs. Joslyly.

Yes, I did; I hated to have to weed and hoe when I might be
tramping round with Mr. Hyde. Page thought such things silly, and
called Mr. Hyde crazy because he'd lay hours watching a trout or a
bird.

Suppose you say lie instead of lay, it is better grammar,said Mrs.
Jovery gently; and then addedYes, Page is a thorough farmer,
and would not understand that a naturalist's work was just as
interesting, and perhaps just as important as his own. Now, Dan, if
you really love these things, as I think you do, and I am glad to see
it, you shall have time to study them and books to help you; but I
want you to do something besides, and to do it faithfully, else you
will be sorry by and by, and find that you have got to begin again.

Yes, ma'am,said Danmeeklyand looked a little scared by the
serious tone of the last remarksfor he hated booksyet had
evidently made up his mind to study anything she proposed.

Do you see that cabinet with twelve drawers in it?was the next
very unexpected question.

Dan did see two tall old-fashioned ones standing on either side of
the piano; he knew them welland had often seen nice bits of
stringnailsbrown paperand such useful matters come out of the
various drawers. He nodded and smiled. Mrs. Jo went on

Well, don't you think those drawers would be good places to put


your eggs, and stones, and shells, and lichens?

Oh, splendid, but you wouldn't like my things 'clutterin' round,' as
Mr. Page used to say, would you?cried Dansitting up to survey
the old piece of furniture with sparkling eyes.

I like litter of that sort; and if I didn't, I should give you the
drawers, because I have a regard for children's little treasures, and
I think they should be treated respectfully. Now, I am going to
make a bargain with you, Dan, and I hope you will keep it
honorably. Here are twelve good-sized drawers, one for each
month of the year, and they shall be yours as fast as you earn them,
by doing the little duties that belong to you. I believe in rewards of
a certain kind, especially for young folks; they help us along, and
though we may begin by being good for the sake of the reward, if
it is rightly used, we shall soon learn to love goodness for itself.

Do you have 'em?asked Danlooking as if this was new talk for
him.

Yes, indeed! I haven't learnt to get on without them yet. My
rewards are not drawers, or presents, or holidays, but they are
things which I like as much as you do the others. The good
behavior and success of my boys is one of the rewards I love best,
and I work for it as I want you to work for your cabinet. Do what
you dislike, and do it well, and you get two rewards, one, the prize
you see and hold; the other, the satisfaction of a duty cheerfully
performed. Do you understand that?

Yes, ma'am.

We all need these little helps; so you shall try to do your lessons
and your work, play kindly with all the boys, and use your holidays
well; and if you bring me a good report, or if I see and know it
without words for I'm quick to spy out the good little efforts of my
boys you shall have a compartment in the drawer for your
treasures. See, some are already divided into four parts, and I will
have the others made in the same way, a place for each week; and
when the drawer is filled with curious and pretty things, I shall be
as proud of it as you are; prouder, I think for in the pebbles,
mosses, and gay butterflies, I shall see good resolutions carried
out, conquered faults, and a promise well kept. Shall we do this,
Dan?

The boys answered with one of the looks which said muchfor it
showed that he felt and understood her wish and wordsalthough
he did not know how to express his interest and gratitude for such
care and kindness. She understood the lookand seeing by the
color that flushed up to his forehead that he was touchedas she
wished him to beshe said no more about that side of the new
planbut pulled out the upper drawerdusted itand set it on two
chairs before the sofasaying briskly

Now, let us begin at once by putting those nice beetles in a safe
place. These compartments will hold a good deal, you see. I'd pin
the butterflies and bugs round the sides; they will be quite safe
there, and leave room for the heavy things below. I'll give you
some cotton wool, and clean paper and pins, and you can get ready
for the week's work.

But I can't go out to find any new things,said Danlooking
piteously at his foot.

That's true; never mind, we'll let these treasures do for this week,


and I dare say the boys will bring you loads of things if you ask
them.

They don't know the right sort; besides, if I lay, no, lie here all the
time, I can't work and study, and earn my drawers.

There are plenty of lessons you can learn lying there, and several
little jobs of work you can do for me.

Can I?and Dan looked both surprised and pleased.

You can learn to be patient and cheerful in spite of pain and no
play. You can amuse Teddy for me, wind cotton, read to me when
I sew, and do many things without hurting your foot, which will
make the days pass quickly, and not be wasted ones.

Here Demi ran in with a great butterfly in one handand a very
ugly little toad in the other.

See, Dan, I found them, and ran back to give them to you; aren't
they beautiful ones?panted Demiall out of breath.

Dan laughed at the toadand said he had no place to put himbut
the butterfly was a beautyand if Mrs. Jo would give him a big pin
he would stick it right up in the drawer.

I don't like to see the poor thing struggle on a pin; if it must be
killed, let us put it out of pain at once with a drop of camphor,
said Mrs. Jogetting out the bottle.

I know how to do it Mr. Hyde always killed 'em that way but I
didn't have any camphor, so I use a pin,and Dan gently poured a
drop on the insect's headwhen the pale green wings fluttered an
instantand then grew still.

This dainty little execution was hardly over when Teddy shouted
from the bedroomOh, the little trabs are out, and the big one's
eaten 'em all up.Demi and his aunt ran to the rescueand found
Teddy dancing excitedly in a chairwhile two little crabs were
scuttling about the floorhaving got through the wires of the cage.
A third was clinging to the top of the cageevidently in terror of
his lifefor below appeared a sad yet funny sight. The big crab had
wedged himself into the little recess where Polly's cup used to
standand there he sat eating one of his relations in the coolest
way. All the claws of the poor victim were pulled offand he was
turned upside downhis upper shell held in one claw close under
the mouth of the big crab like a dishwhile he leisurely ate out of
it with the other clawpausing now and then to turn his queer
bulging eyes from side to sideand to put out a slender tongue and
lick them in a way that made the children scream with laughter.
Mrs. Jo carried the cage in for Dan to see the sightwhile Demi
caught and confined the wanderers under an inverted wash-bowl.

I'll have to let these fellers go, for I can't keep 'em in the house,
said Danwith evident regret.

I'll take care of them for you, if you will tell me how, and they can
live in my turtle-tank just as well as not,said Demiwho found
them more interesting even that his beloved slow turtles. So Dan
gave him directions about the wants and habits of the crabsand
Demi bore them away to introduce them to their new home and
neighbors. "What a good boy he is!" said Dancarefully settling the
first butterflyand remembering that Demi had given up his walk
to bring it to him.


He ought to be, for a great deal has been done to make him so.

He's had folks to tell him things, and to help him; I haven't,said
Danwith a sighthinking of his neglected childhooda thing he
seldom didand feeling as if he had not had fair play somehow.

I know it, dear, and for that reason I don't expect as much from
you as from Demi, though he is younger; you shall have all the
help that we can give you now, and I hope to teach you how to
help yourself in the best way. Have you forgotten what Father
Bhaer told you when you were here before, about wanting to be
good, and asking God to help you?

No, ma'am,very low.

Do you try that way still?

No, ma'am,lower still.

Will you do it every night to please me?

Yes, ma'am,very soberly.

I shall depend on it, and I think I shall know if you are faithful to
your promise, for these things always show to people who believe
in them, though not a word is said. Now here is a pleasant story
about a boy who hurt his foot worse than you did yours; read it,
and see how bravely he bore his troubles.

She put that charming little bookThe Crofton Boys,into his
handsand left him for an hourpassing in and out from time to
time that he might not feel lonely. Dan did not love to readbut
soon got so interested that he was surprised when the boys came
home. Daisy brought him a nosegay of wild flowersand Nan
insisted on helping bring him his supperas he lay on the sofa with
the door open into the dining-roomso that he could see the lads at
tableand they could nod socially to him over their bread and
butter.

Mr. Bhaer carried him away to his bed earlyand Teddy came in
his night-gown to say good-nightfor he went to his little nest with
the birds.

I want to say my prayers to Danny; may I?he asked; and when
his mother saidYes,the little fellow knelt down by Dan's bed
and folding his chubby handssaid softly

Pease Dod bess everybody, and hep me to be dood.

Then he went away smiling with sleepy sweetness over his
mother's shoulder.

But after the evening talk was donethe evening song sungand
the house grew still with beautiful Sunday silenceDan lay in his
pleasant room wide awakethinking new thoughtsfeeling new
hopes and desires stirring in his boyish heartfor two good angels
had entered in: love and gratitude began the work which time and
effort were to finish; and with an earnest wish to keep his first
promiseDan folded his hands together in the Darknessand softly
whispered Teddy's little prayer

Please God bless every one, and help me to be good.


CHAPTER XI UNCLE TEDDY

For a week Dan only moved from bed to sofa; a long week and a
hard onefor the hurt foot was very painful at timesthe quiet days
were very wearisome to the active ladlonging to be out enjoying
the summer weatherand especially difficult was it to be patient.
But Dan did his bestand every one helped him in their various
ways; so the time passedand he was rewarded at last by hearing
the doctor sayon Saturday morning

This foot is doing better than I expected. Give the lad the crutch
this afternoon, and let him stump about the house a little.

Hooray!shouted Natand raced away to tell the other boys the
good news.

Everybody was very gladand after dinner the whole flock
assembled to behold Dan crutch himself up and down the hall a
few times before he settled in the porch to hold a sort of levee. He
was much pleased at the interest and good-will shown himand
brightened up more and more every minute; for the boys came to
pay their respectsthe little girls fussed about him with stools and
cushionsand Teddy watched over him as if he was a frail creature
unable to do anything for himself. They were still sitting and
standing about the stepswhen a carriage stopped at the gatea hat
was waved from itand with a shout of "Uncle Teddy! Uncle
Teddy!" Rob scampered down the avenue as fast as his short legs
would carry him. All he boys but Dan ran after him to see who
should be first to open the gateand in a moment the carriage
drove up with boys swarming all over itwhile Uncle Teddy sat
laughing in the midstwith his little daughter on his knee.

Stop the triumphal car and let Jupiter descend,he saidand
jumping out ran up the steps to meet Mrs. Bhaerwho stood
smiling and clapping her hands like a girl.

How goes it, Teddy?

All right, Jo.

Then they shook handsand Mr. Laurie put Bess into her aunt's
armssayingas the child hugged her tightGoldilocks wanted to
see you so much that I ran away with her, for I was quite pining for
a sight of you myself. We want to play with your boys for an hour
or so, and to see how 'the old woman who lived in a shoe, and had
so many children she did not know what to do,' is getting on.

I'm so glad! Play away, and don't get into mischief,answered
Mrs. Joas the lads crowded round the pretty childadmiring her
long golden hairdainty dressand lofty waysfor the little
Princess,as they called herallowed no one to kiss herbut sat
smiling down upon themand graciously patting their heads with
her littlewhite hands. They all adored herespecially Robwho
considered her a sort of dolland dared not touch her lest she
should breakbut worshipped her at a respectful distancemade
happy by an occasional mark of favor from her little highness. As
she immediately demanded to see Daisy's kitchenshe was borne
off by Mrs. Jowith a train of small boys following. The othersall
but Nat and Demiran away to the menagerie and gardens to have
all in order; for Mr. Laurie always took a general surveyand
looked disappointed if things were not flourishing.

Standing on the stepshe turned to Dansaying like an old
acquaintancethough he had only seen him once or twice before


How is the foot?

Better, sir.

Rather tired of the house, aren't you?

Guess I am!and Dan's eyes roved away to the green hills and
woods where he longed to be.

Suppose we take a little turn before the others come back? That
big, easy carriage will be quite safe and comfortable, and a breath
of fresh air will do you good. Get a cushion and a shawl, Demi,
and let's carry Dan off.

The boys thought it a capital jokeand Dan looked delightedbut
askedwith an unexpected burst of virtue

Will Mrs. Bhaer like it?

Oh, yes; we settled all that a minute ago.

You didn't say any thing about it, so I don't see how you could,
said Demiinquisitively.

We have a way of sending messages to one another, without any
words. It is a great improvement on the telegraph.

I know it's eyes; I saw you lift your eyebrows, and nod toward the
carriage, and Mrs. Bhaer laughed and nodded back again,cried
Natwho was quite at his ease with kind Mr. Laurie by this time.

Right. Now them, come on,and in a minute Dan found himself
settled in the carriagehis foot on a cushion on the seat opposite
nicely covered with a shawlwhich fell down from the upper
regions in a most mysterious mannerjust when they wanted it.
Demi climbed up to the box beside Peterthe black coachman. Nat
sat next Dan in the place of honorwhile Uncle Teddy would sit
oppositeto take care of the foothe saidbut really that he might
study the faces before him both so happyyet so differentfor
Dan's was squareand brownand strongwhile Nat's was long
and fairand rather weakbut very amiable with its mild eyes and
good forehead.

By the way, I've got a book somewhere here that you may like to
see,said the oldest boy of the partydiving under the seat and
producing a book which make Dan exclaim

Oh! by George, isn't that a stunner?as he turned the leavesand
saw fine plates of butterfliesand birdsand every sort of
interesting insectcolored like life. He was so charmed that he
forgot his thanksbut Mr. Laurie did not mindand was quite
satisfied to see the boy's eager delightand to hear this
exclamations over certain old friends as he came to them. Nat
leaned on his shoulder to lookand Demi turned his back to the
horsesand let his feet dangle inside the carriageso that he might
join in the conversation.

When they got among the beetlesMr. Laurie took a curious little
object out of his vest-pocketand laying it in the palm of his hand
said

There's a beetle that is thousands of years old;and thenwhile
the lads examined the queer stone-bugthat looked so old and


grayhe told them how it came out of the wrappings of a mummy
after lying for ages in a famous tomb. Finding them interestedhe
went on to tell about the Egyptiansand the strange and splendid
ruins they have left behind them the Nileand how he sailed up the
mighty riverwith the handsome dark men to work his boat; how
he shot alligatorssaw wonderful beasts and birds; and afterwards
crossed the desert on a camelwho pitched him about like a ship in
a storm.

Uncle Teddy tells stories 'most as well as Grandpa,said Demi
approvinglywhen the tale was doneand the boys' eyes asked for
more.

Thank you,said Mr. Lauriequite soberlyfor he considered
Demi's praise worth havingfor children are good critics in such
casesand to suit them is an accomplishment that any one may be
proud of.

Here's another trifle or two that I tucked into my pocket as I was
turning over my traps to see if I had any thing that would amuse
Dan,and Uncle Teddy produced a fine arrow-head and a string of
wampum.

Oh! tell about the Indians,cried Demiwho was fond of playing
wigwam.

Dan knows lots about them,added Nat.

More than I do, I dare say. Tell us something,and Mr. Laurie
looked as interested as the other two.

Mr. Hyde told me; he's been among 'em, and can talk their talk,
and likes 'em,began Danflattered by their attentionbut rather
embarrassed by having a grown-up listener.

What is wampum for?asked curious Demifrom his perch.

The others asked questions likewiseandbefore he knew itDan
was reeling off all Mr. Hyde had told himas they sailed down the
river a few weeks before. Mr. Laurie listened wellbut found the
boy more interesting than the Indiansfor Mrs. Jo had told him
about Danand he rather took a fancy to the wild ladwho ran
away as he himself had often longed to doand who was slowly
getting tamed by pain and patience.

I've been thinking that it would be a good plan for you fellows to
have a museum of your own; a place in which to collect all the
curious and interesting things that you find, and make, and have
given you. Mrs. Jo is too kind to complain, but it is rather hard for
her to have the house littered up with all sorts of rattletraps,
half-a-pint of dor-bugs in one of her best vases, for instance, a
couple of dead bats nailed up in the back entry, wasps nests
tumbling down on people's heads, and stones lying round
everywhere, enough to pave the avenue. There are not many
women who would stand that sort of thing, are there, now?

As Mr. Laurie spoke with a merry look in his eyesthe boys
laughed and nudged one anotherfor it was evident that some one
told tales out of schoolelse how could he know of the existence
of these inconvenient treasures.

Where can we put them, then?said Demicrossing his legs and
leaning down to argue the question.


In the old carriage-house.

But it leaks, and there isn't any window, nor any place to put
things, and it's all dust and cobwebs,began Nat.

Wait till Gibbs and I have touched it up a bit, and then see how
you like it. He is to come over on Monday to get it ready; then next
Saturday I shall come out, and we will fix it up, and make the
beginning, at least, of a fine little museum. Every one can bring his
things, and have a place for them; and Dan is to be the head man,
because he knows most about such matters, and it will be quiet,
pleasant work for him now that he can't knock about much.

Won't that be jolly?cried Natwhile Dan smiled all over his face
and had not a word to saybut hugged his bookand looked at Mr.
Laurie as if he thought him one of the greatest public benefactors
that ever blessed the world.

Shall I go round again, sir?asked Peteras they came to the gate
after two slow turns about the half-mile triangle.

No, we must be prudent, else we can't come again. I must go over
the premises, take a look at the carriage-house, and have a little
talk with Mrs. Jo before I go;andhaving deposited Dan on his
sofa to rest and enjoy his bookUncle Teddy went off to have a
frolic with the lads who were raging about the place in search of
him. Leaving the little girls to mess up-stairsMrs. Bhaer sat down
by Danand listened to his eager account of the drive till the flock
returneddustywarmand much excited about the new museum
which every one considered the most brilliant idea of the age.

I always wanted to endow some sort of an institution, and I am
going to begin with this,said Mr. Lauriesitting down on a stool
at Mrs. Jo's feet.

You have endowed one already. What do you call this?and Mrs.
Jo pointed to the happy-faced ladswho had camped upon the floor
about him.

I call it a very promising Bhaer-garden, and I'm proud to be a
member of it. Did you know I was the head boy in this school?he
askedturning to Danand changing the subject skilfullyfor he
hated to be thanked for the generous things he did.

I thought Franz was!answered Danwondering what the man
meant.

Oh, dear no! I'm the first boy Mrs. Jo ever had to take care of, and
I was such a bad one that she isn't done with me yet, though she
has been working at me for years and years.

How old she must be!said Natinnocently.

She began early, you see. Poor thing! she was only fifteen when
she took me, and I led her such a life, it's a wonder she isn't
wrinkled and gray, and quite worn out,and Mr. Laurie looked up
at her laughing.

Don't Teddy; I won't have you abuse yourself so;and Mrs. Jo
stroked the curly black head at her knee as affectionately as ever
forin spite of every thing Teddy was her boy still.

If it hadn't been for you, there never would have been a Plumfield.
It was my success with you, sir, that gave me courage to try my pet


plan. So the boys may thank you for it, and name the new
institution 'The Laurence Museum,' in honor of its founder, won't
we, boys?she addedlooking very like the lively Jo of old times.

We will! we will!shouted the boysthrowing up their hatsfor
though they had taken them off on entering the houseaccording to
rulethey had been in too much of a hurry to hang them up.

I'm as hungry as a bear, can't I have a cookie?asked Mr. Laurie
when the shout subsided and he had expressed his thanks by a
splendid bow.

Trot out and ask Asia for the gingerbread-box, Demi. It isn't in
order to eat between meals, but, on this joyful occasion, we won't
mind, and have a cookie all round,said Mrs. Jo; and when the
box came she dealt them out with a liberal handevery one
munching away in a social circle.

Suddenlyin the midst of a biteMr. Laurie cried outBless my
heart, I forgot grandma's bundle!and running out to the carriage
returned with an interesting white parcelwhichbeing opened
disclosed a choice collection of beastsbirdsand pretty things cut
out of crisp sugary cakeand baked a lovely brown.

There's one for each, and a letter to tell which is whose. Grandma
and Hannah made them, and I tremble to think what would have
happened to me if I had forgotten to leave them.

Thenamid much laughing and funthe cakes were distributed. A
fish for Dana fiddle for Nata book for Demia money for
Tommya flower for Daisya hoop for Nanwho had driven twice
round the triangle without stoppinga star for Emilwho put on
airs because he studied astronomyandbest of allan omnibus for
Franzwhose great delight was to drive the family bus. Stuffy got a
fat pigand the little folks had birdsand catsand rabbitswith
black currant eyes.

Now I must go. Where is my Goldilocks? Mamma will come
flying out to get her if I'm not back early,said Uncle Teddywhen
the last crumb had vanishedwhich it speedily didyou may be
sure.

The young ladies had gone into the gardenand while they waited
till Franz looked them upJo and Laurie stood at the door talking
together.

How does little Giddy-gaddy come on?he askedfor Nan's
pranks amused him very muchand he was never tired of teasing
Jo about her.

Nicely; she is getting quite mannerly, and begins to see the error
of her wild ways.

Don't the boys encourage her in them?

Yes; but I keep talking, and lately she has improved much. You
saw how prettily she shook hands with you, and how gentle she
was with Bess. Daisy's example has its effect upon her, and I'm
quite sure that a few months will work wonders.

Here Mrs. Jo's remarks were cut short by the appearance of Nan
tearing round the corner at a break-neck pacedriving a
mettlesome team of four boysand followed by Daisy trundling
Bess in a wheelbarrow. Hat offhair flyingwhip crackingand


barrow bumpingup they came in a cloud of dustlooking as wild
a set of little hoydens as one would wish to see.

So, these are the model children, are they? It's lucky I didn't bring
Mrs. Curtis out to see your school for the cultivation of morals and
manners; she would never have recovered from the shock of this
spectacle,said Mr. Laurielaughing at Mrs. Jo's premature
rejoicing over Nan's improvement.

Laugh away; I'll succeed yet. As you used to say at College,
quoting some professor, 'Though the experiment has failed, the
principle remains the same,' said Mrs. Bhaerjoining in the
merriment.

I'm afraid Nan's example is taking effect upon Daisy, instead of
the other way. Look at my little princess! she has utterly forgotten
her dignity, and is screaming like the rest. Young ladies, what does
this mean?and Mr. Laurie rescued his small daughter from
impending destructionfor the four horses were champing their
bits and curvetting madly all about heras she sat brandishing a
great whip in both hands.

We're having a race, and I beat,shouted Nan.

I could have run faster, only I was afraid of spilling Bess,
screamed Daisy.

Hi! go long!cried the princessgiving such a flourish with her
whip that the horses ran awayand were seen no more.

My precious child! come away from this ill-mannered crew
before you are quite spoilt. Good-by, Jo! Next time I come, I shall
expect to find the boys making patchwork.

It wouldn't hurt them a bit. I don't give in, mind you; for my
experiments always fail a few times before they succeed. Love to
Amy and my blessed Marmee,called Mrs. Joas the carriage
drove away; and the last Mr. Laurie saw of hershe was consoling
Daisy for her failure by a ride in the wheelbarrowand looking as
if she liked it.

Great was the excitement all the week about the repairs in the
carriage-housewhich went briskly on in spite of the incessant
questionsadviceand meddling of the boys. Old Gibbs was nearly
driven wild with it allbut managed to do his work nevertheless;
and by Friday night the place was all in order roof mendedshelves
upwalls whitewasheda great window cut at the backwhich let
in a flood of sunshineand gave them a fine view of the brookthe
meadowsand the distant hills; and over the great doorpainted in
red letterswas "The Laurence Museum."

All Saturday morning the boys were planning how it should be
furnished with their spoilsand when Mr. Laurie arrivedbringing
an aquarium which Mrs. Amy said she was tired oftheir rapture
was great.

The afternoon was spent in arranging thingsand when the running
and lugging and hammering was overthe ladies were invited to
behold the institution.

It certainly was a pleasant placeairycleanand bright. A
hop-vine shook its green bells round the open windowthe pretty
aquarium stood in the middle of the roomwith some delicate
water plants rising above the waterand gold-fish showing their


brightness as they floated to and fro below. On either side of the
window were rows of shelves ready to receive the curiosities yet to
be found. Dan's tall cabinet stood before the great door which was
fastened upwhile the small door was to be used. On the cabinet
stood a queer Indian idolvery uglybut very interesting; old Mr.
Laurence sent itas well as a fine Chinese junk in full sailwhich
had a conspicuous place on the long table in the middle of the
room. Aboveswinging in a loopand looking as if she was alive
hung Pollywho died at an advanced agehad been carefully
stuffedand was no presented by Mrs. Jo. The walls were
decorated with all sorts of things. A snake's skina big wasp's nest
a birch-bark canoea string of birds' eggswreaths of gray moss
from the Southand a bunch of cotton-pods. The dead bats had a
placealso a large turtle-shelland an ostrich-egg proudly
presented by Demiwho volunteered to explain these rare
curiosities to guests whenever they liked. There were so many
stones that it was impossible to accept them allso only a few of
the best were arranged among the shells on the shelvesthe rest
were piled up in cornersto be examined by Dan at his leisure.

Every one was eager to give somethingeven Silaswho sent home
for a stuffed wild-cat killed in his youth. It was rather moth-eaten
and shabbybut on a high bracket and best side foremost the effect
was finefor the yellow glass eyes glaredand the mouth snarled
so naturallythat Teddy shook in his little shoes at sight of itwhen
he came bringing his most cherished treasureone cocoonto lay
upon the shrine of science.

Isn't it beautiful? I'd no idea we had so many curious things. I
gave that; don't it look well? We might make a lot by charging
something for letting folks see it.

Jack added that last suggestion to the general chatter that went on
as the family viewed the room.

This is a free museum and if there is any speculating on it I'll
paint out the name over the door,said Mr. Laurieturning so
quickly that Jack wished he had held his tongue.

Hear! hear!cried Mr. Bhaer.

Speech! speech!added Mrs. Jo.

Can't, I'm too bashful. You give them a lecture yourself you are
used to it,Mr. Laurie answeredretreating towards the window
meaning to escape. But she held him fastand saidlaughing as she
looked at the dozen pairs of dirty hands about her

If I did lecture, it would on the chemical and cleansing properties
of soap. Come now, as the founder of the institution, you really
ought to give us a few moral remarks, and we will applaud
tremendously.

Seeing that there was no way of escapingMr. Laurie looked up at
Polly hanging overheadseemed to find inspiration in the brilliant
old birdand sitting down upon the tablesaidin his pleasant way

There is one thing I'd like to suggest, boys, and that is, I want you
to get some good as well as much pleasure out of this. Just putting
curious or pretty things here won't do it; so suppose you read up
about them, so that when anybody asks questions you can answer
them, and understand the matter. I used to like these things myself,
and should enjoy hearing about them now, for I've forgotten all I
once knew. It wasn't much, was it, Jo? Here's Dan now, full of


stories about birds, and bugs, and so on; let him take care of the
museum, and once a week the rest of you take turns to read a
composition, or tell about some animal, mineral, or vegetable. We
should all like that, and I think it would put considerable useful
knowledge into our heads. What do you say, Professor?


I like it much, and will give the lads all the help I can. But they
will need books to read up these new subjects, and we have not
many, I fear,began Mr. Bhaerlooking much pleasedplanning
many fine lectures on geologywhich he liked. "We should have a
library for the special purpose."


Is that a useful sort of book, Dan?asked Mr. Lauriepointing to
the volume that lay open by the cabinet.


Oh, yes! it tells all I want to know about insects. I had it here to
see how to fix the butterflies right. I covered it, so it is not hurt;
and Dan caught it upfearing the lender might think him careless.


Give it here a minute;andpulling out his pencilMr. Laurie
wrote Dan's name in itsayingas he set the book up on one of the
corner shelveswhere nothing stood but a stuffed bird without a
tailThere, that is the beginning of the museum library. I'll hunt
up some more books, and Demi shall keep them in order. Where
are those jolly little books we used to read, Jo? 'Insect Architecture'
or some such name, all about ants having battles, and bees having
queens, and crickets eating holes in our clothes and stealing milk,
and larks of that sort.


In the garret at home. I'll have them sent out, and we will plunge
into Natural History with a will,said Mrs. Joready for any thing.


Won't it be hard to write about such things?asked Natwho
hated compositions.


At first, perhaps; but you will soon like it. If you think that hard,
how would you like to have this subject given to you, as it was to a
girl of thirteen: A conversation between Themistocles, Aristides,
and Pericles on the proposed appropriation of funds of the
confederacy of Delos for the ornamentation of Athens?said Mrs.
Jo.


The boys groaned at the mere sound of the long namesand the
gentlemen laughed at the absurdity of the lesson.


Did she write it?asked Demiin an awe-stricken tone.


Yes, but you can imagine what a piece of work she make of it,
though she was rather a bright child.


I'd like to have seen it,said Mr. Bhaer.


Perhaps I can find it for you; I went to school with her,and Mrs.
Jo looked so wicked that every one knew who the little girl was.


Hearing of this fearful subject for a composition quite reconciled
the boys to the thought of writing about familiar things.
Wednesday afternoon was appointed for the lecturesas they
preferred to call themfor some chose to talk instead of write. Mr.
Bhaer promised a portfolio in which the written productions
should be keptand Mrs. Bhaer said she would attend the course
with great pleasure.


Then the dirty-handed society went off the washfollowed by the



Professortrying to calm the anxiety of Robwho had been told by
Tommy that all water was full of invisible pollywogs.

I like your plan very much, only don't be too generous, Teddy,
said Mrs. Bhaerwhen they were left alone. "You know most of
the boys have got to paddle their own canoes when they leave us
and too much sitting in the lap of luxury will unfit them for it."

I'll be moderate, but do let me amuse myself. I get desperately
tired of business sometimes, and nothing freshens me up like a
good frolic with your boys. I like that Dan very much, Jo. He isn't
demonstrative; but he has the eye of a hawk, and when you have
tamed him a little he will do you credit.

I'm so glad you think so. Thank you very much for your kindness
to him, especially for this museum affair; it will keep him happy
while he is lame, give me a chance to soften and smooth this poor,
rough lad, and make him love us. What did inspire you with such a
beautiful, helpful idea, Teddy?asked Mrs. Bhaerglancing back
at the pleasant roomas she turned to leave it.

Laurie took both her hands in hisand answeredwith a look that
made her eyes fill with happy tears

Dear Jo! I have known what it is to be a motherless boy, and I
never can forget how much you and yours have done for me all
these years.

CHAPTER XII HUCKLEBERRIES

There was a great clashing of tin pailsmuch running to and fro
and frequent demands for something to eatone August afternoon
for the boys were going huckleberryingand made as much stir
about it as if they were setting out to find the North West Passage.

Now, my lads, get off as quietly as you can, for Rob is safely out
of the way, and won't see you,said Mrs. Bhaeras she tied Daisy's
broad-brimmed hatand settled the great blue pinafore in which
she had enveloped Nan.

But the plan did not succeedfor Rob had heard the bustledecided
to goand prepared himselfwithout a thought of disappointment.
The troop was just getting under way when the little man came
marching downstairs with his best hat ona bright tin pail in his
handand a face beaming with satisfaction.

Oh, dear! now we shall have a scene,sighed Mrs. Bhaerwho
found her eldest son very hard to manage at times.

I'm all ready,said Roband took his place in the ranks with such
perfect unconsciousness of his mistakethat it really was very hard
to undeceive him.

It's too far for you, my love; stay and take care of me, for I shall
be all alone,began his mother.

You've got Teddy. I'm a big boy, so I can go; you said I might
when I was bigger, and I am now,persisted Robwith a cloud
beginning to dim the brightness of his happy face.

We are going up to the great pasture, and it's ever so far; we don't
want you tagging on,cried Jackwho did not admire the little
boys.


I won't tag, I'll run and keep up. O Mamma! let me go! I want to
fill my new pail, and I'll bring 'em all to you. Please, please, I will
be good!prayed Robbylooking up at his motherso grieved and
disappointed that her heart began to fail her.

But, my deary, you'll get so tired and hot you won't have a good
time. Wait till I go, and then we will stay all day, and pick as many
berries as you want.

You never do go, you are so busy, and I'm tired of waiting. I'd
rather go and get the berries for you all myself. I love to pick 'em,
and I want to fill my new pail dreffly,sobbed Rob.

The pathetic sight of great tears tinkling into the dear new pail
and threatening to fill it with salt water instead of huckleberries
touched all the ladies present. His mother patted the weeper on his
back; Daisy offered to stay home with him; and Nan saidin her
decided way

Let him come; I'll take care of him.

If Franz was going I wouldn't mind, for he is very careful; but he
is haying with the father, and I'm not sure about the rest of you,
began Mrs. Bhaer.

It's so far,put in Jack.

I'd carry him if I was going wish I was,said Danwith a sigh.

Thank you, dear, but you must take care of your foot. I wish I
could go. Stop a minute, I think I can manage it after all;and Mrs.
Bhaer ran out to the stepswaving her apron wildly.

Silas was just driving away in the hay-cartbut turned backand
agreed at oncewhen Mrs. Jo proposed that he should take the
whole party to the pastureand go for them at five o'clock.

It will delay your work a little, but never mind; we will pay you in
huckleberry pies,said Mrs. Joknowing Silas's weak point.

His roughbrown face brightened upand he saidwith a cheery
Haw! haw!Wal now, Mis' Bhaer, if you go to bribin' of me, I
shall give in right away.

Now, boys, I have arranged it so that you can all go,said Mrs.
Bhaerrunning back againmuch relievedfor she loved to make
them happyand always felt miserable when she had disturbed the
serenity of her little sons; for she believed that the small hopes and
plans and pleasures of children should be tenderly respected by
grown-up peopleand never rudely thwarted or ridiculed.

Can I go?said Dandelighted.

I thought especially of you. Be careful, and never mind the
berries, but sit about and enjoy the lovely things which you know
how to find all about you,answered Mrs. Bhaerwho
remembered his kind offer to her boy.

Me too! me too!sung Robdancing with joyand clapping his
precious pail and cover like castanets.

Yes, and Daisy and Nan must take good care of you. Be at the
bars at five o'clock, and Silas will come for you all.


Robby cast himself upon his mother in a burst of gratitude
promising to bring her every berry he pickedand not eat one.
Then they were all packed into the hay-cartand went rattling
awaythe brightest face among the dozen being that of Robas he
sat between his two temporary little mothersbeaming upon the
whole worldand waving his best hat; for his indulgent mamma
had not the heart to bereave him of itsince this was a gala-day to
him.

Such a happy afternoon as they hadin spite of the mishaps which
usually occur on such expeditions! Of course Tommy came to
grieftumbled upon a hornet's nest and got stung; but being used to
woehe bore the smart manfullytill Dan suggested the application
of damp earthwhich much assuaged the pain. Daisy saw a snake
and flying from it lost half her berries; but Demi helped her to fill
up againand discussed reptiles most learnedly the while. Ned fell
out of a treeand split his jacket down the backbut suffered no
other fracture. Emil and Jack established rival claims to a certain
thick patchand while they were squabbling about itStuffy
quickly and quietly stripped the bushes and fled to the protection
of Danwho was enjoying himself immensely. The crutch was no
longer necessaryand he was delighted to see how strong his foot
felt as he roamed about the great pasturefull of interesting rocks
and stumpswith familiar little creatures in the grassand
well-known insects dancing in the air.

But of all the adventures that happened on this afternoon that
which befell Nan and Rob was the most excitingand it long
remained one of the favorite histories of the household. Having
explored the country pretty generallytorn three rents in her frock
and scratched her face in a barberry-bushNan began to pick the
berries that shone like bigblack beads on the lowgreen bushes.
Her nimble fingers flewbut still her basket did not fill up as
rapidly as she desiredso she kept wandering here and there to
search for better placesinstead of picking contentedly and steadily
as Daisy did. Rob followed Nanfor her energy suited him better
than his cousin's patienceand he too was anxious to have the
biggest and best berries for Marmar.

I keep putting 'em in, but it don't fill up, and I'm so tired,said
Robpausing a moment to rest his short legsand beginning to
think huckleberrying was not all his fancy painted it; for the sun
blazedNan skipped hither and thither like a grasshopperand the
berries fell out of his pail almost as fast as he put them inbecause
in his struggles with the bushesit was often upside-down.

Last time we came they were ever so much thicker over that wall
great bouncers; and there is a cave there where the boys made a
fire. Let's go and fill our things quick, and then hide in the cave
and let the others find us,proposed Nanthirsting for adventures.

Rob consentedand away they wentscrambling over the wall and
running down the sloping fields on the other sidetill they were
hidden among the rocks and underbrush. The berries were thick
and at last the pails were actually full. It was shady and cool down
thereand a little spring gave the thirsty children a refreshing drink
out of its mossy cup.

Now we will go and rest in the cave, and eat our lunch,said Nan
well satisfied with her success so far.

Do you know the way?asked Rob.

'Course I do; I've been once, and I always remember. Didn't I go


and get my box all right?

That convinced Roband he followed blindly as Nan led him over
stock and stoneand brought himafter much meanderingto a
small recess in the rockwhere the blackened stones showed that
fires had been made.

Now, isn't it nice?asked Nanas she took out a bit of
bread-and-butterrather damaged by being mixed up with nails
fishhooksstones and other foreign substancesin the young lady's
pocket.

Yes; do you think they will find us soon?asked Robwho found
the shadowy glen rather dulland began to long for more society.

No, I don't; because if I hear them, I shall hide, and have fun
making them find me.

P'raps they won't come.

Don't care; I can get home myself.

Is it a great way?asked Roblooking at his little stubby boots
scratched and wet with his long wandering.

It's six miles, I guess.Nan's ideas of distance were vagueand her
faith in her own powers great.

I think we better go now,suggested Robpresently.

I shan't till I have picked over my berries;and Nan began what
seemed to Rob an endless task.

Oh, dear! you said you'd take good care of me,he sighedas the
sun seemed to drop behind the hill all of a sudden.

Well I am taking good care of you as hard as I can. Don't be cross,
child; I'll go in a minute,said Nanwho considered five-year-old
Robby a mere infant compared to herself.

So little Rob sat looking anxiously about himand waiting
patientlyforspite of some misgivingshe felt great confidence in
Nan.

I guess it's going to be night pretty soon,he observedas if to
himselfas a mosquito bit himand the frogs in a neighboring
marsh began to pipe up for the evening concert.

My goodness me! so it is. Come right away this minute, or they
will be gone,cried Nanlooking up from her workand suddenly
perceiving that the sun was down.

I heard a horn about an hour ago; may be they were blowing for
us,said Robtrudging after his guide as she scrambled up the
steep hill.

Where was it?asked Nanstopping short.

Over that way;he pointed with a dirty little finger in an entirely
wrong direction.

Let's go that way and meet them;and Nan wheeled aboutand
began to trot through the bushesfeeling a trifle anxiousfor there
were so many cow-paths all about she could not remember which


way they came.

On they went over stock and stone againpausing now and then to
listen for the hornwhich did not blow any morefor it was only
the moo of a cow on her way home.

I don't remember seeing that pile of stones do you?asked Nanas
she sat on a wall to rest a moment and take an observation.

I don't remember any thing, but I want to go home,and Rob's
voice had a little tremble in it that made Nan put her arms round
him and lift him gently downsayingin her most capable way

I'm going just as fast as I can, dear. Don't cry, and when we come
to the road, I'll carry you.

Where is the road?and Robby wiped his eyes to look for it.

Over by that big tree. Don't you know that's the one Ned tumbled
out of?

So it is. May be they waited for us; I'd like to ride home wouldn't
you?and Robby brightened up as he plodded along toward the
end of the great pasture.

No, I'd rather walk,answered Nanfeeling quite sure that she
would be obliged to do soand preparing her mind for it.

Another long trudge through the fast-deepening twilight and
another disappointmentfor when they reached the treethey found
to their dismay that it was not the one Ned climbedand no road
anywhere appeared.

Are we lost?quavered Robclasping his pail in despair.

Not much. I don't just see which way to go, and I guess we'd
better call.

So they both shouted till they were hoarseyet nothing answered
but the frogs in full chorus.

There is another tall tree over there, perhaps that's the one,said
Nanwhose heart sunk within herthough she still spoke bravely.

I don't think I can go any more; my boots are so heavy I can't pull
'em;and Robby sat down on a stone quite worn out.

Then we must stay here all night. I don't care much, if snakes
don't come.

I'm frightened of snakes. I can't stay all night. Oh, dear! I don't
like to be lost,and Rob puckered up his face to crywhen
suddenly a thought occurred to himand he saidin a tone of
perfect confidence

Marmar will come and find me she always does; I ain't afraid
now.

She won't know where we are.

She didn't know I was shut up in the ice-house, but she found me.
I know she'll come,returned Robbyso trustfullythat Nan felt
relievedand sat down by himsayingwith a remorseful sigh


I wish we hadn't run away.

You made me; but I don't mind much Marmar will love me just
the same,answered Robclinging to his sheet-anchor when all
other hope was gone.

I'm so hungry. Let's eat our berries,proposed Nanafter a pause
during which Rob began to nod.

So am I, but I can't eat mine, 'cause I told Marmar I'd keep them
all for her.

You'll have to eat them if no one comes for us,said Nanwho
felt like contradicting every thing just then. "If we stay here a great
many dayswe shall eat up all the berries in the fieldand then we
shall starve she added grimly.

I shall eat sassafras. I know a big tree of itand Dan told me how
squirrels dig up the roots and eat themand I love to dig returned
Rob, undaunted by the prospect of starvation.

Yes; and we can catch frogsand cook them. My father ate some
onceand he said they were nice put in Nan, beginning to find a
spice of romance even in being lost in a huckleberry pasture.

How could we cook frogs? we haven't got any fire."

I don't know; next time I'll have matches in my pocket,said Nan
rather depressed by this obstacle to the experiment in
frog-cookery.

Couldn't we light a fire with a fire-fly?asked Robhopefullyas
he watched them flitting to and fro like winged sparks.

Let's try;and several minutes were pleasantly spent in catching
the fliesand trying to make them kindle a green twig or two. "It's
a lie to call them fire -flies when there isn't a fire in them Nan
said, throwing one unhappy insect away with scorn, though it
shone its best, and obligingly walked up and down the twigs to
please the innocent little experimenters.

Marmar's a good while coming said Rob, after another pause,
during which they watched the stars overhead, smelt the sweet fern
crushed under foot, and listened to the crickets' serenade.

I don't see why God made any night; day is so much pleasanter
said Nan, thoughtfully.

It's to sleep in answered Rob, with a yawn.

Then do go to sleep said Nan, pettishly.

I want my own bed. OhI wish I could see Teddy!" cried Rob
painfully reminded of home by the soft chirp of birds safe in their
little nests.

I don't believe your mother will ever find us,said Nanwho was
becoming desperatefor she hated patient waiting of any sort. "It's
so dark she won't see us."

It was all black in the ice-house, and I was so scared I didn't call
her, but she saw me; and she will see me now, no matter how dark
it is,returned confiding Robstanding up to peer into the gloom
for the help which never failed him.


I see her! I see her!he criedand ran as fast as his tired legs
would take him toward a dark figure slowly approaching.
Suddenly he stoppedthen turned aboutand came stumbling back
screaming in a great panic


No, it's a bear, a big black one!and hid his face in Nan's skirts.


For a moment Nan quailed; ever her courage gave out at the
thought of a real bearand she was about to turn and flee in great
disorderwhen a mild "Moo!" changed her fear to merrimentas
she saidlaughing


It's a cow, Robby! the nice, black cow we saw this afternoon.


The cow seemed to feel that it was not just the thing to meet two
little people in her pasture after darkand the amiable beast paused
to inquire into the case. She let them stroke herand stood
regarding them with her soft eyes so mildlythat Nanwho feared
no animal but a bearwas fired with a desire to milk her.


Silas taught me how; and berries and milk would be so nice,she
saidemptying the contents of her pail into her hatand boldly
beginning her new taskwhile Rob stood by and repeatedat her
commandthe poem from Mother Goose:


Cushy cow, bonny, let down your milk,


Let down your milk to me,


And I will give you a gown of silk,


A gown of silk and a silver tee.


But the immortal rhyme had little effectfor the benevolent cow
had already been milkedand had only half a gill to give the thirsty
children.


Shoo! get away! you are an old cross patch,cried Nan
ungratefullyas she gave up the attempt in despair; and poor Molly
walked on with a gentle gurgle of surprise and reproof.


Each can have a sip, and then we must take a walk. We shall go
to sleep if we don't; and lost people mustn't sleep. Don't you know
how Hannah Lee in the pretty story slept under the snow and
died?


But there isn't any snow now, and it's nice and warm,said Rob
who was not blessed with as lively a fancy as Nan.


No matter, we will poke about a little, and call some more; and
then, if nobody comes, we will hide under the bushes, like
Hop-'o-my-thumb and his brothers.


It was a very short walkhoweverfor Rob was so sleepy he could
not get onand tumbled down so often that Nan entirely lost
patiencebeing half distracted by the responsibility she had taken
upon herself.


If you tumble down again, I'll shake you,she saidlifting the
poor little man up very kindly as she spokefor Nan's bark was
much worse than her bite.


Please don't. It's my boots they keep slipping so;and Rob



manfully checked the sob just ready to break outaddingwith a
plaintive patience that touched Nan's heartIf the skeeters didn't
bite me so, I could go to sleep till Marmar comes.

Put your head on my lap, and I'll cover you up with my apron; I'm
not afraid of the night,said Nansitting down and trying to
persuade herself that she did not mind the shadow nor the
mysterious rustlings all about her.

Wake me up when she comes,said roband was fast asleep in
five minutes with his head in Nan's lap under the pinafore.

The little girl sat for some fifteen minutesstaring about her with
anxious eyesand feeling as if each second was an hour. Then a
pale light began to glimmer over the hill-top and she said to herself

I guess the night is over and morning is coming. I'd like to see the
sun rise, so I'll watch, and when it comes up we can find our way
right home.

But before the moon's round face peeped above the hill to destroy
her hopeNan had fallen asleepleaning back in a little bower of
tall fernsand was deep in a mid-summer night's dream of fire-flies
and blue apronsmountains of huckleberriesand Robby wiping
away the tears of a black cowwho sobbedI want to go home! I
want to go home!

While the children were sleepingpeacefully lulled by the drowsy
hum of many neighborly mosquitoesthe family at home were in a
great state of agitation. The hay-cart came at fiveand all but Jack
EmilNanand Rob were at the bars ready for it. Franz drove
instead of Silasand when the boys told him that the others were
going home through the woodhe saidlooking ill-pleasedThey
ought to have left Rob to ride, he will be tired out by the long
walk.

It's shorter that way, and they will carry him,said Stuffywho
was in a hurry for his supper.

You are sure Nan and Rob went with them?

Of course they did; I saw them getting over the wall, and sung out
that it was most five, and Jack called back that they were going the
other way,explained Tommy.

Very well, pile in then,and away rattled the hay-cart with the
tired children and the full pails.

Mrs. Jo looked sober when she heard of the division of the party
and sent Franz back with Toby to find and bring the little ones
home. Supper was overand the family sitting about in the cool
hall as usualwhen Franz came trotting backhotdustyand
anxious.

Have they come?he called out when half-way up the avenue.

No!and Mrs. Jo flew out of her chair looking so alarmed that
every one jumped up and gathered round Franz.

I can't find them anywhere,he began; but the words were hardly
spoken when a loud "Hullo!" startled them alland the next minute
Jack and Emil came round the house.

Where are Nan and Rob?cried Mrs. Joclutching Emil in a way


that caused him to think his aunt had suddenly lost her wits.

I don't know. They came home with the others, didn't they?he
answeredquickly.

No; George and Tommy said they went with you.

Well, they didn't. Haven't seen them. We took a swim in the pond,
and came by the wood,said Jacklooking alarmedas well he
might.

Call Mr. Bhaer, get the lanterns, and tell Silas I want him.

That was all Mrs. Jo saidbut they knew what she meantand flew
to obey her orders. In ten minutesMr. Bhaer and Silas were off to
the woodand Franz tearing down the road on old Andy to search
the great pasture. Mrs. Jo caught up some food from the tablea
little bottle of brandy from the medicine-closettook a lanternand
bidding Jack and Emil come with herand the rest not stirshe
trotted away on Tobynever stopping for hat or shawl. She heard
some one running after herbut said not a word tillas she paused
to call and listenthe light of her lantern shone on Dan's face.

You here! I told Jack to come,she saidhalf-inclined to send him
backmuch as she needed help.

I wouldn't let him; he and Emil hadn't had any supper, and I
wanted to come more than they did,he saidtaking the lantern
from her and smiling up in her face with the steady look in his eyes
that made her feel as ifboy though he wasshe had some one to
depend on.

Off she jumpedand ordered him on to Tobyin spite of his
pleading to walk; then they went on again along the dustysolitary
roadstopping every now and then to call and hearken breathlessly
for little voices to reply.

When they came to the great pastureother lights were already
flitting to and fro like will-o'-the-wispsand Mr. Bhaer's voice was
heard shoutingNan! Rob! Rob! Nan!in every part of the field.
Silas whistled and roaredDan plunged here and there on Toby
who seemed to understand the caseand went over the roughest
places with unusual docility. Often Mrs. Jo hushed them all
sayingwith a sob in her throatThe noise may frighten them, let
me call; Robby will know my voice;and then she would cry out
the beloved little name in every tone of tendernesstill the very
echoes whispered it softlyand the winds seemed to waft it
willingly; but still no answer came.

The sky was overcast nowand only brief glimpses of the moon
were seenheat-lightening darted out of the dark clouds now and
thenand a faint far-off rumble as of thunder told that a
summer-storm was brewing.

O my Robby! my Robby!mourned poor Mrs. Jowandering up
and down like a pale ghostwhile Dan kept beside her like a
faithful fire-fly. "What shall I say to Nan's father if she comes to
harm? Why did I ever trust my darling so far away? Fritzdo you
hear any thing?" and when a mournfulNocame backshe wrung
her hands so despairingly that Dan sprung down from Toby's back
tied the bridle to the barsand saidin his decided way

They may have gone down the spring I'm going to look.


He was over the wall and away so fast that she could hardly follow
him; but when she reached the spothe lowered the lantern and
showed her with joy the marks of little feet in the soft ground
about the spring. She fell down on her knees to examine the tracks
and then sprung upsaying eagerly

Yes; that is the mark of my Robby's little boots! Come this way,
they must have gone on.

Such a weary search! But now some inexplicable instinct seemed
to lead the anxious motherfor presently Dan uttered a cryand
caught up a little shining object lying in the path. It was the cover
of the new tin paildropped in the first alarm of being lost. Mrs. Jo
hugged and kissed it as if it were a living thing; and when Dan was
about to utter a glad shout to bring the others to the spotshe
stopped himsayingas she hurried onNo, let me find them; I let
Rob go, and I want to give him back to his father all myself.

A little farther on Nan's hat appearedand after passing the place
more than oncethey came at last upon the babes in the woodboth
sound asleep. Dan never forgot the little picture on which the light
of his lantern shone that night. He thought Mrs. Jo would cry out
but she only whisperedHush!as she softly lifted away the
apronand saw the little ruddy face below. The berry-stained lips
were half-open as the breath came and wentthe yellow hair lay
damp on the hot foreheadand both the chubby hands held fast the
little pail still full.

The sight of the childish harvesttreasured through all the troubles
of that night for herseemed to touch Mrs. Jo to the heartfor
suddenly she gathered up her boyand began to cry over himso
tenderlyyet so heartilythat he woke upand at first seemed
bewildered. Then he rememberedand hugged her closesaying
with a laugh of triumph

I knew you'd come! O Marmar! I did want you so!For a moment
they kissed and clung to one anotherquite forgetting all the world;
for no matter how lost and soiled and worn-out wandering sons
may bemothers can forgive and forget every thing as they fold
them in their fostering arms. Happy the son whose faith in his
mother remains unchangedand whothrough all his wanderings
has kept some filial token to repay her brave and tender love.

Dan meantime picked Nan out of her bushandwith a gentleness
none but Teddy ever saw in him beforehe soothed her first alarm
at the sudden wakingand wiped away her tears; for Nan also
began to cry for joyit was so good to see a kind face and feel a
strong arm round her after what seemed to her ages of loneliness
and fear.

My poor little girl, don't cry! You are all safe now, and no one
shall say a word of blame to-night,said Mrs. Jotaking Nan into
her capacious embraceand cuddling both children as a hen might
gather her lost chickens under her motherly wings.

It was my fault; but I am sorry. I tried to take care of him, and I
covered him up and let him sleep, and didn't touch his berries,
though I was so hungry; and I never will do it again truly, never,
never,sobbed Nanquite lost in a sea of penitence and
thankfulness.

Call them now, and let us get home,said Mrs. Jo; and Dan
getting upon the wallsent a joyful word "Found!" ringing over the
field.


How the wandering lights came dancing from all sidesand
gathered round the little group among the sweet fern bushes! Such
a huggingand kissingand talkingand cryingas went on must
have amazed the glowwormsand evidently delighted the
mosquitoesfor they hummed franticallywhile the little moths
came in flocks to the partyand the frogs croaked as if they could
not express their satisfaction loudly enough.

Then they set out for homea queer partyfor Franz rode on to tell
the news; Dan and Toby led the way; then came Nan in the strong
arms of Silaswho considered her "the smartest little baggage he
ever saw and teased her all the way home about her pranks. Mrs.
Bhaer would let no one carry Rob but himself, and the little fellow,
refreshed by sleep, sat up, and chattered gayly, feeling himself a
hero, while his mother went beside him holding on to any pat of
his precious little body that came handy, and never tired of hearing
him say, I knew Marmar would come or seeing him lean down
to kiss her, and put a plump berry into her mouth, 'Cause he
picked 'em all for her."

The moon shone out just as they reached the avenueand all the
boys came shouting to meet themso the lost lambs were borne in
triumph and safetyand landed in the dining-roomwhere the
unromantic little things demanded supper instead of preferring
kisses and caresses. They were set down to bread and milkwhile
the entire household stood round to gaze upon them. Nan soon
recovered her spiritsand recounted her perils with a relish now
that they were all over. Rob seemed absorbed in his foodbut put
down his spoon all of a suddenand set up a doleful roar.

My precious, why do you cry?asked his motherwho still hung
over him.

I'm crying 'cause I was lost,bawled Robtrying to squeeze out a
tearand failing entirely.

But you are found now. Nan says you didn't cry out in the field,
and I was glad you were such a brave boy.

I was so busy being frightened I didn't have any time then. But I
want to cry now, 'cause I don't like to be lost,explained Rob
struggling with sleepemotionand a mouthful of bread and milk.

The boys set up such a laugh at this funny way of making up for
lost timethat Rob stopped to look at themand the merriment was
so infectiousthat after a surprised stare he burst out into a merry
Ha, ha!and beat his spoon upon the table as if he enjoyed the
joke immensely.

It is ten o'clock; into bed, every man of you,said Mr. Bhaer
looking at his watch.

And, thank Heaven! there will be no empty ones to-night,added
Mrs. Bhaerwatchingwith full eyesRobby going up in his
father's armsand Nan escorted by Daisy and Demiwho
considered her the most interesting heroine of their collection.

Poor Aunt Jo is so tired she ought to be carried up herself,said
gentle Franzputting his arm round her as she paused at the
stair-footlooking quite exhausted by her fright and long walk.

Let's make an arm-chair,proposed Tommy.


No, thank you, my lads; but somebody may lend me a shoulder to
lean on,answered Mrs. Jo.

Me! me!and half-a-dozen jostled one anotherall eager to be
chosenfor there was something in the pale motherly face that
touched the warm hearts under the round jackets.

Seeing that they considered it an honorMrs. Jo gave it to the one
who had earned itand nobody grumbled when she put her arm on
Dan's broad shouldersayingwith a look that made him color up
with pride and pleasure

He found the children; so I think he must help me up.

Dan felt richly rewarded for his evening's worknot only that he
was chosen from all the rest to go proudly up bearing the lampbut
because Mrs. Jo said heartilyGood-night, my boy! God bless
you!as he left her at her door.

I wish I was your boy,said Danwho felt as if danger and trouble
had somehow brought him nearer than ever to her.

You shall be my oldest son,and she sealed her promise with a
kiss that made Dan hers entirely.

Little Rob was all right next daybut Nan had a headacheand lay
on Mother Bhaer's sofa with cold-cream upon her scratched face.
Her remorse was quite goneand she evidently thought being lost
rather a fine amusement. Mrs. Jo was not pleased with this state of
thingsand had no desire to have her children led from the paths of
virtueor her pupils lying round loose in huckleberry fields. So she
talked soberly to Nanand tried to impress upon her mind the
difference between liberty and licensetelling several tales to
enforce her lecture. She had not decided how to punish Nanbut
one of these stories suggested a wayand as Mrs. Jo liked odd
penaltiesshe tried it.

All children run away,pleaded Nanas if it was as natural and
necessary a thing as measles or hooping cough.

Not all, and some who do run away don't get found again,
answered Mrs. Jo.

Didn't you do it yourself?asked Nanwhose keen little eyes saw
some traces of a kindred spirit in the serious lady who was sewing
so morally before her.

Mrs. Jo laughedand owned that she did.

Tell about it,demanded Nanfeeling that she was getting the
upper hand in the discussion.

Mrs. Jo saw thatand sobered down at oncesayingwith a
remorseful shake of the head

I did it a good many times, and led my poor mother rather a hard
life with my pranks, till she cured me.

How?and Nan sat up with a face full of interest.

I had a new pair of shoes once, and wanted to show them; so,
though I was told not to leave the garden, I ran away and was
wandering about all day. It was in the city, and why I wasn't killed
I don't know. Such a time as I had. I frolicked in the park with


dogs, sailed boats in the Back Bay with strange boys, dined with a
little Irish beggar-girl on salt fish and potatoes, and was found at
last fast asleep on a door-step with my arms round a great dog. It
was late in the evening, and I was a dirty as a little pig, and the
new shoes were worn out I had travelled so far.

How nice!cried Nanlooking all ready to go and do it herself.

It was not nice next day;and Mrs. Jo tried to keep her eyes from
betraying how much she enjoyed the memory of her early capers.

Did your mother whip you?asked Nancuriously.

She never whipped me but once, and then she begged my pardon,
or I don't think I ever should have forgiven her, it hurt my feelings
so much.

Why did she beg your pardon? my father don't.

Because, when she had done it, I turned round and said, 'Well,
you are mad yourself, and ought to be whipped as much as me.'
She looked at me a minute, then her anger all died out, and she
said, as if ashamed, 'You are right, Jo, I am angry; and why should
I punish you for being in a passion when I set you such a bad
example? Forgive me, dear, and let us try to help one another in a
better way.' I never forgot it, and it did me more good than a dozen
rods.

Nan sat thoughtfully turning the little cold-cream jar for a minute
and Mrs. Jo said nothingbut let that idea get well into the busy
little mind that was so quick to see and feel what went on about
her.

I like that,said Nanpresentlyand her face looked less elfish
with its sharp eyesinquisitive noseand mischievous mouth.
What did your mother do to you when you ran away that time?

She tied me to the bed-post with a long string, so that I could not
go out of the room, and there I stayed all day with the little
worn-out shoes hanging up before me to remind me of my fault.

I should think that would cure anybody,cried Nanwho loved
her liberty above all things.

It did cure me, and I think it will you, so I am going to try it,said
Mrs. Josuddenly taking a ball of strong twine out of a drawer in
her work-table.

Nan looked as if she was decidedly getting the worst of the
argument nowand sat feeling much crestfallen while Mrs. Jo tied
one end round her waist and the other to the arm of the sofa
sayingas she finished

I don't like to tie you up like a naughty little dog, but if you don't
remember any better than a dog, I must treat you like one.

I'd just as lief be tied up as not I like to play dog;and Nan put on
a don't-care faceand began to growl and grovel on the floor.

Mrs. Jo took no noticebut leaving a book or two and a
handkerchief to hemshe went awayand left Miss Nan to her own
devices. This was not agreeableand after sitting a moment she
tried to untie the cord. But it was fastened in the belt of her apron
behindso she began on the knot at the other end. It soon came


looseandgathering it upNan was about to get out of the
windowwhen she heard Mrs. Jo say to somebody as she passed
through the hall

No, I don't think she will run away now; she is an honorable little
girl, and knows that I do it to help her.

In a minuteNan whisked backtied herself upand began to sew
violently. Rob came in a moment afterand was so charmed with
the new punishmentthat he got a jump-rope and tethered himself
to the other arm of the sofa in the most social manner.

I got lost too, so I ought to be tied up as much as Nan,he
explained to his mother when she saw the new captive.

I'm not sure that you don't deserve a little punishment, for you
knew it was wrong to go far away from the rest.

Nan took me,began Robwilling to enjoy the novel penaltybut
not willing to take the blame.

You needn't have gone. You have got a conscience, though you
are a little boy, and you must learn to mind it.

Well, my conscience didn't prick me a bit when she said 'Let's get
over the wall,' answered Robquoting one of Demi's expressions.

Did you stop to see if it did?

No.

Then you cannot tell.

I guess it's such a little conscience that it don't prick hard enough
for me to feel it,added Robafter thinking the matter over for a
minute.

We must sharpen it up. It's bad to have a dull conscience; so you
may stay here till dinner-time, and talk about it with Nan. I trust
you both not to untie yourselves till I say the word.

No, we won't,said bothfeeling a certain sense of virtue in
helping to punish themselves.

For an hour they were very goodthen they grew tired of one room
and longed to get out. Never had the hall seemed so inviting; even
the little bedroom acquired a sudden interestand they would
gladly have gone in and played tent with the curtains of the best
bed. The open windows drove them wild because they could not
reach them; and the outer world seemed so beautifulthey
wondered how they ever found the heart to say it was dull. Nan
pined for a race round the lawnand Rob remembered with dismay
that he had not fed his dog that morningand wondered what poor
Pollux would do. They watched the clockand Nan did some nice
calculations in minutes and secondswhile Rob learned to tell all
the hours between eight and one so well that he never forgot them.
It was maddening to smell the dinnerto know that there was to be
succotash and huckleberry puddingand to feel that they would not
be on the spot to secure good helps of both. When Mary Ann
began to set the tablethey nearly cut themselves in two trying to
see what meat there was to be; and Nan offered to help her make
the bedsif she would only see that she had "lots of sauce on her
pudding."


When the boys came bursting out of schoolthey found the
children tugging at their halters like a pair of restive little colts
and were much edifiedas well as amusedby the sequel to the
exciting adventures of the night.


Untie me now, Marmar; my conscience will prick like a pin next
time, I know it will,said Robas the bell rangand Teddy came to
look at him with sorrowful surprise.


We shall see,answered his mothersetting him free. He took a
good run down the hallback through the dining-roomand
brought up beside Nanquite beaming with virtuous satisfaction.


I'll bring her dinner to her, may I?he askedpitying his
fellow-captive.


That's my kind little son! Yes, pull out the table, and get a chair;
and Mrs. Jo hurried away to quell the ardor of the otherswho
were always in a raging state of hunger at noon.


Nan ate aloneand spent a long afternoon attached to the sofa.
Mrs. Bhaer lengthened her bonds so that she could look out of the
window; and there she stood watching the boys playand all the
little summer creatures enjoying their liberty. Daisy had a picnic
for the dolls on the lawnso that Nan might see the fun if she could
not join in it. Tommy turned his best somersaults to console her;
Demi sat on the steps reading aloud to himselfwhich amused Nan
a good deal; and Dan brought a little tree-toad to show her as the
most delicate attention in his power.


But nothing atoned for the loss of freedom; and a few hours of
confinement taught Nan how precious it was. A good many
thoughts went through the little head that lay on the window-sill
during the last quiet hour when all the children went to the brook
to see Emil's new ship launched. She was to have christened itand
had depended on smashing a tiny bottle of currant-wine over the
prow as it was named Josephine in honor of Mrs. Bhaer. Now she
had lost her chanceand Daisy wouldn't do it half so well. Tears
rose to her eyes as she remembered that it was all her own fault;
and she said aloudaddressing a fat bee who was rolling about in
the yellow heart of a rose just under the window


If you have run away, you'd better go right home, and tell your
mother you are sorry, and never do so any more.


I am glad to hear you give him such good advice, and I think he
has taken it,said Mrs. Josmilingas the bee spread his dusty
wings and flew away.


Nan brushed off a bright drop or two that shone on the
window-silland nestled against her friend as she took her on her
kneeadding kindly for she had seen the little dropsand knew
what they meant


Do you think my mother's cure for running away a good one?


Yes, ma'am,answered Nanquite subdued by her quiet day.


I hope I shall not have to try it again.


I guess not;and Nan looked up with such an earnest little face
that Mrs. Jo felt satisfiedand said no morefor she liked to have
her penalties do their own workand did not spoil the effect by too
much moralizing.



Here Rob appearedbearing with infinite care what Asia called a
sarcer pie,meaning one baked in a saucer.

It's made out of some of my berries, and I'm going to give you half
at supper-time,he announced with a flourish.

What makes you, when I'm so naughty?asked Nanmeekly.

Because we got lost together. You ain't going to be naughty again,
are you?

Never,said Nanwith great decision.

Oh, goody! now let's go and get Mary Ann to cut this for us all
ready to eat; it's 'most tea time;and Rob beckoned with the
delicious little pie.

Nan started to followthen stoppedand said

I forgot, I can't go.

Try and see,said Mrs. Bhaerwho had quietly untied the cord
sash while she had been talking.

Nan saw that she was freeand with one tempestuous kiss to Mrs.
Joshe was off like a humming-birdfollowed by Robbydribbling
huckleberry juice as he ran.

CHAPTER XIII GOLDILOCKS

After the last excitement peace descended upon Plumfield and
reigned unbroken for several weeksfor the elder boys felt that the
loss of Nan and Rob lay at their doorand all became so paternal
in their care that they were rather wearying; while the little ones
listened to Nan's recital of her perils so many timesthat they
regarded being lost as the greatest ill humanity was heir toand
hardly dared to put their little noses outside the great gate lest
night should suddenly descend upon themand ghostly black cows
come looming through the dusk.

It is too good to last,said Mrs. Jo; for years of boy-culture had
taught her that such lulls were usually followed by outbreaks of
some sortand when less wise women would have thought that the
boys had become confirmed saintsshe prepared herself for a
sudden eruption of the domestic volcano.

One cause of this welcome calm was a visit from little Bess
whose parents lent her for a week while they were away with
Grandpa Laurencewho was poorly. The boys regarded Goldilocks
as a mixture of childangeland fairyfor she was a lovely little
creatureand the golden hair which she inherited from her blonde
mamma enveloped her like a shining veilbehind which she
smiled upon her worshippers when graciousand hid herself when
offended. Her father would not have it cut and it hung below her
waistso soft and fine and brightthat Demi insisted that it was
silk spun from a cocoon. Every one praised the little Princessbut
it did not seem to do her harmonly to teach her that her presence
brought sunshineher smiles made answering smiles on other
facesand her baby griefs filled every heart with tenderest
sympathy.

Unconsciouslyshe did her young subjects more good than many a
real sovereignfor her rule was very gentle and her power was felt


rather than seen. Her natural refinement made her dainty in all
thingsand had a good effect upon the careless lads about her. She
would let no one touch her roughly or with unclean handsand
more soap was used during her visits than at any other time
because the boys considered it the highest honor to be allowed to
carry her highnessand the deepest disgrace to be repulsed with
the disdainful commandDo away, dirty boy!

Lour voices displeased her and quarrelling frightened her; so
gentler tones came into the boyish voices as they addressed her
and squabbles were promptly suppressed in her presence by
lookers-on if the principles could not restrain themselves. She
liked to be waited onand the biggest boys did her little errands
without a murmurwhile the small lads were her devoted slaves in
all things. They begged to be allowed to draw her carriagebear
her berry-basketor pass her plate at table. No service was too
humbleand Tommy and Ned came to blows before they could
decide which should have the honor of blacking her little boots.

Nan was especially benefited by a week in the society of a
well-bred ladythough such a very small one; for Bess would look
at her with a mixture of wonder and alarm in her great blue eyes
when the hoyden screamed and romped; and she shrunk from her
as if she thought her a sort of wild animal. Warm-hearted Nan felt
this very much. She said at firstPooh! I don't care!But she did
careand was so hurt when Bess saidI love my tuzzin best, tause
she is twiet,that she shook poor Daisy till her teeth chattered in
her headand then fled to the barn to cry dismally. In that general
refuge for perturbed spirits she found comfort and good counsel
from some source or other. Perhaps the swallows from their
mud-built nests overhead twittered her a little lecture on the beauty
of gentleness. However that might have beenshe came out quite
subduedand carefully searched the orchard for a certain kind of
early apple that Bess liked because it was sweet and small and
rosy. Armed with this peace-offeringshe approached the little
Princessand humbly presented it. To her great joy it was
graciously acceptedand when Daisy gave Nan a forgiving kiss
Bess did likewiseas if she felt that she had been too severeand
desired to apologize. After this they played pleasantly together
and Nan enjoyed the royal favor for days. To be sure she felt a
little like a wild bird in a pretty cage at firstand occasionally had
to slip out to stretch her wings in a long flightor to sing at the top
of her voicewhere neither would disturb the plump turtle-dove
Daisynor the dainty golden canary Bess. But it did her good; for
seeing how every one loved the little Princess for her small graces
and virtuesshe began to imitate herbecause Nan wanted much
loveand tried hard to win it.

Not a boy in the house but felt the pretty child's influenceand was
improved by it without exactly knowing how or whyfor babies
can work miracles in the hearts that love them. Poor Billy found
infinite satisfaction in staring at herand though she did not like it
she permitted without a frownafter she had been made to
understand that he was not quite like the othersand on that
account must be more kindly treated. Dick and Dolly
overwhelmed her with willow whistlesthe only thing they knew
how to makeand she accepted but never used them. Rob served
her like a little loverand Teddy followed her like a pet dog. Jack
she did not likebecause he was afflicted with warts and had a
harsh voice. Stuffy displeased her because he did not eat tidilyand
George tried hard not to gobblethat he might not disgust the
dainty little lady opposite. Ned was banished from court in utter
disgrace when he was discovered tormenting some unhappy
field-mice. Goldilocks could never forget the sad spectacleand


retired behind her veil when he approachedwaving him away
with an imperious little handand cryingin a tone of mingled
grief and anger


No, I tarn't love him; he tut the poor mouses' little tails off, and
they queeked!


Daisy promptly abdicated when Bess cameand took the humble
post of chief cookwhile Nan was first maid of honor; Emil was
chancellor of the exchequerand spent the public monies lavishly
in getting up spectacles that cost whole ninepences. Franz was
prime ministerand directed her affairs of stateplanned royal
progresses through the kingdomand kept foreign powers in order.
Demi was her philosopherand fared much better than such
gentlemen usually do among crowned heads. Dan was her standing
armyand defended her territories gallantly; Tommy was court
fooland Nat a tuneful Rizzio to this innocent little Mary.


Uncle Fritz and Aunt Jo enjoyed this peaceful episodeand looked
on at the pretty play in which the young folk unconsciously
imitated their elderswithout adding the tragedy that is so apt to
spoil the dramas acted on the larger stage.


They teach us quite as much as we teach them,said Mr. Bhaer.


Bless the dears! they never guess how many hints they give us as
to the best way of managing them,answered Mrs. Jo.


I think you were right about the good effect of having girls among
the boys. Nan has stirred up Daisy, and Bess is teaching the little
bears how to behave better than we can. If this reformation goes on
as it has begun, I shall soon feel like Dr. Blimber with his model
young gentlemen,said Professorlaughingas he saw Tommy not
only remove his own hatbut knock off Ned's alsoas they entered
the hall where the Princess was taking a ride on the rocking-horse
attended by Rob and Teddy astride of chairsand playing gallant
knights to the best of their ability.


You will never be a Blimber, Fritz, you couldn't do it if you tried;
and our boys will never submit to the forcing process of that
famous hot-bed. No fear that they will be too elegant: American
boys like liberty too well. But good manners they cannot fail to
have, if we give them the kindly spirit that shines through the
simplest demeanor, making it courteous and cordial, like yours,
my dear old boy.


Tut! tut! we will not compliment; for if I begin you will run away,
and I have a wish to enjoy this happy half hour to the end;yet Mr.
Bhaer looked pleased with the complimentfor it was trueand
Mrs. Jo felt that she had received the best her husband could give
herby saying that he found his truest rest and happiness in her
society.


To return to the children: I have just had another proof of
Goldilocks' good influence,said Mrs. Jodrawing her chair nearer
the sofawhere the Professor lay resting after a long day's work in
his various gardens. "Nan hates sewingbut for love of Bess has
been toiling half the afternoon over a remarkable bag in which to
present a dozen of our love-apples to her idol when she goes. I
praised her for itand she saidin her quick way'I like to sew for
other people; it is stupid sewing for myself.' I took the hintand
shall give her some little shirts and aprons for Mrs. Carney's
children. She is so generousshe will sew her fingers sore for
themand I shall not have to make a task of it."



But needlework is not a fashionable accomplishment, my dear.

Sorry for it. My girls shall learn all I can teach them about it, even
if they give up the Latin, Algebra, and half-a-dozen ologies it is
considered necessary for girls to muddle their poor brains over
now-a-days. Amy means to make Bess an accomplished woman,
but the dear's mite of a forefinger has little pricks on it already,
and her mother has several specimens of needlework which she
values more than the clay bird without a bill, that filled Laurie
with such pride when Bess made it.

I also have proof of the Princess's power,said Mrs. Bhaerafter
he had watched Mrs. Jo sew on a button with an air of scorn for
the whole system of fashionable education. "Jack is so unwilling to
be classed with Stuffy and Nedas distasteful to Bessthat he came
to me a little while agoand asked me to touch his warts with
caustic. I have often proposed itand he never would consent; but
now he bore the smart manfullyand consoles his present
discomfort by hopes of future favorwhen he can show her
fastidious ladyship a smooth hand."

Mrs. Bhaer laughed at the storyand just then Stuffy came in to ask
if he might give Goldilocks some of the bonbons his mother had
sent him.

She is not allowed to eat sweeties; but if you like to give her the
pretty box with the pink sugar-rose in it, she would like it very
much,said Mrs. Jounwilling to spoil this unusual piece of
self-denialfor the "fat boy" seldom offered to share his
sugar-plums.

Won't she eat it? I shouldn't like to make her sick,said Stuffy
eyeing the delicate sweetmeat lovinglyyet putting it into the box.

Oh, no, she won't touch it, if I tell her it is to look at, not to eat.
She will keep it for weeks, and never think of tasting it. Can you
do as much?

I should hope so! I'm ever so much older than she is,cried
Stuffyindignantly.

Well, suppose we try. Here, put your bonbons in this bag, and see
how long you can keep them. Let me count two hearts, four red
fishes, three barley-sugar horses, nine almonds, and a dozen
chocolate drops. Do you agree to that?asked sly Mrs. Jopopping
the sweeties into her little spool-bag.

Yes,said Stuffywith a sigh; and pocketing the forbidden fruit
he went away to give Bess the presentthat won a smile from her
and permission to escort her round the garden.

Poor Stuffy's heart has really got the better of his stomach at last,
and his efforts will be much encouraged by the rewards Bess gives
him,said Mrs. Jo.

Happy is the man who can put temptation in his pocket and learn
self-denial from so sweet a little teacher!added Mr. Bhaeras the
children passed the windowStuffy's fat face full of placid
satisfactionand Goldilocks surveying her sugar-rose with polite
interestthough she would have preferred a real flower with a
pitty smell.

When her father came to take her homea universal wail arose


and the parting gifts showered upon her increased her luggage to
such an extent that Mr. Laurie proposed having out the big wagon
to take it into town. Every one had given her something; and it was
found difficult to pack white micecakea parcel of shellsapples
a rabbit kicking violently in a baga large cabbage for his
refreshmenta bottle of minnowsand a mammoth bouquet. The
farewell scene was movingfor the Princess sat upon the
hall-tablesurrounded by her subjects. She kissed her cousinsand
held out her hand to the other boyswho shook it gently with
various soft speechesfor they were taught not to be ashamed of
showing their emotions.

Come again soon, little dear,whispered Danfastening his best
green-and-gold beetle in her hat.

Don't forget me, Princess, whatever you do,said the engaging
Tommytaking a last stroke of the pretty hair.

I am coming to your house next week, and then I shall see you,
Bess,added Natas if he found consolation in the thought.

Do shake hands now,cried Jackoffering a smooth paw.

Here are two nice new ones to remember us by,said Dick and
Dollypresenting fresh whistlesquite unconscious that seven old
ones had been privately deposited in the kitchen-stove.

My little precious! I shall work you a book-mark right away, and
you must keep it always,said Nanwith a warm embrace.

But of all the farewellspoor Billy's was the most patheticfor the
thought that she was really going became so unbearable that he
cast himself down before herhugging her little blue boots and
blubbering despairinglyDon't go away! oh, don't!Goldilocks
was so touched by this burst of feelingthat she leaned over and
lifting the poor lad's headsaidin her softlittle voice

Don't cry, poor Billy! I will tiss you and tum adain soon.

This promise consoled Billyand he fell back beaming with pride
at the unusual honor conferred upon him.

Me too! me too!clamored Dick and Dollyfeeling that their
devotion deserved some return. The others looked as if they would
like to join in the cry; and something in the kindmerry faces
about her moved the Princess to stretch out her arms and saywith
reckless condescension

I will tiss evvybody!

Like a swarm of bees about a very sweet flowerthe affectionate
lads surrounded their pretty playmateand kissed her till she
looked like a little rosenot roughlybut so enthusiastically that
nothing but the crown of her hat was visible for a moment. Then
her father rescued herand she drove away still smiling and
waving her handswhile the boys sat on the fence screaming like a
flock of guinea-fowlsCome back! come back!till she was out
of sight.

They all missed herand each dimly felt that he was better for
having known a creature so lovelydelicateand sweet; for little
Bess appealed to the chivalrous instinct in them as something to
loveadmireand protect with a tender sort of reverence. Many a
man remembers some pretty child who has made a place in his


heart and kept her memory alive by the simple magic of her
innocence; these little men were just learning to feel this power
and to love it for its gentle influencenot ashamed to let the small
hand lead themnor to own their loyalty to womankindeven in
the bud.

CHAPTER XIV DAMON AND PYTHIAS

Mrs. Bhaer was right; peace was only a temporary lulla storm
was brewingand two days after Bess lefta moral earthquake
shook Plumfield to its centre.

Tommy's hens were at the bottom of the troublefor if they had not
persisted in laying so many eggshe could not have sold them and
made such sums. Money is the root of all eviland yet it is such a
useful root that we cannot get on without it any more than we can
without potatoes. Tommy certainly could notfor he spent his
income so recklesslythat Mr. Bhaer was obliged to insist on a
savings-bankand presented him with a private one an imposing
tin edificewith the name over the doorand a tall chimneydown
which the pennies were to gothere to rattle temptingly till leave
was given to open a sort of trap-door in the floor.

The house increased in weight so rapidlythat Tommy soon
became satisfied with his investmentand planned to buy
unheard-of treasures with his capital. He kept account of the sums
depositedand was promised that he might break the bank as soon
as he had five dollarson condition that he spent the money wisely.
Only one dollar was neededand the day Mrs. Jo paid him for four
dozen eggshe was so delightedthat he raced off to the barn to
display the bright quarters to Natwho was also laying by money
for the long-desired violin.

I wish I had 'em to put with my three dollars, then I'd soon get
enough to buy my fiddle,he saidlooking wistfully at the money.

P'raps I'll lend you some. I haven't decided yet what I'll do with
mine,said Tommytossing up his quarters and catching them as
they fell.

Hi! boys! come down to the brook and see what a jolly great
snake Dan's got!called a voice from behind the barn.

Come on,said Tommy; andlaying his money inside the old
winnowing machineaway he ranfollowed by Nat.

The snake was very interestingand then a long chase after a lame
crowand its captureso absorbed Tommy's mind and timethat he
never thought of his money till he was safely in bed that night.

Never mind, no one but Nat knows where it is,said the
easy-going ladand fell asleep untroubled by any anxiety about his
property.

Next morningjust as the boys assembled for schoolTommy
rushed into the room breathlesslydemanding

I say, who has got my dollar?

What are you talking about?asked Franz.

Tommy explainedand Nat corroborated his statement.

Every one else declared they knew nothing about itand began to


look suspiciously at Natwho got more and more alarmed and
confused with each denial.

Somebody must have taken it,said Franzas Tommy shook his
fist at the whole partyand wrathfully declared that

By thunder turtles! if I get hold of the thief, I'll give him what he
won't forget in a hurry.

Keep cool, Tom; we shall find him out; thieves always come to
grief,said Danas one who knew something of the matter.

May be some tramp slept in the barn and took it,suggested Ned.

No, Silas don't allow that; besides, a tramp wouldn't go looking in
that old machine for money,said Emilwith scorn.

Wasn't it Silas himself?said Jack.

Well, I like that! Old Si is as honest as daylight. You wouldn't
catch him touching a penny of ours,said Tommyhandsomely
defending his chief admirer from suspicion.

Whoever it was had better tell, and not wait to be found out,said
Demilooking as if an awful misfortune had befallen the family.

I know you think it's me,broke out Natred and excited.

You are the only one who knew where it was,said Franz.

I can't help it I didn't take it. I tell you I didn't I didn't!cried Nat
in a desperate sort of way.

Gently, gently, my son! What is all this noise about?and Mr.
Bhaer walked in among them.

Tommy repeated the story of his lossandas he listenedMr.
Bhaer's face grew graver and graver; forwith all their faults and
folliesthe lads till now had been honest.

Take your seats,he said; andwhen all were in their placeshe
added slowlyas his eye went from face to face with a grieved
lookthat was harder to bear than a storm of words

Now, boys, I shall ask each one of you a single question, and I
want an honest answer. I am not going to try to frighten, bribe, or
surprise the truth out of you, for every one of you have got a
conscience, and know what it is for. Now is the time to undo the
wrong done to Tommy, and set yourselves right before us all. I can
forgive the yielding to sudden temptation much easier than I can
deceit. Don't add a lie to the theft, but confess frankly, and we will
all try to help you make us forget and forgive.

He paused a momentand one might have heard a pin dropthe
room was so still; then slowly and impressively he put the question
to each onereceiving the same answer in varying tones from all.
Every face was flushed and excitedso that Mr. Bhaer could not
take color as a witnessand some of the little boys were so
frightened that they stammered over the two short words as if
guiltythough it was evident that they could not be. When he came
to Nathis voice softenedfor the poor lad looked so wretchedMr.
Bhaer felt for him. He believed him to be the culpritand hoped to
save the boy from another lieby winning him to tell the truth
without fear.


Now, my son, give me an honest answer. Did you take the
money?

No, sir!and Nat looked up at him imploringly.

As the words fell from his trembling lipssomebody hissed.

Stop that!cried Mr. Bhaerwith a sharp rap on his deskas he
looked sternly toward the corner whence the sound came.

NedJackand Emil sat thereand the first two looked ashamed of
themselvesbut Emil called out

It wasn't me, uncle! I'd be ashamed to hit a fellow when he is
down.

Good for you!cried Tommywho was in a sad state of affliction
at the trouble his unlucky dollar had made.

Silence!commanded Mr. Bhaer; and when it camehe said
soberly

I am very sorry, Nat, but evidences are against you, and your old
fault makes us more ready to doubt you than we should be if we
could trust you as we do some of the boys, who never fib. But
mind, my child, I do not charge you with this theft; I shall not
punish you for it till I am perfectly sure, nor ask any thing more
about it. I shall leave it for you to settle with your own conscience.
If you are guilty, come to me at any hour of the day or night and
confess it, and I will forgive and help you to amend. If you are
innocent, the truth will appear sooner or later, and the instant it
does, I will be the first to beg your pardon for doubting you, and
will so gladly do my best to clear your character before us all.

I didn't! I didn't!sobbed Natwith his head down upon his arms
for he could not bear the look of distrust and dislike which he read
in the many eyes fixed on him.

I hope not.Mr. Bhaer paused a minuteas if to give the culprit
whoever he might beone more chance. Nobody spokehowever
and only sniffs of sympathy from some of the little fellows broke
the silence. Mr. Bhaer shook his headand addedregretfully

There is nothing more to be done, then, and I have but one thing
to say: I shall not speak of this again, and I wish you all to follow
my example. I cannot expect you to feel as kindly toward any one
whom you suspect as before this happened, but I do expect and
desire that you will not torment the suspected person in any way,
he will have a hard enough time without that. Now go to your
lessons.

Father Bhaer let Nat off too easy,muttered Ned to Emilas they
got out their books.

Hold your tongue,growled Emilwho felt that this event was a
blot upon the family honor.

Many of the boys agreed with Nedbut Mr. Bhaer was right
nevertheless; and Nat would have been wiser to confess on the
spot and have the trouble overfor even the hardest whipping he
ever received from his father was far easier to bear than the cold
looksthe avoidanceand general suspicion that met him on all
sides. If ever a boy was sent to Coventry and kept thereit was


poor Nat; and he suffered a week of slow torturethough not a
hand was raised against himand hardly a word said.

That was the worst of it; if they would only have talked it outor
even have thrashed him all roundhe could have stood it better
than the silent distrust that made very face so terrible to meet.
Even Mrs. Bhaer's showed traces of itthough her manner was
nearly as kind as ever; but the sorrowful anxious look in Father
Bhaer's eyes cut Nat to the heartfor he loved his teacher dearly
and knew that he had disappointed all his hopes by this double sin.

Only one person in the house entirely believed in himand stood
up for him stoutly against all the rest. This was Daisy. She could
not explain why she trusted him against all appearancesshe only
felt that she could not doubt himand her warm sympathy made
her strong to take his part. She would not hear a word against him
from any oneand actually slapped her beloved Demi when he
tried to convince her that it must have been Natbecause no one
else knew where the money was.

Maybe the hens ate it; they are greedy old things,she said; and
when Demi laughedshe lost her temperslapped the amazed boy
and then burst out crying and ran awaystill declaringHe didn't!
he didn't! he didn't!

Neither aunt nor uncle tried to shake the child's faith in her friend
but only hoped her innocent instinct might prove sureand loved
her all the better for it. Nat often saidafter it was overthat he
couldn't have stood itif it had not been for Daisy. When the others
shunned himshe clung to him closer than everand turned her
back on the rest. She did not sit on the stairs now when he solaced
himself with the old fiddlebut went in and sat beside him
listening with a face so full of confidence and affectionthat Nat
forgot disgrace for a timeand was happy. She asked him to help
her with her lessonsshe cooked him marvelous messes in her
kitchenwhich he ate manfullyno matter what they werefor
gratitude gave a sweet flavor to the most distasteful. She proposed
impossible games of cricket and ballwhen she found that he
shrank from joining the other boys. She put little nosegays from
her garden on his deskand tried in every way to show that she was
not a fair-weather friendbut faithful through evil as well as good
repute. Nan soon followed her examplein kindness at least;
curbed her sharp tongueand kept her scornful little nose from any
demonstration of doubt or dislikewhich was good of Madame
Giddy-gaddyfor she firmly believed that Nat took the money.

Most of the boys let him severely alonebut Danthough he said
he despised him for being a cowardwatched over him with a grim
sort of protectionand promptly cuffed any lad who dared to
molest his mate or make him afraid. His idea of friendship was as
high as Daisy'sandin his own rough wayhe lived up to it as
loyally.

Sitting by the brook one afternoonabsorbed in the study of the
domestic habits of water-spidershe overheard a bit of
conversation on the other side of the wall. Nedwho was intensely
inquisitivehad been on tenterhooks to know certainly who was
the culprit; for of late one or two of the boys had begun to think
that they were wrongNat was so steadfast in his denialsand so
meek in his endurance of their neglect. This doubt had teased Ned
past bearingand he had several times privately beset Nat with
questionsregardless of Mr. Bhaer's express command. Finding
Nat reading alone on the shady side of the wallNed could not
resist stopping for a nibble at the forbidden subject. He had


worried Nat for some ten minutes before Dan arrivedand the first
words the spider-student heard were thesein Nat's patient
pleading voice

Don't, Ned! oh, don't! I can't tell you because I don't know, and it's
mean of you to keep nagging at me on the sly, when Father Bhaer
told you not to plague me. You wouldn't dare to if Dan was round.

I ain't afraid of Dan; he's nothing but an old bully. Don't believe
but what he took Tom's money, and you know it, and won't tell.
Come, now!

He didn't, but, if he did, I would stand up for him, he has always
been so good to me,said Natso earnestly that Dan forgot his
spidersand rose quickly to thank himbut Ned's next words
arrested him.

I know Dan did it, and gave the money to you. Shouldn't wonder
if he got his living picking pockets before he came here, for
nobody knows any thing about him but you,said Nednot
believing his own wordsbut hoping to get the truth out of Nat by
making him angry.

He succeeded in a part of his ungenerous wishfor Nat cried out
fiercely

If you say that again I'll go and tell Mr. Bhaer all about it. I don't
want to tell tales, but, by George! I will, if you don't let Dan
alone.

Then you'll be a sneak, as well as a liar and a thief,began Ned
with a jeerfor Nat had borne insult to himself so meeklythe
other did not believe he would dare to face the master just to stand
up for Dan.

What he might have added I cannot tellfor the words were hardly
out of his mouth when a long arm from behind took him by the
collarandjerking him over the wall in a most promiscuous way
landed him with a splash in the middle of the brook.

Say that again and I'll duck you till you can't see!cried Dan
looking like a modern Colossus of Rhodes as he stoodwith a foot
on either side of the narrow streamglaring down at the
discomfited youth in the water.

I was only in fun,said Ned.

You are a sneak yourself to badger Nat round the corner. Let me
catch you at it again, and I'll souse you in the river next time. Get
up, and clear out!thundered Danin a rage.

Ned fleddrippingand his impromptu sitz-bath evidently did him
goodfor he was very respectful to both the boys after thatand
seemed to have left his curiosity in the brook. As he vanished Dan
jumped over the walland found Nat lyingas if quite worn out
and bowed down with his troubles.

He won't pester you again, I guess. If he does, just tell me, and I'll
see to him,said Dantrying to cool down.

I don't mind what he says about me so much, I've got used to it,
answered Nat sadly; "but I hate to have him pitch into you."

How do you know he isn't right?asked Danturning his face


away.

What, about the money?cried Natlooking up with a startled air.

Yes.

But I don't believe it! You don't care for money; all you want is
your old bugs and things,and Nat laughedincredulously.

I want a butterfly net as much as you want a fiddle; why shouldn't
I steal the money for it as much as you?said Danstill turning
awayand busily punching holes in the turf with his stick.

I don't think you would. You like to fight and knock folks round
sometimes, but you don't lie, and I don't believe you'd steal,and
Nat shook his head decidedly.

I've done both. I used to fib like fury; it's too much trouble now;
and I stole things to eat out of gardens when I ran away from Page,
so you see I am a bad lot,said Danspeaking in the rough
reckless way which he had been learning to drop lately.

O Dan! don't say it's you! I'd rather have it any of the other boys,
cried Natin such a distressed tone that Dan looked pleasedand
showed that he didby turning round with a queer expression in his
facethough he only answered

I won't say any thing about it. But don't you fret, and we'll pull
through somehow, see if we don't.

Something in his face and manner gave Nat a new idea; and he
saidpressing his hands togetherin the eagerness of his appeal

I think you know who did it. If you do, beg him to tell, Dan. It's so
hard to have 'em all hate me for nothing. I don't think I can bear it
much longer. If I had any place to go to, I'd run away, though I love
Plumfield dearly; but I'm not brave and big like you, so I must stay
and wait till some one shows them that I haven't lied.

As he spokeNat looked so broken and despairingthat Dan could
not bear itandmuttered huskily

You won't wait long,and he walked rapidly awayand was seen
no more for hours.

What is the matter with Dan?asked the boys of one another
several times during the Sunday that followed a week which
seemed as if it would never end. Dan was often moodybut that
day he was so sober and silent that no one could get any thing out
of him. When they walked he strayed away from the restand
came home late. He took no part in the evening conversationbut
sat in the shadowso busy with his own thoughts that he scarcely
seemed to hear what was going on. When Mrs. Jo showed him an
unusually good report in the Conscience Bookhe looked at it
without a smileand saidwistfully

You think I am getting on, don't you?

Excellently, Dan! and I am so pleased, because I always thought
you only needed a little help to make you a boy to be proud of.

He looked up at her with a strange expression in his black eyes an
expression of mingled pride and love and sorrow which she could
not understand then but remembered afterward.


I'm afraid you'll be disappointed, but I do try,he saidshutting
the book with no sign of pleasure in the page that he usually liked
so much to read over and talk about.

Are you sick, dear?asked Mrs. Jowith her hand on his shoulder.

My foot aches a little; I guess I'll go to bed. Good-night, mother,
he addedand held the hand against his cheek a minutethen went
away looking as if he had said good-bye to something dear.

Poor Dan! he takes Nat's disgrace to heart sadly. He is a strange
boy; I wonder if I ever shall understand him thoroughly?said Mrs.
Jo to herselfas she thought over Dan's late improvement with real
satisfactionyet felt that there was more in the lad than she had at
first suspected.

One of things which cut Nat most deeply was an act of Tommy's
for after his loss Tommy had said to himkindlybut firmly

I don't wish to hurt you, Nat, but you see I can't afford to lose my
money, so I guess we won't be partners any longer;and with that
Tommy rubbed out the signT. Bangs & Co.

Nat had been very proud of the "Co. and had hunted eggs
industriously, kept his accounts all straight, and had added a good
sum to his income from the sale of his share of stock in trade.

O Tom! must you?" he saidfeeling that his good name was gone
for ever in the business world if this was done.

I must,returned Tommyfirmly. "Emil says that when one man
'bezzles (believe that's the word it means to take money and cut
away with it) the property of a firmthe other one sues himor
pitches into him somehowand won't have any thing more to do
with him. Now you have 'bezzled my property; I shan't sue you
and I shan't pitch into youbut I must dissolve the partnership
because I can't trust youand I don't wish to fail."

I can't make you believe me, and you won't take my money,
though I'd be thankful to give all my dollars if you'd only say you
don't think I took your money. Do let me hunt for you, I won't ask
any wages, but do it for nothing. I know all the places, and I like
it,pleaded Nat.

But Tommy shook his headand his jolly round face looked
suspicious and hard as he saidshortlyCan't do it; wish you didn't
know the places. Mind you don't go hunting on the sly, and
speculate in my eggs.

Poor Nat was so hurt that he could not get over it. He felt that he
had lost not only his partner and patronbut that he was bankrupt
in honorand an outlaw from the business community. No one
trusted his wordwritten or spokenin spite of his efforts to
redeem the past falsehood; the sign was downthe firm broken up
and he a ruined man. The barnwhich was the boys' Wall Street
knew him no more. Cockletop and her sisters cackled for him in
vainand really seemed to take his misfortune to heartfor eggs
were fewerand some of the biddies retired in disgust to new nests
which Tommy could not find.

They trust me,said Natwhen he heard of it; and though the boys
shouted at the ideaNat found comfort in itfor when one is down
in the worldthe confidence of even a speckled hen is most


consoling.

Tommy took no new partnerhoweverfor distrust had entered in
and poisoned the peace of his once confiding soul. Ned offered to
join himbut he declinedsayingwith a sense of justice that did
him honor

It might turn out that Nat didn't take my money, and then we
could be partners again. I don't think it will happen, but I will give
him a chance, and keep the place open a little longer.

Billy was the only person whom Bangs felt he could trust in his
shopand Billy was trained to hunt eggsand hand them over
unbrokenbeing quite satisfied with an apple or a sugar-plum for
wages. The morning after Dan's gloomy SundayBilly said to his
employeras he displayed the results of a long hunt

Only two.

It gets worse and worse; I never saw such provoking old hens,
growled Tommythinking of the days when he often had six to
rejoice over. "Wellput 'em in my hat and give me a new bit of
chalk; I must mark 'em upany way."

Billy mounted a peck-measureand looked into the top of the
machinewhere Tommy kept his writing materials.

There's lots of money in here,said Billy.

No, there isn't. Catch me leaving my cash round again,returned
Tommy.

I see 'em one, four, eight, two dollars,persisted Billywho had
not yet mastered the figures correctly.

What a jack you are!and Tommy hopped up to get the chalk for
himselfbut nearly tumbled down againfor there actually were
four bright quarters in a rowwith a bit of paper on them directed
to "Tom Bangs that there might be no mistake.

Thunder turtles!" cried Tommyand seizing them he dashed into
the housebawling wildlyIt's all right! Got my money! Where's
Nat?

He was soon foundand his surprise and pleasure were so genuine
that few doubted his word when he now denied all knowledge of
the money.

How could I put it back when I didn't take it? Do believe me now,
and be good to me again,he saidso imploringlythat Emil
slapped him on the backand declared he would for one.

So will I, and I'm jolly glad it's not you. But who the dickens is
it?said Tommyafter shaking hands heartily with Nat.

Never mind, as long as it's found,said Dan with his eyes fixed on
Nat's happy face.

Well, I like that! I'm not going to have my things hooked, and
then brought back like the juggling man's tricks,cried Tommy
looking at his money as if he suspected witchcraft.

We'll find him out somehow, though he was sly enough to print
this so his writing wouldn't be known,said Franzexamining the


paper.

Demi prints tip-top,put in Robwho had not a very clear idea
what the fuss was all about.

You can't make me believe it's him, not if you talk till you are
blue,said Tommyand the others hooted at the mere idea; for the
little deaconas they called himwas above suspicion.

Nat felt the difference in the way they spoke of Demi and himself
and would have given all he had or ever hoped to have to be so
trusted; for he had learned how easy it is to lose the confidence of
othershow veryvery hard to win it backand truth became to him
a precious thing since he had suffered from neglecting it.

Mr. Bhaer was very glad one step had been taken in the right
directionand waited hopefully for yet further revelations. They
came sooner than he expectedand in a way that surprised and
grieved him very much. As they sat at supper that nighta square
parcel was handed to Mrs. Bhaer from Mrs. Batesa neighbor. A
note accompanied the parcelandwhile Mr. Bhaer read itDemi
pulled off the wrapperexclaimingas he saw its contents

Why, it's the book Uncle Teddy gave Dan!

The devil!broke from Danfor he had not yet quite cured
himself of swearingthough he tried very hard.

Mr. Bhaer looked up quickly at the sound. Dan tried to meet his
eyesbut could not; his own felland he sat biting his lipsgetting
redder and redder till he was the picture of shame.

What is it?asked Mrs. Bhaeranxiously.

I should have preferred to talk about this in private, but Demi has
spoilt that plan, so I may as well have it out now,said Mr. Bhaer
looking a little sternas he always did when any meanness or
deceit came up for judgment.

The note is from Mrs. Bates, and she says that her boy Jimmy told
her he bought this book of Dan last Saturday. She saw that it was
worth much more than a dollar, and thinking there was some
mistake, has sent it to me. Did you sell it, Dan?

Yes, sir,was the slow answer.

Why?

Wanted money.

For what?

To pay somebody.

To whom did you owe it?

Tommy.

Never borrowed a cent of me in his life,cried Tommylooked
scaredfor he guessed what was coming nowand felt that on the
whole he would have preferred witchcraftfor he admired Dan
immensely.

Perhaps he took it,cried Nedwho owed Dan a grudge for the


duckingandbeing a mortal boyliked to pay it off.

O Dan!cried Natclasping his handsregardless of the bread and
butter in them.

It is a hard thing to do, but I must have this settled, for I cannot
have you watching each other like detectives, and the whole school
disturbed in this way. did you put that dollar in the barn this
morning?asked Mr. Bhaer.

Dan looked him straight in the faceand answered steadilyYes, I
did.

A murmur went round the tableTommy dropped his mug with a
crash; Daisy cried outI knew it wasn't Nat;Nan began to cry
and Mrs. Jo left the roomlooking so disappointedsorryand
ashamed that Dan could not bear it. He hid his face in his hands a
momentthen threw up his headsquared his shoulders as if
settling some load upon themand saidwith the dogged lookand
half-resolutehalf-reckless tone he had used when he first came

I did it; now you may do what you like to me, but I won't say
another word about it.

Not even that you are sorry?asked Mr. Bhaertroubled by the
change in him.

I ain't sorry.

I'll forgive him without asking,said Tommyfeeling that it was
harder somehow to see brave Dan disgraced than timid Nat.

Don't want to be forgiven,returned Dangruffly.

Perhaps you will when you have thought about it quietly by
yourself, I won't tell you now how surprised and disappointed I am,
but by and by I will come up and talk to you in your room.

Won't make any difference,said Dantrying to speak defiantly
but failing as he looked at Mr. Bhaer's sorrowful face; andtaking
his words for a dismissalDan left the room as if he found it
impossible to stay.

It would have done him good if he had stayed; for the boys talked
the matter over with such sincere regretand pityand wonderit
might have touched and won him to ask pardon. No one was glad
to find that it was henot even Nat; forspite of all his faultsand
they were manyevery one liked Dan nowbecause under his
rough exterior lay some of the manly virtues which we most
admire and love. Mrs. Jo had been the chief propas well as
cultivatorof Dan; and she took it sadly to heart that her last and
most interesting boy had turned out so ill. The theft was badbut
the lying about itand allowing another to suffer so much from an
unjust suspicion was worse; and most discouraging of all was the
attempt to restore the money in an underhand wayfor it showed
not only a want of couragebut a power of deceit that boded ill for
the future. Still more trying was his steady refusal to talk of the
matterto ask pardonor express any remorse. Days passed; and he
went about his lessons and his worksilentgrimand unrepentant.
As if taking warning by their treatment of Nathe asked no
sympathy of any onerejected the advances of the boysand spent
his leisure hours roaming about the fields and woodstrying to find
playmates in the birds and beastsand succeeding better than most
boys would have donebecause he knew and loved them so well.


If this goes on much longer, I'm afraid he will run away again, for
he is too young to stand a life like this,said Mr. Bhaerquite
dejected at the failure of all his efforts.

A little while ago I should have been quite sure that nothing
would tempt him away, but now I am ready of any thing, he is so
changed,answered poor Mrs. Jowho mourned over her boy and
could not be comfortedbecause he shunned her more than any
one elseand only looked at her with the half-fierce
half-imploring eyes of a wild animal caught in a trapwhen she
tried to talk to him alone.

Nat followed him about like a shadowand Dan did not repulse
him as rudely as he did othersbut saidin his blunt wayYou are
all right; don't worry about me. I can stand it better than you did.

But I don't like to have you all alone,Nat would saysorrowfully.

I like it;and Dan would tramp awaystifling a sigh sometimes
for he was lonely.

Passing through the birch grove one dayhe came up on several of
the boyswho were amusing themselves by climbing up the trees
and swinging down againas they slender elastic stems bent till
their tops touched the ground. Dan paused a minute to watch the
funwithout offering to join in itand as he stood there Jack took
his turn. He had unfortunately chosen too large a tree; for when he
swung offit only bent a little wayand left him hanging at a
dangerous height.

Go back; you can't do it!called Ned from below.

Jack triedbut the twigs slipped from his handsand he could not
get his legs round the trunk. He kickedand squirmedand
clutched in vainthen gave it upand hung breathlesssaying
helplessly

Catch me! help me! I must drop!

You'll be killed if you do,cried Nedfrightened out of his wits.

Hold on!shouted Dan; and up the tree he wentcrashing his way
along till he nearly reached Jackwhose face looked up at himfull
of fear and hope.

You'll both come down,said Neddancing with excitement on
the slope underneathwhile Nat held out his armsin the wild hope
of breaking the fall.

That's what I want; stand from under,answered Dancoolly; and
as he spokehis added weight bent the tree many feet nearer the
earth.

Jack dropped safely; but the birchlightened of half its loadflew
up again so suddenlythat Danin the act of swinging round to
drop feet foremostlost his hold and fell heavily.

I'm not hurt, all right in a minute,he saidsitting upa little pale
and dizzyas the boys gathered round himfull of admiration and
alarm.

You're a trump, Dan, and I'm ever so much obliged to you,cried
Jackgratefully.


It wasn't any thing,muttered Danrising slowly.

I say it was, and I'll shake hands with you, though you are ,Ned
checked the unlucky word on his tongueand held out his hand
feeling that it was a handsome thing on his part.

But I won't shake hands with a sneak;and Dan turned his back
with a look of scornthat caused Ned to remember the brookand
retire with undignified haste.

Come home, old chap; I'll give you a lift;and Nat walked away
with him leaving the others to talk over the feat togetherto
wonder when Dan would "come round and to wish one and all
that Tommy's confounded money had been in Jericho before it
made such a fuss."

When Mr. Bhaer came into school next morninghe looked so
happythat the boys wondered what had happened to himand
really thought he had lost his mind when they saw him go straight
to Danandtaking him by both handssay all in one breathas he
shook them heartily

I know all about it, and I beg your pardon. It was like you to do it,
and I love you for it, though it's never right to tell lies, even for a
friend.

What is it?cried Natfor Dan said not a wordonly lifted up his
headas if a weight of some sort had fallen off his back.

Dan did not take Tommy's money;and Mr. Bhaer quite shouted
ithe was so glad.

Who did?cried the boys in a chorus.

Mr. Bhaer pointed to one empty seatand every eye followed his
fingeryet no one spoke for a minutethey were so surprised.

Jack went home early this morning, but he left this behind him;
and in the silence Mr. Bhaer read the note which he had found tied
to his door-handle when he rose.

I took Tommy's dollar. I was peeking in through a crack and saw
him put it there. I was afraid to tell before, though I wanted to. I
didn't care so much about Nat, but Dan is a trump, and I can't stand
it any longer. I never spent the money; it's under the carpet in my
room, right behind the washstand. I'm awful sorry. I am going
home, and don't think I shall ever come back, so Dan may have my
things.

JACK"

It was not an elegant confessionbeing badly writtenmuch
blottedand very short; but it was a precious paper to Dan; and
when Mr. Bhaer pausedthe boy went to himsayingin a rather
broken voicebut with clear eyesand the frankrespectful manner
they had tried to teach him

I'll say I'm sorry now, and ask you to forgive me, sir.

It was a kind lie, Dan, and I can't help forgiving it; but you see it
did no good,said Mr. Bhaerwith a hand on either shoulderand a
face full of relief and affection.


It kept the boys from plaguing Nat. That's what I did it for. It
made him right down miserable. I didn't care so much,explained
Danas if glad to speak out after his hard silence.

How could you do it? You are always so kind to me,faltered
Natfeeling a strong desire to hug his friend and cry. Two girlish
performanceswhich would have scandalized Dan to the last
degree.

It's all right now, old fellow, so don't be a fool,he said
swallowing the lump in his throatand laughing out as he had not
done for weeks. "Does Mrs. Bhaer know?" he askedeagerly.

Yes; and she is so happy I don't know what she will do to you,
began Mr. Bhaerbut got no fartherfor here the boys came
crowding about Dan in a tumult of pleasure and curiosity; but
before he had answered more than a dozen questionsa voice cried
out

Three cheers for Dan!and there was Mrs. Jo in the doorway
waving her dish-toweland looking as if she wanted to dance a jig
for joyas she used to do when a girl.

Now then,cried Mr. Bhaerand led off a rousing hurrahwhich
startled Asia in the kitchenand made old Mr. Roberts shake his
head as he drove bysaying

Schools are not what they were when I was young!

Dan stood it pretty well for a minutebut the sight of Mrs. Jo's
delight upset himand he suddenly bolted across the hall into the
parlorwhither she instantly followedand neither were seen for
half an hour.

Mr. Bhaer found it very difficult to calm his excited flock; and
seeing that lessons were an impossibility for a timehe caught their
attention by telling them the fine old story of the friends whose
fidelity to one another has made their names immortal. The lads
listened and rememberedfor just then their hearts were touched
by the loyalty of a humbler pair of friends. The lie was wrongbut
the love that prompted it and the courage that bore in silence the
disgrace which belonged to anothermade Dan a hero in their eyes.
Honesty and honor had a new meaning now; a good name was
more precious than gold; for once lost money could not buy it
back; and faith in one another made life smooth and happy as
nothing else could do.

Tommy proudly restored the name of the firm; Nat was devoted to
Dan; and all the boys tried to atone to both for former suspicion
and neglect. Mrs. Jo rejoiced over her flockand Mr. Bhaer was
never tired of telling the story of his young Damon and Pythias.

CHAPTER XV IN THE WILLOW

The old tree saw and heard a good many little scenes and
confidences that summerbecause it became the favorite retreat of
all the childrenand the willow seemed to enjoy itfor a pleasant
welcome always met themand the quiet hours spent in its arms
did them all good. It had a great deal of company one Saturday
afternoonand some little bird reported what went on there.

First came Nan and Daisy with their small tubs and bits of soap
for now and then they were seized with a tidy fitand washed up
all their dolls' clothes in the brook. Asia would not have them


slopping roundin her kitchenand the bath-room was forbidden
since Nan forgot to turn off the water till it overflowed and came
gently dripping down through the ceiling. Daisy went
systematically to workwashing first the white and then the
colored thingsrinsing them nicelyand hanging them to dry on a
cord fastened from one barberry-bush to anotherand pinning them
up with a set of tiny clothes-pins Ned had turned for her. But Nan
put all her little things to soak in the same tuband then forgot
them while she collected thistledown to stuff a pillow for
SemiramisQueen of Babylonas one doll was named. This took
some timeand when Mrs. Giddy-gaddy came to take out her
clothesdeep green stains appeared on every thingfor she had
forgotten the green silk lining of a certain capeand its color had
soaked nicely into the pink and blue gownsthe little chemises
and even the best ruffled petticoat.

Oh me! what a mess!sighed Nan.

Lay them on the grass to bleach,said Daisywith an air of
experience.

So I will, and we can sit up in the nest and watch that they don't
blow away.

The Queen of Babylon's wardrobe was spread forth upon the bank
andturning up their tubs to drythe little washerwomen climbed
into the nestand fell to talkingas ladies are apt to do in the
pauses of domestic labor.

I'm going to have a feather-bed to go with my new pillow,said
Mrs. Giddy-gaddyas she transferred the thistledown from her
pocket to her handkerchieflosing about half in the process.

I wouldn't; Aunt Jo says feather-beds aren't healthy. I never let my
children sleep on any thing but a mattress,returned Mrs.
Shakespeare Smithdecidedly.

I don't care; my children are so strong they often sleep on the
floor, and don't mind it,(which was quite true). "I can't afford
nine mattressesand I like to make beds myself."

Won't Tommy charge for the feathers?

May be he will, but I shan't pay him, and he won't care,returned
Mrs. G.taking a base advantage of the well-known good nature of

T. Bangs.
I think the pink will fade out of that dress sooner than the green
mark will,observed Mrs. S.looking down from her perchand
changing the subjectfor she and her gossip differed on many
pointsand Mrs. Smith was a discreet lady.

Never mind; I'm tired of dolls, and I guess I shall put them all
away and attend to my farm; I like it rather better than playing
house,said Mrs. G.unconsciously expressing the desire of many
older ladieswho cannot dispose of their families so easily
however.

But you mustn't leave them; they will die without their mother,
cried the tender Mrs. Smith.

Let 'em die then; I'm tired of fussing over babies, and I'm going to
play with the boys; they need me to see to 'em,returned the
strong-minded lady.


Daisy knew nothing about women's rights; she quietly took all she
wantedand no one denied her claimbecause she did not
undertake what she could not carry outbut unconsciously used the
all-powerful right of her own influence to win from others any
privilege for which she had proved her fitness. Nan attempted all
sorts of thingsundaunted by direful failuresand clamored
fiercely to be allowed to do every thing that the boys did. They
laughed at herhustled her out of the wayand protested against
her meddling with their affairs. But she would not be quenched
and she would be heardfor her will was strongand she had the
spirit of a rampant reformer. Mrs. Bhaer sympathized with herbut
tired to curb her frantic desire for entire libertyshowing her that
she must wait a littlelearn self-controland be ready to use her
freedom before she asked for it. Nan had meek moments when she
agreed to thisand the influences at work upon her were gradually
taking effect. She no longer declared that she would be
engine-driver or a blacksmithbut turned her mind to farmingand
found in it a vent for the energy bottled up in her active little body.
It did not quite satisfy herhowever; for her sage and sweet
marjoram were dumb thingsand could not thank her for her care.
She wanted something human to lovework forand protectand
was never happier than when the little boys brought their cut
fingersbumped headsor bruised joints for her to "mend-up."
Seeing thisMrs. Jo proposed that she should learn how to do it
nicelyand Nursey had an apt pupil in bandagingplasteringand
fomenting. The boys began to call her "Dr. Giddy-gaddy and she
liked it so well that Mrs. Jo one day said to the Professor

FritzI see what we can do for that child. She wants something to
live for even nowand will be one of the sharpstrong
discontented women if she does not have it. Don't let us snub her
restless little naturebut do our best to give her the work she likes
and by and by persuade her father to let her study medicine. She
will make a capital doctorfor she has couragestrong nervesa
tender heartand an intense love and pity for the weak and
suffering."

Mr. Bhaer smiled at firstbut agreed to tryand gave Nan an
herb-gardenteaching her the various healing properties of the
plants she tendedand letting her try their virtues on the children in
the little illnesses they had from time to time. She learned fast
remembered welland showed a sense and interest most
encouraging to her Professorwho did not shut his door in her face
because she was a little woman.

She was thinking of thisas she sat in the willow that dayand
when Daisy said in her gentle way

I love to keep house, and mean to have a nice one for Demi when
we grow up and live together.

Nan replied with decision

Well, I haven't got any brother, and I don't want any house to fuss
over. I shall have an office, with lots of bottles and drawers and
pestle things in it, and I shall drive round in a horse and chaise and
cure sick people. That will be such fun.

Ugh! how can you bear the bad-smelling stuff and the nasty little
powders and castor-oil and senna and hive syrup?cried Daisy
with a shudder.

I shan't have to take any, so I don't care. Besides, they make


people well, and I like to cure folks. Didn't my sage-tea make
Mother Bhaer's headache go away, and my hops stop Ned's
toothache in five hours? So now!

Shall you put leeches on people, and cut off legs and pull out
teeth?asked Daisyquaking at the thought.

Yes, I shall do every thing; I don't care if the people are all
smashed up, I shall mend them. My grandpa was a doctor, and I
saw him sew a great cut in a man's cheek, and I held the sponge,
and wasn't frightened a bit, and Grandpa said I was a brave girl.

How could you? I'm sorry for sick people, and I like to nurse
them, but it makes my legs shake so I have to run away. I'm not a
brave girl,sighed Daisy.

Well, you can be my nurse, and cuddle my patients when I have
given them the physic and cut off their legs,said Nanwhose
practice was evidently to be of the heroic kind.

Ship ahoy! Where are you, Nan?called a voice from below.

Here we are.

Ay, ay!said the voiceand Emil appeared holding one hand in
the otherwith his face puckered up as if in pain.

Oh, what's the matter?cried Daisyanxiously.

A confounded splinter in my thumb. Can't get it out. Take a pick
at it, will you, Nanny?

It's in very deep, and I haven't any needle,said Nanexamining a
tarry thumb with interest.

Take a pin,said Emilin a hurry.

No, it's too big and hasn't got a sharp point.

Here Daisywho had dived into her pocketpresented a neat little
housewife with four needles in it.

You are the Posy who always has what we want,said Emil; and
Nan resolved to have a needle-book in her own pocket henceforth
for just such cases as this were always occurring in her practice.

Daisy covered her eyesbut Nan probed and picked with a steady
handwhile Emil gave directions not down in any medical work or
record.

Starboard now! Steady, boys, steady! Try another tack. Heave ho!
there she is!

Suck it,ordered the Doctorsurveying the splinter with an
experienced eye.

Too dirty,responded the patientshaking his bleeding hand.

Wait; I'll tie it up if you have got a handkerchief.

Haven't; take one of those rags down there.

Gracious! no, indeed; they are doll's clothes,cried Daisy
indignantly.


Take one of mine; I'd like to have you,said Nan; and swinging
himself downEmil caught up the first "rag" he saw. It happened
to be the frilled skirt; but Nan tore it up without a murmur; and
when the royal petticoat was turned into a neat little bandageshe
dismissed her patient with the command

Keep it wet, and let it alone; then it will heal right up, and not be
sore.

What do you charge?asked the Commodorelaughing.

Nothing; I keep a 'spensary; that is a place where poor people are
doctored free gratis for nothing,explained Nanwith an air.

Thank you, Doctor Giddy-gaddy. I'll always call you in when I
come to grief;and Emil departedbut looked back to say for one
good turn deserves another "Your duds are blowing awayDoctor."

Forgiving the disrespectful wordduds,the ladies hastily
descendedandgathering up their washretired to the house to fire
up the little stoveand go to ironing.

A passing breath of air shook the old willowas if it laughed softly
at the childish chatter which went on in the nestand it had hardly
composed itself when another pair of birds alighted for a
confidential twitter.

Now, I'll tell you the secret,began Tommywho was "swellin'
wisibly" with the importance of his news.

Tell away,answered Natwishing he had brought his fiddleit
was so shady and quiet here.

Well, we fellows were talking over the late interesting case of
circumstantial evidence,said Tommyquoting at random from a
speech Franz had made at the cluband I proposed giving Dan
something to make up for our suspecting him, to show our respect,
and so on, you know something handsome and useful, that he
could keep always and be proud of. What do you think we chose?

A butterfly-net; he wants one ever so much,said Natlooking a
little disappointedfor he meant to get it himself.

No, sir; it's to be a microscope, a real swell one, that we see
what-do-you-call-'ems in water with, and stars, and ant-eggs, and
all sorts of games, you know. Won't it be a jolly good present?
said Tommyrather confusing microscopes and telescopes in his
remarks.

Tip-top! I'm so glad! Won't it cost a heap, though?cried Nat
feeling that his friend was beginning to be appreciated.

Of course it will; but we are all going to give something. I headed
the paper with my five dollars; for if it is done at all, it must be
done handsome.

What! all of it? I never did see such a generous chap as you are;
and Nat beamed upon him with sincere admiration.

Well, you see, I've been so bothered with my property, that I'm
tired of it, and don't mean to save up any more, but give it away as
I go along, and then nobody will envy me, or want to steal it, and I
shan't be suspecting folks and worrying about my old cash,


replied Tommyon whom the cares and anxieties of a millionaire
weighed heavily.

Will Mr. Bhaer let you do it?

He thought it was a first-rate plan, and said that some of the best
men he knew preferred to do good with their money instead of
laying it up to be squabbled over when they died.

Your father is rich; does he do that way?

I'm not sure; he gives me all I want; I know that much. I'm going
to talk to him about it when I go home. Anyhow, I shall set him a
good example;and Tommy was so seriousthat Nat did not dare
to laughbut saidrespectfully

You will be able to do ever so much with your money, won't
you?

So Mr. Bhaer said, and he promised to advise me about useful
ways of spending it. I'm going to begin with Dan; and next time I
get a dollar or so, I shall do something for Dick, he's such a good
little chap, and only has a cent a week for pocket-money. He can't
earn much, you know; so I'm going to kind of see to him;and
good-hearted Tommy quite longed to begin.

I think that's a beautiful plan, and I'm not going to try to buy a
fiddle any more; I'm going to get Dan his net all myself, and if
there is any money left, I'll do something to please poor Billy. He's
fond of me, and though he isn't poor, he'd like some little thing
from me, because I can make out what he wants better than the
rest of you.And Nat fell to wondering how much happiness could
be got out of his precious three dollars.

So I would. Now come and ask Mr. Bhaer if you can't go in town
with me on Monday afternoon, so you can get the net, while I get
the microscope. Franz and Emil are going too, and we'll have a
jolly time larking round among the shops.

The lads walked away arm-in-armdiscussing the new plans with
droll importanceyet beginning already to feel the sweet
satisfaction which comes to those who tryno matter how humbly
to be earthly providences to the poor and helplessand gild their
mite with the gold of charity before it is laid up where thieves
cannot break through and steal.

Come up and rest while we sort the leaves; it's so cool and
pleasant here,said Demias he and Dan came sauntering home
from a long walk in the woods.

All right!answered Danwho was a boy of few wordsand up
they went.

What makes birch leaves shake so much more than the others?
asked inquiring Demiwho was always sure of an answer from
Dan.

They are hung differently. Don't you see the stem where it joins
the leaf is sort of pinched one way, and where it joins the twig, it is
pinched another. This makes it waggle with the least bit of wind,
but the elm leaves hang straight, and keep stiller.

How curious! will this do so?and Demi held up a sprig of
acaciawhich he had broken from a little tree on the lawnbecause


it was so pretty.

No; that belongs to the sort that shuts up when you touch it. Draw
your finger down the middle of the stem, and see if the leaves don't
curl up,said Danwho was examining a bit of mica.

Demi tried itand presently the little leaves did fold togethertill
the spray showed a single instead of a double line of leaves.

I like that; tell me about the others. What do these do?asked
Demitaking up a new branch.

Feed silk-worms; they live on mulberry leaves, till they begin to
spin themselves up. I was in a silk-factory once, and there were
rooms full of shelves all covered with leaves, and worms eating
them so fast that it made a rustle. Sometimes they eat so much
they die. Tell that to Stuffy,and Dan laughedas he took up
another bit of rock with a lichen on it.

I know one thing about this mullein leaf: the fairies use them for
blankets,said Demiwho had not quite given up his faith in the
existence of the little folk in green.

If I had a microscope, I'd show you something prettier than
fairies,said Danwondering if he should ever own that coveted
treasure. "I knew an old woman who used mullein leaves for a
night-cap because she had face-ache. She sewed them together
and wore it all the time."

How funny! was she your grandmother?

Never had any. She was a queer old woman, and lived alone in a
little tumble-down house with nineteen cats. Folks called her a
witch, but she wasn't, though she looked like an old rag-bag. She
was real kind to me when I lived in that place, and used to let me
get warm at her fire when the folks at the poorhouse were hard on
me.

Did you live in a poorhouse?

A little while. Never mind that I didn't mean to speak of it;and
Dan stopped short in his unusual fit of communicativeness.

Tell about the cats, please,said Demifeeling that he had asked
an unpleasant questionand sorry for it.

Nothing to tell; only she had a lot of 'em, and kept 'em in a barrel
nights; and I used to go and tip over the barrel sometimes, and let
'em out all over the house, and then she'd scold, and chase 'em and
put 'em in again, spitting and yowling like fury.

Was she good to them?asked Demiwith a hearty child's laugh
pleasant to hear.

Guess she was. Poor old soul! she took in all the lost and sick cats
in the town; and when anybody wanted one they went to Marm
Webber, and she let 'em pick any kind and color they wanted, and
only asked ninepence, she was glad to have her pussies get a good
home.

I should like to see Marm Webber. Could I, if I went to that
place?

She's dead. All my folks are,said Danbriefly.


I'm sorry;and Demi sat silent a minutewondering what subject
would be safe to try next. He felt delicate about speaking of the
departed ladybut was very curious about the catsand could not
resist asking softly

Did she cure the sick ones?

Sometimes. One had a broken leg, and she tied it up to a stick,
and it got well; and another had fits, and she doctored it with yarbs
till it was cured. But some of 'em died, and she buried 'em; and
when they couldn't get well, she killed 'em easy.

How?asked Demifeeling that there was a peculiar charm about
this old womanand some sort of joke about the catsbecause Dan
was smiling to himself.

A kind lady, who was fond of cats, told her how, and gave her
some stuff, and sent all her own pussies to be killed that way.
Marm used to put a sponge wet with ether, in the bottom of an old
boot, then poke puss in head downwards. The ether put her to
sleep in a jiffy, and she was drowned in warm water before she
woke up.

I hope the cats didn't feel it. I shall tell Daisy about that. You have
known a great many interesting things, haven't you?asked Demi
and fell to meditating on the vast experience of a boy who had run
away more than onceand taken care of himself in a big city.

Wish I hadn't sometimes.

Why? Don't remembering them feel good?

No.

It's very singular how hard it is to manage your mind,said Demi
clasping his hands round his kneesand looking up at the sky as if
for information upon his favorite topic.

Devilish hard no, I don't mean that;and Dan bit his lipsfor the
forbidden word slipped out in spite of himand he wanted to be
more careful with Demi than with any of the other boys.

I'll play I didn't hear it,said Demi; "and you won't do it againI'm
sure."

Not if I can help it. That's one of the things I don't want to
remember. I keep pegging away, but it don't seem to do much
good;and Dan looked discouraged.

Yes, it does. You don't say half so many bad words as you used
to; and Aunt Jo is pleased, because she said it was a hard habit to
break up.

Did she?and Dan cheered up a bit.

You must put swearing away in your fault-drawer, and lock it up;
that's the way I do with my badness.

What do you mean?asked Danlooking as if he found Demi
almost as amusing as a new sort of cockchafer or beetle.

Well, it's one of my private plays, and I'll tell you, but I think
you'll laugh at it,began Demiglad to hold forth on this congenial


subject. "I play that my mind is a round roomand my soul is a
little sort of creature with wings that lives in it. The walls are full
of shelves and drawersand in them I keep my thoughtsand my
goodness and badnessand all sorts of things. The goods I keep
where I can see themand the bads I lock up tightbut they get out
and I have to keep putting them in and squeezing them downthey
are so strong. The thoughts I play with when I am alone or in bed
and I make up and do what I like with them. Every Sunday I put
my room in orderand talk with the little spirit that lives thereand
tell him what to do. He is very bad sometimesand won't mind me
and I have to scold himand take him to Grandpa. He always
makes him behaveand be sorry for his faultsbecause Grandpa
likes this playand gives me nice things to put in the drawersand
tells me how to shut up the naughties. Hadn't you better try that
way? It's a very good one;" and Demi looked so earnest and full of
faiththat Dan did not laugh at his quaint fancybut saidsoberly

I don't think there is a lock strong enough to keep my badness
shut up. Any way my room is in such a clutter I don't know how to
clear it up.

You keep your drawers in the cabinet all spandy nice; why can't
you do the others?

I ain't used to it. Will you show me how?and Dan looked as if
inclined to try Demi's childish way of keeping a soul in order.

I'd love to, but I don't know how, except to talk as Grandpa does. I
can't do it good like him, but I'll try.

Don't tell any one; only now and then we'll come here and talk
things over, and I'll pay you for it by telling all I know about my
sort of things. Will that do?and Dan held out his bigrough hand.

Demi gave his smoothlittle hand readilyand the league was
made; for in the happypeaceful world where the younger boy
livedlions and lambs played togetherand little children
innocently taught their elders.

Hush!said Danpointing toward the houseas Demi was about
to indulge in another discourse on the best way of getting badness
downand keeping it down; and peeping from their perchthey
saw Mrs. Jo strolling slowly alongreading as she wentwhile
Teddy trotted behind herdragging a little cart upside down.

Wait till they see us,whispered Demiand both sat still as the
pair came nearerMrs. Jo so absorbed in her book that she would
have walked into the brook if Teddy had not stopped her by saying

Marmar, I wanter fis.

Mrs. Jo put down the charming book which she had been trying to
read for a weekand looked about her for a fishing-polebeing
used to making toys out of nothing. Before she had broken one
from the hedgea slender willow bough fell at her feet; and
looking upshe saw the boys laughing in the nest.

Up! up!cried Teddystretching his arms and flapping his skirts
as if about to fly.

I'll come down and you come up. I must go to Daisy now;and
Demi departed to rehearse the tale of the nineteen catswith the
exciting boot-and-barrel episodes.


Teddy was speedily whisked up; and then Dan saidlaughing
Come, too; there's plenty of room. I'll lend you a hand.

Mrs. Jo glanced over her shoulderbut no one was in sight; and
rather liking the joke of the thingshe laughed backsayingWell,
if you won't mention it, I think I will;and with two nimble steps
was in the willow.

I haven't climbed a tree since I was married. I used to be very
fond of it when I was a girl,she saidlooking well-pleased with
her shady perch.

Now, you read if you want to, and I'll take care of Teddy,
proposed Danbeginning to make a fishing-rod for impatient Baby.

I don't think I care about it now. What were you and Demi at up
here?asked Mrs. Jothinkingfrom the sober look on Dan's face
that he had something on his mind.

Oh! we were talking. I'd been telling him about leaves and things,
and he was telling me some of his queer plays. Now, then, Major,
fish away;and Dan finished off his work by putting a big blue fly
on the bent pin which hung at the end of the cord he had tied to the
willow-rod.

Teddy leaned down from the treeand was soon wrapt up in
watching for the fish which he felt sure would come. Dan held him
by his little petticoatslest he should take a "header" into the
brookand Mrs. Jo soon won him to talk by doing so herself.

I am so glad you told Demi about 'leaves and things;' it is just
what he needs; and I wish you would teach him, and take him to
walk with you.

I'd like to, he is so bright; but

But what?

I didn't think you'd trust me.

Why not?

Well, Demi is so kind of precious, and so good, and I'm such a
bad lot, I thought you'd keep him away from me.

But you are not a 'bad lot,' as you say; and I do trust you, Dan,
entirely, because you honestly try to improve, and do better and
better every week.

Really?and Dan looked up at her with the cloud of despondency
lifting from his face.

Yes; don't you feel it?

I hoped so, but I didn't know.

I have been waiting and watching quietly, for I thought I'd give
you a good trial first; and if you stood it, I would give you the best
reward I had. You have stood it well; and now I'm going to trust
not only Demi, but my own boy, to you, because you can teach
them some things better than any of us.

Can I?and Dan looked amazed at the idea.


Demi has lived among older people so much that he needs just
what you have knowledge of common things, strength, and
courage. He thinks you are the bravest boy he ever saw, and
admires your strong way of doing things. Then you know a great
deal about natural objects, and can tell him more wonderful tales
of birds, and bees, and leaves, and animals, than his story-books
give him; and, being true, these stories will teach and do him good.
Don't you see now how much you can help him, and why I like to
have him with you?

But I swear sometimes, and might tell him something wrong. I
wouldn't mean to, but it might slip out, just as 'devil' did a few
minutes ago,said Dananxious to do his dutyand let her know
his shortcomings.

I know you try not to say or do any thing to harm the little fellow,
and here is where I think Demi will help you, because he is so
innocent and wise in his small way, and has what I am trying to
give you, dear, good principles. It is never too early to try and plant
them in a child, and never too late to cultivate them in the most
neglected person. You are only boys yet; you can teach one
another. Demi will unconsciously strengthen your moral sense, you
will strengthen his common sense, and I shall feel as if I had
helped you both.

Words could not express how pleased and touched Dan was by this
confidence and praise. No one had ever trusted him beforeno one
had cared to find out and foster the good in himand no one had
suspected how much there was hidden away in the breast of the
neglected boygoing fast to ruinyet quick to feel and value
sympathy and help. No honor that he might earn hereafter would
ever be half so precious as the right to teach his few virtues and
small store of learning to the child whom he most respected; and
no more powerful restraint could have been imposed upon him
than the innocent companion confided to his care. He found
courage now to tell Mrs. Jo of the plan already made with Demi
and she was glad that the first step had been so naturally taken.
Every thing seemed to be working well for Danand she rejoiced
over himbecause it had seemed a hard taskyetworking on with
a firm belief in the possibility of reformation in far older and
worse subjects than hethere had come this quick and hopeful
change to encourage her. He felt that he had friends now and a
place in the worldsomething to live and work forandthough he
said littleall that was best and bravest in a character made old by
a hard experience responded to the love and faith bestowed on
himand Dan's salvation was assured.

Their quiet talk was interrupted by a shout of delight from Teddy
whoto the surprise of every onedid actually catch a trout where
no trout had been seen for years. He was so enchanted with his
splendid success that he insisted on showing his prize to the family
before Asia cooked it for supper; so the three descended and went
happily away togetherall satisfied with the work of that half hour.

Ned was the next visitor to the treebut he only made a short stay
sitting there at his ease while Dick and Dolly caught a pailful of
grasshoppers and crickets for him. He wanted to play a joke on
Tommyand intended to tuck up a few dozen of the lively
creatures in his bedso that when Bangs got in he would speedily
tumble out againand pass a portion of the night in chasing
hopper-grassesround the room. The hunt was soon overand
having paid the hunters with a few peppermints apiece Ned retired
to make Tommy's bed.


For an hour the old willow sighed and sung to itselftalked with
the brookand watched the lengthening shadows as the sun went
down. The first rosy color was touching its graceful branches when
a boy came stealing up the avenueacross the lawnandspying
Billy by the brook-sidewent to himsayingin a mysterious tone

Go and tell Mr. Bhaer I want to see him down here, please. Don't
let any one hear.

Billy nodded and ran offwhile the boy swung himself up into the
treeand sat there looking anxiousyet evidently feeling the charm
of the place and hour. In five minutesMr. Bhaer appearedand
stepping up on the fenceleaned into the nestsayingkindly

I am glad to see you, Jack; but why not come in and meet us all at
once?

I wanted to see you first, please, sir. Uncle made me come back. I
know I don't deserve any thing, but I hope the fellows won't be
hard upon me.

Poor Jack did not get on very wellbut it was evident that he was
sorry and ashamedand wanted to be received as easily as
possible; for his Uncle had thrashed him well and scolded him
soundly for following the example he himself set. Jack had begged
not to be sent backbut the school was cheapand Mr. Ford
insistedso the boy returned as quietly as possibleand took refuge
behind Mr. Bhaer.

I hope not, but I can't answer for them, though I will see that they
are not unjust. I think, as Dan and Nat have suffered so much,
being innocent, you should suffer something, being guilty. Don't
you?asked Mr. Bhaerpitying Jackyet feeling he deserved
punishment for a fault which had so little excuse.

I suppose so, but I sent Tommy's money back, and I said I was
sorry, isn't that enough?said Jackrather sullenly; for the boy who
could do so mean a thing was not brave enough to bear the
consequences well.

No; I think you should ask pardon of all three boys, openly and
honestly. You cannot expect them to respect and trust you for a
time, but you can live down this disgrace if you try, and I will help
you. Stealing and lying are detestable sins, and I hope this will be a
lesson to you. I am glad you are ashamed, it is a good sign; bear it
patiently, and do your best to earn a better reputation.

I'll have an auction, and sell off all my goods dirt cheap,said
Jackshowing his repentance in the most characteristic way.

I think it would be better to give them away, and begin on a new
foundation. Take 'Honesty is the best policy' for your motto, and
live up to it in act, and word, and thought, and though you don't
make a cent of money this summer, you will be a rich boy in the
autumn,said Mr. Bhaerearnestly.

It was hardbut Jack consentedfor he really felt that cheating
didn't payand wanted to win back the friendship of the boys. His
heart clung to his possessionsand he groaned inwardly at the
thought of actually giving away certain precious things. Asking
pardon publicly was easy compared to this; but then he began to
discover that certain other thingsinvisiblebut most valuable
were better property than knivesfish-hooksor even money itself.
So he decided to buy up a little integrityeven at a high priceand


secure the respect of his playmatesthough it was not a salable
article.

Well, I'll do it,he saidwith a sudden air of resolutionwhich
pleased Mr. Bhaer.

Good! and I'll stand by you. Now come and begin at once.

And Father Bhaer led the bankrupt boy back into the little world
which received him coldly at firstbut slowly warmed to him
when he showed that he had profited by the lessonand was
sincerely anxious to go into a better business with a new
stock-in-trade.

CHAPTER XVI TAMING THE COLT

What in the world is that boy doing?said Mrs. Jo to herselfas
she watched Dan running round the half-mile triangle as if for a
wager. He was all aloneand seemed possessed by some strange
desire to run himself into a feveror break his neck; forafter
several roundshe tried leaping wallsand turning somersaults up
the avenueand finally dropped down on the grass before the door
as if exhausted.

Are you training for a race, Dan?asked Mrs. Jofrom the
window where she sat.

He looked up quicklyand stopped panting to answerwith a
laugh

No; I'm only working off my steam.

Can't you find a cooler way of doing it? You will be ill if you tear
about so in such warm weather,said Mrs. Jolaughing alsoas she
threw him out a great palm-leaf fan.

Can't help it. I must run somewhere,answered Danwith such an
odd expression in his restless eyesthat Mrs. Jo was troubledand
askedquickly

Is Plumfield getting too narrow for you?

I wouldn't mind if it was a little bigger. I like it though; only the
fact is the devil gets into me sometimes, and then I do want to
bolt.

The words seemed to come against his willfor he looked sorry the
minute they were spokenand seemed to think he deserved a
reproof for his ingratitude. But Mrs. Jo understood the feelingand
though sorry to see itshe could not blame the boy for confessing
it. She looked at him anxiouslyseeing how tall and strong he had
grownhow full of energy his face waswith its eager eyes and
resolute mouth; and remembering the utter freedom he had known
for years beforeshe felt how even the gentle restraint of this home
would weigh upon him at times when the old lawless spirit stirred
in him. "Yes she said to herself, my wild hawk needs a larger
cage; and yetif I let him goI am afraid he will be lost. I must try
and find some lure strong enough to keep him safe."

I know all about it,she addedaloud. "It is not 'the devil' as you
call itbut the very natural desire of all young people for liberty. I
used to feel just soand onceI really did think for a minute that I
would bolt."


Why didn't you?said Dancoming to lean on the low
window-ledgewith an evident desire to continue the subject.

I knew it was foolish, and love for my mother kept me at home.

I haven't got any mother,began Dan.

I thought you had now,said Mrs. Jogently stroking the rough
hair off his hot forehead.

You are no end good to me, and I can't ever thank you enough,
but it just isn't the same, is it?and Dan looked up at her with a
wistfulhungry look that went to her heart.

No, dear, it is not the same, and never can be. I think an own
mother would have been a great deal to you. But as that cannot be,
you must try to let me fill her place. I fear I have not done all I
ought, or you would not want to leave me,she addedsorrowfully.

Yes, you have!cried Daneagerly. "I don't want to goand I
won't goif I can help it; but every now and then I feel as if I must
burst out somehow. I want to run straight ahead somewhereto
smash somethingor pitch into somebody. Don't know whybut I
doand that's all about it."

Dan laughed as he spokebut he meant what he saidfor he knit
his black browsand brought down his fist on the ledge with such
forcethat Mrs. Jo's thimble flew off into the grass. He brought it
backand as she took it she held the bigbrown hand a minute
sayingwith a look that showed the words cost her something

Well, Dan, run if you must, but don't run very far; and come back
to me soon, for I want you very much.

He was rather taken aback by this unexpected permission to play
truantand somehow it seemed to lessen his desire to go. He did
not understand whybut Mrs. Jo didandknowing the natural
perversity of the human mindcounted on it to help her now. She
felt instinctively that the more the boy was restrained the more he
would fret against it; but leave him freeand the mere sense of
liberty would content himjoined to the knowledge that his
presence was dear to those whom he loved best. It was a little
experimentbut it succeededfor Dan stood silent a moment
unconsciously picking the fan to pieces and turning the matter over
in his mind. He felt that she appealed to his heart and his honor
and owned that he understood it by saying presentlywith a
mixture of regret and resolution in his face

I won't go yet awhile, and I'll give you fair warning before I bolt.
That's fair, isn't it?

Yes, we will let it stand so. Now, I want to see if I can't find some
way for you to work off your steam better than running about the
place like a mad dog, spoiling my fans, or fighting with the boys.
What can we invent?and while Dan tried to repair the mischief
he had doneMrs. Jo racked her brain for some new device to keep
her truant safe until he had learned to love his lessons better.

How would you like to be my express-man?she saidas a sudden
thought popped into her head.

Go into town, and do the errands?asked Danlooking interested
at once.


Yes; Franz is tired of it, Silas cannot be spared just now, and Mr.
Bhaer has no time. Old Andy is a safe horse, you are a good driver,
and know your way about the city as well as a postman. Suppose
you try it, and see if it won't do most as well to drive away two or
three times a week as to run away once a month.

I'd like it ever so much, only I must go alone and do it all myself.
I don't want any of the other fellows bothering round,said Dan
taking to the new idea so kindly that he began to put on business
airs already.

If Mr. Bhaer does not object you shall have it all your own way. I
suppose Emil will growl, but he cannot be trusted with horses, and
you can. By the way, to-morrow is market-day, and I must make
out my list. You had better see that the wagon is in order, and tell
Silas to have the fruit and vegetables ready for mother. You will
have to be up early and get back in time for school, can you do
that?

I'm always an early bird, so I don't mind,and Dan slung on his
jacket with despatch.

The early bird got the worm this time, I'm sure,said Mrs. Jo
merrily.

And a jolly good worm it is,answered Danas he went laughing
away to put a new lash to the whipwash the wagonand order
Silas about with all the importance of a young express-man.

Before he is tired of this I will find something else and have it
ready when the next restless fit comes on,said Mrs. Jo to herself
as she wrote her list with a deep sense of gratitude that all her boys
were not Dans.

Mr. Bhaer did not entirely approve of the new planbut agreed to
give it a trialwhich put Dan on his mettleand caused him to give
up certain wild plans of his ownin which the new lash and the
long hill were to have borne a part. He was up and away very early
the next morningheroically resisting the temptation to race with
the milkmen going into town. Once therehe did his errands
carefullyto Mr. Bhaer's surprise and Mrs. Jo's great satisfaction.
The Commodore did growl at Dan's promotionbut was pacified
by a superior padlock to his new boat-houseand the thought that
seamen were meant for higher honors than driving market-wagons
and doing family errands. So Dan filled his new office well and
contentedly for weeksand said no more about bolting. But one
day Mr. Bhaer found him pummelling Jackwho was roaring for
mercy under his knee.

Why, Dan, I thought you had given up fighting,he saidas he
went to the rescue.

We ain't fighting, we are only wrestling,answered Danleaving
off reluctantly.

It looks very much like it, and feels like it, hey, Jack?said Mr.
Bhaeras the defeated gentleman got upon his legs with difficulty.

Catch me wrestling with him again. He's most knocked my head
off,snarled Jackholding on to that portion of his frame as if it
really was loose upon his shoulders.

The fact is, we began in fun, but when I got him down I couldn't
help pounding him. Sorry I hurt you, old fellow,explained Dan


looking rather ashamed of himself.

I understand. The longing to pitch into somebody was so strong
you couldn't resist. You are a sort of Berserker, Dan, and
something to tussle with is as necessary to you as music is to Nat,
said Mr. Bhaerwho knew all about the conversation between the
boy and Mrs. Jo.

Can't help it. So if you don't want to be pounded you'd better keep
out of the way,answered Danwith a warning look in his black
eyes that made Jack sheer off in haste.

If you want something to wrestle with, I will give you a tougher
specimen than Jack,said Mr. Bhaer; andleading the way to the
wood-yardhe pointed out certain roots of trees that had been
grubbed up in the springand had been lying there waiting to be
split.

There, when you feel inclined to maltreat the boys, just come and
work off your energies here, and I'll thank you for it.

So I will;andseizing the axe that lay near Dan hauled out a
tough rootand went at it so vigorouslythat the chips flew far and
wideand Mr. Bhaer fled for his life.

To his great amusementDan took him at his wordand was often
seen wrestling with the ungainly knotshat and jacket offred face
and wrathful eyes; for he got into royal rages over some of his
adversariesand swore at them under his breath till he had
conquered themwhen he exultedand marched off to the shed
with an armful of gnarled oak-wood in triumph. He blistered his
handstired his backand dulled the axebut it did him goodand
he got more comfort out of the ugly roots than any one dreamed
for with each blow he worked off some of the pent-up power that
would otherwise have been expended in some less harmless way.

When this is gone I really don't know what I shall do,said Mrs.
Jo to herselffor no inspiration cameand she was at the end of her
resources.

But Dan found a new occupation for himselfand enjoyed it some
time before any one discovered the cause of his contentment. A
fine young horse of Mr. Laurie's was kept at Plumfield that
summerrunning loose in a large pasture across the brook. The
boys were all interested in the handsomespirited creatureand for
a time were fond of watching him gallop and frisk with his plumey
tail flyingand his handsome head in the air. But they soon got
tired of itand left Prince Charlie to himself. All but Danhe never
tired of looking at the horseand seldom failed to visit him each
day with a lump of sugara bit of breador an apple to make him
welcome. Charlie was gratefulaccepted his friendshipand the
two loved one another as if they felt some tie between them
inexplicable but strong. In whatever part of the wide field he might
beCharlie always came at full speed when Dan whistled at the
barsand the boy was never happier than when the beautifulfleet
creature put its head on his shoulderlooking up at him with fine
eyes full of intelligent affection.

We understand one another without any palaver, don't we, old
fellow?Dan would sayproud of the horse's confidenceandso
jealous of his regardthat he told no one how well the friendship
prosperedand never asked anybody but Teddy to accompany him
on these daily visits.


Mr. Laurie came now and then to see how Charlie got onand
spoke of having him broken to harness in the autumn.

He won't need much taming, he is such a gentle, fine-tempered
brute. I shall come out and try him with a saddle myself some
day,he saidon one of these visits.

He lets me put a halter on him, but I don't believe he will bear a
saddle even if you put it on,answered Danwho never failed to be
present when Charlie and his master met.

I shall coax him to bear it, and not mind a few tumbles at first. He
has never been harshly treated, so, though he will be surprised at
the new performance, I think he won't be frightened, and his antics
will do no harm.

I wonder what he would do,said Dan to himselfas Mr. Laurie
went away with the Professorand Charlie returned to the bars
from which he had retired when the gentlemen came up.

A daring fancy to try the experiment took possession of the boy as
he sat on the topmost rail with the glossy back temptingly near
him. Never thinking of dangerhe obeyed the impulseand while
Charlie unsuspectingly nibbled at the apple he heldDan quickly
and quietly took his seat. He did not keep it longhoweverfor
with an astonished snortCharlie reared straight upand deposited
Dan on the ground. The fall did not hurt himfor the turf was soft
and he jumped upsayingwith a laugh

I did it anyway! Come here, you rascal, and I'll try it again.

But Charlie declined to approachand Dan left him resolving to
succeed in the end; for a struggle like this suited him exactly. Next
time he took a halterand having got it onhe played with the
horse for a whileleading him to and froand putting him through
various antics till he was a little tired; then Dan sat on the wall and
gave him breadbut watched his chanceand getting a good grip of
the halterslipped on to his back. Charlie tried the old trickbut
Dan held onhaving had practice with Tobywho occasionally had
an obstinate fitand tried to shake off his rider. Charlie was both
amazed and indignant; and after prancing for a minuteset off at a
gallopand away went Dan heels over head. If he had not belonged
to the class of boys who go through all sorts of dangers unscathed
he would have broken his neck; as it washe got a heavy falland
lay still collecting his witswhile Charlie tore round the field
tossing his head with every sign of satisfaction at the discomfiture
of his rider. Presently it seemed to occur to him that something
was wrong with Danandbeing of a magnanimous naturehe
went to see what the matter was. Dan let him sniff about and
perplex himself for a few minutes; then he looked up at him
sayingas decidedly as if the horse could understand

You think you have beaten, but you are mistaken, old boy; and I'll
ride you yet see if I don't.

He tried no more that daybut soon after attempted a new method
of introducing Charlie to a burden. He strapped a folded blanket on
his backand then let him raceand rearand rolland fume as
much as he liked. After a few fits of rebellion Charlie submitted
and in a few days permitted Dan to mount himoften stopped short
to look roundas if he saidhalf patientlyhalf reproachfullyI
don't understand it, but I suppose you mean no harm, so I permit
the liberty.


Dan patted and praised himand took a short turn every day
getting frequent fallsbut persisting in spite of themand longing
to try a saddle and bridlebut not daring to confess what he had
done. He had his wishhoweverfor there had been a witness of
his pranks who said a good word for him.

Do you know what that chap has ben doin' lately?asked Silas of
his masterone eveningas he received his orders for the next day.

Which boy?said Mr. Bhaerwith an air of resignationexpecting
some sad revelation.

Dan, he's ben a breaking the colt, sir, and I wish I may die if he
ain't done it,answered Silaschuckling.

How do you know?

Wal, I kinder keep an eye on the little fellers, and most gen'lly
know what they're up to; so when Dan kep going off to the paster,
and coming home black and blue, I mistrusted that suthing was
goin' on. I didn't say nothin', but I crep up into the barn chamber,
and from there I see him goin' through all manner of games with
Charlie. Blest if he warn't throwed time and agin, and knocked
round like a bag o' meal. But the pluck of that boy did beat all, and
he 'peared to like it, and kep on as ef bound to beat.

But, Silas, you should have stopped it the boy might have been
killed,said Mr. Bhaerwondering what freak his irrepressibles
would take into their heads next.

S'pose I oughter; but there warn't no real danger, for Charlie ain't
no tricks, and is as pretty a tempered horse as ever I see. Fact was,
I couldn't bear to spile sport, for ef there's any thing I do admire it's
grit, and Dan is chock full on 't. But now I know he's hankerin'
after a saddle, and yet won't take even the old one on the sly; so I
just thought I'd up and tell, and may be you'd let him try what he
can do. Mr. Laurie won't mind, and Charlie's all the better for 't.

We shall see;and off went Mr. Bhaer to inquire into the matter.

Dan owned up at onceand proudly proved that Silas was right by
showing off his power over Charlie; for by dint of much coaxing
many carrotsand infinite perseverancehe really had succeeded in
riding the colt with a halter and blanket. Mr. Laurie was much
amusedand well pleased with Dan's courage and skilland let him
have a hand in all future performances; for he set about Charlie's
education at oncesaying that he was not going to be outdone by a
slip of a boy. Thanks to DanCharlie took kindly to the saddle and
bridle when he had once reconciled himself to the indignity of the
bit; and after Mr. Laurie had trained him a littleDan was
permitted to ride himto the great envy and admiration of the other
boys.

Isn't he handsome? and don't he mind me like a lamb?said Dan
one day as he dismounted and stood with his arm round Charlie's
neck.

Yes, and isn't he a much more useful and agreeable animal than
the wild colt who spent his days racing about the field, jumping
fences, and running away now and then?asked Mrs. Bhaer from
the steps where she always appeared when Dan performed with
Charlie.

Of course he is. See he won't run away now, even if I don't hold


him, and he comes to me the minute I whistle; I have tamed him
well, haven't I?and Dan looked both proud and pleasedas well
he mightforin spite of their struggles togetherCharlie loved him
better than his master.

I am taming a colt too, and I think I shall succeed as well as you if
I am as patient and persevering,said Mrs. Josmiling so
significantly at himthat Dan understood and answeredlaughing
yet in earnest

We won't jump over the fence and run away, but stay and let them
make a handsome, useful span of us, hey, Charlie?

CHAPTER XVII COMPOSITION DAY

Hurry up, boys, it's three o'clock, and Uncle Fritz likes us to be
punctual, you know,said Franz one Wednesday afternoon as a
bell rangand a stream of literary-looking young gentlemen with
books and paper in their hands were seen going toward the
museum.

Tommy was in the school-roombending over his deskmuch
bedaubed with inkflushed with the ardor of inspirationand in a
great hurry as usualfor easy-going Bangs never was ready till the
very last minute. As Franz passed the door looking up laggards
Tommy gave one last blot and flourishand departed out the
windowwaving his paper to dry as he went. Nan followed
looking very importantwith a large roll in her handand Demi
escorted Daisyboth evidently brimful of some delightful secret.

The museum was all in orderand the sunshine among the
hop-vines made pretty shadows on the floor as it peeped through
the great window. On one side sat Mr. and Mrs. Bhaeron the
other was a little table on which the compositions were laid as
soon as readand in a large semicircle sat the children on
camp-stools which occasionally shut up and let the sitter down
thus preventing any stiffness in the assembly. As it took too much
time to have all readthey took turnsand on this Wednesday the
younger pupils were the chief performerswhile the elder ones
listened with condescension and criticised freely.

Ladies first; so Nan may begin,said Mr. Bhaerwhen the settling
of stools and rustling of papers had subsided.

Nan took her place beside the little tableandwith a preliminary
giggleread the following interesting essay on

THE SPONGE

The spongemy friendsis a most useful and interesting plant. It
grows on rocks under the waterand is a kind of sea-weedI
believe. People go and pick it and dry it and wash itbecause little
fish and insects live in the holes of the sponge; I found shells in my
new oneand sand. Some are very fine and soft; babies are washed
with them. The sponge has many uses. I will relate some of them
and I hope my friends will remember what I say. One use is to
wash the face; I don't like it myselfbut I do it because I wish to be
clean. Some people don'tand they are dirty." Here the eye of the
reader rested sternly upon Dick and Dollywho quailed under it
and instantly resolved to scrub themselves virtuously on all
occasions. "Another use is to wake people up; I allude to boys
par-tic -u-lar-ly." Another pause after the long word to enjoy the
smothered laugh that went round the room. "Some boys do not get
up when calledand Mary Ann squeezes the water out of a wet


sponge on their facesand it makes them so mad they wake up."
Here the laugh broke outand Emil saidas if he had been hit

Seems to me you are wandering from the subject.

No, I ain't; we are to write about vegetables or animals, and I'm
doing both: for boys are animals, aren't they?cried Nan; and
undaunted by the indignant "No!" shouted at hershe calmly
proceeded

One more interesting thing is done with sponges, and this is when
doctors put ether on it, and hold it to people's noses when they
have teeth out. I shall do this when I am bigger, and give ether to
the sick, so they will go to sleep and not feel me cut off their legs
and arms.

I know somebody who killed cats with it,called out Demibut
was promptly crushed by Danwho upset his camp-stool and put a
hat over his face.

I will not be interruckted,said Nanfrowning upon the unseemly
scrimmagers. Order was instantly restoredand the young lady
closed her remarks as follows:

My composition has three morals, my friends.Somebody
groanedbut no notice was taken of the insult. "Firstis keep your
faces clean secondget up early thirdwhen the ether sponge is put
over your nosebreathe hard and don't kickand your teeth will
come out easy. I have no more to say." And Miss Nan sat down
amid tumultuous applause.

That is a very remarkable composition; its tone is high, and there
is a good deal of humor in it. Very well done, Nan. Now, Daisy,
and Mr. Bhaer smiled at one young lady as he beckoned the other.

Daisy colored prettily as she took her placeand saidin her
modest little voice

I'm afraid you won't like mine; it isn't nice and funny like Nan's.
But I couldn't do any better.

We always like yours, Posy,said Uncle Fritzand a gentle
murmur from the boys seemed to confirm the remark. Thus
encouragedDaisy read her little paperwhich was listened to with
respectful attention.

THE CAT

The cat is a sweet animal. I love them very much. They are clean
and prettyand catch rats and miceand let you pet themand are
fond of you if you are kind. They are very wiseand can find their
way anywhere. Little cats are called kittensand are dear things. I
have twonamed Huz and Buzand their mother is Topazbecause
she has yellow eyes. Uncle told me a pretty story about a man
named Ma-ho-met. He had a nice catand when she was asleep on
his sleeveand he wanted to go awayhe cut off the sleeve so as
not to wake her up. I think he was a kind man. Some cats catch
fish."

So do I!cried Teddyjumping up eager to tell about his trout.

Hush!said his mothersetting him down again as quickly as
possiblefor orderly Daisy hated to be "interruckted as Nan
expressed it.


I read about one who used to do it very slyly. I tried to make
Topazbut she did not like the waterand scratched me. She does
like teaand when I play in my kitchen she pats the teapot with her
pawtill I give her some. She is a fine catshe eats apple-pudding
and molasses. Most cats do not."

That's a first-rater,called out Natand Daisy retiredpleased with

the praise of her friend.
Demi looks so impatient we must have him up at once or he won't
hold out,said Uncle Fritzand Demi skipped up with alacrity.


Mine is a poem!he announced in a tone of triumphand read his
first effort in a loud and solemn voice:
I write about the butterfly,
It is a pretty thing;
And flies about like the birds,
But it does not sing.
First it is a little grub
And then it is a nice yellow cocoon
And then the butterfly
Eats its way out soon.
They live on dew and honey,
They do not have any hive,
They do not sting like wasps, and bees, and hornets,
And to be as good as they are we should strive.
I should like to be a beautiful butterfly
All yellowand blueand greenand red;
But I should not like

To have Dan put camphor on my poor little head."
This unusual burst of genius brought down the houseand Demi
was obliged to read it againa somewhat difficult taskas there
was no punctuation whateverand the little poet's breath gave out
before he got to the end of some of the long lines.

He will be a Shakespeare yet,said Aunt Jolaughing as if she
would diefor this poetic gem reminded her of one of her own
written at the age of tenand beginning gloomily

I wish I had a quiet tomb,
Beside a little rill;
Where birds, and bees, and butterflies,
Would sing upon the hill.


Come on, Tommy. If there is as much ink inside your paper as
there is outside, it will be a long composition,said Mr. Bhaer
when Demi had been induced to tear himself from his poem and
sit down.

It isn't a composition, it's a letter. You see, I forgot all about its
being my turn till after school, and then I didn't know what to
have, and there wasn't time to read up; so I thought you wouldn't
mind my taking a letter that I wrote to my Grandma. It's got
something about birds in it, so I thought it would do.

With this long excuseTommy plunged into a sea of ink and
floundered throughpausing now and then to decipher one of his
own flourishes.

MY DEAR GRANDMA, I hope you are well. Uncle James sent
me a pocket rifle. It is a beautiful little instrument of killing,
shaped like this [Here Tommy displayed a remarkable sketch of
what looked like an intricate pump, or the inside of a small
steam-engine] 44 are the sights; 6 is a false stock that fits in at A; 3
is the trigger, and 2 is the cock. It loads at the breech, and fires
with great force and straightness. I am going out shooting squirrels
soon. I shot several fine birds for the museum. They had speckled
breasts, and Dan liked them very much. He stuffed them tip-top,
and they sit on the tree quite natural, only one looks a little tipsy.
We had a Frenchman working here the other day, and Asia called
his name so funnily that I will tell you about it. His name was
Germain: first she called him Jerry, but we laughed at her, and she
changed it to Jeremiah; but ridicule was the result, so it became
Mr. Germany; but ridicule having been again resumed, it became
Garrymon, which it has remained ever since. I do not write often, I
am so busy; but I think of you often, and sympathize with you, and
sincerely hope you get on as well as can be expected without me.
Your affectionate grandson,

THOMAS BUCKMINSTER BANGS.

P.S. ? If you come across any postage-stamps, remember me.

N.B. Love to alland a great deal to Aunt Almira. Does she make
any nice plum-cakes now?

P.S. ? Mrs. Bhaer sends her respects.

P.S. ? And so would Mr. Bif he knew I was in act to write.

N.B. Father is going to give me a watch on my birthday. I am glad
as at present I have no means of telling time, and am often late at
school.

P.S. ? I hope to see you soon. Don't you wish to send for me?

T. B. B."
As each postscript was received with a fresh laugh from the boys
by the time he came to the sixth and lastTommy was so
exhausted that he was glad to sit down and wipe his ruddy face.

I hope the dear old lady will live through it,said Mr. Bhaer
under cover of the noise.

We won't take any notice of the broad hint given in that last P.S.
The letter will be quite as much as she can bear without a visit


from Tommy,answered Mrs. Joremembering that the old lady
usually took to her bed after a visitation from her irrepressible
grandson.

Now, me,said Teddywho had learned a bit of poetryand was
so eager to say it that he had been bobbing up and down during the
readingand could no longer be restrained.

I'm afraid he will forget it if he waits; and I have had a deal of
trouble teaching him,said his mother.

Teddy trotted to the rostrumdropped a curtsey and nodded his
head at the same timeas if anxious to suit every one; thenin his
baby voiceand putting the emphasis on the wrong wordshe said
his verse all in one breath:

Little drops of water,

Little drains of sand,

Mate a might okum (ocean),

And a peasant land.

Little words of kindness

Pokin evvy day

Make a home a hebbin

And hep us on a way."

Clapping his hands at the endhe made another double salutation
and then ran to hide his head in his mother's lapquite overcome
by the success of his "piece for the applause was tremendous.

Dick and Dolly did not write, but were encouraged to observe the
habits of animals and insects, and report what they saw. Dick liked
this, and always had a great deal to say; so, when his name was
called, he marched up, and, looking at the audience with his bright
confiding eyes, told his little story so earnestly that no one smiled
at his crooked body, because the straight soul" shone through it
beautifully.

I've been watching dragonflies, and I read about them in Dan's
book, and I'll try and tell you what I remember. There's lots of
them flying round on the pond, all blue, with big eyes, and sort of
lace wings, very pretty. I caught one, and looked at him, and I
think he was the handsomest insect I ever saw. They catch littler
creatures than they are to eat, and have a queer kind of hook thing
that folds up when they ain't hunting. It likes the sunshine, and
dances round all day. Let me see! what else was there to tell about?
Oh, I know! The eggs are laid in the water, and go down to the
bottom, and are hatched in the mud. Little ugly things come out of
'em; I can't say the name, but they are brown, and keep having new
skins, and getting bigger and bigger. Only think! it takes them two
years to be a dragonfly! Now this is the curiousest part of it, so you
listen tight, for I don't believe you know it. When it is ready it
knows somehow, and the ugly, grubby thing climbs up out of the
water on a flag or a bulrush, and bursts open its back.

Come, I don't believe that,said Tommywho was not an
observant boyand really thought Dick was "making up."


It does burst open its back, don't it?and Dick appealed to Mr.
Bhaerwho nodded a very decided affirmativeto the little
speaker's great satisfaction.

Well, out comes the dragonfly, all whole, and he sits in the sun
sort of coming alive, you know; and he gets strong, and then he
spreads his pretty wings, and flies away up in the air, and never is
a grub any more. That's all I know; but I shall watch and try to see
him do it, for I think it's splendid to turn into a beautiful dragonfly,
don't you?

Dick had told his story wellandwhen he described the flight of
the new-born insecthad waved his handsand looked up as if he
sawand wanted to follow it. Something in his face suggested to
the minds of the elder listeners the thought that some day little
Dick would have his wishand after years of helplessness and pain
would climb up into the sun some happy dayandleaving his poor
little body behind himfind a new lovely shape in a fairer world
than this. Mrs. Jo drew him to her sideand saidwith a kiss on his
thin cheek

That is a sweet little story, dear, and you remembered it
wonderfully well. I shall write and tell your mother all about it;
and Dick sat on her kneecontentedly smiling at the praiseand
resolving to watch welland catch the dragonfly in the act of
leaving its old body for the newand see how he did it. Dolly had a
few remarks to make upon the "Duck and made them in a
sing-song tone, for he had learned it by heart, and thought it a great
plague to do it at all.

Wild ducks are hard to kill; men hide and shoot at themand have
tame ducks to quack and make the wild ones come where the men
can fire at them. They have wooden ducks made tooand they sail
roundand the wild ones come to see them; they are stupidI think.
Our ducks are very tame. They eat a great dealand go poking
round in the mud and water. They don't take good care of their
eggsbut them spoiland "

Mine don't!cried Tommy.

Well, some people's do; Silas said so. Hens take good care of
little ducks, only they don't like to have them go in the water, and
make a great fuss. But the little ones don't care a bit. I like to eat
ducks with stuffing in them and lots of apple-sauce.

I have something to say about owls,began Natwho had
carefully prepared a paper upon this subject with some help from
Dan.

Owls have big heads, round eyes, hooked bills, and strong claws.
Some are gray, some white, some black and yellowish. Their
feathers are very soft, and stick out a great deal. They fly very
quietly, and hunt bats, mice, little birds, and such things. They
build nests in barns, hollow trees, and some take the nests of other
birds. The great horned owl has two eggs bigger than a hen's and
reddish brown. The tawny owl has five eggs, white and smooth;
and this is the kind that hoots at night. Another kind sounds like a
child crying. They eat mice and bats whole, and the parts that they
cannot digest they make into little balls and spit out.

My gracious! how funny!Nan was heard to observe.

They cannot see by day; and if they get out into the light, they go
flapping round half blind, and the other birds chase and peck at


them, as if they were making fun. The horned owl is very big,
'most as big as the eagle. It eats rabbits, rats, snakes, and birds; and
lives in rocks and old tumble-down houses. They have a good
many cries, and scream like a person being choked, and say,
'Waugh O! waugh O!' and it scares people at night in the woods.
The white owl lives by the sea, and in cold places, and looks
something like a hawk. There is a kind of owl that makes holes to
live in like moles. It is called the burrowing owl, and is very small.
The barn-owl is the commonest kind; and I have watched one
sitting in a hole in a tree, looking like a little gray cat, with one eye
shut and the other open. He comes out at dusk, and sits round
waiting for the bats. I caught one, and here he is.

With that Nat suddenly produced from inside his jacket a little
downy birdwho blinked and ruffled his featherslooking very
plump and sleepy and scared.

Don't touch him! He is going to show off,said Natdisplaying
his new pet with great pride. First he put a cocked hat on the bird's
headand the boys laughed at the funny effect; then he added a
pair of paper spectaclesand that gave the owl such a wise look
that they shouted with merriment. The performance closed with
making the bird angryand seeing him cling to a handkerchief
upside downpecking and "clucking as Rob called it. He was
allowed to fly after that, and settled himself on the bunch of
pine-cones over the door, where he sat staring down at the
company with an air of sleepy dignity that amused them very
much.

Have you anything for usGeorge?" asked Mr. Bhaerwhen the
room was still again.

Well, I read and learned ever so much about moles, but I declare
I've forgotten every bit of it, except that they dig holes to live in,
that you catch them by pouring water down, and that they can't
possibly live without eating very often;and Stuffy sat down
wishing he had not been too lazy to write out his valuable
observationsfor a general smile went round when he mentioned
the last of the three facts which lingered in his memory.

Then we are done for to-day,began Mr. Bhaerbut Tommy
called out in a great hurry

No we ain't. Don't you know? We must give the thing;and he
winked violently as he made an eye-glass of his fingers.

Bless my heart, I forgot! Now is your time, Tom;and Mr. Bhaer
dropped into his seat againwhile all the boys but Dan looked
mightily tickled at something.

NatTommyand Demi left the roomand speedily returned with a
little red morocco box set forth in state on Mrs. Jo's best silver
salver. Tommy bore itandstill escorted by Nat and Demi
marched up to unsuspecting Danwho stared at them as if he
thought they were going to make fun of him. Tommy had prepared
an elegant and impressive speech for the occasionbut when the
minute cameit all went out of his headand he just saidstraight
from his kindly boyish heart

Here, old fellow, we all wanted to give you something to kind of
pay for what happened awhile ago, and to show how much we
liked you for being such a trump. Please take it, and have a jolly
good time with it.


Dan was so surprised he could only get as red as the little boxand
mutterThanky, boys!as he fumbled to open it. But when he saw
what was insidehis face lighted upand he seized the long desired
treasuresaying so enthusiastically that every one was satisfied
though is language was anything but polished

What a stunner! I say, you fellows are regular bricks to give me
this; it's just what I wanted. Give us your paw, Tommy.

Many paws were givenand heartily shakenfor the boys were
charmed with Dan's pleasureand crowded round him to shake
hands and expatiate on the beauties of their gift. In the midst of
this pleasant chatterDan's eye went to Mrs. Jowho stood outside
the group enjoying the scene with all her heart.

No, I had nothing to do with it. The boys got it up all themselves,
she saidanswering the grateful look that seemed to thank her for
that happy moment. Dan smiledand saidin a tone that only she
could understand

It's you all the same;and making his way through the boyshe
held out his hand first to her and then to the good Professorwho
was beaming benevolently on his flock.

He thanked them both with the silenthearty squeeze he gave the
kind hands that had held him upand led him into the safe refuge
of a happy home. Not a word was spokenbut they felt all he
would sayand little Teddy expressed his pleasure for them as he
leaned from his father's arm to hug the boyand sayin his baby
way

My dood Danny! everybody loves him now.

Come here, show off your spy-glass, Dan, and let us see some of
your magnified pollywogs and annymalcumisms as you call 'em,
said Jackwho felt so uncomfortable during this scene that he
would have slipped away if Emil had not kept him.

So I will, take a squint at that and see what you think of it,said
Danglad to show off his precious microscope.

He held it over a beetle that happened to be lying on the tableand
Jack bent down to take his squintbut looked up with an amazed
facesaying

My eye! what nippers the old thing has got! I see now why it hurts
so confoundedly when you grab a dorbug and he grabs back
again.

He winked at me,cried Nanwho had poked her head under
Jack's elbow and got the second peep.

Every one took a lookand then Dan showed them the lovely
plumage on a moth's wingthe four feathery corners to a hairthe
veins on a leafhardly visible to the naked eyebut like a thick net
through the wonderful little glass; the skin on their own fingers
looking like queer hills and valleys; a cobweb like a bit of coarse
sewing silkand the sting of a bee.

It's like the fairy spectacles in my story-book, only more curious,
said Demienchanted with the wonders he saw.

Dan is a magician now, and he can show you many miracles
going on all round you; for he has two things needful patience and


a love of nature. We live in a beautiful and wonderful world,
Demi, and the more you know about it the wiser and the better you
will be. This little glass will give you a new set of teachers, and
you may learn fine lessons from them if you will,said Mr. Bhaer
glad to see how interested the boys were in the matter.

Could I see anybody's soul with this microscope if I looked hard?
asked Demiwho was much impressed with the power of the bit of
glass.

No, dear; it's not powerful enough for that, and never can be made
so. You must wait a long while before your eyes are clear enough
to see the most invisible of God's wonders. But looking at the
lovely things you can see will help you to understand the lovelier
things you can not see,answered Uncle Fritzwith his hand on the
boy's head.

Well, Daisy and I both think that if there are any angels, their
wings look like that butterfly's as we see it through the glass, only
more soft and gold.

Believe it if you like, and keep your own little wings as bright and
beautiful, only don't fly away for a long time yet.

No, I won't,and Demi kept his word.

Good-by, my boys; I must go now, but I leave you with our new
Professor of Natural History;and Mrs. Jo went away well pleased
with that composition day.

CHAPTER XVIII CROPS

The gardens did well that summerand in September the little
crops were gathered in with much rejoicing. Jack and Ned joined
their farms and raised potatoesthose being a good salable article.
They got twelve bushelscounting little ones and alland sold
them to Mr. Bhaer at a fair pricefor potatoes went fast in that
house. Emil and Franz devoted themselves to cornand had a jolly
little husking in the barnafter which they took their corn to the
milland came proudly home with meal enough to supply the
family with hasty-pudding and Johnny-cake for a lone time. They
would not take money for their crop; becauseas Franz saidWe
never can pay Uncle for all he has done for us if we raised corn for
the rest of our days.

Nat had beans in such abundance that he despaired of ever shelling
themtill Mrs. Jo proposed a new waywhich succeeded
admirably. The dry pods were spread upon the barn-floorNat
fiddledand the boys danced quadrilles on themtill they were
thrashed out with much merriment and very little labor.

Tommy's six weeks' beans were a failure; for a dry spell early in
the season hurt thembecause he gave them no water; and after
that he was so sure that they could take care of themselveshe let
the poor things struggle with bugs and weeds till they were
exhausted and died a lingering death. So Tommy had to dig his
farm over againand plant peas. But they were late; the birds ate
many; the bushesnot being firmly plantedblew downand when
the poor peas came at lastno one cared for themas their day was
overand spring-lamb had grown into mutton. Tommy consoled
himself with a charitable effort; for he transplanted all the thistles
he could findand tended them carefully for Tobywho was fond
of the prickly delicacyand had eaten all he could find on the
place. The boys had great fun over Tom's thistle bed; but he


insisted that it was better to care for poor Toby than for himself
and declared that he would devote his entire farm next year to
thistleswormsand snailsthat Demi's turtles and Nat's pet owl
might have the food they lovedas well as the donkey. So like
shiftlesskind-heartedhappy-go-lucky Tommy!

Demi had supplied his grandmother with lettuce all summerand
in the autumn sent his grandfather a basket of turnipseach one
scrubbed up till it looked like a great white egg. His Grandma was
fond of saladand one of his Grandpa's favorite quotations was

Lucullus, whom frugality could charm,

Ate roasted turnips at the Sabine farm.

Therefore these vegetable offerings to the dear domestic god and
goddess were affectionateappropriateand classical.

Daisy had nothing but flowers in her little plotand it bloomed all
summer long with a succession of gay or fragrant posies. She was
very fond of her gardenand delved away in it at all hours
watching over her rosesand pansiessweet-peasand mignonette
as faithfully and tenderly as she did over her dolls or her friends.
Little nosegays were sent into town on all occasionsand certain
vases about the house were her especial care. She had all sorts of
pretty fancies about her flowersand loved to tell the children the
story of the pansyand show them how the step-mother-leaf sat up
in her green chair in purple and gold; how the two own children in
gay yellow had each its little seatwhile the step childrenin dull
colorsboth sat on one small stooland the poor little father in his
red nightcapwas kept out of sight in the middle of the flower; that
a monk's dark face looked out of the monk's-hood larkspur; that
the flowers of the canary-vine were so like dainty birds fluttering
their yellow wingsthat one almost expected to see them fly away
and the snapdragons that went off like little pistol-shots when you
cracked them. Splendid dollies did she make out of scarlet and
white poppieswith ruffled robes tied round the waist with grass
blade sashesand astonishing hats of coreopsis on their green
heads. Pea-pod boatswith rose-leaf sailsreceived these
flower-peopleand floated them about a placid pool in the most
charming style; for finding that there were no elvesDaisy made
her ownand loved the fanciful little friends who played their parts
in her summer-life.

Nan went in for herbsand had a fine display of useful plants
which she tended with steadily increasing interest and care. Very
busy was she in September cuttingdryingand tying up her sweet
harvestand writing down in a little book how the different herbs
are to be used. She had tried several experimentsand made
several mistakes; so she wished to be particular lest she should
give little Huz another fit by administering wormwood instead of
catnip.

DickDollyand Rob each grubbed away on his small farmand
made more stir about it than all the rest put together. Parsnips and
carrots were the crops of the two D.'s; and they longed for it to be
late enough to pull up the precious vegetables. Dick did privately
examine his carrotsand plant them againfeeling that Silas was
right in saying it was too soon for them yet.

Rob's crop was four small squashes and one immense pumpkin. It
really was a "bouncer as every one said; and I assure you that two
small persons could sit on it side by side. It seemed to have
absorbed all the goodness of the little garden, and all the sunshine


that shone down on it, and lay there a great round, golden ball, full
of rich suggestions of pumpkin-pies for weeks to come. Robby was
so proud of his mammoth vegetable that he took every one to see
it, and, when frosts began to nip, covered it up each night with an
old bedquilt, tucking it round as if the pumpkin was a well-beloved
baby. The day it was gathered he would let no one touch it but
himself, and nearly broke his back tugging it to the barn in his
little wheelbarrow, with Dick and Dolly harnessed in front to give
a heave up the path. His mother promised him that the
Thanksgiving-pies should be made from it, and hinted vaguely that
she had a plan in her head which would cover the prize pumpkin
and its owner with glory.

Poor Billy had planted cucumbers, but unfortunately hoed them up
and left the pig-weed. This mistake grieved him very much for tem
minutes, then he forgot all about it, and sowed a handful of bright
buttons which he had collected, evidently thinking in his feeble
mind that they were money, and would come up and multiply, so
that he might make many quarters, as Tommy did. No one
disturbed him, and he did what he liked with his plot, which soon
looked as if a series of small earthquakes had stirred it up. When
the general harvest-day came, he would have had nothing but
stones and weeds to show, if kind old Asia had not hung
half-a-dozen oranges on the dead tree he stuck up in the middle.
Billy was delighted with his crop; and no one spoiled his pleasure
in the little miracle which pity wrought for him, by making
withered branches bear strange fruit.

Stuffy had various trials with his melons; for, being impatient to
taste them, he had a solitary revel before they were ripe, and made
himself so ill, that for a day or two it seemed doubtful if he would
ever eat any more. But he pulled through it, and served up his first
cantaloupe without tasting a mouthful himself. They were
excellent melons, for he had a warm slope for them, and they
ripened fast. The last and best were lingering on the vines, and
Stuffy had announced that he should sell them to a neighbor. This
disappointed the boys, who had hoped to eat the melons
themselves, and they expressed their displeasure in a new and
striking manner. Going one morning to gaze upon the three fine
watermelons which he had kept for the market, Stuffy was
horrified to find the word PIG" cut in white letters on the green
rindstaring at him from every one. He was in a great rageand
flew to Mrs. Jo for redress. She listenedcondoled with himand
then said

If you want to turn the laugh, I'll tell you how, but you must give
up the melons.

Well, I will; for I can't thrash all the boys, but I'd like to give them
something to remember, the mean sneaks,growled Stuffstill in a
fume.

Now Mrs. Jo was pretty sure who had done the trickfor she had
seen three heads suspiciously near to one another in the
sofa-corner the evening before; and when these heads had nodded
with chuckles and whispersthis experienced woman knew
mischief was afoot. A moonlight nighta rustling in the old
cherry-tree near Emil's windowa cut on Tommy's fingerall
helped to confirm her suspicions; and having cooled Stuffy's wrath
a littleshe bade him bring his maltreated melons to her roomand
say not a word to any one of what had happened. He did soand
the three wags were amazed to find their joke so quietly taken. It
spoilt the funand the entire disappearance of the melons made
them uneasy. So did Stuffy's good-naturefor he looked more


placid and plump than everand surveyed them with an air of calm
pity that perplexed them very much.

At dinner-time they discovered why; for then Stuffy's vengeance
fell upon themand the laugh was turned against them. When the
pudding was eatenand the fruit was put onMary Ann
re-appeared in a high state of gigglebearing a large watermelon;
Silas followed with another; and Dan brought up the rear with a
third. One was placed before each of the three guilty lads; and they
read on the smooth green skins this addition to their own work
With the compliments of the PIG.Every one else read it also
and the whole table was in a roarfor the trick had been whispered
about; so every one understood the sequel. EmilNedand Tommy
did not know where to lookand had not a word to say for
themselves; so they wisely joined in the laughcut up the melons
and handed them roundsayingwhat all the rest agreed tothat
Stuffy had taken a wise and merry way to return good for evil.

Dan had no gardenfor he was away or lame the greater part of the
summer; so he had helped Silas wherever he couldchopped wood
for Asiaand taken care of the lawn so wellthat Mrs. Jo always
had smooth paths and nicely shaven turf before her door.

When the others got in their cropshe looked sorry that he had so
little to show; but as autumn went onhe bethought himself of a
woodland harvest which no one would dispute with himand
which was peculiarly his own. Every Saturday he was away alone
to the forestsfieldsand hillsand always came back loaded with
spoils; for he seemed to know the meadows where the best
flag-root grewthe thicket where the sassafras was spiciestthe
haunts where the squirrels went for nutsthe white oak whose bark
was most valuableand the little gold-thread vine that Nursey liked
to cure the canker with. All sorts of splendid red and yellow leaves
did Dan bring home for Mrs. Jo to dress her parlor with
graceful-seeded grassesclematis tasselsdownysoftyellow
wax-work berriesand mossesred-brimmedwhiteor emerald
green.

I need not sigh for the woods now, because Dan brings the woods
to me,Mrs. Jo used to sayas she glorified the walls with yellow
maple boughs and scarlet woodbine wreathsor filled her vases
with russet fernshemlock sprays full of delicate conesand hardy
autumn flowers; for Dan's crop suited her well.

The great garret was full of the children's little stores and for a
time was one of the sights of the house. Daisy's flower seeds in
neat little paper bagsall labelledlay in a drawer of a three-legged
table. Nan's herbs hung in bunches against the wallfilling the air
with their aromatic breath. Tommy had a basket of thistle-down
with the tiny seeds attachedfor he meant to plant them next year
if they did not all fly away before that time. Emil had bunches of
pop-corn hanging there to dryand Demi laid up acorns and
different sorts of grain for the pets. But Dan's crop made the best
showfor fully one half of the floor was covered with the nuts he
brought. All kinds were therefor he ranged the woods for miles
roundclimbed the tallest treesand forced his way into the
thickest hedges for his plunder. Walnutschestnutshazelnutsand
beechnuts lay in separate compartmentsgetting brownand dry
and sweetready for winter revels.

There was one butternut-tree on the placeand Rob and Teddy
called it theirs. It bore well this yearand the great dingy nuts came
dropping down to hide among the dead leaveswhere the busy
squirrels found them better than the lazy Bhaers. Their father had


told them (the boysnot the squirrels) they should have the nuts if
they would pick them upbut no one was to help. It was easy work
and Teddy liked itonly he soon got tiredand left his little basket
half full for another day. But the other day was slow to arriveand
meantimethe sly squirrels were hard at workscampering up and
down the old elm-trees stowing the nuts away till their holes were
fullthen all about the crotches of the boughsto be removed at
their leisure. Their funny little ways amused the boystill one day
Silas said

Hev you sold them nuts to the squirrels?

No,answered Robwondering what Silas meant.

Wal, then, you'd better fly round, or them spry little fellers won't
leave you none.

Oh, we can beat them when we begin. There are such lots of nuts
we shall have a plenty.

There ain't many more to come down, and they have cleared the
ground pretty well, see if they hain't.

Robby ran to lookand was alarmed to find how few remained. He
called Teddyand they worked hard all one afternoonwhile the
squirrels sat on the fence and scolded.

Now, Ted, we must keep watch, and pick up just as fast as they
fall, or we shan't have more than a bushel, and every one will
laugh at us if we don't.

The naughty quillies tarn't have 'em. I'll pick fast and run and put
'em in the barn twick,said Teddyfrowning at little Friskywho
chattered and whisked his tail indignantly.

That night a high wind blew down hundreds of nutsand when
Mrs. Jo came to wake her little sonsshe saidbriskly

Come, my laddies, the squirrels are hard at it, and you will have
to work well to-day, or they will have every nut on the ground.

No, they won't,and Robby tumbled up in a great hurrygobbled
his breakfastand rushed out to save his property.

Teddy went tooand worked like a little beavertrotting to and fro
with full and empty baskets. Another bushel was soon put away in
the corn-barnand they were scrambling among the leaves for
more nuts when the bell rang for school.

O father! let me stay out and pick. Those horrid squirrels will
have my nuts if you don't. I'll do my lessons by and by,cried Rob
running into the school-roomflushed and tousled by the fresh cold
wind and his eager work.

If you had been up early and done a little every morning there
would be no hurry now. I told you that, Rob, and you never
minded. I cannot have the lessons neglected as the work has been.
The squirrels will get more than their share this year, and they
deserve it, for they have worked best. You may go an hour earlier,
but that is all,and Mr. Bhaer led Rob to his place where the little
man dashed at his books as if bent on making sure of the precious
hour promised him.

It was almost maddening to sit still and see the wind shaking down


the last nutsand the lively thieves flying aboutpausing now and
then to eat one in his faceand flirt their tailsas if they said
saucilyWe'll have them in spite of you, lazy Rob.The only
thing that sustained the poor child in this trying moment was the
sight of Teddy working away all alone. It was really splendid the
pluck and perseverance of the little lad. He picked and picked till
his back ached; he trudged to and fro till his small legs were tired;
and he defied windwearinessand wicked "quillies till his
mother left her work and did the carrying for him, full of
admiration for the kind little fellow who tried to help his brother.
When Rob was dismissed, he found Teddy reposing in the
bushel-basket quite used up, but unwilling to quit the field; for he
flapped his hat at the thieves with one grubby little hand, while he
refreshed himself with the big apple held in the other.

Rob fell to work and the ground was cleared before two o'clock,
the nuts safely in the corn-barn loft, and the weary workers exulted
in their success. But Frisky and his wife were not to be vanquished
so easily; and when Rob went up to look at his nuts a few days
later he was amazed to see how many had vanished. None of the
boys could have stolen them, because the door had been locked;
the doves could not have eaten them, and there were no rats about.
There was great lamentation among the young Bhaers till Dick
said

I saw Frisky on the roof of the corn-barnmay be he took them."

I know he did! I'll have a trap, and kill him dead,cried Rob
disgusted with Frisky's grasping nature.

Perhaps if you watch, you can find out where he puts them, and I
may be able to get them back for you,said Danwho was much
amused by the fight between the boys and squirrels.

So Rob watched and saw Mr. and Mrs. Frisky drop from the
drooping elm boughs on to the roof of the corn-barndodge in at
one of the little doorsmuch to the disturbance of the dovesand
come out with a nut in each mouth. So laden they could not get
back the way they camebut ran down the low roofalong the wall
and leaping off at a corner they vanished a minute and re-appeared
without their plunder. Rob ran to the placeand in a hollow under
the leaves he found a heap of the stolen property hidden away to
be carried off to the holes by and by.

Oh, you little villains! I'll cheat you now, and not leave one,said
Rob. So he cleared the corner and the corn-barnand put the
contested nuts in the garretmaking sure that no broken
window-pane could anywhere let in the unprincipled squirrels.
They seemed to feel that the contest was overand retired to their
holebut now and then could not resist throwing down nut-shells
on Rob's headand scolding violently as if they could not forgive
him nor forget that he had the best of the battle.

Father and Mother Bhaer's crop was of a different sortand not so
easily described; but they were satisfied with itfelt that their
summer work had prospered welland by and by had a harvest that
made them very happy.

CHAPTER XIX JOHN BROOKE

Wake up, Demi, dear! I want you.

Why, I've just gone to bed; it can't be morning yet;and Demi
blinked like a little owl as he waked from his first sound sleep.


It's only ten, but your father is ill, and we must go to him. O my
little John! my poor little John!and Aunt Jo laid her head down
on the pillow with a sob that scared sleep from Demi's eyes and
filled his heart with fear and wonder; for he dimly felt why Aunt
Jo called him "John and wept over him as if some loss had come
that left him poor. He clung to her without a word, and in a minute
she was quite steady again, and said, with a tender kiss as she saw
his troubled face,

We are going to say good-by to himmy darlingand there is no
time to lose; so dress quickly and come to me in my room. I must
go to Daisy."

Yes, I will;and when Aunt Jo was gonelittle Demi got up
quietlydressed as if in a dreamand leaving Tommy fast asleep
went away through the silent housefeeling that something new
and sorrowful was going to happen something that set him apart
from the other boys for a timeand made the world seem as dark
and still and strange as those familiar rooms did in the night. A
carriage sent by Mr. Laurie stood before the door. Daisy was soon
readyand the brother and sister held each other by the hand all the
way into townas they drove swiftly and silently with aunt and
uncle through the shadowy roads to say good-by to father.

None of the boys but Franz and Emil knew what had happened
and when they came down next morninggreat was their
wonderment and discomfortfor the house seemed forlorn without
its master and mistress. Breakfast was a dismal meal with no
cheery Mrs. Jo behind the teapots; and when school-time came
Father Bhaer's place was empty. They wandered about in a
disconsolate kind of way for an hourwaiting for news and hoping
it would be all right with Demi's fatherfor good John Brooke was
much beloved by the boys. Ten o'clock cameand no one arrived
to relieve their anxiety. They did not feel like playingyet the time
dragged heavilyand they sat about listless and sober. All at once
Franz got upand saidin his persuasive way

Look here, boys! let's go into school and do our lessons just as if
Uncle was here. It will make the day go faster, and will please
him, I know.

But who will hear us say them?asked Jack.

I will; I don't know much more than you do, but I'm the oldest
here, and I'll try to fill Uncle's place till he comes, if you don't
mind.

Something in the modestserious way Franz said this impressed
the boysforthough the poor lad's eyes were red with quiet crying
for Uncle John in that long sad nightthere was a new manliness
about himas if he had already begun to feel the cares and troubles
of lifeand tried to take them bravely.

I will, for one,and Emil went to his seatremembering that
obedience to his superior officer is a seaman's first duty.

The others followed; Franz took his uncle's seatand for an hour
order reigned. Lessons were learned and saidand Franz made a
patientpleasant teacherwisely omitting such lessons as he was
not equal toand keeping order more by the unconscious dignity
that sorrow gave him than by any words of his own. The little boys
were reading when a step was heard in the halland every one
looked up to read the news in Mr. Bhaer's face as he came in. The


kind face told them instantly that Demi had no father nowfor it
was worn and paleand full of tender griefwhich left him no
words with which to answer Robas he ran to himsaying
reproachfully

What made you go and leave me in the night, papa?

The memory of the other father who had left his children in the
nightnever to returnmade Mr. Bhaer hold his own boy close
andfor a minutehide his face in Robby's curly hair. Emil laid his
head down on his armsFranzwent to put his hand on his uncle's
shoulderhis boyish face pale with sympathy and sorrowand the
others sat so still that the soft rustle of the falling leaves outside
was distinctly heard.

Rob did not clearly understand what had happenedbut he hated to
see papa unhappyso he lifted up the bent headand saidin his
chirpy little voice

Don't cry, mein Vater! we were all so good, we did our lessons,
without you, and Franz was the master.

Mr. Bhaer looked up thentried to smileand said in a grateful
tone that made the lads feel like saintsI thank you very much, my
boys. It was a beautiful way to help and comfort me. I shall not
forget it, I assure you.

Franz proposed it, and was a first-rate master, too,said Nat; and
the others gave a murmur of assent most gratifying to the young
dominie.

Mr. Bhaer put Rob downandstanding upput his arm round his
tall nephew's shoulderas he saidwith a look of genuine pleasure

This makes my hard day easier, and gives me confidence in you
all. I am needed there in town, and must leave you for some hours.
I thought to give you a holiday, or send some of you home, but if
you like to stay and go on as you have begun, I shall be glad and
proud of my good boys.

We'll stay;We'd rather;Franz can see to us;cried several
delighted with the confidence shown in them.

Isn't Marmar coming home?asked Robwistfully; for home
without "Marmar" was the world without the sun to him.

We shall both come to-night; but dear Aunt Meg needs Mother
more than you do now, and I know you like to lend her for a little
while.

Well, I will; but Teddy's been crying for her, and he slapped
Nursey, and was dreadful naughty,answered Robas if the news
might bring mother home.

Where is my little man?asked Mr. Bhaer.

Dan took him out, to keep him quiet. He's all right now,said
Franzpointing to the windowthrough which they could see Dan
drawing baby in his little wagonwith the dogs frolicking about
him.

I won't see him, it would only upset him again; but tell Dan I
leave Teddy in his care. You older boys I trust to manage
yourselves for a day. Franz will direct you, and Silas is here to over


see matters. So good-by till to-night.

Just tell me a word about Uncle John,said Emildetaining Mr.
Bhaeras he was about hurrying away again.

He was only ill a few hours, and died as he has lived, so
cheerfully, so peacefully, that it seems a sin to mar the beauty of it
with any violent or selfish grief. We were in time to say good-by:
and Daisy and Demi were in his arms as he fell asleep on Aunt
Meg's breast. No more now, I cannot bear it,and Mr. Bhaer went
hastily away quite bowed with grieffor in John Brooke he had lost
both friend and brotherand there was no one left to take his place.

All that day the house was very still; the small boys played quietly
in the nursery; the othersfeeling as if Sunday had come in the
middle of the weekspent it in walkingsitting in the willowor
among their petsall talking much of "Uncle John and feeling
that something gentle, just, and strong, had gone out of their little
world, leaving a sense of loss that deepened every hour. At dusk,
Mr. and Mrs. Bhaer came home alone, for Demi and Daisy were
their mother's best comfort now, and could not leave her. Poor
Mrs. Jo seemed quite spent, and evidently needed the same sort of
comfort, for her first words, as she came up the stairs, were,
Where is my baby?"

Here I is,answered a little voiceas Dan put Teddy into her
armsaddingas she hugged him closeMy Danny tooked tare of
me all day, and I was dood.

Mrs. Jo turned to thank the faithful nursebut Dan was waving off
the boyswho had gathered in the hall to meet herand was saying
in a low voiceKeep back; she don't want to be bothered with us
now.

No, don't keep back. I want you all. Come in and see me, my
boys. I've neglected you all day,and Mrs. Jo held out her hands to
them as they gathered round and escorted her into her own room
saying littlebut expressing much by affectionate looks and clumsy
little efforts to show their sorrow and sympathy.

I am so tired, I will lie here and cuddle Teddy, and you shall bring
me in some tea,she saidtrying to speak cheerfully for their
sakes.

A general stampede into the dining-room followedand the
supper-table would have been ravaged if Mr. Bhaer had not
interfered. It was agreed that one squad should carry in the
mother's teaand another bring it out. The four nearest and dearest
claimed the first honorso Franz bore the teapotEmil the bread
Rob the milkand Teddy insisted on carrying the sugar basin
which was lighter by several lumps when it arrived than when it
started. Some women might have found it annoying at such a time
to have boys creaking in and outupsetting cups and rattling
spoons in violent efforts to be quiet and helpful; but it suited Mrs.
Jobecause just then her heart was very tender; and remembering
that many of her boys were fatherless or motherlessshe yearned
over themand found comfort in their blundering affection. It was
the sort of food that did her more good than the very thick
bread-and-butter that they gave herand the rough Commodore's
broken whisper

Bear up, Aunty, it's a hard blow; but we'll weather it somehow;
cheered her more than the sloppy cup he brought herfull of tea as
bitter as if some salt tear of his own had dropped into it on the


way. When supper was overa second deputation removed the
tray; and Dan saidholding out his arms for sleepy little Teddy

Let me put him to bed, you're so tired, Mother.

Will you go with him, lovey?asked Mrs. Jo of her small lord and
masterwho lay on her arm among the sofa-pillows.

Torse I will;and he was proudly carried off by his faithful
bearer.

I wish I could do something,said Natwith a sighas Franz
leaned over the sofaand softly stroked Aunt Jo's hot forehead.

You can, dear. Go and get your violin, and play me the sweet
little airs Uncle Teddy sent you last. Music will comfort me better
than any thing else to-night.

Nat flew for his fiddleandsitting just outside her doorplayed as
he had never done beforefor now his heart was in itand seemed
to magnetize his fingers. The other lads sat quietly upon the steps
keeping watch that no new-comer should disturb the house; Franz
lingered at his post; and sosoothedservedand guarded by her
boyspoor Mrs. Jo slept at lastand forgot her sorrow for an hour.

Two quiet daysand on the third Mr. Bhaer came in just after
schoolwith a note in his handlooking both moved and pleased.

I want to read you something, boys,he said; and as they stood
round him he read this:

DEAR BROTHER FRITZ, I hear that you do not mean to bring
your flock today, thinking that I may not like it. Please do. The
sight of his friends will help Demi through the hard hour, and I
want the boys to hear what father says of my John. It will do them
good, I know. If they would sing one of the sweet old hymns you
have taught them so well, I should like it better than any other
music, and feel that it was beautifully suited to the occasion.
Please ask them, with my love.

MEG.

Will you go?and Mr. Bhaer looked at the ladswho were greatly
touched by Mrs. Brooke's kind words and wishes.

Yes,they answeredlike one boy; and an hour later they went
away with Franz to bear their part in John Brooke's simple funeral.

The little house looked as quietsunnyand home-like as when
Meg entered it as a brideten years agoonly then it was early
summerand rose blossomed everywhere; now it was early
autumnand dead leaves rustled softly downleaving the branches
bare. The bride was a widow now; but the same beautiful serenity
shone in her faceand the sweet resignation of a truly pious soul
made her presence a consolation to those who came to comfort
her.

O Meg! how can you bear it so?whispered Joas she met them
at the door with a smile of welcomeand no change in her gentle
mannerexcept more gentleness.

Dear Jo, the love that has blest me for ten happy years supports
me still. It could not die, and John is more my own than ever,
whispered Meg; and in her eyes the tender trust was so beautiful


and brightthat Jo believed herand thanked God for the
immortality of love like hers.

They were all there father and motherUncle Teddyand Aunt
Amyold Mr. Laurencewhite-haired and feeble nowMr. and
Mrs. Bhaerwith their flockand many friendscome to do honor
to the dead. One would have said that modest John Brookein his
busyquiethumble lifehad had little time to make friends; but
now they seemed to start up everywhereold and youngrich and
poorhigh and low; for all unconsciously his influence had made
itself widely felthis virtues were rememberedand his hidden
charities rose up to bless him. The group about his coffin was a far
more eloquent eulogy than any Mr. March could utter. There were
the rich men whom he had served faithfully for years; the poor old
women whom he cherished with his little storein memory of his
mother; the wife to whom he had given such happiness that death
could not mar it utterly; the brothers and sisters in whose hearts he
had made a place for ever; the little son and daughterwho already
felt the loss of his strong arm and tender voice; the young children
sobbing for their kindest playmateand the tall ladswatching with
softened faces a scene which they never could forget. A very
simple serviceand very short; for the fatherly voice that had
faltered in the marriage-sacrament now failed entirely as Mr.
March endeavored to pay his tribute of reverence and love to the
son whom he most honored. Nothing but the soft coo of Baby
Josy's voice up-stairs broke the long hush that followed the last
Amentillat a sign from Mr. Bhaerthe well-trained boyish
voices broke out in a hymnso full of lofty cheerthat one by one
all joined in itsinging with full heartsand finding their troubled
spirits lifted into peace on the wings of that bravesweet psalm.

As Meg listenedshe felt that she had done well; for not only did
the moment comfort her with the assurance that John's last lullaby
was sung by the young voices he loved so wellbut in the faces of
the boys she saw that they had caught a glimpse of the beauty of
virtue in its most impressive formand that the memory of the
good man lying dead before them would live long and helpfully in
their remembrance. Daisy's head lay in her lapand Demi held her
handlooking often at herwith eyes so like his father'sand a little
gesture that seemed to sayDon't be troubled, mother; I am here;
and all about her were friends to lean upon and love; so patient
pious Meg put by her heavy grieffeeling that her best help would
be to live for othersas her John had done.

That eveningas the Plumfield boys sat on the stepsas usualin
the mild September moonlightthey naturally fell to talking of the
event of the day.

Emil began by breaking outin his impetuous wayUncle Fritz is
the wisest, and Uncle Laurie the jolliest, but Uncle John was the
best; and I'd rather be like him than any man I ever saw.

So would I. Did you hear what those gentlemen said to Grandpa
to-day? I would like to have that said of me when I was dead;and
Franz felt with regret that he had not appreciated Uncle John
enough.

What did they say?asked Jackwho had been much impressed
by the scenes of the day.

Why, one of the partners of Mr. Laurence, where Uncle John has
been ever so long, was saying that he was conscientious almost to
a fault as a business man, and above reproach in all things.
Another gentleman said no money could repay the fidelity and


honesty with which Uncle John had served him, and then Grandpa
told them the best of all. Uncle John once had a place in the office
of a man who cheated, and when this man wanted uncle to help
him do it, uncle wouldn't, though he was offered a big salary. The
man was angry and said, 'You will never get on in business with
such strict principles;' and uncle answered back, 'I never will try to
get on without them,' and left the place for a much harder and
poorer one.

Good!cried several of the boys warmlyfor they were in the
mood to understand and value the little story as never before.

He wasn't rich, was he?asked Jack.

No.

He never did any thing to make a stir in the world, did he?

No.

He was only good?

That's all;and Franz found himself wishing that Uncle John had
done something to boast offor it was evident that Jack was
disappointed by his replies.

Only good. That is all and every thing,said Mr. Bhaerwho had
overheard the last few wordsand guessed what was going on the
minds of the lads.

Let me tell you a little about John Brooke, and you will see why
men honor him, and why he was satisfied to be good rather than
rich or famous. He simply did his duty in all things, and did it so
cheerfully, so faithfully, that it kept him patient and brave, and
happy through poverty and loneliness and years of hard work. He
was a good son, and gave up his own plans to stay and live with his
mother while she needed him. He was a good friend, and taught
Laurie much beside his Greek and Latin, did it unconsciously,
perhaps, by showing him an example of an upright man. He was a
faithful servant, and made himself so valuable to those who
employed him that they will find it hard to fill his place. He was a
good husband and father, so tender, wise, and thoughtful, that
Laurie and I learned much of him, and only knew how well he
loved his family, when we discovered all he had done for them,
unsuspected and unassisted.

Mr. Bhaer stopped a minuteand the boys sat like statues in the
moonlight until he went on againin a subduedbut earnest voice:
As he lay dying, I said to him, 'Have no care for Meg and the little
ones; I will see that they never want.' Then he smiled and pressed
my hand, and answered, in his cheerful way, 'No need of that; I
have cared for them.' And so he had, for when we looked among
his papers, all was in order, not a debt remained; and safely put
away was enough to keep Meg comfortable and independent. Then
we knew why he had lived so plainly, denied himself so many
pleasures, except that of charity, and worked so hard that I fear he
shortened his good life. He never asked help for himself, though
often for others, but bore his own burden and worked out his own
task bravely and quietly. No one can say a word of complaint
against him, so just and generous and kind was he; and now, when
he is gone, all find so much to love and praise and honor, that I am
proud to have been his friend, and would rather leave my children
the legacy he leaves his than the largest fortune ever made. Yes!
Simple, generous goodness is the best capital to found the business


of this life upon. It lasts when fame and money fail, and is the only
riches we can take out of this world with us. Remember that, my
boys; and if you want to earn respect and confidence and love
follow in the footsteps of John Brooke.

When Demi returned to schoolafter some weeks at homehe
seemed to have recovered from his loss with the blessed elasticity
of childhoodand so he had in a measure; but he did not forgetfor
his was a nature into which things sank deeplyto be pondered
overand absorbed into the soil where the small virtues were
growing fast. He played and studiedworked and sangjust as
beforeand few suspected any change; but there was one and Aunt
Jo saw it for she watched over the boy with her whole hearttrying
to fill John's place in her poor way. He seldom spoke of his loss
but Aunt Jo often heard a stifled sobbing in the little bed at night;
and when she went to comfort himall his cry wasI want my
father! oh, I want my father!for the tie between the two had been
a very tender oneand the child's heart bled when it was broken.
But time was kind to himand slowly he came to feel that father
was not lostonly invisible for a whileand sure to be found again
well and strong and fond as evereven though his little son should
see the purple asters blossom on his grave manymany times
before they met. To this belief Demi held fastand in it found both
help and comfortbecause it led him unconsciously through a
tender longing for the father whom he had seen to a childlike trust
in the Father whom he had not seen. Both were in heavenand he
prayed to bothtrying to be good for love of them.

The outward change corresponded to the inwardfor in those few
weeks Demi seemed to have grown talland began to drop his
childish playsnot as if ashamed of themas some boys dobut as
if he had outgrown themand wanted something manlier. He took
to the hated arithmeticand held on so steadily that his uncle was
charmedthough he could not understand the whimuntil Demi
said

I am going to be a bookkeeper when I grow up, like papa, and I
must know about figures and things, else I can't have nice, neat
ledgers like his.

At another time he came to his aunt with a very serious faceand
said

What can a small boy do to earn money?

Why do you ask, my deary?

My father told me to take care of mother and the little girls, and I
want to, but I don't know how to begin.

He did not mean now, Demi, but by and by, when you are large.

But I wish to begin now, if I can, because I think I ought to make
some money to buy things for the family. I am ten, and other boys
no bigger than I earn pennies sometimes.

Well, then, suppose you rake up all the dead leaves and cover the
strawberry bed. I'll pay you a dollar for the job,said Aunt Jo.

Isn't that a great deal? I could do it in one day. You must be fair,
and no pay too much, because I want to truly earn it.

My little John, I will be fair, and not pay a penny too much. Don't
work too hard; and when that is done I will have something else


for you to do,said Mrs. Jomuch touched by his desire to help
and his sense of justiceso like his scrupulous father.

When the leaves were donemany barrowloads of chips were
wheeled from the wood to the shedand another dollar earned.
Then Demi helped cover the schoolbooksworking in the evenings
under Franz's directiontugging patiently away at each book
letting no one helpand receiving his wages with such satisfaction
that the dingy bills became quite glorified in his sight.

Now, I have a dollar for each of them, and I should like to take
my money to mother all myself, so she can see that I have minded
my father.

So Demi made a duteous pilgrimage to his motherwho received
his little earnings as a treasure of great worthand would have kept
it untouchedif Demi had not begged her to buy some useful thing
for herself and the women-childrenwhom he felt were left to his
care.

This made him very happyandthough he often forgot his
responsibilities for a timethe desire to help was still there
strengthening with his years. He always uttered the words "my
father" with an air of gentle prideand often saidas if he claimed
a title full of honorDon't call me Demi any more. I am John
Brooke now.Sostrengthened by a purpose and a hopethe little
lad of ten bravely began the worldand entered into his
inheritancethe memory of a wise and tender fatherthe legacy of
an honest name.

CHAPTER XX ROUND THE FIRE

With the October frosts came the cheery fires in the great
fireplaces; and Demi's dry pine-chips helped Dan's oak-knots to
blaze royallyand go roaring up the chimney with a jolly sound.
All were glad to gather round the hearthas the evenings grew
longerto play gamesreador lay plans for the winter. But the
favorite amusement was story-tellingand Mr. and Mrs. Bhaer
were expected to have a store of lively tales always on hand. Their
supply occasionally gave outand then the boys were thrown upon
their own resourceswhich were not always successful.
Ghost-parties were the rage at one time; for the fun of the thing
consisted in putting out the lightsletting the fire die downand
then sitting in the darkand telling the most awful tales they could
invent. As this resulted in scares of all sorts among the boys
Tommy's walking in his sleep on the shed roofand a general state
of nervousness in the little onesit was forbiddenand they fell
back on more harmless amusements.

One eveningwhen the small boys were snugly tucked in bedand
the older lads were lounging about the school-room firetrying to
decide what they should doDemi suggested a new way of settling
the question.

Seizing the hearth-brushhe marched up and down the room
sayingRow, row, row;and when the boyslaughing and
pushinghad got into linehe saidNow, I'll give you two minutes
to think of a play.Franz was writingand Emil reading the Life of
Lord Nelsonand neither joined the partybut the others thought
hardand when the time was up were ready to reply.

Now, Tom!and the poker softly rapped him on the head.

Blind-man's Buff.


Jack!

Commerce; a good round game, and have cents for the pool.

Uncle forbids our playing for money. Dan, what do you want?

Let's have a battle between the Greeks and Romans.

Stuffy?

Roast apples, pop corn, and crack nuts.

Good! good!cried several; and when the vote was takenStuffy's
proposal carried the day.

Some went to the cellar for applessome to the garret for nutsand
others looked up the popper and the corn.

We had better ask the girls to come in, hadn't we?said Demiin
a sudden fit of politeness.

Daisy pricks chestnuts beautifully,put in Natwho wanted his
little friend to share the fun.

Nan pops corn tip-top, we must have her,added Tommy.

Bring in your sweethearts then, we don't mind,said Jackwho
laughed at the innocent regard the little people had for one
another.

You shan't call my sister a sweetheart; it is so silly!cried Demi
in a way that made Jack laugh.

She is Nat's darling, isn't she, old chirper?

Yes, if Demi don't mind. I can't help being fond of her, she is so
good to me,answered Natwith bashful earnestnessfor Jack's
rough ways disturbed him.

Nan is my sweetheart, and I shall marry her in about a year, so
don't you get in the way, any of you,said Tommystoutly; for he
and Nan had settled their futurechild-fashionand were to live in
the willowlower down a basket for foodand do other charmingly
impossible things.

Demi was quenched by the decision of Bangswho took him by
the arm and walked him off to get the ladies. Nan and Daisy were
sewing with Aunt Jo on certain small garmentsfor Mrs. Carney's
newest baby.

Please, ma'am, could you lend us the girls for a little while? We'll
be very careful of them,said Tommywinking one eye to express
applessnapping his fingers to signify pop-cornand gnashing his
teeth to convey the idea of nut-cracking.

The girls understood this pantomime at onceand began to pull of
their thimbles before Mrs. Jo could decide whether Tommy was
going into convulsions or was brewing some unusual piece of
mischief. Demi explained with elaborationpermission was readily
grantedand the boys departed with their prize.

Don't you speak to Jack,whispered Tommyas he and Nan
promenaded down the hall to get a fork to prick the apples.


Why not?

He laughs at me, so I don't wish you to have any thing to do with
him.

Shall, if I like,said Nanpromptly resenting this premature
assumption of authority on the part of her lord.

Then I won't have you for my sweetheart.

I don't care.

Why, Nan, I thought you were fond of me!and Tommy's voice
was full of tender reproach.

If you mind Jack's laughing I don't care for you one bit.

Then you may take back your old ring; I won't wear it any
longer;and Tommy plucked off a horsehair pledge of affection
which Nan had given him in return for one made of a lobster's
feeler.

I shall give it to Ned,was her cruel reply; for Ned liked Mrs.
Giddy-gaddyand had turned her clothespinsboxesand spools
enough to set up housekeeping with.

Tommy saidThunder turtles!as the only vent equal to the
pent-up anguish of the momentanddropping Nan's armretired
in high dudgeonleaving her to follow with the forka neglect
which naughty Nan punished by proceeding to prick his heart with
jealousy as if it were another sort of apple.

The hearth was sweptand the rosy Baldwins put down to roast. A
shovel was heatedand the chestnuts danced merrily upon itwhile
the corn popped wildly in its wire prison. Dan cracked his best
walnutsand every one chattered and laughedwhile the rain beat
on the window-pane and the wind howled round the house.

Why is Billy like this nut?asked Emilwho was frequently
inspired with bad conundrums.

Because he is cracked,answered Ned.

That's not fair; you mustn't make fun of Billy, because he can't hit
back again. It's mean,cried Dansmashing a nut wrathfully.

To what family of insects does Blake belong?asked peacemaker
Franzseeing that Emil looked ashamed and Dan lowering.

Gnats,answered Jack.

Why is Daisy like a bee?cried Natwho had been wrapt in
thought for several minutes.

Because she is queen of the hive,said Dan.

No.

Because she is sweet.

Bees are not sweet.

Give it up.


Because she makes sweet things, is always busy, and likes
flowers,said Natpiling up his boyish compliments till Daisy
blushed like a rosy clover.

Why is Nan like a hornet?demanded Tommyglowering at her
and addingwithout giving any one time to answerBecause she
isn't sweet, makes a great buzzing about nothing, and stings like
fury.

Tommy's mad, and I'm glad,cried Nedas Nan tossed her head
and answered quickly

What thing in the china-closet is Tom like?

A pepper pot,answered Nedgiving Nan a nut meat with a
tantalizing laugh that made Tommy feel as if he would like to
bounce up like a hot chestnut and hit somebody.

Seeing that ill-humor was getting the better of the small supply of
wit in the companyFranz cast himself into the breach again.

Let's make a law that the first person who comes into the room
shall tell us a story. No matter who it is, he must do it, and it will
be fun to see who comes first.

The others agreedand did not have to wait longfor a heavy step
soon came clumping through the halland Silas appearedbearing
an armful of wood. He was greeted by a general shoutand stood
staring about him with a bewildered grin on his big red facetill
Franz explained the joke.

Sho! I can't tell a story,he saidputting down his load and
preparing to leave the room. But the boys fell upon himforced
him into a seatand held him therelaughingand clamoring for
their storytill the good-natured giant was overpowered.

I don't know but jest one story, and that's about a horse,he said
much flattered by the reception he received.

Tell it! tell it!cried the boys.

Wal,began Silastipping his chair back against the walland
putting his thumbs in the arm-holes of his waistcoatI jined a
cavalry regiment durin' the war, and see a consid'able amount of
fightin'. My horse, Major, was a fust-rate animal, and I was as fond
on him as ef he'd ben a human critter. He warn't harnsome, but he
was the best-tempered, stiddyest, lovenest brute I ever see. I fust
battle we went into, he gave me a lesson that I didn't forgit in a
hurry, and I'll tell you how it was. It ain't no use tryin' to picter the
noise and hurry, and general horridness of a battle to you young
fellers, for I ain't no words to do it in; but I'm free to confess that I
got so sort of confused and upset at the fust on it, that I didn't know
what I was about. We was ordered to charge, and went ahead like
good ones, never stoppin' to pick up them that went down in the
scrimmage. I got a shot in the arm, and was pitched out of the
saddle don't know how, but there I was left behind with two or
three others, dead and wounded, for the rest went on, as I say. Wal,
I picked myself up and looked round for Major, feeling as ef I'd
had about enough for that spell. I didn't see him nowhere, and was
kinder walking back to camp, when I heard a whinny that sounded
nateral. I looked round, and there was Major stopping for me a
long way off, and lookin' as ef he didn't understand why I was
loiterin' behind. I whistled, and he trotted up to me as I'd trained


him to do. I mounted as well as I could with my left arm bleedin'
and was for going on to camp, for I declare I felt as sick and
wimbly as a woman; folks often do in their fust battle. But, no sir!
Major was the bravest of the two, and he wouldn't go, not a peg; he
jest rared up, and danced, and snorted, and acted as ef the smell of
powder and the noise had drove him half wild. I done my best, but
he wouldn't give in, so I did; and what do you think that plucky
brute done? He wheeled slap round, and galloped back like a
hurricane, right into the thickest of the scrimmage!

Good for him!cried Dan excitedlywhile the other boys forgot
apples and nuts in their interest.

I wish I may die ef I warn't ashamed of myself,continued Silas
warming up at the recollection of that day. "I was mad as a hornet
and I forgot my waoundand jest pitched inrampagin' raound like
fury till there come a shell into the midst of usand in bustin'
knocked a lot of us flat. I didn't know nothin' for a spelland when
I come-tothe fight was over just thereand I found myself layin'
by a wall of poor Major long-side wuss wounded than I was. My
leg was brokeand I had a ball in my shoulderbut hepoor old
feller! was all tore in the side with a piece of that blasted shell."

O Silas! what did you do?cried Nanpressing close to him with
a face full of eager sympathy and interest.

I dragged myself nigher, and tried to stop the bleedin' with sech
rags as I could tear off of me with one hand. But it warn't no use,
and he lay moanin' with horrid pain, and lookin' at me with them
lovin' eyes of his, till I thought I couldn't bear it. I give him all the
help I could, and when the sun got hotter and hotter, and he began
to lap out his tongue, I tried to get to a brook that was a good piece
away, but I couldn't do it, being stiff and faint, so I give it up and
fanned him with my hat. Now you listen to this, and when you hear
folks comin' down on the rebs, you jest remember what one on 'em
did, and give him credit of it. I poor feller in gray laid not fur off,
shot through the lungs and dyin' fast. I'd offered him my
handkerchief to keep the sun off his face, and he'd thanked me
kindly, for in sech times as that men don't stop to think on which
side they belong, but jest buckle-to and help one another. When he
see me mournin' over Major and tryin' to ease his pain, he looked
up with his face all damp and white with sufferin', and sez he,
'There's water in my canteen; take it, for it can't help me,' and he
flung it to me. I couldn't have took it ef I hadn't had a little brandy
in a pocket flask, and I made him drink it. It done him good, and I
felt as much set up as if I'd drunk it myself. It's surprisin' the good
sech little things do folks sometime;and Silas paused as if he felt
again the comfort of that moment when he and his enemy forgot
their feudand helped one another like brothers.

Tell about Major,cried the boysimpatient for the catastrophe.

I poured the water over his poor pantin' tongue, and ef ever a
dumb critter looked grateful, he did then. But it warn't of much
use, for the dreadful waound kep on tormentin' him, till I couldn't
bear it any longer. It was hard, but I done it in mercy, and I know
he forgive me.

What did you do?asked Emilas Silas stopped abruptly with a
loud "hem and a look in his rough face that made Daisy go and
stand by him with her little hand on his knee.

I shot him."


Quite a thrill went through the listeners as Silas said thatfor
Major seemed a hero in their eyesand his tragic end roused all
their sympathy.

Yes, I shot him, and put him out of his misery. I patted him fust,
and said, 'Good-by;' then I laid his head easy on the grass, give a
last look into his lovin' eyes, and sent a bullet through his head. He
hardly stirred, I aimed so true, and when I seen him quite still, with
no more moanin' and pain, I was glad, and yet wal, I don't know as
I need by ashamed on't I jest put my arms raound his neck and
boo-hooed like a great baby. Sho! I didn't know I was sech a fool;
and Silas drew his sleeve across his eyesas much touched by
Daisy's sobas by the memory of faithful Major.

No one spoke for a minutebecause the boys were as quick to feel
the pathos of the little story as tender-hearted Daisythough they
did not show it by crying.

I'd like a horse like that,said Danhalf-aloud.

Did the rebel man die, too?asked Nananxiously.

Not then. We laid there all day, and at night some of our fellers
came to look after the missing ones. They nat'rally wanted to take
me fust, but I knew I could wait, and the rebel had but one chance,
maybe, so I made them carry him off right away. He had jest
strength enough to hold out his hand to me and say, 'Thanky,
comrade!' and them was the last words he spoke, for he died an
hour after he got to the hospital-tent.

How glad you must have been that you were kind to him!said
Demiwho was deeply impressed by this story.

Wal, I did take comfort thinkin' of it, as I laid there alone for a
number of hours with my head on Major's neck, and see the moon
come up. I'd like to have buried the poor beast decent, but it warn't
possible; so I cut off a bit of his mane, and I've kep it ever sence.
Want to see it, sissy?

Oh, yes, please,answered Daisywiping away her tears to look.

Silas took out an old "wallet" as he called his pocket-bookand
produced from an inner fold a bit of brown paperin which was a
rough lock of white horse-hair. The children looked at it silently
as it lay in the broad palmand no one found any thing to ridicule
in the love Silas bore his good horse Major.

That is a sweet story, and I like it, though it did make me cry.
Thank you very much, Si,and Daisy helped him fold and put
away his little relic; while Nan stuffed a handful of pop-corn into
his pocketand the boys loudly expressed their flattering opinions
of his storyfeeling that there had been two heroes in it.

He departedquite overcome by his honorsand the little
conspirators talked the tale overwhile they waited for their next
victim. It was Mrs. Jowho came in to measure Nan for some new
pinafores she was making for her. They let her get well inand
then pounced upon hertelling her the lawand demanding the
story. Mrs. Jo was very much amused at the new trapand
consented at oncefor the sound of happy voices had been coming
across the hall so pleasantly that she quite longed to join themand
forget her own anxious thoughts of Sister Meg.

Am I the first mouse you have caught, you sly pussies-in-boots?


she askedas she was conducted to the big chairsupplied with
refreshmentsand surrounded by a flock of merry-faced listeners.


They told her about Silas and his contributionand she slapped her
forehead in despairfor she was quite at her wits' endbeing called
upon so unexpectedly for a bran new tale.


What shall I tell about?she said.


Boys,was the general answer.


Have a party in it,said Daisy.


And something good to eat,added Stuffy.


That reminds me of a story, written years ago, by a dear old lady.
I used to be very fond of it, and I fancy you will like it, for it has
both boys, and 'something good to eat' in it.


What is it called?asked Demi.


'The Suspected Boy.'


Nat looked up from the nuts he was pickingand Mrs. Jo smiled at
himguessing what was in his mind.


Miss Crane kept a school for boys in a quiet little town, and a
very good school it was, of the old-fashioned sort. Six boys lived
in her house, and four or five more came in from the town. Among
those who lived with her was one named Lewis White. Lewis was
not a bad boy, but rather timid, and now and then he told a lie. One
day a neighbor sent Miss Crane a basket of gooseberries. There
were not enough to go round, so kind Miss Crane, who liked to
please her boys, went to work and made a dozen nice little
gooseberry tarts.


I'd like to try gooseberry tarts. I wonder if she made them as I do
my raspberry ones,said Daisywhose interest in cooking had
lately revived.


Hush,said Nattucking a plump pop-corn into her mouth to
silence herfor he felt a particular interest in this taleand thought
it opened well.


When the tarts were done, Miss Crane put them away in the best
parlor closet, and said not a word about them, for she wanted to
surprise the boys at tea-time. When the minute came and all were
seated at table, she went to get her tarts, but came back looking
much troubled, for what do you think had happened?


Somebody had hooked them!cried Ned.


No, there they were, but some one had stolen all the fruit out of
them by lifting up the upper crust and then putting it down after
the gooseberry had been scraped out.


What a mean trick!and Nan looked at Tommyas if to imply
that he would do the same.


When she told the boys her plan and showed them the poor little
patties all robbed of their sweetness, the boys were much grieved
and disappointed, and all declared that they knew nothing about
the matter. 'Perhaps the rats did it,' said Lewis, who was among the
loudest to deny any knowledge of the tarts. 'No, rats would have



nibbled crust and all, and never lifted it up and scooped out the
fruit. Hands did that,' said Miss Crane, who was more troubled
about the lie that some one must have told than about her lost
patties. Well, they had supper and went to bed, but in the night
Miss Crane heard some one groaning, and going to see who it was
she found Lewis in great pain. He had evidently eaten something
that disagreed with him, and was so sick that Miss Crane was
alarmed, and was going to send for the doctor, when Lewis
moaned out, 'It's the gooseberries; I ate them, and I must tell before
I die,' for the thought of a doctor frightened him. 'If that is all, I'll
give you an emetic and you will soon get over it,' said Miss Crane.
So Lewis had a good dose, and by morning was quite comfortable.
'Oh, don't tell the boys; they will laugh at me so,' begged the
invalid. Kind Miss Crane promised not to, but Sally, the girl, told
the story, and poor Lewis had no peace for a long time. His mates
called him Old Gooseberry, and were never tired of asking him the
price of tarts.

Served him right,said Emil.

Badness always gets found out,added Demimorally.

No, it don't,muttered Jackwho was tending the apples with
great devotionso that he might keep his back to the rest and
account for his red face.

Is that all?asked Dan.

No, that is only the first part; the second part is more interesting.
Some time after this a peddler came by one day and stopped to
show his things to the boys, several of whom bought
pocket-combs, jew's-harps, and various trifles of that sort. Among
the knives was a little white-handled penknife that Lewis wanted
very much, but he had spent all his pocket-money, and no one had
any to lend him. He held the knife in his hand, admiring and
longing for it, till the man packed up his goods to go, then he
reluctantly laid it down, and the man went on his way. The next
day, however, the peddler returned to say that he could not find
that very knife, and thought he must have left it at Miss Crane's. It
was a very nice one with a pearl handle, and he could not afford to
lose it. Every one looked, and every one declared they knew
nothing about it. 'This young gentleman had it last, and seemed to
want it very much. Are you quite sure you put it back?' said the
man to Lewis, who was much troubled at the loss, and vowed over
and over again that he did return it. His denials seemed to do no
good, however, for every one was sure he had taken it, and after a
stormy scene Miss Crane paid for it, and the man went grumbling
away.

Did Lewis have it?cried Natmuch excited.

You will see. Now poor Lewis had another trial to bear, for the
boys were constantly saying, 'Lend me your pearl-handled knife,
Gooseberry,' and things of that sort, till Lewis was so unhappy he
begged to be sent home. Miss Crane did her best to keep the boys
quiet, but it was hard work, for they would tease, and she could not
be with them all the time. That is one of the hardest things to teach
boys; they won't 'hit a fellow when he is down,' as they say, but
they will torment him in little ways till he would thank them to
fight it out all round.

I know that,said Dan.

So do I,added Natsoftly.


Jack said nothingbut he quite agreed; for he knew that the elder
boys despised himand let him alone for that very reason.

Do go on about poor Lewis, Aunt Jo. I don't believe he took the
knife, but I want to be sure,said Daisyin great anxiety.

Well, week after week went on and the matter was not cleared up.
The boys avoided Lewis, and he, poor fellow, was almost sick with
the trouble he had brought upon himself. He resolved never to tell
another lie, and tried so hard that Miss Crane pitied and helped
him, and really came at last to believe that he did not take the
knife. Two months after the peddler's first visit, he came again,
and the first thing he said was

'Wellma'amI found that knife after all. It had slipped behind the
lining of my valiseand fell out the other day when I was putting in
a new stock of goods. I thought I'd call and let you knowas you
paid for itand maybe would like itso here it is.' "

The boys had all gathered round, and at these words they felt
much ashamed, and begged Lewis' pardon so heartily that he could
not refuse to give it. Miss Crane presented the knife to him, and he
kept it many years to remind him of the fault that had brought him
so much trouble.

I wonder why it is that things you eat on the sly hurt you, and
don't when you eat them at table,observed Stuffythoughtfully.

Perhaps your conscience affects your stomach,said Mrs. Jo
smiling at his speech.

He is thinking of the cucumbers,said Nedand a gale of
merriment followed the wordsfor Stuffy's last mishap had been a
funny one.

He ate two large cucumbers in privatefelt very illand confided
his anguish to Nedimploring him to do something. Ned
good-naturedly recommended a mustard plaster and a hot flat iron
to the feet; only in applying these remedies he reversed the order
of thingsand put the plaster on the feetthe flat iron on the
stomachand poor Stuffy was found in the barn with blistered
soles and a scorched jacket.

Suppose you tell another story, that was such an interesting one,
said Natas the laughter subsided.

Before Mrs. Jo could refuse these insatiable Oliver TwistsRob
walked into the room trailing his little bed-cover after himand
wearing an expression of great sweetness as he saidsteering
straight to his mother as a sure haven of refuge

I heard a great noise, and I thought sumfin dreffle might have
happened, so I came to see.

Did you think I would forget you, naughty boy?asked his
mothertrying to look stern.

No; but I thought you'd feel better to see me right here,
responded the insinuating little party.

I had much rather see you in bed, so march straight up again,
Robin.


Everybody that comes in here has to tell a story, and you can't so
you'd better cut and run,said Emil.

Yes, I can! I tell Teddy lots of ones, all about bears and moons,
and little flies that say things when they buzz,protested Rob
bound to stay at any price.

Tell one now, then, right away,said Danpreparing to shoulder
and bear him off.

Well, I will; let me fink a minute,and Rob climbed into his
mother's lapwhere he was cuddledwith the remark

It is a family failing, this getting out of bed at wrong times. Demi
used to do it; and as for me, I was hopping in and out all night
long. Meg used to think the house was on fire, and send me down
to see, and I used to stay and enjoy myself, as you mean to, my bad
son.

I've finked now,observed Robquite at his easeand eager to
win the entree into this delightful circle.

Every one looked and listened with faces full of suppressed
merriment as Robperched on his mother's knee and wrapped in
the gay coverlettold the following brief but tragic tale with an
earnestness that made it very funny:

Once a lady had a million children, and one nice little boy. She
went up-stairs and said, 'You mustn't go in the yard.' But he
wented, and fell into the pump, and was drowned dead.

Is that all?asked Franzas Rob paused out of breath with this
startling beginning.

No, there is another piece of it,and Rob knit his downy
eyebrows in the effort to evolve another inspiration.

What did the lady do when he fell into the pump?asked his
motherto help him on.

Oh, she pumped him up, and wrapped him in a newspaper, and
put him on a shelf to dry for seed.

A general explosion of laughter greeted this surprising conclusion
and Mrs. Jo patted the curly headas she saidsolemnly

My son, you inherit your mother's gift of story-telling. Go where
glory waits thee.

Now I can stay, can't I? Wasn't it a good story?cried Robin high
feather at his superb success.

You can stay till you have eaten these twelve pop-corns,said his
motherexpecting to see them vanish at one mouthful.

But Rob was a shrewd little manand got the better of her by
eating them one by one very slowlyand enjoying every minute
with all his might.

Hadn't you better tell the other story, while you wait for him?
said Demianxious that no time should be lost.

I really have nothing but a little tale about a wood-box,said Mrs.
Joseeing that Rob had still seven corns to eat.


Is there a boy in it?

It is all boy.

Is it true?asked Demi.

Every bit of it.

Goody! tell on, please.

James Snow and his mother lived in a little house, up in New
Hampshire. They were poor, and James had to work to help his
mother, but he loved books so well he hated work, and just wanted
to sit and study all day long.

How could he! I hate books, and like work,said Danobjecting
to James at the very outset.

It takes all sorts of people to make a world; workers and students
both are needed, and there is room for all. But I think the workers
should study some, and the students should know how to work if
necessary,answered Mrs. Jolooking from Dan to Demi with a
significant expression.

I'm sure I do work,and Demi showed three small hard spots in
his little palmwith pride.

And I'm sure I study,added Dannodding with a groan toward
the blackboard full of neat figures.

See what James did. He did not mean to be selfish, but his mother
was proud of him, and let him do as he liked, working by herself
that he might have books and time to read them. One autumn
James wanted to go to school, and went to the minister to see if he
would help him, about decent clothes and books. Now the minister
had heard the gossip about James's idleness, and was not inclined
to do much for him, thinking that a boy who neglected his mother,
and let her slave for him, was not likely to do very well even at
school. But the good man felt more interested when he found how
earnest James was, and being rather an odd man, he made this
proposal to the boy, to try now sincere he was.

'I will give you clothes and books on one conditionJames.'

'What is that, sir?' and the boy brightened up at once.

'You are to keep your mother's wood-box full all winter longand
do it yourself. If you failschool stops.' James laughed at the queer
condition and readily agreed to itthinking it a very easy one.

He began school, and for a time got on capitally with the
wood-box, for it was autumn, and chips and brushwood were
plentiful. He ran out morning and evening and got a basket full, or
chopped up the cat sticks for the little cooking stove, and as his
mother was careful and saving, the task was not hard. But in
November the frost came, the days were dull and cold, and wood
went fast. His mother bought a load with her own earnings, but it
seemed to melt away, and was nearly gone, before James
remembered that he was to get the next. Mrs. Snow was feeble and
lame with rheumatism, and unable to work as she had done, so
James had to put down the books, and see what he could do.

It was hardfor he was going on welland so interested in his


lessons that he hated to stop except for food and sleep. But he
knew the minister would keep his wordand much against his will
James set about earning money in his spare hourslest the
wood-box should get empty. He did all sorts of thingsran errands
took care of a neighbor's cowhelped the old sexton dust and warm
the church on Sundaysand in these ways got enough to buy fuel in
small quantities. But it was hard work; the days were shortthe
winter was bitterly coldand precious time went fastand the dear
books were so fascinatingthat it was sad to leave themfor dull
duties that never seemed done.

The minister watched him quietly, and seeing that he was in
earnest helped him without his knowledge. He met him often
driving the wood sleds from the forest, where the men were
chopping and as James plodded beside the slow oxen, he read or
studied, anxious to use every minute. 'The boy is worth helping,
this lesson will do him good, and when he has learned it, I will
give him an easier one,' said the minister to himself, and on
Christmas eve a splendid load of wood was quietly dropped at the
door of the little house, with a new saw and a bit of paper, saying
only

'The Lord helps those who help themselves.'

Poor James expected nothing, but when he woke on that cold
Christmas morning, he found a pair of warm mittens, knit by his
mother, with her stiff painful fingers. This gift pleased him very
much, but her kiss and tender look as she called him her 'good son,'
was better still. In trying to keep her warm, he had warmed his
own heart, you see, and in filling the wood-box he had also filled
those months with duties faithfully done. He began to see this, to
feel that there was something better than books, and to try to learn
the lessons God set him, as well as those his school-master gave.

When he saw the great pile of oak and pine logs at his doorand
read the little paperhe knew who sent itand understood the
minister's plan; thanked him for itand fell to work with all his
might. Other boys frolicked that daybut James sawed woodand I
think of all the lads in the town the happiest was the one in the
new mittenswho whistled like a blackbird as he filled his
mother's wood-box."

That's a first rater!cried Danwho enjoyed a simple
matter-of-face story better than the finest fairy tale; "I like that
fellow after all."

I could saw wood for you, Aunt Jo!said Demifeeling as if a
new means of earning money for his mother was suggested by the
story.

Tell about a bad boy. I like them best,said Nan.

You'd better tell about a naughty cross-patch of a girl,said
Tommywhose evening had been spoilt by Nan's unkindness. It
made his apple taste bitterhis pop-corn was insipidhis nuts were
hard to crackand the sight of Ned and Nan on one bench made
him feel his life a burden.

But there were no more stories from Mrs. Jofor on looking down
at Rob he was discovered to be fast asleep with his last corn firmly
clasped in his chubby hand. Bundling him up in his coverlethis
mother carried him away and tucked him up with no fear of his
popping out again.


Now let's see who will come next,said Emilsetting the door
temptingly ajar.

Mary Ann passed firstand he called out to herbut Silas had
warned herand she only laughed and hurried on in spite of their
enticements. Presently a door openedand a strong voice was
heard humming in the hall

Ich weiss nicht was soll es bedeuten

Dass ich so traurig bin.

It's Uncle Fritz; all laugh loud and he will be sure to come in,
said Emil.

A wild burst of laughter followedand in came Uncle Fritzasking
What is the joke, my lads?

Caught! caught! you can't go out till you've told a story,cried the
boysslamming the door.

So! that is the joke then? Well, I have no wish to go, it is so
pleasant here, and I pay my forfeit at once,which he did by sitting
down and beginning instantly

A long time ago your Grandfather, Demi, went to lecture in a
great town, hoping to get some money for a home for little orphans
that some good people were getting up. His lecture did well, and
he put a considerable sum of money in his pocket, feeling very
happy about it. As he was driving in a chaise to another town, he
came to a lonely bit of road, late in the afternoon, and was just
thinking what a good place it was for robbers when he saw a
bad-looking man come out of the woods in front of him and go
slowly along as if waiting till he came up. The thought of the
money made Grandfather rather anxious, and at first he had a mind
to turn round and drive away. But the horse was tired, and then he
did not like to suspect the man, so he kept on, and when he got
nearer and saw how poor and sick and ragged the stranger looked,
his heart reproached him, and stopping, he said in a kind voice

'My friendyou look tired; let me give you a lift.' The man seemed
surprisedhesitated a minuteand then got in. He did not seem
inclined to talkbut Grandfather kept on in his wisecheerful way
speaking of what a hard year it had beenhow much the poor had
sufferedand how difficult it was to get on sometimes. The man
slowly softened a littleand won by the kind chattold his story.
How he had been sickcould get no workhad a family of children
and was almost in despair. Grandfather was so full of pity that he
forgot his fearandasking the man his namesaid he would try to
get him work in the next townas he had friends there. Wishing to
get at pencil and paper to write down the addressGrandfather
took out his plump pocket-bookand the minute he did sothe
man's eye was on it. Then Grandfather remembered what was in it
and trembled for his moneybut said quietly

'Yes, I have a little sum here for some poor orphans. I wish it was
my own, I would so gladly give you some of it. I am not rich, but I
know many of the trials of the poor; this five dollars is mine, and I
want to give it to you for your children.'

The hardhungry look in the man's eyes changed to a grateful one
as he took the small sumfreely givenand left the orphans' money
untouched. He rode on with Grandfather till they approached the
townthen he asked to be set down. Grandpa shook hands with


himand was about to drive onwhen the man saidas if
something made him'I was desperate when we metand I meant
to rob youbut you were so kind I couldn't do it. God bless yousir
for keeping me from it!' "


Did Grandpa ever see him again?asked Daisyeagerly.


No; but I believe the man found work, and did not try robbery any
more.


That was a curious way to treat him; I'd have knocked him down,
said Dan.


Kindness is always better than force. Try it and see,answered
Mr. Bhaerrising.


Tell another, please,cried Daisy.


You must, Aunt Jo did,added Demi.


Then I certainly won't, but keep my others for next time. Too
many tales are as bad as too many bonbons. I have paid my forfeit
and I go,and Mr. Bhaer ran for his lifewith the whole flock in
full pursuit. He had the starthoweverand escaped safely into his
studyleaving the boys to go rioting back again.


They were so stirred up by the race that they could not settle to
their former quietand a lively game of Blindman's Buff followed
in which Tommy showed that he had taken the moral of the last
story to heartforwhen he caught Nanhe whispered in her ear
I'm sorry I called you a cross-patch.


Nan was not to be outdone in kindnesssowhen they played
Button, button, who's got the button?and it was her turn to go
roundshe saidHold fast all I give you,with such a friendly
smile at Tommythat he was not surprised to find the horse-hair
ring in his hand instead of the button. He only smiled back at her
thenbut when they were going to bedhe offered Nan the best bite
of his last apple; she saw the ring on his stumpy little finger
accepted the biteand peace was declared. Both were ashamed of
the temporary coldnessneither was ashamed to sayI was wrong,
forgive me,so the childish friendship remained unbrokenand the
home in the willow lasted longa pleasant little castle in the air.


CHAPTER XXI THANKSGIVING


This yearly festival was always kept at Plumfield in the good
old-fashioned wayand nothing was allowed to interfere with it.
For days beforehandthe little girls helped Asia and Mrs. Jo in
store-room and kitchenmaking pies and puddingssorting fruit
dusting dishesand being very busy and immensely important. The
boys hovered on the outskirts of the forbidden groundsniffing the
savory odorspeeping in at the mysterious performancesand
occasionally being permitted to taste some delicacy in the process
of preparation.


Something more than usual seemed to be on foot this yearfor the
girls were as busy up-stairs as downso were the boys in
school-room and barnand a general air of bustle pervaded the
house. There was a great hunting up of old ribbons and finery
much cutting and pasting of gold paperand the most remarkable
quantity of strawgray cottonflanneland big black beadsused
by Franz and Mrs. Jo. Ned hammered at strange machines in the
workshopDemi and Tommy went about murmuring to themselves



as if learning something. A fearful racket was heard in Emil's room
at intervalsand peals of laughter from the nursery when Rob and
Teddy were sent for and hidden from sight whole hours at a time.
But the thing that puzzled Mr. Bhaer the most was what became of
Rob's big pumpkin. It had been borne in triumph to the kitchen
where a dozen golden-tinted pies soon after appeared. It would not
have taken more than a quarter of the mammoth vegetable to make
themyet where was the rest? It disappearedand Rob never
seemed to careonly chuckled when it was mentionedand told his
fatherTo wait and see,for the fun of the whole thing was to
surprise Father Bhaer at the endand not let him know a bit about
what was to happen.

He obediently shut eyesearsand mouthand went about trying
not to see what was in plain sightnot to hear the tell-tale sounds
that filled the airnot to understand any of the perfectly transparent
mysteries going on all about him. Being a Germanhe loved these
simple domestic festivalsand encouraged them with all his heart
for they made home so pleasant that the boys did not care to go
elsewhere for fun.

When at last the day camethe boys went off for a long walkthat
they might have good appetites for dinner; as if they ever needed
them! The girls remained at home to help set the tableand give
last touches to various affairs which filled their busy little souls
with anxiety. The school-room had been shut up since the night
beforeand Mr. Bhaer was forbidden to enter it on pain of a
beating from Teddywho guarded the door like a small dragon
though he was dying to tell about itand nothing but his father's
heroic self-denial in not listeningkept him from betraying a grand
secret.

It's all done, and it's perfectly splendid,cried Nancoming out at
last with an air of triumph.

The you know goes beautifully, and Silas knows just what to do
now,added Daisyskipping with delight at some unspeakable
success.

I'm blest if it ain't the 'cutest thing I ever see, them critters in
particular,said Silaswho had been let into the secretwent off
laughing like a great boy.

They are coming; I hear Emil roaring 'Land lubbers lying down
below,' so we must run and dress,cried Nanand up-stairs they
scampered in a great hurry.

The boys came trooping home with appetites that would have
made the big turkey trembleif it had not been past all fear. They
also retired to dress; and for half-an-hour there was a washing
brushingand prinking that would have done any tidy woman's
heart good to see. When the bell ranga troop of fresh-faced lads
with shiny hairclean collarsand Sunday jackets onfiled into the
dining-roomwhere Mrs. Join her one black silkwith a knot of
her favorite white chrysanthemums in her bosomsat at the head of
the tablelooking splendid,as the boys saidwhenever she got
herself up. Daisy and Nan were as gay as a posy bed in their new
winter dresseswith bright sashes and hair ribbons. Teddy was
gorgeous to behold in a crimson merino blouseand his best button
bootswhich absorbed and distracted him as much as Mr. Toot's
wristbands did on one occasion.

As Mr. and Mrs. Bhaer glanced at each other down the long table
with those rows of happy faces on either sidethey had a little


thanksgiving all to themselvesand without a wordfor one heart
said to the other

Our work has prospered, let us be grateful and go on.

The clatter of knives and forks prevented much conversation for a
few minutesand Mary Ann with an amazing pink bow in her hair
flew roundbrisklyhanding plates and ladling out gravy. Nearly
every one had contributed to the feastso the dinner was a
peculiarly interesting ones to the eaters of itwho beguiled the
pauses by remarks on their own productions.

If these are not good potatoes I never saw any,observed Jackas
he received his fourth big mealy one.

Some of my herbs are in the stuffing of the turkey, that's why it's
so nice,said Nantaking a mouthful with intense satisfaction.

My ducks are prime any way; Asia said she never cooked such fat
ones,added Tommy.

Well, our carrots are beautiful, ain't they, and our parsnips will be
ever so good when we dig them,put in Dickand Dolly
murmured his assent from behind the bone he was picking.

I helped make the pies with my pumpkin,called out Robbywith
a laugh which he stopped by retiring into his mug.

I picked some of the apples that the cider is made of,said Demi.

I raked the cranberries for the sauce,cried Nat.

I got the nuts,added Danand so it went on all round the table.

Who made up Thanksgiving?asked Robfor being lately
promoted to jacket and trousers he felt a new and manly interest in
the institutions of his country.

See who can answer that question,and Mr. Bhaer nodded to one
or two of his best history boys.

I know,said Demithe Pilgrims made it.

What for?asked Robwithout waiting to learn who the Pilgrims
were.

I forget,and Demi subsided.

I believe it was because they were starved once, and so when they
had a good harvest, they said, 'We will thank God for it,' and they
had a day and called it Thanksgiving,said Danwho liked the
story of the brave men who suffered so nobly for their faith.

Good! I didn't think you would remember any thing but natural
history,and Mr. Bhaer tapped gently on the table as applause for
his pupil.

Dan looked pleased; and Mrs. Jo said to her sonNow do you
understand about it, Robby?

No, I don't. I thought pil-grins were a sort of big bird that lived on
rocks, and I saw pictures of them in Demi's book.

He means penguins. Oh, isn't he a little goosey!and Demi laid


back in his chair and laughed aloud.

Don't laugh at him, but tell him all about it if you can,said Mrs.
Bhaerconsoling Rob with more cranberry sauce for the general
smile that went round the table at his mistake.

Well, I will;andafter a pause to collect his ideasDemi
delivered the following sketch of the Pilgrim Fatherswhich would
have made even those grave gentlemen smile if they could have
heard it.

You see, Rob, some of the people in England didn't like the king,
or something, so they got into ships and sailed away to this
country. It was all full of Indians, and bears, and wild creatures,
and they lived in forts, and had a dreadful time.

The bears?asked Robbywith interest.

No; the Pilgrims, because the Indians troubled them. They hadn't
enough to eat, and they went to church with guns, and ever so
many died, and they got out of the ships on a rock, and it's called
Plymouth Rock, and Aunt Jo saw it and touched it. The Pilgrims
killed all the Indians, and got rich; and hung the witches, and were
very good; and some of the greatest great-grandpas came in the
ships. One was the Mayflower; and they made Thanksgiving, and
we have it always, and I like it. Some more turkey, please.

I think Demi will be an historian, there is such order and
clearness in his account of events;and Uncle Fritz's eyes laughed
at Aunt Joas he helped the descendant of the Pilgrims to his third
bit of turkey.

I thought you must eat as much as ever you could on
Thanksgiving. But Franz says you mustn't even then;and Stuffy
looked as if he had received bad news.

Franz is right, so mind your knife and fork, and be moderate, or
else you won't be able to help in the surprise by and by,said Mrs.
Jo.

I'll be careful; but everybody does eat lots, and I like it better than
being moderate,said Stuffywho leaned to the popular belief that
Thanksgiving must be kept by coming as near apoplexy as
possibleand escaping with merely a fit of indigestion or a
headache.

Now, my 'pilgrims' amuse yourselves quietly till tea-time, for you
will have enough excitement this evening,said Mrs. Joas they
rose from the table after a protracted sittingfinished by drinking
every one's health in cider.

I think I will take the whole flock for a drive, it is so pleasant;
then you can rest, my dear, or you will be worn out this evening,
added Mr. Bhaer; and as soon as coats and hats could be put on
the great omnibus was packed fulland away they went for a long
gay driveleaving Mrs. Jo to rest and finish sundry small affairs in
peace.

An early and light tea was followed by more brushing of hair and
washing of hands; then the flock waited impatiently for the
company to come. Only the family was expected; for these small
revels were strictly domesticand such being the casesorrow was
not allowed to sadden the present festival. All came; Mr. and Mrs.
Marchwith Aunt Megso sweet and lovelyin spite of her black


dress and the little widow's cap that encircled her tranquil face.
Uncle Teddy and Aunt Amywith the Princess looking more
fairy-like than everin a sky-blue gownand a great bouquet of
hot-house flowerswhich she divided among the boyssticking one
in each button-holemaking them feel peculiarly elegant and
festive. One strange face appearedand Uncle Teddy led the
unknown gentleman up to the Bhaerssaying

This is Mr. Hyde; he has been inquiring about Dan, and I ventured
to bring him to-night, that he might see how much the boy has
improved.

The Bhaers received him cordiallyfor Dan's sakepleased that the
lad had been remembered. Butafter a few minutes' chatthey
were glad to know Mr. Hyde for his own sakeso genialsimple
and interesting was he. It was pleasant to see the boy's face light up
when he caught sight of his friend; pleasanter still to see Mr.
Hyde's surprise and satisfaction in Dan's improved manners and
appearanceand pleasantest of all to watch the two sit talking in a
cornerforgetting the differences of agecultureand positionin
the one subject which interested bothas man and boy compared
notesand told the story of their summer life.

The performance must begin soon, or the actors will go to sleep,
said Mrs. Jowhen the first greetings were over.

So every one went into the school-roomand took seats before a
curtain made of two bed-covers. The children had already
vanished; but stifled laughterand funny little exclamations from
behind the curtainbetrayed their whereabouts. The entertainment
began with a spirited exhibition of gymnasticsled by Franz. The
six elder ladsin blue trousers and red shirtsmade a fine display
of muscle with dumb-bellsclubsand weightskeeping time to the
music of the pianoplayed by Mrs. Jo behind the scenes. Dan was
so energetic in this exercisethat there was some danger of his
knocking down his neighborslike so many nine-pinsor sending
his bean-bags whizzing among the audience; for he was excited by
Mr. Hyde's presenceand a burning desire to do honor to his
teachers.

A fine, strong lad. If I go on my trip to South America, in a year
or two, I shall be tempted to ask you to lend him to me, Mr.
Bhaer,said Mr. Hydewhose interest in Dan was much increased
by the report he had just heard of him.

You shall have him, and welcome, though we shall miss our
young Hercules very much. It would do him a world of good, and I
am sure he would serve his friend faithfully.

Dan heard both question and answerand his heart leaped with joy
at the thought of travelling in a new country with Mr. Hydeand
swelled with gratitude for the kindly commendation which
rewarded his efforts to be all these friends desired to see him.

After the gymnasticsDemi and Tommy spoke the old school
dialogueMoney makes the mare go.Demi did very wellbut
Tommy was capital as the old farmer; for he imitated Silas in a
way that convulsed the audienceand caused Silas himself to laugh
so hard that Asia had to slap him on the backas they stood in the
hall enjoying the fun immensely.

Then Emilwho had got his breath by this timegave them a
sea-song in costumewith a great deal about "stormy winds lee
shores and a rousing chorus of Luffboysluff which made the


room ring; after which Ned performed a funny Chinese dance, and
hopped about like a large frog in a pagoda hat. As this was the only
public exhibition ever held at Plumfield, a few exercises in
lightning-arithmetic, spelling, and reading were given. Jack quite
amazed the public by his rapid calculations on the blackboard.
Tommy won in the spelling match, and Demi read a little French
fable so well that Uncle Teddy was charmed.

Where are the other children?" asked every one as the curtain fell
and none of the little ones appeared.

Oh, that is the surprise. It's so lovely, I pity you because you don't
know it,said Demiwho had gone to get his mother's kissand
stayed by her to explain the mystery when it should be revealed.

Goldilocks had been carried off by Aunt Joto the great
amazement of her papawho quite outdid Mr. Bhaer in acting
wondersuspenseand wild impatience to know "what was going
to happen."

At lastafter much rustlinghammeringand very audible
directions from the stage managerthe curtain rose to soft music
and Bess was discovered sitting on a stool beside a brown paper
fire-place. A dearer little Cinderella was never seen; for the gray
gown was very raggedthe tiny shoes all wornthe face so pretty
under the bright hairand the attitude so dejectedit brought tears
as well as smilesto the fond eyes looking at the baby actress. She
sat quite stilltill a voice whisperedNow!then she sighed a
funny little sighand saidOh I wish I tood go to the ball!so
naturallythat her father clapped franticallyand her mother called
outLittle darling!These highly improper expressions of feeling
caused Cinderella to forget herselfand shake her head at them
sayingreprovinglyYou mustn't 'peak to me.

Silence instantly prevailedand three taps were heard on the wall.
Cinderella looked alarmedbut before she could remember to say
What is dat?the back of the brown paper fire-place opened like a
doorandwith some difficultythe fairy godmother got herself
and her pointed hat through. It was Nanin a red cloaka capand
a wandwhich she waved as she said decidedly

You shall go to the ball, my dear.

Now you must pull and show my pretty dress,returned
Cinderellatugging at her brown gown.

No, no; you must say, 'How can I go in my rags?' said the
godmother in her own voice.

Oh yes, so I mus';and the Princess said itquite undisturbed by
her forgetfulness.

I change your rags into a splendid dress, because you are good,
said the godmother in her stage tones; and deliberately
unbuttoning the brown pinaforeshe displayed a gorgeous sight.

The little Princess really was pretty enough to turn the heads of
any number of small princesfor her mamma had dressed her like
a tiny court ladyin a rosy silk train with satin under-skirtand bits
of bouquets here and therequite lovely to behold. The godmother
put a crownwith pink and white feathers drooping from iton her
headand gave her a pair of silver paper slipperswhich she put
onand then stood uplifting her skirts to show them to the
audiencesayingwith prideMy dlass ones, ain't they pitty?


She was so charmed with themthat she was with difficulty
recalled to her partand made to say

But I have no toach, Dodmother.

Behold it!and Nan waved her wand with such a flourishthat
she nearly knocked off the crown of the Princess.

Then appeared the grand triumph of the piece. Firsta rope was
seen to flap on the floorto tighten with a twitch as Emil's voice
was heard to sayHeave, ahoy!and Silas's gruff one to reply
Stiddy, now, stiddy!A shout of laughter followedfor four large
gray rats appearedrather shaky as to their legsand queer as to
their tailsbut quite fine about the headwhere black beads shone
in the most lifelike manner. They drewor were intended to appear
as if they dida magnificent coach made of half the mammoth
pumpkinmounted on the wheels of Teddy's wagonpainted
yellow to match the gay carriage. Perched on a seat in front sat a
jolly little coachman in a white cotton-wool wigcocked hat
scarlet breechesand laced coatwho cracked a long whip and
jerked the red reins so energeticallythat the gray steeds reared
finely. It was Teddyand he beamed upon the company so affably
that they gave him a round all to himself; and Uncle Laurie said
If I could find as sober a coachman as that one, I would engage
him on the spot.The coach stoppedthe godmother lifted in the
Princessand she was trundled away in statekissing her hand to
the publicwith her glass shoes sticking up in frontand her pink
train sweeping the ground behindforelegant as the coach wasI
regret to say that her Highness was rather a tight fit.

The next scene was the balland here Nan and Daisy appeared as
gay as peacocks in all sorts of finery. Nan was especially good as
the proud sisterand crushed many imaginary ladies as she swept
about the palace-hall. The Princein solitary state upon a
somewhat unsteady thronesat gazing about him from under an
imposing crownas he played with his sword and admired the
rosettes in his shoes. When Cinderella came in he jumped upand
exclaimedwith more warmth than elegance

My gracious! who is that?and immediately led the lady out to
dancewhile the sisters scowled and turned up their noses in the
corner.

The stately jig executed by the little couple was very prettyfor the
childish faces were so earnestthe costumes so gayand the steps
so peculiarthat they looked like the dainty quaint figures painted
on a Watteau fan. The Princess's train was very much in her way
and the sword of Prince Rob nearly tripped him up several times.
But they overcame these obstacles remarkably welland finished
the dance with much grace and spiritconsidering that neither
knew what the other was about.

Drop your shoe,whispered Mrs. Jo's voice as the lady was about
to sit down.

Oh, I fordot!andtaking off one of the silvery slippers
Cinderella planted it carefully in the middle of the stagesaid to
RobNow you must try and tatch me,and ran awaywhile the
Princepicking up the shoeobediently trotted after her.

The third sceneas everybody knowsis where the herald comes to
try on the shoe. Teddystill in coachman's dresscame in blowing
a tin fish-horn melodiouslyand the proud sisters each tried to put


on the slipper. Nan insisted on playing cut off her toe with a
carving-knifeand performed that operation so well that the herald
was alarmedand begged her to be "welly keerful." Cinderella then
was calledand came in with the pinafore half onslipped her foot
into the slipperand announcedwith satisfaction

I am the Pinsiss.

Daisy weptand begged pardon; but Nanwho liked tragedy
improved upon the storyand fell in a fainting-fit upon the floor
where she remained comfortably enjoying the rest of the play. It
was not longfor the Prince ran indropped upon his kneesand
kissed the hand of Goldilocks with great ardorwhile the herald
blew a blast that nearly deafened the audience. The curtain had no
chance to fallfor the Princess ran off the stage to her father
cryingDidn't I do well?while the Prince and herald had a
fencing-match with the tin horn and wooden sword.

It was beautiful!said every one; andwhen the raptures had a
little subsidedNat came out with his violin in his hand.

Hush! hush!cried all the childrenand silence followedfor
something in the boy's bashful manner and appealing eyes make
every one listen kindly.

The Bhaers thought he would play some of the old airs he knew so
wellbutto their surprisethey heard a new and lovely melodyso
softlysweetly playedthat they could hardly believe it could be
Nat. It was one of those songs without words that touch the heart
and sing of all tender home-like hopes and joyssoothing and
cheering those who listen to its simple music. Aunt Meg leaned
her head on Demi's shoulderGrandmother wiped her eyesand
Mrs. Jo looked up at Mr. Lauriesayingin a choky whisper

You composed that.

I wanted your boy to do you honor, and thank you in his own
way,answered Laurieleaning down to answer her.

When Nat made his bow and was about to gohe was called back
by many handsand had to play again. He did so with such a happy
facethat it was good to see himfor he did his bestand gave them
the gay old tunes that set the feet to dancingand made quietude
impossible.

Clear the floor!cried Emil; and in a minute the chairs were
pushed backthe older people put safely in corners and the
children gathered on the stage.

Show your manners!called Emil; and the boys pranced up to the
ladiesold and young; with polite invitations to "tread the mazy
as dear Dick Swiveller has it. The small lads nearly came to blows
for the Princess, but she chose Dick, like a kind, little
gentlewoman as she was, and let him lead her proudly to her place.
Mrs. Jo was not allowed to decline; and Aunt Amy filled Dan with
unspeakable delight by refusing Franz and taking him. Of course
Nan and Tommy, Nat and Daisy paired off, while Uncle Teddy
went and got Asia, who was longing to jig it and felt much
elated by the honor done her. Silas and Mary Ann had a private
dance in the hall; and for half-an-hour Plumfield was at its
merriest.

The party wound up with a grand promenade of all the young
folks, headed by the pumpkin-coach with the Princess and driver


inside, and the rats in a wildly frisky state.

While the children enjoyed this final frolic, the elders sat in the
parlor looking on as they talked together of the little people with
the interest of parents and friends.

What are you thinking ofall by yourselfwith such a happy face
sister Jo?" asked Lauriesitting down beside her on the sofa.

My summer's work, Teddy, and amusing myself by imagining the
future of my boys,she answeredsmiling as she made room for
him.

They are all to be poets, painters, and statesmen, famous soldiers,
or at least merchant princes, I suppose.

No, I am not as aspiring as I once was, and I shall be satisfied if
they are honest men. But I will confess that I do expect a little
glory and a career for some of them. Demi is not a common child,
and I think he will blossom into something good and great in the
best sense of the word. The others will do well, I hope, especially
my last two boys, for, after hearing Nat play to-night, I really think
he has genius.

Too soon to say; talent he certainly has, and there is no doubt that
the boy can soon earn his bread by the work he loves. Build him up
for another year or so, and then I will take him off your hands, and
launch him properly.

That is such a pleasant prospect for poor Nat, who came to me six
months ago so friendless and forlorn. Dan's future is already plain
to me. Mr. Hyde will want him soon, and I mean to give him a
brave and faithful little servant. Dan is one who can serve well if
the wages are love and confidence, and he has the energy to carve
out his own future in his own way. Yes, I am very happy over our
success with these boys one so weak, and one so wild; both so
much better now, and so full of promise.

What magic did you use, Jo?

I only loved them, and let them see it. Fritz did the rest.

Dear soul! you look as if 'only loving' had been rather hard work
sometimes,said Lauriestroking her thin cheek with a look of
more tender admiration than he had ever given her as a girl.

I'm a faded old woman, but I'm a very happy one; so don't pity
me, Teddy;and she glanced about the room with eyes full of a
sincere content.

Yes, your plan seems to work better and better every year,he
saidwith an emphatic nod of approval toward the cheery scene
before him.

How can it fail to work well when I have so much help from you
all?answered Mrs. Jolooking gratefully at her most generous
patron.

It is the best joke of the family, this school of yours and its
success. So unlike the future we planned for you, and yet so suited
to you after all. It was a regular inspiration, Jo,said Laurie
dodging her thanks as usual.

Ah! but you laughed at it in the beginning, and still make all


manner of fun of me and my inspirations. Didn't you predict that
having girls with the boys would be a dead failure? Now see how
well it works;and she pointed to the happy group of lads and
lassies dancingsingingand chattering together with every sign of
kindly good fellowship.


I give in, and when my Goldilocks is old enough I'll send her to
you. Can I say more than that?


I shall be so proud to have your little treasure trusted to me. But
really, Teddy, the effect of these girls has been excellent. I know
you will laugh at me, but I don't mind, I'm used to it; so I'll tell you
that one of my favorite fancies is to look at my family as a small
world, to watch the progress of my little men, and, lately, to see
how well the influence of my little women works upon them.
Daisy is the domestic element, and they all feel the charm of her
quiet, womanly ways. Nan is the restless, energetic, strong-minded
one; they admire her courage, and give her a fair chance to work
out her will, seeing that she has sympathy as well as strength, and
the power to do much in their small world. Your Bess is the lady,
full of natural refinement, grace, and beauty. She polishes them
unconsciously, and fills her place as any lovely woman may, using
her gentle influence to lift and hold them above the coarse, rough
things of life, and keep them gentlemen in the best sense of the
fine old word.


It is not always the ladies who do that best, Jo. It is sometimes the
strong brave woman who stirs up the boy and makes a man of
him;and Laurie bowed to her with a significant laugh.


No; I think the graceful woman, whom the boy you allude to
married, has done more for him than the wild Nan of his youth; or,
better still, the wise, motherly woman who watched over him, as
Daisy watches over Demi, did more to make him what he is;and
Jo turned toward her motherwho sat a little apart with Meg
looking so full of the sweet dignity and beauty of old agethat
Laurie gave her a glance of filial respect and love as he repliedin
serious earnest


All three did much for him, and I can understand how well these
little girls will help your lads.


Not more than the lads help them; it is mutual, I assure you. Nat
does much for Daisy with his music; Dan can manage Nan better
than any of us; and Demi teaches your Goldilocks so easily and
well that Fritz calls them Roger Ascham and Lady Jane Grey. Dear
me! if men and women would only trust, understand, and help one
another as my children do, what a capital place the world would
be!and Mrs. Jo's eyes grew absentas if she was looking at a new
and charming state of society in which people lived as happily and
innocently as her flock at Plumfield.


You are doing your best to help on the good time, my dear.
Continue to believe in it, to work for it, and to prove its possibility
by the success of her small experiment,said Mr. Marchpausing
as he passed to say an encouraging wordfor the good man never
lost his faith in humanityand still hoped to see peacegood-will
and happiness reign upon the earth.


I am not so ambitious as that, father. I only want to give these
children a home in which they can be taught a few simple things
which will help to make life less hard to them when they go out to
fight their battles in the world. Honesty, courage, industry, faith in
God, their fellow-creatures, and themselves; that is all I try for.



That is every thing. Give them these helps, then let them go to
work out their life as men and women; and whatever their success
or failure is, I think they will remember and bless your efforts, my
good son and daughter.

The Professor had joined themand as Mr. March spoke he gave a
hand to eachand left them with a look that was a blessing. As Jo
and her husband stood together for a moment talking quietlyand
feeling that their summer work had been well done if father
approvedMr. Laurie slipped into the hallsaid a word to the
childrenand all of a sudden the whole flock pranced into the
roomjoined hands and danced about Father and Mother Bhaer
singing blithely

Summer days are over,

Summer work is done;

Harvests have been gathered

Gayly one by one.

Now the feast is eaten,

Finished is the play;

But one rite remains for

Our Thanksgiving-day.

Best of all the harvest

In the dear God's sight

Are the happy children

In the home to-night;

And we come to offer

Thanks where thanks are due

With grateful hearts and voices

Fathermotherunto you."

With the last words the circle narrowed till the good Professor and
his wife were taken prisoner by many armsand half hidden by the
bouquet of laughing young faces which surrounded themproving
that one plant had taken root and blossomed beautifully in all the
little gardens. For love is a flower that grows in any soilworks its
sweet miracles undaunted by autumn frost or winter snow
blooming fair and fragrant all the yearand blessing those who
give and those who receive.