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

Part 2 out of 7

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"He made me do the same thing once," said Emil, as 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 Ned, collaring 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
him, as he would have felt it his duty to do on any less solemn
occasion.

"How could you?" said Demi, appalled 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 sinner, but his best Uncle Fritz.

"Suppose we all clear out, so Nat can cut upstairs if he wants to,"
proposed Franz, and led the way to the barn, their refuge in
troublous times.

Nat did not come to dinner, but Mrs. Jo took some up to him, and
said a tender word, which did him good, though he could not look
at her. By and by the lads playing outside heard the violin, and said
among themselves: "He's all right now." He was all right, but felt
shy about going down, till opening his door to slip away into the
woods, he found Daisy sitting on the stairs with neither work nor
doll, only her little handkerchief in her hand, as if she had been
mourning for her captive friend.

"I'm going to walk; want to come?" asked Nat, trying to look as if
nothing was the matter, yet feeling very grateful for her silent
sympathy, because he fancied everyone must look upon him as a
wretch.

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

The others saw them go, but no one followed, for boys have a great
deal more delicacy than they get credit for, and the lads
instinctively felt that, when in disgrace, gentle little Daisy was
their most congenial friend.

The walk did Nat good, and he came home quieter than usual, but
looking cheerful again, and 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 morning, but its effect
was all the more lasting for that reason, perhaps. Nat tried his very
best, and found much help, not only from the earnest little prayers
he prayed to his Friend in heaven, but 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 Daisy, with a brightening face, for 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. Bhaer, who 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 Daisy, swinging 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. Bhaer, thinking 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 kitchen, where Asia, the black cook, reigned
undisturbed.

In five minutes, Daisy was back again, with a wide-awake face, a
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 Daisy, all in one breath.

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

Daisy ran off, and while she worked, Aunt Jo racked her brain for
a new play. All of a sudden she seemed to have an idea, for she
smiled to herself, slammed the doors of the wardrobe, and walked
briskly away, saying, "I'll do it, if it's a possible thing!"

What it was no one found out that day, but Aunt Jo's eyes twinkled
so when she told Daisy she had thought of a new play, and was
going to buy it, that Daisy was much excited and asked questions
all the way into town, without getting answers that told her
anything. She was left at home to play with the new baby, and
delight her mother's eyes, while Aunt Jo went off shopping. When
she came back with all sorts of queer parcels in corners of the
carry-all, Daisy was so full of curiosity that she wanted to go back
to Plumfield at once. But her aunt would not be hurried, and made
a long call in mamma's room, sitting on the floor with baby in her
lap, making Mrs. Brooke laugh at the pranks of the boys, and all
sorts of droll nonsense.

How her aunt told the secret Daisy could not imagine, but her
mother evidently knew it, for she said, as she tied on the little
bonnet and kissed the rosy little face inside, "Be 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 heartily, and increased
Daisy's bewilderment. As they drove away something rattled in the
back of the carriage.

"What's that?" asked Daisy, pricking up her ears.

"The new play," answered Mrs. Jo, solemnly.

"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 face, for 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 kind, rich, jolly uncle of hers was as
good as a fairy godmother to the children, and was always
planning merry surprises, pretty gifts, and 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 middle, and began to
look over her bills, as if afraid she would let the cat out of the bag
if she talked any more. Daisy folded her hands with an air of
resignation, and sat quite still trying to think what play had a "coo"
in it.

When they got home she eyed every bundle that was taken out, and
one large heavy one, which Franz took straight upstairs and hid in
the nursery, filled her with amazement and curiosity. Something
very mysterious went on up there that afternoon, for Franz was
hammering, and Asia trotting up and down, and Aunt Jo flying
around like a will-o'-the-wisp, with all sort of things under her
apron, while little Ted, who was the only child admitted, because
he couldn't talk plain, babbled and laughed, and tried to tell what
the "sumpin pitty" was.

All this made Daisy half-wild, and her excitement spread among
the boys, who quite overwhelmed Mother Bhaer with offers of
assistance, which 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
retired, and invited Daisy to a game of marbles, horse, football,
anything she liked, with a sudden warmth and politeness which
astonished her innocent little soul.

Thanks to these attentions, she got through the afternoon, went
early to bed, and 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'clock, for everyone knew that now she was
going to have the new and mysterious play.

Many eyes followed her as she ran away, and Demi's mind was so
distracted by this event that when Franz asked him where the
desert of Sahara was, he mournfully replied, "In 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 Daisy, flying into Mrs. Bhaer's room.

"It's all ready, come on;" and tucking Ted under one arm, and her
workbasket under the other, Aunt Jo promptly led the way upstairs.

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

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

Daisy did hear an odd crackling, and 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 back, gave one
joyful, "Oh!" 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 pans, gridirons and
skillets; on the other side a small dinner and tea set; and on the
middle part a cooking-stove. Not a tin one, that was of no use, but
a real iron stove, big enough to cook for a large family of very
hungry dolls. But the best of it was that a real fire burned in it, real
steam came out of the nose of the little tea-kettle, and the lid of the
little boiler actually danced a jig, the 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 funnel, and real smoke went sailing away
outside so naturally, that 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-pan, brush and broom; a little market basket was on the low
table at which Daisy used to play, and over the back of her little
chair hung a white apron with a bib, and a droll mob cap. The sun
shone in as if he enjoyed the fun, the little stove roared beautifully,
the kettle steamed, the new tins sparkled on the walls, the pretty
china stood in tempting rows, and 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 another, brightening as they
looked, till they came to Aunt Jo's merry face; there they stopped
as the happy little girl hugged her, saying 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. Bhaer, holding Daisy, who frisked as if she would fly. "I
knew Asia wouldn't let you mess in her kitchen very often, and it
wouldn't be safe at this fire up here, so I thought I'd see if I could
find a little stove for you, and teach you to cook; that would be
fun, and useful too. So I travelled round among the toy shops, but
everything large cost too much and I was thinking I should have to
give it up, when I met Uncle Teddy. As soon as he knew what I
was about, he said he wanted to help, and insisted on buying the
biggest toy stove we could find. I scolded, but he only laughed, and
teased me about my cooking when we were young, and said I must
teach Bess as well as you, and 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 Daisy, as 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 Daisy, dancing 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. Jo, settling down to
work, while Teddy sat on the floor sucking his thumb, and staring
at the stove as if it was a live thing, whose appearance deeply
interested him.

"That will be so lovely! What shall I do first?" asked Sally, with
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 cap, and put on the apron
without a murmur, though 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 soberly, but Sally laughed, for she knew who
the untidy girl was who had left the cups sticky. Then she turned
up her cuffs, and with a sigh of satisfaction began to stir about her
kitchen, having 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. Jo, giving her a bit of paper
when the dishes were all in order.

"Where is the market?" asked Daisy, thinking that the new play got
more and more interesting every minute.

"Asia is the market."

Away went Sally, causing another stir in the schoolroom as she
passed the door in her new costume, and whispered to Demi, with
a face full of delight, "It's a perfectly splendid play!"

Old Asia enjoyed the joke as much as Daisy, and laughed jollily as
the little girl came flying into the room with her cap all on one
side, the 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 Daisy, importantly.

'Let's see, honey; here's two pounds of steak, potatoes, squash,
apples, bread, and 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 potato, one apple, a bit of squash, a little pat
of butter, and a roll, into the basket, telling Sally to be on the
watch for the butcher's boy, because 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
spirits, singing 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. Jo, when the cook got home.

There was a cupboard under the middle shelf, and on opening the
door fresh delights appeared. One half was evidently the cellar, for
wood, coal, and kindlings were piled there. The other half was full
of little jars, boxes, and all sorts of droll contrivances for holding
small quantities of flour, meal, sugar, salt, and other household
stores. A pot of jam was there, a little tin box of gingerbread, a
cologne bottle full of currant wine, and a tiny canister of tea. But
the crowning charm was two doll's pans of new milk, with cream
actually rising on it, and a wee skimmer all ready to skim it with.
Daisy clasped her hands at this delicious spectacle, and 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 Daisy, hardly 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. Jo, who was nearly as much interested
in the new play as Daisy herself.

"Oh, what next?" asked Sally, all 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 expected, from 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. Jo, looking rather perplexed, and very much amused with the
small concern before her. "Take that little pan full of flour, put in a
pinch of salt, and then rub in as much butter as will go on that
plate. Always remember to put your dry things together first, and
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 Daisy, whisking 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 Jo, approvingly. "Now a dash of cold water,
just enough to wet it; then scatter some flour on the board, work in
a little, and roll the paste out; yes, that's the way. Now put dabs of
butter all over it, and roll it out again. We won't have our pastry
very rich, or the dolls will get dyspeptic."

Daisy laughed at the idea, and scattered the dabs with a liberal
hand. Then she rolled and rolled with her delightful little pin, and
having got her paste ready proceeded to cover the plates with it.
Next the apple was sliced in, sugar and cinnamon lavishly
sprinkled over it, and 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 Daisy, as the
little knife went clipping round the doll's plate poised on her hand.

All cooks, even the best, meet with mishaps sometimes, and Sally's
first one occurred then, for the knife went so fast that the plate
slipped, turned a somersault in the air, and landed the dear little
pie upside down on the floor. Sally screamed, Mrs. Jo laughed,
Teddy scrambled to get it, and 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 Sally, picking 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 jam, fill
the uncovered pie, and 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 Sally, loading 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 jam, and
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 it, when
Kit appeared with a covered basket in his mouth.

"Here's the butcher boy!" cried Daisy, much tickled at the idea, as
she relieved him of his load, whereat he licked his lips and began
to beg, evidently thinking that it was his own dinner, for he often
carried it to his master in that way. Being undeceived, he departed
in great wrath and barked all the way downstairs, to ease his
wounded feelings.

In the basket were two bits of steak (doll's pounds), a baked pear, a
small cake, and paper with them on which Asia had scrawled, "For
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
Daisy, indignantly.

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

"Me is hundry," announced Teddy, who 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 ready, and 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 on, and at last when the coals were red and glowing, to put two
real steaks on a finger-long gridiron and proudly turn them with a
fork. The potatoes were done first, and no wonder, for they had
boiled frantically all the while. The were pounded up with a little
pestle, had 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 dish, smoothed over with a knife dipped in milk, and put in
the oven to brown.

So absorbed in these last performances had Sally been, that she
forgot her pastry till she opened the door to put in the potato, then
a wail arose, for alas! alas! the little pies were burnt black!

"Oh, my pies! My darling pies! They are all spoilt!" cried poor
Sally, wringing her dirty little hands as she surveyed the ruin of her
work. The tart was especially pathetic, for the quirls and zigzags
stuck up in all directions from the blackened jelly, like 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 Jo, remorsefully. "Don't cry, darling, it 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 warm, while you
mash the squash with butter, salt, and 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 feelings, and 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
bottom, and Sally the top. When all were settled, it was a most
imposing spectacle, for one doll was in full ball costume, another
in her night-gown; Jerry, the worsted boy, wore his red winter suit,
while Annabella, the noseless darling, was airily attired in nothing
but her own kid skin. Teddy, as father of the family, behaved with
great propriety, for he smilingly devoured everything offered him,
and did not find a single fault. Daisy beamed upon her company
like the weary, warm, but hospitable hostess so often to be seen at
larger tables than this, and did the honors with an air of innocent
satisfaction, which 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 round, and 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 pies, and 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. Jo, who had enjoyed the
dinner-party very much, though 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 nose, for
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 goodies, all the others will expect some
also, and 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 Daisy, with 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 Jo, with
a merry nod toward the door, where stood Papa Bhaer, surveying
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 professor, laughing
as he tossed Teddy, who became quite apoplectic in his endeavors
to describe the feast he had just enjoyed.

Daisy proudly showed her kitchen, and rashly promised Uncle
Fritz as many flapjacks as he could eat. She was just telling about
the new rewards when the boys, headed by Demi, burst into the
room snuffing the air like a pack of hungry hounds, for school was
out, dinner was not ready, and 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 eat, but
Stuffy's heart was won at once. Nat and Demi had firm faith in her
skill, and the others said they would wait and see. All admired the
kitchen, however, and examined the stove with deep interest.
Demi offered to buy the boiler on the spot, to 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 bullets, hatchets, and such trifles.

Daisy looked so alarmed at these proposals, that Mrs. Jo then and
there made and proclaimed a law that no boy should touch, use, or
even approach the sacred stove without a special permit from the
owner thereof. This increased its value immensely in the eyes of
the gentlemen, especially 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 rang, and the entire population went down to
dinner, which 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. Daisy, whose faith in her stove was unlimited,
promised everything, if Aunt Jo would tell her how to make them.
This suggestion rather alarmed Mrs. Jo, for some of the dishes
were quite beyond her skill wedding-cake, for instance, bull's-eye
candy; and cabbage soup with herrings and cherries in it, which
Mr. Bhaer proposed as his favorite, and immediately reduced his
wife to despair, for German cookery was beyond her.

Daisy wanted to begin again the minute dinner was done, but she
was only allowed to clear up, fill the kettle ready for tea, and wash
out her apron, which looked as if she had a Christmas feast. She
was then sent out to play till five o'clock, for Uncle Fritz said that
too much study, even at cooking stoves, was bad for little minds
and bodies, and 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 garden, though the only visible crop just
then was pigweed; Nat offered to supply her with wood, free of
charge; Stuffy quite worshipped her; Ned immediately fell to work
on a little refrigerator for her kitchen; and Demi, with a
punctuality beautiful to see in one so young, escorted her to the
nursery just as the clock struck five. It was not time for the party to
begin, but he begged so hard to come in and help that he was
allowed privileges few visitors enjoy, for he kindled the fire, ran
errands, and watched the progress of his supper with intense
interest. Mrs. Jo directed the affair as she came and went, being
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 downstairs, and returned with the cream, also a
puckered-up face, for he had tasted it on his way, and 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 soda, to which Daisy did not listen, but
Demi did, and understood it, as 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
Sally, who 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 passed, hammer
in hand, to 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 Daisy, putting 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. Jo, throwing 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 made, and such a beating as the
batter got, it quite foamed, I assure you; and when Daisy poured
some on to the griddle, it rose like magic into a puffy flapjack that
made Demi's mouth water. To be sure, the first one stuck and
scorched, because she forgot the butter, but after that first failure
all went well, and six capital little cakes were safely landed in a
dish.

"I think I like maple-syrup better than sugar," said Demi, from 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 Daisy, going into the
bath-room to wash her hands.

While the nursery was empty something dreadful happened. You
see, Kit had been feeling hurt all day because he had carried meat
safely and yet got none to pay him. He was not a bad dog, but he
had his little faults like the rest of us, and could not always resist
temptation. Happening to stroll into the nursery at that moment, he
smelt the cakes, saw them unguarded on the low table, and never
stopping to think of consequences, swallowed all six at one
mouthful. I am glad to say that they were very hot, and burned him
so badly that he could not repress a surprised yelp. Daisy heard it,
ran in, saw the empty dish, also the end of a yellow tail
disappearing under the bed. Without a word she seized that tail,
pulled out the thief, and shook him till his ears flapped wildly,
then bundled him down-stairs to the shed, where he spent a lonely
evening in the coal-bin.

Cheered by the sympathy which Demi gave her, Daisy made
another bowlful of batter, and fried a dozen cakes, which were
even better than the others. Indeed, Uncle Fritz after eating two
sent up word that he had never tasted any so nice, and every boy at
the table below envied Demi at the flapjack party above.

It was a truly delightful supper, for the little teapot lid only fell off
three times and the milk jug upset but once; the cakes floated in
syrup, and the toast had a delicious beef-steak flavor, owing to
cook's using the gridiron to make it on. Demi forgot philosophy,
and stuffed like any carnal boy, while Daisy planned sumptuous
banquets, and the dolls looked on smiling affably.

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

"A very good time. I shall come again soon," answered Demi, with
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 Demi, who had kept his sister busy supplying his
plate.

"They won't hurt him, they are so nice," said Daisy, with 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 Demi, as if his approval was all that was necessary.

"It is the dearest play ever made!" cried Daisy, hugging 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 Nat, popping 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 it, so she looked up, and said, briskly,

"What is it, my lad?"

Nat came in, shut the door carefully behind him, and said in an
eager, anxious 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. Bhaer, rather 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 Nat, looking
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 Nat, sorrowfully.

The boy's confidence in her hospitality touched Mrs. Bhaer, and
she could not find the heart to disappoint his hope, and spoil his
kind little plan, so 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. Bhaer, more 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
Nat, eagerly.

Something in his speech and face made Mrs. Jo put her hand on
his shoulder, and 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 off, and soon returned followed by a most
unprepossessing boy, who slouched in and stood looking about
him, with a half bold, half sullen look, which made Mrs. Bhaer say
to herself, after one glance,

"A bad specimen, I am afraid."

"This is Dan," said Nat, presenting him as if sure of his welcome.

"Nat tells me you would like to come and stay with us," began
Mrs. Jo, in 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. Jo, finding
it rather difficult to get on with this cool young person, who fixed
his big black eyes on her with a hard, suspicious expression,
sorrowfully unboyish.

"Come on, Nat," he said, and slouched out again.

"Thank you, ma'am," added Nat, as he followed him, feeling
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 asked, as 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 set, who
were disporting themselves among the half-empty lofts. A large
circle was marked out with hay on the wide floor, and in the
middle stood Demi with a long whip, while Tommy, mounted on
the much-enduring Toby, pranced about the circle playing being a
monkey.

"You must pay a pin apiece, or you can't see the show," said
Stuffy, who stood by the wheelbarrow in which sat the band,
consisting of a pocket-comb blown upon by Ned, and a toy drum
beaten spasmodically by Rob.

"He's company, so I'll pay for both," said Nat, handsomely, as 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
boards, and the performance went on. After the monkey act, Ned
gave them a fine specimen of his agility by jumping over an old
chair, and running up and down ladders, sailor fashion. Then Demi
danced a jig with a gravity beautiful to behold. Nat was called
upon to wrestle with Stuffy, and speedily laid that stout youth upon
the ground. After this, Tommy proudly advanced to turn a
somersault, an accomplishment which he had acquired by painful
perseverance, practising 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 retire, flushed with pride and a rush of blood
to the head, when 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 Dan, promptly descending from the
barrel and doubling up his fists in a business-like manner.

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

"Fighting isn't allowed!" cried the others, much excited.

"You're a nice lot," sneered Dan.

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

"I'd like to see him do better than I did, that's all," observed
Tommy, with 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 Nat, pleased at his friend's success.

Before he could say any more the audience were electrified by
three more somersaults backwards, and a short promenade on the
hands, head down, feet up. This brought down the house, and
Tommy joined in the admiring cries which greeted the
accomplished gymnast as he righted himself, and 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 asked, as 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 carefully, then putting it into his pocket,
walked off, saying 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 Dan, finding himself in a minority,
proposed that they should play stick-knife, and whichever won
should have the treasure. Tommy agreed, and the game was played
in a circle of excited faces, which all wore an expression of
satisfaction, when 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 Nat, feeling
that he must have a little serious conversation with his friend in
private.

What passed between them no one knew, but when they appeared
again, Dan was more respectful to every one, though still gruff in
his speech, and 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 him, and so they left
him to Nat, who soon felt rather oppressed by the responsibility,
but too kind-hearted to desert him.

Tommy, however, felt that in spite of the jack-knife transaction,
there was a bond of sympathy between them, and longed to return
to the interesting subject of somersaults. He soon found an
opportunity, for Dan, seeing how much he admired him, grew
more amiable, and by the end of the first week was quite intimate
with the lively Tom.

Mr. Bhaer, when he heard the story and saw Dan, shook his head,
but only said quietly,

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

If Dan felt any gratitude for his protection, he did not show it, and
took without thanks all that was give him. He was ignorant, but
very quick to learn when he chose; had sharp eyes to watch what
went on about him; a saucy tongue, rough manners, and 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 people, and only now and then was thoroughly
sociable among the lads. Few of them really liked him, but few
could help admiring his courage and strength, for nothing daunted
him, and 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 silently, and did his best to tame the
"Wild Boy," as they called him, but in private the worthy man
shook his head, and said soberly, "I 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 day, yet
never gave him up, and always insisted that there was something
good in the lad, after all; for he was kinder to animals than to
people, he liked to rove about in the woods, and, best of all, little
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 affection, and this was
only manifested when he thought no one else would see it; but
mothers' eyes are quick, and motherly hearts instinctively divine
who love their babies. So Mrs. Jo soon saw and felt that there was
a soft spot in rough Dan, and bided her time to touch and win him.

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

Tommy, Nat, and Demi began by patronizing Dan, because the
other lads rather slighted him; but soon they each felt there was a
certain fascination about the bad boy, and from looking down upon
him they came to looking up, each 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 book, for when
he chose Dan could tell his adventures in a most interesting way. It
pleased Dan to have the three favorites like him, and he exerted
himself to be agreeable, which was the secret of his success.

The Bhaers were surprised, but hoped the lads would have a good
influence over Dan, and waited with some anxiety, trusting that no
harm would come of it.

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

Mr. Bhaer did not approve of fighting, and 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 encouraged, and 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 rule, and told such exciting tales of his own
valor, and the many frays that he had been in, that 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; and, getting half a
dozen of the lads together behind the barn, he gave them a lesson
in boxing, which quite satisfied the ardor of most of them. Emil,
however, could not submit to be beaten by a fellow younger than
himself, for Emil was past fourteen and a plucky fellow, so he
challenged Dan to a fight. Dan accepted at once, and the others
looked on with intense interest.

What little bird carried the news to head-quarters no one ever
knew, but, in the very hottest of the fray, when Dan and Emil were
fighting like a pair of young bulldogs, and the others with fierce,
excited faces were cheering them on, Mr. Bhaer walked into the
ring, plucked the combatants apart with a strong hand, and said, in
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 Emil, who had
been down five times, but did not know when he was beaten.

"They are playing be gladdy what-you-call-'ems, like the Romans,
Uncle Fritz," called out Demi, whose 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 Dan, sullenly.

"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
eye, and his jacket was torn to rags, but Emil's face was covered
with blood from a cut lip and a bruised nose, while a bump on his
forehead was already as purple as a plum. In spite of his wounds
however, he still glared upon his foe, and evidently panted to
renew the fight.

"He'd make a first-rater if he was taught," said Dan, unable 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 off, and after a few more words to the spectators,
Mr. Bhaer followed to bind up the wounds of the young gladiators.
Emil went to bed sick, and Dan was an unpleasant spectacle for a
week.

But the lawless lad had no thought of obeying, and 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 Stuffy, who hated to walk.

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

Away they went, and having got the poles were about to go home,
when Demi unluckily said to Tommy, who 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 Dan, bent on mischief.

"No, you mustn't," began Demi, who 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 Dan, full of the new game, and the rest followed like a flock
of sheep; even Demi, who sat upon the bars, and watched the fun
with interest.

Poor Buttercup was not in a very good mood, for she had been
lately bereft of her calf, and 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 head, and gave a most appropriate "Moo!"
Tommy rode gallantly at her, and Toby recognizing an old friend,
was quite willing to approach; but when the lance came down on
her back with a loud whack, both cow and donkey were surprised
and disgusted. Toby back with a bray of remonstrance, and
Buttercup lowered her horns angrily.

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

Seeing herself thus beset, and treated with such disrespect,
Buttercup trotted round the field, getting more and more
bewildered and excited every moment, for whichever way she
turned, there was a dreadful boy, yelling and brandishing a new
and very disagreeable sort of whip. It was great fun for them, but
real misery for her, till 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 Toby, whose conduct cut her to
the heart. Poor slow Toby backed so precipitately that he tripped
over a stone, and down went horse, matadore, and all, in one
ignominious heap, while distracted Buttercup took a surprising
leap over the wall, and 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 pace, for she was Mr. Bhaer's pet
Alderney, and if anything happened to her, Dan 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 red, breathless, and scared. They found poor
Buttercup at last in a flower garden, where she had taken refuge,
worn out with the long run. Borrowing a rope for a halter, Dan led
her home, followed by a party of very sober young gentlemen, for
the cow was in a sad state, having strained her shoulder jumping,
so that she limped, her eyes looked wild, and her glossy coat was
wet and muddy.

"You'll catch it this time, Dan," said Tommy, as 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 Demi, who was most broken-hearted
at poor Buttercup's state.

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

"We'll ask him not to, all of us," said Demi, and the others assented
with the exception of Stuffy, who cherished the hope that all the
punishment might fall on one guilty head. Dan only said, "Don't
bother about me;" but he never forgot it, even though he led the
lads astray again, as soon as the temptation came.

When Mr. Bhaer saw the animal, and heard the story, he said very
little, evidently fearing that he should say too much in the first
moments of impatience. Buttercup was made comfortable in her
stall, and the boys sent to their rooms till supper-time. This brief
respite gave them time to think the matter over, to wonder what
the penalty would be, and to try to imagine where Dan would be
sent. He whistled briskly in his room, so that no one should think
he cared a bit; but while he waited to know his fate, the longing to
stay grew stronger and stronger, the more he recalled the comfort
and kindness he had known here, the hardship and neglect he had
felt elsewhere. He knew they tried to help him, and at the bottom
of his heart he was grateful, but his rough life had made him hard
and careless, suspicious and wilful. He hated restraint of any sort,
and fought against it like an untamed creature, even while he knew
it was kindly meant, and dimly felt that he would be the better for
it. He made up his mind to be turned adrift again, to knock about
the city as he had done nearly all his life; a prospect that made him
knit his black brows, and 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 instantly, however,
when the good man came in, and 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 reprieve, but 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. Bhaer, smiling in spite of himself at the
boy's excuse. Then he added gravely, "But 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 floor, and his hands nervously picking
at the bit of wood he had been whittling as Mr. Bhaer came in, but
when he heard the kind voice ask that question, he looked up
quickly, and 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 two, but not being used to it, he soon tired
and relapsed into his old wilful ways. Mr. Bhaer was called from
home on business one day, and the boys had no lessons. They liked
this, and played hard till bedtime, when most of them turned in
and slept like dormice. Dan, however, had a plan in his head, and
when he and Nat were alone, he unfolded it.

"Look here!" he said, taking from under his bed a bottle, a cigar,
and a pack of cards, "I'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 one, and lent an air of romance to the
thing. He started off to tell Tommy, but 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 obeyed, and returned in a minute with Tommy half dressed,
rather tousled about the head and very sleepy, but quite ready for
fun as usual.

"Now, keep quiet, and I'll show you how to play a first-rate game
called 'Poker,' " said Dan, as the three revellers gathered round the
table, on which were set forth the bottle, the cigar, and 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 mug, and all three smacked their lips over
it, though Nat and Tommy did not like the bitter stuff. The cigar
was worse still, but they dared not say so, and each puffed away
till he was dizzy or choked, when he passed the "weed" on to his
neighbor. Dan liked it, for it seemed like old times when he now
and then had a chance to imitate the low men who surrounded
him. He drank, and smoked, and swaggered as much like them as
he could, and, getting into the spirit of the part he assumed, he
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 Tommy, who had composed
this interesting exclamation and was very proud of it.

"And I'll say 'The Devil;' that sounds well," added Nat, much
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 tone, and at the same moment drew
the slide over the light. A voice in the darkness said tremulously, "I
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 Dan, whisking all signs of the revel out of sight, and
beginning to tear off his clothes, while Nat did the same.

Tommy flew to his room and dived into bed, where he lay,
laughing till something burned his hand, when he discovered that
he was still clutching the stump of the festive cigar, which he
happened to be smoking when the revel broke up.

It was nearly out, and he was about to extinguish it carefully when
Nursey's voice was heard, and fearing it would betray him if he hid
it in the bed, he threw it underneath, after a final pinch which he
thought finished it.

Nursey came in with Demi, who 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 Demi, pouncing on him.

"What mischief are you at now, bad child?" asked Nursey, with a
good-natured shake, which 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 in, and went off to reconnoitre, but 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 hall, and for a minute every one was
panic-stricken.

Then Mrs. Bhaer found her wits, bade Nursey see to the burnt
boys, and sent Franz and Silas down-stairs for some tubs of wet
clothes which she flung on the bed, over the carpet, and up against
the curtains, now burning finely, and threatening to kindle the
walls.

Most of the boys stood dumbly looking on, but Dan and Emil
worked bravely, running to and fro with water from the bath-room,
and helping to pull down the dangerous curtains.

The peril was soon over, and ordering the boys all back to bed, and
leaving Silas to watch lest the fire broke out again, Mrs. Bhaer and
Franz went to see how the poor boys got on. Demi had escaped
with one burn and a grand scare, but Tommy had not only most of
his hair scorched off his head, but a great burn on his arm, that
made him half crazy with the pain. Demi was soon made cosy, and
Franz took him away to his own bed, where the kind lad soothed
his fright and hummed him to sleep as cosily as a woman. Nursey
watched over poor Tommy all night, trying to ease his misery, and
Mrs. Bhaer vibrated between him and little Teddy with oil and
cotton, paregoric and squills, saying to herself from time to time,
as if she found great amusement in the thought, "I 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 bed, Teddy wheezing like a little grampus, Mrs.
Jo quite used up, and the whole flock of boys so excited that they
all talked at once, and 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 conflagrations, and
worked with a will at whatever task he gave them.

There was no school that morning, but by afternoon the damaged
room was put to rights, the invalids were better, and there was
time to hear and judge the little culprits quietly. Nat and Tommy
told their parts in the mischief, and 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 look, and would not own that there
was much harm done.

Now, of all things, Mr. Bhaer hated drinking, gambling, and
swearing; smoking he had given up that the lads might not be
tempted to try it, and it grieved and angered him deeply to find that
the boy, with whom he had tried to be most forbearing, should take
advantage of his absence to introduce these forbidden vices, and
teach his innocent little lads to think it manly and pleasant to
indulge in them. He talked long and earnestly to the assembled
boys, and ended by saying, with 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 spoke, Mr. Bhaer left the room to write his letter to Mr.
Page, and 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 Dan, with 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 Nat, much 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 things, every one of which Mr. Bhaer had given him.

That was the only good-bye he gave the boys, for they were all
talking the matter over in the barn when he came down, and he
told Nat not to call them. The wagon stood at the door, and Mrs.
Bhaer came out to speak to Dan, looking so sad that his heart
smote him, and 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 crib, and
saw the little face light up at first sight of him, but 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 sigh, and he wanted to ask for one more
trial himself, but his pride would not let him, and he came out with
the hard look on his face, shook hands without a word, and drove
away with Mr. Bhaer, leaving Nat and Mrs. Jo to look after him
with tears in their eyes.

A few days afterwards they received a letter from Mr. Page, saying
that Dan was doing well, whereat they all rejoiced. But three
weeks later came another letter, saying that Dan had run away, and
nothing had been heard of him, whereat they all looked sober, and
Mr. Bhaer said,

"Perhaps I ought to have given him another chance."

Mrs. Bhaer, however, nodded wisely and answered, "Don'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. Bhaer, as she met her
husband one day after school.

"Well, my dear, what is it?" and he waited willingly to hear the
new plan, for some of Mrs. Jo's ideas were so droll, it was
impossible to help laughing at them, though usually they were
quite sensible, and 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.
Bhaer, seeing 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. Bhaer, patting the hand that lay on his
arm.

"Oh dear, no," said Mother Bhaer, briskly. "I like it, and never was
happier than since I had my wilderness of boys. You see, Fritz, I
feel a great sympathy for Nan, because I was such a naughty child
myself that I know all about it. She is full of spirits, and 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 directed, and what is now a tricksy midget would soon
become a busy, happy child. I know how to manage her, for I
remember how my blessed mother managed me, and "

"And if you succeed half as well as she did, you will have done a
magnificent work," interrupted Mr. Bhaer, who 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. Jo, tweaking 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. Bhaer, presently, when Teddy had swarmed up his
waistcoat, and Rob up his back, for 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 name, little Teddy, who had never forgotten his
friend, struggled down from his father's arms, and trotted to the
door, looked out over the sunny lawn with a wistful face, and then
trotted back again, saying, as 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 afternoon, before
she could unpack the load of little boys, without whom she seldom
moved, a small girl of ten skipped out at the back of the carry-all
and ran into the house, shouting,

"Hi, Daisy! where are you?"

Daisy came, and looked pleased to see her guest, but also a trifle
alarmed, when Nan said, still prancing, as 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 Daisy, hoping she
had, for on the last visit Nan had ravaged the baby house, and
insisted on washing Blanche Matilda's plaster face, which spoilt
the poor dear's complexion for ever.

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

Won by the beauty of the offering, Daisy grew more cordial, and
proposed retiring to the nursery, but Nan said, "No, I want to see
the boys, and the barn," and ran off, swinging her hat by one string
till it broke, when 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 spirit, and he foresaw "larks" in the future.

"I can bat; let me play," said Nan, who could turn her hand to any
thing, and 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 Nan, falling back on
her strong point.

"Can she?" asked Nat of Jack.

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

"Will you try?" said Nan, longing 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 Nan, whose 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 thing, so that isn't fair. Now go and bump your
head real hard against the barn, and see if you don't howl then."

"Don't do it," said Nat, who hated cruelty.

But Nan was off, and running straight at the barn, she gave her
head a blow that knocked her flat, and sounded like a
battering-ram. Dizzy, but undaunted, she staggered up, saying
stoutly, though her face was drawn with pain,

"That hurt, but I don't cry."

"Do it again," said Stuffy angrily; and Nan would have done it, but
Nat held her; and Tommy, forgetting the heat, flew at Stuffy like a
little game-cock, roaring 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 say, when Tommy let him
alone.

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

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

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

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

"You are the best boy in the world," promptly answered Daisy;
adding, as truth compelled her to do, "You 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 Emil, who
rather lorded it over the others.

"How do you do, Madge Wildfire?" said Mr. Bhaer, as Nan came
in with the rest to supper. "Give the right hand, little daughter, and
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 asked, drawing it from behind her back, where she had put it
with a look which made him think she had been in mischief.

Before Nan could think of any excuse, Daisy burst out with the
whole story, during which Stuffy tried to hide his face in a bowl of
bread and milk. When the tale was finished, Mr. Bhaer looked
down the long table towards his wife, and 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 meant, but she liked her little black sheep
all the better for her pluck, though she only said in her soberest
way,

"Do you know why I asked Nan to come here?"

"To plague me," muttered Stuffy, with 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 again, and did not emerge till
Demi made them all laugh by saying, in 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 fiercely, for her hand still
smarted, and 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 Nan, but the boys nudged one
another, and appeared to take the hint, for that time at least, and
passed the butter; said "please," and "thank you," "yes, sir," and
"no, ma'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 game, which evidently
sweetened her temper, for 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 day, she fretted
and fumed, and whipped her doll, till Daisy was shocked. She
managed to exist, however, till five o'clock, when she disappeared,
and was not missed till supper-time, because 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 Ann, coming in with the hasty-pudding, and finding
every one asking, "Where is Nan?"

"She has run home, little gypsy!" cried Mrs. Bhaer, looking
anxious.

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

'That is impossible, she does not know the way, and 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 longer, so I went and got it."

"But you did not know the way," said Tommy, while 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. Bhaer, joining 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. Bhaer, wiping 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. Bhaer, too 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. Bhaer, half 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. Jo, pointing to the merry
group, in the middle of which stood Nan, giving away her things
right and left, as lavishly as if the big band-box had no bottom.

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