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

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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 book, taught them to
love duty for its own sake, and try to do it faithfully, sure sooner or
later the recompense would come. Little Nan was quick to feel the
new atmosphere, to enjoy it, to show that it was what she needed;
for this little garden was full of sweet flowers, half hidden by the
weeds; and when kind hands gently began to cultivate it, all sorts
of green shoots sprung up, promising to blossom beautifully in the
warmth of love and care, the best climate for young hearts and
souls all the world over.

CHAPTER VIII PRANKS AND PLAYS

As there is no particular plan to this story, except to describe a few
scenes in the life at Plumfield for the amusement of certain little
persons, we 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 life, and that
the oddest are the truest; for no person, no matter how vivid an
imagination he may have, can 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 whims, and lived in a world of
their own, peopled with lovely or grotesque creatures, to whom
they gave the queerest names, and 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 Daisy, anxiously.

"A sackerryfice," answered Demi, solemnly. "There must be a fire
behind the big rock at two o'clock, and we must all bring the things
we like best, and burn them!" he added, with 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 Daisy, who 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 Demi, to 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 Daisy, and she ate her dinner with
a row of paper dolls before her, as a sort of farewell banquet.

At the appointed hour the sacrificial train set forth, each child
bearing the treasures demanded by the insatiable Kitty-mouse.
Teddy insisted on going also, and seeing that all the others had
toys, he tucked a squeaking lamb under one arm, and old
Annabella under the other, little dreaming what anguish the latter
idol was to give him.

"Where are you going, my chickens?" asked Mrs. Jo, as 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 Daisy, leading 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 blaze, as he had seen the
boys do at picnics. When the flame burned well, he 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 boat, and
then one by one the unhappy leaden soldiers marched to death. Not
one faltered or hung back, from 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-mouse, when his rich
offerings had been consumed, to the great satisfaction of the
children.

"My dear dollies, how can I let them go?" moaned Daisy, hugging
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 mamma, clutching her last in despair.

"More! more!" growled an awful voice, and Demi cried, "that's the
Kitty-mouse! she must have every one, quick, or she will scratch
us."

In went the precious blue belle, flounces, rosy hat, and all, and
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 Demi, who liked variety even
in his "sackerryfices."

Charmed by this suggestion, the children arranged the doomed
village, laid a line of coals along the main street, and then sat
down to watch the conflagration. It was somewhat slow to kindle
owing to the paint, but at last one ambitious little cottage blazed
up, fired a tree of the palm species, which fell on to the roof of a
large family mansion, and in a few minutes the whole town was
burning merrily. The wooden population stood and stared at the
destruction like blockheads, as they were, till they also caught and
blazed away without a cry. It took some time to reduce the town to
ashes, and the lookers-on enjoyed the spectacle immensely,
cheering as each house fell, dancing like wild Indians when the
steeple flamed aloft, and actually casting one wretched little
churn-shaped lady, who had escaped to the suburbs, into the very
heart of the fire.

The superb success of this last offering excited Teddy to such a
degree, that he first threw his lamb into the conflagration, and
before it had time even to roast, he planted poor Annabella on the
funeral pyre. Of course she did not like it, and expressed her
anguish and resentment in a way that terrified her infant destroyer.
Being covered with kid, she did not blaze, but did what was worse,
she squirmed. First one leg curled up, then the other, in 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 shoulders, her
glass eyes fell out, and 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 looked, then screamed and fled
toward the house, roaring "Marmar" at the top of his voice.

Mrs. Bhaer heard the outcry and ran to the rescue, but 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 mishap, his mother caught him up and hurried
to the scene of action, where 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 patiently, for the culprits looked so
penitent, she forgave them beforehand.

With some reluctance Demi explained their play, and Aunt Jo
laughed till the tears ran down her cheeks, the children were so
solemn, and 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
sinners, much 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 Daisy, to 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 Rob, with such intense interest that his mother
hastily added a warning sequel, lest 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 way, as 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
Annabella, and in the interest of the funeral Teddy forgot his
fright. Daisy was soon consoled by another batch of dolls from
Aunt Amy, and the Naughty Kitty-mouse seemed to be appeased
by the last offerings, for she tormented them no more.

"Brops" was the name of a new and absorbing play, invented by
Bangs. As this interesting animal is not to be found in any
Zoological Garden, unless Du Chaillu has recently brought one
from the wilds of Africa, I will mention a few of its peculiar habits
and traits, for the benefit of inquiring minds. The Brop is a winged
quadruped, with a human face of a youthful and merry aspect.
When it walks the earth it grunts, when it soars it gives a shrill
hoot, occasionally it goes erect, and talks good English. Its body is
usually covered with a substance much resembling a shawl,
sometimes red, sometimes blue, often plaid, and, strange 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 ground, as they usually fall with violence if
they attempt any lofty flights. They browse over the earth, but can
sit up and eat like the squirrel. Their favorite nourishment is the
seed-cake; apples also are freely taken, and sometimes raw carrots
are nibbled when food is scarce. They live in dens, where they
have a sort of nest, much like a clothes-basket, in which the little
Brops play till their wings are grown. These singular animals
quarrel at times, and it is on these occasions that they burst into
human speech, call each other names, cry, scold, and sometimes
tear off horns and skin, declaring fiercely that they "won't play."
The few privileged persons who have studied them are inclined to
think them a remarkable mixture of the monkey, the sphinx, the
roc, and the queer creatures seen by the famous Peter Wilkins.

This game was a great favorite, and 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 sure, it was rather hard upon clothes, particularly trouser-knees,
and jacket-elbows; but Mrs. Bhaer only said, as 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 garden, and sitting
in the willow-tree with his violin, for that green nest was a fairy
world to him, and there he loved to perch, making 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 Jo, but the trials of the poor lady were
quite original. Daisy was Mrs. S. S., and Nan by turns her daughter
or a neighbor, Mrs. Giddygaddy.

No pen can describe the adventures of these ladies, for in one short
afternoon their family was the scene of births, marriages, deaths,
floods, earthquakes, tea-parties, and balloon ascensions. Millions
of miles did these energetic women travel, dressed in hats and
habits never seen before by mortal eye, perched on the bed, driving
the posts like mettlesome steeds, and bouncing up and down till
their heads spun. Fits and fires were the pet afflictions, with a
general massacre now and then by way of change. Nan was never
tired of inventing fresh combinations, and Daisy followed her
leader with blind admiration. Poor Teddy was a frequent victim,
and was often rescued from real danger, for 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 dungeon, and
forgotten by the girls, who ran off to some out-of-door game.
Another time he was half drowned in the bath-tub, playing be a
"cunning little whale." And, worst of all, he 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 name, and it needed none, being the only one in the
neighborhood. The elder lads got it up, and the younger were
occasionally admitted if they behaved well. Tommy and Demi
were honorary members, but were always obliged to retire
unpleasantly early, owing to circumstances over which they had no
control. The proceedings of this club were somewhat peculiar, for
it met at all sorts of places and hours, had all manner of queer
ceremonies and amusements, and now and then was broken up
tempestuously, only to be re-established, however, on a firmer
basis.

Rainy evenings the members met in the schoolroom, and passed
the time in games: chess, morris, backgammon, fencing matches,
recitations, debates, or dramatic performances of a darkly tragical
nature. In summer the barn was the rendezvous, and what went on
there no uninitiated mortal knows. On sultry evenings the Club
adjourned to the brook for aquatic exercises, and the members sat
about in airy attire, frog-like and cool. On such occasions the
speeches were unusually eloquent, quite flowing, as one might say;
and if any orator's remarks displeased the audience, cold water was
thrown upon him till his ardor was effectually quenched. Franz
was president, and maintained order admirably, considering the
unruly nature of the members. Mr. Bhaer never interfered with
their affairs, and was rewarded for this wise forbearance by being
invited now and then to behold the mysteries unveiled, which he
appeared to enjoy much.

When Nan came she wished to join the Club, and caused great
excitement and division among the gentlemen by presenting
endless petitions, both written and spoken, disturbing their
solemnities by insulting them through the key-hole, performing
vigorous solos on the door, and writing up derisive remarks on
walls and fences, for she belonged to the "Irrepressibles." Finding
these appeals in vain, the girls, by the advice of Mrs. Jo, got up an
institution of their own, which they called the Cosy Club. To this
they magnanimously invited the gentlemen whose youth excluded
them from the other one, and entertained these favored beings so
well with little suppers, new games devised by Nan, and other
pleasing festivities, that, one by one, the elder boys confessed a
desire to partake of these more elegant enjoyments, and, after
much consultation, finally decided to propose an interchange of
civilities.

The members of the Cosy Club were invited to adorn the rival
establishment on certain evenings, and 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 Clubs, I fancy. The ladies responded handsomely
and hospitably to these overtures of peace, and 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 fiddle, so we can dance, and all the boys
must be good, or they cannot have any of the nice things we have
cooked."

This elegant invitation would, I fear, have been declined, but 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 Nat, after 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 ball, because 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 Daisy, with her maternal air, as 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 Nan, shaking her head over the little
cake-basket which she was arranging.

"Then I shall send him right home," said Daisy, with 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 properly, and had
given up trying.

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

"I am the mother, so I shan't dress up much," said Daisy, putting on
a night-cap ornamented with a red bow, one of her aunt's long
skirts, and a shawl; a pair of spectacles and large pocket
handkerchief completed her toilette, making a plump, rosy little
matron of her.

Nan had a wreath of artificial flowers, a pair of old pink slippers, a
yellow scarf, a green muslin skirt, and a fan made of feathers from
the duster; also, as a last touch of elegance, a 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 violently, while her mamma sat bolt upright on the
sofa, and tried to look quite calm and "proper." Little Bess, who
was on a visit, acted the part of maid, and opened the door, saying
with a smile, "Wart in, gemplemun; it's all weady."

In honor of the occasion, the boys wore high paper collars, tall
black hats, and gloves of every color and material, for they were an
afterthought, and not a boy among them had a perfect pair.

"Good day, mum," said Demi, in a deep voice, which was so hard
to keep up that his remarks had to be extremely brief.

Every one shook hands and then sat down, looking so funny, yet so
sober, that the gentlemen forgot their manners, and rolled in their
chairs with laughter.

"Oh, don't!" cried Mrs. Smith, much 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. Bangs, with 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 Nan, indignantly.

"I think we had better dance now. Did you bring your fiddle, sir?"
asked Mrs. Smith, trying to preserve her polite composure.

"It is outside the door," and Nat went to get it.

"Better have tea first," proposed the unabashed Tommy, winking
openly at Demi to remind him that the sooner the refreshments
were secured, the 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. Smith, so
sternly that her wild guests saw she was not to be trifled with, and
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 hostess, with a reproachful look
that sobered Tommy at once.

Nat struck up, and the ball opened with two couples, who went
conscientiously through a somewhat varied dance. The ladies did
well, because they liked it, but the gentlemen exerted themselves
from more selfish motives, for each felt that he must earn his
supper, and labored manfully toward that end. When every one
was out of breath they were allowed to rest; and, indeed, poor Mrs.
Smith needed it, for 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 name, because this mild beverage affected him so
much that he put cup and all into his mouth at the ninth round, and
choked himself publicly.

"You must ask Nan to play and sing now," said Daisy to her
brother, who sat looking very much like an owl, as he gravely
regarded the festive scene between his high collars.

"Give us a song, mum," said the obedient guest, secretly
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-desk, and sitting down before it,
accompanied herself with a vigor which made the old desk rattle
as she sang that new and lovely song, beginning

"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 song, till
they were obliged to hint that they had had enough. Grateful for
the praises bestowed upon her daughter, Mrs. 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 table, and 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;
and, worst of all, the custards were so soft that they had to be
drunk up, instead of being eaten elegantly with the new tin spoons.

I grieve to state that Miss Smith squabbled with the maid for the
best jumble, which 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 table, and the sugar-bowl to empty; but
during this flurry a large plate of patties was mysteriously lost, and
could not be found. They were the chief ornament of the feast, and
Mrs. Smith was indignant at the loss, for she had made them
herself, and 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,
salt, and water, with a large raisin in the middle of each, and much
sugar over the whole) swept away at one fell swoop?

"You hid them, Tommy; I know you did!" cried the outraged
hostess, threatening her suspected guest with the milk-pot.

"I didn't!"

"You did!"

"It isn't proper to contradict," said Nan, who 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 Nat, who found his first ball more exciting than he
expected.

Daisy was already weeping, Bess like a devoted servant mingled
her tears with those of her mistress, and Nan denounced the entire
race of boys as "plaguey things." Meanwhile the battle raged
among the gentlemen, for, when the two defenders of innocence
fell upon the foe, that hardened youth intrenched himself behind a
table and pelted them with the stolen tarts, which were very
effective missiles, being nearly as hard as bullets. While his
ammunition held out the besieged prospered, but the moment the
last patty flew over the parapet, the villain was seized, dragged
howling from the room, and cast upon the hall floor in an
ignominious heap. The conquerors then returned flushed with
victory, and while Demi consoled poor Mrs. Smith, Nat and Nan
collected the scattered tarts, replaced each raisin in its proper bed,
and rearranged the dish so that it really looked almost as well as
ever. But their glory had departed, for the sugar was gone, and no
one cared to eat them after the insult offered to them.

"I guess we had better go," said Demi, suddenly, as 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. Jo, shaking
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 Jo, soberly.

At this awful threat, Demi sidled up to his sister, and Daisy hastily
dried her tears, for 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 Nat, much ashamed.

"I ain't!" bawled Tommy through the keyhole, where he was
listening with all his might.

Mrs. Jo wanted very much to laugh, but kept her countenance, and
said impressively, as 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 retired, to be received
outside with derision and scorn by the unrepentant Bangs, who
would not associate with them for at least fifteen minutes. Daisy
was soon consoled for the failure of her ball, but lamented the
edict that parted her from her brother, and mourned over his
short-comings in her tender little heart. Nan rather enjoyed the
trouble, and went about turning up her pug nose at the three,
especially Tommy, who pretended not to care, and 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 loved, and every hour of
separation taught him the value of the "stupid girls."

The others gave in very soon, and longed to be friends, for now
there was no Daisy to pet and cook for them; no Nan to amuse and
doctor them; and, worst of all, no Mrs. Jo to make home life
pleasant and life easy for them. To their great affliction, Mrs. Jo
seemed to consider herself one of the offended girls, for she hardly
spoke to the outcasts, looked as if she did not see them when she
passed, and was always too busy now to attend to their requests.
This sudden and entire exile from favor cast a gloom over their
souls, for when Mother Bhaer deserted them, their sun had set at
noon-day, as it were, and they had no refuge left.

This unnatural state of things actually lasted for three days, then
they could bear it no longer, and fearing that the eclipse might
become total, went 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
it, and he gave the afflicted boys some advice, which they
gratefully accepted and carried out in the following manner:

Secluding themselves in the garret, they devoted several
play-hours to the manufacture of some mysterious machine, which
took so much paste that Asia grumbled, and the little girls
wondered mightily. Nan nearly got her inquisitive nose pinched in
the door, trying to see what was going on, and Daisy sat about,
openly lamenting that they could not all play nicely together, and
not have any dreadful secrets. Wednesday afternoon was fine, and
after a good deal of consultation about wind and weather, Nat and
Tommy went off, bearing an immense flat parcel hidden under
many newspapers. Nan nearly died with suppressed curiosity,
Daisy nearly cried with vexation, and both quite trembled with
interest when Demi marched into Mrs. Bhaer's room, hat in hand,
and said, in 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. Bhaer, with 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 Demi, with great earnestness.

"Thank you kindly, sir;" and Aunt Jo made him a grand curtsey, for
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 about, and 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 procession, and Mrs. Jo
brought up the rear, escorted by Kit. It was a most imposing party,
I assure you, for Toby had a red feather-duster in his head, two
remarkable flags waved over the carriage, Kit had a blue bow on
his neck, which nearly drove him wild, Demi wore a nosegay of
dandelions in his buttonhole, and 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
overboard, and when it was taken from him he prepared to tumble
out himself, evidently 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,

"Now, you all get out and stand still, and the surprise party with
come in;" with which remark he retired behind a rock, over which
heads had been bobbing at intervals for the last half-hour.

A short pause of intense suspense, and then Nat, Demi, and
Tommy marched forth, each bearing a new kite, which they
presented to the three young ladies. Shrieks of delight arose, but
were silenced by the boys, who said, with faces brimful of
merriment, "That isn't all the surprise;" and, running behind the
rock, again emerged bearing a fourth kite of superb size, on which
was printed, in bright yellow letters, "For Mother Bhaer."

"We thought you'd like one, too, because you were angry with us,
and took the girls' part," cried all three, shaking with laughter, for
this part of the affair evidently was a surprise to Mrs. Jo.

She clapped her hands, and joined in the laugh, looking thoroughly
tickled at the joke.

"Now, boys, that is regularly splendid! Who did think of it?" she
asked, receiving 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 Tommy, standing 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
devotion, as Demi took Daisy's, Tommy Nan's, and Nat, with
difficulty, persuaded Bess to let go her little blue one.

"Aunty, if you will wait a minute, we'll pitch yours for you," said
Demi, feeling 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. Jo, as the professor peeped
over the rock with a face full of fun.

He came out at once, tossed up the big kite, and Mrs. Jo ran off
with it in fine style, while the children stood and enjoyed the
spectacle. One by one all the kites went up, and floated far
overhead like gay birds, balancing themselves on the fresh breeze
that blew steadily over the hill. Such a merry time as they had!
running and shouting, sending up the kites or pulling them down,
watching their antics in the air, and feeling them tug at the string
like live creatures trying to escape. Nan was quite wild with the
fun, Daisy thought the new play nearly as interesting as dolls, and
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 Nat, as
they lay about on the grass, nibbling 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 Tommy, looking at Nan, who
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 Jo, putting on the
extinguisher.

"Well, I will, he knows about those things, and you don't," returned
Demi, feeling 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 Nat, for Mrs. Jo had
laughed as she spoke of it, and 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 Teddy, as 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. Jo, beginning to pull
in the big kite, for 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 Tommy, complacently.

"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 said, but they stole a shamefaced look at
one another, as they meekly shouldered their kites and walked
home, thinking of another party where the guests had not behaved
themselves, and things had gone badly on account of it.

CHAPTER X HOME AGAIN

July had come, and 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 night, and the lads lived out of
doors, except at school time. The lessons were short, and there
were many holidays, for the Bhaers believed in cultivating healthy
bodies by much exercise, and our short summers are best used in
out-of-door work. Such a rosy, sunburnt, hearty set as the boys
became; such appetites as they had; such sturdy arms and legs, as
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
Bhaers, as they saw their flock prospering in mind and body, I
cannot begin to describe. Only one thing was needed to make them
quite happy, and it came when they least expected it.

One balmy night when the little lads were in bed, the elder ones
bathing down at the brook, and Mrs. Bhaer undressing Teddy in
her parlor, he suddenly cried out, "Oh, my Danny!" and pointed to
the window, where 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 gone, and nowhere
appeared any signs of a mortal boy; she called his name, ran to the
front door with Teddy in his little shirt, and made him call too,
thinking the baby voice might have more effect than her own. No
one answered, nothing appeared , and they went back much
disappointed. Teddy would not be satisfied with the moon, and
after he was in his crib kept popping up his head to ask if Danny
was not "tummin' soon."

By and by he fell asleep, the lads trooped up to bed, the house
grew still, and nothing but the chirp of the crickets broke the soft
silence of the summer night. Mrs. Bhaer sat sewing, for the big
basket was always piled with socks, full of portentous holes, and
thinking of the lost boy. She had decided that baby had been
mistaken, and did not even disturb Mr. Bhaer by telling him of the
child's fancy, for the poor man got little time to himself till the
boys were abed, and 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 steps, something white caught her
eye on one of the hay-cocks scattered over the lawn. The children
had been playing there all the afternoon, and, fancying that Nan
had left her hat as usual, Mrs. Bhaer went out to get it. But as she
approached, she saw that it was neither hat nor handkerchief, but a
shirt sleeve with a brown hand sticking out of it. She hurried round
the hay-cock, and there lay Dan, fast asleep.

Ragged, dirty, thin, and worn-out he looked; one foot was bare, the
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-cock, but in his sleep had
thrown out the arm that had betrayed him. He sighed and muttered
as if his dreams disturbed him, and once when he moved, he
groaned as if in pain, but still slept on quite spent with weariness.

"He must not lie here," said Mrs. Bhaer, and stooping over him she
gently called his name. He opened his eyes and looked at her, as if
she was a part of his dream, for he smiled and said drowsily,
"Mother Bhaer, I've come home."

The look, the words, touched her very much, and she put her hand
under his head to lift him up, saying in her cordial way,

"I thought you would, and I'm so glad to see you, Dan." He seemed
to wake thoroughly then, and started up looking about him as if he
suddenly remembered where he was, and doubted even that kind
welcome. His face changed, and 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 said, fumbling with a little
bundle which he had taken up as if going immediately.

"Try and see," was all Mrs. Bhaer answered, holding out her hand
and pointing to the door, where the light shone hospitably.

With a long breath, as if a load was off his mind, Dan took up a
stout stick, and began to limp towards the house, but stopped
suddenly, to 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. Jo, as 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 room, and, once there, he
dropped into a chair, and laid his head back, white 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 gratitude, as he drank
the wine she held to his lips, and then began slowly to eat the food
she brought him. Each mouthful seemed to put heart into him, and
presently he began to talk as if anxious to have her know all about
him.

"Where have you been, Dan?" she asked, beginning 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 laughed, yet looked ashamed, as 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 look, as she knelt down to look at his wounded
foot.

The color came up into Dan's face, and he kept his eyes fixed on
his plate, as he said very low, "No, ma'am, I'm glad, I wanted to
stay, but I was afraid you "

He did not finish, for Mrs. Bhaer interrupted him by an
exclamation of pity, as she saw his foot, for 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 room, leaving the door ajar behind her, so 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 sound, as if Mrs. Jo thanked her husband
without words, and, in the instant's silence that followed, two great
tears that had slowly gathered in the boy's eyes brimmed over and
rolled down his dusty cheeks. No one saw them, for he brushed
them hastily away; but in that little pause I think Dan's old distrust
for these good people vanished for ever, the soft spot in his heart
was touched, and he felt an impetuous desire to prove himself
worthy of the love and pity that was so patient and forgiving. He
said nothing, he only wished the wish with all his might, resolved
to try in his blind boyish way, and sealed his resolution with the
tears which neither pain, fatigue, nor 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. Bhaer, laughing,
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 done, and both came
in together to find Dan's head down upon his arm, as if he was
quite overcome by sleep. But he looked up quickly, and 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 Dan, trying not to be gruff, and 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 foot, while Mrs. Jo
prepared the only empty bed in the house. It was in the little
guest-chamber leading from the parlor, and often used when the
lads were poorly, for 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 arms, and carried him in, helped him
undress, laid him on the little white bed, and left him with another
hand-shake, and a fatherly "Good-night, my son."

Dan dropped asleep at once, and slept heavily for several hours;
then his foot began to throb and ache, and he awoke to toss about
uneasily, trying not to groan lest any one should hear him, for he
was a brave lad, and 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 pain, Dan?"

"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 stuff, and a great mug of ice water.

"Oh, that's so nice!" sighed Dan, the 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 spoke, Mrs. Jo stooped to turn the pillow and smooth the
bed-clothes, when, to her great surprise, Dan put his arm around
her neck, drew her face down to his, and kissed her, with a broken
"Thank you, ma'am," which said more than the most eloquent
speech could have done; for the hasty kiss, the muttered words,
meant, "I'm sorry, I will try." She understood it, accepted the
unspoken confession, and did not spoil it by any token of surprise.
She only remembered that he had no mother, kissed the brown
cheek half hidden on the pillow, as if ashamed of the little touch of
tenderness, and left him, saying, what he long remembered, "You
are my boy now, and if you choose you can make me proud and
glad to say so."

Once again, just at dawn, she stole down to find him so fast asleep
that he did not wake, and showed no sign of consciousness as she
wet his foot, except that the lines of pain smoothed themselves
away, and left his face quite peaceful.

The day was Sunday, and the house so still that he never waked till
near noon, and, looking round him, saw an eager little face peering
in at the door. He held out his arms, and Teddy tore across the
room to cast himself bodily upon the bed, shouting, "My Danny's
tum!" as he hugged and wriggled with delight. Mrs. Bhaer
appeared next, bringing breakfast, and 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 quiet, for a week at least, and not let him
put his foot to the ground. By that time, I shall know whether he
may hop a little with a crutch, or 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 sometime, won't it?" he asked, looking alarmed at
the word "crutches."

"I hope so;" and with that the doctor departed, leaving 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. Jo, taking a
hopeful view of the case.

But the fear of being lame haunted Dan, and 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 visit, and 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 Dan, looking 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 beetles, and a handkerchief
containing a collection of odd things picked up on his way: birds'
eggs, carefully done up in moss, curious shells and stones, bits of
fungus, and several little crabs, in 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 Dan, forgetting his foot, and 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 rubbish, and thrown away.

Nat, Demi, and the cage arrived together, and the crabs were
settled in their new house, to the great delight of the boys, who, in
the excitement of the performance, forgot 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 now, for he cares so little for
books, it would be hard to amuse him while he is laid up; but the
boys can supply him with beetles and stones to any extent, and I
am glad to find out this taste of his; it is a good one, and may
perhaps prove the making of him. If he should turn out a great
naturalist, and Nat a musician, I 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 air, just as she used to do when a girl, only then
they were for herself, and now they were for other people, which 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 adventures, but Demi enjoyed the
beetles and butterflies immensely, drinking in the history of their
changeful little lives as if it were a new and lovely sort of fairy tale
for, even in his plain way, Dan told it well, and 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 rat, whose skin was among the treasures, that 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 established, and the house quiet, Mrs. Jo, who sat
near by showing Teddy pictures, said, in an interested tone, as 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. Jo, for 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 Dan, eagerly.

"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. Jo, slyly.

"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.
Jo, very gently; and then added, "Yes, 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 Dan, meekly, and looked a little scared by the
serious tone of the last remarks, for he hated books, yet 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 well, and had often seen nice bits of
string, nails, brown paper, and 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 Dan, sitting 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 Dan, looking 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 much, for it
showed that he felt and understood her wish and words, although
he did not know how to express his interest and gratitude for such
care and kindness. She understood the look, and seeing by the
color that flushed up to his forehead that he was touched, as she
wished him to be, she said no more about that side of the new
plan, but pulled out the upper drawer, dusted it, and set it on two
chairs before the sofa, saying 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 Dan, looking
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 hand, and 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 Demi, all out of breath.

Dan laughed at the toad, and said he had no place to put him, but
the butterfly was a beauty, and 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. Jo, getting 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 head, when the pale green wings fluttered an
instant, and then grew still.

This dainty little execution was hardly over when Teddy shouted
from the bedroom, "Oh, the little trabs are out, and the big one's
eaten 'em all up." Demi and his aunt ran to the rescue, and found
Teddy dancing excitedly in a chair, while two little crabs were
scuttling about the floor, having got through the wires of the cage.
A third was clinging to the top of the cage, evidently in terror of
his life, for below appeared a sad yet funny sight. The big crab had
wedged himself into the little recess where Polly's cup used to
stand, and there he sat eating one of his relations in the coolest
way. All the claws of the poor victim were pulled off, and he was
turned upside down, his upper shell held in one claw close under
the mouth of the big crab like a dish, while he leisurely ate out of
it with the other claw, pausing now and then to turn his queer
bulging eyes from side to side, and 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 sight, while 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 Dan, with 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 Demi, who found
them more interesting even that his beloved slow turtles. So Dan
gave him directions about the wants and habits of the crabs, and
Demi bore them away to introduce them to their new home and
neighbors. "What a good boy he is!" said Dan, carefully settling the
first butterfly, and 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
Dan, with a sigh, thinking of his neglected childhood, a thing he
seldom did, and 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 book, "The Crofton Boys," into his
hands, and left him for an hour, passing in and out from time to
time that he might not feel lonely. Dan did not love to read, but
soon got so interested that he was surprised when the boys came
home. Daisy brought him a nosegay of wild flowers, and Nan
insisted on helping bring him his supper, as he lay on the sofa with
the door open into the dining-room, so that he could see the lads at
table, and they could nod socially to him over their bread and
butter.

Mr. Bhaer carried him away to his bed early, and Teddy came in
his night-gown to say good-night, for 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 said, "Yes," the little fellow knelt down by Dan's bed,
and folding his chubby hands, said 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 done, the evening song sung, and
the house grew still with beautiful Sunday silence, Dan lay in his
pleasant room wide awake, thinking new thoughts, feeling new
hopes and desires stirring in his boyish heart, for 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
promise, Dan folded his hands together in the Darkness, and 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 one, for the hurt foot was very painful at times, the quiet days
were very wearisome to the active lad, longing to be out enjoying
the summer weather, and especially difficult was it to be patient.
But Dan did his best, and every one helped him in their various
ways; so the time passed, and he was rewarded at last by hearing
the doctor say, on 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 Nat, and raced away to tell the other boys the
good news.

Everybody was very glad, and 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 him, and
brightened up more and more every minute; for the boys came to
pay their respects, the little girls fussed about him with stools and
cushions, and 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 steps, when a carriage stopped at the gate, a hat
was waved from it, and 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 gate, and in a moment the carriage
drove up with boys swarming all over it, while Uncle Teddy sat
laughing in the midst, with his little daughter on his knee.

"Stop the triumphal car and let Jupiter descend," he said, and
jumping out ran up the steps to meet Mrs. Bhaer, who stood
smiling and clapping her hands like a girl.

"How goes it, Teddy?"

"All right, Jo."

Then they shook hands, and Mr. Laurie put Bess into her aunt's
arms, saying, as the child hugged her tight, "Goldilocks 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. Jo, as the lads crowded round the pretty child, admiring her
long golden hair, dainty dress, and lofty ways, for the little
"Princess," as they called her, allowed no one to kiss her, but sat
smiling down upon them, and graciously patting their heads with
her little, white hands. They all adored her, especially Rob, who
considered her a sort of doll, and dared not touch her lest she
should break, but worshipped her at a respectful distance, made
happy by an occasional mark of favor from her little highness. As
she immediately demanded to see Daisy's kitchen, she was borne
off by Mrs. Jo, with a train of small boys following. The others, all
but Nat and Demi, ran away to the menagerie and gardens to have
all in order; for Mr. Laurie always took a general survey, and
looked disappointed if things were not flourishing.

Standing on the steps, he turned to Dan, saying like an old
acquaintance, though 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 joke, and Dan looked delighted, but
asked, with 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 Demi, inquisitively.

"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
Nat, who 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 carriage, his foot on a cushion on the seat opposite,
nicely covered with a shawl, which fell down from the upper
regions in a most mysterious manner, just when they wanted it.
Demi climbed up to the box beside Peter, the black coachman. Nat
sat next Dan in the place of honor, while Uncle Teddy would sit
opposite, to take care of the foot, he said, but really that he might
study the faces before him both so happy, yet so different, for
Dan's was square, and brown, and strong, while Nat's was long,
and fair, and rather weak, but 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 party, diving under the seat and
producing a book which make Dan exclaim,

"Oh! by George, isn't that a stunner?" as he turned the leaves, and
saw fine plates of butterflies, and birds, and every sort of
interesting insect, colored like life. He was so charmed that he
forgot his thanks, but Mr. Laurie did not mind, and was quite
satisfied to see the boy's eager delight, and to hear this
exclamations over certain old friends as he came to them. Nat
leaned on his shoulder to look, and Demi turned his back to the
horses, and let his feet dangle inside the carriage, so that he might
join in the conversation.

When they got among the beetles, Mr. Laurie took a curious little
object out of his vest-pocket, and laying it in the palm of his hand,
said,

"There's a beetle that is thousands of years old;" and then, while
the lads examined the queer stone-bug, that looked so old and
gray, he told them how it came out of the wrappings of a mummy,
after lying for ages in a famous tomb. Finding them interested, he
went on to tell about the Egyptians, and the strange and splendid
ruins they have left behind them the Nile, and how he sailed up the
mighty river, with the handsome dark men to work his boat; how
he shot alligators, saw wonderful beasts and birds; and afterwards
crossed the desert on a camel, who pitched him about like a ship in
a storm.

"Uncle Teddy tells stories 'most as well as Grandpa," said Demi,
approvingly, when the tale was done, and the boys' eyes asked for
more.

"Thank you," said Mr. Laurie, quite soberly, for he considered
Demi's praise worth having, for children are good critics in such
cases, and 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 Demi, who 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 Dan, flattered by their attention, but rather
embarrassed by having a grown-up listener.

"What is wampum for?" asked curious Demi, from his perch.

The others asked questions likewise, and, before he knew it, Dan
was reeling off all Mr. Hyde had told him, as they sailed down the
river a few weeks before. Mr. Laurie listened well, but found the
boy more interesting than the Indians, for Mrs. Jo had told him
about Dan, and he rather took a fancy to the wild lad, who ran
away as he himself had often longed to do, and 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 eyes, the boys
laughed and nudged one another, for it was evident that some one
told tales out of school, else how could he know of the existence
of these inconvenient treasures.

"Where can we put them, then?" said Demi, crossing 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 Nat, while Dan smiled all over his face
and had not a word to say, but hugged his book, and 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 Peter, as 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;" and, having deposited Dan on his
sofa to rest and enjoy his book, Uncle 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-stairs, Mrs. Bhaer sat down
by Dan, and listened to his eager account of the drive till the flock
returned, dusty, warm, and 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. Laurie, sitting 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 lads, who 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
asked, turning to Dan, and changing the subject skilfully, for he
hated to be thanked for the generous things he did.

"I thought Franz was!" answered Dan, wondering 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 Nat, innocently.

"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,
for, in 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 added, looking very like the lively Jo of old times.

"We will! we will!" shouted the boys, throwing up their hats, for
though they had taken them off on entering the house, according to
rule, they 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 hand, every one
munching away in a social circle.

Suddenly, in the midst of a bite, Mr. Laurie cried out, "Bless my
heart, I forgot grandma's bundle!" and running out to the carriage,
returned with an interesting white parcel, which, being opened,
disclosed a choice collection of beasts, birds, and pretty things cut
out of crisp sugary cake, and 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."

Then, amid much laughing and fun, the cakes were distributed. A
fish for Dan, a fiddle for Nat, a book for Demi, a money for
Tommy, a flower for Daisy, a hoop for Nan, who had driven twice
round the triangle without stopping, a star for Emil, who put on
airs because he studied astronomy, and, best of all, an omnibus for
Franz, whose great delight was to drive the family bus. Stuffy got a
fat pig, and the little folks had birds, and cats, and rabbits, with
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 Teddy, when
the last crumb had vanished, which it speedily did, you may be
sure.

The young ladies had gone into the garden, and while they waited
till Franz looked them up, Jo and Laurie stood at the door talking
together.

"How does little Giddy-gaddy come on?" he asked, for Nan's
pranks amused him very much, and 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 pace, driving a
mettlesome team of four boys, and followed by Daisy trundling
Bess in a wheelbarrow. Hat off, hair flying, whip cracking, and
barrow bumping, up they came in a cloud of dust, looking 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. Laurie, laughing 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. Bhaer, joining 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 destruction, for the four horses were champing their
bits and curvetting madly all about her, as 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 princess, giving such a flourish with her
whip that the horses ran away, and 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. Jo, as the carriage
drove away; and the last Mr. Laurie saw of her, she was consoling
Daisy for her failure by a ride in the wheelbarrow, and looking as
if she liked it.

Great was the excitement all the week about the repairs in the

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