“He made me do the same thing once,” said Emil, as if confessing a crime of the deepest dye.
“And you hit him? dear old Father Bhaer? By thunder, I’d just like to see you do it now!” said Ned, collaring Emil in a fit of righteous wrath.
“It was ever so long ago. I’d rather have my head cut off than do it now,” and Emil mildly laid Ned on his back instead of cuffing him, as he would have felt it his duty to do on any less solemn occasion.
“How could you?” said Demi, appalled at the idea.
“I was hopping mad at the time, and thought I shouldn’t mind a bit, rather like it perhaps. But when I’d hit uncle one good crack, everything he had ever done for me came into my head all at once somehow, and I couldn’t go on. No sir! If he’d laid me down and walked on me, I wouldn’t have minded, I felt so mean,” and Emil gave himself a good thump in the chest to express his sense of remorse for the past.
“Nat’s crying like anything, and feels no end sorry, so don’t let’s say a word about it; will we?” said tender-hearted Tommy.
“Of course we won’t, but it’s awful to tell lies,” and Demi looked as if he found the awfulness much increased when the punishment fell not upon the sinner, but his best Uncle Fritz.
“Suppose we all clear out, so Nat can cut upstairs if he wants to,” proposed Franz, and led the way to the barn, their refuge in troublous times.
Nat did not come to dinner, but Mrs. Jo took some up to him, and said a tender word, which did him good, though he could not look at her. By and by the lads playing outside heard the violin, and said among themselves: “He’s all right now.” He was all right, but felt shy about going down, till opening his door to slip away into the woods, he found Daisy sitting on the stairs with neither work nor doll, only her little handkerchief in her hand, as if she had been mourning for her captive friend.
“I’m going to walk; want to come?” asked Nat, trying to look as if nothing was the matter, yet feeling very grateful for her silent sympathy, because he fancied everyone must look upon him as a wretch.
“Oh yes!” and Daisy ran for her hat, proud to be chosen as a companion by one of the big boys.
The others saw them go, but no one followed, for boys have a great deal more delicacy than they get credit for, and the lads instinctively felt that, when in disgrace, gentle little Daisy was their most congenial friend.
The walk did Nat good, and he came home quieter than usual, but looking cheerful again, and hung all over with daisy-chains made by his little playmate while he lay on the grass and told her stories.
No one said a word about the scene of the morning, but its effect was all the more lasting for that reason, perhaps. Nat tried his very best, and found much help, not only from the earnest little prayers he prayed to his Friend in heaven, but also in the patient care of the earthly friend whose kind hand he never touched without remembering that it had willingly borne pain for his sake.
CHAPTER V PATTYPANS
“What’s the matter, Daisy?”
“The boys won’t let me play with them.”
“They say girls can’t play football.”
“They can, for I’ve done it!” and Mrs. Bhaer laughed at the remembrance of certain youthful frolics.
“I know I can play; Demi and I used to, and have nice times, but he won’t let me now because the other boys laugh at him,” and Daisy looked deeply grieved at her brother’s hardness of heart.
“On the whole, I think he is right, deary. It’s all very well when you two are alone, but it is too rough a game for you with a dozen boys; so I’d find some nice little play for myself.”
“I’m tired of playing alone!” and Daisy’s tone was very mournful.
“I’ll play with you by and by, but just now I must fly about and get things ready for a trip into town. You shall go with me and see mamma, and if you like you can stay with her.”
“I should like to go and see her and Baby Josy, but I’d rather come back, please. Demi would miss me, and I love to be here, Aunty.”
“You can’t get on without your Demi, can you?” and Aunt Jo looked as if she quite understood the love of the little girl for her only brother.
“‘Course I can’t; we’re twins, and so we love each other more than other people,” answered Daisy, with a brightening face, for she considered being a twin one of the highest honors she could ever receive.
“Now, what will you do with your little self while I fly around?” asked Mrs. Bhaer, who was whisking piles of linen into a wardrobe with great rapidity.
“I don’t know, I’m tired of dolls and things; I wish you’d make up a new play for me, Aunty Jo,” said Daisy, swinging listlessly on the door.
“I shall have to think of a brand new one, and it will take me some time; so suppose you go down and see what Asia has got for your lunch,” suggested Mrs. Bhaer, thinking that would be a good way in which to dispose of the little hindrance for a time.
“Yes, I think I’d like that, if she isn’t cross,” and Daisy slowly departed to the kitchen, where Asia, the black cook, reigned undisturbed.
In five minutes, Daisy was back again, with a wide-awake face, a bit of dough in her hand and a dab of flour on her little nose.
“Oh aunty! Please could I go and make gingersnaps and things? Asia isn’t cross, and she says I may, and it would be such fun, please do,” cried Daisy, all in one breath.
“Just the thing, go and welcome, make what you like, and stay as long as you please,” answered Mrs. Bhaer, much relieved, for sometimes the one little girl was harder to amuse than the dozen boys.
Daisy ran off, and while she worked, Aunt Jo racked her brain for a new play. All of a sudden she seemed to have an idea, for she smiled to herself, slammed the doors of the wardrobe, and walked briskly away, saying, “I’ll do it, if it’s a possible thing!”
What it was no one found out that day, but Aunt Jo’s eyes twinkled so when she told Daisy she had thought of a new play, and was going to buy it, that Daisy was much excited and asked questions all the way into town, without getting answers that told her anything. She was left at home to play with the new baby, and delight her mother’s eyes, while Aunt Jo went off shopping. When she came back with all sorts of queer parcels in corners of the carry-all, Daisy was so full of curiosity that she wanted to go back to Plumfield at once. But her aunt would not be hurried, and made a long call in mamma’s room, sitting on the floor with baby in her lap, making Mrs. Brooke laugh at the pranks of the boys, and all sorts of droll nonsense.
How her aunt told the secret Daisy could not imagine, but her mother evidently knew it, for she said, as she tied on the little bonnet and kissed the rosy little face inside, “Be a good child, my Daisy, and learn the nice new play aunty has got for you. It’s a most useful and interesting one, and it is very kind of her to play it with you, because she does not like it very well herself.”
This last speech made the two ladies laugh heartily, and increased Daisy’s bewilderment. As they drove away something rattled in the back of the carriage.
“What’s that?” asked Daisy, pricking up her ears.
“The new play,” answered Mrs. Jo, solemnly.
“What is it made of?” cried Daisy.
“Iron, tin, wood, brass, sugar, salt, coal, and a hundred other things.”
“How strange! What color is it?”
“All sorts of colors.”
“Is it large?”
“Part of it is, and a part isn’t.”
“Did I ever see one?”
“Ever so many, but never one so nice as this.”
“Oh! what can it be? I can’t wait. When shall I see it?” and Daisy bounced up and down with impatience.
“To-morrow morning, after lessons.”
“Is it for the boys, too?”
“No, all for you and Bess. The boys will like to see it, and want to play one part of it. But you can do as you like about letting them.”
“I’ll let Demi, if he wants to.”
“No fear that they won’t all want to, especially Stuffy,” and Mrs. Bhaer’s eyes twinkled more than ever as she patted a queer knobby bundle in her lap.
“Let me feel just once,” prayed Daisy.
“Not a feel; you’d guess in a minute and spoil the fun.”
Daisy groaned and then smiled all over her face, for through a little hole in the paper she caught a glimpse of something bright.
“How can I wait so long? Couldn’t I see it today?”
“Oh dear, no! It has got to be arranged, and ever so many parts fixed in their places. I promised Uncle Teddy that you shouldn’t see it till it was all in apple-pie order.”
“If uncle knows about it then it must be splendid!” cried Daisy, clapping her hands; for this kind, rich, jolly uncle of hers was as good as a fairy godmother to the children, and was always planning merry surprises, pretty gifts, and droll amusements for them.
“Yes; Teddy went and bought it with me, and we had such fun in the shop choosing the different parts. He would have everything fine and large, and my little plan got regularly splendid when he took hold. You must give him your very best kiss when he comes, for he is the kindest uncle that ever went and bought a charming little coo Bless me! I nearly told you what it was!” and Mrs. Bhaer cut that most interesting word short off in the middle, and began to look over her bills, as if afraid she would let the cat out of the bag if she talked any more. Daisy folded her hands with an air of resignation, and sat quite still trying to think what play had a “coo” in it.
When they got home she eyed every bundle that was taken out, and one large heavy one, which Franz took straight upstairs and hid in the nursery, filled her with amazement and curiosity. Something very mysterious went on up there that afternoon, for Franz was hammering, and Asia trotting up and down, and Aunt Jo flying around like a will-o’-the-wisp, with all sort of things under her apron, while little Ted, who was the only child admitted, because he couldn’t talk plain, babbled and laughed, and tried to tell what the “sumpin pitty” was.
All this made Daisy half-wild, and her excitement spread among the boys, who quite overwhelmed Mother Bhaer with offers of assistance, which she declined by quoting their own words to Daisy:
“Girls can’t play with boys. This is for Daisy, and Bess, and me, so we don’t want you.” Whereupon the young gentlemen meekly retired, and invited Daisy to a game of marbles, horse, football, anything she liked, with a sudden warmth and politeness which astonished her innocent little soul.
Thanks to these attentions, she got through the afternoon, went early to bed, and next morning did her lessons with an energy which made Uncle Fritz wish that a new game could be invented every day. Quite a thrill pervaded the school-room when Daisy was dismissed at eleven o’clock, for everyone knew that now she was going to have the new and mysterious play.
Many eyes followed her as she ran away, and Demi’s mind was so distracted by this event that when Franz asked him where the desert of Sahara was, he mournfully replied, “In the nursery,” and the whole school laughed at him.
“Aunt Jo, I’ve done all my lessons, and I can’t wait one single minute more!” cried Daisy, flying into Mrs. Bhaer’s room.
“It’s all ready, come on;” and tucking Ted under one arm, and her workbasket under the other, Aunt Jo promptly led the way upstairs.
“I don’t see anything,” said Daisy, staring about her as she got inside the nursery door.
“Do you hear anything?” asked Aunt Jo, catching Ted back by his little frock as he was making straight for one side of the room.
Daisy did hear an odd crackling, and then a purry little sound as of a kettle singing. These noises came from behind a curtain drawn before a deep bay window. Daisy snatched it back, gave one joyful, “Oh!” and then stood gazing with delight at what do you think?
A wide seat ran round the three sides of the window; on one side hung and stood all sorts of little pots and pans, gridirons and skillets; on the other side a small dinner and tea set; and on the middle part a cooking-stove. Not a tin one, that was of no use, but a real iron stove, big enough to cook for a large family of very hungry dolls. But the best of it was that a real fire burned in it, real steam came out of the nose of the little tea-kettle, and the lid of the little boiler actually danced a jig, the water inside bubbled so hard. A pane of glass had been taken out and replaced by a sheet of tin, with a hole for the small funnel, and real smoke went sailing away outside so naturally, that it did one’s heart good to see it. The box of wood with a hod of charcoal stood near by; just above hung dust-pan, brush and broom; a little market basket was on the low table at which Daisy used to play, and over the back of her little chair hung a white apron with a bib, and a droll mob cap. The sun shone in as if he enjoyed the fun, the little stove roared beautifully, the kettle steamed, the new tins sparkled on the walls, the pretty china stood in tempting rows, and it was altogether as cheery and complete a kitchen as any child could desire.
Daisy stood quite still after the first glad “Oh!” but her eyes went quickly from one charming object to another, brightening as they looked, till they came to Aunt Jo’s merry face; there they stopped as the happy little girl hugged her, saying gratefully:
“Oh aunty, it’s a splendid new play! Can I really cook at the dear stove, and have parties and mess, and sweep, and make fires that truly burn? I like it so much! What made you think of it?”
“Your liking to make gingersnaps with Asia made me think of it,” said Mrs. Bhaer, holding Daisy, who frisked as if she would fly. “I knew Asia wouldn’t let you mess in her kitchen very often, and it wouldn’t be safe at this fire up here, so I thought I’d see if I could find a little stove for you, and teach you to cook; that would be fun, and useful too. So I travelled round among the toy shops, but everything large cost too much and I was thinking I should have to give it up, when I met Uncle Teddy. As soon as he knew what I was about, he said he wanted to help, and insisted on buying the biggest toy stove we could find. I scolded, but he only laughed, and teased me about my cooking when we were young, and said I must teach Bess as well as you, and went on buying all sorts of nice little things for my ‘cooking class’ as he called it.”
“I’m so glad you met him!” said Daisy, as Mrs. Jo stopped to laugh at the memory of the funny time she had with Uncle Teddy.
“You must study hard and learn to make all kinds of things, for he says he shall come out to tea very often, and expects something uncommonly nice.”
“It’s the sweetest, dearest kitchen in the world, and I’d rather study with it than do anything else. Can’t I learn pies, and cake, and macaroni, and everything?” cried Daisy, dancing round the room with a new saucepan in one hand and the tiny poker in the other.
“All in good time. This is to be a useful play, I am to help you, and you are to be my cook, so I shall tell you what to do, and show you how. Then we shall have things fit to eat, and you will be really learning how to cook on a small scale. I’ll call you Sally, and say you are a new girl just come,” added Mrs. Jo, settling down to work, while Teddy sat on the floor sucking his thumb, and staring at the stove as if it was a live thing, whose appearance deeply interested him.
“That will be so lovely! What shall I do first?” asked Sally, with such a happy face and willing air that Aunt Jo wished all new cooks were half as pretty and pleasant.
“First of all, put on this clean cap and apron. I am rather old-fashioned, and I like my cook to be very tidy.”
Sally tucked her curly hair into the round cap, and put on the apron without a murmur, though usually she rebelled against bibs.
“Now, you can put things in order, and wash up the new china. The old set needs washing also, for my last girl was apt to leave it in a sad state after a party.”
Aunt Jo spoke quite soberly, but Sally laughed, for she knew who the untidy girl was who had left the cups sticky. Then she turned up her cuffs, and with a sigh of satisfaction began to stir about her kitchen, having little raptures now and then over the “sweet rolling pin,” the “darling dish-tub,” or the “cunning pepper-pot.”
“Now, Sally, take your basket and go to market; here is the list of things I want for dinner,” said Mrs. Jo, giving her a bit of paper when the dishes were all in order.
“Where is the market?” asked Daisy, thinking that the new play got more and more interesting every minute.
“Asia is the market.”
Away went Sally, causing another stir in the schoolroom as she passed the door in her new costume, and whispered to Demi, with a face full of delight, “It’s a perfectly splendid play!”
Old Asia enjoyed the joke as much as Daisy, and laughed jollily as the little girl came flying into the room with her cap all on one side, the lids of her basket rattling like castanets and looking like a very crazy little cook.
“Mrs. Aunt Jo wants these things, and I must have them right away,” said Daisy, importantly.
‘Let’s see, honey; here’s two pounds of steak, potatoes, squash, apples, bread, and butter. The meat ain’t come yet; when it does I’ll send it up. The other things are all handy.”
Then Asia packed one potato, one apple, a bit of squash, a little pat of butter, and a roll, into the basket, telling Sally to be on the watch for the butcher’s boy, because he sometimes played tricks.
“Who is he?” and Daisy hoped it would be Demi.
“You’ll see,” was all Asia would say; and Sally went off in great spirits, singing a verse from dear Mary Howitt’s sweet story in rhyme:
“Away went little Mabel,
With the wheaten cake so fine,
The new-made pot of butter,
And the little flask of wine.”
“Put everything but the apple into the store-closet for the present,” said Mrs. Jo, when the cook got home.
There was a cupboard under the middle shelf, and on opening the door fresh delights appeared. One half was evidently the cellar, for wood, coal, and kindlings were piled there. The other half was full of little jars, boxes, and all sorts of droll contrivances for holding small quantities of flour, meal, sugar, salt, and other household stores. A pot of jam was there, a little tin box of gingerbread, a cologne bottle full of currant wine, and a tiny canister of tea. But the crowning charm was two doll’s pans of new milk, with cream actually rising on it, and a wee skimmer all ready to skim it with. Daisy clasped her hands at this delicious spectacle, and wanted to skim it immediately. But Aunt Jo said:
“Not yet; you will want the cream to eat on your apple pie at dinner, and must not disturb it till then.”
“Am I going to have pie?” cried Daisy, hardly believing that such bliss could be in store for her.
“Yes; if your oven does well we will have two pies, one apple and one strawberry,” said Mrs. Jo, who was nearly as much interested in the new play as Daisy herself.
“Oh, what next?” asked Sally, all impatience to begin.
“Shut the lower draught of the stove, so that the oven may heat. Then wash your hands and get out the flour, sugar, salt, butter, and cinnamon. See if the pie-board is clean, and pare your apple ready to put in.”
Daisy got things together with as little noise and spilling as could be expected, from so young a cook.
“I really don’t know how to measure for such tiny pies; I must guess at it, and if these don’t succeed, we must try again,” said Mrs. Jo, looking rather perplexed, and very much amused with the small concern before her. “Take that little pan full of flour, put in a pinch of salt, and then rub in as much butter as will go on that plate. Always remember to put your dry things together first, and then the wet. It mixes better so.”
“I know how; I saw Asia do it. Don’t I butter the pie plates too? She did, the first thing,” said Daisy, whisking the flour about at a great rate.
“Quite right! I do believe you have a gift for cooking, you take to it so cleverly,” said Aunt Jo, approvingly. “Now a dash of cold water, just enough to wet it; then scatter some flour on the board, work in a little, and roll the paste out; yes, that’s the way. Now put dabs of butter all over it, and roll it out again. We won’t have our pastry very rich, or the dolls will get dyspeptic.”
Daisy laughed at the idea, and scattered the dabs with a liberal hand. Then she rolled and rolled with her delightful little pin, and having got her paste ready proceeded to cover the plates with it. Next the apple was sliced in, sugar and cinnamon lavishly sprinkled over it, and then the top crust put on with breathless care.
“I always wanted to cut them round, and Asia never would let me. How nice it is to do it all my ownty donty self!” said Daisy, as the little knife went clipping round the doll’s plate poised on her hand.
All cooks, even the best, meet with mishaps sometimes, and Sally’s first one occurred then, for the knife went so fast that the plate slipped, turned a somersault in the air, and landed the dear little pie upside down on the floor. Sally screamed, Mrs. Jo laughed, Teddy scrambled to get it, and for a moment confusion reigned in the new kitchen.
“It didn’t spill or break, because I pinched the edges together so hard; it isn’t hurt a bit, so I’ll prick holes in it, and then it will be ready,” said Sally, picking up the capsized treasure and putting it into shape with a child-like disregard of the dust it had gathered in its fall.
“My new cook has a good temper, I see, and that is such a comfort,” said Mrs. Jo. “Now open the jar of strawberry jam, fill the uncovered pie, and put some strips of paste over the top as Asia does.”
“I’ll make a D in the middle, and have zigzags all round, that will be so interesting when I come to eat it,” said Sally, loading the pie with quirls and flourishes that would have driven a real pastry cook wild. “Now I put them in!” she exclaimed; when the last grimy knob had been carefully planted in the red field of jam, and with an air of triumph she shut them into the little oven.
“Clear up your things; a good cook never lets her utensils collect. Then pare your squash and potatoes.”
“There is only one potato,” giggled Sally.
“Cut it in four pieces, so it will go into the little kettle, and put the bits into cold water till it is time to cook them.”
“Do I soak the squash too?”
“No, indeed! Just pare it and cut it up, and put in into the steamer over the pot. It is drier so, though it takes longer to cook.”
Here a scratching at the door caused Sally to run and open it, when Kit appeared with a covered basket in his mouth.
“Here’s the butcher boy!” cried Daisy, much tickled at the idea, as she relieved him of his load, whereat he licked his lips and began to beg, evidently thinking that it was his own dinner, for he often carried it to his master in that way. Being undeceived, he departed in great wrath and barked all the way downstairs, to ease his wounded feelings.
In the basket were two bits of steak (doll’s pounds), a baked pear, a small cake, and paper with them on which Asia had scrawled, “For Missy’s lunch, if her cookin’ don’t turn out well.”
“I don’t want any of her old pears and things; my cooking will turn out well, and I’ll have a splendid dinner; see if I don’t!” cried Daisy, indignantly.
“We may like them if company should come. It is always well to have something in the storeroom,” said Aunt Jo, who had been taught this valuable fact by a series of domestic panics.
“Me is hundry,” announced Teddy, who began to think what with so much cooking going on it was about time for somebody to eat something. His mother gave him her workbasket to rummage, hoping to keep him quiet till dinner was ready, and returned to her housekeeping.
“Put on your vegetables, set the table, and then have some coals kindling ready for the steak.”
What a thing it was to see the potatoes bobbing about in the little pot; to peep at the squash getting soft so fast in the tiny steamer; to whisk open the oven door every five minutes to see how the pies got on, and at last when the coals were red and glowing, to put two real steaks on a finger-long gridiron and proudly turn them with a fork. The potatoes were done first, and no wonder, for they had boiled frantically all the while. The were pounded up with a little pestle, had much butter and no salt put in (cook forgot it in the excitement of the moment), then it was made into a mound in a gay red dish, smoothed over with a knife dipped in milk, and put in the oven to brown.
So absorbed in these last performances had Sally been, that she forgot her pastry till she opened the door to put in the potato, then a wail arose, for alas! alas! the little pies were burnt black!
“Oh, my pies! My darling pies! They are all spoilt!” cried poor Sally, wringing her dirty little hands as she surveyed the ruin of her work. The tart was especially pathetic, for the quirls and zigzags stuck up in all directions from the blackened jelly, like the walls and chimney of a house after a fire.
“Dear, dear, I forgot to remind you to take them out; it’s just my luck,” said Aunt Jo, remorsefully. “Don’t cry, darling, it was my fault; we’ll try again after dinner,” she added, as a great tear dropped from Sally’s eyes and sizzled on the hot ruins of the tart.
More would have followed, if the steak had not blazed up just then, and so occupied the attention of cook, that she quickly forgot the lost pastry.
“Put the meat-dish and your own plates down to warm, while you mash the squash with butter, salt, and a little pepper on the top,” said Mrs. Jo, devoutly hoping that the dinner would meet with no further disasters.
The “cunning pepper-pot” soothed Sally’s feelings, and she dished up her squash in fine style. The dinner was safely put upon the table; the six dolls were seated three on a side; Teddy took the bottom, and Sally the top. When all were settled, it was a most imposing spectacle, for one doll was in full ball costume, another in her night-gown; Jerry, the worsted boy, wore his red winter suit, while Annabella, the noseless darling, was airily attired in nothing but her own kid skin. Teddy, as father of the family, behaved with great propriety, for he smilingly devoured everything offered him, and did not find a single fault. Daisy beamed upon her company like the weary, warm, but hospitable hostess so often to be seen at larger tables than this, and did the honors with an air of innocent satisfaction, which we do not often see elsewhere.
The steak was so tough that the little carving-knife would not cut it; the potato did not go round, and the squash was very lumpy; but the guests appeared politely unconscious of these trifles; and the master and mistress of the house cleared the table with appetites that anyone might envy them. The joy of skimming a jug-full of cream mitigated the anguish felt for the loss of the pies, and Asia’s despised cake proved a treasure in the way of dessert.
“That is the nicest lunch I ever had; can’t I do it every day?” asked Daisy as she scraped up and ate the leavings all round.
“You can cook things every day after lessons, but I prefer that you should eat your dishes at your regular meals, and only have a bit of gingerbread for lunch. To-day, being the first time, I don’t mind, but we must keep our rules. This afternoon you can make something for tea if you like,” said Mrs. Jo, who had enjoyed the dinner-party very much, though no one had invited her to partake.
“Do let me make flapjacks for Demi, he loves them so, and it’s such fun to turn them and put sugar in between,” cried Daisy, tenderly wiping a yellow stain off Annabella’s broken nose, for Bella had refused to eat squash when it was pressed upon her as good for “lumatism,” a complaint which it is no wonder she suffered from, considering the lightness of her attire.
“But if you give Demi goodies, all the others will expect some also, and then you will have your hands full.”
“Couldn’t I have Demi come up to tea alone just this one time? And after that I could cook things for the others if they were good,” proposed Daisy, with a sudden inspiration.
“That is a capital idea, Posy! We will make your little messes rewards for the good boys, and I don’t know one among them who would not like something nice to eat more than almost anything else. If little men are like big ones, good cooking will touch their hearts and soothe their tempers delightfully,” added Aunt Jo, with a merry nod toward the door, where stood Papa Bhaer, surveying the scene with a face full of amusement.
“That last hit was for me, sharp woman. I accept it, for it is true; but if I had married thee for thy cooking, heart’s dearest, I should have fared badly all these years,” answered the professor, laughing as he tossed Teddy, who became quite apoplectic in his endeavors to describe the feast he had just enjoyed.
Daisy proudly showed her kitchen, and rashly promised Uncle Fritz as many flapjacks as he could eat. She was just telling about the new rewards when the boys, headed by Demi, burst into the room snuffing the air like a pack of hungry hounds, for school was out, dinner was not ready, and the fragrance of Daisy’s steak led them straight to the spot.
A prouder little damsel was never seen than Sally as she displayed her treasures and told the lads what was in store for them. Several rather scoffed at the idea of her cooking anything fit to eat, but Stuffy’s heart was won at once. Nat and Demi had firm faith in her skill, and the others said they would wait and see. All admired the kitchen, however, and examined the stove with deep interest. Demi offered to buy the boiler on the spot, to be used in a steam-engine which he was constructing; and Ned declared that the best and biggest saucepan was just the thing to melt his lead in when he ran bullets, hatchets, and such trifles.
Daisy looked so alarmed at these proposals, that Mrs. Jo then and there made and proclaimed a law that no boy should touch, use, or even approach the sacred stove without a special permit from the owner thereof. This increased its value immensely in the eyes of the gentlemen, especially as any infringement of the law would be punished by forfeiture of all right to partake of the delicacies promised to the virtuous.
At this point the bell rang, and the entire population went down to dinner, which meal was enlivened by each of the boys giving Daisy a list of things he would like to have cooked for him as fast as he earned them. Daisy, whose faith in her stove was unlimited, promised everything, if Aunt Jo would tell her how to make them. This suggestion rather alarmed Mrs. Jo, for some of the dishes were quite beyond her skill wedding-cake, for instance, bull’s-eye candy; and cabbage soup with herrings and cherries in it, which Mr. Bhaer proposed as his favorite, and immediately reduced his wife to despair, for German cookery was beyond her.
Daisy wanted to begin again the minute dinner was done, but she was only allowed to clear up, fill the kettle ready for tea, and wash out her apron, which looked as if she had a Christmas feast. She was then sent out to play till five o’clock, for Uncle Fritz said that too much study, even at cooking stoves, was bad for little minds and bodies, and Aunt Jo knew by long experience how soon new toys lose their charm if they are not prudently used.
Everyone was very kind to Daisy that afternoon. Tommy promised her the first fruits of his garden, though the only visible crop just then was pigweed; Nat offered to supply her with wood, free of charge; Stuffy quite worshipped her; Ned immediately fell to work on a little refrigerator for her kitchen; and Demi, with a punctuality beautiful to see in one so young, escorted her to the nursery just as the clock struck five. It was not time for the party to begin, but he begged so hard to come in and help that he was allowed privileges few visitors enjoy, for he kindled the fire, ran errands, and watched the progress of his supper with intense interest. Mrs. Jo directed the affair as she came and went, being very busy putting up clean curtains all over the house.
“Ask Asia for a cup of sour cream, then your cakes will be light without much soda, which I don’t like,” was the first order.
Demi tore downstairs, and returned with the cream, also a puckered-up face, for he had tasted it on his way, and found it so sour that he predicted the cakes would be uneatable. Mrs. Jo took this occasion to deliver a short lecture from the step-ladder on the chemical properties of soda, to which Daisy did not listen, but Demi did, and understood it, as he proved by the brief but comprehensive reply:
“Yes, I see, soda turns sour things sweet, and the fizzling up makes them light. Let’s see you do it, Daisy.”
“Fill that bowl nearly full of flour and add a little salt to it,” continued Mrs. Jo.
“Oh dear, everything has to have salt in it, seems to me,” said Sally, who was tired of opening the pill-box in which it was kept.
“Salt is like good-humor, and nearly every thing is better for a pinch of it, Posy,” and Uncle Fritz stopped as he passed, hammer in hand, to drive up two or three nails for Sally’s little pans to hang on.
“You are not invited to tea, but I’ll give you some cakes, and I won’t be cross,” said Daisy, putting up her floury little face to thank him with a kiss.
“Fritz, you must not interrupt my cooking class, or I’ll come in and moralize when you are teaching Latin. How would you like that?” said Mrs. Jo, throwing a great chintz curtain down on his head.
“Very much, try it and see,” and the amiable Father Bhaer went singing and tapping about the house like a mammoth woodpecker.
“Put the soda into the cream, and when it ‘fizzles,’ as Demi says, stir it into the flour, and beat it up as hard as ever you can. Have your griddle hot, butter it well, and then fry away till I come back,” and Aunt Jo vanished also.
Such a clatter as the little spoon made, and such a beating as the batter got, it quite foamed, I assure you; and when Daisy poured some on to the griddle, it rose like magic into a puffy flapjack that made Demi’s mouth water. To be sure, the first one stuck and scorched, because she forgot the butter, but after that first failure all went well, and six capital little cakes were safely landed in a dish.
“I think I like maple-syrup better than sugar,” said Demi, from his arm-chair where he had settled himself after setting the table in a new and peculiar manner.
“Then go and ask Asia for some,” answered Daisy, going into the bath-room to wash her hands.
While the nursery was empty something dreadful happened. You see, Kit had been feeling hurt all day because he had carried meat safely and yet got none to pay him. He was not a bad dog, but he had his little faults like the rest of us, and could not always resist temptation. Happening to stroll into the nursery at that moment, he smelt the cakes, saw them unguarded on the low table, and never stopping to think of consequences, swallowed all six at one mouthful. I am glad to say that they were very hot, and burned him so badly that he could not repress a surprised yelp. Daisy heard it, ran in, saw the empty dish, also the end of a yellow tail disappearing under the bed. Without a word she seized that tail, pulled out the thief, and shook him till his ears flapped wildly, then bundled him down-stairs to the shed, where he spent a lonely evening in the coal-bin.
Cheered by the sympathy which Demi gave her, Daisy made another bowlful of batter, and fried a dozen cakes, which were even better than the others. Indeed, Uncle Fritz after eating two sent up word that he had never tasted any so nice, and every boy at the table below envied Demi at the flapjack party above.
It was a truly delightful supper, for the little teapot lid only fell off three times and the milk jug upset but once; the cakes floated in syrup, and the toast had a delicious beef-steak flavor, owing to cook’s using the gridiron to make it on. Demi forgot philosophy, and stuffed like any carnal boy, while Daisy planned sumptuous banquets, and the dolls looked on smiling affably.
“Well, dearies, have you had a good time?” asked Mrs. Jo, coming up with Teddy on her shoulder.
“A very good time. I shall come again soon,” answered Demi, with emphasis.
“I’m afraid you have eaten too much, by the look of that table.”
“No, I haven’t; I only ate fifteen cakes, and they were very little ones,” protested Demi, who had kept his sister busy supplying his plate.
“They won’t hurt him, they are so nice,” said Daisy, with such a funny mixture of maternal fondness and housewifely pride that Aunt Jo could only smile and say:
“Well, on the whole, the new game is a success then?”
“I like it,” said Demi, as if his approval was all that was necessary.
“It is the dearest play ever made!” cried Daisy, hugging her little dish-tub as she proposed to wash up the cups. “I just wish everybody had a sweet cooking stove like mine,” she added, regarding it with affection.
“This play out to have a name,” said Demi, gravely removing the syrup from his countenance with his tongue.
“Oh, what?” asked both children eagerly.
“Well, I think we will call it Pattypans,” and Aunt Jo retired, satisfied with the success of her last trap to catch a sunbeam.
CHAPTER VI A FIRE BRAND
“Please, ma’am, could I speak to you? It is something very important,” said Nat, popping his head in at the door of Mrs. Bhaer’s room.
It was the fifth head which had popped in during the last half-hour; but Mrs. Jo was used to it, so she looked up, and said, briskly,
“What is it, my lad?”
Nat came in, shut the door carefully behind him, and said in an eager, anxious tone,
“Dan has come.”
“Who is Dan?”
“He’s a boy I used to know when I fiddled round the streets. He sold papers, and he was kind to me, and I saw him the other day in town, and told him how nice it was here, and he’s come.”
“But, my dear boy, that is rather a sudden way to pay a visit.”
“Oh, it isn’t a visit; he wants to stay if you will let him!” said Nat innocently.
“Well, I don’t know about that,” began Mrs. Bhaer, rather startled by the coolness of the proposition.
“Why, I thought you liked to have poor boys come and live with you, and be kind to ’em as you were to me,” said Nat, looking surprised and alarmed.
“So I do, but I like to know something about them first. I have to choose them, because there are so many. I have not room for all. I wish I had.”
“I told him to come because I thought you’d like it, but if there isn’t room he can go away again,” said Nat, sorrowfully.
The boy’s confidence in her hospitality touched Mrs. Bhaer, and she could not find the heart to disappoint his hope, and spoil his kind little plan, so she said,
“Tell me about this Dan.”
“I don’t know any thing, only he hasn’t got any folks, and he’s poor, and he was good to me, so I’d like to be good to him if I could.”
“Excellent reasons every one; but really, Nat, the house is full, and I don’t know where I could put him,” said Mrs. Bhaer, more and more inclined to prove herself the haven of refuge he seemed to think her.
“He could have my bed, and I could sleep in the barn. It isn’t cold now, and I don’t mind, I used to sleep anywhere with father,” said Nat, eagerly.
Something in his speech and face made Mrs. Jo put her hand on his shoulder, and say in her kindest tone:
“Bring in your friend, Nat; I think we must find room for him without giving him your place.”
Nat joyfully ran off, and soon returned followed by a most unprepossessing boy, who slouched in and stood looking about him, with a half bold, half sullen look, which made Mrs. Bhaer say to herself, after one glance,
“A bad specimen, I am afraid.”
“This is Dan,” said Nat, presenting him as if sure of his welcome.
“Nat tells me you would like to come and stay with us,” began Mrs. Jo, in a friendly tone.
“Yes,” was the gruff reply.
“Have you no friends to take care of you?”
“Say, ‘No, ma’am,’ ” whispered Nat.
“Shan’t neither,” muttered Dan.
“How old are you?”
“You look older. What can you do?”
“If you stay here we shall want you to do as the others do, work and study as well as play. Are you willing to agree to that?”
“Don’t mind trying.”
“Well, you can stay a few days, and we will see how we get on together. Take him out, Nat, and amuse him till Mr. Bhaer comes home, when we will settle about the matter,” said Mrs. Jo, finding it rather difficult to get on with this cool young person, who fixed his big black eyes on her with a hard, suspicious expression, sorrowfully unboyish.
“Come on, Nat,” he said, and slouched out again.
“Thank you, ma’am,” added Nat, as he followed him, feeling without quite understanding the difference in the welcome given to him and to his ungracious friend.
“The fellows are having a circus out in the barn; don’t you want to come and see it?” he asked, as they came down the wide steps on to the lawn.
“Are they big fellows?” said Dan.
“No; the big ones are gone fishing.”
“Fire away, then,” said Dan.
Nat led him to the great barn and introduced him to his set, who were disporting themselves among the half-empty lofts. A large circle was marked out with hay on the wide floor, and in the middle stood Demi with a long whip, while Tommy, mounted on the much-enduring Toby, pranced about the circle playing being a monkey.
“You must pay a pin apiece, or you can’t see the show,” said Stuffy, who stood by the wheelbarrow in which sat the band, consisting of a pocket-comb blown upon by Ned, and a toy drum beaten spasmodically by Rob.
“He’s company, so I’ll pay for both,” said Nat, handsomely, as he stuck two crooked pins in the dried mushroom which served as money-box.
With a nod to the company they seated themselves on a couple of boards, and the performance went on. After the monkey act, Ned gave them a fine specimen of his agility by jumping over an old chair, and running up and down ladders, sailor fashion. Then Demi danced a jig with a gravity beautiful to behold. Nat was called upon to wrestle with Stuffy, and speedily laid that stout youth upon the ground. After this, Tommy proudly advanced to turn a somersault, an accomplishment which he had acquired by painful perseverance, practising in private till every joint of his little frame was black and blue. His feats were received with great applause, and he was about to retire, flushed with pride and a rush of blood to the head, when a scornful voice in the audience was heard to say,
“Ho! that ain’t any thing!”
“Say that again, will you?” and Tommy bristled up like an angry turkey-cock.
“Do you want to fight?” said Dan, promptly descending from the barrel and doubling up his fists in a business-like manner.
“No, I don’t;” and the candid Thomas retired a step, rather taken aback by the proposition.
“Fighting isn’t allowed!” cried the others, much excited.
“You’re a nice lot,” sneered Dan.
“Come, if you don’t behave, you shan’t stay,” said Nat, firing up at that insult to his friends.
“I’d like to see him do better than I did, that’s all,” observed Tommy, with a swagger.
“Clear the way, then,” and without the slightest preparation Dan turned three somersaults one after the other and came up on his feet.
“You can’t beat that, Tom; you always hit your head and tumble flat,” said Nat, pleased at his friend’s success.
Before he could say any more the audience were electrified by three more somersaults backwards, and a short promenade on the hands, head down, feet up. This brought down the house, and Tommy joined in the admiring cries which greeted the accomplished gymnast as he righted himself, and looked at them with an air of calm superiority.
“Do you think I could learn to do it without its hurting me very much?” Tom meekly asked, as he rubbed the elbows which still smarted after the last attempt.
“What will you give me if I’ll teach you?” said Dan.
“My new jack-knife; it’s got five blades, and only one is broken.”
“Give it here, then.”
Tommy handed it over with an affectionate look at its smooth handle. Dan examined it carefully, then putting it into his pocket, walked off, saying with a wink,
“Keep it up till you learn, that’s all.”
A howl of wrath from Tommy was followed by a general uproar, which did not subside till Dan, finding himself in a minority, proposed that they should play stick-knife, and whichever won should have the treasure. Tommy agreed, and the game was played in a circle of excited faces, which all wore an expression of satisfaction, when Tommy won and secured the knife in the depth of his safest pocket.
“You come off with me, and I’ll show you round,” said Nat, feeling that he must have a little serious conversation with his friend in private.
What passed between them no one knew, but when they appeared again, Dan was more respectful to every one, though still gruff in his speech, and rough in his manner; and what else could be expected of the poor lad who had been knocking about the world all his short life with no one to teach him any better?
The boys had decided that they did not like him, and so they left him to Nat, who soon felt rather oppressed by the responsibility, but too kind-hearted to desert him.
Tommy, however, felt that in spite of the jack-knife transaction, there was a bond of sympathy between them, and longed to return to the interesting subject of somersaults. He soon found an opportunity, for Dan, seeing how much he admired him, grew more amiable, and by the end of the first week was quite intimate with the lively Tom.
Mr. Bhaer, when he heard the story and saw Dan, shook his head, but only said quietly,
“The experiment may cost us something, but we will try it.”
If Dan felt any gratitude for his protection, he did not show it, and took without thanks all that was give him. He was ignorant, but very quick to learn when he chose; had sharp eyes to watch what went on about him; a saucy tongue, rough manners, and a temper that was fierce and sullen by turns. He played with all his might, and played well at almost all the games. He was silent and gruff before grown people, and only now and then was thoroughly sociable among the lads. Few of them really liked him, but few could help admiring his courage and strength, for nothing daunted him, and he knocked tall Franz flat on one occasion with an ease that caused all the others to keep at a respectful distance from his fists. Mr. Bhaer watched him silently, and did his best to tame the “Wild Boy,” as they called him, but in private the worthy man shook his head, and said soberly, “I hope the experiment will turn out well, but I am a little afraid it may cost too much.”
Mrs. Bhaer lost her patience with him half a dozen times a day, yet never gave him up, and always insisted that there was something good in the lad, after all; for he was kinder to animals than to people, he liked to rove about in the woods, and, best of all, little Ted was fond of him. What the secret was no one could discover, but Baby took to him at once gabbled and crowed whenever he saw him preferred his strong back to ride on to any of the others and called him “My Danny” out of his own little head. Teddy was the only creature to whom Dan showed an affection, and this was only manifested when he thought no one else would see it; but mothers’ eyes are quick, and motherly hearts instinctively divine who love their babies. So Mrs. Jo soon saw and felt that there was a soft spot in rough Dan, and bided her time to touch and win him.
But an unexpected and decidedly alarming event upset all their plans, and banished Dan from Plumfield.
Tommy, Nat, and Demi began by patronizing Dan, because the other lads rather slighted him; but soon they each felt there was a certain fascination about the bad boy, and from looking down upon him they came to looking up, each for a different reason. Tommy admired his skill and courage; Nat was grateful for past kindness; and Demi regarded him as a sort of animated story book, for when he chose Dan could tell his adventures in a most interesting way. It pleased Dan to have the three favorites like him, and he exerted himself to be agreeable, which was the secret of his success.
The Bhaers were surprised, but hoped the lads would have a good influence over Dan, and waited with some anxiety, trusting that no harm would come of it.
Dan felt they did not quite trust him, and never showed them his best side, but took a wilful pleasure in trying their patience and thwarting their hopes as far as he dared.
Mr. Bhaer did not approve of fighting, and did not think it a proof of either manliness or courage for two lads to pommel one another for the amusement of the rest. All sorts of hardy games and exercises were encouraged, and the boys were expected to take hard knocks and tumbles without whining; but black eyes and bloody noses given for the fun of it were forbidden as a foolish and a brutal play.
Dan laughed at this rule, and told such exciting tales of his own valor, and the many frays that he had been in, that some of the lads were fired with a desire to have a regular good “mill.”
“Don’t tell, and I’ll show you how,” said Dan; and, getting half a dozen of the lads together behind the barn, he gave them a lesson in boxing, which quite satisfied the ardor of most of them. Emil, however, could not submit to be beaten by a fellow younger than himself, for Emil was past fourteen and a plucky fellow, so he challenged Dan to a fight. Dan accepted at once, and the others looked on with intense interest.
What little bird carried the news to head-quarters no one ever knew, but, in the very hottest of the fray, when Dan and Emil were fighting like a pair of young bulldogs, and the others with fierce, excited faces were cheering them on, Mr. Bhaer walked into the ring, plucked the combatants apart with a strong hand, and said, in the voice they seldom heard,
“I can’t allow this, boys! Stop it at once; and never let me see it again. I keep a school for boys, not for wild beasts. Look at each other and be ashamed of yourselves.”
“You let me go, and I’ll knock him down again,” shouted Dan, sparring away in spite of the grip on his collar.
“Come on, come on, I ain’t thrashed yet!” cried Emil, who had been down five times, but did not know when he was beaten.
“They are playing be gladdy what-you-call-’ems, like the Romans, Uncle Fritz,” called out Demi, whose eyes were bigger than ever with the excitement of this new pastime.
“They were a fine set of brutes; but we have learned something since then, I hope, and I cannot have you make my barn a Colosseum. Who proposed this?” asked Mr. Bhaer.
“Dan,” answered several voices.
“Don’t you know that it is forbidden?”
“Yes,” growled Dan, sullenly.
“Then why break the rule?”
“They’ll all be molly-coddles, if they don’t know how to fight.”
“Have you found Emil a molly-coddle? He doesn’t look much like one,” and Mr. Bhaer brought the two face to face. Dan had a black eye, and his jacket was torn to rags, but Emil’s face was covered with blood from a cut lip and a bruised nose, while a bump on his forehead was already as purple as a plum. In spite of his wounds however, he still glared upon his foe, and evidently panted to renew the fight.
“He’d make a first-rater if he was taught,” said Dan, unable to withhold the praise from the boy who made it necessary for him to do his best.
“He’ll be taught to fence and box by and by, and till then I think he will do very well without any lessons in mauling. Go and wash your faces; and remember, Dan, if you break any more of the rules again, you will be sent away. That was the bargain; do your part and we will do ours.”
The lads went off, and after a few more words to the spectators, Mr. Bhaer followed to bind up the wounds of the young gladiators. Emil went to bed sick, and Dan was an unpleasant spectacle for a week.
But the lawless lad had no thought of obeying, and soon transgressed again.
One Saturday afternoon as a party of the boys went out to play, Tommy said,
“Let’s go down to the river, and cut a lot of new fish-poles.”
“Take Toby to drag them back, and one of us can ride him down,” proposed Stuffy, who hated to walk.
“That means you, I suppose; well, hurry up, lazy-bones,” said Dan.
Away they went, and having got the poles were about to go home, when Demi unluckily said to Tommy, who was on Toby with a long rod in his hand,
“You look like the picture of the man in the bull-fight, only you haven’t got a red cloth, or pretty clothes on.”
“I’d like to see one; there’s old Buttercup in the big meadow, ride at her, Tom, and see her run,” proposed Dan, bent on mischief.
“No, you mustn’t,” began Demi, who was learning to distrust Dan’s propositions.
“Why not, little fuss-button?” demanded Dan.
“I don’t think Uncle Fritz would like it.”
“Did he ever say we must not have a bull-fight?”
“No, I don’t think he ever did,” admitted Demi.
“Then hold your tongue. Drive on, Tom, and here’s a red rag to flap at the old thing. I’ll help you to stir her up,” and over the wall went Dan, full of the new game, and the rest followed like a flock of sheep; even Demi, who sat upon the bars, and watched the fun with interest.
Poor Buttercup was not in a very good mood, for she had been lately bereft of her calf, and mourned for the little thing most dismally. Just now she regarded all mankind as her enemies (and I do not blame her), so when the matadore came prancing towards her with the red handkerchief flying at the end of his long lance, she threw up her head, and gave a most appropriate “Moo!” Tommy rode gallantly at her, and Toby recognizing an old friend, was quite willing to approach; but when the lance came down on her back with a loud whack, both cow and donkey were surprised and disgusted. Toby back with a bray of remonstrance, and Buttercup lowered her horns angrily.
“At her again, Tom; she’s jolly cross, and will do it capitally!” called Dan, coming up behind with another rod, while Jack and Ned followed his example.
Seeing herself thus beset, and treated with such disrespect, Buttercup trotted round the field, getting more and more bewildered and excited every moment, for whichever way she turned, there was a dreadful boy, yelling and brandishing a new and very disagreeable sort of whip. It was great fun for them, but real misery for her, till she lost patience and turned the tables in the most unexpected manner. All at once she wheeled short round, and charged full at her old friend Toby, whose conduct cut her to the heart. Poor slow Toby backed so precipitately that he tripped over a stone, and down went horse, matadore, and all, in one ignominious heap, while distracted Buttercup took a surprising leap over the wall, and galloped wildly out of sight down the road.
“Catch her, stop her, head her off! run, boys, run!” shouted Dan, tearing after her at his best pace, for she was Mr. Bhaer’s pet Alderney, and if anything happened to her, Dan feared it would be all over with him. Such a running and racing and bawling and puffing as there was before she was caught! The fish-poles were left behind; Toby was trotted nearly off his legs in the chase; and every boy was red, breathless, and scared. They found poor Buttercup at last in a flower garden, where she had taken refuge, worn out with the long run. Borrowing a rope for a halter, Dan led her home, followed by a party of very sober young gentlemen, for the cow was in a sad state, having strained her shoulder jumping, so that she limped, her eyes looked wild, and her glossy coat was wet and muddy.
“You’ll catch it this time, Dan,” said Tommy, as he led the wheezing donkey beside the maltreated cow.
“So will you, for you helped.”
“We all did, but Demi,” added Jack.
“He put it into our heads,” said Ned.
“I told you not to do it,” cried Demi, who was most broken-hearted at poor Buttercup’s state.
“Old Bhaer will send me off, I guess. Don’t care if he does,” muttered Dan, looking worried in spite of his words.
“We’ll ask him not to, all of us,” said Demi, and the others assented with the exception of Stuffy, who cherished the hope that all the punishment might fall on one guilty head. Dan only said, “Don’t bother about me;” but he never forgot it, even though he led the lads astray again, as soon as the temptation came.
When Mr. Bhaer saw the animal, and heard the story, he said very little, evidently fearing that he should say too much in the first moments of impatience. Buttercup was made comfortable in her stall, and the boys sent to their rooms till supper-time. This brief respite gave them time to think the matter over, to wonder what the penalty would be, and to try to imagine where Dan would be sent. He whistled briskly in his room, so that no one should think he cared a bit; but while he waited to know his fate, the longing to stay grew stronger and stronger, the more he recalled the comfort and kindness he had known here, the hardship and neglect he had felt elsewhere. He knew they tried to help him, and at the bottom of his heart he was grateful, but his rough life had made him hard and careless, suspicious and wilful. He hated restraint of any sort, and fought against it like an untamed creature, even while he knew it was kindly meant, and dimly felt that he would be the better for it. He made up his mind to be turned adrift again, to knock about the city as he had done nearly all his life; a prospect that made him knit his black brows, and look about the cosy little room with a wistful expression that would have touched a much harder heart than Mr. Bhaer’s if he had seen it. It vanished instantly, however, when the good man came in, and said in his accustomed grave way,
“I have heard all about it, Dan, and though you have broken the rules again, I am going to give you one more trial, to please Mother Bhaer.”
Dan flushed up to his forehead at this unexpected reprieve, but he only said in his gruff way,
“I didn’t know there was any rule about bull-fighting.”
“As I never expected to have any at Plumfield, I never did make such a rule,” answered Mr. Bhaer, smiling in spite of himself at the boy’s excuse. Then he added gravely, “But one of the first and most important of our few laws is the law of kindness to every dumb creature on the place. I want everybody and everything to be happy here, to love and trust, and serve us, as we try to love and trust and serve them faithfully and willingly. I have often said that you were kinder to the animals than any of the other boys, and Mrs. Bhaer liked that trait in you very much, because she thought it showed a good heart. But you have disappointed us in that, and we are sorry, for we hoped to make you quite one of us. Shall we try again?”
Dan’s eyes had been on the floor, and his hands nervously picking at the bit of wood he had been whittling as Mr. Bhaer came in, but when he heard the kind voice ask that question, he looked up quickly, and said in a more respectful tone than he had ever used before,
“Very well, then, we will say no more, only you will stay at home from the walk to-morrow, as the other boys will and all of you must wait on poor Buttercup till she is well again.”
“Now, go down to supper, and do your best, my boy, more for your own sake than for ours.” Then Mr. Bhaer shook hands with him, and Dan went down more tamed by kindness than he would have been by the good whipping which Asia had strongly recommended.
Dan did try for a day or two, but not being used to it, he soon tired and relapsed into his old wilful ways. Mr. Bhaer was called from home on business one day, and the boys had no lessons. They liked this, and played hard till bedtime, when most of them turned in and slept like dormice. Dan, however, had a plan in his head, and when he and Nat were alone, he unfolded it.
“Look here!” he said, taking from under his bed a bottle, a cigar, and a pack of cards, “I’m going to have some fun, and do as I used to with the fellows in town. Here’s some beer, I got if of the old man at the station, and this cigar; you can pay for ’em or Tommy will, he’s got heaps of money and I haven’t a cent. I’m going to ask him in; no, you go, they won’t mind you.”
“The folks won’t like it,” began Nat.
“They won’t know. Daddy Bhaer is away, and Mrs. Bhaer’s busy with Ted; he’s got croup or something, and she can’t leave him. We shan’t sit up late or make any noise, so where’s the harm?”
“Asia will know if we burn the lamp long, she always does.”
“No, she won’t, I’ve got a dark lantern on purpose; it don’t give much light, and we can shut it quick if we hear anyone coming,” said Dan.
This idea struck Nat as a fine one, and lent an air of romance to the thing. He started off to tell Tommy, but put his head in again to say,
“You want Demi, too, don’t you?”
“No, I don’t; the Deacon will rollup eyes and preach if you tell him. He will be asleep, so just tip the wink to Tom and cut back again.”
Nat obeyed, and returned in a minute with Tommy half dressed, rather tousled about the head and very sleepy, but quite ready for fun as usual.
“Now, keep quiet, and I’ll show you how to play a first-rate game called ‘Poker,’ ” said Dan, as the three revellers gathered round the table, on which were set forth the bottle, the cigar, and the cards. “First we’ll all have a drink, then we’ll take a go at the ‘weed,’ and then we’ll play. That’s the way men do, and it’s jolly fun.”
The beer circulated in a mug, and all three smacked their lips over it, though Nat and Tommy did not like the bitter stuff. The cigar was worse still, but they dared not say so, and each puffed away till he was dizzy or choked, when he passed the “weed” on to his neighbor. Dan liked it, for it seemed like old times when he now and then had a chance to imitate the low men who surrounded him. He drank, and smoked, and swaggered as much like them as he could, and, getting into the spirit of the part he assumed, he soon began to swear under his breath for fear some one should hear him. “You mustn’t; it’s wicked to say ‘Damn!’ ” cried Tommy, who had followed his leader so far.
“Oh, hang! don’t you preach, but play away; it’s part of the fun to swear.”
“I’d rather say ‘thunder turtles,’ ” said Tommy, who had composed this interesting exclamation and was very proud of it.
“And I’ll say ‘The Devil;’ that sounds well,” added Nat, much impressed by Dan’s manly ways.
Dan scoffed at their “nonsense,” and swore stoutly as he tried to teach them the new game.
But Tommy was very sleepy, and Nat’s head began to ache with the beer and the smoke, so neither of them was very quick to learn, and the game dragged. The room was nearly dark, for the lantern burned badly; they could not laugh loud nor move about much, for Silas slept next door in the shed-chamber, and altogether the party was dull. In the middle of a deal Dan stopped suddenly, and called out, “Who’s that?” in a startled tone, and at the same moment drew the slide over the light. A voice in the darkness said tremulously, “I can’t find Tommy,” and then there was the quick patter of bare feet running away down the entry that led from the wing to the main house.
“It’s Demi! he’s gone to call some one; cut into bed, Tom, and don’t tell!” cried Dan, whisking all signs of the revel out of sight, and beginning to tear off his clothes, while Nat did the same.
Tommy flew to his room and dived into bed, where he lay, laughing till something burned his hand, when he discovered that he was still clutching the stump of the festive cigar, which he happened to be smoking when the revel broke up.
It was nearly out, and he was about to extinguish it carefully when Nursey’s voice was heard, and fearing it would betray him if he hid it in the bed, he threw it underneath, after a final pinch which he thought finished it.
Nursey came in with Demi, who looked much amazed to see the red face of Tommy reposing peacefully upon his pillow.
“He wasn’t there just now, because I woke up and could not find him anywhere,” said Demi, pouncing on him.
“What mischief are you at now, bad child?” asked Nursey, with a good-natured shake, which made the sleeper open his eyes to say meekly,
“I only ran into Nat’s room to see him about something. Go away, and let me alone; I’m awful sleepy.”
Nursey tucked Demi in, and went off to reconnoitre, but only found two boys slumbering peacefully in Dan’s room. “Some little frolic,” she thought, and as there was no harm done she said nothing to Mrs. Bhaer, who was busy and worried over little Teddy.
Tommy was sleepy, and telling Demi to mind his own business and not ask questions, he was snoring in ten minutes, little dreaming what was going on under his bed. The cigar did not go out, but smouldered away on the straw carpet till it was nicely on fire, and a hungry little flame went creeping along till the dimity bedcover caught, then the sheets, and then the bed itself. The beer made Tommy sleep heavily, and the smoke stupified Demi, so they slept on till the fire began to scorch them, and they were in danger of being burned to death.
Franz was sitting up to study, and as he left the school-room he smelt the smoke, dashed up-stairs and saw it coming in a cloud from the left wing of the house. Without stopping to call any one, he ran into the room, dragged the boys from the blazing bed, and splashed all the water he could find at hand on to the flames. It checked but did not quench the fire, and the children wakened on being tumbled topsy-turvy into a cold hall, began to roar at the top of their voices. Mrs. Bhaer instantly appeared, and a minute after Silas burst out of his room shouting, “Fire!” in a tone that raised the whole house. A flock of white goblins with scared faces crowded into the hall, and for a minute every one was panic-stricken.
Then Mrs. Bhaer found her wits, bade Nursey see to the burnt boys, and sent Franz and Silas down-stairs for some tubs of wet clothes which she flung on the bed, over the carpet, and up against the curtains, now burning finely, and threatening to kindle the walls.
Most of the boys stood dumbly looking on, but Dan and Emil worked bravely, running to and fro with water from the bath-room, and helping to pull down the dangerous curtains.
The peril was soon over, and ordering the boys all back to bed, and leaving Silas to watch lest the fire broke out again, Mrs. Bhaer and Franz went to see how the poor boys got on. Demi had escaped with one burn and a grand scare, but Tommy had not only most of his hair scorched off his head, but a great burn on his arm, that made him half crazy with the pain. Demi was soon made cosy, and Franz took him away to his own bed, where the kind lad soothed his fright and hummed him to sleep as cosily as a woman. Nursey watched over poor Tommy all night, trying to ease his misery, and Mrs. Bhaer vibrated between him and little Teddy with oil and cotton, paregoric and squills, saying to herself from time to time, as if she found great amusement in the thought, “I always knew Tommy would set the house on fire, and now he has done it!”
When Mr. Bhaer got home next morning he found a nice state of things. Tommy in bed, Teddy wheezing like a little grampus, Mrs. Jo quite used up, and the whole flock of boys so excited that they all talked at once, and almost dragged him by main force to view the ruins. Under his quiet management things soon fell into order, for every one felt that he was equal to a dozen conflagrations, and worked with a will at whatever task he gave them.
There was no school that morning, but by afternoon the damaged room was put to rights, the invalids were better, and there was time to hear and judge the little culprits quietly. Nat and Tommy told their parts in the mischief, and were honestly sorry for the danger they had brought to the dear old house and all in it. But Dan put on his devil-may-care look, and would not own that there was much harm done.
Now, of all things, Mr. Bhaer hated drinking, gambling, and swearing; smoking he had given up that the lads might not be tempted to try it, and it grieved and angered him deeply to find that the boy, with whom he had tried to be most forbearing, should take advantage of his absence to introduce these forbidden vices, and teach his innocent little lads to think it manly and pleasant to indulge in them. He talked long and earnestly to the assembled boys, and ended by saying, with an air of mingled firmness and regret,
“I think Tommy is punished enough, and that scar on his arm will remind him for a long time to let these things alone. Nat’s fright will do for him, for he is really sorry, and does try to obey me. But you, Dan, have been many times forgiven, and yet it does no good. I cannot have my boys hurt by your bad example, nor my time wasted in talking to deaf ears, so you can say good-bye to them all, and tell Nursey to put up your things in my little black bag.”
“Oh! sir, where is he going?” cried Nat.
“To a pleasant place up in the country, where I sometimes send boys when they don’t do well here. Mr. Page is a kind man, and Dan will be happy there if he chooses to do his best.”
“Will he ever come back?” asked Demi.
“That will depend on himself; I hope so.”
As he spoke, Mr. Bhaer left the room to write his letter to Mr. Page, and the boys crowded round Dan very much as people do about a man who is going on a long and perilous journey to unknown regions.
“I wonder if you’ll like it,” began Jack.
“Shan’t stay if I don’t,” said Dan coolly.
“Where will you go?” asked Nat.
“I may go to sea, or out west, or take a look at California,” answered Dan, with a reckless air that quite took away the breath of the little boys.
“Oh, don’t! stay with Mr. Page awhile and then come back here; do, Dan,” pleaded Nat, much affected at the whole affair.
“I don’t care where I go, or how long I stay, and I’ll be hanged if I ever come back here,” with which wrathful speech Dan went away to put up his things, every one of which Mr. Bhaer had given him.
That was the only good-bye he gave the boys, for they were all talking the matter over in the barn when he came down, and he told Nat not to call them. The wagon stood at the door, and Mrs. Bhaer came out to speak to Dan, looking so sad that his heart smote him, and he said in a low tone,
“May I say good-bye to Teddy?”
“Yes, dear; go in and kiss him, he will miss his Danny very much.”
No one saw the look in Dan’s eyes as he stooped over the crib, and saw the little face light up at first sight of him, but he heard Mrs. Bhaer say pleadingly,
“Can’t we give the poor lad one more trial, Fritz?” and Mr. Bhaer answer in his steady way,
“My dear, it is not best, so let him go where he can do no harm to others, while they do good to him, and by and by he shall come back, I promise you.”
“He’s the only boy we ever failed with, and I am so grieved, for I thought there was the making of a fine man in him, spite of his faults.”
Dan heard Mrs. Bhaer sigh, and he wanted to ask for one more trial himself, but his pride would not let him, and he came out with the hard look on his face, shook hands without a word, and drove away with Mr. Bhaer, leaving Nat and Mrs. Jo to look after him with tears in their eyes.
A few days afterwards they received a letter from Mr. Page, saying that Dan was doing well, whereat they all rejoiced. But three weeks later came another letter, saying that Dan had run away, and nothing had been heard of him, whereat they all looked sober, and Mr. Bhaer said,
“Perhaps I ought to have given him another chance.”
Mrs. Bhaer, however, nodded wisely and answered, “Don’t be troubled, Fritz; the boy will come back to us, I’m sure of it.”
But time went on and no Dan came.
CHAPTER VII NAUGHTY NAN
“Fritz, I’ve got a new idea,” cried Mrs. Bhaer, as she met her husband one day after school.
“Well, my dear, what is it?” and he waited willingly to hear the new plan, for some of Mrs. Jo’s ideas were so droll, it was impossible to help laughing at them, though usually they were quite sensible, and he was glad to carry them out.
“Daisy needs a companion, and the boys would be all the better for another girl among them; you know we believe in bringing up little men and women together, and it is high time we acted up to our belief. They pet and tyrannize over Daisy by turns, and she is getting spoilt. Then they must learn gentle ways, and improve their manners, and having girls about will do it better than any thing else.”
“You are right, as usual. Now, who shall we have?” asked Mr. Bhaer, seeing by the look in her eye that Mrs. Jo had some one all ready to propose.
“Little Annie Harding.”
“What! Naughty Nan, as the lads call her?” cried Mr. Bhaer, looking very much amused.
“Yes, she is running wild at home since her mother died, and is too bright a child to be spoilt by servants. I have had my eye on her for some time, and when I met her father in town the other day I asked him why he did not send her to school. He said he would gladly if he could find as good a school for girls as ours was for boys. I know he would rejoice to have her come; so suppose we drive over this afternoon and see about it.”
“Have not you cares enough now, my Jo, without this little gypsy to torment you?” asked Mr. Bhaer, patting the hand that lay on his arm.
“Oh dear, no,” said Mother Bhaer, briskly. “I like it, and never was happier than since I had my wilderness of boys. You see, Fritz, I feel a great sympathy for Nan, because I was such a naughty child myself that I know all about it. She is full of spirits, and only needs to be taught what to do with them to be as nice a little girl as Daisy. Those quick wits of hers would enjoy lessons if they were rightly directed, and what is now a tricksy midget would soon become a busy, happy child. I know how to manage her, for I remember how my blessed mother managed me, and ”
“And if you succeed half as well as she did, you will have done a magnificent work,” interrupted Mr. Bhaer, who labored under the delusion that Mrs. B. was the best and most charming woman alive.
“Now, if you make fun of my plan I’ll give you bad coffee for a week, and then where are you, sir?” cried Mrs. Jo, tweaking him by the ear just as if he was one of the boys.
“Won’t Daisy’s hair stand erect with horror at Nan’s wild ways?” asked Mr. Bhaer, presently, when Teddy had swarmed up his waistcoat, and Rob up his back, for they always flew at their father the minute school was done.
“At first, perhaps, but it will do Posy good. She is getting prim and Bettyish, and needs stirring up a bit. She always has a good time when Nan comes over to play, and the two will help each other without knowing it. Dear me, half the science of teaching is knowing how much children do for one another, and when to mix them.”
“I only hope she won’t turn out another firebrand.”
“My poor Dan! I never can quite forgive myself for letting him go,” sighed Mrs. Bhaer.
At the sound of the name, little Teddy, who had never forgotten his friend, struggled down from his father’s arms, and trotted to the door, looked out over the sunny lawn with a wistful face, and then trotted back again, saying, as he always did when disappointed of the longed-for sight,
“My Danny’s tummin’ soon.”
“I really think we ought to have kept him, if only for Teddy’s sake, he was so fond of him, and perhaps baby’s love would have done for him what we failed to do.”
“I’ve sometimes felt that myself; but after keeping the boys in a ferment, and nearly burning up the whole family, I thought it safer to remove the firebrand, for a time at least,” said Mr. Bhaer.
“Dinner’s ready, let me ring the bell,” and Rob began a solo upon that instrument which made it impossible to hear one’s self speak.
“Then I may have Nan, may I?” asked Mrs. Jo.
“A dozen Nans if you want them, my dear,” answered Mr. Bhaer, who had room in his fatherly heart for all the naughty neglected children in the world.
When Mrs. Bhaer returned from her drive that afternoon, before she could unpack the load of little boys, without whom she seldom moved, a small girl of ten skipped out at the back of the carry-all and ran into the house, shouting,
“Hi, Daisy! where are you?”
Daisy came, and looked pleased to see her guest, but also a trifle alarmed, when Nan said, still prancing, as if it was impossible to keep still,
“I’m going to stay here always, papa says I may, and my box is coming tomorrow, all my things had to be washed and mended, and your aunt came and carried me off. Isn’t it great fun?”
“Why, yes. Did you bring your big doll?” asked Daisy, hoping she had, for on the last visit Nan had ravaged the baby house, and insisted on washing Blanche Matilda’s plaster face, which spoilt the poor dear’s complexion for ever.
“Yes, she’s somewhere round,” returned Nan, with most unmaternal carelessness. “I made you a ring coming along, and pulled the hairs out of Dobbin’s tail. Don’t you want it?” and Nan presented a horse-hair ring in token of friendship, as they had both vowed they would never speak to one another again when they last parted.
Won by the beauty of the offering, Daisy grew more cordial, and proposed retiring to the nursery, but Nan said, “No, I want to see the boys, and the barn,” and ran off, swinging her hat by one string till it broke, when she left it to its fate on the grass.
“Hullo! Nan!” cried the boys as she bounced in among them with the announcement,
“I’m going to stay.”
“Hooray!” bawled Tommy from the wall on which he was perched, for Nan was a kindred spirit, and he foresaw “larks” in the future.
“I can bat; let me play,” said Nan, who could turn her hand to any thing, and did not mind hard knocks.
“We ain’t playing now, and our side beat without you.”
“I can beat you in running, any way,” returned Nan, falling back on her strong point.
“Can she?” asked Nat of Jack.
“She runs very well for a girl,” answered Jack, who looked down upon Nan with condescending approval.
“Will you try?” said Nan, longing to display her powers.
“It’s too hot,” and Tommy languished against the wall as if quite exhausted.
“What’s the matter with Stuffy?” asked Nan, whose quick eyes were roving from face to face.
“Ball hurt his hand; he howls at every thing,” answered Jack scornfully.
“I don’t, I never cry, no matter how I’m hurt; it’s babyish,” said Nan, loftily.
“Pooh! I could make you cry in two minutes,” returned Stuffy, rousing up.
“See if you can.”
“Go and pick that bunch of nettles, then,” and Stuffy pointed to a sturdy specimen of that prickly plant growing by the wall.
Nan instantly “grasped the nettle,” pulled it up, and held it with a defiant gesture, in spite of the almost unbearable sting.
“Good for you,” cried the boys, quick to acknowledge courage even in one of the weaker sex.
More nettled than she was, Stuffy determined to get a cry out of her somehow, and he said tauntingly, “You are used to poking your hands into every thing, so that isn’t fair. Now go and bump your head real hard against the barn, and see if you don’t howl then.”
“Don’t do it,” said Nat, who hated cruelty.
But Nan was off, and running straight at the barn, she gave her head a blow that knocked her flat, and sounded like a battering-ram. Dizzy, but undaunted, she staggered up, saying stoutly, though her face was drawn with pain,
“That hurt, but I don’t cry.”
“Do it again,” said Stuffy angrily; and Nan would have done it, but Nat held her; and Tommy, forgetting the heat, flew at Stuffy like a little game-cock, roaring out,
“Stop it, or I’ll throw you over the barn!” and so shook and hustled poor Stuffy that for a minute he did not know whether he was on his head or his heels.
“She told me to,” was all he could say, when Tommy let him alone.
“Never mind if she did; it is awfully mean to hurt a little girl,” said Demi, reproachfully.
“Ho! I don’t mind; I ain’t a little girl, I’m older than you and Daisy; so now,” cried Nan, ungratefully.
“Don’t preach, Deacon, you bully Posy every day of your life,” called out the Commodore, who just then hove in sight.
“I don’t hurt her; do I, Daisy?” and Demi turned to his sister, who was “pooring” Nan’s tingling hands, and recommending water for the purple lump rapidly developing itself on her forehead.
“You are the best boy in the world,” promptly answered Daisy; adding, as truth compelled her to do, “You hurt me sometimes, but you don’t mean to.”
“Put away the bats and things, and mind what you are about, my hearties. No fighting allowed aboard this ship,” said Emil, who rather lorded it over the others.
“How do you do, Madge Wildfire?” said Mr. Bhaer, as Nan came in with the rest to supper. “Give the right hand, little daughter, and mind thy manners,” he added, as Nan offered him her left.
“The other hurts me.”
“The poor little hand! what has it been doing to get those blisters?” he asked, drawing it from behind her back, where she had put it with a look which made him think she had been in mischief.
Before Nan could think of any excuse, Daisy burst out with the whole story, during which Stuffy tried to hide his face in a bowl of bread and milk. When the tale was finished, Mr. Bhaer looked down the long table towards his wife, and said with a laugh in his eyes,
“This rather belongs to your side of the house, so I won’t meddle with it, my dear.”
Mrs. Jo knew what he meant, but she liked her little black sheep all the better for her pluck, though she only said in her soberest way,
“Do you know why I asked Nan to come here?”
“To plague me,” muttered Stuffy, with his mouth full.
“To help make little gentlemen of you, and I think you have shown that some of you need it.”
Here Stuffy retired into his bowl again, and did not emerge till Demi made them all laugh by saying, in his slow wondering way,
“How can she, when she’s such a tomboy?”
“That’s just it, she needs help as much as you, and I expect you set her an example of good manners.”
“Is she going to be a little gentleman too?” asked Rob.
“She’d like it; wouldn’t you, Nan?” added Tommy.
“No, I shouldn’t; I hate boys!” said Nan fiercely, for her hand still smarted, and she began to think that she might have shown her courage in some wiser way.
“I am sorry you hate my boys, because they can be well-mannered, and most agreeable when they choose. Kindness in looks and words and ways is true politeness, and any one can have it if they only try to treat other people as they like to be treated themselves.”
Mrs. Bhaer had addressed herself to Nan, but the boys nudged one another, and appeared to take the hint, for that time at least, and passed the butter; said “please,” and “thank you,” “yes, sir,” and “no, ma’am,” with unusual elegance and respect. Nan said nothing, but kept herself quiet and refrained from tickling Demi, though strongly tempted to do so, because of the dignified airs he put on. She also appeared to have forgotten her hatred of boys, and played “I spy” with them till dark. Stuffy was observed to offer her frequent sucks on his candy-ball during the game, which evidently sweetened her temper, for the last thing she said on going to bed was,
“When my battledore and shuttle-cock comes, I’ll let you all play with ’em.”
Her first remark in the morning was “Has my box come?” and when told that it would arrive sometime during the day, she fretted and fumed, and whipped her doll, till Daisy was shocked. She managed to exist, however, till five o’clock, when she disappeared, and was not missed till supper-time, because those at home thought she had gone to the hill with Tommy and Demi.
“I saw her going down the avenue alone as hard as she could pelt,” said Mary Ann, coming in with the hasty-pudding, and finding every one asking, “Where is Nan?”
“She has run home, little gypsy!” cried Mrs. Bhaer, looking anxious.
“Perhaps she has gone to the station to look after her luggage,” suggested Franz.
‘That is impossible, she does not know the way, and if she found it, she could never carry the box a mile,” said Mrs. Bhaer, beginning to think that her new idea might be rather a hard one to carry out.
“It would be like her,” and Mr. Bhaer caught up his hat to go and find the child, when a shout from Jack, who was at the window, made everyone hurry to the door.
There was Miss Nan, to be sure, tugging along a very large band-box tied up in linen bag. Very hot and dusty and tired did she look, but marched stoutly along, and came puffing up to the steps, where she dropped her load with a sigh of relief, and sat down upon it, observed as she crossed her tired arms,
“I couldn’t wait any longer, so I went and got it.”
“But you did not know the way,” said Tommy, while the rest stood round enjoying the joke.
“Oh, I found it, I never get lost.”
“It’s a mile, how could you go so far?”
“Well, it was pretty far, but I rested a good deal.”
“Wasn’t that thing very heavy?”
“It’s so round, I couldn’t get hold of it good, and I thought my arms would break right off.”
“I don’t see how the station-master let you have it,” said Tommy.
“I didn’t say anything to him. He was in the little ticket place, and didn’t see me, so I just took it off the platform.”
“Run down and tell him it is all right, Franz, or old Dodd will think it is stolen,” said Mr. Bhaer, joining in the shout of laughter at Nan’s coolness.
“I told you we would send for it if it did not come. Another time you must wait, for you will get into trouble if you run away. Promise me this, or I shall not dare to trust you out of my sight,” said Mrs. Bhaer, wiping the dust off Nan’s little hot face.
“Well, I won’t, only papa tells me not to put off doing things, so I don’t.”
“That is rather a poser; I think you had better give her some supper now, and a private lecture by and by,” said Mr. Bhaer, too much amused to be angry at the young lady’s exploit.
The boys thought it “great fun,” and Nan entertained them all supper-time with an account of her adventures; for a big dog had barked at her, a man had laughed at her, a woman had given her a doughnut, and her hat had fallen into the brook when she stopped to drink, exhausted with her exertion.
‘I fancy you will have your hands full now, my dear; Tommy and Nan are quite enough for one woman,” said Mr. Bhaer, half an hour later.
“I know it will take some time to tame the child, but she is such a generous, warm-hearted little thing, I should love her even if she were twice as naughty,” answered Mrs. Jo, pointing to the merry group, in the middle of which stood Nan, giving away her things right and left, as lavishly as if the big band-box had no bottom.