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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