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Full text of "Little men"

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LI F E AT. PLUMFI E LD 
W IT H JO'S BOYS 



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UISA 




ALCOTT 



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Little Men 



Little Men 

Life at Plumfield with Jo*s Boys 



By 

Louisa M. Alcott 



\\ 

Author of "Little Women," "An Old-Fashioned Girl," 
" Eight Cousins," "Aunt Jo's Scrap-Bag," etc. 

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS 
BY REGINALD B. BIRCH 




Boston 

Little, Brown, and Company 

1901 






PS 1017 

I 4~ 
-^ fL -T 

I 90! 



Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1871, by 

LOUISA M. ALCOTT, 

In the Office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington. 

Copyright, 1899, 
BY JOHN S. P. ALCOTT. 



Copyright, 
BY LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY. 



All rights reserved. 



UNIVERSITY PRESS JOHN WILSON 
AND SON CAMBRIDGE, U.S.A. 



TO 

FREDDY AND JOHNNY, 

Etttle 



TO WHOM SHE OWES SOME OF THE BEST AND HAPPIEST 

HOURS OF HER LIFE, 

THIS BOOK IS GRATEFULLY DEDICATED 
BY THEIR LOVING 

"AUNT WEEDY." 



Contents 



CHAPTER PAGE 

I. NAT i 

II. THE BOYS 19 

III. SUNDAY 29 

IV. STEPPING-STONES ' 5 2 

V. PATTY PANS 66 

VI. A FIRE BRAND 89 

VII. NAUGHTY NAN 113 

VIII. PRANKS AND PLAYS 126 

IX. DAISY'S BALL 140 

X. HOME AGAIN 155 

XI. UNCLE TEDDY 176 

XII. HUCKLEBERRIES 193 

XIII. GOLDILOCKS 222 

XIV. DAMON AND PYTHIAS 232 

XV. IN THE WILLOW 257 

XVI. TAMING THE COLT 279 

XVII. COMPOSITION DAY 292 

XVIII. CROPS 308 

XIX. JOHN BROOKE 320 

XX. ROUND THE FIRE 336 

XXI. THANKSGIVING 362 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

PAGE 
" Half hidden by the bouquet of laughing young faces' 

Frontispiece 

<f The boy ... lay caimly looking up at the new face 

with a surprised ' Hullo ! ' ' . . 3 

" Nat eagerly drinking in the words of his little friend 

while Demi told the sweet and solemn story ' 50 

< I will remember ! Oh ! I will !'" 63 

" Kit appeared with a covered basket in his mouth ' . . 79 

" Down went horse, matadore and all ' 101 

" < I could n't wait any longer, so I went and got it ' . 122 
" There he loved to perch, making music like a happy 

bird 134 

" * Gaily the troubadour 

Touched his guitar ' '. . 144 

" Dan never forgot the little picture on which the light of 

his lantern shone that night ' 209 

" Landed him with a splash in the middle of the brook ". 241 

" * Is n't he handsome ? ' said Dan ' 290 

" He trudged to and fro till his small legs were tired ' .318 
"The memory of the other father . . . made Mr. Bhaer 

hold his own boy close' 322 

"All were glad to gather round the hearth ... to play 
games*' 



Little Men 

Life at Plumjield with Jo s Boys 




CHAPTER I 

NAT 

k LEASE, sir, is this Plumfield?' asked a rag- 
ged boy of the man who opened the great 
gate at which the omnibus left him. 

o 

Yes ; who sent you ? ' 
" Mr. Laurence. I have got a letter for the lady." 
" All right ; go up to the house, and give it to her ; 
she '11 see to you, little chap." 

The man spoke pleasantly, and the boy went on, 
feeling much cheered by the words. Through the 
soft spring rain that fell on sprouting grass and bud- 
ding trees, Nat saw a large square house before him, 
a hospitable-looking house, with an old-fashioned 
porch, wide steps, and lights shining in many win- 
dows. Neither curtains nor shutters hid the cheer- 
ful glimmer ; and, pausing a moment before he rang, 
Nat saw many little shadows dancing on the walls, 
heard the pleasant hum of young voices, and felt 
that it was hardly possible that the light and warmth 
and comfort within could be for a homeless " little 

chap ' like him. 

j 



2 Little Men 

" I hope the lady will see to me," he thought ; 
and gave a timid rap with the great bronze knocker, 
which was a jovial griffin's head. 

A rosy-faced servant-maid opened the door, and 
smiled as she took the letter which he silently 
offered. She seemed used to receiving strange boys, 
for she pointed to a seat in the hall, and said, with 
a nod, 

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

Nat found plenty to amuse him while he waited, 
and stared about him curiously, enjoying the view, 
yet glad to do so unobserved in the dusky recess 
by the door. 

The house seemed swarming with boys, who were 
beguiling the rainy twilight with all sorts of amuse- 
ments. There were boys everywhere, " up-stairs and 
down-stairs and in the lady's chamber," apparently, 
for various open doors showed pleasant groups of 
big boys, little boys, and middle-sized boys in all 
stages of evening relaxation, not to say effervescence. 
Two large rooms on the right were evidently school- 
rooms, for desks, maps, blackboards, and books were 
scattered about. An open fire burned on the hearth, 
and several indolent lads lay on their backs before it, 
discussing a new cricket-ground, with such animation 
that their boots waved in the air. A tall youth was 
practising on the flute in one corner, quite undis- 
turbed by the racket all about him. Two or three 
others were jumping over the desks, pausing, now 
and then, to get their breath, and laugh at the droll 
sketches of a little wag who was caricaturing the 
whole household on a blackboard. 



Nat 3 

In the room on the left a long supper-table was 
seen, set forth with great pitchers of new milk, piles 
of brown and white bread, and perfect stacks of the 
shiny gingerbread so dear to boyish souls. A flavor 
of toast was in the air, also suggestions of baked 
apples, very tantalizing to one hungry little nose 
and stomach. 

The hall, however, presented the most inviting 
prospect of all, for a brisk game of tag was going 
on in the upper entry. One landing was devoted 
to marbles, the other to checkers, while the stairs 
were occupied by a boy reading, a girl singing lul- 
laby to her doll, two puppies, a kitten, and a con- 
stant succession of small boys sliding down the 
banisters, to the great detriment of their clothes, 
and danger to their limbs. 

So absorbed did Nat become in this exciting race, 
that he ventured farther and farther out of his corner ; 
and when one very lively boy came down so swiftly 
that he could not stop himself, but fell off the banis- 
ters, with a crash that would have broken any head 
but one rendered nearly as hard as a cannon-ball by 
eleven years of constant bumping, Nat forgot himself, 
and ran up to the fallen rider, expecting to find him 
half-dead. The boy, however, only winked rapidly 
for a second, then lay calmly looking up at the new 
face with a surprised " Hullo ! ' 

" Hullo ! ' returned Nat, not knowing what else to 
say, and thinking that form of reply both brief and 
easy. 

" Are you a new boy ? ' asked the recumbent youth, 
without stirring. 

" Don't know yet." 



4 Little Men 

"What's your name?" 

" Nat Blake." 

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

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

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

At his call, the boy reading on the stairs looked up 
with a pair of big brown eyes, and after an instant's 
pause, as if a little shy, he put the book under his 
arm, and came soberly down to greet the new-comer, 
who found something very attractive in the pleasant 
face of this slender, mild-eyed boy. 

" Have you seen Aunt Jo?' he asked, as if that 
was some sort of important ceremony. 

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

"Did Uncle Laurie send you?' proceeded Demi, 
politely, but gravely. 

" Mr. Laurence did." 

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

Nat looked gratified at the remark, and smiled, in 
a way that made his thin face very pleasant. He did 
not know what to say next, so the two stood staring 
at one another in friendly silence, till the little girl 
came up with her doll in her arms. She was very 
like Demi, only not so tall, and had a rounder, rosier 
face, and blue eyes. 



Nat 5 

"This is my sister Daisy," announced Demi, as if 
presenting a rare and precious creature. 

The children nodded to one another; and the 
little girl's face dimpled with pleasure, as she said, 
affably, - 

" I hope you '11 stay. We have such good times 
here; don't we, Demi?' 

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

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

" It 's the nicest place in the world ; is n't it, Demi ? ' 
said Daisy, who evidently regarded her brother as 
authority on all subjects. 

" No ; I think Greenland, where the icebergs and 
seals are, is more interesting. But I 'm fond of Plum- 
field, and it is a very nice place to be in," returned 
Demi, who was interested just now in a book on 
Greenland. He was about to offer to show Nat the 
pictures and explain them, when the servant returned, 
saying, with a nod toward the parlor-door, 

" All right ; you are to stop." 

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

Demi returned to his beloved book, while his sister 
led the new-comer into a back room, where a stout 
gentleman was frolicking with two little boys on the 
sofa, and a thin lady was just finishing the letter 
which she seemed to have been re-reading. 

" Here he is, Aunty ! ' cried Daisy. 

" So this is my new boy? I am glad to see you, 



6 Little Men 

my dear, and hope you '11 be happy here," said the 
lady, drawing him to her, and stroking back the hair 
from his forehead with a kind hand and a motherly 
look, which made Nat's lonely little heart yearn 
toward her. 

She was not at all handsome, but she had a merry 
sort of face, that never seemed to have forgotten 
certain childish ways and looks, any more than her 
voice and manner had ; and these things, hard to 
describe but very plain to see and feel, made her 
a genial, comfortable kind of person, easy to get 
on with, and generally " jolly," as boys would say. 
She saw the little tremble of Nat's lips as she 
smoothed his hair, and her keen eyes grew softer, 
but she only drew the shabby figure nearer and 
said, laughing, 

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

The three wrestlers obeyed at once ; and the stout 
man, with a chubby child on each shoulder, came up 
to welcome the new boy. Rob and Teddy merely 
grinned at him, but Mr. Bhaer shook hands, and 
pointing to a low chair near the fire, said, in a cordial 
voice, 

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

" Wet? so they are ! My dear, off with your shoes 
this minute, and I '11 have some dry things ready for 
you in a jiffy," cried Mrs. Bhaer, bustling about so 
energetically, that Nat found himself in the cosy little 
chair, with dry socks and warm slippers on his feet, 
before he would have had time to say Jack Robinson, 



Nat 7 

if he had wanted to try. He said " Thank you, 
ma'am," instead ; and said it so gratefully, that Mrs. 
Bhaer's eyes grew soft again, and she said something 
merry, because she felt so tender, which was a way 
she had. 

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

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

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

" All winter. I got cold, and it would n't get better, 
somehow." 

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

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

Nat looked a little anxious at the preparations, but 
forgot his fears, in a hearty laugh, when Mrs. Bhaer 
whispered to him, with a droll look, 



8 Little Men 

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



some.' 



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

These first steps toward a cure were hardly com- 
pleted, when a great bell rang, and a loud tramping 
through the hall announced supper. Bashful Nat 
quaked at the thought of meeting many strange boys, 
but Mrs. Bhaer held out her hand to him, and Rob 
said, patronizingly, " Don't be 'fraid ; I '11 take care 
of you." 

Twelve boys, six on a side, stood behind their 
chairs, prancing with impatience to begin, while the 
tall flute-playing youth was trying to curb their 
ardor. But no one sat down, till Mrs. Bhaer was in 
her place behind the teapot, with Teddy on her left, 
and Nat on her right. 

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

As she spoke every one stared at Nat, and then 
whisked into their seats, trying to be orderly, and 
failing utterly. The Bhaers did their best to have the 
lads behave well at meal times, and generally suc- 
ceeded pretty well, for their rules were few and sensi- 
ble, and the boys, knowing that they tried to make 
things easy and happy, did their best to obey. But 
there are times when hungry boys cannot be repressed 
without real cruelty, and Saturday evening, after a 
half-holiday, was one of those times. 

" Dear little souls, do let them have one day in 



Nat 9 

which they can howl and racket and frolic, to their 
hearts' content. A holiday is n't a holiday, without 
plenty of freedom and fun ; and they shall have full 
swing once a week," Mrs. Bhaer used to say, when 
prim people wondered why banister-sliding, pillow- 
fights, and all manner of jovial games were allowed 
under the once decorous roof of Plumfield. 

It did seem at times as if the aforesaid roof was in 
danger of flying off; but it never did, for a word from 
Father Bhaer could at any time produce a lull, and 
the lads had learned that liberty must not be abused. 
So, in spite of many dark predictions, the school 
flourished, and manners and morals were insinuated, 
without the pupils exactly knowing how it was 
done. 

Nat found himself very well off behind the tall 
pitchers, with Tommy Bangs just round the corner, 
and Mrs. Bhaer close by, to fill up plate and mug as 
fast as he could empty them. 

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

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

" What a queer name ! ' 

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

" Is n't he a very nice boy? ' 

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

" Who is the fat one next him? " 



io Little Men 

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

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

Tommy nodded, and said, sooner than one would 
have imagined possible under the circumstances, " Oh, 
don't he, though? and we dance sometimes, and do 
gymnastics to music. I like a drum myself, and mean 
to learn as soon as ever I can." 

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

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

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

" Was n't that fun ? " cried Tommy, much impressed. 

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



Nat 1 1 

" You '11 belong to the band if you play good. See 
if you don't." 

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

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

After this pleasantly exciting remark, Tommy re- 
turned to his supper, and Nat sank into a blissful 
reverie over his full plate. 

Mrs. Bhaer had heard all they said, while appar- 
ently absorbed in filling mugs, and overseeing little 
Ted, who was so sleepy that he put his spoon in his 
eye, nodded like a rosy poppy, and finally fell fast 
asleep, with his cheek pillowed on a soft bun. Mrs. 
Bhaer had put Nat next to Tommy, because that 
roly-poly boy had a frank and social way with him, 
very attractive to shy persons. Nat felt this, and had 
made several small confidences during supper, which 
gave Mrs. Bhaer the key to the new boy's character, 
better than if she had talked to him herself. 

In the letter which Mr. Laurence had sent with 
Nat, he had said 

" DEAR Jo, Here is a case after your own heart. This 
poor lad is an orphan now, sick and friendless. He has 
been a street-musician ; and I found him in a cellar, mourn- 
ing for his dead father, and his lost violin. I think there 
is something in him, and have a fancy that between us we 
may give this little man a lift. You cure his overtasked 
body, Fritz help his neglected mind, and when he is ready 
I '11 see if he is a genius or only a boy with a talent which 
may earn his bread for him. Give him a trial, for the sake 
of your own boy, TEDDY." 



12 Little Men 

" Of course we will ! " cried Mrs. Bhaer, as she read 
the letter; and when she saw Nat, she felt at once 
that whether he was a genius or not, here was a 
lonely, sick boy, who needed just what she loved 
to give, a home, and motherly care. Both she and 
Mr. Bhaer observed him quietly; and in spite of 
ragged clothes, awkward manners, and a dirty face, 
they saw much about Nat that pleased them. He 
was a thin, pale boy, of twelve, with blue eyes, and 
a good forehead under the rough, neglected hair ; 
an anxious, scared face, at times, as if he expected 
hard words, or blows ; and a sensitive mouth, that 
trembled when a kind glance fell on him ; while 
a gentle speech called up a look of gratitude, very 
sweet to see. " Bless the poor dear, he shall fiddle 
all day long if he likes," said Mrs. Bhaer to herself, 
as she saw the eager, happy expression on his face 
when Tommy talked of the band. 

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

" Now, my lad, give us a little tune. We want a 
violin in our band, and I think you will do it nicely." 

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

" I '11 do the best I can, ma'am," was all he said ; 
and then drew the bow across the strings, as if eager 
to hear the dear notes again. 

There was a great clatter in the room, but as if 
deaf to any sounds but those he made, Nat played 



Nat 13 

softly to himself, forgetting every thing in his delight. 
It was only a simple negro melody, such as street- 
musicians play, but it caught the ears of the boys 
at once, and silenced them, till they stood listening 
with surprise and pleasure. Gradually they got nearer 
and nearer, and Mr. Bhaer came up to watch the boy ; 
for, as if he was in his element now, Nat played away 
and never minded any one, while his eyes shone, his 
cheeks reddened, and his thin fingers flew, as he 
hugged the old fiddle and made it speak to all their 
hearts the language that he loved. 

A hearty round of applause rewarded him better 
than a shower of pennies, when he stopped and 
glanced about him, as if to say 

" I Ve done my best; please like it." 

" I say, you do that first rate," cried Tommy, who 
considered Nat his protege. 

" You shall be first fiddle in my band," added 
Franz, with an approving smile. 

Mrs. Bhaer whispered to her husband 

" Teddy is right : there 's something in the child." 
And Mr. Bhaer nodded his head emphatically, as he 
clapped Nat on the shoulder, saying, heartily 

" You play well, my son. Come now and play 
something which w r e can sing." 

It was the proudest, happiest minute of the poor 
boy's life when he was led to the place of honor 
by the piano, and the lads gathered round, never 
heeding his poor clothes, but eying him respect- 
fully, and waiting eagerly to hear him play again. 

They chose a song he knew ; and after one or two 
false starts they got going, and violin, flute, and piano 
led a chorus of boyish voices that made the old roof 



14 Little Men 



ring again. It was too much for Nat, more feeble 
than he knew; and as the final shout died away, 
his face began to work, he dropped the fiddle, and 
turning to the wall, sobbed like a little child. 

" My dear, what is it? " asked Mrs. Bhaer, who had 
been singing with all her might, and trying to keep 
little Rob from beating time with his boots. 

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

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

Then she won him to tell her all his troubles, and 
listened to the little story with tears in her own eyes, 
though it was not a new one to her. 

" My child, you have got a father and a mother 
now, and this is home. Don't think of those sad 
times any more, but get well and happy; and be 
sure you shall never suffer again, if we can help it. 
This place is made for all sorts of boys to have a 
good time in, and to learn how to help themselves 
and be useful men, I hope. You shall have as much 
music as you want, only you must get strong first. 
Now come up to Nursey and have a bath, and then 
go to bed, and to-morrow we will lay some nice little 
plans together." 

Nat held her hand fast in his, but had not a word 
to say, and let his grateful eyes speak for him, as Mrs. 
Bhaer led him up to a big room, where they found 
a stout German woman with a face so round and 



Nat 15 

cheery, that it looked like a sort of sun, with the 
wide frill of her cap for rays. 

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

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

There were two tubs, besides foot-baths, basins, 
douche-pipes, and all manner of contrivances for clean- 
liness. Nat was soon luxuriating in the other bath : 
and while simmering there, he watched the perform- 
ances of the two women, who scrubbed, clean night- 
gowned, and bundled into bed four or five small boys, 
who, of course, cut up all sorts of capers during the 
operation, and kept every one in a gale of merriment 
till they were extinguished in their beds. 

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

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

Nursey approved the plan, finished Nat off with a 
flannel night-gown, a drink of something warm and 



1 6 Little Men 

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

A momentary lull in the aquatic exercises was fol- 
lowed by the sudden appearance of pillows flying in 
all directions, hurled by white goblins, who came riot- 
ing out of their beds. The battle raged in several 
rooms, all down the upper hall, and even surged at 
intervals into the nursery, when some hard-pressed 
warrior took refuge there. No one seemed to mind 
this explosion in the least ; no one forbade it, or even 
looked surprised. Nursey went on hanging up towels, 
and Mrs. Bhaer looked out clean clothes, as calmly 
as if the most perfect order reigned. Nay, she even 
chased one daring boy out of the room, and fired after 
him the pillow he had slyly thrown at her. 

" Won't they hurt 'em? " asked Nat, who lay laugh- 
ing with all his might. 

" Oh dear, no ! we always allow one pillow-fight 
Saturday night. The cases are changed to-morrow; 



Nat 1 7 

and it gets up a glow after the boys' baths ; so I rather 
like it myself," said Mrs. Bhaer, busy again among 
her dozen pairs of socks. 

" What a very nice school this is ! " observed Nat, 
in a burst of admiration. 

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

"It's a beautiful plan," said Nat, feeling that he 
should like to join in the fray, but not venturing to 
propose it the first night. So he lay enjoying the 
spectacle, which certainly was a lively one. 

Tommy Bangs led the assailing party, and Demi 
defended his own room with a dogged courage, fine 
to see, collecting pillows behind him as fast as they 
were thrown, till the besiegers were out of ammuni- 
tion, when they would charge upon him in a body, 
and recover their arms. A few slight accidents oc- 
curred, but nobody minded, and gave and took sound- 
ing thwacks with perfect good humor, while pillows 
flew like big snowflakes, till Mrs. Bhaer looked at her 
watch, and called out 

" Time is up, boys. Into bed, every man Jack, or 
pay the forfeit ! ' 2 



i 8 Little Men 

" What is the forfeit? " asked Nat, sitting up in his 
eagerness to know what happened to those wretches 
who disobeyed this most peculiar, but public-spirited 
schoolma'am. 

" Lose their fun next time," answered Mrs. Bhaer. 
" I give them five minutes to settle down, then put 
out the lights, and expect order. They are honorable 
lads, and they keep their word." 

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



CHAPTER II 

THE BOYS 

WHILE Nat takes a good long sleep, I will 
tell my little readers something about 
the boys, among whom he found himself 
when he woke up. 

To begin with our old friends. Franz was a tall 
lad, of sixteen now, a regular German, big, blond, and 
bookish, also very domestic, amiable, and musical. 
His uncle was fitting him for college, and his aunt for 
a happy home of his own hereafter, because she care- 
fully fostered in him gentle manners, love of children, 
respect for women, old and young, and helpful ways 
about the house. He was her right-hand man on all 
occasions, steady, kind, and patient ; and he loved 
his merry aunt like a mother, for such she had tried 
to be to him. 

Emil was quite different, being quick-tempered, 
restless, and enterprising, bent on going to sea, for 
the blood of the old vikings stirred in his veins, and 
could not be tamed. His uncle promised that he 
should go when he was sixteen, and set him to 
studying navigation, gave him stories of good and 
famous admirals and heroes to read, and let him lead 
the life of a frog in river, pond, and brook, when 
lessons were done. His room looked like the cabin 



20 Little Men 

of a man-of-war, for every thing was nautical, mili- 
tary, and ship shape. Captain Kyd was his delight, 
and his favorite amusement was to rig up like that 
piratical gentleman, and roar out sanguinary sea- 
songs at the top of his voice. He would dance noth- 
ing but sailors' hornpipes, rolled in his gait, and was 
as nautical in conversation as his uncle would permit. 
The boys called him " Commodore," and took great 
pride in his fleet, which whitened the pond and 
suffered disasters that would have daunted any com- 
mander but a sea-struck boy. 

Demi was one of the children who show plainly the 
effect of intelligent love and care, for soul and body 
worked harmoniously together. The natural refine- 
ment which nothing but home influence can teach, 
gave him sweet and simple manners : his mother had 
cherished an innocent and loving heart in him ; his 
father had watched over the physical growth of his 
boy, and kept the little body straight and strong 
on wholesome food and exercise and sleep, while 
Grandpa March cultivated the little mind with the 
tender wisdom of a modern Pythagoras, not task- 
ing it with long, hard lessons, parrot-learned, but 
helping it to unfold as naturally and beautifully as 
sun and dew help roses bloom. He was not a per- 
fect child, by any means, but his faults were of the 
better sort; and being early taught the secret of self- 
control, he was not left at the mercy of appetites and 
passions, as some poor little mortals are, and then 
punished for yielding to the temptations against 
which they have no armor. A quiet, quaint boy 
was Demi, serious, yet cheery, quite unconscious 
that he was unusually bright and beautiful, yet quick 



The Boys 2 i 



to see and love intelligence or beauty in other 
children. Very fond of books, and full of lively fan- 
cies, born of a strong imagination and a spiritual 
nature, these traits made his parents anxious to 
balance them with useful knowledge and healthful 
society, lest they should make him one of those pale 
precocious children who amaze and delight a family 
sometimes, and fade away like hot-house flowers, 
because the young soul blooms too soon, and has 
not a hearty body to root it firmly in the wholesome 
soil of this world. 

So Demi was transplanted to Plumfield, and took 
so kindly to the life there, that Meg and John and 
Grandpa felt satisfied that they had done well. 
Mixing with other boys brought out the practical 
side of him, roused his spirit, and brushed away the 
pretty cobwebs he was so fond of spinning in that 
little brain of his. To be sure, he rather shocked his 
mother when he came home, by banging doors, say- 
ing " by George ' emphatically, and demanding tall 
thick boots " that clumped like papa's." But John 
rejoiced over him, laughed at his explosive remarks, 
got the boots, and said contentedly, " He is doing 
well ; so let him clump. I want my son to be a 
manly boy, and this temporary roughness won't hurt 
him. We can polish him up by and by ; and as for 
learning, he will pick that up as pigeons do peas. 
So don't hurry him." 

Daisy was as sunshiny and charming as ever, with 
all sorts of little womanlinesses budding in her, for 
she was like her gentle mother, and delighted in 
domestic things. She had a family of dolls, whom 
she brought up in the most exemplary manner ; she 



22 Little Men 

could not get on without her little work-basket and 
bits of sewing, which she did so nicely, that Demi 
frequently pulled out his handkerchief to display her 
neat stitches, and Baby Josy had a flannel petticoat 
beautifully made by Sister Daisy. She liked to 
quiddle about the china-closet, prepare the salt- 
cellars, put the spoons straight on the table ; and 
every day went round the parlor with her brush, 
dusting chairs and tables. Demi called her a " Betty," 
but was very glad to have her keep his things in 
order, lend him her nimble fingers in all sorts of 
work, and help him with his lessons, for they kept 
abreast there, and had no thought of rivalry. 

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

Rob was an energetic morsel of a boy, who seemed 
to have discovered the secret of perpetual motion, for 
he never was still. Fortunately, he was not mischiev- 
ous, nor very brave ; so he kept out of trouble pretty 
well, and vibrated between father and mother like an 
affectionate little pendulum with a lively tick, for Rob 
was a chatterbox. 

Teddy was too young to play a very important 
part in the affairs of Plumfield, yet he had his little 
sphere, and filled it beautifully. Every one felt the 



The Boys 23 

need of a pet at times, and Baby was always ready 
to accommodate, for kissing and cuddling suited him 
excellently. Mrs. Jo seldom stirred without him ; 
so he had his little finger in all the domestic pies, 
and every one found them all the better for it, for 
they believed in babies at Plumfield. 

Dick Brown, and Adolphus or Dolly Pettingill, 
were two eight-year-olds. Dolly stuttered badly, but 
was gradually getting over it, for no one was allowed 
to mock him and Mr. Bhaer tried to cure it, by mak- 
ing him talk slowly. Dolly was a good little lad, 
quite uninteresting and ordinary, but he flourished 
here, and went through his daily duties and pleasures 
with placid content and propriety. 

Dick Brown's affliction was a crooked back, yet he 
bore his burden so cheerfully, that Demi once asked 
in his queer way, " Do humps make people good- 
natured ? I 'd like one if they do." Dick was always 
merry, and did his best to be like other boys, for a 
plucky spirit lived in the feeble little body. When he 
first came, he was very sensitive about his misfortune, 
but soon learned to forget it, for no one dared remind 
him of it, after Mr. Bhaer had punished one boy for 
laughing at him. 

" God don't care ; for my soul is straight if my back 
is n't," sobbed Dick to his tormentor on that occasion ; 
and, by cherishing this idea, the Bhaers soon led him 
to believe that people also loved his soul, and did not 
mind his body, except to pity and help him to bear it. 

Playing menagerie once with the others, some one 
said, " What animal will you be, Dick? ' 

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



24 Little Men 

" So you are, my nice little one that don't carry 
loads, but marches by the elephant first in the pro- 
cession," said Demi, who was arranging the spectacle. 

" I hope others will be as kind to the poor dear as 
my boys have learned to be," said Mrs. Jo, quite satis- 
fied with the success of her teaching, as Dick ambled 
past her, looking like a very happy, but a very feeble 
little dromedary, beside stout Stuffy, who did the 
elephant with ponderous propriety. 

Jack Ford was a sharp, rather a sly lad, who was 
sent to this school, because it was cheap. Many men 
would have thought him a smart boy, but Mr. Bhaer 
did not like his way of illustrating that Yankee word, 
and thought his unboyish keenness and money-loving 
as much of an affliction as Dolly's stutter, or Dick's 
hump. 

Ned Barker was like a thousand other boys of four- 
teen, all legs, blunder, and bluster. Indeed the family 
called him the "" Blunderbuss," and always expected 
to see him tumble over the chairs, bump against the 
tables, and knock down any small articles near him. 
He bragged a good deal about what he could do, but 
seldom did any thing to prove it, was not brave, and 
a little given to tale-telling. He was apt to bully the 
small boys, and flatter the big ones, and without be- 
ing at all bad, was just the sort of fellow who could 
very easily be led astray. 

George Cole had been spoilt by an over-indulgent 
mother, who stuffed him with sweetmeats till he was 
sick, and then thought him too delicate to study, so 
that at twelve years old, he was a pale, puffy boy, 
dull, fretful, and lazy. A friend persuaded her to 
send him to Plumfield, and there he soon got waked 



The Boys 25 

up, for sweet things were seldom allowed, much 
exercise required, and study made so pleasant, 
that Stuffy was gently lured along, till he quite 
amazed his anxious mamma by his improvement, 
and convinced her that there was really something 
remarkable in Plumfield air. 

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

It was a terrible lesson to his ambitious father ; he 
could not bear the sight of his promising child, 
changed to a feeble idiot, and he sent him away to 
Plumfield, scarcely hoping that he could be helped, 
but sure that he would be kindly treated. Quite 
docile and harmless was Billy, and it was pitiful to 
see how hard he tried to learn, as if groping dimly 
after the lost knowledge which had cost him so much. 
Day after day, he pored over the alphabet, proudly 
said A and B, and thought that he knew them, but 
on the morrow they were gone, and all the work was 
to be done over again. Mr. Bhaer had infinite pa- 
tience with him, and kept on in spite of the apparent 
hopelessness of the task, not caring for book lessons, 



26 Little Men 

but trying gently to clear away the mists from the 
darkened mind, and give it back intelligence enough 
to make the boy less a burden and an affliction. 

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

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

The first day he came, he chopped the top off one 
finger in the hay-cutter, and during the week, fell 
from the shed roof, was chased by an angry hen who 
tried to pick his eyes out because he examined her 



The Boys 27 

chickens, got run away with, and had his ears boxed 
violently by Asia, who caught him luxuriously skim- 
ming a pan of cream with half a stolen pie. 
Undaunted, however, by any failures or rebuffs, this 
indomitable youth went on amusing himself with all 
sorts of tricks till no one felt safe. If he did not 
know his lessons, he always had some droll excuse 
to offer, and as he was usually clever at his books, 
and as bright as a button in composing answers when 
he did not know them, he got on pretty well at school. 
But out of school, Ye gods and little fishes! how 
Tommy did carouse ! 

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



28 Little Men 

by hanging his big boots in conspicuous places, for his 
feet were enormous, and he was very much ashamed 
of them. He persuaded confiding little Dolly to tie 
a thread to one of his loose teeth, and leave the string 
hanging from his mouth when he went to sleep, so 
that Tommy could pull it out without his feeling the 
dreaded operation. But the tooth would n't come 
at the first tweak, and poor Dolly woke up in great 
anguish of spirit, and lost all faith in Tommy from 
that day forth. The last prank had been to give the 
hens bread soaked in rum, which made them tipsy 
and scandalized all the other fowls, for the respect- 
able old biddies went staggering about, pecking and 
clucking in the most maudlin manner, while the fam- 
ily were convulsed with laughter at their antics, till 
Daisy took pity on them and shut them up in the 
hen-house to sleep off their intoxication. 

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



CHAPTER III 

SUNDAY 



r l~~"^HE moment the bell rang next morning Nat 
flew out of bed, and dressed himself with 
M great satisfaction in the suit of clothes he 

found on the chair. They were not new, being half- 
worn garments of one of the well-to-do boys ; but 
Mrs. Bhaer kept all such cast-oft' feathers for the 
picked robins who strayed into her nest. They were 
hardly on when Tommy appeared in a high state of 
clean collar, and escorted Nat down to breakfast. 

The sun was shining into the dining-room on the 
well-spread table, and the flock of hungry, hearty lads 
who gathered round it. Nat observed that they were 
much more orderly than they had been the night be- 
fore, and every one stood silently behind his chair 
while little Rob, standing beside his father at the 
head of the table, folded his hands, reverently bent 
his curly head, and softly repeated a short grace in 
the devout German fashion, which Mr. Bhaer loved 
and taught his little son to honor. Then they all 
sat clown to enjoy the Sunday-morning breakfast of 
coffee, steak, and baked potatoes, instead of the 
bread and milk fare with which they usually satis- 
fied their young appetites. There was much pleas- 
ant talk while the knives and forks rattled briskly, 



30 Little Men 

for certain Sunday lessons were to be learned, the 
Sunday walk settled, and plans for the week dis- 
cussed. As he listened, Nat thought it seemed as 
if this day must be a very pleasant one, for he loved 
quiet, and there was a cheerful sort of hush over 
every thing that pleased him very much; because, 
in spite of his rough life, the boy possessed the 
sensitive nerves which belong to a music-loving 
nature. 

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

Every one scattered to his or her task, for each 
had some little daily duty, and was expected to per- 
form it faithfully. Some brought wood and water, 
brushed the steps, or ran errands for Mrs. Bhaer. 
Others fed the pet animals, and did chores about 
the barn with Franz. Daisy washed the cups, and 
Demi wiped them, for the twins liked to work to- 
gether, and Demi had been taught to make himself 
useful in the little house at home. Even Baby 
Teddy had his small job to do, and trotted to and 
fro, putting napkins away, and pushing chairs into 
their places. For half an hour the lads buzzed about 
like a hive of bees, then the 'bus drove round, Father 
Bhaer and Franz with the eight older boys piled in, 
and away they went for a three mile drive to church 
in town. 

Because of the troublesome cough Nat preferred 
to stay at home with the four small boys, and 
spent a happy morning in Mrs. Bhaer's room, lis- 



Sunday 3 i 



tening to the stories she read them, learning the 
hymn she taught them, and then quietly employ- 
ing himself pasting pictures into an old ledger. 

" This is my Sunday closet," she said, showing him 
shelves filled with picture-books, paint-boxes, archi- 
tectural blocks, little diaries, and materials for letter- 
writing. " I want my boys to love Sunday, to find it a 
peaceful, pleasant day, when they can rest from com- 
mon study and play, yet enjoy quiet pleasures, and 
learn, in simple ways, lessons more important than 
any taught in school. Do you understand me? ' she 
asked, watching Nat's attentive face. 

" You mean to be good? " he said, after hesitating 
a minute. 

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

" Why, that 's my name ! " cried Nat, looking both 
surprised and interested. 

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

" I should think they would," said Nat, catching a 
glimpse of Tommy's name opposite his own, and 
wondering what was written under it. 



32 Little Men 

Mrs. Bhaer saw his eye on the words, and shook 
her head, saying, as she turned a leaf 

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

" I '11 try, ma'am ; ' and Nat's thin face flushed up 
with the earnestness of his desire to make Mrs. Bhaer 
" glad and proud," not " sorry and disappointed." 
" It must be a great deal of trouble to write about so 
many," he added, as she shut her book with an en- 
couraging pat on the shoulder. 

" Not to me, for I really don't know which I like 
best, writing or boys," she said, laughing to see Nat 
stare with astonishment at the last item. " Yes, I 
know many people think boys are a nuisance, but that 
is because they don't understand them. I do ; and I 
never saw the boy yet whom I could not get on 
capitally with after I had once found the soft spot in 
his heart. Bless me, I could n't get on at all without 
my flock of dear, noisy, naughty, harum-scarum little 
lads, could I, my Teddy?" and Mrs. Bhaer hugged 
the young rogue, just in time to save the big inkstand 
from going into his pocket. 

Nat, who had never heard anything like this before, 
really did not know whether Mother Bhaer was a trifle 
crazy, or the most delightful woman he had ever met. 



Sunday 33 

He rather inclined to the latter opinion, in spite of 
her peculiar tastes, for she had a way of filling up a 
fellow's plate before he asked, of laughing at his jokes, 
gently tweaking him by the ear, or clapping him on 
the shoulder, that Nat found very engaging. 

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

Alone with the beloved violin and the music-book 
propped up before him in the sunny window, while 
Spring beauty filled the world outside, and Sabbath 
silence reigned within, Nat enjoyed an hour or two of 
genuine happiness, learning the sweet old tunes, and 
forgetting the hard past in the cheerful present. 

When the church-goers came back and dinner was 
over, every one read, wrote letters home, said their 
Sunday lessons, or talked quietly to one another, 
sitting here and there about the house. At three 
o'clock the entire family turned out to walk, for all 
the active young bodies must have exercise ; and in 
these walks the active young minds were taught to 
see and love the providence of God in the beautiful 
miracles which Nature was working before their eyes. 
Mr. Bhaer always went with them, and in his simple, 
fatherly way, found for his flock " Sermons in stones, 
books in the running brooks, and good in every thing." 

Mrs. Bhaer with Daisy and her own two boys drove 
into town, to pay the weekly visit to Grandma, which 
was busy Mother Bhaer's one holiday and greatest 
pleasure. Nat was not strong enough for the long 
walk, and asked to stay at home with Tommy, 
who kindly offered to do the honors of Plumfield. 

3 



34 Little Men 

" You Ve seen the house, so come out and have a 
look at the garden, and the barn, and the menagerie," 
said Tommy, when they were left alone with Asia, to 
see that they did n't get into mischief; for, though 
Tommy was one of the best-meaning boys who ever 
adorned knickerbockers, accidents of the most dire- 
ful nature were always happening to him, no one 
could exactly tell how. 

" What is your menagerie?' asked Nat, as they 
trotted along the drive that encircled the house. 

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

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

" I 'd like it ever so much, and I '11 give you this 
one, and they can live together if they don't fight. 
Those white mice are Rob's, Franz gave 'em to him. 
The rabbits are Ned's, and the bantams outside are 
Stuffy 's. That box thing is Demi's turtle-tank, only 
he has n't begun to get 'em yet. Last year he had 
sixty-two, whackers some of 'em. He stamped one 
of 'em with his name and the year, and let it go ; and 
he says maybe he will find it ever so long after and 
know it. He read about a turtle being found that 
had a mark on it that showed it must be hundreds of 
years old. Demi 's such a funny chap." 



Sunday 35 

" What is in this box? " asked Nat, stopping before 
a large deep one, half-full of earth. 

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

" Who owns the dogs? " asked Nat, much interested 
in these commercial transactions, and feeling that T. 
Bangs was a man whom it would be a privilege and a 
pleasure to patronize. 

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

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



Little Men 

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

Nat climbed up a ladder, put his head through a 
trap door and took a long look at the pretty doves 
billing and cooing in their spacious loft. Some on 
their nests, some bustling in and out, and some sit- 
ting at their doors, while many went flying from the 
sunny housetop to the straw-strewn farmyard, where 
six sleek cows were placidly ruminating. 

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

" We find 'em, or buy 'em, or folks give 'em to us. 
My father sends me mine ; but as soon as I get egg 
money enough, I 'm going to buy a pair of ducks. 
There's a nice little pond for 'em behind the barn, 
and people pay well for duck-eggs, and the little 
duckies are pretty, and it's fun to see 'em swim," 
said Tommy, with the air of a millionnaire. 

Nat sighed, for he had neither father nor money, 
nothing in the wide world but an old empty pocket- 
book, and the skill that lay in his ten finger tips. 
Tommy seemed to understand the question and the 



Sunday 37 

sigh which followed his answer, for after a moment of 
deep thought, he suddenly broke out, - 

" Look here, I '11 tell you what I '11 do. If you will 
hunt eggs for me, I hate it, I '11 give you one egg out 
of every dozen. You keep account, and when you Ve 
had twelve, Mother Bhaer will give you twenty-five 
cents for 'em, and then you can buy what you like, 
don't you see? ' 

" I '11 do it ! What a kind feller you are, Tommy ! ' 
cried Nat, quite dazzled by this brilliant offer. 

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

Nat joyfully began his search, and went rustling 
from loft to loft till he found two fine eggs, one hid- 
den under a beam, and the other in an old peck 
measure, which Mrs. Cockletop had appropriated. 

" You may have one and I '11 have the other, that 
will just make up my last dozen, and to-morrow we '11 
start fresh. Here, you chalk your accounts up near 
mine, and then we '11 be all straight," said Tommy, 
showing a row of mysterious figures on the smooth 
side of an old winnowing machine. 

With a delightful sense of importance, the proud 
possessor of one egg opened his account with his 
friend, who laughingly wrote above the figures these 
imposing words, 

"T. Bangs & Co." 

Poor Nat found them so fascinating that he was 
with difficulty persuaded to go and deposit his first 



Little Men 

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

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

" Oh, it 's just beautiful ! " cried Nat. " I do hope 
you '11 let me up sometimes. I never saw such a 
nice place in all my life. I 'd like to be a bird, and 
live here always. ' 

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

" Did he ? " and Nat smiled with pleasure, for 
Demi's regard seemed to be valued by all the boys, 
partly because he was Father Bhaer's nephew, and 
partly because he was such a sober, conscientious 
little fellow. 

"Yes; Demi likes quiet chaps, and I guess he 



Sunday 39 

and you will get on if you care about reading as 
he does." 

Poor Nat's flush of pleasure deepened to a pain- 
ful scarlet at those last words, and he stammered 
out, 

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

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

" I can read music, anyway," added Nat, rather 
ruffled at having to confess his ignorance. 

" I can't ; " and Tommy spoke in a respectful tone, 
which emboldened Nat to say firmly, - 

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

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

" I think I could read this," said Nat, who had 
been examining the books. 

" Read a bit, then ; I '11 help you," resumed Tommy, 
with a patronizing air. 

So Nat did his best, and floundered through a page 
with many friendly " boosts " from Tommy, who told 
him he would soon " go it " as well as anybody. 



40 Little Men 

Then they sat and talked boy-fashion about all sorts 
of things, among others, gardening ; for Nat, looking 
down from his -perch, asked what was planted in the 
many little patches lying below them on the other 
side of the brook. 

" These are our farms," said Tommy. " We each 
have our own patch, and raise what we like in it, only 
we have to choose different things, and can't change 
till the crop is in, and we must keep it in order all 



summer.' 



" What are you going to raise this year? " 

" Wai, I cattlczted to hev beans, as they are about 
the easiest crop a-goin'." 

Nat could not help laughing, for Tommy had 
pushed back his hat, put his hands in his pockets, 
and drawled out his words in unconscious imitation 
of Silas, the man who managed the place for Mr. 
Bhaer. 

" Come, you need n't laugh ; beans are ever so 
much easier than corn or potatoes. I tried melons 
last year, but the bugs were a bother, and the old 
things would n't get ripe before the frost, so I did n't 
have but one good water and two little * mush mel- 
lions/ said Tommy, relapsing into a " Silasism ' 
with the last word. 

" Corn looks pretty growing," said Nat, politely, to 
atone for his laugh. 

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



Sunday 41 



"I wonder if I shall have a garden?' said Nat, 
thinking that even corn-hoeing must be pleasant 
work. 

" Of course you will," said a voice from below, and 
there was Mr. Bhaer returned from his walk, and come 
to find them, for he managed to have a little talk with 
every one of the lads sometime during the day, and 
found that these chats gave them a good start for 
the coming week. 

Sympathy is a sweet thing, and it worked wonders 
here, for each boy knew that Father Bhaer was inter- 
ested in him, and some were readier to open their 
hearts to him than to a woman, especially the older 
ones, who liked to talk over their hopes and plans, 
man to man. When sick or in trouble they instinc- 
tively turned to Mrs. Jo, while the little ones made 
her their mother-confessor on all occasions. 

In descending from their nest, Tommy fell into the 
brook ; being used to it, he calmly picked himself out 
and retired to the house to be dried. This left Nat to 
Mr. Bhaer, which was just what he wished, and, during 
the stroll they took among the garden plots, he won the 
lad's heart by giving him a little " farm," and discuss- 
ing crops with him as gravely as if the food for the 
family depended on the harvest. From this pleasant 
topic they went to others, and Nat had many new and 
helpful thoughts put into a mind that received them 
as gratefully as the thirsty earth had received the 
warm spring rain. All supper time he brooded over 
them, often fixing his eyes on Mr. Bhaer with an 
inquiring look, that seemed to say, "I like that, do 
it again, sir." I don't know whether the man under- 
stood the child's mute language or not, but when the 



42 Little Men 

boys were all gathered together in Mrs. Bhaer's par- 
lor for the Sunday evening talk, he chose a subject 
which might have been suggested by the walk in the 
garden. 

As he looked about him Nat thought it seemed 
more like a great family than a school, for the lads 
were sitting in a wide half-circle round the fire, some 
on chairs, some on the rug, Daisy and Demi on the 
knees of Uncle Fritz, and Rob snugly stowed away in 
the back of his mother's easy-chair, where he could 
nod unseen if the talk got beyond his depth. Every 
one looked quite comfortable, and listened atten- 
tively, for the long walk made rest agreeable, and as 
every boy there knew that he would be called upon 
for his views, he kept his wits awake to be ready with 
an answer. 

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

" He must have been pretty old," said Demi, who 
was looking straight into Uncle Fritz's face, as if to 
catch every word. 



Sunday 43 

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

" No, I think it 's a arrygory," said Demi. 

" What is a arrygory ? ' called out Tommy, who 
was of an inquiring turn. 

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

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

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

Demi composed himself, and Mr. Bhaer went on in 
his best English, for he had improved much in the 
last five years, and said the boys did it. 

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

" What was growing in them besides the weeds, 



44 Little Men 

and stones?" asked Nat; so interested, he forgot his 
shyness and spoke before them all. 

" Flowers," said Mr. Bhaer, with a kind look. 
" Even the roughest, most neglected little bed had a 
bit of heart's-ease or a sprig of mignonette in it. 
One had roses, sweet peas, and daisies in it," here 
he pinched the plump cheek of the little girl leaning 
on his arm. " Another had all sorts of curious plants 
in it, bright pebbles, a vine that went climbing up 
like Jack's bean-stalk, and many good seeds just 
beginning to sprout ; for, you see, this bed had been 
taken fine care of by a wise old man, who had worked 
in gardens of this sort all his life." 

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

" As I tell you, some of these beds were easy to 
cultivate, that means to take care of, Daisy, and 
others were very hard. There was one particularly 
sunshiny little bed, that might have been full of 
fruits and vegetables as well as flowers, only it 
would n't take any pains, and when the man sowed, 
well, we '11 say melons in this bed, they came to 
nothing, because the little bed neglected them. The 
man was sorry, and kept on trying, though every 
time the crop failed, all the bed said, was, ' I 
forgot. ' " 

Here a general laugh broke out, and every one 



Sunday 45 

looked at Tommy, who had pricked up his ears at 
the word " melons," and hung down his head at the 
sound of his favorite excuse. 

" I knew he meant us ! " cried Demi, clapping his 
hands. " You are the man, and we are the little gar- 
dens; aren't we, Uncle Fritz?' 

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

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

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

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

" I shall devote the whole of my plot to the 
largest crop of patience I can get, for that is what I 
need most," said Mrs. Jo, so soberly that the lads fell 
to thinking in good earnest what they should say 



4 6 



Little Men 



when their turns came, and some among them felt a 
twinge of remorse, that they had helped to use up 
Mother Bhaer's stock of patience so fast. 

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

" I wish I loved my lessons as much as I do my 
dinner, but I can't." 

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

" But, ' Harry and Lucy,' and ' Frank/ are not fairy 
books, and they are all full of barometers, and bricks, 
and shoeing horses, and useful things, and I 'm fond 



Sunday 47 



of them; ain't I, Daisy?' said Demi, anxious to 
defend himself. 

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

" But we don't like cricket," said Demi. 

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

This was taking them both on the right side, and 
they agreed to the bargain, to the great satisfaction 
of the rest. 

There was a little more talk about the gardens, and 
then they all sang together. The band delighted Nat, 
for Mrs. Bhaer played the piano, Franz the flute, Mr. 
Bhaer a bass viol, and he himself the violin. A very 
simple little concert, but all seemed to enjoy it, and 
old Asia, sitting in the corner, joined at times with 
the sweetest voice of any, for in this family, master 
and servant, old and young, black and white, shared 
in the Sunday song, which went up to the Father of 
them all. After this they each shook hands with 
Father Bhaer ; Mother Bhaer kissed them every one 
from sixteen-year-old Franz to little Rob, who kept 



48 Little Men 

the tip of her nose for his own particular kisses, and 
then they trooped up to bed. 

The light of the shaded lamp that burned in the 
nursery shone softly on a picture hanging at the foot 
of Nat's bed. There were several others on the walls, 
but the boy thought there must be something pecu- 
liar about this one, for it had a graceful frame of 
moss and cones about it, and on a little bracket under- 
neath stood a vase of wild flowers freshly gathered 
from the spring woods. It was the most beautiful 
picture of them all, and Nat lay looking at it, dimly 
feeling what it meant, and wishing he knew all 
about it. 

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

" What is he doing to the children? " asked Nat. 

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

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

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

" Who told you ?" 

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

" How old are you now? " asked Nat, respectfully. 



Sunday 49 



" 'Most ten." 

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

" Yes ; you see my head is pretty big, and Grandpa 
says it will take a good deal to fill it, so I keep put- 
ting pieces of wisdom into it as fast as I can," re- 
turned Demi, in his quaint way. 

Nat laughed, and then said soberly, 

" Tell on, please." 

And Demi gladly told on without pause or punct- 
uation. " I found a very pretty book one day and 
wanted to play with it, but Grandpa said I must n't, 
and showed me the pictures, and told me about them, 
and I liked the stories very much, all about Joseph and 
his bad brothers, and the frogs that came up out 
of the sea, and dear little Moses in the water, and 
ever so many more lovely ones, but I liked about the 
Good Man best of all, and Grandpa told it to me 
so many times that I learned it by heart, and he gave 
me this picture so I should n't forget, and it was put 
up here once when I was sick, and I left it for other 
sick boys to see." 

"What makes Him bless the children?' asked 
Nat, who found something very attractive in the 
chief figure of the group. 
" Because He loved them." 

" Were they poor children ? " asked Nat, wistfully. 
" Yes, I think so ; you see some have n't got hardly 
any clothes on, and the mothers don't look like rich 
ladies. He liked poor people, and was very good to 
them. He made them well, and helped them, and 
told rich people they must not be cross to them, and 
they loved Him dearly, dearly," cried Demi, with 
enthusiasm. 



50 Little Men 



( Was He rich?' 

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

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

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

Nursey peeped in to see if Nat was asleep, but 
when she saw what was going on, she slipped away 
again, and went to Mrs. Bhaer, saying with her kind 
face full of motherly emotion, 

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

Mrs. Bhaer had meant to go and talk with Nat a 
moment before he slept, for she had found that a 
serious word spoken at this time often did much good. 
But when she stole to the nursery door, and saw 
Nat eagerly drinking in the words of his little friend, 
while Demi told the sweet and solemn story as it had 
been taught him, speaking softly as he sat with his 
beautiful eyes fixed on the tender face above them, 
her own filled with tears, and she went silently away, 
thinking to herself, 

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



Sunday 51 

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



CHAPTER IV 

STEPPING-STONES 

WHEN Nat went into school on Monday 
morning, he quaked inwardly, for now he 
thought he should have to display his 
ignorance before them all. But Mr. Bhaer gave him 
a seat in the deep window, where he could turn his 
back on the others, and Franz heard him say his 
lessons there, so no one could hear his blunders or 
see how he blotted his copy-book. He was truly 
grateful for this, and toiled away so diligently that 
Mr. Bhaer said, smiling, when he saw his hot face and 
inky fingers, 

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

" But I must work hard, or I can't catch up with the 
others. They know heaps, and I don't know any 
thing," said Nat, who had been reduced to a state of 
despair by hearing the boys recite their grammar, 
history, and geography with what he thought amaz- 
ing ease and accuracy. 

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

" Do I? " and Nat looked utterly incredulous. 



Stepping-Stones 53 

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

Nat's face had brightened more and more as he 
listened, for, small as the list of his learning was, it 
cheered him immensely to feel that he had anything 
to fall back upon. " Yes, I can keep my temper 
father's beating taught me that; and I can fiddle, 
though I don't know where the Bay of Biscay is," he 
thought, with a sense of comfort impossible to ex- 
press. Then he said aloud, and so earnestly that 
Demi heard him, 

" I do want to learn, and I will try. I never went 
to school, but I could n't help it ; and if the fellows 
don't laugh at me, I guess I '11 get on first rate you 
and the lady are so good to me." 

" They shan't laugh at you ; if they do, I'll I '11 
tell them not to," cried Demi, quite forgetting 
where he was. 

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

Thinking that a lesson in learning to help one 
another was better than arithmetic just then, Mr. 
Bhaer told them about Nat, making such an interest- 
ing and touching little story out of it that the good- 
hearted lads all promised to lend him a hand, and felt 
quite honored to be called upon to impart their stores 



54 Little Men 

of wisdom to the chap who fiddled so capitally. This 
appeal established the right feeling among them, and 
Nat had few hindrances to struggle against, for every 
one was glad to give him a " boost" up the ladder of 
learning. 

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

" This is the crop I like best," Mrs. Bhaer used to 
say, as she pinched the once thin cheeks now getting 
plump and ruddy, or stroked the bent shoulders that 
were slowly straightening up with healthful work, 
good food, and the absence of that heavy burden, 
poverty. 

Demi was his little friend, Tommy his patron, and 
Daisy the comforter of all his woes ; for, though the 
children were younger than he, his timid spirit found 
a pleasure in their innocent society, and rather 
shrunk from the rough sports of the elder lads. Mr. 
Laurence did not forget him, but sent clothes and 
books, music and kind messages, and now and then 
came out to see how his boy was getting on, or took 



Stepping-Stones 5 5 



him into town to a concert ; on which occasions Nat 
felt himself translated into the seventh heaven of bliss, 
for he went to Mr. Laurence's great house, saw his 
pretty wife and little fairy of a daughter, had a good 
dinner, and was made so comfortable, that he talked 
and dreamed of it for days and nights afterward. 

It takes so little to make a child happy, that it is a 
pity in a world full of sunshine and pleasant things, 
that there should be any wistful faces, empty hands, 
or lonely little hearts. Feeling this, the Bhaers 
gathered up all the crumbs they could find to feed 
their flock of hungry sparrows, for they were not 
rich, except in charity. Many of Mrs. Jo's friends 
who had nurseries sent her the toys of which their 
children so soon tired, and in mending these Nat 
found an employment that just suited him. He was 
very neat and skilful with those slender fingers of his, 
and passed many a rainy afternoon with his gum- 
bottle, paint-box, and knife, repairing furniture, ani- 
mals, and games, while Daisy was dressmaker to the 
dilapidated dolls. As fast as the toys were mended, 
they were put carefully away in a certain drawer 
which was to furnish forth a Christmas-tree for all the 
poor children of the neighborhood, that being the way 
the Plumfield boys celebrated the birthday of Him who 
loved the poor and blessed the little ones. 

Demi was never tired of reading and explaining 
his favorite books, and many a pleasant hour did they 
spend in the old willow, revelling over " Robinson 
Crusoe," " Arabian Nights," " Edgeworth's Tales," 
and the other dear immortal stories that will delight 
children for centuries to come. This opened a new 
world to Nat, and his eagerness to see what came 



Little Men 

next in the story helped him on till he could read as 
well as anybody, and felt so rich and proud with his 
new accomplishment, that there was danger of his 
being as much of a bookworm as Demi. 

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

" Let him be a mechanic if he likes," said Mr. 
Bhaer. " Give a boy a trade, and he is independent. 
Work is wholesome, and whatever talent these lads 
possess, be it for poetry or ploughing, it shall be 
cultivated and made useful to them if possible." 

So when Nat came running to him one day to ask 
with an excited face, 

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

it," 

Mr. Bhaer answered readily, 

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

Nat went, and did so well, that when he came 



Stepping-Stones 5 7 

home he had two dollars in his pocket, which he 
displayed with intense satisfaction, as he told how 
much he had enjoyed the afternoon, how kind the 
young people were, and how they had praised his 
dance-music, and promised to have him again. 

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

He was in business truly, for picnics were plenty 
as summer opened, and Nat's skill was in great 
demand. He was always at liberty to go if lessons 
were not neglected, and if the picnics were respect- 
able young people. For Mr. Bhaer explained to 
him that a good plain education is necessary for 
every one, and that no amount of money should hire 
him to go where he might be tempted to do wrong. 
Nat quite agreed to this, and it was a pleasant sight 
to see the innocent-hearted lad go driving away in 
the gay wagons that stopped at the gate for him, or 
to hear him come fiddling home tired but happy, 
with his well-earned money in one pocket, and some 
" goodies " from the feast for Daisy or little Ted, 
whom he never forgot. 

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

" I hope so, Nat ; but we must get you strong and 
hearty first, and put a little more knowledge into this 
musical head of yours. Then Mr. Laurie will find 



Little Men 

you a place somewhere, and in a few years we will 
all come to hear you play in public." 

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

Daisy had a great love of music, and a great rever- 
ence for any one who could make it, and she was 
often found sitting on the stairs outside Nat's door 
while he was practising. This pleased him very 
much, and he played his best for that one quiet 
little listener ; for she never would come in, but pre- 
ferred to sit sewing her gay patchwork, or tending 
one of her many dolls, with an expression of dreamy 
pleasure on her face that made Aunt Jo say, with 
tears in her eyes, 

" So like my Beth," and go softly by, lest even her 
familiar presence mar the child's sweet satisfaction. 

Nat was very fond of Mrs. Bhaer, but found some- 
thing even more attractive in the good professor, 
who took fatherly care of the shy feeble boy, who had 
barely escaped with his life from the rough sea on 
which his little boat had been tossing rudderless for 
twelve years. Some good angel must have watched 
over him, for, though his body had suffered, his soul 



Stepping-Stones 5 9 

seemed to have taken little harm, and came ashore 
as innocent as a shipwrecked baby. Perhaps his 
love of music kept it sweet in spite of the discord all 
about him ; Mr. Laurie said so, and he ought to 
know. However that might be, Father Bhaer took 
real pleasure in fostering poor Nat's virtues, and 
in curing his faults, finding his new pupil as docile 
and affectionate as a girl. He often called Nat his 
" daughter ' when speaking of him to Mrs. Jo, and 
she used to laugh at his fancy, for Madame liked 
manly boys, and thought Nat amiable but weak, 
though you never would have guessed it, for she 
petted him as she did Daisy, and he thought her a 
very delightful woman. 

One fault of Nat's gave the Bhaers much anxiety, 
although they saw how it had been strengthened by 
fear and ignorance. I regret to say that Nat some- 
times told lies. Not very black ones, seldom getting 
deeper than gray, and often the mildest of white fibs ; 
but that did not matter, a lie is a lie, and though we 
all tell many polite untruths in this queer world of 
ours, it is not right, and everybody knows it. 

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

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

" When I was a little lad I used to tell lies ! Ach ! 



60 Little Men 

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

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

Mr. Bhaer smiled, but shook his head. 

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

" How? " asked Nat, startled at the idea. 

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

Strike you? Oh, I could n't ! " cried Nat. 
Then mind that tripping tongue of thine. I have 
no wish to be hurt, but I would gladly bear much 
pain to cure this fault." 



u 
u 



Stepping-Stones 6 1 

This suggestion made such an impression on Nat, 
that for a long time he set a watch upon his lips, and 
was desperately accurate, for Mr. Bhaer judged rightly, 
that love of him would be more powerful with Nat 
than fear for himself. But alas ! one sad day Nat was 
off his guard, and when peppery Emil threatened to 
thrash him, if it was he who had run over his garden 
and broken down his best hills of corn, Nat declared 
he did n't, and then was ashamed to own up that he 
did do it, when Jack was chasing him the night 
before. 

He thought no one would find it out, but Tommy 
happened to see him, and when Emil spoke of it a 
day or two later, Tommy gave his evidence, and Mr. 
Bhaer heard it. School was over, and they were all 
standing about in the hall, and Mr. Bhaer had just sat 
down on the straw settee, to enjoy his frolic with 
Teddy; but when he heard Tommy, and saw Nat 
turn scarlet, and look at him with a frightened face, 
he put the little boy down, saying, " Go to thy 
mother, biibchen, I will come soon," and taking Nat 
by the hand led him into the school, and shut the 
door. 

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

" My eye ! he 's going to come down heavy on 
Nat this time. Wish I had n't told," thought good- 
natured Tommy, for to be feruled was the deepest 
disgrace at this school. 



62 Little Men 

" You remember what I told you last time? " said 
Mr. Bhaer, sorrowfully, not angrily. 

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

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

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

Tommy was so staggered by this last speech that 
he nearly tumbled down the bank, but saved himself, 
and hung on to the window ledge, staring in with eyes 
as round as the stuffed owl's on the chimney-piece. 

Nat took the rule, for when Mr. Bhaer spoke in 
that tone every one obeyed him, and, looking as 
scared and guilty as if about to stab his master, he 
gave two feeble blows on the broad hand held out to 
him. Then he stopped and looked up half-blind with 
tears, but Mr. Bhaer said steadily, 

" Go on, and strike harder." 

As if seeing that it must be done, and eager to 
have the hard task soon over, Nat drew his sleeve 
across his eyes and gave two more quick hard strokes 
that reddened the hand, yet hurt the giver more. 

" Is n't that enough? " he asked in a breathless sort 
of tone. 

" Two more," was all the answer, and he gave them, 
hardly seeing where they fell, then threw the rule all 
across the room, and hugging the kind hand in both 
his own, laid his face down on it sobbing out in a 
passion of love, and shame, and penitence, 



Stepping-Stones 63 

" I will remember ! Oh ! I will ! " 

Then Mr. Bhaer put an arm about him, and said in 
a tone as compassionate as it had just now been 
firm, - 

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

Tommy saw no more, for he crept back to the hall, 
looking so excited and sober that the boys crowded 
round him to ask what was being done to Nat. 

In a most impressive whisper Tommy told them, 
and they looked as if the sky was about to fall, for this 
reversing the order of things almost took their breath 
away. 

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

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

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

" How could you ? " said Demi, appalled at the idea. 

" I was hopping mad at the time, and thought I 
should n't mind a bit, rather like it perhaps. But 
when I 'd hit Uncle one good crack, every thing he 
had ever done for me came into my head all at once 
somehow, and I could n't go on. No, sir ! if he 'd 
laid me down and walked on me, I would n't have 
minded, I felt so mean ; " and Emil gave himself a 
good thump in the chest to express his sense of re- 
morse for the past. 

" Nat 's crying like any thing, and feels no end 



6 4 



Little Men 



sorry, so don't let 's say a word about it ; will we ? ' 
said tender-hearted Tommy. 

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

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

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

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

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

boys. 

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

friend. 

The walk did Nat good, and he came home quieter 
than usual, but looking cheerful again, and hung all 



Stepping-Stones 6 5 

over with daisy-chains, made by his little playmate 
while he lay on the grass and told her stories. 

No one said a word about the scene of the morn- 
ing, but its effect was all the more lasting for that 
reason, perhaps. Nat tried his very best, and found 
much help, not only from the earnest little prayers 
he prayed to his Friend in heaven, but also in the 
patient care of the earthly friend, whose kind hand 
he never touched without remembering that it had 
willingly borne pain for his sake. 



CHAPTER V 

PATTY PANS 



W 



HAT'S the matter, Daisy?' 
" The boys won't let me play with them." 
"Why not?" 

" They say girls can't play foot-ball." 

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

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

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

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

" I '11 play with you by and by, but just now I must 
fly about and get things ready for a trip into town. 
You shall go with me and see mamma, and if you 
like you can stay with her." 

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



Patty Pans 67 



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

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

" Now, what will you do with your little self while 
I fly round ? ' asked Mrs. Bhaer, who was whisking 
piles of linen into a wardrobe with great rapidity. 

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

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

" Yes, I think I 'd like that, if she is n't cross," and 
Daisy slowly departed to the kitchen, where Asia, 
the black cook, reigned undisturbed. 

In five minutes Daisy was back again, with a wide- 
awake face, a bit of dough in her hand and a dab of 
flour on her little nose. 

" O Aunty ! please could I go and make ginger- 
snaps and things? Asia isn't cross, and she says I 
may, and it would be such fun, please do," cried 
Daisy, all in one breath. 

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

Daisy ran off, and while she worked, Aunt Jo 



68 Little Men 

racked her brain for a new play. All of a sudden she 
seemed to have an idea, for she smiled to herself, 
slammed the doors of the wardrobe, and walked 
briskly away, saying, " I '11 do it, if it 's a possible 
thing ! " 

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

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

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

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

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



Patty Pans 69 

" What is it made of? " cried Daisy. 

" Iron, tin, wood, brass, sugar, salt, coal, and a hun- 
dred other things." 

" How strange ! what color is it? ' 

" All sorts of colors." 

"Is it large?" 

" Part of it is, and a part is n't." 

" Did I ever see one? ' 

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

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

" To-morrow morning, after lessons." 

" Is it for the boys too ? ' 

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

" I '11 let Demi, if he wants to." 

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

" Let me feel just once," prayed Daisy. 

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

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

" How can I wait so long? Couldn't I see it to- 
day?" 

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



70 Little Men 



' If Uncle knows about it then it must be splendid ! ' 
cried Daisy, clapping her hands ; for this kind, rich, 
jolly uncle of hers was as good as a fairy godmother 
to the children, and was always planning merry sur- 
prises, pretty gifts, and droll amusements for them. 

" Yes ; Teddy went and bought it with me, and we 
had such fun in the shop choosing the different parts. 
He would have everything fine and large, and my 
little plan got regularly splendid when he took hold. 
You must give him your very best kiss when he 
comes, for he is the kindest uncle that ever went and 

bought a charming little coo Bless me ! I nearly 

told you what it was ! " and Mrs. Bhaer cut that most 
interesting word short off in the middle, and began to 
look over her bills, as if afraid she would let the cat 
out of the bag if she talked any more. Daisy folded 
her hands with an air of resignation, and sat quite 
still trying to think what play had a " coo " in it. 

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

All this made Daisy half wild, and her excitement 
spread among the boys, who quite overwhelmed 
Mother Bhaer with offers of assistance, which she 
declined by quoting their own words to Daisy, 



Patty Pans 7 i 

" Girls can't play with boys. This is for Daisy, 
and Bess, and me, so we don't want you." Where- 
upon the young gentlemen meekly retired, and 
invited Daisy to a game of marbles, horse, foot- 
ball, any thing she liked, with a sudden warmth and 
politeness which astonished her innocent little soul. 

Thanks to these attentions, she got through the 
afternoon, went early to bed, and next morning did 
her lessons with an energy which made Uncle Fritz 
wish that a new game could be invented every day. 
Quite a thrill pervaded the school-room when Daisy 
was dismissed at eleven o'clock, for every one knew 
that now she was going to have the new and myste- 
rious play. 

Many eyes followed her as she ran away, and Demi's 
mind was so distracted by this event that when Franz 
asked him where the desert of Sahara was, he mourn- 
fully replied, " In the nursery," and the whole school 
laughed at him. 

" Aunt Jo, I Ve done all my lessons, and I can't 
wait one single minute more ! " cried Daisy, flying in- 
to Mrs. Bhaer's room. 

" It 's all ready, come on ; " and tucking Ted under 
one arm, and her work-basket under the other, Aunt 
Jo promptly led the way up-stairs. 

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

"Do you hear any thing?" asked Aunt Jo, catch- 
ing Ted back by his little frock as he was making 
straight for one side of the room. 

Daisy did hear an odd crackling, and then a purry 
little sound as of a kettle singing. These noises 
came from behind a curtain drawn before a deep bay 



72 Little Men 

window. Daisy snatched it back, gave one joyful 
" Oh ! " and then stood gazing with delight at what 
do you think? 

A wide seat ran round the three sides of the win- 
dow ; on one side hung and stood all sorts of little pots 
and pans, gridirons and skillets ; on the other side a 
small dinner and tea set ; and on the middle part a 
cooking-stove. Not a tin one, that was of no use, but 
a real iron stove, big enough to cook for a large family 
of very hungry dolls. But the best of it was that a 
real fire burned in it, real steam came out of the nose 
of the little tea-kettle, and the lid of the little boiler 
actually danced a jig, the water inside bubbled so hard. 
A pane of glass had been taken out and replaced by a 
sheet of tin, with a hole for the small funnel, and real 
smoke went sailing away outside so naturally, that it 
did one's heart good to see it. The box of wood with 
a hod of charcoal stood near by ; just above hung dust- 
pan, brush and broom ; a little market basket was on 
the low table at which Daisy used to play, and over the 
back of her little chair hung a white apron with a bib, 
and a droll mob cap. The sun shone in as if he en- 
joyed the fun, the little stove roared beautifully, the 
kettle steamed, the new tins sparkled on the walls, the 
pretty china stood in tempting rows, and it was 
altogether as cheery and complete a kitchen as any 
child could desire. 

Daisy stood quite still after the first glad " Oh ! ' 
but her eyes went quickly from one charming object 
to another, brightening as they looked, till they came 
to Aunt Jo's merry face ; there they stopped as the 
happy little girl hugged her, saying gratefully, 

" O Aunty, it's a splendid new play! can I really 



Patty Pans 73 

cook at the dear stove, and have parties and mess, 
and sweep, and make fires that truly burn? I like it 
so much ! What made you think of it? ' 

" Your liking to make gingersnaps with Asia made 
me think of it," said Mrs. Bhaer, holding Daisy, who 
frisked as if she would fly. " I knew Asia would n't 
let you mess in her kitchen very often, and it 
would n't be safe at this fire up here, so I thought I 'd 
see if I could find a little stove for you, and teach 
you to cook ; that would be fun, and useful too. So 
I travelled round among the toy shops, but every 
thing large cost too much and I was thinking I 
should have to give it up, when I met Uncle Teddy. 
As soon as he knew what I was about, he said he 
wanted to help, and insisted on buying the biggest 
toy stove we could find. I scolded, but he only 
laughed, and teased me about my cooking when we 
were young, and said I must teach Bess as well as you, 
and went on buying all sorts of nice little things for 
my ' cooking class ' as he called it." 

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

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

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

" All in good time. This is to be a useful play, I 



74 Little Men 

am to help yon, and you are to be my cook, so I 
shall tell you what to do, and show you how. Then 
we shall have things fit to eat, and you will be really 
learning how to cook on a small scale. I '11 call you 
Sally, and say you are a new girl just come," added 
Mrs. Jo, settling down to work, while Teddy sat on 
the floor sucking his thumb, and staring at the stove 
as if it was a live thing, whose appearance deeply 
interested him. 

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

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

Sally tucked her curly hair into the round cap, and 
put on the apron without a murmur, though usually 
she rebelled against bibs. 

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

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

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



Patty Pans 75 

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

" Asia is the market." 

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

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

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

" Let 's see, honey ; here 's two pounds of steak, 
potatoes, squash, apples, bread, and butter. The 
meat ain't come yet; when it does I'll send it up. 
The other things are all handy." 

Then Asia packed one potato, one apple, a bit of 
squash, a little pat of butter, and a roll, into the 
basket, telling Sally to be on the watch for the 
butcher's boy, because he sometimes played tricks. 

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

"You'll see," was all Asia would say; and Sally 
went off in great spirits, singing a verse from dear 
Mary Hewitt's sweet story in rhyme, - 

" Away went little Mabel, 

With the wheaten cake so fine, 
The new-made pot of butter, 
And the little flask of wine." 

" Put every thing but the apple into the store- 
closet for the present," said Mrs. Jo, when the cook 
got home. 



7 6 



Little Men 



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

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

"Am I going to have pie?' 1 cried Daisy, hardly 
believing that such bliss could be in store for her. 

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

" Oh, what next? ' asked Sally, all impatience to 
begin. 

" Shut the lower draught of the stove, so that the 
oven may heat. Then wash your hands and get out 
the flour, sugar, salt, butter, and cinnamon. See if 
the pie-board is clean, and pare your apple ready to 
put in." 

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

" I really don't know how to measure for such tiny 
pies ; I must guess at it, and if these don't succeed, 



Patty Pans 77 

we must try again," said Mrs. Jo, looking rather per- 
plexed, and very much amused with the small con- 
cern before her. " Take that little pan full of flour, 
put in a pinch of salt, and then rub in as much butter 
as will go on that plate. Always remember to put 
your dry things together first, and then the wet. It 
mixes better so." 

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

" Quite right ! I do believe you have a gift for 
cooking, you take to it so cleverly," said Aunt Jo, 
approvingly. " Now a dash of cold water, just 
enough to wet it ; then scatter some flour on the 
board, work in a little, and roll the paste out ; yes, 
that 's the way. Now put dabs of butter all over it, 
and roll it out again. We won't have our pastry very 
rich, or the dolls will get dyspeptic." 

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

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

All cooks, even the best, meet with mishaps some- 
times, and Sally's first one occurred then, for the 
knife went so fast that the plate slipped, turned a 
somersault in the air, and landed the dear little pie 



Little Men 

upside down on the floor. Sally screamed, Mrs. Jo 
laughed, Teddy scrambled to get it, and for a mo- 
ment confusion reigned in the new kitchen. 

" It did n't spill or break, because I pinched the 
edges together so hard ; it is n't hurt a bit, so I '11 
prick holes in it, and then it will be ready," said 
Sally, picking up the capsized treasure and putting it 
into shape with a childlike disregard of the dust it 
had gathered in its fall. 

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

" I '11 make a D in the middle, and have zigzags all 
round ; that will be so interesting when I come to eat 
it," said Sally, loading her pie with quids and 
flourishes that would have driven a real pastry cook 
wild. " Now I put them in ! " she exclaimed, when 
the last grimy knob had been carefully planted in the 
red field of jam, and with an air of triumph she shut 
them into the little oven. 

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

"There is only one potato," giggled Sally. 

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

" Do I soak the squash too? ' 

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

Here a scratching at the door caused Sally to run 



Patty Pans 79 

and open it, when Kit appeared with a covered 
basket in his mouth. 

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

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

4< I don't want any of her old pears and things; my 
cooking will turn out well, and I '11 have a splendid 
dinner; see if I don't! " cried Daisy, indignantly. 

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

" Me is hundry," announced Teddy, who began to 
think what with so much cooking going on it was 
about time for somebody to eat something. His 
mother gave him her work-basket to rummage, hop- 
ing to keep him quiet till dinner was ready, and 
returned to her housekeeping. 

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

What a thing it was to see the potatoes bobbing 
about in the little pot ; to peep at the squash getting 
soft so fast in the tiny steamer; to whisk open the 
oven door every five minutes to see how the pies got 
on, and at last when the coals were red and glowing, 



8o Little Men 

to put two real steaks on a finger-long gridiron and 
proudly turn them with a fork. The potatoes were 
done first, and no wonder, for they had boiled franti- 
cally all the while. They were pounded up with a 
little pestle, had much butter and no salt put in 
(cook forgot it in the excitement of the moment), 
then it was made into a mound in a gay red dish, 
smoothed over with a knife dipped in milk, and put 
in the oven to brown. 

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

" Oh, my pies ! my darling pies ! they are all spoilt ! ' 
cried poor Sally, wringing her dirty little hands as 
she surveyed the ruin of her work. The tart was 
especially pathetic, for the quirls and zigzags stuck 
up in all directions from the blackened jelly, like the 
walls and chimney of a house after a fire. 

" Dear, dear, I forgot to remind you to take them 
out ; it 's just my luck," said Aunt Jo, remorsefully. 
" Don't cry, darling, it was my fault ; we '11 try again 
after dinner," she added, as a great tear dropped 
from Sally's eyes and sizzled on the hot ruins of the 
tart. 

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

" Put the meat-dish and your own plates down to 
warm, while you mash the squash with butter, salt, 
and a little pepper on the top/' said Mrs. Jo, 
devoutly hoping that the dinner would meet with no 
further disasters. 



Patty Pans 81 

The " cunning pepper-pot " soothed Sally's feelings, 
and she dished up her squash in fine style. The din- 
ner was safely put upon the table ; the six dolls were 
seated three on a side ; Teddy took the bottom, and 
Sally the top. When all were settled, it was a most 
imposing spectacle, for one doll was in full ball cos- 
tume, another in her night-gown ; Jerry, the worsted 
boy, wore his red winter suit, while Annabella, the nose- 
less darling, was airily attired in nothing but her own 
kid skin. Teddy, as father of the family, behaved 
with great propriety, for he smilingly devoured every 
thing offered him, and did not find a single fault. 
Daisy beamed upon her company like the weary, 
warm, but hospitable hostess, so often to be seen at 
larger tables than this, and did the honors with an 
air of innocent satisfaction, which we do not often see 
elsewhere. 

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

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

" You can cook things every day after lessons, but 
I prefer that you should eat your dishes at your 
regular meals, and only have a bit of gingerbread for 

lunch. To-day, being the first time, I don't mind, 

6 



82 Little Men 

but we must keep our rules. This afternoon you can 
make something for tea if you like," said Mrs. Jo, 
who had enjoyed the dinner-party very much, though 
no one had invited her to partake. 

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

" But if you give Demi goodies, all the others will 
expect some also, and then you will have your hands 
full." 

" Could n't I have Demi come up to tea alone just 
this one time, and after that I could cook things for 
the others if they were good," proposed Daisy, with 
a sudden inspiration. 

" That is a capital idea, Posy ! We will make 
your little messes rewards for the good boys, and I 
don't know one among them who would not like 
something nice to eat more than almost any thing 
else. If little men are like big ones, good cooking 
will touch their hearts and soothe their tempers de- 
lightfully," added Aunt Jo, with a merry nod toward 
the door, where stood Papa Bhaer, surveying the 
scene with a face full of amusement. 

" That last hit was for me, sharp woman. I accept 
it, for it is true ; but if I had married thee for thy 
cooking, heart's dearest, I should have fared badly 
all these years," answered the professor, laughing, 
as he tossed Teddy, who became quite apoplectic 



Patty Pans 83 

in his endeavors to describe the feast he had just 
enjoyed. 

Daisy proudly showed her kitchen, and rashly 
promised Uncle Fritz as many flapjacks as he could 
eat. She was just telling about the new rewards when 
the boys, headed by Demi, burst into the room snuff- 
ing the air like a pack of hungry hounds, for school 
was out, dinner was not ready, and the fragrance of 
Daisy's steak led them straight to the spot. 

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

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

At this point the bell rang, and the entire popula- 
tion went down to dinner, which meal was enlivened 



84 Little Men 

by each of the boys giving Daisy a list of things he 
would like to have cooked for him as fast as he earned 
them. Daisy, whose faith in her stove was unlimited, 
promised every thing, if Aunt Jo would tell her how 
to make them. This suggestion rather alarmed Mrs. 
Jo, for some of the dishes were quite beyond her 
skill, wedding-cake, for instance, bull's-eye candy, 
and cabbage soup with herrings and cherries in it, 
which Mr. Bhaer proposed as his favorite, and imme- 
diately reduced his wife to despair, for German 
cookery was beyond her. 

Daisy wanted to begin again the minute dinner was 
done, but she was only allowed to clear up, fill the 
kettle ready for tea, and wash out her apron, which 
looked as if she had cooked a Christmas feast. She 
was then sent out to play till five o'clock, for Uncle 
Fritz said that too much study, even at cooking 
stoves, was bad for little minds and bodies, and Aunt 
Jo knew by long experience how soon new toys lose 
their charm if they are not prudently used. 

Every one was very kind to Daisy that afternoon. 
Tommy promised her the first fruits of his garden, 
though the only visible crop just then was pigweed ; 
Nat offered to supply her with wood, free of charge ; 
Stuffy quite worshipped her; Ned immediately fell to 
work on a little refrigerator for her kitchen ; and Demi, 
with a punctuality beautiful to see in one so young, 
escorted her to the nursery just as the clock struck 
five. It was not time for the party to begin, but he 
begged so hard to come in and help that he was al- 
lowed privileges few visitors enjoy, for he kindled the 
fire, ran errands, and watched the progress of his 
supper with intense interest. Mrs. Jo directed the 



Patty Pans 85 

affair as she came and went, being very busy putting 
up clean curtains all over the house. 

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

Demi tore down-stairs, and returned with the 
cream, also a puckered-up face, for he had tasted it 
on his way, and found it so sour that he predicted 
the cakes would be uneatable. Mrs. Jo took this oc- 
casion to deliver a short lecture from the step-ladder 
on the chemical properties of soda, to which Daisy 
did not listen, but Demi did, and understood it, as he 
proved by the brief but comprehensive reply, 

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

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

" Oh dear, every thing has to have salt in it, seems 
to me," said Sally, who was tired of opening the pill- 
box in which it was kept. 

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

" You are not invited to tea, but I '11 give you some 
cakes, and I won't be cross," said Daisy, putting up 
her floury little face to thank him with a kiss. 

" Fritz, you must not interrupt my cooking class, 
or I '11 come in and moralize when you are teaching 
Latin. How would you like that?' said Mrs. Jo, 
throwing a great chintz curtain down on his head. 

" Very much, try it and see," and the amiable 



86 Little Men 

Father Bhaer went singing and tapping about the 
house like a mammoth woodpecker. 

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

Such a clatter as the little spoon made, and such a 
beating as the batter got, it quite foamed, I assure 
you ; and when Daisy poured some on to the griddle, 
it rose like magic into a puffy flapjack, that made 
Demi's mouth water. To be sure, the first one stuck 
and scorched, because she forgot the butter, but after 
that first failure all went well, and six capital little 
cakes were safely landed in a dish. 

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

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

While the nursery was empty something dreadful 
happened. You see, Kit had been feeling hurt all 
day because he had carried meat safely and yet got 
none to pay him. He was not a bad dog, but he had 
his little faults like the rest of us, and could not 
always resist temptation. Happening to stroll into 
the nursery at that moment, he smelt the cakes, saw 
them unguarded on the low table, and never stopping 
to think of consequences, swallowed all six at one 
mouthful. I am glad to say that they were very hot, 
and burned him so badly that he could not repress a 
surprised yelp. Daisy heard it, ran in, saw the 



Patty Pans 87 

empty dish, also the end of a yellow tail disappearing 
under the bed. Without a word she seized that tail, 
pulled out the thief, and shook him till his ears flapped 
wildly, then bundled him down-stairs to the shed, 
where he spent a lonely evening in the coal-bin. 

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

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

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

" A very good time. I shall come again soon" 
answered Demi, with emphasis. 

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

" No, I have n't ; I only ate fifteen cakes, and they 
were very little ones," protested Demi, who had kept 
his sister busy supplying his plate. 

" They won't hurt him, they are so nice," said 
Daisy, with such a funny mixture of maternal fond- 
ness and housewifely pride that Aunt Jo could only 
smile and say, - 



88 Little Men 

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

"/ like it," said Demi, as if his approval was all 
that was necessary. 

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

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

" It has." 

" Oh, what?" asked both children, eagerly. 

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



CHAPTER VI 

A FIRE BRAND 

" I "VLEASE, ma'am, could I speak to you? It 
1-^ is something very important," said Nat, pop- 

JL ping his head in at the door of Mrs. Bhaer's 
room. 

It was the fifth head which had popped in during 
the last half-hour; but Mrs. Jo was used to it, so she 
looked up, and said briskly, 

"What is it, my lad?" 

Nat came in, shut the door carefully behind him, 
and said in an eager, anxious tone, 

" Dan has come." 

"Who is Dan?" 

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

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

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

" Well, but I don't know about that," began 
Mrs. Bhaer, rather startled by the coolness of the 
proposition. 

" Why, I thought you liked to have poor boys 
come and live with you, and be kind to 'em as you 



go Little Men 



were to me," said Nat, looking surprised and 
alarmed. 

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

" I told him to come because I thought you 'd like 
it, but if there is n't room he can go away again," 
said Nat, sorrowfully. 

The boy's confidence in her hospitality touched 
Mrs. Bhaer, and she could not find the heart to dis- 
appoint his hope, and spoil his kind little plan, so 
she said, 

" Tell me about this Dan." 

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

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

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

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

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

Nat joyfully ran off, and soon returned followed by 
a most unprepossessing boy, who slouched in and 
stood looking about him, with a half bold, half sullen 
look, which made Mrs. Bhaer say to herself, after one 
glance, - 

" A bad specimen, I am afraid." 



A Fire Brand 91 

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

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

" Yes," was the gruff reply. 

" Have you no friends to take care of you?" 

" No." 

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

" Shan't neither," muttered Dan. 

" How old are you? ' 

" About fourteen." 

" You look older. What can you do? ' 

" 'Most any thing." 

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

" Don't mind trying." 

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

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

"Thank you, ma'am," added Nat, as he followed 
him, feeling without quite understanding the differ- 
ence in the welcome given to him and to his un- 
gracious friend. 

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

" Are they big fellows? " said Dan. 



92 Little Men 



" No; the big ones are gone fishing." 

" Fire away, then," said Dan. 

Nat led him to the great barn and introduced him 
to his set, who were disporting themselves among the 
half-empty lofts. A large circle was marked out 
with hay on the wide floor, and in the middle stood 
Demi with a long whip, while Tommy, mounted on 
the much-enduring Toby, pranced about the circle 
playing being a monkey. 

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

" He 's company, so I '11 pay for both," said Nat, 
handsomely, as he stuck two crooked pins in the 
dried mushroom which served as money-box. 

With a nod to the company they seated themselves 
on a couple of boards, and the performance went on. 
After the monkey act, Ned gave them a fine specimen 
of his agility by jumping over an old chair, and run- 
ning up and down ladders, sailor fashion. Then Demi 
danced a jig with a gravity beautiful to behold. Nat 
was called upon to wrestle with Stuffy, and speedily 
laid that stout youth upon the ground. After this, 
Tommy proudly advanced to turn a somersault, an 
accomplishment which he had acquired by painful 
perseverance, practising in private till every joint of 
his little frame was black and blue. His feats were 
received with great applause, and he was about to re- 
tire, flushed with pride and a rush of blood to the 
head, when a scornful voice in the audience was heard 
to say, 



A Fire Brand 93 

" Ho ! that ain't any thing ! " 

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

"Do you want to fight? " said Dan, promptly de- 
scending from the barrel and doubling up his fists 
in a business-like manner. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Before he could say any more the audience were 
electrified by three more somersaults backwards, and 
a short promenade on the hands, head down, feet up. 
This brought down the house, and Tommy joined in 
the admiring cries which greeted the accomplished 
gymnast as he righted himself, and looked at them 
with an air of calm superiority. 

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

"What will you give me if I '11 teach you? " said 
Dan, 



94 Little Men 

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

" Give it here, then." 

Tommy handed it over with an affectionate look at 
its smooth handle. Dan examined it carefully, then 
putting it into his pocket, walked off, saying with a 
wink, - 

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

A howl of wrath from Tommy was followed by a 
general uproar, which did not subside till Dan, finding 
himself in a minority, proposed that they should play 
stick-knife, and whichever won should have the 
treasure. Tommy agreed, and the game was played 
in a circle of excited faces, which all wore an expres- 
sion of satisfaction, when Tommy won and secured 
the knife in the depth of his safest pocket. 

" You come off with me, and I '11 show you round," 
said Nat, feeling that he must have a little serious 
conversation with his friend in private. 

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

The boys had decided that they did not like him, 
and so they left him to Nat, who soon felt rather op- 
pressed by the responsibility, but was too kind-hearted 
to desert him. 

Tommy, however, felt that in spite of the jack-knife 
transaction, there was a bond of sympathy between 
them, and longed to return to the interesting subject 
of somersaults. He soon found an opportunity, for 



A Fire Brand 95 

Dan, seeing how much he admired him, grew more 
amiable, and by the end of the first week was quite 
intimate with the lively Tom. 

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

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

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

Mrs. Bhaer lost her patience with him half a dozen 
times a day, yet never gave him up, and always in- 
sisted that there was something good in the lad, after 
all ; for he was kinder to animals than to people, he 
liked to rove about in the woods, and, best of all, 
little Ted was fond of him. What the secret was no 
one could discover, but Baby took to him at once 



9 6 



Little Men 



gabbled and crowed whenever he saw him preferred 
his strong back to ride on to any of the others and 
called him " My Danny" out of his own little head. 
Teddy was the only creature to whom Dan showed 
any affection, and this was only manifested when he 
thought no one else could see it; but mothers' eyes 
are quick, and motherly hearts instinctively divine 
who love their babies. So Mrs. Jo soon saw and felt 
that there was a soft spot in rough Dan, and bided 
her time to touch and win him. 

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

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

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

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



A Fire Brand 97 

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

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

"Don't tell, and I'll show you how," said Dan; 
and, getting half a dozen of the lads together behind 
the barn, he gave them a lesson in boxing, which 
quite satisfied the ardor of most of them. Emil, how- 
ever, could not submit to be beaten by a fellow 
younger than himself, for Emil was past fourteen, 
and a plucky fellow, so he challenged Dan to a 
fight. Dan accepted at once, and the others looked 
on with intense interest. 

What little bird carried the news to head-quarters 
no one ever knew, but, in the very hottest of the fray, 
when Dan and Emil were fighting like a pair of 
young bull-dogs, and the others with fierce, excited 
faces were cheering them on, Mr. Bhaer walked into 
the ring, plucked the combatants apart with a strong 
hand, and said, in the voice they seldom heard, 

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

" You let me go, and I '11 knock him down again/' 

7 



9 8 



Little Men 



shouted Dan, sparring away in spite of the grip on 
his collar. 

" Come on, come on, I ain't thrashed yet ! " cried 
Emil, who had been down five times, but did not 
know when he was beaten. 

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

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

" Dan," answered several voices. 

" Don't you know that it is forbidden?" 

" Yes," growled Dan, sullenly. 

"Then why break the rule?' 

" They '11 all be molly-coddles, if they don't know 
how to fight." 

" Have you found Emil a molly-coddle? He 
does n't look much like one," and Mr. Bhaer brought 
the two face to face. Dan had a black eye, and his 
jacket was torn to rags ; but Emil's face was covered 
with blood from a cut lip and a bruised nose, while a 
bump on his forehead was already as purple as a 
plum. In spite of his wounds however, he still 
glared upon his foe, and evidently panted to renew 
the fight. 

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

" He '11 be taught to fence and box by and by, and 
till then I think he will do very well without any 



A Fire Brand 99 

lessons in mauling. Go and wash your faces ; and 
remember, Dan, if you break any more of the rules 
again, you will be sent away. That was the bargain ; 
do your part and we will do ours." 

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

But the lawless lad had no thought of obeying, and 
soon transgressed again. 

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

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

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

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

Away they went, and having got the poles were 
about to go home, when Demi unluckily said to 
Tommy, who was on Toby with a long rod in his 
hand, 

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

" I 'd like to see one ; would n't you ? " said Tommy, 
shaking his lance. 

" Let 's have one ; there 's old Buttercup in the big 
meadow, ride at her, Tom, and see her run," proposed 
Dan, bent on mischief. 

" No, you must n't," began Demi, who was learning 
to distrust Dan's propositions. 

" Why not, little fuss-button? " demanded Dan, 



ioo Little Men 

" I don't think Uncle Fritz would like it." 

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

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

" Then hold your tongue. Drive on, Tom, and 
here 's a red rag to flap at the old thing. I '11 help 
you to stir her up," and over the wall went Dan, full 
of the new game, and the rest followed like a flock 
of sheep ; even Demi, who sat upon the bars, and 
watched the fun with interest. 

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

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

Seeing herself thus beset, and treated with such 
disrespect, Buttercup trotted round the field, getting 
more and more bewildered and excited every moment, 
for whichever way she turned, there was a dreadful 
boy, yelling and brandishing a new and very disagree- 
able sort of whip. It was great fun for them, but 
real misery for her, till she lost patience and turned 



A Fire Brand 10 i 

the tables in the most unexpected manner. All at 
once she wheeled short round, and charged full at her 
old friend Toby, whose conduct cut her to the heart. 
Poor slow Toby backed so precipitately that he 
tripped over a stone, and down went horse, matadore, 
and all, in one ignominious heap, while distracted 
Buttercup took a surprising leap over the wall, and 
galloped wildly out of sight down the road. 

" Catch her, stop her, head her off! run, boys, run ! ' 
shouted Dan, tearing after her at his best pace, for 
she was Mr. Bhaer's pet Alderney, and if anything 
happened to her, Dan feared it would be all over with 
him. Such a running and racing and bawling and 
puffing as there was before she was caught! The 
fish-poles were left behind ; Toby was trotted nearly 
off his legs in the chase ; and every boy was red, 
breathless, and scared. They found poor Buttercup 
at last in a flower garden, where she had taken refuge, 
worn out with the long run. Borrowing a rope for a 
halter, Dan led her home, followed by a party of very 
sober young gentlemen, for the cow was in a sad 
state, having strained her shoulder in jumping, so 
that she limped, her eyes looked wild, and her glossy 
coat was wet and muddy. 

" You '11 catch it this time, Dan," said Tommy, as 
he led the wheezing donkey beside the maltreated 
cow. 

" So will you, for you helped." 

" We all did, but Demi," added Jack. 

" He put it into our heads," said Ned. 

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

" Old Bhaer will send me off, I guess. Don't care 



io2 Little Men 

if he does," muttered Dan, looking worried in spite 
of his words. 

" We '11 ask him not to, all of us," said Demi, and 
the others assented with the exception of Stuffy, who 
cherished the hope that all the punishment might fall 
on one guilty head. Dan only said, " Don't bother 
about me; " but he never forgot it, even though he 
led the lads astray again, as soon as the temptation 
came. 

When Mr. Bhaer saw the animal, and heard the 
story, he said very little, evidently fearing that he 
should say too much in the first moments of impa- 
tience. Buttercup was made comfortable in her stall, 
and the boys sent to their rooms till supper-time. 
This brief respite gave them time to think the matter 
over, to wonder what the penalty would be, and to 
try to imagine where Dan would be sent. He whis- 
tled briskly in his room, so that no one should think 
he cared a bit ; but while he waited to know his fate, 
the longing to stay grew stronger and stronger, the 
more he recalled the comfort and kindness he had 
known here, the hardship and neglect he had felt 
elsewhere. He knew they tried to help him, and at 
the bottom of his heart he was grateful, but his rough 
life had made him hard and careless, suspicious and 
wilful. He hated restraint of any sort, and fought 
against it like an untamed creature, even while he 
knew it was kindly meant, and dimly felt that he 
would be the better for it. He made up his mind to 
be turned adrift again, to knock about the city as he 
had done nearly all his life ; a prospect that made 
him knit his black brows, and look about the cosy 
little room with a wistful expression that would have 



A Fire Brand 103 



touched a much harder heart than Mr. Bhaer's if he 
had seen it. It vanished instantly, however, when 
the good man came in, and said in his accustomed 
grave way, 

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

Dan flushed up to his forehead at this unexpected 
reprieve, but he only said in his gruff way, - 

" I did n't know there was any rule about bull- 
fighting." 

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

Dan's eyes had been on the floor, and his hands 
nervously picking at the bit of wood he had been 
whittling as Mr. Bhaer came in, but when he heard 
the kind voice ask that question, he looked up 
quickly, and said in a more respectful tone than he 
had ever used before, - 

" Yes, please." 



104 Little Men 

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

" I will." 

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

Dan did try for a day or two, but not being used 
to it, he soon tired and relapsed into his old wilful 
ways. Mr. Bhaer was called from home on business 
one day, and the boys had no lessons. They liked 
this, and played hard till bedtime, when most of 
them turned in and slept like dormice. Dan, how- 
ever, had a plan in his head, and when he and Nat 
were alone, he unfolded it. 

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

" The folks won't like it," began Nat. 

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



A Fire Brand 105 



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

" No, she won't, I Ve got the dark lantern on pur- 
pose ; it don't give much light, and we can shut it 
quick if we hear any one coming," said Dan. 

This idea struck Nat as a fine one, and lent an air 
of romance to the thing. He started off to tell 
Tommy, but put his head in again to say, 

" You want Demi, too, don't you? ' 

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

Nat obeyed, and returned in a minute with Tommy 
half dressed, rather tousled about the head and very 
sleepy, but quite ready for fun as usual. 

" Now, keep quiet, and I '11 show you how to play 
a first-rate game called ' Poker/ said Dan, as the 
three revellers gathered round the table, on which 
were set forth the bottle, the cigar, and the cards. 
" First we '11 all have a drink, then we '11 take a go at 
the * weed/ and then we '11 play. That 's the way 
men do, and it's jolly fun." 

The beer circulated in a mug, and all three 
smacked their lips over it, though Nat and Tommy 
did not like the bitter stuff. The cigar was worse 
still, but they dared not say so, and each puffed away 
till he was dizzy or choked, when he passed the 
" weed ' on to his neighbor. Dan liked it, for it 
seemed like old times when he now and then had a 
chance to imitate the low men who surrounded him. 
He drank, and smoked, and swaggered as much like 
them as he could, and, getting into the spirit of the 
part he assumed, he soon began to swear under his 



io6 Little Men 

breath for fear some one should hear him. " You 
must n't ; it 's wicked to say ' Damn ' ! " cried Tommy, 
who had followed his leader so far. 

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

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

" And I '11 say ' The Devil ; ' that sounds well," 
added Nat, much impressed by Dan's manly ways. 

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

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

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

Tommy flew to his room and dived into bed, where 
he lay laughing till something burned his hand, when 
he discovered that he was still clutching the stump 



A Fire Brand 107 

of the festive cigar, which he happened to be smoking 
when the revel broke up. 

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

Nursey came in with Demi, who looked much 
amazed to see the red face of Tommy reposing peace- 
fully upon his pillow. 

" He was n't there just now, because I woke up and 
could not find him anywhere," said Demi, pouncing 
on him. 

" What mischief are you at now, bad child? " asked 
Nursey, with a good-natured shake, which made the 
sleeper open his eyes to say meekly, 

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

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

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



io8 Little Men 

the fire began to scorch them, and they were in dan- 
ger of being burned to death. 

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

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

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

The peril was soon over, and ordering the boys all 
back to bed, and leaving Silas to watch lest the fire 
broke out again, Mrs. Bhaer and Franz went to see 
how the poor boys got on. Demi had escaped with 
one burn and a grand scare, but Tommy had not only 
most of his hair scorched off his head, but a great 



A Fire Brand 109 

burn on his arm, that made him half crazy with the 
pain. Demi was soon made cosy, and Franz took 
him away to his own bed, where the kind lad soothed 
his fright and hummed him to sleep as cosily as a 
woman. Nursey watched over poor Tommy all night, 
trying to ease his misery, and Mrs. Bhaer vibrated 
between him and little Teddy with oil and cotton, 
paregoric and squills, saying to herself from time to 
time, as if she found great amusement in the thought, 
' I always knew Tommy would set the house on fire, 
and now he has done it ! ' 

When Mr. Bhaer got home next morning he found 
a nice state of things. Tommy in bed, Teddy wheez- 
ing like a little grampus, Mrs. Jo quite used up, and 
the whole flock of boys so excited that they all 
talked at once, and almost dragged him by main 
force to view the ruins. Under his quiet management 
things soon fell into order, for every one felt that he 
was equal to a dozen conflagrations, and worked with 
a will at whatever task he gave them. 

There was no school that morning, but by after- 
noon the damaged room was put to rights, the in- 
valids were better, and there was time to hear and 
judge the little culprits quietly. Nat and Tommy 
told their parts in the mischief, and were honestly 
sorry for the danger they had brought to the dear 
old house and all in it. But Dan put on his devil- 
may-care look, and would not own that there was 
much harm done. 

Now, of all things, Mr. Bhaer hated drinking, gam- 
bling, and swearing; smoking he had given up that 
the lads might not be tempted to try it, and it grieved 
and angered him deeply to find that the boy, with 



i io Little Men 

whom he had tried to be most forbearing, should take 
advantage of his absence to introduce these forbidden 
vices, and teach his innocent little lads to think it 
manly and pleasant to indulge in them. He talked 
long and earnestly to the assembled boys, and ended 
by saying, with an air of mingled firmness and 
regret, - 

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

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

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

" Will he ever come back?" asked Demi. 

" That will depend on himself; I hope so." 

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

" I wonder if you '11 like it," began Jack. 

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

"Where will you go?" asked Nat. 

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



A Fire Brand 1 1 1 

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

" I don't care where I go, or how long I stay, and 
I '11 be hanged if I ever come back here," with which 
wrathful speech Dan went away to put up his things, 
every one of which Mr. Bhaer had given him. 

That was the only good-by he gave the boys, for 
they were all talking the matter over in the barn 
when he came down, and he told Nat not to call 
them. The wagon stood at the door, and Mrs. 
Bhaer came out to speak to Dan, looking so sad that 
his heart smote him, and he said in a low tone, 

" May I say good-by to Teddy? ' 

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

No one saw the look in Dan's eyes as he stooped 
over the crib, and saw the little face light up at 
first sight of him, but he heard Mrs. Bhaer say 
pleadingly, - 

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

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

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

Dan heard Mrs. Bhaer sigh, and he wanted to ask 
for one more trial himself, but his pride would not let 
him, and he came out with the hard look on his face, 
shook hands without a word, and drove away with 



112 



Little Men 



Mr. Bhaer, leaving Nat and Mrs. Jo to look after him 
with tears in their eyes. 

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

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

Mrs. Bhaer, however, nodded wisely and answered, 
" Don't be troubled, Fritz ; the boy will come back to 
us, I 'm sure of it." 

But time went on and no Dan came. 



F 



CHAPTER VII 

NAUGHTY NAN 

>RITZ, I Ve got a new idea," cried Mrs. Bhaer, 
as she met her husband one day after 
school. 

"Well, my dear, what is it?" and he waited will- 
ingly to hear the new plan, for some of Mrs. Jo's ideas 
were so droll, it was impossible to help laughing at 
them, though usually they were quite sensible, and 
he was glad to carry them out. 

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

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

" Little Annie Harding." 

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

" Yes, she is running wild at home since her 

8 



ii4 Little Men 

mother died, and is too bright a child to be spoilt by 
servants. I have had my eye on her for some time, 
and when I met her father in town the other day I 
asked him why he did not send her to school. He 
said he would gladly if he could find as good a 
school for girls as ours was for boys. I know he 
would rejoice to have her come ; so suppose we drive 
over this afternoon and see about it." 

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

" Oh dear, no," said Mother Bhaer, briskly. " I 
like it, and never was happier than since I had my 
wilderness of boys. You see, Fritz, I feel a great 
sympathy for Nan, because I was such a naughty 
child myself that I know all about it. She is full of 
spirits, and only needs to be taught what to do with 
them to be as nice a little girl as Daisy. Those 
quick wits of hers would enjoy lessons if they were 
rightly directed, and what is now a tricksy midget 
would soon become a busy, happy child. I know 
how to manage her, for I remember how rny blessed 
mother managed me, and ' 

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

" Now, if you make fun of my plan I '11 give you 
bad coffee for a week, and then where are you, sir?' 
cried Mrs. Jo, tweaking him by the ear just as if he 
was one of the boys. 

" Won't Daisy's hair stand erect with horror at 
Nan's wild ways?" asked Mr. Bhaer, presently, when 



Naughty Nan 115 

Teddy had swarmed up his waistcoat, and Rob up 
his back, for they always flew at their father the 
minute school was done. 

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

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

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

At the sound of the name, little Teddy, who had 
never forgotten his friend, struggled down from his 
father's arms, and trotted to the door, looked out over 
the sunny lawn with a wistful face, and then trotted 
back again, saying, as he always did when disap- 
pointed of the longed-for sight, 

" My Danny's tummin' soon." 

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

" I Ve sometimes felt that myself; but after keep- 
ing the boys in a ferment, and nearly burning up the 
whole family, I thought it safer to remove the fire- 
brand, for a time at least," said Mr. Bhaer. 

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

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

" A dozen Nans if you want them, my dear," an- 



1 1 6 Little Men 

swered Mr. Bhaer, who had room in his fatherly 
heart for all the naughty neglected children in the 
world. 

When Mrs. Bhaer returned from her drive that 
afternoon, before she could unpack the load of little 
boys, without whom she seldom moved, a small girl 
of ten skipped out at the back of the carry-all, and 
ran into the house, shouting, 

" Hi, Daisy ! where are you? ' 

Daisy came, and looked pleased to see her guest, 
but also a trifle alarmed, when Nan said, still pranc- 
ing, as if it was impossible to keep still, 

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

" Why, yes. Did you bring your big doll? " asked 
Daisy, hoping she had, for on the last visit Nan had 
ravaged the baby house, and insisted on washing 
Blanche Matilda's plaster face, which spoilt the poor 
dear's complexion for ever. 

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

Won by the beauty of the offering, Daisy grew more 
cordial, and proposed retiring to the nursery, but Nan 
said, " No, I want to see the boys, and the barn," and 
ran off, swinging her hat by one string till it broke, 
when she left it to its fate on the grass. 



Naughty Nan 117 

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

" I 'm going to stay." 

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

" I can bat; let me play," said Nan, who could turn 
her hand to any thing, and did not mind hard knocks. 

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

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

" Can she? " asked Nat of Jack. 

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

"Will you try?" said Nan, longing to display her 
powers. 

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

" What's the matter with Stuffy?" asked Nan, 
whose quick eyes were roving from face to face. 

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

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

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

" See if you can." 

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

Nan instantly " grasped the nettle," pulled it up, 



1 1 8 Little Men 

and held it with a defiant gesture, in spite of the 
almost unbearable sting. 

" Good for you," cried the boys, quick to acknowl- 
edge courage even in one of the weaker sex. 

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

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

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

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

" Do it again," said Stuffy, angrily ; and Nan would 
have done it, but Nat held her; and Tommy, forget- 
ting the heat, flew at Stuffy like a little game-cock, roar- 
ing out, 

" Stop it, or I '11 throw you over the barn ! " and so 
shook and hustled poor Stuffy that for a minute he 
did not know whether he was on his head or his heels. 

" She told me to," was all he could say, when Tommy 
let him alone. 

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

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

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



Naughty Nan 119 

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

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

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

"How do you do, Madge Wildfire?" said Mr. 
Bhaer, as Nan came in with the rest to supper. 
" Give the right hand, little daughter, and mind thy 
manners," he added, as Nan offered him her left. 

" The other hurts me." 

" The poor little hand ! what has it been doing to 
get those blisters?' he asked, drawing it from be- 
hind her back, where she had put it with a look 
which made him think she had been in mischief. 

Before Nan could think of any excuse, Daisy 
burst out with the whole story, during which Stuffy 
tried to hide his face in a bowl of bread and milk. 
When the tale was finished, Mr. Bhaer looked down 
the long table towards his wife, and said with a laugh 
in his eyes, - 

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

Mrs. Jo knew what he meant, but she liked her 
little black sheep all the better for her pluck, though 
she only said in her soberest way, - 

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



i2o Little Men 

" To plague me," muttered Stuffy, with his mouth 
full. 

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

Here Stuffy retired into his bowl again, and did 
not emerge till Demi made them all laugh by saying, 
in his slow wondering way, 

" How can she, when she 's such a tomboy ! " 

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

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

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

" No, I should n't ; I hate boys ! " said Nan, fiercely, 
for her hand still smarted, and she began to think 
that she might have shown her courage in some 
wiser way. 

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

Mrs. Bhaer had addressed herself to Nan, but the 
boys nudged one another, and appeared to take the 
hint, for that time at least, and passed the butter ; 
said " please," and " thank you," " yes, sir," and " no, 
ma'am," with unusual elegance and respect. Nan said 
nothing, but kept herself quiet and refrained from 
tickling Demi, though strongly tempted to do so, 
because of the dignified airs he put on. She also 



Naughty Nan 121 

appeared to have forgotten her hatred of boys, and 
played " I spy ' with them till dark. Stuffy was 
observed to offer her frequent sucks of his candy- 
ball during the game, which evidently sweetened her 
temper, for the last thing she said on going to bed 
was, - 

" When my battledore and shuttle-cock comes, I '11 
let you all play with 'em." 

Her first remark in the morning was " Has my 
box come?" and when told that it would arrive some- 
time during the day, she fretted and fumed, and 
whipped her doll, till Daisy was shocked. She man- 
aged to exist, however, till five o'clock, when she 
disappeared, and was not missed till supper-time, 
because those at home thought she had gone to the 
hill with Tommy and Demi. 

" I saw her going down the avenue alone as hard 
as she could pelt," said Mary Ann, coming in with 
the hasty-pudding, and finding every one asking, 
"Where is Nan?" 

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

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

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

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



122 Little Men 

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

" I could n't wait any longer, so I went and 
got it." 

" But you did not know the way," said Tommy, 
while the rest stood round enjoying the joke. 

" Oh, I found it, I never get lost" 

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

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

" Was n't that thing very heavy? " 

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

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

" I did n't say any thing to him. He was in the 
little ticket place, and did n't see me, so I just took it 
off the platform." 

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

" I told you we would send for it if it did not come. 
Another time you must wait, for you will get into 
trouble if you run away. Promise me this, or I shall 
not dare to trust you out of my sight," said Mrs. 
Bhaer, wiping the dust off Nan's little hot face. 

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

" That is rather a poser ; I think you had better 



Naughty Nan 123 

give her some supper now, and a private lecture by 
and by," said Mr. Bhaer, too much amused to be 
angry at the young lady's exploit. 

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

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

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

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 for- 
got it for a week, and found it well mildewed when 
she dug it up. Daisy was in despair, but Nan took 
it to the painter who was 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 



124 Little Men 

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 



Naughty Nan 125 

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 
that 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, prom- 
ising 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, ex- 
cept 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 any- 
thing half so droll as the freaks and fancies that orig- 
inate 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 gro- 
tesque creatures, to whom they gave the queerest 
names, and with whom they played the queerest 
games. One of these nursery inventions was an invis- 
ible 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, 
w r ho delighted in elves and goblins. A most whimsi- 
cal 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 



Pranks and Plays 127 

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 deny- 
ing the unseen tyrant any thing it demanded. 

" Every one. I shall burn my boat, my best scrap- 
book, 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 



128 Little Men 

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 go 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 fol- 
lowed 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. 



Pranks and Plays 129 

" 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 fare- 
well 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 confla- 
gration. 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 entire 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 

9 



130 Little Men 



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 dear 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 



Pranks and Plays 131 

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 re- 
pentant 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 had n'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 



132 Little Men 

safe. One 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 in- 
terest 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 peb- 
bles, 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 had 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 



Pranks and Plays 133 

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, occa- 
sionally it goes erect, and talks good English. Its 
body is usually covered with a substance much re- 
sembling 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 nour- 
ishment 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 singu- 
lar animals quarrel at times, and it is on these occa- 
sions 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." 



134 Little Men 



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 gar- 
den, 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 ap- 
peared to regard him as one of themselves, and fear- 
lessly 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, 



Pranks and Plays 135 

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 happi- 
ness, Nat dreamed for hours in this nook, uncon- 
scious 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 under- 
stand. " 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 sell- 
ing ; 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 busi- 
ness. 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 



136 



Little Men 



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 specula- 
tions, and tried to give him a better idea of business 
talent than mere sharpness in overreaching his neigh- 
bors. 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 inno- 
cent 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 



Pranks and Plays 137 

race duly came off, but as it ended in a general ship- 
wreck, it was not mentioned in public ; and the Com- 
modore 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 res- 
cued from real danger, for the excited ladies were apt 
to forget that he was not of the same stuff as their long- 
suffering dolls. Once he was shut into a closet for 
a dungeon, and forgotten by the girls, who ran off to 
some out-of-door game. Another time he was half 



Little Men 

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 school- 
room, 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 sul- 
try 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 dis- 
pleased the audience, cold w r ater was thrown upon 
him till his ardor was effectually quenched. Franz 
was president, and maintained order admirably, con- 
sidering the unruly nature of the members. Mr. 
Bhaer never interfered with their affairs, and was re- 
warded for this wise forbearance by being invited 



Pranks and Flap 139 



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 writ- 
ten and spoken, disturbing their solemnities by insult- 
ing 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 " Irrepressi- 
bles." Finding these appeals 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 over- 
tures of peace, and both institutions flourished long 
and happily. 



CHAPTER IX 
DAISY'S BALL 

" Ik /I" RS. SHAKESPEARE SMITH would 
\ /I like to have Mr. John Brooke, Mr. 

JL T JL Thomas Bangs, and Mr. Nathaniel Blake 
to come to her ball at three o'clock to-day. 

" 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 need n'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 consider- 
ing Tommy's description for a minute. 

" I '11 write and say we '11 come ; ' and Demi de- 
spatched the following gentlemanly reply, 



Daisy's Ball 141 

" 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 is n't proper." 

" I shall never ask him any more." 

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

" I guess he would ! we '11 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 a large pocket handkerchief 



142 Little Men 



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, say- 
ing 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. 



Daisy's Ball 143 

" So do you, but I should n'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. 

" / 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 some- 
what 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 



144 Little Men 

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 be- 
tween 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 her- 
self 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 dis- 
may a housekeeper's soul; and, worst of all, the 



Daisy's Ball 145 

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 her- 
self, and they were beautiful to behold. I put it to 
any lady if it was not hard to have one dozen deli- 
cious 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 did n't!" 

" You did ! " 

" It is n'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 mis- 
tress, and Nan denounced the entire race of boys 

10 



146 



Little Men 



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 mis- 
siles, 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." 



Daisy's Ball 147 

" 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 sat- 
isfaction at being rid of those " stupid girls." But in 
his secret soul he soon repented of the rash act that 



148 



Little Men 



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 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 sud- 
den 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 in- 
structions 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 myste- 
rious 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. 



Daisy's Ball 149 

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, v/e 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; and 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 wait- 
ing ; 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 u clothes-basket," as they called the 
wicker wagon which Toby drew. Demi walked at 



150 Little Men 



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 dan- 
delions 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 some- 
thing 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 sur- 
prise party will come in ; ' with which remark he re- 
tired behind a rock, over which heads had been bob- 
bing 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 



Daisy's Ball 151 

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 satisfac- 
tion 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, were n'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 '11 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 '11 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 



152 Little Men 



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 re- 
markable 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." 



Daisy's Ball 153 

" 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 had n't come then. Grand- 
pa says that different parts of the mind unfold as we 
grow up, and the memory part of my mind had n'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. 



154 Little Men 

'"What shall I do? ' I whispered to Teddy, as the 
voices drew nearer and nearer. 

" ' I '11 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 every 
thing 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 gar- 
dens 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. 



156 



Little Men 



' 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. Tecldy 
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. 



Home Again 157 

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 stoop- 
ing 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, say- 
ing 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 re- 
membered 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? Did n't you hear us 
call you? Teddy saw, and cried for you." 

" Did n't suppose you 'd let me in," he said, fum- 
bling with a little bundle which he had taken up as 
if going immediately. 

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



Little Men 

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 grati- 
tude, 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, begin- 
ning to get out some bandages. 

" I ran off more 'n a month ago. Page was good 
enough, but too strict. I did n't like it, so I cut 
away down the river with a man who was going in 
his boat. That 's why they could n'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?" 



Home Again 159 

" Yes, the man did n't pay me, and I would n'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 had n't 
found me." 

" Are you sorry I did?' 1 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." 



160 Little Men 

" 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, that boy has come back." 

"Who? Dan?" 

" Yes, Teddy saw him at the window, and we 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 mak- 
ing 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 had n'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 



Home Again 161 

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 '11 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 were 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 

ii 



1 62 Little Men 

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 imagi- 



Home Again 163 

nary 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 did n'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, as the wet band- 
ages went on again, and a long draught of water 
cooled his thirsty throat. 

" There, now> sleep your best, and don't be fright- 
ened if you see me again, for I '11 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 sur- 
prise, Dan put his arm round her neck, drew her face 
down to his, and kissed her, with a broken " Thank 
you, ma'am," which said more than the most elo- 
quent 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 that little touch of tenderness, and left him, saying, 



164 



Little Men 



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 turn ! ' as he hugged and wriggled with 
delight. Mrs. Bhaer appeared next, bringing break- 
fast, 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 of 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. 



Home Again 165 

"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 bein; lame haunted Dan, and even 

j 

Teddy's caresses did not cheer him ; so Mrs. Jo pro- 
posed 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 some- 
thing in it I guess they 'd like to see. I suppose you 
threw away my bundle of plunder?" said Dan, look- 
ing rather anxious as he put the question. 

u 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 but- 
terflies 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 



1 66 Little Men 

get it ; ' and away went Mrs. Jo, leaving Dan over- 
joyed 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 per- 
formance, forgot any awkwardness they might other- 
wise 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 any- 
thing 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 



Home Again 167 

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 treas- 
ures 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." 

"Who was Mr. Hyde?" 

" 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 '11 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 rab- 
bits and squirrels did n't mind him any more than if 
he was a tree. He never hurt 'em, and they seemed 



1 68 Little Men 

to know him. 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 would n'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 inter- 
esting, 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. 



Home Again 169 

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 would n'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 did n't, I should 
give you the drawers, because I have a regard for 
children's little treasures, and think they should be 
treated respectfully. Now, I am going to make a bar- 
gain 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 have n'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 suc- 
cess 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. 



170 Little Men 



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 with- 
out 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 butter- 
flies, I shall see good resolutions carried out, con- 
quered faults, and a promise well kept. Shall we do 
this, Dan?" 

The boy 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 



Home Again 171 

and bugs round the sides ; they will be quite safe 
there, and leave room for the heavy things below. 
I '11 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 t 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. 



172 Little Men / 

" 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 '11 have to let these fellers go, for I can't keep 
'em in the house," said Dan, with evident regret. 



Home Again 173 

" I '11 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 than 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 have n't," said Dan, with a sigh, think- 
ing 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 ex- 
pect 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 



174 Little Men 



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, pass- 
ing 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 



Home Again 175 

an earnest wish to keep his first promise, Dan folded 
his hands together in the darkness, and softly whis- 
pered 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 very 
wearisome to the active lad, longing to be out enjoy- 
ing 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 levfe. 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 any thing for himself. They were still sitting 



Uncle Teddy 17 



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 the 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 mis- 
chief," 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 

12 



178 



Little Men 



by an occasional mark of favor from her little high- 
ness. 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, are n'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. Bhaerlike it?" 

" Oh, yes ; we settled all that a minute ago." 

" You did n'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 improve- 
ment on the telegraph." 

" I know it 's eyes ; I saw you lift your eyebrows, 
and nod toward the carriage, and Mrs. Bhaer laughed 



Uncle Teddy 179 

and nodded back again," cried Nat, who was quite at 
his ease with kind Mr. Laurie by this time. 

" Right. Now then, 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 
made 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 
his 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 lay- 
ing it in the palm of his hand, said, 



180 Little Men 

"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 Grand- 
pa," 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. 



Uncle Teddy i 8 i 



" 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 incon- 
venient treasures. 

" Where can we put them, then? " said Demi, cross- 
ing his legs and leaning down to argue the question. 

" In the old carriage-house." 

" But it leaks, and there is n't any window, nor any 



1 82 Little Men 

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 begin- 
ning, 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 in- 
stitution, and I am going to begin with this," said 



Uncle Teddy 183 

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 them. 

" 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 
is n'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 is n'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 had n'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 insti- 
tution * The Laurence Museum,' in honor of its 
founder, won't we, boys? " she added, looking very 
like the lively Jo of old times. 



184 



Little Men 



" 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 sub- 
sided and he had expressed his thanks by a splendid 
bow. 

" Trot out and ask Asia for the gingerbread-box, 
Demi. It is n'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, dis- 
closed 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 monkey for Tommy, a flower for Daisy, 
a hoop for Nan, who had driven twice round the tri- 
angle 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 



Uncle Teddy 185 

folks had birds, and cats, and rabbits, with black cur- 
rant 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?' 1 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 im- 
proved 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 ap- 
pearance 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 wheelbar- 
row. Hats 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 did n'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 pre- 
mature rejoicing over Nan's improvement. 



1 86 Little Men 

" Laugh away ; I '11 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 spill- 
ing 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-man- 
nered crew before you are quite spoilt. Good-by, 
Jo ! Next time I come, I shall expect to find the 
boys making patchwork." 

" It would n'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 carriage-house, which went briskly on 
in spite of the incessant questions, advice, and med- 



Uncle Teddy 187 



dling of the boys. Old Gibbs was nearly driven wild 
with it all, but managed to do his work nevertheless ; 
and by Friday night the place was all in order roof 
mended, shelves up, walls whitewashed, a great win- 
dow cut at the back, which let in a flood of sunshine, 
and gave them a fine view of the brook, the meadows, 
and the distant hills ; and over the great door, painted 
in red letters, was " The Laurence Museum." 

All Saturday morning the boys were planning how 
it should be furnished with their spoils, and when Mr. 
Laurie arrived, bringing an aquarium which Mrs. 
Amy said she was tired of, their rapture was 
great. 

The afternoon was spent in arranging things, 
and when the running and lugging and hammering 
was over, the ladies were invited to behold the 
institution. 

It certainly was a pleasant place, airy, clean, and 
bright. A hop-vine shook its green bells round the 
open window, the pretty aquarium stood in the 
middle of the room, with some delicate water plants 
rising above the water, and gold-fish showing their 
brightness as they floated to and fro below. On 
either side of the window were rows of shelves ready 
to receive the curiosities yet to be found. Dan's tall 
cabinet stood before the great door which was 
fastened up, while the small door was to be used. 
On the cabinet stood a queer Indian idol, very ugly, 
but very interesting; old Mr. Laurence sent it, as 
well as a fine Chinese junk in full sail, which had a 
conspicuous place on the long table in the middle of 
the room. Above, swinging in a loop, and looking 
as if she was alive, hung Polly, who died at an 



1 88 Little Men 

advanced age, had been carefully stuffed, and was 
now presented by Mrs. Jo. The walls were decorated 
with all sorts of things. A snake's skin, a big wasp's 
nest, a birch-bark canoe, a string of birds' eggs, 
wreaths of gray moss from the South, and a bunch of 
cotton-pods. The dead bats had a place, also a large 
turtle-shell, and an ostrich-egg proudly presented by 
Demi, who volunteered to explain these rare curiosi- 
ties to guests whenever they liked. There were so 
many stones that it was impossible to accept them 
all, so only a few of the best were arranged among 
the shells on the shelves, the rest were piled up in 
corners, to be examined by Dan at his leisure. 

Every one was eager to give something, even Silas, 
who sent home for a stuffed wild-cat killed in his 
youth. It was rather moth-eaten and shabby, but on 
a high bracket and best side foremost the effect was 
fine, for the yellow glass eyes glared, and the mouth 
snarled so naturally, that Teddy shook in his little 
shoes at sight of it, when he came bringing his most 
cherished treasure, one cocoon, to lay upon the 
shrine of science. 

" Isn't it beautiful? I 'd no idea we had so many 
curious things. I gave that; don't it look well? We 
might make a lot by charging something for letting 
folks see it." 

Jack added that last suggestion to the general chat- 
ter that went on as the family viewed the room. 

" This is a free museum and if there is any specu- 
lating on it I '11 paint out the name over the door," 
said Mr. Laurie, turning so quickly that Jack wished 
he had held his tongue. 

" Hear ! hear ! " cried Mr. Bhaer. 



Uncle Teddy 189 

" Speech ! speech ! " added Mrs. Jo. 

" Can't, I 'm too bashful. You give them a lecture 
yourself you are used to it, " Mr. Laurie answered, 
retreating towards the window, meaning to escape. 
But she held him fast, and said, laughing as she 
looked at the dozen pairs of dirty hands about 
her, 

" If I did lecture, it would be on the chemical and 
cleansing properties of soap. Come now, as the 
founder of the institution, you really ought to 
give us a few moral remarks, and we will applaud 
tremendously." 

Seeing that there was no way of escaping, Mr. 
Laurie looked up at Polly hanging overhead, seemed 
to find inspiration in the brilliant old bird, and sitting 
down upon the table, said, in his pleasant way, - 

" There is one thing I 'd like to suggest, boys, and 
that is, I want you to get some good as well as much 
pleasure out of this. Just putting curious or pretty 
things here won't do it ; so suppose you read up 
about them, so that when anybody asks questions 
you can answer them, and understand the matter. I 
used to like these things myself, and should enjoy 
hearing about them now, for I 've forgotten all I once 
knew. It wasn't much, was it, Jo? Here's Dan 
now, full of stories about birds, and bugs, and so on ; 
let him take care of the museum, and once a week 
the rest of you take turns to read a composition, or 
tell about some animal, mineral, or vegetable. We 
should all like that, and I think it would put con- 
siderable useful knowledge into our heads. What do 
you say, Professor?" 

" I 'd like it much, and will give the lads all the 



Little Men 

help I can. But they will need books to read up 
these new subjects, and we have not many, I fear," 
began Mr. Bhaer, looking much pleased, and plan- 
ning many fine lectures on geology, which he 
liked. " We should have a library for the special 
purpose." 

" Is that a useful sort of book, Dan? " asked Mr. 
Laurie, pointing to the volume that lay open by the 
cabinet. 

" Oh, yes ! it tells all I want to know about insects. 
I had it here to see how to fix the butterflies right. 
I covered it, so it is not hurt; " and Dan caught it 
up, fearing the lender might think him careless. 

" Give it here a minute ; ' and, pulling out his 
pencil, Mr. Laurie wrote Dan's name in it, saying, as 
he set the book up on one of the corner shelves, 
where nothing stood but a stuffed bird without a tail, 
" There, that is the beginning of the museum library. 
I '11 hunt up some more books, and Demi shall keep 
them in order. Where are those jolly little books we 
used to read, Jo ? ' Insect Architecture ' or some such 
name, all about ants having battles, and bees having 
queens, and crickets eating holes in our clothes and 
stealing milk, and larks of that sort." 

" In the garret at home. I '11 have them sent out, 
and we will plunge into Natural History with a will," 
said Mrs. Jo, ready for any thing. 

" Won't it be hard to write about such things?" 
asked Nat, who hated compositions. 

" At first, perhaps ; but you will soon like it. If you 
think that hard, how would you like to have this sub- 
ject given to you, as it was to a girl of thirteen : A 
conversation between Themistocles, Aristides, and 



Uncle Teddy i 91 



Pericles on the proposed appropriation of the funds 
of the confederacy of Delos for the ornamentation of 
Athens?" said Mrs. Jo. 

The boys groaned at the mere sound of the long 
names, and the gentlemen laughed at the absurdity 
of the lesson. 

" Did she write it?' asked Demi, in an awe- 
stricken tone. 

" Yes, but you can imagine what a piece of work she 
made of it, though she was rather a bright child." 

" I 'd like to have seen it, " said Mr. Bhaer. 

11 Perhaps I can find it for you ; I went to school 
with her," and Mrs. Jo looked so wicked that every 
one knew who the little girl was. 

Hearing of this fearful subject for a composition 
quite reconciled the boys to the thought of writing 
about familiar things. Wednesday afternoon was ap- 
pointed for the lectures, as they preferred to call 
them, for some chose to talk instead of write. Mr. 
Bhaer promised a portfolio in which the written pro- 
ductions should be kept, and Mrs. Bhaer said she 
would attend the course with great pleasure. 

Then the dirty-handed society went off to wash, 
followed by the Professor, trying to calm the anxiety 
of Rob, who had been told by Tommy that all water 
was full of invisible pollywogs. 

" I like your plan very much, only don't be too 
generous, Teddy," said Mrs. Bhaer, when they were 
left alone. " You know most of the boys have got 
to paddle their own canoes when they leave us, and 
too much sitting in the lap of luxury will unfit them 
for it." 

" I '11 be moderate, but do let me amuse myself. I 



1 92 Little Men 

get desperately tired of business sometimes, and 
nothing freshens me up like a good frolic with your 
boys. I like that Dan very much, Jo. He is n't 
demonstrative ; but he has the eye of a hawk, and 
when you have tamed him a little he will do you 
credit." 

" I 'm so glad you think so. Thank you very 
much for your kindness to him, especially for this 
museum affair ; it will keep him happy while he is 
lame, give me a chance to soften and smooth this 
poor, rough lad, and make him love us. What did 
inspire you with such a beautiful, helpful idea, 
Teddy?' asked Mrs. Bhaer, glancing back at the 
pleasant room, as she turned to leave it. 

Laurie took both her hands in his, and answered, 
with a look that made her eyes fill with happy tears, 

" Dear Jo ! I have known what it is to be a mother- 
less boy, and I never can forget how much you and 
yours have done for me all these years." 



CHAPTER XII 

HUCKLEBERRIES 

THERE was a great clashing of tin pails, 
much running to and fro, and frequent 
demands for something to eat, one August 
afternoon, for the boys were going huckleberrying, 
and made as much stir about it as if they were set- 
ting out to find the North-West Passage. 

" Now, my lads, get off as quietly as you can, for 
Rob is safely out of the way, and won't see you," 
said Mrs. Bhaer, as she tied Daisy's broad-brimmed 
hat, and settled the great blue pinafore in which she 
had enveloped Nan. 

But the plan did not succeed, for Rob had heard 
the bustle, decided to go, and prepared himself, with- 
out a thought of disappointment. The troop was just 
getting under way when the little man came marching 
down-stairs with his best hat on, a bright tin pail in 
his hand, and a face beaming with satisfaction. 

" Oh, dear ! now we shall have a scene," sighed 
Mrs. Bhaer, who found her eldest son very hard to 
manage at times. 

" I 'm all ready," said Rob, and took his place in the 
ranks with such perfect unconsciousness of his mis- 
take, that it really was very hard to undeceive him. 

" It 's too far for you, my love; stay and take care 
pf me ; for I shall be all alone," began his mother, 



1 94 Little Men 



" You 've got Teddy. I 'm a big boy, so I can go ; 
you said I might when I was bigger, and I am now," 
persisted Rob, with a cloud beginning to dim the 
brightness of his happy face. 

" We are going up to the great pasture, and it 's 
ever so far; we don't want you tagging on," cried 
Jack, who did not admire the little boys. 

"I won't tag, I'll run and keep up. O Mamma! 
let me go ! I want to fill my new pail, and I '11 bring 
'em all to you. Please, please, I will be good ! ' 
prayed Robby, looking up at his mother, so grieved 
and disappointed that her heart began to fail her. 

" But, my deary, you '11 get so tired and hot you 
won't have a good time. Wait till I go, and then we 
will stay all day, and pick as many berries as you 
want" 

" You never do go, you are so busy, and I 'in tired 
of waiting. I 'd rather go and get the berries for you 
all myself. I love to pick 'em, and I want to fill my 
new pail dreffly," sobbed Rob. 

The pathetic sight of great tears tinkling into the 
dear new pail, and threatening to fill it with salt water 
instead of huckleberries, touched all the ladies present. 
His mother patted the weeper on his back ; Daisy 
offered to stay at home with him ; and Nan said, in 
her decided way, 

" Let him come ; I '11 take care of him." 

" If Franz was going I would n't mind, for he is 
very careful ; but he is haying with the father, and I 'm 
not sure about the rest of you," began Mrs. Bhaer. 

" It 's so far," put in Jack. 

" I 'd carry him if I was going wish I was," said 
Dan, with a sigh. 



Huckleberries 195 

" Thank you, dear, but you must take care of your 
foot. I wish I could go. Stop a minute, I think I 
can manage it after all ; " and Mrs. Bhaer ran out to 
the steps, waving her apron wildly. 

Silas was just driving away in the hay-cart, but 
turned back, and agreed at once, when Mrs. Jo pro- 
posed that he should take the whole party to the 
pasture, and go for them at five o'clock. 

" It will delay your work a little, but never mind ; 
we will pay you in huckleberry pies," said Mrs. Jo, 
knowing Silas's weak point. 

His rough, brown face brightened up, and he said, 
with a cheery " Haw ! haw ! " " Wai now, Mis' 
Bhaer, if you go to bribin' of me, I shall give in right 
away." 

" Now, boys, I have arranged it so that you can all 
go," said Mrs. Bhaer, running back again, much re- 
lieved, for she loved to make them happy, and always 
felt miserable when she had disturbed the serenity of 
her little sons ; for she believed that the small hopes 
and plans and pleasures of children should be ten- 
derly respected by grown-up people, and never 
rudely thwarted or ridiculed. 

" Can I go? " said Dan, delighted. 

" I thought especially of you. Be careful, and 
never mind the berries, but sit about and enjoy the 
lovely things which you know how to find all about 
you," answered Mrs. Bhaer, who remembered his 
kind offer to her boy. 

" Me too ! me too ! " sung Rob, dancing with joy, 
and clapping his precious pail and cover like 
castanets. 

" Yes, and Daisy and Nan must take good care of 



Little Men 

you. Be at the bars at five o'clock, and Silas will 
come for you all." 

Robby cast himself upon his mother in a burst of 
gratitude, promising to bring her every berry he 
picked, and not eat one. Then they were all packed 
into the hay-cart, and went rattling away, the 
brightest face among the dozen being that of Rob, as 
he sat between his two temporary little mothers, 
beaming upon the whole world, and waving his best 
hat; for his indulgent mamma had not the heart to 
bereave him of it, since this was a gala-day to 
him. 

Such a happy afternoon as they had, in spite of the 
mishaps which usually occur on such expeditions ! 
Of course Tommy came to grief, tumbled upon a 
hornets' nest and got stung; but being used to woe, 
he bore the smart manfully, till Dan suggested the 
application of damp earth, which much assuaged the 
pain. Daisy saw a snake, and in flying from it lost 
half her berries ; but Demi helped her to fill up 
again, and discussed reptiles most learnedly the 
while. Ned fell out of a tree, and split his jacket 
down the back, but suffered no other fracture. Emil 
and Jack established rival claims to a certain thick 
patch, and while they were squabbling about it, Stuffy 
quickly and quietly stripped the bushes and fled to 
the protection of Dan, who was enjoying himself im- 
mensely. The crutch was no longer necessary, and 
he was delighted to see how strong his foot felt as he 
roamed about the great pasture, full of interesting 
rocks and stumps, with familiar little creatures in the 
grass, and well-known insects dancing in the air. 

But of all the adventures that happened on this 



Huckleberries 197 

afternoon that which befell Nan and Rob was the 
most exciting, and it long remained one of the 
favorite histories of the household. Having explored 
the country pretty generally, torn three rents in her 
frock, and scratched her face in a barberry-bush, 
Nan began to pick the berries that shone like big, 
black beads on the low, green bushes. Her nimble 
fingers flew, but still her basket did not fill up as 
rapidly as she desired, so she kept wandering here 
and there to search for better places, instead of pick- 
ing contentedly and steadily as Daisy did. Rob 
followed Nan, for her energy suited him better than 
his cousin's patience, and he too was anxious to have 
the biggest and best berries for Marmar. 

" I keep putting 'em in, but it don't fill up, and I 'm 
so tired," said Rob, pausing a moment to rest his 
short legs, and beginning to think huckleberrying 
was not all his fancy painted it; for the sun blazed, 
Nan skipped hither and thither like a grasshopper, 
and the berries fell out of his pail almost as fast he 
put them in, because, in his struggles with the bushes, 
it was often upside-down. 

" Last time we came they were ever so much 
thicker over that wall- -great bouncers; and there is 
a cave there, where the boys made a fire. Let 's go 
and fill our things quick, and then hide in the cave 
and let the others find us," proposed Nan, thirsting 
for adventures. 

Rob consented, and away they went, scrambling 
over the wall and running down the sloping fields on 
the other side, till they were hidden among the rocks 
and underbrush. The berries were thick, and at last 
the pails were actually full. It was shady and cool 



ig8 



Little Men 



down there, and a little spring gave the thirsty chil- 
dren a refreshing drink out of its mossy cup. 

" Now we will go and rest in the cave, and eat our 
lunch," said Nan, well satisfied with her success so 
far. 

u Do you know the way? " asked Rob. 

" 'Course I do ; I Ve been once, and I always re- 
member. Didn't I go and get my box all right?" 

That convinced Rob, and he followed blindly as 
Nan led him over stock and stone, and brought him, 
after much meandering, to a small recess in the rock, 
where the blackened stones showed that fires had 
been made. 

" Now, is n't it nice?" asked Nan, as she took out 
a bit of bread-and-butter, rather damaged by being 
mixed up with nails, fishhooks, stones and other 
foreign substances, in the young lady's pocket. 

" Yes ; do you think they will find us soon?" asked 
Rob, who found the shadowy glen rather dull, and 
began to long for more society. 

" No, I don't; because if I hear them, I shall hide, 
and have fun making them find me." 

" P'raps they won't come." 
Don't care ; I can get home myself." 
Is it a great way?' asked Rob, looking at his 
little, stubby boots, scratched and wet with his long 
wandering. 

" It's six miles, I guess." Nan's ideas of distance 
were vague, and her faith in her own powers 
great. 

" I think we better go now," suggested Rob, 
presently. 

" I shan't go till I have picked over my berries;" 



" 
" 



Huckleberries igg 

and Nan began what seemed to Rob an endless 
task. 

" Oh, dear ! you said you 'd take good care of me," 
he sighed, as the sun seemed to drop behind the hill 
all of a sudden. 

" Well, I am taking care of you as hard as I can. 
Don't be cross, child ; I '11 go in a minute," said Nan, 
who considered five-year-old Robby a mere infant 
compared to herself. 

So little Rob sat looking anxiously about him, and 
waiting patiently, for, spite of some misgivings, he 
felt great confidence in Nan. 

" I guess it 's going to be night pretty soon," he 
observed, as if to himself, as a mosquito bit him, and 
the frogs in a neighboring marsh began to pipe up 
for the evening concert. 

" My goodness me ! so it is. Come right away 
this minute, or they will be gone," cried Nan, looking 
up from her work, and suddenly perceiving that the 
sun was down. 

" I heard a horn about an hour ago ; may be they 
were blowing for us," said Rob, trudging after his 
guide as she scrambled up the steep hill. 

" Where was it? " asked Nan, stopping short. 

" Over that way ; ' he pointed with a dirty little 
ringer in an entirely wrong direction. 

" Let 's go that way and meet them ; ' and Nan 
wheeled about, and began to trot through the bushes, 
feeling a trifle anxious, for there were so many cow- 
paths all about she could not remember which way 
they came. 

On they went over stock and stone again, pausing 
now and then to listen for the horn, which did not 



200 Little Men 

blow any more, for it was only the moo of a cow on 
her way home. 

" I don't remember seeing that pile of stones do 
you?' asked Nan, as she sat on a wall to rest a 
moment and take an observation. 

" I don't remember any thing, but I want to go 
home," and Rob's voice had a little tremble in it that 
made Nan put her arms round him and lift him gently 
down, saying, in her most capable way, 

" I 'm going just as fast as I can, dear. Don't cry, 
and when we come to the road, I '11 carry you." 

"Where is the road?" and Robby wiped his eyes 
to look for it. 

"Over by that big tree. Don't you know that's 
the one Ned tumbled out of ? ' 

" So it is. May be they waited for us ; I 'd like to 
ride home would n't you? " and Robby brightened 
up as he plodded along toward the end of the great 
pasture. 

" No, I 'd rather walk," answered Nan, feeling quite 
sure that she would be obliged to do so, and prepar- 
ing her mind for it. 

Another long trudge through the fast-deepening 
twilight and another disappointment, for when they 
reached the tree, they found to their dismay that it 
was not the one Ned climbed, and no road anywhere 
appeared. 

"Are we lost? " quavered Rob, clasping his pail in 
despair. 

" Not much. I don't just see which way to go, and 
I guess we 'd better call." 

So they both shouted till they were hoarse, yet 
nothing answered but the frogs in full chorus. 



Huckleberries 201 

" There is another tall tree over there, perhaps 
that 's the one," said Nan, whose heart sunk within 
her, though she still spoke bravely. 

" I don't think I can go any more ; my boots are 
so heavy I can't pull 'em ; ' and Robby sat down on a 
stone quite worn out. 

" Then we must stay here all night. / don't care 
much, if snakes don't come." 

" I 'm frightened of snakes. I can't stay all 
night. Oh, dear ! I don't like to be lost," and Rob 
puckered up his face to cry, when suddenly a thought 
occurred to him, and he said, in a tone of perfect 
confidence, 

" Marmar will come and find me she always 
does ; I ain't afraid now." 

" She won't know where we are." 

" She did n't know I was shut up in the ice-house, 
but she found me. I know she '11 come," returned 
Robby, so trustfully, that Nan felt relieved, and sat 
down by him, saying, with a remorseful sigh, 

" I wish we had n't run away." 

"You made me; but I don't mind much Marmar 
will love me just the same," answered Rob, clinging 
to his sheet-anchor when all other hope was gone. 

" I 'm so hungry. Let's eat our berries," proposed 
Nan after a pause, during which Rob began to nod. 

" So am I, but I can't eat mine, 'cause I told Mar- 
mar I 'd keep them all for her." 

" You '11 have to eat them if no one comes for us," 
said Nan, who felt like contradicting every thing just 
then. " If we stay here a great many days, we shall 
eat up all the berries in the field, and then we shall 
starve," she added, grimly. 



202 Little Men 

" I shall eat sassafras. I know a big tree of it, and 
Dan told me how squirrels dig up the roots and eat 
them, and I love to dig," returned Rob, undaunted by 
the prospect of starvation. 

" Yes ; and we can catch frogs, and cook them. 
My father ate some once, and he said they were nice," 
put in Nan, beginning to find a spice of romance even 
in being lost in a huckleberry pasture. 

" How could we cook frogs ? we have n't got any 
fire." 

" I don't know ; next time I '11 have matches in my 
pocket," said Nan, rather depressed by this obstacle 
to the experiment in frog-cookery. 

"Could n't we light a fire with a fire-fly ?' asked 
Rob, hopefully, as he watched them flitting to and 
fro like winged sparks. 

" Let's try; ' and several minutes were pleasantly 
spent in catching the flies, and trying to make them 
kindle a green twig or two. " It 's a lie to call them 
fire-flies when there is n't a fire in them," Nan 
said, throwing one unhappy insect away with scorn, 
though it shone its best, and obligingly walked up 
and down the twigs to please the innocent little 
experimenters. 

" Marmar 's a good while coming," said Rob, after 
another pause, during which they watched the stars 
overhead, smelt the sweet fern crushed under foot, 
and listened to the crickets' serenade. 

" I don't see why God made any night ; day is so 
much pleasanter," said Nan, thoughtfully. 

" It 's to sleep in," answered Rob, with a yawn. 

" Then do go to sleep," said Nan, pettishly. 

" I want my own bed. Oh, I wish I could see 



Huckleberries 203 

Teddy ! " cried Rob, painfully reminded of home by 
the soft chirp of birds safe in their little nests. 

" I don't believe your mother will ever find us," 
said Nan, who was becoming desperate, for she hated 
patient waiting of any sort. " It 's so dark she won't 



see us.' 



" It was all black in the ice-house, and I was so 
scared I did n't call her, but she saw me ; and she 
will see me now, no matter how dark it is," returned 
confiding Rob, standing up to peer into the gloom 
for the help which never failed him. 

" I see her ! I see her ! ' he cried, and ran as fast 
as his tired legs would take him toward a dark figure 
slowly approaching. Suddenly he stopped, then 
turned about, and came stumbling back, screaming in 
a great panic, 

" No, it 's a bear, a big, black one ! ' and hid his 
face in Nan's skirts. 

For a moment Nan quailed ; even her courage 
gave out at thought of a real bear, and she was 
about to turn and flee in great disorder, when a mild 
" Moo ! " changed her fear to merriment, as she said, 
laughing, - 

" It 's a cow, Robby ! the nice, black cow we saw 
this afternoon." 

The cow seemed to feel that it was not just the 
thing to meet two little people in her pasture after 
dark, and the amiable beast paused to inquire into 
the case. She let them stroke her, and stood regard- 
ing them with her soft eyes so mildly, that Nan, who 
feared no animal but a bear, was fired with a desire 
to milk her. 

" Silas taught me how ; and berries and milk would 



204 Little Men 

be so nice," she said, emptying the contents of her 
pail into her hat, and boldly beginning her new task, 
while Rob stood by and repeated, at her command, 
the poem from Mother Goose : 

" Cushy cow, bonny, let down your milk, 

Let down your milk to me, 
And I will give you a gown of silk, 
A gown of silk and a silver tee." 

But the immortal rhyme had little effect, for the 
benevolent cow had already been milked, and had 
only half a gill to give the thirsty children. 

" Shoo ! get away ! you are an old cross patch," 
cried Nan, ungratefully, as she gave up the attempt 
in despair ; and poor Mooly walked on with a gentle 
gurgle of surprise and reproof. 

" Each can have a sip, and then we must take a 
walk. We shall go to sleep if we don't; and lost 
people must n't sleep. Don't you know how Hannah 
Lee in the pretty story slept under the snow and 
died?" 

" But there is n't any snow now, and it 's nice and 
warm," said Rob, who was not blessed with as lively 
a fancy as Nan. 

" No matter, we will poke about a little, and call 
some more ; and then, if nobody comes, we will hide 
under the bushes, like Hop-o'-my-thumb and his 
brothers." 

It was a very short walk, however, for Rob was so 
sleepy he could not get on, and tumbled down so 
often that Nan entirely lost patience, being half dis- 
tracted by the responsibility she had taken upon 
herself. 



Huckleberries 205 

" If you tumble down again, I '11 shake you," she 
said, lifting the poor little man up very kindly as she 
spoke, for Nan's bark was much worse than her bite. 

" Please don't. It 's my boots - - they keep slip- 
ping so;' and Rob manfully checked, the sob just 
ready to break out, adding, with a plaintive patience 
that touched Nan's heart, " If the skeeters did n't bite 
me so, I could go to sleep till Marmar comes." 

" Put your head on my lap, and I '11 cover you up 
with my apron ; I 'm not afraid of the night," said 
Nan, sitting down and trying to persuade herself that 
she did not mind the shadow nor the mysterious rust- 
lings all about her. 

" Wake me up when she comes," said Rob, and 
was fast asleep in five minutes with his head in Nan's 
lap under the pinafore. 

The little girl sat for some fifteen minutes, staring 
about her with anxious eyes, and feeling as if each 
second was an hour. Then a pale light began to 
glimmer over the hill-top, and she said to herself 

" I guess the night is over and morning is coming. 
I 'd like to see the sun rise, so I '11 watch, and when it 
comes up we can find our way right home." 

But before the moon's round face peeped above 
the hill to destroy her hope, Nan had fallen asleep, 
leaning back in a little bower of tall ferns, and was 
deep in a midsummer night's dream of fire-flies and 
blue aprons, mountains of huckleberries, and Robby 
wiping away the tears of a black cow, who sobbed, 
" I want to go home ! I want to go home ! ' 

While the children were sleeping, peacefully lulled 
by the drowsy hum of many neighborly mosquitoes, 
the family at home were in a great state of agitation. 



206 Little Men 

The hay-cart came at five, and all but Jack, Emil, 
Nan, and Rob were at the bars ready for it. Franz 
drove instead of Silas, and when the boys told him 
that the others were going home through the wood, 
he said, looking ill-pleased, " They ought to have left 
Rob to ride, he will be tired out by the long walk." 

" It 's shorter that way, and they will carry him," 
said Stuffy, who was in a hurry for his supper. 

" You are sure Nan and Rob went with them ? ' 

" Of course they did ; I saw them getting over the 
wall, and sung out that it was most five, and Jack 
called back that they were going the other way," 
explained Tommy. 

" Very well, pile in then," and away rattled the hay- 
cart with the tired children and the full pails. 

Mrs. Jo looked sober when she heard of the divi- 
sion of the party, and sent Franz back with Toby to 
find and bring the little ones home. Supper was 
over, and the family sitting about in the cool hall as 
usual, when Franz came trotting back, hot, dusty, and 
anxious. 

''Have they come?" he called out when half-way 
up the avenue. 

" No ! " and Mrs. Jo flew out of her chair looking 
so alarmed that every one jumped up and gathered 
round Franz. 

" I can't find them anywhere," he began ; but the 
words were hardly spoken when a loud " Hullo ! ' 
startled them all, and the next minute Jack and Emil 
came round the house. 

" Where are Nan and Rob?" cried Mrs. Jo, clutch- 
ing Emil in a way that caused him to think his aunt 
had suddenly lost her wits. 



Huckleberries 207 

" I don't know. They came home with the others, 
did n't they?' he answered, quickly. 

" No ; George and Tommy said they went with 
you." 

" Well, they did n't. Have n't seen them. We 
took a swim in the pond, and came by the wood," 
said Jack, looking alarmed, as well he might. 

" Call Mr. Bhaer, get the lanterns, and tell Silas I 
want him." 

That was all Mrs. Jo said, but they knew what she 
meant, and flew to obey orders. In ten minutes, Mr. 
Bhaer and Silas were off to the wood, and Franz tear- 
ing down the road on Old Andy to search the great 
pasture. Mrs. Jo caught up some food from the table, 
a little bottle of brandy from the medicine-closet, 
took a lantern, and bidding Jack and Emil come with 
her, and the rest not stir, she trotted away on Toby, 
never stopping for hat or shawl. She heard some 
one running after her, but said not a word till, as she 
paused to call and listen, the light of her lantern shone 
on Dan's face. 

" You here ! I told Jack to come," she said, half- 
inclined to send him back, much as she needed 
help. 

" I would n't let him ; he and Emil had n't had any 
supper, and I wanted to come more than they did," 
he said, taking the lantern from her and smiling up 
in her face with the steady look in his eyes that made 
her feel as if, boy though he was, she had some one 
to depend on. 

Off she jumped, and ordered him on to Toby, in spite 
of his pleading to walk ; then they went on again along 
the dusty, solitary road, stopping every now and then 



208 Little Men 

to call and hearken breathlessly for little voices to 
reply. 

When they came to the great pasture, other lights 
were already flitting to and fro like will-o'-the-wisps, 
and Mr. Bhaer's voice was heard shouting, " Nan ! 
Rob ! Rob ! Nan ! ' in every part of the field. Silas 
whistled and roared, Dan plunged here and there on 
Toby, who seemed to understand the case, and went 
over the roughest places with unusual docility. Often 
Mrs. Jo hushed them all, saying, with a sob in her 
throat, " The noise may frighten them, let me call ; 
Robby will know my voice ; ' and then she would cry 
out the beloved little name in every tone of tender- 
ness, till the very echoes whispered it softly, and the 
winds seemed to waft it willingly; but still no answer 
came. 

The sky was overcast now, and only brief glimpses 
of the moon were seen, heat-lightning darted out of 
the dark clouds now and then, and a faint far-off 
rumble as of thunder told that a summer-storm was 
brewing. 

" O my Robby ! my Robby ! ' mourned poor Mrs. 
Jo, wandering up and down like a pale ghost, while 
Dan kept beside her like a faithful fire-fly. " What 
shall I say to Nan's father if she comes to harm ? Why 
did I ever trust my darling so far away? Fritz, do 
you hear any thing? ' And when a mournful " No ' 
came back, she wrung her hands so despairingly, that 
Dan sprung down from Toby's back, tied the bridle 
to the bars, and said, in his decided way, - 

" They may have gone down to the spring I 'm 
going to look." 

He was over the wall and away so fast that she 



Huckleberries 209 

could hardly follow him ; but when she reached the 
spot, he lowered the lantern and showed her with joy 
the marks of little feet in the soft ground about the 
spring. She fell down on her knees to examine the 
tracks, and then sprung up, saying eagerly, 

" Yes ; that is the mark of my Robby's little boots ! 
Come this way, they must have gone on." 

Such a weary search ! But now some inexplicable 
instinct seemed to lead the anxious mother, for pres- 
ently Dan uttered a cry, and caught up a little shin- 
ing object lying in the path. It was the cover of the 
new tin pail, dropped in the first alarm of being lost. 
Mrs. Jo hugged and kissed it as if it were a living 
thing ; and when Dan was about to utter a glad shout 
to bring the others to the spot, she stopped him, say- 
ing, as she hurried on, " No, let me find them ; I let 
Rob go, and I want to give him back to his father all 
myself." 

A little farther on Nan's hat appeared, and after 
passing the place more than once, they came at last 
upon the babes in the wood, both sound asleep. Dan 
never forgot the little picture on which the light of 
his lantern shone that night. He thought Mrs. Jo 
would cry out, but she only whispered " Hush ! ' as 
she softly lifted away the apron, and saw the little 
ruddy face below. The berry-stained lips were half- 
open as the breath came and went, the yellow hair 
lay damp on the hot forehead, and both the chubby 
hands held fast the little pail still full. 

The sight of the childish harvest, treasured through 
all the troubles of that night for her, seemed to touch 
Mrs. Jo to the heart, for suddenly she gathered up 
her boy, and began to cry over him, so tenderly, yet 

14 



2 io Little Men 

so heartily, that he woke .up, and at first seemed be- 
wildered. Then he remembered, and hugged her 
close, saying with a laugh of triumph, - 

" I knew you 'd come ! O Marmar ! I did want you 
so ! ' For a moment they kissed and clung to one an- 
other, quite forgetting all the world ; for no matter how 
lost and soiled and worn-out wandering sons may be, 
mothers can forgive and forget every thing as they 
fold them in their fostering arms. Happy the son 
whose faith in his mother remains unchanged, and 
who, through all his wanderings, has kept some filial 
token to repay her brave and tender love. 

Dan meantime picked Nan out of her bush, and, 
with a gentleness none but Teddy ever saw in him be- 
fore, he soothed her first alarm at the sudden waking, 
and wiped away her tears ; for Nan also began to cry 
for joy, it was so good to see a kind face and feel a 
strong arm round her after what seemed to her ages 
of loneliness and fear. 

" My poor little girl, don't cry ! You are all safe 
now, and no one shall say a word of blame to-night," 
said Mrs. Jo, taking Nan into her capacious embrace, 
and cuddling both children as a hen might gather her 
lost chickens under her motherly wings. 

" It was my fault; but I am sorry. I tried to take 
care of him, and I covered him up and let him sleep, 
and did n't touch his berries, though I was so hungry ; 
and I never will do it again truly never, never," 
sobbed Nan, quite lost in a sea of penitence and thank- 
fulness. 

" Call them now, and let us get home," said Mrs. 
Jo ; and Dan, getting upon the wall, sent the joyful 
word " Found ! ' ringing over the field. 



Huckleberries 



211 



How the wandering lights came dancing from all 
sides, and gathered round the little group among the 
sweet fern bushes ! Such a hugging, and kissing, and 
talking, and crying, as went on must have amazed the 
glowworms, and evidently delighted the mosquitoes, 
for they hummed frantically, while the little moths 
came in flocks to the party, and the frogs croaked as 
if they could not express their satisfaction loudly 
enough. 

Then they set out for home, a queer party, for 
Franz rode on to tell the news ; Dan and Toby led 
the way ; then came Nan in the strong arms of Silas, 
who considered her " the smartest little baggage he 
ever saw," and teased her all the way home about 
her pranks. Mr. Bhaer would let no one carry Rob 
but himself, and the little fellow, refreshed by sleep, 
sat up, and chattered gayly, feeling himself a hero, 
while his mother went beside him holding on to any 
part of his precious little body that came handy, and 
never tired of hearing him say, " I knew Marmar 
would come," or seeing him lean down to kiss her, 
and put a plump berry into her mouth, " 'Cause he 
picked 'em all for her." 

The moon shone out just as they reached the 
avenue, and all the boys came shouting to meet them, 
so the lost lambs were borne in triumph and safety, 
and landed in the dining-room, where the unromantic 
little things demanded supper instead of preferring 
kisses and caresses. They were set down to bread 
and milk, while the entire household stood round to 
gaze upon them. Nan soon recovered her spirits, 
and recounted her perils with a relish now that they 
were all over. Rob seemed absorbed in his food, 



212 Little Men 

but put down his spoon all of a sudden, and set up a 
doleful roar. 

" My precious, why do you cry?' asked his 
mother, who still hung over him. 

" I 'm crying 'cause I was lost," bawled Rob, trying 
to squeeze out a tear, and failing entirely. 

" But you are found now. Nan says you did n't 
cry out in the field, and I was glad you were such a 
brave boy." 

" I was so busy being frightened I did n't have any 
time then. But I want to cry now, 'cause I don't like 
to be lost," explained Rob, struggling with sleep, 
emotion, and a mouthful of bread and milk. 

The boys set up such a laugh at this funny way of 
making up for lost time, that Rob stopped to look at 
them, and the merriment was so infectious, that after 
a surprised stare he burst out into a merry " Ha, ha ! ' 
and beat his spoon upon the table as if he enjoyed 
the joke immensely. 

"It is ten o'clock; into bed, every man of you," 
said Mr. Bhaer, looking at his watch. 

" And, thank Heaven ! there will be no empty ones 
to-night," added Mrs. Bhaer, watching, with full eyes, 
Robby going up in his father's arms, and Nan escorted 
by Daisy and Demi, who considered her the most 
interesting heroine of their collection. 

" Poor Aunt Jo is so tired she ought to be carried 
up herself," said gentle Franz, putting his arm round 
her as she paused at the stair-foot, looking quite ex- 
hausted by her fright and long walk. 

" Let's make an arm-chair," proposed Tommy. 

" No, thank you, my lads ; but somebody may lend 
me a shoulder to lean on," answered Mrs. Jo. 



Huckleberries 213 

" Me ! me ! " and half-a-dozen jostled one another, 
all eager to be chosen, for there was something in the 
pale motherly face that touched the warm hearts 
under the round jackets. 

Seeing that they considered it an honor, Mrs. Jo 
gave it to the one who had earned it, and nobody 
grumbled when she put her arm on Dan's broad 
shoulder, saying, with a look that made him color up 
with pride and pleasure, 

" He found the children ; so I think he must help 
me up." 

Dan felt richly rewarded for his evening's work, 
not only that he was chosen from all the rest to go 
proudly up bearing the lamp, but because Mrs. Jo 
said, heartily, " Good-night, my boy ! God bless you ! ' 
as he left her at her door. 

" I wish I was your boy," said Dan, who felt as if 
danger and trouble had somehow brought him nearer 
than ever to her. 

" You shall be my oldest son," and she sealed her 
promise with a kiss that made Dan hers entirely. 

Little Rob was all right next day, but Nan had a 
headache, and lay on Mother Bhaer's sofa with cold- 
cream upon her scratched face. Her remorse was 
quite gone, and she evidently thought being lost 
rather a fine amusement. Mrs. Jo was not pleased 
with this state of things, and had no desire to have 
her children led from the paths of virtue, or her 
pupils lying round loose in huckleberry fields. So 
she talked soberly to Nan, and tried to impress upon 
her mind the difference between liberty and license, 
telling several tales to enforce her lecture. She had 
not decided how to punish Nan, but one of these 



214 Little Men 

stories suggested a way, and as Mrs. Jo liked odd 
penalties she tried it. 

" All children run away," pleaded Nan, as if it was 
as natural and necessary a thing as measles or hoop- 
ing cough. 

" Not all, and some who do run away don't get 
found again," answered Mrs. Jo. 

" Did n't you do it yourself ? ' asked Nan, whose 
keen little eyes saw some traces of a kindred spirit in 
the serious lady who was sewing so morally before 
her. 

Mrs. Jo laughed, and owned that she did. 

" Tell about it," demanded Nan, feeling that she 
was getting the upper hand in the discussion. 

Mrs. Jo saw that, and sobered down at once, say- 
ing, with a remorseful shake of the head, 

" I did it a good many times, and led my poor 
mother rather a hard life with my pranks, till she 
cured me." 

"How?' and Nan sat up with a face full of 
interest. 

" I had a new pair of shoes once, and wanted to 
show them ; so, though I was told not to leave the 
garden, I ran away and was wandering about all day. 
It was in the city, and why I was n't killed I don't 
know. Such a time as I had. I frolicked in the 
park with dogs, sailed boats in the Back Bay with 
strange boys, dined with a little Irish beggar-girl on 
salt fish and potatoes, and was found at last fast 
asleep on a door-step with my arms round a great 
dog. It was late in the evening, and I was as dirty 
as a little pig, and the new shoes were worn out I 
had travelled so far." 



Huckleberries 215 

" How nice ! ' cried Nan, looking all ready to go 
and do it herself. 

" It was not nice next day; " and Mrs. Jo tried to 
keep her eyes from betraying how much she enjoyed 
the memory of her early capers. 

"Did your mother whip you?' asked Nan, 
curiously. 

" She never whipped me but once, and then she 
begged my pardon, or I don't think I ever should 
have forgiven her, it hurt my feelings so much." 

"Why did she beg your pardon? my father 
don't." 

" Because, when she had done it, I turned round 
and said, ' Well, you are mad yourself, and ought to 
be whipped as much as me.' She looked at me a 
minute, then her anger all died out, and she said, as 
if ashamed, ' You are right, Jo, / am angry; and why 
should I punish you for being in a passion when I set 
you such a bad example? Forgive me, dear, and let 
us try to help one another in a better way.' I never 
forgot it, and it did me more good than a dozen 
rods." 

Nan sat thoughtfully turning the little cold-cream 
jar for a minute, and Mrs. Jo said nothing, but let 
that idea get well into the busy little mind that 
was so quick to see and feel what went on about 
her. 

" I like that," said Nan, presently, and her face 
looked less elfish, with its sharp eyes, inquisitive nose, 
and mischievous mouth. " What did your mother 
do to you when you ran away that time ? ' 

" She tied me up to the bed-post with a long string, 
so that I could not go out of the room, and there I 



216 Little Men 

stayed all day with the little worn-out shoes hanging 
up before me to remind me of my fault." 

" I should think that would cure anybody," cried 
Nan, who loved her liberty above all things. 

" It did cure me, and I think it will you, so I am 
going to try it," said Mrs. Jo, suddenly taking a ball 
of strong twine out of a drawer in her work-table. 

Nan looked as if she was decidedly getting the 
worst of the argument now, and sat feeling much 
crestfallen while Mrs. Jo tied one end round her 
waist and the other to the arm of the sofa, saying, as 
she finished, 

" I don't like to tie you up like a naughty little 
dog, but if you don't remember any better than a 
dog, I must treat you like one." 

" I 'd just as lief be tied up as not I like to play 
dog; " and Nan put on a don't-care face, and began 
to growl and grovel on the floor. 

Mrs. Jo took no notice, but leaving a book or two 
and a handkerchief to hem, she went away, and left 
Miss Nan to her own devices. This was not agree- 
able, and after sitting a moment she tried to untie the 
cord. But it was fastened in the belt of her apron 
behind, so she began on the knot at the other end. 
It soon came loose, and, gathering it up, Nan was about 
to get out of the window, when she heard Mrs. Jo say 
to somebody as she passed through the hall, 

" No, I don't think she will run away now; she is 
an honorable little girl, and knows that I do it to 
help her." 

In a minute Nan whisked back, tied herself up, and 
began to sew violently. Rob came in a moment 
after, and was so charmed with the new punishment, 



Huckleberries 217 

that he got a jump-rope and tethered himself to the 
other arm of the sofa in the most social manner. 

" I got lost too, so I ought to be tied up as much 
as Nan," he explained to his mother when she saw the 
new captive. 

" I 'm not sure that you don't deserve a little pun^ 
ishment, for you knew it was wrong to go far away 
from the rest." 

" Nan took me," began Rob, willing to enjoy 
the novel penalty, but not willing to take the 
blame. 

You need n't have gone. You have got a con- 
science, though you are a little boy, and you must 
learn to mind it." 

" Well, my conscience did n't prick me a bit when 
she said 'Let's get over the wall,' answered Rob, 
quoting one of Demi's expressions. 

" Did you stop to see if it did ? ' 

"No." 

" Then you cannot tell." 

" I guess it 's such a little conscience that it don't 
prick hard enough for me to feel it," added Rob, 
after thinking over the matter for a minute. 

" We must sharpen it up. It 's bad to have a dull 
conscience ; so you may stay here till dinner-time, 
and talk about it with Nan. I trust you both not to 
untie yourselves till I say the word." 

' No, we won't," said both, feeling a certain sense 
of virtue in helping to punish themselves. 

For an hour they were very good, then they grew 
tired of one room, and longed to get out. Never had 
the hall seemed so inviting; even the little bedroom 
acquired a sudden interest, and they would gladly 



218 Little Men 

have gone in and played tent with the curtains of the 
best bed. The open windows drove them wild because 
they could not reach them ; and the outer world 
seemed so beautiful, they wondered how they ever 
found the heart to say it was dull. Nan pined for a 
race round the lawn, and Rob remembered with 
dismay that he had not fed his dog that morning, and 
wondered what poor Pollux would do. They watched 
the clock, and Nan did some nice calculations in 
minutes and seconds, while Rob learned to tell all 
the hours between eight and one so well that he 
never forgot them. It was maddening to smell the 
dinner, to know that there was to be succotash and 
huckleberry pudding, and to feel that they would not 
be on the spot to secure good helps of both. When 
Mary Ann began to set the table, they nearly cut 
themselves in two trying to see what meat there was 
to be ; and Nan offered to help her make the beds, 
if she would only see that she had " lots of sauce on 
her pudding." 

When the boys came bursting out of school, they 
found the children tugging at their halters like a pair 
of restive little colts, and were much edified, as well as 
amused, by the sequel to the exciting adventures of 
the night. 

" Untie me now, Marmar ; my conscience will prick 
like a pin next time, I know it will," said Rob, as the 
bell rang, and Teddy came to look at him with 
sorrowful surprise. 

" We shall see," answered his mother, setting him 
free. He took a good run down the hall, back 
through the dining-room, and brought up beside 
Nan, quite beaming with virtuous satisfaction. 



Huckleberries 219 

"I'll bring her dinner to her, may I?' he asked, 
pitying his fellow-captive. 

" That 's my kind little son ! Yes, pull out the 
table, and get a chair; " and Mrs. Jo -hurried away to 
quell the ardor of the others, who were always in a 
raging state of hunger at noon. 

Nan ate alone, and spent a long afternoon attached 
to the sofa. Mrs. Bhaer lengthened her bonds so that 
she could look out of the window ; and there she stood 
watching the boys play, and all the little summer 
creatures enjoying their liberty. Daisy had a picnic 
for the dolls on the lawn, so that Nan might see the 
fun if she could not join in it. Tommy turned his 
best somersaults to console her ; Demi sat on the 
steps reading aloud to himself, which amused Nan a 
good deal ; and Dan brought a little tree-toad to 
show her as the most delicate attention in his 
power. 

But nothing atoned for the loss of freedom; and a 
few hours of confinement taught Nan how precious it 
was. A good many thoughts went through the little 
head that lay on the window-sill during the last quiet 
hour when all the children went to the brook to see 
Emil's new ship launched. She was to have chris- 
tened it, and had depended on smashing a tiny bottle 
of currant-wine over the prow as it was named Jose- 
phine in honor of Mrs. Bhaer. Now she had lost her 
chance, and Daisy would n't do it half so well. 
Tears rose to her eyes as she remembered that it was 
all her own fault; and she said aloud, addressing a 
fat bee who was rolling about in the yellow heart of a 
rose just under the window, 

" If you have run away, you 'd better go right home, 



22O Little Men 

and tell your mother you are sorry, and never do so any 



more.' 



. . 



I am glad to hear you give him such good advice, 
and I think he has taken it," said Mrs. Jo, smiling, as 
the bee spread his dusty wings and flew away. 

Nan brushed off a bright drop or two that shone 
on the window-sill, and nestled against her friend as 
she took her on her knee, adding kindly for she had 
seen the little drops, and knew what they meant 

" Do you think my mother's cure for running away 
a good one? ' 

" Yes, ma'am," answered Nan, quite subdued by 
her quiet day. 

" I hope I shall not have to try it again." 

" I guess not; ' and Nan looked up with such an 
earnest little face that Mrs. Jo felt satisfied, and said 
no more, for she liked to have her penalties do their 
own work, and did not spoil the effect by too much 
moralizing. 

Here Rob appeared, bearing with infinite care what 
Asia called a " sarcer pie," meaning one baked in a 
saucer. 

" It's made out of some of my berries, and I 'm go- 
ing to give you half at supper-time," he announced 
with a flourish. 

" What makes you, when I 'm so naughty? " asked 
Nan, meekly. 

" Because we got lost together. You ain't going to 
be naughty again, are you ? ' 

" Never," said Nan, with great decision. 

" Oh, goody ! now let 's go and get Mary Ann to 
cut this for us all ready to eat ; it 's 'most tea-time ; ' 
and Rob beckoned with the delicious little pie. 



Huckleberries 221 

Nan started to follow, then stopped, and said, 

" I forgot, I can't go." 

" Try and see," said Mrs. Bhaer, who had quietly 
untied the cord sash while she had been talking. 

Nan saw that she was free, and with one tempestu- 
ous kiss to Mrs. Jo, she was off like a humming-bird, 
followed by Robby, dribbling huckleberry juice as he 
ran. 



CHAPTER XIII 

GOLDILOCKS 

AFTER the last excitement peace descended 
upon Plumfield and reigned unbroken for 
several weeks, for the elder boys felt that the 
loss of Nan and Rob lay at their door, and all became so 
paternal in their care that they were rather wearying ; 
while the little ones listened to Nan's recital of her 
perils so many times, that they regarded being lost 
as the greatest ill humanity was heir to, and hardly 
dared to put their little noses outside the great gate 
lest night should suddenly descend upon them, and 
ghostly black cows come looming through the dusk. 

" It is too good to last," said Mrs. Jo ; for years of 
boy-culture had taught her that such lulls were usually 
followed by outbreaks of some sort, and when less 
wise women would have thought that the boys had 
become confirmed saints, she prepared herself for a 
sudden eruption of the domestic volcano. 

One cause of this welcome calm was a visit from 
little Bess, whose parents lent her for a week while 
they were away with Grandpa Laurence, who was 
poorly. The boys regarded Goldilocks as a mixture 
of child, angel, and fairy, for she was a lovely little 
creature, and the golden hair which she inherited 
from her blonde mamma enveloped her like a shining 



Goldilocks 223 

veil, behind which she smiled upon her worshippers 
when gracious, and hid herself when offended. Her 
father would not have it cut and it hung below her 
waist, so soft and fine and bright, that Demi insisted 
that it was silk spun from a cocoon. Every one 
praised the little Princess, but it did not seem to do 
her harm, only to teach her that her presence 
brought sunshine, her smiles made answering smiles 
on other faces, and her baby griefs filled every heart 
with tenderest sympathy. 

Unconsciously she did her young subjects more 
good than many a real sovereign, for her rule was 
very gentle and her power was felt rather than seen. 
Her natural refinement made her dainty in all things, 
and had a good effect upon the careless lads about 
her. She would let no one touch her roughly or with 
unclean hands, and more soap was used during her 
visits than at any other time, because the boys con- 
sidered it the highest honor to be allowed to carry 
her highness, and the deepest disgrace to be re- 
pulsed with the disdainful command, " Do away, 
dirty boy! " 

Loud voices displeased her and quarrelling fright- 
ened her ; so gentler tones came into the boyish 
voices as they addressed her, and squabbles were 
promptly suppressed in her presence by lookers-on if 
the principals could not restrain themselves. She 
liked to be waited on, and the biggest boys did her 
little errands without a murmur, while the small lads 
were her devoted slaves in all things. They be^cred 

o y o o 

to be allowed to draw her carriage, bear her berry- 
basket, or pass her plate at table. No service was too 
humble, and Tommy and Ned came to blows before 



224 Little Men 

they could decide which should have the honor of 
blacking her little boots. 

Nan was especially benefited by a week in the 
society of a well-bred lady, though such a very small 
one ; for Bess would look at her with a mixture of 
wonder and alarm in her great blue eyes when the 
hoyden screamed and romped ; and she shrunk from 
her as if she thought her a sort of wild animal. 
Warm-hearted Nan felt this very much. She said at 
first, " Pooh ! I don't care ! ' But she did care, and 
was so hurt when Bess said, " I love my tuzzin best, 
tause she is twiet," that she shook poor Daisy till her 
teeth chattered in her head, and then fled to the barn 
to cry dismally. In that general refuge for perturbed 
spirits she found comfort and good counsel from some 
source or other. Perhaps the swallows from their 
mud-built nests overhead twittered her a little lecture 
on the beauty of gentleness. However that might 
have been, she came out quite subdued, and carefully 
searched the orchard for a certain kind of early apple 
that Bess liked because it was sweet and small and 
rosy. Armed with this peace-offering, she ap- 
proached the Princess, and humbly presented it. 
To her great joy it was graciously accepted, and 
when Daisy gave Nan a forgiving kiss, Bess did like- 
wise, as if she felt that she had been too severe, and 
desired to apologize. After this they played pleas- 
antly together, and Nan enjoyed the royal favor for 
days. To be sure she felt a little like a wild bird in 
a pretty cage at first, and occasionally had to slip 
out to stretch her wings in a long flight, or to sing at 
the top of her voice, where neither would disturb the 
plump turtle-dove Daisy, nor the dainty golden canary 



Goldilocks 225 

Bess. But it did her good ; for, seeing how every one 
loved the little Princess for her small graces and vir- 
tues, she began to imitate her, because Nan wanted 
much love, and tried hard to win it. 

Not a boy in the house but felt the pretty child's in- 
fluence, and was improved by it without exactly know- 
ing how or why, for babies can work miracles in the 
hearts that love them. Poor Billy found infinite satis- 
faction in staring at her, and though she did not like 
it she permitted it without a frown, after she had been 
made to understand that he was not quite like the 
others, and on that account must be more kindly 
treated. Dick and Dolly overwhelmed her with wil- 
low whistles, the only thing they knew how to make, 
and she accepted but never used them. Rob served 
her like a little lover, and Teddy followed her like a 
pet dog. Jack she did not like, because he was afflicted 
with warts and had a harsh voice. Stuffy displeased 
her because he did not eat tidily, and George tried 
hard not to gobble, that he might not disgust the 
dainty little lady opposite. Ned was banished from 
court in utter disgrace when he was discovered tor- 
menting some unhappy field-mice. Goldilocks never 
could forget the sad spectacle, and retired behind her 
veil when he approached, waving him away with an 
imperious little hand, and crying, in a tone of mingled 
grief and anger, - 

" No, I tarn't love him ; he tut the poor mouses' 
little tails off, and they queeked ! ' 

Daisy promptly abdicated when Bess came, and 
took the humble post of chief cook, while Nan was 
first maid of honor; Emil was chancellor of the ex- 
chequer, and spent the public moneys lavishly in get;- 

'5 



226 Little Men 

ting up spectacles that cost whole ninepences. Franz 
was prime minister, and directed her affairs of state, 
planned royal progresses through the kingdom, and 
kept foreign powers in order. Demi was her philos- 
opher, and fared much better than such gentlemen 
usually do among crowned heads. Dan was her 
standing army, and defended her territories gallantly ; 
Tommy was court fool, and Nat a tuneful Rizzio to 
this innocent little Mary. 

Uncle Fritz and Aunt Jo enjoyed this peaceful epi- 
sode, and looked on at the pretty play in which the 
young folk unconsciously imitated their elders, with- 
out adding the tragedy that is so apt to spoil the 
dramas acted on the larger stage. 

" They teach us quite as much as we teach them," 
said Mr. Bhaer. 

" Bless the dears ! they never guess how many hints 
they give us as to the best way of managing them," 
answered Mrs. Jo. 

" I think you were right about the good effect of 
having girls among the boys. Nan has stirred up 
Daisy, and Bess is teaching the little bears how to 
behave better than we can. If this reformation goes 
on as it has begun, I shall soon feel like Dr. Blimber 
with his model young gentlemen," said Professor, 
laughing, as he saw Tommy not only remove his own 
hat, but knock off Ned's also, as they entered the hall 
where the Princess was taking a ride on the rocking- 
horse, attended by Rob and Teddy astride of chairs, 
and playing gallant knights to the best of their ability. 

"You will never be a Blimber, Fritz, you couldn't 
do it if you tried; and our boys will never submit to 
the forcing process of that famous hot-bed. No fear 



Goldilocks 227 

that they will be too elegant : American boys like lib- 
erty too well. But good manners they cannot fail to 
have, if we give them the kindly spirit that shines 
through the simplest demeanor, making it courteous 
and cordial, like yours, my dear old boy." 

"Tut! tut! we will not compliment; for if I begin 
you will run away, and I have a wish to enjoy this 
happy half hour to the end ; ' yet Mr. Bhaer looked 
pleased with the compliment, for it was true, and Mrs. 
Jo felt that she had received the best her husband 
could give her, by saying that he found his truest rest 
and happiness in her society. 

" To return to the children : I have just had another 
proof of Goldilocks' good influence," said Mrs. Jo, 
drawing her chair nearer the sofa, where the Profes- 
sor lay resting after a long day's work in his various 
gardens. " Nan hates sewing, but for love of Bess 
has been toiling half the afternoon over a remarkable 
bag in which to present a dozen of our love-apples to 
her idol when she goes. I praised her for it, and she 
said, in her quick way, ' I like to sew for other people ; 
it is stupid sewing for myself.' I took the hint, and 
shall give her some little shirts and aprons for Mrs. 
Carney's children. She is so generous, she will sew 
her fingers sore for them, and I shall not have to make 
a task of it." 

" But needlework is not a fashionable accomplish- 
ment, my dear." 

" Sorry for it. My girls shall learn all I can teach 
them about it, even if they give up the Latin, Algebra, 
and half-a-dozen ologies it is considered necessary for 
girls to muddle their poor brains over now-a-days. 
Amy means to make Bess an accomplished woman ; 



228 Little Men 

but the dear's mite of a forefinger has little pricks on 
it already, and her mother has several specimens of 
needlework which she values more than the clay bird 
without a bill, that filled Laurie with such pride when 
Bess made it." 

" I also have a proof of the Princess's power," said 
Mr. Bhaer, after he had watched Mrs. Jo sew on a 
button with an air of scorn for the whole system of 
fashionable education. "Jack is so unwilling to be 
classed with Stuffy and Ned, as distasteful to Bess, 
that he came to me a little while ago, and asked me 
to touch his warts with caustic. I have often pro- 
posed it, and he never would consent; but now he 
bore the smart manfully, and consoles his present 
discomfort by hopes of future favor, when he can 
show her fastidious ladyship a smooth hand." 

Mrs. Bhaer laughed at the story, and just then 
Stuffy came in to ask if he might give Goldilocks 
some of the bonbons his mother had sent him. 

" She is not allowed to eat sweeties ; but if you 
like to give her the pretty box with the pink sugar- 
rose in it, she would like it very much," said Mrs. 
Jo, unwilling to spoil this unusual piece of self-denial, 
for the " fat boy " seldom offered to share his sugar- 
plums. 

"Won't she eat it? I should n't like to make her 
sick," said Stuffy, eying the delicate sweetmeat 
lovingly, yet putting it into the box. 

" Oh, no, she won't touch it, if I tell her it is to 
look at, not to eat. She will keep it for weeks, and 
never think of tasting it. Can you do as much? " 

4< I should hope so ! I 'm ever so much older than 
she is," cried Stuffy, indignantly, 



Goldilocks 229 

"Well, suppose we try. Here, put your bonbons 
in this bag, and see how long you can keep them. 
Let me count two hearts, four red fishes, three 
barley-sugar horses, nine almonds, and a dozen 
chocolate drops. Do you agree to that?" asked sly 
Mrs. Jo, popping the sweeties into her little spool- 
bag. 

" Yes," said Stuffy, with a sigh ; and pocketing the 
forbidden fruit, he went away to give Bess the present, 
that won a smile from her, and permission to escort 
her round the garden. 

" Poor Stuffy's heart has really got the better of 
his stomach at last, and his efforts will be much en- 
couraged by the rewards Bess gives him," said Mrs. 
Jo. 

" Happy the man who can put temptation in his 
pocket and learn self-denial from so sweet a little 
teacher ! ' added Mr. Bhaer, as the children passed 
the window, Stuffy's fat face full of placid satisfaction, 
and Goldilocks surveying her sugar-rose with polite 
interest, though she would have preferred a real 
flower with a " pitty smell." 

When her father came to take her home, a uni- 
versal wail arose, and the parting gifts showered upon 
her increased her luggage to such an extent that Mr. 
Laurie proposed having out the big wagon to take it 
into town. Every one had given her something ; and 
it was found difficult to pack white mice, cake, a par- 
cel of shells, apples, a rabbit kicking violently in a 
bag, a large cabbage for his refreshment, a bottle of 
minnows, and a mammoth bouquet. The farewell 
scene was moving, for the Princess sat upon the hall- 
table, surrounded by her subjects. She kissed her 



230 Little Men 



cousins, and held out her hand to the other boys, 
who shook it gently with various soft speeches, for 
they were taught not to be ashamed of showing their 
emotions. 

" Come again soon, little dear," whispered Dan, 
fastening his best green-and-gold beetle in her 
hat. 

" Don't forget me, Princess, whatever you do," said 
the engaging Tommy, taking a last stroke of the 
pretty hair. 

" I am coming to your house next week, and then 
I shall see you, Bess," added Nat, as if he found con- 
solation in the thought. 

" Do shake hands now," cried Jack, offering a 
smooth paw. 

" Here are two nice new ones to remember us by," 
said Dick and Dolly, presenting fresh whistles, quite 
unconscious that seven old ones had been privately 
deposited in the kitchen-stove. 

" My little precious ! I shall work you a book- 
mark right away, and you must keep it always" said 
Nan, with a warm embrace. 

But of all the farewells, poor Billy's was the most 
pathetic, for the thought that she was really going be- 
came so unbearable that he cast himself down before 
her, hugging her little blue boots and blubbering de- 
spairingly, " Don't go away ! oh, don't ! ' Goldilocks 
was so touched by this burst of feeling, that she 
leaned over and lifting the poor lad's head, said, in 
her soft, little voice, 

" Don't cry, poor Billy ! I will tiss you and turn 
adain soon." 

This promise consoled Billy, and he fell back beam- 



Goldilocks 231 

ing with pride at the unusual honor conferred upon 
him. 

" Me too ! me too ! " clamored Dick and Dolly, feel- 
ing that their devotion deserved some return. The 
others looked as if they would like to join in the cry ; 
and something in the kind, merry faces about her 
moved the Princess to stretch out her arms and say, 
with reckless condescension, - 

" I will tiss evvybody ! ' 

Like a swarm of bees about a very sweet flower, 
the affectionate lads surrounded their pretty playmate, 
and kissed her till she looked like a little rose, not 
roughly, but so enthusiastically that nothing but the 
crown of her hat was visible for a moment. Then 
her father rescued her, and she drove away still smil- 
ing and waving her hands, while the boys sat on the 
fence screaming like a flock of guinea-fowls, " Come 
back ! come back ! " till she was out of sight. 

They all missed her, and each dimly felt that he 
was better for having known a creature so lovely, 
delicate, and sweet ; for little Bess appealed to the 
chivalrous instinct in them as something to love, 
admire, and protect with a tender sort of rever- 
ence. Many a man remembers some pretty child who 
has made a place in his heart and kept her memory 
alive by the simple magic of her innocence ; these 
little men were just learning to feel this power, and 
to love it for its gentle influence, not ashamed to let 
the small hand lead them, nor to own their loyalty to 
womankind, even in the bud. 



CHAPTER XIV 

DAMON AND PYTHIAS 

MRS. BHAER was right; peace was only a 
temporary lull, a storm was brewing, and 
two days after Bess left, a moral earth- 
quake shook Plumfield to its centre. 

Tommy's hens were at the bottom of the trouble, 
for if they had not persisted in laying so many eggs, 
he could not have sold them and made such sums. 
Money is the root of all evil, and yet it is such a use- 
ful root that we cannot get on without it any more 
than we can without potatoes. Tommy certainly 
could not, for he spent his income so recklessly, that 
Mr. Bhaer was obliged to insist on a savings-bank, 
and presented him with a private one an imposing 
tin edifice, with the name over the door, and a tall 
chimney, down which the pennies were to go, there to 
rattle temptingly till leave was given to open a sort of 
trap-door in the floor. 

The house increased in weight so rapidly, that 
Tommy soon became satisfied with his investment, 
and planned to buy unheard-of treasures with his 
capital. He kept account of the sums deposited, 
and was promised that he might break the bank as 
soon as he had five dollars, on condition that he spent 
the money wisely. Only one dollar was needed, and 
the day Mrs. Jo paid him for four dozen eggs, he was 



Damon and Pythias 233 

so delighted, that he raced off to the barn to display 
the bright quarters to Nat, who was also laying by 
money for the long-desired violin. 

" I wish I had 'em to put with my three dollars, 
then I 'd soon get enough to buy my fiddle," he said, 
looking wistfully at the money. 

" P'raps I '11 lend you some. I have n't decided 
yet what I '11 do with mine," said Tommy, tossing up 
his quarters, and catching them as they fell. 

" Hi ! boys ! come down to the brook and see what 
a jolly great snake Dan 's got ! ' called a voice from 
behind the barn. 

" Come on," said Tommy; and, laying his money 
inside the old winnowing machine, away he ran, 
followed by Nat. 

The snake was very interesting, and then a long 
chase after a lame crow, and its capture, so absorbed 
Tommy's mind and time, that he never thought of 
his money till he was safely in bed that night. 

" Never mind, no one but Nat knows where it is," 
said the easy-going .lad, and fell asleep untroubled by 
any anxiety about his property. 

Next morning, just as the boys assembled for 
school, Tommy rushed into the room breathlessly, 
demanding, 

" I say, who has got my dollar? ' 

"What are you talking about?" asked Franz. 

Tommy explained, and Nat corroborated his state- 
ment. 

Every one else declared they knew nothing about it, 
and began to look suspiciously at Nat, who got more 
and more alarmed and confused with each denial. 

" Somebody must have taken it," said Franz, as 



234 Little Men 

Tommy shook his fist at the whole party, and wrath- 
fully declared that 

" By thunder turtles ! if I get hold of the thief, I '11 
give him what he won't forget in a hurry." 

" Keep cool, Tom ; we shall find him out ; thieves 
always come to grief," said Dan, as one who knew 
something of the matter. 

" May be some tramp slept in the barn and took 
it," suggested Ned. 

"No, Silas don't allow that; besides, a tramp 
would n't go looking in that old machine for money," 
said Emil, with scorn. 

" Was n't it Silas himself ? " said Jack. 

" Well, I like that ! Old Si is as honest as day- 
light. You would n't catch him touching a penny of 
ours," said Tommy, handsomely defending his chief 
admirer from suspicion. 

"Whoever it was had better tell, and not wait to 
be found out," said Demi, looking as if an awful mis- 
fortune had befallen the family. 

" I know you think it 's me," broke out Nat, red 
and excited. 

" You are the only one who knew where it was," 
said Franz. 

"I can't help it I didn't take it. I tell you I 
did n't I did n't ! " cried Nat, in a desperate sort of 
way. 

" Gently, gently, my son ! What is all this noise 
about?" and Mr. Bhaer walked in among them. 

Tommy repeated the story of his loss, and, as he 
listened, Mr. Bhaer's face grew graver and graver; 
for, with all their faults and follies, the lads till now 
had been honest. 



Damon and Pythias 235 

" Take your seats," he said ; and, when all were in 
their places, he added slowly, as his eye went from 
face to face with a grieved look, that was harder to 
bear than a storm of words, 

" Now, boys, I shall ask each one of you a single 
question, and I want an honest answer. I am not 
going to try to frighten, bribe, or surprise the truth 
out of you, for every one of you have got a con- 
science, and know what it is for. Now is the time to 
undo the wrong done to Tommy, and to set your- 
selves right before us all. I can forgive the yielding 
to a sudden temptation much easier than I can 
deceit. Don't add a lie to the theft, but confess 
frankly, and we will all try to help you make us for- 
get and forgive." 

He paused a moment, and one might have heard a 
pin drop, the room was so still ; then slowly and im- 
pressively he put the question to each one, receiving 
the same answer in varying tones from all. Every 
face was flushed and excited, so that Mr. Bhaer could 
not take color as a witness, and some of the little 
boys were so frightened that they stammered over 
the two short words as if guilty, though it was evi- 
dent that they could not be. When he came to Nat, 
his voice softened, for the poor lad looked so wretched, 
Mr. Bhaer felt for him. He believed him to be the 
culprit, and hoped to save the boy from another lie, 
by winning him to tell the truth without fear. 

" Now, my son, give me an honest answer. Did 
you take the money?' 1 

" No, sir ! " and Nat looked up at him imploringly. 

As the words fell from his trembling lips, some- 
body hissed. 



236 



Little Men 



" Stop that ! ' cried Mr. Bhaer, with a sharp rap 
on his desk, as he looked sternly toward the corner 
whence the sound came. 

Ned, Jack, and Emil sat there, and the first two 
looked ashamed of themselves, but Emil called 
out, 

" It was n't me, uncle ! I 'd be ashamed to hit a 
fellow when he is down." 

" Good for you ! " cried Tommy, who was in a sad 
state of affliction at the trouble his unlucky dollar had 
made. 

"Silence!" commanded Mr. Bhaer; and when it 
came, he said soberly, 

" I am very sorry, Nat, but evidences are against 
you, and your old fault makes us more ready to 
doubt you than we should be if we could trust you as 
we do some of the boys, who never fib. But mind, 
my child, I do not charge you with this theft ; I shall 
not punish you for it till I am perfectly sure, nor ask 
any thing more about it. I shall leave it for you to 
settle with your own conscience. If you are guilty, 
come to me at any hour of the day or night and con- 
fess it, and I will forgive and help you to amend. If 
you are innocent, the truth will appear sooner or 
later, and the instant it does, I will be the first to 
beg your pardon for doubting you, and will so gladly 
do my best to clear your character before us all." 

" I did n't ! I did n't ! " sobbed Nat, with his head 
down upon his arms, for he could not bear the look of 
distrust and dislike which he read in the many eyes 
fixed on him. 

" I hope not." Mr. Bhaer paused a minute, as if 
to give the culprit, whoever he might be, one more 



Damon and Pythias 237 

chance. Nobody spoke, however, and only sniffs of 
sympathy from some of the little fellows broke the 
silence. Mr. Bhaer shook his head, and added, 
regretfully, - 

" There is nothing more to be done, then, and I 
have but one thing to say : I shall not speak of this 
again, and I wish you all to follow my example. I 
cannot expect you to feel as kindly toward any one 
whom you suspect as before this happened, but I do 
expect and desire that you will not torment the 
suspected person in any way,- -he will have a 
hard enough time without that. Now go to your 
lessons." 

" Father Bhaer let Nat off too easy," muttered Ned 
to Emil, as they got out their books. 

" Hold your tongue," growled Emil, who felt that 
this event was a blot upon the family honor. 

Many of the boys agreed with Ned, but Mr. Bhaer 
was right, nevertheless ; and Nat would have been 
wiser to confess on the spot and have the trouble 
over, for even the hardest whipping he ever received 
from his father was far easier to bear than the cold 
looks, the avoidance, and general suspicion that met 
him on all sides. If ever a boy was sent to Coventry 
and kept there, it was poor Nat; and he suffered a 
week of slow torture, though not a hand was raised 
against him, and hardly a word said. 

That was the worst of it ; if they would only have 
talked it out, or even have thrashed him all round, he 
could have stood it better than the silent distrust that 
made every face so terrible to meet. Even Mrs. 
Bhaer's showed traces of it, though her manner was 
nearly as kind as ever; but the sorrowful anxious 



2 3 8 



Little Men 



look in Father Bhaer's eyes cut Nat to the heart, for 
he loved his teacher dearly, and knew that he had 
disappointed all his hopes by this double sin. 

Only one person in the house entirely believed in 
him, and stood up for him stoutly against all the rest. 
This was Daisy. She could not explain why she 
trusted him against all appearances, she only felt that 
she could not doubt him, and her warm sympathy 
made her strong to take his part. She would not 
hear a word against him from any one, and actually 
slapped her beloved Demi when he tried to convince 
her that it must have been Nat, because no one else 
knew where the money was. 

" May be the hens ate it ; they are greedy old 
things," she said ; and when Demi laughed, she lost 
her temper, slapped the amazed boy, and then burst 
out crying and ran away, still declaring, " He did n't ! 
he didn't! he didn't!" 

Neither aunt nor uncle tried to shake the child's 
faith in her friend, but only hoped her innocent 
instinct might prove sure, and loved her all the 
better for it. Nat often said, after it was over, that 
he could n't have stood it, if it had not been for Daisy. 
When the others shunned him, she clung to him closer 
than ever, and turned her back on the rest. She did 
not sit on the stairs now when he solaced himself 
with the old fiddle, but went in and sat beside him, 
listening with a face so full of confidence and affec- 
tion, that Nat forgot disgrace for a time, and was 
happy. She asked him to help her with her lessons, 
she cooked him marvellous messes in her kitchen, 
which he ate manfully, no matter what they were, for 
gratitude gave a sweet flavor to the most distasteful. 



Damon and Pythias 239 

She proposed impossible games of cricket and ball, 
when she found that he shrank from joining the 
other boys. She put little nosegays from her garden 
on his desk, and tried in every way to show that she 
was not a fair-weather friend, but faithful through 
evil as well as good repute. Nan soon followed her 
example, in kindness at least; curbed her sharp 
tongue, and kept her scornful little nose from any 
demonstration of doubt or dislike, which was good 
of Madame Giddy-gaddy, for she firmly believed that 
Nat took the money. 

Most of the boys let him severely alone, but Dan, 
though he said he despised him for being a coward, 
watched over him with a grim sort of protection, and 
promptly cuffed any lad who dared to molest his 
mate or make him afraid. His idea of friendship was 
as high as Daisy's, and, in his own rough way, he 
lived up to it as loyally. 

Sitting by the brook one afternoon, absorbed in 
the study of the domestic habits of water-spiders, he 
overheard a bit of conversation on the other side of 
the wall. Ned, who was intensely inquisitive, had 
been on tenter-hooks to know certainly who was the 
culprit ; for of late one or two of the boys had begun 
to think that they were wrong, Nat was so steadfast 
in his denials, and so meek in his endurance of their 
neglect. This doubt had teased Ned past bearing, 
and he had several times privately beset Nat with 
questions, regardless of Mr. Bhaer's express com- 
mand. Finding Nat reading alone on the shady side 
of the wall, Ned could not resist stopping for a nibble 
at the forbidden subject. He had worried Nat for some 
ten minutes before Dan arrived, and the first word 



240 Little Men 

the spider-student heard were these, in Nat's patient, 
pleading voice, 

" Don't, Ned ! oh, don't ! I can't tell you because I 
don't know, and it 's mean of you to keep nagging at 
me on the sly, when Father Bhaer told you not to 
plague me. You would n't dare to if Dan was round. ' 

"I ain't afraid of Dan; he's nothing but an old 
bully. Don't believe but what he took Tom's money, 
and you know it, and won't tell. Come, now ! ' 

" He did n't, but, if he did, I would stand up for 
him, he has always been so good to me," said Nat, 
so earnestly, that Dan forgot his spiders, and rose 
quickly to thank him, but Ned's next words arrested 
him. 

" I know Dan did it, and gave the money to you. 
Should n't wonder if he got his living picking pockets 
before he came here, for nobody knows any thing 
about him but you," said Ned, not believing his own 
words, but hoping to get the truth out of Nat by 
making him angry. 

He succeeded in a part of his ungenerous wish, for 
Nat cried out, fiercely, - 

" If you say that again I '11 go and tell Mr. Bhaer all 
about it. I don't want to tell tales, but, by George ! 
I will, if you don't let Dan alone." 

" Then you '11 be a sneak, as well as a liar and a 
thief," began Ned, with a jeer, for Nat had borne in- 
sult to himself so meekly, the other did not believe he 
would dare to face the master just to stand up for 
Dan. 

What he might have added I cannot tell, for the 
words were hardly out of his mouth when a long arm 
from behind took him by the collar, and, jerking him 



Damon and Pythias 241 

over the wall in a most promiscuous way, landed him 
with a splash in the middle of the brook. 

" Say that again and I '11 duck you till you can't 
see ! ' cried Dan, looking like a modern Colossus of 
Rhodes as he stood, with a foot on either side the 
narrow stream, glaring down at the discomfited youth 
in the water. 

" I was only in fun," said Ned. 

" You are a sneak yourself to badger Nat round the 
corner. Let me catch you at it again, and I '11 souse 
you in the river next time. Get up, and clear out ! ' 
thundered Dan, in a rage. 

Ned fled, dripping, and his impromptu sitz-bath 
evidently did him good, for he was very respectful to 
both the boys after that, and seemed to have left his 
curiosity in the brook. As he vanished Dan jumped 
over the wall, and found Nat lying as if quite worn 
out and bowed down with his troubles. 

" He won't pester you again, I guess. If he does, 
just tell me, and I '11 see to him," said Dan, trying to 
cool down. 

" I don't mind what he says about me so much, 
I've got used to it," answered Nat, sadly; "but I 
hate to have him pitch into you." 

"How do you know he is n't right?" asked Dan, 
turning his face away. 

"What, about the money?" cried Nat, looking up 
with a startled air. 

" Yes." 

" But I don't believe it ! You don't care for money; 
all you want is your old bugs and things," and Nat 
laughed, incredulously. 

" I want a butterfly-net as much as you want a 

16 



242 Little Men 

fiddle ; why should n't I steal the money for it as 
much as you?' said Dan, still turning away, and 
busily punching holes in the turf with his stick. 

" I don't think you would. You like to fight and 
knock folks round sometimes, but you don't lie, and 
I don't believe you 'd steal," and Nat shook his head 
decidedly. 

" I Ve done both. I used to fib like fury; it's too 
much trouble now ; and I stole things to eat out of 
gardens when I ran away from Page, so you see I am 
a bad lot," said Dan, speaking in the rough, reckless 
way which he had been learning to drop lately. 

" O Dan ! don't say it 's you ! I 'd rather have it any 
of the other boys," cried Nat, in such a distressed 
tone that Dan looked pleased, and showed that he 
did, by turning round with a queer expression in his 
face, though he only answered, 

" I won't say any thing about it. But don't you fret, 
and we '11 pull through somehow, see if we don't." 

Something in his face and manner gave Nat a new 
idea; and he said, pressing his hands together, in the 
eagerness of his appeal, 

" I think you know who did it. If you do, beg him 
to tell, Dan. It's so hard to have 'em all hate me for 
nothing. I don't think I can bear it much longer. If I 
had any place to go to, I 'd run away, though I love 
Plumfield dearly; but I 'm not brave and big like you, 
so I must stay and wait till some one shows them 
that I have n't lied." 

As he spoke, Nat looked so broken and despairing, 
that Dan could not bear it, and, muttering huskily, 

" You won't wait long," he walked rapidly away, 
and was seen no more for hours. 



Damon and Pythias 243 

" What is the matter with Dan? " asked the boys of 
one another several times during the Sunday that fol- 
lowed a week which seemed as if it would never end. 
Dan was often moody, but that day he was so sober 
and silent that no one could get any thing out of him. 
When they walked he strayed away from the rest, and 
came home late. He took no part in the evening 
conversation, but sat in the shadow, so busy with his 
own thoughts that he scarcely seemed to hear what 
was going on. When Mrs. Jo showed him an unusu- 
ally good report in the Conscience Book, he looked 
at it without a smile, and said, wistfully, 

"You think I am getting on, don't you?' 

" Excellently, Dan ! and I am so pleased, because I 
always thought you only needed a little help to make 
you a boy to be proud of. ' 

He looked up at her with a strange expression in 
his black eyes an expression of mingled pride and 
love and sorrow which she could not understand then 
but remembered afterward. 

" I 'm afraid you '11 be disappointed, but I do try," 
he said, shutting the book without a sign of pleasure 
in the page that he usually liked so much to read 
over and talk about. 

"Are you sick, dear?' asked Mrs. Jo, with her 
hand on his shoulder. 

" My foot aches a little ; I guess I '11 go to bed. 
Good-night, mother," he added, and held the hand 
against his cheek a minute, then went away looking 
as if he had said good-by to something very dear. 

" Poor Dan ! he takes Nat's disgrace to heart sadly. 
He is a strange boy ; I wonder if I ever shall under- 
stand him thoroughly?" said Mrs. Jo to herself, as 



244 Little Men 

she thought over Dan's late improvement with real 
satisfaction, yet felt that there was more in the lad 
than she had at first suspected. 

One of the things which cut Nat most deeply was 
an act of Tommy's, for after his loss Tommy had said 
to him, kindly but firmly, 

" I don't wish to hurt you, Nat, but you see I can't 
afford to lose my money, so I guess we won't be 
partners any longer; " and with that Tommy rubbed 
out the sign, " T. Bangs & Co." 

Nat had been very proud of the " Co.," and 
had hunted eggs industriously, kept his accounts all 
straight, and had added a good sum to his income 
from the sale of his share of stock in trade. 

"O Tom! must you?' 1 he said, feeling that his 
good name was gone for ever in the business world if 
this was done. 

" I must," returned Tommy, firmly. " Emil says 
that when one man 'bezzles (I believe that's the 
word it means to take money and cut away with 
it) the property of a firm, the other one sues him, or 
pitches into him somehow, and won't have any thing 
more to do with him. Now you have 'bezzled my 
property ; I shan't sue you, and I shan't pitch into 
you, but I must dissolve the partnership, because I 
can't trust you, and I don't wish to fail." 

" I can't make you believe me, and you won't take 
my money, though I 'd be thankful to give all my 
dollars if you 'd only say you don't think I took your 
money. Do let me hunt for you, I won't ask any 
wages, but do it for nothing. I know all the places, 
and I like it," pleaded Nat. 

But Tommy shook his head, and his jolly round 



Damon and Pythias 245 

face looked suspicious and hard as he said, shortly, 
" Can't do it ; wish you did n't know the places. 
Mind you don't go hunting on the sly, and speculate 
in my eggs." 

Poor Nat was so hurt that he could not get over it. 
He felt that he had lost not only his partner and 
patron, but that he was bankrupt in honor, and an 
outlaw from the business community. No one trusted 
his word, written or spoken, in spite of his efforts to 
redeem the past falsehood ; the sign was down, the 
firm broken up, and he a ruined man. The barn, 
which was the boys' Wall Street, knew him no more. 
Cockletop and her sisters cackled for him in vain, 
and really seemed to take his misfortune to heart, 
for eggs were fewer, and some of the biddies retired 
in disgust to new nests, which Tommy could not 
find. 

" They trust me," said Nat, when he heard of it; 
and though the boys shouted at the idea, Nat found 
comfort in it, for when one is down in the world, the 
confidence of even a speckled hen is most consoling. 

Tommy took no new partner, however, for distrust 
had entered in, and poisoned the peace of his once 
confiding soul. Ned offered to join him, but he de- 
clined, saying, with a sense of justice that did him 
honor, 

" It might turn out that Nat did n't take my money, 
and then we could be partners again. I don't think 
it will happen, but I will give him a chance, and keep 
the place open a little longer." 

Billy was the only person whom Bangs felt he could 
trust in his shop, and Billy was trained to hunt eggs, 
and hand them over unbroken, being quite satisfied 



246 



Little Men 



with an apple or a sugar-plum for wages. The morn- 
ing after Dan's gloomy Sunday, Billy said to his 
employer, as he displayed the results of a long hunt, 

" Only two." 

" It gets worse and worse ; I never saw such pro- 
voking old hens," growled Tommy, thinking of the 
days when he often had six to rejoice over. " Well, 
put 'em in my hat and give me a new bit of chalk ; I 
must mark 'em up, any way." 

Billy mounted a peck-measure, and looked into the 
top of the machine, where Tommy kept his writing 
materials. 

" There 's lots of money in here," said Billy. 

" No, there is n't. Catch me leaving my cash round 
again," returned Tommy. 

" I see 'em one, four, eight, two dollars," persisted 
Billy, who had not yet mastered the figures correctly. 

" What a jack you are ! ' and Tommy hopped up 
to get the chalk for himself, but nearly tumbled down 
again, for there actually were four bright quarters in 
a row, with a bit of paper on them directed to " Tom 
Bangs," that there might be no mistake. 

" Thunder turtles ! ' cried Tommy, and seizing 
them he dashed into the house, bawling wildly, " It 's 
all right ! Got my money ! Where 's Nat? ' 

He was soon found, and his surprise and pleasure 
were so genuine that few doubted his word when he 
now denied all knowledge of the money. 

" How could I put it back when I didn't take it? 
Do believe me now, and be good to me again," he 
said, so imploringly, that Emil slapped him on the 
back, and declared he would for one. 

" So will I, and I 'm jolly glad it 's not you. But 



Damon and Pythias 247 

who the dickens is it?' said Tommy, after shaking 
hands heartily with Nat. 

" Never mind, as long as it 's found," said Dan with 
his eyes fixed on Nat's happy face. 

" Well, I like that ! I 'm not going to have my 
things hooked, and then brought back like the jug- 
gling man's tricks," cried Tommy, looking at his 
money as if he suspected witchcraft. 

" We '11 find him out somehow, though he was sly 
enough to print this so his writing would n't be 
known," said Franz, examining the paper. 

" Demi prints tip-top," put in Rob, who had not a 
very clear idea what the fuss was all about. 

" You can't make me believe it 's him, not if you 
talk till you are blue," said Tommy, and the others 
hooted at the mere idea; for the little deacon, as 
they called him, was above suspicion. 

Nat felt the difference in the way they spoke of 
Demi and himself, and would have given all he had 
or ever hoped to have to be so trusted ; for he had 
learned how easy it is to lose the confidence of others, 
how very, very hard to win it back, and truth became 
to him a precious thing since he had suffered from 
neglecting it. 

Mr. Bhaer was very glad one step had been taken 
in the right direction, and waited hopefully for yet 
further revelations. They came sooner than he ex- 
pected, and in a way that surprised and grieved him 
very much. As they sat at supper that night, a 
square parcel was handed to Mr. Bhaer from Mrs. 
Bates, a neighbor. A note accompanied the parcel, 
and, while Mr. Bhaer read it, Demi pulled off the 
wrapper, exclaiming, as he saw its contents, 



248 



Little Men 



" Why, it 's the book Uncle Teddy gave Dan ! ' 

" The devil ! ' broke from Dan, for he had not 
yet quite cured himself of swearing, though he tried 
hard. 

Mr. Bhaer looked up quickly at the sound. Dan 
tried to meet his eyes, but could not ; his own fell, 
and he sat biting his lips, getting redder and redder 
till he was the picture of shame. 

" What is it?' : asked Mrs. Bhaer, anxiously. 

" I should have preferred to talk about this in pri- 
vate, but Demi has spoilt that plan, so I may as well 
have it out now," said Mr. Bhaer, looking a little stern, 
as he always did when any meanness or deceit came 
up for judgment. 

" The note is from Mrs. Bates, and she says that her 
boy Jimmy told her he bought this book of Dan last 
Saturday. She saw that it was worth much more than 
a dollar, and thinking there was some mistake, has 
sent it to me. Did you sell it, Dan?' 

" Yes, sir," was the slow answer. 

"Why?" 

" Wanted money." 

" For what?" 

" To pay somebody." 

"To whom did you owe it?' : 

" Tommy." 

" Never borrowed a cent of me in his life," cried 
Tommy, looking scared, for he guessed what was com- 
ing now, and felt that on the whole he would have 
preferred witchcraft, for he admired Dan immensely. 

" Perhaps he took it," cried Ned, who owed Dan a 
grudge for the ducking, and, being a mortal boy, liked 
to pay it off. 



Damon and Pythias 249 

" O Dan ! ' cried Nat, clasping his hands, regard- 
less of the bread and butter in them. 

" It is a hard thing to do, but I must have this set- 
tled, for I cannot have you watching each other like 
detectives, and the whole school disturbed in this way. 
Did you put that dollar in the barn this morning? ' 
asked Mr. Bhaer. 

Dan looked him straight in the face, and answered 
steadily, " Yes, I did." 

A murmur went round the table, Tommy dropped 
his mug with a crash ; Daisy cried out, " I knew it 
was n't Nat; ' Nan began to cry, and Mrs. Jo left the 
room, looking so disappointed, sorry, and ashamed 
that Dan could not bear it. He hid his face in his 
hands a moment, then threw up his head, squared his 
shoulders as if settling some load upon them, and said, 
with the dogged look, and half-resolute, half-reckless 
tone he had used when he first came 

" I did it ; now you may do what you like to me, 
but I won't say another word about it." 

" Not even that you are sorry? ' asked Mr. Bhaer, 
troubled by the change in him. 

(< I ain't sorry." 

''I'll forgive him without asking," said Tommy, 
feeling that it was harder somehow to see brave Dan 
disgraced than timid Nat. 

" Don't want to be forgiven," returned Dan, 
gruffly. 

" Perhaps you will when you have thought about it 
quietly by yourself, I won't tell you now how surprised 
and disappointed I am, but by and by I will come up 
and talk to you in your room." 

"Won't make any difference," said Dan, trying to 



250 Little Men 

speak defiantly, but failing as he looked at Mr. Bhaer's 
sorrowful face ; and, taking his words for a dismissal, 
Dan left the room as if he found it impossible to 
stay. 

It would have done him good if he had stayed ; for 
the boys talked the matter over with such sincere re- 
gret, and pity, and wonder, it might have touched and 
won him to ask pardon. No one was glad to find 
that it was he, not even Nat; for, spite of all his 
faults, and they were many, every one liked Dan now, 
because under his rough exterior lay some of the 
manly virtues which we most admire and love. Mrs. 
Jo had been the chief prop, as well as cultivator, of 
Dan ; and she took it sadly to heart that her last and 
most interesting boy had turned out so ill. The theft 
was bad, but the lying about it, and allowing another 
to suffer so much from an unjust suspicion, was worse; 
and most discouraging of all was the attempt to restore 
the money in an underhand way, for it showed not 
only a want of courage, but a power of deceit that 
boded ill for the future. Still more trying was his 
steady refusal to talk of the matter, to ask pardon, or 
express any remorse. Days passed ; and he went 
about his lessons and his work, silent, grim, and un- 
repentant. As if taking warning by their treatment 
of Nat, he asked no sympathy of any one, rejected 
the advances of the boys, and spent his leisure hours 
roaming about the fields and woods, trying to find 
playmates in the birds and beasts, and succeeding 
better than most boys would have done, because he 
knew and loved them so well. 

" If this goes on much longer, I 'm afraid he will 
run away again, for he is too young to stand a life 



Damon and Pythias 251 

like this," said Mr. Bhaer, quite dejected at the fail- 
ure of all his efforts. 

" A little while ago I should have been quite sure 
that nothing would tempt him away, but now I am 
ready for anything, he is so changed," answered poor 
Mrs. Jo, who mourned over her boy and could not be 
comforted, because he shunned her more than any 
one else, and only looked at her with the half-fierce, 
half-imploring eyes of a wild animal caught in a trap, 
when she tried to talk to him alone. 

Nat followed him about like a shadow, and Dan did 
not repulse him as rudely as he did others, but said, 
in his blunt way, " You are all right; don't worry 
about me. I can stand it better than you did." 

" But I don't like to have you all alone," Nat would 
say, sorrowfully. 

" I like it ; ' and Dan would tramp away, stifling 
a sigh sometimes, for he was lonely. 

Passing through the birch grove one day, he came 
upon several of the boys, who were amusing them- 
selves by climbing up the trees and swinging down 
again, as the slender elastic stems bent till their tops 
touched the ground. Dan paused a minute to watch 
the fun, without offering to join in it, and as he stood 
there Jack took his turn. He had unfortunately 
chosen too large a tree ; for when he swung off, it 
only bent a little way, and left him hanging at a 
dangerous height. 

" Go back ; you can't do it ! " called Ned from below. 

Jack tried, but the twigs slipped from his hands, 
and he could not get his legs round the trunk. He 
kicked, and squirmed, and clutched in vain, then gave 
it up, and hung breathless, saying helplessly, 



252 Little Men 

" Catch me ! help me ! I must drop ? ' 

"You '11 be killed if you do," cried Ned, frightened 
out of his wits. 

" Hold on ! ' shouted Dan ; and up the tree he 
went, crashing his way along till he nearly reached 
Jack, whose face looked up at him, full of fear and 
hope. 

" You '11 both come down," said Ned, dancing with 
excitement on the slope underneath, while Nat held 
out his arms, in the wild hope of breaking the 
fall. 

" That 's what I want ; stand from under," answered 
Dan, coolly ; and, as he spoke, his added weight bent 
the tree many feet nearer the earth. 

Jack dropped safely; but the birch, lightened of 
half its load, flew up again so suddenly, that Dan, in 
the act of swinging round to drop feet foremost, lost 
his hold and fell heavily. 

" I 'm not hurt, all right in a minute," he said, sitting 
up, a little pale and dizzy, as the boys gathered round 
him, full of admiration and alarm. 

" You 're a trump, Dan, and I 'm ever so much 
obliged to you," cried Jack, gratefully. 

" It was n't anything," muttered Dan, rising slowly. 

" I say it was, and I '11 shake hands with you, though 

you are " Ned checked the unlucky word on his 

tongue, and held out his hand, feeling that it was a 
handsome thing on his part. 

" But /won't shake hands with a sneak; " and Dan 
turned his back with a look of scorn, that caused Ned 
to remember the brook, and retire with undignified 
haste. 

" Come home, old chap ; I '11 give you a lift ; " and 



Damon and Pythias 253 

Nat walked away with him leaving the others to talk 
over the feat together, to wonder when Dan would 
" come round," and to wish one and all that Tommy's 
" confounded money had been in Jericho before it 
made such a fuss." 

When Mr. Bhaer came into school next morning, 
he looked so happy, that the boys wondered what had 
happened to him, and really thought he had lost his 
mind when they saw him go straight to Dan, and, 
taking him by both hands, say all in one breath, as he 
shook them heartily, - 

" I know all about it, and I beg your pardon. It 
was like you to do it, and I love you for it, though it 's 
never right to tell lies, even for a friend." 

"What is it? " cried Nat, for Dan said not a word, 
only lifted up his head, as if a weight of some sort had 
fallen off his back. 

" Dan did not take Tommy's money ; ' and Mr. 
Bhaer quite shouted it, he was so glad. 

" Who did ? " cried the boys in a chorus. 

Mr. Bhaer pointed to one empty seat, and every 
eye followed his finger, yet no one spoke for a min- 
ute, they were so surprised. 

" Jack went home early this morning, but he left 
this behind him ; " and in the silence Mr. Bhaer read 
the note which he had found tied to his door-handle 
when he rose. 

" I took Tommy's dollar. I was peeking in through a 
crack, and saw him put it there. I was afraid to tell be- 
fore, though I wanted to. I did n't care so much about Nat, 
but Dan is a trump, and I can't stand it any longer. I never 
spent the money; it's under the carpet in my room, right 



254 Little Men 

behind the washstand. I 'm awful sorry. I am going home, 
and don't think I shall ever come back, so Dan may have 
my things. " JACK." 

It was not an elegant confession, being badly writ- 
ten, much blotted, and very short ; but it was a pre- 
cious paper to Dan ; and, when Mr. Bhaer paused, 
the boy went to him, saying, in rather a broken voice, 
but with clear eyes, and the frank, respectful manner 
they had tried to teach him, 

" I '11 say I 'm sorry now, and ask you to forgive 
me, sir." 

" It was a kind lie, Dan, and I can't help forgiving 
it; but you see it did no good," said Mr. Bhaer, with 
a hand on either shoulder, and a face full of relief and 
affection. 

" It kept the boys from plaguing Nat. That 's what 
I did it for. It made him right down miserable. I 
did n't care so much," explained Dan, as if glad to 
speak out after his hard silence. 

"How could you do it? You are always so kind 
to me," faltered Nat, feeling a strong desire to 
hug his friend and cry. Two girlish performan- 
ces, which would have scandalized Dan to the last 
degree. 

" It 's all right now, old fellow, so don't be a fool," 
he said, swallowing the lump in his throat, and laugh- 
ing out as he had not done for weeks. " Does Mrs. 
Bhaer know?" he asked, eagerly. 

11 Yes ; and she is so happy I don't know what she 
will do to you," began Mr. Bhaer, but got no farther, 
for here the boys came crowding about Dan in a 
tumult of pleasure and curiosity ; but before he had 



Damon and Pythias 255 

answered more than a dozen questions, a voice cried 
out, 

" Three cheers for Dan ! " and there was Mrs. Jo in 
the doorway waving her dish-towel, and looking as if 
she wanted to dance a jig for joy, as she used to do 
when a girl. 

" Now then," cried Mr. Bhaer, and led off a rousing 
hurrah, which startled Asia in the kitchen, and made 
old Mr. Roberts shake his head as he drove by, 
saying, 

" Schools are not what they were when I was 
young ! ' 

Dan stood it pretty well for a minute, but the sight 
of Mrs. Jo's delight upset him, and he suddenly 
bolted across the hall into the parlor, whither she 
instantly followed, and neither were seen for half an 
hour. 

Mr. Bhaer found it very difficult to calm his excited 
flock ; and, seeing that lessons were an impossibility 
for a time, he caught their attention by telling them 
the fine old story of the friends whose fidelity to one 
another has made their names immortal. The lads 
listened and remembered, for just then their hearts 
were touched by the loyalty of a humbler pair of 
friends. The lie was wrong, but the love that 
prompted it and the courage that bore in silence the 
disgrace which belonged to another, made Dan a 
hero in their eyes. Honesty and honor had a new 
meaning now ; a good name was more precious than 
gold ; for once lost money could not buy it back ; 
and faith in one another made life smooth and happy 
as nothing else could do. 

Tommy proudly restored the name of the firm; Nat 



256 Little Men 

was devoted to Dan ; and all the boys tried to atone 
to both for former suspicion and neglect. Mrs. Jo 
rejoiced over her flock, and Mr. Bhaer was never 
tired of telling the story of his young Damon and 
Pythias. 



CHAPTER XV 

IN THE WILLOW 

THE old tree saw and heard a good many 
little scenes and confidences that summer, 
because it became the favorite retreat of 
all the children, and the willow seemed to enjoy it, 
for a pleasant welcome always met them, and the 
quiet hours spent in its arms did them all good. It 
had a great deal of company one Saturday afternoon, 
and some little bird reported what went on there. 

First came Nan and Daisy with their small tubs 
and bits of soap, for now and then they were seized 
with a tidy fit, and washed up all their dolls' clothes 
in the brook. Asia would not have them " slopping 
round ' in her kitchen, and the bath-room was for- 
bidden since Nan forgot to turn off the water till it 
overflowed and came gently dripping down through 
the ceiling. Daisy went systematically to work, 
washing first the white and then the colored things, 
rinsing them nicely, and hanging them to dry on a 
cord fastened from one barberry-bush to another, 
and pinning them up with a set of tiny clothes-pins 
Ned had turned for her. But Nan put all her little 
things to soak in the same tub, and then forgot them 
while she collected thistledown to stuff a pillow for 
Semiramis, Queen of Babylon, as one doll was named. 
This took some time, and when Mrs. Giddy-gaddy 

1 7 



i < 




Little Men 

came to take out her clothes, deep green stains 
appeared on every thing, for she had forgotten the 
green silk lining of a certain cape, and its color 
had soaked nicely into the pink and blue gowns, the 
little chemises, and even the best ruffled petticoat. 
Oh me ! what a mess ! " sighed Nan. 
Lay them on the grass to bleach," said Daisy, 
with an air of experience. 

" So I will, and we can sit up in the nest and watch 
that they don't blow away." 

The Queen of Babylon's wardrobe was spread forth 
upon the bank, and, turning up their tubs to dry, the 
little washerwomen climbed into the nest, and fell 
to talking, as ladies are apt to do in the pauses of 
domestic labor. 

" I 'm going to have a feather-bed to go with my 
new pillow," said Mrs. Giddy-gaddy, as she trans- 
ferred the thistledown from her pocket to her hand- 
kerchief, losing about half in the process. 

" I would n't ; Aunt Jo says feather-beds are n't 
healthy. I never let my children sleep on any thing 
but a mattress," returned Mrs. Shakespeare Smith, 
decidedly. 

" I don't care ; my children are so strong they 
often sleep on the floor, and don't mind it" (which 
was quite true). " I can't afford nine mattresses, and 
I like to make beds myself." 

" Won't Tommy charge for the feathers?' 1 

" May be he will, but I shan't pay him, and he 
won't care," returned Mrs. G., taking a base advan- 
tage of the well-known good-nature of T. Bangs. 

" I think the pink will fade out of that dress sooner 
than the green mark will," observed Mrs. S., looking 



In the Willow 259 

down from her perch, and changing the subject, for 
she and her gossip differed on many points, and Mrs. 
Smith was a discreet lady. 

" Never mind ; I 'm tired of dolls, and I guess I 
shall put them all away and attend to my farm ; I 
like it rather better than playing house," said Mrs. G., 
unconsciously expressing the desire of many older 
ladies, who cannot dispose of their families so easily 
however. 

" But you must n't leave them ; they will die with- 
out their mother," cried tender Mrs. Smith. 

" Let 'em die then ; I 'm tired of fussing over 
babies, and I 'm going to play with the boys ; they 
need me to see to 'em," returned the strong-minded 
lady. 

Daisy knew nothing about woman's rights ; she 
quietly took all she wanted, and no one denied her 
claim, because she did not undertake what she could 
not carry out, but unconsciously used the all-power- 
ful right of her own influence to win from others any 
privilege for which she had proved her fitness. Nan 
attempted all sorts of things, undaunted by direful 
failures, and clamored fiercely to be allowed to do 
every thing that the boys did. They laughed at her, 
hustled her out of the way, and protested against 
her meddling with their affairs. But she would not 
be quenched and she would be heard, for her will was 
strong, and she had the spirit of a rampant reformer. 
Mrs. Bhaer sympathized with her, but tried to curb 
her frantic desire for entire liberty, showing her that 
she must wait a little, learn self-control, and be ready 
to use her freedom before she asked for it. Nan had 
meek moments when she agreed to this, and the 



260 Little Men 

influences at work upon her were gradually taking 
effect. She no longer declared that she would be 
engine-driver or a blacksmith, but turned her mind to 
farming, and found in it a vent for the energy bottled 
up in her active little body. It did not quite satisfy 
her, however ; for her sage and sweet marjoram were 
dumb things, and could not thank her for her care. 
She wanted something human to love, work for, and 
protect, and was never happier than when the little 
boys brought their cut fingers, bumped heads, or 
bruised joints for her to "mend up." Seeing this, 
Mrs. Jo proposed that she should learn how to do it 
nicely, and Nursey had an apt pupil in bandaging, 
plastering, and fomenting. The boys began to call 
her " Dr. Giddy-gaddy," and she liked it so well that 
Mrs. Jo one day said to the Professor 

" Fritz, I see what we can do for that child. She 
wants something to live for even now, and will be one 
of the sharp, strong, discontented women if she does 
not have it. Don't let us snub her restless little 
nature, but do our best to give her the work she 
likes, and by and by persuade her father to let her 
study medicine. She will make a capital doctor, for 
she has courage, strong nerves, a tender heart, and 
an intense love and pity for the weak and suffering." 

Mr. Bhaer smiled at first, but agreed to try, and 
gave Nan an herb-garden, teaching her the various 
healing properties of the plants she tended, and letting 
her try their virtues on the children in the little ill- 
nesses they had from time to time. She learned fast, 
remembered well, and showed a sense and interest 
most encouraging to her Professor, who did not shut 
his door in her face because she was a little woman, 



In the Willow 261 

She was thinking of this, as she sat in the willow 
that day, and when Daisy said in her gentle way - 

" I love to keep house, and mean to have a nice 
one for Demi when we grow up and live together." 

Nan replied with decision 

" Well, I have n't got any brother, and I don't want 
any house to fuss over. I shall have an office, with 
lots of bottles and drawers and pestle things in it, and 
I shall drive round in a horse and chaise and cure sick 
people. That will be such fun." 

" Ugh ! how can you bear the bad-smelling stuff 
and the nasty little powders and castor-oil and senna 
and hive syrup ? ' cried Daisy, with a shudder. 

" I shan't have to take any, so I don't care. Be- 
sides, they make people well, and I like to cure folks. 
Did n't my sage-tea make Mother Bhaer's headache 
go away, and my hops stop Ned's toothache in five 
hours? So now! ' 

" Shall you put leeches on people, and cut off legs 
and pull out teeth?' asked Daisy, quaking at the 
thought. 

" Yes, I shall do every thing ; I don't care if the 
people are all smashed up, I shall mend them. My 
grandpa was a doctor, and I saw him sew a great cut 
in a man's cheek, and I held the sponge, and wasn't 
frightened a bit, and Grandpa said I was a brave 
girl." 

" How could you ? I 'm sorry for sick people, and 
I like to nurse them, but it makes my legs shake so I 
have to run away. I'm not a brave girl," sighed 
Daisy. 

" Well, you can be my nurse, and cuddle my pa- 
tients when I have given them the physic and cut off 



262 Little Men 

their legs," said Nan, whose practice was evidently to 
be of the heroic kind. 

"Ship ahoy! Where are you, Nan?' called a 
voice from below. 

" Here we are." 

" Ay, ay ! " said the voice, and Emil appeared hold- 
ing one hand in the other, with his face puckered up 
as if in pain. 

" Oh, what's the matter?" cried Daisy, anxiously. 

" A confounded splinter in my thumb. Can't get 
it out. Take a pick at it, will you, Nanny? ' 

" It's in very deep, and I have n't any needle," said 
Nan, examining a tarry thumb with interest. 

" Take a pin," said Emil, in a hurry. 

" No, it 's too big and hasn't got a sharp point." 

Here Daisy, who had dived into her pocket, pre- 
sented a neat little housewife with four needles in it. 

" You are the Posy who always has what we want," 
said Emil ; and Nan resolved to have a needle-book 
in her own pocket henceforth, for just such cases as 
this were always occurring in her practice. 

Daisy covered her eyes, but Nan probed and picked 
with a steady hand, while Emil gave directions not 
down in any medical work or record. 

" Starboard now ! Steady, boys, steady ! Try an- 
other tack. Heave ho ! there she is ! ' 

" Suck it," ordered the Doctor, surveying the splinter 
with an experienced eye. 

" Too dirty," responded the patient, shaking his 
bleeding hand. 

"Wait; I'll tie it up if you have got a hand- 
kerchief." 

" Have n't ; take one of those rags down there." 



In the Willow 263 

" Gracious ! no, indeed ; they are dolls' clothes," 
cried Daisy, indignantly. 

" Take one of mine; I'd like to have you," said 
Nan ; and swinging himself down, Emil caught up the 
first "rag" he saw. It happened to be the frilled 
skirt; but Nan tore it up without a murmur; and 
when the royal petticoat was turned into a neat little 
bandage, she dismissed her patient ^vith the com- 
mand 

" Keep it wet, and let it alone ; then it will heal 
right up, and not be sore." 

" What do you charge?' asked the Commodore, 
laughing. 

" Nothing; I keep a 'spensary; that is a place 
where poor people are doctored free gratis for noth- 
ing," explained Nan, with an air. 

" Thank you, Doctor Giddy-gaddy. I '11 always 
call you in when I come to grief; ' and Emil departed, 
but looked back to say for one good turn deserved 
another " Your duds are blowing away, Doctor." 

Forgiving the disrespectful word, "duds," the ladies 
hastily descended, and, gathering up their wash, re- 
tired to the house to fire up the little stove, and go to 



ironing. 



A passing breath of air shook the old willow, as if 
it laughed softly at the childish chatter which went on 
in the nest, and it had hardly composed itself when 
another pair of birds alighted for a confidential twitter. 

" Now, I '11 tell you the secret," began Tommy, who 
was " swellin' wisibly ' with the importance of his 
news. 

"Tell away," answered Nat, wishing he had brought 
his fiddle, it was so shady and quiet here. 



264 



Little Men 



" Well, we fellows were talking over the late inter- 
esting case of circumstantial evidence," said Tommy, 
quoting at random from a speech Franz had made at 
the club, " and I proposed giving Dan something to 
make up for our suspecting him, to show our respect, 
and so on, you know- -something handsome and use- 
ful, that he could keep always, and be proud of. 
What do you think we chose?' 

" A butterfly-net ; he wants one ever so much," 
said Nat, looking a little disappointed, for he meant 
to get it himself. 

" No, sir ; it 's to be a microscope, a real swell one, 
that we see what-do-you-call-'ems in water with, and 
stars, and ant-eggs, and all sorts of games, you know. 
Won't it be a jolly good present? " said Tommy, rather 
confusing microscopes and telescopes in his remarks. 

" Tip-top ! I 'm so glad ! Won't it cost a heap, 
though?' cried Nat, feeling that his friend was be- 
ginning to be appreciated. 

" Of course it will ; but we are all going to give 
something. I headed the paper with my five dollars; 
for if it is done at all, it must be done handsome." 

"What! all of it? I never did see such a generous 
chap as you are ; ' and Nat beamed upon him with 
sincere admiration. 

" Well, you see, I 've been so bothered with my 
property, that I 'm tired of it, and don't mean to save 
up any more, but give it away as I go along, and then 
nobody will envy me, or want to steal it, and I shan't 
be suspecting folks, and worrying about my old cash," 
replied Tommy, on whom the cares and anxieties of a 
millionaire weighed heavily. 

" Will Mr. Bhaer let you do it? " 



In the Willow 265 

" He thought it was a first-rate plan, and said that 
some of the best men he knew preferred to do good 
with their money, instead of laying it up to be squab- 
bled over when they died." 

" Your father is rich ; does he do that way? ' 

" I 'm not sure ; he gives me all I want ; I know 
that much. I 'm going to talk to him about it when 
I go home. Anyhow, I shall set him a good ex- 
ample ; ' and Tommy was so serious, that Nat did 
not dare to laugh, but said, respectfully, 

" You will be able to do ever so much with your 
money, won't you ? ' 

" So Mr. Bhaer said, and he promised to advise me 
about useful ways of spending it. I 'm going to 
begin with Dan ; and next time I get a dollar or so, I 
shall do something for Dick, he 's such a good little 
chap, and only has a cent a week for pocket-money. 
He can't earn much, you know ; so I 'm going to 
kind of see to him ; " and good-hearted Tommy quite 
longed to begin. 

" I think that 's a beautiful plan, and I 'm not going 
to try to buy a fiddle any more ; I 'm going to get 
Dan his net all myself, and if there is any money 
left, I '11 do something to please poor Billy. He 's 
fond of me, and though he is n't poor, he 'd like some 
little thing from me, because I can make out what he 
wants better than the rest of you." And Nat fell to 
wondering how much happiness could be got out of 
his precious three dollars. 

" So I would. Now come and ask Mr. Bhaer if 
you can't go in town with me on Monday afternoon, 
so you can get the net, while I get the microscope. 
Franz and Emil are going too, and we '11 have a jolly 
time larking round among the shops." 



266 Little Men 

The lads walked away arm-in-arm, discussing the 
new plans with droll importance, yet beginning 
already to feel the sweet satisfaction which comes 
to those who try, no matter how humbly, to be 
earthly providences to the poor and helpless, and 
gild their mite with the gold of charity before it 
is laid up where thieves cannot break through and 
steal. 

" Come up and rest while we sort the leaves ; it 's 
so cool and pleasant here," said Demi, as he and 
Dan came sauntering home from a long walk in the 
woods. 

" All right ! " answered Dan, who was a boy of few 
words, and up they went. 

" What makes the birch leaves shake so much 
more than the others?" asked inquiring Demi, who 
was always sure of an answer from Dan. 

" They are hung differently. Don't you see the 
stem where it joins the leaf is sort of pinched one 
way, and where it joins the twig, it is pinched 
another. That makes it waggle with the least bit of 
wind, but the elm leaves hang straight, and keep 
stiller." 

" How curious! will this do so?" and Demi held 
up a sprig of acacia, which he had broken from a 
little tree on the lawn, because it was so pretty. 

" No ; that belongs to the sort that shuts up when 
you touch it. Draw your finger down the middle 
of the stem, and see if the leaves don't curl up," 
said Dan, who was examining a bit of mica. 

Demi tried it, and presently the little leaves did 
fold together, till the spray showed a single instead 
of a double line of leaves. 



In the Willow 267 

" I like that ; tell me about the others. What do 
these do?" asked Demi, taking up a new branch. 

" Feed silk-worms ; they live on mulberry leaves, 
till they begin to spin themselves up. I was in a 
silk-factory once, and there were rooms full of shelves 
all covered with leaves, and worms eating them so 
fast that it made a rustle. Sometimes they eat 
so much they die. Tell that to Stuffy," and Dan 
laughed, as he took up another bit of rock with a 
lichen on it. 

" I know one thing about this mullein leaf: the 
fairies use them for blankets," said Demi, who had 
not quite given up his faith in the existence of the 
little folk in green. 

" If I had a microscope, I 'd show you something 
prettier than fairies," said Dan, wondering if he 
should ever own that coveted treasure. " I knew an 
old woman who used mullein leaves for a night-cap be- 
cause she had face-ache. She sewed them together, 
and wore it all the time." 

" How funny ! was she your grandmother? ' 

" Never had any. She was a queer old woman, 
and lived alone in a little tumble-down house with 
nineteen cats. Folks called her a witch, but she 
wasn't, though she looked like an old rag-bag. She 
was real kind to me when I lived in that place, and 
used to let me get warm at her fire when the folks at 
the poorhouse were hard on me." 

" Did you live in a poorhouse? ' 

"A little while. Never mind that I didn't 
mean to speak of it; " and Dan stopped short in his 
unusual fit of communicativeness. 

" Tell about the cats, please," said Demi, feeling 



268 Little Men 

that he had asked an unpleasant question, and sorry 
for it. 

"Nothing to tell; only she had a lot of 'em, and 
kept 'em in a barrel nights ; and I used to go and tip 
over the barrel sometimes, and let 'em out all over 
the house, and then she 'd scold, and chase 'em and 
put 'em in again, spitting and yowling like fury." 

"Was she good to them?' asked Demi, with a 
hearty child's laugh, pleasant to hear. 

" Guess she was. Poor old soul ! she took in all 
the lost and sick cats in the town ; and when any- 
body wanted one they went to Marm Webber, and 
she -let 'em pick any kind and color they wanted, and 
only asked ninepence, she was so glad to have her 
pussies get a good home." 

" I should like to see Marm Webber. Could I, if 
I went to that place?' 

" She 's dead. All my folks are," said Dan, briefly. 

"I'm sorry;' and Demi sat silent a minute, 
wondering what subject would be safe to try next. 
He felt delicate about speaking of the departed lady, 
but was very curious about the cats, and could not 
resist asking softly 

" Did she cure the sick ones? ' 

" Sometimes. One had a broken leg, and she tied 
it up to a stick, and it got well ; and another had fits, 
and she doctored it with yarbs till it was cured. But 
some of 'em died, and she buried 'em ; and when they 
could n't get well, she killed 'em easy." 

"How?' asked Demi, feeling that there was a 
peculiar charm about this old woman, and some sort 
of joke about the cats, because Dan was smiling 
to himself. 



In the Willow 269 

" A kind lady, who was fond of cats, told her how, 
and gave her some stuff, and sent all her own pussies 
to be killed that way. Marm used to put a sponge, 
wet with ether, in the bottom of an old boot, then poke 
puss in head downwards. The ether put her to sleep 
in a jiffy, and she was drowned in warm water before 
she woke up." 

" I hope the cats did n't feel it. I shall tell Daisy 
about that. You have known a great many interest- 
ing things, haven't you?' asked Demi, and fell to 
meditating on the vast experience of a boy who had 
run away more than once, and taken care of himself 
in a big city. 

" Wish I had n't sometimes." 

" Why? Don't remembering them feel good? ' 

"No." 

" It 's very singular how hard it is to manage your 
mind," said Demi, clasping his hands round his knees, 
and looking up at the sky as if for information upon 
his favorite topic. 

"Devilish hard no, I don't mean that;' and 
Dan bit his lips, for the forbidden word slipped out 
in spite of him, and he wanted to be more careful 
with Demi than with any of the other boys. 

" I '11 play I did n't hear it," said Demi ; " and you 
won't do it again, I 'm sure." 

" Not if I can help it. That 's one of the things I 
don't want to remember. I keep pegging away, but 
it don't seem to do much good ; " and Dan looked 
discouraged. 

" Yes, it does. You don't say half so many bad 
words as you used to ; and Aunt Jo is pleased, because 
she said it was a hard habit to break up." 



270 Little Men 

"Did she?" and Dan cheered up a bit. 

" You must put swearing away in your fault-drawer, 
and lock it up ; that 's the way I do with my badness." 

" What do you mean? " asked Dan, looking as if he 
found Demi almost as amusing as a new sort of cock- 
chafer or beetle. 

" Well, it 's one of my private plays, and I '11 tell 
you, but I think you '11 laugh at it," began Demi, glad 
to hold forth on this congenial subject. " I play that 
my mind is a round room, and my soul is a little sort 
of creature with wings that lives in it. The walls are 
full of shelves and drawers, and in them I keep my 
thoughts, and my goodness and badness, and all sorts 
of things. The goods I keep where I can see them, 
and the bads I lock up tight, but they get out, and I 
have to keep putting them in and squeezing them 
down, they are so strong. The thoughts I play 
with when I am alone or in bed, and I make up and 
do what I like with them. Every Sunday I put 
my room in order, and talk with the little spirit that 
lives there, and tell him what to do. He is very bad 
sometimes, and won't mind me, and I have to scold 
him, and take him to Grandpa. He always makes 
him behave, and be sorry for his faults, because 
Grandpa likes this play, and gives me nice things to 
put in the drawers, and tells me how to shut up the 
naughties. Hadn't you better try that way? it 's a 
a very good one ; " and Demi looked so earnest and 
full of faith, that Dan did not laugh at his quaint 
fancy, but said, soberly, 

" I don't think there is a lock strong enough to 
keep my badness shut up. Any way my room is in 
such a clutter I don't know how to clear it up." 



In the Willow 271 



"You keep your drawers in the cabinet all spandy 
nice ; why can't you do the others ? ' 

" I ain't used to it. Will you show me how? " and 
Dan looked as if inclined to try Demi's childish way 
of keeping a soul in order. 

" I 'd love to, but I don't know how, except to talk 
as Grandpa does. I can't do it good like him, but 
I '11 try." 

" Don't tell any one ; only now and then we '11 
come here and talk things over, and I '11 pay you for 
it by telling all I know about my sort of things. Will 
that do? " and Dan held out his big, rough hand. 

Demi gave his smooth, little hand readily, and the 
league was made ; for in the happy, peaceful world 
where the younger boy lived, lions and lambs played 
together, and little children innocently taught their 
elders. 

" Hush ! " said Dan, pointing toward the house, as 
Demi was about to indulge in another discourse on 
the best way of getting badness down, and keeping it 
down ; and peeping from their perch, they saw Mrs. 
Jo strolling slowly along, reading as she went, while 
Teddy trotted behind her, dragging a little cart up- 
side down. 

"Wait till they see us," whispered Demi, and both 
sat still as the pair came nearer, Mrs. Jo so absorbed 
in her book that she would have walked into the 
brook if Teddy had not stopped her by saying 

" Marmar, I wanter fis." 

Mrs. Jo put down the charming book which she 
had been trying to read for a week, and looked about 
her for a fishing-pole, being used to making toys out 
of nothing. Before she had broken one from the 



272 Little Men 

hedge, a slender willow bough fell at her feet ; and, 
looking up, she saw the boys laughing in the nest. 

" Up ! up ! " cried Teddy, stretching his arms and 
flapping his skirts as if about to fly. 

" I '11 come down and you come up. I must go to 
Daisy now; " and Demi departed to rehearse the tale 
of the nineteen cats, with the exciting boot-and-barrel 
episodes. 

Teddy was speedily whisked up ; and then Dan 
said, laughing, " Come, too ; there 's plenty of room. 
I '11 lend you a hand." 

Mrs. Jo glanced over her shoulder, but no one was 
in sight; and, rather liking the joke of the thing, she 
laughed back, saying, " Well, if you won't mention it, 
I think I will ; " and will two nimble steps was in the 
willow. 

" I have n't climbed a tree since I was married. I 
used to be very fond of it when I was a girl," she said, 
looking well-pleased with her shady perch. 

" Now, you read if you want to, and I '11 take care 
of Teddy," proposed Dan, beginning to make a fish- 
ing-rod for impatient Baby. 

" I don't think I care about it now. What were 
you and Demi at up here?" asked Mrs. Jo, thinking, 
from the sober look in Dan's face, that he had some- 
thing on his mind. 

" Oh ! we were talking. I 'd been telling him 
about leaves and things, and he was telling me some 
of his queer plays. Now, then, Major, fish away; ' 
and Dan finished off his work by putting a big blue fly 
on the bent pin which hung at the end of the cord he 
had tied to the willow-rod. 

Teddy leaned down from the tree, and was soon 



In the Willow 273 

wrapt up in watching for the fish which he felt sure 
would come. Dan held him by his little petticoats, 
lest he should take a "header' into the brook, and 
Mrs. Jo soon won him to talk by doing so herself. 

" I am so glad you told Demi about 'leaves and 
things ; ' it is just what he needs ; and I wish you 
would teach him, and take him to walk with you." 

" I 'd like to, he is so bright; but " 

"But what?" 

" I did n't think you 'd trust me." 

"Why not?" 

" Well, Demi is so kind of precious, and so good, 
and I 'm such a bad lot, I thought you 'd keep him 
away from me." 

" But you are not a ' bad lot,' as you say ; and I do 
trust you, Dan, entirely, because you honestly try to 
improve, and do better and better every week." 

"Really?"' and Dan looked up at her with the 
cloud of despondency lifting from his face. 

"Yes; don't you feel it?" 

" I hoped so, but I did n't know." 

" I have been waiting and watching quietly, for I 
thought I 'd give you a good trial first ; and if you 
stood it, I would give you the best reward I had. 
You have stood it well ; and now I 'm going to trust 
not only Demi, but my own boy, to you, because 
you can teach them some things better than any of 
us." 

" Can I? " and Dan looked amazed at the idea. 

" Demi has lived among older people so much that 
he needs just what you have knowledge of common 
things, strength, and courage. He thinks you are the 
bravest boy he ever saw, and admires your strong 

18 



274 Little Men 

way of doing things. Then you know a great deal 
about natural objects, and can tell him more wonder- 
ful tales of birds, and bees, and leaves, and animals, 
than his story-books give him ; and, being true, these 
stories will teach and do him good. Don't you see 
now how much you can help him, and why I like to 
have him with you ? " 

" But I swear sometimes, and might tell him some- 
thing wrong. I would n't mean to, but it might slip 
out, just as ' devil' did a few minutes ago," said Dan, 
anxious to do his duty, and let her know his short- 



comings. 



" I know you try not to say or do any thing to 
harm the little fellow, and here is where I think Demi 
will help you, because he is so innocent and wise in 
his small way, and has what I am trying to give you, 
dear, good principles. It is never too early to try 
and plant them in a child, and never too late to culti- 
vate them in the most neglected person. You are 
only boys yet ; you can teach one another. Demi 
will unconsciously strengthen your moral sense, you 
will strengthen his common sense, and I shall feel as 
if I had helped you both." 

Words could not express how pleased and touched 
Dan was by this confidence and praise. No one had 
ever trusted him before, no one had cared to find out 
and foster the good in him, and no one had suspected 
how much there was hidden away in the breast of the 
neglected boy, going fast to ruin, yet quick to feel 
and value sympathy and help. No honor that he 
might earn hereafter would ever be half so precious 
as the right to teach his few virtues and his small 
store of learning to the child whom he most re- 



In the Willow 275 

spected ; and no more powerful restraint could have 
been imposed upon him than the innocent companion 
confided to his care. He found courage now to tell 
Mrs. Jo of the plan already made with Demi, and she 
was glad that the first step had been so naturally 
taken. Every thing seemed working well for Dan, 
and she rejoiced over him, because it had seemed a 
hard task, yet, working on with a firm belief in the 
possibility of reformation in far older and worse sub- 
jects than he, there had come this quick and hopeful 
change to encourage her. He felt that he had friends 
now and a place in the world, something to live and 
work for, and, though he said little, all that was best 
and bravest in a character made old by a hard experi- 
ence responded to the love and faith bestowed on 
him, and Dan's salvation was assured. 

Their quiet talk was interrupted by a shout of delight 
from Teddy, who, to the surprise of every one, did 
actually catch a trout where no trout had been seen 
for years. He was so enchanted with his splendid 
success that he insisted on showing his prize to the 
family before Asia cooked it for supper ; so the three 
descended and went happily away together, all satis- 
fied with the work of that half hour. 

Ned was the next visitor to the tree, but he only 
made a short stay, sitting there at his ease while Dick 
and Dolly caught a pailful of grasshoppers and crick- 
ets for him. He wanted to play a joke on Tommy, 
and intended to tuck up a few dozen of the lively crea- 
tures in his bed, so that when Bangs got in he would 
speedily tumble out again, and pass a portion of the 
night in chasing " hopper-grasses ' round the room. 
The hunt was soon over, and having paid the hunters 



276 



Little Men 



with a few peppermints apiece Ned retired to make 
Tommy's bed. 

For an hour the old willow sighed and sung to it- 
self, talked with the brook, and watched the lengthen- 
ing shadows as the sun went down. The first rosy color 
was touching its graceful branches when a boy came 
stealing up the avenue, across the lawn, and, spying 
Billy by the brook-side, went to him, saying, in a 
mysterious tone, 

" Go and tell Mr. Bhaer I want to see him down 
here, please. Don't let any one hear." 

Billy nodded and ran off, while the boy swung him- 
self up into the tree, and sat there looking anxious, 
yet evidently feeling the charm of the place and hour. 
In five minutes Mr. Bhaer appeared, and, stepping 
up on the fence, leaned into the nest, saying, kindly, 

" I am glad to see you, Jack; but why not come in 
and meet us all at once? ' 

" I wanted to see you first, please, sir. Uncle made 
me come back. I know I don't deserve any thing, 
but I hope the fellows won't be hard upon me." 

Poor Jack did not get on very well, but it was evi- 
dent that he was sorry and ashamed, and wanted to 
be received as easily as possible ; for his Uncle had 
thrashed him well and scolded him soundly for follow- 
ing the example he himself set. Jack had begged not 
to be sent back, but the school was cheap, and Mr. 
Ford insisted, so the boy returned as quietly as 
possible, and took refuge behind Mr. Bhaer. 

" I hope not, but I can't answer for them, though I 
will see that they are not unjust. I think, as Dan 
and Nat have suffered so much, being innocent, you 
should suffer something, being guilty. Don't you?' 



In the Willow 277 

asked Mr. Bhaer, pitying Jack, yet feeling that he 
deserved punishment for a fault which had so little 
excuse. 

" I suppose so, but I sent Tommy's money back, 
and I said I was sorry, is n't that enough? " said Jack, 
rather sullenly ; for the boy who could do so mean a 
thing was not brave enough to bear the consequences 
well. 

" No ; I think you should ask pardon of all three 
boys, openly and honestly. You cannot expect them 
to respect and trust you for a time, but you can live 
down this disgrace if you try, and I will help you. 
Stealing and lying are detestable sins, and I hope 
this will be a lesson to you. I am glad you are 
ashamed, it is a good sign ; bear it patiently, and do 
your best to earn a better reputation." 

" I '11 have an auction, and sell off all my goods 
dirt cheap," said Jack, showing his repentance in the 
most characteristic v/ay. 

" I think it would be better to give them away, and 
begin on a new foundation. Take ' Honesty is the 
best policy ' for your motto, and live up to it in act, 
and word, and thought, and though you don't make 
a cent of money this summer, you will be a rich boy 
in the autumn," said Mr. Bhaer, earnestly. 

It was hard, but Jack consented, for he really felt 
that cheating did n't pay, and wanted to win back the 
friendship of the boys. His heart clung to his posses- 
sions, and he groaned inwardly at the thought of 
actually giving away certain precious things. Asking 
pardon publicly was easy compared to this ; but then 
he began to discover that certain other things, in- 
visible, but most valuable, were better property than 



278 



Little Men 



knives, fish-hooks, or even money itself. So he 
decided to buy up a little integrity, even at a high 
price, and secure the respect of his playmates, though 
it was not a salable article. 

" Well, I '11 do it," he said, with a sudden air of 
resolution, which pleased Mr. Bhaer. 

" Good ! and I '11 stand by you. Now come and 
begin at once." 

And Father Bhaer led the bankrupt boy back into 
the little world, which received him coldly at first, but 
slowly warmed to him, when, he showed that he had 
profited by the lesson, and was sincerely anxious to 
go into a better business with a new stock-in-trade. 



CHAPTER XVI 

TAMING THE COLT 

" ^T "IT THAT in the world is that boy doing?" 
% /\ I said Mrs. Jo to herself, as she watched 
T T Dan running round the half-mile 
triangle as if for a wager. He was all alone, and 
seemed possessed by some strange desire to run him- 
self into a fever, or break his neck ; for, after several 
rounds, he tried leaping walls, and turning somer- 
saults up the avenue, and finally dropped down on 
the grass before the door as if exhausted. 

"Are you training for a race, Dan?" asked Mrs. 
Jo, from the window where she sat. 

He looked up quickly, and stopped panting to 
answer, with a laugh, 

" No ; I 'm only working off my steam." 
" Can't you find a cooler way of doing it? You 
will be ill if you tear about so in such warm weather," 
said Mrs. Jo, laughing also, as she threw him out a 
great palm-leaf fan. 

" Can't help it. I must run somewhere," answered 
Dan, with such an odd expression in his restless eyes, 
that Mrs. Jo was troubled, and asked, quickly, 
" Is Plumfield getting too narrow for you?" 
" I would n't mind if it was a little bigger. I like it 
though ; only the fact is the devil gets into me some- 
times, and then I do want to bolt." 



280 Little Men 

The words seemed to come against his will, for he 
looked sorry the minute they were spoken, and 
seemed to think he deserved a reproof for his ingrat- 
itude. But Mrs. Jo understood the feeling, and 
though sorry to see it, she could not blame the boy 
for confessing it. She looked at him anxiously, 
seeing how tall and strong he had grown, how full of 
energy his face was, with its eager eyes and resolute 
mouth ; and remembering the utter freedom he had 
known for years before, she felt how even the gentle 
restraint of this home would weigh upon him at times 
when the old lawless spirit stirred in him. " Yes," 
she said to herself, " my wild hawk needs a larger 
cage ; and yet, if I let him go, I am afraid he will be 
lost. I must try and find some lure strong enough 
to keep him safe." 

" I know all about it," she added, aloud. " It is 
not ' the devil,' as you call it, but the very natural 
desire of all young people for liberty. I used to feel 
just so, and once, I really did think for a minute that 
I would bolt." 

" Why did n't you ? " said Dan, coming to lean on 
the low window-ledge, with an evident desire to con- 
tinue the subject. 

" I knew it was foolish, and love for my mother 
kept me at home." 

" I have n't got any mother," began Dan. 

" I thought you had noiv" said Mrs. Jo, gently 
stroking the rough hair off his hot forehead. 

"You are no end good to me, and I can't ever 
thank you enough, but it is n't just the same, is it ? ' 
and Dan looked up at her with a wistful, hungry 
look that went to her heart. 



Taming the Colt 281 

" No, dear, it is not the same, and never can be. I 
think an own mother would have been a great deal to 
you. But as that cannot be, you must try to let me 
fill her place. I fear I have not done all I ought, or 
you would not want to leave me," she added, sorrow- 
fully. 

" Yes, you have ! ' cried Dan, eagerly. " I don't 
want to go, and I won't go, if I can help it; but every 
now and then I feel as if I must burst out somehow. 
I want to run straight ahead somewhere, to smash 
something, or pitch into somebody. Don't know 
why, but I do, and that's all about it." 

Dan laughed as he spoke, but he meant what he 
said, for he knit his black brows, and brought down 
his fist on the ledge with such force, that Mrs. Jo's 
thimble flew off into the grass. He brought it back, 
and as she took it she held the big, brown hand a 
minute, saying, with a look that showed the words 
cost her something 

"Well, Dan, run if you must, but don't run far; 
and come back to me soon, for I want you very 
much." 

He was rather taken aback by this unexpected per- 
mission to play truant, and somehow it seemed to 
lessen his desire to go. He did not understand why, 
but Mrs. Jo did, and, knowing the natural perversity 
of the human mind, counted on it to help her now. 
She felt instinctively that the more the boy was re- 
strained the more he would fret against it; but leave 
him free, and the mere sense of liberty would content 
him, joined to the knowledge that his presence was 
dear to those whom he loved best. It was a little ex- 
periment, but it succeeded, for Dan stood silent a 



282 Little Men 

moment, unconsciously picking the fan to pieces and 
turning the matter over in his mind. He felt that she 
appealed to his heart and his honor, and owned that 
he understood ft by saying presently, with a mixture 
of regret and resolution in his face, 

" I won't go yet awhile, and I '11 give you warning 
before I bolt. That 's fair, is n't it? " 

" Yes, we will let it stand so. Now, I want to see 
if I can't find some way for you to work off your 
steam better than running about the place like a mad 
dog, spoiling my fans, or fighting with the boys. 
What can we invent? " and while Dan tried to repair 
the mischief he had done, Mrs. Jo racked her brain 
for some new device to keep her truant safe until he 
had learned to love his lessons better. 

" How would you like to be my express-man? " she 
said, as a sudden thought popped into her head. 

" Go into town, and do the errands?" asked Dan, 
looking interested at once. 

" Yes ; Franz is tired of it, Silas cannot be spared 
just now, and Mr. Bhaer has no time. Old Andy is 
a safe horse, you are a good driver, and know your 
way about the city as well as a postman. Suppose 
you try it, and see if it won't do most as well to drive 
away two or three times a week as to run away once 
a month." 

" I 'd like it ever so much, only I must go alone 
and do it all myself. I don't want any of the other 
fellows bothering round," said Dan, taking to the new 
idea so kindly that he began to put on business airs 
already. 

" If Mr. Bhaer does not object you shall have it all 
your own way. I suppose Emil will growl, but he 



Taming the Colt 283 

cannot be trusted with horses, and you can. By the 
way, to-morrow is market-day, and I must make out 
my list. You had better see that the wagon is in 
order, and tell Silas to have the fruit and vegetables 
ready for mother. You will have to be up early and 
get back in time for school, can you do that? ' 

" I 'm always an early bird, so I don't mind," and 
Dan slung on his jacket with despatch. 

" The early bird got the worm this time, I 'm sure," 
said Mrs Jo, merrily. 

" And a jolly good worm it is," answered Dan, as 
he went laughing away to put a new lash to the whip, 
wash the wagon, and order Silas about with all the 
importance of a young express-man. 

" Before he is tired of this I will find something else 
and have it ready when the next restless fit comes 
on," said Mrs. Jo to herself, as she wrote her list with 
a deep sense of gratitude that all her boys were not 
Dans. 

Mr. Bhaer did not entirely approve of the new plan, 
but agreed to give it a trial, which put Dan on his 
mettle, and caused him to give up certain wild plans 
of his own, in which the new lash and the long hill 
were to have borne a part. He was up and away 
very early the next morning, heroically resisting the 
temptation to race with the milkmen going into town. 
Once there, he did his errands carefully, and came 
jogging home again in time for school, to Mr. Bhaer's 
surprise and Mrs. Jo's great satisfaction. The Com- 
modore did growl at Dan's promotion, but was paci- 
fied by a superior padlock to his new boat-house, 
and the thought that seamen were meant for higher 
honors than driving market-wagons and doing family 



284 



Little Men 



errands. So Dan filled his new office well and 
contentedly for weeks, and said no more about bolt- 
ing. But one day Mr. Bhaer found him pummelling 
Jack, who was roaring for mercy under his knee. 

" Why, Dan, I thought you had given up fighting," 
he said, as he went to the rescue. 

"We ain't fighting, we are only wrestling," answered 
Dan, leaving off reluctantly. 

" It looks very much like it, and feels like it, hey, 
Jack?' said Mr. Bhaer, as the defeated gentleman 
got upon his legs with difficulty. 

"Catch me wrestling with him again. He's most 
knocked my head off," snarled Jack, holding on to 
that portion of his frame as if it really was loose upon 
his shoulders. 

" The fact is, we began in fun, but when I got him 
down I could n't help pounding him. Sorry I hurt 
you, old fellow," explained Dan, looking rather 
ashamed of himself. 

" I understand. The longing to pitch into some- 
body was so strong you could n't resist. You are a 
sort of Berserker, Dan, and something to tussle with is 
as necessary to you as music is to Nat," said Mr. 
Bhaer, who knew all about the conversation between 
the boy and Mrs. Jo. 

" Can't help it. So if you don't want to be pounded 
you 'd better keep out of the way," answered Dan, 
with a warning look in his black eyes that made Jack 
sheer off in haste. 

" If you want something to wrestle with, I will give 
you a tougher specimen than Jack," said Mr. Bhaer; 
and, leading the way to the wood-yard, he pointed 
out certain roots of trees that had been grubbed up 



Taming the Colt 285 

in the spring, and had been lying there waiting to 
be split. 

" There, when you feel inclined to maltreat the 
boys, just come and work off your energies here, 
and I '11 thank you for it." 

" So I will ; ' and, seizing the axe that lay near, 
Dan hauled out a tough root, and went at it so vigor- 
ously, that the chips flew far and wide, and Mr. Bhaer 
fled for his life. 

To his great amusement, Dan took him at his 
word, and was often seen wrestling with the ungainly 
knots, hat and jacket off, red face, and wrathful eyes ; 
for he got into royal rages over some of his adversa- 
ries, and swore at them under his breath till he had 
conquered them, when he exulted, and marched off 
to the shed with an armful of gnarled oak-wood in 
triumph. He blistered his hands, tired his back, and 
dulled the axe, but it did him good, and he got more 
comfort out of the ugly roots than any one dreamed, 
for with each blow he worked off some of the pent-up 
power that would otherwise have been expended in 
some less harmless way. 

" When this is gone I really don't know what I 
shall do," said Mrs. Jo to herself, for no inspiration 
came, and she was at the end of her resources. 

But Dan found a new occupation for himself, and 
enjoyed it some time before any one discovered the 
cause of his contentment. A fine young horse of Mr. 
Laurie's was kept at Plumfield that summer, running 
loose in a large pasture across the brook. The boys 
were all interested in the handsome, spirited creature, 
and for a time were fond of watching him gallop and 
frisk with his plumey tail flying, and his handsome 



286 Little Men 

head in the air. But they soon got tired of it, and 
left Prince Charlie to himself. All but Dan, he never 
tired of looking at the horse, and seldom failed to 
visit him each day with a lump of sugar, a bit of 
bread, or an apple to make him welcome. Charlie 
was grateful, accepted his friendship, and the two 
loved one another as if they felt some tie between 
them, inexplicable but strong. In whatever part of 
the wide field he might be, Charlie always came at full 
speed when Dan whistled at the bars, and the boy 
was never happier than when the beautiful, fleet crea- 
ture put its head on his shoulder, looking up at him 
with fine eyes full of intelligent affection. 

" We understand one another without any palaver, 
don't we, old fellow?' Dan would say, proud of the 
horse's confidence, and so jealous of his regard, that 
he told no one how well the friendship prospered, and 
never asked anybody but Teddy to accompany him 
on these daily visits. 

Mr. Laurie came now and then to see how Charlie 
got on, and spoke of having him broken to harness 
in the autumn. 

" He won't need much taming, he is such a gentle, 
fine-tempered brute. I shall come out and try him 
with a saddle myself some day," he said, on one of 
these visits. 

" He lets me put a halter on him, but I don't 
believe he will bear a saddle even if you put it on," 
answered Dan, who never failed to be present when 
Charlie and his master met. 

" I shall coax him to bear it, and not mind a few 
tumbles at first. He has never been harshly treated, 
so, though he will be surprised at the new perform- 



Taming the Colt 287 

ances, I think he won't be frightened, and his antics 
will do no harm." 

" I wonder what he would do," said Dan to him- 
self, as Mr. Laurie went away with the Professor, and 
Charlie returned to the bars, from which he had retired 
when the gentlemen came up. 

A daring fancy to try the experiment took posses- 
sion of the boy as he sat on the topmost rail with the 
glossy back temptingly near him. Never thinking of 
danger, he obeyed the impulse, and while Charlie un- 
suspec ingly nibbled at the apple he held, Dan quickly 
and quietly took his seat. He did not keep it long, 
however, for with an astonished snort, Charlie reared 
straight up, and deposited Dan on the ground. The 
fall did not hurt him, for the turf was soft, and he 
jumped up, saying, with a laugh, 

" I did it any way ! Come here, you rascal, and I '11 
try it again." 

But Charlie declined to approach, and Dan left him 
resolving to succeed in the end ; for a struggle like 
this suited him exactly. Next time he took a halter, 
and having got it on, he played with the horse for a 
while, leading him to and fro, and putting him through 
various antics till he was a little tired ; then Dan sat 
on the wall and gave him bread, but watched his 
chance, and getting a good grip of the halter, slipped 
on to his back. Charlie tried the old trick, but Dan 
held on, having had practice with Toby, who occa- 
sionally had an obstinate fit, and tried to shake 
off his rider. Charlie was both amazed and indignant ; 
and after prancing for a minute, set off at a gallop, 
and away went Dan heels over head. If he had not 
belonged to the class of boys who go through all 



288 Little Men 

sorts of dangers unscathed, he would have broken his 
neck ; as it was, he got a heavy fall, and lay still col- 
lecting his wits, while Charlie tore round the field 
tossing his head with every sign of satisfaction at the 
discomfiture of his rider, Presently it seemed to 
occur to him that something was wrong with Dan, 
and, being of a magnanimous nature, he went to see 
what the matter was. Dan let him sniff about and 
perplex himself for a few minutes ; then he looked 
up at him, saying, as decidedly as if the horse could 
understand, - 

" You think you have beaten, but you are mis- 
taken, old boy; and I'll ride you yet see if I 
don't." 

He tried no more that day, but soon after attempted 
a new method of introducing Charlie to a burden. He 
strapped a folded blanket on his back, and then let 
him race, and rear, and roll, and fume as much as he 
liked. After a few fits of rebellion Charlie submitted, 
and in a few days permitted Dan to mount him, often 
stopping short to look round, as if he said, half 
patiently, half reproachfully, " I don't understand it, 
but I suppose you mean no harm, so I permit the 
liberty." 

Dan patted and praised him, and took a short turn 
every day, getting frequent falls, but persisting in 
spite of them, and longing to try a saddle and bridle, 
but not daring to confess what he had done. He had 
his wish, however, for there had been a witness of his 
pranks who said a good word for him. 

" Do you know what that chap has ben doin' 
lately?" asked Silas of his master, one evening, as he 
received his orders for the next day. 



Taming the Colt 289 

"Which boy?' said Mr. Bhaer, with an air of 
resignation, expecting some sad revelation. 

" Dan, he 's ben a breaking the colt, sir, and I wish 
I may die if he ain't done it," answered Silas, 
chuckling. 

" How do you know? ' 

" Wai, I kinder keep an eye on the little fellers, 
and most gen'lly know what they 're up to ; so when 
Dan kep going off to the paster, and coming home 
black and blue, I mistrusted that sitthing was goin' 
on. I did n't say nothin', but I crep up into the barn 
chamber, and from there I see him goin' through all 
manner of games with Charlie. Blest if he war n't 
throwed time and agin, and knocked round like a 
bag o' meal. But the pluck of the boy did beat all, 
and he 'peared to like it, and kep on as ef bound to 
beat." 

" But, Silas, you should have stopped it the boy 
might have been killed," said Mr. Bhaer, wondering 
what freak his irrepressibles would take into their 
heads next. 

" S'pose I oughter ; but there war n't no real 
danger, for Charlie ain't no tricks, and is as pretty a 
tempered horse as ever I see. Fact was, I could n't 
bear to spile sport, for ef there 's any thing I do 
admire it's grit, and Dan is chock full on 't. But 
now I know he 's hankerin' after a saddle, and yet 
won't take even the old one on the sly; so I just 
thought I 'd up and tell, and may be you 'd let him 
try what he can do. Mr. Laurie wori't mind, and 
Charlie's all the better for 't." 

" We shall see ; " and off went Mr. Bhaer to inquire 
into the matter. 

'9 



2go Little Men 

Dan owned up at once, and proudly proved that 
Silas was right by showing off his power over Charlie ; 
for by dint of much coaxing, many carrots, and in- 
finite perseverance, he really had succeeded in riding 
the colt with a halter and blanket. Mr. Laurie was 
much amused, and well pleased with Dan's courage 
and skill, and let him have a hand in all future per- 
formances; for he set about Charlie's education at 
once, saying that he was not going to be outdone by 
a slip of a boy. Thanks to Dan, Charlie took kindly 
to the saddle and bridle when he had once reconciled 
himself to the indignity of the bit; and after Mr. 
Laurie had trained him a little, Dan was permitted to 
ride him, to the great envy and admiration of the 
other boys. 

" Is n't he handsome? and don't he mind me like a 
lamb?' said Dan one day as he dismounted and 
stood with his arm round Charlie's neck. 

" Yes, and is n't he a much more useful and agree- 
able animal than the wild colt who spent his days 
racing about the field, jumping fences, and running 
away now and then?' asked Mrs. Bhaer from the 
steps where she always appeared when Dan performed 
with Charlie. 

" Of course he is. See he won't run away now, 
even if I don't hold him, and he comes to me the 
minute I whistle; I have tamed him well, have n't I? ' 
and Dan looked both proud and pleased, as well he 
might, for, in spite of their struggles together, Charlie 
loved him better than his master. 

" I am taming a colt too, and I think I shall suc- 
ceed as well as you if I am as patient and persever- 
ing," said Mrs. Jo, smiling so significantly at him, 



Taming the Colt 291 

that Dan understood and answered, laughing, yet in 
earnest, 

" We won't jump over the fence and run away, but 
stay and let them make a handsome, useful span of 
us, hey, Charlie?' 1 




CHAPTER XVII 

COMPOSITION DAY 

URRY up, boys, it's three o'clock, and 
Uncle Fritz likes us to be punctual, you 
know," said Franz one Wednesday after- 
noon as a bell rang, and a stream of literary-looking 
young gentlemen with books and paper in their 
hands were seen going toward the museum. 

Tommy was in the school-room, bending over his 
desk, much bedaubed with ink, flushed with the 
ardor of inspiration, and in a great hurry as usual, for 
easy-going Bangs never was ready till the very last 
minute. As Franz passed the door looking up lag- 
gards, Tommy gave one last blot and flourish, and 
departed out of the window waving his paper to dry 
it as he went. Nan followed, looking very important, 
with a large roll in her hand, and Demi escorted 
Daisy, both evidently brimful of some delightful 
secret. 

The museum was all in order, and the sunshine 
among the hop-vines made pretty shadows on the 
floor as it peeped through the great window. On 
one side sat Mr. and Mrs. Bhaer, on the other was a 
little table on which the compositions were laid as 
soon as read, and in a large semicircle sat the children 
on camp-stools which occasionally shut up and let 
the sitter down, thus preventing any stiffness in the 



Composition Day 293 

assembly. As it took too much time to have all read, 
they took turns, and on this Wednesday the younger 
pupils were the chief performers, while the elder 
ones listened with condescension and criticised 
freely 

" Ladies first; so Nan may begin," said Mr. Bhaer, 
when the settling of stools and rustling of papers had 
subsided. 

Nan took her place beside the little table, and, 
with a preliminary giggle, read the following interest- 
ing essay on 

"THE SPONGE 

" The sponge, my friends, is a most useful and 
interesting plant. It grows on rocks under the water, 
and is a kind of sea-weed, I believe. People go and 
pick it and dry it and wash it, because little fish and 
insects live in the holes of the sponge ; I found shells 
in my new one, and sand. Some are very fine and 
soft; babies are washed with them. The sponge has 
many uses. I will relate some of them, and I hope 
my friends will remember what I say. One use is to 
wash the face ; I don't like it myself, but I do it be- 
cause I wish to be clean. Some people don't, and 
they are dirty." Here the eye of the reader rested 
sternly upon Dick and Dolly, who quailed under it, 
and instantly resolved to scrub themselves virtuously 
on all occasions. " Another use is to wake people 
up ; I allude to boys par-//V-u-lar-ly." Another pause 
after the long word to enjoy the smothered laugh 
that went round the room. " Some boys do not get 
up when called, and Mary Ann squeezes the water out 
of a wet sponge on their faces, and it makes them so 



294 Little Men 

mad they wake up." Here the laugh broke out, and 
Emil said, as if he had been hit, 

" Seems to me you are wandering from the sub- 
ject." 

" No, I ain't ; we are to write about vegetables or 
animals, and I 'm doing both : for boys are animals, 
are n't they?' cried Nan; and, undaunted by the 
indignant " No ! ' shouted at her, she calmly pro- 
ceeded, 

" One more interesting thing is done with sponges, 
and this is when doctors put ether on it, and hold it to 
people's noses when they have teeth out. / shall do 
this when I am bigger, and give ethef to the sick, so 
they will go to sleep and not feel me cut off their legs 
and arms." \ 

" I know somebody who killed cats with it," called 
out Demi, but was promptly crus^d by Dan, who 
upset his camp-stool and put a hat over his face. 

" I will not be interruckted," said Nan, frowning 
upon the unseemly scrimmagers. Order was instantly 
restored, and the young lady closed her remarks as 
follows : 

" My composition has three morals, my friends." 
Somebody groaned, but no notice was taken of the 
insult. "First, is keep your faces clean second, 
get up early third, when the ether sponge is put 
over your nose, breathe hard and don't kick, and your 
teeth will come out easy. I have no more to say." 
And Miss Nan sat down amid tumultuous applause. 

" That is a very remarkable composition ; its tone 
is high, and there is a good deal of humor in it. Very 
well done, Nan. Now, Daisy," and Mr. Bhaer smiled 
at one young lady as he beckoned to the other. 



Composition Day 295 

Daisy colored prettily as she took her place, and 
said, in her modest little voice, - 

" I 'm afraid you won't like mine ; it is n't nice and 
funny like Nan's. But I could n't do any better." 

" We always like yours, Posy," said Uncle Fritz, 
and a gentle murmur from the boys seemed to confirm 
the remark. Thus encouraged, Daisy read her little 
paper, which was listened to with respectful attention. 

" THE CAT 

" The cat is a sweet animal. I love them very much. 
They are clean and pretty, and catch rats and mice, 
and let you pet them, and are fond of you if you are 
kind. They are very wise, and can find their way 
anywhere. Little cats are called kittens, and are dear 
things. I have two, named Huz and Buz, and their 
mother is Topaz, because she has yellow eyes. Uncle 
told me a pretty story about a man named Ma-ho-met. 
He had a nice cat, and when she was asleep on his 
sleeve, and he wanted to go away, he cut off the 
sleeve so as not to wake her up. I think he was a 
kind man. Some cats catch fish." 

" So do I ! ' cried Teddy, jumping up eager to tell 
about his trout. 

" Hush ! " said his mother, setting him down again 
as quickly as possible, for orderly Daisy hated to be 
" interruckted, " as Nan expressed it. 

" I read about one who used to do it very slyly. I 
tried to make Topaz, but she did not like the water, 
and scratched me. She does like tea, and when I 
play in my kitchen she pats the teapot with her paw, 
till I give her some. She is a fine cat, she eats apple- 
pudding and molasses. Most cats do not." 



296 



Little Men 



" That 's a first-rater," called out Nat, and Daisy 
retired, pleased with the praise of her friend. 

"Demi looks so impatient we must have him up 
at once or he won't hold out," said Uncle Fritz, and 
Demi skipped up with alacrity. 

" Mine is a poem ! ' he announced in a tone of 
triumph, and read his first effort in a loud and solemn 
voice : 

" I write about the butterfly, 

It is a pretty thing ; 
And flies about like the birds. 
But it does not sing. 

" First it is a little grub, 

And then it is a nice yellow cocoon, 
And then the butterfly 
Eats its way out soon. 

" They live on dew and honey, 
They do not have any hive, 

They do not sting like wasps, and bees, and hornets, 
And to be as good as they are we should strive. 

" I should like to be a beautiful butterfly, 

All yellow, and blue, and green, and red ; 
But I should not like 
To have Dan put camphor on my poor little head." 

This unusual burst of genius brought down the 
house, and Demi was obliged to read it again, a 
somewhat difficult task, as there was no punctuation 
whatever, and the little poet's breath gave out before 
he got to the end of some of the long lines. 

" He will be a Shakespeare yet," said Aunt Jo, 
laughing as if she would die, for this poetic gem re- 



Composition Day 297 

minded her of one of her own, written at the age of 
ten, and beginning gloomily, - 

" I wish I had a quiet tomb, 

Beside a little rill ; 

Where birds, and bees, and butterflies, 
Would sing upon the hill. " 

" Come on, Tommy. If there is as much ink inside 
your paper as there is outside, it will be a long com- 
position," said Mr. Bhaer, when Demi had been in- 
duced to tear himself from his poem and sit down. 

" It isn't a composition, it's a letter. You see, I 
forgot all about its being my turn till after school, 
and then I did n't know what to have, and there 
was n't time to read up ; so I thought you would n't 
mind my taking a letter that I wrote to my Grandma. 
It 's got something about birds in it, so I thought it 
would do." 

With this long excuse, Tommy plunged into a sea 
of ink and floundered through, pausing now and then 
to decipher one of his own flourishes. 

" MY DEAR GRANDMA, I hope you are well. Uncle James 
sent me a pocket rifle. It is a beautiful little instrument of kill- 
ing, shaped like this [Here Tommy displayed a remark- 
able sketch of what looked like an intricate pump, or the 
inside of a small steam-engine] 44 are the sights ; 6 is a 
false stock that fits in at A ; 3 is the trigger, and 2 is the cock. 
It loads at the breech, and fires with great force and straight- 
ness. I am going out shooting squirrels soon. I shot several 
fine birds for the museum. They had speckled breasts, and 
Dan liked them very much. He stuffed them tip-top, and 
they sit on the tree quite natural, only one looks a little 
tipsy. We had a Frenchman working here the other day, 



9 8 



Little Men 



and Asia called his name so funnily that I will tell you about 
it. His name was Germain : first she called him Jerry, but 
we laughed at her, and she changed it to Jeremiah ; but ridi- 
cule was the result, so it became Mr. Germany ; but ridicule 
having been again resumed, it became Garrymon, which it 
has remained ever since. I do not write often, I am so busy ; 
but I think of you often, and sympathize with you, and sin- 
cerely hope you get on as well as can be expected without 
me. Your affectionate grandson, 

"THOMAS BUCKMINSTER BANGS. 

" P. S. If you come across any postage-stamps, re- 
member me. 

" N.B. Love to all, and a great deal to Aunt Almira. 
Does she make any nice plum-cakes now? 

" P. S. Mrs. Bhaer sends her respects. 

" P. S. And so would Mr. B. if he knew I was in act 
to write. 

" N. B. Father is going to give me a watch on my 
birthday. I am glad, as at present I have no means of tell- 
ing time, and am often late at school. 

" P. S. I hope to see you soon. Don't you wish to 
send for me? T. B. B." 

As each postscript was received with a fresh laugh 
from the boys, by the time he came to the sixth and 
last, Tommy was so exhausted that he was glad to 
sit down and wipe his ruddy face. 

" I hope the dear old lady will live through it," 
said Mr. Bhaer, under cover of the noise. 

" We won't take any notice of the broad hint given 
in that last P. S. The letter will be quite as much as 
she can bear without a visit from Tommy," answered 
Mrs. Jo, remembering that the old lady usually took 



Composition Day 299 

to her bed after a visitation from her irrepressible 
grandson. 

" Now, me," said Teddy, who had learned a bit of 
poetry, and was so eager to say it that he had been 
bobbing up and down during the reading, and could 
no longer be restrained. 

" I 'm afraid he will forget it if he waits ; and I 
have had a deal of trouble in teaching him," said his 
mother. 

Teddy trotted to the rostrum, dropped a curtsey 
and nodded his head at the same time, as if anxious 
to suit every one; then, in his baby voice, and putting 
the emphasis on the wrong words, he said his verse 
all in one breath : 

" Little drops of water, 

Little drains of sand, 
Mate a mighty okum (ocean), 

And ^ peasant land. 
Little worts of kindness, 

Pokin evvy day, 
Make a home a hebbin, 

And hep us on a way." 

Clapping his hands at the end, he made another 
double salutation, and then ran to hide his head in his 
mother's lap, quite overcome by the success of his 
" piece," for the applause was tremendous. 

Dick and Dolly did not write, but were encouraged 
to observe the habits of animals and insects, and 
report what they saw. Dick liked this, and always 
had a great deal to say; so, when his name was 
called, he marched up, and, looking at the audience 
with his bright confiding eyes, told his little story 
so earnestly that no one smiled at his crooked 



300 Little Men 

body, because the " straight soul ' shone through it 
beautifully. 

" I Ve been watching dragonflies, and I read about 
them in Dan's book, and I '11 try and tell you what I 
remember. There 's lots of them flying round on the 
pond, all blue, with big eyes, and sort of lace wings, 
very pretty. I caught one, and looked at him, and I 
think he was the handsomest insect I ever saw. They 
catch littler creatures than they are to eat, and have a 
queer kind of hook thing that folds up when they 
ain't hunting. It likes the sunshine, and dances 
round all day. Let me see ! what else was there to 
tell about? Oh, I know! The eggs are laid in the 
water, and go down to the bottom, and are hatched 
in the mud. Little ugly things come out of 'em ; I 
can't say the name, but they are brown, and keep 
having new skins, and getting bigger and bigger. 
Only think ! it takes them two years to be a dragon- 
fly ! Now this is the curious^/ part of it, so you 
listen tight, for I don't believe you know it. When 
it is ready it knows somehow, and the ugly, grubby 
thing climbs up out of the water on a flag or a 
bulrush, and bursts open its back." 

" Come, I don't believe that," said Tommy, who 
was not an observing boy, and really thought Dick 
was " making up." 

" It does burst open its back, don't it? " and Dick 
appealed to Mr. Bhaer, who nodded a very decided 
affirmative, to the little speaker's great satisfaction. 

" Well, out comes the dragonfly, all whole, and he 
sits in the sun sort of coming alive, you know; 
and he gets strong, and then he spreads his pretty 
wings, and flies away up in the air, and never is a 



Composition Day 301 

grub any more. That's all I know; but I shall 
watch and try and see him do it, for I think it's 
splendid to turn into a beautiful dragonfly, don't 
you?" 

Dick had told his story well, and, when he described 
the flight of the new-born insect, had waved his 
hands, and looked up as if he saw, and wanted to 
follow it. Something in his face suggested to the 
minds of the elder listeners the thought that some 
day little Dick would have his wish, and after years 
of helplessness and pain would climb up into the sun 
some happy day, and, leaving his poor little body 
behind him, find a new and lovely shape in a fairer 
world than this. Mrs. Jo drew him to her side, and 
said, with a kiss on his thin cheek, 

" That is a sweet little story, dear, and you remem- 
bered wonderfully well. I shall write and tell your 
mother all about it; " and Dick sat on her knee, con- 
tentedly smiling at the praise, and resolving to watch 
well, and catch the dragonfly in the act of leaving its 
old body for the new, and see how he did it. Dolly 
had a few remarks to make upon the " Duck," and 
made them in a sing-song tone, for he had learned it 
by heart, and thought it a great plague to do it at all. 
" Wild ducks are hard to kill ; men hide and shoot 
at them, and have tame ducks to quack and make the 
wild ones come where the men can fire at them. They 
have wooden ducks made too, and they sail round, 
and the wild ones come to see them ; they are stupid, 
I think. Our ducks are very tame. They eat a great 
deal, and go poking round in the mud and water. 
They don't take good care of their eggs, but let them 
spoil, and " 



302 Little Men 



" Mine don't ! ' cried Tommy. 

" Well, some people's do ; Silas said so. Hens take 
good care of little ducks, only they don't like to have 
them go in the water, and make a great fuss. But 
the little ones don't care a bit. I like to eat ducks 
with stuffing in them, and lots of apple-sauce." 

" I have something to say about owls," began Nat, 
who had carefully prepared a paper upon this subject 
with some help from Dan. 

" Owls have big heads, round eyes, hooked bills, 
and strong claws. Some are gray, some white, some 
black and yellowish. Their feathers are very soft, 
and stick out a great deal. They fly very quietly, 
and hunt bats, mice, little birds, and such things. 
They build nests in barns, hollow trees, and some 
take the nests of other birds. The great horned owl 
has two eggs bigger than a hen's, and reddish brown. 
The tawny owl has five eggs, white and smooth ; and 
this is the kind that hoots at night. Another kind 
sounds like a child crying. They eat mice and bats 
whole, and the parts that they cannot digest they 
make into little balls and spit out." 

" My gracious ! how funny ! ' Nan was heard to 
observe. 

" They cannot see by day ; and if they get but into 
the light, they go flapping round half blind, and the 
other birds chase and peck at them as if they were 
making fun. The horned owl is very big, 'most as 
big as the eagle. It eats rabbits, rats, snakes, and birds ; 
and lives in rocks and old tumble-down houses. They 
have a good many cries, and scream like a person be- 
ing choked, and say, ' Waugh O ! waugh O ! ' and it 
scares people at night in the woods. The white owl 



Composition Day 303 

lives by the sea, and in cold places, and looks some- 
thing like a hawk. There is a kind of owl that makes 
holes to live in like moles. It is called the burrowing 
owl, and is very small. The barn-owl is the com- 
monest kind; and I have watched one sitting in a 
hole in a tree, looking like a little gray cat, with one 
eye shut and the other open. He comes out at dusk, 
and sits round waiting for the bats. I caught one, and 
here he is." 

With that Nat suddenly produced from inside his 
jacket a little downy bird, who blinked and ruffled 
up his feathers, looking very plump and sleepy and 
scared. 

" Don't touch him ! He is going to show off," said 
Nat, displaying his new pet with great pride. First 
he put a cocked hat on the bird's head, and the boys 
laughed at the funny effect ; then he added a pair of 
paper spectacles, and that gave the owl such a wise 
look that they shouted with merriment. The per- 
formance closed with making the bird angry, and 
seeing him cling to a handkerchief upside down, 
pecking and " clucking," as Rob called it. He was 
allowed to fly after that, and settled himself on the 
bunch of pine-cones over the door, where he sat star- 
ing down at the company with an air of sleepy dignity 
that amused them very much. 

" Have you any thing for us, George? ' asked Mr. 
Bhaer, when the room was still again. 

"Well, I read and learned ever so much about 
moles, but I declare I Ve forgotten every bit of it, 
except that they dig holes to live in, that you catch 
them by pouring water down, and that they can't pos- 
sibly live without eating very often ; ' and Stuffy sat 



304 Little Men 

down, wishing he had not been too lazy to write out 
his valuable observations, for a general smile went 
round when he mentioned the last of the three facts 
which lingered in his memory. 

" Then we are done for to-day," began Mr. Bhaer, 
but Tommy called out in a great hurry, 

" No, we ain't. Don't you know? We must give 
the thing; ' and he winked violently as he made an 
eye-glass of his fingers. 

" Bless my heart, I forgot ! Now is your time, 
Tom ; ' and Mr. Bhaer dropped into his seat again, 
while all the boys but Dan looked mightily tickled at 
something. 

Nat, Tommy, and Demi left the room, and speedily 
returned with a little red morocco box set forth in 
state on Mrs. Jo's best silver salver. Tommy bore it, 
and, still escorted by Nat and Demi, marched up to 
unsuspecting Dan, who stared at them as if he thought 
they were going to make fun of him. Tommy had 
prepared an elegant and impressive speech for the 
occasion, but when the minute came, it all went out 
of his head, and he just said, straight from his kindly 
boyish heart, 

" Here, old fellow, we all wanted to give you some- 
thing to kind of pay for what happened awhile ago, 
and to show how much we liked you for being such 
a trump. Please take it, and have a jolly good time 
with it." 

Dan was so surprised he could only get as red as 
the little box, and mutter " Thanky, boys ! ' as he 
fumbled to open it. But when he saw what was 
inside, his face lighted up, and he seized the long 
desired treasure, saying, so enthusiastically that every 



Composition Day 305 

one was satisfied, though his language was any thing 
but polished, - 

" What a stunner ! I say, you fellows are regular 
bricks to give me this; it's just what I wanted. Give 
us your paw, Tommy." 

Many paws were given, and heartily shaken, for the 
boys were charmed with Dan's pleasure, and crowded 
round him to shake hands and expatiate on the beau- 
ties of their gift. In the midst of this pleasant chatter, 
Dan's eye went to Mrs. Jo, who stood outside the 
group enjoying the scene with all her heart. 

" No, I had nothing to do with it. The boys got it 
up all themselves," she said, answering the grateful 
look that seemed to thank her for that happy moment. 
Dan smiled, and said, in a tone that only she could 
understand, 

" It 's you all the same ; ' and making his way 
through the boys, he held out his hand first to her 
and then to the good Professor, who was beaming 
benevolently on his flock. 

He thanked them both with the silent, hearty 
squeeze he gave the kind hands that had held him up 
and led him into the safe refuge of a happy home. 
Not a word was spoken, but they felt all he would say, 
and little Teddy expressed their pleasure for them as 
he leaned from his father's arm to hug the boy, and 
say, in his baby way, 

" My dood Danny ! everybody loves him now." 

" Come here, show off your spy-glass, Dan, and let 
us see some of your magnified pollywogs and annymal- 
cumisms as you call 'em," said Jack, who felt so un- 
comfortable during this scene that he would have 
slipped away if Emil had not kept him. 



20 



306 



Little Men 



' So I will, take a squint at that and see what you 
think of it," said Dan, glad to show off his precious 
microscope. 

He held it over a beetle that happened to be 
lying on the table, and Jack bent down to take his 
squint, but looked up with an amazed face, saying, 

" My eye ! what nippers the old thing has got ! I 
see now why it hurts so confoundedly when you grab 
a dorbug and he grabs back again." 

" He winked at me," cried Nan, who had poked 
her head under Jack's elbow and got the second 
peep. 

Every one took a look, and then Dan showed 
them the lovely plumage on a moth's wing, the four 
feathery corners to a hair, the veins on a leaf, hardly 
visible to the naked eye, but like a thick net through 
the wonderful little glass ; the skin on their own 
fingers, looking like queer hills and valleys ; a cob- 
web like a bit of coarse sewing silk, and the sting of 
a bee. 

" It 's like the fairy spectacles in my story-book, 
only more curious," said Demi, enchanted with the 
wonders he saw. 

" Dan is a magician now, and he can show you 
many miracles going on all round you ; for he has 
two things needful patience and a love of nature. 
We live in a beautiful and wonderful world, Demi, 
and the more you know about it the wiser and the 
better you will be. This little glass will give you a 
new set of teachers, and you may learn fine lessons 
from them if you will," said Mr. Bhaer, glad to see 
how interested the boys were in the matter. 

" Could I see anybody's soul with this microscope 



Composition Day 307 

if I looked hard?' asked Demi, who was much im- 
pressed with the power of the bit of glass. 

" No, dear ; it 's not powerful enough for that, and 
never can be made so. You must wait a long while 
before your eyes are clear enough to see the most 
invisible of God's wonders. But looking at the lovely 
things you can see will help you to understand the 
lovelier things you can not see," answered Uncle 
Fritz, with his hand on the boy's head. 

" Well, Daisy and I both think that if there are any 
angels, their wings look like that butterfly's as we 
see it through the glass, only more soft and gold." 

" Believe it if you like, and keep your own little 
wings as bright and beautiful, only don't fly away for 
a long time yet." 

" No, I won't," and Demi kept his word. 

" Good-by, my boys ; I must go now, but I leave 
you with our new Professor of Natural History ; ' 
and Mrs. Jo went away well pleased with that com- 
position day. 



CHAPTER XVIII 

CROPS 

THE gardens did well that summer, and in 
September the little crops were gathered in 
with much rejoicing. Jack and Ned joined 
their farms and raised potatoes, those being a good 
salable article. They got twelve bushels, counting 
little ones and all, and sold them to Mr. Bhaer at a 
fair price, for potatoes went fast in that house. Emil 
and Franz devoted themselves to corn, and had a 
jolly little husking in the barn, after which they took 
their corn to the mill, and came proudly home with 
meal enough to supply the family with hasty-pudding 
and Johnny-cake for a long time. They would not 
take money for their crop ; because, as Franz said, 
" We never can pay Uncle for all he has done /or us 
if we raised corn for the rest of our days." 

Nat had beans in such abundance that he despaired 
of ever shelling them, till Mrs. Jo proposed a new 
way, which succeeded admirably. The dry pods were 
spread upon the barn-floor, Nat fiddled, and the 
boys danced quadrilles on them, till they were thrashed 
out with much merriment and very little labor. 

Tommy's six weeks' beans were a failure ; for a dry 
spell early in the season hurt them, because he gave 
them no water; and after that he was so sure that 
they could take care of themselves, he let the poor 



Crops 



39 



things struggle with bugs and weeds till they were 
exhausted, and died a lingering death. So Tommy 
had to dig his farm over again, and plant peas. But 
they were late ; the birds ate many ; the bushes, not 
being firmly planted, blew down, and when the poor 
peas came at last, no one cared for them, as their day 
was over, and spring-lamb had grown into mutton. 
Tommy consoled himself with a charitable effort ; for 
he transplanted all the thistles he could find, and 
tended them carefully for Toby, who was fond of the 
prickly delicacy, and had eaten all he could find on 
the place. The boys had great fun over Tom's thistle 
bed ; but he insisted that it was better to care for 
poor Toby than for himself, and declared that he 
would devote his entire farm next year to thistles, 
worms, and snails, that Demi's turtles and Nat's pet 
owl might have the food they loved, as well as the 
donkey. So like shiftless, kind-hearted, happy-go- 
lucky Tommy ! 

Demi had supplied his grandmother with lettuce 
all summer, and in the autumn sent his grandfather 
a basket of turnips, each one scrubbed up till it 
looked like a great white egg. His Grandma was 
fond of salad, and one of his Grandpa's favorite 
quotations was 

u Lucullus, whom frugality could charm, 
Ate roasted turnips at the Sabine farm." 

Therefore these vegetable offerings to the dear 
domestic god and goddess were affectionate, appro- 
priate, and classical. 

Daisy had nothing but flowers in her little plot, 
and it bloomed all summer long with a succession of 



310 Little Men 

gay or fragrant posies. She was very fond of her 
garden, and delved away in it at all hours, watching over 
her roses, and pansies, sweet-peas, and mignonette, 
as faithfully and tenderly as she did over her dolls or 
her friends. Little nosegays were sent into town on 
all occasions, and certain vases about the house were 
her especial care. She had all sorts of pretty fancies 
about her flowers, and loved to tell the children the 
story of the pansy, and show them how the step- 
mother-leaf sat up in her green chair in purple and 
gold ; how the two own children in gay yellow had 
each its little seat, while the step children, in dull 
colors, both sat on one small stool, and the poor little 
father, in his red nightcap, was kept out of sight in 
the middle of the flower; that a monk's dark face 
looked out of the monk's-hood larkspur; that the 
flowers of the canary-vine were so like dainty birds 
fluttering their yellow wings, that one almost expected 
to see them fly away, and the snapdragons that went 
off like little pistol-shots when you cracked them. 
Splendid dollies did she make out of scarlet and 
white poppies, with ruffled robes tied round the waist 
with grass blade sashes, and astonishing hats of 
coreopsis on their green heads. Pea-pod boats, with 
rose-leaf sails, received these flower-people, and 
floated them about a placid pool in the most charm- 
ing style; for finding that there were no elves, Daisy 
made her own, and loved the fanciful little friends 
who played their parts in her summer-life. 

Nan went in for herbs, and had a fine display of 
useful plants, which she tended with steadily increas- 
ing interest and care. Very busy was she in Septem- 
ber cutting, drying, and tying up her sweet harvest, 



Crops 



3 11 



and writing down in a little book how the different 
herbs are to be used. She had tried several experi- 
ments, and made several mistakes ; so she wished to 
be particular lest she should give little Huz another 
fit by administering wormwood instead of catnip. 

Dick, Dolly, and Rob each grubbed away on his 
small farm, and made more stir about it than all the 
rest put together. Parsnips and carrots were the 
crops of the two D.'s; and they longed for it to be 
late enough to pull up the precious vegetables. Dick 
did privately examine his carrots, and plant them 
again, feeling that Silas was right in saying it was too 
soon for them yet. 

Rob's crop was four small squashes and one im- 
mense pumpkin. It really was a " bouncer," as 
every one said ; and I assure you that two small 
persons could sit on it side by side. It seemed to 
have absorbed all the goodness of the little garden, 
and all the sunshine that shone down on it, and lay 
there a great round, golden ball, full of rich sugges- 
tions of pumpkin-pies for weeks to come. Robby 
was so proud of his mammoth vegetable that he took 
every one to see it, and, when frosts began to nip, 
covered it up each night with an old bedquilt, tuck- 
ing it round as if the pumpkin was a well-beloved 
baby. The day it was gathered he would let no one 
touch it but himself, and nearly broke his back tug- 
ging it to the barn in his little wheelbarrow, with Dick 
and Dolly harnessed in front to give a heave up the 
path. His mother promised him that the Thanks- 
giving-pies should be made from it, and hinted vaguely 
that she had a plan in her head which would cover 
the prize pumpkin and its owner with glory. 



3i2 Little Men 

Poor Billy had planted cucumbers, but unfortu- 
nately hoed them up and left the pig-weed. This 
mistake grieved him very much for ten minutes, then 
he forgot all about it, and sowed a handful of bright 
buttons which he had collected, evidently thinking in 
his feeble mind that they were money, and would 
come up and multiply, so that he might make many 
quarters, as Tommy did. No one disturbed him, and 
he did what he liked with his plot, which soon looked 
as if a series of small earthquakes had stirred it up. 
When |the general harvest-day came, he would have 
had nothing but stones and weeds to show, if kind old 
Asia had not hung half-a-dozen oranges on the dead 
tree he had stuck up in the middle. Billy was 
delighted with his crop ; and no one spoiled his 
pleasure in the little miracle which pity wrought for 
him, by making withered branches bear strange fruit. 

Stuffy had various trials with his melons ; for, being 
impatient to taste them, he had a solitary revel before 
they were ripe, and made himself so ill, that for a day 
or two it seemed doubtful if he would ever eat any 
more. But he pulled through it, and served up his 
first cantelope without tasting a mouthful himself. 
They were excellent melons, for he had a warm slope 
for them, and they ripened fast. The last and best 
were lingering on the vines, and Stuffy had announced 
that he should sell them to a neighbor. This disap- 
pointed the boys, who had hoped to eat the melons 
themselves, and they expressed their displeasure in a 
new and striking manner. Going one morning to 
gaze upon the three fine watermelons which he had 
kept for the market, Stuffy was horrified to find the 
word " PIG " cut in white letters on the green rind, 



Crops 3 1 3 

staring at him from every one. He was in a great 
rage, and flew to Mrs. Jo for redress. She listened, 
condoled with him, and then said, 

41 If you want to turn the laugh, I '11 tell you how, 
but you must give up the melons." 

" Well, I will; for I can't thrash all the boys, but 
I 'd like to give them something to remember, the 
mean sneaks," growled Stuffy, still in a fume. 

Now Mrs. Jo was pretty sure who had done the 
trick, for she had seen three heads suspiciously near 
to one another in the sofa-corner the evening before ; 
and when these heads had nodded with chuckles and 
whispers, this experienced woman knew that mischief 
was afoot. A moonlight night, a rustling in the old 
cherry-tree near Emil's window, a cut on Tommy's 
finger, all helped to confirm her suspicions ; and hav- 
ing cooled Stuffy's wrath a little, she bade him bring 
his maltreated melons to her room, and say not a 
word to any one of what had happened. He did so, 
and the three wags were amazed to find their joke so 
quietly taken. It spoilt the fun, and the entire disap- 
pearance of the melons made them uneasy. So did 
Stuffy's good-nature, for he looked more placid and 
plump than ever, and surveyed them with an air of 
calm pity that perplexed them much. 

At dinner-time they discovered why; for then 
Stuffy's vengeance fell upon them, and the laugh was 
turned against them. When the pudding was eaten, 
and the fruit was put on, Mary Ann re-appeared in a 
high state of giggle, bearing a large watermelon ; 
Silas followed with another ; and Dan brought up the 
rear with a third. One was placed before each of the 
three guilty lads ; and they read on the smooth green 



314 Little Men 

skin this addition to their own work, "With the com- 
pliments of the PIG." Every one else read it also, 
and the whole table was in a roar, for the trick had 
been whispered about ; so every one understood the 
sequel. Emil, Ned, and Tommy did not know where 
to look, and iiad not a word to say for themselves ; 
so they wisely joined in the laugh, cut up the melons, 
and handed them round, saying, what all the rest 
agreed to, that Stuffy had taken a wise and merry 
way to return good for evil. 

Dan had no garden, for he was away or lame the 
greater part of the summer ; so he had helped Silas 
wherever he could, chopped wood for Asia, and taken 
care of the lawn so well, that Mrs. Jo always had 
smooth paths and nicely shaven turf before her door. 

When the others got in their crops, he looked 
sorry that he had so little to show; but as autumn 
went on, he bethought him of a woodland harvest 
which no one would dispute with him, and which was 
peculiarly his own. Every Saturday he was away 
alone to forests, fields, and hills, and always came 
back loaded with spoils ; for he seemed to know the 
meadows where the best flag-root grew, the thicket 
where the sassafras was spiciest, the haunts where the 
squirrels went for nuts, the white oak whose bark was 
most valuable, and the little gold-thread vine that 
Nursey liked to cure the canker with. All sorts of 
splendid red and yellow leaves did Dan bring home 
for Mrs. Jo to dress her parlor with, graceful-seeded 
grasses, clematis tassels, downy, soft, yellow wax- 
work berries, and mosses, red-brimmed, white, or 
emerald green. 

" I need not sigh for the woods now, because Dan 



Crops 



brings the woods to me," Mrs. Jo used to say, as she 
glorified the walls with yellow maple boughs and 
scarlet woodbine wreaths, or filled her vases with rus- 
set ferns, hemlock sprays full of delicate cones, and 
hardy autumn flowers ; for Dan's crop suited her 
well. 

The great garret was full of the children's little 
stores, and for a time was one of the sights of the 
house. Daisy's flower seeds in neat little paper bags, 
all labelled, lay in the drawer of a three-legged table. 
Nan's herbs hung in bunches against the wall, filling 
the air with their aromatic breath. Tommy had a 
basket of thistledown with the tiny seeds attached, 
for he meant to plant them next year, if they did not 
all fly away before that time. Emil had bunches of 
pop-corn hanging there to dry, and Demi laid up 
acorns and different sorts of grain for the pets. But 
Dan's crop made the best show, for fully one half of 
the floor was covered with the nuts he brought. All 
kinds were there, for he ranged the woods for miles 
round, climbed the tallest trees, and forced his way 
into the thickest hedges for his plunder. Walnuts, 
chestnuts, hazelnuts, and beechnuts lay in separate 
compartments, getting brown, and dry, and sweet, 
ready for winter revels. 

There was one butternut-tree on the place, and Rob 
and Teddy called it theirs. It bore well this year, 
and the great dingy nuts came dropping down to hide 
among the dead leaves, where the busy squirrels found 
them better than the lazy Bhaers. Their father had 
told them (the boys, not the squirrels) they should 
have the nuts if they would pick them up, but no one 
was to help. It was easy work, and Teddy liked it, 



3 i6 



Little Men 



only he soon got tired, and left his little basket half 
full for another day. But the other day was slow to 
arrive, and, meantime, the sly squirrels were hard at 
work scampering up and down the old elm-trees stow- 
ing the nuts away till their holes were full, then all 
about in the crotches of the boughs, to be removed 
at their leisure. Their funny little ways amused the 
boys, till one day Silas said, 

" Hev you sold them nuts to the squirrels?" 

" No," answered Rob, wondering what Silas meant. 

" Wai, then, you 'd better fly round, or them spry 
little fellers won't leave you none." 

" Oh, we can beat them when we begin. There 
are such lots of nuts we shall have a plenty." 

" There ain't many more to come down, and they 
have cleared the ground pretty well, see if they 
hain't." 

Robby ran to look, and was alarmed to find how 
few remained. He called Teddy, and they worked 
hard all one afternoon, while the squirrels sat on the 
fence and scolded. 

" Now, Ted, we must keep watch, and pick up just 
as fast as they fall, or we shan't have more than 
a bushel, and every one will laugh at us if we 
don't." 

" The naughty quillies tarn't have 'em. I '11 pick 
fast and run and put 'em in the barn twick," said 
Teddy, frowning at little Frisky, who chattered and 
whisked his tail indignantly. 

That night a high wind blew down hundreds of 
nuts, and when Mrs. Jo came to wake her little sons, 
she said, briskly, 

" Come, my laddies, the squirrels are hard at it, and 



Crops 



you will have to work well to-day, or they will have 
every nut on the ground." 

" No, they won't," and Robby tumbled up in a great 
hurry, gobbled his breakfast, and rushed out to save 
his property. 

Teddy went too, and worked like a little beaver, 
trotting to and fro with full and empty baskets. 
Another bushel was soon put away in the corn-barn, 
and they were scrambling among the leaves for more 
nuts when the bell rang for school. 

" O father ! let me stay out and pick. Those hor- 
rid squirrels will have my nuts if you don't. I '11 do 
my lessons by and by," cried Rob, running into the 
school-room, flushed and tousled by the fresh cold 
wind and his eager work. 

" If you had been up early and done a little every 
morning there would be no hurry now. I told you 
that, Rob, and you never minded. I cannot have the 
lessons neglected as the work has been. The squirrels 
will get more than their share this year, and they 
deserve it, for they have worked best. You may go 
an hour earlier, but that is all," and Mr. Bhaer led Rob 
to his place, where the little man dashed at his books 
as if bent on making sure of the precious hour 
promised him. 

It was almost maddening to sit still and see the 
wind shaking down the last nuts, and the lively thieves 
flying about, pausing now and then to eat one in his 
face, and flirt their tails, as if they said, saucily, " We '11 
have them in spite of you, lazy Rob." The only thing 
that sustained the poor child in this trying moment 
was the sight of Teddy working away all alone. It 
was really splendid the pluck and perseverance of the 



Little Men 

little lad. He picked and picked till his back ached; 
he trudged to and fro till his small legs were tired ; 
and he defied wind, weariness, and wicked " quillies," 
till his mother left her work and did the carrying for 
him, full of admiration for the kind little fellow who 
tried to help his brother. When Rob was dismissed 
he found Teddy reposing in the bushel-basket quite 
used up, but unwilling to quit the field ; for he flapped 
his hat at the thieves with one grubby little hand, 
while he refreshed himself with the big apple held in 
the other. 

Rob fell to work and the ground was cleared before 
two o'clock, the nuts safely in the corn-barn loft, and 
the weary workers exulted in their success. But 
Frisky and his wife were not to be vanquished so 
easily ; and when Rob went up to look at his nuts a 
few days later he was amazed to see how many had 
vanished. None of the boys could have stolen them, 
because the door had been locked ; the doves could 
not have eaten them, and there were no rats about. 
There was great lamentation among the young Bhaers 
till Dick said 

" I saw Frisky on the roof of the corn-barn, may be 
he took them." 

" I know he did ! I '11 have a trap, and kill him 
dead," cried Rob, disgusted with Frisky's grasping 
nature. 

" Perhaps, if you watch, you can find out where he 
puts them, and I may be able to get them back for 
you," said Dan, who was much amused by the fight 
between the boys and squirrels. 

So Rob watched and saw Mr. and Mrs. Frisky drop 
from the drooping elm boughs on to the roof of the 



Crops 



corn-barn, dodge in at one of the little doors, much 
to the disturbance of the doves, and come out with 
a nut in each mouth. So laden they could not get 
back the way they came, but ran down the low roof, 
along the wall, and leaping off at a corner they van- 
ished a minute and re-appeared without their plunder. 
Rob ran to the place, and in a hollow under the 
leaves found a heap of the stolen property hidden 
away to be carried off to the holes by and by. 

" Oh, you little villains ! I '11 cheat you now, and not 
leave one," said Rob. So he cleared the corner and 
the corn-barn, and put the contested nuts in the gar- 
ret, making sure that no broken window-pane could 
anywhere let in the unprincipled squirrels. They 
seemed to feel that the contest was over, and retired 
to their hole, but now and then could not resist throw- 
ing down nut-shells on Rob's head, and scolding vio- 
lently as if they could not forgive him nor forget that 
he had the best of the battle. 

Father and Mother Bhaer's crop was of a different 
sort, and not so easily described ; but they were satis- 
fied with it, felt that their summer work had prospered 
well, and by and by had a harvest that made them 
very happy. 



CHAPTER XIX 

JOHN BROOKE 



w 



AKE up, Demi, dear ! I want you." 

Why, I Ve just gone to bed ; it can't 
be morning yet; " and Demi blinked like 
a little owl as he waked from his first sound sleep. 

" It 's only ten, but your father is ill, and we must 
go to him. O my little John ! my poor little John ! " 
and Aunt Jo laid her head down on the pillow with a 
sob that scared sleep from Demi's eyes and filled his 
heart with fear and wonder; for he dimly felt why 
Aunt Jo called him " John," and wept over him as if 
some loss had come that left him poor. He clung to 
her without a word, and in a minute she was quite 
steady again, and said, with a tender kiss as she saw 
his troubled face, 

" We are going to say good-by to him, my darling, 
and there is no time to lose ; so dress quickly and 
come to me in my room. I must go to Daisy." 

" Yes, I will; " and when Aunt Jo was gone, little 
Demi got up quietly, dressed as if in a dream, and 
leaving Tommy fast asleep went away through the 
silent house, feeling that something new and sorrow- 
ful was going to happen something that set him 
apart from the other boys for a time, and made the 
world seem as dark and still and strange as those 
familiar rooms did in the night. A carriage sent by 



John Brooke 321 

Mr. Laurie stood before the door. Daisy was soon 
ready, and the brother and sister held each other by 
the hand all the way into town, as they drove swiftly 
and silently with aunt and uncle through the shadowy 
roads to say good-by to father. 

None of the boys but Franz and Emil knew what 
had happened, and when they came down next 
morning, great was their wonderment and discomfort, 
for the house seemed forlorn without its master and 
mistress. Breakfast was a dismal meal with no 
cheery Mrs. Jo behind the teapots ; and when school- 
time came, Father Bhaer's place was empty. They 
wandered about in a disconsolate kind of way for an 
hour, waiting for news and hoping it would be all 
right with Demi's father, for good John Brooke was 
much beloved by the boys. Ten o'clock came, and 
no one arrived to relieve their anxiety. They did 
not feel like playing, yet the time dragged heavily, 
and they sat about listless and sober. All at once, 
Franz got up, and said, in his persuasive way, 

"Look here, boys ! let's go into school and do our 
lessons just as if Uncle was here.. It will make the 
day go faster, and will please him, I know." 

" But who will hear us say them? " asked Jack. 

" I will ; I don't know much more than you do, but 
I 'm the oldest here, and I '11 try to fill Uncle's place 
till he comes, if you don't mind." 

Something in the modest, serious way Franz said 
this impressed the boys, for, though the poor lad's 
eyes were red with quiet crying for Uncle John in 
that long sad night, there was a new manliness about 
him, as if he had already begun to feel the cares and 
troubles of life, and tried to take them bravely, 



322 Little Men 

" I will, for one," and Emil went to his seat, re- 
membering that obedience to his superior officer is a 
seaman's first duty. 

The others followed ; Franz took his uncle's seat, 
and for an hour order reigned. Lessons were learned 
and said, and Franz made a patient, pleasant teacher, 
wisely omitting such lessons as he was not equal to, 
and keeping order more by the unconscious dignity 
that sorrow gave him than by any words of his own. 
The little boys were reading when a step was heard 
in the hall, and every one looked up to read the news 
in Mr. Bhaer's face as he came in. The kind face 
told them instantly that Demi had no father now, for 
it was worn and pale, and full of tender grief, which 
left him no words with which to answer Rob, as he 
ran to him saying, reproachfully, 

" What made you go and leave me in the night, 
papa? ' 

The memory of the other father who had left his 
children in the night, never to return, made Mr. 
Bhaer hold his own boy close, and, for a minute, hide 
his face in Robby's curly hair. Emil laid his head 
down on his arms, Franz went to put his hand on his 
uncle's shoulder, his boyish face pale with sympathy 
and sorrow, and the others sat so still that the soft 
rustle of the falling leaves outside was distinctly 
heard. 

Rob did not clearly understand what had happened, 
but he hated to see papa unhappy, so he lifted up the 
bent head, and said, in his chirpy little voice, 

"Don't cry, mein Vater ! we are all so good, we 
did our lessons without you, and Franz was the 
master." 



John Brooke 323 

Mr. Bhacr looked up then, tried to smile, and said 
in a grateful tone that made the lads feel like saints, 
" I thank you very much, my boys. It was a beauti- 
ful way to help and comfort me. I shall not forget 
it, I assure you." 

"Franz proposed it, and was a first-rate master, 
too," said Nat; and the others gave a murmur of 
assent most gratifying to the young dominie. 

Mr. Bhaer put Rob down, and, standing up, put 
his arm round his tall nephew's shoulder, as he said, 
with a look of genuine pleasure, 

" This makes my hard day easier, and gives me 
confidence in you all. I am needed there in town, 
and must leave you for some hours. I thought to 
give you a holiday, or send some of you home, but if 
you like to stay and go on as you have begun, I shall 
be glad and proud of my good boys." 

"We'll stay;" "We'd rather;" "Franz can see 
to us ; ' cried several, delighted with the confidence 
shown in them. 

"Isn't Marmar coming home?" asked Rob, wist- 
fully; for home without " Marmar' was the world 
without the sun to him. 

"We shall both come to-night; but dear Aunt 
Meg needs Mother more than you do now, and I 
know you like to lend her for a little while." 

" Well, I will ; but Teddy 's been crying for her, and 
he slapped Nursey, and was dreadful naughty," 
answered Rob, as if the news might bring mother 
home. 

"Where is my little man? ' asked Mr. Bhaer. 

" Dan took him out, to keep him quiet. He 's all 
right now," said Franz, pointing to the window, 



324 Little Men 

through which they could see Dan drawing baby in 
his little wagon, with the dogs frolicking about him. 

" I won't see him, it would only upset him again ; 
but tell Dan I leave Teddy in his care. You older 
boys I trust to manage yourselves for a day. Franz 
will direct you, and Silas is here to oversee matters. 
So good-by till to-night." 

"Just tell me a word about Uncle John," said Emil, 
detaining Mr. Bhaer, as he was about hurrying away 
again. 

" He was only ill a few hours, and died as he has 
lived, so cheerfully, so peacefully, that it seems a sin 
to mar the beauty of it with any violent or selfish 
grief. We were in time to say good-by: and Daisy 
and Demi were in his arms as he fell asleep on Aunt 
Meg's breast. No more now, I cannot bear it," and 
Mr. Bhaer went hastily away quite bowed with grief, 
for in John Brooke he had lost both friend and brother, 
and there was no one left to take his place. 

All that day the house was very still ; the small 
boys played quietly in the nursery ; the others, feel- 
ing as if Sunday had come in the middle of the week, 
spent it in walking, sitting in the willow, or among 
their pets, all talking much of " Uncle John," and 
feeling that something gentle, just, and strong, had 
gone out of their little world, leaving a sense of loss 
that deepened every hour. At dusk, Mr. and Mrs. 
Bhaer came home alone, for Demi and Daisy were 
their mother's best comfort now, and could not leave 
her. Poor Mrs. Jo seemed quite spent, and evidently 
needed the same sort of comfort, for her first words, 
as she came up the stairs, were, " Where is my 
baby?" 



John Brooke 325 

" Here I is," answered a little voice, as Dan put 
Teddy into her arms, adding, as she hugged him close, 
" My Danny tooked tare of me all day, and I was 
dood." 

Mrs. Jo turned to thank the faithful nurse, but Dan 
was waving off the boys, who had gathered in the hall 
to meet her, and was saying, in a low voice, " Keep 
back ; she don't want to be bothered with us now." 

" No, don't keep back. I want you all. Come in 
and see me, my boys. I Ve neglected you all day," 
and Mrs. Jo held out her hands to them as they 
gathered round and escorted her into her own room, 
saying little, but expressing much by affectionate 
looks and clumsy little efforts to show their sorrow 
and sympathy. 

" I am so tired, I will lie here and cuddle Teddy, 
and you shall bring me in some tea," she said, trying 
to speak cheerfully for their sakes. 

A general stampede into the dining-room followed, 
and the supper-table would have been ravaged if Mr. 
Bhaer had not interfered. It was agreed that one 
squad should carry in the mother's tea, and another 
bring it out. The four nearest and dearest claimed 
the first honor, so Franz bore the teapot, Emil the 
bread, Rob the milk, and Teddy insisted on carrying 
the sugar-basin, which was lighter by several lumps 
when it arrived than when it started. Some women 
might have found it annoying at such a time to have 
boys creaking in and out, upsetting cups and rattling 
spoons in violent efforts to be quiet and helpful ; but 
it suited Mrs. Jo, because just then her heart was very 
tender ; and remembering that many of her boys were 
fatherless or motherless, she yearned over them, and 



326 



Little Men 



. i 




found comfort in their blundering affection. It was 
the sort of food that did her more good than the very 
thick bread-and-butter that they gave her, and the 
rough Commodore's broken whisper 

"Bear up, Aunty, it's a hard blow; but we'll 
weather it somehow," cheered her more than the 
sloppy cup he brought her, full of tea as bitter as if 
some salt tear of his own had dropped into it on the 
way. When supper was over, a second deputation 
removed the tray ; and Dan said, holding out his arms 
for sleepy little Teddy, 

Let me put him to bed, you 're so tired, Mother." 
Will you go with him, lovey? ' asked Mrs. Jo of 
her small lord and master, who lay on her arm among 
the sofa-pillows. 

" Torse I will ; ' and he was proudly carried off by 
his faithful bearer. 

" I wish 7 could do something," said Nat, with a 
sigh, as Franz leaned over the sofa, and softly stroked 
Aunt Jo's hot forehead. 

" You can, dear. Go and get your violin, and play 
me the sweet little airs Uncle Teddy sent you last. 
Music will comfort me better than any thing else to- 
night." 

Nat flew for his fiddle, and, sitting just outside her 
door, played as he had never done before, for now his 
heart was in it, and seemed to magnetize his fingers. 
The other lads sat quietly upon the steps, keeping 
watch that no new-comer should disturb the house ; 
Franz lingered at his post; and so, soothed, served, 
and guarded by her boys, poor Mrs. Jo slept at last, 
and forgot her sorrow for an hour. 

Two quiet days, and on the third Mr. Bhaer came 



John Brooke 327 

in just after school, with a note in his hand, looking 
both moved and pleased. 

" I want to read you something, boys," he said ; 
and as they stood round him he read this : - 

" DEAR BROTHER FRITZ, I hear that you do not mean 
to bring your flock to-day, thinking that I may not like it. 
Please do. The sight of his friends will help Demi through 
the hard hour, and I want the boys to hear what father says 
of my John. It will do them good, I know. If they would 
sing one of the sweet old hymns you have taught them so 
well, I should like it better than any other music, and feel 
that it was beautifully suited to the occasion. Please ask 
them, with my love. MEG." 

> 

" Will you go?" and Mr. Bhaer looked at the lads, 
who were greatly touched by Mrs. Brooke's kind 
words and wishes. 

" Yes," they answered, like one boy; and an hour 
later they went away with Franz to bear their part in 
John Brooke's simple funeral. 

The little house looked as quiet, sunny, and home- 
like as when Meg entered it a bride, ten years ago, 
only then it was early summer, and roses blossomed 
everywhere ; now it was early autumn, and dead 
leaves rustled softly down, leaving the branches 
bare. The bride was a widow now; but the same 
beautiful serenity shone in her face, and the sweet 
resignation of a truly pious soul made her presence 
a consolation to those who came to comfort her. 

" O Meg ! how can you bear it so?' whispered Jo, 
as she met them at the door with a smile of welcome, 
and no change in her gentle manner, except more 
gentleness. 



328 



Little Men 



" Dear Jo, the love that has blest me for ten happy 
years supports me still. It could not die, and John is 
more my own than ever," whispered Meg ; and in her 
eyes the tender trust was so beautiful and bright, that 
Jo believed her, and thanked God for the immortality 
of love like hers. 

They were all there father and mother, Uncle 
Teddy, and Aunt Amy, old Mr Laurence, white- 
haired and feeble now, Mr. and Mrs. Bhaer, with their 
flock, and many friends, come to do honor to the 
dead. One would have said that modest John Brooke, 
in his busy, quiet, humble life, had had little time to 
make friends ; but now they seemed to start up every- 
where, old and young, rich and poor, high and low; 
for all unconsciously his influence had made itself 
widely felt, his virtues were remembered, and his hid- 
den charities rose up to bless him. The group about 
his coffin was a far more eloquent eulogy than any 
Mr. March could utter. There were the rich men 
whom he had served faithfully for years ; the poor 
old women whom he cherished with his little store, 
in memory of his mother; the wife to whom he 
had given such happiness that death could not mar it 
utterly ; the brothers and sisters in whose hearts he 
had made a place for ever ; the little son and daughter, 
who already felt the loss of his strong arm and tender 
voice ; the young children, sobbing for their kindest 
playmate, and the tall lads, watching with softened 
faces a scene which they never could forget. A very 
simple service, and very short ; for the fatherly voice 
that had faltered in the marriage-sacrament now failed 
entirely as Mr. March endeavored to pay his tribute 
of reverence and love to the son whom he most 



John Brooke 329 

honored. Nothing but the soft coo of Baby Josy's 
voice up-stairs broke the long hush that followed the 
last Amen, till, at a sign from Mr. Bhaer, the well- 
trained boyish voices broke out in a hymn, so full of 
lofty cheer, that one by one all joined in it, singing 
with full hearts, and finding their troubled spirits 
lifted into peace on the wings of that brave, sweet 
psalm. 

As Meg listened, she felt that she had done well ; 
for not only did the moment comfort her with the 
assurance that John's last lullaby was sung by the 
young voices he loved so well, but in the faces of the 
boys she saw that they had caught a glimpse of the 
beauty of virtue in its most impressive form, and that 
the memory of the good man lying dead before them 
would live long and helpfully in their remembrance. 
Daisy's head lay in her lap, and Demi held her hand, 
looking often at her, with eyes so like his father's, and 
a little gesture that seemed to say, " Don't be troubled, 
mother; I am here; ' and all about her were friends 
to lean upon and love ; so patient, pious Meg put by 
her heavy grief, feeling that her best help would be 
to live for others, as her John had done. 

That evening, as the Plumfield boys sat on the 
steps, as usual, in the mild September moonlight, they 
naturally fell to talking of the event of the day. 

Emil began by breaking out, in his impetuous way, 
" Uncle Fritz is the wisest, and Uncle Laurie the 
jolliest, but Uncle John was the best; and I 'd rather 
be like him than any man I ever saw." 

" So would I. Did you hear what those gentlemen 
said to Grandpa to-day? I would like to have that 
said of me when I was dead ; ' and Franz felt with 



330 Little Men 

regret that he had not appreciated Uncle John 
enough. 

"What did they say?" asked Jack, who had been 
much impressed by the scenes of the day. 

" Why, one of the partners of Mr. Laurence, where 
Uncle John has been ever so long, was saying that he 
was conscientious almost to a fault as a business man, 
and above reproach in all things. Another gentle- 
man said no money could repay the fidelity and 
honesty with which Uncle John had served him, and 
then Grandpa told them the best of all. Uncle John 
once had a place in the office of a man who cheated, 
and when this man wanted uncle to help him do it, 
uncle would n't, though he was offered a big salary. 
The man was angry and said, ' You will never get on 
in business with such strict principles;' and uncle 
answered back, ' I never will try to get on without 
them,' and left the place for a much harder and 
poorer one." 

" Good ! ' cried several of the boys warmly, for 
they were in the mood to understand and value the 
little story as never before. 

" He was n't rich, was he? " asked Jack. 

" No." 

" He never did any thing to make a stir in the 
world, did he?" 

" No." 

" He was only good? " 

"That's all; ' and Franz found himself wishing 
that Uncle John had done something to boast of, for 
it was evident that Jack was disappointed by his 
replies. 

" Only good. That is all and every thing," said 



John Brooke 331 

Mr. Bhaer, who had overheard the last few words, 
and guessed what was going on in the minds of the 
lads. 

" Let me tell you a little about John Brooke, and you 
will see why men honor him, and why he was satis- 
fied to be good rather than rich or famous. He sim- 
ply did his duty in all things, and did it so cheerfully, 
so faithfully, that it kept him patient, brave, and happy 
through poverty and loneliness and years of hard 
work. He was a good son, and gave up his own 
plans to stay and live with his mother while she 
needed him. He was a good friend, and taught 
Laurie much beside his Greek and Latin, did it un- 
consciously, perhaps, by showing him an example 
of an upright man. He was a faithful servant, and 
made himself so valuable to those who employed him 
that they will find it hard to fill his place. He was a 
good husband and father, so tender, wise, and thought- 
ful, that Laurie and I learned much of him, and only 
knew how well he loved his family, when we dis- 
covered all he had done for them, unsuspected and 
unassisted." 

Mr. Bhaer stopped a minute, and the boys sat like 
statues in the moonlight until he went on again, in a 
subdued, but earnest voice : " As he lay dying, I said 
to him, ' Have no care for Meg and the little ones ; I 
will see that they never want.' Then he smiled and 
pressed my hand, and answered, in his cheerful way, 
4 No need of that; I have cared for them.' And so 
he had, for when we looked among his papers, all was 
in order, not a debt remained ; and safely put away 
was enough to keep Meg comfortable and indepen- 
dent. Then we knew why he had lived so plainly, 



332 Little Men 

denied himself so many pleasures, except that of 
charity, and worked so hard that I fear he shortened 
his good life. He never asked help for himself, 
though often for others, but bore his own burden and 
worked out his own task bravely and quietly. No 
one can say a word of complaint against him, so just 
and generous and kind was he ; and now, when he is 
gone, all find so much to love and praise and honor, 
that I am proud to have been his friend, and would 
rather leave my children the legacy he leaves his than 
the largest fortune ever made. Yes ! Simple, genuine 
goodness is the best capital to found the business 
of this life upon. It lasts when fame and money 
fail, and is the only riches we can take out of this 
world with us. Remember that, my boys; and if 
you want to earn respect and confidence and love fol- 
low in the footsteps of John Brooke." 

When Demi returned to school, after some weeks 
at home, he seemed to have recovered from his loss 
with the blessed elasticity of childhood, and so he 
had in a measure ; but he did not forget, for his was 
a nature into which things sank deeply, to be pon- 
dered over, and absorbed into the soil where the 
small virtues were growing fast. He played and 
studied, worked and sang, just as before, and few 
suspected any change ; but there was one and 
Aunt Jo saw it for she watched over the boy with 
her whole heart, trying to fill John's place in her 
poor way. He seldom spoke of his loss, but Aunt 
Jo often heard a stifled sobbing in the little bed at 
night ; and when she went to comfort him, all his 
cry was, " I want my father ! oh, I want my father ! ' 
for the tie between the two had been a very tender 



John Brooke 333 

one, and the child's heart bled when it was broken. 
But time was kind to him, and slowly he came to 
feel that father was not lost, only invisible for a while, 
and sure to be found again, well and strong and fond 
as ever, even though his little son should see the 
purple asters blossom on his grave many, many 
times before they met. To this belief Demi held 
fast, and in it found both help and comfort, because 
it led him unconsciously through a tender longing 
for the father whom he had seen to a childlike trust 
in the Father whom he had not seen. Both were in 
heaven, and he prayed to both, trying to be good for 
love of them. 

The outward change corresponded to the inward, 
for in those few weeks Demi seemed to have grown 
tall, and began to drop his childish plays, not as if 
ashamed of them, as some boys do, but as if he had 
outgrown them, and wanted something manlier. He 
took to the hated arithmetic, and held on so steadily 
that his uncle was charmed, though he could not 
understand the whim, until Demi said 

" I am going to be a bookkeeper when I grow up, 
like papa, and I must know about figures and things, 
else I can't have nice, neat ledgers like his." 

At another time he came to his aunt with a very 
serious face, and said - 

" What can a small boy do to earn money? " 

" Why do you ask, my deary?" 

" My father told me to take care of mother and 
the little girls, and I want to, but I don't know how to 
begin." 

" He did not mean now, Demi, but by and by, 
when you are large." 



334 Little Men 

" But I wish to begin now, if I can, because I think 
I ought to make some money to buy things for the 
family. I am ten, and other boys no bigger than I 
earn pennies sometimes." 

" Well, then, suppose you rake up all the dead 
leaves and cover the strawberry bed. I '11 pay you a 
dollar for the job," said Aunt Jo. 

" Is n't that a great deal? I could do it in one 
day. You must be fair, and not pay too much, 
because I want to truly earn it." 

" My little John, I will be fair, and not pay a 
penny too much. Don't work too hard ; and when 
that is done I will have something else for you to 
do," said Mrs. Jo, much touched by his desire to 
help, and his sense of justice, so like his scrupulous 
father. 

When the leaves were done, many barrowloads of 
chips were wheeled from the wood to the shed, and 
another dollar earned. Then Demi helped cover the 
school-books, working in the evenings, under Franz's 
direction, tugging patiently away at each book, letting 
no one help, and receiving his wages with such satis- 
faction that the dingy bills became quite glorified in 
his sight. 

" Now, I have a dollar for each of them, and I 
should like to take my money to mother all myself, 
so she can see that I have minded my father." 

So Demi made a duteous pilgrimage to his mother, 
who received his little earnings as a treasure of great 
worth, and would have kept it untouched, if Demi 
had not begged her to buy some useful thing for 
herself and the women-children, whom he felt were 
left to his care. 



John Brooke 335 

This made him very happy, and, though he often 
forgot his responsibilities for a time, the desire to 
help was still there, strengthening with his years. 
He always uttered the words " my father " with an 
air of gentle pride, and often said, as if he claimed a 
title full of honor, " Don't call me Demi any more. 
I am John Brooke now." So, strengthened by a 
purpose and a hope, the little lad of ten bravely 
began the world, and entered into his inheritance, 
the memory of a wise and tender father, the legacy 
of an honest name. 



CHAPTER XX 

ROUND THE FIRE 

WITH the October frosts came the cheery 
fires in the great fireplaces; and Demi's 
dry pine-chips helped Dan's oak-knots 
to blaze royally, and go roaring up the chimney with 
a jolly sound. All were glad to gather round the 
hearth, as the evenings grew longer, to play games, 
read, or lay plans for the winter. But the favorite 
amusement was story-telling, and Mr. and Mrs. Bhaer 
were expected to have a store of lively tales always 
on hand. Their supply occasionally gave out, ami 
then the boys were thrown upon their own resources, 
which were not always successful. Ghost-parties 
were the rage at one time ; for the fun of the thing 
consisted in putting out the lights, letting the fire 
die down, and then sitting in the dark, and telling the 
most awful tales they could invent. As this resulted 
in scares of all sorts among the boys, Tommy's walk- 
ing in his sleep on the shed roof, and a general state 
of nervousness in the little ones, it was forbidden, 
and they fell back on more harmless amusements. 

One evening, when the small boys were snugly 
tucked in bed, and the older lads were lounging 
about the school-room fire, trying to decide what 
they should do, Demi suggested a new way of settling 
the question. 



Round the Fire 337 

Seizing the hearth-brush, he marched up and 
down the room, saying, " Row, row, row;" and when 
the boys, laughing and pushing, had got into line, he 
said, " Now, I '11 give you two minutes to think of a 
play." Franz was writing, and Emil reading the Life 
of Lord Nelson, and neither joined the party, but the 
others thought hard, and when the time was up were 
ready to reply. 

" Now, Tom ! ' and the poker softly rapped him 
on the head. 

" Blind-man's Buff." 

" Jack ! " 

" Commerce; a good round game, and have cents 
for the pool." 

" Uncle forbids our playing for money. Dan, what 
do you want? ' 

"Let's have a battle between the Greeks and 
Romans." 

"Stuffy?" 

" Roast apples, pop corn, and crack nuts." 

" Good ! good ! ' cried several ; and when the 
vote was taken, Stuffy's proposal carried the 
day. 

Some went to the cellar for apples, some to the 
garret for nuts, and others looked up the popper and 
the corn. 

" We had better ask the girls to come in, had n't 
we?' said Demi, in a sudden fit of politeness. 

" Daisy pricks chestnuts beautifully," put in Nat, 
who wanted his little friend to share the fun. 

" Nan pops corn tip-top, we must have her," added 
Tommy. 

" Bring in your sweethearts then, we don't mind," 

22 



Little Men 

said Jack, who laughed at the innocent regard the 
little people had for one another. 

" You shan't call my sister a sweetheart ; it is 
so silly ! ' cried Demi, in a way that made Jack 
laugh. 

" She is Nat's darling, is n't she old chirper? ' 

" Yes, if Demi don't mind. I can't help being fond 
of her, she is so good to me," answered Nat, with 
bashful earnestness, for Jack's rough ways disturbed 
him. 

" Nan is my sweetheart, and I shall marry her in 
about a year, so don't you get in the way, any of 
you," said Tommy, stoutly ; for he and Nan had 
settled their future, child-fashion, and were to live in 
the willow, lower down a basket for food, and do 
other charmingly impossible things. 

Demi was quenched by the decision of Bangs, who 
took him by the arm and walked him off to get the 
ladies. Nan and Daisy were sewing with Aunt Jo on 
certain small garments for Mrs. Carney's newest 
baby. 

" Please, ma'am, could you lend us the girls for a 
little while? we'll be very careful of them," said 
Tommy, winking one eye to express apples, snapping 
his fingers to signify pop-corn, and gnashing his 
teeth to convey the idea of nut-cracking. 

The girls understood this pantomime at once, and 
began to pull off their thimbles before Mrs. Jo could 
decide whether Tommy was going into convulsions 
or was brewing some unusual piece of mischief. 
Demi explained with elaboration, permission was 
readily granted, and the boys departed with their 
prize. 



Round the Fire 339 

" Don't you speak to Jack," whispered Tommy, as 
he and Nan promenaded down the hall to get a fork 
to prick the apples. 

" Why not?" 

" He laughs at me, so I don't wish you to have 
any thing to do with him." 

" Shall, if I like," said Nan, promptly resenting this 
premature assumption of authority on the part of her 
lord. 

" Then I won't have you for my sweetheart." 

" I don't care." 

" Why, Nan, I thought you were fond of me ! " and 
Tommy's voice was full of tender reproach. 

" If you mind Jack's laughing I don't care for you 
one bit." 

" Then you may take back your old ring ; I won't 
wear it any longer;' and Tommy plucked off a 
horsehair pledge of affection which Nan had given 
him in return for one made of a lobster's feeler. 

" I shall give it to Ned," was her cruel reply ; for 
Ned liked Mrs. Giddy-gaddy, and had turned her 
clothes-pins, boxes, and spools enough to set up 
housekeeping with. 

Tommy said, " Thunder-turtles ! ' as the only vent 
equal to the pent-up anguish of the moment, and, 
dropping Nan's arm, retired in high dudgeon, leaving 
her to follow with the fork, - - a neglect which 
naughty Nan punished by proceeding to prick his 
heart with jealousy as if it were another sort of 
apple. 

The hearth was swept, and the rosy Baldwins put 
down to roast. A shovel was heated, and the chest- 
nuts danced merrily upon it, while the corn popped 



340 Little Men 

wildly in its wire prison. Dan cracked his best wal- 
nuts, and every one chattered and laughed, while the 
rain beat on the window-pane and the wind howled 
round the house. 

" Why is Billy like this nut?" asked Emil, who was 
frequently inspired with bad conundrums. 

" Because he is cracked," answered Ned. 

" That's not fair; you must n't make fun of Billy, 
because he can't hit back again. It 's mean," cried 
Dan, smashing a nut wrathfully. 

"To what family of insects does Blake belong?' 
asked peacemaker Franz, seeing that Emil looked 
ashamed and Dan lowering. 

" Gnats," answered Jack. 

" Why is Daisy like a bee ? ' cried Nat, who had 
been wrapt in thought for several minutes. 

" Because she is queen of the hive," said Dan. 

"No." 

"Because she is sweet." 

" Bees are not sweet/' 

" Give it up." 

" Because she makes sweet things, is always busy, 
and likes flowers," said Nat, piling up his boyish 
compliments till Daisy blushed like a rosy clover. 

" Why is Nan like a hornet? ' demanded Tommy, 
glowering at her, and adding, without giving any 
one time to answer, "Because she isrit sweet, 
makes a great buzzing about nothing, and stings 
like fury." 

"Tommy's mad, and I 'm glad," cried Ned, as Nan 
tossed her head and answered quickly 

"What thing in the china-closet is Tom like?' : 

" A pepper pot," answered Ned, giving Nan a nut 



Round the Fire 341 

meat with a tantalizing laugh that made Tommy feel 
as if he would like to bounce up like a hot chestnut 
and hit somebody. 

Seeing that ill-humor was getting the better of the 
small supply of wit in the company, Franz cast him- 
self into the breach again. 

" Let 's make a law that the first person who comes 
into the room shall tell us a story. No matter who it 
is, he must do it, and it will be fun to see who comes 
first" 

The others agreed, and did not have to wait long, 
for a heavy step soon came clumping through the 
hall, and Silas appeared, bearing an armful of wood. 
He was greeted by a general shout, and stood staring 
about him with a bewildered grin on his big red face, 
till Franz explained the joke. 

" Sho ! I can't tell a story," he said, putting down 
his load and preparing to leave the room. But the 
boys fell upon him, forced him into a seat, and held 
him there, laughing and clamoring for their story, till 
the good-natured giant was overpowered. 

" I don't know but jest one story, and that 's about 
a horse," he said, much flattered by the reception he 
received. 

" Tell it ! tell it ! " cried the boys. 

" Wai," began Silas, tipping his chair back against 
the wall, and putting his thumbs in the arm-holes of 
his waistcoat, " I jined a cavalry regiment durin' the 
war, and see a consid'able amount of fightin'. My 
horse, Major, was a fust-rate animal, and I was as 
fond on him as ef he 'd ben a human critter. He 
war n't harnsome, but he was the best-tempered, 
stiddyest, lovenest brute I ever see. The fust battle 



342 Little Men 

we went into, he gave me a lesson that I did n't forgit 
in a hurry, and I '11 tell you how it was. It ain't no 
use tryin' to picter the noise and hurry, and general 
horridness of a battle to you young fellers, for I ain't 
no words to do it in ; but I 'm free to confess that I 
got so sort of confused and upset at the fust on it, 
that I did n't know what I was about. We was 
ordered to charge, and went ahead like good ones, 
never stoppin' to pick up them that went down in the 
scrimmage. I got a shot in the arm, and was pitched 
out of the saddle don't know how, but there I was 
left behind with two or three others, dead and 
wounded, for the rest went on, as I say. Wai, I 
picked myself up and looked round for Major, feel- 
ing as ef I 'd had about enough for that spell. I 
did n't see him nowhere, and was kinder walking 
back to camp, when I heard a whinny that sounded 
nateral. I looked round, and there was Major stop- 
ping for me a long way off, and lookin' as ef he 
did n't understand why I was loiterin' behind. I 
whistled, and he trotted up to me as I 'd trained 
him to do. I mounted as well as I could with my 
left arm bleedin* and was for going on to camp, for I 
declare I felt as sick and wimbly as a woman ; folks 
often do in their fust battle. But, no, sir ! Major 
was the bravest of the two, and he would n't go, not 
a peg; he jest rared up, and danced, and snorted, 
and acted as ef the smell of powder and the noise 
had drove him half wild. I done my best, but he 
would n't give in, so I did ; and what do you think 
that plucky brute done? He wheeled slap round, 
and galloped back like a hurricane, right into the 
thickest of the scrimmage ! ' 



Round the Fire 343 

" Good for him ! " cried Dan excitedly, while the 
other boys forgot apples and nuts in their interest. 

" I wish I may die ef I war n't ashamed of myself," 
continued Silas, warming up at the recollection of 
that day. " I was as mad as a hornet, and I forgot 
my waound, and jest pitched in, rampagin' raound 
like fury till there come a shell into the midst of us, 
and in bustin' knocked a lot of us flat. I did n't 
know nothin' for a spell, and when I come-to, the 
fight was over jest there, and I found myself layin' by 
a wall with poor Major long-side wuss wounded than 
I was. My leg was broke, and I had a ball in my 
shoulder, but he, poor old feller ! was all tore in the 
side with a piece of that blasted shell." 

" O Silas! what did you do?" cried Nan, pressing 
close to him with a face full of eager sympathy and 
interest. 

" I dragged myself nigher, and tried to stop the 
bleedin' with sech rags as I could tear off of me with 
one hand. But it war n't no use, and he lay moanin' 
with horrid pain, and lookin' at me with them lovin' 
eyes of his, till I thought I could n't bear it. I give 
him all the help I could, and when the sun got hotter 
and hotter, and he began to lap out his tongue, I 
tried to get to a brook that was a good piece away, 
but I could n't do it, being stiff and faint, so I give it 
up and fanned him with my hat. Now you listen to 
this, and when you hear folks comin' down on the 
rebs, you jest remember what one on 'em did, and 
give him the credit of it. A poor feller in gray laid 
not fur off, shot through the lungs, and dying fast. 
I'd offered him my handkerchief to keep the sun off 
his face, and he 'd thanked me kindly, for in sech 



344 Little Men 

times as that men don't stop to think on which side 
they belong, but jest buckle-to and help one another. 
When he see me mournin' over Major and tryin' to 
ease his pain, he looked up with his face all damp 
and white with sufferin', and sez he, ' There 's water 
in my canteen ; take it, for it can't help me/ and he 
flung it to me. I could n't have took it ef I had n't 
had a little brandy in a pocket flask, and I made him 
drink it. It done him good, and I felt as much set 
up as if I 'd drunk it myself. It 's surprisin* the good 
sech little things do folks sometimes ; ' and Silas 
paused as if he felt again the comfort of that moment 
when he and his enemy forgot their feud, and helped 
one another like brothers. 

" Tell about Major," cried the boys, impatient for 
the catastrophe. 

" I poured the water over his poor pantin' tongue, 
and ef ever a dumb critter looked grateful, he did 
then. But it war n't of much use, for the dreadful 
waound kep on tormentin' him, till I could n't bear it 
any longer. It was hard, but I done it in mercy, and 
I know he forgive me." 

" What did you do?" asked Emil, as Silas stopped 
abruptly with a loud " hem," and a look in his rough 
face that made Daisy go and stand by him with her 
little hand on his knee. 

" I shot him." 

Quite a thrill went through the listeners as Silas 
said that, for Major seemed a hero in their eyes, and 
his tragic end roused all their sympathy. 

" Yes, I shot him, and put him out of his misery. 
I patted him fust, and said, ' Good-by ; ' then I laid 
his head easy on the grass, give a last look into his 



Round the Fire 345 

lovin' eyes, and sent a bullet through his head. He 
hardly stirred, I aimed so true, and when I see him 
quite still, with no more moanin' and pain, I was glad, 
and yet- - wal, I don't know as I need be ashamed 
on 't I jest put my arms raound his neck and boo- 
hooed like a great baby. Sho ! I did n't know I was 
such a fool ; ' and Silas drew his sleeve across his 
eyes, as much touched by Daisy's sob, as by the 
memory of faithful Major. 

No one spoke for a minute, because the boys 
were as quick to feel the pathos of the little story as 
tender-hearted Daisy, though they did not show it by 
crying. 

"I'd like a horse like that," said Dan, half- 
aloud. 

" Did the rebel man die too?" asked Nan, 
anxiously. 

" Not then. We laid there all day, and at night 
some of our fellers came to look after the missing 
ones. They nat' rally wanted to take me fust, but I 
knew I could wait, and the rebel had but one chance, 
maybe, so I made them carry him off right away. 
He had jest strength enough to hold out his hand to 
me and say, ' Thanky, comrade ! ' and them was the 
last words he spoke, for he died an hour after he got 
to the hospital-tent." 

" How glad you must have been that you were 
kind to him ! ' said Demi, who was deeply impressed 
by this story. 

" Wal, I did take comfort thinkin' of it, as I laid 
there alone for a number of hours with my head on 
Major's neck, and see the moon come up. I 'd like 
to have buried the poor beast decent, but it war n't 



346 



Little Men 



possible; so I cut off a bit of his mane, and I Ve kep 
it ever sence. Want to see it, sissy? ' 

" Oh, yes, please," answered Daisy, wiping away her 
tears to look. 

Silas took out an old "wallet" as he called his 
pocket-book, and produced from an inner fold a bit 
of brown paper, in which was a rough lock of white 
horse-hair. The children looked at it silently, as it 
lay in the broad palm, and no one found any thing to 
ridicule in the love Silas bore his good horse Major. 

" That is a sweet story, and I like it, though it did 
make me cry. Thank you very much, Si," and Daisy 
helped him fold and put away his little relic ; while 
Nan stuffed a handful of pop-corn into his pocket, 
and the boys loudly expressed their flattering opinions 
of his story, feeling that there had been two heroes 
in it. 

He departed, quite overcome by his honors, and 
the little conspirators talked the tale over, while they 
waited for their next victim. It was Mrs. Jo, who 
came in to measure Nan for some new pinafores she 
was making for her. They let her get well in, and 
then pounced upon her, telling her the law, and de- 
manding the story. Mrs. Jo was very much amused 
at the new trap, and consented at once, for the sound 
of the happy voices had been coming across the hall 
so pleasantly that she quite longed to join them, and 
forget her own anxious thoughts of Sister Meg. 

" Am I the first mouse you have caught, you sly 
pussies-in-boots? ' she asked, as she was conducted 
to the big chair, supplied with refreshments, and 
surrounded by a flock of merry-faced listeners. 

They told her about Silas and his contribution, 



Round the Fire 347 

and she slapped her forehead in despair, for she was 
quite at her wits' end, being called upon so unex- 
pectedly for a bran new tale. 

" What shall I tell about? " she said. 

" Boys," was the general answer. 

" Have a party in it," said Daisy. 

" And something good to eat," added Stuffy. 

" That reminds me of a story, written years ago, by 
a dear old lady. I used to be very fond of it, and I 
fancy you will like it, for it has both boys, and ' some- 
thing good to eat ' in it." 

" What is it called ? " asked Demi. 

" ' The Suspected Boy/ " 

Nat looked up from the nuts he was picking, and 
Mrs. Jo smiled at him, guessing what was in his 
mind. 

" Miss Crane kept a school for boys in a quiet 
little town, and a very good school it was, of the old- 
fashioned sort. Six boys lived in her house, and 
four or five more came in from the town. Among 
those who lived with her was one named Lewis White 
Lewis was not a bad boy, but rather timid, and now 
and then he told a lie. One day a neighbor sent Miss 
Crane a basket of gooseberries. There were not 
enough to go round, so kind Miss Crane, who liked 
to please her boys, went to work and made a dozen 
nice little gooseberry tarts. 

" I 'd like to try gooseberry tarts. I wonder if she 
made them as I do my raspberry ones," said Daisy, 
whose interest in cooking had lately revived. 

" Hush," said Nat, tucking a plump pop-corn into 
her mouth to silence her, for he felt a peculiar interest 
in this tale, and thought it opened well. 



348 



Little Men 



" When the tarts were done, Miss Crane put them 
away in the best parlor closet, and said not a word 
about them, for she wanted to surprise the boys at 
tea-time. When the minute came and all were seated 
at table, she went to get her tarts, but came back 
looking much troubled, for what do you think had 
happened? ' 

" Somebody had hooked them ! " cried Ned. 

" No, there they were, but some one had stolen all 
the fruit out of them by lifting up the upper crust 
and then putting it down after the gooseberry had 
been scraped out." 

" What a mean trick ! " and Nan looked at Tommy, 
as if to imply that he would do the same. 

" When she told the boys her plan and showed them 
the poor little patties all robbed of their sweetness, 
the boys were much grieved and disappointed, and all 
declared that they knew nothing about the matter. 
' Perhaps the rats did it/ said Lewis, who was among 
the loudest to deny any knowledge of the tarts. ' No, 
rats would have nibbled crust and all, and never 
lifted it up and scooped out the fruit. Hands did 
that,' said Miss Crane, who was more troubled about 
the lie that some one must have told than about her 
lost patties. Well, they had supper and went to bed, 
but in the night Miss Crane heard some one groaning, 
and going to see who it was she found Lewis in great 
pain. He had evidently eaten something that dis- 
agreed with him, and was so sick that Miss Crane 
was alarmed, and was going to send for the doctor, 
when Lewis moaned out, ' It 's the gooseberries ; I ate 
them, and I must tell before I die/ for the thought of 
a doctor frightened him. 'If that is all, I'll give you 



Round the Fire 349 

an emetic and you will soon get over it,' said Miss 
Crane. So Lewis had a good dose, and by morning 
was quite comfortable. ' Oh, don't tell the boys ; 
they will laugh at me so,' begged the invalid. Kind 
Miss Crane promised not to, but Sally, the girl, told 
the story, and poor Lewis had no peace for a long 
time. His mates called him Old Gooseberry, and 
were never tired of asking him the price of tarts." 
" Served him right," said Emil. 
" Badness always gets found out," added Demi, 
morally. 

" No, it don't," muttered Jack, who was tending 
the apples with great devotion, so that he might keep 
his back to the rest and account for his red face. 
"Is that all?" asked Dan. 

" No, that is only the first part ; the second part is 
more interesting. Some time after this a peddler came 
by one day and stopped to show his things to the 
boys, several of whom bought pocket-combs, jew's- 
harps, and various trifles of that sort. Among the 
knives was a little white-handled penknife that Lewis 
wanted very much, but he had spent all his pocket- 
money, and no one had any to lend him. He held 
the knife in his hand, admiring and longing for it, 
till the man packed up his goods to go, then he 
reluctantly laid it down, and the man went on his 
way. The next day, however, the peddler returned 
to say that he could not find that very knife, and 
thought he must have left it at Miss Crane's. It was 
a very nice one with a pearl handle, and he could 
not afford to lose it. Every one looked, and every 
one declared they knew nothing about it. ' This 
young gentleman had it last, and seemed to want it 



350 Little Men 



very much. Are you quite sure you put it back?' 
said the man to Lewis, who was much troubled at 
the loss, and vowed over and over again that he did 
return it. His denials seemed to do no good, how- 
ever, for every one was sure he had taken it, and 
after a stormy scene Miss Crane paid for it, and the 
man went grumbling away." 

" Did Lewis have it ? " cried Nat, much excited. 

" You will see. Now poor Lewis had another 
trial to bear, for the boys were constantly saying, 
' Lend me your pearl-handled knife, Gooseberry,' 
and things of that sort, till Lewis was so unhappy he 
begged to be sent home. Miss Crane did her best 
to keep the boys quiet, but it was hard work, for 
they would tease, and she could not be with them all 
the time. That is one of the hardest things to teach 
boys ; they won't ' hit a fellow when he is down,' as 
they say, but they will torment him in little ways till 
he would thank them to fight it out all round." 

" I know that," said Dan. 

" So do I," added Nat, softly. 

Jack said nothing, but he quite agreed ; for he 
knew that the elder boys despised him, and let him 
alone for that very reason. 

" Do go on about poor Lewis, Aunt Jo. I don't 
believe he took the knife, but I want to be sure," 
said Daisy, in great anxiety. 

" Well, week after week went on and the matter 
was not cleared up. The boys avoided Lewis, and 
he, poor fellow, was almost sick with the trouble he 
had brought upon himself. He resolved never to tell 
another lie, and tried so hard that Miss Crane pitied 
and helped him, and really came at last to believe 



Round the Fire 351 

that he did not take the knife. Two months after 
the peddler's first visit, he came again, and the first 
thing he said was 

" ' Well, ma'am, I found that knife after all. It had 
slipped behind the lining of my valise, and fell out 
the other day when I was putting in a new stock of 
goods. I thought I 'd call and let you know, as you 
paid for it, and maybe would like it, so here it is.' 

" The boys had all gathered round, and at these 
words they felt much ashamed, and begged Lewis' 
pardon so heartily that he could not refuse to give it. 
Miss Crane presented the knife to him, and he kept it 
many years to remind him of the fault that had 
brought him so much trouble." 

" I wonder why it is that things you eat on the sly 
hurt you, and don't when you eat them at table," 
observed Stuffy, thoughtfully. 

" Perhaps your conscience affects your stomach," 
said Mrs. Jo, smiling at his speech. 

" He is thinking of the cucumbers," said Ned, and 
a gale of merriment followed the words, for Stuffy's 
last mishap had been a funny one. 

He ate two large cucumbers in private, felt very 
ill, and confided his anguish to Ned, imploring him 
to do something. Ned good-naturedly recommended 
a mustard plaster and a hot flat iron to the feet ; only 
in applying these remedies he reversed the order of 
things, and put the plaster on the feet, the flat iron 
on the stomach, and poor Stuffy was found in the 
barn with blistered soles and a scorched jacket. 

" Suppose you tell another story, that was such an 
interesting one," said Nat, as the laughter subsided. 

Before Mrs. Jo could refuse these insatiable Oliver 



352 Little Men 



Twists, Rob walked into the room trailing his little 
bed-cover after him, and wearing an expression of 
great sweetness as he said, steering straight to his 
mother as a sure haven of refuge, 

" I heard a great noise, and I thought sumfin 
dreffle might have happened, so I came to see." 

" Did you think I would forget you, naughty 
boy? " asked his mother, trying to look stern. 

" No ; but I thought you 'd feel better to see me 
right here," responded the insinuating little party. 

" I had much rather see you in bed, so march 
straight up again, Robin." 

" Everybody that comes in here has to tell a story, 
and you can't, so you 'd better cut and run," said 
Emil. 

" Yes, I can ! I tell Teddy lots of ones, all about 
bears and moons, and little flies that say things when 
they buzz," protested Rob, bound to stay at any 
price. 

" Tell one now, then, right away," said Dan, pre- 
paring to shoulder and bear him off. 

" Well, I will ; let me fink a minute," and Rob 
climbed into his mother's lap, where he was cuddled, 
with the remark 

" It is a family failing, this getting out of bed at 
wrong times. Demi used to do it ; and as for me, I 
was hopping in and out all night long. Meg used to 
think the house was on fire, and send me down to see, 
and I used to stay and enjoy myself, as you mean to, 
my bad son." 

" I Ve finked now," observed Rob, quite at his 
ease, and eager to win the entree into this delightful 
circle. 



Round the Fire 353 

Every one looked and listened with faces full of 
suppressed merriment as Rob, perched on his mother's 
knee and wrapped in the gay coverlet, told the follow- 
ing brief but tragic tale with an earnestness that made 
it very funny : 

" Once a lady had a million children, and one nice 
little boy. She went tip-stairs and said, ' You must n't 
go in the yard.' But he wented, and fell into the 
pump, and was drowned dead." 

" Is that all?" asked Franz, as Rob paused out of 
breath with this startling beginning. 

" No, there is another piece of it," and Rob knit 
his downy eyebrows in the effort to evolve another 
inspiration. 

" What did the lady do when he fell into the 
pump?' asked his mother, to help him on. 

" Oh, she pumped him up, and wrapped him in a 
newspaper, and put him on a shelf to dry for seed." 

A general explosion of laughter greeted this sur- 
prising conclusion, and Mrs. Jo patted the curly head, 
as she said, solemnly, 

" My son, you inherit your mother's gift of story- 
telling. Go where glory waits thee." 

"Now I can stay, can't I? Wasn't it a good 
story?' cried Rob, in high feather at his superb 
success. 

" You can stay till you have eaten these twelve 
pop-corns," said his mother, expecting to see them 
vanish at one mouthful. 

But Rob was a shrewd little man, and got the 
better of her by eating them one by one very slowly, 
and enjoying every minute with all his might. 

" Had n't you better tell the other story, while you 

2 3 



354 Little Men 



wait for him?' said Demi, anxious that no time 
should be lost. 

" I really have nothing but a little tale about a 
wood-box," said Mrs. Jo, seeing that Rob had still 
seven corns to eat. 

" Is there a boy in it? " 

" It is all boy." 

" Is it true? " asked Demi. 

" Every bit of it." 

" Goody ! tell on, please." 

" James Snow and his mother lived in a little 
house, up in New Hampshire. They were poor, and 
James had to work to help his mother, but he loved 
books so well he hated work, and just wanted to sit 
and study all day long." 

" How could he ! I hate books, and like work," 
said Dan, objecting to James at the very outset. 

" It takes all sorts of people to make a world ; 
workers and students both are needed, and there is 
room for all. But I think the workers should study 
some, and the students should know how to work if 
necessary," answered Mrs. Jo, looking from Dan to 
Demi with a significant expression. 

" I 'm sure I do work," and Demi showed three 
small hard spots in his little palm, with pride. 

"And I'm sure I study," added Dan, nodding with 
a groan toward the blackboard full of neat figures. 

" See what James did. He did not mean to be 
selfish, but his mother was proud of him, and let him 
do as he liked, working away by herself that he 
might have books and time to read them. One 
autumn James wanted to go to school, and went to 
the minister to see if he would help him, about 



Round the Fire 355 

decent clothes and books. Now the minister had 
heard the gossip about James's idleness, and was not 
inclined to do much for him, thinking that a boy who 
neglected his mother, and let her slave for him, was 
not likely to do very well even at school. But the 
good man felt more interested when he found how 
earnest James was, and being rather an odd man, he 
made this proposal to the boy, to try how sincere 
he was. 

" ' I will give you clothes and books on one con- 
dition, James.' 

"'What is that, sir?' and the boy brightened up 
at once. 

" ' You are to keep your mother's wood-box full all 
winter long, and do it yourself. If you fail, school 
stops.' James laughed at the queer condition and 
readily agreed to it, thinking it a very easy one. 

" He began school, and for a time got on capitally 
with the wood-box, for it was autumn, and chips and 
brush-wood were plentiful. He ran out morning and 
evening and got a basket full, or chopped up the cat 
sticks for the little cooking stove, and as his mother 
was careful and saving, the task was not hard. But 
in November the frost came, the days were dull and 
cold, and wood went fast. His mother bought a 
load with her own earnings, but it seemed to melt 
away, and was nearly gone, before James remembered 
that he was to get the next. Mrs. Snow was feeble 
and lame with rheumatism, and unable to work as 
she had done, so James had to put down his books, 
and see what he could do. 

" It was hard, for he was going on well, and so 
interested in his lessons that he hated to stop except 



356 



Little Men 



for food and sleep. But he knew the minister would 
keep his word, and much against his will James set 
about earning money in his spare hours, lest the 
wood-box should get empty. He did all sorts of 
things, ran errands, took care of a neighbor's cow, 
helped the old sexton dust and warm the church on 
Sundays, and in these ways got enough to buy fuel 
in small quantities. But it was hard work ; the days 
were short, the winter was bitterly cold, the precious 
time went fast, and the dear books were so fascinating, 
that it was sad to leave them, for dull duties that 
never seemed done. 

" The minister watched him quietly, and seeing 
that he was in earnest helped him without his knowl- 
edge. He met him often driving the wood sleds 
from the forest, where the men were chopping, and 
as James plodded beside the slow oxen, he read or 
studied, anxious to use every minute. ' The boy is 
worth helping, this lesson will do him good, and 
when he has learned it, I will give him an easier one,' 
said the minister to himself, and on Christmas eve a 
splendid load of wood was quietly dropped at the 
door of the little house, with a new saw and a bit of 
paper, saying only 

" ' The Lord helps those who help themselves.' 
" Poor James expected nothing, but when he woke 
on that cold Christmas morning, he found a pair of 
warm mittens, knit by his mother, with her stiff pain- 
ful fingers. This gift pleased him very much, but 
her kiss and tender look as she called him her ' good 
son,' was better still. In trying to keep her warm, 
he had warmed his own heart, you see, and in filling 
the wood-box he had also filled those months with 



Round the Fire 357 

duties faithfully done. He began to see this, to feel 
that there was something better than books, and to 
try to learn the lessons God set him, as well as those 
his school-master gave. 

" When he saw the great pile of oak and pine logs 
at his door, and read the little paper, he knew who 
sent it, and understood the minister's plan ; thanked 
him for it, and fell to work with all his might. Other 
boys frolicked that day, but James sawed wood, and 
I think of all the lads in the town the happiest was 
the one in the new mittens, who whistled like a black- 
bird as he filled his mother's wood-box." 

" That's a first rater ! ' cried Dan, who enjoyed a 
simple matter-of-fact story better than the finest fairy 
tale ; " I like that fellow after all." 

" I could saw wood for you, Aunt Jo ! ' said Demi, 
feeling as if a new means of earning money for his 
mother was suggested by the story. 

" Tell about a bad boy. I like them best," said Nan. 

" You 'd better tell about a naughty cross-patch of 
a girl," said Tommy, whose evening had been spoilt 
by Nan's unkindness. It made his apple taste bitter, 
his pop-corn was insipid, his nuts were hard to crack, 
and the sight of Ned and Nan on one bench made 
him feel his life a burden. 

But there were no more stories from Mrs. Jo, for 
on looking down at Rob he was discovered to be fast 
asleep with his last corn firmly clasped in his chubby 
hand. Bundling him up in his coverlet, his mother 
carried him away and tucked him up with no fear of 
his popping out again. 

"Now let's see who will come next," said Emil, 
setting the door temptingly ajar. 



358 



Little Men 



Mary Ann passed first, and he called out to her, 
but Silas had warned her, and she only laughed and 
hurried on in spite of their enticements. Presently a 
door opened, and a strong voice was heard humming 
in the hall 

" Ich weiss nicht was soil es bedeuten 
Dass ich so traurig bin. n 

" It 's Uncle Fritz ; all laugh loud and he will be 
sure to come in," said Emil. 

A wild burst of laughter followed, and in came 
Uncle Fritz, asking, " What is the joke, my lads? " 

"Caught! caught! you can't go out till you've 
told a story," cried the boys, slamming the door. 

" So ! that is the joke then? Well, I have no wish 
to go, it is so pleasant here, and I pay my forfeit at 
once/' which he did by sitting down and beginning 
instantly 

" A long time ago your Grandfather, Demi, went to 
lecture in a great town, hoping to get some money 
for a home for little orphans that some good people 
were getting up. His lecture did well, and he put a 
considerable sum of money in his pocket, feeling very 
happy about it. As he was driving in a chaise to 
another town, he came to a lonely bit of road, late in 
the afternoon, and was just thinking what a good 
place it was for robbers when he saw a bad-looking 
man come out of the woods in front of him and go 
slowly along as if waiting till he came up. The 
thought of the money made Grandfather rather 
anxious, and at first he had a mind to turn round and 
drive away. But the horse was tired, and then he 
did not like to suspect the man, so he kept on, and 



Round the Fire 359 

when he got nearer and saw how poor and sick and 
ragged the stranger looked, his heart reproached him, 
and stopping, he said in his kind voice 

" ' My friend, you look tired ; let me give you a 
lift.' The man seemed surprised, hesitated a minute, 
and then got in. He did not seem inclined to talk, 
but Grandfather kept on in his wise, cheerful way, 
speaking of what a hard year it had been, how much 
the poor had suffered, and how difficult it was to get 
on sometimes. The man slowly softened a little, and, 
won by the kind chat, told his story. How he had 
been sick, could get no work, had a family of chil- 
dren, and was almost in despair. Grandfather was so 
full of pity that he forgot his fear, and, asking the 
man his name, said he would try and get him work in 
the next town, as he had friends there. Wishing to 
get at pencil and paper, to write down the address, 
Grandfather took out his plump pocket-book, and the 
minute he did so, the man's eye was on it. Then 
Grandfather remembered what was in it and trembled 
for his money, but said quietly 

" ' Yes, I have a little sum here for some poor 
orphans. I wish it was my own, I would so gladly 
give you some of it. I am not rich, but I know many 
of the trials of the poor ; this five dollars is mine, and 
I want to give it to you for your children.' 

" The hard, hungry look in the man's eyes changed 
to a grateful one as he took the small sum, freely 
given, and left the orphans' money untouched. He 
rode on with Grandfather till they approached the 
town, then he asked to be set down. Grandpa shook 
hands with him, and was about to drive on, when the 
man said, as if something made him, 'I was desper- 



360 



Little Men 



ate when we met, and I meant to rob you, but you 
were so kind I could n't do it. God bless you, sir, for 
keeping me from it ! ' 

" Did Grandpa ever see him again? ' asked Daisy, 
eagerly. 

" No ; but I believe the man found work, and did 
not try robbery any more." 

" That was a curious way to treat him ; I 'd have 
knocked him down," said Dan. 

" Kindness is always better than force. Try it and 
see," answered Mr. Bhaer, rising. 

" Tell another, please," cried Daisy. 

" You must, Aunt Jo did," added Demi. 

" Then I certainly won't, but keep my others for 
next time. Too many tales are as bad as too many 
bonbons. I have paid my forfeit and I go," and Mr. 
Bhaer ran for his life, with the whole flock in full 
pursuit. He had the start, however, and escaped 
safely into his study, leaving the boys to go rioting 
back again. 

They were so stirred up by the race that they 
could not settle to their former quiet, and a lively 
game of Blindman's Buff followed, in which Tommy 
showed that he had taken the moral of the last story 
to heart, for, when he caught Nan, he whispered in 
her ear, " I 'm sorry I called you a cross-patch." 

Nan was not to be outdone in kindness, so, when 
they played " Button, button, who 's got the button? ' 
and it was her turn to go round, she said, " Hold fast 
all I give you," with such a friendly smile at Tommy, 
that he was not surprised to find the horse-hair ring 
in his hand instead of the button. He only smiled 
back at her then, but when they were going to bed, 



Round the Fire 361 

he offered Nan the best bite of his last apple ; she 
saw the ring on his stumpy little finger, accepted the 
bite, and peace was declared. Both were sorry for 
the temporary coldness, neither was ashamed to say, 
" I was wrong, forgive me," so the childish friendship 
remained unbroken, and the home in the willow 
lasted long, a pleasant little castle in the air. 



CHAPTER XXI 

THANKSGIVING 

THIS yearly festival was always kept at Plum- 
field in the good old-fashioned way, and 
nothing was allowed to interfere with it. 
For days beforehand, the little girls helped 
Asia and Mrs. Jo in store-room and kitchen, making 
pies and puddings, sorting fruit, dusting dishes, and 
being very busy and immensely important. The boys 
hovered on the outskirts of the forbidden ground, 
sniffing the savory odors, peeping in at the mys- 
terious performances, and occasionally being per- 
mitted to taste some delicacy in the process of 
preparation. 

Something more than usual seemed to be on foot 
this year, for the girls were as busy up-stairs as down, 
so were the boys in school-room and barn, and a 
general air of bustle pervaded the house. There was 
a great hunting up of old ribbons and finery, much 
cutting and pasting of gold paper, and the most 
remarkable quantity of straw, gray cotton, flannel, 
and big black beads, used by Franz and Mrs. Jo. 
Ned hammered at strange machines in the workshop, 
Demi and Tommy went about murmuring to them- 
selves as if learning something. A fearful racket was 
heard in Emil's room at intervals, and peals of 



Thanksgiving 363 

laughter from the nursery when Rob and Teddy 
were sent for and hidden from sight whole hours at a 
time. But the thing that puzzled Mr. Bhaer the 
most was what became of Rob's big pumpkin. It 
had been borne in triumph to the kitchen, where a 
dozen golden-tinted pies soon after appeared. It 
would not have taken more than a quarter of the 
mammoth vegetable to make them, yet where was 
the rest? It disappeared, and Rob never seemed to 
care, only chuckled, when it was mentioned, and told 
his father, " To wait and see," for the fun of the 
whole thing was to surprise Father Bhaer at the end, 
and not let him know a bit about what was to 
happen. 

He obediently shut eyes, ears, and mouth, and 
went about trying not to see what was in plain sight, 
not to hear the tell-tale sounds that filled the air, not 
to understand any of the perfectly transparent mys- 
teries going on all about him. Being a German, he 
loved these simple domestic festivals, and encour- 
aged them with all his heart, for they made home so 
pleasant that the boys did not care to go elsewhere 
for fun. 

When at last the day came, the boys went off for a 
long walk, that they might have good appetites for 
dinner; as if they ever needed them! The girls 
remained at home to help set the table, and give last 
touches to various affairs which filled their busy little 
souls with anxiety. The school-room had been shut 
up since the night before, and Mr. Bhaer was for- 
bidden to enter it on pain of a beating from Teddy, 
who guarded the door like a small dragon, though he 
was dying to tell about it, and nothing but his father's 



3 6 4 



Little Men 



heroic self-denial in not listening, kept him from be- 
traying the grand secret. 

"It's all done, and it's perfectly splendid," cried 
Nan, coming out at last with an air of triumph. 

" The you know goes beautifully, and Silas 

knows just what to do now," added Daisy, skipping 
with delight at some unspeakable success. 

" I 'm blest if it ain't the 'cutest thing I ever see, 
them critters in particular," and Silas, who had been 
let into the secret, went off laughing like a great 
boy. 

"They are coming; I hear Emil roaring 'Land 
lubbers lying down below,' so we must run and 
dress," cried Nan, and up-stairs they scampered in a 
great hurry. 

The boys came trooping home with appetites that 
would have made the big turkey tremble, if it had 
not been past all fear. They also retired to dress ; 
and for half-an-hour there was a washing, brushing, 
and prinking that would have done any tidy woman's 
heart good to see. When the bell rang, a troop of 
fresh-faced lads with shiny hair, clean collars, and 
Sunday jackets on, filed into the dining-room, where 
Mrs. Jo, in her one black silk, with a knot of her 
favorite white chrysanthemums in her bosom, sat at 
the head of the table, " looking splendid," as the 
boys said, whenever she got herself up. Daisy and 
Nan were as gay as a posy bed in their new winter 
dresses, with bright sashes and hair ribbons. Teddy 
was gorgeous to behold in a crimson merino blouse, 
and his best button boots, which absorbed and dis- 
tracted him as much as Mr. Toot's wristbands did on 
one occasion. 



Thanksgiving 365 

As Mr. and Mrs. Bhaer glanced at each other 
down the long table, with those rows of happy faces 
on either side, they had a little thanksgiving, all to 
themselves, and without a word, for one heart said to 
the other, - -" Our work has prospered, let us be 
grateful and go on." 

The clatter of knives and forks prevented much 
conversation for a few minutes, and Mary Ann with 
an amazing pink bow in her hair " flew round ' 
briskly, handing plates and ladling out gravy. 
Nearly every one had contributed to the feast, so the 
dinner was a peculiarly interesting one to the eaters 
of it, who beguiled the pauses by remarks on their 
own productions. 

"If these are not good potatoes I never saw any," 
observed Jack, as he received his fourth big mealy 
one. 

" Some of my herbs are in the stuffing of the 
turkey, that 's why it 's so nice," said Nan, taking a 
mouthful with intense satisfaction. 

" My ducks are prime any way ; Asia said she 
never cooked such fat ones," added Tommy. 

*' Well, our carrots are beautiful, ain't they, and 
our parsnips will be ever so good when we dig them," 
put in Dick, and Dolly murmured his assent from 
behind the bone he was picking. 

" I helped make the pies with my pumpkin," 
called out Robby, with a laugh which he stopped by 
retiring into his mug. 

" I picked some of the apples that the cider is 
made of," said Demi. 

" I raked the cranberries for the sauce," cried 
Nat. 



3 66 



Little Men 



" I got the nuts," added Dan, and so it went on all 
round the table. 

"Who made up Thanksgiving?' 1 asked Rob, for 
being lately promoted to jacket and trousers he felt 
a new and manly interest in the institutions of his 
country. 

" See who can answer that question," and Mr. Bhaer 
nodded to one or two of his best history boys. 

" I know," said Demi, " the Pilgrims made it." 

"What for?' asked Rob, without waiting to learn 
who the Pilgrims were. 

" I forget," and Demi subsided. 

" I believe it was because they were not starved once, 
and so when they had a good harvest, they said, ' We 
will thank God for it,' and they had a day and called 
it Thanksgiving," said Dan, who liked the story of the 
brave men who suffered so nobly for their faith. 

" Good ! I did n't think you would remember any 
thing but natural history," and Mr. Bhaer tapped 
gently on the table as applause for his pupil. 

Dan looked pleased ; and Mrs. Jo said to her son, 
" Now do you understand about it, Robby ? ' 

" No, I don't. I thought pil-grins were a sort of 
big bird that lived on rocks, and I saw pictures of 
them in Demi's book." 

" He means penguins. Oh, is n't he a little goosey ! " 
and Demi laid back in his chair and laughed aloud. 

" Don't laugh at him, but tell him all about it if you 
can," said Mrs. Bhaer, consoling Rob with more cran- 
berry sauce for the general smile that went round the 
table at his mistake. 

"Well, I will;' and, after a pause to collect his 
ideas, Demi delivered the following sketch of the 



Thanksgiving 367 

Pilgrim Fathers, which would have made even those 
grave gentlemen smile if they could have heard it. 

" You see, Rob, some of the people in England 
did n't like the king, or something, so they got into 
ships and sailed away to this country. It was all full 
of Indians, and bears, and wild creatures, and they 
lived in forts, and had a dreadful time." 

" The bears ? " asked Robby, with interest. 

" No ; the Pilgrims, because the Indians troubled 
them. They had n't enough to eat, and they went to 
church with guns, and ever so many died, and they 
got out of the ships on a rock, and it 's called Ply- 
mouth Rock, and Aunt Jo saw it and touched it. The 
Pilgrims killed all the Indians, and got rich ; and hung 
the witches, and were very good ; and some of my 
greatest great-grandpas came in the ships. One was 
the Mayflower; and they made Thanksgiving, and 
we have it always, and I like it. Some more turkey, 
please." 

" I think Demi will be an historian, there is such 
order and clearness in his account of events ; ' and 
Uncle Fritz's eyes laughed at Aunt Jo, as he helped 
the descendant of the Pilgrims to his third bit of turkey. 

" I thought you must eat as much as ever you could 
on Thanksgiving. But Franz says you must n't even 
then ; ' and Stuffy looked as if he had received bad 
news. 

" Franz is right, so mind your knife and fork, and 
be moderate, or else you won't be able to help in the 
surprise by and by," said Mrs. Jo. 

"I'll be careful; but everybody does eat lots, and 
I like it better than being moderate," said Stuffy, who 
leaned to the popular belief that Thanksgiving must 



3 68 



Little Men 



be kept by coming as near apoplexy as possible, and 
escaping with merely a fit of indigestion or a headache. 

" Now, my ' pilgrims' amuse yourselves quietly till 
tea-time, for you will have enough excitement this 
evening," said Mrs. Jo, as they rose from the table 
after a protracted sitting, finished by drinking every 
one's health in cider. 

" I think I will take the whole flock for a drive, it is 
so pleasant ; then you can rest, my dear, or you will 
be worn out this evening," added Mr. Bhaer; and as 
soon as coats and hats could be put on, the great 
omnibus was packed full, and away they went for a 
long gay drive, leaving Mrs. Jo to rest and finish sun- 
dry small affairs in peace. 

An early and light tea was followed by more brush- 
ing of hair and washing of hands ; then the flock 
waited impatiently for the company to come. Only 
the family was expected ; for these small revels were 
strictly domestic, and such being the case, sorrow 
was not allowed to sadden the present festival. All 
came ; Mr. and Mrs. March, with Aunt Meg, so sweet 
and lovely, in spite of her black dress and the little 
widow's cap that encircled her tranquil face. Uncle 
Teddy and Aunt Amy, with the Princess looking 
more fairy-like than ever, in a sky-blue gown, and a 
great bouquet of hot-house flowers, which she divided 
among the boys, sticking one in each button-hole, 
making them feel peculiarly elegant and festive. One 
strange face appeared, and Uncle Teddy led the un- 
known gentleman up to the Bhaers, saying - 

" This is Mr. Hyde ; he has been inquiring about 
Dan, and I ventured to bring him to-night, that he 
might see how much the boy has improved." 



Thanksgiving 369 

The Bhaers received him cordially, for Dan's sake, 
pleased that the lad had been remembered. But, after 
a few minutes' chat, they were glad to know Mr. Hyde 
for his own sake, so genial, simple, and interesting 
was he. It was pleasant to see the boy's face light 
up when he caught sight of his friend ; pleasanter still 
to see Mr. Hyde's surprise and satisfaction in Dan's 
improved manners and appearance, and pleasantest 
of all to watch the two sit talking in a corner, forget- 
ting the differences of age, culture, and position, in the 
one subject which interested both, as man and boy 
compared notes, and told the story of their summer 
life. 

" The performances must begin soon, or the actors 
will go to sleep," said Mrs. Jo, when the first greetings 
were over. 

So every one went into the school-room, and took 
seats before a curtain made of two big bed-covers. 
The children had already vanished ; but stifled laugh- 
ter, and funny little exclamations from behind the 
curtain, betrayed their whereabouts. The enter- 
tainment began with a spirited exhibition of gym- 
nastics, led by Franz. The six elder lads, in blue 
trousers and red shirts, made a fine display of muscle 
with dumb-bells, clubs, and weights, keeping time to 
the music of the piano, played by Mrs. Jo behind the 
scenes. Dan was so energetic in this exercise, that 
there was some danger of his knocking down his 
neighbors, like so many nine-pins, or sending his 
bean-bags whizzing among the audience ; for he was 
excited by Mr. Hyde's presence, and a burning desire 
to do honor to his teachers. 

" A fine, strong lad. If I go on my trip to South 

24 



370 Little Men 

America, in a year or two, I shall be tempted to ask 
you to lend him to me, Mr. Bhaer," said Mr. Hyde, 
whose interest in Dan was much increased by the 
report he had just heard of him. 

" You shall have him, and welcome, though we 
shall miss our young Hercules very much. It would 
do him a world of good, and I am sure he would 
serve his friend faithfully." 

Dan heard both question and answer, and his 
heart leaped with joy at the thought of travelling in a 
new country with Mr. Hyde, and swelled with grati- 
tude for the kindly commendation which rewarded 
his efforts to be all these friends desired to see him. 

After the gymnastics, Demi and Tommy spoke the 
old school dialogue, " Money makes the mare go." 
Demi did very well, but Tommy was capital as the 
old farmer ; for he imitated Silas in a way that con- 
vulsed the audience, and caused Silas himself to laugh 
so hard that Asia had to slap him on the back, as 
they stood in the hall enjoying the fun immensely. 

Then Emil, who had got his breath by this time, 
gave them a sea-song in costume, with a great deal 
about " stormy winds," " lee shores," and a rousing 
chorus of " Luff, boys, luff," which made the room 
ring ; after which Ned performed a funny Chinese 
dance, and hopped about like a large frog in a 
pagoda hat. As this was the only public exhibition 
ever had at Plumneld, a few exercises in lightning- 
arithmetic, spelling, and reading were given. Jack 
quite amazed the public by his rapid calculations on 
the blackboard. Tommy won in the spelling match, 
and Demi read a little French fable so well that Uncle 
Teddy was charmed. 



Thanksgiving 371 



"Where are the other children?" asked every one 
as the curtain fell, and none of the little ones ap- 
peared. 

" Oh, that is the surprise. It 's so lovely, I pity 
you because you don't know it," said Demi, who had 
gone to get his mother's kiss, and stayed by her to 
explain the mystery when it should be revealed. 

Goldilocks had been carried off by Aunt Jo, to the 
great amazement of her papa, who quite outdid Mr. 
Bhaer in acting wonder, suspense, and wild impatience 
to know " what was going to happen." 

At last, after iruch rustling, hammering, and very 
audible directions from the stage manager, the cur- 
tain rose to soft music, and Bess was discovered sit- 
ting on a stool beside a brown paper fire-place. A 
dearer little Cinderella was never seen ; for the gray 
gown was very ragged, the tiny shoes all worn, the 
face so pretty under the bright hair, and the attitude 
so dejected, it brought tears, as well as smiles, to the 
fond eyes looking at the baby actress. She sat quite 
still, till a voice whispered, " Now ! ' - then she 
sighed a funny little sigh, and said, " Oh, I wish I 
tood go to the ball ! ' so naturally, that her father 
clapped frantically, and her mother called out, " Little 
darling ! ' These highly improper expressions of 
feeling caused Cinderella to forget herself, and shake 
her head at them, saying, reprovingly, " You must n't 
'peak to me." 

Silence instantly prevailed, and three taps were 
heard on the wall. Cinderella looked alarmed, but 
before she could remember to say, "What is dat?' 
the back of the brown paper fire-place opened like a 
door, and, with some difficulty, the fairy godmother 



372 Little Men 

got herself and her pointed hat through. It was Nan, 
in a red cloak, a cap, and a wand, which she waved 
as she said decidedly, 

" You shall go to the ball, my dear." 

" Now you must pull and show my pretty dess," 
returned Cinderella, tugging at her brown gown. 

" No, no ; you must say, ' How can I go in my 
rags?' ' said the godmother in her own voice. 

" Oh yes, so I mus ; ' and the Princess said it, 
quite undisturbed at her forgetfulness. 

" I change your rags into a splendid dress, because 
you are good," said the godmother in her stage 
tones ; and deliberately unbuttoning the brown pina- 
fore, she displayed a gorgeous sight. 

The little Princess really was pretty enough to 
turn the heads of any number of small princes, for 
her mamma had dressed her like a tiny court lady, in 
a rosy silk train with satin under-skirt, and bits of 
bouquets here and there, quite lovely to behold. The 
godmother put a crown, with pink and white feathers 
drooping from it, on her head, and gave her a pair of 
silver paper Clippers, which she put on, and then 
stood up, lifting her skirts to show them to the audi- 
ence, saying, with pride, ' My dlass ones, ain't they 
pitty?" 

She was so charmed with them, that she was with 
difficulty recalled to her part, and made to say - 

" But I have no toach, Dodmother." 

" Behold it ! " and Nan waved her wand with such a 
flourish, that she nearly knocked off the crown of the 
Princess. 

Then appeared the grand triumph of the piece. 
First, a rope was seen to flap on the floor, to tighten 




t > 



Thanksgiving 373 

with a twitch as Emil's voice was heard to say, 
Heave, ahoy ! ' and Silas's gruff one to reply, 
Stiddy, now, stiddy ! ' A shout of laughter followed, 
for four large gray rats appeared, rather shaky as to 
their legs and queer as to their tails, but quite fine 
about the head, where black beads shone in the most 
lifelike manner. They drew, or were intended to 
appear as if they did, a magnificent coach made of 
half the mammoth pumpkin, mounted on the wheels 
of Teddy's wagon, painted yellow to match the gay 
carriage. Perched on a seat in front sat a jolly little 
coachman in a white cotton-wool wig, cocked hat, 
scarlet breeches, and laced coat, who cracked a long 
whip and jerked the red reins so energetically, that 
the gray steeds reared finely. It was Teddy, and he 
beamed upon the company so affably that they gave 
him a round all to himself; and Uncle Laurie said, 
" If I could find as sober a coachman as that one, I 
would engage him on the spot." The coach stopped, 
the godmother lifted in the Princess, and she was 
trundled away in state, kissing her hand to the public, 
with her glass shoes sticking up in front, and her 
pink train sweeping the ground behind, for, elegant 
as the coach was, I regret to say that her Highness 
was rather a tight fit. 

The next scene was the ball, and here Nan and 
Daisy appeared as gay as peacocks in all sorts of 
finery. Nan was especially good as the proud sister, 
and crushed many imaginary ladies as she swept about 
the palace-hall. The Prince, in solitary state upon a 
somewhat unsteady throne, sat gazing about him from 
under an imposing crown, as he played with his 
sword and admired the rosettes in his shoes. When 



374 Little Men 



Cinderella came in he jumped up, and exclaimed, 
with more warmth than elegance, 

" My gracious ! who is that?" and immediately led 
the lady out to dance, while the sisters scowled and 
turned up their noses in the corner. 

The stately jig executed by the little couple was 
very pretty, for the childish faces were so earnest, the 
costumes so gay, and the steps so peculiar, that they 
looked like the dainty quaint figures painted on a 
Watteau fan. The Princess's train was very much in 
her way, and the sword of Prince Rob nearly tripped 
him up several times. But they overcame these 
obstacles remarkably well, and finished the dance 
with much grace and spirit, considering that neither 
knew what the other was about. 

" Drop your shoe," whispered Mrs. Jo's voice as 
the lady was about to sit down. 

" Oh, I fordot! " and, taking off one of the silvery 
slippers, Cinderella planted it carefully in. the middle 
of the stage, said to Rob, " Now you must try and 
tatch me," and ran away, while the Prince, picking 
up the shoe, obediently trotted after her. 

The third scene, as everybody knows, is where the 
herald comes to try on the shoe. Teddy, still in 
coachman's dress, came in blowing a tin fish-horn 
melodiously, and the proud sisters each tried to put 
on the slipper. Nan insisted on playing cut off her 
toe with a carving-knife, and performed that opera- 
tion so well that the herald was alarmed, and begged 
to be "welly keerful." Cinderella then was called, 
and came in with the pinafore half on, slipped her foot 
into the slipper, and announced, with satisfaction, 

" I am the Pinsiss." 



Thanksgiving 375 

Daisy wept, and begged pardon ; but Nan, who 
liked tragedy, improved upon the story, and fell in a 
fainting-fit upon the floor, where she remained com- 
fortably enjoying the rest of the play. It was not 
long, for the Prince ran in, dropped upon his knees, 
and kissed the hand of Goldilocks with great ardor, 
while the herald blew a blast that nearly deafened 
the audience. The curtain had no chance to fall, for 
the Princess ran off the stage to her father, crying, 
"Didn't I do it well?" while the Prince and herald 
had a fencing-match with the tin horn and wooden 
sword. 

" It was beautiful ! " said every one ; and, when the 
raptures had a little subsided, Nat came out with his 
violin in his hand. 

" Hush ! hush ! " cried all the children, and silence 
followed, for something in the boy's bashful manner 
and appealing eyes made every one listen kindly. 

The Bhaers thought he would play some of the old 
airs he knew so well, but, to their surprise, they 
heard a new and lovely melody, so softly, sweetly 
played, that they could hardly believe it could be 
Nat. It was one of those songs without words that 
touch the heart, and sing of all tender home-like 
hopes and joys, soothing and cheering those who 
listen to its simple music. Aunt Meg leaned her 
head on Demi's shoulder, Grandmother wiped her 
eyes, and Mrs. Jo looked up at Mr. Laurie, saying, 
in a choky whisper, - 

" You composed that." 

" I wanted your boy to do you honor, and thank 
you in his own way," answered Laurie, leaning down 
to answer her. 



376 



Little Men 



When Nat made his bow and was about to go, he 
was called back by many hands, and had to play 
again. He did so with such a happy face, that it was 
good to see him, for he did his best, and gave them 
the gay old tunes that set the feet to dancing, and 
made quietude impossible. 

" Clear the floor ! ' cried Emil ; and in a minute 
the chairs were pushed back, the older people put 
safely in corners, and the children gathered on the 
stage. 

" Show your manners ! " called Emil ; and the boys 
pranced up to the ladies, old and young, with polite in- 
vitations to " tread the mazy," as dear Dick Swiveller 
has it. The small lads nearly came to blows for the 
Princess, but she chose Dick, like a kind, little gentle- 
woman as she was, and let him lead her proudly to 
her place. Mrs. Jo was not allowed to decline ; and 
Aunt Amy filled Dan with unspeakable delight by 
refusing Franz and taking him. Of course Nan and 
Tommy, Nat and Daisy, paired off, while Uncle 
Teddy went and got Asia, who was longing to " jig 
it," and felt much elated by the honor done her. 
Silas and Mary Ann had a private dance in the hall ; 
and for half-an-hour Plumfield was at its merriest. 

The party wound up with a grand promenade of all 
the young folks, headed by the pumpkin-coach with 
the Princess and driver inside, and the rats in a 
wildly frisky state. 

While the children enjoyed this final frolic, the 
elders sat in the parlor looking on as they talked to- 
gether of the little people with the interest of parents 
and friends. 

" What are you thinking of, all by yourself, with 



Thanksgiving 377 

such a happy face, sister Jo?' asked Laurie, sitting 
down beside her on the sofa. 

" My summer's work, Teddy, and amusing myself 
by imagining the future of my boys," she answered, 
smiling, as she made room for him. 

" They are all to be poets, painters, and statesmen, fa- 
mous soldiers, or at least merchant princes, I suppose." 

" No, I am not as aspiring as I once was, and I shall 
be satisfied if they are honest men. But I will con- 
fess that I do expect a little glory and a career for some 
of them. Demi is not a common child, and I think 
he will blossom into something good and great in the 
best sense of the word. The others will do well, I 
hope, especially my last two boys, for, after hearing 
Nat play to-night, I really think he has genius." 

"Too soon to say; talent he certainly has, and 
there is no doubt that the boy can soon earn his 
bread by the work he loves. Build him up for 
another year or so, and then I will take him off your 
hands, and launch him properly." 

"That is such a pleasant prospect for poor Nat, 
who came to me six months ago so friendless and 
forlorn. Dan's future is already plain to me. Mr. 
Hyde will want him soon, and I mean to give him a 
brave and faithful little servant. Dan is one who can 
serve well if the wages are love and confidence, and 
he has the energy to carve out his own future in his 
own way. Yes, I am very happy over our success 
with these boys one so weak, and one so wild; both 
so much better now, and so full of promise." 

" What magic did you use, Jo?' 1 

" I only loved them, and let them see it. Fritz 
did the rest." 



Little Men 

" Dear soul ! you look as if ' only loving' had been 
rather hard work sometimes," said Laurie, stroking 
her thin cheek with a look of more tender admiration 
than he had ever given her as a girl. 

" I 'm a faded old woman, but I 'm a very happy 
one ; so don't pity me, Teddy ; ' and she glanced 
about the room with eyes full of a sincere content. 

" Yes, your plan seems to work better and better 
every year," he said, with an emphatic nod of approval 
toward the cheery scene before him. 

" How can it fail to work well when I have so much 
help from you all?" answered Mrs. Jo, looking grate- 
fully at her most generous patron. 

" It is the best joke of the family, this school of 
yours and its success. So unlike the future we planned 
for you, and yet so suited to you after all. It was a 
regular inspiration, Jo," said Laurie, dodging her 
thanks as usual. 

" Ah ! but you laughed at it in the beginning, and 
still make all manner of fun of me and my inspira- 
tions. Did n't you predict that having girls with the 
boys would prove a dead failure? Now see how well 
it works ; " and she pointed to the happy group of 
lads and lassies dancing, singing, and chattering 
together with every sign of kindly good fellowship. 

" I give in, and when my Goldilocks is old enough 
I '11 send her to you. Can I say more than that? >: 

" I shall be so proud to have your little treasure 
trusted to me. But really, Teddy, the effect of these 
girls has been excellent. I know you will laugh at 
me, but I don't mind, I 'm used to it; so I '11 tell you 
that one of my favorite fancies is to look at my family 
as a small world, to watch the progress of my little 



Thanksgiving 379 

men, and, lately, to see how well the influence of my 
little women works upon them. Daisy is the domestic 
element, and they all feel the charm of her quiet, 
womanly ways. Nan is the restless, energetic, strong- 
minded one ; they admire her courage, and give her 
a fair chance to work out her will, seeing that she 
has sympathy as well as strength, and the power to 
do much in their small world. Your Bess is the 
lady, full of natural refinement, grace, and beauty. 
She polishes them unconsciously, and fills her place 
as any lovely woman may, using her gentle influence 
to lift and hold them above the coarse, rough things 
of life, and keep them gentlemen in the best sense of 
the fine old word." 

" It is not always the ladies who do that best, Jo. 
It is sometimes the strong brave woman who stirs up 
the boy and makes a man of him ; " and Laurie bowed 
to her with a significant laugh. 

" No ; I think the graceful woman, whom the boy 
you allude to married, has done more for him than 
the wild Nan of his youth ; or, better still, the wise, 
motherly woman who watched over him, as Daisy 
watches over Demi, did most to make him what he 
is ; ' and Jo turned toward her mother, who sat a 
little apart with Meg, looking so full of the sweet 
dignity and beauty of old age, that Laurie gave her a 
glance of filial respect and love as he replied, in 
serious earnest, 

" All three did much for him, and I can understand 
how well these little girls will help your lads." 

" Not more than the lads help them ; it is mutual, I 
assure you. Nat does much for Daisy with his music ; 
Dan can manage Nan better than any of us ; and 



3 8o 



Little Men 



Demi teaches your Goldilocks so easily and well that 
Fritz calls them Roger Ascham and Lady Jane Grey. 
Dear me ! if men and women would only trust, under- 
stand, and help one another as my children do, what 
a capital place the world would be ! ' and Mrs. Jo's 
eyes grew absent, as if she was looking at a new and 
charming state of society in which people lived as 
happily and innocently as her flock at Plumfield. 

" You are doing your best to help on the good 
time, my dear. Continue to believe in it, to work for 
it, and to prove its possibility by the success of your 
small experiment," said Mr. March, pausing as he 
passed to say an encouraging word, for the good man 
never lost his faith in humanity, and still hoped to see 
peace, good-will, and happiness reign upon the earth. 

" I am not so ambitious as that, father. I only 
want to give these children a home in which they can 
be taught the few simple things which will help to 
make life less hard to them when they go out to 
fight their battles in the world. Honesty, courage, 
industry, faith in God, their fellow-creatures, and 
themselves ; that is all I try for." 

" That is every thing. Give them these helps, then 
let them go to work out their life as men and women ; 
and whatever their success or failure is, I think they 
will remember and bless your efforts, my good son 
and daughter." 

The Professor had joined them, and as Mr. March 
spoke he gave a hand to each, and left them with a 
look that was a blessing. As Jo and her husband 
stood together for a moment talking quietly, and 
feeling that their summer work had been well done 
if father approved, Mr. Laurie slipped into the hall, 



Thanksgiving 381 

said a word to the children, and all of a sudden the 
whole flock pranced into the room, joined hands and 
danced about Father and Mother Bhaer, singing 

blithely 

" Summer days are over, 

Summer work is done , 
Harvests have been gathered 

Gayly one by one. 
Now the feast is eaten, 

Finished is the play ; 
But one rite remains for 

Our Thanksgiving-day. 

" Best of all the harvest 

In the dear God's sight, 
Are the happy children 

In the home to-night; 
And we come to offer 

Thanks where thanks are due, 
With grateful hearts and voices, 

Father, mother, unto you." 

With the last words the circle narrowed till the good 
Professor and his wife were taken prisoner by many 
arms, and half hidden by the bouquet of laughing 
young faces which surrounded them, proving that 
one plant had taken root and blossomed beautifully 
in all the little gardens. For love is a flower that 
grows in any soil, works its sweet miracles undaunted 
by autumn frost or winter snow, blooming fair and 
fragrant all the year, and blessing those who give 
and those who receive. 



THE END 



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