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like big ones, good cooking will touch their hearts and soothe their
tempers delightfully," added Aunt Jo, with a merry nod toward the
door, where stood Papa Bhaer, surveying the scene with a face full of

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Very much, try it and see," and the amiable Father Bhaer went singing
and tapping about the house like a mammoth woodpecker.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"It has."

"Oh, what?" asked both children eagerly.

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


"Please, ma'am, could I speak to you? It is something very important,"
said Nat, popping his head in at the door of Mrs. Bhaer's room.

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

"What is it, my lad?"

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

"Dan has come."

"Who is Dan?"

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

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

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

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

"Why, I thought you liked to have poor boys come and live with you,
and be kind to 'em as you were to me," said Nat, looking surprised and

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

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

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

"Tell me about this Dan."

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

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

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

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

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

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

"A bad specimen, I am afraid."

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

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

"Yes," was the gruff reply.

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


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

"Shan't neither," muttered Dan.

"How old are you?"

"About fourteen."

"You look older. What can you do?"

"'Most anything."

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

"Don't mind trying."

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

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

"Thank you, ma'am," added Nat, as he followed him, feeling without quite
understanding the difference in the welcome given to him and to his
ungracious friend.

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

"Are they big fellows?" said Dan.

"No; the big ones are gone fishing."

"Fire away, then," said Dan.

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

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

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

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

"Ho! that ain't any thing!"

"Say that again, will you?" and Tommy bristled up like an angry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What will you give me if I'll teach you?" said Dan.

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

"Give it here, then."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mrs. Bhaer lost her patience with him half a dozen times a day, yet
never gave him up, and always insisted that there was something good
in the lad, after all; for he was kinder to animals than to people, he
liked to rove about in the woods, and, best of all, little Ted was fond
of him. What the secret was no one could discover, but Baby took to him
at once gabbled and crowed whenever he saw him preferred his strong back
to ride on to any of the others and called him "My Danny" out of his
own little head. Teddy was the only creature to whom Dan showed an
affection, and this was only manifested when he thought no one
else would see it; but mothers' eyes are quick, and motherly hearts
instinctively divine who love their babies. So Mrs. Jo soon saw and felt
that there was a soft spot in rough Dan, and bided her time to touch and
win him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"You let me go, and I'll knock him down again," shouted Dan, sparring
away in spite of the grip on his collar.

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

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

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

"Dan," answered several voices.

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

"Yes," growled Dan, sullenly.

"Then why break the rule?"

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

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

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

"He'll be taught to fence and box by and by, and till then I think
he will do very well without any lessons in mauling. Go and wash your
faces; and remember, Dan, if you break any more of the rules again, you
will be sent away. That was the bargain; do your part and we will do

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

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

"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

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

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

"No, you mustn't," began Demi, who was learning to distrust Dan's

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Online LibraryLouisa May AlcottLittle Men → online text (page 6 of 23)