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propositions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seeing herself thus beset, and treated with such disrespect, Buttercup
trotted round the field, getting more and more bewildered and excited
every moment, for whichever way she turned, there was a dreadful boy,
yelling and brandishing a new and very disagreeable sort of whip. It was
great fun for them, but real misery for her, till she lost patience and
turned the tables in the most unexpected manner. All at once she wheeled
short round, and charged full at her old friend Toby, whose conduct cut
her to the heart. Poor slow Toby backed so precipitately that he tripped
over a stone, and down went horse, matadore, and all, in one ignominious
heap, while distracted Buttercup took a surprising leap over the wall,
and galloped wildly out of sight down the road.

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

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

"So will you, for you helped."

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

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

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

"Old Bhaer will send me off, I guess. Don't care if he does," muttered
Dan, looking worried in spite of his words.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yes, please."

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

"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, however, had a plan in his head, and when he and Nat were
alone, he unfolded it.

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

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

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

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

"No, she won't, I've got a dark lantern on purpose; it don't give much
light, and we can shut it quick if we hear anyone coming," said Dan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tommy flew to his room and dived into bed, where he lay, laughing
till something burned his hand, when he discovered that he was still
clutching the stump of the festive cigar, which he happened to be
smoking when the revel broke up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The peril was soon over, and ordering the boys all back to bed, and
leaving Silas to watch lest the fire broke out again, Mrs. Bhaer and
Franz went to see how the poor boys got on. Demi had escaped with one
burn and a grand scare, but Tommy had not only most of his hair scorched
off his head, but a great burn on his arm, that made him half crazy with
the pain. Demi was soon made cosy, and Franz took him away to his own
bed, where the kind lad soothed his fright and hummed him to sleep as
cosily as a woman. Nursey watched over poor Tommy all night, trying to
ease his misery, and Mrs. Bhaer vibrated between him and little Teddy
with oil and cotton, paregoric and squills, saying to herself from time
to time, as if she found great amusement in the thought, "I always knew
Tommy would set the house on fire, and now he has done it!"

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

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

Now, of all things, Mr. Bhaer hated drinking, gambling, and swearing;
smoking he had given up that the lads might not be tempted to try it,
and it grieved and angered him deeply to find that the boy, with whom he
had tried to be most forbearing, should take advantage of his absence to
introduce these forbidden vices, and teach his innocent little lads
to think it manly and pleasant to indulge in them. He talked long and
earnestly to the assembled boys, and ended by saying, with an air of
mingled firmness and regret,

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

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

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

"Will he ever come back?" asked Demi.

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

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

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

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

"Where will you go?" asked Nat.

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

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

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

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

"May I say good-bye to Teddy?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But time went on and no Dan came.



CHAPTER VII. NAUGHTY NAN

"Fritz, I've got a new idea," cried Mrs. Bhaer, as she met her husband
one day after school.

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

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

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

"Little Annie Harding."

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Won't Daisy's hair stand erect with horror at Nan's wild ways?" asked
Mr. Bhaer, presently, when Teddy had swarmed up his waistcoat, and Rob
up his back, for they always flew at their father the minute school was
done.

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

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

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

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

"My Danny's tummin' soon."

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

"I've sometimes felt that myself; but after keeping the boys in a
ferment, and nearly burning up the whole family, I thought it safer to
remove the firebrand, for a time at least," said Mr. Bhaer.

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

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

"A dozen Nans if you want them, my dear," answered Mr. Bhaer, who had
room in his fatherly heart for all the naughty neglected children in the
world.

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

"Hi, Daisy! where are you?"

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

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

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

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

Won by the beauty of the offering, Daisy grew more cordial, and proposed


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