Everyone was glad of a holiday next morning, and all lingered over
the breakfast-table, till Mrs Jo suddenly exclaimed:
“Why, there's a dog!” And on the threshold of the door appeared a
great deer-hound, standing motionless, with his eyes fixed on Dan.
“Hallo, old boy! Couldn't you wait till I came for you? Have you cut
away on the sly? Own up now, and take your whipping like a man,” said
Dan, rising to meet the dog, who reared on his hind legs to look his
master in the face and bark as if uttering an indignant denial of any
“All right; Don never lies.” And Dan gave the tall beast a hug,
adding as he glanced out of the window, where a man and horse were
“I left my plunder at the hotel over night, not knowing how I should
find you. Come out and see Octoo, my mustang; she's a beauty.” And
Dan was off, with the family streaming after him, to welcome the
They found her preparing to go up the steps in her eagerness to reach
her master, to the great dismay of the man, who was holding her back.
“Let her come,” called Dan; “she climbs like a cat and jumps like a
deer. Well, my girl, do you want a gallop?” he asked, as the pretty
creature clattered up to him and whinnied with pleasure as he rubbed
her nose and slapped her glossy flank.
“That's what I call a horse worth having,” said Ted, full of
admiration and delight; for he was to have the care of her during
“What intelligent eyes! She looks as if she would speak,” said Mrs Jo.
“She talks like a human in her way. Very little that she don't know.
Hey, old Lass?” and Dan laid his cheek to hers as if the little black
mare was very dear to him.
“What does "Octoo" mean?” asked Rob.
“Lightning; she deserves it, as you'll see. Black Hawk gave her to me
for my rifle, and we've had high times together out yonder. She's
saved my life more than once. Do you see that scar?”
Dan pointed to a small one, half hidden by the long mane; and
standing with his arm about Octoo's neck, he told the story of it.
“Black Hawk and I were after buffalo one time, but didn't find 'em as
soon as we expected; so our food gave out, and there we were a
hundred miles from Red Deer River, where our camp was. I thought we
were done for, but my brave pal says: "Now I'll show you how we can
live till we find the herds." We were unsaddling for the night by a
little pond; there wasn't a living creature in sight anywhere, not
even a bird, and we could see for miles over the prairies. What do
you think we did?” And Dan looked into the faces round him.
“Ate worms like the Australian fellows,” said Rob. “Boiled grass or
leaves,” added Mrs Jo.
“Perhaps filled the stomach with clay, as we read of savages doing?”
suggested Mr Bhaer.
“Killed one of the horses,” cried Ted, eager for bloodshed of some
“No; but we bled one of them. See, just here; filled a tin cup, put
some wild sage leaves in it, with water, and heated it over a fire of
sticks. It was good, and we slept well.”
“I guess Octoo didn't.” And Josie patted the animal, with a face full
“Never minded it a bit. Black Hawk said we could live on the horses
several days and still travel before they felt it. But by another
morning we found the buffalo, and I shot the one whose head is in my
box, ready to hang up and scare brats into fits. He's a fierce old
fellow, you bet.”
“What is this strap for?” asked Ted, who was busily examining the
Indian saddle, the single rein and snaffle, with lariat, and round
the neck the leather band he spoke of.
“We hold on to that when we lie along the horse's flank farthest from
the enemy, and fire under the neck as we gallop round and round. I'll
show you.” And springing into the saddle, Dan was off down the steps,
tearing over the lawn at a great pace, sometimes on Octoo's back,
sometimes half hidden as he hung by stirrup and strap, and sometimes
off altogether, running beside her as she loped along, enjoying the
fun immensely; while Don raced after, in a canine rapture at being
free again and with his mates.
It was a fine sight—the three wild things at play, so full of
vigour, grace, and freedom, that for the moment the smooth lawn
seemed a prairie; and the spectators felt as if this glimpse of
another life made their own seem rather tame and colourless.
“This is better than a circus!” cried Mrs Jo, wishing she were a girl
again, that she might take a gallop on this chained lightning of a
horse. “I foresee that Nan will have her hands full setting bones,
for Ted will break every one of his trying to rival Dan.”
“A few falls will not harm, and this new care and pleasure will be
good for him in all ways. But I fear Dan will never follow a plough
after riding a Pegasus like that,” answered Mr Bhaer, as the black
mare leaped the gate and came flying up the avenue, to stop at a word
and stand quivering with excitement, while Dan swung himself off and
looked up for applause.
He received plenty of it, and seemed more pleased for his pet's sake
than for his own. Ted clamoured for a lesson at once, and was soon at
ease in the queer saddle, finding Octoo gentle as a lamb, as he
trotted away to show off at college. Bess came hastening down the
hill, having seen the race from afar; and all collected on the piazza
while Dan “yanked” the cover off the big box the express had “dumped”
before the door—to borrow his own words.
Dan usually travelled in light marching order, and hated to have more
luggage than he could carry in his well-worn valise. But now that he
had a little money of his own, he had cumbered himself with a
collection of trophies won by his bow and spear, and brought them
home to bestow upon his friends.
“We shall be devoured with moths,” thought Mrs Jo, as the shaggy head
appeared, followed by a wolf-skin rug for her feet, a bear-skin ditto
for the Professor's study, and Indian garments bedecked with foxes'
tails for the boys.
All nice and warm for a July day, but received with delight
nevertheless. Ted and Josie immediately “dressed up”, learned the
war-whoop, and proceeded to astonish their friends by a series of
skirmishes about the house and grounds, with tomahawks and bows and
arrows, till weariness produced a lull.
Gay birds' wings, plumy pampas grass, strings of wampum, and pretty
work in beads, bark, and feathers, pleased the girls. Minerals,
arrow-heads, and crude sketches interested the Professor; and when
the box was empty, Dan gave Mr Laurie, as his gift, several plaintive
Indian songs written on birch-bark.
“We only want a tent over us to be quite perfect. I feel as if I
ought to give you parched corn and dried meat for dinner, my braves.
Nobody will want lamb and green peas after this splendid pow-wow,”
said Mrs Jo, surveying the picturesque confusion of the long hall,
where people lay about on the rugs, all more or less bedecked with
feathers, moccasins, or beads.
“Moose noses, buffalo tongues, bear steaks, and roasted marrow-bones
would be the thing, but I don't mind a change; so bring on your
baa-baa and green meat,” answered Dan from the box, where he sat in
state like a chief among his tribe, with the great hound at his feet.
The girls began to clear up, but made little headway; for everything
they touched had a story, and all were thrilling, comical, or wild;
so they found it hard to settle to their work, till Dan was carried
off by Mr Laurie.
This was the beginning of the summer holiday, and it was curious to
see what a pleasant little stir Dan's and Emil's coming made in the
quiet life of the studious community; for they seemed to bring a
fresh breeze with them that enlivened everyone. Many of the
collegians remained during vacation; and Plumfield and Parnassus did
their best to make these days pleasant for them, since most came from
distant States, were poor, and had few opportunities but this for
culture or amusement. Emil was hail-fellow-well-met with men and
maids, and went rollicking about in true sailor fashion; but Dan
stood rather in awe of the “fair girl-graduates”, and was silent when
among them, eyeing them as an eagle might a flock of doves. He got on
better with the young men, and was their hero at once. Their
admiration for his manly accomplishments did him good; because he
felt his educational defects keenly, and often wondered if he could
find anything in books to satisfy him as thoroughly as did the
lessons he was learning from Nature's splendidly illustrated volume.
In spite of his silence, the girls found out his good qualities, and
regarded “the Spaniard”, as they named him, with great favour; for
his black eyes were more eloquent than his tongue, and the kind
creatures tried to show their friendly interests in many charming
He saw this, and endeavoured to be worthy of it—curbing his free
speech, toning down his rough manners, and watching the effect of all
he said and did, anxious to make a good impression. The social
atmosphere warmed his lonely heart, the culture excited him to do his
best, and the changes which had taken place during his absence, both
in himself and others, made the old home seem like a new world. After
the life in California, it was sweet and restful to be here, with
these familiar faces round him, helping him to forget much that he
regretted, and to resolve to deserve more entirely the confidence of
these good fellows, the respect of these innocent girls.
So there was riding, rowing, and picnicking by day, music, dancing,
and plays by night; and everyone said there had not been so gay a
vacation for years. Bess kept her promise, and let the dust gather on
her beloved clay while she went pleasuring with her mates or studied
music with her father, who rejoiced over the fresh roses in her
cheeks and the laughter which chased away the dreamy look she used to
wear. Josie quarrelled less with Ted; for Dan had a way of looking at
her which quelled her instantly, and had almost as good an effect
upon her rebellious cousin. But Octoo did even more for the lively
youth, who found that her charms entirely eclipsed those of the
bicycle which had been his heart's delight before. Early and late he
rode this untiring beast, and began to gain flesh—to the great joy
of his mother, who feared that her beanstalk was growing too fast for
Demi, finding business dull, solaced his leisure by photographing
everybody he could induce to sit or stand to him, producing some
excellent pictures among many failures; for he had a pretty taste in
grouping, and endless patience. He might be said to view the world
through the lens of his camera, and seemed to enjoy himself very much
squinting at his fellow beings from under a bit of black cambric. Dan
was a treasure to him; for he took well, and willingly posed in his
Mexican costume, with horse and hound, and all wanted copies of these
effective photographs. Bess, also, was a favourite sitter; and Demi
received a prize at the Amateur Photographic Exhibition for one of
his cousin with all her hair about her face, which rose from the
cloud of white lace draping the shoulders. These were freely handed
round by the proud artist; and one copy had a tender little history
yet to be told.
Nat was snatching every minute he could get with Daisy before the
long parting; and Mrs Meg relented somewhat, feeling sure that
absence would quite cure this unfortunate fancy. Daisy said little;
but her gentle face was sad when she was alone, and a few quiet tears
dropped on the handkerchiefs she marked so daintily with her own
hair. She was sure Nat would not forget her; and life looked rather
forlorn without the dear fellow who had been her friend since the
days of patty-pans and confidences in the willow-tree. She was an
old-fashioned daughter, dutiful and docile, with such love and
reverence for her mother that her will was law; and if love was
forbidden, friendship must suffice. So she kept her little sorrow to
herself, smiled cheerfully at Nat, and made his last days of
home-life very happy with every comfort and pleasure she could give,
from sensible advice and sweet words to a well-filled work-bag for
his bachelor establishment and a box of goodies for the voyage.
Tom and Nan took all the time they could spare from their studies to
enjoy high jinks at Plumfield with their old friends; for Emil's next
voyage was to be a long one, Nat's absence was uncertain, and no one
ever knew when Dan would turn up again. They all seemed to feel that
life was beginning to grow serious; and even while they enjoyed those
lovely summer days together they were conscious that they were
children no longer, and often in the pauses of their fun talked
soberly of their plans and hopes, as if anxious to know and help one
another before they drifted farther apart on their different ways.
A few weeks were all they had; then the Brenda was ready, Nat was to
sail from New York, and Dan went along to see him off; for his own
plans fermented in his head, and he was eager to be up and doing. A
farewell dance was given on Parnassus in honour of the travellers,
and all turned out in their best array and gayest spirits. George and
Dolly came with the latest Harvard airs and graces, radiant to
behold, in dress-suits and “crushed hats”, as Josie called the
especial pride and joy of their boyish souls. Jack and Ned sent
regrets and best wishes, and no one mourned their absence; for they
were among what Mrs Jo called her failures. Poor Tom got into
trouble, as usual, by deluging his head with some highly scented
preparation in the vain hope of making his tight curls lie flat and
smooth, as was the style. Unhappily, his rebellious crop only kinked
the closer, and the odour of many barbers' shops clung to him in
spite of his frantic efforts to banish it. Nan wouldn't allow him
near her, and flapped her fan vigorously whenever he was in sight;
which cut him to the heart, and made him feel like the Peri shut out
from Paradise. Of course his mates jeered at him, and nothing but the
unquenchable jollity of his nature kept him from despair.
Emil was resplendent in his new uniform, and danced with an abandon
which only sailors know. His pumps seemed to be everywhere, and his
partners soon lost breath trying to keep up with him; but the girls
all declared he steered like an angel, and in spite of his pace no
collisions took place; so he was happy, and found no lack of damsels
to ship with him.
Having no dress-suit, Dan had been coaxed to wear his Mexican
costume, and feeling at ease in the many-buttoned trousers, loose
jacket, and gay sash, flung his serape over his shoulder with a
flourish and looked his best, doing great execution with his long
spurs, as he taught Josie strange steps or rolled his black eyes
admiringly after certain blonde damsels whom he dared not address.
The mammas sat in the alcove, supplying pins, smiles, and kindly
words to all, especially the awkward youths new to such scenes, and
the bashful girls conscious of faded muslins and cleaned gloves. It
was pleasant to see stately Mrs Amy promenade on the arm of a tall
country boy, with thick boots and a big forehead, or Mrs Jo dance
like a girl with a shy fellow whose arms went like pump-handles, and
whose face was scarlet with confusion and pride at the honour of
treading on the toes of the president's wife. Mrs Meg always had
room on her sofa for two or three girls, and Mr Laurie devoted
himself to these plain, poorly dressed damsels with a kindly grace
that won their hearts and made them happy. The good Professor
circulated like refreshments, and his cheerful face shone on all
alike, while Mr March discussed Greek comedy in the study with such
serious gentlemen as never unbent their mighty minds to frivolous
The long music-room, parlour, hall, and piazza were full of
white-gowned maidens with attendant shadows; the air was full of
lively voices, and hearts and feet went lightly together as the home
band played vigorously, and the friendly moon did her best to add
enchantment to the scene.
“Pin me up, Meg; that dear Dunbar boy has nearly rent me "in sunder",
as Mr Peggotty would say. But didn't he enjoy himself, bumping
against his fellow men and swinging me round like a mop. On these
occasions I find that I'm not as young as I was, nor as light of
foot. In ten years more we shall be meal-bags, sister; so be
resigned.” And Mrs Jo subsided into a corner, much dishevelled by her
“I know I shall be stout; but you won't keep still long enough to get
much flesh on your bones, dear; and Amy will always keep her lovely
figure. She looks about eighteen tonight, in her white gown and
roses,” answered Meg, busily pinning up one sister's torn frills,
while her eyes fondly followed the other's graceful movements; for
Meg still adored Amy in the old fashion.
It was one of the family jokes that Jo was getting fat, and she kept
it up, though as yet she had only acquired a matronly outline, which
was very becoming. They were laughing over the impending double
chins, when Mr Laurie came off duty for a moment.
“Repairing damages as usual, Jo? You never could take a little gentle
exercise without returning in rags. Come and have a quiet stroll with
me and cool off before supper. I've a series of pretty tableaux to
show you while Meg listens to the raptures of lisping Miss Carr, whom
I made happy by giving her Demi for a partner.”
As he spoke, Laurie led Jo to the music-room, nearly empty now after
a dance which sent the young people into garden and hall. Pausing
before the first of the four long windows that opened on a very wide
piazza, he pointed to a group outside, saying: “The name of this is
A pair of long, blue legs, ending in very neat pumps, hung from the
veranda roof among the vines; and roses, gathered by unseen hands,
evidently appertaining to aforesaid legs, were being dropped into the
laps of several girls perched like a flock of white birds on the
railing below; while a manly voice “fell like a falling star”, as it
sung this pensive ditty to a most appreciative audience:
The moon had climbed the eastern hill
Which rises o'er the sands of Dee,
And from its highest summit shed
A silver light on tower and tree,
When Mary laid her down to sleep
(Her thoughts on Sandy far at sea);
When soft and low a voice was heard,
Saying, “Mary, weep no more for me.”
She from her pillow gently raised
Her head, to see who there might be,
And saw young Sandy, shivering stand
With visage pale and hollow e'e.
“Oh Mary dear, cold is my clay;
It lies beneath the stormy sea;
Far, far from thee, I sleep in death.
Dear Mary, weep no more for me.
“Three stormy nights and stormy days
We tossed upon the raging main.
And long we strove our bark to save;
But all our striving was in vain.
E'en then, when terror chilled my blood,
My heart was filled with love of thee.
The storm is past, and I'm at rest;
So, Mary, weep no more for me.
“Oh maiden dear, yourself prepare;
We soon shall meet upon that shore
Where love is free from doubt and care,
And you and I shall part no more.”
Loud crew the cock, the shadow fled;
No more her Sandy did she see;
But soft the passing spirit said,
“Sweet Mary, weep no more for me.”
“The constant jollity of that boy is worth a fortune to him. He'll
never sink with such a buoyant spirit to keep him afloat through
life,” said Mrs Jo, as the roses were tossed back with much applause
when the song ended.
“Not he; and it's a blessing to be grateful for, isn't it? We moody
people know its worth. Glad you like my first tableau. Come and see
number two. Hope it isn't spoilt; it was very pretty just now. This
is "Othello telling his adventures to Desdemona".”
The second window framed a very picturesque group of three. Mr March
in an arm-chair, with Bess on a cushion at his feet, was listening to
Dan, who, leaning against a pillar, was talking with unusual
animation. The old man was in shadow, but little Desdemona was
looking up with the moonlight full upon her into young Othello's
face, quite absorbed in the story he was telling so well. The gay
drapery over Dan's shoulder, his dark colouring, and the gesture of
his arm made the picture very striking, and both spectators enjoyed
it with silent pleasure, till Mrs Jo said in a quick whisper:
“I'm glad he's going away. He's too picturesque to have here among so
many romantic girls. Afraid his "grand, gloomy, and peculiar" style
will be too much for our simple maids.”
“No danger; Dan is in the rough as yet, and always will be, I fancy;
though he is improving in many ways. How well Queenie looks in that
“Dear little Goldilocks looks well everywhere.” And with a backward
glance full of pride and fondness, Mrs Jo went on. But that scene
returned to her long afterward and her own prophetic words also.
Number three was a tragical tableau at first sight; and Mr Laurie
stifled a laugh as he whispered “The Wounded Knight”, pointing to Tom
with his head enveloped in a large handkerchief, as he knelt before
Nan, who was extracting a thorn or splinter from the palm of his hand
with great skill, to judge from the patient's blissful expression of
“Do I hurt you?” she asked, turning the hand to the moonlight for a
“Not a bit; dig away; I like it,” answered Tom, regardless of his
aching knees and the damage done to his best trousers.
“I won't keep you long.”
“Hours, if you please. Never so happy as here.”
Quite unmoved by this tender remark, Nan put on a pair of large,
round-eyed glasses, saying in a matter-of-fact tone: “Now I see it.
Only a splinter, and there it is.”
“My hand is bleeding; won't you bind it up?” asked Tom, wishing to
prolong the situation.
“Nonsense; suck it. Only take care of it tomorrow if you dissect.
Don't want any more blood-poisoning.”
“That was the only time you were kind to me. Wish I'd lost my arm.”
“I wish you'd lost your head; it smells more like turpentine and
kerosene than ever. Do take a run in the garden and air it.”
Fearing to betray themselves by laughter, the watchers went on,
leaving the Knight to rush away in despair, and the Lady to bury her
nose in the cup of a tall lily for refreshment.
“Poor Tom, his fate is a hard one, and he's wasting his time! Do
advise him to quit philandering and go to work, Jo.”
“I have, Teddy, often; but it will take some great shock to make that
boy wise. I wait with interest to see what it will be. Bless me!
what is all this?”
She might well ask; for on a rustic stool stood Ted trying to pose on
one foot, with the other extended, and both hands waving in the air.
Josie, with several young mates, was watching his contortions with
deep interest as they talked about “little wings”, “gilded wire
twisted”, and a “cunning skull-cap”.
“This might be called "Mercury Trying to Fly",” said Mr Laurie, as
they peeped through the lace curtains.
“Bless the long legs of that boy! how does he expect to manage them?
They are planning for the Owlsdark Marbles, and a nice muddle they
will make of my gods and goddesses with no one to show them how,”
answered Mrs Jo, enjoying this scene immensely. “Now, he's got it!”
“That's perfectly splendid!” “See how long you can keep so!” cried
the girls, as Ted managed to maintain his equilibrium a moment by
resting one toe on the trellis. Unfortunately this brought all his
weight on the other foot; the straw seat of the stool gave way, and
the flying Mercury came down with a crash, amid shrieks of laughter
from the girls. Being accustomed to ground and lofty tumbling, he
quickly recovered himself, and hopped gaily about, with one leg
through the stool as he improvised a classic jig.
“Thanks for four nice little pictures. You have given me an idea, and
I think some time we will get up regular tableaux of this sort and
march our company round a set of dissolving views. New and striking;
I'll propose it to our manager and give you all the glory,” said Mrs
Jo, as they strolled towards the room whence came the clash of glass
and china, and glimpses of agitated black coats.
Let us follow the example of our old friends and stroll about among
the young people, eavesdropping, so gathering up various little
threads to help in the weaving of the story. George and Dolly were at
supper, and having served the ladies in their care stood in a corner
absorbing nourishment of all kinds with a vain attempt to conceal
hearty appetites under an air of elegant indifference.
“Good spread, this; Laurence does things in style. First-rate coffee,
but no wine, and that's a mistake,” said Stuffy, who still deserved
his name, and was a stout youth with a heavy eye and bilious
“Bad for boys, he says. Jove! wish he could see us at some of our
wines. Don't we just "splice the main brace" as Emil says,” answered
Dolly, the dandy, carefully spreading a napkin over the glossy
expanse of shirt-front whereon a diamond stud shone like a lone star.
His stutter was nearly outgrown; but he, as well as George, spoke in
the tone of condescension, which, with the blase airs they assumed,
made a very funny contrast to their youthful faces and foolish
remarks. Good-hearted little fellows both, but top-heavy with the
pride of being Sophs and the freedom that college life gave them.
“Little Jo is getting to be a deuced pretty girl, isn't she?” said
George, with a long sigh of satisfaction as his first mouthful of ice
went slowly down his throat.
“H'm—well, fairish. The Princess is rather more to my taste. I like
'em blonde and queenly and elegant, don't you know.”
“Yes, Jo is too lively; might as well dance with a grasshopper. I've
tried her, and she's one too many for me. Miss Perry is a nice,
easy-going girl. Got her for the german.”
“You'll never be a dancing man. Too lazy. Now I'll undertake to steer
any girl and dance down any fellow you please. Dancing's my forte.”
And Dolly glanced from his trim feet to his flashing gem with the
defiant air of a young turkey-cock on parade.
“Miss Grey is looking for you. Wants more grub. Just see if Miss
Nelson's plate is empty, there's a good fellow. Can't eat ice in a
hurry.” And George remained in his safe corner, while Dolly struggled
through the crowd to do his duty, coming back in a fume, with a
splash of salad dressing on his coat-cuff.
“Confound these country chaps! they go blundering round like so many
dor-bugs, and make a deuce of a mess. Better stick to books and not
try to be society men. Can't do it. Beastly stain. Give it a rub, and
let me bolt a mouthful, I'm starved. Never saw girls eat such a lot.
It proves that they ought not to study so much. Never liked co-ed,”
growled Dolly, much ruffled in spirit.
“So they do. 'Tisn't ladylike. Ought to be satisfied with an ice and
a bit of cake, and eat it prettily. Don't like to see a girl feed. We
hard-working men need it, and, by Jove, I mean to get some more of
that meringue if it's not all gone. Here, waiter! bring along that
dish over there, and be lively,” commanded Stuffy, poking a young man
in a rather shabby dress-suit, who was passing with a tray of
His order was obeyed promptly; but George's appetite was taken away
the next moment by Dolly's exclaiming, as he looked up from his
damaged coat, with a scandalized face:
“You've put your foot in it now, old boy! that's Morton, Mr Bhaer's
crack man. Knows everything, no end of a "dig", and bound to carry
off all the honours. You won't hear the last of it in a hurry.” And
Dolly laughed so heartily that a spoonful of ice flew upon the head
of a lady sitting below him, and got him into a scrape also.
Leaving them to their despair, let us listen to the whispered chat of
two girls comfortably seated in a recess waiting till their escorts
“I do think the Laurences give lovely parties. Don't you enjoy them?”
asked the younger, looking about her with the eager air of one unused
to this sort of pleasure.
“Very much, only I never feel as if I was dressed right. My things
seemed elegant at home, and I thought I'd be over over-dressed if
anything; but I look countrified and dowdy here. No time or money to
change now, even if I knew how to do it,” answered the other,
glancing anxiously at her bright pink silk grown, trimmed with cheap
“You must get Mrs Brooke to tell you how to fix your things. She was
very kind to me. I had a green silk, and it looked so cheap and
horrid by the side of the nice dresses here I felt regularly unhappy
about it, and asked her how much a dress like one Mrs Laurence had
would cost. That looked so simple and elegant I thought it wouldn't
be costly; but it was India mull and Valenciennes lace, so, of
course, I couldn't have it. Then Mrs Brooke said: "Get some muslin to
cover the green silk, and wear hops or some white flowers, instead of
pink, in your hair, and you will have a pretty suit." Isn't it lovely
and becoming?” And Miss Burton surveyed herself with girlish
satisfaction; for a little taste had softened the harsh green, and
hop-bells became her red hair better than roses.
“It's sweet: I've been admiring it. I'll do mine so and ask about my
purple one. Mrs Brooke has helped me to get rid of my headaches, and
Mary Clay's dyspepsia is all gone since she gave up coffee and hot
“Mrs Laurence advised me to walk and run and use the gymnasium to
cure my round shoulders and open my chest, and I'm a much better
figure than I was.”
“Did you know that Mr Laurence pays all Amelia Merrill's bills? Her
father failed, and she was heartbroken at having to leave college;
but that splendid man just stepped in and made it all right.” “Yes,
and Professor Bhaer has several of the boys down at his house
evenings to help them along so they can keep up with the rest; and
Mrs Bhaer took care of Charles Mackey herself when he had a fever
last year. I do think they are the best and kindest people in the
“So do I, and my time here will be the happiest and most useful years
of my life.”
And both girls forgot their gowns and their suppers for a moment to
look with grateful, affectionate eyes at the friends who tried to
care for bodies and for souls as well as minds.
Now come to a lively party supping on the stairs, girls like foam at
the top, and a substratum of youths below, where the heaviest
particles always settle. Emil, who never sat if he could climb or
perch, adorned the newel-post; Tom, Nat, Demi, and Dan were camped on
the steps, eating busily, as their ladies were well served and they
had earned a moment's rest, which they enjoyed with their eyes fixed
on the pleasing prospect above them.
“I'm so sorry the boys are going. It will be dreadfully dull without
them. Now they have stopped teasing and are polite, I really enjoy
them,” said Nan, who felt unusually gracious tonight as Tom's mishap
kept him from annoying her.
“So do I; and Bess was mourning about it today, though as a general
thing she doesn't like boys unless they are models of elegance. She
has been doing Dan's head, and it is not quite finished. I never saw
her so interested in any work, and it's very well done. He is so
striking and big he always makes me think of the Dying Gladiator or
some of those antique creatures. There's Bess now. Dear child, how
sweet she looks tonight!” answered Daisy, waving her hand as the
Princess went by with Grandpa on her arm.
“I never thought he would turn out so well. Don't you remember how we
used to call him "the bad boy" and be sure he would become a pirate
or something awful because he glared at us and swore sometimes? Now
he is the handsomest of all the boys, and very entertaining with his
stories and plans. I like him very much; he's so big and strong and
independent. I'm tired of mollycoddles and book-worms,” said Nan in
her decided way.
“Not handsomer that Nat!” cried loyal Daisy, contrasting two faces
below, one unusually gay, the other sentimentally sober even in the
act of munching cake. “I like Dan, and am glad he is doing well; but
he tires me, and I'm still a little afraid of him. Quiet people suit
“Life is a fight, and I like a good soldier. Boys take things too
easily, don't see how serious it all is and go to work in earnest.
Look at that absurd Tom, wasting his time and making an object of
himself just because he can't have what he wants, like a baby crying
for the moon. I've no patience with such nonsense,” scolded Nan,
looking down at the jovial Thomas, who was playfully putting
macaroons in Emil's shoes, and trying to beguile his exile as best he
“Most girls would be touched by such fidelity. I think it's
beautiful,” said Daisy behind her fan; for other girls sat just
“You are a sentimental goose and not a judge. Nat will be twice the
man when he comes back after his trip. I wish Tom was going with him.
My idea is that if we girls have any influence we should use it for
the good of these boys, and not pamper them up, making slaves of
ourselves and tyrants of them. Let them prove what they can do and be
before they ask anything of us, and give us a chance to do the same.
Then we know where we are, and shall not make mistakes to mourn over
all our lives.”
“Hear, hear!” cried Alice Heath, who was a girl after Nan's own
heart, and had chosen a career, like a brave and sensible young
woman. “Only give us a chance, and have patience till we can do our
best. Now we are expected to be as wise as men who have had
generations of all the help there is, and we scarcely anything. Let
us have equal opportunities, and in a few generations we will see
what the judgement is. I like justice, and we get very little of it.”
“Still shouting the battle-cry of freedom?” asked Demi, peering
through the banisters at this moment. “Up with your flag! I'll stand
by and lend a hand if you want it. With you and Nan to lead the van,
I think you won't need much help.”
“You are a great comfort, Demi, and I'll call on you in all
emergencies; for you are an honest boy, and don't forget that you owe
much to your mother and your sisters and your aunts,” continued Nan.
“I do like men who come out frankly and own that they are not gods.
How can we think them so when such awful mistakes are being made all
the time by these great creatures? See them sick, as I do, then you
“Don't hit us when we are down; be merciful, and set us up to bless
and believe in you evermore,” pleaded Demi from behind the bars.
“We'll be kind to you if you will be just to us. I don't say
generous, only just. I went to a suffrage debate in the Legislature
last winter; and of all the feeble, vulgar twaddle I ever heard, that
was the worst; and those men were our representatives. I blushed for
them, and the wives and mothers. I want an intelligent man to
represent me, if I can't do it myself, not a fool.”
“Nan is on the stump. Now we shall catch it,” cried Tom, putting up
an umbrella to shield his unhappy head; for Nan's earnest voice was
audible, and her indignant eye happened to rest on him as she spoke.
“Go on, go on! I'll take notes, and put in "great applause"
liberally,” added Demi, producing his ball-book and pencil, with his
Daisy pinched his nose through the bars, and the meeting was rather
tumultuous for a moment, for Emil called: “Avast, avast, here's a
squall to wind'ard”; Tom applauded wildly; Dan looked up as if the
prospect of a fight, even with words, pleased him, and Nat went to
support Demi, as his position seemed to be a good one. At this
crisis, when everyone laughed and talked at once, Bess came floating
through the upper hall and looked down like an angel of peace upon
the noisy group below, as she asked, with wondering eyes and smiling
“What is it?”
“An indignation meeting. Nan and Alice are on the rampage, and we are
at the bar to be tried for our lives. Will Your Highness preside and
judge between us?” answered Demi, as a lull at once took place; for
no one rioted in the presence of the Princess.
“I'm not wise enough. I'll sit here and listen. Please go on.” And
Bess took her place above them all as cool and calm as a little
statue of Justice, with fan and nosegay in place of sword and scales.
“Now, ladies, free your minds, only spare us till morning; for we've
got a german to dance as soon as everyone is fed, and Parnassus
expects every man to do his duty. Mrs President Giddy-gaddy has the
floor,” said Demi, who liked this sort of fun better than the very
mild sort of flirtation which was allowed at Plumfield, for the
simple reason that it could not be entirely banished, and is a part
of all education, co- or otherwise.
“I have only one thing to say, and it is this,” began Nan soberly,
though her eyes sparkled with a mixture of fun and earnestness. “I
want to ask every boy of you what you really think on this subject.
Dan and Emil have seen the world and ought to know their own minds.
Tom and Nat have had five examples before them for years. Demi is
ours and we are proud of him. So is Rob. Ted is a weathercock, and
Dolly and George, of course, are fogies in spite of the Annex, and
girls at Girton going ahead of the men. Commodore, are you ready for
“Ay, ay, skipper.”
“Do you believe in Woman's Suffrage?”
“Bless your pretty figger head! I do, and I'll ship a crew of girls
any time you say so. Aren't they worse than a press-gang to carry a
fellow out of his moorings? Don't we all need one as pilot to steer
us safe to port? and why shouldn't they share our mess afloat and
ashore since we are sure to be wrecked without 'em?”
“Good for you, Emil! Nan will take you for first mate after that
handsome speech,” said Demi, as the girls applauded, and Tom
glowered. “Now, Dan, you love liberty so well yourself, are you
willing we should have it?”
“All you can get, and I'll fight any man who's mean enough to say you
don't deserve it.”
This brief and forcible reply delighted the energetic President, and
she beamed upon the member from California, as she said briskly:
“Nat wouldn't dare to say he was on the other side even if he were,
but I hope he has made up his mind to pipe for us, at least when we
take the field, and not be one of those who wait till the battle is
won, and then beat the drums and share the glory.”
Mrs Giddy-gaddy's doubts were most effectually removed, and her sharp
speech regretted, as Nat looked up blushing, but with a new sort of
manliness in face and manner, saying, in a tone that touched them
“I should be the most ungrateful fellow alive if I did not love,
honour, and serve women with all my heart and might, for to them I
owe everything I am or ever shall be.”
Daisy clapped her hands, and Bess threw her bouquet into Nat's lap,
while the other girls waved their fans, well pleased; for real
feeling made his little speech eloquent.
“Thomas B. Bangs, come into court, and tell the truth, the whole
truth, and nothing but the truth, if you can,” commanded Nan, with a
rap to call the meeting to order.
Tom shut the umbrella, and standing up raised his hand, saying
“I believe in suffrage of all kinds. I adore all women, and will die
for them at any moment if it will help the cause.”
“Living and working for it is harder, and therefore more honourable.
Men are always ready to die for us, but not to make our lives worth
having. Cheap sentiment and bad logic. You will pass, Tom, only don't
twaddle. Now, having taken the sense of the meeting we will adjourn,
as the hour for festive gymnastics has arrived. I am glad to see that
old Plum has given six true men to the world, and hope they will
continue to be staunch to her and the principles she has taught them,
wherever they may go. Now, girls, don't sit in draughts, and, boys,
beware of ice-water when you are warm.”
With this characteristic close Nan retired from office, and the girls
went to enjoy one of the few rights allowed them.