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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesLittle Men - Chapter IX. DAISY'S BALL
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Little Men - Chapter IX. DAISY'S BALL Post by :Roy_Adriaan Category :Long Stories Author :Louisa May Alcott Date :February 2011 Read :1099

Click below to download : Little Men - Chapter IX. DAISY'S BALL (Format : PDF)

Little Men - Chapter IX. DAISY'S BALL

"Mrs. Shakespeare Smith would like to have Mr. John Brooke, Mr.
Thomas Bangs, and Mr. Nathaniel Blake to come to her ball at
three o'clock today.

"P.S. Nat must bring his fiddle, so we can dance, and all the boys
must be good, or they cannot have any of the nice things we have
cooked."

This elegant invitation would, I fear, have been declined, but for
the hint given in the last line of the postscript.

"They have been cooking lots of goodies, I smelt 'em. Let's go,"
said Tommy.

"We needn't stay after the feast, you know," added Demi.

"I never went to a ball. What do you have to do?" asked Nat.

"Oh, we just play be men, and sit round stiff and stupid like
grown-up folks, and dance to please the girls. Then we eat up
everything, and come away as soon as we can."

"I think I could do that," said Nat, after considering Tommy's
description for a minute.

"I'll write and say we'll come;" and Demi despatched the following
gentlemanly reply,

"We will all come. Please have lots to eat. J. B. Esquire."

Great was the anxiety of the ladies about their first ball, because if
every thing went well they intended to give a dinner-party to the
chosen few.

"Aunt Jo likes to have the boys play with us, if they are not rough;
so we must make them like our balls, then they will do them
good," said Daisy, with her maternal air, as she set the table and
surveyed the store of refreshments with an anxious eye.

"Demi and Nat will be good, but Tommy will do something bad, I
know he will," replied Nan, shaking her head over the little
cake-basket which she was arranging.

"Then I shall send him right home," said Daisy, with decision.

"People don't do so at parties, it isn't proper."

"I shall never ask him any more."

"That would do. He'd be sorry not to come to the dinner-ball,
wouldn't he?"

"I guess he would! we'll have the splendidest things ever seen,
won't we? Real soup with a ladle and a tureem (she meant tureen)
and a little bird for turkey, and gravy, and all kinds of nice
vegytubbles." Daisy never could say vegetables properly, and had
given up trying.

"It is 'most three, and we ought to dress," said Nan, who had
arranged a fine costume for the occasion, and was anxious to wear
it.

"I am the mother, so I shan't dress up much," said Daisy, putting on
a night-cap ornamented with a red bow, one of her aunt's long
skirts, and a shawl; a pair of spectacles and large pocket
handkerchief completed her toilette, making a plump, rosy little
matron of her.

Nan had a wreath of artificial flowers, a pair of old pink slippers, a
yellow scarf, a green muslin skirt, and a fan made of feathers from
the duster; also, as a last touch of elegance, a smelling-bottle
without any smell in it.

"I am the daughter, so I rig up a good deal, and I must sing and
dance, and talk more than you do. The mothers only get the tea and
be proper, you know."

A sudden very loud knock caused Miss Smith to fly into a chair,
and fan herself violently, while her mamma sat bolt upright on the
sofa, and tried to look quite calm and "proper." Little Bess, who
was on a visit, acted the part of maid, and opened the door, saying
with a smile, "Wart in, gemplemun; it's all weady."

In honor of the occasion, the boys wore high paper collars, tall
black hats, and gloves of every color and material, for they were an
afterthought, and not a boy among them had a perfect pair.

"Good day, mum," said Demi, in a deep voice, which was so hard
to keep up that his remarks had to be extremely brief.

Every one shook hands and then sat down, looking so funny, yet so
sober, that the gentlemen forgot their manners, and rolled in their
chairs with laughter.

"Oh, don't!" cried Mrs. Smith, much distressed.

"You can't ever come again if you act so," added Miss Smith,
rapping Mr. Bangs with her bottle because he laughed loudest.

"I can't help it, you look so like fury," gasped Mr. Bangs, with most
uncourteous candor.

"So do you, but I shouldn't be so rude as to say so. He shan't come
to the dinner-ball, shall he, Daisy?" cried Nan, indignantly.

"I think we had better dance now. Did you bring your fiddle, sir?"
asked Mrs. Smith, trying to preserve her polite composure.

"It is outside the door," and Nat went to get it.

"Better have tea first," proposed the unabashed Tommy, winking
openly at Demi to remind him that the sooner the refreshments
were secured, the sooner they could escape.

"No, we never have supper first; and if you don't dance well you
won't have any supper at all, not one bit, sir," said Mrs. Smith, so
sternly that her wild guests saw she was not to be trifled with, and
grew overwhelmingly civil all at once.

"I will take Mr. Bangs and teach him the polka, for he does not
know it fit to be seen," added the hostess, with a reproachful look
that sobered Tommy at once.

Nat struck up, and the ball opened with two couples, who went
conscientiously through a somewhat varied dance. The ladies did
well, because they liked it, but the gentlemen exerted themselves
from more selfish motives, for each felt that he must earn his
supper, and labored manfully toward that end. When every one
was out of breath they were allowed to rest; and, indeed, poor Mrs.
Smith needed it, for her long dress had tripped her up many times.
The little maid passed round molasses and water in such small
cups that one guest actually emptied nine. I refrain from
mentioning his name, because this mild beverage affected him so
much that he put cup and all into his mouth at the ninth round, and
choked himself publicly.

"You must ask Nan to play and sing now," said Daisy to her
brother, who sat looking very much like an owl, as he gravely
regarded the festive scene between his high collars.

"Give us a song, mum," said the obedient guest, secretly
wondering where the piano was.

Miss Smith sailed up to an old secretary which stood in the room,
threw back the lid of the writing-desk, and sitting down before it,
accompanied herself with a vigor which made the old desk rattle
as she sang that new and lovely song, beginning

"Gaily the troubadour

Touched his guitar,

As he was hastening

Home from the war."

The gentlemen applauded so enthusiastically that she gave them
"Bounding Billows," "Little Bo-Peep," and other gems of song, till
they were obliged to hint that they had had enough. Grateful for
the praises bestowed upon her daughter, Mrs. Smith graciously
announced,

"Now we will have tea. Sit down carefully, and don't grab."

It was beautiful to see the air of pride with which the good lady did
the honors of her table, and the calmness with which she bore the
little mishaps that occurred. The best pie flew wildly on the floor
when she tried to cut it with a very dull knife; the bread and butter
vanished with a rapidity calculated to dismay a housekeeper's soul;
and, worst of all, the custards were so soft that they had to be
drunk up, instead of being eaten elegantly with the new tin spoons.

I grieve to state that Miss Smith squabbled with the maid for the
best jumble, which caused Bess to toss the whole dish into the air,
and burst out crying amid a rain of falling cakes. She was
comforted by a seat at the table, and the sugar-bowl to empty; but
during this flurry a large plate of patties was mysteriously lost, and
could not be found. They were the chief ornament of the feast, and
Mrs. Smith was indignant at the loss, for she had made them
herself, and they were beautiful to behold. I put it to any lady if it
was not hard to have one dozen delicious patties (made of flour,
salt, and water, with a large raisin in the middle of each, and much
sugar over the whole) swept away at one fell swoop?

"You hid them, Tommy; I know you did!" cried the outraged
hostess, threatening her suspected guest with the milk-pot.

"I didn't!"

"You did!"

"It isn't proper to contradict," said Nan, who was hastily eating up
the jelly during the fray.

"Give them back, Demi," said Tommy.

"That's a fib, you've got them in your own pocket," bawled Demi,
roused by the false accusation.

"Let's take 'em away from him. It's too bad to make Daisy cry,"
suggested Nat, who found his first ball more exciting than he
expected.

Daisy was already weeping, Bess like a devoted servant mingled
her tears with those of her mistress, and Nan denounced the entire
race of boys as "plaguey things." Meanwhile the battle raged
among the gentlemen, for, when the two defenders of innocence
fell upon the foe, that hardened youth intrenched himself behind a
table and pelted them with the stolen tarts, which were very
effective missiles, being nearly as hard as bullets. While his
ammunition held out the besieged prospered, but the moment the
last patty flew over the parapet, the villain was seized, dragged
howling from the room, and cast upon the hall floor in an
ignominious heap. The conquerors then returned flushed with
victory, and while Demi consoled poor Mrs. Smith, Nat and Nan
collected the scattered tarts, replaced each raisin in its proper bed,
and rearranged the dish so that it really looked almost as well as
ever. But their glory had departed, for the sugar was gone, and no
one cared to eat them after the insult offered to them.

"I guess we had better go," said Demi, suddenly, as Aunt Jo's voice
was heard on the stairs.

"P'r'aps we had," and Nat hastily dropped a stray jumble that he
had just picked up.

But Mrs. Jo was among them before the retreat was accomplished,
and into her sympathetic ear the young ladies poured the story of
their woes.

"No more balls for these boys till they have atoned for this bad
behavior by doing something kind to you," said Mrs. Jo, shaking
her head at the three culprits.

"We were only in fun," began Demi.

"I don't like fun that makes other people unhappy. I am
disappointed in you, Demi, for I hoped you would never learn to
tease Daisy. Such a kind little sister as she is to you."

"Boys always tease their sisters; Tom says so," muttered Demi.

"I don't intend that my boys shall, and I must send Daisy home if
you cannot play happily together," said Aunt Jo, soberly.

At this awful threat, Demi sidled up to his sister, and Daisy hastily
dried her tears, for to be separated was the worst misfortune that
could happen to the twins.

"Nat was bad, too, and Tommy was baddest of all," observed Nan,
fearing that two of the sinners would not get their fair share of
punishment.

"I am sorry," said Nat, much ashamed.

"I ain't!" bawled Tommy through the keyhole, where he was
listening with all his might.

Mrs. Jo wanted very much to laugh, but kept her countenance, and
said impressively, as she pointed to the door,

"You can go, boys, but remember, you are not to speak to or play
with the little girls till I give you leave. You don't deserve the
pleasure, so I forbid it."

The ill-mannered young gentlemen hastily retired, to be received
outside with derision and scorn by the unrepentant Bangs, who
would not associate with them for at least fifteen minutes. Daisy
was soon consoled for the failure of her ball, but lamented the
edict that parted her from her brother, and mourned over his
short-comings in her tender little heart. Nan rather enjoyed the
trouble, and went about turning up her pug nose at the three,
especially Tommy, who pretended not to care, and loudly
proclaimed his satisfaction at being rid of those "stupid girls." But
in his secret soul he soon repented of the rash act that caused this
banishment from the society he loved, and every hour of
separation taught him the value of the "stupid girls."

The others gave in very soon, and longed to be friends, for now
there was no Daisy to pet and cook for them; no Nan to amuse and
doctor them; and, worst of all, no Mrs. Jo to make home life
pleasant and life easy for them. To their great affliction, Mrs. Jo
seemed to consider herself one of the offended girls, for she hardly
spoke to the outcasts, looked as if she did not see them when she
passed, and was always too busy now to attend to their requests.
This sudden and entire exile from favor cast a gloom over their
souls, for when Mother Bhaer deserted them, their sun had set at
noon-day, as it were, and they had no refuge left.

This unnatural state of things actually lasted for three days, then
they could bear it no longer, and fearing that the eclipse might
become total, went to Mr. Bhaer for help and counsel.

It is my private opinion that he had received instructions how to
behave if the case should be laid before him. But no one suspected
it, and he gave the afflicted boys some advice, which they
gratefully accepted and carried out in the following manner:

Secluding themselves in the garret, they devoted several
play-hours to the manufacture of some mysterious machine, which
took so much paste that Asia grumbled, and the little girls
wondered mightily. Nan nearly got her inquisitive nose pinched in
the door, trying to see what was going on, and Daisy sat about,
openly lamenting that they could not all play nicely together, and
not have any dreadful secrets. Wednesday afternoon was fine, and
after a good deal of consultation about wind and weather, Nat and
Tommy went off, bearing an immense flat parcel hidden under
many newspapers. Nan nearly died with suppressed curiosity,
Daisy nearly cried with vexation, and both quite trembled with
interest when Demi marched into Mrs. Bhaer's room, hat in hand,
and said, in the politest tone possible to a mortal boy of his years,

"Please, Aunt Jo, would you and the girls come out to a surprise
party we have made for you? Do it's a very nice one."

"Thank you, we will come with pleasure; only, I must take Teddy
with me," replied Mrs. Bhaer, with a smile that cheered Demi like
sunshine after rain.

"We'd like to have him. The little wagon is all ready for the girls;
you won't mind walking just up to Pennyroyal Hill, will you
Aunty?"

"I should like it exceedingly; but are you quite sure I shall not be in
the way?"

"Oh, no, indeed! we want you very much; and the party will be
spoilt if you don't come," cried Demi, with great earnestness.

"Thank you kindly, sir;" and Aunt Jo made him a grand curtsey, for
she liked frolics as well as any of them.

"Now, young ladies, we must not keep them waiting; on with the
hats, and let us be off at once. I'm all impatience to know what the
surprise is."

As Mrs. Bhaer spoke every one bustled about, and in five minutes
the three little girls and Teddy were packed into the
"clothes-basket," as they called the wicker wagon which Toby
drew. Demi walked at the head of the procession, and Mrs. Jo
brought up the rear, escorted by Kit. It was a most imposing party,
I assure you, for Toby had a red feather-duster in his head, two
remarkable flags waved over the carriage, Kit had a blue bow on
his neck, which nearly drove him wild, Demi wore a nosegay of
dandelions in his buttonhole, and Mrs. Jo carried the queer
Japanese umbrella in honor of the occasion.

The girls had little flutters of excitement all the way; and Teddy
was so charmed with the drive that he kept dropping his hat
overboard, and when it was taken from him he prepared to tumble
out himself, evidently feeling that it behooved him to do
something for the amusement of the party.

When they came to the hill "nothing was to be seen but the grass
blowing in the wind," as the fairy books say, and the children
looked disappointed. But Demi said, in his most impressive
manner,

"Now, you all get out and stand still, and the surprise party with
come in;" with which remark he retired behind a rock, over which
heads had been bobbing at intervals for the last half-hour.

A short pause of intense suspense, and then Nat, Demi, and
Tommy marched forth, each bearing a new kite, which they
presented to the three young ladies. Shrieks of delight arose, but
were silenced by the boys, who said, with faces brimful of
merriment, "That isn't all the surprise;" and, running behind the
rock, again emerged bearing a fourth kite of superb size, on which
was printed, in bright yellow letters, "For Mother Bhaer."

"We thought you'd like one, too, because you were angry with us,
and took the girls' part," cried all three, shaking with laughter, for
this part of the affair evidently was a surprise to Mrs. Jo.

She clapped her hands, and joined in the laugh, looking thoroughly
tickled at the joke.

"Now, boys, that is regularly splendid! Who did think of it?" she
asked, receiving the monster kite with as much pleasure as the
little girls did theirs.

"Uncle Fritz proposed it when we planned to make the others; he
said you'd like it, so we made a bouncer," answered Demi,
beaming with satisfaction at the success of the plot.

"Uncle Fritz knows what I like. Yes, these are magnificent kites,
and we were wishing we had some the other day when you were
flying yours, weren't we, girls?"

"That's why we made them for you," cried Tommy, standing on his
head as the most appropriate way of expressing his emotions.

"Let us fly them," said energetic Nan.

"I don't know how," began Daisy.

"We'll show you, we want to!" cried all the boys in a burst of
devotion, as Demi took Daisy's, Tommy Nan's, and Nat, with
difficulty, persuaded Bess to let go her little blue one.

"Aunty, if you will wait a minute, we'll pitch yours for you," said
Demi, feeling that Mrs. Bhaer's favor must not be lost again by any
neglect of theirs.

"Bless your buttons, dear, I know all about it; and here is a boy
who will toss up for me," added Mrs. Jo, as the professor peeped
over the rock with a face full of fun.

He came out at once, tossed up the big kite, and Mrs. Jo ran off
with it in fine style, while the children stood and enjoyed the
spectacle. One by one all the kites went up, and floated far
overhead like gay birds, balancing themselves on the fresh breeze
that blew steadily over the hill. Such a merry time as they had!
running and shouting, sending up the kites or pulling them down,
watching their antics in the air, and feeling them tug at the string
like live creatures trying to escape. Nan was quite wild with the
fun, Daisy thought the new play nearly as interesting as dolls, and
little Bess was so fond of her "boo tite," that she would only let it
go on very short flights, preferring to hold it in her lap and look at
the remarkable pictures painted on it by Tommy's dashing brush.
Mrs. Jo enjoyed hers immensely, and it acted as if it knew who
owned it, for it came tumbling down head first when least
expected, caught on trees, nearly pitched into the river, and finally
darted away to such a height that it looked a mere speck among the
clouds.

By and by every one got tired, and fastening the kite-strings to
trees and fences, all sat down to rest, except Mr. Bhaer, who went
off to look at the cows, with Teddy on his shoulder.

"Did you ever have such a good time as this before?" asked Nat, as
they lay about on the grass, nibbling pennyroyal like a flock of
sheep.

"Not since I last flew a kite, years ago, when I was a girl,"
answered Mrs. Jo.

"I'd like to have known you when you were a girl, you must have
been so jolly," said Nat.

"I was a naughty little girl, I am sorry to say."

"I like naughty little girls," observed Tommy, looking at Nan, who
made a frightful grimace at him in return for the compliment.

"Why don't I remember you then, Aunty? Was I too young?" asked
Demi.

"Rather, dear."

"I suppose my memory hadn't come then. Grandpa says that
different parts of the mind unfold as we grow up, and the memory
part of my mind hadn't unfolded when you were little, so I can't
remember how you looked," explained Demi.

"Now, little Socrates, you had better keep that question for
grandpa, it is beyond me," said Aunt Jo, putting on the
extinguisher.

"Well, I will, he knows about those things, and you don't," returned
Demi, feeling that on the whole kites were better adapted to the
comprehension of the present company.

"Tell about the last time you flew a kite," said Nat, for Mrs. Jo had
laughed as she spoke of it, and he thought it might be interesting.

"Oh, it was only rather funny, for I was a great girl of fifteen, and
was ashamed to be seen at such a play. So Uncle Teddy and I
privately made our kites, and stole away to fly them. We had a
capital time, and were resting as we are now, when suddenly we
heard voices, and saw a party of young ladies and gentlemen
coming back from a picnic. Teddy did not mind, though he was
rather a large boy to be playing with a kite, but I was in a great
flurry, for I knew I should be sadly laughed at, and never hear the
last of it, because my wild ways amused the neighbors as much as
Nan's do us.

"'What shall I do?' I whispered to Teddy, as the voices drew nearer
and nearer.

"'I'll show you,' he said, and whipping out his knife he cut the
strings. Away flew the kites, and when the people came up we
were picking flowers as properly as you please. They never
suspected us, and we had a grand laugh over our narrow escape."

"Were the kites lost, Aunty?" asked Daisy.

"Quite lost, but I did not care, for I made up my mind that it would
be best to wait till I was an old lady before I played with kites
again; and you see I have waited," said Mrs. Jo, beginning to pull
in the big kite, for it was getting late.

"Must we go now?"

"I must, or you won't have any supper; and that sort of surprise
party would not suit you, I think, my chickens."

"Hasn't our party been a nice one?" asked Tommy, complacently.

"Splendid!" answered every one.

"Do you know why? It is because your guests have behaved
themselves, and tried to make everything go well. You understand
what I mean, don't you?"

"Yes'm," was all the boys said, but they stole a shamefaced look at
one another, as they meekly shouldered their kites and walked
home, thinking of another party where the guests had not behaved
themselves, and things had gone badly on account of it.

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