Chapter 4: Dan
Mrs Jo often thought that Dan had Indian blood in him, not only because of his
love of a wild, wandering life, but his appearance; for as he grew up, this became
more striking. At twenty-five he was very tall, with sinewy limbs, a keen, dark
face, and the alert look of one whose senses were all alive; rough in manner, full
of energy, quick with word and blow, eyes full of the old fire, always watchful as if
used to keep guard, and a general air of vigour and freshness very charming to
those who knew the dangers and delights of his adventurous life. He was looking
his best as he sat talking with 'Mother Bhaer', one strong brown hand in hers,
and a world of affection in his voice as he said:
'Forget old friends! How could I forget the only home I ever knew? Why, I was in
such a hurry to come and tell my good luck that I didn't stop to fix up, you see;
though I knew you'd think I looked more like a wild buffalo than ever,' with a
shake of his shaggy black head, a tug at his beard, and a laugh that made the
'I like it; I always had a fancy for banditti--and you look just like one. Mary, being
a newcomer, was frightened at your looks and manners. Josie won't know you,
but Ted will recognize his Danny in spite of the big beard and flowing mane. They
will all be here soon to welcome you; so before they come tell me more about
yourself. Why, Dan, dear! it's nearly two years since you were here! Has it gone
well with you?' asked Mrs Jo, who had been listening with maternal interest to his
account of life in California, and the unexpected success of a small investment
he had made.
'First-rate! I don't care for the money, you know. I only want a trifle to pay my
way--rather earn as I go, and not be bothered with the care of a lot. It's the fun of
the thing coming to me, and my being able to give away, that I like. No use to lay
up; I shan't live to be old and need it,--my sort never do,' said Dan, looking as if
his little fortune rather oppressed him.
'But if you marry and settle somewhere, as I hope you will, you must have
something to begin with, my son. So be prudent and invest your money; don't
give it away, for rainy days come to all of us, and dependence would be very
hard for you to bear,' answered Mrs Jo with a sage air, though she liked to see
that the money-making fever had not seized her lucky boy yet.
Dan shook his head, and glanced about the room as if he already found it rather
confined and longed for all out-of-doors again.
'Who would marry a jack-o'-lantern like me? Women like a steady-going man; I
shall never be that.'
'My dear boy, when I was a girl I liked just such adventurous fellows as you are.
Anything fresh and daring, free and romantic, is always attractive to us
womenfolk. Don't be discouraged; you'll find an anchor some day, and be content
to take shorter voyages and bring home a good cargo.'
'What should you say if I brought you an Indian squaw some day?' asked Dan,
with a glimmer of mischief in the eyes that rested on a marble bust of Galatea
gleaming white and lovely in the corner.