After the last excitement peace descended upon Plumfield and reigned unbroken
for several weeks, for the elder boys felt that the loss of Nan and Rob lay at their
door, and all became so paternal in their care that they were rather wearying;
while the little ones listened to Nan's recital of her perils so many times, that they
regarded being lost as the greatest ill humanity was heir to, and hardly dared to
put their little noses outside the great gate lest night should suddenly descend
upon them, and ghostly black cows come looming through the dusk.
"It is too good to last," said Mrs. Jo; for years of boy-culture had taught her that
such lulls were usually followed by outbreaks of some sort, and when less wise
women would have thought that the boys had become confirmed saints, she
prepared herself for a sudden eruption of the domestic volcano.
One cause of this welcome calm was a visit from little Bess, whose parents lent
her for a week while they were away with Grandpa Laurence, who was poorly.
The boys regarded Goldilocks as a mixture of child, angel, and fairy, for she was
a lovely little creature, and the golden hair which she inherited from her blonde
mamma enveloped her like a shining veil, behind which she smiled upon her
worshippers when gracious, and hid herself when offended. Her father would not
have it cut and it hung below her waist, so soft and fine and bright, that Demi
insisted that it was silk spun from a cocoon. Every one praised the little Princess,
but it did not seem to do her harm, only to teach her that her presence brought
sunshine, her smiles made answering smiles on other faces, and her baby griefs
filled every heart with tenderest sympathy.
Unconsciously, she did her young subjects more good than many a real
sovereign, for her rule was very gentle and her power was felt rather than seen.
Her natural refinement made her dainty in all things, and had a good effect upon
the careless lads about her. She would let no one touch her roughly or with
unclean hands, and more soap was used during her visits than at any other time,
because the boys considered it the highest honor to be allowed to carry her
highness, and the deepest disgrace to be repulsed with the disdainful command,
"Do away, dirty boy!"
Lour voices displeased her and quarrelling frightened her; so gentler tones came
into the boyish voices as they addressed her, and squabbles were promptly
suppressed in her presence by lookers-on if the principles could not restrain
themselves. She liked to be waited on, and the biggest boys did her little errands
without a murmur, while the small lads were her devoted slaves in all things.
They begged to be allowed to draw her carriage, bear her berry-basket, or pass
her plate at table. No service was too humble, and Tommy and Ned came to
blows before they could decide which should have the honor of blacking her little
Nan was especially benefited by a week in the society of a well-bred lady, though
such a very small one; for Bess would look at her with a mixture of wonder and
alarm in her great blue eyes when the hoyden screamed and romped; and she
shrunk from her as if she thought her a sort of wild animal. Warm-hearted Nan