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Little Men

16. Taming The Colt
"What in the world is that boy doing?" said Mrs. Jo to herself, as she watched
Dan running round the half-mile triangle as if for a wager. He was all alone, and
seemed possessed by some strange desire to run himself into a fever, or break
his neck; for, after several rounds, he tried leaping walls, and turning somersaults
up the avenue, and finally dropped down on the grass before the door as if
exhausted.
"Are you training for a race, Dan?" asked Mrs. Jo, from the window where she
sat.
He looked up quickly, and stopped panting to answer, with a laugh,
"No; I'm only working off my steam."
"Can't you find a cooler way of doing it? You will be ill if you tear about so in such
warm weather," said Mrs. Jo, laughing also, as she threw him out a great palm-
leaf fan.
"Can't help it. I must run somewhere," answered Dan, with such an odd
expression in his restless eyes, that Mrs. Jo was troubled, and asked, quickly,
"Is Plumfield getting too narrow for you?"
"I wouldn't mind if it was a little bigger. I like it though; only the fact is the devil
gets into me sometimes, and then I do want to bolt."
The words seemed to come against his will, for he looked sorry the minute they
were spoken, and seemed to think he deserved a reproof for his ingratitude. But
Mrs. Jo understood the feeling, and though sorry to see it, she could not blame
the boy for confessing it. She looked at him anxiously, seeing how tall and strong
he had grown, how full of energy his face was, with its eager eyes and resolute
mouth; and remembering the utter freedom he had known for years before, she
felt how even the gentle restraint of this home would weigh upon him at times
when the old lawless spirit stirred in him. "Yes," she said to herself, "my wild
hawk needs a larger cage; and yet, if I let him go, I am afraid he will be lost. I
must try and find some lure strong enough to keep him safe."
"I know all about it," she added, aloud. "It is not 'the devil,' as you call it, but the
very natural desire of all young people for liberty. I used to feel just so, and once,
I really did think for a minute that I would bolt."
"Why didn't you?" said Dan, coming to lean on the low window-ledge, with an
evident desire to continue the subject.
"I knew it was foolish, and love for my mother kept me at home."
"I haven't got any mother," began Dan.
"I thought you had now," said Mrs. Jo, gently stroking the rough hair off his hot
forehead.
"You are no end good to me, and I can't ever thank you enough, but it just isn't
the same, is it?" and Dan looked up at her with a wistful, hungry look that went to
her heart.
"No, dear, it is not the same, and never can be. I think an own mother would
have been a great deal to you. But as that cannot be, you must try to let me fill
 
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