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Little Men

17. Composition Day
"Hurry up, boys, it's three o'clock, and Uncle Fritz likes us to be punctual, you
know," said Franz one Wednesday afternoon as a bell rang, and a stream of
literary-looking young gentlemen with books and paper in their hands were seen
going toward the museum.
Tommy was in the school-room, bending over his desk, much bedaubed with ink,
flushed with the ardor of inspiration, and in a great hurry as usual, for easy-going
Bangs never was ready till the very last minute. As Franz passed the door
looking up laggards, Tommy gave one last blot and flourish, and departed out the
window, waving his paper to dry as he went. Nan followed, looking very
important, with a large roll in her hand, and Demi escorted Daisy, both evidently
brimful of some delightful secret.
The museum was all in order, and the sunshine among the hop-vines made
pretty shadows on the floor as it peeped through the great window. On one side
sat Mr. and Mrs. Bhaer, on the other was a little table on which the compositions
were laid as soon as read, and in a large semicircle sat the children on camp-
stools which occasionally shut up and let the sitter down, thus preventing any
stiffness in the assembly. As it took too much time to have all read, they took
turns, and on this Wednesday the younger pupils were the chief performers,
while the elder ones listened with condescension and criticised freely.
"Ladies first; so Nan may begin," said Mr. Bhaer, when the settling of stools and
rustling of papers had subsided.
Nan took her place beside the little table, and, with a preliminary giggle, read the
following interesting essay on
"The sponge, my friends, is a most useful and interesting plant. It grows on rocks
under the water, and is a kind of sea-weed, I believe. People go and pick it and
dry it and wash it, because little fish and insects live in the holes of the sponge; I
found shells in my new one, and sand. Some are very fine and soft; babies are
washed with them. The sponge has many uses. I will relate some of them, and I
hope my friends will remember what I say. One use is to wash the face; I don't
like it myself, but I do it because I wish to be clean. Some people don't, and they
are dirty." Here the eye of the reader rested sternly upon Dick and Dolly, who
quailed under it, and instantly resolved to scrub themselves virtuously on all
occasions. "Another use is to wake people up; I allude to boys par-tic -u-lar-ly."
Another pause after the long word to enjoy the smothered laugh that went round
the room. "Some boys do not get up when called, and Mary Ann squeezes the
water out of a wet sponge on their faces, and it makes them so mad they wake
up." Here the laugh broke out, and Emil said, as if he had been hit,
"Seems to me you are wandering from the subject."
"No, I ain't; we are to write about vegetables or animals, and I'm doing both: for
boys are animals, aren't they?" cried Nan; and, undaunted by the indignant "No!"
shouted at her, she calmly proceeded,