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Little Men

10. Home Again
July had come, and haying begun; the little gardens were doing finely and the
long summer days were full of pleasant hours. The house stood open from
morning till night, and the lads lived out of doors, except at school time. The
lessons were short, and there were many holidays, for the Bhaers believed in
cultivating healthy bodies by much exercise, and our short summers are best
used in out-of-door work. Such a rosy, sunburnt, hearty set as the boys became;
such appetites as they had; such sturdy arms and legs, as outgrew jackets and
trousers; such laughing and racing all over the place; such antics in house and
barn; such adventures in the tramps over hill and dale; and such satisfaction in
the hearts of the worthy Bhaers, as they saw their flock prospering in mind and
body, I cannot begin to describe. Only one thing was needed to make them quite
happy, and it came when they least expected it.
One balmy night when the little lads were in bed, the elder ones bathing down at
the brook, and Mrs. Bhaer undressing Teddy in her parlor, he suddenly cried out,
"Oh, my Danny!" and pointed to the window, where the moon shone brightly.
"No, lovey, he is not there, it was the pretty moon," said his mother.
"No, no, Danny at a window; Teddy saw him," persisted baby, much excited.
"It might have been," and Mrs. Bhaer hurried to the window, hoping it would
prove true. But the face was gone, and nowhere appeared any signs of a mortal
boy; she called his name, ran to the front door with Teddy in his little shirt, and
made him call too, thinking the baby voice might have more effect than her own.
No one answered, nothing appeared , and they went back much disappointed.
Teddy would not be satisfied with the moon, and after he was in his crib kept
popping up his head to ask if Danny was not "tummin' soon."
By and by he fell asleep, the lads trooped up to bed, the house grew still, and
nothing but the chirp of the crickets broke the soft silence of the summer night.
Mrs. Bhaer sat sewing, for the big basket was always piled with socks, full of
portentous holes, and thinking of the lost boy. She had decided that baby had
been mistaken, and did not even disturb Mr. Bhaer by telling him of the child's
fancy, for the poor man got little time to himself till the boys were abed, and he
was busy writing letters. It was past ten when she rose to shut up the house. As
she paused a minute to enjoy the lovely scene from the steps, something white
caught her eye on one of the hay-cocks scattered over the lawn. The children
had been playing there all the afternoon, and, fancying that Nan had left her hat
as usual, Mrs. Bhaer went out to get it. But as she approached, she saw that it
was neither hat nor handkerchief, but a shirt sleeve with a brown hand sticking
out of it. She hurried round the hay-cock, and there lay Dan, fast asleep.
Ragged, dirty, thin, and worn-out he looked; one foot was bare, the other tied up
in the old gingham jacket which he had taken from his own back to use as a
clumsy bandage for some hurt. He seemed to have hidden himself behind the
hay-cock, but in his sleep had thrown out the arm that had betrayed him. He
sighed and muttered as if his dreams disturbed him, and once when he moved,
he groaned as if in pain, but still slept on quite spent with weariness.
 
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