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2. The Boys
While Nat takes a good long sleep, I will tell my little readers something about the
boys, among whom he found himself when he woke up.
To begin with our old friends. Franz was a tall lad, of sixteen now, a regular
German, big, blond, and bookish, also very domestic, amiable, and musical. His
uncle was fitting him for college, and his aunt for a happy home of his own
hereafter, because she carefully fostered in him gentle manners, love of children,
respect for women, old and young, and helpful ways about the house. He was
her right-hand man on all occasions, steady, kind, and patient; and he loved his
merry aunt like a mother, for such she had tried to be to him.
Emil was quite different, being quick-tempered, restless, and enterprising, bent
on going to sea, for the blood of the old vikings stirred in his veins, and could not
be tamed. His uncle promised that he should go when he was sixteen, and set
him to studying navigation, gave him stories of good and famous admirals and
heroes to read, and let him lead the life of a frog in river, pond, and brook, when
lessons were done. His room looked like the cabin of a man-of-war, for every
thing was nautical, military, and shipshape. Captain Kyd was his delight, and his
favorite amusement was to rig up like that piratical gentleman, and roar out
sanguinary sea-songs at the top of his voice. He would dance nothing but sailors'
hornpipes, rolled in his gait, and was as nautical in conversation to his uncle
would permit. The boys called him "Commodore," and took great pride in his
fleet, which whitened the pond and suffered disasters that would have daunted
any commander but a sea-struck boy.
Demi was one of the children who show plainly the effect of intelligent love and
care, for soul and body worked harmoniously together. The natural refinement
which nothing but home influence can teach, gave him sweet and simple
manners: his mother had cherished an innocent and loving heart in him; his
father had watched over the physical growth of his boy, and kept the little body
straight and strong on wholesome food and exercise and sleep, while Grandpa
March cultivated the little mind with the tender wisdom of a modern Pythagoras,
not tasking it with long, hard lessons, parrot-learned, but helping it to unfold as
naturally and beautifully as sun and dew help roses bloom. He was not a perfect
child, by any means, but his faults were of the better sort; and being early taught
the secret of self-control, he was not left at the mercy of appetites and passions,
as some poor little mortals are, and then punished for yielding to the temptations
against which they have no armor. A quiet, quaint boy was Demi, serious, yet
cheery, quite unconscious that he was unusually bright and beautiful, yet quick to
see and love intelligence or beauty in other children. Very fond of books, and full
of lively fancies, born of a strong imagination and a spiritual nature, these traits
made his parents anxious to balance them with useful knowledge and healthful
society, lest they should make him one of those pale precocious children who
amaze and delight a family sometimes, and fade away like hot-house flowers,
because the young soul blooms too soon, and has not a hearty body to root it
firmly in the wholesome soil of this world.