Little Men HTML version

19. John Brooke
"Wake up, Demi, dear! I want you."
"Why, I've just gone to bed; it can't be morning yet;" and Demi blinked like a little
owl as he waked from his first sound sleep.
"It's only ten, but your father is ill, and we must go to him. O my little John! my
poor little John!" and Aunt Jo laid her head down on the pillow with a sob that
scared sleep from Demi's eyes and filled his heart with fear and wonder; for he
dimly felt why Aunt Jo called him "John," and wept over him as if some loss had
come that left him poor. He clung to her without a word, and in a minute she was
quite steady again, and said, with a tender kiss as she saw his troubled face,
"We are going to say good-by to him, my darling, and there is no time to lose; so
dress quickly and come to me in my room. I must go to Daisy."
"Yes, I will;" and when Aunt Jo was gone, little Demi got up quietly, dressed as if
in a dream, and leaving Tommy fast asleep went away through the silent house,
feeling that something new and sorrowful was going to happen something that
set him apart from the other boys for a time, and made the world seem as dark
and still and strange as those familiar rooms did in the night. A carriage sent by
Mr. Laurie stood before the door. Daisy was soon ready, and the brother and
sister held each other by the hand all the way into town, as they drove swiftly and
silently with aunt and uncle through the shadowy roads to say good-by to father.
None of the boys but Franz and Emil knew what had happened, and when they
came down next morning, great was their wonderment and discomfort, for the
house seemed forlorn without its master and mistress. Breakfast was a dismal
meal with no cheery Mrs. Jo behind the teapots; and when school-time came,
Father Bhaer's place was empty. They wandered about in a disconsolate kind of
way for an hour, waiting for news and hoping it would be all right with Demi's
father, for good John Brooke was much beloved by the boys. Ten o'clock came,
and no one arrived to relieve their anxiety. They did not feel like playing, yet the
time dragged heavily, and they sat about listless and sober. All at once, Franz
got up, and said, in his persuasive way,
"Look here, boys! let's go into school and do our lessons just as if Uncle was
here. It will make the day go faster, and will please him, I know."
"But who will hear us say them?" asked Jack.
"I will; I don't know much more than you do, but I'm the oldest here, and I'll try to
fill Uncle's place till he comes, if you don't mind."
Something in the modest, serious way Franz said this impressed the boys, for,
though the poor lad's eyes were red with quiet crying for Uncle John in that long
sad night, there was a new manliness about him, as if he had already begun to
feel the cares and troubles of life, and tried to take them bravely.
"I will, for one," and Emil went to his seat, remembering that obedience to his
superior officer is a seaman's first duty.
The others followed; Franz took his uncle's seat, and for an hour order reigned.
Lessons were learned and said, and Franz made a patient, pleasant teacher,
wisely omitting such lessons as he was not equal to, and keeping order more by