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Chapter 45 – Daisy And Demi

Louisa May AlcottJun 23, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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I cannot feel that I have done my duty as humble historian
of the March family, without devoting at least one chapter to
the two most precious and important members of it. Daisy and
Demi had now arrived at years of discretion, for in this fast
age babies of three or four assert their rights, and get them,
too, which is more than many of their elders do. If there
ever were a pair of twins in danger of being utterly spoiled
by adoration, it was these prattling Brookes. Of course they
were the most remarkable children ever born, as will be shown
when I mention that they walked at eight months, talked fluently
at twelve months, and at two years they took their places
at table, and behaved with a propriety which charmed all beholders.
At three, Daisy demanded a ‘needler’, and actually made
a bag with four stitches in it. She likewise set up
housekeeping in the sideboard, and managed a microscopic cooking
stove with a skill that brought tears of pride to Hannah’s
eyes, while Demi learned his letters with his grandfather, who
invented a new mode of teaching the alphabet by forming letters
with his arms and legs, thus uniting gymnastics for head and
heels. The boy early developed a mechanical genius which delighted
his father and distracted his mother, for he tried to
imitate every machine he saw, and kept the nursery in a chaotic
condition, with his ‘sewinsheen’, a mysterious structure of
string, chairs, clothespins, and spools, for wheels to go
‘wound and wound’. Also a basket hung over the back of a chair,
in which he vainly tried to hoist his too confiding sister, who,
with feminine devotion, allowed her little head to be bumped till
rescued, when the young inventor indignantly remarked, "Why,
Marmar, dat’s my lellywaiter, and me’s trying to pull her up."

Though utterly unlike in character, the twins got on remarkably
well together, and seldom quarreled more than thrice
a day. Of course, Demi tyrannized over Daisy, and gallantly
defended her from every other aggressor, while Daisy made a
galley slave of herself, and adored her brother as the one perfect
being in the world. A rosy, chubby, sunshiny little soul
was Daisy, who found her way to everybody’s heart, and nestled
there. One of the captivating children, who seem made to be
kissed and cuddled, adorned and adored like little goddesses,
and produced for general approval on all festive occasions.
Her small virtues were so sweet that she would have been quite
angelic if a few small naughtinesses had not kept her delightfully
human. It was all fair weather in her world, and every
morning she scrambled up to the window in her little nightgown
to look out, and say, no matter whether it rained or shone,
"Oh, pitty day, oh, pitty day!" Everyone was a friend, and she
offered kisses to a stranger so confidingly that the most inveterate
bachelor relented, and baby-lovers became faithful worshipers.

"Me loves evvybody," she once said, opening her arms, with
her spoon in one hand, and her mug in the other, as if eager to
embrace and nourish the whole world.

As she grew, her mother began to feel that the Dovecote
would be blessed by the presence of an inmate as serene and loving
as that which had helped to make the old house home, and to
pray that she might be spared a loss like that which had lately
taught them how long they had entertained an angel unawares. Her
grandfather often called her ‘Beth’, and her grandmother watched
over her with untiring devotion, as if trying to atone for some
past mistake, which no eye but her own could see.

Demi, like a true Yankee, was of an inquiring turn, wanting
to know everything, and often getting much disturbed because he
could not get satisfactory answers to his perpetual "What for?"

He also possessed a philosophic bent, to the great delight of
his grandfather, who used to hold Socratic conversations with him,
in which the precocious pupil occasionally posed his teacher, to
the undisguised satisfaction of the womenfolk.

"What makes my legs go, Dranpa?" asked the young philosopher,
surveying those active portions of his frame with a meditative air,
while resting after a go-to-bed frolic one night.

"It’s your little mind, Demi," replied the sage, stroking the
yellow head respectfully.

"What is a little mine?"

"It is something which makes your body move, as the spring
made the wheels go in my watch when I showed it to you."

"Open me. I want to see it go wound."

"I can’t do that any more than you could open the watch. God
winds you up, and you go till He stops you."

"Does I?" and Demi’s brown eyes grew big and bright as he
took in the new thought. "Is I wounded up like the watch?"

"Yes, but I can’t show you how, for it is done when we don’t see."

Demi felt his back, as if expecting to find it like that of
the watch, and then gravely remarked, "I dess Dod does it when
I’s asleep."

A careful explanation followed, to which he listened so attentively
that his anxious grandmother said, "My dear, do you think it wise
to talk about such things to that baby? He’s getting great bumps
over his eyes, and learning to ask the most unanswerable questions."

"If he is old enough to ask the question he is old enough to
receive true answers. I am not putting the thoughts into his
head, but helping him unfold those already there. These children
are wiser than we are, and I have no doubt the boy understands
every word I have said to him. Now, Demi, tell me where you keep
your mind."

If the boy had replied like Alcibiades, "By the gods, Socrates,
I cannot tell," his grandfather would not have been surprised, but
when, after standing a moment on one leg, like a meditative young
stork, he answered, in a tone of calm conviction, "In my little
belly," the old gentleman could only join in Grandma’s laugh, and
dismiss the class in metaphysics.

There might have been cause for maternal anxiety, if Demi had
not given convincing proofs that he was a true boy, as well as a
budding philosopher, for often, after a discussion which caused
Hannah to prophesy, with ominous nods, "That child ain’t long for
this world," he would turn about and set her fears at rest by
some of the pranks with which dear, dirty, naughty little rascals
distract and delight their parent’s souls.

Meg made many moral rules, and tried to keep them, but what
mother was ever proof against the winning wiles, the ingenious
evasions, or the tranquil audacity of the miniature men and women
who so early show themselves accomplished Artful Dodgers?

"No more raisins, Demi. They’ll make you sick," says Mamma
to the young person who offers his services in the kitchen with
unfailing regularity on plum-pudding day.

"Me likes to be sick."

"I don’t want to have you, so run away and help Daisy make patty
cakes."

He reluctantly departs, but his wrongs weigh upon his spirit,
and by-and-by when an opportunity comes to redress them, he outwits
Mamma by a shrewd bargain.

"Now you have been good children, and I’ll play anything you
like," says Meg, as she leads her assistant cooks upstairs, when
the pudding is safely bouncing in the pot.

"Truly, Marmar?" asks Demi, with a brilliant idea in his
well-powdered head.

"Yes, truly. Anything you say," replies the shortsighted parent,
preparing herself to sing, "The Three Little Kittens" half a dozen
times over, or to take her family to "Buy a penny bun," regardless
of wind or limb. But Demi corners her by the cool reply . . .

"Then we’ll go and eat up all the raisins."

Aunt Dodo was chief playmate and confidante of both children,
and the trio turned the little house topsy-turvy. Aunt Amy was as
yet only a name to them, Aunt Beth soon faded into a pleasantly
vague memory, but Aunt Dodo was a living reality, and they made the
most of her, for which compliment she was deeply grateful. But
when Mr. Bhaer came, Jo neglected her playfellows, and dismay and
desolation fell upon their little souls. Daisy, who was fond of
going about peddling kisses, lost her best customer and became
bankrupt. Demi, with infantile penetration, soon discovered that
Dodo like to play with ‘the bear-man’ better than she did him,
but though hurt, he concealed his anguish, for he hadn’t the
heart to insult a rival who kept a mine of chocolate drops in
his waistcoat pocket, and a watch that could be taken out of its
case and freely shaken by ardent admirers.

Some persons might have considered these pleasing liberties
as bribes, but Demi didn’t see it in that light, and continued to
patronize the ‘the bear-man’ with pensive affability, while Daisy
bestowed her small affections upon him at the third call, and
considered his shoulder her throne, his arm her refuge, his gifts
treasures surpassing worth.

Gentlemen are sometimes seized with sudden fits of admiration for
the young relatives of ladies whom they honor with their regard, but
this counterfeit philoprogenitiveness sits uneasily upon them, and
does not deceive anybody a particle. Mr. Bhaer’s devotion was
sincere, however likewise effective – for honesty is the best policy
in love as in law. He was one of the men who are at home with
children, and looked particularly well when little faces made a
pleasant contrast with his manly one. His business, whatever it was,
detained him from day to day, but evening seldom failed to bring him
out to see – well, he always asked for Mr. March, so I suppose he was
the attraction. The excellent papa labored under the delusion that
he was, and reveled in long discussions with the kindred spirit,
till a chance remark of his more observing grandson suddenly
enlightened him.

Mr. Bhaer came in one evening to pause on the threshold of the
study, astonished by the spectacle that met his eye. Prone upon
the floor lay Mr. March, with his respectable legs in the air, and
beside him, likewise prone, was Demi, trying to imitate the attitude
with his own short, scarlet-stockinged legs, both grovelers
so seriously absorbed that they were unconscious of spectators,
till Mr. Bhaer laughed his sonorous laugh, and Jo cried out, with
a scandalized face . . .

"Father, Father, here’s the Professor!"

Down went the black legs and up came the gray head, as the
preceptor said, with undisturbed dignity, "Good evening, Mr. Bhaer.
Excuse me for a moment. We are just finishing our lesson. Now, Demi,
make the letter and tell its name."

"I knows him!" and, after a few convulsive efforts, the red
legs took the shape of a pair of compasses, and the intelligent
pupil triumphantly shouted, "It’s a We, Dranpa, it’s a We!"

"He’s a born Weller," laughed Jo, as her parent gathered himself
up, and her nephew tried to stand on his head, as the only
mode of expressing his satisfaction that school was over.

"What have you been at today, bubchen?" asked Mr. Bhaer,
picking up the gymnast.

"Me went to see little Mary."

"And what did you there?"

"I kissed her," began Demi, with artless frankness.

"Prut! Thou beginnest early. What did the little Mary say
to that?" asked Mr. Bhaer, continuing to confess the young sinner,
who stood upon the knee, exploring the waistcoat pocket.

"Oh, she liked it, and she kissed me, and I liked it. Don’t
little boys like little girls?" asked Demi, with his mouth full,
and an air of bland satisfaction.

"You precocious chick! Who put that into your head?" said Jo,
enjoying the innocent revelation as much as the Professor.

"’Tisn’t in mine head, it’s in mine mouf," answered literal
Demi, putting out his tongue, with a chocolate drop on it, thinking
she alluded to confectionery, not ideas.

"Thou shouldst save some for the little friend. Sweets to
the sweet, mannling," and Mr. Bhaer offered Jo some, with a look
that made her wonder if chocolate was not the nectar drunk by the
gods. Demi also saw the smile, was impressed by it, and artlessy
inquired. ..

"Do great boys like great girls, to, ‘Fessor?"

Like young Washington, Mr. Bhaer ‘couldn’t tell a lie’, so
he gave the somewhat vague reply that he believed they did sometimes,
in a tone that made Mr. March put down his clothesbrush,
glance at Jo’s retiring face, and then sink into his chair, looking
as if the ‘precocious chick’ had put an idea into his head
that was both sweet and sour.

Why Dodo, when she caught him in the china closet half an
hour afterward, nearly squeezed the breath out of his little body
with a tender embrace, instead of shaking him for being there,
and why she followed up this novel performance by the unexpected
gift of a big slice of bread and jelly, remained one of the problems
over which Demi puzzled his small wits, and was forced to
leave unsolved forever.

 

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