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  • Writer's pictureLinda Odhner, with photos by Liz Kufs

Excerpted Inspirations #132

    [Dan and Demi are pupils at Plumfield, Jo and Friedrich Bhaer's school for boys.  Ten-year-old Demi is the Bhaers' nephew, and shows a philosophical bent; 14-year-old Dan has spent much of his life making his own way on the streets, and takes a special interest in the natural world.  They are talking in the willow tree by the brook, about "how hard it is to manage your mind."]      "You must put swearing away in your fault-drawer, and lock it up; that's the way I do with my badness."       "What do you mean?" asked Dan, looking as if he found Demi almost as amusing as a new kind of cockchafer or beetle.       "Well, it's one of my private plays, and I'll tell you, but I think you'll laugh at it," began Demi, glad to hold forth on this congenial subject.  "I play that my mind is a round room, and my soul is a little sort of creature with wings that lives in it.  The walls are full of shelves and drawers, and in them I keep my thoughts, and my goodness and badness, and all sorts of things.  The goods I keep where I can see them, and the bads I lock up tight, but they get out, and I have to keep putting them in and squeezing them down, they are so strong.  The thoughts I play with when I am alone or in bed, and I make up and do what I like with them.  Every Sunday I put my room in order, and talk with the little spirit that lives there, and tell him what to do.  He is very bad sometimes, and won't mind me, and I have to scold him and take him to Grandpa. He always makes him behave, and be sorry for his faults, because Grandpa likes this play, and gives me nice things to put in the drawers, and tells me how to shut up the naughties.  Hadn't you better try that way?  It's a very good one;" and Demi looked so earnest and full of faith, that Dan did not laugh at his quaint fancy, but said soberly, --      "I don't think there is a lock strong enough to keep my badness shut up.  Any way my room is in such a clutter I don't know how to clear it up."      "You keep your drawers in the cabinet all spandy nice; why can't you do the others?"      "I ain't used to it.  Will you show me how?" and Dan looked as if inclined to try Demi's childish way of keeping a soul in order.      "I'd love to, but I don't know how, except to talk as Grandpa does.  I can't do it good like him, but I'll try."      "Don't tell any one; only now and then we'll come here and talk things over, and I'll pay you for it by telling you all I know about my sort of things.  Will that do?" and Dan held out his big, rough hand.       Demi gave his smooth, little hand readily, and the league was made; for in the happy, peaceful world where the younger boy lived, lions and lambs played together, and little children innocently taught their elders.  Louisa May Alcott, Little Men (1871), pp. 237-238

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