MEG GOES TO VANITY FAIR
"I do think it was the most fortunate thing in the world that those children should have the measles just now,"
one April day,
as she stood packing the
'go abroady' trunk in her room,
surrounded by her sisters.
"And so nice of Annie Moffat not to forget her promise.
A whole fortnight of fun will be regularly splendid,"
looking like a windmill as she folded skirts with her long arms.
"And such lovely weather,
I'm so glad of that,"
tidily sorting neck and hair ribbons in her best box,
lent for the great occasion.
"I wish I was going to have a fine time and wear all these nice things,"
said Amy with her mouth full of pins,
as she artistically replenished her sister's cushion.
"I wish you were all going,
but as you can't,
I shall keep my adventures to tell you when I come back.
I'm sure it's the least I can do when you have been so kind,
lending me things and helping me get ready,"
glancing round the room at the very simple outfit,
which seemed nearly perfect in their eyes.
"What did Mother give you out of the treasure box?"
who had not been present at the opening of a certain cedar chest in which Mrs. March kept a few relics of past splendor,
as gifts for her girls when the proper time came.
"A pair of silk stockings,
that pretty carved fan,
and a lovely blue sash.
I wanted the violet silk,
but there isn't time to make it over,
so I must be contented with my old tarlaton."
"It will look nice over my new muslin skirt,
and the sash will set it off beautifully.
I wish I hadn't smashed my coral bracelet,
for you might have had it,"
who loved to give and lend,
but whose possessions were usually too dilapidated to be of much use.
"There is a lovely old-fashioned pearl set in the treasure chest,
but Mother said real flowers were the prettiest ornament for a young girl,
and Laurie promised to send me all I want,"
let me see,
there's my new gray walking suit,
just curl up the feather in my hat,
then my poplin for Sunday and the small party,
it looks heavy for spring,
The violet silk would be so nice.
you've got the tarlaton for the big party,
and you always look like an angel in white,"
brooding over the little store of finery in which her soul delighted.
"It isn't low-necked,
and it doesn't sweep enough,
but it will have to do.
My blue housedress looks so well,
turned and freshly trimmed,
that I feel as if I'd got a new one.
My silk sacque isn't a bit the fashion,
and my bonnet doesn't look like Sallie's.
I didn't like to say anything,
but I was sadly disappointed in my umbrella.
I told Mother black with a white handle,
but she forgot and bought a green one with a yellowish handle.
It's strong and neat,
so I ought not to complain,
but I know I shall feel ashamed of it beside Annie's silk one with a gold top,"
surveying the little umbrella with great disfavor.
"I won't be so silly,
or hurt Marmee's feelings,
when she took so much pains to get my things.
It's a nonsensical notion of mine,
and I'm not going to give up to it.
My silk stockings and two pairs of new gloves are my comfort.
You are a dear to lend me yours,
I feel so rich and sort of elegant,
with two new pairs,
and the old ones cleaned up for common."
And Meg took a refreshing peep at her glove box.
"Annie Moffat has blue and pink bows on her nightcaps.
Would you put some on mine?"
as Beth brought up a pile of snowy muslins,
fresh from Hannah's hands.
for the smart caps won't match the plain gowns without any trimming on them.
Poor folks shouldn't rig,"
said Jo decidedly.
"I wonder if I shall ever be happy enough to have real lace on my clothes and bows on my caps?"
said Meg impatiently.
"You said the other day that you'd be perfectly happy if you could only go to Annie Moffat's,"
observed Beth in her quiet way.
"So I did!
I am happy,
and I won't fret,
but it does seem as if the more one gets the more one wants,
the trays are ready,
and everything in but my ball dress,
which I shall leave for Mother to pack,"
as she glanced from the half-filled trunk to the many times pressed and mended white tarlaton,
which she called her
'ball dress' with an important air.
The next day was fine,
and Meg departed in style for a fortnight of novelty and pleasure.
Mrs. March had consented to the visit rather reluctantly,
fearing that Margaret would come back more discontented than she went.
But she begged so hard,
and Sallie had promised to take good care of her,
and a little pleasure seemed so delightful after a winter of irksome work that the mother yielded,
and the daughter went to take her first taste of fashionable life.
The Moffats were very fashionable,
and simple Meg was rather daunted,
by the splendor of the house and the elegance of its occupants.
But they were kindly people,
in spite of the frivolous life they led,
and soon put their guest at her ease.
Perhaps Meg felt,
without understanding why,
that they were not particularly cultivated or intelligent people,
and that all their gilding could not quite conceal the ordinary material of which they were made.
It certainly was agreeable to fare sumptuously,
drive in a fine carriage,
wear her best frock every day,
and do nothing but enjoy herself.
It suited her exactly,
and soon she began to imitate the manners and conversation of those about her,
to put on little airs and graces,
use French phrases,
crimp her hair,
take in her dresses,
and talk about the fashions as well as she could.
The more she saw of Annie Moffat's pretty things,
the more she envied her and sighed to be rich.
Home now looked bare and dismal as she thought of it,
work grew harder than ever,
and she felt that she was a very destitute and much-injured girl,
in spite of the new gloves and silk stockings.
She had not much time for repining,
for the three young girls were busily employed in
'having a good time'.
and called all day,
went to theaters and operas or frolicked at home in the evening,
for Annie had many friends and knew how to entertain them.
Her older sisters were very fine young ladies,
and one was engaged,
which was extremely interesting and romantic,
Mr. Moffat was a fat,
jolly old gentleman,
who knew her father,
and Mrs. Moffat,
jolly old lady,
who took as great a fancy to Meg as her daughter had done.
Everyone petted her,
as they called her,
was in a fair way to have her head turned.
When the evening for the small party came,
she found that the poplin wouldn't do at all,
for the other girls were putting on thin dresses and making themselves very fine indeed.
So out came the tarlatan,
and shabbier than ever beside Sallie's crisp new one.
Meg saw the girls glance at it and then at one another,
and her cheeks began to burn,
for with all her gentleness she was very proud.
No one said a word about it,
but Sallie offered to dress her hair,
and Annie to tie her sash,
the engaged sister,
praised her white arms.
But in their kindness Meg saw only pity for her poverty,
and her heart felt very heavy as she stood by herself,
while the others laughed,
and flew about like gauzy butterflies.
bitter feeling was getting pretty bad,
when the maid brought in a box of flowers.
Before she could speak,
Annie had the cover off,
and all were exclaiming at the lovely roses,
and fern within.
"It's for Belle,
George always sends her some,
but these are altogether ravishing,"
with a great sniff.
"They are for Miss March,
the man said.
And here's a note,"
put in the maid,
holding it to Meg.
Who are they from?
Didn't know you had a lover,"
cried the girls,
fluttering about Meg in a high state of curiosity and surprise.
"The note is from Mother,
and the flowers from Laurie,"
said Meg simply,
yet much gratified that he had not forgotten her.
said Annie with a funny look,
as Meg slipped the note into her pocket as a sort of talisman against envy,
and false pride,
for the few loving words had done her good,
and the flowers cheered her up by their beauty.
Feeling almost happy again,
she laid by a few ferns and roses for herself,
and quickly made up the rest in dainty bouquets for the breasts,
or skirts of her friends,
offering them so prettily that Clara,
the elder sister,
told her she was
'the sweetest little thing she ever saw',
and they looked quite charmed with her small attention.
Somehow the kind act finished her despondency,
and when all the rest went to show themselves to Mrs. Moffat,
she saw a happy,
bright-eyed face in the mirror,
as she laid her ferns against her rippling hair and fastened the roses in the dress that didn't strike her as so very shabby now.
She enjoyed herself very much that evening,
for she danced to her heart's content.
Everyone was very kind,
and she had three compliments.
Annie made her sing,
and some one said she had a remarkably fine voice.
Major Lincoln asked who
'the fresh little girl with the beautiful eyes' was,
and Mr. Moffat insisted on dancing with her because she
but had some spring in her',
as he gracefully expressed it.
So altogether she had a very nice time,
till she overheard a bit of conversation,
which disturbed her extremely.
She was sitting just inside the conservatory,
waiting for her partner to bring her an ice,
when she heard a voice ask on the other side of the flowery wall ...
"How old is he?"
"Sixteen or seventeen,
I should say,"
replied another voice.
"It would be a grand thing for one of those girls,
Sallie says they are very intimate now,
and the old man quite dotes on them."
"Mrs. M. has made her plans,
I dare say,
and will play her cards well,
early as it is.
The girl evidently doesn't think of it yet,"
said Mrs. Moffat.
"She told that fib about her momma,
as if she did know,
and colored up when the flowers came quite prettily.
She'd be so nice if she was only got up in style.
Do you think she'd be offended if we offered to lend her a dress for Thursday?"
asked another voice.
but I don't believe she'd mind,
for that dowdy tarlaton is all she has got.
She may tear it tonight,
and that will be a good excuse for offering a decent one."
Here Meg's partner appeared,
to find her looking much flushed and rather agitated.
She was proud,
and her pride was useful just then,
for it helped her hide her mortification,
and disgust at what she had just heard.
innocent and unsuspicious as she was,
she could not help understanding the gossip of her friends.
She tried to forget it,
but could not,
and kept repeating to herself,
"Mrs. M. has made her plans,"
"that fib about her mamma,"
and "dowdy tarlaton,"
till she was ready to cry and rush home to tell her troubles and ask for advice.
As that was impossible,
she did her best to seem gay,
and being rather excited,
she succeeded so well that no one dreamed what an effort she was making.
She was very glad when it was all over and she was quiet in her bed,
where she could think and wonder and fume till her head ached and her hot cheeks were cooled by a few natural tears.
yet well meant words,
had opened a new world to Meg,
and much disturbed the peace of the old one in which till now she had lived as happily as a child.
Her innocent friendship with Laurie was spoiled by the silly speeches she had overheard.
Her faith in her mother was a little shaken by the worldly plans attributed to her by Mrs. Moffat,
who judged others by herself,
and the sensible resolution to be contented with the simple wardrobe which suited a poor man's daughter was weakened by the unnecessary pity of girls who thought a shabby dress one of the greatest calamities under heaven.
Poor Meg had a restless night,
and got up heavy-eyed,
half resentful toward her friends,
and half ashamed of herself for not speaking out frankly and setting everything right.
Everybody dawdled that morning,
and it was noon before the girls found energy enough even to take up their worsted work.
Something in the manner of her friends struck Meg at once.
They treated her with more respect,
took quite a tender interest in what she said,
and looked at her with eyes that plainly betrayed curiosity.
All this surprised and flattered her,
though she did not understand it till Miss Belle looked up from her writing,
with a sentimental air ...
I've sent an invitation to your friend,
We should like to know him,
and it's only a proper compliment to you."
but a mischievous fancy to tease the girls made her reply demurely,
"You are very kind,
but I'm afraid he won't come."
asked Miss Belle.
"He's too old."
what do you mean?
What is his age,
I beg to know!"
cried Miss Clara.
counting stitches to hide the merriment in her eyes.
"You sly creature!
Of course we meant the young man,"
exclaimed Miss Belle,
"There isn't any,
Laurie is only a little boy."
And Meg laughed also at the queer look which the sisters exchanged as she thus described her supposed lover.
"About your age,"
"Nearer my sister Jo's;
I am seventeen in August,"
tossing her head.
"It's very nice of him to send you flowers,
looking wise about nothing.
he often does,
to all of us,
for their house is full,
and we are so fond of them.
My mother and old Mr. Laurence are friends,
so it is quite natural that we children should play together,"
and Meg hoped they would say no more.
"It's evident Daisy isn't out yet,"
said Miss Clara to Belle with a nod.
"Quite a pastoral state of innocence all round,"
returned Miss Belle with a shrug.
"I'm going out to get some little matters for my girls.
Can I do anything for you,
asked Mrs. Moffat,
lumbering in like an elephant in silk and lace.
"I've got my new pink silk for Thursday and don't want a thing."
"Nor I ..."
but stopped because it occurred to her that she did want several things and could not have them.
"What shall you wear?"
"My old white one again,
if I can mend it fit to be seen,
it got sadly torn last night,"
trying to speak quite easily,
but feeling very uncomfortable.
"Why don't you send home for another?"
who was not an observing young lady.
"I haven't got any other."
It cost Meg an effort to say that,
but Sallie did not see it and exclaimed in amiable surprise,
How funny ..."
She did not finish her speech,
for Belle shook her head at her and broke in,
saying kindly ...
"Not at all.
Where is the use of having a lot of dresses when she isn't out yet?
There's no need of sending home,
even if you had a dozen,
for I've got a sweet blue silk laid away,
which I've outgrown,
and you shall wear it to please me,
"You are very kind,
but I don't mind my old dress if you don't,
it does well enough for a little girl like me,"
"Now do let me please myself by dressing you up in style.
I admire to do it,
and you'd be a regular little beauty with a touch here and there.
I shan't let anyone see you till you are done,
and then we'll burst upon them like Cinderella and her godmother going to the ball,"
said Belle in her persuasive tone.
Meg couldn't refuse the offer so kindly made,
for a desire to see if she would be
'a little beauty' after touching up caused her to accept and forget all her former uncomfortable feelings toward the Moffats.
On the Thursday evening,
Belle shut herself up with her maid,
and between them they turned Meg into a fine lady.
They crimped and curled her hair,
they polished her neck and arms with some fragrant powder,
touched her lips with coralline salve to make them redder,
and Hortense would have added
'a soupcon of rouge',
if Meg had not rebelled.
They laced her into a sky-blue dress,
which was so tight she could hardly breathe and so low in the neck that modest Meg blushed at herself in the mirror.
A set of silver filagree was added,
and even earrings,
for Hortense tied them on with a bit of pink silk which did not show.
A cluster of tea-rose buds at the bosom,
and a ruche,
reconciled Meg to the display of her pretty,
and a pair of high-heeled silk boots satisfied the last wish of her heart.
A lace handkerchief,
a plumy fan,
and a bouquet in a shoulder holder finished her off,
and Miss Belle surveyed her with the satisfaction of a little girl with a newly dressed doll.
"Mademoiselle is charmante,
is she not?"
clasping her hands in an affected rapture.
"Come and show yourself,"
said Miss Belle,
leading the way to the room where the others were waiting.
As Meg went rustling after,
with her long skirts trailing,
her earrings tinkling,
her curls waving,
and her heart beating,
she felt as if her fun had really begun at last,
for the mirror had plainly told her that she was
'a little beauty'.
Her friends repeated the pleasing phrase enthusiastically,
and for several minutes she stood,
like a jackdaw in the fable,
enjoying her borrowed plumes,
while the rest chattered like a party of magpies.
"While I dress,
do you drill her,
in the management of her skirt and those French heels,
or she will trip herself up.
Take your silver butterfly,
and catch up that long curl on the left side of her head,
and don't any of you disturb the charming work of my hands,"
as she hurried away,
looking well pleased with her success.
"You don't look a bit like yourself,
but you are very nice.
I'm nowhere beside you,
for Belle has heaps of taste,
and you're quite French,
I assure you.
Let your flowers hang,
don't be so careful of them,
and be sure you don't trip,"
trying not to care that Meg was prettier than herself.
Keeping that warning carefully in mind,
Margaret got safely down stairs and sailed into the drawing rooms where the Moffats and a few early guests were assembled.
She very soon discovered that there is a charm about fine clothes which attracts a certain class of people and secures their respect.
Several young ladies,
who had taken no notice of her before,
were very affectionate all of a sudden.
Several young gentlemen,
who had only stared at her at the other party,
now not only stared,
but asked to be introduced,
and said all manner of foolish but agreeable things to her,
and several old ladies,
who sat on the sofas,
and criticized the rest of the party,
inquired who she was with an air of interest.
She heard Mrs. Moffat reply to one of them ...
"Daisy March --father a colonel in the army --one of our first families,
but reverses of fortune,
intimate friends of the Laurences;
I assure you;
my Ned is quite wild about her."
said the old lady,
putting up her glass for another observation of Meg,
who tried to look as if she had not heard and been rather shocked at Mrs. Moffat's fibs.
'queer feeling' did not pass away,
but she imagined herself acting the new part of fine lady and so got on pretty well,
though the tight dress gave her a side-ache,
the train kept getting under her feet,
and she was in constant fear lest her earrings should fly off and get lost or broken.
She was flirting her fan and laughing at the feeble jokes of a young gentleman who tried to be witty,
when she suddenly stopped laughing and looked confused,
for just opposite,
she saw Laurie.
He was staring at her with undisguised surprise,
and disapproval also,
for though he bowed and smiled,
yet something in his honest eyes made her blush and wish she had her old dress on.
To complete her confusion,
she saw Belle nudge Annie,
and both glance from her to Laurie,
she was happy to see,
looked unusually boyish and shy.
to put such thoughts into my head.
I won't care for it,
or let it change me a bit,"
and rustled across the room to shake hands with her friend.
"I'm glad you came,
I was afraid you wouldn't."
with her most grown-up air.
"Jo wanted me to come,
and tell her how you looked,
so I did,"
without turning his eyes upon her,
though he half smiled at her maternal tone.
"What shall you tell her?"
full of curiosity to know his opinion of her,
yet feeling ill at ease with him for the first time.
"I shall say I didn't know you,
for you look so grown-up and unlike yourself,
I'm quite afraid of you,"
fumbling at his glove button.
"How absurd of you!
The girls dressed me up for fun,
and I rather like it.
Wouldn't Jo stare if she saw me?"
bent on making him say whether he thought her improved or not.
I think she would,"
returned Laurie gravely.
"Don't you like me so?"
was the blunt reply.
in an anxious tone.
He glanced at her frizzled head,
and fantastically trimmed dress with an expression that abashed her more than his answer,
which had not a particle of his usual politeness in it.
"I don't like fuss and feathers."
That was altogether too much from a lad younger than herself,
and Meg walked away,
"You are the rudest boy I ever saw."
Feeling very much ruffled,
she went and stood at a quiet window to cool her cheeks,
for the tight dress gave her an uncomfortably brilliant color.
As she stood there,
Major Lincoln passed by,
and a minute after she heard him saying to his mother ...
"They are making a fool of that little girl.
I wanted you to see her,
but they have spoiled her entirely.
She's nothing but a doll tonight."
"I wish I'd been sensible and worn my own things,
then I should not have disgusted other people,
or felt so uncomfortable and ashamed of myself."
She leaned her forehead on the cool pane,
and stood half hidden by the curtains,
never minding that her favorite waltz had begun,
till some one touched her,
she saw Laurie,
as he said,
with his very best bow and his hand out ...
"Please forgive my rudeness,
and come and dance with me."
"I'm afraid it will be too disagreeable to you,"
trying to look offended and failing entirely.
"Not a bit of it,
I'm dying to do it.
I'll be good.
I don't like your gown,
but I do think you are just splendid."
And he waved his hands,
as if words failed to express his admiration.
Meg smiled and relented,
and whispered as they stood waiting to catch the time,
"Take care my skirt doesn't trip you up.
It's the plague of my life and I was a goose to wear it."
"Pin it round your neck,
and then it will be useful,"
looking down at the little blue boots,
which he evidently approved of.
Away they went fleetly and gracefully,
for having practiced at home,
they were well matched,
and the blithe young couple were a pleasant sight to see,
as they twirled merrily round and round,
feeling more friendly than ever after their small tiff.
I want you to do me a favor,
as he stood fanning her when her breath gave out,
which it did very soon though she would not own why.
"Please don't tell them at home about my dress tonight.
They won't understand the joke,
and it will worry Mother."
"Then why did you do it?"
said Laurie's eyes,
so plainly that Meg hastily added ...
"I shall tell them myself all about it,
'fess' to Mother how silly I've been.
But I'd rather do it myself.
So you'll not tell,
"I give you my word I won't,
only what shall I say when they ask me?"
"Just say I looked pretty well and was having a good time."
"I'll say the first with all my heart,
but how about the other?
You don't look as if you were having a good time.
And Laurie looked at her with an expression which made her answer in a whisper ...
not just now.
Don't think I'm horrid.
I only wanted a little fun,
but this sort doesn't pay,
and I'm getting tired of it."
"Here comes Ned Moffat.
What does he want?"
knitting his black brows as if he did not regard his young host in the light of a pleasant addition to the party.
"He put his name down for three dances,
and I suppose he's coming for them.
What a bore!"
assuming a languid air which amused Laurie immensely.
He did not speak to her again till suppertime,
when he saw her drinking champagne with Ned and his friend Fisher,
who were behaving
'like a pair of fools',
as Laurie said to himself,
for he felt a brotherly sort of right to watch over the Marches and fight their battles whenever a defender was needed.
"You'll have a splitting headache tomorrow,
if you drink much of that.
your mother doesn't like it,
leaning over her chair,
as Ned turned to refill her glass and Fisher stooped to pick up her fan.
"I'm not Meg tonight,
'a doll' who does all sorts of crazy things.
Tomorrow I shall put away my
'fuss and feathers' and be desperately good again,"
she answered with an affected little laugh.
"Wish tomorrow was here,
ill-pleased at the change he saw in her.
Meg danced and flirted,
chattered and giggled,
as the other girls did.
After supper she undertook the German,
and blundered through it,
nearly upsetting her partner with her long skirt,
and romping in a way that scandalized Laurie,
who looked on and meditated a lecture.
But he got no chance to deliver it,
for Meg kept away from him till he came to say good night.
trying to smile,
for the splitting headache had already begun.
"Silence a la mort,"
with a melodramatic flourish,
as he went away.
This little bit of byplay excited Annie's curiosity,
but Meg was too tired for gossip and went to bed,
feeling as if she had been to a masquerade and hadn't enjoyed herself as much as she expected.
She was sick all the next day,
and on Saturday went home,
quite used up with her fortnight's fun and feeling that she had
'sat in the lap of luxury' long enough.
"It does seem pleasant to be quiet,
and not have company manners on all the time.
Home is a nice place,
though it isn't splendid,"
looking about her with a restful expression,
as she sat with her mother and Jo on the Sunday evening.
"I'm glad to hear you say so,
for I was afraid home would seem dull and poor to you after your fine quarters,"
replied her mother,
who had given her many anxious looks that day.
For motherly eyes are quick to see any change in children's faces.
Meg had told her adventures gayly and said over and over what a charming time she had had,
but something still seemed to weigh upon her spirits,
and when the younger girls were gone to bed,
she sat thoughtfully staring at the fire,
saying little and looking worried.
As the clock struck nine and Jo proposed bed,
Meg suddenly left her chair and,
taking Beth's stool,
leaned her elbows on her mother's knee,
saying bravely ...
I want to
"I thought so.
What is it,
"Shall I go away?"
asked Jo discreetly.
"Of course not.
Don't I always tell you everything?
I was ashamed to speak of it before the younger children,
but I want you to know all the dreadful things I did at the Moffats'."
"We are prepared,"
said Mrs. March,
smiling but looking a little anxious.
"I told you they dressed me up,
but I didn't tell you that they powdered and squeezed and frizzled,
and made me look like a fashion-plate.
Laurie thought I wasn't proper.
I know he did,
though he didn't say so,
and one man called me
I knew it was silly,
but they flattered me and said I was a beauty,
and quantities of nonsense,
so I let them make a fool of me."
"Is that all?"
as Mrs. March looked silently at the downcast face of her pretty daughter,
and could not find it in her heart to blame her little follies.
I drank champagne and romped and tried to flirt,
and was altogether abominable,"
said Meg self-reproachfully.
"There is something more,
And Mrs. March smoothed the soft cheek,
which suddenly grew rosy as Meg answered slowly ...
It's very silly,
but I want to tell it,
because I hate to have people say and think such things about us and Laurie."
Then she told the various bits of gossip she had heard at the Moffats',
and as she spoke,
Jo saw her mother fold her lips tightly,
as if ill pleased that such ideas should be put into Meg's innocent mind.
if that isn't the greatest rubbish I ever heard,"
cried Jo indignantly.
"Why didn't you pop out and tell them so on the spot?"
it was so embarrassing for me.
I couldn't help hearing at first,
and then I was so angry and ashamed,
I didn't remember that I ought to go away."
"Just wait till I see Annie Moffat,
and I'll show you how to settle such ridiculous stuff.
The idea of having
'plans' and being kind to Laurie because he's rich and may marry us by-and-by!
Won't he shout when I tell him what those silly things say about us poor children?"
And Jo laughed,
as if on second thoughts the thing struck her as a good joke.
"If you tell Laurie,
I'll never forgive you!
never repeat that foolish gossip,
and forget it as soon as you can,"
said Mrs. March gravely.
"I was very unwise to let you go among people of whom I know so little,
I dare say,
and full of these vulgar ideas about young people.
I am more sorry than I can express for the mischief this visit may have done you,
"Don't be sorry,
I won't let it hurt me.
I'll forget all the bad and remember only the good,
for I did enjoy a great deal,
and thank you very much for letting me go.
I'll not be sentimental or dissatisfied,
I know I'm a silly little girl,
and I'll stay with you till I'm fit to take care of myself.
But it is nice to be praised and admired,
and I can't help saying I like it,"
looking half ashamed of the confession.
"That is perfectly natural,
and quite harmless,
if the liking does not become a passion and lead one to do foolish or unmaidenly things.
Learn to know and value the praise which is worth having,
and to excite the admiration of excellent people by being modest as well as pretty,
Margaret sat thinking a moment,
while Jo stood with her hands behind her,
looking both interested and a little perplexed,
for it was a new thing to see Meg blushing and talking about admiration,
and things of that sort.
And Jo felt as if during that fortnight her sister had grown up amazingly,
and was drifting away from her into a world where she could not follow.
do you have
as Mrs. Moffat said?"
asked Meg bashfully.
I have a great many,
all mothers do,
but mine differ somewhat from Mrs. Moffat's,
I will tell you some of them,
for the time has come when a word may set this romantic little head and heart of yours right,
on a very serious subject.
You are young,
but not too young to understand me,
and mothers' lips are the fittest to speak of such things to girls like you.
your turn will come in time,
so listen to my
'plans' and help me carry them out,
if they are good."
Jo went and sat on one arm of the chair,
looking as if she thought they were about to join in some very solemn affair.
Holding a hand of each,
and watching the two young faces wistfully,
Mrs. March said,
in her serious yet cheery way ...
"I want my daughters to be beautiful,
To be admired,
To have a happy youth,
to be well and wisely married,
and to lead useful,
with as little care and sorrow to try them as God sees fit to send.
To be loved and chosen by a good man is the best and sweetest thing which can happen to a woman,
and I sincerely hope my girls may know this beautiful experience.
It is natural to think of it,
right to hope and wait for it,
and wise to prepare for it,
so that when the happy time comes,
you may feel ready for the duties and worthy of the joy.
My dear girls,
I am ambitious for you,
but not to have you make a dash in the world,
marry rich men merely because they are rich,
or have splendid houses,
which are not homes because love is wanting.
Money is a needful and precious thing,
and when well used,
a noble thing,
but I never want you to think it is the first or only prize to strive for.
I'd rather see you poor men's wives,
if you were happy,
than queens on thrones,
without self-respect and peace."
"Poor girls don't stand any chance,
unless they put themselves forward,"
"Then we'll be old maids,"
said Jo stoutly.
Better be happy old maids than unhappy wives,
or unmaidenly girls,
running about to find husbands,"
said Mrs. March decidedly.
"Don't be troubled,
poverty seldom daunts a sincere lover.
Some of the best and most honored women I know were poor girls,
but so love-worthy that they were not allowed to be old maids.
Leave these things to time.
Make this home happy,
so that you may be fit for homes of your own,
if they are offered you,
and contented here if they are not.
One thing remember,
Mother is always ready to be your confidant,
Father to be your friend,
and both of us hope and trust that our daughters,
whether married or single,
will be the pride and comfort of our lives."
with all their hearts,
as she bade them good night.
As spring came on,
a new set of amusements became the fashion,
and the lengthening days gave long afternoons for work and play of all sorts.
The garden had to be put in order,
and each sister had a quarter of the little plot to do what she liked with.
Hannah used to say,
"I'd know which each of them gardings belonged to,
ef I see
'em in Chiny,"
and so she might,
for the girls' tastes differed as much as their characters.
Meg's had roses and heliotrope,
and a little orange tree in it.
Jo's bed was never alike two seasons,
for she was always trying experiments.
This year it was to be a plantation of sun flowers,
the seeds of which cheerful land aspiring plant were to feed Aunt Cockle-top and her family of chicks.
Beth had old-fashioned fragrant flowers in her garden,
sweet peas and mignonette,
with chickweed for the birds and catnip for the pussies.
Amy had a bower in hers,
rather small and earwiggy,
but very pretty to look at,
with honeysuckle and morning-glories hanging their colored horns and bells in graceful wreaths all over it,
tall white lilies,
and as many brilliant,
picturesque plants as would consent to blossom there.
rows on the river,
and flower hunts employed the fine days,
and for rainy ones,
they had house diversions,
all more or less original.
One of these was the
for as secret societies were the fashion,
it was thought proper to have one,
and as all of the girls admired Dickens,
they called themselves the Pickwick Club.
With a few interruptions,
they had kept this up for a year,
and met every Saturday evening in the big garret,
on which occasions the ceremonies were as follows: Three chairs were arranged in a row before a table on which was a lamp,
also four white badges,
with a big
in different colors on each,
and the weekly newspaper called,
The Pickwick Portfolio,
to which all contributed something,
who reveled in pens and ink,
was the editor.
At seven o'clock,
the four members ascended to the clubroom,
tied their badges round their heads,
and took their seats with great solemnity.
as the eldest,
was Samuel Pickwick,
being of a literary turn,
because she was round and rosy,
who was always trying to do what she couldn't,
was Nathaniel Winkle.
read the paper,
which was filled with original tales,
in which they good-naturedly reminded each other of their faults and short comings.
On one occasion,
Mr. Pickwick put on a pair of spectacles without any glass,
rapped upon the table,
and having stared hard at Mr. Snodgrass,
who was tilting back in his chair,
till he arranged himself properly,
began to read:
"THE PICKWICK PORTFOLIO"
Again we meet to celebrate With badge and solemn rite,
Our fifty-second anniversary,
In Pickwick Hall,
We all are here in perfect health,
None gone from our small band: Again we see each well-known face,
And press each friendly hand.
always at his post,
With reverence we greet,
spectacles on nose,
he reads Our well-filled weekly sheet.
Although he suffers from a cold,
We joy to hear him speak,
For words of wisdom from him fall,
In spite of croak or squeak.
Old six-foot Snodgrass looms on high,
With elephantine grace,
And beams upon the company,
With brown and jovial face.
Poetic fire lights up his eye,
'gainst his lot.
Behold ambition on his brow,
And on his nose,
Next our peaceful Tupman comes,
Who chokes with laughter at the puns,
And tumbles off his seat.
Prim little Winkle too is here,
With every hair in place,
A model of propriety,
Though he hates to wash his face.
The year is gone,
we still unite To joke and laugh and read,
And tread the path of literature That doth to glory lead.
Long may our paper prosper well,
Our club unbroken be,
And coming years their blessings pour On the useful,
THE MASKED MARRIAGE (A Tale Of Venice)
Gondola after gondola swept up to the marble steps,
and left its lovely load to swell the brilliant throng that filled the stately halls of Count Adelon.
Knights and ladies,
elves and pages,
monks and flower girls,
all mingled gaily in the dance.
Sweet voices and rich melody filled the air,
and so with mirth and music the masquerade went on.
"Has your Highness seen the Lady Viola tonight?"
asked a gallant troubadour of the fairy queen who floated down the hall upon his arm.
is she not lovely,
though so sad!
Her dress is well chosen,
for in a week she weds Count Antonio,
whom she passionately hates."
"By my faith,
I envy him.
Yonder he comes,
arrayed like a bridegroom,
except the black mask.
When that is off we shall see how he regards the fair maid whose heart he cannot win,
though her stern father bestows her hand,"
returned the troubadour.
"Tis whispered that she loves the young English artist who haunts her steps,
and is spurned by the old Count,"
said the lady,
as they joined the dance.
The revel was at its height when a priest appeared,
and withdrawing the young pair to an alcove,
hung with purple velvet,
he motioned them to kneel.
Instant silence fell on the gay throng,
and not a sound,
but the dash of fountains or the rustle of orange groves sleeping in the moonlight,
broke the hush,
as Count de Adelon spoke thus:
"My lords and ladies,
pardon the ruse by which I have gathered you here to witness the marriage of my daughter.
we wait your services."
All eyes turned toward the bridal party,
and a murmur of amazement went through the throng,
for neither bride nor groom removed their masks.
Curiosity and wonder possessed all hearts,
but respect restrained all tongues till the holy rite was over.
Then the eager spectators gathered round the count,
demanding an explanation.
"Gladly would I give it if I could,
but I only know that it was the whim of my timid Viola,
and I yielded to it.
let the play end.
Unmask and receive my blessing."
But neither bent the knee,
for the young bridegroom replied in a tone that startled all listeners as the mask fell,
disclosing the noble face of Ferdinand Devereux,
the artist lover,
and leaning on the breast where now flashed the star of an English earl was the lovely Viola,
radiant with joy and beauty.
you scornfully bade me claim your daughter when I could boast as high a name and vast a fortune as the Count Antonio.
I can do more,
for even your ambitious soul cannot refuse the Earl of Devereux and De Vere,
when he gives his ancient name and boundless wealth in return for the beloved hand of this fair lady,
now my wife."
The count stood like one changed to stone,
and turning to the bewildered crowd,
with a gay smile of triumph,
my gallant friends,
I can only wish that your wooing may prosper as mine has done,
and that you may all win as fair a bride as I have by this masked marriage."
Why is the P. C.
like the Tower of Babel?
It is full of unruly members.
THE HISTORY OF A SQUASH
Once upon a time a farmer planted a little seed in his garden,
and after a while it sprouted and became a vine and bore many squashes.
One day in October,
when they were ripe,
he picked one and took it to market.
A gorcerman bought and put it in his shop.
That same morning,
a little girl in a brown hat and blue dress,
with a round face and snub nose,
went and bought it for her mother.
She lugged it home,
cut it up,
and boiled it in the big pot,
mashed some of it with salt and butter,
And to the rest she added a pint of milk,
four spoons of sugar,
and some crackers,
put it in a deep dish,
and baked it till it was brown and nice,
and next day it was eaten by a family named March.
Sir: -- I address you upon the subject of sin the sinner I mean is a man named Winkle who makes trouble in his club by laughing and sometimes won't write his piece in this fine paper I hope you will pardon his badness and let him send a French fable because he can't write out of his head as he has so many lessons to do and no brains in future I will try to take time by the fetlock and prepare some work which will be all commy la fo that means all right I am in haste as it is nearly school time.
[The above is a manly and handsome acknowledgment of past misdemeanors.
If our young friend studied punctuation,
it would be well.]
A SAD ACCIDENT
On Friday last,
we were startled by a violent shock in our basement,
followed by cries of distress.
On rushing in a body to the cellar,
we discovered our beloved President prostrate upon the floor,
having tripped and fallen while getting wood for domestic purposes.
A perfect scene of ruin met our eyes,
for in his fall Mr. Pickwick had plunged his head and shoulders into a tub of water,
upset a keg of soft soap upon his manly form,
and torn his garments badly.
On being removed from this perilous situation,
it was discovered that he had suffered no injury but several bruises,
and we are happy to add,
is now doing well.
THE PUBLIC BEREAVEMENT
It is our painful duty to record the sudden and mysterious disappearance of our cherished friend,
Mrs. Snowball Pat Paw.
This lovely and beloved cat was the pet of a large circle of warm and admiring friends;
for her beauty attracted all eyes,
her graces and virtues endeared her to all hearts,
and her loss is deeply felt by the whole community.
When last seen,
she was sitting at the gate,
watching the butcher's cart,
and it is feared that some villain,
tempted by her charms,
basely stole her.
Weeks have passed,
but no trace of her has been discovered,
and we relinquish all hope,
tie a black ribbon to her basket,
set aside her dish,
and weep for her as one lost to us forever.
A sympathizing friend sends the following gem:
A LAMENT (FOR S. B.
We mourn the loss of our little pet,
And sigh o'er her hapless fate,
For never more by the fire she'll sit,
Nor play by the old green gate.
The little grave where her infant sleeps Is
'neath the chestnut tree.
But o'er her grave we may not weep,
We know not where it may be.
Her empty bed,
her idle ball,
Will never see her more;
No gentle tap,
no loving purr Is heard at the parlor door.
Another cat comes after her mice,
A cat with a dirty face,
But she does not hunt as our darling did,
Nor play with her airy grace.
Her stealthy paws tread the very hall Where Snowball used to play,
But she only spits at the dogs our pet So gallantly drove away.
She is useful and mild,
and does her best,
But she is not fair to see,
And we cannot give her your place dear,
Nor worship her as we worship thee.
MISS ORANTHY BLUGGAGE,
the accomplished strong-minded lecturer,
will deliver her famous lecture on "WOMAN AND HER POSITION" at Pickwick Hall,
next Saturday Evening,
after the usual performances.
A WEEKLY MEETING will be held at Kitchen Place,
to teach young ladies how to cook.
Hannah Brown will preside,
and all are invited to attend.
The DUSTPAN SOCIETY will meet on Wednesday next,
and parade in the upper story of the Club House.
All members to appear in uniform and shoulder their brooms at nine precisely.
Mrs. BETH BOUNCER will open her new assortment of Doll's Millinery next week.
The latest Paris fashions have arrived,
and orders are respectfully solicited.
A NEW PLAY will appear at the Barnville Theatre,
in the course of a few weeks,
which will surpass anything ever seen on the American stage.
"The Greek Slave,
or Constantine the Avenger,"
is the name of this thrilling drama!!!
didn't use so much soap on his hands,
he wouldn't always be late at breakfast.
is requested not to whistle in the street.
please don't forget Amy's napkin.
must not fret because his dress has not nine tucks.
Beth --Very Good.
As the President finished reading the paper (which I beg leave to assure my readers is a bona fide copy of one written by bona fide girls once upon a time),
a round of applause followed,
and then Mr. Snodgrass rose to make a proposition.
"Mr. President and gentlemen,"
assuming a parliamentary attitude and tone,
"I wish to propose the admission of a new member --one who highly deserves the honor,
would be deeply grateful for it,
and would add immensely to the spirit of the club,
the literary value of the paper,
and be no end jolly and nice.
I propose Mr. Theodore Laurence as an honorary member of the P. C.
do have him."
Jo's sudden change of tone made the girls laugh,
but all looked rather anxious,
and no one said a word as Snodgrass took his seat.
"We'll put it to a vote,"
said the President.
"All in favor of this motion please to manifest it by saying,
A loud response from Snodgrass,
to everybody's surprise,
by a timid one from Beth.
Meg and Amy were contrary-minded,
and Mr. Winkle rose to say with great elegance,
"We don't wish any boys,
they only joke and bounce about.
This is a ladies' club,
and we wish to be private and proper."
"I'm afraid he'll laugh at our paper,
and make fun of us afterward,"
pulling the little curl on her forehead,
as she always did when doubtful.
Up rose Snodgrass,
very much in earnest.
I give you my word as a gentleman,
Laurie won't do anything of the sort.
He likes to write,
and he'll give a tone to our contributions and keep us from being sentimental,
don't you see?
We can do so little for him,
and he does so much for us,
I think the least we can do is to offer him a place here,
and make him welcome if he comes."
This artful allusion to benefits conferred brought Tupman to his feet,
looking as if he had quite made up his mind.
we ought to do it,
even if we are afraid.
I say he may come,
and his grandpa,
if he likes."
This spirited burst from Beth electrified the club,
and Jo left her seat to shake hands approvingly.
Everybody remember it's our Laurie,
'Aye!'" cried Snodgrass excitedly.
replied three voices at once.
as there's nothing like
'taking time by the fetlock',
as Winkle characteristically observes,
allow me to present the new member."
to the dismay of the rest of the club,
Jo threw open the door of the closet,
and displayed Laurie sitting on a rag bag,
flushed and twinkling with suppressed laughter.
how could you?"
cried the three girls,
as Snodgrass led her friend triumphantly forth,
and producing both a chair and a badge,
installed him in a jiffy.
"The coolness of you two rascals is amazing,"
began Mr. Pickwick,
trying to get up an awful frown and only succeeding in producing an amiable smile.
But the new member was equal to the occasion,
with a grateful salutation to the Chair,
said in the most engaging manner,
"Mr. President and ladies --I beg pardon,
gentlemen --allow me to introduce myself as Sam Weller,
the very humble servant of the club."
pounding with the handle of the old warming pan on which she leaned.
"My faithful friend and noble patron,"
continued Laurie with a wave of the hand,
"who has so flatteringly presented me,
is not to be blamed for the base stratagem of tonight.
I planned it,
and she only gave in after lots of teasing."
don't lay it all on yourself.
You know I proposed the cupboard,"
broke in Snodgrass,
who was enjoying the joke amazingly.
"Never mind what she says.
I'm the wretch that did it,
said the new member,
with a Welleresque nod to Mr. Pickwick.
"But on my honor,
I never will do so again,
and henceforth devote myself to the interest of this immortal club."
clashing the lid of the warming pan like a cymbal.
added Winkle and Tupman,
while the President bowed benignly.
"I merely wish to say,
that as a slight token of my gratitude for the honor done me,
and as a means of promoting friendly relations between adjoining nations,
I have set up a post office in the hedge in the lower corner of the garden,
spacious building with padlocks on the doors and every convenience for the mails,
also the females,
if I may be allowed the expression.
It's the old martin house,
but I've stopped up the door and made the roof open,
so it will hold all sorts of things,
and save our valuable time.
and bundles can be passed in there,
and as each nation has a key,
it will be uncommonly nice,
Allow me to present the club key,
and with many thanks for your favor,
take my seat."
Great applause as Mr. Weller deposited a little key on the table and subsided,
the warming pan clashed and waved wildly,
and it was some time before order could be restored.
A long discussion followed,
and everyone came out surprising,
for everyone did her best.
So it was an unusually lively meeting,
and did not adjourn till a late hour,
when it broke up with three shrill cheers for the new member.
No one ever regretted the admittance of Sam Weller,
for a more devoted,
and jovial member no club could have.
He certainly did add
'spirit' to the meetings,
'a tone' to the paper,
for his orations convulsed his hearers and his contributions were excellent,
but never sentimental.
Jo regarded them as worthy of Bacon,
and remodeled her own works with good effect,
The P. O.
was a capital little institution,
and flourished wonderfully,
for nearly as many queer things passed through it as through the real post office.
Tragedies and cravats,
poetry and pickles,
garden seeds and long letters,
music and gingerbread,
The old gentleman liked the fun,
and amused himself by sending odd bundles,
and funny telegrams,
and his gardener,
who was smitten with Hannah's charms,
actually sent a love letter to Jo's care.
How they laughed when the secret came out,
never dreaming how many love letters that little post office would hold in the years to come.
"The first of June!
The Kings are off to the seashore tomorrow,
and I'm free.
Three months' vacation --how I shall enjoy it!"
coming home one warm day to find Jo laid upon the sofa in an unusual state of exhaustion,
while Beth took off her dusty boots,
and Amy made lemonade for the refreshment of the whole party.
"Aunt March went today,
"I was mortally afraid she'd ask me to go with her.
If she had,
I should have felt as if I ought to do it,
but Plumfield is about as gay as a churchyard,
and I'd rather be excused.
We had a flurry getting the old lady off,
and I had a fright every time she spoke to me,
for I was in such a hurry to be through that I was uncommonly helpful and sweet,
and feared she'd find it impossible to part from me.
I quaked till she was fairly in the carriage,
and had a final fright,
for as it drove of,
she popped out her head,
won't you --?'
I didn't hear any more,
for I basely turned and fled.
I did actually run,
and whisked round the corner where I felt safe."
"Poor old Jo!
She came in looking as if bears were after her,"
as she cuddled her sister's feet with a motherly air.
"Aunt March is a regular samphire,
is she not?"
tasting her mixture critically.
"She means vampire,
but it doesn't matter.
It's too warm to be particular about one's parts of speech,"
"What shall you do all your vacation?"
changing the subject with tact.
"I shall lie abed late,
and do nothing,"
from the depths of the rocking chair.
"I've been routed up early all winter and had to spend my days working for other people,
so now I'm going to rest and revel to my heart's content."
"that dozy way wouldn't suit me.
I've laid in a heap of books,
and I'm going to improve my shining hours reading on my perch in the old apple tree,
when I'm not having l -- --"
'larks!'" implored Amy,
as a return snub for the
That's proper and appropriate,
since he's a warbler."
"Don't let us do any lessons,
for a while,
but play all the time and rest,
as the girls mean to,"
if Mother doesn't mind.
I want to learn some new songs,
and my children need fitting up for the summer.
They are dreadfully out of order and really suffering for clothes."
turning to Mrs. March,
who sat sewing in what they called
"You may try your experiment for a week and see how you like it.
I think by Saturday night you will find that all play and no work is as bad as all work and no play."
It will be delicious,
said Meg complacently.
"I now propose a toast,
'friend and pardner,
and no grubbing!"
glass in hand,
as the lemonade went round.
They all drank it merrily,
and began the experiment by lounging for the rest of the day.
Meg did not appear till ten o'clock.
Her solitary breakfast did not taste good,
and the room seemed lonely and untidy,
for Jo had not filled the vases,
Beth had not dusted,
and Amy's books lay scattered about.
Nothing was neat and pleasant but
which looked as usual.
And there Meg sat,
'rest and read',
which meant to yawn and imagine what pretty summer dresses she would get with her salary.
Jo spent the morning on the river with Laurie and the afternoon reading and crying over _The Wide,
up in the apple tree.
Beth began by rummaging everything out of the big closet where her family resided,
but getting tired before half done,
she left her establishment topsy-turvy and went to her music,
rejoicing that she had no dishes to wash.
Amy arranged her bower,
put on her best white frock,
smoothed her curls,
and sat down to draw under the honeysuckle,
hoping someone would see and inquire who the young artist was.
As no one appeared but an inquisitive daddy-longlegs,
who examined her work with interest,
she went to walk,
got caught in a shower,
and came home dripping.
At teatime they compared notes,
and all agreed that it had been a delightful,
though unusually long day.
who went shopping in the afternoon and got a
'sweet blue muslin',
after she had cut the breadths off,
that it wouldn't wash,
which mishap made her slightly cross.
Jo had burned the skin off her nose boating,
and got a raging headache by reading too long.
Beth was worried by the confusion of her closet and the difficulty of learning three or four songs at once,
and Amy deeply regretted the damage done her frock,
for Katy Brown's party was to be the next day and now like Flora McFlimsey,
'nothing to wear'.
But these were mere trifles,
and they assured their mother that the experiment was working finely.
and with Hannah's help did their neglected work,
keeping home pleasant and the domestic machinery running smoothly.
It was astonishing what a peculiar and uncomfortable state of things was produced by the
'resting and reveling' process.
The days kept getting longer and longer,
the weather was unusually variable and so were tempers;
an unsettled feeling possessed everyone,
and Satan found plenty of mischief for the idle hands to do.
As the height of luxury,
Meg put out some of her sewing,
and then found time hang so heavily,
that she fell to snipping and spoiling her clothes in her attempts to furbish them up a la Moffat.
Jo read till her eyes gave out and she was sick of books,
got so fidgety that even good-natured Laurie had a quarrel with her,
and so reduced in spirits that she desperately wished she had gone with Aunt March.
Beth got on pretty well,
for she was constantly forgetting that it was to be all play and no work,
and fell back into her old ways now and then.
But something in the air affected her,
and more than once her tranquility was much disturbed,
so much so that on one occasion she actually shook poor dear Joanna and told her she was
Amy fared worst of all,
for her resources were small,
and when her sisters left her to amuse herself,
she soon found that accomplished and important little self a great burden.
She didn't like dolls,
fairy tales were childish,
and one couldn't draw all the time.
Tea parties didn't amount to much,
neither did picnics,
unless very well conducted.
"If one could have a fine house,
full of nice girls,
or go traveling,
the summer would be delightful,
but to stay at home with three selfish sisters and a grown-up boy was enough to try the patience of a Boaz,"
complained Miss Malaprop,
after several days devoted to pleasure,
No one would own that they were tired of the experiment,
but by Friday night each acknowledged to herself that she was glad the week was nearly done.
Hoping to impress the lesson more deeply,
who had a good deal of humor,
resolved to finish off the trial in an appropriate manner,
so she gave Hannah a holiday and let the girls enjoy the full effect of the play system.
When they got up on Saturday morning,
there was no fire in the kitchen,
no breakfast in the dining room,
and no mother anywhere to be seen.
"Mercy on us!
What has happened?"
staring about her in dismay.
Meg ran upstairs and soon came back again,
looking relieved but rather bewildered,
and a little ashamed.
"Mother isn't sick,
only very tired,
and she says she is going to stay quietly in her room all day and let us do the best we can.
It's a very queer thing for her to do,
she doesn't act a bit like herself.
But she says it has been a hard week for her,
so we mustn't grumble but take care of ourselves."
"That's easy enough,
and I like the idea,
I'm aching for something to do,
some new amusement,
added Jo quickly.
In fact it was an immense relief to them all to have a little work,
and they took hold with a will,
but soon realized the truth of Hannah's saying,
"Housekeeping ain't no joke."
There was plenty of food in the larder,
and while Beth and Amy set the table,
Meg and Jo got breakfast,
wondering as they did why servants ever talked about hard work.
"I shall take some up to Mother,
though she said we were not to think of her,
for she'd take care of herself,"
who presided and felt quite matronly behind the teapot.
So a tray was fitted out before anyone began,
and taken up with the cook's compliments.
The boiled tea was very bitter,
the omelet scorched,
and the biscuits speckled with saleratus,
but Mrs. March received her repast with thanks and laughed heartily over it after Jo was gone.
"Poor little souls,
they will have a hard time,
but they won't suffer,
and it will do them good,"
producing the more palatable viands with which she had provided herself,
and disposing of the bad breakfast,
so that their feelings might not be hurt,
a motherly little deception for which they were grateful.
Many were the complaints below,
and great the chagrin of the head cook at her failures.
I'll get the dinner and be servant,
you be mistress,
keep your hands nice,
and give orders,"
who knew still less than Meg about culinary affairs.
This obliging offer was gladly accepted,
and Margaret retired to the parlor,
which she hastily put in order by whisking the litter under the sofa and shutting the blinds to save the trouble of dusting.
with perfect faith in her own powers and a friendly desire to make up the quarrel,
immediately put a note in the office,
inviting Laurie to dinner.
"You'd better see what you have got before you think of having company,"
when informed of the hospitable but rash act.
there's corned beef and plenty of potatoes,
and I shall get some asparagus and a lobster,
'for a relish',
as Hannah says.
We'll have lettuce and make a salad.
I don't know how,
but the book tells.
I'll have blanc mange and strawberries for dessert,
and coffee too,
if you want to be elegant."
"Don't try too many messes,
for you can't make anything but gingerbread and molasses candy fit to eat.
I wash my hands of the dinner party,
and since you have asked Laurie on your own responsibility,
you may just take care of him."
"I don't want you to do anything but be civil to him and help to the pudding.
You'll give me your advice if I get in a muddle,
but I don't know much,
except about bread and a few trifles.
You had better ask Mother's leave before you order anything,"
returned Meg prudently.
"Of course I shall.
I'm not a fool."
And Jo went off in a huff at the doubts expressed of her powers.
"Get what you like,
and don't disturb me.
I'm going out to dinner and can't worry about things at home,"
said Mrs. March,
when Jo spoke to her.
"I never enjoyed housekeeping,
and I'm going to take a vacation today,
and amuse myself."
The unusual spectacle of her busy mother rocking comfortably and reading early in the morning made Jo feel as if some unnatural phenomenon had occurred,
for an eclipse,
or a volcanic eruption would hardly have seemed stranger.
"Everything is out of sorts,
she said to herself,
"There's Beth crying,
that's a sure sign that something is wrong in this family.
If Amy is bothering,
I'll shake her."
Feeling very much out of sorts herself,
Jo hurried into the parlor to find Beth sobbing over Pip,
who lay dead in the cage with his little claws pathetically extended,
as if imploring the food for want of which he had died.
"It's all my fault,
I forgot him,
there isn't a seed or a drop left.
How could I be so cruel to you?"
taking the poor thing in her hands and trying to restore him.
Jo peeped into his half-open eye,
felt his little heart,
and finding him stiff and cold,
shook her head,
and offered her domino box for a coffin.
"Put him in the oven,
and maybe he will get warm and revive,"
said Amy hopefully.
"He's been starved,
and he shan't be baked now he's dead.
I'll make him a shroud,
and he shall be buried in the garden,
and I'll never have another bird,
for I am too bad to own one,"
sitting on the floor with her pet folded in her hands.
"The funeral shall be this afternoon,
and we will all go.
It's a pity,
but nothing goes right this week,
and Pip has had the worst of the experiment.
Make the shroud,
and lay him in my box,
and after the dinner party,
we'll have a nice little funeral,"
beginning to feel as if she had undertaken a good deal.
Leaving the others to console Beth,
she departed to the kitchen,
which was in a most discouraging state of confusion.
Putting on a big apron,
she fell to work and got the dishes piled up ready for washing,
when she discovered that the fire was out.
"Here's a sweet prospect!"
slamming the stove door open,
and poking vigorously among the cinders.
Having rekindled the fire,
she thought she would go to market while the water heated.
The walk revived her spirits,
and flattering herself that she had made good bargains,
she trudged home again,
after buying a very young lobster,
some very old asparagus,
and two boxes of acid strawberries.
By the time she got cleared up,
the dinner arrived and the stove was red-hot.
Hannah had left a pan of bread to rise,
Meg had worked it up early,
set it on the hearth for a second rising,
and forgotten it.
Meg was entertaining Sallie Gardiner in the parlor,
when the door flew open and a floury,
and disheveled figure appeared,
demanding tartly ...
'riz' enough when it runs over the pans?"
Sallie began to laugh,
but Meg nodded and lifted her eyebrows as high as they would go,
which caused the apparition to vanish and put the sour bread into the oven without further delay.
Mrs. March went out,
after peeping here and there to see how matters went,
also saying a word of comfort to Beth,
who sat making a winding sheet,
while the dear departed lay in state in the domino box.
A straLanguage cannot describe nge sense of helplessness fell upon the girls as the gray bonnet vanished round the corner,
and despair seized them when a few minutes later Miss Crocker appeared,
and said she'd come to dinner.
Now this lady was a thin,
with a sharp nose and inquisitive eyes,
who saw everything and gossiped about all she saw.
They disliked her,
but had been taught to be kind to her,
simply because she was old and poor and had few friends.
So Meg gave her the easy chair and tried to entertain her,
while she asked questions,
and told stories of the people whom she knew.
Language cannot describe the anxieties,
and exertions which Jo underwent that morning,
and the dinner she served up became a standing joke.
Fearing to ask any more advice,
she did her best alone,
and discovered that something more than energy and good will is necessary to make a cook.
She boiled the asparagus for an hour and was grieved to find the heads cooked off and the stalks harder than ever.
The bread burned black;
for the salad dressing so aggravated her that she could not make it fit to eat.
The lobster was a scarlet mystery to her,
but she hammered and poked till it was unshelled and its meager proportions concealed in a grove of lettuce leaves.
The potatoes had to be hurried,
not to keep the asparagus waiting,
and were not done at the last.
The blanc mange was lumpy,
and the strawberries not as ripe as they looked,
having been skilfully
they can eat beef and bread and butter,
if they are hungry,
only it's mortifying to have to spend your whole morning for nothing,"
as she rang the bell half an hour later than usual,
surveying the feast spread before Laurie,
accustomed to all sorts of elegance,
and Miss Crocker,
whose tattling tongue would report them far and wide.
Poor Jo would gladly have gone under the table,
as one thing after another was tasted and left,
while Amy giggled,
Meg looked distressed,
Miss Crocker pursed her lips,
and Laurie talked and laughed with all his might to give a cheerful tone to the festive scene.
Jo's one strong point was the fruit,
for she had sugared it well,
and had a pitcher of rich cream to eat with it.
Her hot cheeks cooled a trifle,
and she drew a long breath as the pretty glass plates went round,
and everyone looked graciously at the little rosy islands floating in a sea of cream.
Miss Crocker tasted first,
made a wry face,
and drank some water hastily.
thinking there might not be enough,
for they dwindled sadly after the picking over,
glanced at Laurie,
but he was eating away manfully,
though there was a slight pucker about his mouth and he kept his eye fixed on his plate.
who was fond of delicate fare,
took a heaping spoonful,
hid her face in her napkin,
and left the table precipitately.
what is it?"
"Salt instead of sugar,
and the cream is sour,"
replied Meg with a tragic gesture.
Jo uttered a groan and fell back in her chair,
remembering that she had given a last hasty powdering to the berries out of one of the two boxes on the kitchen table,
and had neglected to put the milk in the refrigerator.
She turned scarlet and was on the verge of crying,
when she met Laurie's eyes,
which would look merry in spite of his heroic efforts.
The comical side of the affair suddenly struck her,
and she laughed till the tears ran down her cheeks.
So did everyone else,
'Croaker' as the girls called the old lady,
and the unfortunate dinner ended gaily,
with bread and butter,
olives and fun.
"I haven't strength of mind enough to clear up now,
so we will sober ourselves with a funeral,"
as they rose,
and Miss Crocker made ready to go,
being eager to tell the new story at another friend's dinner table.
They did sober themselves for Beth's sake.
Laurie dug a grave under the ferns in the grove,
little Pip was laid in,
with many tears by his tender-hearted mistress,
and covered with moss,
while a wreath of violets and chickweed was hung on the stone which bore his epitaph,
composed by Jo while she struggled with the dinner.
Here lies Pip March,
Who died the 7th of June;
Loved and lamented sore,
And not forgotten soon.
At the conclusion of the ceremonies,
Beth retired to her room,
overcome with emotion and lobster,
but there was no place of repose,
for the beds were not made,
and she found her grief much assuaged by beating up the pillows and putting things in order.
Meg helped Jo clear away the remains of the feast,
which took half the afternoon and left them so tired that they agreed to be contented with tea and toast for supper.
Laurie took Amy to drive,
which was a deed of charity,
for the sour cream seemed to have had a bad effect upon her temper.
Mrs. March came home to find the three older girls hard at work in the middle of the afternoon,
and a glance at the closet gave her an idea of the success of one part of the experiment.
Before the housewives could rest,
several people called,
and there was a scramble to get ready to see them.
Then tea must be got,
and one or two necessary bits of sewing neglected until the last minute.
As twilight fell,
dewy and still,
one by one they gathered on the porch where the June roses were budding beautifully,
and each groaned or sighed as she sat down,
as if tired or troubled.
"What a dreadful day this has been!"
usually the first to speak.
"It has seemed shorter than usual,
but so uncomfortable,"
"Not a bit like home,"
"It can't seem so without Marmee and little Pip,"
glancing with full eyes at the empty cage above her head.
and you shall have another bird tomorrow,
if you want it."
As she spoke,
Mrs. March came and took her place among them,
looking as if her holiday had not been much pleasanter than theirs.
"Are you satisfied with your experiment,
or do you want another week of it?"
as Beth nestled up to her and the rest turned toward her with brightening faces,
as flowers turn toward the sun.
cried Jo decidedly.
echoed the others.
"You think then,
that it is better to have a few duties and live a little for others,
"Lounging and larking doesn't pay,"
shaking her head.
"I'm tired of it and mean to go to work at something right off."
"Suppose you learn plain cooking.
That's a useful accomplishment,
which no woman should be without,"
said Mrs. March,
laughing inaudibly at the recollection of Jo's dinner party,
for she had met Miss Crocker and heard her account of it.
did you go away and let everything be,
just to see how we'd get on?"
who had had suspicions all day.
I wanted you to see how the comfort of all depends on each doing her share faithfully.
While Hannah and I did your work,
you got on pretty well,
though I don't think you were very happy or amiable.
So I thought,
as a little lesson,
I would show you what happens when everyone thinks only of herself.
Don't you feel that it is pleasanter to help one another,
to have daily duties which make leisure sweet when it comes,
and to bear and forbear,
that home may be comfortable and lovely to us all?"
cried the girls.
"Then let me advise you to take up your little burdens again,
for though they seem heavy sometimes,
they are good for us,
and lighten as we learn to carry them.
Work is wholesome,
and there is plenty for everyone.
It keeps us from ennui and mischief,
is good for health and spirits,
and gives us a sense of power and independence better than money or fashion."
"We'll work like bees,
and love it too,
see if we don't,"
"I'll learn plain cooking for my holiday task,
and the next dinner party I have shall be a success."
"I'll make the set of shirts for father,
instead of letting you do it,
I can and I will,
though I'm not fond of sewing.
That will be better than fussing over my own things,
which are plenty nice enough as they are."
"I'll do my lessons every day,
and not spend so much time with my music and dolls.
I am a stupid thing,
and ought to be studying,
was Beth's resolution,
while Amy followed their example by heroically declaring,
"I shall learn to make buttonholes,
and attend to my parts of speech."
Then I am quite satisfied with the experiment,
and fancy that we shall not have to repeat it,
only don't go to the other extreme and delve like slaves.
Have regular hours for work and play,
make each day both useful and pleasant,
and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well.
Then youth will be delightful,
old age will bring few regrets,
and life become a beautiful success,
in spite of poverty."
and they did.
Beth was postmistress,
being most at home,
she could attend to it regularly,
and dearly liked the daily task of unlocking the little door and distributing the mail.
One July day she came in with her hands full,
and went about the house leaving letters and parcels like the penny post.
"Here's your posy,
Laurie never forgets that,"
putting the fresh nosegay in the vase that stood in
and was kept supplied by the affectionate boy.
"Miss Meg March,
one letter and a glove,"
delivering the articles to her sister,
who sat near her mother,
I left a pair over there,
and here is only one,"
looking at the gray cotton glove.
"Didn't you drop the other in the garden?"
I'm sure I didn't,
for there was only one in the office."
"I hate to have odd gloves!
the other may be found.
My letter is only a translation of the German song I wanted.
I think Mr. Brooke did it,
for this isn't Laurie's writing."
Mrs. March glanced at Meg,
who was looking very pretty in her gingham morning gown,
with the little curls blowing about her forehead,
and very womanly,
as she sat sewing at her little worktable,
full of tidy white rolls,
so unconscious of the thought in her mother's mind as she sewed and sang,
while her fingers flew and her thoughts were busied with girlish fancies as innocent and fresh as the pansies in her belt,
that Mrs. March smiled and was satisfied.
"Two letters for Doctor Jo,
and a funny old hat,
which covered the whole post office and stuck outside,"
laughing as she went into the study where Jo sat writing.
"What a sly fellow Laurie is!
I said I wished bigger hats were the fashion,
because I burn my face every hot day.
'Why mind the fashion?
Wear a big hat,
and be comfortable!'
I said I would if I had one,
and he has sent me this,
to try me.
I'll wear it for fun,
and show him I don't care for the fashion."
And hanging the antique broad-brim on a bust of Plato,
Jo read her letters.
One from her mother made her cheeks glow and her eyes fill,
for it said to her ...
I write a little word to tell you with how much satisfaction I watch your efforts to control your temper.
You say nothing about your trials,
that no one sees them but the Friend whose help you daily ask,
if I may trust the well-worn cover of your guidebook.
have seen them all,
and heartily believe in the sincerity of your resolution,
since it begins to bear fruit.
patiently and bravely,
and always believe that no one sympathizes more tenderly with you than your loving ...
"That does me good!
That's worth millions of money and pecks of praise.
I do try!
I will keep on trying,
and not get tired,
since I have you to help me."
Laying her head on her arms,
Jo wet her little romance with a few happy tears,
for she had thought that no one saw and appreciated her efforts to be good,
and this assurance was doubly precious,
because unexpected and from the person whose commendation she most valued.
Feeling stronger than ever to meet and subdue her Apollyon,
she pinned the note inside her frock,
as a shield and a reminder,
lest she be taken unaware,
and proceeded to open her other letter,
quite ready for either good or bad news.
In a big,
Laurie wrote ...
Some English girls and boys are coming to see me tomorrow and I want to have a jolly time.
If it's fine,
I'm going to pitch my tent in Longmeadow,
and row up the whole crew to lunch and croquet --have a fire,
and all sorts of larks.
They are nice people,
and like such things.
Brooke will go to keep us boys steady,
and Kate Vaughn will play propriety for the girls.
I want you all to come,
can't let Beth off at any price,
and nobody shall worry her.
Don't bother about rations,
I'll see to that and everything else,
only do come,
there's a good fellow!
In a tearing hurry,
flying in to tell the news to Meg.
"Of course we can go,
It will be such a help to Laurie,
for I can row,
and Meg see to the lunch,
and the children be useful in some way."
"I hope the Vaughns are not fine grown-up people.
Do you know anything about them,
"Only that there are four of them.
Kate is older than you,
Fred and Frank (twins) about my age,
and a little girl (Grace),
who is nine or ten.
Laurie knew them abroad,
and liked the boys.
from the way he primmed up his mouth in speaking of her,
that he didn't admire Kate much."
"I'm so glad my French print is clean,
it's just the thing and so becoming!"
observed Meg complacently.
"Have you anything decent,
"Scarlet and gray boating suit,
good enough for me.
I shall row and tramp about,
so I don't want any starch to think of.
"If you won't let any boys talk to me."
"Not a boy!"
"I like to please Laurie,
and I'm not afraid of Mr. Brooke,
he is so kind.
But I don't want to play,
or say anything.
I'll work hard and not trouble anyone,
and you'll take care of me,
so I'll go."
"That's my good girl.
You do try to fight off your shyness,
and I love you for it.
Fighting faults isn't easy,
as I know,
and a cheery word kind of gives a lift.
And Jo gave the thin cheek a grateful kiss,
more precious to Mrs. March than if it had given back the rosy roundness of her youth.
"I had a box of chocolate drops,
and the picture I wanted to copy,"
showing her mail.
"And I got a note from Mr. Laurence,
asking me to come over and play to him tonight,
before the lamps are lighted,
and I shall go,"
whose friendship with the old gentleman prospered finely.
"Now let's fly round,
and do double duty today,
so that we can play tomorrow with free minds,"
preparing to replace her pen with a broom.
When the sun peeped into the girls' room early next morning to promise them a fine day,
he saw a comical sight.
Each had made such preparation for the fete as seemed necessary and proper.
Meg had an extra row of little curlpapers across her forehead,
Jo had copiously anointed her afflicted face with cold cream,
Beth had taken Joanna to bed with her to atone for the approaching separation,
and Amy had capped the climax by putting a clothespin on her nose to uplift the offending feature.
It was one of the kind artists use to hold the paper on their drawing boards,
therefore quite appropriate and effective for the purpose it was now being put.
This funny spectacle appeared to amuse the sun,
for he burst out with such radiance that Jo woke up and roused her sisters by a hearty laugh at Amy's ornament.
Sunshine and laughter were good omens for a pleasure party,
and soon a lively bustle began in both houses.
who was ready first,
kept reporting what went on next door,
and enlivened her sisters' toilets by frequent telegrams from the window.
"There goes the man with the tent!
I see Mrs. Barker doing up the lunch in a hamper and a great basket.
Now Mr. Laurence is looking up at the sky and the weathercock.
I wish he would go too.
looking like a sailor,
Here's a carriage full of people,
a tall lady,
a little girl,
and two dreadful boys.
One is lame,
he's got a crutch.
Laurie didn't tell us that.
It's getting late.
there is Ned Moffat,
I do declare.
isn't that the man who bowed to you one day when we were shopping?"
"So it is.
How queer that he should come.
I thought he was at the mountains.
There is Sallie.
I'm glad she got back in time.
Am I all right,
cried Meg in a flutter.
"A regular daisy.
Hold up your dress and put your hat on straight,
it looks sentimental tipped that way and will fly off at the first puff.
you are not going to wear that awful hat?
It's too absurd!
You shall not make a guy of yourself,"
as Jo tied down with a red ribbon the broad-brimmed,
old-fashioned leghorn Laurie had sent for a joke.
"I just will,
for it's capital,
It will make fun,
and I don't mind being a guy if I'm comfortable."
With that Jo marched straight away and the rest followed,
a bright little band of sisters,
all looking their best in summer suits,
with happy faces under the jaunty hatbrims.
Laurie ran to meet and present them to his friends in the most cordial manner.
The lawn was the reception room,
and for several minutes a lively scene was enacted there.
Meg was grateful to see that Miss Kate,
was dressed with a simplicity which American girls would do well to imitate,
and who was much flattered by Mr. Ned's assurances that he came especially to see her.
Jo understood why Laurie
'primmed up his mouth' when speaking of Kate,
for that young lady had a standoff-don't-touch-me air,
which contrasted strongly with the free and easy demeanor of the other girls.
Beth took an observation of the new boys and decided that the lame one was not
but gentle and feeble,
and she would be kind to him on that account.
Amy found Grace a well-mannered,
and after staring dumbly at one another for a few minutes,
they suddenly became very good friends.
and croquet utensils having been sent on beforehand,
the party was soon embarked,
and the two boats pushed off together,
leaving Mr. Laurence waving his hat on the shore.
Laurie and Jo rowed one boat,
Mr. Brooke and Ned the other,
while Fred Vaughn,
the riotous twin,
did his best to upset both by paddling about in a wherry like a disturbed water bug.
Jo's funny hat deserved a vote of thanks,
for it was of general utility.
It broke the ice in the beginning by producing a laugh,
it created quite a refreshing breeze,
flapping to and fro as she rowed,
and would make an excellent umbrella for the whole party,
if a shower came up,
Miss Kate decided that she was
but rather clever,
and smiled upon her from afar.
in the other boat,
was delightfully situated,
face to face with the rowers,
who both admired the prospect and feathered their oars with uncommon
'skill and dexterity'.
Mr. Brooke was a grave,
silent young man,
with handsome brown eyes and a pleasant voice.
Meg liked his quiet manners and considered him a walking encyclopedia of useful knowledge.
He never talked to her much,
but he looked at her a good deal,
and she felt sure that he did not regard her with aversion.
being in college,
of course put on all the airs which freshmen think it their bounden duty to assume.
He was not very wise,
but very good-natured,
and altogether an excellent person to carry on a picnic.
Sallie Gardiner was absorbed in keeping her white pique dress clean and chattering with the ubiquitous Fred,
who kept Beth in constant terror by his pranks.
It was not far to Longmeadow,
but the tent was pitched and the wickets down by the time they arrived.
A pleasant green field,
with three wide-spreading oaks in the middle and a smooth strip of turf for croquet.
"Welcome to Camp Laurence!"
said the young host,
as they landed with exclamations of delight.
"Brooke is commander in chief,
I am commissary general,
the other fellows are staff officers,
The tent is for your especial benefit and that oak is your drawing room,
this is the messroom and the third is the camp kitchen.
let's have a game before it gets hot,
and then we'll see about dinner."
and Grace sat down to watch the game played by the other eight.
Mr. Brooke chose Meg,
Laurie took Sallie,
The English played well,
but the Americans played better,
and contested every inch of the ground as strongly as if the spirit of
'76 inspired them.
Jo and Fred had several skirmishes and once narrowly escaped high words.
Jo was through the last wicket and had missed the stroke,
which failure ruffled her a good deal.
Fred was close behind her and his turn came before hers.
He gave a stroke,
his ball hit the wicket,
and stopped an inch on the wrong side.
No one was very near,
and running up to examine,
he gave it a sly nudge with his toe,
which put it just an inch on the right side.
I'll settle you,
and get in first,"
cried the young gentleman,
swinging his mallet for another blow.
"You pushed it.
I saw you.
It's my turn now,"
said Jo sharply.
"Upon my word,
I didn't move it.
It rolled a bit,
but that is allowed.
stand off please,
and let me have a go at the stake."
"We don't cheat in America,
but you can,
if you choose,"
said Jo angrily.
"Yankees are a deal the most tricky,
There you go!"
croqueting her ball far away.
Jo opened her lips to say something rude,
but checked herself in time,
colored up to her forehead and stood a minute,
hammering down a wicket with all her might,
while Fred hit the stake and declared himself out with much exultation.
She went off to get her ball,
and was a long time finding it among the bushes,
but she came back,
looking cool and quiet,
and waited her turn patiently.
It took several strokes to regain the place she had lost,
and when she got there,
the other side had nearly won,
for Kate's ball was the last but one and lay near the stake.
it's all up with us!
Miss Jo owes me one,
so you are finished,"
cried Fred excitedly,
as they all drew near to see the finish.
"Yankees have a trick of being generous to their enemies,"
with a look that made the lad redden,
"especially when they beat them,"
leaving Kate's ball untouched,
she won the game by a clever stroke.
Laurie threw up his hat,
then remembered that it wouldn't do to exult over the defeat of his guests,
and stopped in the middle of the cheer to whisper to his friend,
"Good for you,
He did cheat,
I saw him.
We can't tell him so,
but he won't do it again,
take my word for it."
Meg drew her aside,
under pretense of pinning up a loose braid,
and said approvingly,
"It was dreadfully provoking,
but you kept your temper,
and I'm so glad,
"Don't praise me,
for I could box his ears this minute.
I should certainly have boiled over if I hadn't stayed among the nettles till I got my rage under control enough to hold my tongue.
It's simmering now,
so I hope he'll keep out of my way,"
biting her lips as she glowered at Fred from under her big hat.
"Time for lunch,"
said Mr. Brooke,
looking at his watch.
will you make the fire and get water,
while Miss March,
and I spread the table?
Who can make good coffee?"
glad to recommend her sister.
feeling that her late lessons in cookery were to do her honor,
went to preside over the coffeepot,
while the children collected dry sticks,
and the boys made a fire and got water from a spring near by.
Miss Kate sketched and Frank talked to Beth,
who was making little mats of braided rushes to serve as plates.
The commander in chief and his aides soon spread the tablecloth with an inviting array of eatables and drinkables,
prettily decorated with green leaves.
Jo announced that the coffee was ready,
and everyone settled themselves to a hearty meal,
for youth is seldom dyspeptic,
and exercise develops wholesome appetites.
A very merry lunch it was,
for everything seemed fresh and funny,
and frequent peals of laughter startled a venerable horse who fed near by.
There was a pleasing inequality in the table,
which produced many mishaps to cups and plates,
acorns dropped in the milk,
little black ants partook of the refreshments without being invited,
and fuzzy caterpillars swung down from the tree to see what was going on.
Three white-headed children peeped over the fence,
and an objectionable dog barked at them from the other side of the river with all his might and main.
"There's salt here,"
as he handed Jo a saucer of berries.
I prefer spiders,"
fishing up two unwary little ones who had gone to a creamy death.
"How dare you remind me of that horrid dinner party,
when yours is so nice in every way?"
as they both laughed and ate out of one plate,
the china having run short.
"I had an uncommonly good time that day,
and haven't got over it yet.
This is no credit to me,
I don't do anything.
It's you and Meg and Brooke who make it all go,
and I'm no end obliged to you.
What shall we do when we can't eat anymore?"
feeling that his trump card had been played when lunch was over.
"Have games till it's cooler.
I brought Authors,
and I dare say Miss Kate knows something new and nice.
Go and ask her.
and you ought to stay with her more."
"Aren't you company too?
I thought she'd suit Brooke,
but he keeps talking to Meg,
and Kate just stares at them through that ridiculous glass of hers.
so you needn't try to preach propriety,
for you can't do it,
Miss Kate did know several new games,
and as the girls would not,
and the boys could not,
eat any more,
they all adjourned to the drawing room to play Rig-marole.
"One person begins a story,
any nonsense you like,
and tells as long as he pleases,
only taking care to stop short at some exciting point,
when the next takes it up and does the same.
It's very funny when well done,
and makes a perfect jumble of tragical comical stuff to laugh over.
Please start it,
with a commanding air,
which surprised Meg,
who treated the tutor with as much respect as any other gentleman.
Lying on the grass at the feet of the two young ladies,
Mr. Brooke obediently began the story,
with the handsome brown eyes steadily fixed upon the sunshiny river.
"Once on a time,
a knight went out into the world to seek his fortune,
for he had nothing but his sword and his shield.
He traveled a long while,
nearly eight-and-twenty years,
and had a hard time of it,
till he came to the palace of a good old king,
who had offered a reward to anyone who could tame and train a fine but unbroken colt,
of which he was very fond.
The knight agreed to try,
and got on slowly but surely,
for the colt was a gallant fellow,
and soon learned to love his new master,
though he was freakish and wild.
when he gave his lessons to this pet of the king's,
the knight rode him through the city,
and as he rode,
he looked everywhere for a certain beautiful face,
which he had seen many times in his dreams,
but never found.
as he went prancing down a quiet street,
he saw at the window of a ruinous castle the lovely face.
He was delighted,
inquired who lived in this old castle,
and was told that several captive princesses were kept there by a spell,
and spun all day to lay up money to buy their liberty.
The knight wished intensely that he could free them,
but he was poor and could only go by each day,
watching for the sweet face and longing to see it out in the sunshine.
At last he resolved to get into the castle and ask how he could help them.
He went and knocked.
The great door flew open,
and he beheld ..."
"A ravishingly lovely lady,
with a cry of rapture,
At last!'" continued Kate,
who had read French novels,
and admired the style.
cried Count Gustave,
and fell at her feet in an ecstasy of joy.
extending a hand of marble fairness.
Till you tell me how I may rescue you,'
swore the knight,
my cruel fate condemns me to remain here till my tyrant is destroyed.'
'Where is the villain?'
'In the mauve salon.
and save me from despair.'
and return victorious or dead!'
With these thrilling words he rushed away,
and flinging open the door of the mauve salon,
was about to enter,
when he received ..."
"A stunning blow from the big Greek lexicon,
which an old fellow in a black gown fired at him,"
Sir What's-his-name recovered himself,
pitched the tyrant out of the window,
and turned to join the lady,
but with a bump on his brow,
found the door locked,
tore up the curtains,
made a rope ladder,
got halfway down when the ladder broke,
and he went headfirst into the moat,
sixty feet below.
Could swim like a duck,
paddled round the castle till he came to a little door guarded by two stout fellows,
knocked their heads together till they cracked like a couple of nuts,
by a trifling exertion of his prodigious strength,
he smashed in the door,
went up a pair of stone steps covered with dust a foot thick,
toads as big as your fist,
and spiders that would frighten you into hysterics,
At the top of these steps he came plump upon a sight that took his breath away and chilled his blood ..."
"A tall figure,
all in white with a veil over its face and a lamp in its wasted hand,"
went on Meg.
gliding noiselessly before him down a corridor as dark and cold as any tomb.
Shadowy effigies in armor stood on either side,
a dead silence reigned,
the lamp burned blue,
and the ghostly figure ever and anon turned its face toward him,
showing the glitter of awful eyes through its white veil.
They reached a curtained door,
behind which sounded lovely music.
He sprang forward to enter,
but the specter plucked him back,
and waved threateningly before him a ..."
in a sepulchral tone,
which convulsed the audience.
said the knight politely,
as he took a pinch and sneezed seven times so violently that his head fell off.
laughed the ghost,
and having peeped through the keyhole at the princesses spinning away for dear life,
the evil spirit picked up her victim and put him in a large tin box,
where there were eleven other knights packed together without their heads,
who all rose and began to ..."
"Dance a hornpipe,"
cut in Fred,
as Jo paused for breath,
as they danced,
the rubbishy old castle turned to a man-of-war in full sail.
'Up with the jib,
reef the tops'l halliards,
helm hard alee,
and man the guns!'
roared the captain,
as a Portuguese pirate hove in sight,
with a flag black as ink flying from her foremast.
'Go in and win,
says the captain,
and a tremendous fight began.
Of course the British beat --they always do."
"Having taken the pirate captain prisoner,
sailed slap over the schooner,
whose decks were piled high with dead and whose lee scuppers ran blood,
for the order had been
and die hard!'
take a bight of the flying-jib sheet,
and start this villain if he doesn't confess his sins double quick,'
said the British captain.
The Portuguese held his tongue like a brick,
and walked the plank,
while the jolly tars cheered like mad.
But the sly dog dived,
came up under the man-of-war,
and down she went,
with all sail set,
'To the bottom of the sea,
sea' where ..."
What shall I say?"
as Fred ended his rigmarole,
in which he had jumbled together pell-mell nautical phrases and facts out of one of his favorite books.
they went to the bottom,
and a nice mermaid welcomed them,
but was much grieved on finding the box of headless knights,
and kindly pickled them in brine,
hoping to discover the mystery about them,
for being a woman,
she was curious.
By-and-by a diver came down,
and the mermaid said,
'I'll give you a box of pearls if you can take it up,'
for she wanted to restore the poor things to life,
and couldn't raise the heavy load herself.
So the diver hoisted it up,
and was much disappointed on opening it to find no pearls.
He left it in a great lonely field,
where it was found by a ..."
"Little goose girl,
who kept a hundred fat geese in the field,"
when Sallie's invention gave out.
"The little girl was sorry for them,
and asked an old woman what she should do to help them.
'Your geese will tell you,
they know everything.'
said the old woman.
So she asked what she should use for new heads,
since the old ones were lost,
and all the geese opened their hundred mouths and screamed ..."
"'Cabbages!'" continued Laurie promptly.
"'Just the thing,'
said the girl,
and ran to get twelve fine ones from her garden.
She put them on,
the knights revived at once,
and went on their way rejoicing,
never knowing the difference,
for there were so many other heads like them in the world that no one thought anything of it.
The knight in whom I'm interested went back to find the pretty face,
and learned that the princesses had spun themselves free and all gone and married,
He was in a great state of mind at that,
and mounting the colt,
who stood by him through thick and thin,
rushed to the castle to see which was left.
Peeping over the hedge,
he saw the queen of his affections picking flowers in her garden.
'Will you give me a rose?'
'You must come and get it.
I can't come to you,
it isn't proper,'
as sweet as honey.
He tried to climb over the hedge,
but it seemed to grow higher and higher.
Then he tried to push through,
but it grew thicker and thicker,
and he was in despair.
So he patiently broke twig after twig till he had made a little hole through which he peeped,
'Let me in!
Let me in!'
But the pretty princess did not seem to understand,
for she picked her roses quietly,
and left him to fight his way in.
Whether he did or not,
Frank will tell you."
I'm not playing,
I never do,"
dismayed at the sentimental predicament out of which he was to rescue the absurd couple.
Beth had disappeared behind Jo,
and Grace was asleep.
"So the poor knight is to be left sticking in the hedge,
asked Mr. Brooke,
still watching the river,
and playing with the wild rose in his buttonhole.
"I guess the princess gave him a posy,
and opened the gate after a while,"
smiling to himself,
as he threw acorns at his tutor.
"What a piece of nonsense we have made!
With practice we might do something quite clever.
Do you know Truth?"
"I hope so,"
said Meg soberly.
"What is it?"
you pile up your hands,
choose a number,
and draw out in turn,
and the person who draws at the number has to answer truly any question put by the rest.
It's great fun."
"Let's try it,"
who liked new experiments.
Miss Kate and Mr. Brooke,
and Ned declined,
and Laurie piled and drew,
and the lot fell to Laurie.
"Who are your heroes?"
"Grandfather and Napoleon."
"Which lady here do you think prettiest?"
"Which do you like best?"
"What silly questions you ask!"
And Jo gave a disdainful shrug as the rest laughed at Laurie's matter-of-fact tone.
Truth isn't a bad game,"
"It's a very good one for you,"
retorted Jo in a low voice.
Her turn came next.
"What is your greatest fault?"
by way of testing in her the virtue he lacked himself.
"A quick temper."
"What do you most wish for?"
"A pair of boot lacings,"
guessing and defeating his purpose.
"Not a true answer.
You must say what you really do want most."
Don't you wish you could give it to me,
And she slyly smiled in his disappointed face.
"What virtues do you most admire in a man?"
"Courage and honesty."
"Now my turn,"
as his hand came last.
"Let's give it to him,"
whispered Laurie to Jo,
who nodded and asked at once ...
"Didn't you cheat at croquet?"
a little bit."
Didn't you take your story out of _The Sea Lion?_" said Laurie.
"Don't you think the English nation perfect in every respect?"
"I should be ashamed of myself if I didn't."
"He's a true John Bull.
you shall have a chance without waiting to draw.
I'll harrrow up your feelings first by asking if you don't think you are something of a flirt,"
as Jo nodded to Fred as a sign that peace was declared.
"You impertinent boy!
Of course I'm not,"
with an air that proved the contrary.
"What do you hate most?"
"Spiders and rice pudding."
"What do you like best?"
"Dancing and French gloves."
I think Truth is a very silly play.
Let's have a sensible game of Authors to refresh our minds,"
and the little girls joined in this,
and while it went on,
the three elders sat apart,
Miss Kate took out her sketch again,
and Margaret watched her,
while Mr. Brooke lay on the grass with a book,
which he did not read.
"How beautifully you do it!
I wish I could draw,"
with mingled admiration and regret in her voice.
"Why don't you learn?
I should think you had taste and talent for it,"
replied Miss Kate graciously.
"I haven't time."
"Your mamma prefers other accomplishments,
So did mine,
but I proved to her that I had talent by taking a few lessons privately,
and then she was quite willing I should go on.
Can't you do the same with your governess?"
"I have none."
"I forgot young ladies in America go to school more than with us.
Very fine schools they are,
You go to a private one,
"I don't go at all.
I am a governess myself."
said Miss Kate,
but she might as well have said,
for her tone implied it,
and something in her face made Meg color,
and wish she had not been so frank.
Mr. Brooke looked up and said quickly,
"Young ladies in America love independence as much as their ancestors did,
and are admired and respected for supporting themselves."
of course it's very nice and proper in them to do so.
We have many most respectable and worthy young women who do the same and are employed by the nobility,
being the daughters of gentlemen,
they are both well bred and accomplished,
said Miss Kate in a patronizing tone that hurt Meg's pride,
and made her work seem not only more distasteful,
"Did the German song suit,
inquired Mr. Brooke,
breaking an awkward pause.
It was very sweet,
and I'm much obliged to whoever translated it for me."
And Meg's downcast face brightened as she spoke.
"Don't you read German?"
asked Miss Kate with a look of surprise.
"Not very well.
who taught me,
and I don't get on very fast alone,
for I've no one to correct my pronunciation."
"Try a little now.
Here is Schiller's Mary Stuart and a tutor who loves to teach."
And Mr. Brooke laid his book on her lap with an inviting smile.
"It's so hard I'm afraid to try,"
but bashful in the presence of the accomplished young lady beside her.
"I'll read a bit to encourage you."
And Miss Kate read one of the most beautiful passages in a perfectly correct but perfectly expressionless manner.
Mr. Brooke made no comment as she returned the book to Meg,
who said innocently,
"I thought it was poetry."
"Some of it is.
Try this passage."
There was a queer smile about Mr. Brooke's mouth as he opened at poor Mary's lament.
Meg obediently following the long grass-blade which her new tutor used to point with,
read slowly and timidly,
unconsciously making poetry of the hard words by the soft intonation of her musical voice.
Down the page went the green guide,
forgetting her listener in the beauty of the sad scene,
Meg read as if alone,
giving a little touch of tragedy to the words of the unhappy queen.
If she had seen the brown eyes then,
she would have stopped short,
but she never looked up,
and the lesson was not spoiled for her.
"Very well indeed!"
said Mr. Brooke,
as she paused,
quite ignoring her many mistakes,
and looking as if he did indeed love to teach.
Miss Kate put up her glass,
having taken a survey of the little tableau before her,
shut her sketch book,
saying with condescension,
"You've a nice accent and in time will be a clever reader.
I advise you to learn,
for German is a valuable accomplishment to teachers.
I must look after Grace,
she is romping."
And Miss Kate strolled away,
adding to herself with a shrug,
"I didn't come to chaperone a governess,
though she is young and pretty.
What odd people these Yankees are.
I'm afraid Laurie will be quite spoiled among them."
"I forgot that English people rather turn up their noses at governesses and don't treat them as we do,"
looking after the retreating figure with an annoyed expression.
"Tutors also have rather a hard time of it there,
as I know to my sorrow.
There's no place like America for us workers,
And Mr. Brooke looked so contented and cheerful that Meg was ashamed to lament her hard lot.
"I'm glad I live in it then.
I don't like my work,
but I get a good deal of satisfaction out of it after all,
so I won't complain.
I only wished I liked teaching as you do."
"I think you would if you had Laurie for a pupil.
I shall be very sorry to lose him next year,"
said Mr. Brooke,
busily punching holes in the turf.
"Going to college,
Meg's lips asked the question,
but her eyes added,
"And what becomes of you?"
it's high time he went,
for he is ready,
and as soon as he is off,
I shall turn soldier.
I am needed."
"I am glad of that!"
"I should think every young man would want to go,
though it is hard for the mothers and sisters who stay at home,"
she added sorrowfully.
"I have neither,
and very few friends to care whether I live or die,"
said Mr. Brooke rather bitterly as he absently put the dead rose in the hole he had made and covered it up,
like a little grave.
"Laurie and his grandfather would care a great deal,
and we should all be very sorry to have any harm happen to you,"
said Meg heartily.
that sounds pleasant,"
began Mr. Brooke,
looking cheerful again,
but before he could finish his speech,
mounted on the old horse,
came lumbering up to display his equestrian skill before the young ladies,
and there was no more quiet that day.
"Don't you love to ride?"
asked Grace of Amy,
as they stood resting after a race round the field with the others,
led by Ned.
"I dote upon it.
used to ride when Papa was rich,
but we don't keep any horses now,
except Ellen Tree,"
"Tell me about Ellen Tree.
Is it a donkey?"
asked Grace curiously.
Jo is crazy about horses and so am I,
but we've only got an old sidesaddle and no horse.
Out in our garden is an apple tree that has a nice low branch,
so Jo put the saddle on it,
fixed some reins on the part that turns up,
and we bounce away on Ellen Tree whenever we like."
"I have a pony at home,
and ride nearly every day in the park with Fred and Kate.
It's very nice,
for my friends go too,
and the Row is full of ladies and gentlemen."
I hope I shall go abroad some day,
but I'd rather go to Rome than the Row,"
who had not the remotest idea what the Row was and wouldn't have asked for the world.
sitting just behind the little girls,
heard what they were saying,
and pushed his crutch away from him with an impatient gesture as he watched the active lads going through all sorts of comical gymnastics.
who was collecting the scattered Author cards,
looked up and said,
in her shy yet friendly way,
"I'm afraid you are tired.
Can I do anything for you?"
"Talk to me,
sitting by myself,"
who had evidently been used to being made much of at home.
If he asked her to deliver a Latin oration,
it would not have seemed a more impossible task to bashful Beth,
but there was no place to run to,
no Jo to hide behind now,
and the poor boy looked so wistfully at her that she bravely resolved to try.
"What do you like to talk about?"
fumbling over the cards and dropping half as she tried to tie them up.
I like to hear about cricket and boating and hunting,"
who had not yet learned to suit his amusements to his strength.
What shall I do?
I don't know anything about them,
and forgetting the boy's misfortune in her flurry,
hoping to make him talk,
"I never saw any hunting,
but I suppose you know all about it."
"I did once,
but I can never hunt again,
for I got hurt leaping a confounded five-barred gate,
so there are no more horses and hounds for me,"
said Frank with a sigh that made Beth hate herself for her innocent blunder.
"Your deer are much prettier than our ugly buffaloes,"
turning to the prairies for help and feeling glad that she had read one of the boys' books in which Jo delighted.
Buffaloes proved soothing and satisfactory,
and in her eagerness to amuse another,
Beth forgot herself,
and was quite unconscious of her sisters' surprise and delight at the unusual spectacle of Beth talking away to one of the dreadful boys,
against whom she had begged protection.
"Bless her heart!
She pities him,
so she is good to him,"
beaming at her from the croquet ground.
"I always said she was a little saint,"
as if there could be no further doubt of it.
"I haven't heard Frank laugh so much for ever so long,"
said Grace to Amy,
as they sat discussing dolls and making tea sets out of the acorn cups.
"My sister Beth is a very fastidious girl,
when she likes to be,"
well pleased at Beth's success.
but as Grace didn't know the exact meaning of either word,
fastidious sounded well and made a good impression.
An impromptu circus,
fox and geese,
and an amicable game of croquet finished the afternoon.
At sunset the tent was struck,
wickets pulled up,
and the whole party floated down the river,
singing at the tops of their voices.
warbled a serenade with the pensive refrain ...
and at the lines ...
We each are young,
we each have a heart,
why should we stand thus coldly apart?
he looked at Meg with such a lackadiasical expression that she laughed outright and spoiled his song.
"How can you be so cruel to me?"
under cover of a lively chorus.
"You've kept close to that starched-up Englishwoman all day,
and now you snub me."
"I didn't mean to,
but you looked so funny I really couldn't help it,"
passing over the first part of his reproach,
for it was quite true that she had shunned him,
remembering the Moffat party and the talk after it.
Ned was offended and turned to Sallie for consolation,
saying to her rather pettishly,
"There isn't a bit of flirt in that girl,
"Not a particle,
but she's a dear,"
defending her friend even while confessing her shortcomings.
"She's not a stricken deer anyway,"
trying to be witty,
and succeeding as well as very young gentlemen usually do.
On the lawn where it had gathered,
the little party separated with cordial good nights and good-byes,
for the Vaughns were going to Canada.
As the four sisters went home through the garden,
Miss Kate looked after them,
without the patronizing tone in her voice,
"In spite of their demonstrative manners,
American girls are very nice when one knows them."
"I quite agree with you,"
said Mr. Brooke.
CASTLES IN THE AIR
Laurie lay luxuriously swinging to and fro in his hammock one warm September afternoon,
wondering what his neighbors were about,
but too lazy to go and find out.
He was in one of his moods,
for the day had been both unprofitable and unsatisfactory,
and he was wishing he could live it over again.
The hot weather made him indolent,
and he had shirked his studies,
tried Mr. Brooke's patience to the utmost,
displeased his grandfather by practicing half the afternoon,
frightened the maidservants half out of their wits by mischievously hinting that one of his dogs was going mad,
after high words with the stableman about some fancied neglect of his horse,
he had flung himself into his hammock to fume over the stupidity of the world in general,
till the peace of the lovely day quieted him in spite of himself.
Staring up into the green gloom of the horse-chestnut trees above him,
he dreamed dreams of all sorts,
and was just imagining himself tossing on the ocean in a voyage round the world,
when the sound of voices brought him ashore in a flash.
Peeping through the meshes of the hammock,
he saw the Marches coming out,
as if bound on some expedition.
"What in the world are those girls about now?"
opening his sleepy eyes to take a good look,
for there was something rather peculiar in the appearance of his neighbors.
Each wore a large,
a brown linen pouch slung over one shoulder,
and carried a long staff.
Meg had a cushion,
Jo a book,
Beth a basket,
and Amy a portfolio.
All walked quietly through the garden,
out at the little back gate,
and began to climb the hill that lay between the house and river.
said Laurie to himself,
"to have a picnic and never ask me!
They can't be going in the boat,
for they haven't got the key.
Perhaps they forgot it.
I'll take it to them,
and see what's going on."
Though possessed of half a dozen hats,
it took him some time to find one,
then there was a hunt for the key,
which was at last discovered in his pocket,
so that the girls were quite out of sight when he leaped the fence and ran after them.
Taking the shortest way to the boathouse,
he waited for them to appear,
but no one came,
and he went up the hill to take an observation.
A grove of pines covered one part of it,
and from the heart of this green spot came a clearer sound than the soft sigh of the pines or the drowsy chirp of the crickets.
"Here's a landscape!"
peeping through the bushes,
and looking wide-awake and good-natured already.
It was a rather pretty little picture,
for the sisters sat together in the shady nook,
with sun and shadow flickering over them,
the aromatic wind lifting their hair and cooling their hot cheeks,
and all the little wood people going on with their affairs as if these were no strangers but old friends.
Meg sat upon her cushion,
sewing daintily with her white hands,
and looking as fresh and sweet as a rose in her pink dress among the green.
Beth was sorting the cones that lay thick under the hemlock near by,
for she made pretty things with them.
Amy was sketching a group of ferns,
and Jo was knitting as she read aloud.
A shadow passed over the boy's face as he watched them,
feeling that he ought to go away because uninvited;
yet lingering because home seemed very lonely and this quiet party in the woods most attractive to his restless spirit.
He stood so still that a squirrel,
busy with its harvesting,
ran down a pine close beside him,
saw him suddenly and skipped back,
scolding so shrilly that Beth looked up,
espied the wistful face behind the birches,
and beckoned with a reassuring smile.
"May I come in,
Or shall I be a bother?"
Meg lifted her eyebrows,
but Jo scowled at her defiantly and said at once,
"Of course you may.
We should have asked you before,
only we thought you wouldn't care for such a girl's game as this."
"I always like your games,
but if Meg doesn't want me,
I'll go away."
"I've no objection,
if you do something.
It's against the rules to be idle here,"
replied Meg gravely but graciously.
I'll do anything if you'll let me stop a bit,
for it's as dull as the Desert of Sahara down there.
Shall I sew,
or do all at once?
Bring on your bears.
And Laurie sat down with a submissive expression delightful to behold.
"Finish this story while I set my heel,"
handing him the book.
was the meek answer,
as he began,
doing his best to prove his gratitude for the favor of admission into the
'Busy Bee Society'.
The story was not a long one,
and when it was finished,
he ventured to ask a few questions as a reward of merit.
could I inquire if this highly instructive and charming institution is a new one?"
"Would you tell him?"
asked Meg of her sisters.
said Amy warningly.
"I guess he'll like it,"
"Of course I shall!
I give you my word I won't laugh.
and don't be afraid."
"The idea of being afraid of you!
you see we used to play Pilgrim's Progress,
and we have been going on with it in earnest,
all winter and summer."
"Who told you?"
I wanted to amuse him one night when you were all away,
and he was rather dismal.
He did like it,
so don't scold,
said Beth meekly.
"You can't keep a secret.
it saves trouble now."
as Jo became absorbed in her work,
looking a trifle displeased.
didn't she tell you about this new plan of ours?
we have tried not to waste our holiday,
but each has had a task and worked at it with a will.
The vacation is nearly over,
the stints are all done,
and we are ever so glad that we didn't dawdle."
I should think so,"
and Laurie thought regretfully of his own idle days.
"Mother likes to have us out-of-doors as much as possible,
so we bring our work here and have nice times.
For the fun of it we bring our things in these bags,
wear the old hats,
use poles to climb the hill,
and play pilgrims,
as we used to do years ago.
We call this hill the Delectable Mountain,
for we can look far away and see the country where we hope to live some time."
and Laurie sat up to examine,
for through an opening in the wood one could look cross the wide,
the meadows on the other side,
far over the outskirts of the great city,
to the green hills that rose to meet the sky.
The sun was low,
and the heavens glowed with the splendor of an autumn sunset.
Gold and purple clouds lay on the hilltops,
and rising high into the ruddy light were silvery white peaks that shone like the airy spires of some Celestial City.
"How beautiful that is!"
said Laurie softly,
for he was quick to see and feel beauty of any kind.
"It's often so,
and we like to watch it,
for it is never the same,
but always splendid,"
wishing she could paint it.
"Jo talks about the country where we hope to live sometime --the real country,
with pigs and chickens and haymaking.
It would be nice,
but I wish the beautiful country up there was real,
and we could ever go to it,"
said Beth musingly.
"There is a lovelier country even than that,
where we shall go,
when we are good enough,"
answered Meg with her sweetest voice.
"It seems so long to wait,
so hard to do.
I want to fly away at once,
as those swallows fly,
and go in at that splendid gate."
"You'll get there,
sooner or later,
no fear of that,"
"I'm the one that will have to fight and work,
and climb and wait,
and maybe never get in after all."
"You'll have me for company,
if that's any comfort.
I shall have to do a deal of traveling before I come in sight of your Celestial City.
If I arrive late,
you'll say a good word for me,
Something in the boy's face troubled his little friend,
but she said cheerfully,
with her quiet eyes on the changing clouds,
"If people really want to go,
and really try all their lives,
I think they will get in,
for I don't believe there are any locks on that door or any guards at the gate.
I always imagine it is as it is in the picture,
where the shining ones stretch out their hands to welcome poor Christian as he comes up from the river."
"Wouldn't it be fun if all the castles in the air which we make could come true,
and we could live in them?"
after a little pause.
"I've made such quantities it would be hard to choose which I'd have,"
lying flat and throwing cones at the squirrel who had betrayed him.
"You'd have to take your favorite one.
What is it?"
"If I tell mine,
will you tell yours?"
if the girls will too."
"After I'd seen as much of the world as I want to,
I'd like to settle in Germany and have just as much music as I choose.
I'm to be a famous musician myself,
and all creation is to rush to hear me.
And I'm never to be bothered about money or business,
but just enjoy myself and live for what I like.
That's my favorite castle.
Margaret seemed to find it a little hard to tell hers,
and waved a brake before her face,
as if to disperse imaginary gnats,
while she said slowly,
"I should like a lovely house,
full of all sorts of luxurious things --nice food,
and heaps of money.
I am to be mistress of it,
and manage it as I like,
with plenty of servants,
so I never need work a bit.
How I should enjoy it!
For I wouldn't be idle,
but do good,
and make everyone love me dearly."
"Wouldn't you have a master for your castle in the air?"
asked Laurie slyly.
and Meg carefully tied up her shoe as she spoke,
so that no one saw her face.
"Why don't you say you'd have a splendid,
good husband and some angelic little children?
You know your castle wouldn't be perfect without,"
said blunt Jo,
who had no tender fancies yet,
and rather scorned romance,
except in books.
"You'd have nothing but horses,
and novels in yours,"
answered Meg petulantly.
"Wouldn't I though?
I'd have a stable full of Arabian steeds,
rooms piled high with books,
and I'd write out of a magic inkstand,
so that my works should be as famous as Laurie's music.
I want to do something splendid before I go into my castle,
something heroic or wonderful that won't be forgotten after I'm dead.
I don't know what,
but I'm on the watch for it,
and mean to astonish you all some day.
I think I shall write books,
and get rich and famous,
that would suit me,
so that is my favorite dream."
"Mine is to stay at home safe with Father and Mother,
and help take care of the family,"
said Beth contentedly.
"Don't you wish for anything else?"
"Since I had my little piano,
I am perfectly satisfied.
I only wish we may all keep well and be together,
"I have ever so many wishes,
but the pet one is to be an artist,
and go to Rome,
and do fine pictures,
and be the best artist in the whole world,"
was Amy's modest desire.
"We're an ambitious set,
Every one of us,
wants to be rich and famous,
and gorgeous in every respect.
I do wonder if any of us will ever get our wishes,"
chewing grass like a meditative calf.
"I've got the key to my castle in the air,
but whether I can unlock the door remains to be seen,"
observed Jo mysteriously.
"I've got the key to mine,
but I'm not allowed to try it.
muttered Laurie with an impatient sigh.
and Amy waved her pencil.
"I haven't got any,"
said Meg forlornly.
said Laurie at once.
"In your face."
that's of no use."
"Wait and see if it doesn't bring you something worth having,"
replied the boy,
laughing at the thought of a charming little secret which he fancied he knew.
Meg colored behind the brake,
but asked no questions and looked across the river with the same expectant expression which Mr. Brooke had worn when he told the story of the knight.
"If we are all alive ten years hence,
and see how many of us have got our wishes,
or how much nearer we are then than now,"
always ready with a plan.
How old I shall be,
who felt grown up already,
having just reached seventeen.
"You and I will be twenty-six,
and Amy twenty-two.
What a venerable party!"
"I hope I shall have done something to be proud of by that time,
but I'm such a lazy dog,
I'm afraid I shall dawdle,
"You need a motive,
and when you get it,
she is sure you'll work splendidly."
if I only get the chance!"
sitting up with sudden energy.
"I ought to be satisfied to please Grandfather,
and I do try,
but it's working against the grain,
and comes hard.
He wants me to be an India merchant,
as he was,
and I'd rather be shot.
I hate tea and silk and spices,
and every sort of rubbish his old ships bring,
and I don't care how soon they go to the bottom when I own them.
Going to college ought to satisfy him,
for if I give him four years he ought to let me off from the business.
But he's set,
and I've got to do just as he did,
unless I break away and please myself,
as my father did.
If there was anyone left to stay with the old gentleman,
I'd do it tomorrow."
Laurie spoke excitedly,
and looked ready to carry his threat into execution on the slightest provocation,
for he was growing up very fast and,
in spite of his indolent ways,
had a young man's hatred of subjection,
a young man's restless longing to try the world for himself.
"I advise you to sail away in one of your ships,
and never come home again till you have tried your own way,"
whose imagination was fired by the thought of such a daring exploit,
and whose sympathy was excited by what she called
"That's not right,
You mustn't talk in that way,
and Laurie mustn't take your bad advice.
You should do just what your grandfather wishes,
my dear boy,"
said Meg in her most maternal tone.
"Do your best at college,
and when he sees that you try to please him,
I'm sure he won't be hard on you or unjust to you.
As you say,
there is no one else to stay with and love him,
and you'd never forgive yourself if you left him without his permission.
Don't be dismal or fret,
but do your duty and you'll get your reward,
as good Mr. Brooke has,
by being respected and loved."
"What do you know about him?"
grateful for the good advice,
but objecting to the lecture,
and glad to turn the conversation from himself after his unusual outbreak.
"Only what your grandpa told us about him,
how he took good care of his own mother till she died,
and wouldn't go abroad as tutor to some nice person because he wouldn't leave her.
And how he provides now for an old woman who nursed his mother,
and never tells anyone,
but is just as generous and patient and good as he can be."
"So he is,
dear old fellow!"
said Laurie heartily,
as Meg paused,
looking flushed and earnest with her story.
"It's like Grandpa to find out all about him without letting him know,
and to tell all his goodness to others,
so that they might like him.
Brooke couldn't understand why your mother was so kind to him,
asking him over with me and treating him in her beautiful friendly way.
He thought she was just perfect,
and talked about it for days and days,
and went on about you all in flaming style.
If ever I do get my wish,
you see what I'll do for Brooke."
"Begin to do something now by not plaguing his life out,"
said Meg sharply.
"How do you know I do,
"I can always tell by his face when he goes away.
If you have been good,
he looks satisfied and walks briskly.
If you have plagued him,
he's sober and walks slowly,
as if he wanted to go back and do his work better."
I like that?
So you keep an account of my good and bad marks in Brooke's face,
I see him bow and smile as he passes your window,
but I didn't know you'd got up a telegraph."
Don't be angry,
don't tell him I said anything!
It was only to show that I cared how you get on,
and what is said here is said in confidence,
much alarmed at the thought of what might follow from her careless speech.
"I don't tell tales,"
'high and mighty' air,
as Jo called a certain expression which he occasionally wore.
"Only if Brooke is going to be a thermometer,
I must mind and have fair weather for him to report."
"Please don't be offended.
I didn't mean to preach or tell tales or be silly.
I only thought Jo was encouraging you in a feeling which you'd be sorry for by-and-by.
You are so kind to us,
we feel as if you were our brother and say just what we think.
I meant it kindly."
And Meg offered her hand with a gesture both affectionate and timid.
Ashamed of his momentary pique,
Laurie squeezed the kind little hand,
and said frankly,
"I'm the one to be forgiven.
I'm cross and have been out of sorts all day.
I like to have you tell me my faults and be sisterly,
so don't mind if I am grumpy sometimes.
I thank you all the same."
Bent on showing that he was not offended,
he made himself as agreeable as possible,
wound cotton for Meg,
recited poetry to please Jo,
shook down cones for Beth,
and helped Amy with her ferns,
proving himself a fit person to belong to the
'Busy Bee Society'.
In the midst of an animated discussion on the domestic habits of turtles (one of those amiable creatures having strolled up from the river),
the faint sound of a bell warned them that Hannah had put the tea
and they would just have time to get home to supper.
"May I come again?"
if you are good,
and love your book,
as the boys in the primer are told to do,"
"Then you may come,
and I'll teach you to knit as the Scotchmen do.
There's a demand for socks just now,"
waving hers like a big blue worsted banner as they parted at the gate.
when Beth played to Mr. Laurence in the twilight,
standing in the shadow of the curtain,
listened to the little David,
whose simple music always quieted his moody spirit,
and watched the old man,
who sat with his gray head on his hand,
thinking tender thoughts of the dead child he had loved so much.
Remembering the conversation of the afternoon,
the boy said to himself,
with the resolve to make the sacrifice cheerfully,
"I'll let my castle go,
and stay with the dear old gentleman while he needs me,
for I am all he has."
Jo was very busy in the garret,
for the October days began to grow chilly,
and the afternoons were short.
For two or three hours the sun lay warmly in the high window,
showing Jo seated on the old sofa,
with her papers spread out upon a trunk before her,
the pet rat,
promenaded the beams overhead,
accompanied by his oldest son,
a fine young fellow,
who was evidently very proud of his whiskers.
Quite absorbed in her work,
Jo scribbled away till the last page was filled,
when she signed her name with a flourish and threw down her pen,
I've done my best!
If this won't suit I shall have to wait till I can do better."
Lying back on the sofa,
she read the manuscript carefully through,
making dashes here and there,
and putting in many exclamation points,
which looked like little balloons.
Then she tied it up with a smart red ribbon,
and sat a minute looking at it with a sober,
which plainly showed how earnest her work had been.
Jo's desk up here was an old tin kitchen which hung against the wall.
In it she kept her papers,
and a few books,
safely shut away from Scrabble,
being likewise of a literary turn,
was fond of making a circulating library of such books as were left in his way by eating the leaves.
From this tin receptacle Jo produced another manuscript,
and putting both in her pocket,
crept quietly downstairs,
leaving her friends to nibble on her pens and taste her ink.
She put on her hat and jacket as noiselessly as possible,
and going to the back entry window,
got out upon the roof of a low porch,
swung herself down to the grassy bank,
and took a roundabout way to the road.
she composed herself,
hailed a passing omnibus,
and rolled away to town,
looking very merry and mysterious.
If anyone had been watching her,
he would have thought her movements decidedly peculiar,
for on alighting,
she went off at a great pace till she reached a certain number in a certain busy street.
Having found the place with some difficulty,
she went into the doorway,
looked up the dirty stairs,
and after standing stock still a minute,
suddenly dived into the street and walked away as rapidly as she came.
This maneuver she repeated several times,
to the great amusement of a black-eyed young gentleman lounging in the window of a building opposite.
On returning for the third time,
Jo gave herself a shake,
pulled her hat over her eyes,
and walked up the stairs,
looking as if she were going to have all her teeth out.
There was a dentist's sign,
which adorned the entrance,
and after staring a moment at the pair of artificial jaws which slowly opened and shut to draw attention to a fine set of teeth,
the young gentleman put on his coat,
took his hat,
and went down to post himself in the opposite doorway,
saying with a smile and a shiver,
"It's like her to come alone,
but if she has a bad time she'll need someone to help her home."
In ten minutes Jo came running downstairs with a very red face and the general appearance of a person who had just passed through a trying ordeal of some sort.
When she saw the young gentleman she looked anything but pleased,
and passed him with a nod.
But he followed,
asking with an air of sympathy,
"Did you have a bad time?"
"You got through quickly."
"Why did you go alone?"
"Didn't want anyone to know."
"You're the oddest fellow I ever saw.
How many did you have out?"
Jo looked at her friend as if she did not understand him,
then began to laugh as if mightily amused at something.
"There are two which I want to have come out,
but I must wait a week."
"What are you laughing at?
You are up to some mischief,
"So are you.
What were you doing,
up in that billiard saloon?"
"Begging your pardon,
it wasn't a billiard saloon,
but a gymnasium,
and I was taking a lesson in fencing."
"I'm glad of that."
"You can teach me,
and then when we play _Hamlet_,
you can be Laertes,
and we'll make a fine thing of the fencing scene."
Laurie burst out with a hearty boy's laugh,
which made several passers-by smile in spite of themselves.
"I'll teach you whether we play _Hamlet_ or not.
It's grand fun and will straighten you up capitally.
But I don't believe that was your only reason for saying
'I'm glad' in that decided way,
was it now?"
I was glad that you were not in the saloon,
because I hope you never go to such places.
"I wish you wouldn't."
"It's no harm,
I have billiards at home,
but it's no fun unless you have good players,
as I'm fond of it,
I come sometimes and have a game with Ned Moffat or some of the other fellows."
I'm so sorry,
for you'll get to liking it better and better,
and will waste time and money,
and grow like those dreadful boys.
I did hope you'd stay respectable and be a satisfaction to your friends,"
shaking her head.
"Can't a fellow take a little innocent amusement now and then without losing his respectability?"
"That depends upon how and where he takes it.
I don't like Ned and his set,
and wish you'd keep out of it.
Mother won't let us have him at our house,
though he wants to come.
And if you grow like him she won't be willing to have us frolic together as we do now."
asked Laurie anxiously.
she can't bear fashionable young men,
and she'd shut us all up in bandboxes rather than have us associate with them."
she needn't get out her bandboxes yet.
I'm not a fashionable party and don't mean to be,
but I do like harmless larks now and then,
nobody minds them,
so lark away,
but don't get wild,
Or there will be an end of all our good times."
"I'll be a double distilled saint."
"I can't bear saints.
Just be a simple,
and we'll never desert you.
I don't know what I should do if you acted like Mr. King's son.
He had plenty of money,
but didn't know how to spend it,
and got tipsy and gambled,
and ran away,
and forged his father's name,
and was altogether horrid."
"You think I'm likely to do the same?
I don't --oh,
--but I hear people talking about money being such a temptation,
and I sometimes wish you were poor.
I shouldn't worry then."
"Do you worry about me,
when you look moody and discontented,
as you sometimes do,
for you've got such a strong will,
if you once get started wrong,
I'm afraid it would be hard to stop you."
Laurie walked in silence a few minutes,
and Jo watched him,
wishing she had held her tongue,
for his eyes looked angry,
though his lips smiled as if at her warnings.
"Are you going to deliver lectures all the way home?"
he asked presently.
"Of course not.
"Because if you are,
I'll take a bus.
If you're not,
I'd like to walk with you and tell you something very interesting."
"I won't preach any more,
and I'd like to hear the news immensely."
It's a secret,
and if I tell you,
you must tell me yours."
"I haven't got any,"
but stopped suddenly,
remembering that she had.
"You know you have --you can't hide anything,
so up and
or I won't tell,"
"Is your secret a nice one?"
All about people you know,
and such fun!
You ought to hear it,
and I've been aching to tell it this long time.
"You'll not say anything about it at home,
"Not a word."
"And you won't tease me in private?"
"I never tease."
You get everything you want out of people.
I don't know how you do it,
but you are a born wheedler."
I've left two stories with a newspaperman,
and he's to give his answer next week,"
in her confidant's ear.
"Hurrah for Miss March,
the celebrated American authoress!"
throwing up his hat and catching it again,
to the great delight of two ducks,
and half a dozen Irish children,
for they were out of the city now.
It won't come to anything,
I dare say,
but I couldn't rest till I had tried,
and I said nothing about it because I didn't want anyone else to be disappointed."
"It won't fail.
your stories are works of Shakespeare compared to half the rubbish that is published every day.
Won't it be fun to see them in print,
and shan't we feel proud of our authoress?"
Jo's eyes sparkled,
for it is always pleasant to be believed in,
and a friend's praise is always sweeter than a dozen newspaper puffs.
"Where's your secret?
or I'll never believe you again,"
trying to extinguish the brilliant hopes that blazed up at a word of encouragement.
"I may get into a scrape for telling,
but I didn't promise not to,
so I will,
for I never feel easy in my mind till I've told you any plummy bit of news I get.
I know where Meg's glove is."
"Is that all?"
as Laurie nodded and twinkled with a face full of mysterious intelligence.
"It's quite enough for the present,
as you'll agree when I tell you where it is."
and whispered three words in Jo's ear,
which produced a comical change.
She stood and stared at him for a minute,
looking both surprised and displeased,
then walked on,
"How do you know?"
"All this time?"
isn't that romantic?"
"Don't you like it?"
"Of course I don't.
it won't be allowed.
What would Meg say?"
"You are not to tell anyone.
"I didn't promise."
"That was understood,
and I trusted you."
I won't for the present,
but I'm disgusted,
and wish you hadn't told me."
"I thought you'd be pleased."
"At the idea of anybody coming to take Meg away?
"You'll feel better about it when somebody comes to take you away."
"I'd like to see anyone try it,"
cried Jo fiercely.
"So should I!"
and Laurie chuckled at the idea.
"I don't think secrets agree with me,
I feel rumpled up in my mind since you told me that,"
said Jo rather ungratefully.
"Race down this hill with me,
and you'll be all right,"
No one was in sight,
the smooth road sloped invitingly before her,
and finding the temptation irresistible,
Jo darted away,
soon leaving hat and comb behind her and scattering hairpins as she ran.
Laurie reached the goal first and was quite satisfied with the success of his treatment,
for his Atlanta came panting up with flying hair,
and no signs of dissatisfaction in her face.
"I wish I was a horse,
then I could run for miles in this splendid air,
and not lose my breath.
It was capital,
but see what a guy it's made me.
pick up my things,
like a cherub,
as you are,"
dropping down under a maple tree,
which was carpeting the bank with crimson leaves.
Laurie leisurely departed to recover the lost property,
and Jo bundled up her braids,
hoping no one would pass by till she was tidy again.
But someone did pass,
and who should it be but Meg,
looking particularly ladylike in her state and festival suit,
for she had been making calls.
"What in the world are you doing here?"
regarding her disheveled sister with well-bred surprise.
meekly answered Jo,
sorting the rosy handful she had just swept up.
throwing half a dozen into Jo's lap.
"They grow on this road,
so do combs and brown straw hats."
"You have been running,
How could you?
When will you stop such romping ways?"
said Meg reprovingly,
as she settled her cuffs and smoothed her hair,
with which the wind had taken liberties.
"Never till I'm stiff and old and have to use a crutch.
Don't try to make me grow up before my time,
It's hard enough to have you change all of a sudden.
Let me be a little girl as long as I can."
As she spoke,
Jo bent over the leaves to hide the trembling of her lips,
for lately she had felt that Margaret was fast getting to be a woman,
and Laurie's secret made her dread the separation which must surely come some time and now seemed very near.
He saw the trouble in her face and drew Meg's attention from it by asking quickly,
"Where have you been calling,
all so fine?"
"At the Gardiners',
and Sallie has been telling me all about Belle Moffat's wedding.
It was very splendid,
and they have gone to spend the winter in Paris.
Just think how delightful that must be!"
"Do you envy her,
"I'm afraid I do."
"I'm glad of it!"
tying on her hat with a jerk.
"Because if you care much about riches,
you will never go and marry a poor man,"
frowning at Laurie,
who was mutely warning her to mind what she said.
"I shall never
'_go_ and marry' anyone,"
walking on with great dignity while the others followed,
'behaving like children',
as Meg said to herself,
though she might have been tempted to join them if she had not had her best dress on.
For a week or two,
Jo behaved so queerly that her sisters were quite bewildered.
She rushed to the door when the postman rang,
was rude to Mr. Brooke whenever they met,
would sit looking at Meg with a woe-begone face,
occasionally jumping up to shake and then kiss her in a very mysterious manner.
Laurie and she were always making signs to one another,
and talking about
'Spread Eagles' till the girls declared they had both lost their wits.
On the second Saturday after Jo got out of the window,
as she sat sewing at her window,
was scandalized by the sight of Laurie chasing Jo all over the garden and finally capturing her in Amy's bower.
What went on there,
Meg could not see,
but shrieks of laughter were heard,
followed by the murmur of voices and a great flapping of newspapers.
"What shall we do with that girl?
She never _will_ behave like a young lady,"
as she watched the race with a disapproving face.
"I hope she won't.
She is so funny and dear as she is,"
who had never betrayed that she was a little hurt at Jo's having secrets with anyone but her.
"It's very trying,
but we never can make her _commy la fo_,"
who sat making some new frills for herself,
with her curls tied up in a very becoming way,
two agreeable things that made her feel unusually elegant and ladylike.
In a few minutes Jo bounced in,
laid herself on the sofa,
and affected to read.
"Have you anything interesting there?"
"Nothing but a story,
won't amount to much,
carefully keeping the name of the paper out of sight.
"You'd better read it aloud.
That will amuse us and keep you out of mischief,"
said Amy in her most grown-up tone.
"What's the name?"
wondering why Jo kept her face behind the sheet.
"The Rival Painters."
"That sounds well.
With a loud "Hem!"
and a long breath,
Jo began to read very fast.
The girls listened with interest,
for the tale was romantic,
and somewhat pathetic,
as most of the characters died in the end.
"I like that about the splendid picture,"
was Amy's approving remark,
as Jo paused.
"I prefer the lovering part.
Viola and Angelo are two of our favorite names,
isn't that queer?"
wiping her eyes,
for the lovering part was tragical.
"Who wrote it?"
who had caught a glimpse of Jo's face.
The reader suddenly sat up,
cast away the paper,
displaying a flushed countenance,
and with a funny mixture of solemnity and excitement replied in a loud voice,
dropping her work.
"It's very good,"
said Amy critically.
"I knew it!
I knew it!
I am so proud!"
and Beth ran to hug her sister and exult over this splendid success.
how delighted they all were,
to be sure!
How Meg wouldn't believe it till she saw the words.
"Miss Josephine March,"
actually printed in the paper.
How graciously Amy criticized the artistic parts of the story,
and offered hints for a sequel,
which unfortunately couldn't be carried out,
as the hero and heroine were dead.
How Beth got excited,
and skipped and sang with joy.
How Hannah came in to exclaim,
well I never!"
in great astonishment at
'that Jo's doin's'.
How proud Mrs. March was when she knew it.
How Jo laughed,
with tears in her eyes,
as she declared she might as well be a peacock and done with it,
and how the
'Spread Eagle' might be said to flap his wings triumphantly over the House of March,
as the paper passed from hand to hand.
"Tell us about it."
"When did it come?"
"How much did you get for it?"
"What will Father say?"
"Won't Laurie laugh?"
cried the family,
all in one breath as they clustered about Jo,
for these foolish,
affectionate people made a jubilee of every little household joy.
and I'll tell you everything,"
wondering if Miss Burney felt any grander over her Evelina than she did over her
Having told how she disposed of her tales,
"And when I went to get my answer,
the man said he liked them both,
but didn't pay beginners,
only let them print in his paper,
and noticed the stories.
It was good practice,
and when the beginners improved,
anyone would pay.
So I let him have the two stories,
and today this was sent to me,
and Laurie caught me with it and insisted on seeing it,
so I let him.
And he said it was good,
and I shall write more,
and he's going to get the next paid for,
and I am so happy,
for in time I may be able to support myself and help the girls."
Jo's breath gave out here,
and wrapping her head in the paper,
she bedewed her little story with a few natural tears,
for to be independent and earn the praise of those she loved were the dearest wishes of her heart,
and this seemed to be the first step toward that happy end.
"November is the most disagreeable month in the whole year,"
standing at the window one dull afternoon,
looking out at the frostbitten garden.
"That's the reason I was born in it,"
observed Jo pensively,
quite unconscious of the blot on her nose.
"If something very pleasant should happen now,
we should think it a delightful month,"
who took a hopeful view of everything,
"I dare say,
but nothing pleasant ever does happen in this family,"
who was out of sorts.
"We go grubbing along day after day,
without a bit of change,
and very little fun.
We might as well be in a treadmill."
how blue we are!"
"I don't much wonder,
for you see other girls having splendid times,
while you grind,
year in and year out.
don't I wish I could manage things for you as I do for my heroines!
You're pretty enough and good enough already,
so I'd have some rich relation leave you a fortune unexpectedly.
Then you'd dash out as an heiress,
scorn everyone who has slighted you,
and come home my Lady Something in a blaze of splendor and elegance."
"People don't have fortunes left them in that style nowadays,
men have to work and women marry for money.
It's a dreadfully unjust world,"
said Meg bitterly.
"Jo and I are going to make fortunes for you all.
Just wait ten years,
and see if we don't,"
who sat in a corner making mud pies,
as Hannah called her little clay models of birds,
and I'm afraid I haven't much faith in ink and dirt,
though I'm grateful for your good intentions."
and turned to the frostbitten garden again.
Jo groaned and leaned both elbows on the table in a despondent attitude,
but Amy spatted away energetically,
who sat at the other window,
"Two pleasant things are going to happen right away.
Marmee is coming down the street,
and Laurie is tramping through the garden as if he had something nice to tell."
In they both came,
Mrs. March with her usual question,
"Any letter from Father,
and Laurie to say in his persuasive way,
"Won't some of you come for a drive?
I've been working away at mathematics till my head is in a muddle,
and I'm going to freshen my wits by a brisk turn.
It's a dull day,
but the air isn't bad,
and I'm going to take Brooke home,
so it will be gay inside,
if it isn't out.
you and Beth will go,
"Of course we will."
but I'm busy."
And Meg whisked out her workbasket,
for she had agreed with her mother that it was best,
for her at least,
not to drive too often with the young gentleman.
"We three will be ready in a minute,"
running away to wash her hands.
"Can I do anything for you,
leaning over Mrs. March's chair with the affectionate look and tone he always gave her.
except call at the office,
if you'll be so kind,
It's our day for a letter,
and the postman hasn't been.
Father is as regular as the sun,
but there's some delay on the way,
A sharp ring interrupted her,
and a minute after Hannah came in with a letter.
"It's one of them horrid telegraph things,
handling it as if she was afraid it would explode and do some damage.
At the word
Mrs. March snatched it,
read the two lines it contained,
and dropped back into her chair as white as if the little paper had sent a bullet to her heart.
Laurie dashed downstairs for water,
while Meg and Hannah supported her,
and Jo read aloud,
in a frightened voice ...
Mrs. March: Your husband is very ill.
Come at once.
S. HALE Blank Hospital,
How still the room was as they listened breathlessly,
how strangely the day darkened outside,
and how suddenly the whole world seemed to change,
as the girls gathered about their mother,
feeling as if all the happiness and support of their lives was about to be taken from them.
Mrs. March was herself again directly,
read the message over,
and stretched out her arms to her daughters,
in a tone they never forgot,
"I shall go at once,
but it may be too late.
help me to bear it!"
For several minutes there was nothing but the sound of sobbing in the room,
mingled with broken words of comfort,
tender assurances of help,
and hopeful whispers that died away in tears.
Poor Hannah was the first to recover,
and with unconscious wisdom she set all the rest a good example,
for with her,
work was panacea for most afflictions.
"The Lord keep the dear man!
I won't waste no time a-cryin',
but git your things ready right away,
she said heartily,
as she wiped her face on her apron,
gave her mistress a warm shake of the hand with her own hard one,
and went away to work like three women in one.
there's no time for tears now.
and let me think."
They tried to be calm,
as their mother sat up,
looking pale but steady,
and put away her grief to think and plan for them.
she asked presently,
when she had collected her thoughts and decided on the first duties to be done.
let me do something!"
cried the boy,
hurrying from the next room whither he had withdrawn,
feeling that their first sorrow was too sacred for even his friendly eyes to see.
"Send a telegram saying I will come at once.
The next train goes early in the morning.
I'll take that."
The horses are ready.
I can go anywhere,
looking ready to fly to the ends of the earth.
"Leave a note at Aunt March's.
give me that pen and paper."
Tearing off the blank side of one of her newly copied pages,
Jo drew the table before her mother,
well knowing that money for the long,
sad journey must be borrowed,
and feeling as if she could do anything to add a little to the sum for her father.
but don't kill yourself driving at a desperate pace.
There is no need of that."
Mrs. March's warning was evidently thrown away,
for five minutes later Laurie tore by the window on his own fleet horse,
riding as if for his life.
run to the rooms,
and tell Mrs. King that I can't come.
On the way get these things.
I'll put them down,
they'll be needed and I must go prepared for nursing.
Hospital stores are not always good.
go and ask Mr. Laurence for a couple of bottles of old wine.
I'm not too proud to beg for Father.
He shall have the best of everything.
tell Hannah to get down the black trunk,
come and help me find my things,
for I'm half bewildered."
and directing all at once might well bewilder the poor lady,
and Meg begged her to sit quietly in her room for a little while,
and let them work.
Everyone scattered like leaves before a gust of wind,
and the quiet,
happy household was broken up as suddenly as if the paper had been an evil spell.
Mr. Laurence came hurrying back with Beth,
bringing every comfort the kind old gentleman could think of for the invalid,
and friendliest promises of protection for the girls during the mother's absence,
which comforted her very much.
There was nothing he didn't offer,
from his own dressing gown to himself as escort.
But the last was impossible.
Mrs. March would not hear of the old gentleman's undertaking the long journey,
yet an expression of relief was visible when he spoke of it,
for anxiety ill fits one for traveling.
He saw the look,
knit his heavy eyebrows,
rubbed his hands,
and marched abruptly away,
saying he'd be back directly.
No one had time to think of him again till,
as Meg ran through the entry,
with a pair of rubbers in one hand and a cup of tea in the other,
she came suddenly upon Mr. Brooke.
"I'm very sorry to hear of this,
in the kind,
quiet tone which sounded very pleasantly to her perturbed spirit.
"I came to offer myself as escort to your mother.
Mr. Laurence has commissions for me in Washington,
and it will give me real satisfaction to be of service to her there."
Down dropped the rubbers,
and the tea was very near following,
as Meg put out her hand,
with a face so full of gratitude that Mr. Brooke would have felt repaid for a much greater sacrifice than the trifling one of time and comfort which he was about to take.
"How kind you all are!
Mother will accept,
and it will be such a relief to know that she has someone to take care of her.
Thank you very,
Meg spoke earnestly,
and forgot herself entirely till something in the brown eyes looking down at her made her remember the cooling tea,
and lead the way into the parlor,
saying she would call her mother.
Everything was arranged by the time Laurie returned with a note from Aunt March,
enclosing the desired sum,
and a few lines repeating what she had often said before,
that she had always told them it was absurd for March to go into the army,
always predicted that no good would come of it,
and she hoped they would take her advice the next time.
Mrs. March put the note in the fire,
the money in her purse,
and went on with her preparations,
with her lips folded tightly in a way which Jo would have understood if she had been there.
The short afternoon wore away.
All other errands were done,
and Meg and her mother busy at some necessary needlework,
while Beth and Amy got tea,
and Hannah finished her ironing with what she called a
'slap and a bang',
but still Jo did not come.
They began to get anxious,
and Laurie went off to find her,
for no one knew what freak Jo might take into her head.
He missed her,
and she came walking in with a very queer expression of countenance,
for there was a mixture of fun and fear,
satisfaction and regret in it,
which puzzled the family as much as did the roll of bills she laid before her mother,
saying with a little choke in her voice,
"That's my contribution toward making Father comfortable and bringing him home!"
where did you get it?
I hope you haven't done anything rash?"
it's mine honestly.
I didn't beg,
or steal it.
I earned it,
and I don't think you'll blame me,
for I only sold what was my own."
As she spoke,
Jo took off her bonnet,
and a general outcry arose,
for all her abundant hair was cut short.
Your beautiful hair!"
how could you?
Your one beauty."
"My dear girl,
there was no need of this."
"She doesn't look like my Jo any more,
but I love her dearly for it!"
As everyone exclaimed,
and Beth hugged the cropped head tenderly,
Jo assumed an indifferent air,
which did not deceive anyone a particle,
rumpling up the brown bush and trying to look as if she liked it,
"It doesn't affect the fate of the nation,
so don't wail,
It will be good for my vanity,
I was getting too proud of my wig.
It will do my brains good to have that mop taken off.
My head feels deliciously light and cool,
and the barber said I could soon have a curly crop,
which will be boyish,
and easy to keep in order.
so please take the money and let's have supper."
"Tell me all about it,
I am not quite satisfied,
but I can't blame you,
for I know how willingly you sacrificed your vanity,
as you call it,
to your love.
it was not necessary,
and I'm afraid you will regret it one of these days,"
said Mrs. March.
returned Jo stoutly,
feeling much relieved that her prank was not entirely condemned.
"What made you do it?"
who would as soon have thought of cutting off her head as her pretty hair.
I was wild to do something for Father,"
as they gathered about the table,
for healthy young people can eat even in the midst of trouble.
"I hate to borrow as much as Mother does,
and I knew Aunt March would croak,
she always does,
if you ask for a ninepence.
Meg gave all her quarterly salary toward the rent,
and I only got some clothes with mine,
so I felt wicked,
and was bound to have some money,
if I sold the nose off my face to get it."
"You needn't feel wicked,
You had no winter things and got the simplest with your own hard earnings,"
said Mrs. March with a look that warmed Jo's heart.
"I hadn't the least idea of selling my hair at first,
but as I went along I kept thinking what I could do,
and feeling as if I'd like to dive into some of the rich stores and help myself.
In a barber's window I saw tails of hair with the prices marked,
and one black tail,
not so thick as mine,
was forty dollars.
It came to me all of a sudden that I had one thing to make money out of,
and without stopping to think,
I walked in,
asked if they bought hair,
and what they would give for mine."
"I don't see how you dared to do it,"
said Beth in a tone of awe.
he was a little man who looked as if he merely lived to oil his hair.
He rather stared at first,
as if he wasn't used to having girls bounce into his shop and ask him to buy their hair.
He said he didn't care about mine,
it wasn't the fashionable color,
and he never paid much for it in the first place.
The work put into it made it dear,
and so on.
It was getting late,
and I was afraid if it wasn't done right away that I shouldn't have it done at all,
and you know when I start to do a thing,
I hate to give it up.
So I begged him to take it,
and told him why I was in such a hurry.
It was silly,
I dare say,
but it changed his mind,
for I got rather excited,
and told the story in my topsy-turvy way,
and his wife heard,
and said so kindly,
and oblige the young lady.
I'd do as much for our Jimmy any day if I had a spire of hair worth selling."
"Who was Jimmy?"
who liked to have things explained as they went along.
who was in the army.
How friendly such things make strangers feel,
She talked away all the time the man clipped,
and diverted my mind nicely."
"Didn't you feel dreadfully when the first cut came?"
with a shiver.
"I took a last look at my hair while the man got his things,
and that was the end of it.
I never snivel over trifles like that.
I will confess,
I felt queer when I saw the dear old hair laid out on the table,
and felt only the short rough ends of my head.
It almost seemed as if I'd an arm or leg off.
The woman saw me look at it,
and picked out a long lock for me to keep.
I'll give it to you,
just to remember past glories by,
for a crop is so comfortable I don't think I shall ever have a mane again."
Mrs. March folded the wavy chestnut lock,
and laid it away with a short gray one in her desk.
She only said,
but something in her face made the girls change the subject,
and talk as cheerfully as they could about Mr. Brooke's kindness,
the prospect of a fine day tomorrow,
and the happy times they would have when Father came home to be nursed.
No one wanted to go to bed when at ten o'clock Mrs. March put by the last finished job,
Beth went to the piano and played the father's favorite hymn.
All began bravely,
but broke down one by one till Beth was left alone,
singing with all her heart,
for to her music was always a sweet consoler.
"Go to bed and don't talk,
for we must be up early and shall need all the sleep we can get.
said Mrs. March,
as the hymn ended,
for no one cared to try another.
They kissed her quietly,
and went to bed as silently as if the dear invalid lay in the next room.
Beth and Amy soon fell asleep in spite of the great trouble,
but Meg lay awake,
thinking the most serious thoughts she had ever known in her short life.
Jo lay motionless,
and her sister fancied that she was asleep,
till a stifled sob made her exclaim,
as she touched a wet cheek ...
what is it?
Are you crying about father?"
burst out poor Jo,
trying vainly to smother her emotion in the pillow.
It did not seem at all comical to Meg,
who kissed and caressed the afflicted heroine in the tenderest manner.
"I'm not sorry,"
with a choke.
"I'd do it again tomorrow,
if I could.
It's only the vain part of me that goes and cries in this silly way.
Don't tell anyone,
it's all over now.
I thought you were asleep,
so I just made a little private moan for my one beauty.
How came you to be awake?"
"I can't sleep,
I'm so anxious,"
"Think about something pleasant,
and you'll soon drop off."
"I tried it,
but felt wider awake than ever."
"What did you think of?"
"Handsome faces --eyes particularly,"
smiling to herself in the dark.
"What color do you like best?"
Blue are lovely."
and Meg sharply ordered her not to talk,
then amiably promised to make her hair curl,
and fell asleep to dream of living in her castle in the air.
The clocks were striking midnight and the rooms were very still as a figure glided quietly from bed to bed,
smoothing a coverlet here,
settling a pillow there,
and pausing to look long and tenderly at each unconscious face,
to kiss each with lips that mutely blessed,
and to pray the fervent prayers which only mothers utter.
As she lifted the curtain to look out into the dreary night,
the moon broke suddenly from behind the clouds and shone upon her like a bright,
which seemed to whisper in the silence,
There is always light behind the clouds."
In the cold gray dawn the sisters lit their lamp and read their chapter with an earnestness never felt before.
For now the shadow of a real trouble had come,
the little books were full of help and comfort,
and as they dressed,
they agreed to say goodbye cheerfully and hopefully,
and send their mother on her anxious journey unsaddened by tears or complaints from them.
Everything seemed very strange when they went down,
so dim and still outside,
so full of light and bustle within.
Breakfast at that early hour seemed odd,
and even Hannah's familiar face looked unnatural as she flew about her kitchen with her nightcap on.
The big trunk stood ready in the hall,
Mother's cloak and bonnet lay on the sofa,
and Mother herself sat trying to eat,
but looking so pale and worn with sleeplessness and anxiety that the girls found it very hard to keep their resolution.
Meg's eyes kept filling in spite of herself,
Jo was obliged to hide her face in the kitchen roller more than once,
and the little girls wore a grave,
as if sorrow was a new experience to them.
Nobody talked much,
but as the time drew very near and they sat waiting for the carriage,
Mrs. March said to the girls,
who were all busied about her,
one folding her shawl,
another smoothing out the strings of her bonnet,
a third putting on her overshoes,
and a fourth fastening up her travelling bag ...
I leave you to Hannah's care and Mr. Laurence's protection.
Hannah is faithfulness itself,
and our good neighbor will guard you as if you were his own.
I have no fears for you,
yet I am anxious that you should take this trouble rightly.
Don't grieve and fret when I am gone,
or think that you can be idle and comfort yourselves by being idle and trying to forget.
Go on with your work as usual,
for work is a blessed solace.
Hope and keep busy,
and whatever happens,
remember that you never can be fatherless."
watch over your sisters,
and in any perplexity,
go to Mr. Laurence.
don't get despondent or do rash things,
write to me often,
and be my brave girl,
ready to help and cheer all.
comfort yourself with your music,
and be faithful to the little home duties,
help all you can,
and keep happy safe at home."
The rattle of an approaching carriage made them all start and listen.
That was the hard minute,
but the girls stood it well.
No one cried,
no one ran away or uttered a lamentation,
though their hearts were very heavy as they sent loving messages to Father,
as they spoke that it might be too late to deliver them.
They kissed their mother quietly,
clung about her tenderly,
and tried to wave their hands cheerfully when she drove away.
Laurie and his grandfather came over to see her off,
and Mr. Brooke looked so strong and sensible and kind that the girls christened him
'Mr. Greatheart' on the spot.
God bless and keep us all!"
whispered Mrs. March,
as she kissed one dear little face after the other,
and hurried into the carriage.
As she rolled away,
the sun came out,
and looking back,
she saw it shining on the group at the gate like a good omen.
They saw it also,
and smiled and waved their hands,
and the last thing she beheld as she turned the corner was the four bright faces,
and behind them like a bodyguard,
old Mr. Laurence,
and devoted Laurie.
"How kind everyone is to us!"
turning to find fresh proof of it in the respectful sympathy of the young man's face.
"I don't see how they can help it,"
returned Mr. Brooke,
laughing so infectiously that Mrs. March could not help smiling.
And so the journey began with the good omens of sunshine,
and cheerful words.
"I feel as if there had been an earthquake,"
as their neighbors went home to breakfast,
leaving them to rest and refresh themselves.
"It seems as if half the house was gone,"
added Meg forlornly.
Beth opened her lips to say something,
but could only point to the pile of nicely mended hose which lay on Mother's table,
showing that even in her last hurried moments she had thought and worked for them.
It was a little thing,
but it went straight to their hearts,
and in spite of their brave resolutions,
they all broke down and cried bitterly.
Hannah wisely allowed them to relieve their feelings,
and when the shower showed signs of clearing up,
she came to the rescue,
armed with a coffeepot.
my dear young ladies,
remember what your ma said,
and don't fret.
Come and have a cup of coffee all round,
and then let's fall to work and be a credit to the family."
Coffee was a treat,
and Hannah showed great tact in making it that morning.
No one could resist her persuasive nods,
or the fragrant invitation issuing from the nose of the coffee pot.
They drew up to the table,
exchanged their handkerchiefs for napkins,
and in ten minutes were all right again.
"'Hope and keep busy',
that's the motto for us,
so let's see who will remember it best.
I shall go to Aunt March,
won't she lecture though!"
as she sipped with returning spirit.
"I shall go to my Kings,
though I'd much rather stay at home and attend to things here,"
wishing she hadn't made her eyes so red.
"No need of that.
Beth and I can keep house perfectly well,"
put in Amy,
with an important air.
"Hannah will tell us what to do,
and we'll have everything nice when you come home,"
getting out her mop and dish tub without delay.
"I think anxiety is very interesting,"
eating sugar pensively.
The girls couldn't help laughing,
and felt better for it,
though Meg shook her head at the young lady who could find consolation in a sugar bowl.
The sight of the turnovers made Jo sober again;
and when the two went out to their daily tasks,
they looked sorrowfully back at the window where they were accustomed to see their mother's face.
It was gone,
but Beth had remembered the little household ceremony,
and there she was,
nodding away at them like a rosyfaced mandarin.
"That's so like my Beth!"
waving her hat,
with a grateful face.
I hope the Kings won't strain today.
Don't fret about Father,
as they parted.
"And I hope Aunt March won't croak.
Your hair is becoming,
and it looks very boyish and nice,"
trying not to smile at the curly head,
which looked comically small on her tall sister's shoulders.
"That's my only comfort."
touching her hat a la Laurie,
away went Jo,
feeling like a shorn sheep on a wintry day.
News from their father comforted the girls very much,
for though dangerously ill,
the presence of the best and tenderest of nurses had already done him good.
Mr. Brooke sent a bulletin every day,
and as the head of the family,
Meg insisted on reading the dispatches,
which grew more cheerful as the week passed.
everyone was eager to write,
and plump envelopes were carefully poked into the letter box by one or other of the sisters,
who felt rather important with their Washington correspondence.
As one of these packets contained characteristic notes from the party,
we will rob an imaginary mail,
and read them.
My dearest Mother:
It is impossible to tell you how happy your last letter made us,
for the news was so good we couldn't help laughing and crying over it.
How very kind Mr. Brooke is,
and how fortunate that Mr. Laurence's business detains him near you so long,
since he is so useful to you and Father.
The girls are all as good as gold.
Jo helps me with the sewing,
and insists on doing all sorts of hard jobs.
I should be afraid she might overdo,
if I didn't know her
'moral fit' wouldn't last long.
Beth is as regular about her tasks as a clock,
and never forgets what you told her.
She grieves about Father,
and looks sober except when she is at her little piano.
Amy minds me nicely,
and I take great care of her.
She does her own hair,
and I am teaching her to make buttonholes and mend her stockings.
She tries very hard,
and I know you will be pleased with her improvement when you come.
Mr. Laurence watches over us like a motherly old hen,
as Jo says,
and Laurie is very kind and neighborly.
He and Jo keep us merry,
for we get pretty blue sometimes,
and feel like orphans,
with you so far away.
Hannah is a perfect saint.
She does not scold at all,
and always calls me Miss Margaret,
which is quite proper,
and treats me with respect.
We are all well and busy,
but we long,
day and night,
to have you back.
Give my dearest love to Father,
and believe me,
ever your own ...
prettily written on scented paper,
was a great contrast to the next,
which was scribbled on a big sheet of thin foreign paper,
ornamented with blots and all manner of flourishes and curly-tailed letters.
My precious Marmee:
Three cheers for dear Father!
Brooke was a trump to telegraph right off,
and let us know the minute he was better.
I rushed up garret when the letter came,
and tried to thank god for being so good to us,
but I could only cry,
Didn't that do as well as a regular prayer?
For I felt a great many in my heart.
We have such funny times,
and now I can enjoy them,
for everyone is so desperately good,
it's like living in a nest of turtledoves.
You'd laugh to see Meg head the table and try to be motherish.
She gets prettier every day,
and I'm in love with her sometimes.
The children are regular archangels,
and I --well,
and never shall be anything else.
I must tell you that I came near having a quarrel with Laurie.
I freed my mind about a silly little thing,
and he was offended.
I was right,
but didn't speak as I ought,
and he marched home,
saying he wouldn't come again till I begged pardon.
I declared I wouldn't and got mad.
It lasted all day.
I felt bad and wanted you very much.
Laurie and I are both so proud,
it's hard to beg pardon.
But I thought he'd come to it,
for I was in the right.
He didn't come,
and just at night I remembered what you said when Amy fell into the river.
I read my little book,
resolved not to let the sun set on my anger,
and ran over to tell Laurie I was sorry.
I met him at the gate,
coming for the same thing.
We both laughed,
begged each other's pardon,
and felt all good and comfortable again.
I made a
when I was helping Hannah wash,
and as Father likes my silly little things,
I put it in to amuse him.
Give him my lovingest hug that ever was,
and kiss yourself a dozen times for your ...
A SONG FROM THE SUDS
Queen of my tub,
I merrily sing,
While the white foam rises high,
And sturdily wash and rinse and wring,
And fasten the clothes to dry.
Then out in the free fresh air they swing,
Under the sunny sky.
I wish we could wash from our hearts and souls The stains of the week away,
And let water and air by their magic make Ourselves as pure as they.
Then on the earth there would be indeed,
A glorious washing day!
Along the path of a useful life,
Will heart's-ease ever bloom.
The busy mind has no time to think Of sorrow or care or gloom.
And anxious thoughts may be swept away,
As we bravely wield a broom.
I am glad a task to me is given,
To labor at day by day,
For it brings me health and strength and hope,
And I cheerfully learn to say,
you may think,
you may feel,
you shall work alway!"
There is only room for me to send my love,
and some pressed pansies from the root I have been keeping safe in the house for Father to see.
I read every morning,
try to be good all day,
and sing myself to sleep with Father's tune.
I can't sing
'LAND OF THE LEAL' now,
it makes me cry.
Everyone is very kind,
and we are as happy as we can be without you.
Amy wants the rest of the page,
so I must stop.
I didn't forget to cover the holders,
and I wind the clock and air the rooms every day.
Kiss dear Father on the cheek he calls mine.
do come soon to your loving ...
Ma Chere Mamma,
We are all well I do my lessons always and never corroberate the girls --Meg says I mean contradick so I put in both words and you can take the properest.
Meg is a great comfort to me and lets me have jelly every night at tea its so good for me Jo says because it keeps me sweet tempered.
Laurie is not as respeckful as he ought to be now I am almost in my teens,
he calls me Chick and hurts my feelings by talking French to me very fast when I say Merci or Bon jour as Hattie King does.
The sleeves of my blue dress were all worn out,
and Meg put in new ones,
but the full front came wrong and they are more blue than the dress.
I felt bad but did not fret I bear my troubles well but I do wish Hannah would put more starch in my aprons and have buckwheats every day.
Didn't I make that interrigation point nice?
Meg says my punchtuation and spelling are disgraceful and I am mortyfied but dear me I have so many things to do,
I can't stop.
I send heaps of love to Papa.
Your affectionate daughter ...
AMY CURTIS MARCH
Dear Mis March,
I jes drop a line to say we git on fust rate.
The girls is clever and fly round right smart.
Miss Meg is going to make a proper good housekeeper.
She hes the liking for it,
and gits the hang of things surprisin quick.
Jo doos beat all for goin ahead,
but she don't stop to cal'k'late fust,
and you never know where she's like to bring up.
She done out a tub of clothes on Monday,
but she starched
'em afore they was wrenched,
and blued a pink calico dress till I thought I should a died a laughin.
Beth is the best of little creeters,
and a sight of help to me,
bein so forehanded and dependable.
She tries to learn everything,
and really goes to market beyond her years,
likewise keeps accounts,
with my help,
We have got on very economical so fur.
I don't let the girls hev coffee only once a week,
accordin to your wish,
and keep em on plain wholesome vittles.
Amy does well without frettin,
wearin her best clothes and eatin sweet stuff.
Mr. Laurie is as full of didoes as usual,
and turns the house upside down frequent,
but he heartens the girls,
so I let em hev full swing.
The old gentleman sends heaps of things,
and is rather wearin,
but means wal,
and it aint my place to say nothin.
My bread is riz,
so no more at this time.
I send my duty to Mr. March,
and hope he's seen the last of his Pewmonia.
Head Nurse of Ward No. 2,
All serene on the Rappahannock,
troops in fine condition,
commisary department well conducted,
the Home Guard under Colonel Teddy always on duty,
Commander in Chief General Laurence reviews the army daily,
Quartermaster Mullet keeps order in camp,
and Major Lion does picket duty at night.
A salute of twenty-four guns was fired on receipt of good news from Washington,
and a dress parade took place at headquarters.
Commander in chief sends best wishes,
in which he is heartily joined by ...
The little girls are all well.
Beth and my boy report daily.
Hannah is a model servant,
and guards pretty Meg like a dragon.
Glad the fine weather holds.
Pray make Brooke useful,
and draw on me for funds if expenses exceed your estimate.
Don't let your husband want anything.
Thank God he is mending.
Your sincere friend and servant,