Like most other young matrons,
Meg began her married life with the determination to be a model housekeeper.
John should find home a paradise,
he should always see a smiling face,
should fare sumptuously every day,
and never know the loss of a button.
She brought so much love,
and cheerfulness to the work that she could not but succeed,
in spite of some obstacles.
Her paradise was not a tranquil one,
for the little woman fussed,
was over-anxious to please,
and bustled about like a true Martha,
cumbered with many cares.
She was too tired,
even to smile,
John grew dyspeptic after a course of dainty dishes and ungratefully demanded plain fare.
As for buttons,
she soon learned to wonder where they went,
to shake her head over the carelessness of men,
and to threaten to make him sew them on himself,
and see if his work would stand impatient and clumsy fingers any better than hers.
They were very happy,
even after they discovered that they couldn't live on love alone.
John did not find Meg's beauty diminished,
though she beamed at him from behind the familiar coffee pot.
Nor did Meg miss any of the romance from the daily parting,
when her husband followed up his kiss with the tender inquiry,
"Shall I send some veal or mutton for dinner,
The little house ceased to be a glorified bower,
but it became a home,
and the young couple soon felt that it was a change for the better.
At first they played keep-house,
and frolicked over it like children.
Then John took steadily to business,
feeling the cares of the head of a family upon his shoulders,
and Meg laid by her cambric wrappers,
put on a big apron,
and fell to work,
as before said,
with more energy than discretion.
While the cooking mania lasted she went through Mrs. Cornelius's Receipt Book as if it were a mathematical exercise,
working out the problems with patience and care.
Sometimes her family were invited in to help eat up a too bounteous feast of successes,
or Lotty would be privately dispatched with a batch of failures,
which were to be concealed from all eyes in the convenient stomachs of the little Hummels.
An evening with John over the account books usually produced a temporary lull in the culinary enthusiasm,
and a frugal fit would ensue,
during which the poor man was put through a course of bread pudding,
and warmed-over coffee,
which tried his soul,
although he bore it with praiseworthy fortitude.
Before the golden mean was found,
Meg added to her domestic possessions what young couples seldom get on long without,
a family jar.
Fired a with housewifely wish to see her storeroom stocked with homemade preserves,
she undertook to put up her own currant jelly.
John was requested to order home a dozen or so of little pots and an extra quantity of sugar,
for their own currants were ripe and were to be attended to at once.
As John firmly believed that
'my wife' was equal to anything,
and took a natural pride in her skill,
he resolved that she should be gratified,
and their only crop of fruit laid by in a most pleasing form for winter use.
Home came four dozen delightful little pots,
half a barrel of sugar,
and a small boy to pick the currants for her.
With her pretty hair tucked into a little cap,
arms bared to the elbow,
and a checked apron which had a coquettish look in spite of the bib,
the young housewife fell to work,
feeling no doubts about her success,
for hadn't she seen Hannah do it hundreds of times?
The array of pots rather amazed her at first,
but John was so fond of jelly,
and the nice little jars would look so well on the top shelf,
that Meg resolved to fill them all,
and spent a long day picking,
and fussing over her jelly.
She did her best,
she asked advice of Mrs. Cornelius,
she racked her brain to remember what Hannah did that she left undone,
but that dreadful stuff wouldn't
She longed to run home,
bib and all,
and ask Mother to lend her a hand,
but John and she had agreed that they would never annoy anyone with their private worries,
They had laughed over that last word as if the idea it suggested was a most preposterous one,
but they had held to their resolve,
and whenever they could get on without help they did so,
and no one interfered,
for Mrs. March had advised the plan.
So Meg wrestled alone with the refractory sweetmeats all that hot summer day,
and at five o'clock sat down in her topsy-turvey kitchen,
wrung her bedaubed hands,
lifted up her voice and wept.
in the first flush of the new life,
she had often said,
"My husband shall always feel free to bring a friend home whenever he likes.
I shall always be prepared.
There shall be no flurry,
but a neat house,
a cheerful wife,
and a good dinner.
never stop to ask my leave,
invite whom you please,
and be sure of a welcome from me."
How charming that was,
to be sure!
John quite glowed with pride to hear her say it,
and felt what a blessed thing it was to have a superior wife.
although they had had company from time to time,
it never happened to be unexpected,
and Meg had never had an opportunity to distinguish herself till now.
It always happens so in this vale of tears,
there is an inevitability about such things which we can only wonder at,
and bear as we best can.
If John had not forgotten all about the jelly,
it really would have been unpardonable in him to choose that day,
of all the days in the year,
to bring a friend home to dinner unexpectedly.
Congratulating himself that a handsome repast had been ordered that morning,
feeling sure that it would be ready to the minute,
and indulging in pleasant anticipations of the charming effect it would produce,
when his pretty wife came running out to meet him,
he escorted his friend to his mansion,
with the irrepressible satisfaction of a young host and husband.
It is a world of disappointments,
as John discovered when he reached the Dovecote.
The front door usually stood hospitably open.
Now it was not only shut,
and yesterday's mud still adorned the steps.
The parlor windows were closed and curtained,
no picture of the pretty wife sewing on the piazza,
with a distracting little bow in her hair,
or a bright-eyed hostess,
smiling a shy welcome as she greeted her guest.
Nothing of the sort,
for not a soul appeared but a sanginary-looking boy asleep under the current bushes.
"I'm afraid something has happened.
Step into the garden,
while I look up Mrs. Brooke,"
alarmed at the silence and solitude.
Round the house he hurried,
led by a pungent smell of burned sugar,
and Mr. Scott strolled after him,
with a queer look on his face.
He paused discreetly at a distance when Brooke disappeared,
but he could both see and hear,
and being a bachelor,
enjoyed the prospect mightily.
In the kitchen reigned confusion and despair.
One edition of jelly was trickled from pot to pot,
another lay upon the floor,
and a third was burning gaily on the stove.
with Teutonic phlegm,
was calmly eating bread and currant wine,
for the jelly was still in a hopelessly liquid state,
while Mrs. Brooke,
with her apron over her head,
sat sobbing dismally.
"My dearest girl,
what is the matter?"
with awful visions of scalded hands,
sudden news of affliction,
and secret consternation at the thought of the guest in the garden.
I am so tired and hot and cross and worried!
I've been at it till I'm all worn out.
Do come and help me or I shall die!"
and the exhausted housewife cast herself upon his breast,
giving him a sweet welcome in every sense of the word,
for her pinafore had been baptized at the same time as the floor.
"What worries you dear?
Has anything dreadful happened?"
asked the anxious John,
tenderly kissing the crown of the little cap,
which was all askew.
sobbed Meg despairingly.
"Tell me quick,
I can bear anything better than that.
Out with it,
The jelly won't jell and I don't know what to do!"
John Brooke laughed then as he never dared to laugh afterward,
and the derisive Scott smiled involuntarily as he heard the hearty peal,
which put the finishing stroke to poor Meg's woe.
"Is that all?
Fling it out of the window,
and don't bother any more about it.
I'll buy you quarts if you want it,
but for heaven's sake don't have hysterics,
for I've brought Jack Scott home to dinner,
John got no further,
for Meg cast him off,
and clasped her hands with a tragic gesture as she fell into a chair,
exclaiming in a tone of mingled indignation,
and dismay ...
"A man to dinner,
and everything in a mess!
how could you do such a thing?"
he's in the garden!
I forgot the confounded jelly,
but it can't be helped now,"
surveying the prospect with an anxious eye.
"You ought to have sent word,
or told me this morning,
and you ought to have remembered how busy I was,"
continued Meg petulantly,
for even turtledoves will peck when ruffled.
"I didn't know it this morning,
and there was no time to send word,
for I met him on the way out.
I never thought of asking leave,
when you have always told me to do as I liked.
I never tried it before,
and hang me if I ever do again!"
with an aggrieved air.
"I should hope not!
Take him away at once.
I can't see him,
and there isn't any dinner."
I like that!
Where's the beef and vegetables I sent home,
and the pudding you promised?"
rushing to the larder.
"I hadn't time to cook anything.
I meant to dine at Mother's.
but I was so busy,"
and Meg's tears began again.
John was a mild man,
but he was human,
and after a long day's work to come home tired,
to find a chaotic house,
an empty table,
and a cross wife was not exactly conducive to repose of mind or manner.
He restrained himself however,
and the little squall would have blown over,
but for one unlucky word.
"It's a scrape,
but if you will lend a hand,
we'll pull through and have a good time yet.
but just exert yourself a bit,
and fix us up something to eat.
We're both as hungry as hunters,
so we shan't mind what it is.
Give us the cold meat,
and bread and cheese.
We won't ask for jelly."
He meant it to be a good-natured joke,
but that one word sealed his fate.
Meg thought it was too cruel to hint about her sad failure,
and the last atom of patience vanished as he spoke.
"You must get yourself out of the scrape as you can.
I'm too used up to
'exert' myself for anyone.
It's like a man to propose a bone and vulgar bread and cheese for company.
I won't have anything of the sort in my house.
Take that Scott up to Mother's,
and tell him I'm away,
I won't see him,
and you two can laugh at me and my jelly as much as you like.
You won't have anything else here."
and having delivered her defiance all on one breath,
Meg cast away her pinafore and precipitately left the field to bemoan herself in her own room.
What those two creatures did in her absence,
she never knew,
but Mr. Scott was not taken
'up to Mother's',
and when Meg descended,
after they had strolled away together,
she found traces of a promiscuous lunch which filled her with horror.
Lotty reported that they had eaten "a much,
and greatly laughed,
and the master bid her throw away all the sweet stuff,
and hide the pots."
Meg longed to go and tell Mother,
but a sense of shame at her own short-comings,
of loyalty to John,
"who might be cruel,
but nobody should know it,"
and after a summary cleaning up,
she dressed herself prettily,
and sat down to wait for John to come and be forgiven.
John didn't come,
not seeing the matter in that light.
He had carried it off as a good joke with Scott,
excused his little wife as well as he could,
and played the host so hospitably that his friend enjoyed the impromptu dinner,
and promised to come again,
but John was angry,
though he did not show it,
he felt that Meg had deserted him in his hour of need.
"It wasn't fair to tell a man to bring folks home any time,
with perfect freedom,
and when he took you at your word,
to flame up and blame him,
and leave him in the lurch,
to be laughed at or pitied.
And Meg must know it."
He had fumed inwardly during the feast,
but when the flurry was over and he strolled home after seeing Scott off,
a milder mood came over him.
"Poor little thing!
It was hard upon her when she tried so heartily to please me.
She was wrong,
but then she was young.
I must be patient and teach her."
He hoped she had not gone home --he hated gossip and interference.
For a minute he was ruffled again at the mere thought of it,
and then the fear that Meg would cry herself sick softened his heart,
and sent him on at a quicker pace,
resolving to be calm and kind,
and show her where she had failed in her duty to her spouse.
Meg likewise resolved to be
'calm and kind,
and show him his duty.
She longed to run to meet him,
and beg pardon,
and be kissed and comforted,
as she was sure of being,
she did nothing of the sort,
and when she saw John coming,
began to hum quite naturally,
as she rocked and sewed,
like a lady of leisure in her best parlor.
John was a little disappointed not to find a tender Niobe,
but feeling that his dignity demanded the first apology,
he made none,
only came leisurely in and laid himself upon the sofa with the singularly relevant remark,
"We are going to have a new moon,
"I've no objection,"
was Meg's equally soothing remark.
A few other topics of general interest were introduced by Mr. Brooke and wet-blanketed by Mrs. Brooke,
and conversation languished.
John went to one window,
unfolded his paper,
and wrapped himself in it,
Meg went to the other window,
and sewed as if new rosettes for slippers were among the necessaries of life.
Both looked quite
'calm and firm',
and both felt desperately uncomfortable.
"married life is very trying,
and does need infinite patience as well as love,
as Mother says."
'Mother' suggested other maternal counsels given long ago,
and received with unbelieving protests.
"John is a good man,
but he has his faults,
and you must learn to see and bear with them,
remembering your own.
He is very decided,
but never will be obstinate,
if you reason kindly,
not oppose impatiently.
He is very accurate,
and particular about the truth --a good trait,
though you call him
Never deceive him by look or word,
and he will give you the confidence you deserve,
the support you need.
He has a temper,
not like ours --one flash and then all over --but the white,
still anger that is seldom stirred,
but once kindled is hard to quench.
be very careful,
not to wake his anger against yourself,
for peace and happiness depend on keeping his respect.
be the first to ask pardon if you both err,
and guard against the little piques,
and hasty words that often pave the way for bitter sorrow and regret."
These words came back to Meg,
as she sat sewing in the sunset,
especially the last.
This was the first serious disagreement,
her own hasty speeches sounded both silly and unkind,
as she recalled them,
her own anger looked childish now,
and thoughts of poor John coming home to such a scene quite melted her heart.
She glanced at him with tears in her eyes,
but he did not see them.
She put down her work and got up,
"I will be the first to say,
but he did not seem to hear her.
She went very slowly across the room,
for pride was hard to swallow,
and stood by him,
but he did not turn his head.
For a minute she felt as if she really couldn't do it,
then came the thought,
"This is the beginning.
I'll do my part,
and have nothing to reproach myself with,"
and stooping down,
she softly kissed her husband on the forehead.
Of course that settled it.
The penitent kiss was better than a world of words,
and John had her on his knee in a minute,
saying tenderly ...
"It was too bad to laugh at the poor little jelly pots.
I never will again!"
But he did,
oh bless you,
hundreds of times,
and so did Meg,
both declaring that it was the sweetest jelly they ever made,
for family peace was preserved in that little family jar.
Meg had Mr. Scott to dinner by special invitation,
and served him up a pleasant feast without a cooked wife for the first course,
on which occasion she was so gay and gracious,
and made everything go off so charmingly,
that Mr. Scott told John he was a lucky fellow,
and shook his head over the hardships of bachelorhood all the way home.
In the autumn,
new trials and experiences came to Meg.
Sallie Moffat renewed her friendship,
was always running out for a dish of gossip at the little house,
'that poor dear' to come in and spend the day at the big house.
It was pleasant,
for in dull weather Meg often felt lonely.
All were busy at home,
John absent till night,
and nothing to do but sew,
or potter about.
So it naturally fell out that Meg got into the way of gadding and gossiping with her friend.
Seeing Sallie's pretty things made her long for such,
and pity herself because she had not got them.
Sallie was very kind,
and often offered her the coveted trifles,
but Meg declined them,
knowing that John wouldn't like it,
and then this foolish little woman went and did what John disliked even worse.
She knew her husband's income,
and she loved to feel that he trusted her,
not only with his happiness,
but what some men seem to value more --his money.
She knew where it was,
was free to take what she liked,
and all he asked was that she should keep account of every penny,
pay bills once a month,
and remember that she was a poor man's wife.
Till now she had done well,
been prudent and exact,
kept her little account books neatly,
and showed them to him monthly without fear.
But that autumn the serpent got into Meg's paradise,
and tempted her like many a modern Eve,
not with apples,
but with dress.
Meg didn't like to be pitied and made to feel poor.
It irritated her,
but she was ashamed to confess it,
and now and then she tried to console herself by buying something pretty,
so that Sallie needn't think she had to economize.
She always felt wicked after it,
for the pretty things were seldom necessaries,
but then they cost so little,
it wasn't worth worrying about,
so the trifles increased unconsciously,
and in the shopping excursions she was no longer a passive looker-on.
But the trifles cost more than one would imagine,
and when she cast up her accounts at the end of the month the sum total rather scared her.
John was busy that month and left the bills to her,
the next month he was absent,
but the third he had a grand quarterly settling up,
and Meg never forgot it.
A few days before she had done a dreadful thing,
and it weighed upon her conscience.
Sallie had been buying silks,
and Meg longed for a new one,
just a handsome light one for parties,
her black silk was so common,
and thin things for evening wear were only proper for girls.
Aunt March usually gave the sisters a present of twenty-five dollars apiece at New Year's.
That was only a month to wait,
and here was a lovely violet silk going at a bargain,
and she had the money,
if she only dared to take it.
John always said what was his was hers,
but would he think it right to spend not only the prospective five-and-twenty,
but another five-and-twenty out of the household fund?
That was the question.
Sallie had urged her to do it,
had offered to lend the money,
and with the best intentions in life had tempted Meg beyond her strength.
In an evil moment the shopman held up the lovely,
"I'll take it,"
and it was cut off and paid for,
and Sallie had exulted,
and she had laughed as if it were a thing of no consequence,
and driven away,
feeling as if she had stolen something,
and the police were after her.
When she got home,
she tried to assuage the pangs of remorse by spreading forth the lovely silk,
but it looked less silvery now,
didn't become her,
and the words
'fifty dollars' seemed stamped like a pattern down each breadth.
She put it away,
but it haunted her,
not delightfully as a new dress should,
but dreadfully like the ghost of a folly that was not easily laid.
When John got out his books that night,
Meg's heart sank,
and for the first time in her married life,
she was afraid of her husband.
brown eyes looked as if they could be stern,
and though he was unusually merry,
she fancied he had found her out,
but didn't mean to let her know it.
The house bills were all paid,
the books all in order.
John had praised her,
and was undoing the old pocketbook which they called the
knowing that it was quite empty,
stopped his hand,
saying nervously ...
"You haven't seen my private expense book yet."
John never asked to see it,
but she always insisted on his doing so,
and used to enjoy his masculine amazement at the queer things women wanted,
and made him guess what piping was,
demand fiercely the meaning of a hug-me-tight,
or wonder how a little thing composed of three rosebuds,
a bit of velvet,
and a pair of strings,
could possibly be a bonnet,
and cost six dollars.
That night he looked as if he would like the fun of quizzing her figures and pretending to be horrified at her extravagance,
as he often did,
being particularly proud of his prudent wife.
The little book was brought slowly out and laid down before him.
Meg got behind his chair under pretense of smoothing the wrinkles out of his tired forehead,
and standing there,
with her panic increasing with every word ...
I'm ashamed to show you my book,
for I've really been dreadfully extravagant lately.
I go about so much I must have things,
and Sallie advised my getting it,
so I did,
and my New Year's money will partly pay for it,
but I was sorry after I had done it,
for I knew you'd think it wrong in me."
and drew her round beside him,
"Don't go and hide.
I won't beat you if you have got a pair of killing boots.
I'm rather proud of my wife's feet,
and don't mind if she does pay eight or nine dollars for her boots,
if they are good ones."
That had been one of her last
and John's eye had fallen on it as he spoke.
what will he say when he comes to that awful fifty dollars!"
with a shiver.
"It's worse than boots,
it's a silk dress,"
with the calmness of desperation,
for she wanted the worst over.
what is the
as Mr. Mantalini says?"
That didn't sound like John,
and she knew he was looking up at her with the straightforward look that she had always been ready to meet and answer with one as frank till now.
She turned the page and her head at the same time,
pointing to the sum which would have been bad enough without the fifty,
but which was appalling to her with that added.
For a minute the room was very still,
then John said slowly --but she could feel it cost him an effort to express no displeasure -- ...
I don't know that fifty is much for a dress,
with all the furbelows and notions you have to have to finish it off these days."
"It isn't made or trimmed,"
for a sudden recollection of the cost still to be incurred quite overwhelmed her.
"Twenty-five yards of silk seems a good deal to cover one small woman,
but I've no doubt my wife will look as fine as Ned Moffat's when she gets it on,"
said John dryly.
"I know you are angry,
but I can't help it.
I don't mean to waste your money,
and I didn't think those little things would count up so.
I can't resist them when I see Sallie buying all she wants,
and pitying me because I don't.
I try to be contented,
but it is hard,
and I'm tired of being poor."
The last words were spoken so low she thought he did not hear them,
but he did,
and they wounded him deeply,
for he had denied himself many pleasures for Meg's sake.
She could have bitten her tongue out the minute she had said it,
for John pushed the books away and got up,
saying with a little quiver in his voice,
"I was afraid of this.
I do my best,
If he had scolded her,
or even shaken her,
it would not have broken her heart like those few words.
She ran to him and held him close,
with repentant tears,
I didn't mean it!
It was so wicked,
so untrue and ungrateful,
how could I say it!
how could I say it!"
He was very kind,
forgave her readily,
and did not utter one reproach,
but Meg knew that she had done and said a thing which would not be forgotten soon,
although he might never allude to it again.
She had promised to love him for better or worse,
and then she,
had reproached him with his poverty,
after spending his earnings recklessly.
It was dreadful,
and the worst of it was John went on so quietly afterward,
just as if nothing had happened,
except that he stayed in town later,
and worked at night when she had gone to cry herself to sleep.
A week of remorse nearly made Meg sick,
and the discovery that John had countermanded the order for his new greatcoat reduced her to a state of despair which was pathetic to behold.
He had simply said,
in answer to her surprised inquiries as to the change,
"I can't afford it,
Meg said no more,
but a few minutes after he found her in the hall with her face buried in the old greatcoat,
crying as if her heart would break.
They had a long talk that night,
and Meg learned to love her husband better for his poverty,
because it seemed to have made a man of him,
given him the strength and courage to fight his own way,
and taught him a tender patience with which to bear and comfort the natural longings and failures of those he loved.
Next day she put her pride in her pocket,
went to Sallie,
told the truth,
and asked her to buy the silk as a favor.
The good-natured Mrs. Moffat willingly did so,
and had the delicacy not to make her a present of it immediately afterward.
Then Meg ordered home the greatcoat,
and when John arrived,
she put it on,
and asked him how he liked her new silk gown.
One can imagine what answer he made,
how he received his present,
and what a blissful state of things ensued.
John came home early,
Meg gadded no more,
and that greatcoat was put on in the morning by a very happy husband,
and taken off at night by a most devoted little wife.
So the year rolled round,
and at midsummer there came to Meg a new experience,
the deepest and tenderest of a woman's life.
Laurie came sneaking into the kitchen of the Dovecote one Saturday,
with an excited face,
and was received with the clash of cymbals,
for Hannah clapped her hands with a saucepan in one and the cover in the other.
"How's the little mamma?
Where is everybody?
Why didn't you tell me before I came home?"
began Laurie in a loud whisper.
"Happy as a queen,
Every soul of
'em is upstairs a worshipin'.
We didn't want no hurrycanes round.
Now you go into the parlor,
and I'll send
'em down to you,"
with which somewhat involved reply Hannah vanished,
Presently Jo appeared,
proudly bearing a flannel bundle laid forth upon a large pillow.
Jo's face was very sober,
but her eyes twinkled,
and there was an odd sound in her voice of repressed emotion of some sort.
"Shut your eyes and hold out your arms,"
she said invitingly.
Laurie backed precipitately into a corner,
and put his hands behind him with an imploring gesture.
I'd rather not.
I shall drop it or smash it,
as sure as fate."
"Then you shan't see your nevvy,"
said Jo decidedly,
turning as if to go.
Only you must be responsible for damages."
and obeying orders,
Laurie heroically shut his eyes while something was put into his arms.
A peal of laughter from Jo,
and John caused him to open them the next minute,
to find himself invested with two babies instead of one.
No wonder they laughed,
for the expression of his face was droll enough to convulse a Quaker,
as he stood and stared wildly from the unconscious innocents to the hilarious spectators with such dismay that Jo sat down on the floor and screamed.
was all he said for a minute,
then turning to the women with an appealing look that was comically piteous,
I'm going to laugh,
and I shall drop
Jo rescued his babies,
and marched up and down,
with one on each arm,
as if already initiated into the mysteries of babytending,
while Laurie laughed till the tears ran down his cheeks.
"It's the best joke of the season,
I wouldn't have told you,
for I set my heart on surprising you,
and I flatter myself I've done it,"
when she got her breath.
"I never was more staggered in my life.
Isn't it fun?
Are they boys?
What are you going to name them?
Let's have another look.
Hold me up,
for upon my life it's one too many for me,"
regarding the infants with the air of a big,
benevolent Newfoundland looking at a pair of infantile kittens.
"Boy and girl.
Aren't they beauties?"
said the proud papa,
beaming upon the little red squirmers as if they were unfledged angels.
"Most remarkable children I ever saw.
Which is which?"
and Laurie bent like a well-sweep to examine the prodigies.
"Amy put a blue ribbon on the boy and a pink on the girl,
so you can always tell.
one has blue eyes and one brown.
said wicked Jo.
"I'm afraid they mightn't like it,"
with unusual timidity in such matters.
"Of course they will,
they are used to it now.
Do it this minute,
fearing he might propose a proxy.
Laurie screwed up his face and obeyed with a gingerly peck at each little cheek that produced another laugh,
and made the babies squeal.
I knew they didn't like it!
That's the boy,
see him kick,
he hits out with his fists like a good one.
pitch into a man of your own size,
delighted with a poke in the face from a tiny fist,
flapping aimlessly about.
"He's to be named John Laurence,
and the girl Margaret,
after mother and grandmother.
We shall call her Daisey,
so as not to have two Megs,
and I suppose the mannie will be Jack,
unless we find a better name,"
with aunt-like interest.
"Name him Demijohn,
and call him Demi for short,"
"Daisy and Demi,
just the thing!
I knew Teddy would do it,"
cried Jo clapping her hands.
Teddy certainly had done it that time,
for the babies were
'Demi' to the end of the chapter.
"You don't mean to say you have forgotten that you promised to make half a dozen calls with me today?"
"I've done a good many rash and foolish things in my life,
but I don't think I ever was mad enough to say I'd make six calls in one day,
when a single one upsets me for a week."
it was a bargain between us.
I was to finish the crayon of Beth for you,
and you were to go properly with me,
and return our neighbors' visits."
"If it was fair,
that was in the bond,
and I stand to the letter of my bond,
There is a pile of clouds in the east,
it's not fair,
and I don't go."
It's a lovely day,
no prospect of rain,
and you pride yourself on keeping promises,
so be honorable,
come and do your duty,
and then be at peace for another six months."
At that minute Jo was particularly absorbed in dressmaking,
for she was mantua-maker general to the family,
and took especial credit to herself because she could use a needle as well as a pen.
It was very provoking to be arrested in the act of a first trying-on,
and ordered out to make calls in her best array on a warm July day.
She hated calls of the formal sort,
and never made any till Amy compelled her with a bargain,
In the present instance there was no escape,
and having clashed her scissors rebelliously,
while protesting that she smelled thunder,
she gave in,
put away her work,
and taking up her hat and gloves with an air of resignation,
told Amy the victim was ready.
you are perverse enough to provoke a saint!
You don't intend to make calls in that state,
surveying her with amazement.
I'm neat and cool and comfortable,
quite proper for a dusty walk on a warm day.
If people care more for my clothes than they do for me,
I don't wish to see them.
You can dress for both,
and be as elegant as you please.
It pays for you to be fine.
It doesn't for me,
and furbelows only worry me."
"now she's in a contrary fit,
and will drive me distracted before I can get her properly ready.
I'm sure it's no pleasure to me to go today,
but it's a debt we owe society,
and there's no one to pay it but you and me.
I'll do anything for you,
if you'll only dress yourself nicely,
and come and help me do the civil.
You can talk so well,
look so aristocratic in your best things,
and behave so beautifully,
if you try,
that I'm proud of you.
I'm afraid to go alone,
do come and take care of me."
"You're an artful little puss to flatter and wheedle your cross old sister in that way.
The idea of my being aristocratic and well-bred,
and your being afraid to go anywhere alone!
I don't know which is the most absurd.
I'll go if I must,
and do my best.
You shall be commander of the expedition,
and I'll obey blindly,
will that satisfy you?"
with a sudden change from perversity to lamblike submission.
"You're a perfect cherub!
Now put on all your best things,
and I'll tell you how to behave at each place,
so that you will make a good impression.
I want people to like you,
and they would if you'd only try to be a little more agreeable.
Do your hair the pretty way,
and put the pink rose in your bonnet.
and you look too sober in your plain suit.
Take your light gloves and the embroidered handkerchief.
We'll stop at Meg's,
and borrow her white sunshade,
and then you can have my dove-colored one."
While Amy dressed,
she issued her orders,
and Jo obeyed them,
not without entering her protest,
for she sighed as she rustled into her new organdie,
frowned darkly at herself as she tied her bonnet strings in an irreproachable bow,
wrestled viciously with pins as she put on her collar,
wrinkled up her features generally as she shook out the handkerchief,
whose embroidery was as irritating to her nose as the present mission was to her feelings,
and when she had squeezed her hands into tight gloves with three buttons and a tassel,
as the last touch of elegance,
she turned to Amy with an imbecile expression of countenance,
saying meekly ...
"I'm perfectly miserable,
but if you consider me presentable,
I die happy."
"You're highly satisfactory.
Turn slowly round,
and let me get a careful view."
and Amy gave a touch here and there,
then fell back,
with her head on one side,
Your head is all I could ask,
for that white bonnet with the rose is quite ravishing.
Hold back your shoulders,
and carry your hands easily,
no matter if your gloves do pinch.
There's one thing you can do well,
wear a shawl.
but it's very nice to see you,
and I'm so glad Aunt March gave you that lovely one.
and those folds over the arm are really artistic.
Is the point of my mantle in the middle,
and have I looped my dress evenly?
I like to show my boots,
for my feet are pretty,
though my nose isn't."
"You are a thing of beauty and a joy forever,"
looking through her hand with the air of a connoisseur at the blue feather against the golden hair.
"Am I to drag my best dress through the dust,
or loop it up,
"Hold it up when you walk,
but drop it in the house.
The sweeping style suits you best,
and you must learn to trail your skirts gracefully.
You haven't half buttoned one cuff,
do it at once.
You'll never look finished if you are not careful about the little details,
for they make up the pleasing whole."
and proceeded to burst the buttons off her glove,
in doing up her cuff,
but at last both were ready,
and sailed away,
'pretty as picters',
as she hung out of the upper window to watch them.
the Chesters consider themselves very elegant people,
so I want you to put on your best deportment.
Don't make any of your abrupt remarks,
or do anything odd,
Just be calm,
that's safe and ladylike,
and you can easily do it for fifteen minutes,"
as they approached the first place,
having borrowed the white parasol and been inspected by Meg,
with a baby on each arm.
"Let me see.
I think I can promise that.
I've played the part of a prim young lady on the stage,
and I'll try it off.
My powers are great,
as you shall see,
so be easy in your mind,
Amy looked relieved,
but naughty Jo took her at her word,
for during the first call she sat with every limb gracefully composed,
every fold correctly draped,
calm as a summer sea,
cool as a snowbank,
and as silent as the sphinx.
In vain Mrs. Chester alluded to her
and the Misses Chester introduced parties,
and the fashions.
Each and all were answered by a smile,
and a demure "Yes" or "No" with the chill on.
In vain Amy telegraphed the word
tried to draw her out,
and administered covert pokes with her foot.
Jo sat as if blandly unconscious of it all,
with deportment like Maud's face,
"What a haughty,
uninteresting creature that oldest Miss March is!"
was the unfortunately audible remark of one of the ladies,
as the door closed upon their guests.
Jo laughed noiselessly all through the hall,
but Amy looked disgusted at the failure of her instructions,
and very naturally laid the blame upon Jo.
"How could you mistake me so?
I merely meant you to be properly dignified and composed,
and you made yourself a perfect stock and stone.
Try to be sociable at the Lambs'.
Gossip as other girls do,
and be interested in dress and flirtations and whatever nonsense comes up.
They move in the best society,
are valuable persons for us to know,
and I wouldn't fail to make a good impression there for anything."
"I'll be agreeable.
I'll gossip and giggle,
and have horrors and raptures over any trifle you like.
I rather enjoy this,
and now I'll imitate what is called
'a charming girl'.
I can do it,
for I have May Chester as a model,
and I'll improve upon her.
See if the Lambs don't say,
'What a lively,
nice creature that Jo March is!"
Amy felt anxious,
as well she might,
for when Jo turned freakish there was no knowing where she would stop.
Amy's face was a study when she saw her sister skim into the next drawing room,
kiss all the young ladies with effusion,
beam graciously upon the young gentlemen,
and join in the chat with a spirit which amazed the beholder.
Amy was taken possession of by Mrs. Lamb,
with whom she was a favorite,
and forced to hear a long account of Lucretia's last attack,
while three delightful young gentlemen hovered near,
waiting for a pause when they might rush in and rescue her.
she was powerless to check Jo,
who seemed possessed by a spirit of mischief,
and talked away as volubly as the lady.
A knot of heads gathered about her,
and Amy strained her ears to hear what was going on,
for broken sentences filled her with curiosity,
and frequent peals of laughter made her wild to share the fun.
One may imagine her suffering on overhearing fragments of this sort of conversation.
"She rides splendidly.
Who taught her?"
She used to practice mounting,
holding the reins,
and sitting straight on an old saddle in a tree.
Now she rides anything,
for she doesn't know what fear is,
and the stableman lets her have horses cheap because she trains them to carry ladies so well.
She has such a passion for it,
I often tell her if everything else fails,
she can be a horsebreaker,
and get her living so."
At this awful speech Amy contained herself with difficulty,
for the impression was being given that she was rather a fast young lady,
which was her especial aversion.
But what could she do?
For the old lady was in the middle of her story,
and long before it was done,
Jo was off again,
making more droll revelations and committing still more fearful blunders.
Amy was in despair that day,
for all the good beasts were gone,
and of three left,
one was lame,
and the other so balky that you had to put dirt in his mouth before he would start.
Nice animal for a pleasure party,
"Which did she choose?"
asked one of the laughing gentlemen,
who enjoyed the subject.
"None of them.
She heard of a young horse at the farm house over the river,
and though a lady had never ridden him,
she resolved to try,
because he was handsome and spirited.
Her struggles were really pathetic.
There was no one to bring the horse to the saddle,
so she took the saddle to the horse.
My dear creature,
she actually rowed it over the river,
put it on her head,
and marched up to the barn to the utter amazement of the old man!"
"Did she ride the horse?"
"Of course she did,
and had a capital time.
I expected to see her brought home in fragments,
but she managed him perfectly,
and was the life of the party."
I call that plucky!"
and young Mr. Lamb turned an approving glance upon Amy,
wondering what his mother could be saying to make the girl look so red and uncomfortable.
She was still redder and more uncomfortable a moment after,
when a sudden turn in the conversation introduced the subject of dress.
One of the young ladies asked Jo where she got the pretty drab hat she wore to the picnic and stupid Jo,
instead of mentioning the place where it was bought two years ago,
must needs answer with unnecessary frankness,
Amy painted it.
You can't buy those soft shades,
so we paint ours any color we like.
It's a great comfort to have an artistic sister."
"Isn't that an original idea?"
cried Miss Lamb,
who found Jo great fun.
"That's nothing compared to some of her brilliant performances.
There's nothing the child can't do.
she wanted a pair of blue boots for Sallie's party,
so she just painted her soiled white ones the loveliest shade of sky blue you ever saw,
and they looked exactly like satin,"
with an air of pride in her sister's accomplishments that exasperated Amy till she felt that it would be a relief to throw her cardcase at her.
"We read a story of yours the other day,
and enjoyed it very much,"
observed the elder Miss Lamb,
wishing to compliment the literary lady,
who did not look the character just then,
it must be confessed.
Any mention of her
'works' always had a bad effect upon Jo,
who either grew rigid and looked offended,
or changed the subject with a brusque remark,
"Sorry you could find nothing better to read.
I write that rubbish because it sells,
and ordinary people like it.
Are you going to New York this winter?"
As Miss Lamb had
'enjoyed' the story,
this speech was not exactly grateful or complimentary.
The minute it was made Jo saw her mistake,
but fearing to make the matter worse,
suddenly remembered that it was for her to make the first move toward departure,
and did so with an abruptness that left three people with half-finished sentences in their mouths.
we must go.
do come and see us.
We are pining for a visit.
I don't dare to ask you,
but if you should come,
I don't think I shall have the heart to send you away."
Jo said this with such a droll imitation of May Chester's gushing style that Amy got out of the room as rapidly as possible,
feeling a strong desire to laugh and cry at the same time.
"Didn't I do well?"
with a satisfied air as they walked away.
"Nothing could have been worse,"
was Amy's crushing reply.
"What possessed you to tell those stories about my saddle,
and the hats and boots,
and all the rest of it?"
and amuses people.
They know we are poor,
so it's no use pretending that we have grooms,
buy three or four hats a season,
and have things as easy and fine as they do."
"You needn't go and tell them all our little shifts,
and expose our poverty in that perfectly unnecessary way.
You haven't a bit of proper pride,
and never will learn when to hold your tongue and when to speak,"
said Amy despairingly.
Poor Jo looked abashed,
and silently chafed the end of her nose with the stiff handkerchief,
as if performing a penance for her misdemeanors.
"How shall I behave here?"
as they approached the third mansion.
"Just as you please.
I wash my hands of you,"
was Amy's short answer.
"Then I'll enjoy myself.
The boys are at home,
and we'll have a comfortable time.
Goodness knows I need a little change,
for elegance has a bad effect upon my constitution,"
returned Jo gruffly,
being disturbed by her failure to suit.
An enthusiastic welcome from three big boys and several pretty children speedily soothed her ruffled feelings,
and leaving Amy to entertain the hostess and Mr. Tudor,
who happened to be calling likewise,
Jo devoted herself to the young folks and found the change refreshing.
She listened to college stories with deep interest,
caressed pointers and poodles without a murmur,
agreed heartily that "Tom Brown was a brick,"
regardless of the improper form of praise,
and when one lad proposed a visit to his turtle tank,
she went with an alacrity which caused Mamma to smile upon her,
as that motherly lady settled the cap which was left in a ruinous condition by filial hugs,
bearlike but affectionate,
and dearer to her than the most faultless coiffure from the hands of an inspired Frenchwoman.
Leaving her sister to her own devices,
Amy proceeded to enjoy herself to her heart's content.
Mr. Tudor's uncle had married an English lady who was third cousin to a living lord,
and Amy regarded the whole family with great respect,
for in spite of her American birth and breeding,
she possessed that reverence for titles which haunts the best of us --that unacknowledged loyalty to the early faith in kings which set the most democratic nation under the sun in ferment at the coming of a royal yellow-haired laddie,
some years ago,
and which still has something to do with the love the young country bears the old,
like that of a big son for an imperious little mother,
who held him while she could,
and let him go with a farewell scolding when he rebelled.
But even the satisfaction of talking with a distant connection of the British nobility did not render Amy forgetful of time,
and when the proper number of minutes had passed,
she reluctantly tore herself from this aristocratic society,
and looked about for Jo,
fervently hoping that her incorrigible sister would not be found in any position which should bring disgrace upon the name of March.
It might have been worse,
but Amy considered it bad.
For Jo sat on the grass,
with an encampment of boys about her,
and a dirty-footed dog reposing on the skirt of her state and festival dress,
as she related one of Laurie's pranks to her admiring audience.
One small child was poking turtles with Amy's cherished parasol,
a second was eating gingerbread over Jo's best bonnet,
and a third playing ball with her gloves,
but all were enjoying themselves,
and when Jo collected her damaged property to go,
her escort accompanied her,
begging her to come again,
"It was such fun to hear about Laurie's larks."
I feel quite young and brisk again after that."
strolling along with her hands behind her,
partly from habit,
partly to conceal the bespattered parasol.
"Why do you always avoid Mr. Tudor?"
wisely refraining from any comment upon Jo's dilapidated appearance.
"Don't like him,
he puts on airs,
snubs his sisters,
worries his father,
and doesn't speak respectfully of his mother.
Laurie says he is fast,
and I don't consider him a desirable acquaintance,
so I let him alone."
"You might treat him civilly,
You gave him a cool nod,
and just now you bowed and smiled in the politest way to Tommy Chamberlain,
whose father keeps a grocery store.
If you had just reversed the nod and the bow,
it would have been right,"
said Amy reprovingly.
"I neither like,
nor admire Tudor,
though his grandfather's uncle's nephew's niece was a third cousin to a lord.
Tommy is poor and bashful and good and very clever.
I think well of him,
and like to show that I do,
for he is a gentleman in spite of the brown paper parcels."
"It's no use trying to argue with you,"
"Not the least,
"so let us look amiable,
and drop a card here,
as the Kings are evidently out,
for which I'm deeply grateful."
The family cardcase having done its duty the girls walked on,
and Jo uttered another thanksgiving on reaching the fifth house,
and being told that the young ladies were engaged.
"Now let us go home,
and never mind Aunt March today.
We can run down there any time,
and it's really a pity to trail through the dust in our best bibs and tuckers,
when we are tired and cross."
"Speak for yourself,
if you please.
Aunt March likes to have us pay her the compliment of coming in style,
and making a formal call.
It's a little thing to do,
but it gives her pleasure,
and I don't believe it will hurt your things half so much as letting dirty dogs and clumping boys spoil them.
and let me take the crumbs off of your bonnet."
"What a good girl you are,
with a repentant glance from her own damaged costume to that of her sister,
which was fresh and spotless still.
"I wish it was as easy for me to do little things to please people as it is for you.
I think of them,
but it takes too much time to do them,
so I wait for a chance to confer a great favor,
and let the small ones slip,
but they tell best in the end,
Amy smiled and was mollified at once,
saying with a maternal air,
"Women should learn to be agreeable,
particularly poor ones,
for they have no other way of repaying the kindnesses they receive.
If you'd remember that,
and practice it,
you'd be better liked than I am,
because there is more of you."
"I'm a crotchety old thing,
and always shall be,
but I'm willing to own that you are right,
only it's easier for me to risk my life for a person than to be pleasant to him when I don't feel like it.
It's a great misfortune to have such strong likes and dislikes,
"It's a greater not to be able to hide them.
I don't mind saying that I don't approve of Tudor any more than you do,
but I'm not called upon to tell him so.
Neither are you,
and there is no use in making yourself disagreeable because he is."
"But I think girls ought to show when they disapprove of young men,
and how can they do it except by their manners?
Preaching does not do any good,
as I know to my sorrow,
since I've had Teddie to manage.
But there are many little ways in which I can influence him without a word,
and I say we ought to do it to others if we can."
"Teddy is a remarkable boy,
and can't be taken as a sample of other boys,"
in a tone of solemn conviction,
which would have convulsed the
'remarkable boy' if he had heard it.
"If we were belles,
or women of wealth and position,
we might do something,
but for us to frown at one set of young gentlemen because we don't approve of them,
and smile upon another set because we do,
wouldn't have a particle of effect,
and we should only be considered odd and puritanical."
"So we are to countenance things and people which we detest,
merely because we are not belles and millionaires,
That's a nice sort of morality."
"I can't argue about it,
I only know that it's the way of the world,
and people who set themselves against it only get laughed at for their pains.
I don't like reformers,
and I hope you never try to be one."
"I do like them,
and I shall be one if I can,
for in spite of the laughing the world would never get on without them.
We can't agree about that,
for you belong to the old set,
and I to the new.
You will get on the best,
but I shall have the liveliest time of it.
I should rather enjoy the brickbats and hooting,
compose yourself now,
and don't worry Aunt with your new ideas."
"I'll try not to,
but I'm always possessed to burst out with some particularly blunt speech or revolutionary sentiment before her.
It's my doom,
and I can't help it."
They found Aunt Carrol with the old lady,
both absorbed in some very interesting subject,
but they dropped it as the girls came in,
with a conscious look which betrayed that they had been talking about their nieces.
Jo was not in a good humor,
and the perverse fit returned,
who had virtuously done her duty,
kept her temper and pleased everybody,
was in a most angelic frame of mind.
This amiable spirit was felt at once,
and both aunts
'my deared' her affectionately,
looking what they afterward said emphatically,
"That child improves every day."
"Are you going to help about the fair,
asked Mrs. Carrol,
as Amy sat down beside her with the confiding air elderly people like so well in the young.
Mrs. Chester asked me if I would,
and I offered to tend a table,
as I have nothing but my time to give."
put in Jo decidedly.
"I hate to be patronized,
and the Chesters think it's a great favor to allow us to help with their highly connected fair.
I wonder you consented,
they only want you to work."
"I am willing to work.
It's for the freedmen as well as the Chesters,
and I think it very kind of them to let me share the labor and the fun.
Patronage does not trouble me when it is well meant."
"Quite right and proper.
I like your grateful spirit,
It's a pleasure to help people who appreciate our efforts.
Some do not,
and that is trying,"
observed Aunt March,
looking over her spectacles at Jo,
who sat apart,
with a somewhat morose expression.
If Jo had only known what a great happiness was wavering in the balance for one of them,
she would have turned dove-like in a minute,
we don't have windows in our breasts,
and cannot see what goes on in the minds of our friends.
Better for us that we cannot as a general thing,
but now and then it would be such a comfort,
such a saving of time and temper.
By her next speech,
Jo deprived herself of several years of pleasure,
and received a timely lesson in the art of holding her tongue.
"I don't like favors,
they oppress and make me feel like a slave.
I'd rather do everything for myself,
and be perfectly independent."
coughed Aunt Carrol softly,
with a look at Aunt March.
"I told you so,"
said Aunt March,
with a decided nod to Aunt Carrol.
Mercifully unconscious of what she had done,
Jo sat with her nose in the air,
and a revolutionary aspect which was anything but inviting.
"Do you speak French,
asked Mrs. Carrol,
laying a hand on Amy's.
thanks to Aunt March,
who lets Esther talk to me as often as I like,"
with a grateful look,
which caused the old lady to smile affably.
"How are you about languages?"
asked Mrs. Carrol of Jo.
"Don't know a word.
I'm very stupid about studying anything,
can't bear French,
it's such a slippery,
silly sort of language,"
was the brusque reply.
Another look passed between the ladies,
and Aunt March said to Amy,
"You are quite strong and well now,
Eyes don't trouble you any more,
"Not at all,
I'm very well,
and mean to do great things next winter,
so that I may be ready for Rome,
whenever that joyful time arrives."
You deserve to go,
and I'm sure you will some day,"
said Aunt March,
with an approving pat on the head,
as Amy picked up her ball for her.
draw the latch,
Sit by the fire and spin,
bending down from his perch on the back of her chair to peep into Jo's face,
with such a comical air of impertinent inquiry that it was impossible to help laughing.
"Most observing bird,"
said the old lady.
"Come and take a walk,
hopping toward the china closet,
with a look suggestive of a lump of sugar.
and Jo brought the visit to an end,
feeling more strongly than ever that calls did have a bad effect upon her constitution.
She shook hands in a gentlemanly manner,
but Amy kissed both the aunts,
and the girls departed,
leaving behind them the impression of shadow and sunshine,
which impression caused Aunt March to say,
as they vanished ...
"You'd better do it,
I'll supply the money."
and Aunt Carrol to reply decidedly,
"I certainly will,
if her father and mother consent."
Mrs. Chester's fair was so very elegant and select that it was considered a great honor by the young ladies of the neighborhood to be invited to take a table,
and everyone was much interested in the matter.
Amy was asked,
but Jo was not,
which was fortunate for all parties,
as her elbows were decidedly akimbo at this period of her life,
and it took a good many hard knocks to teach her how to get on easily.
uninteresting creature' was let severely alone,
but Amy's talent and taste were duly complimented by the offer of the art table,
and she exerted herself to prepare and secure appropriate and valuable contributions to it.
Everything went on smoothly till the day before the fair opened,
then there occurred one of the little skirmishes which it is almost impossible to avoid,
when some five-and-twenty women,
old and young,
with all their private piques and prejudices,
try to work together.
May Chester was rather jealous of Amy because the latter was a greater favorite than herself,
and just at this time several trifling circumstances occurred to increase the feeling.
Amy's dainty pen-and-ink work entirely eclipsed May's painted vases --that was one thorn.
Then the all conquering Tudor had danced four times with Amy at a late party and only once with May --that was thorn number two.
But the chief grievance that rankled in her soul,
and gave an excuse for her unfriendly conduct,
was a rumor which some obliging gossip had whispered to her,
that the March girls had made fun of her at the Lambs'.
All the blame of this should have fallen upon Jo,
for her naughty imitation had been too lifelike to escape detection,
and the frolicsome Lambs had permitted the joke to escape.
No hint of this had reached the culprits,
and Amy's dismay can be imagined,
the very evening before the fair,
as she was putting the last touches to her pretty table,
resented the supposed ridicule of her daughter,
in a bland tone,
but with a cold look ...
that there is some feeling among the young ladies about my giving this table to anyone but my girls.
As this is the most prominent,
and some say the most attractive table of all,
and they are the chief getters-up of the fair,
it is thought best for them to take this place.
but I know you are too sincerely interested in the cause to mind a little personal disappointment,
and you shall have another table if you like."
Mrs. Chester fancied beforehand that it would be easy to deliver this little speech,
but when the time came,
she found it rather difficult to utter it naturally,
with Amy's unsuspicious eyes looking straight at her full of surprise and trouble.
Amy felt that there was something behind this,
but could not guess what,
and said quietly,
and showing that she did,
"Perhaps you had rather I took no table at all?"
don't have any ill feeling,
It's merely a matter of expediency,
my girls will naturally take the lead,
and this table is considered their proper place.
I think it very appropriate to you,
and feel very grateful for your efforts to make it so pretty,
but we must give up our private wishes,
and I will see that you have a good place elsewhere.
Wouldn't you like the flower table?
The little girls undertook it,
but they are discouraged.
You could make a charming thing of it,
and the flower table is always attractive you know."
"Especially to gentlemen,"
with a look which enlightened Amy as to one cause of her sudden fall from favor.
She colored angrily,
but took no other notice of that girlish sarcasm,
and answered with unexpected amiability ...
"It shall be as you please,
I'll give up my place here at once,
and attend to the flowers,
if you like."
"You can put your own things on your own table,
if you prefer,"
feeling a little conscience-stricken,
as she looked at the pretty racks,
the painted shells,
and quaint illuminations Amy had so carefully made and so gracefully arranged.
She meant it kindly,
but Amy mistook her meaning,
and said quickly ...
if they are in your way,"
and sweeping her contributions into her apron,
she walked off,
feeling that herself and her works of art had been insulted past forgiveness.
"Now she's mad.
I wish I hadn't asked you to speak,
looking disconsolately at the empty spaces on her table.
"Girls' quarrels are soon over,"
returned her mother,
feeling a trifle ashamed of her own part in this one,
as well she might.
The little girls hailed Amy and her treasures with delight,
which cordial reception somewhat soothed her perturbed spirit,
and she fell to work,
determined to succeed florally,
if she could not artistically.
But everything seemed against her.
It was late,
and she was tired.
Everyone was too busy with their own affairs to help her,
and the little girls were only hindrances,
for the dears fussed and chattered like so many magpies,
making a great deal of confusion in their artless efforts to preserve the most perfect order.
The evergreen arch wouldn't stay firm after she got it up,
but wiggled and threatened to tumble down on her head when the hanging baskets were filled.
Her best tile got a splash of water,
which left a sepia tear on the Cupid's cheek.
She bruised her hands with hammering,
and got cold working in a draft,
which last affliction filled her with apprehensions for the morrow.
Any girl reader who has suffered like afflictions will sympathize with poor Amy and wish her well through her task.
There was great indignation at home when she told her story that evening.
Her mother said it was a shame,
but told her she had done right.
Beth declared she wouldn't go to the fair at all,
and Jo demanded why she didn't take all her pretty things and leave those mean people to get on without her.
"Because they are mean is no reason why I should be.
I hate such things,
and though I think I've a right to be hurt,
I don't intend to show it.
They will feel that more than angry speeches or huffy actions,
"That's the right spirit,
A kiss for a blow is always best,
though it's not very easy to give it sometimes,"
said her mother,
with the air of one who had learned the difference between preaching and practicing.
In spite of various very natural temptations to resent and retaliate,
Amy adhered to her resolution all the next day,
bent on conquering her enemy by kindness.
She began well,
thanks to a silent reminder that came to her unexpectedly,
but most opportunely.
As she arranged her table that morning,
while the little girls were in the anteroom filling the baskets,
she took up her pet production,
a little book,
the antique cover of which her father had found among his treasures,
and in which on leaves of vellum she had beautifully illuminated different texts.
As she turned the pages rich in dainty devices with very pardonable pride,
her eye fell upon one verse that made her stop and think.
Framed in a brilliant scrollwork of scarlet,
blue and gold,
with little spirits of good will helping one another up and down among the thorns and flowers,
were the words,
"Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."
but I don't,"
as her eye went from the bright page to May's discontented face behind the big vases,
that could not hide the vacancies her pretty work had once filled.
Amy stood a minute,
turning the leaves in her hand,
reading on each some sweet rebuke for all heartburnings and uncharitableness of spirit.
Many wise and true sermons are preached us every day by unconscious ministers in street,
Even a fair table may become a pulpit,
if it can offer the good and helpful words which are never out of season.
Amy's conscience preached her a little sermon from that text,
then and there,
and she did what many of us do not always do,
took the sermon to heart,
and straightway put it in practice.
A group of girls were standing about May's table,
admiring the pretty things,
and talking over the change of saleswomen.
They dropped their voices,
but Amy knew they were speaking of her,
hearing one side of the story and judging accordingly.
It was not pleasant,
but a better spirit had come over her,
and presently a chance offered for proving it.
She heard May say sorrowfully ...
"It's too bad,
for there is no time to make other things,
and I don't want to fill up with odds and ends.
The table was just complete then.
Now it's spoiled."
"I dare say she'd put them back if you asked her,"
"How could I after all the fuss?"
but she did not finish,
for Amy's voice came across the hall,
saying pleasantly ...
"You may have them,
if you want them.
I was just thinking I'd offer to put them back,
for they belong to your table rather than mine.
Here they are,
please take them,
and forgive me if I was hasty in carrying them away last night."
As she spoke,
Amy returned her contribution,
with a nod and a smile,
and hurried away again,
feeling that it was easier to do a friendly thing than it was to stay and be thanked for it.
I call that lovely of her,
cried one girl.
May's answer was inaudible,
but another young lady,
whose temper was evidently a little soured by making lemonade,
with a disagreeable laugh,
for she knew she wouldn't sell them at her own table."
that was hard.
When we make little sacrifices we like to have them appreciated,
and for a minute Amy was sorry she had done it,
feeling that virtue was not always its own reward.
But it is,
as she presently discovered,
for her spirits began to rise,
and her table to blossom under her skillful hands,
the girls were very kind,
and that one little act seemed to have cleared the atmosphere amazingly.
It was a very long day and a hard one for Amy,
as she sat behind her table,
often quite alone,
for the little girls deserted very soon.
Few cared to buy flowers in summer,
and her bouquets began to droop long before night.
The art table was the most attractive in the room.
There was a crowd about it all day long,
and the tenders were constantly flying to and fro with important faces and rattling money boxes.
Amy often looked wistfully across,
longing to be there,
where she felt at home and happy,
instead of in a corner with nothing to do.
It might seem no hardship to some of us,
but to a pretty,
blithe young girl,
it was not only tedious,
but very trying,
and the thought of Laurie and his friends made it a real martyrdom.
She did not go home till night,
and then she looked so pale and quiet that they knew the day had been a hard one,
though she made no complaint,
and did not even tell what she had done.
Her mother gave her an extra cordial cup of tea.
Beth helped her dress,
and made a charming little wreath for her hair,
while Jo astonished her family by getting herself up with unusual care,
and hinting darkly that the tables were about to be turned.
"Don't do anything rude,
I won't have any fuss made,
so let it all pass and behave yourself,"
as she departed early,
hoping to find a reinforcement of flowers to refresh her poor little table.
"I merely intend to make myself entrancingly agreeable to every one I know,
and to keep them in your corner as long as possible.
Teddy and his boys will lend a hand,
and we'll have a good time yet."
leaning over the gate to watch for Laurie.
Presently the familiar tramp was heard in the dusk,
and she ran out to meet him.
"Is that my boy?"
"As sure as this is my girl!"
and Laurie tucked her hand under his arm with the air of a man whose every wish was gratified.
and Jo told Amy's wrongs with sisterly zeal.
"A flock of our fellows are going to drive over by-and-by,
and I'll be hanged if I don't make them buy every flower she's got,
and camp down before her table afterward,"
espousing her cause with warmth.
"The flowers are not at all nice,
and the fresh ones may not arrive in time.
I don't wish to be unjust or suspicious,
but I shouldn't wonder if they never came at all.
When people do one mean thing they are very likely to do another,"
observed Jo in a disgusted tone.
"Didn't Hayes give you the best out of our gardens?
I told him to."
"I didn't know that,
as your grandpa was poorly,
I didn't like to worry him by asking,
though I did want some."
how could you think there was any need of asking?
They are just as much yours as mine.
Don't we always go halves in everything?"
in the tone that always made Jo turn thorny.
I hope not!
Half of some of your things wouldn't suit me at all.
But we mustn't stand philandering here.
I've got to help Amy,
so you go and make yourself splendid,
and if you'll be so very kind as to let Hayes take a few nice flowers up to the Hall,
I'll bless you forever."
"Couldn't you do it now?"
so suggestively that Jo shut the gate in his face with inhospitable haste,
and called through the bars,
Thanks to the conspirators,
the tables were turned that night,
for Hayes sent up a wilderness of flowers,
with a loverly basket arranged in his best manner for a centerpiece.
Then the March family turned out en masse,
and Jo exerted herself to some purpose,
for people not only came,
laughing at her nonsense,
admiring Amy's taste,
and apparently enjoying themselves very much.
Laurie and his friends gallantly threw themselves into the breach,
bought up the bouquets,
encamped before the table,
and made that corner the liveliest spot in the room.
Amy was in her element now,
and out of gratitude,
if nothing more,
was as spritely and gracious as possible,
coming to the conclusion,
about that time,
that virtue was its own reward,
Jo behaved herself with exemplary propriety,
and when Amy was happily surrounded by her guard of honor,
Jo circulated about the Hall,
picking up various bits of gossip,
which enlightened her upon the subject of the Chester change of base.
She reproached herself for her share of the ill feeling and resolved to exonerate Amy as soon as possible.
She also discovered what Amy had done about the things in the morning,
and considered her a model of magnanimity.
As she passed the art table,
she glanced over it for her sister's things,
but saw no sign of them.
"Tucked away out of sight,
I dare say,"
who could forgive her own wrongs,
but hotly resented any insult offered her family.
How does Amy get on?"
asked May with a conciliatory air,
for she wanted to show that she also could be generous.
"She has sold everything she had that was worth selling,
and now she is enjoying herself.
The flower table is always attractive,
'especially to gentlemen'."
Jo couldn't resist giving that little slap,
but May took it so meekly she regretted it a minute after,
and fell to praising the great vases,
which still remained unsold.
"Is Amy's illumination anywhere about?
I took a fancy to buy that for Father,"
very anxious to learn the fate of her sister's work.
"Everything of Amy's sold long ago.
I took care that the right people saw them,
and they made a nice little sum of money for us,"
who had overcome sundry small temptations,
as well as Amy had,
Jo rushed back to tell the good news,
and Amy looked both touched and surprised by the report of May's word and manner.
I want you to go and do your duty by the other tables as generously as you have by mine,
especially the art table,"
as the girls called the college friends.
is the motto for that table,
but do your duty like men,
and you'll get your money's worth of art in every sense of the word,"
said the irrepressible Jo,
as the devoted phalanx prepared to take the field.
"To hear is to obey,
but March is fairer far than May,"
said little Parker,
making a frantic effort to be both witty and tender,
and getting promptly quenched by Laurie,
who said ...
for a small boy!"
and walked him off,
with a paternal pat on the head.
"Buy the vases,"
whispered Amy to Laurie,
as a final heaping of coals of fire on her enemy's head.
To May's great delight,
Mr. Laurence not only bought the vases,
but pervaded the hall with one under each arm.
The other gentlemen speculated with equal rashness in all sorts of frail trifles,
and wandered helplessly about afterward,
burdened with wax flowers,
and other useful and appropriate purchases.
Aunt Carrol was there,
heard the story,
and said something to Mrs. March in a corner,
which made the latter lady beam with satisfaction,
and watch Amy with a face full of mingled pride and anxiety,
though she did not betray the cause of her pleasure till several days later.
The fair was pronounced a success,
and when May bade Amy goodnight,
she did not gush as usual,
but gave her an affectionate kiss,
and a look which said
'forgive and forget'.
That satisfied Amy,
and when she got home she found the vases paraded on the parlor chimney piece with a great bouquet in each.
"The reward of merit for a magnanimous March,"
as Laurie announced with a flourish.
"You've a deal more principle and generosity and nobleness of character than I ever gave you credit for,
You've behaved sweetly,
and I respect you with all my heart,"
said Jo warmly,
as they brushed their hair together late that night.
we all do,
and love her for being so ready to forgive.
It must have been dreadfully hard,
after working so long and setting your heart on selling your own pretty things.
I don't believe I could have done it as kindly as you did,"
added Beth from her pillow.
you needn't praise me so.
I only did as I'd be done by.
You laugh at me when I say I want to be a lady,
but I mean a true gentlewoman in mind and manners,
and I try to do it as far as I know how.
I can't explain exactly,
but I want to be above the little meannesses and follies and faults that spoil so many women.
I'm far from it now,
but I do my best,
and hope in time to be what Mother is."
Amy spoke earnestly,
and Jo said,
with a cordial hug,
"I understand now what you mean,
and I'll never laugh at you again.
You are getting on faster than you think,
and I'll take lessons of you in true politeness,
for you've learned the secret,
you'll get your reward some day,
and no one will be more delighted than I shall."
A week later Amy did get her reward,
and poor Jo found it hard to be delighted.
A letter came from Aunt Carrol,
and Mrs. March's face was illuminated to such a degree when she read it that Jo and Beth,
who were with her,
demanded what the glad tidings were.
"Aunt Carrol is going abroad next month,
and wants ..."
"Me to go with her!"
burst in Jo,
flying out of her chair in an uncontrollable rapture.
She's too young,
it's my turn first.
I've wanted it so long.
It would do me so much good,
and be so altogether splendid.
I must go!"
"I'm afraid it's impossible,
Aunt says Amy,
and it is not for us to dictate when she offers such a favor."
"It's always so.
Amy has all the fun and I have all the work.
It isn't fair,
it isn't fair!"
cried Jo passionately.
"I'm afraid it's partly your own fault,
When Aunt spoke to me the other day,
she regretted your blunt manners and too independent spirit,
and here she writes,
as if quoting something you had said --'I planned at first to ask Jo,
'favors burden her',
I think I won't venture to invite her.
Amy is more docile,
will make a good companion for Flo,
and receive gratefully any help the trip may give her."
my abominable tongue!
Why can't I learn to keep it quiet?"
remembering words which had been her undoing.
When she had heard the explanation of the quoted phrases,
Mrs. March said sorrowfully ...
"I wish you could have gone,
but there is no hope of it this time,
so try to bear it cheerfully,
and don't sadden Amy's pleasure by reproaches or regrets."
winking hard as she knelt down to pick up the basket she had joyfully upset.
"I'll take a leaf out of her book,
and try not only to seem glad,
but to be so,
and not grudge her one minute of happiness.
But it won't be easy,
for it is a dreadful disappointment,"
and poor Jo bedewed the little fat pincushion she held with several very bitter tears.
I'm very selfish,
but I couldn't spare you,
and I'm glad you are not going quite yet,"
basket and all,
with such a clinging touch and loving face that Jo felt comforted in spite of the sharp regret that made her want to box her own ears,
and humbly beg Aunt Carrol to burden her with this favor,
and see how gratefully she would bear it.
By the time Amy came in,
Jo was able to take her part in the family jubilation,
not quite as heartily as usual,
but without repinings at Amy's good fortune.
The young lady herself received the news as tidings of great joy,
went about in a solemn sort of rapture,
and began to sort her colors and pack her pencils that evening,
leaving such trifles as clothes,
and passports to those less absorbed in visions of art than herself.
"It isn't a mere pleasure trip to me,
she said impressively,
as she scraped her best palette.
"It will decide my career,
for if I have any genius,
I shall find it out in Rome,
and will do something to prove it."
"Suppose you haven't?"
with red eyes,
at the new collars which were to be handed over to Amy.
"Then I shall come home and teach drawing for my living,"
replied the aspirant for fame,
with philosophic composure.
But she made a wry face at the prospect,
and scratched away at her palette as if bent on vigorous measures before she gave up her hopes.
You hate hard work,
and you'll marry some rich man,
and come home to sit in the lap of luxury all your days,"
"Your predictions sometimes come to pass,
but I don't believe that one will.
I'm sure I wish it would,
for if I can't be an artist myself,
I should like to be able to help those who are,"
as if the part of Lady Bountiful would suit her better than that of a poor drawing teacher.
with a sigh.
"If you wish it you'll have it,
for your wishes are always granted --mine never."
"Would you like to go?"
thoughtfully patting her nose with her knife.
in a year or two I'll send for you,
and we'll dig in the Forum for relics,
and carry out all the plans we've made so many times."
I'll remind you of your promise when that joyful day comes,
if it ever does,"
accepting the vague but magnificent offer as gratefully as she could.
There was not much time for preparation,
and the house was in a ferment till Amy was off.
Jo bore up very well till the last flutter of blue ribbon vanished,
when she retired to her refuge,
and cried till she couldn't cry any more.
Amy likewise bore up stoutly till the steamer sailed.
Then just as the gangway was about to be withdrawn,
it suddenly came over her that a whole ocean was soon to roll between her and those who loved her best,
and she clung to Laurie,
the last lingerer,
saying with a sob ...
take care of them for me,
and if anything should happen ..."
and if anything happens,
I'll come and comfort you,"
little dreaming that he would be called upon to keep his word.
So Amy sailed away to find the Old World,
which is always new and beautiful to young eyes,
while her father and friend watched her from the shore,
fervently hoping that none but gentle fortunes would befall the happy-hearted girl,
who waved her hand to them till they could see nothing but the summer sunshine dazzling on the sea.
OUR FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT
Here I really sit at a front window of the Bath Hotel,
It's not a fashionable place,
but Uncle stopped here years ago,
and won't go anywhere else.
we don't mean to stay long,
so it's no great matter.
I can't begin to tell you how I enjoy it all!
I never can,
so I'll only give you bits out of my notebook,
for I've done nothing but sketch and scribble since I started.
I sent a line from Halifax,
when I felt pretty miserable,
but after that I got on delightfully,
on deck all day,
with plenty of pleasant people to amuse me.
Everyone was very kind to me,
especially the officers.
gentlemen really are very necessary aboard ship,
to hold on to,
or to wait upon one,
and as they have nothing to do,
it's a mercy to make them useful,
otherwise they would smoke themselves to death,
Aunt and Flo were poorly all the way,
and liked to be let alone,
so when I had done what I could for them,
I went and enjoyed myself.
Such walks on deck,
such splendid air and waves!
It was almost as exciting as riding a fast horse,
when we went rushing on so grandly.
I wish Beth could have come,
it would have done her so much good.
As for Jo,
she would have gone up and sat on the maintop jib,
or whatever the high thing is called,
made friends with the engineers,
and tooted on the captain's speaking trumpet,
she'd have been in such a state of rapture.
It was all heavenly,
but I was glad to see the Irish coast,
and found it very lovely,
so green and sunny,
with brown cabins here and there,
ruins on some of the hills,
and gentlemen's countryseats in the valleys,
with deer feeding in the parks.
It was early in the morning,
but I didn't regret getting up to see it,
for the bay was full of little boats,
the shore so picturesque,
and a rosy sky overhead.
I never shall forget it.
At Queenstown one of my new acquaintances left us,
and when I said something about the Lakes of Killarney,
with a look at me ...
have you e'er heard of Kate Kearney?
She lives on the banks of Killarney;
From the glance of her eye,
Shun danger and fly,
For fatal's the glance of Kate Kearney."
Wasn't that nonsensical?
We only stopped at Liverpool a few hours.
It's a dirty,
and I was glad to leave it.
Uncle rushed out and bought a pair of dogskin gloves,
and an umbrella,
and got shaved _à la_ mutton chop,
the first thing.
Then he flattered himself that he looked like a true Briton,
but the first time he had the mud cleaned off his shoes,
the little bootblack knew that an American stood in them,
with a grin,
"There yer har,
'em the latest Yankee shine."
It amused Uncle immensely.
I must tell you what that absurd Lennox did!
He got his friend Ward,
who came on with us,
to order a bouquet for me,
and the first thing I saw in my room was a lovely one,
with "Robert Lennox's compliments,"
on the card.
Wasn't that fun,
I like traveling.
I never shall get to London if I don't hurry.
The trip was like riding through a long picture gallery,
full of lovely landscapes.
The farmhouses were my delight,
with thatched roofs,
ivy up to the eaves,
and stout women with rosy children at the doors.
The very cattle looked more tranquil than ours,
as they stood knee-deep in clover,
and the hens had a contented cluck,
as if they never got nervous like Yankee biddies.
Such perfect color I never saw,
the grass so green,
sky so blue,
grain so yellow,
woods so dark,
I was in a rapture all the way.
So was Flo,
and we kept bouncing from one side to the other,
trying to see everything while we were whisking along at the rate of sixty miles an hour.
Aunt was tired and went to sleep,
but Uncle read his guidebook,
and wouldn't be astonished at anything.
This is the way we went on.
flying up --"Oh,
that must be Kenilworth,
that gray place among the trees!"
darting to my window --"How sweet!
We must go there sometime,
won't we Papa?"
calmly admiring his boots --"No,
not unless you want beer,
that's a brewery."
A pause --then Flo cried out,
there's a gallows and a man going up."
staring out at two tall posts with a crossbeam and some dangling chains.
with a twinkle of the eye.
"Here's a lovely flock of lambs all lying down,"
aren't they pretty?"
added Flo sentimentally.
in a tone that keeps us quiet till Flo settles down to enjoy the _Flirtations of Captain Cavendish_,
and I have the scenery all to myself.
Of course it rained when we got to London,
and there was nothing to be seen but fog and umbrellas.
and shopped a little between the showers.
Aunt Mary got me some new things,
for I came off in such a hurry I wasn't half ready.
A white hat and blue feather,
a muslin dress to match,
and the loveliest mantle you ever saw.
Shopping in Regent Street is perfectly splendid.
Things seem so cheap,
nice ribbons only sixpence a yard.
I laid in a stock,
but shall get my gloves in Paris.
Doesn't that sound sort of elegant and rich?
Flo and I,
for the fun of it,
ordered a hansom cab,
while Aunt and Uncle were out,
and went for a drive,
though we learned afterward that it wasn't the thing for young ladies to ride in them alone.
It was so droll!
For when we were shut in by the wooden apron,
the man drove so fast that Flo was frightened,
and told me to stop him,
but he was up outside behind somewhere,
and I couldn't get at him.
He didn't hear me call,
nor see me flap my parasol in front,
and there we were,
and whirling around corners at a breakneck pace.
in my despair,
I saw a little door in the roof,
and on poking it open,
a red eye appeared,
and a beery voice said ...
I gave my order as soberly as I could,
and slamming down the door,
with an "Aye,
the man made his horse walk,
as if going to a funeral.
I poked again and said,
"A little faster,"
then off he went,
helter-skelter as before,
and we resigned ourselves to our fate.
Today was fair,
and we went to Hyde Park,
for we are more aristocratic than we look.
The Duke of Devonshire lives near.
I often see his footmen lounging at the back gate,
and the Duke of Wellington's house is not far off.
Such sights as I saw,
It was as good as Punch,
for there were fat dowagers rolling about in their red and yellow coaches,
with gorgeous Jeameses in silk stockings and velvet coats,
and powdered coachmen in front.
with the rosiest children I ever saw,
looking half asleep,
dandies in queer English hats and lavender kids lounging about,
and tall soldiers,
in short red jackets and muffin caps stuck on one side,
looking so funny I longed to sketch them.
Rotten Row means
'Route de Roi',
or the king's way,
but now it's more like a riding school than anything else.
The horses are splendid,
and the men,
especially the grooms,
but the women are stiff,
which isn't according to our rules.
I longed to show them a tearing American gallop,
for they trotted solemnly up and down,
in their scant habits and high hats,
looking like the women in a toy Noah's Ark.
Everyone rides --old men,
little children --and the young folks do a deal of flirting here,
I saw a pair exchange rose buds,
for it's the thing to wear one in the button-hole,
and I thought it rather a nice little idea.
In the p.m. to Westminster Abbey,
but don't expect me to describe it,
so I'll only say it was sublime!
This evening we are going to see Fechter,
which will be an appropriate end to the happiest day of my life.
It's very late,
but I can't let my letter go in the morning without telling you what happened last evening.
Who do you think came in,
as we were at tea?
Laurie's English friends,
Fred and Frank Vaughn!
I was so surprised,
for I shouldn't have known them but for the cards.
Both are tall fellows with whiskers,
Fred handsome in the English style,
and Frank much better,
for he only limps slightly,
and uses no crutches.
They had heard from Laurie where we were to be,
and came to ask us to their house,
but Uncle won't go,
so we shall return the call,
and see them as we can.
They went to the theater with us,
and we did have such a good time,
for Frank devoted himself to Flo,
and Fred and I talked over past,
and future fun as if we had known each other all our days.
Tell Beth Frank asked for her,
and was sorry to hear of her ill health.
Fred laughed when I spoke of Jo,
and sent his
'respectful compliments to the big hat'.
Neither of them had forgotten Camp Laurence,
or the fun we had there.
What ages ago it seems,
Aunt is tapping on the wall for the third time,
so I must stop.
I really feel like a dissipated London fine lady,
writing here so late,
with my room full of pretty things,
and my head a jumble of parks,
and gallant creatures who say "Ah!"
and twirl their blond mustaches with the true English lordliness.
I long to see you all,
and in spite of my nonsense am,
your loving ...
In my last I told you about our London visit,
how kind the Vaughns were,
and what pleasant parties they made for us.
I enjoyed the trips to Hampton Court and the Kensington Museum more than anything else,
for at Hampton I saw Raphael's cartoons,
and at the Museum,
rooms full of pictures by Turner,
and the other great creatures.
The day in Richmond Park was charming,
for we had a regular English picnic,
and I had more splendid oaks and groups of deer than I could copy,
also heard a nightingale,
and saw larks go up.
'did' London to our heart's content,
thanks to Fred and Frank,
and were sorry to go away,
for though English people are slow to take you in,
when they once make up their minds to do it they cannot be outdone in hospitality,
The Vaughns hope to meet us in Rome next winter,
and I shall be dreadfully disappointed if they don't,
for Grace and I are great friends,
and the boys very nice fellows,
we were hardly settled here,
when he turned up again,
saying he had come for a holiday,
and was going to Switzerland.
Aunt looked sober at first,
but he was so cool about it she couldn't say a word.
And now we get on nicely,
and are very glad he came,
for he speaks French like a native,
and I don't know what we should do without him.
Uncle doesn't know ten words,
and insists on talking English very loud,
as if it would make people understand him.
Aunt's pronunciation is old-fashioned,
and Flo and I,
though we flattered ourselves that we knew a good deal,
find we don't,
and are very grateful to have Fred do the
as Uncle calls it.
Such delightful times as we are having!
Sight-seeing from morning till night,
stopping for nice lunches in the gay _cafes_,
and meeting with all sorts of droll adventures.
Rainy days I spend in the Louvre,
revelling in pictures.
Jo would turn up her naughty nose at some of the finest,
because she has no soul for art,
but I have,
and I'm cultivating eye and taste as fast as I can.
She would like the relics of great people better,
for I've seen her Napoleon's cocked hat and gray coat,
his baby's cradle and his old toothbrush,
also Marie Antoinette's little shoe,
the ring of Saint Denis,
and many other interesting things.
I'll talk for hours about them when I come,
but haven't time to write.
The Palais Royale is a heavenly place,
so full of _bijouterie_ and lovely things that I'm nearly distracted because I can't buy them.
Fred wanted to get me some,
but of course I didn't allow it.
Then the Bois and Champs Elysees are _tres magnifique_.
I've seen the imperial family several times,
the emperor an ugly,
the empress pale and pretty,
but dressed in bad taste,
I thought --purple dress,
and yellow gloves.
Little Nap is a handsome boy,
who sits chatting to his tutor,
and kisses his hand to the people as he passes in his four-horse barouche,
with postilions in red satin jackets and a mounted guard before and behind.
We often walk in the Tuileries Gardens,
for they are lovely,
though the antique Luxembourg Gardens suit me better.
Pere la Chaise is very curious,
for many of the tombs are like small rooms,
and looking in,
one sees a table,
with images or pictures of the dead,
and chairs for the mourners to sit in when they come to lament.
That is so Frenchy.
Our rooms are on the Rue de Rivoli,
and sitting on the balcony,
we look up and down the long,
It is so pleasant that we spend our evenings talking there when too tired with our day's work to go out.
Fred is very entertaining,
and is altogether the most agreeable young man I ever knew --except Laurie,
whose manners are more charming.
I wish Fred was dark,
for I don't fancy light men,
the Vaughns are very rich and come of an excellent family,
so I won't find fault with their yellow hair,
as my own is yellower.
Next week we are off to Germany and Switzerland,
and as we shall travel fast,
I shall only be able to give you hasty letters.
I keep my diary,
and try to
'remember correctly and describe clearly all that I see and admire',
as Father advised.
It is good practice for me,
and with my sketchbook will give you a better idea of my tour than these scribbles.
I embrace you tenderly.
My dear Mamma,
Having a quiet hour before we leave for Berne,
I'll try to tell you what has happened,
for some of it is very important,
as you will see.
The sail up the Rhine was perfect,
and I just sat and enjoyed it with all my might.
Get Father's old guidebooks and read about it.
I haven't words beautiful enough to describe it.
At Coblentz we had a lovely time,
for some students from Bonn,
with whom Fred got acquainted on the boat,
gave us a serenade.
It was a moonlight night,
and about one o'clock Flo and I were waked by the most delicious music under our windows.
We flew up,
and hid behind the curtains,
but sly peeps showed us Fred and the students singing away down below.
It was the most romantic thing I ever saw --the river,
the bridge of boats,
the great fortress opposite,
and music fit to melt a heart of stone.
When they were done we threw down some flowers,
and saw them scramble for them,
kiss their hands to the invisible ladies,
and go laughing away,
to smoke and drink beer,
Next morning Fred showed me one of the crumpled flowers in his vest pocket,
and looked very sentimental.
I laughed at him,
and said I didn't throw it,
which seemed to disgust him,
for he tossed it out of the window,
and turned sensible again.
I'm afraid I'm going to have trouble with that boy,
it begins to look like it.
The baths at Nassau were very gay,
so was Baden-Baden,
where Fred lost some money,
and I scolded him.
He needs someone to look after him when Frank is not with him.
Kate said once she hoped he'd marry soon,
and I quite agree with her that it would be well for him.
Frankfurt was delightful.
I saw Goethe's house,
and Dannecker's famous
It was very lovely,
but I should have enjoyed it more if I had known the story better.
I didn't like to ask,
as everyone knew it or pretended they did.
I wish Jo would tell me all about it.
I ought to have read more,
for I find I don't know anything,
and it mortifies me.
Now comes the serious part,
for it happened here,
and Fred has just gone.
He has been so kind and jolly that we all got quite fond of him.
I never thought of anything but a traveling friendship till the serenade night.
Since then I've begun to feel that the moonlight walks,
and daily adventures were something more to him than fun.
I haven't flirted,
but remembered what you said to me,
and have done my very best.
I can't help it if people like me.
I don't try to make them,
and it worries me if I don't care for them,
though Jo says I haven't got any heart.
Now I know Mother will shake her head,
and the girls say,
the mercenary little wretch!",
but I've made up my mind,
and if Fred asks me,
I shall accept him,
though I'm not madly in love.
I like him,
and we get on comfortably together.
He is handsome,
and very rich --ever so much richer than the Laurences.
I don't think his family would object,
and I should be very happy,
for they are all kind,
and they like me.
as the eldest twin,
will have the estate,
and such a splendid one it is!
A city house in a fashionable street,
not so showy as our big houses,
but twice as comfortable and full of solid luxury,
such as English people believe in.
I like it,
for it's genuine.
I've seen the plate,
the family jewels,
the old servants,
and pictures of the country place,
with its park,
and fine horses.
it would be all I should ask!
And I'd rather have it than any title such as girls snap up so readily,
and find nothing behind.
I may be mercenary,
but I hate poverty,
and don't mean to bear it a minute longer than I can help.
One of us _must_ marry well.
Beth can't yet,
so I shall,
and make everything okay all round.
I wouldn't marry a man I hated or despised.
You may be sure of that,
and though Fred is not my model hero,
he does very well,
and in time I should get fond enough of him if he was very fond of me,
and let me do just as I liked.
So I've been turning the matter over in my mind the last week,
for it was impossible to help seeing that Fred liked me.
He said nothing,
but little things showed it.
He never goes with Flo,
always gets on my side of the carriage,
looks sentimental when we are alone,
and frowns at anyone else who ventures to speak to me.
Yesterday at dinner,
when an Austrian officer stared at us and then said something to his friend,
a rakish-looking baron,
'_ein wonderschones Blondchen'_,
Fred looked as fierce as a lion,
and cut his meat so savagely it nearly flew off his plate.
He isn't one of the cool,
but is rather peppery,
for he has Scotch blood in him,
as one might guess from his bonnie blue eyes.
last evening we went up to the castle about sunset,
at least all of us but Fred,
who was to meet us there after going to the Post Restante for letters.
We had a charming time poking about the ruins,
the vaults where the monster tun is,
and the beautiful gardens made by the elector long ago for his English wife.
I liked the great terrace best,
for the view was divine,
so while the rest went to see the rooms inside,
I sat there trying to sketch the gray stone lion's head on the wall,
with scarlet woodbine sprays hanging round it.
I felt as if I'd got into a romance,
watching the Neckar rolling through the valley,
listening to the music of the Austrian band below,
and waiting for my lover,
like a real storybook girl.
I had a feeling that something was going to happen and I was ready for it.
I didn't feel blushy or quakey,
but quite cool and only a little excited.
By-and-by I heard Fred's voice,
and then he came hurrying through the great arch to find me.
He looked so troubled that I forgot all about myself,
and asked what the matter was.
He said he'd just got a letter begging him to come home,
for Frank was very ill.
So he was going at once on the night train and only had time to say good-by.
I was very sorry for him,
and disappointed for myself,
but only for a minute because he said,
as he shook hands,
and said it in a way that I could not mistake,
"I shall soon come back,
you won't forget me,
I didn't promise,
but I looked at him,
and he seemed satisfied,
and there was no time for anything but messages and good-byes,
for he was off in an hour,
and we all miss him very much.
I know he wanted to speak,
but I think,
from something he once hinted,
that he had promised his father not to do anything of the sort yet a while,
for he is a rash boy,
and the old gentleman dreads a foreign daughter-in-law.
We shall soon meet in Rome,
if I don't change my mind,
I'll say "Yes,
when he says "Will you,
Of course this is all _very private_,
but I wished you to know what was going on.
Don't be anxious about me,
remember I am your
and be sure I will do nothing rashly.
Send me as much advice as you like.
I'll use it if I can.
I wish I could see you for a good talk,
Love and trust me.
Ever your AMY
I'm anxious about Beth."
she has seemed unusually well since the babies came."
"It's not her health that troubles me now,
it's her spirits.
I'm sure there is something on her mind,
and I want you to discover what it is."
"What makes you think so,
"She sits alone a good deal,
and doesn't talk to her father as much as she used.
I found her crying over the babies the other day.
When she sings,
the songs are always sad ones,
and now and then I see a look in her face that I don't understand.
This isn't like Beth,
and it worries me."
"Have you asked her about it?"
"I have tried once or twice,
but she either evaded my questions or looked so distressed that I stopped.
I never force my children's confidence,
and I seldom have to wait for long."
Mrs. March glanced at Jo as she spoke,
but the face opposite seemed quite unconscious of any secret disquietude but Beth's,
and after sewing thoughtfully for a minute,
"I think she is growing up,
and so begins to dream dreams,
and have hopes and fears and fidgets,
without knowing why or being able to explain them.
but we don't realize it,
and treat her like a child,
forgetting she's a woman."
"So she is.
how fast you do grow up,"
returned her mother with a sigh and a smile.
"Can't be helped,
so you must resign yourself to all sorts of worries,
and let your birds hop out of the nest,
one by one.
I promise never to hop very far,
if that is any comfort to you."
"It's a great comfort,
I always feel strong when you are at home,
now Meg is gone.
Beth is too feeble and Amy too young to depend upon,
but when the tug comes,
you are always ready."
you know I don't mind hard jobs much,
and there must always be one scrub in a family.
Amy is splendid in fine works and I'm not,
but I feel in my element when all the carpets are to be taken up,
or half the family fall sick at once.
Amy is distinguishing herself abroad,
but if anything is amiss at home,
I'm your man."
"I leave Beth to your hands,
for she will open her tender little heart to her Jo sooner than to anyone else.
Be very kind,
and don't let her think anyone watches or talks about her.
If she only would get quite strong and cheerful again,
I shouldn't have a wish in the world."
I've got heaps."
what are they?"
"I'll settle Bethy's troubles,
and then I'll tell you mine.
They are not very wearing,
so they'll keep."
and Jo stitched away,
with a wise nod which set her mother's heart at rest about her for the present at least.
While apparently absorbed in her own affairs,
Jo watched Beth,
and after many conflicting conjectures,
finally settled upon one which seemed to explain the change in her.
A slight incident gave Jo the clue to the mystery,
and lively fancy,
loving heart did the rest.
She was affecting to write busily one Saturday afternoon,
when she and Beth were alone together.
Yet as she scribbled,
she kept her eye on her sister,
who seemed unusually quiet.
Sitting at the window,
Beth's work often dropped into her lap,
and she leaned her head upon her hand,
in a dejected attitude,
while her eyes rested on the dull,
Suddenly some one passed below,
whistling like an operatic blackbird,
and a voice called out,
Coming in tonight."
smiled and nodded,
watched the passer-by till his quick tramp died away,
then said softly as if to herself,
"How strong and well and happy that dear boy looks."
still intent upon her sister's face,
for the bright color faded as quickly as it came,
the smile vanished,
and presently a tear lay shining on the window ledge.
Beth whisked it off,
and in her half-averted face read a tender sorrow that made her own eyes fill.
Fearing to betray herself,
she slipped away,
murmuring something about needing more paper.
"Mercy on me,
Beth loves Laurie!"
sitting down in her own room,
pale with the shock of the discovery which she believed she had just made.
"I never dreamed of such a thing.
What will Mother say?
I wonder if her ..."
there Jo stopped and turned scarlet with a sudden thought.
"If he shouldn't love back again,
how dreadful it would be.
I'll make him!"
and she shook her head threateningly at the picture of the mischievous-looking boy laughing at her from the wall.
we are growing up with a vengeance.
Here's Meg married and a mamma,
Amy flourishing away at Paris,
and Beth in love.
I'm the only one that has sense enough to keep out of mischief."
Jo thought intently for a minute with her eyes fixed on the picture,
then she smoothed out her wrinkled forehead and said,
with a decided nod at the face opposite,
"No thank you,
you're very charming,
but you've no more stability than a weathercock.
So you needn't write touching notes and smile in that insinuating way,
for it won't do a bit of good,
and I won't have it."
Then she sighed,
and fell into a reverie from which she did not wake till the early twilight sent her down to take new observations,
which only confirmed her suspicion.
Though Laurie flirted with Amy and joked with Jo,
his manner to Beth had always been peculiarly kind and gentle,
but so was everybody's.
no one thought of imagining that he cared more for her than for the others.
a general impression had prevailed in the family of late that
'our boy' was getting fonder than ever of Jo,
wouldn't hear a word upon the subject and scolded violently if anyone dared to suggest it.
If they had known the various tender passages which had been nipped in the bud,
they would have had the immense satisfaction of saying,
"I told you so."
But Jo hated
and wouldn't allow it,
always having a joke or a smile ready at the least sign of impending danger.
When Laurie first went to college,
he fell in love about once a month,
but these small flames were as brief as ardent,
did no damage,
and much amused Jo,
who took great interest in the alternations of hope,
which were confided to her in their weekly conferences.
But there came a time when Laurie ceased to worship at many shrines,
hinted darkly at one all-absorbing passion,
and indulged occasionally in Byronic fits of gloom.
Then he avoided the tender subject altogether,
wrote philosophical notes to Jo,
and gave out that he was going to
intending to graduate in a blaze of glory.
This suited the young lady better than twilight confidences,
tender pressures of the hand,
and eloquent glances of the eye,
for with Jo,
brain developed earlier than heart,
and she preferred imaginary heroes to real ones,
because when tired of them,
the former could be shut up in the tin kitchen till called for,
and the latter were less manageable.
Things were in this state when the grand discovery was made,
and Jo watched Laurie that night as she had never done before.
If she had not got the new idea into her head,
she would have seen nothing unusual in the fact that Beth was very quiet,
and Laurie very kind to her.
But having given the rein to her lively fancy,
it galloped away with her at a great pace,
and common sense,
being rather weakened by a long course of romance writing,
did not come to the rescue.
As usual Beth lay on the sofa and Laurie sat in a low chair close by,
amusing her with all sorts of gossip,
for she depended on her weekly
and he never disappointed her.
But that evening Jo fancied that Beth's eyes rested on the lively,
dark face beside her with peculiar pleasure,
and that she listened with intense interest to an account of some exciting cricket match,
though the phrases,
'caught off a tice',
'stumped off his ground',
'the leg hit for three',
were as intelligible to her as Sanskrit.
She also fancied,
having set her heart upon seeing it,
that she saw a certain increase of gentleness in Laurie's manner,
that he dropped his voice now and then,
laughed less than usual,
was a little absent-minded,
and settled the afghan over Beth's feet with an assiduity that was really almost tender.
Stranger things have happened,"
as she fussed about the room.
"She will make quite an angel of him,
and he will make life delightfully easy and pleasant for the dear,
if they only love each other.
I don't see how he can help it,
and I do believe he would if the rest of us were out of the way."
As everyone was out of the way but herself,
Jo began to feel that she ought to dispose of herself with all speed.
But where should she go?
And burning to lay herself upon the shrine of sisterly devotion,
she sat down to settle that point.
the old sofa was a regular patriarch of a sofa --long,
a trifle shabby,
as well it might be,
for the girls had slept and sprawled on it as babies,
fished over the back,
rode on the arms,
and had menageries under it as children,
and rested tired heads,
and listened to tender talk on it as young women.
They all loved it,
for it was a family refuge,
and one corner had always been Jo's favorite lounging place.
Among the many pillows that adorned the venerable couch was one,
covered with prickly horsehair,
and furnished with a knobby button at each end.
This repulsive pillow was her especial property,
being used as a weapon of defense,
or a stern preventive of too much slumber.
Laurie knew this pillow well,
and had cause to regard it with deep aversion,
having been unmercifully pummeled with it in former days when romping was allowed,
and now frequently debarred by it from the seat he most coveted next to Jo in the sofa corner.
'the sausage' as they called it,
stood on end,
it was a sign that he might approach and repose,
but if it lay flat across the sofa,
woe to man,
or child who dared disturb it!
That evening Jo forgot to barricade her corner,
and had not been in her seat five minutes,
before a massive form appeared beside her,
and with both arms spread over the sofa back,
both long legs stretched out before him,
with a sigh of satisfaction ...
this is filling at the price."
slamming down the pillow.
But it was too late,
there was no room for it,
and coasting onto the floor,
it disappeared in a most mysterious manner.
don't be thorny.
After studying himself to a skeleton all the week,
a fellow deserves petting and ought to get it."
"Beth will pet you.
she's not to be bothered with me,
but you like that sort of thing,
unless you've suddenly lost your taste for it.
Do you hate your boy,
and want to fire pillows at him?"
Anything more wheedlesome than that touching appeal was seldom heard,
but Jo quenched
'her boy' by turning on him with a stern query,
"How many bouquets have you sent Miss Randal this week?"
upon my word.
"I'm glad of it,
that's one of your foolish extravagances,
sending flowers and things to girls for whom you don't care two pins,"
continued Jo reprovingly.
"Sensible girls for whom I do care whole papers of pins won't let me send them
'flowers and things',
so what can I do?
My feelings need a
"Mother doesn't approve of flirting even in fun,
and you do flirt desperately,
"I'd give anything if I could answer,
'So do you'.
As I can't,
I'll merely say that I don't see any harm in that pleasant little game,
if all parties understand that it's only play."
it does look pleasant,
but I can't learn how it's done.
because one feels awkward in company not to do as everybody else is doing,
but I don't seem to get on",
forgetting to play mentor.
"Take lessons of Amy,
she has a regular talent for it."
she does it very prettily,
and never seems to go too far.
I suppose it's natural to some people to please without trying,
and others to always say and do the wrong thing in the wrong place."
"I'm glad you can't flirt.
It's really refreshing to see a sensible,
who can be jolly and kind without making a fool of herself.
some of the girls I know really do go on at such a rate I'm ashamed of them.
They don't mean any harm,
but if they knew how we fellows talked about them afterward,
they'd mend their ways,
"They do the same,
and as their tongues are the sharpest,
you fellows get the worst of it,
for you are as silly as they,
If you behaved properly,
but knowing you like their nonsense,
they keep it up,
and then you blame them."
"Much you know about it,
said Laurie in a superior tone.
"We don't like romps and flirts,
though we may act as if we did sometimes.
modest girls are never talked about,
Bless your innocent soul!
If you could be in my place for a month you'd see things that would astonish you a trifle.
Upon my word,
when I see one of those harum-scarum girls,
I always want to say with our friend Cock Robin ...
"Out upon you,
fie upon you,
It was impossible to help laughing at the funny conflict between Laurie's chivalrous reluctance to speak ill of womankind,
and his very natural dislike of the unfeminine folly of which fashionable society showed him many samples.
Jo knew that
'young Laurence' was regarded as a most eligible parti by worldly mamas,
was much smiled upon by their daughters,
and flattered enough by ladies of all ages to make a coxcomb of him,
so she watched him rather jealously,
fearing he would be spoiled,
and rejoiced more than she confessed to find that he still believed in modest girls.
Returning suddenly to her admonitory tone,
dropping her voice,
"If you must have a
go and devote yourself to one of the
modest girls' whom you do respect,
and not waste your time with the silly ones."
"You really advise it?"
and Laurie looked at her with an odd mixture of anxiety and merriment in his face.
but you'd better wait till you are through college,
on the whole,
and be fitting yourself for the place meantime.
You're not half good enough for --well,
whoever the modest girl may be."
and Jo looked a little queer likewise,
for a name had almost escaped her.
"That I'm not!"
with an expression of humility quite new to him,
as he dropped his eyes and absently wound Jo's apron tassel round his finger.
"Mercy on us,
this will never do,"
"Go and sing to me.
I'm dying for some music,
and always like yours."
"I'd rather stay here,
there isn't room.
Go and make yourself useful,
since you are too big to be ornamental.
I thought you hated to be tied to a woman's apron string?"
quoting certain rebellious words of his own.
that depends on who wears the apron!"
and Laurie gave an audacious tweak at the tassel.
"Are you going?"
diving for the pillow.
He fled at once,
and the minute it was well,
"Up with the bonnets of bonnie Dundee,"
she slipped away to return no more till the young gentleman departed in high dudgeon.
Jo lay long awake that night,
and was just dropping off when the sound of a stifled sob made her fly to Beth's bedside,
with the anxious inquiry,
"What is it,
"I thought you were asleep,"
"Is it the old pain,
it's a new one,
but I can bear it,"
and Beth tried to check her tears.
"Tell me all about it,
and let me cure it as I often did the other."
there is no cure."
There Beth's voice gave way,
and clinging to her sister,
she cried so despairingly that Jo was frightened.
"Where is it?
Shall I call Mother?"
don't call her,
don't tell her.
I shall be better soon.
Lie down here and
'poor' my head.
I'll be quiet and go to sleep,
indeed I will."
but as her hand went softly to and fro across Beth's hot forehead and wet eyelids,
her heart was very full and she longed to speak.
But young as she was,
Jo had learned that hearts,
cannot be rudely handled,
but must open naturally,
so though she believed she knew the cause of Beth's new pain,
she only said,
in her tenderest tone,
"Does anything trouble you,
after a long pause.
"Wouldn't it comfort you to tell me what it is?"
"Then I won't ask,
that Mother and Jo are always glad to hear and help you,
if they can."
"I know it.
I'll tell you by-and-by."
"Is the pain better now?"
you are so comfortable,
"Go to sleep,
I'll stay with you."
So cheek to cheek they fell asleep,
and on the morrow Beth seemed quite herself again,
for at eighteen neither heads nor hearts ache long,
and a loving word can medicine most ills.
But Jo had made up her mind,
and after pondering over a project for some days,
she confided it to her mother.
"You asked me the other day what my wishes were.
I'll tell you one of them,
as they sat along together.
"I want to go away somewhere this winter for a change."
and her mother looked up quickly,
as if the words suggested a double meaning.
With her eyes on her work Jo answered soberly,
"I want something new.
I feel restless and anxious to be seeing,
and learning more than I am.
I brood too much over my own small affairs,
and need stirring up,
so as I can be spared this winter,
I'd like to hop a little way and try my wings."
"Where will you hop?"
"To New York.
I had a bright idea yesterday,
and this is it.
You know Mrs. Kirke wrote to you for some respectable young person to teach her children and sew.
It's rather hard to find just the thing,
but I think I should suit if I tried."
go out to service in that great boarding house!"
and Mrs. March looked surprised,
but not displeased.
"It's not exactly going out to service,
for Mrs. Kirke is your friend --the kindest soul that ever lived --and would make things pleasant for me,
Her family is separate from the rest,
and no one knows me there.
Don't care if they do.
It's honest work,
and I'm not ashamed of it."
But your writing?"
"All the better for the change.
I shall see and hear new things,
get new ideas,
and even if I haven't much time there,
I shall bring home quantities of material for my rubbish."
"I have no doubt of it,
but are these your only reasons for this sudden fancy?"
"May I know the others?"
Jo looked up and Jo looked down,
then said slowly,
with sudden color in her cheeks.
"It may be vain and wrong to say it,
but --I'm afraid --Laurie is getting too fond of me."
"Then you don't care for him in the way it is evident he begins to care for you?"
and Mrs. March looked anxious as she put the question.
I love the dear boy,
as I always have,
and am immensely proud of him,
but as for anything more,
it's out of the question."
"I'm glad of that,
I don't think you suited to one another.
As friends you are very happy,
and your frequent quarrels soon blow over,
but I fear you would both rebel if you were mated for life.
You are too much alike and too fond of freedom,
not to mention hot tempers and strong wills,
to get on happily together,
in a relation which needs infinite patience and forbearance,
as well as love."
"That's just the feeling I had,
though I couldn't express it.
I'm glad you think he is only beginning to care for me.
It would trouble me sadly to make him unhappy,
for I couldn't fall in love with the dear old fellow merely out of gratitude,
"You are sure of his feeling for you?"
The color deepened in Jo's cheeks as she answered,
with the look of mingled pleasure,
and pain which young girls wear when speaking of first lovers,
"I'm afraid it is so,
He hasn't said anything,
but he looks a great deal.
I think I had better go away before it comes to anything."
"I agree with you,
and if it can be managed you shall go."
Jo looked relieved,
and after a pause,
"How Mrs. Moffat would wonder at your want of management,
if she knew,
and how she will rejoice that Annie may still hope."
mothers may differ in their management,
but the hope is the same in all --the desire to see their children happy.
Meg is so,
and I am content with her success.
You I leave to enjoy your liberty till you tire of it,
for only then will you find that there is something sweeter.
Amy is my chief care now,
but her good sense will help her.
I indulge no hopes except that she may be well.
By the way,
she seems brighter this last day or two.
Have you spoken to her?'
she owned she had a trouble,
and promised to tell me by-and-by.
I said no more,
for I think I know it,"
and Jo told her little story.
Mrs. March shook her head,
and did not take so romantic a view of the case,
but looked grave,
and repeated her opinion that for Laurie's sake Jo should go away for a time.
"Let us say nothing about it to him till the plan is settled,
then I'll run away before he can collect his wits and be tragic.
Beth must think I'm going to please myself,
as I am,
for I can't talk about Laurie to her.
But she can pet and comfort him after I'm gone,
and so cure him of this romantic notion.
He's been through so many little trials of the sort,
he's used to it,
and will soon get over his lovelornity."
Jo spoke hopefully,
but could not rid herself of the foreboding fear that this
'little trial' would be harder than the others,
and that Laurie would not get over his
'lovelornity' as easily as heretofore.
The plan was talked over in a family council and agreed upon,
for Mrs. Kirke gladly accepted Jo,
and promised to make a pleasant home for her.
The teaching would render her independent,
and such leisure as she got might be made profitable by writing,
while the new scenes and society would be both useful and agreeable.
Jo liked the prospect and was eager to be gone,
for the home nest was growing too narrow for her restless nature and adventurous spirit.
When all was settled,
with fear and trembling she told Laurie,
but to her surprise he took it very quietly.
He had been graver than usual of late,
but very pleasant,
and when jokingly accused of turning over a new leaf,
he answered soberly,
"So I am,
and I mean this one shall stay turned."
Jo was very much relieved that one of his virtuous fits should come on just then,
and made her preparations with a lightened heart,
for Beth seemed more cheerful,
and hoped she was doing the best for all.
"One thing I leave in your especial care,"
the night before she left.
"You mean your papers?"
Be very good to him,
"Of course I will,
but I can't fill your place,
and he'll miss you sadly."
"It won't hurt him,
I leave him in your charge,
and keep in order."
"I'll do my best,
for your sake,"
wondering why Jo looked at her so queerly.
When Laurie said good-by,
he whispered significantly,
"It won't do a bit of good,
My eye is on you,
so mind what you do,
or I'll come and bring you home."
Dear Marmee and Beth,
I'm going to write you a regular volume,
for I've got heaps to tell,
though I'm not a fine young lady traveling on the continent.
When I lost sight of Father's dear old face,
I felt a trifle blue,
and might have shed a briny drop or two,
if an Irish lady with four small children,
all crying more or less,
hadn't diverted my mind,
for I amused myself by dropping gingerbread nuts over the seat every time they opened their mouths to roar.
Soon the sun came out,
and taking it as a good omen,
I cleared up likewise and enjoyed my journey with all my heart.
Mrs. Kirke welcomed me so kindly I felt at home at once,
even in that big house full of strangers.
She gave me a funny little sky parlor --all she had,
but there is a stove in it,
and a nice table in a sunny window,
so I can sit here and write whenever I like.
A fine view and a church tower opposite atone for the many stairs,
and I took a fancy to my den on the spot.
where I am to teach and sew,
is a pleasant room next Mrs. Kirke's private parlor,
and the two little girls are pretty children,
but they took to me after telling them The Seven Bad Pigs,
and I've no doubt I shall make a model governess.
I am to have my meals with the children,
if I prefer it to the great table,
and for the present I do,
for I am bashful,
though no one will believe it.
make yourself at home,"
said Mrs. K. in her motherly way,
"I'm on the drive from morning to night,
as you may suppose with such a family,
but a great anxiety will be off my mind if I know the children are safe with you.
My rooms are always open to you,
and your own shall be as comfortable as I can make it.
There are some pleasant people in the house if you feel sociable,
and your evenings are always free.
Come to me if anything goes wrong,
and be as happy as you can.
There's the tea bell,
I must run and change my cap."
And off she bustled,
leaving me to settle myself in my new nest.
As I went downstairs soon after,
I saw something I liked.
The flights are very long in this tall house,
and as I stood waiting at the head of the third one for a little servant girl to lumber up,
I saw a gentleman come along behind her,
take the heavy hod of coal out of her hand,
carry it all the way up,
put it down at a door near by,
and walk away,
with a kind nod and a foreign accent,
"It goes better so.
The little back is too young to haf such heaviness."
Wasn't it good of him?
I like such things,
for as Father says,
trifles show character.
When I mentioned it to Mrs. K.,
"That must have been Professor Bhaer,
he's always doing things of that sort."
Mrs. K. told me he was from Berlin,
very learned and good,
but poor as a church mouse,
and gives lessons to support himself and two little orphan nephews whom he is educating here,
according to the wishes of his sister,
who married an American.
Not a very romantic story,
but it interested me,
and I was glad to hear that Mrs. K. lends him her parlor for some of his scholars.
There is a glass door between it and the nursery,
and I mean to peep at him,
and then I'll tell you how he looks.
He's almost forty,
so it's no harm,
After tea and a go-to-bed romp with the little girls,
I attacked the big workbasket,
and had a quiet evening chatting with my new friend.
I shall keep a journal-letter,
and send it once a week,
and more tomorrow.
Had a lively time in my seminary this morning,
for the children acted like Sancho,
and at one time I really thought I should shake them all round.
Some good angel inspired me to try gymnastics,
and I kept it up till they were glad to sit down and keep still.
the girl took them out for a walk,
and I went to my needlework like little Mabel
'with a willing mind'.
I was thanking my stars that I'd learned to make nice buttonholes,
when the parlor door opened and shut,
and someone began to hum,
Kennst Du Das Land,
like a big bumblebee.
It was dreadfully improper,
but I couldn't resist the temptation,
and lifting one end of the curtain before the glass door,
I peeped in.
Professor Bhaer was there,
and while he arranged his books,
I took a good look at him.
A regular German --rather stout,
with brown hair tumbled all over his head,
a bushy beard,
the kindest eyes I ever saw,
and a splendid big voice that does one's ears good,
after our sharp or slipshod American gabble.
His clothes were rusty,
his hands were large,
and he hadn't a really handsome feature in his face,
except his beautiful teeth,
yet I liked him,
for he had a fine head,
his linen was very nice,
and he looked like a gentleman,
though two buttons were off his coat and there was a patch on one shoe.
He looked sober in spite of his humming,
till he went to the window to turn the hyacinth bulbs toward the sun,
and stroke the cat,
who received him like an old friend.
Then he smiled,
and when a tap came at the door,
called out in a loud,
I was just going to run,
when I caught sight of a morsel of a child carrying a big book,
to see what was going on.
"Me wants me Bhaer,"
said the mite,
slamming down her book and running to meet him.
"Thou shalt haf thy Bhaer.
and take a goot hug from him,
said the Professor,
catching her up with a laugh,
and holding her so high over his head that she had to stoop her little face to kiss him.
"Now me mus tuddy my lessin,"
went on the funny little thing.
So he put her up at the table,
opened the great dictionary she had brought,
and gave her a paper and pencil,
and she scribbled away,
turning a leaf now and then,
and passing her little fat finger down the page,
as if finding a word,
so soberly that I nearly betrayed myself by a laugh,
while Mr. Bhaer stood stroking her pretty hair with a fatherly look that made me think she must be his own,
though she looked more French than German.
Another knock and the appearance of two young ladies sent me back to my work,
and there I virtuously remained through all the noise and gabbling that went on next door.
One of the girls kept laughing affectedly,
in a coquettish tone,
and the other pronounced her German with an accent that must have made it hard for him to keep sober.
Both seemed to try his patience sorely,
for more than once I heard him say emphatically,
it is not so,
you haf not attend to what I say,"
and once there was a loud rap,
as if he struck the table with his book,
followed by the despairing exclamation,
It all goes bad this day."
I pitied him,
and when the girls were gone,
took just one more peep to see if he survived it.
He seemed to have thrown himself back in his chair,
and sat there with his eyes shut till the clock struck two,
when he jumped up,
put his books in his pocket,
as if ready for another lesson,
and taking little Tina who had fallen asleep on the sofa in his arms,
he carried her quietly away.
I fancy he has a hard life of it.
Mrs. Kirke asked me if I wouldn't go down to the five o'clock dinner,
and feeling a little bit homesick,
I thought I would,
just to see what sort of people are under the same roof with me.
So I made myself respectable and tried to slip in behind Mrs. Kirke,
but as she is short and I'm tall,
my efforts at concealment were rather a failure.
She gave me a seat by her,
and after my face cooled off,
I plucked up courage and looked about me.
The long table was full,
and every one intent on getting their dinner,
the gentlemen especially,
who seemed to be eating on time,
for they bolted in every sense of the word,
vanishing as soon as they were done.
There was the usual assortment of young men absorbed in themselves,
young couples absorbed in each other,
married ladies in their babies,
and old gentlemen in politics.
I don't think I shall care to have much to do with any of them,
except one sweetfaced maiden lady,
who looks as if she had something in her.
Cast away at the very bottom of the table was the Professor,
shouting answers to the questions of a very inquisitive,
deaf old gentleman on one side,
and talking philosophy with a Frenchman on the other.
If Amy had been here,
she'd have turned her back on him forever because,
sad to relate,
he had a great appetite,
and shoveled in his dinner in a manner which would have horrified
I didn't mind,
for I like
'to see folks eat with a relish',
as Hannah says,
and the poor man must have needed a deal of food after teaching idiots all day.
As I went upstairs after dinner,
two of the young men were settling their hats before the hall mirror,
and I heard one say low to the other,
"Who's the new party?"
or something of that sort."
"What the deuce is she at our table for?"
"Friend of the old lady's."
but no style."
"Not a bit of it.
Give us a light and come on."
I felt angry at first,
and then I didn't care,
for a governess is as good as a clerk,
and I've got sense,
if I haven't style,
which is more than some people have,
judging from the remarks of the elegant beings who clattered away,
smoking like bad chimneys.
I hate ordinary people!
Yesterday was a quiet day spent in teaching,
and writing in my little room,
which is very cozy,
with a light and fire.
I picked up a few bits of news and was introduced to the Professor.
It seems that Tina is the child of the Frenchwoman who does the fine ironing in the laundry here.
The little thing has lost her heart to Mr. Bhaer,
and follows him about the house like a dog whenever he is at home,
which delights him,
as he is very fond of children,
Kitty and Minnie Kirke likewise regard him with affection,
and tell all sorts of stories about the plays he invents,
the presents he brings,
and the splendid tales he tells.
The younger men quiz him,
call him Old Fritz,
and make all manner of jokes on his name.
But he enjoys it like a boy,
Mrs. Kirke says,
and takes it so good-naturedly that they all like him in spite of his foreign ways.
The maiden lady is a Miss Norton,
She spoke to me at dinner today (for I went to table again,
it's such fun to watch people),
and asked me to come and see her at her room.
She has fine books and pictures,
knows interesting persons,
and seems friendly,
so I shall make myself agreeable,
for I do want to get into good society,
only it isn't the same sort that Amy likes.
I was in our parlor last evening when Mr. Bhaer came in with some newspapers for Mrs. Kirke.
She wasn't there,
who is a little old woman,
introduced me very prettily.
"This is Mamma's friend,
and she's jolly and we like her lots,"
who is an
We both bowed,
and then we laughed,
for the prim introduction and the blunt addition were rather a comical contrast.
I hear these naughty ones go to vex you,
If so again,
call at me and I come,"
with a threatening frown that delighted the little wretches.
I promised I would,
and he departed,
but it seems as if I was doomed to see a good deal of him,
for today as I passed his door on my way out,
by accident I knocked against it with my umbrella.
It flew open,
and there he stood in his dressing gown,
with a big blue sock on one hand and a darning needle in the other.
He didn't seem at all ashamed of it,
for when I explained and hurried on,
he waved his hand,
sock and all,
saying in his loud,
cheerful way ...
"You haf a fine day to make your walk.
I laughed all the way downstairs,
but it was a little pathetic,
also to think of the poor man having to mend his own clothes.
The German gentlemen embroider,
but darning hose is another thing and not so pretty.
Nothing has happened to write about,
except a call on Miss Norton,
who has a room full of pretty things,
and who was very charming,
for she showed me all her treasures,
and asked me if I would sometimes go with her to lectures and concerts,
as her escort,
if I enjoyed them.
She put it as a favor,
but I'm sure Mrs. Kirke has told her about us,
and she does it out of kindness to me.
I'm as proud as Lucifer,
but such favors from such people don't burden me,
and I accepted gratefully.
When I got back to the nursery there was such an uproar in the parlor that I looked in,
and there was Mr. Bhaer down on his hands and knees,
with Tina on his back,
Kitty leading him with a jump rope,
and Minnie feeding two small boys with seedcakes,
as they roared and ramped in cages built of chairs.
"We are playing nargerie,"
"Dis is mine effalunt!"
holding on by the Professor's hair.
"Mamma always allows us to do what we like Saturday afternoon,
when Franz and Emil come,
'effalunt' sat up,
looking as much in earnest as any of them,
and said soberly to me,
"I gif you my wort it is so,
if we make too large a noise you shall say Hush!
and we go more softly."
I promised to do so,
but left the door open and enjoyed the fun as much as they did,
for a more glorious frolic I never witnessed.
They played tag and soldiers,
danced and sang,
and when it began to grow dark they all piled onto the sofa about the Professor,
while he told charming fairy stories of the storks on the chimney tops,
and the little
who ride the snowflakes as they fall.
I wish Americans were as simple and natural as Germans,
I'm so fond of writing,
I should go spinning on forever if motives of economy didn't stop me,
for though I've used thin paper and written fine,
I tremble to think of the stamps this long letter will need.
Pray forward Amy's as soon as you can spare them.
My small news will sound very flat after her splendors,
but you will like them,
Is Teddy studying so hard that he can't find time to write to his friends?
Take good care of him for me,
and tell me all about the babies,
and give heaps of love to everyone.
From your faithful Jo.
On reading over my letter,
it strikes me as rather Bhaery,
but I am always interested in odd people,
and I really had nothing else to write about.
My Precious Betsey,
As this is to be a scribble-scrabble letter,
I direct it to you,
for it may amuse you,
and give you some idea of my goings on,
for though quiet,
they are rather amusing,
After what Amy would call Herculaneum efforts,
in the way of mental and moral agriculture,
my young ideas begin to shoot and my little twigs to bend as I could wish.
They are not so interesting to me as Tina and the boys,
but I do my duty by them,
and they are fond of me.
Franz and Emil are jolly little lads,
quite after my own heart,
for the mixture of German and American spirit in them produces a constant state of effervescence.
Saturday afternoons are riotous times,
whether spent in the house or out,
for on pleasant days they all go to walk,
like a seminary,
with the Professor and myself to keep order,
and then such fun!
We are very good friends now,
and I've begun to take lessons.
I really couldn't help it,
and it all came about in such a droll way that I must tell you.
To begin at the beginning,
Mrs. Kirke called to me one day as I passed Mr. Bhaer's room where she was rummaging.
"Did you ever see such a den,
Just come and help me put these books to rights,
for I've turned everything upside down,
trying to discover what he has done with the six new handkerchiefs I gave him not long ago."
I went in,
and while we worked I looked about me,
for it was
'a den' to be sure.
Books and papers everywhere,
a broken meerschaum,
and an old flute over the mantlepiece as if done with,
a ragged bird without any tail chirped on one window seat,
and a box of white mice adorned the other.
Half-finished boats and bits of string lay among the manuscripts.
Dirty little boots stood drying before the fire,
and traces of the dearly beloved boys,
for whom he makes a slave of himself,
were to be seen all over the room.
After a grand rummage three of the missing articles were found,
one over the bird cage,
one covered with ink,
and a third burned brown,
having been used as a holder.
"Such a man!"
laughed good-natured Mrs. K.,
as she put the relics in the rag bay.
"I suppose the others are torn up to rig ships,
bandage cut fingers,
or make kite tails.
but I can't scold him.
He's so absent-minded and goodnatured,
he lets those boys ride over him roughshod.
I agreed to do his washing and mending,
but he forgets to give out his things and I forget to look them over,
so he comes to a sad pass sometimes."
"Let me mend them,"
"I don't mind it,
and he needn't know.
I'd like to,
he's so kind to me about bringing my letters and lending books."
So I have got his things in order,
and knit heels into two pairs of the socks,
for they were boggled out of shape with his queer darns.
Nothing was said,
and I hoped he wouldn't find it out,
but one day last week he caught me at it.
Hearing the lessons he gives to others has interested and amused me so much that I took a fancy to learn,
for Tina runs in and out,
leaving the door open,
and I can hear.
I had been sitting near this door,
finishing off the last sock,
and trying to understand what he said to a new scholar,
who is as stupid as I am.
The girl had gone,
and I thought he had also,
it was so still,
and I was busily gabbling over a verb,
and rocking to and fro in a most absurd way,
when a little crow made me look up,
and there was Mr. Bhaer looking and laughing quietly,
while he made signs to Tina not to betray him.
as I stopped and stared like a goose,
"you peep at me,
I peep at you,
and this is not bad,
I am not pleasanting when I say,
haf you a wish for German?"
but you are too busy.
I am too stupid to learn,"
I blundered out,
as red as a peony.
We will make the time,
and we fail not to find the sense.
At efening I shall gif a little lesson with much gladness,
for look you,
I haf this debt to pay."
And he pointed to my work
they say to one another,
these so kind ladies,
'he is a stupid old fellow,
he will see not what we do,
he will never observe that his sock heels go not in holes any more,
he will think his buttons grow out new when they fall,
and believe that strings make theirselves.'
But I haf an eye,
and I see much.
I haf a heart,
and I feel thanks for this.
a little lesson then and now,
or --no more good fairy works for me and mine."
Of course I couldn't say anything after that,
and as it really is a splendid opportunity,
I made the bargain,
and we began.
I took four lessons,
and then I stuck fast in a grammatical bog.
The Professor was very patient with me,
but it must have been torment to him,
and now and then he'd look at me with such an expression of mild despair that it was a toss-up with me whether to laugh or cry.
I tried both ways,
and when it came to a sniff or utter mortification and woe,
he just threw the grammar on to the floor and marched out of the room.
I felt myself disgraced and deserted forever,
but didn't blame him a particle,
and was scrambling my papers together,
meaning to rush upstairs and shake myself hard,
when in he came,
as brisk and beaming as if I'd covered myself in glory.
"Now we shall try a new way.
You and I will read these pleasant little _marchen_ together,
and dig no more in that dry book,
that goes in the corner for making us trouble."
He spoke so kindly,
and opened Hans Anderson's fairy tales so invitingly before me,
that I was more ashamed than ever,
and went at my lesson in a neck-or-nothing style that seemed to amuse him immensely.
I forgot my bashfulness,
and pegged away (no other word will express it) with all my might,
tumbling over long words,
pronouncing according to inspiration of the minute,
and doing my very best.
When I finished reading my first page,
and stopped for breath,
he clapped his hands and cried out in his hearty way,
"Das ist gut!
Now we go well!
I do him in German,
gif me your ear."
And away he went,
rumbling out the words with his strong voice and a relish which was good to see as well as hear.
Fortunately the story was _The Constant Tin Soldier_,
which is droll,
so I could laugh,
and I did,
though I didn't understand half he read,
for I couldn't help it,
he was so earnest,
I so excited,
and the whole thing so comical.
After that we got on better,
and now I read my lessons pretty well,
for this way of studying suits me,
and I can see that the grammar gets tucked into the tales and poetry as one gives pills in jelly.
I like it very much,
and he doesn't seem tired of it yet,
which is very good of him,
I mean to give him something on Christmas,
for I dare not offer money.
Tell me something nice,
I'm glad Laurie seems so happy and busy,
that he has given up smoking and lets his hair grow.
You see Beth manages him better than I did.
I'm not jealous,
do your best,
only don't make a saint of him.
I'm afraid I couldn't like him without a spice of human naughtiness.
Read him bits of my letters.
I haven't time to write much,
and that will do just as well.
Thank Heaven Beth continues so comfortable.
A Happy New Year to you all,
my dearest family,
which of course includes Mr. L. and a young man by the name of Teddy.
I can't tell you how much I enjoyed your Christmas bundle,
for I didn't get it till night and had given up hoping.
Your letter came in the morning,
but you said nothing about a parcel,
meaning it for a surprise,
so I was disappointed,
for I'd had a
'kind of feeling' that you wouldn't forget me.
I felt a little low in my mind as I sat up in my room after tea,
and when the big,
battered-looking bundle was brought to me,
I just hugged it and pranced.
It was so homey and refreshing that I sat down on the floor and read and looked and ate and laughed and cried,
in my usual absurd way.
The things were just what I wanted,
and all the better for being made instead of bought.
'ink bib' was capital,
and Hannah's box of hard gingerbread will be a treasure.
I'll be sure and wear the nice flannels you sent,
and read carefully the books Father has marked.
Thank you all,
heaps and heaps!
Speaking of books reminds me that I'm getting rich in that line,
for on New Year's Day Mr. Bhaer gave me a fine Shakespeare.
It is one he values much,
and I've often admired it,
set up in the place of honor with his German Bible,
so you may imagine how I felt when he brought it down,
without its cover,
and showed me my own name in it,
"from my friend Friedrich Bhaer".
"You say often you wish a library.
Here I gif you one,
for between these lids (he meant covers) is many books in one.
Read him well,
and he will help you much,
for the study of character in this book will help you to read it in the world and paint it with your pen."
I thanked him as well as I could,
and talk now about
as if I had a hundred books.
I never knew how much there was in Shakespeare before,
but then I never had a Bhaer to explain it to me.
Now don't laugh at his horrid name.
It isn't pronounced either Bear or Beer,
as people will say it,
but something between the two,
as only Germans can give it.
I'm glad you both like what I tell you about him,
and hope you will know him some day.
Mother would admire his warm heart,
Father his wise head.
I admire both,
and feel rich in my new
'friend Friedrich Bhaer'.
Not having much money,
or knowing what he'd like,
I got several little things,
and put them about the room,
where he would find them unexpectedly.
They were useful,
a new standish on his table,
a little vase for his flower,
he always has one,
or a bit of green in a glass,
to keep him fresh,
and a holder for his blower,
so that he needn't burn up what Amy calls
I made it like those Beth invented,
a big butterfly with a fat body,
and black and yellow wings,
and bead eyes.
It took his fancy immensely,
and he put it on his mantlepiece as an article of virtue,
so it was rather a failure after all.
Poor as he is,
he didn't forget a servant or a child in the house,
and not a soul here,
from the French laundrywoman to Miss Norton forgot him.
I was so glad of that.
They got up a masquerade,
and had a gay time New Year's Eve.
I didn't mean to go down,
having no dress.
But at the last minute,
Mrs. Kirke remembered some old brocades,
and Miss Norton lent me lace and feathers.
So I dressed up as Mrs. Malaprop,
and sailed in with a mask on.
No one knew me,
for I disguised my voice,
and no one dreamed of the silent,
haughty Miss March (for they think I am very stiff and cool,
most of them,
and so I am to whippersnappers) could dance and dress,
and burst out into a
'nice derangement of epitaphs,
like an allegory on the banks of the Nile'.
I enjoyed it very much,
and when we unmasked it was fun to see them stare at me.
I heard one of the young men tell another that he knew I'd been an actress,
he thought he remembered seeing me at one of the minor theaters.
Meg will relish that joke.
Mr. Bhaer was Nick Bottom,
and Tina was Titania,
a perfect little fairy in his arms.
To see them dance was
'quite a landscape',
to use a Teddyism.
I had a very happy New Year,
and when I thought it over in my room,
I felt as if I was getting on a little in spite of my many failures,
for I'm cheerful all the time now,
work with a will,
and take more interest in other people than I used to,
which is satisfactory.
Bless you all!
Ever your loving ...
Though very happy in the social atmosphere about her,
and very busy with the daily work that earned her bread and made it sweeter for the effort,
Jo still found time for literary labors.
The purpose which now took possession of her was a natural one to a poor and ambitious girl,
but the means she took to gain her end were not the best.
She saw that money conferred power,
money and power,
she resolved to have,
not to be used for herself alone,
but for those whom she loved more than life.
The dream of filling home with comforts,
giving Beth everything she wanted,
from strawberries in winter to an organ in her bedroom,
going abroad herself,
and always having more than enough,
so that she might indulge in the luxury of charity,
had been for years Jo's most cherished castle in the air.
The prize-story experience had seemed to open a way which might,
after long traveling and much uphill work,
lead to this delightful chateau en Espagne.
But the novel disaster quenched her courage for a time,
for public opinion is a giant which has frightened stouter-hearted Jacks on bigger beanstalks than hers.
Like that immortal hero,
she reposed awhile after the first attempt,
which resulted in a tumble and the least lovely of the giant's treasures,
if I remember rightly.
'up again and take another' spirit was as strong in Jo as in Jack,
so she scrambled up on the shady side this time and got more booty,
but nearly left behind her what was far more precious than the moneybags.
She took to writing sensation stories,
for in those dark ages,
even all-perfect America read rubbish.
She told no one,
but concocted a
and boldly carried it herself to Mr. Dashwood,
editor of the Weekly Volcano.
She had never read Sartor Resartus,
but she had a womanly instinct that clothes possess an influence more powerful over many than the worth of character or the magic of manners.
So she dressed herself in her best,
and trying to persuade herself that she was neither excited nor nervous,
bravely climbed two pairs of dark and dirty stairs to find herself in a disorderly room,
a cloud of cigar smoke,
and the presence of three gentlemen,
sitting with their heels rather higher than their hats,
which articles of dress none of them took the trouble to remove on her appearance.
Somewhat daunted by this reception,
Jo hesitated on the threshold,
murmuring in much embarrassment ...
I was looking for the Weekly Volcano office.
I wished to see Mr. Dashwood."
Down went the highest pair of heels,
up rose the smokiest gentleman,
and carefully cherishing his cigar between his fingers,
he advanced with a nod and a countenance expressive of nothing but sleep.
Feeling that she must get through the matter somehow,
Jo produced her manuscript and,
blushing redder and redder with each sentence,
blundered out fragments of the little speech carefully prepared for the occasion.
"A friend of mine desired me to offer --a story --just as an experiment --would like your opinion --be glad to write more if this suits."
While she blushed and blundered,
Mr. Dashwood had taken the manuscript,
and was turning over the leaves with a pair of rather dirty fingers,
and casting critical glances up and down the neat pages.
"Not a first attempt,
I take it?"
observing that the pages were numbered,
covered only on one side,
and not tied up with a ribbon --sure sign of a novice.
She has had some experience,
and got a prize for a tale in the _Blarneystone Banner_."
and Mr. Dashwood gave Jo a quick look,
which seemed to take note of everything she had on,
from the bow in her bonnet to the buttons on her boots.
you can leave it,
if you like.
We've more of this sort of thing on hand than we know what to do with at present,
but I'll run my eye over it,
and give you an answer next week."
Jo did _not_ like to leave it,
for Mr. Dashwood didn't suit her at all,
under the circumstances,
there was nothing for her to do but bow and walk away,
looking particularly tall and dignified,
as she was apt to do when nettled or abashed.
Just then she was both,
for it was perfectly evident from the knowing glances exchanged among the gentlemen that her little fiction of
'my friend' was considered a good joke,
and a laugh,
produced by some inaudible remark of the editor,
as he closed the door,
completed her discomfiture.
Half resolving never to return,
she went home,
and worked off her irritation by stitching pinafores vigorously,
and in an hour or two was cool enough to laugh over the scene and long for next week.
When she went again,
Mr. Dashwood was alone,
whereat she rejoiced.
Mr. Dashwood was much wider awake than before,
which was agreeable,
and Mr. Dashwood was not too deeply absorbed in a cigar to remember his manners,
so the second interview was much more comfortable than the first.
"We'll take this (editors never say I),
if you don't object to a few alterations.
It's too long,
but omitting the passages I've marked will make it just the right length,"
in a businesslike tone.
Jo hardly knew her own MS.
so crumpled and underscored were its pages and paragraphs,
but feeling as a tender parent might on being asked to cut off her baby's legs in order that it might fit into a new cradle,
she looked at the marked passages and was surprised to find that all the moral reflections --which she had carefully put in as ballast for much romance --had been stricken out.
I thought every story should have some sort of a moral,
so I took care to have a few of my sinners repent."
Mr. Dashwoods's editorial gravity relaxed into a smile,
for Jo had forgotten her
and spoken as only an author could.
"People want to be amused,
not preached at,
Morals don't sell nowadays."
Which was not quite a correct statement,
by the way.
"You think it would do with these alterations,
it's a new plot,
and pretty well worked up --language good,
and so on,"
was Mr. Dashwood's affable reply.
"What do you --that is,
what compensation --" began Jo,
not exactly knowing how to express herself.
we give from twenty-five to thirty for things of this sort.
Pay when it comes out,"
returned Mr. Dashwood,
as if that point had escaped him.
Such trifles do escape the editorial mind,
it is said.
you can have it,"
handing back the story with a satisfied air,
for after the dollar-a-column work,
even twenty-five seemed good pay.
"Shall I tell my friend you will take another if she has one better than this?"
unconscious of her little slip of the tongue,
and emboldened by her success.
we'll look at it.
Can't promise to take it.
Tell her to make it short and spicy,
and never mind the moral.
What name would your friend like to put on it?"
in a careless tone.
"None at all,
if you please,
she doesn't wish her name to appear and has no nom de plume,"
blushing in spite of herself.
"Just as she likes,
The tale will be out next week.
Will you call for the money,
or shall I send it?"
asked Mr. Dashwood,
who felt a natural desire to know who his new contributor might be.
As she departed,
Mr. Dashwood put up his feet,
with the graceful remark,
"Poor and proud,
but she'll do."
Following Mr. Dashwood's directions,
and making Mrs. Northbury her model,
Jo rashly took a plunge into the frothy sea of sensational literature,
but thanks to the life preserver thrown her by a friend,
she came up again not much the worse for her ducking.
Like most young scribblers,
she went abroad for her characters and scenery,
and duchesses appeared upon her stage,
and played their parts with as much accuracy and spirit as could be expected.
Her readers were not particular about such trifles as grammar,
and Mr. Dashwood graciously permitted her to fill his columns at the lowest prices,
not thinking it necessary to tell her that the real cause of his hospitality was the fact that one of his hacks,
on being offered higher wages,
had basely left him in the lurch.
She soon became interested in her work,
for her emaciated purse grew stout,
and the little hoard she was making to take Beth to the mountains next summer grew slowly but surely as the weeks passed.
One thing disturbed her satisfaction,
and that was that she did not tell them at home.
She had a feeling that Father and Mother would not approve,
and preferred to have her own way first,
and beg pardon afterward.
It was easy to keep her secret,
for no name appeared with her stories.
Mr. Dashwood had of course found it out very soon,
but promised to be dumb,
and for a wonder kept his word.
She thought it would do her no harm,
for she sincerely meant to write nothing of which she would be ashamed,
and quieted all pricks of conscience by anticipations of the happy minute when she should show her earnings and laugh over her well-kept secret.
But Mr. Dashwood rejected any but thrilling tales,
and as thrills could not be produced except by harrowing up the souls of the readers,
history and romance,
land and sea,
science and art,
police records and lunatic asylums,
had to be ransacked for the purpose.
Jo soon found that her innocent experience had given her but few glimpses of the tragic world which underlies society,
so regarding it in a business light,
she set about supplying her deficiencies with characteristic energy.
Eager to find material for stories,
and bent on making them original in plot,
if not masterly in execution,
she searched newspapers for accidents,
She excited the suspicions of public librarians by asking for works on poisons.
She studied faces in the street,
all about her.
She delved in the dust of ancient times for facts or fictions so old that they were as good as new,
and introduced herself to folly,
as well as her limited opportunities allowed.
She thought she was prospering finely,
but unconsciously she was beginning to desecrate some of the womanliest attributes of a woman's character.
She was living in bad society,
and imaginary though it was,
its influence affected her,
for she was feeding heart and fancy on dangerous and unsubstantial food,
and was fast brushing the innocent bloom from her nature by a premature acquaintance with the darker side of life,
which comes soon enough to all of us.
She was beginning to feel rather than see this,
for much describing of other people's passions and feelings set her to studying and speculating about her own,
a morbid amusement in which healthy young minds do not voluntarily indulge.
Wrongdoing always brings its own punishment,
and when Jo most needed hers,
she got it.
I don't know whether the study of Shakespeare helped her to read character,
or the natural instinct of a woman for what was honest,
but while endowing her imaginary heroes with every perfection under the sun,
Jo was discovering a live hero,
who interested her in spite of many human imperfections.
in one of their conversations,
had advised her to study simple,
and lovely characters,
wherever she found them,
as good training for a writer.
Jo took him at his word,
for she coolly turned round and studied him --a proceeding which would have much surprised him,
had he known it,
for the worthy Professor was very humble in his own conceit.
Why everybody liked him was what puzzled Jo,
He was neither rich nor great,
young nor handsome,
in no respect what is called fascinating,
and yet he was as attractive as a genial fire,
and people seemed to gather about him as naturally as about a warm hearth.
He was poor,
yet always appeared to be giving something away;
yet everyone was his friend;
no longer young,
but as happy-hearted as a boy;
plain and peculiar,
yet his face looked beautiful to many,
and his oddities were freely forgiven for his sake.
Jo often watched him,
trying to discover the charm,
and at last decided that it was benevolence which worked the miracle.
If he had any sorrow,
'it sat with its head under its wing',
and he turned only his sunny side to the world.
There were lines upon his forehead,
but Time seemed to have touched him gently,
remembering how kind he was to others.
The pleasant curves about his mouth were the memorials of many friendly words and cheery laughs,
his eyes were never cold or hard,
and his big hand had a warm,
strong grasp that was more expressive than words.
His very clothes seemed to partake of the hospitable nature of the wearer.
They looked as if they were at ease,
and liked to make him comfortable.
His capacious waistcoat was suggestive of a large heart underneath.
His rusty coat had a social air,
and the baggy pockets plainly proved that little hands often went in empty and came out full.
His very boots were benevolent,
and his collars never stiff and raspy like other people's.
said Jo to herself,
when she at length discovered that genuine good will toward one's fellow men could beautify and dignify even a stout German teacher,
who shoveled in his dinner,
darned his own socks,
and was burdened with the name of Bhaer.
Jo valued goodness highly,
but she also possessed a most feminine respect for intellect,
and a little discovery which she made about the Professor added much to her regard for him.
He never spoke of himself,
and no one ever knew that in his native city he had been a man much honored and esteemed for learning and integrity,
till a countryman came to see him.
He never spoke of himself,
and in a conversation with Miss Norton divulged the pleasing fact.
From her Jo learned it,
and liked it all the better because Mr. Bhaer had never told it.
She felt proud to know that he was an honored Professor in Berlin,
though only a poor language-master in America,
and his homely,
hard-working life was much beautified by the spice of romance which this discovery gave it.
Another and a better gift than intellect was shown her in a most unexpected manner.
Miss Norton had the entree into most society,
which Jo would have had no chance of seeing but for her.
The solitary woman felt an interest in the ambitious girl,
and kindly conferred many favors of this sort both on Jo and the Professor.
She took them with her one night to a select symposium,
held in honor of several celebrities.
Jo went prepared to bow down and adore the mighty ones whom she had worshiped with youthful enthusiasm afar off.
But her reverence for genius received a severe shock that night,
and it took her some time to recover from the discovery that the great creatures were only men and women after all.
Imagine her dismay,
on stealing a glance of timid admiration at the poet whose lines suggested an ethereal being fed on
to behold him devouring his supper with an ardor which flushed his intellectual countenance.
Turning as from a fallen idol,
she made other discoveries which rapidly dispelled her romantic illusions.
The great novelist vibrated between two decanters with the regularity of a pendulum;
the famous divine flirted openly with one of the Madame de Staels of the age,
who looked daggers at another Corinne,
who was amiably satirizing her,
after outmaneuvering her in efforts to absorb the profound philosopher,
who imbibed tea Johnsonianly and appeared to slumber,
the loquacity of the lady rendering speech impossible.
The scientific celebrities,
forgetting their mollusks and glacial periods,
gossiped about art,
while devoting themselves to oysters and ices with characteristic energy;
the young musician,
who was charming the city like a second Orpheus,
and the specimen of the British nobility present happened to be the most ordinary man of the party.
Before the evening was half over,
Jo felt so completely disillusioned,
that she sat down in a corner to recover herself.
Mr. Bhaer soon joined her,
looking rather out of his element,
and presently several of the philosophers,
each mounted on his hobby,
came ambling up to hold an intellectual tournament in the recess.
The conversations were miles beyond Jo's comprehension,
but she enjoyed it,
though Kant and Hegel were unknown gods,
the Subjective and Objective unintelligible terms,
and the only thing
'evolved from her inner consciousness' was a bad headache after it was all over.
It dawned upon her gradually that the world was being picked to pieces,
and put together on new and,
according to the talkers,
on infinitely better principles than before,
that religion was in a fair way to be reasoned into nothingness,
and intellect was to be the only God.
Jo knew nothing about philosophy or metaphysics of any sort,
but a curious excitement,
came over her as she listened with a sense of being turned adrift into time and space,
like a young balloon out on a holiday.
She looked round to see how the Professor liked it,
and found him looking at her with the grimmest expression she had ever seen him wear.
He shook his head and beckoned her to come away,
but she was fascinated just then by the freedom of Speculative Philosophy,
and kept her seat,
trying to find out what the wise gentlemen intended to rely upon after they had annihilated all the old beliefs.
Mr. Bhaer was a diffident man and slow to offer his own opinions,
not because they were unsettled,
but too sincere and earnest to be lightly spoken.
As he glanced from Jo to several other young people,
attracted by the brilliancy of the philosophic pyrotechnics,
he knit his brows and longed to speak,
fearing that some inflammable young soul would be led astray by the rockets,
to find when the display was over that they had only an empty stick or a scorched hand.
He bore it as long as he could,
but when he was appealed to for an opinion,
he blazed up with honest indignation and defended religion with all the eloquence of truth --an eloquence which made his broken English musical and his plain face beautiful.
He had a hard fight,
for the wise men argued well,
but he didn't know when he was beaten and stood to his colors like a man.
as he talked,
the world got right again to Jo.
The old beliefs,
that had lasted so long,
seemed better than the new.
God was not a blind force,
and immortality was not a pretty fable,
but a blessed fact.
She felt as if she had solid ground under her feet again,
and when Mr. Bhaer paused,
outtalked but not one whit convinced,
Jo wanted to clap her hands and thank him.
She did neither,
but she remembered the scene,
and gave the Professor her heartiest respect,
for she knew it cost him an effort to speak out then and there,
because his conscience would not let him be silent.
She began to see that character is a better possession than money,
and to feel that if greatness is what a wise man has defined it to be,
and good will',
then her friend Friedrich Bhaer was not only good,
This belief strengthened daily.
She valued his esteem,
she coveted his respect,
she wanted to be worthy of his friendship,
and just when the wish was sincerest,
she came near to losing everything.
It all grew out of a cocked hat,
for one evening the Professor came in to give Jo her lesson with a paper soldier cap on his head,
which Tina had put there and he had forgotten to take off.
"It's evident he doesn't look in his glass before coming down,"
with a smile,
as he said "Goot efening,"
and sat soberly down,
quite unconscious of the ludicrous contrast between his subject and his headgear,
for he was going to read her the Death of Wallenstein.
She said nothing at first,
for she liked to hear him laugh out his big,
hearty laugh when anything funny happened,
so she left him to discover it for himself,
and presently forgot all about it,
for to hear a German read Schiller is rather an absorbing occupation.
After the reading came the lesson,
which was a lively one,
for Jo was in a gay mood that night,
and the cocked hat kept her eyes dancing with merriment.
The Professor didn't know what to make of her,
and stopped at last to ask with an air of mild surprise that was irresistible ...
for what do you laugh in your master's face?
Haf you no respect for me,
that you go on so bad?"
"How can I be respectful,
when you forget to take your hat off?"
Lifting his hand to his head,
the absent-minded Professor gravely felt and removed the little cocked hat,
looked at it a minute,
and then threw back his head and laughed like a merry bass viol.
I see him now,
it is that imp Tina who makes me a fool with my cap.
it is nothing,
but see you,
if this lesson goes not well,
you too shall wear him."
But the lesson did not go at all for a few minutes because Mr. Bhaer caught sight of a picture on the hat,
and unfolding it,
said with great disgust,
"I wish these papers did not come in the house.
They are not for children to see,
nor young people to read.
It is not well,
and I haf no patience with those who make this harm."
Jo glanced at the sheet and saw a pleasing illustration composed of a lunatic,
and a viper.
She did not like it,
but the impulse that made her turn it over was not one of displeasure but fear,
because for a minute she fancied the paper was the Volcano.
It was not,
and her panic subsided as she remembered that even if it had been and one of her own tales in it,
there would have been no name to betray her.
She had betrayed herself,
by a look and a blush,
for though an absent man,
the Professor saw a good deal more than people fancied.
He knew that Jo wrote,
and had met her down among the newspaper offices more than once,
but as she never spoke of it,
he asked no questions in spite of a strong desire to see her work.
Now it occurred to him that she was doing what she was ashamed to own,
and it troubled him.
He did not say to himself,
"It is none of my business.
I've no right to say anything,"
as many people would have done.
He only remembered that she was young and poor,
a girl far away from mother's love and father's care,
and he was moved to help her with an impulse as quick and natural as that which would prompt him to put out his hand to save a baby from a puddle.
All this flashed through his mind in a minute,
but not a trace of it appeared in his face,
and by the time the paper was turned,
and Jo's needle threaded,
he was ready to say quite naturally,
but very gravely ...
you are right to put it from you.
I do not think that good young girls should see such things.
They are made pleasant to some,
but I would more rather give my boys gunpowder to play with than this bad trash."
"All may not be bad,
and if there is a demand for it,
I don't see any harm in supplying it.
Many very respectable people make an honest living out of what are called sensation stories,"
scratching gathers so energetically that a row of little slits followed her pin.
"There is a demand for whisky,
but I think you and I do not care to sell it.
If the respectable people knew what harm they did,
they would not feel that the living was honest.
They haf no right to put poison in the sugarplum,
and let the small ones eat it.
they should think a little,
and sweep mud in the street before they do this thing."
Mr. Bhaer spoke warmly,
and walked to the fire,
crumpling the paper in his hands.
Jo sat still,
looking as if the fire had come to her,
for her cheeks burned long after the cocked hat had turned to smoke and gone harmlessly up the chimney.
"I should like much to send all the rest after him,"
muttered the Professor,
coming back with a relieved air.
Jo thought what a blaze her pile of papers upstairs would make,
and her hard-earned money lay rather heavily on her conscience at that minute.
Then she thought consolingly to herself,
"Mine are not like that,
they are only silly,
so I won't be worried,"
and taking up her book,
with a studious face,
"Shall we go on,
I'll be very good and proper now."
"I shall hope so,"
was all he said,
but he meant more than she imagined,
and the grave,
kind look he gave her made her feel as if the words Weekly Volcano were printed in large type on her forehead.
As soon as she went to her room,
she got out her papers,
and carefully reread every one of her stories.
Being a little shortsighted,
Mr. Bhaer sometimes used eye glasses,
and Jo had tried them once,
smiling to see how they magnified the fine print of her book.
Now she seemed to have on the Professor's mental or moral spectacles also,
for the faults of these poor stories glared at her dreadfully and filled her with dismay.
"They are trash,
and will soon be worse trash if I go on,
for each is more sensational than the last.
I've gone blindly on,
hurting myself and other people,
for the sake of money.
I know it's so,
for I can't read this stuff in sober earnest without being horribly ashamed of it,
and what should I do if they were seen at home or Mr. Bhaer got hold of them?"
Jo turned hot at the bare idea,
and stuffed the whole bundle into her stove,
nearly setting the chimney afire with the blaze.
that's the best place for such inflammable nonsense.
I'd better burn the house down,
than let other people blow themselves up with my gunpowder,"
she thought as she watched the Demon of the Jura whisk away,
a little black cinder with fiery eyes.
But when nothing remained of all her three month's work except a heap of ashes and the money in her lap,
Jo looked sober,
as she sat on the floor,
wondering what she ought to do about her wages.
"I think I haven't done much harm yet,
and may keep this to pay for my time,"
after a long meditation,
"I almost wish I hadn't any conscience,
it's so inconvenient.
If I didn't care about doing right,
and didn't feel uncomfortable when doing wrong,
I should get on capitally.
I can't help wishing sometimes,
that Mother and Father hadn't been so particular about such things."
instead of wishing that,
thank God that
'Father and Mother were particular',
and pity from your heart those who have no such guardians to hedge them round with principles which may seem like prison walls to impatient youth,
but which will prove sure foundations to build character upon in womanhood.
Jo wrote no more sensational stories,
deciding that the money did not pay for her share of the sensation,
but going to the other extreme,
as is the way with people of her stamp,
she took a course of Mrs. Sherwood,
and Hannah More,
and then produced a tale which might have been more properly called an essay or a sermon,
so intensely moral was it.
She had her doubts about it from the beginning,
for her lively fancy and girlish romance felt as ill at ease in the new style as she would have done masquerading in the stiff and cumbrous costume of the last century.
She sent this didactic gem to several markets,
but it found no purchaser,
and she was inclined to agree with Mr. Dashwood that morals didn't sell.
Then she tried a child's story,
which she could easily have disposed of if she had not been mercenary enough to demand filthy lucre for it.
The only person who offered enough to make it worth her while to try juvenile literature was a worthy gentleman who felt it his mission to convert all the world to his particular belief.
But much as she liked to write for children,
Jo could not consent to depict all her naughty boys as being eaten by bears or tossed by mad bulls because they did not go to a particular Sabbath school,
nor all the good infants who did go as rewarded by every kind of bliss,
from gilded gingerbread to escorts of angels when they departed this life with psalms or sermons on their lisping tongues.
So nothing came of these trials,
and Jo corked up her inkstand,
and said in a fit of very wholesome humility ...
"I don't know anything.
I'll wait until I do before I try again,
'sweep mud in the street' if I can't do better,
Which decision proved that her second tumble down the beanstalk had done her some good.
While these internal revolutions were going on,
her external life had been as busy and uneventful as usual,
and if she sometimes looked serious or a little sad no one observed it but Professor Bhaer.
He did it so quietly that Jo never knew he was watching to see if she would accept and profit by his reproof,
but she stood the test,
and he was satisfied,
for though no words passed between them,
he knew that she had given up writing.
Not only did he guess it by the fact that the second finger of her right hand was no longer inky,
but she spent her evenings downstairs now,
was met no more among newspaper offices,
and studied with a dogged patience,
which assured him that she was bent on occupying her mind with something useful,
if not pleasant.
He helped her in many ways,
proving himself a true friend,
and Jo was happy,
for while her pen lay idle,
she was learning other lessons besides German,
and laying a foundation for the sensation story of her own life.
It was a pleasant winter and a long one,
for she did not leave Mrs. Kirke till June.
Everyone seemed sorry when the time came.
The children were inconsolable,
and Mr. Bhaer's hair stuck straight up all over his head,
for he always rumpled it wildly when disturbed in mind.
you are happy that you haf a home to go in,"
when she told him,
and sat silently pulling his beard in the corner,
while she held a little levee on that last evening.
She was going early,
so she bade them all goodbye overnight,
and when his turn came,
she said warmly,
you won't forget to come and see us,
if you ever travel our way,
I'll never forgive you if you do,
for I want them all to know my friend."
Shall I come?"
looking down at her with an eager expression which she did not see.
come next month.
Laurie graduates then,
and you'd enjoy commencement as something new."
"That is your best friend,
of whom you speak?"
he said in an altered tone.
my boy Teddy.
I'm very proud of him and should like you to see him."
Jo looked up then,
quite unconscious of anything but her own pleasure in the prospect of showing them to one another.
Something in Mr. Bhaer's face suddenly recalled the fact that she might find Laurie more than a
and simply because she particularly wished not to look as if anything was the matter,
she involuntarily began to blush,
and the more she tried not to,
the redder she grew.
If it had not been for Tina on her knee.
She didn't know what would have become of her.
Fortunately the child was moved to hug her,
so she managed to hide her face an instant,
hoping the Professor did not see it.
But he did,
and his own changed again from that momentary anxiety to its usual expression,
as he said cordially ...
"I fear I shall not make the time for that,
but I wish the friend much success,
and you all happiness.
Gott bless you!"
And with that,
he shook hands warmly,
and went away.
But after the boys were abed,
he sat long before his fire with the tired look on his face and the
lying heavy at his heart.
when he remembered Jo as she sat with the little child in her lap and that new softness in her face,
he leaned his head on his hands a minute,
and then roamed about the room,
as if in search of something that he could not find.
"It is not for me,
I must not hope it now,"
he said to himself,
with a sigh that was almost a groan.
as if reproaching himself for the longing that he could not repress,
he went and kissed the two tousled heads upon the pillow,
took down his seldom-used meerschaum,
and opened his Plato.
He did his best and did it manfully,
but I don't think he found that a pair of rampant boys,
or even the divine Plato,
were very satisfactory substitutes for wife and child at home.
Early as it was,
he was at the station next morning to see Jo off,
and thanks to him,
she began her solitary journey with the pleasant memory of a familiar face smiling its farewell,
a bunch of violets to keep her company,
and best of all,
the happy thought,
the winter's gone,
and I've written no books,
earned no fortune,
but I've made a friend worth having and I'll try to keep him all my life."
Whatever his motive might have been,
Laurie studied to some purpose that year,
for he graduated with honor,
and gave the Latin oration with the grace of a Phillips and the eloquence of a Demosthenes,
so his friends said.
They were all there,
his grandfather --oh,
so proud --Mr. and Mrs. March,
John and Meg,
Jo and Beth,
and all exulted over him with the sincere admiration which boys make light of at the time,
but fail to win from the world by any after-triumphs.
"I've got to stay for this confounded supper,
but I shall be home early tomorrow.
You'll come and meet me as usual,
as he put the sisters into the carriage after the joys of the day were over.
but he meant Jo,
for she was the only one who kept up the old custom.
She had not the heart to refuse her splendid,
successful boy anything,
and answered warmly ...
rain or shine,
and march before you,
'Hail the conquering hero comes' on a jew's-harp."
Laurie thanked her with a look that made her think in a sudden panic,
I know he'll say something,
and then what shall I do?"
Evening meditation and morning work somewhat allayed her fears,
and having decided that she wouldn't be vain enough to think people were going to propose when she had given them every reason to know what her answer would be,
she set forth at the appointed time,
hoping Teddy wouldn't do anything to make her hurt his poor feelings.
A call at Meg's,
and a refreshing sniff and sip at the Daisy and Demijohn,
still further fortified her for the tete-a-tete,
but when she saw a stalwart figure looming in the distance,
she had a strong desire to turn about and run away.
"Where's the jew's-harp,
as soon as he was within speaking distance.
"I forgot it."
And Jo took heart again,
for that salutation could not be called lover-like.
She always used to take his arm on these occasions,
now she did not,
and he made no complaint,
which was a bad sign,
but talked on rapidly about all sorts of faraway subjects,
till they turned from the road into the little path that led homeward through the grove.
Then he walked more slowly,
suddenly lost his fine flow of language,
and now and then a dreadful pause occurred.
To rescue the conversation from one of the wells of silence into which it kept falling,
Jo said hastily,
"Now you must have a good long holiday!"
"I intend to."
Something in his resolute tone made Jo look up quickly to find him looking down at her with an expression that assured her the dreaded moment had come,
and made her put out her hand with an imploring,
and you must hear me.
It's no use,
we've got to have it out,
and the sooner the better for both of us,"
getting flushed and excited all at once.
"Say what you like then.
with a desperate sort of patience.
Laurie was a young lover,
but he was in earnest,
and meant to
'have it out',
if he died in the attempt,
so he plunged into the subject with characteristic impetuousity,
saying in a voice that would get choky now and then,
in spite of manful efforts to keep it steady ...
"I've loved you ever since I've known you,
couldn't help it,
you've been so good to me.
I've tried to show it,
but you wouldn't let me.
Now I'm going to make you hear,
and give me an answer,
for I can't go on so any longer."
"I wanted to save you this.
I thought you'd understand ..."
finding it a great deal harder than she expected.
"I know you did,
but the girls are so queer you never know what they mean.
They say no when they mean yes,
and drive a man out of his wits just for the fun of it,"
entrenching himself behind an undeniable fact.
I never wanted to make you care for me so,
and I went away to keep you from it if I could."
"I thought so.
It was like you,
but it was no use.
I only loved you all the more,
and I worked hard to please you,
and I gave up billiards and everything you didn't like,
and waited and never complained,
for I hoped you'd love me,
though I'm not half good enough ..."
Here there was a choke that couldn't be controlled,
so he decapitated buttercups while he cleared his
you're a great deal too good for me,
and I'm so grateful to you,
and so proud and fond of you,
I don't know why I can't love you as you want me to.
but I can't change the feeling,
and it would be a lie to say I do when I don't."
He stopped short,
and caught both her hands as he put his question with a look that she did not soon forget.
They were in the grove now,
close by the stile,
and when the last words fell reluctantly from Jo's lips,
Laurie dropped her hands and turned as if to go on,
but for once in his life the fence was too much for him.
So he just laid his head down on the mossy post,
and stood so still that Jo was frightened.
so desperately sorry,
I could kill myself if it would do any good!
I wish you wouldn't take it so hard,
I can't help it.
You know it's impossible for people to make themselves love other people if they don't,"
cried Jo inelegantly but remorsefully,
as she softly patted his shoulder,
remembering the time when he had comforted her so long ago.
"They do sometimes,"
said a muffled voice from the post.
"I don't believe it's the right sort of love,
and I'd rather not try it,"
was the decided answer.
There was a long pause,
while a blackbird sung blithely on the willow by the river,
and the tall grass rustled in the wind.
Presently Jo said very soberly,
as she sat down on the step of the stile,
I want to tell you something."
He started as if he had been shot,
threw up his head,
and cried out in a fierce tone,
"Don't tell me that,
I can't bear it now!"
wondering at his violence.
"That you love that old man."
"What old man?"
thinking he must mean his grandfather.
"That devilish Professor you were always writing about.
If you say you love him,
I know I shall do something desperate;"
and he looked as if he would keep his word,
as he clenched his hands with a wrathful spark in his eyes.
Jo wanted to laugh,
but restrained herself and said warmly,
for she too,
was getting excited with all this,
He isn't old,
nor anything bad,
but good and kind,
and the best friend I've got,
next to you.
don't fly into a passion.
I want to be kind,
but I know I shall get angry if you abuse my Professor.
I haven't the least idea of loving him or anybody else."
"But you will after a while,
and then what will become of me?"
"You'll love someone else too,
like a sensible boy,
and forget all this trouble."
"I can't love anyone else,
and I'll never forget you,
with a stamp to emphasize his passionate words.
"What shall I do with him?"
finding that emotions were more unmanagable than she expected.
"You haven't heard what I wanted to tell you.
Sit down and listen,
for indeed I want to do right and make you happy,"
hoping to soothe him with a little reason,
which proved that she knew nothing about love.
Seeing a ray of hope in that last speech,
Laurie threw himself down on the grass at her feet,
leaned his arm on the lower step of the stile,
and looked up at her with an expectant face.
Now that arrangement was not conducive to calm speech or clear thought on Jo's part,
for how could she say hard things to her boy while he watched her with eyes full of love and longing,
and lashes still wet with the bitter drop or two her hardness of heart had wrung from him?
She gently turned his head away,
as she stroked the wavy hair which had been allowed to grow for her sake --how touching that was,
to be sure!
"I agree with Mother that you and I are not suited to each other,
because our quick tempers and strong wills would probably make us very miserable,
if we were so foolish as to ..."
Jo paused a little over the last word,
but Laurie uttered it with a rapturous expression.
"Marry --no we shouldn't!
If you loved me,
I should be a perfect saint,
for you could make me anything you like."
I've tried and failed,
and I won't risk our happiness by such a serious experiment.
We don't agree and we never shall,
so we'll be good friends all our lives,
but we won't go and do anything rash."
we will if we get the chance,"
muttered Laurie rebelliously.
"Now do be reasonable,
and take a sensible view of the case,"
almost at her wit's end.
"I won't be reasonable.
I don't want to take what you call
'a sensible view'.
It won't help me,
and it only makes it harder.
I don't believe you've got any heart."
"I wish I hadn't."
There was a little quiver in Jo's voice,
and thinking it a good omen,
Laurie turned round,
bringing all his persuasive powers to bear as he said,
in the wheedlesome tone that had never been so dangerously wheedlesome before,
"Don't disappoint us,
Everyone expects it.
Grandpa has set his heart upon it,
your people like it,
and I can't get on without you.
Say you will,
and let's be happy.
Not until months afterward did Jo understand how she had the strength of mind to hold fast to the resolution she had made when she decided that she did not love her boy,
and never could.
It was very hard to do,
but she did it,
knowing that delay was both useless and cruel.
"I can't say
so I won't say it at all.
You'll see that I'm right,
and thank me for it ..."
she began solemnly.
"I'll be hanged if I do!"
and Laurie bounced up off the grass,
burning with indignation at the very idea.
"You'll get over this after a while,
and find some lovely accomplished girl,
who will adore you,
and make a fine mistress for your fine house.
I'm homely and awkward and odd and old,
and you'd be ashamed of me,
and we should quarrel --we can't help it even now,
you see --and I shouldn't like elegant society and you would,
and you'd hate my scribbling,
and I couldn't get on without it,
and we should be unhappy,
and wish we hadn't done it,
and everything would be horrid!"
finding it hard to listen patiently to this prophetic burst.
except that I don't believe I shall ever marry.
I'm happy as I am,
and love my liberty too well to be in a hurry to give it up for any mortal man."
"I know better!"
broke in Laurie.
"You think so now,
but there'll come a time when you will care for somebody,
and you'll love him tremendously,
and live and die for him.
I know you will,
it's your way,
and I shall have to stand by and see it,"
and the despairing lover cast his hat upon the ground with a gesture that would have seemed comical,
if his face had not been so tragic.
I will live and die for him,
if he ever comes and makes me love him in spite of myself,
and you must do the best you can!"
losing patience with poor Teddy.
"I've done my best,
but you won't be reasonable,
and it's selfish of you to keep teasing for what I can't give.
I shall always be fond of you,
very fond indeed,
as a friend,
but I'll never marry you,
and the sooner you believe it the better for both of us --so now!"
That speech was like gunpowder.
Laurie looked at her a minute as if he did not quite know what to do with himself,
then turned sharply away,
saying in a desperate sort of tone,
"You'll be sorry some day,
where are you going?"
for his face frightened her.
"To the devil!"
was the consoling answer.
For a minute Jo's heart stood still,
as he swung himself down the bank toward the river,
but it takes much folly,
sin or misery to send a young man to a violent death,
and Laurie was not one of the weak sort who are conquered by a single failure.
He had no thought of a melodramatic plunge,
but some blind instinct led him to fling hat and coat into his boat,
and row away with all his might,
making better time up the river than he had done in any race.
Jo drew a long breath and unclasped her hands as she watched the poor fellow trying to outstrip the trouble which he carried in his heart.
"That will do him good,
and he'll come home in such a tender,
penitent state of mind,
that I shan't dare to see him,"
as she went slowly home,
feeling as if she had murdered some innocent thing,
and buried it under the leaves.
"Now I must go and prepare Mr. Laurence to be very kind to my poor boy.
I wish he'd love Beth,
perhaps he may in time,
but I begin to think I was mistaken about her.
How can girls like to have lovers and refuse them?
I think it's dreadful."
Being sure that no one could do it so well as herself,
she went straight to Mr. Laurence,
told the hard story bravely through,
and then broke down,
crying so dismally over her own insensibility that the kind old gentleman,
though sorely disappointed,
did not utter a reproach.
He found it difficult to understand how any girl could help loving Laurie,
and hoped she would change her mind,
but he knew even better than Jo that love cannot be forced,
so he shook his head sadly and resolved to carry his boy out of harm's way,
for Young Impetuosity's parting words to Jo disturbed him more than he would confess.
When Laurie came home,
dead tired but quite composed,
his grandfather met him as if he knew nothing,
and kept up the delusion very successfully for an hour or two.
But when they sat together in the twilight,
the time they used to enjoy so much,
it was hard work for the old man to ramble on as usual,
and harder still for the young one to listen to praises of the last year's success,
which to him now seemed like love's labor lost.
He bore it as long as he could,
then went to his piano and began to play.
The windows were open,
walking in the garden with Beth,
for once understood music better than her sister,
for he played the
and played it as he never did before.
"That's very fine,
I dare say,
but it's sad enough to make one cry.
Give us something gayer,
said Mr. Laurence,
whose kind old heart was full of sympathy,
which he longed to show but knew not how.
Laurie dashed into a livelier strain,
played stormily for several minutes,
and would have got through bravely,
if in a momentary lull Mrs. March's voice had not been heard calling,
I want you."
Just what Laurie longed to say,
with a different meaning!
As he listened,
he lost his place,
the music ended with a broken chord,
and the musician sat silent in the dark.
"I can't stand this,"
muttered the old gentleman.
Up he got,
groped his way to the piano,
laid a kind hand on either of the broad shoulders,
as gently as a woman,
No answer for an instant,
then Laurie asked sharply,
"Who told you?"
"Then there's an end of it!"
And he shook off his grandfather's hands with an impatient motion,
for though grateful for the sympathy,
his man's pride could not bear a man's pity.
I want to say one thing,
and then there shall be an end of it,"
returned Mr. Laurence with unusual mildness.
"You won't care to stay at home now,
"I don't intend to run away from a girl.
Jo can't prevent my seeing her,
and I shall stay and do it as long as I like,"
interrupted Laurie in a defiant tone.
"Not if you are the gentleman I think you.
but the girl can't help it,
and the only thing left for you to do is to go away for a time.
Where will you go?"
I don't care what becomes of me,"
and Laurie got up with a reckless laugh that grated on his grandfather's ear.
"Take it like a man,
and don't do anything rash,
for God's sake.
Why not go abroad,
as you planned,
and forget it?"
"But you've been wild to go,
and I promised you should when you got through college."
but I didn't mean to go alone!"
and Laurie walked fast through the room with an expression which it was well his grandfather did not see.
"I don't ask you to go alone.
There's someone ready and glad to go with you,
anywhere in the world."
stopping to listen.
Laurie came back as quickly as he went,
and put out his hand,
"I'm a selfish brute,
but --you know --Grandfather --"
"Lord help me,
I do know,
for I've been through it all before,
once in my own young days,
and then with your father.
my dear boy,
just sit quietly down and hear my plan.
It's all settled,
and can be carried out at once,"
said Mr. Laurence,
keeping hold of the young man,
as if fearful that he would break away as his father had done before him.
what is it?"
and Laurie sat down,
without a sign of interest in face or voice.
"There is business in London that needs looking after.
I meant you should attend to it,
but I can do it better myself,
and things here will get on very well with Brooke to manage them.
My partners do almost everything,
I'm merely holding on until you take my place,
and can be off at any time."
"But you hate traveling,
I can't ask it of you at your age,"
who was grateful for the sacrifice,
but much preferred to go alone,
if he went at all.
The old gentleman knew that perfectly well,
and particularly desired to prevent it,
for the mood in which he found his grandson assured him that it would not be wise to leave him to his own devices.
stifling a natural regret at the thought of the home comforts he would leave behind him,
he said stoutly,
"Bless your soul,
I'm not superannuated yet.
I quite enjoy the idea.
It will do me good,
and my old bones won't suffer,
for traveling nowadays is almost as easy as sitting in a chair."
A restless movement from Laurie suggested that his chair was not easy,
or that he did not like the plan,
and made the old man add hastily,
"I don't mean to be a marplot or a burden.
I go because I think you'd feel happier than if I was left behind.
I don't intend to gad about with you,
but leave you free to go where you like,
while I amuse myself in my own way.
I've friends in London and Paris,
and should like to visit them.
Meantime you can go to Italy,
where you will,
and enjoy pictures,
and adventures to your heart's content."
Laurie felt just then that his heart was entirely broken and the world a howling wilderness,
but at the sound of certain words which the old gentleman artfully introduced into his closing sentence,
the broken heart gave an unexpected leap,
and a green oasis or two suddenly appeared in the howling wilderness.
and then said,
in a spiritless tone,
"Just as you like,
It doesn't matter where I go or what I do."
"It does to me,
I give you entire liberty,
but I trust you to make an honest use of it.
Promise me that,
"Anything you like,
thought the old gentleman.
"You don't care now,
but there'll come a time when that promise will keep you out of mischief,
or I'm much mistaken."
Being an energetic individual,
Mr. Laurence struck while the iron was hot,
and before the blighted being recovered spirit enough to rebel,
they were off.
During the time necessary for preparation,
Laurie bore himself as young gentleman usually do in such cases.
He was moody,
and pensive by turns,
lost his appetite,
neglected his dress and devoted much time to playing tempestuously on his piano,
but consoled himself by staring at her from his window,
with a tragic face that haunted her dreams by night and oppressed her with a heavy sense of guilt by day.
Unlike some sufferers,
he never spoke of his unrequited passion,
and would allow no one,
not even Mrs. March,
to attempt consolation or offer sympathy.
On some accounts,
this was a relief to his friends,
but the weeks before his departure were very uncomfortable,
and everyone rejoiced that the
dear fellow was going away to forget his trouble,
and come home happy'.
he smiled darkly at their delusion,
but passed it by with the sad superiority of one who knew that his fidelity like his love was unalterable.
When the parting came he affected high spirits,
to conceal certain inconvenient emotions which seemed inclined to assert themselves.
This gaiety did not impose upon anybody,
but they tried to look as if it did for his sake,
and he got on very well till Mrs. March kissed him,
with a whisper full of motherly solicitude.
Then feeling that he was going very fast,
he hastily embraced them all round,
not forgetting the afflicted Hannah,
and ran downstairs as if for his life.
Jo followed a minute after to wave her hand to him if he looked round.
He did look round,
put his arms about her as she stood on the step above him,
and looked up at her with a face that made his short appeal eloquent and pathetic.
I wish I could!"
That was all,
except a little pause.
Then Laurie straightened himself up,
"It's all right,
and went away without another word.
but it wasn't all right,
and Jo did mind,
for while the curly head lay on her arm a minute after her hard answer,
she felt as if she had stabbed her dearest friend,
and when he left her without a look behind him,
she knew that the boy Laurie never would come again.