Jo was alone in the twilight,
lying on the old sofa,
looking at the fire,
It was her favorite way of spending the hour of dusk.
No one disturbed her,
and she used to lie there on Beth's little red pillow,
or thinking tender thoughts of the sister who never seemed far away.
Her face looked tired,
and rather sad,
for tomorrow was her birthday,
and she was thinking how fast the years went by,
how old she was getting,
and how little she seemed to have accomplished.
and nothing to show for it.
Jo was mistaken in that.
There was a good deal to show,
and by-and-by she saw,
and was grateful for it.
"An old maid,
that's what I'm to be.
A literary spinster,
with a pen for a spouse,
a family of stories for children,
and twenty years hence a morsel of fame,
like poor Johnson,
I'm old and can't enjoy it,
and can't share it,
and don't need it.
I needn't be a sour saint nor a selfish sinner,
I dare say,
old maids are very comfortable when they get used to it,
and there Jo sighed,
as if the prospect was not inviting.
It seldom is,
and thirty seems the end of all things to five-and-twenty.
But it's not as bad as it looks,
and one can get on quite happily if one has something in one's self to fall back upon.
girls begin to talk about being old maids,
but secretly resolve that they never will be.
At thirty they say nothing about it,
but quietly accept the fact,
and if sensible,
console themselves by remembering that they have twenty more useful,
in which they may be learning to grow old gracefully.
Don't laugh at the spinsters,
for often very tender,
tragic romances are hidden away in the hearts that beat so quietly under the sober gowns,
and many silent sacrifices of youth,
make the faded faces beautiful in God's sight.
Even the sad,
sour sisters should be kindly dealt with,
because they have missed the sweetest part of life,
if for no other reason.
And looking at them with compassion,
girls in their bloom should remember that they too may miss the blossom time.
That rosy cheeks don't last forever,
that silver threads will come in the bonnie brown hair,
kindness and respect will be as sweet as love and admiration now.
which means boys,
be courteous to the old maids,
no matter how poor and plain and prim,
for the only chivalry worth having is that which is the readiest to pay deference to the old,
protect the feeble,
and serve womankind,
regardless of rank,
Just recollect the good aunts who have not only lectured and fussed,
but nursed and petted,
too often without thanks,
the scrapes they have helped you out of,
the tips they have given you from their small store,
the stitches the patient old fingers have set for you,
the steps the willing old feet have taken,
and gratefully pay the dear old ladies the little attentions that women love to receive as long as they live.
The bright-eyed girls are quick to see such traits,
and will like you all the better for them,
and if death,
almost the only power that can part mother and son,
should rob you of yours,
you will be sure to find a tender welcome and maternal cherishing from some Aunt Priscilla,
who has kept the warmest corner of her lonely old heart for
'the best nevvy in the world'.
Jo must have fallen asleep (as I dare say my reader has during this little homily),
for suddenly Laurie's ghost seemed to stand before her,
leaning over her with the very look he used to wear when he felt a good deal and didn't like to show it.
like Jenny in the ballad ...
"She could not think it he,"
and lay staring up at him in startled silence,
till he stooped and kissed her.
Then she knew him,
and flew up,
crying joyfully ...
"Oh my Teddy!
Oh my Teddy!"
you are glad to see me,
My blessed boy,
words can't express my gladness.
"Your mother has got her down at Meg's.
We stopped there by the way,
and there was no getting my wife out of their clutches."
for Laurie uttered those two words with an unconscious pride and satisfaction which betrayed him.
Now I've done it,"
and he looked so guilty that Jo was down on him like a flash.
"You've gone and got married!"
but I never will again,"
and he went down upon his knees,
with a penitent clasping of hands,
and a face full of mischief,
"Very much so,
"Mercy on us.
What dreadful thing will you do next?"
and Jo fell into her seat with a gasp.
but not exactly complimentary,
still in an abject attitude,
but beaming with satisfaction.
"What can you expect,
when you take one's breath away,
creeping in like a burglar,
and letting cats out of bags like that?
you ridiculous boy,
and tell me all about it."
"Not a word,
unless you let me come in my old place,
and promise not to barricade."
Jo laughed at that as she had not done for many a long day,
and patted the sofa invitingly,
as she said in a cordial tone,
"The old pillow is up garret,
and we don't need it now.
"How good it sounds to hear you say
No one ever calls me that but you,"
and Laurie sat down with an air of great content.
"What does Amy call you?"
"That's like her.
you look it,"
and Jo's eye plainly betrayed that she found her boy comelier than ever.
The pillow was gone,
but there was a barricade,
a natural one,
raised by time,
and change of heart.
Both felt it,
and for a minute looked at one another as if that invisible barrier cast a little shadow over them.
It was gone directly however,
for Laurie said,
with a vain attempt at dignity ...
"Don't I look like a married man and the head of a family?"
"Not a bit,
and you never will.
You've grown bigger and bonnier,
but you are the same scapegrace as ever."
you ought to treat me with more respect,"
who enjoyed it all immensely.
"How can I,
when the mere idea of you,
married and settled,
is so irresistibly funny that I can't keep sober!"
smiling all over her face,
so infectiously that they had another laugh,
and then settled down for a good talk,
quite in the pleasant old fashion.
"It's no use your going out in the cold to get Amy,
for they are all coming up presently.
I couldn't wait.
I wanted to be the one to tell you the grand surprise,
'first skim' as we used to say when we squabbled about the cream."
"Of course you did,
and spoiled your story by beginning at the wrong end.
and tell me how it all happened.
I'm pining to know."
I did it to please Amy,"
with a twinkle that made Jo exclaim ...
"Fib number one.
Amy did it to please you.
and tell the truth,
if you can,
"Now she's beginning to marm it.
Isn't it jolly to hear her?"
said Laurie to the fire,
and the fire glowed and sparkled as if it quite agreed.
"It's all the same,
she and I being one.
We planned to come home with the Carrols,
a month or more ago,
but they suddenly changed their minds,
and decided to pass another winter in Paris.
But Grandpa wanted to come home.
He went to please me,
and I couldn't let him go alone,
neither could I leave Amy,
and Mrs. Carrol had got English notions about chaperons and such nonsense,
and wouldn't let Amy come with us.
So I just settled the difficulty by saying,
'Let's be married,
and then we can do as we like'."
"Of course you did.
You always have things to suit you."
and something in Laurie's voice made Jo say hastily ...
"How did you ever get Aunt to agree?"
"It was hard work,
but between us,
we talked her over,
for we had heaps of good reasons on our side.
There wasn't time to write and ask leave,
but you all liked it,
had consented to it by-and-by,
and it was only
'taking time by the fetlock',
as my wife says."
"Aren't we proud of those two words,
and don't we like to say them?"
addressing the fire in her turn,
and watching with delight the happy light it seemed to kindle in the eyes that had been so tragically gloomy when she saw them last.
she's such a captivating little woman I can't help being proud of her.
then Uncle and Aunt were there to play propriety.
We were so absorbed in one another we were of no mortal use apart,
and that charming arrangement would make everything easy all round,
so we did it."
in a fever of feminine interest and curiosity,
for she could not realize it a particle.
"Six weeks ago,
at the American consul's,
a very quiet wedding of course,
for even in our happiness we didn't forget dear little Beth."
Jo put her hand in his as he said that,
and Laurie gently smoothed the little red pillow,
which he remembered well.
"Why didn't you let us know afterward?"
in a quieter tone,
when they had sat quite still a minute.
"We wanted to surprise you.
We thought we were coming directly home,
but the dear old gentleman,
as soon as we were married,
found he couldn't be ready under a month,
and sent us off to spend our honeymoon wherever we liked.
Amy had once called Valrosa a regular honeymoon home,
so we went there,
and were as happy as people are but once in their lives.
Wasn't it love among the roses!"
Laurie seemed to forget Jo for a minute,
and Jo was glad of it,
for the fact that he told her these things so freely and so naturally assured her that he had quite forgiven and forgotten.
She tried to draw away her hand,
but as if he guessed the thought that prompted the half-involuntary impulse,
Laurie held it fast,
with a manly gravity she had never seen in him before ...
I want to say one thing,
and then we'll put it by forever.
As I told you in my letter when I wrote that Amy had been so kind to me,
I never shall stop loving you,
but the love is altered,
and I have learned to see that it is better as it is.
Amy and you changed places in my heart,
I think it was meant to be so,
and would have come about naturally,
if I had waited,
as you tried to make me,
but I never could be patient,
and so I got a heartache.
I was a boy then,
headstrong and violent,
and it took a hard lesson to show me my mistake.
For it was one,
as you said,
and I found it out,
after making a fool of myself.
Upon my word,
I was so tumbled up in my mind,
at one time,
that I didn't know which I loved best,
you or Amy,
and tried to love you both alike.
But I couldn't,
and when I saw her in Switzerland,
everything seemed to clear up all at once.
You both got into your right places,
and I felt sure that it was well off with the old love before it was on with the new,
that I could honestly share my heart between sister Jo and wife Amy,
and love them dearly.
Will you believe it,
and go back to the happy old times when we first knew one another?"
"I'll believe it,
with all my heart,
we never can be boy and girl again.
The happy old times can't come back,
and we mustn't expect it.
We are man and woman now,
with sober work to do,
for playtime is over,
and we must give up frolicking.
I'm sure you feel this.
I see the change in you,
and you'll find it in me.
I shall miss my boy,
but I shall love the man as much,
and admire him more,
because he means to be what I hoped he would.
We can't be little playmates any longer,
but we will be brother and sister,
to love and help one another all our lives,
He did not say a word,
but took the hand she offered him,
and laid his face down on it for a minute,
feeling that out of the grave of a boyish passion,
there had risen a beautiful,
strong friendship to bless them both.
Presently Jo said cheerfully,
for she didn't want the coming home to be a sad one,
"I can't make it true that you children are really married and going to set up housekeeping.
it seems only yesterday that I was buttoning Amy's pinafore,
and pulling your hair when you teased.
how time does fly!"
"As one of the children is older than yourself,
you needn't talk so like a grandma.
I flatter myself I'm a
'gentleman growed' as Peggotty said of David,
and when you see Amy,
you'll find her rather a precocious infant,"
looking amused at her maternal air.
"You may be a little older in years,
but I'm ever so much older in feeling,
Women always are,
and this last year has been such a hard one that I feel forty."
We left you to bear it alone,
while we went pleasuring.
You are older.
Here's a line,
and there's another.
Unless you smile,
your eyes look sad,
and when I touched the cushion,
I found a tear on it.
You've had a great deal to bear,
and had to bear it all alone.
What a selfish beast I've been!"
and Laurie pulled his own hair,
with a remorseful look.
But Jo only turned over the traitorous pillow,
in a tone which she tried to make more cheerful,
I had Father and Mother to help me,
and the dear babies to comfort me,
and the thought that you and Amy were safe and happy,
to make the troubles here easier to bear.
I am lonely,
but I dare say it's good for me,
"You never shall be again,"
broke in Laurie,
putting his arm about her,
as if to fence out every human ill.
"Amy and I can't get on without you,
so you must come and teach
'the children' to keep house,
and go halves in everything,
just as we used to do,
and let us pet you,
and all be blissfully happy and friendly together."
"If I shouldn't be in the way,
it would be very pleasant.
I begin to feel quite young already,
for somehow all my troubles seemed to fly away when you came.
You always were a comfort,
and Jo leaned her head on his shoulder,
just as she did years ago,
when Beth lay ill and Laurie told her to hold on to him.
He looked down at her,
wondering if she remembered the time,
but Jo was smiling to herself,
as if in truth her troubles had all vanished at his coming.
"You are the same Jo still,
dropping tears about one minute,
and laughing the next.
You look a little wicked now.
What is it,
"I was wondering how you and Amy get on together."
but which rules?"
"I don't mind telling you that she does now,
at least I let her think so,
it pleases her,
By-and-by we shall take turns,
halves one's rights and doubles one's duties."
"You'll go on as you begin,
and Amy will rule you all the days of your life."
she does it so imperceptibly that I don't think I shall mind much.
She is the sort of woman who knows how to rule well.
I rather like it,
for she winds one round her finger as softly and prettily as a skein of silk,
and makes you feel as if she was doing you a favor all the while."
"That ever I should live to see you a henpecked husband and enjoying it!"
with uplifted hands.
It was good to see Laurie square his shoulders,
and smile with masculine scorn at that insinuation,
as he replied,
with his "high and mighty" air,
"Amy is too well-bred for that,
and I am not the sort of man to submit to it.
My wife and I respect ourselves and one another too much ever to tyrannize or quarrel."
Jo liked that,
and thought the new dignity very becoming,
but the boy seemed changing very fast into the man,
and regret mingled with her pleasure.
"I am sure of that.
Amy and you never did quarrel as we used to.
She is the sun and I the wind,
in the fable,
and the sun managed the man best,
"She can blow him up as well as shine on him,"
"Such a lecture as I got at Nice!
I give you my word it was a deal worse than any of your scoldings,
a regular rouser.
I'll tell you all about it sometime,
she never will,
because after telling me that she despised and was ashamed of me,
she lost her heart to the despicable party and married the good-for-nothing."
if she abuses you,
come to me,
and I'll defend you."
"I look as if I needed it,
getting up and striking an attitude which suddenly changed from the imposing to the rapturous,
as Amy's voice was heard calling,
"Where is she?
Where's my dear old Jo?"
In trooped the whole family,
and everyone was hugged and kissed all over again,
and after several vain attempts,
the three wanderers were set down to be looked at and exulted over.
hale and hearty as ever,
was quite as much improved as the others by his foreign tour,
for the crustiness seemed to be nearly gone,
and the old-fashioned courtliness had received a polish which made it kindlier than ever.
It was good to see him beam at
as he called the young pair.
It was better still to see Amy pay him the daughterly duty and affection which completely won his old heart,
and best of all,
to watch Laurie revolve about the two,
as if never tired of enjoying the pretty picture they made.
The minute she put her eyes upon Amy,
Meg became conscious that her own dress hadn't a Parisian air,
that young Mrs. Moffat would be entirely eclipsed by young Mrs. Laurence,
'her ladyship' was altogether a most elegant and graceful woman.
as she watched the pair,
"How well they look together!
I was right,
and Laurie has found the beautiful,
accomplished girl who will become his home better than clumsy old Jo,
and be a pride,
not a torment to him."
Mrs. March and her husband smiled and nodded at each other with happy faces,
for they saw that their youngest had done well,
not only in worldly things,
but the better wealth of love,
For Amy's face was full of the soft brightness which betokens a peaceful heart,
her voice had a new tenderness in it,
and the cool,
prim carriage was changed to a gentle dignity,
both womanly and winning.
No little affectations marred it,
and the cordial sweetness of her manner was more charming than the new beauty or the old grace,
for it stamped her at once with the unmistakable sign of the true gentlewoman she had hoped to become.
"Love has done much for our little girl,"
said her mother softly.
"She has had a good example before her all her life,
Mr. March whispered back,
with a loving look at the worn face and gray head beside him.
Daisy found it impossible to keep her eyes off her
but attached herself like a lap dog to the wonderful chatelaine full of delightful charms.
Demi paused to consider the new relationship before he compromised himself by the rash acceptance of a bribe,
which took the tempting form of a family of wooden bears from Berne.
A flank movement produced an unconditional surrender,
for Laurie knew where to have him.
when I first had the honor of making your acquaintance you hit me in the face.
Now I demand the satisfaction of a gentleman,"
and with that the tall uncle proceeded to toss and tousle the small nephew in a way that damaged his philosophical dignity as much as it delighted his boyish soul.
"Blest if she ain't in silk from head to foot;
ain't it a relishin' sight to see her settin' there as fine as a fiddle,
and hear folks calling little Amy
Laurence!'" muttered old Hannah,
who could not resist frequent "peeks" through the slide as she set the table in a most decidedly promiscuous manner.
Mercy on us,
how they did talk!
then the other,
then all burst out together --trying to tell the history of three years in half an hour.
It was fortunate that tea was at hand,
to produce a lull and provide refreshment --for they would have been hoarse and faint if they had gone on much longer.
Such a happy procession as filed away into the little dining room!
Mr. March proudly escorted Mrs. Laurence.
Mrs. March as proudly leaned on the arm of
The old gentleman took Jo,
with a whispered,
"You must be my girl now,"
and a glance at the empty corner by the fire,
that made Jo whisper back,
"I'll try to fill her place,
The twins pranced behind,
feeling that the millennium was at hand,
for everyone was so busy with the newcomers that they were left to revel at their own sweet will,
and you may be sure they made the most of the opportunity.
Didn't they steal sips of tea,
stuff gingerbread ad libitum,
get a hot biscuit apiece,
and as a crowning trespass,
didn't they each whisk a captivating little tart into their tiny pockets,
there to stick and crumble treacherously,
teaching them that both human nature and a pastry are frail?
Burdened with the guilty consciousness of the sequestered tarts,
and fearing that Dodo's sharp eyes would pierce the thin disguise of cambric and merino which hid their booty,
the little sinners attached themselves to
who hadn't his spectacles on.
who was handed about like refreshments,
returned to the parlor on Father Laurence's arm.
The others paired off as before,
and this arrangement left Jo companionless.
She did not mind it at the minute,
for she lingered to answer Hannah's eager inquiry.
"Will Miss Amy ride in her coop (coupe),
and use all them lovely silver dishes that's stored away over yander?"
"Shouldn't wonder if she drove six white horses,
ate off gold plate,
and wore diamonds and point lace every day.
Teddy thinks nothing too good for her,"
returned Jo with infinite satisfaction.
"No more there is!
Will you have hash or fishballs for breakfast?"
who wisely mingled poetry and prose.
"I don't care,"
and Jo shut the door,
feeling that food was an uncongenial topic just then.
She stood a minute looking at the party vanishing above,
and as Demi's short plaid legs toiled up the last stair,
a sudden sense of loneliness came over her so strongly that she looked about her with dim eyes,
as if to find something to lean upon,
for even Teddy had deserted her.
If she had known what birthday gift was coming every minute nearer and nearer,
she would not have said to herself,
"I'll weep a little weep when I go to bed.
It won't do to be dismal now."
Then she drew her hand over her eyes,
for one of her boyish habits was never to know where her handkerchief was,
and had just managed to call up a smile when there came a knock at the porch door.
She opened with hospitable haste,
and started as if another ghost had come to surprise her,
for there stood a tall bearded gentleman,
beaming on her from the darkness like a midnight sun.
I am so glad to see you!"
with a clutch,
as if she feared the night would swallow him up before she could get him in.
"And I to see Miss Marsch,
you haf a party,"
and the Professor paused as the sound of voices and the tap of dancing feet came down to them.
only the family.
My sister and friends have just come home,
and we are all very happy.
and make one of us."
Though a very social man,
I think Mr. Bhaer would have gone decorously away,
and come again another day,
but how could he,
when Jo shut the door behind him,
and bereft him of his hat?
Perhaps her face had something to do with it,
for she forgot to hide her joy at seeing him,
and showed it with a frankness that proved irresistible to the solitary man,
whose welcome far exceeded his boldest hopes.
"If I shall not be Monsieur de Trop,
I will so gladly see them all.
You haf been ill,
He put the question abruptly,
as Jo hung up his coat,
the light fell on her face,
and he saw a change in it.
but tired and sorrowful.
We have had trouble since I saw you last."
My heart was sore for you when I heard that,"
and he shook hands again,
with such a sympathetic face that Jo felt as if no comfort could equal the look of the kind eyes,
the grasp of the big,
this is my friend,
with a face and tone of such irrepressible pride and pleasure that she might as well have blown a trumpet and opened the door with a flourish.
If the stranger had any doubts about his reception,
they were set at rest in a minute by the cordial welcome he received.
Everyone greeted him kindly,
for Jo's sake at first,
but very soon they liked him for his own.
They could not help it,
for he carried the talisman that opens all hearts,
and these simple people warmed to him at once,
feeling even the more friendly because he was poor.
For poverty enriches those who live above it,
and is a sure passport to truly hospitable spirits.
Mr. Bhaer sat looking about him with the air of a traveler who knocks at a strange door,
and when it opens,
finds himself at home.
The children went to him like bees to a honeypot,
and establishing themselves on each knee,
proceeded to captivate him by rifling his pockets,
pulling his beard,
and investigating his watch,
with juvenile audacity.
The women telegraphed their approval to one another,
and Mr. March,
feeling that he had got a kindred spirit,
opened his choicest stores for his guest's benefit,
while silent John listened and enjoyed the talk,
but said not a word,
and Mr. Laurence found it impossible to go to sleep.
If Jo had not been otherwise engaged,
Laurie's behavior would have amused her,
for a faint twinge,
not of jealousy,
but something like suspicion,
caused that gentleman to stand aloof at first,
and observe the newcomer with brotherly circumspection.
But it did not last long.
He got interested in spite of himself,
and before he knew it,
was drawn into the circle.
For Mr. Bhaer talked well in this genial atmosphere,
and did himself justice.
He seldom spoke to Laurie,
but he looked at him often,
and a shadow would pass across his face,
as if regretting his own lost youth,
as he watched the young man in his prime.
Then his eyes would turn to Jo so wistfully that she would have surely answered the mute inquiry if she had seen it.
But Jo had her own eyes to take care of,
and feeling that they could not be trusted,
she prudently kept them on the little sock she was knitting,
like a model maiden aunt.
A stealthy glance now and then refreshed her like sips of fresh water after a dusty walk,
for the sidelong peeps showed her several propitious omens.
Mr. Bhaer's face had lost the absent-minded expression,
and looked all alive with interest in the present moment,
actually young and handsome,
forgetting to compare him with Laurie,
as she usually did strange men,
to their great detriment.
Then he seemed quite inspired,
though the burial customs of the ancients,
to which the conversation had strayed,
might not be considered an exhilarating topic.
Jo quite glowed with triumph when Teddy got quenched in an argument,
and thought to herself,
as she watched her father's absorbed face,
"How he would enjoy having such a man as my Professor to talk with every day!"
Mr. Bhaer was dressed in a new suit of black,
which made him look more like a gentleman than ever.
His bushy hair had been cut and smoothly brushed,
but didn't stay in order long,
for in exciting moments,
he rumpled it up in the droll way he used to do,
and Jo liked it rampantly erect better than flat,
because she thought it gave his fine forehead a Jove-like aspect.
how she did glorify that plain man,
as she sat knitting away so quietly,
yet letting nothing escape her,
not even the fact that Mr. Bhaer actually had gold sleeve-buttons in his immaculate wristbands.
"Dear old fellow!
He couldn't have got himself up with more care if he'd been going a-wooing,"
said Jo to herself,
and then a sudden thought born of the words made her blush so dreadfully that she had to drop her ball,
and go down after it to hide her face.
The maneuver did not succeed as well as she expected,
for though just in the act of setting fire to a funeral pyre,
the Professor dropped his torch,
and made a dive after the little blue ball.
Of course they bumped their heads smartly together,
and both came up flushed and laughing,
without the ball,
to resume their seats,
wishing they had not left them.
Nobody knew where the evening went to,
for Hannah skillfully abstracted the babies at an early hour,
nodding like two rosy poppies,
and Mr. Laurence went home to rest.
The others sat round the fire,
utterly regardless of the lapse of time,
whose maternal mind was impressed with a firm conviction that Daisy had tumbled out of bed,
and Demi set his nightgown afire studying the structure of matches,
made a move to go.
"We must have our sing,
in the good old way,
for we are all together again once more,"
feeling that a good shout would be a safe and pleasant vent for the jubilant emotions of her soul.
They were not all there.
But no one found the words thougtless or untrue,
for Beth still seemed among them,
a peaceful presence,
but dearer than ever,
since death could not break the household league that love made disoluble.
The little chair stood in its old place.
The tidy basket,
with the bit of work she left unfinished when the needle grew
was still on its accustomed shelf.
The beloved instrument,
seldom touched now had not been moved,
and above it Beth's face,
serene and smiling,
as in the early days,
looked down upon them,
seeming to say,
I am here."
Let them hear how much you have improved,"
with pardonable pride in his promising pupil.
But Amy whispered,
with full eyes,
as she twirled the faded stool,
I can't show off tonight."
But she did show something better than brilliancy or skill,
for she sang Beth's songs with a tender music in her voice which the best master could not have taught,
and touched the listener's hearts with a sweeter power than any other inspiration could have given her.
The room was very still,
when the clear voice failed suddenly at the last line of Beth's favorite hymn.
It was hard to say ...
Earth hath no sorrow that heaven cannot heal;
and Amy leaned against her husband,
who stood behind her,
feeling that her welcome home was not quite perfect without Beth's kiss.
we must finish with Mignon's song,
for Mr. Bhaer sings that,"
before the pause grew painful.
And Mr. Bhaer cleared his throat with a gratified "Hem!"
as he stepped into the corner where Jo stood,
"You will sing with me?
We go excellently well together."
A pleasing fiction,
by the way,
for Jo had no more idea of music than a grasshopper.
But she would have consented if he had proposed to sing a whole opera,
and warbled away,
blissfully regardless of time and tune.
It didn't much matter,
for Mr. Bhaer sang like a true German,
heartily and well,
and Jo soon subsided into a subdued hum,
that she might listen to the mellow voice that seemed to sing for her alone.
Know'st thou the land where the citron blooms,
used to be the Professor's favorite line,
'das land' meant Germany to him,
but now he seemed to dwell,
with peculiar warmth and melody,
upon the words ...
might I with thee,
and one listener was so thrilled by the tender invitation that she longed to say she did know the land,
and would joyfully depart thither whenever he liked.
The song was considered a great success,
and the singer retired covered with laurels.
But a few minutes afterward,
he forgot his manners entirely,
and stared at Amy putting on her bonnet,
for she had been introduced simply as
and no one had called her by her new name since he came.
He forgot himself still further when Laurie said,
in his most gracious manner,
at parting ...
"My wife and I are very glad to meet you,
Please remember that there is always a welcome waiting for you over the way."
Then the Professor thanked him so heartily,
and looked so suddenly illuminated with satisfaction,
that Laurie thought him the most delightfully demonstrative old fellow he ever met.
"I too shall go,
but I shall gladly come again,
if you will gif me leave,
for a little business in the city will keep me here some days."
He spoke to Mrs. March,
but he looked at Jo,
and the mother's voice gave as cordial an assent as did the daughter's eyes,
for Mrs. March was not so blind to her children's interest as Mrs. Moffat supposed.
"I suspect that is a wise man,"
remarked Mr. March,
with placid satisfaction,
from the hearthrug,
after the last guest had gone.
"I know he is a good one,"
added Mrs. March,
with decided approval,
as she wound up the clock.
"I thought you'd like him,"
was all Jo said,
as she slipped away to her bed.
She wondered what the business was that brought Mr. Bhaer to the city,
and finally decided that he had been appointed to some great honor,
but had been too modest to mention the fact.
If she had seen his face when,
safe in his own room,
he looked at the picture of a severe and rigid young lady,
with a good deal of hair,
who appeared to be gazing darkly into futurity,
it might have thrown some light upon the subject,
especially when he turned off the gas,
and kissed the picture in the dark.
MY LORD AND LADY
could you lend me my wife for half an hour?
The luggage has come,
and I've been making hay of Amy's Paris finery,
trying to find some things I want,"
coming in the next day to find Mrs. Laurence sitting in her mother's lap,
as if being made
'the baby' again.
I forgot that you have any home but this,"
and Mrs. March pressed the white hand that wore the wedding ring,
as if asking pardon for her maternal covetousness.
"I shouldn't have come over if I could have helped it,
but I can't get on without my little woman any more than a ..."
"Weathercock can without the wind,"
as he paused for a simile.
Jo had grown quite her own saucy self again since Teddy came home.
for Amy keeps me pointing due west most of the time,
with only an occasional whiffle round to the south,
and I haven't had an easterly spell since I was married.
Don't know anything about the north,
but am altogether salubrious and balmy,
"Lovely weather so far.
I don't know how long it will last,
but I'm not afraid of storms,
for I'm learning how to sail my ship.
and I'll find your bootjack.
I suppose that's what you are rummaging after among my things.
Men are so helpless,
with a matronly air,
which delighted her husband.
"What are you going to do with yourselves after you get settled?"
buttoning Amy's cloak as she used to button her pinafores.
"We have our plans.
We don't mean to say much about them yet,
because we are such very new brooms,
but we don't intend to be idle.
I'm going into business with a devotion that shall delight Grandfather,
and prove to him that I'm not spoiled.
I need something of the sort to keep me steady.
I'm tired of dawdling,
and mean to work like a man."
what is she going to do?"
asked Mrs. March,
well pleased at Laurie's decision and the energy with which he spoke.
"After doing the civil all round,
and airing our best bonnet,
we shall astonish you by the elegant hospitalities of our mansion,
the brilliant society we shall draw about us,
and the beneficial influence we shall exert over the world at large.
That's about it,
asked Laurie with a quizzical look at Amy.
"Time will show.
and don't shock my family by calling me names before their faces,"
resolving that there should be a home with a good wife in it before she set up a salon as a queen of society.
"How happy those children seem together!"
observed Mr. March,
finding it difficult to become absorbed in his Aristotle after the young couple had gone.
and I think it will last,"
added Mrs. March,
with the restful expression of a pilot who has brought a ship safely into port.
"I know it will.
and Jo sighed,
then smiled brightly as Professor Bhaer opened the gate with an impatient push.
Later in the evening,
when his mind had been set at rest about the bootjack,
Laurie said suddenly to his wife,
"That man intends to marry our Jo!"
"I hope so,
I consider him a trump,
in the fullest sense of that expressive word,
but I do wish he was a little younger and a good deal richer."
don't be too fastidious and worldly-minded.
If they love one another it doesn't matter a particle how old they are nor how poor.
Women never should marry for money ..."
Amy caught herself up short as the words escaped her,
and looked at her husband,
with malicious gravity ...
though you do hear charming girls say that they intend to do it sometimes.
If my memory serves me,
you once thought it your duty to make a rich match.
for your marrying a good-for-nothing like me."
my dearest boy,
don't say that!
I forgot you were rich when I said
I'd have married you if you hadn't a penny,
and I sometimes wish you were poor that I might show how much I love you."
who was very dignified in public and very fond in private,
gave convincing proofs of the truth of her words.
"You don't really think I am such a mercenary creature as I tried to be once,
It would break my heart if you didn't believe that I'd gladly pull in the same boat with you,
even if you had to get your living by rowing on the lake."
"Am I an idiot and a brute?
How could I think so,
when you refused a richer man for me,
and won't let me give you half I want to now,
when I have the right?
Girls do it every day,
and are taught to think it is their only salvation,
but you had better lessons,
and though I trembled for you at one time,
I was not disappointed,
for the daughter was true to the mother's teaching.
I told Mamma so yesterday,
and she looked as glad and grateful as if I'd given her a check for a million,
to be spent in charity.
You are not listening to my moral remarks,
and Laurie paused,
for Amy's eyes had an absent look,
though fixed upon his face.
and admiring the mole in your chin at the same time.
I don't wish to make you vain,
but I must confess that I'm prouder of my handsome husband than of all his money.
but your nose is such a comfort to me,"
and Amy softly caressed the well-cut feature with artistic satisfaction.
Laurie had received many compliments in his life,
but never one that suited him better,
as he plainly showed though he did laugh at his wife's peculiar taste,
while she said slowly,
"May I ask you a question,
"Shall you care if Jo does marry Mr. Bhaer?"
that's the trouble is it?
I thought there was something in the dimple that didn't quite suit you.
Not being a dog in the manger,
but the happiest fellow alive,
I assure you I can dance at Jo's wedding with a heart as light as my heels.
Do you doubt it,
Amy looked up at him,
and was satisfied.
Her little jealous fear vanished forever,
and she thanked him,
with a face full of love and confidence.
"I wish we could do something for that capital old Professor.
Couldn't we invent a rich relation,
who shall obligingly die out there in Germany,
and leave him a tidy little fortune?"
when they began to pace up and down the long drawing room,
arm in arm,
as they were fond of doing,
in memory of the chateau garden.
"Jo would find us out,
and spoil it all.
She is very proud of him,
just as he is,
and said yesterday that she thought poverty was a beautiful thing."
"Bless her dear heart!
She won't think so when she has a literary husband,
and a dozen little professors and professorins to support.
We won't interfere now,
but watch our chance,
and do them a good turn in spite of themselves.
I owe Jo for a part of my education,
and she believes in people's paying their honest debts,
so I'll get round her in that way."
"How delightful it is to be able to help others,
That was always one of my dreams,
to have the power of giving freely,
and thanks to you,
the dream has come true."
we'll do quantities of good,
There's one sort of poverty that I particularly like to help.
Out-and-out beggars get taken care of,
but poor gentle folks fare badly,
because they won't ask,
and people don't dare to offer charity.
Yet there are a thousand ways of helping them,
if one only knows how to do it so delicately that it does not offend.
I must say,
I like to serve a decayed gentleman better than a blarnerying beggar.
I suppose it's wrong,
but I do,
though it is harder."
"Because it takes a gentleman to do it,"
added the other member of the domestic admiration society.
I'm afraid I don't deserve that pretty compliment.
But I was going to say that while I was dawdling about abroad,
I saw a good many talented young fellows making all sorts of sacrifices,
and enduring real hardships,
that they might realize their dreams.
some of them,
working like heros,
poor and friendless,
but so full of courage,
and ambition that I was ashamed of myself,
and longed to give them a right good lift.
Those are people whom it's a satisfaction to help,
for if they've got genius,
it's an honor to be allowed to serve them,
and not let it be lost or delayed for want of fuel to keep the pot boiling.
If they haven't,
it's a pleasure to comfort the poor souls,
and keep them from despair when they find it out."
and there's another class who can't ask,
and who suffer in silence.
I know something of it,
for I belonged to it before you made a princess of me,
as the king does the beggarmaid in the old story.
Ambitious girls have a hard time,
and often have to see youth,
and precious opportunities go by,
just for want of a little help at the right minute.
People have been very kind to me,
and whenever I see girls struggling along,
as we used to do,
I want to put out my hand and help them,
as I was helped."
"And so you shall,
like an angel as you are!"
with a glow of philanthropic zeal,
to found and endow an institution for the express benefit of young women with artistic tendencies.
"Rich people have no right to sit down and enjoy themselves,
or let their money accumulate for others to waste.
It's not half so sensible to leave legacies when one dies as it is to use the money wisely while alive,
and enjoy making one's fellow creatures happy with it.
We'll have a good time ourselves,
and add an extra relish to our own pleasure by giving other people a generous taste.
Will you be a little Dorcas,
going about emptying a big basket of comforts,
and filling it up with good deeds?"
"With all my heart,
if you will be a brave St. Martin,
stopping as you ride gallantly through the world to share your cloak with the beggar."
"It's a bargain,
and we shall get the best of it!"
So the young pair shook hands upon it,
and then paced happily on again,
feeling that their pleasant home was more homelike because they hoped to brighten other homes,
believing that their own feet would walk more uprightly along the flowery path before them,
if they smoothed rough ways for other feet,
and feeling that their hearts were more closely knit together by a love which could tenderly remember those less blest than they.
DAISY AND DEMI
I cannot feel that I have done my duty as humble historian of the March family,
without devoting at least one chapter to the two most precious and important members of it.
Daisy and Demi had now arrived at years of discretion,
for in this fast age babies of three or four assert their rights,
and get them,
which is more than many of their elders do.
If there ever were a pair of twins in danger of being utterly spoiled by adoration,
it was these prattling Brookes.
Of course they were the most remarkable children ever born,
as will be shown when I mention that they walked at eight months,
talked fluently at twelve months,
and at two years they took their places at table,
and behaved with a propriety which charmed all beholders.
Daisy demanded a
and actually made a bag with four stitches in it.
She likewise set up housekeeping in the sideboard,
and managed a microscopic cooking stove with a skill that brought tears of pride to Hannah's eyes,
while Demi learned his letters with his grandfather,
who invented a new mode of teaching the alphabet by forming letters with his arms and legs,
thus uniting gymnastics for head and heels.
The boy early developed a mechanical genius which delighted his father and distracted his mother,
for he tried to imitate every machine he saw,
and kept the nursery in a chaotic condition,
a mysterious structure of string,
for wheels to go
'wound and wound'.
Also a basket hung over the back of a chair,
in which he vainly tried to hoist his too confiding sister,
with feminine devotion,
allowed her little head to be bumped till rescued,
when the young inventor indignantly remarked,
dat's my lellywaiter,
and me's trying to pull her up."
Though utterly unlike in character,
the twins got on remarkably well together,
and seldom quarreled more than thrice a day.
Demi tyrannized over Daisy,
and gallantly defended her from every other aggressor,
while Daisy made a galley slave of herself,
and adored her brother as the one perfect being in the world.
sunshiny little soul was Daisy,
who found her way to everybody's heart,
and nestled there.
One of the captivating children,
who seem made to be kissed and cuddled,
adorned and adored like little goddesses,
and produced for general approval on all festive occasions.
Her small virtues were so sweet that she would have been quite angelic if a few small naughtinesses had not kept her delightfully human.
It was all fair weather in her world,
and every morning she scrambled up to the window in her little nightgown to look out,
no matter whether it rained or shone,
Everyone was a friend,
and she offered kisses to a stranger so confidingly that the most inveterate bachelor relented,
and baby-lovers became faithful worshipers.
"Me loves evvybody,"
she once said,
opening her arms,
with her spoon in one hand,
and her mug in the other,
as if eager to embrace and nourish the whole world.
As she grew,
her mother began to feel that the Dovecote would be blessed by the presence of an inmate as serene and loving as that which had helped to make the old house home,
and to pray that she might be spared a loss like that which had lately taught them how long they had entertained an angel unawares.
Her grandfather often called her
and her grandmother watched over her with untiring devotion,
as if trying to atone for some past mistake,
which no eye but her own could see.
like a true Yankee,
was of an inquiring turn,
wanting to know everything,
and often getting much disturbed because he could not get satisfactory answers to his perpetual "What for?"
He also possessed a philosophic bent,
to the great delight of his grandfather,
who used to hold Socratic conversations with him,
in which the precocious pupil occasionally posed his teacher,
to the undisguised satisfaction of the womenfolk.
"What makes my legs go,
asked the young philosopher,
surveying those active portions of his frame with a meditative air,
while resting after a go-to-bed frolic one night.
"It's your little mind,
replied the sage,
stroking the yellow head respectfully.
"What is a little mine?"
"It is something which makes your body move,
as the spring made the wheels go in my watch when I showed it to you."
I want to see it go wound."
"I can't do that any more than you could open the watch.
God winds you up,
and you go till He stops you."
and Demi's brown eyes grew big and bright as he took in the new thought.
"Is I wounded up like the watch?"
but I can't show you how,
for it is done when we don't see."
Demi felt his back,
as if expecting to find it like that of the watch,
and then gravely remarked,
"I dess Dod does it when I's asleep."
A careful explanation followed,
to which he listened so attentively that his anxious grandmother said,
do you think it wise to talk about such things to that baby?
He's getting great bumps over his eyes,
and learning to ask the most unanswerable questions."
"If he is old enough to ask the question he is old enough to receive true answers.
I am not putting the thoughts into his head,
but helping him unfold those already there.
These children are wiser than we are,
and I have no doubt the boy understands every word I have said to him.
tell me where you keep your mind."
If the boy had replied like Alcibiades,
"By the gods,
I cannot tell,"
his grandfather would not have been surprised,
after standing a moment on one leg,
like a meditative young stork,
in a tone of calm conviction,
"In my little belly,"
the old gentleman could only join in Grandma's laugh,
and dismiss the class in metaphysics.
There might have been cause for maternal anxiety,
if Demi had not given convincing proofs that he was a true boy,
as well as a budding philosopher,
after a discussion which caused Hannah to prophesy,
with ominous nods,
"That child ain't long for this world,"
he would turn about and set her fears at rest by some of the pranks with which dear,
naughty little rascals distract and delight their parent's souls.
Meg made many moral rules,
and tried to keep them,
but what mother was ever proof against the winning wiles,
the ingenious evasions,
or the tranquil audacity of the miniature men and women who so early show themselves accomplished Artful Dodgers?
"No more raisins,
They'll make you sick,"
says Mamma to the young person who offers his services in the kitchen with unfailing regularity on plum-pudding day.
"Me likes to be sick."
"I don't want to have you,
so run away and help Daisy make patty cakes."
He reluctantly departs,
but his wrongs weigh upon his spirit,
and by-and-by when an opportunity comes to redress them,
he outwits Mamma by a shrewd bargain.
"Now you have been good children,
and I'll play anything you like,"
as she leads her assistant cooks upstairs,
when the pudding is safely bouncing in the pot.
with a brilliant idea in his well-powdered head.
Anything you say,"
replies the shortsighted parent,
preparing herself to sing,
"The Three Little Kittens" half a dozen times over,
or to take her family to "Buy a penny bun,"
regardless of wind or limb.
But Demi corners her by the cool reply ...
"Then we'll go and eat up all the raisins."
Aunt Dodo was chief playmate and confidante of both children,
and the trio turned the little house topsy-turvy.
Aunt Amy was as yet only a name to them,
Aunt Beth soon faded into a pleasantly vague memory,
but Aunt Dodo was a living reality,
and they made the most of her,
for which compliment she was deeply grateful.
But when Mr. Bhaer came,
Jo neglected her playfellows,
and dismay and desolation fell upon their little souls.
who was fond of going about peddling kisses,
lost her best customer and became bankrupt.
with infantile penetration,
soon discovered that Dodo like to play with
'the bear-man' better than she did him,
but though hurt,
he concealed his anguish,
for he hadn't the heart to insult a rival who kept a mine of chocolate drops in his waistcoat pocket,
and a watch that could be taken out of its case and freely shaken by ardent admirers.
Some persons might have considered these pleasing liberties as bribes,
but Demi didn't see it in that light,
and continued to patronize the
'the bear-man' with pensive affability,
while Daisy bestowed her small affections upon him at the third call,
and considered his shoulder her throne,
his arm her refuge,
his gifts treasures surpassing worth.
Gentlemen are sometimes seized with sudden fits of admiration for the young relatives of ladies whom they honor with their regard,
but this counterfeit philoprogenitiveness sits uneasily upon them,
and does not deceive anybody a particle.
Mr. Bhaer's devotion was sincere,
however likewise effective --for honesty is the best policy in love as in law.
He was one of the men who are at home with children,
and looked particularly well when little faces made a pleasant contrast with his manly one.
whatever it was,
detained him from day to day,
but evening seldom failed to bring him out to see --well,
he always asked for Mr. March,
so I suppose he was the attraction.
The excellent papa labored under the delusion that he was,
and reveled in long discussions with the kindred spirit,
till a chance remark of his more observing grandson suddenly enlightened him.
Mr. Bhaer came in one evening to pause on the threshold of the study,
astonished by the spectacle that met his eye.
Prone upon the floor lay Mr. March,
with his respectable legs in the air,
and beside him,
trying to imitate the attitude with his own short,
both grovelers so seriously absorbed that they were unconscious of spectators,
till Mr. Bhaer laughed his sonorous laugh,
and Jo cried out,
with a scandalized face ...
here's the Professor!"
Down went the black legs and up came the gray head,
as the preceptor said,
with undisturbed dignity,
Excuse me for a moment.
We are just finishing our lesson.
make the letter and tell its name."
"I knows him!"
after a few convulsive efforts,
the red legs took the shape of a pair of compasses,
and the intelligent pupil triumphantly shouted,
"It's a We,
it's a We!"
"He's a born Weller,"
as her parent gathered himself up,
and her nephew tried to stand on his head,
as the only mode of expressing his satisfaction that school was over.
"What have you been at today,
asked Mr. Bhaer,
picking up the gymnast.
"Me went to see little Mary."
"And what did you there?"
"I kissed her,"
with artless frankness.
Thou beginnest early.
What did the little Mary say to that?"
asked Mr. Bhaer,
continuing to confess the young sinner,
who stood upon the knee,
exploring the waistcoat pocket.
she liked it,
and she kissed me,
and I liked it.
Don't little boys like little girls?"
with his mouth full,
and an air of bland satisfaction.
"You precocious chick!
Who put that into your head?"
enjoying the innocent revelation as much as the Professor.
"'Tisn't in mine head,
it's in mine mouf,"
answered literal Demi,
putting out his tongue,
with a chocolate drop on it,
thinking she alluded to confectionery,
"Thou shouldst save some for the little friend.
Sweets to the sweet,
and Mr. Bhaer offered Jo some,
with a look that made her wonder if chocolate was not the nectar drunk by the gods.
Demi also saw the smile,
was impressed by it,
and artlessy inquired.
"Do great boys like great girls,
Like young Washington,
'couldn't tell a lie',
so he gave the somewhat vague reply that he believed they did sometimes,
in a tone that made Mr. March put down his clothesbrush,
glance at Jo's retiring face,
and then sink into his chair,
looking as if the
'precocious chick' had put an idea into his head that was both sweet and sour.
when she caught him in the china closet half an hour afterward,
nearly squeezed the breath out of his little body with a tender embrace,
instead of shaking him for being there,
and why she followed up this novel performance by the unexpected gift of a big slice of bread and jelly,
remained one of the problems over which Demi puzzled his small wits,
and was forced to leave unsolved forever.
UNDER THE UMBRELLA
While Laurie and Amy were taking conjugal strolls over velvet carpets,
as they set their house in order,
and planned a blissful future,
Mr. Bhaer and Jo were enjoying promenades of a different sort,
along muddy roads and sodden fields.
"I always do take a walk toward evening,
and I don't know why I should give it up,
just because I happen to meet the Professor on his way out,"
said Jo to herself,
after two or three encounters,
for though there were two paths to Meg's whichever one she took she was sure to meet him,
either going or returning.
He was always walking rapidly,
and never seemed to see her until quite close,
when he would look as if his short-sighted eyes had failed to recognize the approaching lady till that moment.
if she was going to Meg's he always had something for the babies.
If her face was turned homeward,
he had merely strolled down to see the river,
and was just returning,
unless they were tired of his frequent calls.
Under the circumstances,
what could Jo do but greet him civilly,
and invite him in?
If she was tired of his visits,
she concealed her weariness with perfect skill,
and took care that there should be coffee for supper,
"as Friedrich --I mean Mr. Bhaer --doesn't like tea."
By the second week,
everyone knew perfectly well what was going on,
yet everyone tried to look as if they were stone-blind to the changes in Jo's face.
They never asked why she sang about her work,
did up her hair three times a day,
and got so blooming with her evening exercise.
And no one seemed to have the slightest suspicion that Professor Bhaer,
while talking philosophy with the father,
was giving the daughter lessons in love.
Jo couldn't even lose her heart in a decorous manner,
but sternly tried to quench her feelings,
and failing to do so,
led a somewhat agitated life.
She was mortally afraid of being laughed at for surrendering,
after her many and vehement declarations of independence.
Laurie was her especial dread,
but thanks to the new manager,
he behaved with praiseworthy propriety,
never called Mr. Bhaer
'a capital old fellow' in public,
in the remotest manner,
to Jo's improved appearance,
or expressed the least surprise at seeing the Professor's hat on the Marches' table nearly every evening.
But he exulted in private and longed for the time to come when he could give Jo a piece of plate,
with a bear and a ragged staff on it as an appropriate coat of arms.
For a fortnight,
the Professor came and went with lover-like regularity.
Then he stayed away for three whole days,
and made no sign,
a proceeding which caused everybody to look sober,
and Jo to become pensive,
and then --alas for romance --very cross.
I dare say,
and gone home as suddenly as he came.
It's nothing to me,
but I should think he would have come and bid us goodbye like a gentleman,"
she said to herself,
with a despairing look at the gate,
as she put on her things for the customary walk one dull afternoon.
"You'd better take the little umbrella,
It looks like rain,"
said her mother,
observing that she had on her new bonnet,
but not alluding to the fact.
do you want anything in town?
I've got to run in and get some paper,"
pulling out the bow under her chin before the glass as an excuse for not looking at her mother.
I want some twilled silesia,
a paper of number nine needles,
and two yards of narrow lavender ribbon.
Have you got your thick boots on,
and something warm under your cloak?"
"I believe so,"
answered Jo absently.
"If you happen to meet Mr. Bhaer,
bring him home to tea.
I quite long to see the dear man,"
added Mrs. March.
Jo heard that,
but made no answer,
except to kiss her mother,
and walk rapidly away,
thinking with a glow of gratitude,
in spite of her heartache,
"How good she is to me!
What do girls do who haven't any mothers to help them through their troubles?"
The dry-goods stores were not down among the counting-houses,
and wholesale warerooms,
where gentlemen most do congregate,
but Jo found herself in that part of the city before she did a single errand,
loitering along as if waiting for someone,
examining engineering instruments in one window and samples of wool in another,
with most unfeminine interest,
tumbling over barrels,
being half-smothered by descending bales,
and hustled unceremoniously by busy men who looked as if they wondered
'how the deuce she got there'.
A drop of rain on her cheek recalled her thoughts from baffled hopes to ruined ribbons.
For the drops continued to fall,
and being a woman as well as a lover,
she felt that,
though it was too late to save her heart,
she might her bonnet.
Now she remembered the little umbrella,
which she had forgotten to take in her hurry to be off,
but regret was unavailing,
and nothing could be done but borrow one or submit to a drenching.
She looked up at the lowering sky,
down at the crimson bow already flecked with black,
forward along the muddy street,
then one long,
lingering look behind,
at a certain grimy warehouse,
over the door,
and said to herself,
with a sternly reproachful air ...
"It serves me right!
what business had I to put on all my best things and come philandering down here,
hoping to see the Professor?
I'm ashamed of you!
you shall not go there to borrow an umbrella,
or find out where he is,
from his friends.
You shall trudge away,
and do your errands in the rain,
and if you catch your death and ruin your bonnet,
it's no more than you deserve.
With that she rushed across the street so impetuously that she narrowly escaped annihilation from a passing truck,
and precipitated herself into the arms of a stately old gentleman,
"I beg pardon,
and looked mortally offended.
Jo righted herself,
spread her handkerchief over the devoted ribbons,
and putting temptation behind her,
with increasing dampness about the ankles,
and much clashing of umbrellas overhead.
The fact that a somewhat dilapidated blue one remained stationary above the unprotected bonnet attracted her attention,
and looking up,
she saw Mr. Bhaer looking down.
"I feel to know the strong-minded lady who goes so bravely under many horse noses,
and so fast through much mud.
What do you down here,
Mr. Bhaer smiled,
as he glanced from the pickle factory on one side to the wholesale hide and leather concern on the other,
but he only said politely,
"You haf no umbrella.
May I go also,
and take for you the bundles?"
Jo's cheeks were as red as her ribbon,
and she wondered what he thought of her,
but she didn't care,
for in a minute she found herself walking away arm in arm with her Professor,
feeling as if the sun had suddenly burst out with uncommon brilliancy,
that the world was all right again,
and that one thoroughly happy woman was paddling through the wet that day.
"We thought you had gone,"
said Jo hastily,
for she knew he was looking at her.
Her bonnet wasn't big enough to hide her face,
and she feared he might think the joy it betrayed unmaidenly.
"Did you believe that I should go with no farewell to those who haf been so heavenly kind to me?"
he asked so reproachfully that she felt as if she had insulted him by the suggestion,
and answered heartily ...
I knew you were busy about your own affairs,
but we rather missed you,
Father and Mother especially."
"I'm always glad to see you,
In her anxiety to keep her voice quite calm,
Jo made it rather cool,
and the frosty little monosyllable at the end seemed to chill the Professor,
for his smile vanished,
as he said gravely ...
"I thank you,
and come one more time before I go."
"You are going,
"I haf no longer any business here,
it is done."
for the bitterness of disappointment was in that short reply of his.
"I ought to think so,
for I haf a way opened to me by which I can make my bread and gif my Junglings much help."
I like to know all about the --the boys,"
said Jo eagerly.
"That is so kind,
I gladly tell you.
My friends find for me a place in a college,
where I teach as at home,
and earn enough to make the way smooth for Franz and Emil.
For this I should be grateful,
should I not?"
"Indeed you should.
How splendid it will be to have you doing what you like,
and be able to see you often,
and the boys!"
clinging to the lads as an excuse for the satisfaction she could not help betraying.
But we shall not meet often,
this place is at the West."
"So far away!"
and Jo left her skirts to their fate,
as if it didn't matter now what became of her clothes or herself.
Mr. Bhaer could read several languages,
but he had not learned to read women yet.
He flattered himself that he knew Jo pretty well,
much amazed by the contradictions of voice,
which she showed him in rapid succession that day,
for she was in half a dozen different moods in the course of half an hour.
When she met him she looked surprised,
though it was impossible to help suspecting that she had come for that express purpose.
When he offered her his arm,
she took it with a look that filled him with delight,
but when he asked if she missed him,
she gave such a chilly,
formal reply that despair fell upon him.
On learning his good fortune she almost clapped her hands.
Was the joy all for the boys?
Then on hearing his destination,
"So far away!"
in a tone of despair that lifted him on to a pinnacle of hope,
but the next minute she tumbled him down again by observing,
like one entirely absorbed in the matter ...
"Here's the place for my errands.
Will you come in?
It won't take long."
Jo rather prided herself upon her shopping capabilities,
and particularly wished to impress her escort with the neatness and dispatch with which she would accomplish the business.
But owing to the flutter she was in,
everything went amiss.
She upset the tray of needles,
forgot the silesia was to be
'twilled' till it was cut off,
gave the wrong change,
and covered herself with confusion by asking for lavender ribbon at the calico counter.
Mr. Bhaer stood by,
watching her blush and blunder,
and as he watched,
his own bewilderment seemed to subside,
for he was beginning to see that on some occasions,
go by contraries.
When they came out,
he put the parcel under his arm with a more cheerful aspect,
and splashed through the puddles as if he rather enjoyed it on the whole.
"Should we no do a little what you call shopping for the babies,
and haf a farewell feast tonight if I go for my last call at your so pleasant home?"
stopping before a window full of fruit and flowers.
"What will we buy?"
ignoring the latter part of his speech,
and sniffing the mingled odors with an affectation of delight as they went in.
"May they haf oranges and figs?"
asked Mr. Bhaer,
with a paternal air.
"They eat them when they can get them."
"Do you care for nuts?"
"Like a squirrel."
we shall drink to the Fatherland in those?"
Jo frowned upon that piece of extravagance,
and asked why he didn't buy a frail of dates,
a cask of raisins,
and a bag of almonds,
and be done with it?
Whereat Mr. Bhaer confiscated her purse,
produced his own,
and finished the marketing by buying several pounds of grapes,
a pot of rosy daisies,
and a pretty jar of honey,
to be regarded in the light of a demijohn.
Then distorting his pockets with knobby bundles,
and giving her the flowers to hold,
he put up the old umbrella,
and they traveled on again.
I haf a great favor to ask of you,"
began the Professor,
after a moist promenade of half a block.
and Jo's heart began to beat so hard she was afraid he would hear it.
"I am bold to say it in spite of the rain,
because so short a time remains to me."
and Jo nearly crushed the small flowerpot with the sudden squeeze she gave it.
"I wish to get a little dress for my Tina,
and I am too stupid to go alone.
Will you kindly gif me a word of taste and help?"
and Jo felt as calm and cool all of a sudden as if she had stepped into a refrigerator.
"Perhaps also a shawl for Tina's mother,
she is so poor and sick,
and the husband is such a care.
warm shawl would be a friendly thing to take the little mother."
"I'll do it with pleasure,
"I'm going very fast,
and he's getting dearer every minute,"
added Jo to herself,
then with a mental shake she entered into the business with an energy that was pleasant to behold.
Mr. Bhaer left it all to her,
so she chose a pretty gown for Tina,
and then ordered out the shawls.
being a married man,
condescended to take an interest in the couple,
who appeared to be shopping for their family.
"Your lady may prefer this.
It's a superior article,
a most desirable color,
quite chaste and genteel,"
shaking out a comfortable gray shawl,
and throwing it over Jo's shoulders.
"Does this suit you,
turning her back to him,
and feeling deeply grateful for the chance of hiding her face.
we will haf it,"
answered the Professor,
smiling to himself as he paid for it,
while Jo continued to rummage the counters like a confirmed bargain-hunter.
"Now shall we go home?"
as if the words were very pleasant to him.
and I'm _so_ tired."
Jo's voice was more pathetic than she knew.
For now the sun seemed to have gone in as suddenly as it came out,
and the world grew muddy and miserable again,
and for the first time she discovered that her feet were cold,
her head ached,
and that her heart was colder than the former,
fuller of pain than the latter.
Mr. Bhaer was going away,
he only cared for her as a friend,
it was all a mistake,
and the sooner it was over the better.
With this idea in her head,
she hailed an approaching omnibus with such a hasty gesture that the daisies flew out of the pot and were badly damaged.
"This is not our omniboos,"
said the Professor,
waving the loaded vehicle away,
and stopping to pick up the poor little flowers.
"I beg your pardon.
I didn't see the name distinctly.
I can walk.
I'm used to plodding in the mud,"
because she would have died rather than openly wipe her eyes.
Mr. Bhaer saw the drops on her cheeks,
though she turned her head away.
The sight seemed to touch him very much,
for suddenly stooping down,
he asked in a tone that meant a great deal,
why do you cry?"
if Jo had not been new to this sort of thing she would have said she wasn't crying,
had a cold in her head,
or told any other feminine fib proper to the occasion.
Instead of which,
that undignified creature answered,
with an irrepressible sob,
"Because you are going away."
that is so good!"
cried Mr. Bhaer,
managing to clasp his hands in spite of the umbrella and the bundles,
I haf nothing but much love to gif you.
I came to see if you could care for it,
and I waited to be sure that I was something more than a friend.
Can you make a little place in your heart for old Fritz?"
all in one breath.
and he was quite satisfied,
for she folded both hands over his arm,
and looked up at him with an expression that plainly showed how happy she would be to walk through life beside him,
even though she had no better shelter than the old umbrella,
if he carried it.
It was certainly proposing under difficulties,
for even if he had desired to do so,
Mr. Bhaer could not go down upon his knees,
on account of the mud.
Neither could he offer Jo his hand,
for both were full.
Much less could he indulge in tender remonstrations in the open street,
though he was near it.
So the only way in which he could express his rapture was to look at her,
with an expression which glorified his face to such a degree that there actually seemed to be little rainbows in the drops that sparkled on his beard.
If he had not loved Jo very much,
I don't think he could have done it then,
for she looked far from lovely,
with her skirts in a deplorable state,
her rubber boots splashed to the ankle,
and her bonnet a ruin.
Mr. Bhaer considered her the most beautiful woman living,
and she found him more "Jove-like" than ever,
though his hatbrim was quite limp with the little rills trickling thence upon his shoulders (for he held the umbrella all over Jo),
and every finger of his gloves needed mending.
Passers-by probably thought them a pair of harmless lunatics,
for they entirely forgot to hail a bus,
and strolled leisurely along,
oblivious of deepening dusk and fog.
Little they cared what anybody thought,
for they were enjoying the happy hour that seldom comes but once in any life,
the magical moment which bestows youth on the old,
beauty on the plain,
wealth on the poor,
and gives human hearts a foretaste of heaven.
The Professor looked as if he had conquered a kingdom,
and the world had nothing more to offer him in the way of bliss.
While Jo trudged beside him,
feeling as if her place had always been there,
and wondering how she ever could have chosen any other lot.
she was the first to speak --intelligibly,
for the emotional remarks which followed her impetuous "Oh,
were not of a coherent or reportable character.
why didn't you ..."
she gifs me the name that no one speaks since Minna died!"
cried the Professor,
pausing in a puddle to regard her with grateful delight.
"I always call you so to myself --I forgot,
but I won't unless you like it."
It is more sweet to me than I can tell.
and I shall say your language is almost as beautiful as mine."
'thou' a little sentimental?"
privately thinking it a lovely monosyllable.
we Germans believe in sentiment,
and keep ourselves young mit it.
'you' is so cold,
it means so much to me,"
pleaded Mr. Bhaer,
more like a romantic student than a grave professor.
why didn't thou tell me all this sooner?"
asked Jo bashfully.
"Now I shall haf to show thee all my heart,
and I so gladly will,
because thou must take care of it hereafter.
my Jo --ah,
funny little name --I had a wish to tell something the day I said goodbye in New York,
but I thought the handsome friend was betrothed to thee,
and so I spoke not.
Wouldst thou have said
if I had spoken?"
"I don't know.
I'm afraid not,
for I didn't have any heart just then."
That I do not believe.
It was asleep till the fairy prince came through the wood,
and waked it up.
'Die erste Liebe ist die beste',
but that I should not expect."
the first love is the best,
but be so contented,
for I never had another.
Teddy was only a boy,
and soon got over his little fancy,"
anxious to correct the Professor's mistake.
Then I shall rest happy,
and be sure that thou givest me all.
I haf waited so long,
I am grown selfish,
as thou wilt find,
"I like that,"
delighted with her new name.
"Now tell me what brought you,
just when I wanted you?"
and Mr. Bhaer took a little worn paper out of his waistcoat pocket.
Jo unfolded it,
and looked much abashed,
for it was one of her own contributions to a paper that paid for poetry,
which accounted for her sending it an occasional attempt.
"How could that bring you?"
wondering what he meant.
"I found it by chance.
I knew it by the names and the initials,
and in it there was one little verse that seemed to call me.
Read and find him.
I will see that you go not in the wet."
IN THE GARRET
Four little chests all in a row,
Dim with dust,
and worn by time,
All fashioned and filled,
By children now in their prime.
Four little keys hung side by side,
With faded ribbons,
brave and gay When fastened there,
with childish pride,
on a rainy day.
Four little names,
one on each lid,
Carved out by a boyish hand,
And underneath there lieth hid Histories of the happy band Once playing here,
and pausing oft To hear the sweet refrain,
That came and went on the roof aloft,
In the falling summer rain.
"Meg" on the first lid,
smooth and fair.
I look in with loving eyes,
For folded here,
with well-known care,
A goodly gathering lies,
The record of a peaceful life -- Gifts to gentle child and girl,
A bridal gown,
lines to a wife,
A tiny shoe,
a baby curl.
No toys in this first chest remain,
For all are carried away,
In their old age,
to join again In another small Meg's play.
Well I know You hear,
like a sweet refrain,
Lullabies ever soft and low In the falling summer rain.
"Jo" on the next lid,
scratched and worn,
And within a motley store Of headless dolls,
of schoolbooks torn,
Birds and beasts that speak no more,
Spoils brought home from the fairy ground Only trod by youthful feet,
Dreams of a future never found,
Memories of a past still sweet,
warm and cold,
Diaries of a wilful child,
Hints of a woman early old,
A woman in a lonely home,
like a sad refrain -- "Be worthy,
and love will come,"
In the falling summer rain.
the dust is always swept From the lid that bears your name,
As if by loving eyes that wept,
By careful hands that often came.
Death canonized for us one saint,
Ever less human than divine,
And still we lay,
with tender plaint,
Relics in this household shrine -- The silver bell,
so seldom rung,
The little cap which last she wore,
dead Catherine that hung By angels borne above her door.
The songs she sang,
In her prison-house of pain,
Forever are they sweetly blent With the falling summer rain.
Upon the last lid's polished field -- Legend now both fair and true A gallant knight bears on his shield,
"Amy" in letters gold and blue.
Within lie snoods that bound her hair,
Slippers that have danced their last,
Faded flowers laid by with care,
Fans whose airy toils are past,
all ardent flames,
Trifles that have borne their part In girlish hopes and fears and shames,
The record of a maiden heart Now learning fairer,
like a blithe refrain,
The silver sound of bridal bells In the falling summer rain.
Four little chests all in a row,
Dim with dust,
and worn by time,
taught by weal and woe To love and labor in their prime.
parted for an hour,
one only gone before,
Made by love's immortal power,
Nearest and dearest evermore.
when these hidden stores of ours Lie open to the Father's sight,
May they be rich in golden hours,
Deeds that show fairer for the light,
Lives whose brave music long shall ring,
Like a spirit-stirring strain,
Souls that shall gladly soar and sing In the long sunshine after rain.
"It's very bad poetry,
but I felt it when I wrote it,
one day when I was very lonely,
and had a good cry on a rag bag.
I never thought it would go where it could tell tales,"
tearing up the verses the Professor had treasured so long.
"Let it go,
it has done its duty,
and I will haf a fresh one when I read all the brown book in which she keeps her little secrets,"
said Mr. Bhaer with a smile as he watched the fragments fly away on the wind.
he added earnestly,
"I read that,
and I think to myself,
She has a sorrow,
she is lonely,
she would find comfort in true love.
I haf a heart full,
full for her.
Shall I not go and say,
'If this is not too poor a thing to gif for what I shall hope to receive,
take it in Gott's name?'"
"And so you came to find that it was not too poor,
but the one precious thing I needed,"
"I had no courage to think that at first,
heavenly kind as was your welcome to me.
But soon I began to hope,
and then I said,
'I will haf her if I die for it,'
and so I will!"
cried Mr. Bhaer,
with a defiant nod,
as if the walls of mist closing round them were barriers which he was to surmount or valiantly knock down.
Jo thought that was splendid,
and resolved to be worthy of her knight,
though he did not come prancing on a charger in gorgeous array.
"What made you stay away so long?"
she asked presently,
finding it so pleasant to ask confidential questions and get delightful answers that she could not keep silent.
"It was not easy,
but I could not find the heart to take you from that so happy home until I could haf a prospect of one to gif you,
after much time,
and hard work.
How could I ask you to gif up so much for a poor old fellow,
who has no fortune but a little learning?"
"I'm glad you are poor.
I couldn't bear a rich husband,"
said Jo decidedly,
adding in a softer tone,
"Don't fear poverty.
I've known it long enough to lose my dread and be happy working for those I love,
and don't call yourself old --forty is the prime of life.
I couldn't help loving you if you were seventy!"
The Professor found that so touching that he would have been glad of his handkerchief,
if he could have got at it.
As he couldn't,
Jo wiped his eyes for him,
as she took away a bundle or two ...
"I may be strong-minded,
but no one can say I'm out of my sphere now,
for woman's special mission is supposed to be drying tears and bearing burdens.
I'm to carry my share,
and help to earn the home.
Make up your mind to that,
or I'll never go,"
she added resolutely,
as he tried to reclaim his load.
"We shall see.
Haf you patience to wait a long time,
I must go away and do my work alone.
I must help my boys first,
even for you,
I may not break my word to Minna.
Can you forgif that,
and be happy while we hope and wait?"
I know I can,
for we love one another,
and that makes all the rest easy to bear.
I have my duty,
and my work.
I couldn't enjoy myself if I neglected them even for you,
so there's no need of hurry or impatience.
You can do your part out West,
I can do mine here,
and both be happy hoping for the best,
and leaving the future to be as God wills."
Thou gifest me such hope and courage,
and I haf nothing to gif back but a full heart and these empty hands,"
cried the Professor,
never would learn to be proper,
for when he said that as they stood upon the steps,
she just put both hands into his,
"Not empty now,"
and stooping down,
kissed her Friedrich under the umbrella.
It was dreadful,
but she would have done it if the flock of draggle-tailed sparrows on the hedge had been human beings,
for she was very far gone indeed,
and quite regardless of everything but her own happiness.
Though it came in such a very simple guise,
that was the crowning moment of both their lives,
turning from the night and storm and loneliness to the household light and warmth and peace waiting to receive them,
with a glad "Welcome home!"
Jo led her lover in,
and shut the door.
For a year Jo and her Professor worked and waited,
hoped and loved,
and wrote such voluminous letters that the rise in the price of paper was accounted for,
The second year began rather soberly,
for their prospects did not brighten,
and Aunt March died suddenly.
But when their first sorrow was over --for they loved the old lady in spite of her sharp tongue --they found they had cause for rejoicing,
for she had left Plumfield to Jo,
which made all sorts of joyful things possible.
"It's a fine old place,
and will bring a handsome sum,
for of course you intend to sell it,"
as they were all talking the matter over some weeks later.
was Jo's decided answer,
as she petted the fat poodle,
whom she had adopted,
out of respect to his former mistress.
"You don't mean to live there?"
my dear girl,
it's an immense house,
and will take a power of money to keep it in order.
The garden and orchard alone need two or three men,
and farming isn't in Bhaer's line,
I take it."
"He'll try his hand at it there,
if I propose it."
"And you expect to live on the produce of the place?
that sounds paradisiacal,
but you'll find it desperate hard work."
"The crop we are going to raise is a profitable one,"
and Jo laughed.
"Of what is this fine crop to consist,
I want to open a school for little lads --a good,
with me to take care of them and Fritz to teach them."
"That's a truly Joian plan for you!
Isn't that just like her?"
appealing to the family,
who looked as much surprised as he.
"I like it,"
said Mrs. March decidedly.
"So do I,"
added her husband,
who welcomed the thought of a chance for trying the Socratic method of education on modern youth.
"It will be an immense care for Jo,"
stroking the head of her one all-absorbing son.
"Jo can do it,
and be happy in it.
It's a splendid idea.
Tell us all about it,"
cried Mr. Laurence,
who had been longing to lend the lovers a hand,
but knew that they would refuse his help.
"I knew you'd stand by me,
Amy does too --I see it in her eyes,
though she prudently waits to turn it over in her mind before she speaks.
my dear people,"
continued Jo earnestly,
"just understand that this isn't a new idea of mine,
but a long cherished plan.
Before my Fritz came,
I used to think how,
when I'd made my fortune,
and no one needed me at home,
I'd hire a big house,
and pick up some poor,
forlorn little lads who hadn't any mothers,
and take care of them,
and make life jolly for them before it was too late.
I see so many going to ruin for want of help at the right minute,
I love so to do anything for them,
I seem to feel their wants,
and sympathize with their troubles,
I should so like to be a mother to them!"
Mrs. March held out her hand to Jo,
who took it,
with tears in her eyes,
and went on in the old enthusiastic way,
which they had not seen for a long while.
"I told my plan to Fritz once,
and he said it was just what he would like,
and agreed to try it when we got rich.
Bless his dear heart,
he's been doing it all his life --helping poor boys,
not getting rich,
that he'll never be.
Money doesn't stay in his pocket long enough to lay up any.
thanks to my good old aunt,
who loved me better than I ever deserved,
at least I feel so,
and we can live at Plumfield perfectly well,
if we have a flourishing school.
It's just the place for boys,
the house is big,
and the furniture strong and plain.
There's plenty of room for dozens inside,
and splendid grounds outside.
They could help in the garden and orchard.
Such work is healthy,
Then Fritz could train and teach in his own way,
and Father will help him.
I can feed and nurse and pet and scold them,
and Mother will be my stand-by.
I've always longed for lots of boys,
and never had enough,
now I can fill the house full and revel in the little dears to my heart's content.
Think what luxury -- Plumfield my own,
and a wilderness of boys to enjoy it with me."
As Jo waved her hands and gave a sigh of rapture,
the family went off into a gale of merriment,
and Mr. Laurence laughed till they thought he'd have an apoplectic fit.
"I don't see anything funny,"
she said gravely,
when she could be heard.
"Nothing could be more natural and proper than for my Professor to open a school,
and for me to prefer to reside in my own estate."
"She is putting on airs already,"
who regarded the idea in the light of a capital joke.
"But may I inquire how you intend to support the establishment?
If all the pupils are little ragamuffins,
I'm afraid your crop won't be profitable in a worldly sense,
"Now don't be a wet-blanket,
Of course I shall have rich pupils,
also --perhaps begin with such altogether.
when I've got a start,
I can take in a ragamuffin or two,
just for a relish.
Rich people's children often need care and comfort,
as well as poor.
I've seen unfortunate little creatures left to servants,
or backward ones pushed forward,
when it's real cruelty.
Some are naughty through mismanagment or neglect,
and some lose their mothers.
the best have to get through the hobbledehoy age,
and that's the very time they need most patience and kindness.
People laugh at them,
and hustle them about,
try to keep them out of sight,
and expect them to turn all at once from pretty children into fine young men.
They don't complain much --plucky little souls --but they feel it.
I've been through something of it,
and I know all about it.
I've a special interest in such young bears,
and like to show them that I see the warm,
well-meaning boys' hearts,
in spite of the clumsy arms and legs and the topsy-turvy heads.
I've had experience,
for haven't I brought up one boy to be a pride and honor to his family?"
"I'll testify that you tried to do it,"
said Laurie with a grateful look.
"And I've succeeded beyond my hopes,
for here you are,
doing heaps of good with your money,
and laying up the blessings of the poor,
instead of dollars.
But you are not merely a businessman,
you love good and beautiful things,
enjoy them yourself,
and let others go halves,
as you always did in the old times.
I am proud of you,
for you get better every year,
and everyone feels it,
though you won't let them say so.
and when I have my flock,
I'll just point to you,
'There's your model,
Poor Laurie didn't know where to look,
man though he was,
something of the old bashfulness came over him as this burst of praise made all faces turn approvingly upon him.
that's rather too much,"
just in his old boyish way.
"You have all done more for me than I can ever thank you for,
except by doing my best not to disappoint you.
You have rather cast me off lately,
but I've had the best of help,
if I've got on at all,
you may thank these two for it,"
and he laid one hand gently on his grandfather's head,
and the other on Amy's golden one,
for the three were never far apart.
"I do think that families are the most beautiful things in all the world!"
burst out Jo,
who was in an unusually up-lifted frame of mind just then.
"When I have one of my own,
I hope it will be as happy as the three I know and love the best.
If John and my Fritz were only here,
it would be quite a little heaven on earth,"
she added more quietly.
And that night when she went to her room after a blissful evening of family counsels,
her heart was so full of happiness that she could only calm it by kneeling beside the empty bed always near her own,
and thinking tender thoughts of Beth.
It was a very astonishing year altogether,
for things seemed to happen in an unusually rapid and delightful manner.
Almost before she knew where she was,
Jo found herself married and settled at Plumfield.
Then a family of six or seven boys sprung up like mushrooms,
and flourished surprisingly,
poor boys as well as rich,
for Mr. Laurence was continually finding some touching case of destitution,
and begging the Bhaers to take pity on the child,
and he would gladly pay a trifle for its support.
In this way,
the sly old gentleman got round proud Jo,
and furnished her with the style of boy in which she most delighted.
Of course it was uphill work at first,
and Jo made queer mistakes,
but the wise Professor steered her safely into calmer waters,
and the most rampant ragamuffin was conquered in the end.
How Jo did enjoy her
'wilderness of boys',
and how poor,
dear Aunt March would have lamented had she been there to see the sacred precincts of prim,
well-ordered Plumfield overrun with Toms,
There was a sort of poetic justice about it,
for the old lady had been the terror of the boys for miles around,
and now the exiles feasted freely on forbidden plums,
kicked up the gravel with profane boots unreproved,
and played cricket in the big field where the irritable
'cow with a crumpled horn' used to invite rash youths to come and be tossed.
It became a sort of boys' paradise,
and Laurie suggested that it should be called the
as a compliment to its master and appropriate to its inhabitants.
It never was a fashionable school,
and the Professor did not lay up a fortune,
but it was just what Jo intended it to be --'a happy,
homelike place for boys,
who needed teaching,
Every room in the big house was soon full.
Every little plot in the garden soon had its owner.
A regular menagerie appeared in barn and shed,
for pet animals were allowed.
And three times a day,
Jo smiled at her Fritz from the head of a long table lined on either side with rows of happy young faces,
which all turned to her with affectionate eyes,
and grateful hearts,
full of love for
She had boys enough now,
and did not tire of them,
though they were not angels,
by any means,
and some of them caused both Professor and Professorin much trouble and anxiety.
But her faith in the good spot which exists in the heart of the naughtiest,
most tantalizing little ragamuffin gave her patience,
and in time success,
for no mortal boy could hold out long with Father Bhaer shining on him as benevolently as the sun,
and Mother Bhaer forgiving him seventy times seven.
Very precious to Jo was the friendship of the lads,
their penitent sniffs and whispers after wrongdoing,
their droll or touching little confidences,
their pleasant enthusiasms,
even their misfortunes,
for they only endeared them to her all the more.
There were slow boys and bashful boys,
feeble boys and riotous boys,
boys that lisped and boys that stuttered,
one or two lame ones,
and a merry little quadroon,
who could not be taken in elsewhere,
but who was welcome to the
though some people predicted that his admission would ruin the school.
Jo was a very happy woman there,
in spite of hard work,
and a perpetual racket.
She enjoyed it heartily and found the applause of her boys more satisfying than any praise of the world,
for now she told no stories except to her flock of enthusiastic believers and admirers.
As the years went on,
two little lads of her own came to increase her happiness --Rob,
named for Grandpa,
a happy-go-lucky baby,
who seemed to have inherited his papa's sunshiny temper as well as his mother's lively spirit.
How they ever grew up alive in that whirlpool of boys was a mystery to their grandma and aunts,
but they flourished like dandelions in spring,
and their rough nurses loved and served them well.
There were a great many holidays at Plumfield,
and one of the most delightful was the yearly apple-picking.
For then the Marches,
Brookes and Bhaers turned out in full force and made a day of it.
Five years after Jo's wedding,
one of these fruitful festivals occurred,
a mellow October day,
when the air was full of an exhilarating freshness which made the spirits rise and the blood dance healthily in the veins.
The old orchard wore its holiday attire.
Goldenrod and asters fringed the mossy walls.
Grasshoppers skipped briskly in the sere grass,
and crickets chirped like fairy pipers at a feast.
Squirrels were busy with their small harvesting.
Birds twittered their adieux from the alders in the lane,
and every tree stood ready to send down its shower of red or yellow apples at the first shake.
Everybody was there.
Everybody laughed and sang,
climbed up and tumbled down.
Everybody declared that there never had been such a perfect day or such a jolly set to enjoy it,
and everyone gave themselves up to the simple pleasures of the hour as freely as if there were no such things as care or sorrow in the world.
Mr. March strolled placidly about,
and Columella to Mr. Laurence,
while enjoying ...
The gentle apple's winey juice.
The Professor charged up and down the green aisles like a stout Teutonic knight,
with a pole for a lance,
leading on the boys,
who made a hook and ladder company of themselves,
and performed wonders in the way of ground and lofty tumbling.
Laurie devoted himself to the little ones,
rode his small daughter in a bushel-basket,
took Daisy up among the bird's nests,
and kept adventurous Rob from breaking his neck.
Mrs. March and Meg sat among the apple piles like a pair of Pomonas,
sorting the contributions that kept pouring in,
while Amy with a beautiful motherly expression in her face sketched the various groups,
and watched over one pale lad,
who sat adoring her with his little crutch beside him.
Jo was in her element that day,
and rushed about,
with her gown pinned up,
and her hat anywhere but on her head,
and her baby tucked under her arm,
ready for any lively adventure which might turn up.
Little Teddy bore a charmed life,
for nothing ever happened to him,
and Jo never felt any anxiety when he was whisked up into a tree by one lad,
galloped off on the back of another,
or supplied with sour russets by his indulgent papa,
who labored under the Germanic delusion that babies could digest anything,
from pickled cabbage to buttons,
and their own small shoes.
She knew that little Ted would turn up again in time,
safe and rosy,
dirty and serene,
and she always received him back with a hearty welcome,
for Jo loved her babies tenderly.
At four o'clock a lull took place,
and baskets remained empty,
while the apple pickers rested and compared rents and bruises.
Then Jo and Meg,
with a detachment of the bigger boys,
set forth the supper on the grass,
for an out-of-door tea was always the crowning joy of the day.
The land literally flowed with milk and honey on such occasions,
for the lads were not required to sit at table,
but allowed to partake of refreshment as they liked --freedom being the sauce best beloved by the boyish soul.
They availed themselves of the rare privilege to the fullest extent,
for some tried the pleasing experiment of drinking milk while standing on their heads,
others lent a charm to leapfrog by eating pie in the pauses of the game,
cookies were sown broadcast over the field,
and apple turnovers roosted in the trees like a new style of bird.
The little girls had a private tea party,
and Ted roved among the edibles at his own sweet will.
When no one could eat any more,
the Professor proposed the first regular toast,
which was always drunk at such times --"Aunt March,
God bless her!"
A toast heartily given by the good man,
who never forgot how much he owed her,
and quietly drunk by the boys,
who had been taught to keep her memory green.
Grandma's sixtieth birthday!
Long life to her,
with three times three!"
That was given with a will,
as you may well believe,
and the cheering once begun,
it was hard to stop it.
Everybody's health was proposed,
from Mr. Laurence,
who was considered their special patron,
to the astonished guinea pig,
who had strayed from its proper sphere in search of its young master.
as the oldest grandchild,
then presented the queen of the day with various gifts,
so numerous that they were transported to the festive scene in a wheelbarrow.
some of them,
but what would have been defects to other eyes were ornaments to Grandma's --for the children's gifts were all their own.
Every stitch Daisy's patient little fingers had put into the handkerchiefs she hemmed was better than embroidery to Mrs. March.
Demi's miracle of mechanical skill,
though the cover wouldn't shut,
Rob's footstool had a wiggle in its uneven legs that she declared was soothing,
and no page of the costly book Amy's child gave her was so fair as that on which appeared in tipsy capitals,
the words --"To dear Grandma,
from her little Beth."
During the ceremony the boys had mysteriously disappeared,
and when Mrs. March had tried to thank her children,
and broken down,
while Teddy wiped her eyes on his pinafore,
the Professor suddenly began to sing.
from above him,
voice after voice took up the words,
and from tree to tree echoed the music of the unseen choir,
as the boys sang with all their hearts the little song that Jo had written,
Laurie set to music,
and the Professor trained his lads to give with the best effect.
This was something altogether new,
and it proved a grand success,
for Mrs. March couldn't get over her surprise,
and insisted on shaking hands with every one of the featherless birds,
from tall Franz and Emil to the little quadroon,
who had the sweetest voice of all.
the boys dispersed for a final lark,
leaving Mrs. March and her daughters under the festival tree.
"I don't think I ever ought to call myself
'unlucky Jo' again,
when my greatest wish has been so beautifully gratified,"
said Mrs. Bhaer,
taking Teddy's little fist out of the milk pitcher,
in which he was rapturously churning.
"And yet your life is very different from the one you pictured so long ago.
Do you remember our castles in the air?"
smiling as she watched Laurie and John playing cricket with the boys.
It does my heart good to see them forget business and frolic for a day,"
who now spoke in a maternal way of all mankind.
but the life I wanted then seems selfish,
and cold to me now.
I haven't given up the hope that I may write a good book yet,
but I can wait,
and I'm sure it will be all the better for such experiences and illustrations as these,"
and Jo pointed from the lively lads in the distance to her father,
leaning on the Professor's arm,
as they walked to and fro in the sunshine,
deep in one of the conversations which both enjoyed so much,
and then to her mother,
sitting enthroned among her daughters,
with their children in her lap and at her feet,
as if all found help and happiness in the face which never could grow old to them.
"My castle was the most nearly realized of all.
I asked for splendid things,
to be sure,
but in my heart I knew I should be satisfied,
if I had a little home,
and some dear children like these.
I've got them all,
and am the happiest woman in the world,"
and Meg laid her hand on her tall boy's head,
with a face full of tender and devout content.
"My castle is very different from what I planned,
but I would not alter it,
I don't relinquish all my artistic hopes,
or confine myself to helping others fulfill their dreams of beauty.
I've begun to model a figure of baby,
and Laurie says it is the best thing I've ever done.
I think so,
and mean to do it in marble,
I may at least keep the image of my little angel."
As Amy spoke,
a great tear dropped on the golden hair of the sleeping child in her arms,
for her one well-beloved daughter was a frail little creature and the dread of losing her was the shadow over Amy's sunshine.
This cross was doing much for both father and mother,
for one love and sorrow bound them closely together.
Amy's nature was growing sweeter,
and more tender.
Laurie was growing more serious,
and both were learning that beauty,
even love itself,
cannot keep care and pain,
loss and sorrow,
from the most blessed for ...
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and sad and dreary.
"She is growing better,
I am sure of it,
but hope and keep happy,"
said Mrs. March,
as tenderhearted Daisy stooped from her knee to lay her rosy cheek against her little cousin's pale one.
"I never ought to,
while I have you to cheer me up,
and Laurie to take more than half of every burden,"
replied Amy warmly.
"He never lets me see his anxiety,
but is so sweet and patient with me,
so devoted to Beth,
and such a stay and comfort to me always that I can't love him enough.
in spite of my one cross,
I can say with Meg,
I'm a happy woman.'"
"There's no need for me to say it,
for everyone can see that I'm far happier than I deserve,"
glancing from her good husband to her chubby children,
tumbling on the grass beside her.
"Fritz is getting gray and stout.
I'm growing as thin as a shadow,
and am thirty.
We never shall be rich,
and Plumfield may burn up any night,
for that incorrigible Tommy Bangs will smoke sweet-fern cigars under the bed-clothes,
though he's set himself afire three times already.
But in spite of these unromantic facts,
I have nothing to complain of,
and never was so jolly in my life.
Excuse the remark,
but living among boys,
I can't help using their expressions now and then."
I think your harvest will be a good one,"
began Mrs. March,
frightening away a big black cricket that was staring Teddy out of countenance.
"Not half so good as yours,
Here it is,
and we never can thank you enough for the patient sowing and reaping you have done,"
with the loving impetuosity which she never would outgrow.
"I hope there will be more wheat and fewer tares every year,"
said Amy softly.
"A large sheaf,
but I know there's room in your heart for it,
added Meg's tender voice.
Touched to the heart,
Mrs. March could only stretch out her arms,
as if to gather children and grandchildren to herself,
with face and voice full of motherly love,
and humility ...
however long you may live,
I never can wish you a greater happiness than this!"