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LIBRARY OF THE
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA <S
LOS ANGELES V
They all drew to the fire, mother in the bi chair, with Both at
her feet: Me# and Amy perched on either arm of the chair, ami .In
leaning on the hack. I'A(;K 12.
&&L, &&4^M~ N.
MEG, JO, BETH AND AMY
BY LOUISA M. ALCOTT
ILLUSTRATED BY MAY ALCOTT
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1868, by
LOUISA M. ALCOTT,
In the Clerks office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.
Xi Water Street, Bost
Presswork by John Wilson aiid Son.
Playing Pilgrims 7
A Merry Christmas 23
The Laurence Boy 39
Being Neighborly 71
Beth finds the Palace Beautiful 88
Amy's Valley of Humiliation 98
Jo meets Apollyon 108
Meg goes to Vanity Fair 124
The P. C. and P. O. 147
Castles in the Air
. . . .
Little Faithful .
Laurie makes Mischief, and Jo makes Peace . . . 299
Pleasant Meadows . 316
Aunt March settles the Question 326
" Go then, my little Book, and show to all
That entertain, and bid thee welcome shall,
What thou dost keep close shut up in thy breast;
And wish what thou dost show them may be blest
To them for good, may make them choose to be
Pilgrims better, by far, than thee or me.
Tell them of Mercy; she is one
Who early hath her pilgrimage begun.
Yea, let young damsels learn of her to prize
The world which is to come, and so be wise;
For little tripping maids may follow God
Along the ways which saintly feet have trod."
ADAPTED FROM JOHN BUNYAN.
/CHRISTMAS won't be Christmas without any
I i presents," grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.
" It's so dreadful to be poor! sighed Meg,
looking down at her old dress.
" I don't think it's fair for some girls to have lots
of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all," added
little Amy, with an injured sniff.
" We've got father and mother, and each other, any-
how," said Beth, contentedly, from her corner.
The four young faces on which the firelight shone
brightened at the cheerful words, but darkened again
as Jo said sadly,
" We haven't got father, and shall not have him for
a long time." She didn't say " perhaps never," but
each silently added it, thinking of father far away,
where the fighting was.
Nobody spoke for a minute ; then Meg said in an
" You know the reason mother proposed not having
any presents this Christmas, was because it's going to
be a hard winter for every one ; and she thinks we
8 Little Women.
ought not to spend money for pleasure, when our men
are suffering so in the army. We can't do much, but
we can make our little sacrifices, and ought to do it
gladly. But I am afraid I dont ; " and Meg shook
her head, as she thought regretfully of all the pretty
things she wanted.
" But I don't think the little we should spend would
do any good. We've each got a dollar, and the army
w r ouldn't be much helped by our giving that. I agree
not to expect anything from mother or you, but I do
want to buy Undine and Sintram for myself; I've
wanted it so long," said Jo, who was a bookworm.
" I planned to spend mine in new music," said
Beth, with a little sigh, which no one heard but the
hearth-brush and kettle-holder.
" I shall get a nice box of Faber's drawing pencils ;
I really need them," said Amy, decidedly.
" Mother didn't say anything about our money, and
she won't wish us to give up everything. Let's each
buy what we want, and have a little fun ; I'm sure
we grub hard enough to earn it," cried Jo, examining
the heels of her boots in a gentlemanly manner.
"I know / do, teaching those dreadful children
nearly all day, when Fm longing to enjoy myself at
home," began Meg, in the complaining tone again.
" You don't have half such a hard time as I do,"
said Jo. " How would you like to be shut up for
hours with a nervous, fussy old lady, who keeps you
trotting, is never satisfied, and worries you till you're
ready to fly out of the window or box her ears ? "
"Ifs naughty to fret, but I do think washing
dishes and keeping things tidy is the worst work in
Playing Pilgrims. 9
the world. It makes me cross ; and my hands get so
stiff, I can't practise good a bit." And Beth looked
at her rough hands with a sigh that any one could
hear that time.
" I don't believe any of you suffer as I do," cried
Amy ; " for you don't have to go to school with im-
pertinent girls, who plague you if you don't know
your lessons, and laugh at your dresses, and label
your father if he isn't rich, and insult you when your
nose isn't nice."
" If you mean libel Fd say so, and not talk about
labels, as if pa was a pickle-bottle," advised Jo,
" I know what I mean, and you needn't be ' stati-
rical ' about it. It's proper to use good words, and im-
prove your vocabllary" returned Amy, with dignity.
" Don't peck at one another, children. Don't you
wish we had the money papa lost when we were
little, Jo ? Dear me, how happy and good we'd be,
if we had no worries," said Meg, who could remem-
ber better times.
" You said the other day you thought we were a
deal happier than the King children, for they were
fighting and fretting all the time, in spite of their
" So I did, Beth. Well, I guess we are ; for though
we do have to work, we make fun for ourselves, and
are a pretty jolly set, as Jo would say."
"Jo does use such slang words," observed Amy,
with a reproving look at the long figure stretched on
the rug. Jo immediately sat up, put her hands in her
apron pockets, and began to whistle.
io Little Women.
" Don't, Jo ; it's so boyish."
" That's why I do it."
" I detest rude, unlady-like girls.'*
" I hate affected, niminy piminy chits."
" Birds in their little nests agree," sang Beth, the
peace-maker, with such a funny face that both sharp
voices softened to a laugh, and the "pecking" ended
for that time.
" Really, girls, you are both to be blamed," said
Meg, beginning to lecture in her elder sisterly fashion.
" You are old enough to leave off boyish tricks, and
behave better, Josephine. It didn't matter so much
when you were a little girl ; but now you are so tall,
and turn up your hair, you should remember that you
are a young lady."
" I ain't ! and if turning up my hair makes me one,
I'll wear it in two tails till I'm twenty," cried Jo, pull-
ing off her net, and shaking down a chestnut mane.
" I hate to think I've got to grow up and be Miss
March, and wear long gowns, and look as prim as a
China-aster. It's bad enough to be a girl, any-way,
when I like boy's games, and work, and manners. I
can't get over my disappointment in not being a boy,
and it's worse than ever now, for I'm dying to go
and fight with papa, and I can only stay at home and
knit like a poky old woman ; " and Jo shook the blue
army-sock till the needles rattled like castanets, and
her ball bounded across the room.
" Poor Jo ; it's too bad ! But it can't be helped, so
you must try to be contented with making your name
boyish, and playing brother to us girls," said Beth,
stroking the rough head at her knee with a hand that
Playing Pilgrims. 1 1
all the dish-washing and dusting in the world could
not make ungentle in its touch.
" As for you, Amy," continued Meg, " you are alto-
gether too particular and prim. Your airs are funny
now, but you'll grow up an affected little goose if you
don't take care. I like your nice manners, and refined
ways of speaking, when you don't try to be elegant ;
but your absurd words are as bad as Jo's slang."
" If Jo is a torn-boy, and Amy a goose, what am I,
please ? " asked Beth, ready to share the lecture.
"You're a dear, and nothing else," answered Meg,
warmly ; and no one contradicted her, for the " Mouse"
was the pet of the family.
As young readers like to know " how people look,"
we will take this moment to give them a little sketch
of the four sisters, who sat knitting away in the twi-
light, while the December snow fell quietly without,
and the fire crackled cheerfully within. It was a
comfortable old room, though the carpet was faded
and the furniture very plain, for a good picture or
two hung on the walls, books filled the recesses,
chrysanthemums and Christmas roses bloomed in the
windows, and a pleasant atmosphere of home-peace
Margaret, the eldest of the four, was sixteen, and
very pretty, being plump and fair, with large eyes,
plenty of soft brown hair, a sweet mouth, and white
hands, of which she was rather vain. Fifteen-year old
Jo was very tall, thin and brown, and reminded one
of a colt ; for she never seemed to know what to do
with her long limbs, which were very much in her
way. She had a decided mouth, a comical nose, and
12 Little Women.
sharp gray eyes, which appeared to see everything,
and were by turns fierce, funny, or thoughtful. Her
long, thick hair was her one beauty ; but it was usu-
ally bundled into a net, to be out of her way. Round
shoulders had Jo, big hands and feet, a fly-away look
to her clothes, and the uncomfortable appearance
of a girl who was rapidly shooting up into a wo-
man, and didn't like it. Elizabeth, or Beth, as
every one called her, was a rosy, smooth-haired,
bright-eyed girl of thirteen, with a shy manner, a
timid voice, and a peaceful expression, which was
seldom disturbed. Her father called her " Little
Tranquillity," and the name suited her excellently ; for
she seemed to live in a happy world of her own, only
venturing out to meet the few whom she trusted and
loved. Amy, though the youngest, was a most im-
portant person, in her own opinion at least. A regu-
lar snow maiden, with blue eyes, and yellow hair
curling on her shoulders ; pale and slender, and
always carrying herself like a young lady mindful of
her manners. What the characters of the four sisters
were, we will leave to be found out.
The clock struck six; and, having swept up the
hearth, Beth put a pair of slippers down to warm.
Somehow the sight of the old shoes had a good effect
upon the girls, for mother was coming, and every one
brightened to welcome her. Meg stopped lecturing,
and lit the lamp, Amy got out of the easy-chair with-
out being asked, and Jo forgot how tired she was as
she sat up to hold the slippers nearer to the blaze.
" They are quite worn out ; Marmee must have a
Playing Pilgrims. 13
" I thought I'd get her some with my dollar," said
" No, I shall ! " cried Amy.
" I'm the oldest," began Meg, but Jo cut in with a
" I'm the man of the family now papa is away, and
I shall provide the slippers, for he told me to take
special care of mother while he was gone."
" I'll tell you what we'll do," said Beth ; " let* s each
get her something for Christmas, and not get anything
"That's like you, dear! What will we get?" ex-
Every one thought soberly for a minute ; then Meg
announced, as if the idea was suggested by the sight
of her own pretty hands, " I shall give her a nice pair
" Army shoes, best to be had," cried Jo.
" Some handkerchiefs, all hemmed," said Beth.
"I'll get a little bottle of Cologne ; she likes it, and
it won't cost much, so I'll have some left to buy some-
thing for me," added Amy.
" How will we give the things? " asked Meg.
" Put 'em on the table, and bring her in and see her
open the bundles. Don't you remember how we used
to do on our birthdays ? " answered Jo.
" I used to be so frightened when it was my turn
to sit in the big chair with a crown on, and see you
all come marching round to give the presents, with a
kiss. I liked the things and the kisses, but it was
dreadful to have you sit looking at me while I opened
14 JLittle Women.
the bundles," said Beth, who was toasting her face
and the bread for tea, at the same time.
" Let Marmee think we are getting things for our-
selves, and then surprise her. We must go shopping
to-morrow afternoon, Meg ; there is lots to do about
the play for Christmas night," said Jo, marching up
and down with her hands behind her back, and her
nose in the air.
" I don't mean to act any more after this time ; I'm
getting too old for such things," observed Meg, who
was as much a child as ever about " dressing up "
" You won't stop, I know, as long as you can trail
round in a white gown with your hair down, and
wear gold-paper jewelry. You are the best actress
we've got, and there '11 be an end of everything if you
quit the boards," said Jo. " We ought to rehearse to-
night ; come here, Amy, and do the fainting scene, for
you are as stiff as a poker in that."
" I can't help it ; I never saw any one faint, and I
don't choose to make myself all black and blue, tum-
bling flat as you do. If I can go down easily, I'll
drop ; if I can't, I shall fall into a chair and be grace-
ful ; I don't care if Hugo does come at me with a
pistol," returned Amy, who was not gifted with dra-
matic power, but was chosen because she was small
enough to be borne out shrieking by the hero of the
" Do it this way ; clasp your hands so, and stagger
across the room, crying frantically, ' Roderigo ! save
me ! save me ! ' " and away went Jo, with a melo-
dramatic scream which was truly thrilling.
Playing Pilgrims. 15
Amy followed, but she poked her hands out stiffly
before her, and jerked herself along as if she went by
machinery ; and her " Ow ! " was more suggestive of
pins being run into her than of fear and anguish. Jo
gave a despairing groan, and Meg laughed outright,
while Beth let her bread burn as she watched the fun,
"It's no use! do the best you can when the time
comes, and if the audience shout, don't blame me.
Come on, Meg."
Then things went smoothly, for Don Pedro defied
the world in a speech of two pages without a single
break ; Hagar, the witch, chanted an awful incanta-
tion over her kettleful of simmering toads, with weird
effect ; Roderigo rent his chains asunder manfully,
and Hugo died in agonies of remorse and arsenic,
with a wild " Ha ! ha ! "
" It's the best we've had yet," said Meg, as the dead
villain sat up and rubbed his elbows.
" I don't see how you can write and act such splen-
did things, Jo. You 're a regular Shakespeare ! "
exclaimed Beth, who firmly believed that her sisters
were gifted with wonderful genius in all things.
" Not quite," replied Jo, modestly. " I do think
4 The Witch's Curse, an Operatic Tragedy,' is rather
a nice thing ; but I'd like to try Macbeth, if we only
had a trap-door for Banquo. I always wanted to do
the killing part. ' Is that a dagger that I see before
me ? ' " muttered Jo, rolling her eyes and clutching at
the air, as she had seen a famous tragedian do.
" No, if s the toasting fork, with ma's shoe on it
instead of the bread. Beth 's stage struck ! " cried
1 6 Little Women.
Meg, and the rehearsal ended in a genera* burst of
" Glad to find you so merry, my girls," said a cheery
voice at the door, and actors and audience turned to
welcome a stout, motherly lady, -with a " can-I-help-
you " look about her which was truly delightful. She
wasn't a particularly handsome person, but mothers
are always lovely to their children, and the girls
thought the gray cloak and unfashionable bonnet cov-
ered the most splendid woman in the world.
"Well, dearies, how have you got on to-day?
There was so much to do, getting the boxes ready to
go to-morrow, that I didn't come home to dinner.
Has any one called, Beth ? How is your cold, Meg ?
Jo, you look tired to death. Come and kiss me,
While making these maternal inquiries Mrs. March
got her wet things off, her hot slippers on, and sitting
down in the easy-chair, drew Amy to her lap, pre-
paring to enjoy the happiest hour of her busy day.
The girls flew about, trying to make things comfort-
able, each in her own way. Meg arranged the
tea-table ; Jo brought wood and set chairs, dropping,
overturning, and clattering everything she touched;
Beth trotted to and fro between parlor and kitchen,
quiet and busy ; while Amy gave directions to every
one, as she sat with her hands folded.
As they gathered about the table, Mrs. March said,
\vith a particularly happy face, " I've got a treat for
you after supper."
A quick, bright smile went round like a streak of
sunshine. Beth clapped her hands, regardless of the
Playing Pilgrims. 1 7
hot biscuit she held, and Jo tossed up her napkin, cry-
ing, " A letter ! a letter ! Three cheers for father ! "
"Yes, a nice long letter. He is well, and thinks
he shall get through the cold season better than we
feared. He sends all sorts of loving wishes for Christ-
mas, and an especial message to you girls," said Mrs.
March, patting her pocket as if she had got a treasure
" Hurry up, and get done. Don't stop to quirk
your little finger, and prink over your plate, Amy,"
cried Jo, choking in her tea, and dropping her bread,
butter side down, on the carpet, in her haste to get
at the treat.
Beth ate no more, but crept away, to sit in her
shadowy corner and brood over the delight to come,
till the others were ready.
" I think it was so splendid in father to go as a
chaplain when he was too old to be draughted, and
not strong enough for a soldier," said Meg, warmly.
" Don't I wish I could go as a drummer, a vivan
what's its name ? or a nurse, so I could be near him
and help him," exclaimed Jo, with a groan.
" It must be very disagreeable to sleep in a tent, and
eat all sorts of bad-tasting things, and drink out of a
tin mug," sighed Amy.
"When will he come home, Marmee?" asked Beth,
with a little quiver in her voice.
"Not for many months, dear, unless he is sick.
He will stay and do his work faithfully as long as he
can, and we won't ask for him back a minute sooner
than he can be spared. Now come and hear the
1 8 Little Women.
They all drew to the fire, mother in the big chair
with Beth at her feet, Meg and Amy perched on either
arm of the chair, and Jo leaning on the back, where
no one would see any sign of emotion if the letter
should happen to be touching.
Very few letters were written in those hard times
that were not touching, especially those which fathers
sent home. In this one little was said of the hard-
ships endured, the dangers faced, or the homesickness
conquered ; it was a cheerful, hopeful letter, full of
lively descriptions of camp life, marches, and military
news ; and only at the end did the writer's heart over-
flow with fatherly love and longing for the little girls
" Give them all my dear love and a kiss. Tell
them I think of them by day, pray for them by night,
and find my best comfort in their affection at all times.
A year seems very long to wait before I see them, but
remind them that while we wait we may all work, so
that these hard days need not be wasted. I know
they will remember all I said to them, that they will
be loving children to you, will do their duty faith-
fully, fight their bosom enemies bravely, and conquer
themselves so beautifully, that when I come back to
them I may be fonder and prouder than ever of my
Everybody sniffed when they came to that part ; Jo
wasn't ashamed of the great tear that dropped off the
end of her nose, and Amy never minded the rum-
pling of her curls as she hid her face on her mother's
shoulder and sobbed out, "I am a selfish pig! but I'll
Playing Pilgrims. 19
truly try to be better, so he mayn't be disappointed in
me by and by."
" We all will ! " cried Meg. " I think too much of
my looks, and hate to work, but won't any more, if I
can help it."
"I'll try and be what he loves to call me, 4 a little
woman,' and not be rough and wild ; but do my duty
here instead of wanting to be somewhere else," said
Jo, thinking that keeping her temper at home was a
much harder task than facing a rebel or two down
Beth said nothing, but wiped away her tears with
the blue army-sock, and began to knit with all her
might, losing no time in doing the duty that lay
nearest her, while she resolved in her quiet little soul
to be all that father hoped to find her when the year
brought round the happy coming home.
Mrs. March broke the silence that followed Jo's
words, by saying in her cheery voice, " Do you re-
member how you used to play Pilgrim's Progress
when you were little things ? Nothing delighted you
more than to have me tie my piece-bags on your
backs for burdens, give you hats and sticks, and rolls
of paper, and let you travel through the house from
the cellar, which was the City of Destruction, up, up,
to the house-top, where you had all the lovely things
you could collect to make a Celestial City."
" What fun it was, especially going by the lions,
fighting Apollyon, and passing through the Valley
where the hobgoblins were," said Jo.
" I liked the place where the bundles fell off and
tumbled down stairs," said Meg.
20 Little Women.
" My favorite part was when we came out on the
flat roof where our flowers and arbors, and pretty
things were, and all stood and sung for joy up there in
the sunshine," said Beth, smiling, as if that pleasant
moment had come back to her.
" I don't remember much about it, except that I
was afraid of the cellar and the dark entry, and
always liked the cake and milk we had up at the top.
If I wasn't too old for such things, I'd rather like to
play it over again," said Amy, who began to talk of
renouncing childish things at the mature age of twelve.
" We never are too old for this, my dear, because
it is a play we are playing all the time in one way or
another. Our burdens are here, our road is before us,
and the longing for goodness and happiness is the
guide that leads us through many troubles and mis-
takes to the peace which is a true Celestial City.
Now, my little pilgrims, suppose you begin again, not
in play, but in earnest, and see how far on you can
get before father comes home."
" Really, mother ? where are our bundles ? " asked
Amy, who was a very literal young lady.
" Each of you told what your burden was just now,
except Beth ; I rather think she hasn't got any," said
" Yes, I have ; mine is dishes and dusters, and envy-
ing girls with nice pianos, and being afraid of people."
Beth's bundle was such a funny one that everybody
wanted to laugh ; but nobody did, for it would have
hurt her feelings very much.
" Let us do it," said Meg, thoughtfully. " It is only
another name for trying to be good, and the story
Playing Pilgrims. 2 1
may help us ; for though we do want to be good, it's
hard work, and we forget, and don't do our best."
" We were in the Slough of Despond to-night, and
mother came and pulled us out as Help did in the
book. We ought to have our roll of directions, like
Christian. What shall we do about that?" asked Jo,
delighted with the fancy which lent a little romance
to the very dull task of doing her duty.
" Look under your pillows, Christmas morning,
and you will find your guide-book," replied Mrs.
They talked over the new plan while old Hannah
cleared the table ; then out came the four little work-
baskets, and the needles flew as the girls made sheets
for Aunt March. It was uninteresting sewing, but
to-night no one grumbled. They adopted Jo's plan
of dividing the long seams into four parts, and calling
the quarters Europe, Asia, Africa and America, and
in that way got on capitally, especially when they
talked about the different countries as they stitched
their way through them.
At nine they stopped work, and sung, as usual,
before they went to bed. No one but Beth could get
much music out of the old piano ; but she had a way
of softly touching the yellow keys, and making a
pleasant accompaniment to the simple songs they
sung. Meg had a voice like a flute, and she and her
mother led the little choir. Amy chirped like a
cricket, and Jo wandered through the airs at her own
sweet will, always coming out at the wrong place
with a crook or a quaver that spoilt the most pensive
22 Little Women.
tune. They had always done this from the time they
" Crinkle, crinkle, 'ittle 'tar,"
and it had become a household custom, for the mother
was a born singer. The first sound in the morning
was her voice, as she went about the house singing
like a lark ; and the last sound at night was the same
cheery sound, for the girls never grew too old for that
A MERRY CHRISTMAS.
JO was the first to wake in the gray dawn of
Christmas morning. No stockings hung at the
fireplace, and for a moment she felt as much
disappointed as she did long ago, when her little sock
fell down because it was so crammed with goodies.
Then she remembered her mother's promise, and
slipping her hand under her pillow, drew out a little
crimson-covered book. She knew it very well, for
it was that beautiful old story of the best life ever
lived, and Jo felt that it was a true guide-book for any
pilgrim going the long journey. She woke Meg with
a "Merry Christmas," and bade her see what was
under her pillow. A green-covered book appeared,
with the same picture inside, and a few words written
by their mother, which made their one present very
precious in their eyes. Presently Beth and Amy
woke, to rummage and find their little books also,
one dove-colored, the other blue ; and all sat looking
at and talking about them, while the East grew rosy
with the coming day.
In spite of her small vanities, Margaret had a sweet
24 Little Women.
and pious nature, which unconsciously influenced her
sisters, especially Jo, who loved her very tenderly, and
obeyed her because her advice was so gently given.
" Girls," said Meg, seriously, looking from the
tumbled head beside her to the two little night-capped
ones in the room beyond, " mother wants us to read
and love and mind these books, and we must begin
at once. We used to be faithful about it ; but since
father went away, and all this war trouble unsettled
us, we have neglected many things. You can do as
you please ; but / shall keep my book on the table
here, and read a little every morning as soon as I
wake, for I know it will do me good, and help me
through the day."
Then she opened her new book and began to read.
Jo put her arm round her, and, leaning cheek to
cheek, read also, with the quiet expression so seldom
seen on her restless face.
" How good Meg is ! Come, Amy, let's do as they
do. I'll help you with the hard words, and they'll
explain things if we don't understand," whispered
Beth, very much impressed by the pretty books and
her sisters' example.
" I'm glad mine is blue," said Amy ; and then the
rooms were very still while the pages were softly
turned, and the winter sunshine crept in to touch
the bright heads and serious faces with a Christmas
"Where is mother?" asked Meg, as she and Jo
ran down to thank her for their gifts, half an hour
" Goodness only knows. Some poor creeter come
A Merry Christmas. 25
a-beggin', and your ma went straight off* to see what
was needed. There never was such a woman for
givin' away vittles and drink, clothes and firin', " re-
plied Hannah, who had lived with the family since
Meg was born, and was considered by them all more
as a friend than a servant.
" She will be back soon, I guess ; so do your cakes,
and have everything ready," said Meg, looking over
the presents which were collected in a basket and kept
under the sofa, ready to be produced at the proper
time. " Why, where is Amy's bottle of Cologne ? " she
added, as the little flask did not appear.
" She took it out a minute ago, and went off with
it to put a ribbon on it, or some such notion," replied
Jo, dancing about the room to take the first stiffness
off the new army-slippers.
" How nice my handkerchiefs look, dont they ?
Hannah washed and ironed them for me, and I
marked them all myself," said Beth, looking proudly
at the somewhat uneven letters which had cost her
" Bless the child, she's gone and put ' Mother '
on them instead of ' M. March ; ' how funny ! " cried Jo,
taking up one.
" Isn't it right? I thought it was better to do it
so, because Meg's initials are ' M. M.,' and I don't
want any one to use these but Marmee," said Beth,
" It's all right, dear, and a very pretty idea ; quite
sensible, too, for no one can ever mistake now. It
will please her very much, I know," said Meg, with
a frown for Jo, and a smile for Beth.
26 Little Women.
" There's mother ; hide the basket, quick ! " cried Jo,
as a door slammed, and steps sounded in the hall.
Amy came in hastily, and looked rather abashed
when she saw her sisters all waiting for her.
" Where have you been, and what are you hiding
behind you ? " asked Meg, surprised to see, by her hood
and cloak, that lazy Amy had been out so early.
" Don't laugh at me, Jo, I didn't mean any one
should know till the time came. I only meant to change
the little bottle for a big one, and I gave all my money
to get it, and I'm truly trying not to be selfish any
As she spoke, Amy showed the handsome flask which
replaced the cheap one ; and looked so earnest and
humble in her little effort to forget herself, that Meg
hugged her on the spot, and Jo pronounced her " a
trump," while Beth ran to the window, and picked
her finest rose to ornament the stately bottle.
" You see I felt ashamed of my present, after
reading and talking about being good this morning, so
I ran round the corner and changed it the minute I
was up ; and I'm so glad, for mine is the handsomest
Another bang of the street-door sent the basket
under the sofa, and the girls to the table eager for
" Merry Christmas, Marmee ! Lots of them ! Thank
you for our books ; we read some, and mean to every
day," they cried, in chorus.
"Merry Christmas, little daughters! I'm glad you
began at once, and hope you will keep on. But I
want to say one word before we sit down. Not far
A Merry Christmas. 27
away from here lies a poor woman with a little new-
born baby. Six children are huddled into one bed to
keep from freezing, for they have no fire. There is
nothing to eat over there ; and the oldest boy came to
tell me they were suffering hunger and cold. My girls,
will you give them your breakfast as a Christmas
They were all unusually hungry, having waited
nearly an hour, and for a minute no one spoke ; only
a minute, for Jo exclaimed impetuously,
" I'm so glad you came before we began ! "
" May I go and help carry the things to the poor
little children?" asked Beth, eagerly.
"/ shall take the cream and the muffins," added
Amy, heroically giving up the articles she most liked.
Meg was already covering the buckwheats, and
piling the bread into one big plate.
" I thought you'd do it," said Mrs. March, smiling
as if satisfied. "You shall all go and help me, and
when we come back we will have bread and milk for
breakfast, and make it up at dinner-time."
They were soon ready, and the procession set out.
Fortunately it was early, and they went through back
streets, so few people saw them, and no one laughed
at the funny party.
A poor, bare, miserable room it was, with broken
windows, no fire, ragged bed-clothes, a sick mother,
wailing baby, and a group of pale, hungry children
cuddled under one old quilt, trying to keep warm.
How the big eyes stared, and the blue lips smiled, as
the girls went in !
28 Little Women.
" Ach, mein Gott ! it is good angels come to us!"
cried the poor woman, crying for joy.
" Funny angels in hoods and mittens," said Jo, and
set them laughing.
In a few minutes it really did seem as if kind spirits
had been at work there. Hannah, who had carried
wood, made a fire, and stopped up the broken panes
with old hats, and her own shawl. Mrs. March gave
the mother tea and gruel, and comforted her with
promises of help, while she dressed the little baby as
tenderly as if it had been her own. The girls, mean-
time, spread the table, set the children round the fire,
and fed them like so many hungry birds ; laughing,
talking, and trying to understand the funny broken
" Das ist gute ! " " Der angel-kinder ! " cried the
poor things, as they ate, and warmed their purple
hands at the comfortable blaze. The girls had never
been called angel children before, and thought it very
agreeable, especially Jo, who had been considered " a
Sancho " ever since she was born. That was a very
happy breakfast, though they didn't get any of it ; and
when they went away, leaving comfort behind, I think
there were not in all the city four merrier people than
the hungry little girls who gave away their breakfasts,
and contented themselves with bread and milk on
" That's loving our neighbor better than ourselves,
and I like it," said Meg, as they set out their presents,
while their mother was upstairs collecting clothes for
the poor Hummels.
Not a very splendid show, but there was a great
A Merry Christmas. 29
deal of love done up in the few little bundles ; and the
tall vase of red roses, white chrysanthemums, and
trailing vines, which stood in the middle, gave quite
an elegant air to the table.
" She's coming ! strike up, Beth, open the door,
Amy. Three cheers for Marmee ! " cried Jo, pranc-
ing about, while Meg went to conduct mother to the
seat of honor.
Beth played her gayest march, Amy threw open the
door, and Meg enacted escort with great dignity.
Mrs. March was both surprised and touched ; and
smiled with her eyes full as she examined her
presents, and read the little notes which accom-
panied them. The slippers went on at once, a new
handkerchief was slipped into her pocket, well scented
with Amy's Cologne, the rose was fastened in her
bosom, and the nice gloves were pronounced " a per-
There was a good deal of laughing, and kissing,
and explaining, in the simple, loving fashion which
makes these home-festivals so pleasant at the time, so
sweet to remember long afterward, and then all fell to
The morning charities and ceremonies took so
much time, that the rest of the day was devoted to
preparations for the evening festivities. Being still
too young to go often to the theatre, and not rich
enough to afford any great outlay for private perform-
ances, the girls put their wits to work, and, necessity
being the mother of invention, made whatever they
needed. Very clever were some of their produc-
tions ; paste-board guitars, antique lamps made of
30 Little Women.
old-fashioned butter-boats, covered with silver paper,
gorgeous robes of old cotton, glittering with tin span-
gles from a pickle factory, and armor covered with
the same useful diamond-shaped bits, left in sheets
when the lids of tin preserve-pots were cut out. The
furniture was used to being turned topsy-turvy, and
the big chamber was the scene of many innocent
No gentlemen were admitted ; so Jo played male
parts to her heart's content, and took immense satis-
faction in a pair of russet-leather boots given her by a
friend, who knew a lady who knew an actor. These
boots, an old foil, and a slashed doublet once used by
an artist for some picture, were Jo's chief treasures,
and appeared on all occasions. The smallness of the
company made it necessary for the two principal
actors to take several parts apiece ; and they certainly
deserved some credit for the hard work they did in
learning three or four different parts, whisking in and
out of various costumes, and managing the stage be-
sides. It was excellent drill for their memories, a
harmless amusement, and employed many hours
which otherwise would have been idle, lonely, or
spent in less profitable society.
On Christmas night, a dozen girls piled on to the
bed, which was the dress circle, and sat before the
blue and yellow chintz curtains, in a most flattering
state of expectancy. There was a good deal of
rustling and whispering behind the curtain, a trifle
of lamp-smoke, and an occasional giggle from Amy,
who was apt to get hysterical in the excitement of the
A Merry Christmas. 31
moment. Presently a bell sounded, the curtains flew
apart, and the Operatic Tragedy began.
" A gloomy wood," according to the one play-bill,
was represented by a few shrubs in pots, a green
baize on the floor, and a cave in the distance. This
cave was made with a clothes-horse for a roof,
bureaus for walls ; and in it was a small furnace in
full blast, with a black pot on it, and an old witch
bending over it. The stage was dark, and the glow
of the furnace had a fine effect, especially as real
steam issued from the kettle when the witch took ofF
the cover. A moment was allowed for the first thrill
to subside ; then Hugo, the villain, stalked in with a
clanking sword at his side, a slouched hat, black
beard, mysterious cloak, and the boots. After pacing
to and fro in much agitation, he struck his forehead,
and burst out in a wild strain, singing of his hatred to
Roderigo, his love for Zara, and his pleasing resolu-
tion to kill the one and win the other. The gruff
tones of Hugo's voice, with an occasional shout when
his feelings overcame him, were very impressive, and
the audience applauded the moment he paused for
breath. Bowing with the air of one accustomed to
public praise, he stole to the cavern and ordered
Hagar to come forth with a commanding " What ho !
minion ! I need thee ! "
Out came Meg, with gray horse-hair hanging about
her face, a red and black robe, a staff, and cabalistic
signs upon her cloak. Hugo demanded a potion to
make Zara adore him, and one to destroy Roderigo.
Hagar, in a fine dramatic melody, promised both, and
32 Little Women.
proceeded to call up the spirit who would bring the
love philter :
" Hither, hither, from thy home,
Airy sprite, I bid thee come !
Born of roses, fed on dew,
Charms and potions canst thou brew?
Bring me here, wifch elfin speed,
The fragrant philter which I need ;
Make it sweet, and swift and strong ;
Spirit, answer now my song ! "
A soft strain of music sounded, and then at the
back of the cave appeared a little figure in cloudy
white, with glittering wings, golden hair, and a gar-
land of roses on its head. Waving a wand, it
" Hither I come,
From my airy home,
Afar in the silver moon ;
Take the magic spell, *
Oh, use it well !
Or its power will vanish soon ! "
and dropping a small gilded bottle at the witch's feet,
the spirit vanished. Another chant from Hagar pro-
duced another apparition, not a lovely one, for,
with a bang, an ugly, black imp appeared, and
having croaked a reply, tossed a dark bottle at Hugo,
and disappeared with a mocking laugh. Having
warbled his thanks, and put the potions in his boots,
Hugo departed ; and Hagar informed the audience
that, as he had killed a few of her friends in times
past, she has cursed him, and intends to thwart his
A Merry Christmas. 33
plans, and be revenged on him. Then the curtain
fell, and the audience reposed and ate candy while
discussing the merits of the play.
A good deal of hammering went on before the cur-
tain rose again ; but when it became evident what a
masterpiece of stage carpentering had been got up,
no one murmured at the delay. It was truly superb !
A tower rose to the ceiling ; half-way up appeared a
window with a lamp burning at it, and behind the
white curtain appeared Zara in a lovely blue and
silver dress, waiting for Roderigo. He came, in
gorgeous array, with plumed cap, red cloak, chestnut
love-locks, a guitar, and the boots, of course. Kneel-
ing at the foot of the tower, he sung a serenade in
melting tones. Zara replied, and after a musical dia-
logue, consented to fly. Then came the grand effect
of the play. Roderigo produced a rope-ladder with
five steps to it, threw up one end, and invited Zara to
descend. Timidly she crept from her lattice, put her
hand on Roderigo's shoulder, and was about to leap
gracefully down, when, "alas, alas for Zara!" she
forgot her train, it caught in the window ; the
tower tottered, leaned forward, fell with a crash, and
buried the unhappy lovers in the ruins !
A universal shriek arose as the russet boots waved
wildly from the wreck, and a golden head emerged,
exclaiming, " I told you so ! I told you so ! " With
wonderful presence of mind Don Pedro, the cruel sire,
rushed in, dragged out his daughter with a hasty
"Don't laugh, act as if it was all right!" and
ordering Roderigo up, banished him from the kingdom
34 Little Women.
with wrath and scorn. Though decidedly shaken by
the fall of the tower upon him, Roderigo defied the old
gentleman, and refused to stir. This dauntless example
fired Zara ; she also defied her sire, and he ordered
them both to the deepest dungeons of the castle. A
stout little retainer came in with chains, and led them
away, looking very much frightened, and evidently for-
getting the speech he ought to have made.
Act third was the castle hall ; and here Hagar
appeared, having come to free the lovers and finish
Hugo. She hears him coming, and hides ; sees him
put the potions into two cups of wine, and bid the
timid little servant " Bear them to the captives in
their cells, and tell them I shall come anon." The
servant takes Hugo aside to tell him something, and
Hagar changes the cups for two others which are
harmless. Ferdinando, the " minion," carries them
away, and Hagar puts back the cup which holds the
poison meant for Roderigo. Hugo, getting thirsty
after a long warble, drinks it, loses his wits, and after
a good deal of clutching and stamping, falls flat and
dies ; while Hagar informs him what she has done in
a song of exquisite power and melody.
This was a truly thrilling scene ; though some
persons might have thought that the sudden tumbling
down of a quantity of long hair rather marred the
effect of the villain's death. He was called before the
curtain, and with great propriety appeared leading
Hagar, whose singing was considered more wonder-
ful than all the rest of the performance put together.
Act fourth displayed the despairing Roderigo on
the point of stabbing himself, because he has been told
A Merry Christmas. 35
that Zara has deserted him. Just as the dagger is at
his heart, a lovely song is sung under his window, in-
forming him that Zara is true, but in danger, and he can
save her if he will. A key is thrown in, which unlocks
the door, and in a spasm of rapture he tears off his
chains, and rushes away to find and rescue his lady-
Act fifth opened with a stormy scene between
Zara and Don Pedro. He wishes her to go into a
convent, but she won't hear of it ; and, after a touching
appeal, is about to faint, when Roderigo dashes in and
demands her hand. Don Pedro refuses, because he is
not rich. They shout and gesticulate tremendously,
but cannot agree, and Roderigo is about to bear away
the exhausted Zara, when the timid servant enters with
a letter and a bag from Hagar, who has mysteriously
disappeared. The latter informs the party that she
bequeaths untold wealth to the young pair, and an
awful doom to Don Pedro if he doesn't make them
happy. The bag is opened, and several quarts of
tin money shower down upon the stage, till it is
quite glorified with the glitter. This entirely softens
the " stern sire ; " he consents without a murmur, all
join in a joyful chorus, and the curtain falls upon the
lovers kneeling to receive Don Pedro's blessing, in
attitudes of the most romantic grace.
Tumultuous applause followed, but received an
unexpected check ; for the cot-bed on which the
" dress circle" was built, suddenly shut up, and extin-
.guished the enthusiastic audience. Roderigo and Don
Pedro flew to the rescue, and all were taken out un-
hurt, though many were speechless with laughter. The
36 Little Women.
excitement had hardly subsided when Hannah ap-
peared, with u Mrs. March's compliments, and would
the ladies walk down to supper."
This was a surprise, even to the actors ; and w r hen
they saw the table they looked at one another in rap-
turous amazement. It was like " Marmee " to get up
a little treat for them, but anything so fine as this was
unheard of since the departed days of plenty. There
was ice cream, actually two dishes of it, pink and
white, and cake, and fruit, and distracting French
bonbons, and in the middle of the table four great bou-
quets of hot-house flowers !
It quite took their breath away ; and they stared first
at the table and then at their mother, w r ho looked as if
she enjoyed it immensely.
"Is it fairies? " asked Amy.
" It's Santa Claus," said Beth.
" Mother did it ; " and Meg smiled her sweetest, in
spite of her gray beard and white eyebrows.
" Aunt March had a good fit, and sent the supper,"
cried Jo, with a sudden inspiration.
"All wrong; old Mr. Laurence sent it," replied
" The Laurence boy's grandfather ! What in the
world put such a thing into his head ? We don't know
him," exclaimed Meg.
" Hannah told one of his servants about your break-
fast party ; he is an odd old gentleman, but that
pleased him. He knew my father, years ago, and he
sent me a polite note this afternoon, saying he hoped
I would allow him to express his friendly feeling
toward my children by sending them a few trifles in
A Merry Christmas. 37
honor of the day. I could not refuse, and so you have
a little feast at night to make up for the bread and
" That boy put it into his head, I know he did !
He's a capital fellow, and I wish we could get ac-
quainted. He looks as if he'd like to know us ; but
he's bashful, and Meg is so prim she won't let me
speak to him when we pass," said Jo, as the plates
went round, and the ice began to melt out of sight,
with ohs ! and ahs ! of satisfaction.
" You mean the people who live in the big house
next door, don't you?" asked one of the girls. "My
mother knows old Mr. Laurence, but says he's very
proud, and don't like to mix with his neighbors. He
keeps his grandson shut up when he isn't riding or
walking with his tutor, and makes him study dreadful
hard. We invited him to our party, but he didn't
come. Mother says he's very nice, though he never
speaks to us girls."
" Our cat ran away once, and he brought her back,
and we talked over the fence, and were getting on
capitally, all about cricket, and so on, when he saw
Meg coming, and walked off. I mean to know him
some day, for he needs fun, I'm sure he does," said
" I like his manners, and he looks like a little gen-
tleman, so I've no objection to your knowing him if a
proper opportunity comes. He brought the flowers
himself, and I should have asked him in if I had been
sure what was going on upstairs. He looked so
wistful as he went away, hearing the frolic, and evi-
dently having none of his own."
38 Little Women.
"It's a mercy you didn't, mother," laughed Jo,
looking at her boots. " But we'll have another play
some time, that he can see. Maybe he'll help act ;
wouldn't that be jolly ? "
" I never had a bouquet before ; how pretty it is,"
and Meg examined her flowers with great interest.
" They are lovely, but Beth's roses are sweeter to
me," said Mrs. March, sniffing at the half dead posy
in her belt.
Beth nestled up to her, and whispered, softly, " I
wish I could send my bunch to father. I'm afraid he
isn't having such a merry Christmas as we are."
THE LAURENCE BOY.
JO ! Jo ! where are you ? " cried Meg, at the foot
of the garret stairs.
" Here," answered a husky voice from above ;
and running up, Meg found her sister eating apples
and crying over the " Heir of RedclifFe," wrapped up
in a comforter on an old three-legged sofa by the sunny
window. This was Jo's favorite refuge ; and here she
loved to retire with half a dozen russets and a nice
book, to enjoy the quiet and the society of a pet rat
who lived near by, and didn't mind her a particle.
As Meg appeared, Scrabble whisked into his hole.
Jo shook the tears off her cheeks, and waited to hear
" Such fun ! only see ! a regular note of invitation
from Mrs. Gardiner for to-morrow night ! " cried
Meg, waving the precious paper, and then proceeding
to read it, with girlish delight.
"'Mrs. Gardiner would be happy to see Miss
March and Miss Josephine at a little dance on New-
Year' s-Eve.' Marmee is willing we should go ; now
what shall we wear ? "
40 Little Women.
"What's the use of asking that, when you know
we shall wear our poplins, because we haven't got
anything else," answered Jo, with her mouth full.
" If I only had a silk ! " sighed Meg ; " mother says
I may when I'm eighteen, perhaps ; but two years is
an everlasting time to wait."
"I'm sure our pops look like silk, and they are nice
enough for us. Yours is as good as new, but I forgot
the burn and the tear in mine; whatever shall I do?
the burn shows horridly, and I can't take any out."
" You must sit still all you can,, and keep your back
out of sight ; the front is all right. I shall have a new
ribbon for my hair, and Marmee will lend me her
little pearl pin, and my new slippers are lovely, and
my gloves will do, though they aren't as nice as I'd
"Mine are spoilt with lemonade, and I can't get
any new ones, so I shall have to go without," said Jo,
who never troubled herself much about dress.
" You must have gloves, or I won't go," cried Meg,
decidedly. " Gloves are more important than any-
thing else ; you can't dance without them, and if you
don't I should be so mortified."
" Then I'll stay still ; I don't care much for com-
pany dancing ; if s no fun to go sailing round, I like to
fjy about and cut capers."
" You can't ask mother for new ones, they are so
expensive, and you are so careless. She said, when
you spoilt the others, that she shouldn't get you any
more this winter. Can't you fix them any way?"
asked Meg, anxiously.
" I can hold them crunched up in my hand, so no
The Laurence Boy. 41
one will know how stained they are ; thafs all I can
do. No ! I '11 tell you how we can manage each
wear one good one and carry a bad one ; don't you see ? "
" Your hands are bigger than mine, and you will
stretch my glove dreadfully," began Meg, whose
gloves were a tender point with her.
" Then I'll go without. I don't care what people
say," cried Jo, taking up her book.
" You may have it, you may ! only don't stain it,
and do behave nicely ; don't put your hands behind
you, or stare, or say ' Christopher Columbus ! ' will
you ? "
" Don't worry about me ; I'll be as prim as a dish,
and not get into any scrapes, if I can help it. Now
go and answer your note, and let me finish this splen-
So Meg went away to " accept with thanks," look
over her dress, and sing blithely as she did up her one
real lace frill ; while Jo finished her story, her four
apples, and had a game of romps with Scrabble.
On New- Year' s-Eve the parlor was deserted, for the
two younger girls played dressing maids, and the two
elder were absorbed in the all-important business of
" getting ready for the party." Simple as the toilets
were, there was a great deal of running up and down,
laughing and talking, and at one time a strong smell
of burnt hair pervaded the house. Meg wanted a few
curls about her face, and Jo undertook to pinch the
papered locks with a pair of hot tongs.
"Ought they to smoke like that?" asked Beth, from
her perch on the bed.
" It's the dampness drying," replied Jo.
42 Little Women.
" What a queer smell ! it's like burnt feathers," ob-
served Amy, smoothing her own pretty curls with a
" There, now I'll take off the papers and you'll see
a cloud of little ringlets," said Jo, putting down the
She did take off the papers, but no cloud of ringlets
appeared, for the hair came with the papers, and the
horrified hair-dresser laid a row of little scorched
bundles on the bureau before her victim.
" Oh, oh, oh! what have you done? I'm spoilt!
I can't go ! my hair, oh my hair ! " wailed Meg, look-
ing with despair at the uneven frizzle on her forehead.
"Just my luck ! you shouldn't have asked me to do
it ; I always spoil everything. I'm no end sorry, but
the tongs were too hot, and so I've made a mess,"
groaned poor Jo, regarding the black pancakes with
tears of regret.
" It isn't spoilt ; just frizzle it, and tie your ribbon
so the ends come on your forehead a bit, and it will
look like the last fashion. I've seen lots of girls do it
so," said Amy, consolingly.
" Serves me right for trying to be fine. I wish I'd
let my hair alone," cried Meg, petulantly.
" So do I, it was so smooth and pretty. But it will
soon grow out again," said Beth, coming to kiss and
comfort the shorn sheep.
After various lesser mishaps, Meg was finished at
last, and by the united exertions of the family Jo's
hair was got up, and her dress on. They looked very
well in their simple suits, Meg in silvery drab, with a
blue velvet snood, lace frills, and the pearl pin ; Jo in
The Laurence Boy. 43
maroon, with a stiff, gentlemanly linen collar, and a
white chrysanthemum or two for her only ornament.
Each put on one nice light glove, and carried one
soiled one, and all pronounced the effect " quite easy
and nice." Meg's high-heeled slippers were dread-
fully tight, and hurt her, though she would not own
it, and Jo's nineteen hair-pins all seemed stuck straight
into her head, which was not exactly comfortable ; but,
dear me, let us be elegant or die.
" Have a good time, dearies," said Mrs. March, as
the sisters went daintily down the walk. " Don't eat
much supper, and come away at eleven, when I send
Hannah for you." As the gate clashed behind them,
a voice cried from a window,
" Girls, girls ! have you both got nice pocket-hand-
" Yes, yes, spandy nice, and Meg has Cologne on
hers," cried Jo, adding, with a laugh, as they went
on, " I do believe Marmee would ask that if we were
all running away from an earthquake."
" It is one of her aristocratic tastes, and quite proper,
for a real lady is always known by neat boots, gloves,
and handkerchief," replied Meg, who had a good
many little " aristocratic tastes " of her own.
" Now don't forget to keep the bad breadth out of
sight, Jo. Is my sash right ; and does my hair look
very bad ? " said Meg, as she turned from the glass
in Mrs. Gardiner's dressing-room, after a prolonged
" I know I shall forget. If you see me doing any-
thing wrong, you just remind me by a wink, will
44 Little Women.
you ? " returned Jo, giving her collar a twitch and her
head a hasty brush.
" No, winking isn't lady-like ; I'll lift my eyebrows
if anything is 'wrong, and nod if you are all right.
Now hold your shoulders straight, and take short
steps, and don't shake hands if you are introduced to
any one, it isn't the thing."
" How do you learn all the proper quirks? I never
can. Isn't that music gay ? "
Down they went, feeling a trifle timid, for they sel-
dom went to parties, and, informal as this little gather-
ing was, it was an event to them. Mrs. Gardiner, a
stately old lady, greeted them kindly, and handed them
over to the eldest of her six daughters. Meg knew
Sallie, and was at her ease very soon ; but Jo, w r ho
didn't care much for girls or girlish gossip, stood
about with her back carefully against the wall, and
felt as much out of place as a colt in a flower-garden.
Half a dozen jovial lads were talking about skates in
another part of the room, and she longed to go and
join them, for skating was one of the joys of her life.
She telegraphed her wish to Meg, but the eyebrows
went up so alarmingly that she dared not stir. No
one came to talk to her, and one by one the group
near her dwindled away, till she was left alone. She
could not roam about and amuse herself, for the burnt
breadth would show, so she stared at people rather
forlornly till the dancing began. Meg was asked at
once, and the tight slippers tripped about so briskly
that none would have guessed the pain their wearer
suffered smilingly. Jo saw a big red-headed youth
approaching her corner, and fearing he meant to
The Laurence Boy. 45
engage her, she slipped into a curtained recess, intend-
ing to peep and enjoy herself in peace. Unfortunately,
another bashful person had chosen the same refuge ;
for, as the curtain fell behind her, she found herself
face to face with the " Laurence boy."
" Dear me, I didn't know any one was here ! "
stammered Jo, preparing to back out as speedily as
she had bounced in.
But the boy laughed, and said, pleasantly, though
he looked a little startled,
" Don't mind me ; stay, if you like.' 1
" Shan't I disturb you?"
" Not a bit ; I only came here because I don't know
many people, and felt rather strange at first, you
" So did I. Don't go away, please, unless you'd
The boy sat down again and looked at his boots,
till Jo said, trying to be polite and easy,
" I think I've had the pleasure of seeing you before ;
you live near us, don't you ? "
"Next door;" and he looked up and laughed out-
right, for Jo's prim manner was rather funny when he
remembered how they had chatted about cricket when
he brought the cat home.
That put Jo at her ease ; and she laughed too, as she
said, in her heartiest way,
" We did have such a good time over your nice
" Grandpa sent it."
" But you put it into his head, didn't you, now? "
" How is your cat, Miss March ? " asked the boy,
46 Little Women.
trying to look sober, while his black eyes shone with
" Nicely, thank you, Mr. Laurence ; but I ain't
Miss March, I'm only Jo," returned the young lady.
" I'm not Mr. Laurence, I'm only Laurie."
u Laurie Laurence ; what an odd name."
" My first name is Theodore, but I don't like it,
for the fellows called me Dora, so I made them say
" I hate my name, too so sentimental ! I wish
everyone would say Jo, instead of Josephine. How
did you make the boys stop calling you Dora ? "
" I thrashed 'em."
"I can't thrash Aunt March, so I suppose I shall
have to bear it ; " and Jo resigned herself with a sigh.
" Don't you like to dance, Miss Jo ? " asked Laurie,
looking as if he thought the name suited her.
" I like it well enough if there is plenty of room, and
every one is lively. In a place like this I'm sure to
upset something, tread on people's toes, or do something
dreadful, so I keep out of mischief, and let Meg do the
pretty. Don't you dance ? "
" Sometimes ; you see I've been abroad a good many
years, and haven't been about enough yet to know how
you do things here."
" Abroad ! " cried Jo, " oh, tell me about it ! I
love dearly to hear people describe their travels."
Laurie didn't seem to know where to begin ; but Jo's
eager questions soon set him going, and he told her
how he had been at school in Vevey, where the
boys never wore hats, and had a fleet of boats on the
The Laiirence Boy. 47
lake, and for holiday fun went walking trips about
Switzerland with their teachers.
" Don't I wish I'd been there ! " cried Jo. " Did
you go to Paris ? "
" We spent last winter there."
" Can you talk French?"
" We were not allowed to speak anything else at
" Do say some. I can read it, but can't pronounce."
" Quel nom a cette jeune demoiselle en les pantoufles
jolis?" said Laurie, good-naturedly.
" How nicely you do it! Let me see you said,
* Who is the young lady in the pretty slippers/ didn't
you ? "
" Oui, mademoiselle."
" It's my sister Margaret, and you knew it was ! Do
you think she is pretty ? "
" Yes ; she makes me think of the German girls, she
looks so fresh and quiet, and dances like a lady."
Jo quite glowed with pleasure at this boyish praise
of her sister, and stored it up to repeat to Meg. Both
peeped, and criticised, and chatted, till they felt like
old acquaintances. Laurie's bashfulness soon wore off,
for Jo's gentlemanly demeanor amused and set him at
his ease, and Jo was her merry self again, because her
dress was forgotten, and nobody lifted their eyebrows
at her. She liked the " Laurence boy " better than
ever, and took several good looks at him, so that
she might describe him to the girls ; for they had no
brothers, very few male cousins, and boys were al-
most unknown creatures to them.
" Curly black hair, brown skin, big black eyes, long
48 Little Women.
nose, nice teeth, little hands and feet, tall as I am ;
very polite for a boy, and altogether jolly. Wonder
how old he is ? "
It was on the tip of Jo's tongue to ask ; but she
checked herself in time, and, with unusual tact, tried to
find out in a roundabout way.
"I suppose you are going to college soon ? I see
you pegging away at your books no, I mean study-
ing hard; "and Jo blushed at the dreadful "pegging"
which had escaped her.
Laurie smiled, but didn't seem shocked, and an-
swered, with a shrug,
" Not for two or three years yet ; I won't go before
" Aren't you but fifteen ? " asked Jo, looking at the
tall lad, whom she had imagined seventeen already.
" Sixteen, next month."
" How I wish I was going to college ; you don't
look as if you liked it."
u I hate it ! nothing but grinding or sky-larking ; and
I don't like the \v r ay fellows do either, in this country."
" What do you like ? "
" To live in Italy, and to enjoy myself in my own
Jo wanted very much to ask what his own way was ;
but his black brows looked rather threatening as he
knit them, so she changed the subject by saying, as her
foot kept time, " That's a splendid polka ; why don't
you go and try it ? "
"If you will come too," he answered, with a queer
little French bow.
"I can't; for I told Meg I wouldn't, because "
The Laurence Boy. 49
there Jo stopped, and looked undecided whether to
tell or to laugh.
" Because what?" asked Laurie, curiously.
"You won't tell?"
" Never ! "
" Well, I have a bad trick of standing before the
fire, and so I burn my frocks, and I scorched this
one ; and, though it's nicely mended, it shows, and
Meg told me to keep still, so no one would see it.
You may laugh if you want to ; it is funny, I know."
But Laurie didn't laugh ; he only looked down a
minute, and the expression of his face puzzled Jo,
when he said very gently,
"Never mind that; I'll tell you how we can man-
age : there's a long hall out there, and we can dance
grandly, and no one will see us. Please come."
Jo thanked him, and gladly went, wishing she had
two neat gloves, when she saw the nice pearl-colored
ones her partner put on. The hall was empty, and
they had a grand polk, for Laurie danced well, and
taught her the German step, which delighted Jo,
being full of swing and "spring. When the music
stopped they sat down on the stairs to get their
breath, and Laurie was in the midst of an account of
a student's festival at Heidelberg, when Meg appeared
in search of her sister. She beckoned, and Jo reluc-
tantly followed her into a side-room, where she found
her on a sofa holding her foot, and looking pale.
" I've sprained my ankle. That stupid high heel
turned, and gave me a horrid wrench. It aches so, I
can hardly stand, and I don't know how I'm ever
50 Little Women.
going to get home," she said, rocking to and fro in
" I knew you'd hurt your feet with those silly
things. I'm sorry ; but I don't see what you can
do, except get a carriage, or stay here all night,"
answered Jo, softly rubbing the poor ankle, as she
" I can't have a carriage without its costing ever so
much ; I dare say I can't get one at all, for most peo-
ple come in their own, and if s a long way to the
stable, and no one to send."
" ril go."
" No, indeed ; it's past ten, and dark as Egypt. I
can't stop here, for the house is full ; Sallie has some
girls staying with her. I'll rest till Hannah comes,
and then do the best I can."
" I'll ask Laurie ; he will go," said Jo, looking
relieved as the idea occurred to her.
"Mercy, no! don't ask or tell any one. Get me
my rubbers, and put these slippers with our things.
I can't dance any more ; but as soon as supper is
over, watch for Hannah, and tell me the minute she
" They are going out to supper now. I'll stay with
you ; I'd rather."
u No, dear ; run along, and bring me some coffee.
I'm so tired, I can't stir."
So Meg reclined, with the rubbers well hidden,
and Jo went blundering away to the dining-room,
which she found after going into a china-closet and
opening the door of a room where old Mr. Gardiner
was taking a little private refreshment. Making a
The Laurence Boy. 5 1
dive at the table, she secured the coffee, which she
immediately spilt, thereby making the front of her
dress as bad as the back.
" Oh dear ! what a blunderbuss I am ! " exclaimed
Jo, finishing Meg's glove by scrubbing her gown
"Can I help you?" said a friendly voice; and
there was Laurie, with a full cup in one hand and a
plate of ice in the other.
" I was trying to get something for Meg, who is
very tired, and some one shook me, and here I am,
in a nice state," answered Jo, glancing, dismally,
from the stained skirt to the coffee-colored glove.
" Too bad ! I was looking for some one to give this
to ; may I take it to your sister ? "
" Oh, thank you ; I'll show you where she is. I
don't offer to take it myself, for I should only get into
another scrape if I did."
Jo led the way ; and, as if used to waiting on ladies,
Laurie drew up a little table, brought a second instal-
ment of coffee and ice for Jo, and was so obliging that
even particular Meg pronounced him a " nice boy."
They had a merry time over the bonbons and mottos,
and were in the midst of a quiet game of " buzz " with
two or three other young people who had strayed in,
when Hannah appeared. Meg forgot her foot, and
rose so quickly that she was forced to catch hold of
Jo, with an exclamation of pain.
" Hush ! don't say anything," she whispered ; add-
ing aloud, " It's nothing ; I turned my foot a little,
that's all," and limped up stairs to put her things on.
Hannah scolded, Meg cried, and Jo was at her
52 Little Women.
wits' end, till she decided to take things into her own
hands. Slipping out, she ran down, and finding a
servant, asked if he could get her a carriage. It hap-
pened to be a hired waiter, who knew nothing about
the neighborhood ; and Jo was looking round for
help, when Laurie, who had heard what she said,
came up and offered his grandfather's carriage, which
had just come for him, he said.
" It's so early, you can't mean to go yet," began
Jo, looking relieved, but hesitating to accept the offer.
"I always go early, I do, truly. Please let me
take you home ; it's all on my way, you know, and it
rains, they say."
That settled it ; and telling him of Meg's mishap,
Jo gratefully accepted, and rushed up to bring down
the rest of the party. Hannah hated rain as much as
a cat does ; so she made no trouble, and they rolled
away in the luxurious close carriage, feeling very fes-
tive and elegant. Laurie went on the box, so Meg
could keep her foot up, and the girls talked over their
party in freedom.
"I had a capital time; did you?" asked Jo, rum-
pling up her hair, and making herself comfortable.
"Yes, till I hurt myself. Sallie's friend, Annie
Moffat, took a fancy to me, and asked me to come and
spend a week with her when Sallie does. She is
going in the spring, when the opera comes, and it
will be perfectly splendid if mother only lets me go,"
answered Meg, cheering up at the thought.
" I saw you dancing with the red-headed man I ran
away from ; was he nice ? "
"Oh, very! his hair is auburn, not red; and he
The Laurence Boy. 53
was very polite, and I had a delicious redowa with
" He looked like a grasshopper in a fit, when he
did the new step. Laurie and I couldn't help laugh-
ing ; did you hear us? "
" No, but it was very rude. What were you about
all that time, hidden away there ? "
Jo told her adventures, and by the time she had
finished they were at home. With many thanks, they
said " Good-night," and crept in, hoping to disturb
no one ; but the instant their door creaked, two little
night-caps bobbed up, and two sleepy but eager voices
" Tell about the party ! tell about the party ! "
With what Meg called " a great want of manners,"
Jo had saved some bonbons for the little girls, and
they soon subsided, after hearing the most thrilling
events of the evening.
" I declare, it really seems like being a fine young
lady, to come home from my party in my carriage,
and sit in my dressing-gown with a maid to wait on
me," said Meg, as Jo bound up her foot with arnica,
and brushed her hair.
" I don't believe fine young ladies enjoy themselves
a bit more than we do, in spite of our burnt hair, old
gowns, one glove apiece, and tight slippers, that sprain
our ankles when we are silly enough to wear them."
And I think Jo was. quite right.
OH dear, how hard it does seem to take up our
packs and go on," sighed Meg, the morning
after the party ; for now the holidays were over,
the week of merry-making did not fit her for going
on easily with the task she never liked.
"I wish it was Christmas or New- Year all the
time ; wouldn't it be fun ? " answered Jo, yawning
"We shouldn't enjoy ourselves half so much as we
do now. But it does seem so nice to have little sup-
pers and bouquets, and go to parties, and drive home
in a carriage, and read and rest, and not grub. It's
like other people, you know, and I always envy girls
who do such things ; I'm so fond of luxury," said
Meg, trying to decide which of two shabby gowns
was the least shabby.
" Well, we can't have it, so don't let's grumble, but
shoulder our bundles and trudge along as cheerfully as
Marmee does. I'm sure Aunt March is a regular Old
Man of the Sea to me, but I suppose when I've learned
to carry her without complaining, she will tumble
off, or get so light that I shan't mind her."
This idea tickled Jo's fancy, and put her in good
spirits ; but Meg didn't brighten, for her burden, con-
sisting of four spoilt children, seemed heavier than
ever. She hadn't heart enough even to make herself
pretty, as usual, by putting on a blue neck-ribbon, and
dressing her. hair in the most becoming way.
" Where's the use of looking nice, when no one sees
me but those cross midgets, and no one cares whether
I'm pretty or not," she muttered, shutting her drawer
with a jerk. " I shall have to toil and moil all my
days, with only little bits of fun now and then, and
get old and ugly and sour, because I'm poor, and can't
enjoy my life as other girls do. It's a shame ! "
So Meg went down, wearing an injured look, and
wasn't at all agreeable at breakfast-time. Every one
seemed rather out of sorts, and inclined to croak.
Beth had a headache, and lay on the sofa trying to
comfort herself with the cat and three kittens ; Amy
was fretting because her lessons were not learned, and
she couldn't find her rubbers ; Jo 'would whistle, and
make a great racket getting ready ; Mrs. March was
very busy trying to finish a letter, which must go at
once ; and Hannah had the grumps, for being up late
didn't suit her.
" There never was such a cross family ! " cried Jo,
losing her temper when she had upset an inkstand,
broken both boot-lacings, and sat down upon her hat.
" You're the Grossest person in it ! " returned Amy,
washing out the sum, that was all wrong, with the
tears that had fallen on her slate.
56 L ittle Worn e n .
" Beth, if you don't keep these horrid cats down
cellar I'll have them drowned," exclaimed Meg, an-
grily, as she tried to get rid of the kitten, who had
swarmed up her back, and stuck like a burr just out
Jo laughed, Meg scolded, Beth .implored, and Amy
wailed, because she couldn't remember how much
nine times twelve was.
" Girls ! girls ! do be quiet one minute. I must get
this off by the early mail, and you drive me distracted
with your worry," cried Mrs. March, crossing out the
third spoilt sentence in her letter.
There was a momentary lull, broken by Hannah,
who bounced in, laid two hot turn-overs on the table,
and bounced out again. These turn-overs were an
institution; and the girls called them "muffs," for they
had no others, and found the hot pies very comforting
to their hands on cold mornings. Hannah never
forgot to make them, no matter how busy or grumpy
she might be, for the walk was long and bleak ; the
poor things got no other lunch, and were seldom home
."Cuddle your cats, and get over your headache,
Bethy. Good-by, Marmee ; we are a set of rascals
this morning, but we'll come home regular angels.
Now then, Meg," and Jo tramped away, feeling that
the pilgrims were not setting out as they ought to do.
They always looked back before turning the corner,
for their mother was always at the window, to nod,
and smile, and wave her hand to them. Somehow it
seemed as if they couldn't have got through the day
without that, for whatever their mood might be, the
last glimpse of that motherly face was sure to affect
them like sunshine.
" If Marmee shook her fist instead of kissing her
hand to us, it would serve us right, for more un-
grateful minxes than we are were never seen," cried
Jo, taking a remorseful satisfaction in the slushy road
and bitter wind.
" Don't use such dreadful expressions," said Meg,
from the depths of the veil in which she had shrouded
herself like a nun sick of the world.
" I like good, strong words, that mean something,"
replied Jo, catching her hat as it took a leap off her
head, preparatory to flying away altogether.
" Call yourself any names you like ; but I am
neither a rascal nor a minx, and I don't choose to be
" You're a blighted being, and decidedly cross to-
day, because you can't sit in the lap of luxury all the
time. Poor dear ! just wait till I make my fortune,
and you shall revel in carriages, and ice-cream, and
high-heeled slippers, and posies, and red-headed boys
to dance with."
" How ridiculous you are, Jo ! " but Meg laughed
at the nonsense, and felt better in spite of herself.
" Lucky for you I am ; for if I put on crushed airs,
and tried to be dismal, as you do, we should be in a
nice state. Thank goodness, I can always find some-
thing funny to keep me up. Don't croak any more,
but come home jolly, there's a dear."
Jo gave her sister an encouraging pat on the shoul-
der as they parted for the day, each going a different
way, each hugging her little warm turn-over, and each
58 Little Women.
trying to be cheerful in spite of wintry weather, hard
work, and the unsatisfied desires of pleasure-loving
When Mr. March lost his property in trying to help
an unfortunate friend, the two oldest girls begged to
be allowed to do something toward their own support,
at least. Believing that they could not begin too early
to cultivate energy, industry, and independence, their
parents consented, and both fell to work with the
hearty good-will which, in spite of all obstacles, is
sure to succeed at last. Margaret found a place as
nursery governness, and felt rich with her small salary.
As she said, she 'was " fond of luxury," and her chief
trouble was poverty. She found it harder to bear
than the others, because she could remember a time
when home was beautiful, life full of ease and pleasure,
and want of any kind unknown. She tried not to be
envious or discontented, but it was veiy natural that
the young girl should long for pretty things, gay
friends, accomplishments, and a happy life. At the
Kings she daily saw all she wanted, for the children's
older sisters were just out, and Meg caught frequent
glimpses of dainty ball-dresses and bouquets, heard
lively gossip about theatres, concerts, sleighing parties
and merry-makings of all kinds, and saw money lav-
ished on trifles which would have been so precious to
her. Poor Meg seldom complained, but a sense of
injustice made her feel bitter toward every one some-
times, for she had not yet learned to know how rich
she was in the blessings which alone can make life
Jo happened to suit Aunt March, who was lame,
and needed an active person to wait upon her. The
childless old lady had offered to adopt one of the girls
when the troubles came, and was much offended
because her offer was declined. Other friends told
the Marches that they had lost all chance of being
remembered in the rich old lady's will ; but the un-
worldly Marches only said,
" We can't give up our girls for a dozen fortunes.
Rich or poor, we will keep together and be happy in
The old lady wouldn't speak to them for a time, but,
happening to meet Jo at a friend's, something in her
comical face and blunt manners struck the old lady's
fancy, and she proposed to take her for a companion.
This did not suit Jo at all ; but she accepted the place,
since nothing better appeared, and, to every one's sur-
prise, got on remarkably well with her irascible rel-
ative. There was an occasional tempest, and once Jo
had marched home, declaring she couldn't bear it any
longer ; but Aunt March always cleared up quickly,
and sent for her back again with such urgency that
she could not refuse, for in her heart she rather liked
the peppery old lady.
I suspect that the real attraction was a large library
of fine books, which was left to dust and spiders since
Uncle March died. Jo remembered the kind old
gentleman who used to let her build railroads and
bridges with his big dictionaries, tell her stories about
the queer pictures in his Latin books, and buy her
cards of gingerbread whenever he met her in the
street. The dim, dusty room, with the busts staring
down from the tall book-cases, the cosy chairs, the
60 Little Women.
globes, and, best of all, the wilderness of books, in
which she could wander where she liked, made the
library a region of bliss to her. The moment Aunt
March took her nap, or was busy with company, Jo
hurried to this quiet place, and, curling herself up in
the big chair, devoured poetry, romance, history,
travels, and pictures, like a regular book-worm. But,
like all happiness, it did not last long ; for as sure as
she had just reached the heart of the story, the sweet-
est verse of the song, or the most perilous adventure
of her traveller, a shrill voice called, " Josy-phine !
Josy-phine ! " and she had to leave her paradise to
wind yarn, wash the poodle, or read Belsham's Essays,
by the hour together.
Jo's ambition was to do something very splendid ;
what it was she had no idea, but left it for time to
tell her; and, meanwhile, found her greatest afflic-
tion in the fact that she couldn't read, run, and
ride as much as she liked. A quick temper, sharp
tongue, and restless spirit were always getting her
into scrapes, and her life was a series of ups and
downs, which were both comic and pathetic. But
the training she received at Aunt March's was just
what she needed ; and the thought that she was doing
something to support herself made her happy, in spite
of the perpetual " Josy-phine ! "
Beth was too bashful to go to school ; it had been
tried, but she suffered so much that it was given up,
and she did her lessons at home, with her father.
Even when he went away, and her mother was called
to devote her skill and energy to Soldiers' Aid Soci-
eties, Beth went faithfully on by herself, and did the
best she could. She was a housewifely little creature,
and helped Hannah keep home neat and comfortable
for the workers, never thinking of any reward but
to be loved. Long, quiet days she spent, not lonely nor
idle, for her little world was peopled with imaginary
friends, and she was by nature a busy bee. There
were six dolls to be taken up and dressed every morn-
ing, for Beth was a child still, and loved her pets as
well as ever ; not one whole or handsome one among
them ; all were outcasts till Beth took them in ; for,
when her sisters outgrew these idols, they passed to
her, because Amy would have nothing old or ugly.
Beth cherished them all the more tenderly for that
very reason, and set up a hospital for infirm dolls.
No pins were ever stuck into their cotton vitals ; no
harsh words or blows were ever given them ; no neg-
lect ever saddened the heart of the most repulsive, but
all were fed and clothed, nursed and caressed, with an
affection which never failed. One forlorn fragment
of dollanity had belonged to Jo ; and, having led a
tempestuous life, was left a wreck in the rag-bag, from
which dreary poor-house it was rescued by Beth, and
taken to her refuge. Having no top to its head, she
tied on a neat little cap, and, as both arms and legs
were gone, she hid these deficiencies by folding it in
a blanket, and devoting her best bed to this chronic
invalid. If any one had known the care lavished on
that dolly, I think it would have touched their hearts,
even while they laughed. She brought it bits of
bouquets ; she read to it, took it out to breathe the air,
hidden under her coat ; she sung it lullabys, and never
went to bed without kissing its dirty face, and whis-
62 Little Women.
pering tenderly, " I hope you'll have a good night,
my poor dear."
Beth had her troubles as well as the others ; and
not being an angel, but a very human little girl, she
often " wept a little weep," as Jo said, because she
couldn't take music lessons and have a fine piano.
She loved music so dearly, tried so hard to learn, and
practised away so patiently at the jingling old instru-
ment, that it did seem as if some one (not to hint
Aunt March) ought to help her. Nobody did, how-
ever, and nobody saw Beth wipe the tears off the
yellow keys, that wouldn't keep in tune when she
was all alone. She sung like a little lark about her
work, never was too tired to play for Marmee and
the girls, and day after day said hopefully to herself,
" I know I'll get my music some time, if I'm good."
There are many Beths in the world, shy and quiet,
sitting in corners till needed, and living for others
so cheerfully, that no one sees the sacrifices till the
little cricket on the hearth stops chirping, and the
sweet, sunshiny presence vanishes, leaving silence and
If anybody had asked Amy what the greatest trial
of her life was, she would have answered at once,
" My nose." When she was a baby, Jo had acciden-
tally dropped her into the coal-hod, and Amy insisted
that the fall had ruined her nose forever. It was not
big, nor red, like poor " Petrea's ; " it was only rather
flat, and all the pinching in the world could not give
it an aristocratic point. No one minded it but herself,
and it was doing its best to grow, but Amy felt deeply
the want of a Grecian nose, and drew whole sheets
of handsome ones to console herself.
"Little Raphael," as her sisters called her, had a
decided talent for drawing, and was never so happy
as when copying flowers, designing fairies, or illus-
trating stories with queer specimens of art. Her
teachers complained that instead of doing her sums,
she covered her slate with animals ; the blank pages
of her atlas were used to copy maps on, and carica-
tures of the most ludicrous description came fluttering
out of all her books at unlucky moments. She got
through her lessons as well as she could, and managed
to escape reprimands by being a model of deport-
ment. She was a great favorite with her mates,
being good-tempered, and possessing the happy art of
pleasing without effort. Her little airs and graces
were much admired, so were her accomplishments ;
for beside her drawing, she could play twelve tunes,
crochet, and read French without mispronouncing
more than two-thirds of the words. She had a plain-
tive way of saying, u When papa was rich we did so-
and-so," which was very touching ; and her long
words were considered "perfectly elegant" by the
Amy was in a fair way to be spoilt ; for every one
petted her, and her small vanities and selfishnesses
were growing nicely. One thing, however, rather
quenched the vanities ; she had to wear her cousin's
clothes. Now Florence' s mamma hadn't a particle
of taste, and Amy suffered deeply at having to wear
a red instead of a blue bonnet, unbecoming gowns,
and fussy aprons that did not fit. Everything was
64 Little Women.
good, well made, and little worn ; but Amy's artistic
eyes were much afflicted, especially this winter, when
her school dress was a dull purple, with yellow dots,
and no trimming.
"My only comfort," she said to Meg, with tears
in her eyes, u is, that mother don't take tucks in
my dresses whenever I'm naughty, as Maria Parks'
mother does. My dear, it's really dreadful ; for some-
times she is so bad, her frock is up to her knees, and
she can't come to school. When I think of this deg-
gerredation, I feel that I can bear even my flat nose
and purple gown, with yellow sky-rockets on it."
Meg was Amy's confidant and monitor, and, by
some strange attraction of opposites, Jo was gentle
Beth's. To Jo alone did the shy child tell her thoughts ;
and over her big, harum-scarum sister, Beth uncon-
sciously exercised more influence than any one in the
family. The two older girls were a great deal to each
other, but both took one of the younger into their
keeping, and watched over them in their own way ;
" playing mother " they called it, and put their sisters
in the places of discarded dolls, with the maternal in-
stinct of little women.
" Has anybody got anything to tell? It's been such
a dismal day I'm really dying for some amusement,"
said Meg, as they sat sewing together that evening.
" I had a queer time with aunt to-day, and, as I got
the best of it, I'll tell you about it," began Jo, who
dearly loved to tell stories. " I was reading that ever-
lasting Belsham, and droning away as I always do,
for aunt soon drops off, and then I take out some nice
book, and read like fury, till she wakes up. I actually
made myself sleepy ; and, before she began to nod, I
gave such a gape that she asked me what I meant by
opening my mouth wide enough to take the whole
book in at once.
" 'I wish I could, and be done with it,'" said I, try-
ing not to be saucy.
" Then she gave me a long lecture on my sins, and
told me to sit and think them over while she just 4 lost'
herself for a moment. She never finds herself very
soon ; so the minute her cap began to bob, like a top-
heavy dahlia, I whipped the 4 Vicar of Wakefield '
out of my pocket, and read away, with one eye on him,
and one on aunt. I'd just got to where they all tum-
bled into the water, when I forgot, and laughed out
loud. Aunt woke up ; and, being more good-natured
after her nap, told me to read a bit, and show what
frivolous work I preferred to the worthy and instruc-
tive Belsham. I did my very best, and she liked it,
though she only said,
" ' I don't understand what it's all about ; go back
and begin it, child.'
" Back I went, and made the Primroses as interest-
ing as ever I could. Once I was wicked enough to
stop in a thrilling place, and say meekly, ' I'm afraid
it tires you, ma'am ; shan't I stop now? '
" She caught up her knitting which had dropped out
of her hands, gave me a sharp look through her specs,
and said, in her short way,
"'Finish the chapter, and don't be impertinent,
" Did she own she liked it? " asked Meg.
" Oh, bless you, no ! but she let old Belsham rest ;
66 Little Women.
and, when I fan back after my gloves this afternoon,
there she was, so hard at the Vicar, that she didn't
hear me laugh as I danced a jig in the hall, because of
the good time coming. What a pleasant life she might
have, if she only chose. I don't envy her much, in
spite of her money, for after all rich people have about
as many worries as poor ones, I guess," added Jo.
"That reminds me," said Meg, "that I've got some-
thing to tell. It isn't funny, like Jo's story, but I
thought about it a good deal as I came home. At the
Kings to-day I found everybody in a flurry, and one
of the children said that her oldest brother had done
something dreadful, and papa had sent him away. I
heard Mrs. King crying, and Mr. King talking very loud,
and Grace and Ellen turned away their faces when they
passed me, so I shouldn't see how red their eyes were.
I didn't ask any questions, of course ; but I felt so
sorry for them, and was rather glad I hadn't any wild
brothers to do wicked things, and disgrace the family."
" I think being disgraced in school is a great deal
try ing er than anything bad boys can do," said Amy,
shaking her head, as if her experience of life had been
a deep one. " Susie Perkins came to school to-day
with a lovely red carnelian ring ; I wanted it dread-
fully, and wished I was her with all my might.
Well, she drew a picture of Mr. Davis, with a mon-
strous nose and a hump, and the words, 'Young
ladies, my eye is upon you ! * coming out of his
mouth in a balloon thing. We were laughing over it,
when all of a sudden his eye 'was on us, and he
ordered Susie to bring up her slate. She was parry-
lized with fright, but she went, and oh, what do you
think he did? He took her by the ear, the ear! just
fancy how horrid ! and led her to the recitation plat-
form, and made her stand there half an hour, holding
that slate so every one could see."
" Didn't the girls shout at the picture ? " asked Jo,
who relished the scrape.
" Laugh ! not a one ; they sat as still as mice, and
Susie cried quarts, I know she did. I didn't envy
her then, for I felt that millions of carnelian rings
would' nt have made me happy after that. I never,
never should have got over such a agonizing mor-
tification ; " and Amy went on with her work, in the
proud consciousness of virtue, and the successful
utterance of two long words in a breath.
" I saw something that I liked this morning, and
I meant to tell it at dinner, but I forgot," said
Beth, putting Jo's topsy-turvy basket in order as she
talked. "When I went to get some oysters for Han-
nah, Mr. Laurence was in the fistt shop, but he didn't
see me, for I kept behind a barrel, and he was busy with
Mr. Cutter, the fish-man. A poor woman came in with
a pail and a mop, and asked Mr. Cutter if he would let
her do some scrubbing for a bit of fish, because she
hadn't any dinner for her children, and had been disap-
pointed of a day's work. Mr. Cutter was in a hurry,
and said 4 No/ rather crossly ; so she was going away,
looking hungry and sorry, when Mr. Laurence hooked
up a big fish with the crooked end of his cane, and
held it out to her. She was so glad and surprised she
took it right in her arms, and thanked him over and
over. He told her to k go along and cook it,' and she
hurried off, so happy ! wasn't it nice of him ? Oh,
68 Little Women.
she did look so funny, hugging the big, slippery fish,
and hoping Mr. Laurence's bed in heaven would be
' aisy.' "
When they had laughed at Beth's story, they asked
their mother for one ; and, after a moment's thought,-
she said soberly,
" As I sat cutting out blue flannel jackets to-day,
at the rooms, I felt very anxious about father, and
thought how lonely and helpless we should be if any-
thing happened to him. It was not a wise thing to
do, but I kept on worrying, till an old man came in
With an order for some things. He sat down near
me, and I began to talk to him, for he looked poor,
and tired, and anxious.
"'Have you -sons in the army?' I asked, for the
note he brought was not to me.
" 4 Yes, ma'am ; I had four, but two were killed ;
one is a prisoner, and I'm going to the other, who is
very sick in a Wa'shington hospital,' he answered,
" ' You have done a great deal for your country,
sir,' I said, feeling respect now, instead of pity.
" * Not a mite more than I ought, ma'am. I'd go
myself, if I was any use ; as I ain't, I give my boys,
and give 'em free.'
" He spoke so cheerfully, looked so sincere, and
seemed so glad to give his all, that I was ashamed of
myself. I'd given one man, and thought it too much,
while he gave four, without grudging them ; I had
all my girls to comfort me at home, and his last son
was waiting, miles away, to say ' good-by ' to him, per-
haps. I felt so rich, so happy, thinking of my bless-
ings, that I made him a nice bundle, gave him some
money, and thanked him heartily for the lesson he
had taught me."
" Tell another story, mother ; one with a moral to
it, like this. I like to think about them afterwards, if
they are real, and not too preachy," said Jo, after a
Mrs. March smiled, and began at once ; for she had
told stories to this little audience for many years, and
knew how to please them.
" Once upon a time there were four girls, who had
enough to eat, and drink, and wear ; a good many
comforts and pleasures, kind friends and parents, who
loved them dearly, and yet they were not contented."
(Here the listeners stole sly looks at one another, and
began to sew diligently.) "These girls were anxious
to be good, and made many excellent resolutions, but
somehow they did not keep them very well, and were
constantly saying, ' If we only had this,' or ' if we
could only do that,' quite forgetting how much they
already had, and how many pleasant things they ac-
tually could do ; so they asked an old woman what
spell they could use to make them happy, and she
said, 'When you feel discontented, think over your
blessings, and be grateful.' " (Here Jo looked up
quickly, as if about to speak, but changed her mind,
seeing that the story was not done yet.)
" Being sensible girls, they decided to try her ad-
vice, and soon were surprised to see how well off
they were. One discovered that money couldn't keep
shame and sorrow out of rich people's houses ; another
that though she was poor, she was a great deal hap-
70 Little Women.
pier with her youth, health, and good spirits, than a
certain fretful, feeble old lady, who couldn't enjoy her
comforts ; a third, that, disagreeable as it was to help
get dinner, it was harder still to have to go begging
for it ; and the fourth, that even carnelian rings were
not so valuable as good behavior. So they agreed to
stop complaining, to enjoy the blessings already pos-
sessed, and try to deserve them, lest they should be
taken away entirely, instead of increased ; and I be-
lieve they were never disappointed, or sorry that they
took the old woman's advice."
" Now, Marmee, that is very cunning of you to
turn our own stories against us, and give us a sermon
instead of a ' spin/ " cried Meg.
" I like that kind of sermon ; it's the sort father used
to tell us," said Beth, thoughtfully, putting the needles
straight on Jo's cushion.
" I don't complain near as much as the others do,
and I shall be more careful than ever now, for I've
had warning from Susie's downfall," said Amy, mor-
" We needed that lesson, and we won't forget it.
If we do, you just say to us as Old Chloe did in Uncle
Tom, ' Tink ob yer marcies, chillen, tink ob yer
marcies,' " added Jo, who could not for the life of her
help getting a morsel of fun out of the little sermon,
though she took it to heart as much as any of them.
WHAT in the world are you going to do now,
Jo ? " asked Meg, one snowy afternoon, as
her sister came clumping through the hall,
in rubber boots, old sack and hood, with a broom in
one hand and a shovel in the other.
" Going out for exercise," answered Jo, with a mis-
chievous twinkle in her eyes.
" I should think two long walks, this morning,
would have been enough. It's cold and dull out, and
I advise you to stay, warm and dry, by the fire, as I
do," said Meg, with a shiver.
" Never take advice ; can't keep still all day, and
not being a pussy-cat, I don't like to doze by the fire.
I like adventures, and I'm going to find some."
Meg went back to toast her feet, and read " Ivan-
hoe," and Jo began to dig paths with great energy.
The snow was light ; and with her broom she soon
swept a path all round the garden, for Beth to walk
in when the sun came out ; and the invalid dolls
needed air. Now the garden separated the Marches
house from that of Mr. Laurence ; both stood in a
72 Little Wo t)i e n .
suburb of the city, which was still country-like, with
groves and lawns, large gardens, and quiet streets. A
low hedge parted the two estates. On one side was
an old brown house, looking rather bare and shabby,
robbed of the vines that in summer covered its walls,
and the flowers which then surrounded it. On the
other side was a ' stately stone mansion, plainly be-
tokening every sort of comfort and luxury, from the
big coach-house and well-kept grounds to the con-
servatory, and the glimpses of lovely things one caught
between the rich curtains. Yet it seemed a lonely,
lifeless sort of house ; for no children frolicked on the
lawn, no motherly face ever smiled at the windows,
and few people went in and out, except the old gen-
tleman and his grandson.
To Jo's lively fancy this fine house seemed a kind
of enchanted palace, full of splendors and delights,
which no one enjoyed. She had long wanted to
behold these hidden glories, and to know the " Lau-
rence boy," who looked as if he would like to be
known, if he only knew how to begin. Since the
party she had been more eager than ever, and had
planned many ways of making friends with him ;
but he had not been lately seen, and Jo began to
think he had gone away, when she one day spied a
brown face at an upper window, looking wistfully
down into their garden, where Beth and Amy were
snow-balling one another.
" That boy is suffering for society and fun," she
said to herself. u His grandpa don't know what's
good for him, and keeps him shut up all alone. He
needs a lot of jolly boys to play with, or somebody
Being Neighborly. 73
young and lively. I've a great mind to go over and
tell the old gentleman so."
The idea amused Jo, who liked to do daring things,
and was always scandalizing Meg by her queer per-
formances. The plan of "going over" was not for-
gotten ; and, when the snowy afternoon came, Jo
resolved to try what could be done. She saw Mr.
Laurence drive off, and then sallied out to dig her
way down to the hedge, where she paused, and took
a survey. All quiet ; curtains down at the lower
windows ; servants out of sight, and nothing human
visible but a curly black head leaning on a thin hand,
at the upper window.
"There he is," thought Jo; "poor boy! all alone,
and sick, this dismal day ! It's a shame ! I'll toss
up a snow-ball, and make him look out, and then say
a kind word to him."
Up went a handful of soft snow, and the head
turned at once, showing a face which lost its listless
look in a minute, as the big eyes brightened, and the
mouth began to smile. Jo nodded, and laughed, and
flourished her broom as she called out,
" How do you do ? Are you sick? "
Laurie opened the window and croaked out as
hoarsely as a raven,
" Better, thank you. I've had a horrid cold, and
been shut up a week."
"I'm sorry. What do you amuse yourself with ?"
" Nothing ; it's as dull as tombs up here."
"Don't you read?"
"Not much ; they won't let me."
" Can't somebody read to you ? "
74 Little Women.
" Grandpa does, sometimes ; but my books don't
interest him, and I hate to ask Brooke all the time."
" Have some one come and see you, then."
" There isn't any one I'd like to see. Boys make
such a row, and my head is weak."
" Isn't there some nice girl who'd read and amuse
you ? Girls are quiet, and like to play nurse."
" Don't know any."
"You know me," began Jo, then laughed, and
" So I do ! Will you come, please? " cried Laurie.
" I'm not quiet and nice ; but I'll come, if mother
will let me. I'll go ask her. Shut that window, like
a good boy, and wait till I come."
With that, Jo shouldered her broom and marched
into the house, wondering what they would all say to
her. Laurie was in a little flutter of excitement at
the idea of having company, and flew about to get
ready ; for, as Mrs. March said, he was " a little gen-
tleman," and did honor to the coming guest by brush-
ing his curly pate, putting on a fresh collar, and
trying to tidy up the room, which, in spite of half a
dozen servants, was anything but neat. Presently,
there came a loud ring, then a decided voice, asking
for "Mr. Laurie," and a surprised-looking servant
came running up to announce a young lady.
" All right, show her up, it's Miss Jo," said Laurie,
going to the door of his little parlor to meet Jo, who
appeared, looking rosy and kind, and quite at her
ease, with a covered dish in one hand, and Beth's
three kittens in the other.
" Here I am, bag and baggage," she said, briskly.
Being Neighborly. 75
"Mother sent her love, and was glad if I could do
anything for you. Meg wanted me to bring some of
her blanc-mange ; she makes it very nice, and Beth
thought her cats would be comforting. I knew you'd
shout at them, but I couldn't refuse, she was so
anxious to do something."
It so happened that Beth's funny loan was just the
thing ; for, in laughing over the kits, Laurie forgot his
bashfulness, and grew sociable at once.
" That looks too pretty to eat," he said, smiling
with pleasure, as Jo uncovered the dish, and showed
the blanc-mange, surrounded by a garland of green
leaves, and the scarlet flowers of Amy's pet geranium.
" It isn't anything, only they all felt kindly, and
wanted to show it. Tell the girl to put it away for
your tea ; it's so simple, you can eat it ; and, being soft,
it will slip down without hurting your sore throat.
What a cosy room this is."
" It might be, if it was kept nice ; but the maids
are lazy, and I don't know how to make them mind.
It worries me, though."
"I'll right it up in two minutes ; for it only needs to
have the hearth brushed, so, and the things stood
straight on the mantel-piece, so, and the books put
here, and the bottles there, and your sofa turned from
the light, and the pillows plumped up a bit. Now,
then, you're fixed."
And so he was ; for, as she laughed and talked, Jo
had whisked things into place, and given quite a
different air to the room. Laurie watched her in
respectful silence ; and, when she beckoned him to his
76 Little Women.
sofa, he sat down with a sigh of satisfaction, saying,
" How kind you are ! Yes, that's what it wanted.
Now please take the big chair, and let me do some-
thing to amuse my company."
"No ; I came to amuse you. Shall I read aloud?"
arid, Jo looked affectionately toward some inviting
books near by.
" Thank you ; I've read all those, and if you don't
mind, I'd rather talk," answered Laurie.
" Not a bit ; I'll talk all day if you'll only set me
going. Beth says I never know when to stop."
" Is Beth the rosy one, who stays at home a good
deal, and sometimes goes out with a little basket?"
asked Laurie, with interest.
" Yes, that's Beth ; she's my girl, and a regular
good one she is, too."
" The pretty one is Meg, and the curly-haired one
is Amy, I believe ? "
" How did you find that out?"
Laurie colored up, but answered, frankly, "Why,
you see, I often hear you calling to one another, and
when I'm alone up here, I can't hejf> looking over at
your house, you always seem to be having such good
times. I beg your pardon for being so rude, but
sometimes you forget to put down the curtain at the
window where the flowers are ; and, when the lamps
are lighted, it's like looking at a picture to see the fire,
and you all round the table with your mother ; her
face is right opposite, and it looks so sweet behind the
flowers, I can't help watching it. I haven't got any
% Being Neighborly. 77
mother, you know ; " and Laurie poked the fire to hide
a little twitching of the lips that he could not control.
The solitary, hungry look in his eyes went straight
to Jo's warm heart. She had been so simply taught
that there was no nonsense in her head, and at
fifteen she was as innocent and frank as any child.
Laurie was sick and lonely ; and, feeling how rich
she was in home-love and happiness, she gladly tried
to share it with him. Her brown face was very
friendly, and her sharp voice unusually gentle, as she
"We'll never draw that curtain any more, and I
give you leave* to look as much as you like. I just
wish, tbpugh, instead of peeping, you'd come over
and see us. Mother is so splendid, she'd do you heaps
of good, and Beth would sing to you if /begged her
to, and Amy would dance ; Meg and I would make
you laugh over our funny stage properties, and we'd
have jolly times. Wouldn't your grandpa let you ? "
" I think he would, if your mother asked him. He's
very kind, though he don't look it ; and he lets me do
what I like, pretty much, only he's afraid I might be
a bother to strangers," began Laurie, brightening'
more and more.
" We ain't strangers, we are neighbors, and you
needn't think you'd be a bother. We want to know
you, and I've been trying to do it this ever so long.
We haven't been here a great while, you know, but we
have got acquainted with all our neighbors but you."
u You see grandpa lives among his books, and don't
mind much what happens outside. Mr. Brooke, my
tutor, don't stay here, you know, and I have no one to
78 Little Women.
go round with me, so I just stop at home and get on
as I can."
" Thafs bad ; you ought to make a dive, and go
visiting everywhere you are asked ; then you'll have
lots of friends, and pleasant places to go to. Never
mind being bashful, it won't last long if you keep
Laurie turned red again, but was'nt offended at
being accused of bashfulness ; for there was so much
good-will in Jo, it was impossible not to take her blunt
speeches as kindly as they were meant.
" Do you like your school?" asked the boy, chang-
ing the subject, after a little pause, during which he
stared at the fire, and Jo looked about her wA pleased.
" Don't go to school ; I'm a business man girl, I
mean. I go to wait on my aunt, and a dear, cross
old soul she is, too," answered Jo.
Laurie opened his mouth to ask another question ;
but remembering just in time that it wasn't manners to
make too many inquiries into people's affairs, he shut
it again, and looked uncomfortable. Jo liked his good
breeding, and didn't mind having a laugh at Aunt
March, so she gave him a lively description of the
fidgety old lady, her fat poodle, the parrot that talked
Spanish, and the library where she revelled. Laurie
enjoyed that immensely ; and when she told about the
prim old gentleman who came once to w r oo Aunt
March, and, in the middle of a fine speech, how Poll
had tweaked his wig off to his great dismay, the
boy lay back and laughed till the tears ran down his
cheeks, and a maid popped her head in to see what
was the matter.
Being Neighborly. 79
" Oh ! that does me lots of good ; tell on, please,"
he said, taking his face out of the sofa-cushion, red and
shining with merriment.
Much elated with her success, Jo did " tell on," all
about their plays and plans, their hopes and fears for
father, and the most interesting events of the little
world in which the sisters lived. Then they got to
talking about books ; and to Jo's delight she found that
Laurie loved them as well as she did, and had read
even more than herself.
" If you like them so much, come down and see
ours. Grandpa is out, so you needn't be afraid," said
Laurie, getting up.
" I'm not afraid of anything," returned Jo, with a
toss of the head.
" I don't believe you are ! " exclaimed the boy, look-
ing at her with much admiration, though he privately
thought she would have good reason to be a trifle
afraid of the old gentleman, if she met him in some
of his moods.
The atmosphere of the whole house being summer-
like, Laurie led the way from room to room, letting
Jo stop to examine whatever struck her fancy ; and so
at last they came to the library, where she clapped
her hands, and pranced, as she always did when
especially delighted. It was lined with books, and
there were pictures and statues, and distracting little
cabinets full of coins and curiosities, and Sleepy-
Hollow chairs, and queer tables, and bronzes ; and,
best of all, a great, open fireplace, with quaint tiles
all round it.
" What richness ! " sighed Jo, sinking into the
80 JL ittle \ \ ^om en .
depths of a velvet chair, and gazing about her with an
air of intense satisfaction. " Theodore Laurence, you
ought to be the happiest boy in the world," she added,
" A fellow can't live on books," said Laurie, shaking
his head, as he perched on a table opposite.
Before he could say more, a bell rung, and Jo flew
up, exclaiming with alarm, " Mercy me ! it's your
grandpa ! "
" Well, what if it is ? You are not afraid of any-
thing, you know," returned the boy, looking wicked.
" I think I am a little bit afraid of him, but I don't
know why I should be. Marmee said I might come,
and I don't think you're any the worse for^ it," said
Jo, composing herself, though she kept her eyes on
" I'm a great deal better for it, and ever so much
obliged. I'm only afraid you are very tired talking to
me ; it was so pleasant, I couldn't bear to stop," said
"The doctor to see you, sir," and the maid beck-
oned as she spoke.
" Would you mind if I left you for a minute ? I
suppose I must see him," said Laurie.
" Don't mind me. I'm as happy as a cricket here,"
Laurie went away, and his guest amused herself in
her own way. She w r as standing before a fine por-
trait of the old gentleman, when the door opened
again, and, without turning, she said decidedly, " I'm
sure now that I shouldn't be afraid of him, for he's got
kind eyes, though his mouth is grim, and he looks as
Being Ne ighborly. 8 1
if he had a tremendous will of his own. He isn't as
handsome as my grandfather, but I like him."
" Thank you, ma'am," said a gruff voice behind
her ; and there, to her great dismay, stood old Mr
Poor Jo blushed till she couldn't blush any redder,
and her heart began to beat uncomfortably fast as she
thought what she had said. For a minute a wild
desire to run away possessed her ; but that was cow-
ardly, and the girls w r ould laugh at her ; so she
resolved to stay, and get out of the scrape as she could.
A second look showed her that the living eyes, under
the bushy gray eyebrows, were kinder even than the
painted ones ; and there was a sly twinkle in them,
which lessened her fear a good deal. The gruff voice
was gruffer than ever, as the old gentleman said ab-
ruptly, after that dreadful pause, " So, you're not afraid
of me, hey?"
" Not much, sir."
"And you don't think me as handsome as your
grandfather ? "
" Not quite, sir."
"And I've got a tremendous will, have I?"
" I only said I thought so."
"But you like me, in spite of it?"
" Yes, I do, sir."
That answer pleased the old gentleman ; he gave a
short laugh, shook hands with her, and putting his
finger under her chin, turned up her face, examined
it gravely, and let it go, saying, with a nod, " You've
got your grandfather's spirit, if you haven't his face.
He was a fine man, my dear ; but, what is better, he
82 Little Women:
was a brave and an honest one, and I was proud to be
" Thank you, sir ; " and Jo was quite comfortable
after that, for it suited her exactly.
" What have you been doing to this boy of mine,
hey ? " was the next question, sharply put.
" Only trying to be neighborly, sir ; " and Jo told
how her visit came about.
" You think he needs cheering up a bit, do you ? "
" Yes, sir ; he seems a little lonely, and young folks
would do him good, perhaps. We are only girls, but
we should be glad to help if we could, for we don't
forget the splendid Christmas present you sent us,"
said Jo, eagerly.
" Tut, tut, tut ; that was the boy's affair. How is
the poor woman ? "
" Doing nicely, sir ; " and off went Jo, talking very
fast, as she told all about the Hummels, in whom her
mother had interested richer friends than they were.
"Just her father's way of doing good. I shall
come and see your mother some fine day. Tell her
so. There's the tea-bell ; we have it early, on the
boy's account. Come down, and go on being neigh-
u If you'd like to have me, sir."
" Shouldn't ask you, if I didn't ; " and Mr. Laurence
offered her his arm with old-fashioned courtesy.
"What would 'Meg say to this?" thought Jo, as she
was marched away, while her eyes danced with fun
as she imagined herself telling the story at home.
" Hey ! why what the dickens has come to the fel-
low?" said the old gentleman, as Laurie came run-
Being Neighborly. 83
ning down stairs, and brought up with a start of
surprise at the astonishing sight of Jo arm in arm
with his redoubtable grandfather.
" I didn't know you'd come, sir," he began, as Jo
gave him a triumphant little glance.
" That's evident, by the way you racket down stairs.
Come to your tea, sir, and behave like a gentleman ; "
and having pulled the boy's hair by way of a caress,
Mr. Laurence walked on, while Laurie went through a
series of comic evolutions behind their backs, which
nearly produced an explosion of laughter from Jo.
The old gentleman did not say much as he drank
his four cups of tea, but he watched the young people,
who soon chatted away like old friends, and the
change in his grandson did not escape him. There
was color, light and life in the boy's face now,
vivacity in his manner, and genuine merriment in his
" She's right ; the lad is lonely. I'll see what these
little girls can do for him," thought Mr. Laurence, as
he looked and listened. He liked Jo, for her odd,
blunt ways suited him ; and she seemed to understand
the boy almost as well as if she had been one herself.
If the Laurences had been what Jo called " prim
and poky," she would not have got on at all, for such
people always made her shy and awkward ; but find-
ing them free and easy, she was so herself, and made
a good impression. When they rose she proposed to
go, but Laurie said he had something more to show
her, and took her away to the conservatory, which
had been lighted for her benefit. It seemed quite
fairy-like to Jo, as she went up and down the walks,
84 Little Women.
enjoying the blooming walls on either side, the soft
light, the damp, sweet air, and the wonderful vines
and trees that hung above her, while her new friend
cut the finest flowers till his hands were full ; then
he tied them up, saying, with the happy look Jo liked
to see, "Please give these to your mother, and tell
her I like the medicine she sent me very much."
They found Mr. Laurence standing before the fire
in the great drawing-room, but Jo's attention was en-
tirely absorbed by a grand piano which stood open.
"Do you play?" she asked, turning to Laurie with
a respectful expression.
" Sometimes," he answered, modestly.
" Please do now ; I want to hear it, so I can tell
"Won't you first?"
" Don't know how ; too stupid to learn, but I love
So Laurie played, and Jo listened, with her nose
luxuriously buried in heliotrope and tea roses. Her
respect and regard for the "Laurence boy" increased
very much, for he played remarkably well, and didn't
put on any airs. She wished Beth could hear him,
but she did not say so ; only praised him till he was
quite abashed, and his grandfather came to the rescue.
" That will do, that will do, young lady ; too many
sugar-plums are not good for him. His music isn't
bad, but I hope he will do. as well in more important
things. Going? Well, I'm much obliged to you, and
I hope you'll come again. My respects to your
mother; good-night, Doctor Jo."
He shook hands kindly, but looked as if something
Being Neighborly. 85
did not please him. When they got into the hall, Jo
asked Laurie if she had said anything amiss ; he
shook his head.
4 'No, it was me ; he don't like to hear me play."
" I'll tell you some day. John is going home with
you, as I can't."
"No need of that ; I ain't a young lady, and it's only
a step. Take care of yourself, won't you? "
" Yes, but you will come again, I hope?"
" If you promise to come and see us after you are
" I will."
, " Good-night, Laurie."
" Good-night, Jo, good-night."
When all the afternoon's adventures had been told,
the family felt inclined to go visiting in a body, for
each found something very attractive in the big house
on the other side of the hedge. Mrs. March wanted
to talk of her father with the old man who had not
forgotten him ; Meg longed to walk in the conserv-
atory ; Beth sighed for the grand piano, and Amy was
eager to see the fine pictures and statues.
" Mother, why didn't Mr. Laurence like to have
Laurie play?" asked Joe, who was of an inquiring
u I am not sure, but I think it was because his son,
Laurie's father, married an. Italian lady, a musician,
which displeased the old man, who is very proud.
The lady was good and lovely and accomplished, but
he did not like her, and never saw his son after he
married. Thev both died when Laurie was a little
86 Little Women.
child, and then his grandfather took him home. I
fancy the boy, who was born in Italy, is not very
strong, and the old man is afraid of losing him, which
makes him so careful. Laurie comes naturally by his
love of music, for he is like his mother, and I dare say
his grandfather fears that he may want to be a musi-
cian ; at any rate, his skill reminds him of the woman
he did not like, and so he ' glowered,' as Jo said."
" Dear me, how romantic ! " exclaimed Meg.
" How silly," said Jo ; " let him be a musician, if
he wants to, and not plague his life out sending him
to college, when he hates to go."
" That's why he has such handsome black eyes and
pretty manners, I suppose ; Italians are always nice,"
said Meg, who was a little sentimental.
"What do you know about his eyes and his man-
ners ? you never spoke to him, hardly ; " cried Jo, who
was not sentimental.
" I saw him at the party, and what you tell shows
that he knows how to behave. That was a nice little
speech about the medicine mother sent him."
u He meant the blanc-mange, I suppose."
" How stupid you are, child ; he meant you, of
"Did he?" and Jo opened her eyes as if it had
never occurred to her before.
" I never saw such a girl ! You don't know a com-
pliment when you get it," said Meg, with the air of a
young lady who knew all about the matter.
" I think they are great nonsense, and I'll thank you
not to be silly,, and spoil my fun. Laurie's a nice boy,
and I like him, and I won't have any sentimental stuff
Being Neighborly. 87
about compliments and such rubbish. We'll all be
good to him, because he hasn't got any mother, and
he may come over and see us, mayn't he, Marmee ? "
"Yes, Jo, your little friend is very welcome, and I
hope Meg will remember that children should be chil-
dren as long as they can."
" I don't call myself a child, and I'm not in my
teens yet," observed Amy. "What do you say,
"I was thinking about our 4 Pilgrirn's Progress,'"
answered Beth, who had not heard a word. " How
we got out of the Slough and through the Wicket
Gate by resolving to be good, and up the steep hill, by
trying ; and that maybe the house over there, full of
splendid things, is going to be our Palace Beautiful."
" We have got to get by the lions, first," said Jo, as
if she rather liked the prospect.
BETH FINDS THE PALACE BEAUTIFUL.
THE big house did prove a Palace Beautiful,
though it took some time for all to get in, and
Beth found it very hard to pass the lions. Old
Mr. Laurence was the biggest one ; but, after he had
called, said something funny or kind to each one of the
girls, and talked over old times with their mother,
nobody felt much afraid of him, except timid Beth.
The other lion was the fact that they were poor and
Laurie rich ; for this made them shy of accepting
favors which they could not return. But after a while
they found that he considered them the benefactors, and
could not do enough to show how grateful he was for
Mrs. March's motherly welcome, their cheerful society,
and the comfort he took in that humble home of
theirs ; so they soon forgot their pride, and inter-
changed kindnesses without stopping to think which
was the greater.
All sorts of pleasant things happened about that
time, for the new friendship flourished like grass in
spring. Every one liked Laurie, and he privately in-
formed his tutor that " the Marches were regularly
Beth finds the Palace Beautiful. 89
splendid girls." With the delightful enthusiasm of
youth, they took the solitary boy into their midst, and
made much of him, and he found something very
charming in the innocent companionship of these
simple-hearted girls. Never having known mother or
sisters, he was quick to feel the influences they brought
about him ; and their busy, lively ways made him
ashamed of the indolent life he led. He was tired of
books, and found people so interesting now, that Mr.
Brooke was obliged to make very unsatisfactory re-
ports ; for Laurie was always playing truant, and
running over to the Marches.
" Never mind, let him take a holiday, and make it
up afterward," said the old gentleman. "The good
lady next door says he is studying too hard, and needs
young society, amusement, and exercise. I suspect
she is right, and that I've been coddling the fellow as
if I'd been his grandmother. Let him do what he likes,
as long as he is happy ; he can't get into mischief in
that little nunnery over there, and Mrs. March is doing
more for him than we can."
What good times they had, to be sure ! Such plays -
and tableaux ; such sleigh-rides and skating frolics ;
such pleasant evenings in the old parlor, and now and
then such gay little parties at the great house. Meg
could walk in the conservatory whenever she liked, and
revel in bouquets ; Jo browsed over the new library
voraciously, and convulsed the old gentleman with her
criticisms ; Amy copied pictures and enjoyed beauty to
her heart's content, and Laurie played lord of the
manor in the most delightful style.
But Beth, though yearning for the grand piano,
90 Little Women.
could not pluck up courage to go to the " mansion of
bliss," as Meg called it. She went once with Jo, but the
old gentleman, not being aware of her infirmity, stared
at her so hard from under his heavy eyebrows, and said
" hey ! " so loud, that he frightened her so much her
" feet chattered on the floor," she told her mother ; and
she ran away, declaring she would never go there any
more, not even for the dear piano. No persuasions or
enticements could overcome her fear, till the fact com-
ing to Mr. Laurence's ear in some mysterious way, he
set about mending matters. During one of the brief
calls he made, he artfully led the conversation to music,
and talked away about great singers whom he had
seen, fine organs he had heard, and told such charming
anecdotes, that Beth found it impossible to stay in her
distant corner, but crept nearer and nearer, as if fasci-
nated. At the back of his chair she stopped, and stood
listening with her great eyes wide open, and her cheeks
red with the excitement of this unusual performance.
Taking no more notice of her than if she had been a
fly, Mr. Laurence talked on about Laurie's lessons and
teachers ; and presently, as if the idea had just occurred
to him, he said to Mrs. March,
" The boy neglects his music now, and I'm glad of it,
for he was getting too fond of it. But the piano suffers
for want of use ; wouldn't some of your girls like to run
over, and practise on it now and, then just to keep it
in tune, you know, ma'am ? "
Beth took a step forward, and pressed her hands
tightly together, to keep from clapping them, for this
was an irresistible temptation ; and the thought of prac-
tising on that splendid instrument quite took her breath
Beth finds the Palace Beautiful. 91
away. Before Mrs. March could reply, Mr. Laurence
went on with an odd little nod and smile,
" They needn't see or speak to any one, but run in
at any time, for I'm shut up in my study at the other
end of the house. Laurie is out a great deal, and the
servants are never near the drawing-room after nine
o'clock." Here he rose, as if going, and Beth made up
her mind to speak, for that last arrangement left nothing
to be desired. " Please tell the young ladies what I
say, and if they don't care to come, why, never mind ; "
here a little hand slipped into his, and Beth looked up
at him with a face full of gratitude, as she said, in her
earnest, yet timid way,
" Oh, sir ! they do care, very, very much ! "
"Are you the musical girl?" he asked, without any
startling " hey ! " as he looked down at her very
" I'm Beth ; I love it dearly, and I'll come if you
are quite sure nobody will hear me and be dis-
turbed," she added, fearing to be rude, and trembling
at her own boldness as she spoke.
" Not a soul, my dear ; the house is empty half the
day, so come and drum away as much as you like,
and I shall be obliged to you."
" How kind you are, sir."
Beth blushed like a rose under the friendly look he
wore, but she was not frightened now, and gave
the big hand a grateful squeeze, because she had no
words to thank him for the precious gift he had given
her. The old gentleman softly stroked the hair off
her forehead, and, stooping down, he kissed her, say-
ing, in a tone few people ever heard,
92 Little Women.
" I had a little girl once with eyes like these ; God
bless you, my dear ; good-day, madam," and away he
went, in a great hurry.
Beth had a rapture with her mother, and then
rushed up to impart the glorious news to her family
of invalids, as the girls were not at home. How
blithely she sung that evening, and how they all
laughed at her, because she woke Amy in the night,
by playing the piano on her face in her sleep. Next
day, having seen both the old and young gentleman
out of the house, Beth, after two or three retreats,
fairly got in at the side-door, and made her way as
noiselessly as any mouse to the drawing-room, where
her idol stood. Quite by accident, of course, some
pretty, easy music lay on the piano ; and, with trem-
bling fingers, and frequent stops to listen and look
about, Beth at last touched the great instrument, and
straightway forgot her fear, herself, and everything
else but the unspeakable delight which the music gave
her, for it was like the voice of a beloved friend.
She stayed till Hannah came to take her home to
dinner ; but she had no appetite, and could only sit
and smile upon every one in a general state of beat-
After that, the little brown hood slipped through
the hedge nearly every day, and the great drawing-
room was haunted by a tuneful spirit that came
and went unseen. She never knew that Mr. Laur-
ence often opened his study door to hear the old-
fashioned airs he liked ; she never saw Laurie mount
guard in the hall, to warn the servants away ; she
never suspected that the exercise-books and new
Beth finds the Palace Beautiful. 93
songs which she found in the rack were put there
for her especial benefit ; and when he talked to her
about music at home, she only thought how kind he
was to tell things that helped her so much. So she
enjoyed herself heartily, and found, what isn't always
the case, that her granted wish was all she had hoped.
Perhaps it was because she was so grateful for this
blessing that a greater was given her ; at any rate, she
" Mother, I'm going to work Mr. Laurence a pair of
slippers. He is so kind to me I must thank him, and
I don't know any other way. Can I do it ? " asked
Beth, a few weeks after that eventful call of his.
" Yes, dear ; it will please him very much, and be
a nice way of thanking him. The girls will help you
about them, and I will pay for the making up," replied
Mrs. March, w T ho took peculiar pleasure in granting
Beth's requests, because she so seldom asked anything
After many serious discussions with Meg and Jo,
the pattern was chosen, the materials bought, and the
slippers begun. A cluster of grave yet cheerful pan-
sies, on a deeper purple ground, was pronounced very
appropriate and pretty, and Beth worked away early
and late, with occasional lifts over hard parts. She
was a nimble little needle-woman, and they were fin-
ished before any one got tired of them. Then she
wrote a very short, simple note, and, with Laurie's
help, got them smuggled on to the study-table one
morning before the old gentleman was up.
When this excitement was over, Beth waited to see
what would happen. All that day passed, and a part
94 Little Women.
of the next, before any acknowledgment arrived, and
she was beginning to fear she had offended her crot-
chety friend. On the afternoon of the second day
she went out to do an errand, and give poor Joanna,
the invalid doll, her daily exercise. As she came up
the street on her return she saw three yes, four heads
popping in and out of the parlor windows ; and the
moment they saw her several hands were waved, and
several joyful voices screamed,
"Here's a letter from the old gentleman; come
quick, and read it ! "
"Oh, Beth! he's sent you "began Amy, ges-
ticulating with unseemly energy ; but she got no fur-
ther, for Jo quenched her by slamming down the
Beth hurried on in a twitter of suspense ; at the
door her sisters seized and bore her to the parlor in a
triumphal procession, all pointing, and all saying at
once, " Look there ! look there ! " Beth did look,
and turned pale with delight and surprise ; for there
stood a little cabinet piano, with a letter lying on the
glossy lid, directed like a sign-board, to "Miss Eliz-
" For me ? " gasped Beth, holding on to Jo, and
feeling as if she should tumble down, it was such an
overwhelming thing altogether.
" Yes ; all for you, my precious ! Isn't it splendid
of him ? Don't you think he's the dearest old man in
the world ? Here's the key in the letter ; we didn't
open it, but we are dying to know what he says,"
cried Jo, hugging her sister, and offering the note.
" You read it ; I can't, I feel so queer. Oh, it is
Beth finds the Palace Beautiful. 95
too lovely ! " and Beth hid her face in Jo's apron,
quite upset by her present.
Jo opened the paper, and began to laugh, for the first
words she saw were :
" Miss MARCH :
"Dear Madam "
" How nice it sounds ! I wish some one would
write to me so ! " said Amy, who thought the old-
fashioned address very elegant.
" ' I have had many pairs of slippers in my life, but
I never had any that suited me so well as yours,' "
continued Jo. " ' Heart' s-ease is my favorite flower,
and these will always remind me of the gentle giver.
I like to pay my debts, so I know you will allow " the
old gentleman " to send you something which once
belonged to the little granddaughter he lost. With
hearty thanks, and best wishes, I remain,
" ' Your grateful friend and humble servant,
" ; JAMES LAURENCE/"
" There, Beth, that's an honor to be proud of, I'm
sure ! Laurie told me how fond Mr. Laurence used
to be of the child who died, and how he kept all her
little things carefully. Just think ; he's given you her
piano ! That comes of having big blue eyes and lov-
ing music," said Jo, trying to soothe Beth, who trem-
bled, and looked more excited than she had ever been
" See the cunning brackets to hold candles, and the
nice green silk, puckered up with a gold rose in the
middle, and the pretty rack and stool, all complete,"
g6' Little Women.
added Meg, opening the instrument, and displaying its
" ' Your humble servant, James Laurence ; ' only
think of his writing that to you. I'll tell the girls ;
they'll think it's killing," said Amy, much impressed
by the note.
" Try it, honey ; let's hear the sound of the baby
pianny," said Hannah, who always took a share in
the family joys and sorrows.
So Beth tried it, and every one pronounced it the
most remarkable piano ever heard. It had evidently
been newly tuned, and put in apple-pie order ; but,
perfect as it was, I think the real charm of it lay in the
happiest of all happy faces which leaned over it, as
Beth lovingly touched the beautiful black and white
keys, and pressed the shiny pedals.
" You'll have to go and thank him," said Jo, by
way of a joke ; for the idea of the child's really going,
never entered her head.
" Yes, I mean to ; I guess I'll go now, before I get
frightened thinking about it ; " and, to the utter amaze-
ment of the assembled family, Beth walked deliber-
ately down the garden, through the hedge, and in at
the Laurences door.
" Well, I wish I may die, if it ain't the queerest
thing I ever see ! The pianny has turned her head ;
she'd never have gone, in her right mind," cried Han-
nah, staring after her, while the girls were rendered
quite speechless by the miracle.
They would have been still more amazed, if they
had seen what Beth did afterward. If you will be-
lieve me, she went and knocked at the study door,
Beth finds the Palace Beautiful. 97
before she gave herself time to think ; and when a
gruff voice called out, " Come in ! " she did go in,
right up to Mr. Laurence, who looked quite taken
aback, and held out her hand, saying, with only a
small quaver in her voice, " I came to thank you, sir,
for " but she didn't finish, for he looked so friendly
that she forgot her speech ; and, only remembering
that he had lost the little girl he loved, she put both
arms round his neck, and kissed him.
If the roof of the house had suddenly flown off, the
old gentleman wouldn't have been more astonished ;
but he liked it oh dear, yes ! he liked it amazingly ;
and was so touched and pleased by that confiding
little kiss, that all his crustiness vanished ; and he just
set her on his knee, and laid his wrinkled cheek against
her rosy one, feeling as if he had got his own little
granddaughter back again. Beth ceased to fear him
from that moment, and sat there talking to him as
cosily as if she had known him all her life ; for
love casts out fear, and gratitude can conquer pride.
When she went home, he walked with her to her
own gate, shook hands cordially, and touched his hat
as he marched back again, looking very stately and
erect, like a handsome, soldierly old gentleman, as he
When the girls saw that performance, Jo began to
dance a jig, by way of expressing her satisfaction ;
Amy nearly fell out of the window in her surprise,
and Meg exclaimed, with uplifted hands, " Well, I do
believe the world is coming to an end ! "
AMY'S VALLEY OF HUMILIATION.
THAT boy is a perfect Cyclops, isn't he?" said
Amy, one day, as Laurie clattered by on horse-
back, with a flourish of his whip as he passed.
" How dare you say so, when he's got both his eyes ?
and very handsome ones they are, too ; " cried Jo, who
resented any slighting remarks about her friend.
" I didn't say anything about his eyes, and I don't
see why you need fire up when I admire his riding."
" Oh, my goodness ! that little goose means a cen-
taur, and she called him a Cyclops," exclaimed Jo,
with a burst of laughter.
"You needn't be so rude, it's only a 'lapse of lingy;'
as Mr. Davis says," retorted Amy, finishing Jo with
her Latin. " I just wish I had a little of the money
Laurie spends on that horse," she added, as if to her-
self, yet hoping her sisters would hear.
"Why?" asked Meg, kindly, for Jo had gone off in
another laugh at Amy's second blunder.
" I need it so much ; I'm dreadfully in debt, and it
won't be my turn to have the rag-money for a month."
"In debt, Amy; what do you mean?" and Meg
Amy's Valley of Humiliation. 99
" Why, I owe at least a dozen pickled limes, and I
can't pay them, you know, till I have money, for Mar-
mee forbid my having anything charged at the shop."
" Tell me all about it. Are limes the fashion now?
It used to be pricking bits of rubber to make balls ; "
and Meg tried to keep her countenance, Amy looked
so grave and important.
"Why, you see, the girls are always buying them,
and unless you want to be thought mean, you must do
it, too. It's nothing but limes now, for every one is
sucking them in their desks in school-time, and trad-
ing them off for pencils, bead-rings, paper dolls, or
something else, at recess. If one girl likes another,
she gives her a lime ; if she's mad with her, she eats
one before her face, and don't offer even a suck.
They treat by turns ; and I've had ever so many, but
haven't returned them, and I ought, for they are debts
of honor, you know."
" How much will pay them off, and restore your
credit ? " asked Meg, taking out her purse.
" A quarter would more than do it, and leave a few
cents over for a treat for you. Don't you like limes?"
" Not much ; you may have my share. Here's the
money, make it last as long as you can, for it isn't
very plenty, you know."
" Oh, thank you ! it must be so nice to have pocket-
money. I'll have a grand feast, for I haven't tasted a
lime this week. I felt delicate about taking any, as I
couldn't return them, and I'm actually suffering for
Next day Amy was rather late at school ; but could
not resist the temptation of displaying, with pardon-
ioo Little Women.
able pride, a moist brown paper parcel, before she
consigned it to the inmost recesses of her desk. Dur-
ing the next few minutes the rumor that Amy March
had got twenty-four delicious limes (she ate one on
the way) , and was going to treat, circulated through
her " set," and the attentions of her friends became
quite overwhelming. Katy Brown invited her to her
next party on the spot ; Mary Kingsley insisted on lend-
ing her her watch till recess, and Jenny Snow, a satir-
ical young lady who had basely twitted Amy upon
her limeless state, promptly buried the hatchet, and
offered to furnish answers to certain appalling sums.
But Amy had not forgotten Miss Snow's cutting re-
marks about " some persons whose noses were not too
flat to smell other people's limes, and stuck-up people,
who were not too proud to ask for them ; " and she
instantly crushed " that Snow girl's" hopes by the
withering telegram, " You needn't be so polite all of
a sudden, for you won't get any."
A distinguished personage happened to visit the
school that morning, and Amy's beautifully drawn
maps received praise, which honor to her foe rankled
in the soul of Miss Snow, and caused Miss March to
assume the airs of a studious young peacock. But,
alas, alas ! pride goes before a fall, and the revengeful
Snow turned the tables with disastrous success. No
sooner had the guest paid the usual stale compliments,
and bowed himself out, than Jenny, under pretence of
asking an important question, informed Mr. Davis,
the teacher, that Amy March had pickled limes in
Now Mr. Davis had declared limes a contraband
Amy's Valley of Humiliation. 101
article, and solemnly vowed to publicly ferule the first
person who was found breaking the law. This much-
enduring man had succeeded in banishing gum after
a long and stormy war, had made a bonfire of the
confiscated novels and newspapers, had suppressed a
private post-office, had forbidden distortions of the
face, nicknames, and caricatures, and done all that
one man could do to keep half a hundred rebellious
girls in order. Boys are trying enough to human
patience, goodness knows ! but girls are infinitely
more so, especially to nervous gentlemen with tyran-
nical tempers, and no more talent for teaching than
" Dr. Blimber." Mr. Davis knew any quantity of Greek,
Latin, Algebra, and ologies of all sorts, so he. was
called a fine teacher ; and manners, morals, feelings,
and examples were not considered of any particular
importance. It was a most unfortunate moment for
denouncing Amy, and Jenny knew it. Mr. Davis
had evidently taken his coffee too strong that morn-
ing ; there was an east wind, which always affected
his neuralgia, and his pupils had not done him the
credit which he felt he deserved ; therefore, to use the
expressive, if not elegant, language of a school-girl,
" he was as nervous as a witch and as cross as a
bear." The word " limes " was like fire to powder;
his yellow face flushed, and he rapped on his desk
with an energy which made Jenny skip to her seat
with unusual rapidity.
" Young ladies, attention, if you please !"
At the stern order the buzz ceased, and fifty pairs of
blue, black, gray, and brown eyes were obediently
fixed upon his awful countenance.
102 Little Women.
" Miss March, come to the desk."
Amy rose to comply, with outward composure, but
a secret fear oppressed her, for the limes weighed
upon her conscience.
" Bring with you the limes you have in your desk,"
was the unexpected command which arrested her
before she got out of her seat.
" Don't take all," whispered her neighbor, a young
lady of great presence of mind.
Amy hastily shook out half a dozen, and laid the
rest down before Mr. Davis, feeling that any man
possessing a human heart would relent when that
delicious perfume met his nose. Unfortunately, Mr.
Davis particularly detested the odor of the fashionable
pickle, and disgust added to his wrath.
"Is that all?"
" Not quite," stammered Amy.
" Bring the rest, immediately."
With a despairing glance at her set she obeyed.
" You are sure there are no more ? "
" I never lie, sir."
"So I see. Now take these disgusting things, two
by two, and throw them out of the window."
There was a simultaneous sigh, which created quite
a little gust as the last hope fled, and the treat was rav-
ished from their longing lips. Scarlet with shame
and anger, Amy went to and fro twelve mortal times ;
and as each doomed couple, looking, oh, so plump
and juicy ! fell from her reluctant hands, a shout from
the street completed the anguish of the girls, for it
told them that their feast was being exulted over
by the little Irish children, who were their sworn
Amy's Valley of Humiliation. 103
foes. This this was too much; all flashed indig-
nant or appealing glances at the inexorable Davis,
and one passionate lime-lover burst into tears.
As Amy returned from her last trip, Mr. Davis
gave a portentous " hem," and said, in his most
" Young ladies, you remember what I said to you a
week ago. I am sorry this has happened ; but I never
allow my rules to be infringed, and I never break my
word. Miss March, hold out your hand."
Amy started, and put both hands behind her, turn-
ing on him an imploring look, which pleaded for her
better than the words she could not utter. She was
rather a favorite with " old Davis," as, of course, he
was called, and it's my private belief that he 'would
have broken his word if the indignation of one irre-
pressible young lady had not found vent in a hiss.
That hiss, faint as it was, irritated the irascible gen-
tleman, and sealed the culprit's fate.
"Your hand, Miss March!" was the only answer
her mute appeal received ; and, too proud to cry or
beseech, Amy set her teeth, threw back her head
defiantly, and bore without flinching several tingling
blows on her little palm. They were neither many
nor heavy, but that made no difference to her. For
the first time in her life she had been struck ; and the
disgrace, in her eyes, was as deep as if he had knocked
"You will now stand on the platform till recess,"
said Mr. Davis, resolved to do the thing thoroughly,
since he had begun.
That was dreadful ; it would have been bad enough
IO4 Little Women.
to go to her seat and see the pitying faces of her
friends, or the satisfied ones of her few enemies ; but
to face the whole school, with that shame fresh upon
her, seemed impossible, and for a second she felt as if
she could only drop down where she stood, and break
her heart With crying. A bitter sense of wrong, and
the thought of Jenny Snow, helped her to bear it ; and,
taking the ignominious place, she fixed her eyes on
the stove-funnel above what now seemed a sea of
faces, and stood there so motionless and white, that
the girls found it very hard to study, with that pathetic
little figure before them.
During the fifteen minutes that followed, the proud
and sensitive little girl suffered a shame and pain
which she never forgot. To others it might seem a
ludicrous or trivial affair, but to her it was a hard ex-
perience ; for during the twelve years of her life she had
been governed by love alone, and a blow of that sort
had never touched her before. The smart of her hand,
and the ache of her heart, were forgotten in the sting
of the thought,
" I shall have to tell at home, and they will be so
disappointed in me ! "
The fifteen minutes seemed an hour ; but they came
to an end at last, and the word " recess ! " had never
seemed so welcome to her before.
" You can go, Miss March," said Mr. Davis, looking,
as he felt, uncomfortable.
He did not soon forget the reproachful look Amy
gave him, as she went, without a word to any one,
straight into the anteroom, snatched her things, and
left the place " forever," as she passionately declared
Amy's Valley of Humiliation. 105
to herself. She was in a sad state when she got home ;
and when the older girls arrived, some time later, an
indignation meeting was held at once. Mrs. March
did not say much, but looked disturbed, and comforted
her afflicted little daughter in her tenderest manner.
Meg bathed the insulted hand with glycerine and
tears ; Beth felt that even her beloved kittens would fail
as a balm for griefs like this, and Jo wrathfully pro-
posed that Mr. Davis be arrested without delay, while
Hannah shook her fist at the " villain,'* and pounded
potatoes for dinner as if she had him under her pestle.
No notice was taken of Amy's flight, except by her
mates ; but the sharp-eyed demoiselles discovered that
Mr. Davis was quite benignant in the afternoon, also
unusually nervous. Just before school closed, Jo ap-
peared, wearing a grim expression, as she stalked up
to the desk, and delivered a letter from her mother ;
then collected Amy's property, and departed, carefully
scraping the mud from her boots on the door-mat, as
if she shook the dust of the place off her feet.
" Yes, you can have a vacation from school, but I
want you to study a little every day, with Beth," said
Mrs. March, that evening. " I don't approve of cor-
poral punishment, especially for girls. I dislike Mr.
Davis' manner of teaching, and don't think the girls
you associate with are doing you any good, so I shall
ask your father's advice before I send you anywhere
" That's good ! I wish all the girls would leave,
and spoil his old school. It's perfectly maddening to
think of those lovely limes," sighed Amy, with the air
of a martyr.
io6 Little Women.
" I am not sorry you lost them, for you broke the
rules, and deserved some punishment for disobe-
dience," was the severe reply, which rather dis-
appointed the young lady, who expected nothing but
" Do you mean you are glad I was disgraced before
the whole school ? " cried Amy.
" I should not have chosen that way of mending a
fault," replied her mother; "but I'm not sure that it
won't do you more good than a milder method. You
are getting to be altogether too conceited and impor-
tant, my dear, and it is quite time you set about
correcting it. You have a good many little gifts and
virtues, but there is no need of parading them, for
conceit spoils the finest genius. There is not much
danger that real talent or goodness will be overlooked
long ; even if it is, the consciousness of possessing and
using it well should satisfy one, and the great charm
of all power is modesty."
" So it is," cried Laurie, who was playing chess in
a corner with Jo. " I knew a girl, once, who had a
really remarkable talent for music, and she didn't
know it ; never guessed what sweet little things she
composed when she was alone, and wouldn't have
believed it if any one had told her."
" I wish I'd known that nice girl, maybe she would
have helped me, I'm so stupid," said Beth, who stood
beside him, listening eagerly.
"You do know her, and she helps you better than
any one else could," answered Laurie, looking at her
with such mischievous meaning in his merry black
eyes, that Beth suddenly turned very red, and hid her
Amy's Valley of Humiliation. 107
face in the sofa-cushion, quite overcome by such an
Jo let Laurie win the game, to pay for that praise
of her Beth, who could not be prevailed upon to play
for them after her compliment. So Laurie did his
best, and sung delightfully, being in a particularly
lively humor, for to the Marches he seldom showed
the moody side of his character. When he was gone,
Amy, who had been pensive all the evening, said,
suddenly, as if busy over some new idea,
"Is Laurie an accomplished boy?"
" Yes ; he has had an excellent education, and has
much talent ; he will make a fine man, if not spoilt
by petting," replied her mother.
" And he isn't conceited, is he ? " asked Amy.
" Not in the least ; that is why he is so charming,
and we all like him so much."
" I see ; it's nice to have accomplishments, and be
elegant ; but not to show off, or get perked up," said
" These things are always seen and felt in a person's
manner and conversation, if modestly used ; but it
is not necessary to display them," said Mrs. March.
"Any more than it's proper to wear all your bonnets,
and gowns, and ribbons, at once, that folks may know
you've got 'em," added Jo ; and the lecture ended in a
JO MEETS APOLLYON.
GIRLS, where are you going? " asked Amy, com-
ing into their room one Saturday afternoon,
and finding them getting ready to go out, with
an air of secresy which excited her curiosity.
" Never mind ; little girls shouldn't ask questions,"
returned Jo, sharply.
Now if there is anything mortifying to our feelings,
when we are young, it is to be told that ; and to be
bidden to " run away, dear," is still more trying to us.
Amy bridled up at this insult, and determined to find
out the secret, if she teased for an hour. Turning
to Meg, who never refused her anything very long,
she said, coaxingly, " Do tell me ! I should think
you might let me go, too ; for Beth is fussing over her
dolls, and I haven't got anything to do, and am so
" I can't, dear, because you aren't invited," began
Meg ; but Jo broke in impatiently, " Now, Meg, be
quiet, or you will spoil it all. You can't go, Amy ;
so don't be a baby, and whine about it."
" You are going somewhere with Laurie, I know
Jo meets Apollyon. 109
you are ; you were whispering and laughing together,
on the sofa, last night, and you stopped when I came
in. Aren't you going with him ? "
u Yes, we are ; now do be still, and stop bothering."
Amy held her tongue, but used her eyes, and saw
Meg slip a fan into her pocket.
" I know ! I know ! you're going to the theatre to
see the ' Seven Castles ! ' she cried ; adding, resolutely,
" and I shall go, for mother said I might see it ; and
I've got my rag-money, and it was mean not to tell
me in time."
u Just listen to me a minute, and be a good child,"
said Meg, soothingly. " Mother doesn't wish you to
go this week, because your eyes are not well enough
yet to bear the light of this fairy piece. Next week
you can go with Beth and Hannah, and have a nice
" I don't like that half as well as going with you
and Laurie. Please let me ; I've been sick with this
cold so long, and shut up, I'm dying for some fun.
Do, Meg ! I'll be ever so good," pleaded Amy, look-
ing as pathetic as she could.
" Suppose we take her. I don't believe mother
would mind, if we bundle her up well," began Meg.
" If she goes /shan't ; and if I don't, Laurie won't
like it ; and it will be very rude, after he invited only
us, to go and drag in Amy. I should think she'd hate
to poke herself where she isn't wanted," said Jo,
crossly, for she disliked the trouble of overseeing a
fidgety child, when she wanted to enjoy herself.
Her tone and manner angered Amy, who began to
put her boots on, saying, in her most aggravating
iio Little Women.
way, " I shall go ; Meg says I may ; and if I pay for
myself, Laurie hasn't anything to do with it."
" You can't sit with us, for our seats are reserved,
and you mustn't sit alone ; so Laurie will give you his
place, and that will spoil our pleasure ; or he'll get
another seat for you, and that isn't proper, when you
weren't asked. You shan't stir a step ; so you may just
stay where you are," scolded Jo, crosser than ever,
having just pricked her finger in her hurry.
Sitting on the floor, with one boot on, Amy began
to cry, and Meg to reason with her, when Laurie
called from below, and the two girls rfurried down,
leaving their sister wailing ; for now and then she for-
got her grown-up ways, and acted like a spoilt child.
Just as the party was setting out, Amy called over the
banisters, in a threatening tone, " You'll be sorry for
this, Jo March ! see if you ain't."
" Fiddlesticks ! " returned Jo, slamming the door.
They had a charming time, for " The Seven Castles
of the Diamond Lake" were as brilliant and won-
derful as heart could wish. But, in spite of the
comical red imps, sparkling elves, and gorgeous
princes and princesses, Jo's pleasure had a drop of
bitterness in it ; the fairy queen's yellow curls re-
minded her of Amy ; and between the acts she amused
herself with wondering what her sister would do to
make her " sorry for it." She and Amy had had
many lively skirmishes in the course of their lives, for
both had quick tempers, and were apt to be violent
when fairly roused. Amy teased Jo, and Jo irritated
Amy, and semi-occasional explosions occurred, of
which both were much ashamed afterward. Although
Jo meets Apollyon. 1 1 1
the oldest, Jo had the least self-control, and had
hard times trying to curb the fiery spirit which
was continually getting her into trouble ; her anger
never lasted long, and, having humbly confessed her
fault, she sincerely repented, and tried to do better.
Her sisters used to say, that they rather liked to get
Jo into a fury, because she was such an angel after-
ward. Poor Jo tried desperately to be good, but her
bosom enemy was always ready to flame up and defeat
her ; and it took years of patient effort to subdue it.
When they got home, they found Amy reading in
the parlor. " She assumed an injured air as they came
in ; never lifted her eyes from her book, or asked a
single question. Perhaps curiosity might have con-
quered resentment, if Beth had not been there to
inquire, and receive a glowing description of the play.
On going up to put away her best hat, Jo's first look
was toward the bureau ; for, in their last quarrel, Amy
had soothed her feelings by turning Jo's top drawer
upside down, on the floor. Everything was in its
place, however ; and after a hasty glance into her
various closets, bags and boxes, Jo decided that Amy
had forgiven and forgotten her wrongs.
There Jo was mistaken ; for next day she made a
discovery which produced a tempest. Meg, Beth and
Amy were sitting together, late in the afternoon,
when Jo burst into the room, looking excited, and
demanding, breathlessly, " Has any one taken my
story ? "
Meg and Beth said " No," at once, and looked sur-
prised ; Amy poked the fire, and said nothing. Jo
H2 Little Women.
saw her color rise, and was down upon her in a
" Amy, you've got it ! "
" No, I haven't."
" You know where it is, then ! "
" No, I don't."
" That's a fib ! " cried Jo, taking her by the shoul-
ders, and looking fierce enough to frighten a much
braver child than Amy.
" It isn't. I haven't got it, don't know where it is
now, and don't care."
" You know something about it, and you'd better
tell at once, or I'll make you," and Jo gave her a slight
" Scold as much as you like, you'll never get your
silly old story again," cried Amy, getting excited in
" I burnt it up."
" What ! my little book I was so fond of, and
worked over, and meant to finish before father got
home? Have you really burnt it?" said Jo, turning
very pale, while her eyes kindled and her hands
clutched Amy nervously.
" Yes, I did ! I told you I'd make you pay for
being so cross yesterday, and I have, so "
Amy got no farther, for Jo's hot temper mastered
her, and she shook Amy till her teeth chattered in her
head ; crying, in a passion of grief and anger,
" You wicked, wicked girl ! I never can write it
again, and I'll never forgive you as long as I live."
Meg flew to rescue Amy, and Beth to pacify Jo, but
Jo meets Apollyon. 113
Jo was quite beside herself; and, with a parting box
on her sister's ear, she rushed out of the room up to
the old sofa in the garret, and finished her fight alone.
The storm cleared up below, for Mrs. March came
home, and, having heard the story, soon brought Amy
to a sense of the wrong she had done her sister. Jo's
book was the pride of her heart, and was regarded
by her family as a licerary sprout of great promise. It
was only half a dozen little fairy tales, but Jo had
worked over them patiently, putting her whole heart
into her work, hoping to make something good enough
to print. She had just copied them with great care,
and had destroyed the old manuscript, so that Amy's
bonfire had consumed the loving work of several
years. It seemed a small loss to others, but to Jo it
was a dreadful calamity, and she felt that it never
could be made up -to her. Beth mourned as for a
departed kitte'n, and Meg refused to defend her pet ;
Mrs. March looked grave and grieved, and Amy felt
that no one would love her till she had asked pardon
for the act which she now regretted more than any of
When the tea-bell rung, Jo appeared, looking so
grim and unapproachable, that it took all Amy's
courage to say, meekly,
" Please forgive me, Jo ; I'm very, very sorry."
" I never shall forgive you," was Jo's stern answer ;
and, from that moment, she ignored Amy entirely.
No one spoke of the great trouble, not even Mrs.
March, for all had learned by experience that when
Jo was in that mood words were wasted ; and the
wisest course was to wait till some little accident, or
ii4 Little Women.
her own generous nature, softened Jo's resentment, and
healed the breach. It was not a happy evening ; for,
though they sewed as usual, while their mother read
aloud from Bremer, Scott, or Edgeworth, something
was wanting, and the sweet home-peace was disturbed.
They felt this most when singing-time came ; for Beth
could only play, Jo stood dumb as a stone, and Amy
broke down, so Meg and mother sung alone. But, in
spite of their efforts to be as cheery as larks, the flute-
like voices did not seem to chord as well as usual, and
all felt out of tune.
As Jo received her good-night kiss, Mrs. March
"My dear, don't let the sun go down upon your
anger ; forgive each other, help each other, and begin
Jo wanted to lay her head down on that motherly
bosom, and cry her grief and anger all away ; but tears
were an unmanly weakness, and she felt so deeply
injured that she really couldn't quite forgive yet. So
she winked hard, shook her head, and said, gruffly,
because Amy was listening,
"It was an abominable thing, and she don't deserve
to be forgiven."
With that she marched off to bed, 'and there was
no merry or confidential gossip that night.
Amy was much offended that her overtures of peace
had been repulsed, and began to wish she had not
humbled herself, to feel more injured than ever, and
to plume herself on her superior virtue in a way which
was particularly exasperating. Jo still looked like a
thunder-cloud, and nothing went well all day. It was
yo meets Apollyon. 115
bitter cold in the morning ; she dropped her precious
turn-over in the gutter, Aunt March had an attack of
fidgets, Meg was pensive, Beth would look grieved
and wistful when she got home, and Amy kept mak-
ing remarks about people who were always talking
about being good, and yet wouldn't try, when other
people set them a virtuous example.
" Everybody is so hateful, I'll ask Laurie to go
skating. He is always kind and jolly, and will put
me to rights, I know," said Jo to herself, and off she
Amy heard the clash of skates, and looked out with
an impatient exclamation,
" There ! she promised I should go next time, for
this is the last ice we shall have. But it's no use to
ask such a cross patch to take me."
" Don't say that ; you were very naughty, and it is
hard to forgive the loss of her precious little book ;
but I think she might do it now, and I guess she will,
if you try her at the right minute," said Meg. " Go
after them ; don't say anything till Jo has got good-
natured with Laurie, then take a quiet minute, and
just kiss her, or do some kind thing, and I'm sure
she'll be friends, again, with all her heart."
"I'll try," said Amy, for the advice suited her ; and,
after a flurry to get ready, she ran after the friends,
who were just disappearing over the hill.
It was not far to the river, but both were ready
before Amy reached them. Jo saw her coming, and
turned her back ; Laurie did not see, for he was care-
fully skating along the shore, sounding the ice, for a
warm spell had preceded the cold snap.
1 1 6 L ittle Women .
" I'll go on to the first bend, and see if ifs all right,
before we begin to race," Amy heard him say, as he
shot away, looking like a young Russian, in his
fur-trimmed coat and cap.
Jo heard Amy panting after her run, stamping her feet,
and blowing her fingers, as she tried to put her skates
on ; but Jo never turned, and went slowly zigzagging
down the river, taking a bitter, unhappy sort of satis-
tion in her sister's troubles. She had cherished her
anger till it grew strong, and took possession of her, as
evil thoughts and feelings always do, unless cast out
at once. As Laurie turned the bend, he shouted
" Keep near the shore ; it isn't safe in the middle."
Jo heard, but Amy was just struggling to her feet,
and did not catch a word. Jo glanced over her shoul-
der, and the little demon she was harboring said in
" No matter whether she heard or not, let her take
care of herself."
Laurie had vanished round the bend ; Jo was just at
the turn, and Amy, far behind, striking out toward the
smoother ice in the middle of the river. For a min-
ute Jo stood still, with a strange feeling at her heart ;
then she resolved to go on, but something held and
turned her round, just in time to see Amy throw up
her hands and go down, with the sudden crash of rot-
ten ice, the splash of water, and a cry that made Jo's
heart stand still with fear. She tried to call Laurie,
but her voice was gone ; she tried to rush forward,
but her feet seemed to have no strength in them ; and,
for a second, she could only stand motionless, staring,
"Keep near the shore; it isn't ?afe in the middle." Jo heard,
but Amy was just struggling to her feet, and did not catch a word.
Jo meets Apollyon. 117
with a terror-stricken face, at the little blue hood
above the black water. Something rushed swiftly by
her, and Laurie's voice cried out,
" Bring a rail ; quick, quick ! "
How she did it, she never knew ; but for the next
few minutes she worked as if possessed, blindly obey-
ing Laurie, who was quite self-possessed ; and, lying
flat, held Amy up by his arm and hockey, till Jo
dragged a rail from the fence, and together they got
the child out, more frightened than hurt.
"Now then, we must walk her home as fast as we
can ; pile our things on her, while I get off these
confounded skates," cried Laurie, wrapping his coat
round Amy, and tugging away at the straps, which
never seemed so intricate before.
Shivering, dripping, and crying, they got Amy
home ; and, after an exciting time of it, she fell asleep,
rolled in blankets, before a hot fire. During the
bustle Jo had scarcely spoken ; but flown about, look-
ing pale and wild, with her things half off, her dress
torn, and her hands cut and bruised by ice and rails,
and refractory buckles. When Amy was comfortably
asleep, the house quiet, and Mrs. March sitting by the
bed, she called Jo to her, and began to bind up the
"Are you sure she is safe?" whispered Jo, looking
remorsefully at the golden head, which might have
been swept away from her sight forever, under the
" Quite safe, dear ; she is not hurt, and won't even
take cold, I think, you were so sensible in covering
n8 Little Women.
and getting her home quickly," replied her mother,
" Laurie did it all ; I only let her go. Mother, if she
should die, it would be my fault ; " and Jo dropped
down beside the bed, in a passion of penitent tears,
telling all that had happened, bitterly condemning her
hardness of heart, and sobbing out her gratitude for
being spared the heavy punishment which might have
come upon her.
" It's my dreadful temper ! I try to cure it ; I think
I have, and then it breaks out worse than ever. Oh,
mother ! what shall I do ! what shall I do ? " cried
poor Jo, in despair.
" Watch and pray, dear ; never get tired of trying ;
and never think it is impossible to conquer your
fault," said Mrs. March, drawing the blowzy head
to her shoulder, and kissing the wet cheek so tenderly,
that Jo cried harder than ever.
" You don't know ; you can't guess how bad it is !
It seems as if I could do anything when I'm in a
passion ; I get so savage, I could hurt any one, and
enjoy it. I'm afraid I shall do something dreadful
some day, and spoil my life, and make everybody
hate me. Oh, mother ! help me, do help me ! "
" I will, my child ; I will. Don't cry so bitterly,
but remember this day, and resolve, with all your soul,
that you will never know another like it. Jo, dear,
we all have our temptations, some far greater than
yours, and it often takes us all our lives to conquer
them. You think your temper is the worst in the
world ; but mine used to be just like it."
Jo meets Ap oily on. 119
"Yours, mother? Why, you are never angry!'*
and, for the moment, Jo forgot remorse in surprise.
" I've been trying to cure it for forty years, and
have only succeeded in controlling it. I am angry
nearly every day of my life, Jo ; but I have learned
not to show it ; and I still hope to learn not to feel it,
though it may take me another forty years to do so."
The patience and the humility of the face she loved
so well, was a better lesson to Jo than the wisest
lecture, the sharpest reproof. She felt comforted at
once by the sympathy and confidence given her ; the
knowledge that her mother had a fault like hers, and
tried to mend it, made her own easier to bear, and
strengthened her resolution to cure it ; though forty
years seemed rather a long time to watch and pray,
to a girl of fifteen.
"Mother, are you angry when you fold your lips
tight together, and go out of the room sometimes,
when Aunt March scolds, or people worry you?"
asked Jo, feeling nearer and dearer to her mother than
" Yes, I've learned to check the hasty words that
rise to my lips ; and when I feel that they mean to
break out against my will, I just go away a minute,
and give myself a little shake, for being so weak and
wicked," answered Mrs. March, with a sigh and a
smile, as she smoothed and fastened up Jo's dishev-
" How did you learn to keep still ? That is what
troubles me for the sharp words fly out before I
know what I'm about ; and the more I say the worse I
get, till it's a pleasure to hurt people's feelings, and
120 Little Women.
say dreadful things. Tell me how you do it, Marmee
" My good mother used to help me "
" As you do us " interrupted Jo, with a grateful
" But I lost her when I was a little older than you
are, and for years had to struggle on alone, for I was
too proud to confess my weakness to any one else. I
had a hard time, Jo, and shed a good many bitter
tears over my failures ; for, in spite of my efforts, I
never seemed to get on. Then your father came, and
I was so happy that I found it easy to be good. But
by and by, when I had four little daughters round me,
and we were poor, then the old trouble began again ;
for I am not patient by nature, and it tried me very
much to see my children wanting anything."
" Poor mother ! what helped you then ? "
"Your father, Jo. He never loses patience,
never doubts or complains, but always hopes, and
works, and waits so cheerfully, that one is ashamed to
do otherwise before him. He helped and comforted
me, and showed me that I must try to practise all the
virtues I would have my little, girls possess, for I was
their example. It was easier to try for your sakes
than for my own ; a startled or surprised look from
one of you, when I spoke, sharply rebuked me more
than any words could have done ; and the love,
respect, and confidence of my children was the sweet-
est reward I could receive for my efforts to be the
woman I would have them copy."
" Oh, mother ! if I'm ever half as good as you', I
shall be satisfied," cried Jo, much touched.
yo meets Apollyon. 121
" I hope you will be a great deal better, dear ; but
you must keep watch over your ' bosom enemy,' as
father calls it, or it may sadden, if not spoil your life.
You have had a warning ; remember it, and try with
heart and soul to master this quick temper, before it
brings you greater sorrow and regret than you have
" I will try, mother ; I truly will. But you must
help me, remind me, and keep me from flying out. I
used to see father sometimes put his finger on his lips,
and look at you with a very kind, but sober face ; and
you always folded your lips tight, or went away ; was
he reminding you then ? " asked Jo, softly.
"Yes; I asked him to help me so, and he never
forgot it, but saved me from many a sharp word by
that little gesture and kind look."
Jo saw that her mother's eyes filled, and her lips
trembled, as she spoke ; and, fearing that she had said
too much, she whispered anxiously, "Was it wrong
to watch you, and to speak of it? I didn't mean to
be rude, but it's so comfortable to say all I think to
you, and feel so safe and happy here."
"My Jo, you may say anything to your mother, for
it is my greatest happiness and pride to feel that my
girls confide in me, and know how much I love them."
" I thought I'd grieved you."
" No, dear ; but speaking of father reminded me
how much I miss him, how much I owe him, and
how faithfully I should watch and work to keep his
little daughters safe and good for him."
"Yet you told him to go, mother, and didn't cry
122 Little Women.
when he went, and never complain now, or seem as
if you needed any help," said Jo, wondering.
" I gave my best to the country I love, and kept
my tears till he was gone. Why should I complain,
when we both have merely done our duty, and will
surely be the happier for it in the end? If I don't
seem to need help, it is because I have a better friend,
even than father, to comfort and sustain me. My
child, the troubles and temptations of your life are
beginning, and may be many ; but you can overcome
and outlive them all, if you learn to feel the strength
and tenderness of your Heavenly Father as you do
that of your earthly one. The more you love and
trust Him, the nearer you will feel to Him, and the
less you will depend on human power and wisdom.
His love and care never tire or change, can never be
taken from you, but may become the source of life-
long peace, happiness, and strength. Believe this
heartily, and go to God with all your little cares, and
hopes, and sins, and sorrows, as freely and confidingly
as you come to your mother."
Jo's only answer was to hold her mother close, and,
in the silence which followed, the sincerest prayer she
had ever prayed left her heart, without words ; for in
that sad, yet happy hour, she had learned not only the
bitterness of remorse and despair, but the sweetness
of self-denial and self-control ; and, led by her mother's
hand, she had drawn nearer to the Friend who wel-
comes every child with a love stronger than that of
any father, tenderer than that of any mother.
Amy stirred, and sighed in her sleep ; and, as if
eager to begin at once to mend her fault, Jo looked up
Jo meets Apollyon. 1 23
with an expression on her face which it had never
"I let the sun go down on my anger ; I wouldn't
forgive her, and today, if it hadn't been for Laurie,
it might have been too late ! How could I be so
wicked?" said Jo, *half aloud, as she leaned over her
sister, softly stroking the wet hair scattered on the
As if she heard, Amy opened her eyes, and held
out her arms, with a smile that went straight to Jo's
heart. Neither said a word, but they hugged one
another close, in spite of the blankets, and everything
was forgiven and forgotten in one hearty kiss.
MEG GOES TO VANITY FAIR.
I DO think it was the most fortunate thing in the
world, that those children should have the
measles just^ now," said Meg, one April day, as
she stood packing the " go abroady " trunk in her
room, surrounded. by her sisters.
" And so nice of Annie Moffat, not to forget her
promise. A whole fortnight of fun will be regularly
splendid," replied Jo, looking like a windmill, as she
folded skirts with her long arms.
" And such lovely weather ; I'm so glad of that,"
added Beth, tidily sorting neck and hair ribbons in
her best box, lent for the great occasion.
" I wish I was going to have a fine time, and wear
all these nice things," said Amy, with her mouth full
of pins, as she artistically replenished her sister's
" I wish you were all going ; but, as you can't, I
shall keep my adventures to tell you when I come
back. I'm sure it's the least I can do, when you have
been so kind, lending me things, and helping me get
ready," said Meg, glancing round the room at the
Meg goes to Vanity Fair. 125
very simple outfit, which seemed nearly perfect in
"What did mother give you out of the treasure-
box?" asked Amy, who had not been present at the
opening of a certain cedar chest, in which Mrs. March
kept a few relics of past splendor, as gifts for her
girls when the proper time came.
"A pair of silk stockings, that pretty carved fan,
and a lovely blue sash. I wanted the violet silk ; but
there isn't time to make it over, so I must be contented
with my old tarleton."
" It will look nicely over my new muslin skirt, and
the sash will set it off beautifully. I wish I hadn't
smashed my coral bracelet, for you might have had
it," said Jo, who loved to give and lend, but whose
possessions were usually too dilapidated to be of much
" There is a lovely old-fashioned pearl set in the
treasure-box ; but mother said real flowers were the
prettiest ornament for a young girl, and Laurie prom-
ised to send me all I want," replied Meg. "Now,
let me see; there's my new gray walking-suit, just
curl up the feather in my hat, Beth, then my poplin,
for Sunday, and the small party, it looks heavy for
spring, don't it? the violet silk would be so nice ; oh,
dear ! "
" Never mind ; you've got the tarleton for the big
party, and you always look like an angel in white,"
said Amy, brooding over the little store of finery in
which her soul delighted.
" It isn't low-necked, and it don't sweep enough,
but it will have to do. My blue house-dress looks so
126 Little Women.
well, turned and freshly trimmed, that I feel as if I'd
got a new one. My silk sacque isn't a bit the fashion,
and my bonnet don't look like Sallie's ; I didn't like
to say anything, but I was dreadfully disappointed in
my umbrella. I told mother black, with a w r hite
handle, but she forgot, and bought a green one, with
an ugly yellowish handle. It's strong and neat, so I
ought not to complain, but I know I shall feel ashamed
of it beside Annie's silk one, with a gold top," sighed
Meg, surveying the little umbrella with great disfavor.
" Change it," advised Jo.
" I won't be so silly, or hurt Marmee's feelings,
when she took so much pains to get my things. It's
a nonsensical notion of mine, and I'm not going to
give up to it. My silk stockings and two pairs of
spandy gloves are my comfort. You are a dear, to
lend me yours, Jo ; I feel so rich, and sort of elegant,
with two new pairs, and the old ones cleaned up for
common; "and Meg took a refreshing peep at her
" Annie MofFat has blue and pink bows on her
night-caps ; would you put some on mine ? " she
asked, as Beth brought up a pile of snowy muslins,
fresh from Hannah's hands.
" No, I wouldn't ; for the smart caps won't match
the plain gowns, without any trimming on them.
Poor folks shouldn't rig," said Jo, decidedly.
" I wonder if I shall ever be happy enough to have
real lace on my clothes, and bows on my caps ? " said
" You said the other day that you'd be perfectly happy
Meg goes to Vanity Fair. 127
if you could only go to Annie Moffat's," observed
Beth, in her quiet way.
" So I did ! Well, I am happy, and I won't fret ;
but it does seem as if the more one gets the more one
wants, don't it? There, now, the trays are ready,
and everything in but my ball-dress, which I shall
leave for mother," said Meg, cheering up, as she
glanced from the half-filled trunk to the many-times
pressed and mended white tarleton, which she called
her " ball-dress," with an important air.
The next day was fine, and Meg departed, in style,
for a fortnight of novelty and pleasure. Mrs. March
had consented to the visit rather reluctantly, fearing
that Margaret would come back more discontented
than she went. But she had begged so hard, and
Sallie had promised to take good care of her, and a
little pleasure seemed so delightful after a winter of
hard work, that the mother yielded, and the daughter
went to take her first taste of fashionable life.
The Moffats 'were very fashionable, and simple Meg
was rather daunted, at first, by the splendor of the
house, and the elegance of its occupants. But they
were kindly people, in spite of the frivolous life they
led, and soon put their guest at her ease. Perhaps
Meg felt, without understanding why, that they were
not particularly cultivated or intelligent people, and
that all their gilding could not quite conceal the or-
dinary material of which they were made. It certainly
was agreeable to fare sumptuously, drive in a fine car-
riage, wear her best frock every day, and do nothing
but enjoy herself. It suited her exactly ; and soon she
began to imitate the manners and conversation of
128 Little Women.
those about her ; to put on little airs and graces, use
French phrases, crimp her hair, take in her dresses,
and talk about the fashions, as well as she could. The
more she saw of Annie Moffat's pretty things, the
more she envied her, and sighed to be rich. Home
now looked bare and dismal as she thought of it, work
grew harder than ever, and she felt that she was a very
destitute and much injured girl, in spite of the new
gloves and silk stockings.
She had not ntuch time for repining, however, for
the three young girls were busily employed in " having
a good time." They shopped, walked, rode, and
called all day ; went to theatres and operas, or frol-
icked at home in the evening ; for Annie had many
friends, and knew how to entertain them. Her older
sisters were very fine young ladies, and one was en-
gaged, which was extremely interesting and roman-
tic, Meg thought. Mr. Moffat was a fat, jolly old
gentleman, who knew her father ; and Mrs. Moffat, a
fat, jolly old lady, who took as great a fancy to Meg
as her daughter had done. Every one petted her ; and
"Daisy," as they called her, was in a fair way to have
her head turned.
When the evening for the " small party" came, she
found that the poplin wouldn't do at all, for the other
girls were putting on thin dresses, and making them-
selves very fine indeed ; so out came the tarleton,
looking older, limper, and shabbier than ever, beside
Sallie's crisp new one. Meg saw the girls glance at
it, and then at one another, and her cheeks began to
burn ; for, with all her gentleness, she was very proud.
No one said a word about it, but Sallie offered to do
Meg goes to Vanity Fair. 129
her hair, and Annie to tie her sash, and Belle, the
engaged sister, praised her white arms ; but, in their
kindness, Meg saw only pity for her poverty, and her
heart felt very heavy as she stood by herself, while
the others laughed and chattered, prinked, and flew
about like gauzy butterflies. The hard, bitter feeling
was getting pretty bad, when the maid brought in a
box of flowers. Before she could speak, Annie had
the cover off, and all were exclaiming at the lovely
roses, heath, and ferns within.
" It's for Belle, of course ; George always sends her
some, but these are altogether ravishing," cried Annie,
with a great sniff.
" They are for Miss March," the man said. " And
here's a note," put in the maid, holding it to Meg.
" What fun ! Who are they are from ? Didn't
know you had a lover," cried the girls, fluttering
about Meg in a high state of curiosity and sur-
" The note is from mother, and the flowers from
Laurie," said Meg, simply, yet much gratified that he
had not forgotten her.
" Oh, indeed ! " said Annie, with a funny look, as
Meg slipped the note into her pocket, as a sort of tal-
isman against envy, vanity, and false pride ; for the
few loving words had done her good, and the flowers
cheered her up by their beauty.
Feeling almost happy again, she laid by a few ferns
and roses for herself, and quickly made up the rest
in dainty bouquets for the breasts, hair, or skirts of
her friends, offering them so prettily, that Clara, the
elder sister, told her she was "the sweetest little thing
130 Little Women.
she ever saw ; " and they looked quite charmed with
her small attention. Somehow the kind act finished
her despondency ; and, when all the rest went to
show themselves to Mrs. Moftat, she saw a happy,
bright-eyed face in the mirror, as she laid her ferns
against her rippling hair, and fastened the roses in
the dress that didn't strike her as so very shabby now.
She enjoyed herself very much that evening, for she
danced to her heart's content ; every one was very
kind, and she had three compliments. Annie made
her sing, and some one said she had a remarkably fine
voice ; Major Lincoln asked who "the fresh little girl,
with the beautiful eyes, was ; " and Mr. Moftat in-
sisted on dancing with her, because she " didn't
dawdle, but had some spring in her," as he grace-
fully expressed it. So, altogether, she had a very nice
time, till she overheard a bit of a conversation, which
disturbed her extremely. She was sitting just insi'de
the conservatory, waiting for her partner to bring her
an ice, when she heard a voice ask, on the other side
of the flowery wall,
" How old is he?"
" Sixteen or seventeen, I should say," replied an-
" It would be a grand thing for one of those girls,
wouldn't it? Sallie says they are very intimate now,
and the old man quite dotes on them."
"Mrs. M. has laid her plans, I dare say, and will
play her cards well, early as it is. . The girl evidently
doesn't think of it yet," said Mrs. Moftat.
" She told that fib about her mamma, as if she did
know, and colored up when the flowers came, quite
Meg goes to Van ity Fa ir. 131
prettily. Poor thing ! she'd be so nice if she was only
got up in style. Do you think she'd be offended if we
offered to lend her a dress for Thursday?" asked
" She's proud, but I don't believe she'd mind, for
that dowdy tarleton is all she has got. She may tear
it to-night, and that will be a good excuse for offering
a decent one."
" We'll see ; I shall ask that Laurence, as a com-
pliment to her, and we'll have fun about it afterward."
Here Meg's partner appeared, to find her looking
much flushed, and rather agitated. She was proud,
and her pride was useful just then, for it helped her
hide her mortification, anger, and disgust, at what
she had just heard ; for, innocent and unsuspicious as
she was, she could not help understanding the gossip
of her friends. She tried to forget it, but could not,
arid kept repeating to herself, " Mrs. M. has her
plans," "that fib about her mamma," and "dowdy
tarleton," till she was ready to cry, and rush home
to tell her troubles, and ask for advice. As that was
impossible, she did her best to seem gay ; and, being
rather excited, she succeeded so well, that no one
dreamed what an effort she was making. She was
very glad when it was all over, and she was quiet in
her bed, where she could think and wonder and fume
till her head ached, and her hot cheeks were cooled
by a few natural tears. Those foolish, yet well-
meant words, had . opened a new w T orld to Meg, and
much disturbed the peace of the old one, in which,
till now, she had lived as happily as a child. Her
innocent friendship with Laurie was spoilt by the
132 L ittle Women .
silly speeches she had overheard ; her faith in her
mother was a little shaken by the worldly plans
attributed to her by Mrs. Moffat, who judged others
by herself; and the sensible resolution to be con-
tented with the simple wardrobe which suited a poor
man's daughter, was weakened by the unnecessary
pity of girls, who thought a shabby dress one of the
greatest calamities under heaven.
Poor Meg had a restless night, and got up heavy-
eyed, unhappy, half resentful toward her friends,
and half ashamed of herself for not speaking out
frankly, and setting everything right. Everybody
dawdled that morning, and it was noon before the
girls found energy enough even to take up their wors-
ted work. Something in the manner of her friends
struck Meg at once ; they treated her with more re-
spect, she thought ; took quite a tender interest in what
she said, and looked at her with eyes that plainly be-
trayed curiosity. All this surprised and flattered her,
though she did not understand it till Miss Belle looked
up from her writing, and said, with a sentimental
" Daisy, dear, I've sent an invitation to your friend,
Mr. Laurence, for Thursday. We should like to
know him, and it's only a proper compliment to you."
Meg colored, but a mischievous fancy to tease the
girls made her reply, demurely,
"You are very kind, but I'm afraid he won't come."
" Why not, cherie ? " asked Miss Belle.
" He's too old."
"My child, what do you mean? What is his age,
I beg to know ! " cried Miss Clara.
Meg goes to Vanity Fair. 133
" Nearly seventy, I believe," answered Meg, count-
ing stitches, to hide the merriment in her eyes.
" You sly creature ! of course, we meant the young
man," exclaimed Miss Belle, laughing.
" There isn't any ; Laurie is only a little boy," and
Meg laughed also at the queer look which the sisters
exchanged, as she thus described her supposed lover.
" About your age," Nan said.
"Nearer my sister Jo's ; /am seventeen in August,"
returned Meg, tossing her head.
" It's very nice of him to send you flowers, isn't it?"
said Annie, looking wise about nothing.
"Yes, he often does, to all of us ; for their house is
full, and we are so fond of them. My mother and
old Mr. Laurence are friends, you know, so it is quite
natural that we children should play together ; " and
Meg hoped they would say no more.
"It's evident Daisy isn't out yet," said Miss Clara to
Belle, with a nod.
" Quite a pastoral state of innocence all round,"
returned Miss Belle, with a shrug.
" I'm going out to get some little matters for my
girls ; can I do anything for you, young ladies?" asked
Mrs. Moffat, lumbering in, like an elephant, in silk and
" No, thank you, ma'am," replied Sallie ; " I've got
my new pink silk for Thursday, and don't want a
"Nor I " began Meg, but stopped, because it
occurred to her that she did want several things, and
could not have them.
"What shall vou wear?" asked Sallie.
134 Little Women.
" My old white one again, if I can mend it fit to be
seen ; it got sadly torn last night," said Meg, trying to
speak quite easily, but feeling very uncomfortable.
"Why don't you send home for another?" said
Sallie, who was not an observing young lady.
" I haven't got any other." It cost Meg an effort to
say that, but Sallie did not see it, and exclaimed, in
"Only that? how funny ." She did not finish
her speech, for Belle shook her head at her, and broke
in, saying, kindly,
" Not at all ; where is the use of having a lot of
dresses wHen she isn't out? There's no need of send-
ing home, Daisy, even if you had a dozen, for I've got
a sweet blue silk laid away, which I've outgrown, and
you shall wear it, to please me ; won't you, dear?"
"You are very kind, but I don't mind my old dress,
if you don't ; it does well enough for a little girl like
me," said Meg.
" Now do let me please myself by dressing you up
in style. I admire to do it, and you'd be a regular
little beauty, with a touch here and there. I shan't
let any one see you till you are done, and then we'll
burst upon them like Cinderella and her godmother,
going to the ball," said Belle, in her persuasive tone.
Meg couldn't refuse the offer so kindly made, for
a desire to see if she would be "a little beauty" after
touching up caused her to accept, and forget all her
former uncomfortable feelings towards the Moffats.
On the Thursday evening, Belle shut herself up
with her maid ; and, between them, they turned Meg
into a fine lady. They crimped and curled her hair,
For several minutes, she ?tood like the jackdaw in the fable,
enjoying her borrowed plumes. I'.u.i; 185.
Meg goes to Vanity Fair. 135
they polished her neck and arms with some fragrant
powder, touched her lips with coralline salve, to make
them redder, and Hortense would have added " a
soupcon of rouge," if Meg had not rebelled. They
laced her into a sky-blue dress, which was so tight
she could hardly breathe, and so low in the neck that
modest Meg blushed at herself in the mirror. A set
of silver filagree was added, bracelets, necklace,
brooch, and even ear-rings, for Hortense tied them on,
with a bit of pink silk, which did not show. A clus-
ter of tea rose-buds at the bosom, and a ruche, recon-
ciled Meg to the display of her pretty white shoulders,
and a pair of high-heeled blue silk boots satisfied the
last wish of her heart. A laced handkerchief, a
plumy fan, and a bouquet in a silver holder, finished
her oft'; and Miss Belle surveyed her with the satis-
faction of a little girl with a newly dressed doll.
"Mademoiselle is chamante, tres jolie, is she not?"
cried Hortense, clasping her hands in an affected rap-
" Come and show yourself," said Miss Belle, leading
the way to the room where the others were waiting.
As Meg went rustling after, with her long skirts
trailing, her ear-rings tinkling, her curls waving, and
her heart beating, she felt as if her u fun" had really
begun at last, for the mirror had plainly told her that
she was " a little beauty." Her friends repeated the
pleasing phrase enthusiastically ; and, for several min-
utes, she stood, like the jackdaw in the fable, enjoying
her borrowed plumes, while the rest chattered like a
party of magpies.
" While I dress,~do you drill her, Nan, in the man-
136 Little Women.
agement of her skirt, and those French heels, or she
will trip herself up. Put your silver butterfly in the
middle of that white barbe, and catch up that long
curl on the left side of her head, Clara, and don't any
of you disturb the charming work of my hands," said
Belle, as she hurried away, looking well pleased with
" I'm afraid to go down, I feel so queer and stiff,
and half-dressed," said Meg to Sallie, as the bell rang,
and Mrs. Moffat sent to ask the young ladies to appear
" You don't look a bit like yourself, but you are
very nice. I'm nowhere beside you, for Belle has
heaps of taste, and you're quite French, I assure you.
Let your flowers hang ; don't be so careful of them,
and be sure you don't trip," returned Sallie, trying
not to care that Meg was prettier than herself.
Keeping that warning carefully in mind, Margaret
got safely down stairs, and sailed into the drawing-
rooms, where the Moffats and a few early guests were
assembled. She very soon discovered that there is a
charm about fine clothes which attracts a certain class
of people, and secures their respect. Several young
ladies, who had taken no notice of her before, were
very affectionate all of a sudden ; several young gen-
tlemen, who had only stared at her at the other party,
now not only stared, but asked to be introduced, and
said all manner of foolish, but agreeable things to her ;
and several old ladies, who sat on sofas, and criticised
the rest of the party, inquired who she was, with an
air of interest. She heard Mrs. Moffat reply to one
Meg goes to Vanity Fair. 137
"Daisy March father a colonel in the army one
of our first families, but reverses of fortune, you know ;
intimate friends of the Laurences ; sweet creature, I
assure you ; my Ned is quite wild about her."
'Dear me ! " said the old lady, putting up her glass
for another observation of Meg, who tried to look as
if she had not heard, and been rather shocked at Mrs.
Moffaf s fibs.
The "queer feeling" did not pass away, but she
imagined herself acting the new part of fine lady, and
so got on pretty well, though the tight dress gave her
a side-ache, the train kept getting under her feet, and
she was in constant fear lest her ear-rings should fly
off, and get lost or broken. She was. flirting her fan,
and laughing at the feeble jokes of a young gentleman
who tried to be witty, when she suddenly stopped
laughing, and looked confused ; for, just opposite, she
saw Laurie. He was staring at her with undisguised
surprise, and disapproval also, she thought ; for,
though he bowed and smiled, yet something in his
honest eyes made her blush, and wish she had her old
dress on. To complete her confusion, she saw Belle
nudge Annie, and both glance from her to Laurie,
who, she was happy to see, looked unusually boyish
" Silly creatures, to put such thoughts into my head !
I won't care for it, or let it change me a bit," thought
Meg, and rustled across the room to shake hands with
" I'm glad you came, for I was afraid you wouldn't,"
she said, with her most grown-up air.
"Jo wanted me to come, and tell her how you
138 Little Women.
looked, so I did ; " answered Laurie, without turning
his eyes upon her, though he half smiled at her mater-
"What shall you tell her?" asked Meg, full of
curiosity to know his opinion of her, yet feeling ill at
ease with him, for the first time.
44 I shall say I didn't know you ; for you look so
grown-up, and unlike yourself, I'm quite afraid of
you," he said, fumbling at his glove-button.
44 How absurd of you ! the girls dressed me up for
fun, and I rather like it. Wouldn't Jo stare if she saw
me?" said Meg, bent on making him say whether he
thought her improved or not.
"Yes, I think she would," returned Laurie, gravely.
" Don't you like me so? " asked Meg.
" No, I don't," was the blunt reply.
"Why not?" in an anxious tone.
He glanced at her frizzled head, bare shoulders,
and fantastically trimmed dress, with an expression
that abashed her more than his answer, which had
not a particle of his usual politeness about it.
" I don't like fuss and feathers."
That was altogether too much from a lad younger
than herself; and Meg walked away, saying, petu-
" You are the rudest boy I ever saw."
Feeling very much ruffled, she went and stood at a
quiet window, to cool her cheeks, for the tight dress
gave her an uncomfortably brilliant color. As she
stood there, Major Lincoln passed by ; and, a minute
after, she heard him saying to his mother,
44 They are making a fool of that little girl ; I
Meg goes to* Vanity Fair. 139
wanted you to see her, but they have spoilt her en-
tirely ; she's nothing but a doll, to-night."
" Oh, dear ! " sighed Meg ; " I wish I'd been sen-
sible, and worn my own things ; then I should not
have disgusted other people, or felt so uncomfortable
and ashamed myself."
She leaned her forehead on the cool pane, and
stood half hidden by the curtains, never minding that
her favorite waltz had begun, till some one touched
her ; and, turning, she saw Laurie looking penitent, as
he said, with his very best bow, and his hand out,
" Please forgive my rudeness, and come and dance
" I'm afraid it will be too disagreeable to you,"
said Meg, trying to look offended, and failing entirely.
" Not a bit of it ; I'm dying to do it. Come, I'll
be good ; I don't like your gown, but I do think you
are just splendid;" and he waved his hands, as if
words failed to express his admiration.
Meg smiled, and relented, and whispered, as they
stood waiting to catch the time.
" Take care my skirt don't trip you up ; it's the
plague of my life, and I was a goose to wear it."
" Pin it round your neck, and then it will be useful,"
said Laurie, looking down at the little blue boots,
which he evidently approved of.
Away they went, fleetly and gracefully ; for, having
practised at home, they were well matched, and the
blithe young couple were a pleasant sight to see, as
they twirled merrily round and round, feeling more
friendly than ever after their small tiff.
" Laurie, I want you to do me a favor ; will you?"
140 Little Women.
said Meg, as he stood fanning her, when her breath
gave out, which it did, very soon, though she would
not own why.
" Won't I ! " said Laurie, with alacrity.
" Please don't tell them at home about my dress
to-night. They won't understand the joke, and it will
" Then why did you do it ? " said Laurie's eyes, so
plainly, that Meg hastily added,
" I shall tell them, myself, all about it, and ' 'fess' to
mother how silly I've been. But I'd rather do it
myself; so you'll not tell, will you?"
" I give you my word I won't ; only what shall I say
when they ask me ? "
"Just say I looked nice, and was having a good
" I'll say the first, with all my heart ; but how about
the other? You don't look as if you were having a
good time ; are you ? " and Laurie looked at her with
an expression which made her answer, in a whisper,
" No ; not just now. Don't think I'm horrid ; I
only wanted a little fun, but this sort don't pay, I find,
and I'm getting tired of it."
"Here comes Ned Moffat; what does he want?"
said Laurie, knitting his black brows, as if he did not
regard his young host in the light of a pleasant addi-
tion to the party.
" He put his name down for three dances, and I
suppose he's coming for them ; what a bore ! " said
Meg, assuming a languid air, which amused Laurie
He did not speak to her again till supper-time,
Meg goes to Vanity Fair. 141
when he saw her drinking champagne with Ned, and
his friend Fisher, who were behaving " like a pair of
fools," as Laurie said to himself, for he felt a brotherly
sort of right to watch over the Marches, and fight
their battles, whenever a defender was needed.
"You'll have a splitting headache to-morrow, if you
drink much of that. I wouldn't, Meg ; your mother
don't like it, you know," he whispered, leaning over
her chair, as Ned turned to refill her glass, and Fisher
stooped to pick up her fan.
" Fm not Meg, to-night ; Fm ' a doll/ who does all
sorts of crazy things. To-morrow I shall put away
my ' fuss and feathers/ and be desperately good again,"
she answered, with an affected little laugh.
" Wish to-morrow was here, then/' muttered Laurie,
walking off, ill-pleased at the change he saw in her.
Meg danced and flirted, chattered and giggled, as
the other girls did ; after supper she undertook the
German, and blundered through it, nearly upsetting
her partner with her long skirt, and romping in a way
that scandalized Laurie, who looked on and meditated
a lecture. But he got no chance to deliver it, for Meg
kept away from him till he came to say good-night.
u Remember ! " she said, trying to smile, for the
splitting headache had already begun.
" Silence a, la mort," replied Laurie, with a melo-
dramatic flourish, as he went away.
This little bit of by-play excited Annie's curiosity ;
but Meg was too tired for gossip, and went to bed,
feeling as if she had been to a masquerade, and hadn't
.enjoyed herself as much as she expected. She was
sick all the next day, and on Saturday went home,
142 Little Women.
quite used up with her fortnight's fun, and feeling that
she had sat in the lap of luxury long enough.
" It does seem pleasant to be quiet, and not have
company manners on all the time. Home is a nice
place, though it isn't splendid," said Meg, looking
about her with a restful expression, as she sat with
her mother and Jo on the Sunday evening.
" I'm glad to hear you say so, dear, for I was afraid
home would seem dull and poor to you, after your
fine quarters," replied her mother, who had given her
many anxious looks that day ; for motherly eyes are
quick to see any change in children's faces.
Meg had told her adventures gaily, and said over
and over what a charming time she had had ; but
something still seemed to weigh upon her spirits, and,
when the younger girls were gone to bed, she sat
thoughtfully staring at the fire, saying little, and looking
"worried. As the clock struck nine, and Jo proposed
bed, Meg suddenly left her chair, and, taking Beth's
stool, leaned her elbows on her mother's knee, saying,
" Marmee, I want to c 'fess.' "
" I thought so ; what is it, dear? "
" Shall I go away?" asked Jo, discreetly.
" Of course not ; don't I always tell you everything?
I was ashamed to speak of it before the children, but
I want you to know all the dreadful things I did at
" We are prepared," said Mrs. March, smiling, but
looking a little anxious.
" I told you they rigged me up, but I didn't tell yoi^
that they powdered, and squeezed, and frizzled, and
Meg goes to Vanity Fair. 143
made me look like a fashion-plate. Laurie thought I
wasn't proper ; I know he did, though he didn't say
so, and one man called me ' a doll.' I knew it was
silly, but they flattered me, and said I was a beauty,
and quantities of nonsense, so I let them make a fool
"Is that all?" asked Jo, as Mrs March looked
silently at the downcast face of her pretty daughter,
and could not find it in her heart to blame her little
" No ; I drank champagne, and romped, and tried
to flirt, and was, altogether, abominable," said Meg,
" There is something more, I think ; " and Mrs.
March smoothed the soft cheek, which suddenly grew
rosy, as Meg answered, slowly,
" Yes ; it's very silly, but I want to tell it, because I
hate to have people say and think such things about
us and Laurie."
Then she told the various bits of gossip she had
heard at the MofFats ; and, as she spoke, Jo saw her
mother fold her lips tightly, as if ill pleased that such
ideas should be put into Meg's innocent mind.
"Well, if that isn't the greatest rubbish I ever
heard," cried Jo, indignantly. "Why didn't you pop
out and tell them so, on the spot?"
" I couldn't, it was so embarrassing for me. I
couldn't help hearing, at first, and then I was so angry
and ashamed, I didn't remember that I ought to go
4 "Just wait till /see Annie Moffat, and I'll show you
how to settle such ridiculous stuff. The idea of having
144 Little Women.
' plans,' and being kind to Laurie, because he's rich,
and may marry us by and by ! Won't he shout, when
I tell him what those silly things say about us poor
children?" and Jo laughed, as if, on second thoughts,
the thing struck her as a good joke.
" If you tell Laurie, I'll never forgive you ! She
mustn't, must she, mother?" said Meg, looking dis-
" No ; never repeat that foolish gossip, and forget
it as soon as you can," said Mrs. March, gravely. u I
was very unwise to let you go among people of whom
I know so little ; kind, I dare say, but worldly, ill-
bred, and full of these vulgar ideas about young people.
I am more sorry than I can express, for the mischief
this visit may have done you, Meg."
u Don't be sorry, I won't let it hurt me ; I'll forget
all the bad, and remember only the good ; for I did
enjoy a great deal, and thank you very much for letting
me go. I'll not be sentimental or dissatisfied, mother ;
I know I'm a silly little girl, and I'll stay with you till
I'm fit to take care of myself. But it is nice to be
praised and admired, and I can't help saying I like
it," said Meg, looking half ashamed of the confession.
" That is perfectly natural, and quite harmless, if
the liking does not become a passion, and lead one to
do foolish or unmaidenly things. Learn to know and
value the praise which is worth having, and to excite
the admiration of excellent people, by being modest as
well as pretty, Meg."
Margaret sat thinking a moment, while Jo stood
with her hands behind her, looking both interested
and a little perplexed ; for it was a new thing to see
Meg goes to Vanity Fair. 145
Meg blushing and talking about admiration, lovers,
and things of that sort, and Jo felt as if during that
fortnight her sister had grown up amazingly, and was
drifting away from her into a world where she could
" Mother, do you have ' plans/ as Mrs. MofFat said ? "
asked Meg, bashfully.
"Yes, my dear, I have a great many; all mothers
do, but mine differ somewhat from Mrs. Moffat's, I
suspect. I will tell you some of them, for the time
has come when a word may set this romantic little
head and heart of yours right, on a very serious sub-
ject. You are young, Meg ; but not too young to
understand me, and mothers' lips are the fittest to
speak of such things to girls like you. Jo, your turn
will come in time, perhaps, so listen to my ' plans/
and help me carry them out, if they are good."
Jo went and sat on one arm of the chair, looking as
if she thought they were about to join in some very
solemn affair. Holding a hand of each, and watching
the two young faces wistfully, Mrs. March said, in her
serious yet cheery way,
" I want my daughters to be beautiful, accom-
plished, and good ; to be admired, loved, and re-
spected, to have a happy youth, to be well and wisely
married, and to lead useful, pleasant lives, with as
little care and sorrow to try them as God sees fit to
send. To be loved and chosen by a good man is the
best and sweetest thing which can happen to a woman ;
and I sincerely hope my girls may know this beau-
tiful experience. It is natural to think of it, Meg ;
right to hope and wait for it, and wise to prepare for
146 Little Women.
it ; so that, when the happy time comes, you may feel
ready for the duties, and worthy of the joy. My dear
girls, I am ambitious for you, but not to have you
make a dash in the world, marry rich men merely
because they are rich, or have splendid houses, which
are not homes, because love is wanting. Money is a
needful and precious thing, and, when well used, a
noble thing, but I never want you to think it is the
first or only prize to strive for. I'd rather see you
poor men's wives, if you were happy, beloved, con-
tented, than queens on thrones, without self-respect
" Poor girls don't stand any chance, Belle says,
unless they put themselves forward," sighed Meg.
" Then we'll be old maids," said Jo, stoutly.
" Right, Jo ; better be happy old maids than un-
happy wives, or unmaidenly girls, running about to
find husbands," said Mrs. March, decidedly. " Don't
be troubled, Meg; poverty seldom daunts a sincere
lover. Some of the best and most honored women I
know were poor girls, but so love-worthy that they
were not allowed to be old maids. Leave these things
to time ; make this home happy, so that you may be fit
for homes of your own, if they are offered you, and
contented here if they are not. One thing remember,
my girls, mother is always ready to be your confidant,
father to be your friend ; and both of us trust and hope
that our daughters, whether married or single, will be
the pride and comfort of our lives."
"We will, Marmee, we will ! " cried both, with all
their hearts, as she bade them good-night.
THE P. C. AND P. O.
AS spring came on, a new set of amusements
became the fashion, and the lengthening days
gave long afternoons for work and play of all
sorts. The garden had to be put in order, and each
sister had a quarter of the little plot to do what she
liked with. Hannah used to say, "I'd know which
each of them gardings belonged to, ef I see 'em in
Chiny ;" and so she might, for the girls' tastes differed
as much as their characters. Meg's had roses and heli-
otrope, myrtle, and a little orange-tree in it. Jo's bed
was never alike two seasons, for .she was always trying
experiments ; this year it was to be a plantation of sun-
flowers, the seeds of which cheerful and aspiring plant
were to feed "Aunt Cockle-top" and her family of
chicks. Beth had old-fashioned,fragrant flowers in her
garden ; sweet peas and mignonette, larkspur, pinks,
pansies, and southernwood, with chickweed for the
bird and catnip for the pussies. Amy had a bower in
hers, rather small and earwiggy, but very pretty to
look at, with honeysuckles and morning-glories hang-
ing their colored horns and bells in graceful wreaths
148 Little Women.
all over it ; tall white lilies, delicate ferns, and as many
brilliant, picturesque plants as would consent to blos-
Gardening, walks, rows on the"\river, and flower-
hunts employed the fine days ; and for rainy ones,
they had house diversions, some old, some new,
all more or less original. One of these was the " P.
C." ; for, as secret societies were the fashion, it was
thought proper to have one ; and, as all of the girls
admired Dickens, they called' themselves the Pickwick
Club. With a few interruptions, they had kept this
up for a year, and met every Saturday evening in the
big garret, on which occasions the ceremonies were
as follows : Three chairs were arranged in a row be-
fore a table, on which was a lamp, also four white
badges, with a big " P. C." in different colors on each,
and the weekly newspaper, called " The Pickwick
Portfolio," to which all contributed something ; while
Jo, who revelled in pens and ink, was the editor. At
seven o'clock, the four members ascended to the club-
room, tied their badges round their heads, and took
their seats with great solemnity. Meg, as the eldest,
was Samuel Pickwick ; Jo, being of a literary turn,
Augustus Snodgrass ; Beth, because she was round
and rosy, Tracy Tupman ; and Amy, who was always
trying to do what she couldn't, was Nathaniel Winkle.
Pickwick, the President, read the paper, which was
filled with original tales, poetry, local news, funny
advertisements, and hints, in which they good-na-
turedly reminded each other of their faults and short-
comings. On one occasion, Mr. Pickwick put on a
pair of spectacles without any glasses, rapped upon
The P. C. and P. O.
the table, hemmed, and, having stared hard at Mr.
Snodgrass, who was tilting back in his chair, till he
arranged himself properly, began to read,
MAY 20, 18-.
Again we meet to celebrate
With badge and solemn rite,
Our fifty-second anniversary,
In Pickwick Hall, to-night.
We all are here in perfect health,
None gone from our small band ;
Again we see each well-known face,
And press each friendly hand.
Our Pickwick, always at his post,
With reverence we greet,
As, spectacles on nose, he reads
Our well-filled weekly sheet.
Although he suffers from a cold,
We joy to hear him speak,
For words of wisdom from him fall,
In spite of croak or squeak.
Old six-foot Snodgrass looms on high.
With elephantine grace,
And beams upon the company,
With brown and jovial face.
Poetic fire lights up his eye,
He struggles 'gainst his lot ;
Behold ambition on his brow,
And on his nose a blot !
Next our peaceful Tupman comes,
So rosy, plump and sweet,
Who chokes with laughter at the puns,
And tumbles off his scat.
Prim little Winkle too is here,
With every hair in place,
A model of propriety,
Though he hates to wash his face.
The year is gone, we still unite
To joke and laugh and read,
And tread the path of literature
That doth to glory lead.
Long may our paper prosper well,
Our club unbroken be,
And coming years their blessings pour
On the useful, gay " P. C."
THE MASKED MARRIAGE.
A TALE OF VENICE.
Gondola after gondola swept up to
the marble steps, and left its lovely
load to swell the brilliant throng that
filled the stately halls of Count de
Adelon. Knights and ladies, elves
and pages, monks and flower-girls,
all mingled gaily in the dance. Sweet
voices and rich melody filled the air;
and so with mirth and music the mas-
querade went on.
" Has your Highness seen the Lady
Viola to-night? "asked a gallant trou-
badour of the fairy queen who floated
down the hall upon his arm.
" Yes ; is she not lovely, though so
sad! Her dress is well chosen, too,
for in a week she weds Count Anto-
nio, whom she passionately hates."
" By my faith I envy him. Yonder
he comes, arrayed like a bridegroom,
except the black mask. When that is
off we shall see how he regards the
fair maid whose heart he cannot win,
though her stern father bestows her
hand," returned the troubadour.
41 'Tis whispered that she loves the
young English artist who haunts her
steps, and is spurned by the old
count," said the lady, as they joined
The revel was at ite height when a
priest appeared, and, withdrawing the
young pair to an alcove hung with
purple velvet, he motioned them to
kneel. Instant silence fell upon the
gay throng; and not a sound, but the
dash of fountains or the rustle of
orange groves sleeping in the moon-
light, broke the hush, as Count de
Adelon spoke thus :
"My lords and ladies; pardon the
ruse by which I have gathered you
here to witness the marriage of my
daughter. Father, we wait your ser-
All eyes turned toward the bridal
party, and a low murmur of amaze-
ment went through the throng, for
neither bride nor groom removed
their masks. Curiosity and wonder
possessed all hearts, but respect re-
strained all tongues till the holy rite
was over. Then the eager spectators
gathered round the count, demanding
" Gladly would I give it if I could ;
but I only know that it was the whim
of my timid Viola, and I yielded to it.
Now, my children, let the play end.
Unmask, and receive my blessing."
But neither bent the knee ; for the
young bridegroom replied, in a tone
that startled all listeners, as the mask
fell, disclosing the noble face of Fer-
dinand Devereux, the artist lover, and,
leaning on the breasf where now
flashed the star of an English earl,
was the lovely Viola, radiant with
joy and beauty.
" My lord, you scornfully bade me
claim your daughter when I could
boast as high a name and vast a for-
tune as the Count Antonio. I can do
more; for even your ambitious soul
cannot refuse the Earl of Devereux
and De Vere, when he gives his an-
cient name and boundless wealth in
return for the beloved hand of this
fair lady, now my wife."
The count stood like one changed
to stone; and, turning to the bewil-
dered crowd, Ferdinand added, with
a gay smile of triumph, " To you, my
gallant friends, I can only wish that
your wooing may prosper as mine
has done ; and that you may all win as
fair a bride as I have, by this masked
Why is the P. C. like the Tower
of Babel ? It is full of unruly mem-
THE HISTORY OF A SQUASH.
Once upon a time a farmer planted
a little seed in his garden, and after a
while it sprouted and became a vine,
and bore many squashes. One day in
October, when they -were ripe, he
picked one and took it to market. A
grocer man bought and put it in his
shop. That same morning, a little
The P. C. and P. O.
girl, in a brown hat and blue dress,
with a round face and snubby nose,
went and bought it for her mother.
She lugged it home, cut it up, and
boiled it in the big pot ; mashed some
of it, with salt and butter, for dinner ;
and to the rest she added a pint of
milk, two eggs, four spoons of sugar,
nutmeg, and some crackers; put it
in a deep dish, and baked it till it was
brown and nice ; and next day it was
eaten by a family named March.
MR. PICKWICK, Sir:
I address you upon the subject of
Bin the sinner I mean is a man named
Winkle who makes trouble in his
club by laughing and sometimes won't
write his piece in this fine paper I
hope you will pardon his badness
and let him send a French fable be-
cause he can't write out of his head
as he has so many lessons to do and no
brains in future I will try to take time
by the fetlock and prepare some work
which will be all commy la fo that
means all right I am in haste as it is
nearly school time
Yours respectably N. WINKLE.
[The above is amanlyand handsome
acknowledgment of past misdemean-
ors. If our young friend studied
punctuation, it would be well.]
A SAD ACCIDENT.
On Friday last, we were startled
by a violent shock in our basement,
followed by cries of distress. On
rushing, in a body, to the cellar, we
discovered our beloved President
prostrate upon the floor, having
tripped and fallen while getting wood
for domestic purposes. A perfect
scene of ruin met our eyes; for in his
fall Mr. Pickwick had plunged his
head and shoulders into a tub of
water, upset a keg of soft soap upon
his manly form, and torn his gar-
ments badly. On being removed
from this perilous situation, it was
discovered that he had suffered no
injury but several bruises; and, we
are happy to add, is now doing well.
THE PUBLIC BEREAVEMENT.
It is our painful duty to record
the sudden and mysterious disap-
pearance of our cherished friend,
Mrs. Snowball Pat Paw. This love-
ly and beloved cat was the pet of a
,rge circle of warm and admiring
friends ; for her beauty attracted all
eyes, her graces and virtues en-
deared her to all hearts, and her
loss is deeply felt by the whole
When last seen, she was sitting
at tbfe gate, watching the butcher's
:art ; and it is feared that some vil-
lain, tempted by her charms, basely
stole her. Weeks have passed, but
no trace of her has been discovered ;
and we relinquish all hope, tie a
black ribbon to her basket, set aside
her dish, and weep for her as one
lost to us forever.
A sympathizing friend sends the
following gem :
FOR 8. B. PAT PAW.
We mourn the loss of our little pet,
And sigh o'er her hapless fate,
For never more by the fire she'll sit,
Nor play by the old green gate.
The little grave where her infant
Is 'neath the chestnut tree ;
But o'er her grave we may not weep,
"We know not where it may be.
Her empty bed, her idle ball,
Will never see her more ;
No gentle tap, no loving purr
Is heard at the parlor door.
Another cat comes after her mice,
A cat with a dirty face ;
But she does not hunt as our darling
Nor play with her airy grace.
Her stealthy paws tread the very hall
Where Snowball used to play,
But she only spits at the dogs our pet
So gallantly drove away.
She is useful and mild, and does her
But she is not fair to see ;
And we cannot give her your place,
Nor worship her as we worship thee.
MISS ORANTHY BLUGGAGE,
the accomplished Strong-Minded Lec-
turer, will deliver her famous Lecture
on " WOMAN AND HER POSITION,"
at Pickwick Hall, next Saturday
Evening, after the usual perform-
A WEEKLY MEETING will be
held at Kitchen Place, to teach young
ladies how to cook. Hannah Brown
will preside; and all are invited to
THE DUSTPAN SOCIETY will
meet on Wednesday next, and parade
in the upper story of the Club House.
All members to appear in uniform
and shoulder their brooms at nine
MRS. BETH BOUNCER will open
her new assortment of Doll's Millinery
next week. The latest Paris Fash
ions have arrived, and orders are re-
A NEW PLAY will appear at the
Barnville Theatre, in the course of a
few weeks, which will surpass any-
thing ever seen on the American stage.
" THE GREEK SLAVE, or Constau-
tine the Avenger," is the name of this
thrilling drama I ! !
If S. P. didn't use so much soap on
his hands, he wouldn't always be late
at breakfast. A. S. is requested not
to whistle in the street. T. T. please
don't forget Amy's napkin. N. W.
must not fret because his dress has
not nine tucks.
Beth Very good.
As the President finished reading the paper (which
I beg leave to assure my readers is a bona fide copy
of one written by bona Jide girls once upon a time),
The P. C. and P. O. 153
a round of applause followed, and then Mr. Snodgrass
rose to make a proposition.
"Mr. President and gentlemen," he began, assuming
a parliamentary attitude and tone, " I wish to propose
the admission of a new member ; one who highly de-
serves the honor, would be deeply grateful for it, and
would add immensely to the spirit of the club, the
literary value of the paper, and be no end jolly and
nice. I propose Mr. Theodore Laurence as an honorary
member of the P. C. Come now, do have him."
Jo's sudden change of tone made the girls laugh ;
but all looked rather anxious, and no one said a word,
as Snodgrass took his seat.
" We'll put it to vote," said the President. " All in
favor of this motion please to manifest it by saying
4 Aye.' "
A loud response from Snodgrass, followed, to every-
body's surprise, by a timid one from Beth.
" Contrary minded say ' No/ "
Meg and Amy were contrary minded ; and Mr.
Winkle rose to say, with great elegance, " We don't
wish any boys ; they only joke and bounce about.
This is a ladies' club, and we wish to be private and
" I'm afraid he'll laugh at our paper, and make fun
of us afterward," observed Pickwick, pulling the little
curl on her forehead, as she always did when doubtful.
Up bounced Snodgrass, very much in earnest.
u Sir ! I give you my word as a gentleman, Laurie
won't do anything of the sort. He likes to write, and
he'll give a tone to our contributions, and keep us
from being sentimental, don't you see? We can do
154 Little Women.
so little for him, and he does so much for us, I think
the least we can do is to offer him a place here, and
make him welcome, if he comes."
This artfui allusion to benefits conferred, brought
Tupman to his feet, looking as if he had quite made
up his mind.
" Yes ; we ought to do it, even if we are afraid. I
say he may come, and his grandpa too, if he likes."
This spirited burst from Beth electrified the club,
and Jo left her seat to shake hands approvingly.
" Now then, vote again. Everybody remember it's
our Laurie, and say 4 Aye ! ' " cried Snodgrass, ex-
" Aye ! aye ! aye ! " replied three voices at once.
" Good ! bless you ! now, as there's nothing like
4 taking time by the fetlock / as Winkle characteris-
tically observes, allow me to present the new member ; "
and, to the dismay of the rest of the club, Jo threw
open the door of the closet, and displayed Laurie
sitting on a rag-bag, flushed and twinkling with sup-
"You rogue I you traitor! Jo, how could you?"
cried the three girls, as Snodgrass led her friend
triumphantly forth ; and, producing both a chair and a
badge, installed him in a jiffy.
" The coolness of you two rascals is amazing," be-
gan Mr. Pickwick, trying to get up an awful frown,
and only succeeding in producing an amiable smile.
But the new member was equal to the occasion ; and,
rising with a grateful salutation to the Ghair, said,
in the most engaging manner, "Mr. President and
ladies, I beg pardon, gentlemen, allow me to in-
The P. C. and P. O. 15^
troduce myself as Sam Weller, the very humble ser
vant of the club."
" Good, good ! " cried Jo, pounding with the handle
of the old warming-pan on which she leaned.
" My faithful friend and noble patron," continued
Laurie, with a wave of the hand, " who has so flatter-
ingly presented me, is not to be blamed for the base
stratagem of to-night. I planned it, and she only
gave in after lots of teasing."
" Come now, don't lay it all on yourself; you know
I proposed the cupboard," broke in Snodgrass, who
was enjoying the joke amazingly.
" Never you mind what she says. I'm the wretch
that did it, sir," said the new member, with a Weller-
esque nod to Mr. Pickwick. " But on my honor, I
never will do so again, and henceforth dewote myself
to the interest of this immortal club."
"Hear! hear!" cried Jo, clashing the lid of the
warming-pan like a cymbal.
" Go on, -go on ! " added Winkle and Tupman,
while the President bowed benignly.
" I merely wish to say, that as a slight token of my
gratitude for the honor done me, and as a means
of promoting friendly relations between adjoining
nations, I have set up a post-office in the hedge in the
lower corner of the garden ; a fine, spacious build-
ing, with . padlocks on the doors, and every con-
venience for the mails, also the females, if I may be
allowed the expression. It's the old martin-house ;
but I've stopped up the door, and made the roof open,
so it will hold all sorts of things, and save our valuable
156 Little Women.
time. Letters, manuscripts, books and bundles can be
passed in there ; and, as each nation has a key, it will
be uncommonly nice, I fancy. Allow me to present
the club key ; and, with many thanks for your favor,
take my seat."
Great applause as Mr. Weller deposited a little
key on the table, and subsided; the warming-pan
clashed and waved wildly, and it was some time be-
fore order could be restored. A long discussion fol-
lowed, and every one came out surprising, for every
one did her best ; so it was an unusually lively meet-
ing, and did not adjourn till a late hour, when it
broke up with three shrill cheers for the new member.
No one ever regretted the admittance of Sam Wel-
ler, for a more devoted, well-behaved, and jovial
member no club could have. He certainly did add
" spirit" to the meetings, and " a tone " to the paper ;
for his orations convulsed his hearers, and his contribu-
tions were excellent, being patriotic, classical, com-
ical, or dramatic, but never sentimental. .Jo regarded
them as worthy of Bacon, Milton, or Shakespeare ;
and remodelled her own works with good effect, she
The P. O. was a capital Kttle institution, and flour-
ished wonderfully, for nearly as many queer things
passed through it as through the real office. Trag-
edies and cravats, poetry and pickles, garden seeds and
long letters, music and gingerbread, rubbers, invi-
tations, scoldings and puppies. The old gentleman
liked the fun, and amused himself by sending odd
bundles, mysterious messages, and funny telegrams ;
The P. C. and P. O. 157
and his gardener, who was smitten with Hannah's
charms, actually sent a love-letter to Jo's care. How
they laughed when the secret came out, never dream-
ing how many love-letters that little post-office would
hold in the years-to come !
THE first of June ; the Kings are off to the sea-
shore to-morrow, and I'm free ! Three months'
vacation ! how I shall enjoy it ! " exclaimed
Meg, coming home one warm day to find Jo laid upon
the sofa in an unusual state of exhaustion, while Beth
took off her dusty boots, and Amy made lemonade for
the refreshment of the whole party.
" Aunt March went to-day, for which, oh be joyful ! "
said Jo. " I was mortally afraid she'd ask me to go
with her ; if she had, I should have felt as if I ought
to do it ; but Plumfield is about as festive as a church-
yard, you know, and I'd rather be excused. We had
a flurry getting the old lady off, and I had a scare
every time she spoke to me, for I was in such a hurry
to be through that I was uncommonly helpful and
sweet, and feared she'd find it impossible to part from
me. I quaked till she was fairly in the carriage, and
had a final fright, for, as it drove off, she popped out her
head, saying, ' Josy-phine, won't you ?' I didn't hear
any more, for I basely turned and fled ; I did actually
run, and whisked round the corner, where I felt safe."
" Poor old Jo ! she came in looking as if bears were
after her," said Beth, as she cuddled her sister's feet
with a motherly air.
"Aunt March is a regular samphire, is she not?"
observed Amy, tasting her mixture critically.
" She means vampire, not sea-weed ; but it don't
matter ; it's too warm to be particular about one's
parts of speech," murmured Jo.
" What shall you do all your vacation ? " asked
Amy, changing the subject, with tact.
" I shall lie abed late, and do nothing," replied
Meg, from the depths of the rocking-chair. " I've been
routed up early all winter, and had to spend my days
working for other people ; so now I'm going to rest
and revel to my heart's content."
" Hum !" said Jo ; u that dozy way wouldn't suit
me. I've laid in a heap of books, and I'm going to
improve my shining hours reading on my perch in the
old apple-tree, when I'm not having 1 "
" Don't say ; larks ! ' " implored Amy, as a return
snub for the " samphire " correction.
" I'll say ' nightingales, ' then, with Laurie ; that's
proper and appropriate, since he's a warbler."
" Don't let us do any lessons, Beth, for a while, but
play all the time, and rest, as the girls mean to," pro-
" Well, I will, if mother don't mind. I want to
learn some new songs, and my children need fixing
up for the summer ; they are dreadfully out of order,
and really suffering for clothes."
u May we, mother?" asked Meg, turning to Mrs.
160 Little Women.
March, who sat sewing, in what they called " Mar-
" You may try your experiment for a week, and see
how you like it. I think by Saturday night you will
find that all play, and no work, is as bad as all work,
and no play."
" Oh, dear, no ! it will be delicious, I'm sure," said
" I now propose a toast, as my ; friend and pardner,
Sairy Gamp,' says. Fun forever, and no grubbage,"
cried Jo, rising, glass in hand, as the lemonade went
They all drank it merrily, and began the experiment
by lounging for the rest of the day. Next morning,
Meg did not appear till ten o'clock ; her solitary
breakfast did not taste good, and the room seemed
lonely and untidy, for Jo had not filled the vases, Beth
had not dusted, and Amy's books lay scattered about.
Nothing was neat and pleasant but " Marmee's corner,"
which looked as usual ; and there she sat, to " rest and
read," which meant yawn, and imagine what pretty
summer dresses she would get with her salary. Jo
spent the morning on the river, with Laurie, and the
afternoon reading and crying over " The Wide, Wide
World," up in the apple-tree. Beth began by rummag-
ing everything out of the big closet, where her family
resided ; but, getting tired before half done, she left
her establishment topsy-turvy, and went to her music,
rejoicing that she had no dishes to wash. Amy
arranged her bower, put on her best white frock,
smoothed her curls, and sat down to draw, under the
honeysuckles, hoping some one would see and in-
quire who the young artist was. As no one appeared
but an inquisitive daddy-long-legs, who examined her
work with interest, she went to walk, got caught in a
shower, and came home dripping.
At tea-time they compared notes, and all agreed
that it had been a delightful, though unusually long
day. Meg, who went shopping in the afternoon, and
got a " sweet blue muslin," had discovered, after she
had cut the breadths off, that it wouldn't wash, which
mishap made her slightly cross. Jo had burnt the
skin off her nose boating, and got a raging headache
by reading too long. Beth was worried by the confu-
sion of her closet, and the difficulty of learning three
or four songs at once ; and Amy deeply regretted the
damage done her frock, for Katy Brown's party was
to be the next day ; and now, like Flora McFlimsy, she
had " nothing to wear." But these were mere trifles ;
and they assured their mother that the experiment
was working finely. She smiled, said nothing, and,
with Hannah's help, did their neglected work, keeping
home pleasant, and the domestic machinery running
smoothly. It was astonishing what a peculiar and
uncomfortable state of things was produced by the
"resting and revelling" process. The days kept
getting longer and longer ; the weather was unusually
variable, and so were tempers ; an unsettled feeling
possessed every one, and Satan found plenty of mis-
chief for the idle hands to do. As the height of luxury,
Meg put out some of her sewing, and then found time
hang so heavily, that she fell to snipping and spoiling
her clothes, in her attempts to furbish them up, a la
Moffat. Jo read till her eyes gave out, and she was
1 62 Little Women.
sick of books ; got so fidgety that even good-natured
Laurie had a quarrel with her, and so reduced in
spirits that she desperately wished she had gone with
Aunt March. Beth got on pretty well, for she was
constantly forgetting that it was to be all play, and
no 'work, and fell back into her old ways, now and
then ; but something in the air affected her, and, more
than once, her tranquillity was much disturbed ; so
much so, that, on one occasion, she actually shook
poor dear Joanna, and told her she was " a fright."
Amy fared worst of all, for her resources were small ;
and, when her sisters left her to amuse and care for
herself, she soon found that accomplished and impor-
tant little self a great burden. She didn't like dolls ;
fairy tales were childish, and one couldn't draw all the
time. Tea-parties didn't amount to much, neither did
picnics, unless very well conducted. " If one could
have a fine house, full of nice girls, or go travelling,
the summer would be delightful ; but to stay at home
with three selfish sisters, and a grown-up boy, was
enough to try the patience of a Boaz," complained
Miss Malaprop, after several days devoted to pleasure,
fretting, and ennui.
No one would own that they were tired of the exper-
iment ; but, by Friday night, each acknowledged to
herself that they were glad the week was nearly
done. Hoping to impress the lesson more deeply,
Mrs. March, who had a good deal of humor, resolved
to finish off the trial in an appropriate manner ; so she
gave Hannah a holiday, and let the girls enjoy the full
effect of the play system.
When they got up on Saturday morning, there was
no fire in the kitchen, no breakfast in the dining-room,
and no mother anywhere to be seen.
" Mercy on us ! what has happened ? " cried Jo,
staring about her in dismay.
Meg ran upstairs, and soon came back again,
looking relieved, but rather bewildered, and a little
" Mother isn't sick, only very tired, and she says she
is going to stay quietly in her room all day, and let us
do the best we can. It's a very queer thing for her to
do, she don't act a bit like herself; but she says it has
been a hard week for her, so we mustn't grumble, but
take care of ourselves."
'' Thaf s easy enough, and I like the idea ; Fm ach-
ing for something to do that is, some new amuse-
ment, you know," added Jo, quickly.
In fact it was an immense relief to them all to have
a little work, and they took hold with a will, but soon
realized the truth of Hannah's saying, " Housekeep-
ing ain't no joke." There was plenty of food in the
larder, and, while Beth and Amy set the table, Meg
and Jo got breakfast ; wondering, as they did so, why
servants ever talked about hard work.
" I shall take some up to mother, though she said
we were not to think of her, for she'd take care of her-
self," said Meg, who presided, and felt quite matronly
behind the teapot.
So a tray was fitted out before any one began, and
taken up, with the cook's compliments. The boiled
tea was very bitter, the omelette scorched, and the
biscuits speckled with saleratus ; but Mrs. March re-
164 Little Women.
ceived her repast with thanks, and laughed heartily
over it after Jo was gone.
" Poor little souls, they will have a hard time, Fm
afraid ; but they won't suffer, and it will do them
good," she said, producing the more palatable viands
with which she had provided herself, and disposing of
the bad breakfast, so that their feelings might not be
hurt ; a motherly little deception, for which they were
Many were the complaints below, and great the
chagrin of the head cook, at her failures. u Never
mind, I'll get the dinner, and be servant; you be
missis, keep your hands nice, see company, and give
orders," said Jo, who knew still less than Meg about
This obliging offer was gladly accepted ; and Mar-
garet retired to the parlor, which she hastily put in
order by whisking the litter under the sofa, and shut-
ting the blinds, to save the trouble of dusting. Jo,
with perfect faith in her own powers, and a friendly
desire to make up the quarrel, immediately put a note
in the office, inviting Laurie to dinner.
"You'd better see what you have got before you
think of having company," said Meg, when informed
of the hospitable, but rash act.
" Oh, there's corned beef, and plenty of potatoes ;
and I shall get some asparagus, and a lobster, ' for a
relish/ as Hannah says. We'll have lettuce, and
make a salad ; I don't know how, but the book tells.
I'll have blanc-mange and strawberries for dessert ;
and coffee, too, if you want to be elegant."
" Don't try too many messes, Jo, for you can't make
anything but gingerbread and molasses candy, fit to
eat. I wash my hands of the dinner-party ; and, since
you have asked Laurie on your own responsibility,
you may just take care of him."
" I don't want you to do anything but be clever to
him, and help to the pudding. You'll give me your
advice if I get stuck, won't you ? " asked Jo, rather
" Yes ; but I don't know much, except about bread,
and a few trifles. You had better ask mother's leave,
before you order anything," returned Meg, prudently.
" Of course I shall ; I ain't a fool," and Jo went off
in a huff at the doubts expressed of her powers.
" Get what you like, and don't disturb me ; I'm
going out to dinner, and can't worry about things at
home," said Mrs. March, when Jo spoke to her. " I
never enjoyed housekeeping, and I'm going to take a
vacation today, and read, write, go visiting and amuse
The unusual spectacle of her busy mother rocking
comfortably, and reading early in the morning, made
Jo feel as if some naturnal phenomenon had occurred ;
for an eclipse, an earthquake, or a volcanic eruption
would hardly have seemed stranger.
" Everything is out of sorts, somehow," she said to
herself, going down stairs. " There's Beth crying ;
that's a sure sign that something is wrong with this
family. If Amy is bothering, I'll shake her."
Feeling very much out of sorts herself, Jo hurried
into the parlor to find Beth sobbing over Pip, the
canary, who lay dead in the cage, with his little claws
1 66 Little Women.
pathetically extended, as if imploring the food, for
want of which he had died.
"It's all my fault I forgot him there isn't a
seed or drop left oh, Pip ! oh, Pip ! how could I be
so cruel to you ? " cried Beth, taking the poor thing in
her hands, and trying to restore him.
Jo peeped into his half-open eye, felt his little heart,
and finding him stiff and cold, shook her head, and
offered her domino-box for a coffin.
" Put him in the oven, and maybe he will get warm,
and revive," said Amy, hopefully.
"He's been starved, and he shan't be baked, now.
he's dead. I'll make him a shroud, and he shall be
buried in the grave ; and I'll never have another bird,
never, my Pip ! for I am too bad to own one," mur-
mured Beth, sitting on the floor with her pet folded in
" The funeral shall be this afternoon, and we will
all go. Now, don't cry, Bethy ; it's a pity, but noth-
ing goes right this week, and Pip has had the worst
of the experiment. Make the shroud, and lay him in
my box ; and, after the dinner-party, we'll have a nice
little funeral," said Jo, beginning to feel as if she had
undertaken a good deal.
Leaving the others to console Beth, she departed to
the kitchen, which was in a most discouraging state
of confusion. Putting on a big apron, she fell to
work, and got the dishes piled up ready for washing,
when she discovered that the fire was out.
" Here's a sweet prospect ! " muttered Jo, slamming
the stove door open, and poking vigorously among the
Having rekindled it, she thought she would go to
market while the water heated. The walk revived
her spirits ; and, flattering herself that she had made
good bargains, she trudged home again, after buying
a very young lobster, some very old asparagus, and
two boxes of acid strawberries. By the time she got
cleared up, the dinner arrived, and the stove was red-
hot. Hannah had left a pan of bread to rise, Meg had
worked it up early, set it on the hearth for a second
rising, and forgotten it. Meg was entertaining Sallie
Gardiner, in the parlor, when the door flew open, and
a floury, crocky, flushed and dishevelled figure ap-
peared, demanding, tartly,
" I say, isn't bread ' riz ' enough when it runs over
the pans ? "
Sallie began to laugh ; but Meg nodded, and lifted
her eyebrows as high as they would go, which caused
the apparition to vanish, and put the sour bread into
the oven without further delay. Mrs. March went out,
after peeping here and there to see how matters went,
also saying a word of comfort to Beth, who sat making
a winding-sheet, while the dear departed lay in state
in the domino-box. A strange sense of helplessness
fell upon the girls as the gray bonnet vanished round
the corner ; and despair seized them, when, a few min-
utes later, Miss Crocker appeared, and said she'd come
to dinner. Now this lady was a thin, yellow spinster,
with a sharp nose, and inquisitive eyes, who saw
everything, and gossiped about all she saw. They
disliked her, but had been taught to be kind to her,
simply because she was old and poor, and had few
friends. So Meg gave her the easy-chair, and tried to
1 68 Little Women.
entertain her, while she asked questions, criticised
everything, and told stories of the people whom she
Language cannot describe the anxieties, experi-
ences, and exertions which Jo underwent that morn-
ing ; and the dinner she served up became a standing
joke. Fearing to ask any more advice, she did her
best alone, and discovered that something more than
energy and good-will is necessary to make a cook.
She boiled the asparagus hard for an hour, and was
grieved to find the heads cooked off, and the stalks
harder than ever. The bread burnt black; for the
salad dressing so aggravated her, that she let every-
thing else go, till she had convinced herself that she
could not make it fit to eat. The lobster was a
scarlet mystery to her, but she hammered and poked,
1 till it was unshelled, and its meagre proportions con-
cealed in a grove of lettuce-leaves. The potatoes had
to be hurried, not to keep the asparagus waiting, and
were not done at last. The blanc-mange was lumpy,
and the strawberries not as ripe as they looked,
having been skilfully " deaconed."
" Well, they can eat beef, and bread and butter, if
they are hungry ; only it's mortifying to have to spend
your whole morning for nothing," thought Jo, as she
rang the bell half an hour later than usual, and stood
hot, tired, and dispirited, surveying the feast spread
for Laurie, accustomed to all sorts of elegance, and
Miss Crocker, whose curious eyes would mark all
failures, and whose tattling tongue would report them
far and wide.
Poor Jo would gladly have gone under the table, as
one thing after another was tasted and left ; while
Amy giggled, Meg looked distressed, Miss Crocker
pursed up her lips, and Laurie talked and laughed
with all his might, to give a cheerful tone to the fes-
tive scene. Jo's one strong point was the fruit, for
she had sugared it well, and had a pitcher of rich
cream to eat with it. Her hot cheeks cooled a trifle,
and she drew a long breath, as the pretty glass plates
went round, and every one looked graciously at the
little rosy islands floating in a sea of cream. Miss
Crocker tasted first, made a wry face, and drank some
water hastily. Jo, who had refused, thinking there
might not be enough, for they dwindled sadly after
the picking over, glanced at Laurie, but he was
eating away manfully, though there was a slight
pucker about his mouth, and he kept his eye fixed on
his plate. Amy, who was fond of delicate fare, took
a heaping spoonful, choked, hid her face in her nap-
kin, and left the table precipitately.
" Oh, what is it? " exclaimed Jo, trembling.
" Salt instead of sugar, and the cream is sour," re-
plied Meg, with a tragic gesture.
Jo uttered a groan, and fell back in her chair ;
remembering that she had given a last hasty powder-
ing to the berries out of one of the two boxes on the
kitchen table, and had neglected to put the milk in
the refrigerator. She turned scarlet, and w^s on the
verge of crying, when she met Laurie's eyes, which
would look merry in spite of his heroic efforts ; the
comical side of the affair suddenly struck her, and
she laughed till the tears ran down her cheeks. So
did every one else, even " Croaker," as the girls called
170 Little Women.
the old lady ; and the unfortunate dinner ended gaily,
with bread and butter, olives and fun.
" I haven't strength of mind enough to clear up
now, so we will sober ourselves with a funeral," said
Jo, as they rose ; and Miss Crocker made ready to go,
being eager to tell the new story at another friend's
They did sober themselves, for Beth's sake ; Laurie
dug a grave under the ferns in the grove, little Pip
was laid in, with many tears, by his tender-hearted
mistress, and covered with moss, while a wreath of
violets and chickweed was hung on the stone which
bore his epitaph, composed by Jo, while she struggled
with the dinner :
" Here lies Pip March,
Who died the 7th of June;
Loved and lamented sore,
And not forgotten soon."
At the conclusion of the ceremonies, Beth retired
to her room, overcome with emotion and lobster ;
but there was no place of repose, for the beds were
not made, and she found her grief much assuaged by
beating up pillows and putting things in order. Meg
helped Jo clear away the remains of the feast, which
took half the afternoon, and left them so tired that
they agreed to be contented with tea and toast for
supper. Laurie took Amy to drive, which was a
deed of charity, for the sour cream seemed to have
had a bad effect upon her temper. Mrs. March came
home to find the three older girls hard at work in the
middle of the afternoon ; and a glance at the closet
gave her an idea of the success of one part of the
Before the housewives could rest, several people
called, and there was a scramble to get ready to see
them ; then tea must be got, errands done ; and one or
two bits of sewing were necessary, but neglected till
the last minute. As twilight fell, dewy and still, one
by one they gathered in the porch where the June
roses were budding beautifully, and each groaned or
sighed as she sat down, as if tired or troubled.
"What a dreadful day this has been!" begun Jo,
usually the first to speak.
" It has seemed shorter than usual, but so uncom-
fortable," said Meg.
" Not a bit like home," added Amy.
" It can't seem so without Marmee and little Pip,"
sighed Beth, glancing, with full eyes, at the empty
cage above her head.
" Here's mother, dear, and you shall have another
bird to-morrow, if you want it."
As she spoke, Mrs. March came and took her place
among them, looking as if her holiday had not been
much pleasanter than theirs.
" Are you satisfied with your experiment, girls, or
do you want another week of it?" she asked, as Beth
nestled up to her, and the rest turned toward her with
brightening faces, as flowers turn toward the sun.
" I don't ! " cried Jo, decidedly.
" Nor I," echoed the others.
"You think, then, that it is better to have a few
duties, and live a little for others, do you ? "
" Lounging and larking don't pay," observed Jo,
172 Little Women.
shaking her head. " I'm tired of it, and mean to go
to work at something right off."
" Suppose you learn plain cooking ; that's a useful
accomplishment, which no woman should be with-
out," said Mrs. March, laughing audibly at the recol-
lection of Jo's dinner-party ; for she had met Miss
Crocker, and heard her account of it.
" Mother ! did you go away and let everything be,
just to see how we'd get on?" cried Meg, who had
had suspicions all day.
" Yes ; I wanted you to see how the comfort of all
depends on each doing their share faithfully. While
Hannah and I did your work, you got on pretty well,
though I don't think you were very happy or amiable ;
so I thought, as a little lesson, I would show you
what happens when every one thinks only of herself.
Don't you feel that it is pleasanter to help one another,
to have daily duties which make leisure sweet when it
comes, and to bear or forbear, that home may be com-
fortable and lovely to us all ? "
" We do, mother, we do ! " cried the girls.
" Then let me advise you to take up your little bur-
dens'again ; for though they seem heavy sometimes, they
are good for us, and lighten as we learn to carry them.
Work is wholesome, and there is plenty for every one ;
it keeps us from ennui and mischief; is good for health
and spirits, and gives us a sense of power and inde-
pendence better than money or fashion."
"We'll work like bees, and love it too; see if we
don't!" said Jo. "I'll learn plain cooking for my
holiday task ; and the next dinner-party I have shall
be a success."
" I'll make the set of shirts for father, instead of
letting you do it, Marmee. I can and I will, though
I'm not fond of sewing; that will be better than
fussing over my own things, which are plenty nice
enough as they are," said Meg.
" I'll do my lessons every day, and not spend so
much time with my music and dolls. I am a stupid
thing, and ought to be studying, not playing," was
Beth's resolution ; while Amy followed their example,
by heroically declaring, " I shall learn to make button-
holes, and attend to my parts of speech."
" Very good ! then I am quite satisfied with the
experiment, and fancy that we shall not have to repeat
it ; only don't go to the other extreme, and delve like
slaves. Have regular hours for work and play ; make
each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you
understand the worth of time by employing it well.
Then youth will be delightful, old age will bring few
regrets, and life become a beautiful success, in spite
" We'll remember, mother ! " and they did.
BETH was post-mistress, for, being most at home,
she could attend to it regularly, and dearly
liked the daily task of unlocking the little door
and distributing the mail. One July day she came in
with her hands full, and went about the house leav-
ing letters and parcels, like the penny post.
" Here's your posy, mother ! Laurie never forgets
that," she said, putting the fresh nosegay in the vase
that stood in "Marmee's corner," and was kept sup-
plied by the affectionate boy.
" Miss Meg March, one letter, and a glove," con-
tinued Beth, delivering the articles to her sister, who
sat near her mother, stitching wristbands.
"Why, I left a pair over there, and here is only
one," said Meg, looking at the gray cotton glove.
"Didn't you drop the other in the garden?"
" No, I'm sure I didn't ; for there was only one in
" I hate to have odd gloves ! Never mind, the other
may be found. My letter is only a translation of the
Camp Laurence. 175
German song I wanted ; I guess Mr. Brooke did it,
for this isn't Laurie's writing."
Mrs. March glanced at Meg, who was looking very
pretty in her gingham morning-gown, with the little
curls blowing about her forehead, and very womanly,
as she sat sewing at her little work-table, full of tidy
white rolls ; so, unconscious of the thought in her
mother's mind, she sewed and sung while her fingers
flew, and her mind was busied with girlish fancies as
innocent and fresh as the pansies in her belt, that Mrs.
March smiled, and was satisfied.
" Two letters for Doctor Jo, a book, and a funny old
hat, which covered the whole post-office, stuck out-
side," said Beth, laughing, as she went into the study,
where Jo sat writing.
"What a sly fellow Laurie is! I said I wished
bigger hats were the fashion, because I burn my face
every hot day. He said, ' Why mind the fashion ?
wear a big hat, and be comfortable ! ' I said I would,
if I had one, and he has sent me this, to try me ; I'll
wear it, for fun, and show him I don't care for the
fashion ; " and, hanging the antique broad-brim on a
bust of Plato, Jo read her letters.
One from her mother made her cheeks glow, and
her eyes fill, for it said to her,
; ' MY DEAR :
" I write a little word to tell you with how much
satisfaction I watch your efforts to control your tem-
per. You say nothing about your trials, failures, or
successes, and think, perhaps, that no one sees them
but the Friend whose help you daily ask, if I may
176 Little Women.
trust the well-worn cover of your guide-book, /, too,
have seen them all, and heartily believe in the sincerity
of your resolution, since it begins to bear fruit. Go
on, dear, patiently and bravely, and always believe
that no one sympathizes more tenderly with you than
your loving MOTHER."
" That does me good ! that's worth millions of
money, and pecks of praise. Oh, Marmee, I do try !
I will keep on trying, and not get tired, since I have
you to help me."
Laying her head on her arms, Jo wet her little
romance with a few happy tears, for she had thought
that no one saw and appreciated her efforts to be
good, and this assurance was doubly precious, doubly
encouraging, because unexpected, and from the person
whose commendation she most valued. Feeling
stronger than ever to meet and subdue her Apollyon,
she pinned the note inside her frock, as a shield and a
reminder, lest she be taken unaware, and proceeded
to open her other letter, quite ready for either good or
bad news. In a big, dashing hand, Laurie wrote,
" DEAR Jo,
What ho !
Some English girls and boys are coming to see me
to-morrow, and I want to have a jolly time. If it's
fine, I'm going to pitch my tent in Longmeadow, and
row up the whole crew to lunch and croquet; have
a fire, make messes, gipsey fashion, and all sorts of
larks. They are nice people, and like such things.
Brooke will go, to keep us boys steady, and Kate
Vaughn will play propriety for the girls. I want you
Camp Laurence. 177
all to come ; can't let Beth off, at any price, and no-
body shall worry her. Don't bother about rations,
I'll see to that, and everything else, only do come,
there's a good fellow !
" In a tearing hurry,
Yours ever, LAURIE."
" Here's richness ! " cried Jo, flying in to tell the
news to Meg. " Of course we can go, mother ! it will
be such a help to Laurie, for I can row, and Meg see
to the lunch, and the children be useful some way."
" I hope the Vaughn's are not fine, grown-up people.
Do you know anything about them, Jo?" asked Meg.
" Only that there are four of them. Kate is older
than you, Fred and Frank (twins) about my age, and
a little girl (Grace), who is nine or ten. Laurie knew
them abroad, and liked the boys ; I fancied, from the
way he primmed up his mouth in speaking of her,
that he didn't admire Kate much."
" I'm so glad my French print is clean, it's just the
thing, and so becoming ! " observed Meg, compla-
cently. " Have you anything decent, Jo?"
" Scarlet and gray boating suit, good enough for
me ; I shall row and tramp about, so I don't want
any starch to think of. You'll come, Betty?"
" If VQU won't let any of the boys talk to me."
" Not a boy ! "
" I like to please Laurie ; and I'm not afraid of Mr.
Brooke, he is so kind ; but I don't want to play, or
sing, or say anything. I'll work hard, and not trouble
any one ; and you'll take care of me, Jo, so I'll go."
" T-hat's my good girl ; you do try to fight off your
178 Little Women.
shyness, and I love you for it ; fighting faults isn't
easy, as I know ; and a cheery word kind of gives a
lift. Thank you, mother," and Jo gave the thin
cheek a grateful kiss, more precious to Mrs. March
than if it had given her back the rosy roundness of
" I had a box of chocolate drops, and the picture I
wanted to copy," said Amy, showing her mail.
" And I got a note from Mr. Laurence, asking me
to come over and play to him to-night, before the
lamps are lighted, and I shall go," added Beth, whose
friendship with the old gentleman prospered finely.
."Now let's fly round, and do double duty today, so
that we can play to-morrow with free minds," said Jo,
preparing to replace her pen with a broom.
When the sun peeped into the girls' room early next
morning, to promise them a fine day, he saw a comical
sight. Each had made such preparation for the fete
as seemed necessary and proper. Meg had an extra
row of little curl papers across her forehead, Jo had
copiously anointed her afflicted face with cold cream,
Beth had taken Joanna to bed with her to atone for
the approaching separation, and Amy had capped the
climax by putting a clothes-pin on her nose, to uplift
the offending feature. It was one of the kind artists
use to hold the paper on their drawing-boards ; there-
fore, quite appropriate and effective for the purpose to
which it was now put. This funny spectacle appeared
to amuse the sun, for he burst out with such radiance
that Jo woke up, and roused all her sisters by a hearty
laugh at Amy's ornament.
Sunshine and laughter were good omens for a
Camp Laurence. 179
pleasure party, and soon a lively bustle began in both
houses. Beth, who was ready first, kept reporting
what went on next door, and enlivened her sisters*
toilets by frequent telegrams from the window.
" There goes the man with the tent ! I see Mrs.
Barker doing up the lunch, in a hamper, and a great
basket. Now Mr. Laurence is looking up at the
sky, and the weathercock ; I wish he would go, too !
There's Laurie looking like a sailor, nice boy ! Oh,
mercy me ! here's a carriage full of people a tall
lady, a little girl, and two dreadful boys. One is
lame ; poor thing, he's got a crutch ! Laurie didn't tell
us that. Be quick, girls ! it's getting late. Why, there
is Ned Moffat, I do declare. Look, Meg ! isn't that the
man who bowed to you one day, when we were shop-
ping ? "
" So it is ; how queer that he should come ! I
thought he was at the Mountains. There is Sallie ;
I'm glad she got back in time. Am I all right, Jo?"
cried Meg, in a flutter.
" A regular daisy ; hold up your dress, and put your
hat straight ; it looks sentimental tipped that way, and
will fly off at the first puff. Now, then, come on ! "
" Oh, oh, Jo ! you ain't going to wear that awful
hat ? It's too absurd ! You shall not make a guy of
yourself," remonstrated Meg, as Jo tied down, with a
red ribbon, the broad-brimmed, old-fashioned Leghorn
Laurie had sent for a joke.
" I just will, though ! it's capital ; so shady, light, and
big. It will make fun ; and I don't mind being a guy,
if I'm comfortable." With that Jo marched straight
away, and the rest followed ; a bright little band of
180 Little Women.
sisters, all looking their best, in summer suits, with
happy faces, under the jaunty hat-brims.
Laurie ran to meet, and present them to his friends,
in the most cordial manner. The lawn was the recep-
tion room, and for several minutes a lively scene was
enacted there. Meg was grateful to see that Miss
Kate, though twenty, was dressed with a simplicity
which American girls would do well to imitate ; and
she was much flattered by Mr. Ned's assurances that
he came especially to see her. Jo understood why
Laurie " primmed up his mouth " when speaking of
Kate, for that young lady had a stand-off-don't-touch-
me air, which contrasted strongly with the free and easy
demeanor of the other girls. Beth took an observa-
tion of the new boys, and decided that the lame one
was not " dreadful," but gentle and feeble, and she
would be kind to him, on that account. Amy found
Grace a well-mannered, merry little person ; and, after
staring dumbly at one another for a few minutes, they
suddenly became very good friends.
Tents, lunch, and croquet utensils having been sent
on beforehand, the party was soon embarked, and the
two boats pushed off together, leaving Mr. Laurence
waving his hat on the shore. Laurie and Jo rowed
one boat ; Mr. Brooke and Ned the other ; while Fred
Vaughn, the riotous twin, did his best to upset both,
by paddling about in a wherry, like a disturbed water-
bug. Jo's funny hat deserved a vote of thanks, for it
was of general utility ; it broke the ice in the begin-
ning, by producing a laugh ; it created quite a refresh-
ing breeze, flapping to and fro, as she rowed, and
would make an excellent umbrella for the whole party,
Camp Laurence. 181
if a shower came up, she said. Kate looked rather
amazed at Jo's proceedings, especially as she exclaimed
" Christopher Columbus ! " when she lost her oar ; and
Laurie said, " My dear fellow, did I hurt you? " when
he tripped over her feet in taking his place. But
after putting up her glass to examine the queer girl
several times, Miss Kate decided that she was " odd,
but rather clever," and smiled upon her from afar.
' Meg, in the other boat, was delightfully situated, face
to face with the rowers, who both admired the pros-
pect, and feathered their oars with uncommon " skill
and dexterity." Mr. Brooke was a grave, silent young
man, with handsome brown eyes, and a pleasant
voice. Meg liked his quiet manners, and considered
him a walking encyclopaedia of useful knowledge.
He never talked to her much ; but he looked at her a
good deal, and she felt sure that he did not regard her
with aversion.' Ned being in college, of course put
on all the airs which Freshmen think it their bounden
duty to assume ; he was not very wise, but very
good-natured and merry, and, altogether, an excellent
person to carry on a picnic. Sallie Gardiner was ab-
sorbed in keeping her white pique dress clean, and
chattering with the ubiquitous Fred, who kept Beth in
constant terror by his pranks.
It was not far to Longmeadow ; but the tent was
pitched, and the wickets down, by the time they
arrived. A pleasant green field, with three wide-
spreading oaks in the middle, and a smooth strip of
turf for croquet.
u Welcome to Camp Laurence ! " said the young
host," as they landed, with exclamations of delight.
1 82 Little Women.
"Brooke is commander-in-chief ; I am commissary-
general ; the other fellows are staff-officers ; and you,
ladies, are company. The tent is for your especial
benefit, and that oak is your drawing-room ; this is
the mess-room, and the third is the camp kitchen.
Now let's have a game before it gets hot, and then
we'll see about dinner."
Frank, Beth, Amy, and Grace, sat down to watch
the game played by the other eight. Mr. Brooke*
chose Meg, Kate, and Fred ; Laurie took Sallie, Jo,
and Ned. The Englishers played well ; but the
Americans played better, and contested every inch of
the ground as strongly as if the spirit of '76 inspired
them. Jo and Fred had several skirmishes, and once
narrowly escaped high words. Jo was through the
last wicket, and had missed the stroke, which failure
ruffled her a good deal. Fred was close behind her,
and his turn came before hers ; he gave a stroke, his
ball hit the wicket, and stopped an inch on the wrong
side. No one was very near ; and, running up to ex-
amine, he gave it a sly nudge with his toe, which put
it just an inch on the right side.
" I'm through ! now, Miss Jo, I'll settle you, and
get in first," cried the young gentleman, swinging his
mallet for another blow.
" You pushed it ; I saw you ; it's my turn now,"
said Jo, sharply.
" Upon my word I didn't move it ! it rolled a bit,
perhaps, but that is allowed ; so stand off, please, and
let me have a go at the stake."
"We don't cheat in America ; but you can, if you
choose," said Jo, angrily.
Camp Laurence. 183
" Yankees are a deal the most tricky, everybody
knows. There you go," returned Fred, croqueting
her ball far away.
Jo opened her lips to say something rude ; but
checked herself in time, colored up to her forehead,
and stood a minute, hammering down a wicket with
all her might, while Fred hit the stake, and declared
himself out, with much exultation. She went off to
get her ball, and was a long time finding it, among
the bushes ; but she came back, looking cool and
quiet, and waited her turn patiently. It took several
strokes to regain the place she had lost ; and, when she
got there, the other side had nearly won, for Kate's,
ball was the last but one, and lay near the stake.
" By George, it's all up with us ! Good-by, Kate ;
Miss Jo owes me one, so you are finished," cried Fred,
excitedly, as they all drew near to see the finish.
" Yankees have a trick of being generous .to their
enemies," said Jo, with a look that made the lad
redden, " especially when they beat them," she added,
as, leaving Kate's ball untouched, she won the game
by a clever stroke.
Laurie threw up his hat ; then remembered that it
wouldn't do to exult over the defeat of his guests, and
stopped in the middle of a cheer to whisper to his
" Good for you, Jo ! he did cheat, I saw him ; we
can't tell him so, but he won't do it again, take my
word for it."
Meg drew her aside, under pretence of pinning up
a loose braid, and said, approvingly,
184 Little Women.
" It was dreadfully provoking ; but you kept your
temper, and I'm so glad, Jo."
" Don't praise me, Meg, for I could box his ears
this minute. I should certainly have boiled over, if
I hadn't stayed among the nettles till I got my rage
under enough to hold my tongue. It's simmering
now, so I hope he'll keep out of my way," returned
Jo, biting her lips, as she glowered at Fred from
under her big hat.
" Time for lunch," said Mr. Brooke, looking at his
watch. " Commisary-general, will you make the fire,
and get water, while Miss March, Miss Sallie, and I
spread the table. Who can make good coffee ? "
"Jo can," said Meg, glad to recommend her sister.
So Jo, feeling that her late lessons in cookery were
to do her honor, went to preside over the coffee-pot,
while the children collected dry sticks, and the boys
made a fire, and got water from a spring near by.
Miss Kate sketched, and Frank talked to Beth, who
was making little mats of braided rushes, to serve as
The commander-in-chief and his aids soon spread
the table-cloth w r ith an inviting array of eatables and
drinkables, prettily decorated with green leaves. Jo
announced that the coffee was ready, and every one
settled themselves to a hearty meal ; for youth is sel-
dom dyspeptic, and exercise develops wholesome
appetites. A very merry lunch it was ; for everything
seemed fresh and funny, and frequent peals of laughter
startled a venerable horse, who fed near by. There
was a pleasing inequality in the table, which produced
many mishaps to cups and plates ; acorns dropped
Camp Laurence. 185
into the milk, little black ants partook of the refresh-
ments without being invited, and fuzzy caterpillars
swung down from the tree, to see what was going on.
Three white-headed children peeped over the fence,
and an objectionable dog barked at them from the
other side of the river, with all his might and main.
" There's salt, here, if you prefer it," said Laurie,
as he handed Jo a saucer of berries.
" Thank you ; I prefer spiders," she replied, fishing
up two unwary little ones, who had gone to a creamy
death. " How dare you remind me of that horrid
dinner-party, when yours is so nice in every way ? "
added Jo, as they both laughed, and ate out of one
plate, the china having run short.
" I had an uncommonly good time that day, and
haven't got over it yet. This is no credit to me, you
know ; I don't do anything ; it's you, and Meg, and
Brooke, who make it go, and I'm no end obliged to
you. What shall we do when we can't eat any more ? "
asked Laurie, feeling that his trump card had been
played when lunch was over.
" Have games, till it's cooler. I brought 4 Authors,'
and I dare say Miss Kate knows something new and
nice. Go and ask her ; she's company, and you ought
to stay with her more."
"Aren't you company, too? I thought she'd suit
Brooke ; but he keeps talking to Meg, and Kate just
stares at them through that ridiculous glass of hers.
I'm going, so you needn't try to preach propriety, for
you can't do it, Jo."
Miss Kate did know several new games ; and as
the girls would not, and the boys could not, eat any
1 86 Little Women.
more, they all adjourned to the drawing-room, to play
" One person begins a story, any nonsense you like,
and tells as long as they please, only taking care to
stop short at some exciting point, when the next takes
it up, and does the same. It's very funny, when well
done, and makes a perfect jumble of tragical comical
stuff to laugh over. Please start it, Mr. Brooke," said
Kate, with a commanding gesture, which surprised
Meg, who treated the tutor with as much respect as
any other gentleman.
Lying on the grass, at the feet of the two young
ladies, Mr. Brooke obediently began the story, with
the handsome brown eyes steadily fixed upon the sun-
" Once on a time, a knight went out into the world
to seek his fortune, for he had nothing but his sword
and his shield. He travelled a long while, nearly
eight-and-twenty years, and had a hard time of it, till
he came to the palace of a good old king, who had
offered a reward to any one who would tame and train
a fine, but unbroken colt, of which he was very fond.
The knight agreed to try, and got on slowly, but surely ;
for the colt was a gallant fellow, and soon learned to
love his new master, though he was freakish and wild.
Every day, when he gave his lessons to this pet of the
king's, the knight rode him through the city ; and, as
he rode, he looked everywhere for a certain beautiful
face, which he had seen many times in his dreams,
but never found. One day, as he went prancing down
a quiet street, he saw at the window of a ruinous
castle the lovely face. He was delighted, inquired
Camp Laurence. 187
who lived in this old castle, and was told that several
captive princesses were kept there by a spell, and
spun all day to lay up money to buy their liberty.
The knight wished intensely that he could free them ;
but he was poor, and could only go by each day,
watching for the sweet face, and longing to see it out
in the sunshine. At last, he resolved to get into the
castle, and ask how he could help them. He went
and knocked ; the great door flew open, and he be-
" A ravishingly lovely lady, who exclaimed, with a
cry of rapture, ' At last ! at last ! ' " continued Kate,
who had read French novels, and admired the style.
" ' 'Tis she ! ' cried Count Gustave, and fell at her feet
in an ecstasy of joy. ' Oh, rise ! ' she said, extending a
hand of marble fairness. ' Never ! till you tell me
how I may rescue you,' swore the knight, still kneel-
ing. ' Alas, my cruel fate condemns me to remain
here till my tyrant is destroyed.' c Where is the vil-
lain ? ' c In the mauve salon ; go, brave heart, and
save me from despair.' ' I obey, and return victorious
or dead ! ' With these thrilling words he rushed away,
and, flinging open the door of the mauve salon, was
about to enter, when he received "
" A stunning blow from the big Greek lexicon,
which an old fellow in a black gown fired at him,"
said Ned. " Instantly Sir What's-his-name recovered
himself, pitched the tyrant out of the window, and
turned to join the lady, victorious, but with a bump
on his brow ; found the door locked, tore up the
curtains, make a rope ladder, got half-way down when
ladder broke, and he went head flrst into the moat,
i88 Little Women.
sixty feet below. Could swim like a duck, paddled
round the castle till he came to a little door guarded
by two stout fellows ; knocked their heads together
till they cracked like a couple of nuts, then, by a
trifling exertion of his prodigious strength, he smashed
in the door, went up a pair of stone steps covered
with dust a foot thick, toads as big as your fist, and
spiders that would frighten you into hysterics, Miss
March. At the top of these steps he came plump
upon a sight that took his breath away and chilled his
" A tall figure, all in white, with a veil over its face,
and a lamp in its wasted hand," went on Meg. u It
beckoned, gliding noiselessly before him down a cor-
ridor as dark and cold as any tomb. Shadowy effigies
in armor stood on either side, a dead silence reigned,
the lamp burned blue, and the ghostly figure ever and
anon turned its face toward him, showing the glitter
of awful eyes through its white veil. They reached a
curtained door, behind which sounded lovely music ;
he sprang forward to enter, but the spectre plucked
him back, and waved, threateningly, before him a "
" SnufF-box," said Jo, in a sepulchral tone, which
convulsed the audience. " ' Thankee,' said the knight,
politely, as he took a pinch, and sneezed seven times
so violently that his head fell pfF. 4 Ha ! ha ! ' laughed
the ghost ; and, having peeped through the keyhole at
the princesses spinning away for dear life, the evil
spirit picked up her victim and put him in a large tin
box, where there were eleven other knights packed
together without their heads, like sardines, who all
rose and began to "
Camp Laurence. 189
" Dance a hornpipe," cut in Fred, as Jo paused for
breath ; " and, as they danced, the rubbishy old castle
turned to a man-of-war in full sail. ' Up with the jib,
reef the tops'l halliards, helm hard a lee, and man
the guns,' roared the captain, as a Portuguese pirate
hove in sight, with a flag black as ink flying from her
foremast. ' Go in and win my hearties,' says the cap-
tain ; and a tremendous fight begun. Of course the
British beat they always do ; and, having taken the
pirate captain prisoner, sailed slap over the schooner,
whose decks were piled with dead, and whose lee-
scuppers ran blood, for the order had been ' Cutlasses,
and die hard.' 'Bosen's mate, take a bight of the
flying jib sheet, and start this villain if he don't confess
his sins double quick,' said the British captain. The
Portuguese held his tongue like a brick, and walked
the plank, while the jolly tars cheered like mad. But
the sly dog dived, came up under the man-of-war,
scuttled her, and down she went, with all sail set,
4 To the bottom of the sea, sea, sea,' where "
" Oh, gracious ! what shall I say?" cried Sallie, as
Fred ended his rigmarole, in which he had jumbled
together, pell-mell, nautical phrases and facts, out of
one of his favorite books. " Well, they went to the
bottom, and a nice mermaid welcomed them, but
was much grieved on finding the box of headless
knights, and kindly pickled them in brine, hoping to
discover the mystery about them ; for, being a woman,
she was curious. By and by a diver came down, and
the mermaid said, ' I'll give you this box of pearls
if you can take it up ; ' for she wanted to restore the
poor things to life, and couldn't raise the heavy load
190 Little Women.
herself. So the diver hoisted it up, and was much
disappointed, on opening it, to find no pearls. He left
it in a great lonely field, where it was found by a "
" Little goose-girl, who kept a hundred fat geese in
the field," said Amy, when Sallie's invention gave out.
" The little girl was sorry for them, and asked an old
woman what she should do to help them. 4 Your
geese will tell you, they know everything,' said the old
woman. So she asked what she should use for new
heads, since the old ones were lost, and all the geese
opened their hundred mouths, and screamed "
"'Cabbages!' continued Laurie, promptly. 'Just
the thing,' said the girl, and ran to get twelve fine
ones from her garden. She put them on, the knights
revived at once, thanked her, and went on their way
rejoicing, never knowing the difference, for there were
so many other heads like them in the world, that no
one thought anything of it. The knight in whom I'm
interested went back to find the pretty face, and
learned that the princesses had spun themselves free,
and all gone to be married, but one. He was in a
great state of mind at that ; and, mounting the colt,
who stood by him through thick and thin, rushed to
the castle to see which was left. Peeping over the
hedge, he saw the queen of his affections picking
flowers in her garden. ' Will you give me a rose ? '
said he. 4 You must come and get it ; I can't come to
you ; it isn't proper,' said she, as sweet as honey. He
tried to climb over the hedge, but it seemed to grow
higher and higher ; then he tried to push through, but
it grew thicker and thicker, and he was in despair.
So he patiently broke twig after twig, till he had made
Camp Laurence. 191
a little hole, through which he peeped, saying, im-
ploringly, ' Let me in ! let me in ! ' But the pretty
princess did not seem to understand, for she picked
her roses quietly, and left him to fight his way in.
Whether he did or not, Frank will tell you."
"I' can't; I'm not playing, I never do," said Frank,
dismayed at the sentimental predicament out of which
iie was to rescue the absurd couple. Beth had disap-
peared behind Jo, and Grace was asleep.
" So the poor knight is to be left sticking in the
hedge, is he ? " asked Mr. Brooke, still watching the
river, and playing with the wild rose in his button-hole.
" I guess the princess gave him a posy, and opened
the gate, after awhile," said Laurie, smiling to himself,
as he threw acorns at his tutor.
" What a piece of nonsense we have made ! With
practice we might do something quite clever. Do
you know * Truth ? ' " asked Sallie, after they had
laughed over their story.
" I hope so," said Meg, soberly.
" The game, I mean? "
"What is it?" said Fred.
" Why, you pile up your hands, choose a number,
and draw out in turn, and the person who draws at
the number has to answer truly any questions put by
the rest. It's great fun."
" Let's try it," said Jo, who liked new experiments.
Miss Kate and Mr. Brooke, Meg and Ned, declined ;
but Fred, Sallie, Jo and Laurie piled and drew ; and
the lot fell to Laurie.
" Who are your heroes?" asked Jo.
" Grandfather and Napoleon."
192 Little Women.
"What lady do you think prettiest?" said Sallie.
"Which do you like best?" from Fred.
"Jo, of course."
; What silly questions you ask ! " and Jo gave a
disdainful shrug as the rest laughed at Laurie's matter-
" Try again ; Truth isn't a bad game," said Fred.
" It's a very good one for you," retorted Jo, in a
Her turn came next.
" What is your greatest fault? " asked Fred, by way
of testing in her the virtue he lacked himself.
" A quick temper."
"What do you most wish for? " said Laurie.
" A pair of boot-lacings," returned Jo, guessing
and defeating his purpose.
" Not a true answer ; you must say what you really
do want most."
" Genius ; don't you wish you could give it to me,
Laurie?" and she slyly smiled in his disappointed face.
" What virtues do you most admire in a man ? "
" Courage and honesty."
" Now my turn," said Fred, as his hand came last.
" Let's give it to him," whispered Laurie to Jo, who
nodded, and asked at once,
" Didn't you cheat at croquet? "
"Well, yes, a little bit."
" Good ! Didn't you take your story out of 4 The
Sea Lion?'" said Laurie.
Camp Laurence. 193
" Don't you think the English nation perfect in
every respect? " asked Sallie.
" I should be ashamed of myself if I didn't."
" He's a true John Bull. Now, Miss Sallie, you
shall have a chance without waiting to draw. I'll
harrow up your feelings first by asking if you don't
think you are something of a flirt," said Laurie, as Jo
nodded to Fred, as a sign that peace was declared.
" You impertinent boy ! of course I'm not," ex-
claimed Sallie, with an air that proved the contrary.
" What do you hate most? " asked Fred.
" Spiders and rice pudding."
" What do you like best ? " asked Jo.
" Dancing and French gloves."
" Well, /think Truth is a very silly play ; let's have
a sensible game of Authors, to refresh our minds,"
Ned, Frank, and the little girls joined in this, and,
while it went on, the three elders sat apart, talking.
Miss Kate took out her sketch again, and Margaret
watched her, while Mr. Brooke lay on the grass, with
a book, which he did not read.
" How beautifully you do it ; I wish I could draw,"
said Meg, with mingled admiration and regret in her
"Why don't you learn? I should think you had
taste and talent for it," replied Miss Kate, graciously.
" I haven't time."
"Your mamma prefers other accomplishments, I
fancy. So did mine ; but I proved to her that I had
talent, by taking a few lessons privately, and then she
194 Little. Women.
was quite willing I should go on. Can't you do the
same with your governess?"
" I have none."
"I forgot; young ladies in America go to school
more than with us. Very fine schools they are, too,
papa says. You go to a private one, I suppose ? "
" I don't go at all ; I am a governess myself."
" Oh, indeed ! " said Miss Kate ; but she might as
well have said, " Dear me, how dreadful ! " for her
tone implied it, and something in her face made Meg
color, and wish she had not been so frank.
Mr. Brooke looked up, and said, quickly, "Young
ladies in America love independence as much as their
ancestors did, and are admired and respected for sup-
" Oh, yes ; of course ! it's very nice and proper in
them to do so. We have many most respectable and
worthy young women, who do the same ; and are
employed by the nobility, because, being the daughters
of gentlemen, they are both well-bred and accom-
plished, you know," said Miss Kate, in a patronizing
tone, that hurt Meg's pride, and made her work seem
not only more distasteful, but degrading.
" Did the German song suit, Miss March ? " inquired
Mr. Brooke, breaking an awkward pause.
" Oh, yes ! it was very sweet, and I'm much obliged
to whoever translated it for me ; " and Meg's downcast
face brightened as she spoke.
"Don't you read German?" asked Miss Kate, with
a look of surprise.
"Not very well. My father, who taught me, is
Camp Laurence. 195
away, and I don't get on very fast alone, for Fve no
one to correct my pronunciation."
"Try a little now ; here is Schiller's 'Mary Stuart,'
and a tutor who loves to teach," and Mr. Brooke laid
his book on her lap, with an inviting smile.
" It's so hard, I'm afraid to try," said Meg, grateful,
but bashful in the presence of the accomplished young
lady beside her.
" I'll read a bit, to encourage you ; " and Miss Kate
read one of the most beautiful passages, in a perfectly
correct, but perfectly expressionless, manner.
Mr Brooke made no comment, as she returned the
book to Meg, who said, innocently,
" I thought it was poetry."
" Some of it is ; try this passage."
There was a queer smile about Mr. Brooke's mouth,
as he opened at poor Mary's lament.
Meg, obediently following the long grass-blade
which her new tutor used to point with, read, slowly
and timidly, unconsciously making poetry of the hard
words, by the soft intonation of her musical voice.
Down the page went the green guide, and presently,
forgetting her listener in the beauty of the sad scene,
Meg read as if alone, giving a little touch of tragedy
to the words of the unhappy queen. If she had seen
the brown eyes then, she would have stopped short ;
but she never looked up, and the lesson was not spoilt
" Very well, indeed ! " said Mr. Brooke, as she
paused, quite ignoring her many mistakes, and looking
as if he did, indeed, " love to teach."
Miss Kate put up her glass, and, having taken a
196 Little Women.
survey of the little tableau before her, shut her sketch-
book, saying, with condescension,
"You've a nice accent, and, in time, will be a clever
reader. I advise you to learn, for German is a valu-
able accomplishment to teachers. I must look after
Grace, she is romping ; " and Miss Kate strolled away,
adding to herself, with a shrug, " I didn't come to
chaperone a governess, though she is young and
pretty. What odd people these Yankees are ! I'm
afraid Laurie will be quite spoilt among them."
" I forgot that English people rather turn up their
noses at governesses, and don't treat them as we do,"
said Meg, looking after the retreating figure with an
" Tutors, also, have rather a hard time of it there,
as I know to my sorrow. There's no place like
America for us workers, Miss Margaret," and Air.
Brooke looked so contented and cheerful, that Meg
was ashamed to lament her hard lot.
" I'm glad I live in it, then. I don't like my work,
but I get a good deal of satisfaction out of it, after all,
so I won't complain ; I only wish I liked teaching as
" I think you would, if you had Laurie for a pupil.
I shall be very sorry to lose him next year," said Mr.
Brooke, busily punching holes in the turf.
" Going to college, I suppose ? " Meg's lips asked
that question, but her eyes added, " And what becomes
tk Yes ; it's high time he went, for he is nearly ready,
and as soon as he is off I shall turn soldier."
" I'm glad of that ! " exclaimed Meg ; u I should
Camp Laurence. 197
think every young man would want to go ; though
it is hard for the mothers and sisters, who stay at
home," she added, sorrowfully.
"I have neither, and very few friends, to care
whether I live or die," said Mr. Brooke, rather bitterly,
as he absently put the dead rose in the hole he had
made, and covered it up, like a little grave.
" Laurie and his grandfather would care a great
deal, and we should all be very sorry to have any
harm happen to you," said Meg, heartily.
" Thank you ; that sounds pleasant," began Mr.
Brooke, looking cheerful again ; but, before he could
finish his speech, Ned, mounted on the old horse,
came lumbering up, to display his equestrian skill
before the young ladies, and there was no more quiet
"Don't you love to ride?" asked Grace of Amy, as
they stood resting, after a race round the field with
the others, led by Ned.
" I dote upon it ; my sister Meg used to ride, when
papa was rich, but we don't keep any horses now,
except Ellen Tree," added Amy, laughing.
" Tell me about Ellen Tree ; is it a donkey ? " asked
" Why, you see, Jo is crazy about horses, and so am
I, but we've only got an old side-saddle, and no horse.
Out in our garden is an apple-tree, that has a nice
low branch ; so I put the saddle on it, fixed some
reins on the part that turns up, and we bounce away
on Ellen Tree whenever we like."
"How funny!" laughed Grace. "I have a pony
at home, and ride nearly every day in the park, with
198 Little Women.
Fred and Kate ; if s very nice, for my friends go too,
and the Row is full of ladies and gentlemen."
" Dear, how charming ! I hope I shall go abroad,
some day ; but I'd rather go to Rome than the Row,"
said Amy, who had not the remotest idea what the
Row was, and wouldn't have asked for the world.
Frank, sitting just behind the little girls, heard what
they were saying, and pushed his crutch away from
him with an impatient gesture, as he watched the
active lads going through all sorts of comical gymnas-
tics. Beth, who was collecting the scattered Author-
cards, looked up, and said, in her shy yet friendly
" I'm afraid you are tired ; can I do anything for
you ? "
" Talk to me, please ; ifs dull, sitting by myself,"
answered Frank, who had evidently been used to be-
ing made much of at home.
If he had asked her to deliver a Latin oration, it
would not have seemed a more impossible task to
bashful Beth ; but there was no place to run to, no Jo
to hide behind now, and the poor boy looked so wist-
fully at her, that she bravely resolved to try.
"What do you like to talk about?" she asked,
fumbling over the cards, and dropping half as she
tried to tie them up.
" Well, I like to hear about cricket, and boating,
and hunting," said Frank, who had not yet learned to
suit his amusements to his strength.
" My heart ! whatever shall I do ! I don't know
anything about them," thought Beth ; and, forgetting
the boy's misfortune in her flurry, she said, hoping to
Camp Laurence. 199
make him talk, " I never saw any hunting, but I sup-
pose you know all about it."
" I did once ; but I'll never hunt again, for I got
hurt leaping a confounded five-barred gate ; so there's
no more horses and hounds for me," said Frank, with
a sigh that made Beth hate herself for her innocent
" Your deer are much prettier than our ugly buffa-
loes," she said, turning to the prairies for help, and
feeling glad that she had read one of the boys' books
in which Jo delighted.
Buffaloes proved soothing and satisfactory ; and, in
her eagerness to amuse another, Beth forgot herself,
and was quite unconscious of her sister's surprise and
delight at the unusual spectacle of Beth talking away
to one of the dreadful boys, against whom she had
"Bless her heart! She pities him, so she is good
to him," said Jo, beaming at her from the croquet-
" I always said she was a little saint," added Meg,
as if there could be no further doubt of it.
" I haven't heard Frank laugh so much for ever so
long," said Grace to Amy, as they sat discussing dolls,
and making tea-sets out of the acorn-cups.
" My sister Beth is a very fastidious girl, when she
likes to be," said Amy, well pleased at Beth's success.
She meant " fascinating," but, as Grace didn't know the
exact meaning of either word, " fastidious " sounded
well, and made a good impression.
An impromptu circus, fox and geese, and an am-
icable game of croquet, finished the afternoon. At
200 Little Women.
sunset the tent was struck, hampers packed, wickets
pulled up, boats loaded, and the whole party floated
down the river, singing at the tops of their voices.
Ned, getting sentimental, warbled a serenade with the
"Alone, alone, ah! woe, alone,**
and at the lines
"We each are young, we each have a heart,
Oh, why should we stand thus coldly apart?"
he looked at Meg with such a lackadaisical expression,
that she laughed outright, and spoilt his song.
" How can you be so cruel to me?" he whispered,
under cover of a lively chorus ; " you've kept close to
that starched-up English woman all day, and now you
" I didn't mean to ; but you looked so funny I really
couldn't help it," replied Meg, passing over the first
part of his reproach ; for it was quite true that she
had shunned him, remembering the Moffat party and
the talk after it.
Ned was offended, and turned to Sallie for consola-
tion, saying to her, rather pettishly, "There isn't a bit
of flirt in that girl, is there ? "
" Not a particle ; but she's a dear," returned Sallie,
defending her friend even while confessing her short-
44 She's not a stricken deer, any- way," said Ned,
trying to be witty, and succeeding as well as very
young gentlemen usually do.
Camp Laurence. 201
On the lawn where it had gathered, the little party
separated with cordial good-nights and good-byes, for
the Vaughns were going to Canada. As the four
sisters went home through the garden, Miss Kate
looked after them, saying, without the patronizing
tone in her voice, " In spite of their demonstrative
manners, American girls are very nice when one
" I quite agree with you," said Mr. Brooke.
CASTLES IN THE AIR.
LAURIE lay luxuriously swinging to and fro in
his hammock, one warm September afternoon,
wondering what his neighbors were about, but
too lazy to go and find out. He was in one of his
moods ; for the day had been both unprofitable and
unsatisfactory, and he was wishing he could live it
over again. The hot weather made him indolent ;
and he had shirked his studies, tried Mr. Brooke's
patience to the utmost, displeased his grandfather by
practising half the afternoon, frightened the maid-
servants half out of their wits, by mischievously
hinting that one of his dogs was going mad, and, after
high words with the stableman about some fancied
neglect of his horse, he had flung himself into his
hammock, to fume over the stupidity of the world in
general, till the peace of the lovely day quieted him in
spite of himself. Staring up. into the green gloom of
the horse-chestnut trees above him, he dreamed dreams
of all sorts, and was just imagining himself tossing
on the ocean, in a voyage round the world, when the
sound of voices brought him ashore in a flash. Peep-
Castles in the Air. 203
ing through the meshes of the hammock, he saw the
Marches coming out, as if bound on some expedition.
"What in the world are those girls about now?"
thought Laurie, opening his sleepy eyes to take a good
look, for there was something rather peculiar in the
appearance of his neighbors. Each wore a large,
flapping hat, a brown linen pouch slung over one
shoulder, and carried a long staff; Meg had a cushion,
Jo a book, Beth a dipper, and Amy a portfolio. All
walked quietly through the garden, out at the little
back gate, and began to climb the hill that lay between
the house and river.
" Well, that's cool ! " said Laurie to himself, " to
have a picnic and never ask me. They can't be going
in the boat, for they haven't got the key. Perhaps
they forgot it ; I'll take it to them, and see what's
Though possessed of half a dozen hats, it took him
some time to find one ; then there was a hunt for the
key, which was at last discovered in his pocket, so
that the girls 'were quite out of sight when he leaped
the fence and ran after them. Taking the shortest
way to the boat-house, he waited for them to appear ;
but no one came, and he went up the hill to take an
observation. A grove of pines covered one part of it,
and from the heart of this green spot came a clearer
sound than the soft sigh of the pines, or the drowsy
chirp of the crickets.
" Here's a landscape ! " thought Laurie, peeping
through the bushes, and looking wide awake and good-
It -was rather a pretty little picture ; for the sisters
204 Little Women.
sat together in the shady nook, with sun and shadow
flickering over them, the aromatic wind lifting their
hair and cooling their hot cheeks, and all the little
wood-people going on with their affairs as if these
were no strangers, but old friends. Meg sat upon her
cushion, sewing daintily with her white hands, and
looking as fresh and sweet as a rose, in her pink
dress, among the green. Beth was sorting the cones
that lay thick under the hemlock near by, for she
made pretty things of them. Amy was sketching a
group of ferns, and Jo was knitting as she read aloud.
A shadow passed over the boy's face as he watched
them, feeling that he ought to go, because uninvited ;
yet lingering, because home seemed very lonely, and
this quiet party in the woods most attractive to his
restless spirit. He stood so still, that a squirrel, busy
with its harvesting, ran down a pine close beside
him, saw him suddenly, and skipped back, scolding so
shrilly that Beth looked up, espied the wistful face
behind the birches, and beckoned with a reassuring
" May I come in, please ? or shall I be a bother ? "
he asked, advancing slowly.
Meg lifted her eyebrows, but Jo scowled at her defi-
antly, and said, at once, " Of course you may. We
should have asked you before, only we thought you
wouldn't care for such a girl's game as this."
" I always like your games ; but if Meg don't want
me, I'll go away."
"I've no objection, if you do something; it's against
the rule to be idle here," replied Meg, gravely, but
Castles in the Air. 205
" Much obliged ; I'll do anything if you'll let me
stop a bit, for it's as dull as the desert of Sahara down
there. Shall I sew, read, cone, draw, or do all at
once ? Bring on your bears ; I'm ready," and Laurie
sat down with a submissive expression delightful to
" Finish this story while I set my heel," said Jo,
handing him the book.
" Yes'm," was the meek answer, as he began, doing
his best to prove his gratitude for the favor of an
admission into the " Busy Bee Society."
The story was not a long one, and, when it was
finished, he ventured to ask a few questions as a
reward of merit.
" Please, mum, could I inquire if this highly in-
structive and charming institution is a new one ? "
"Would you tell him?" asked Meg of her sisters.
" He'll laugh," said Amy, warningly.
"Who cares?" said Jo.
" I guess he'll like it," added Beth.
" Of course I shall ! I give you my word I won't
laugh. Tell away, Jo, and don't be afraid."
" The idea of being afraid of you ! Well, you see
we used to play 4 Pilgrim's Progress/ and we have
been going on with it in earnest, all winter and
" Yes, I know," said Laurie, nodding wisely.
" Who told you ? " demanded Jo.
" No, it was me ; I wanted to amuse him one night
when you were all away, and he was rather dismal.
He did like it, so don't scold, Jo," said Beth, meekly.
2 06 L it tie Wo m e n .
" You can't keep a secret. Never mind ; it saves
" Go on, please," said Laurie, as Jo became absorbed
in her work, looking a trifle displeased.
" Oh, didn't she tell you about this new plan of
ours ? Well, we have tried not to waste our holiday,
but each has had a task, and worked at it with a will.
The vacation is nearly over, the stints are all done,
and we are ever so glad that we didn't dawdle."
"Yes, I should think so;" and Laurie thought
regretfully of his own idle days.
" Mother likes to have us out of doors as much as
possible ; so we bring our work here, and have nice
times. For the fun of it we bring our things in these
bags, wear the old hats, use poles to climb the hill,
and play pilgrims, as we used to do years ago. We
call this hill the ' Delectable Mountain,' for we can
look far away and see the country where we hope to
live some time."
Jo pointed, and Laurie sat up to examine ; for
through an opening in the wood one could look across
the wide, blue river, the meadows on the other
side, far over the outskirts of the great city, to the
green hills that rose to meet the sky. The sun was
low, and the heavens glowed with the splendor of an
autumn sunset. Gold and purple clouds lay on the
hill-tops ; and rising high into the ruddy light were
silvery white peaks, that shone like the airy spires of
some Celestial City.
" How beautiful that is ! " said Laurie, softly, for he
was quick to see and feel beauty of any kind.
" If s often so ; and we like to watch it, for it is
Castles in the Air. 207
never the same, but always splendid," replied Amy,
wishing she could paint it.
"Jo talks about the country where we hope to live
some time ; the real country, she means, with pigs and
chickens, and haymaking. It would be nice, but I
wish the beautiful country up there was real, and we
could eve go to it," said Beth, musingly.
" There is a lovelier country even than that, where
we shall go, by and by, when we are good enough,"
answered Meg, with her sweet voice.
" It seems so long to wait, so hard to do ; I want to
fly away at once, as those swallows fly, and go in at
that splendid gate."
"You'll get there, Beth, sooner or later ; no fear of
that," said Jo ; "I'm the one that will have to fight and
work, and climb and wait, and maybe never get in
" You'll have me for company, if that's any com-
fort. I shall have to do a deal of travelling before I
come in sight of your Celestial City. If I arrive late,
you'll say a good word for me, won't you, Beth ? "
Something in the boy's face troubled his little friend ;
but she said cheerfully, with her quiet eyes on the
changing clouds, " If people really want to go, and
really try all their lives, I think they will get in ;
for I don't believe there are any locks on that door, or
any guards at the gate. I always imagine it is as it is
in the picture, where the shining ones stretch out their
hands to welcome poor Christian as he conies up from
" Wouldn't it be fun if all the castles in the air
208 Little Women.
which we make could come true, and we could live
in them?" said Jo, after a little pause.
" I've made such quantities it would be hard to
choose which I'd have," said Laurie, lying flat, and
throwing cones at the squirrel who had betrayed
" You'd have to take your favorite one. What is
it?" asked Meg.
" If I tell mine, will you tell yours? "
" Yes, if the girls will too."
" We will. Now, Laurie ! "
" After I'd seen as much of the world as I want to,
I'd like to settle in Germany, and have just as much
music as I choose. I'm to be a famous musician
myself, and all creation is to rush to hear me ; and
I'm never to be bothered about money or business, but
just enjoy myself, and live for what I like. That's
my favorite castle. What's yours, Meg?"
Margaret seemed to find it a little hard to tell hers,
and moved a brake before her face, as if to disperse
imaginary gnats, while she said, slowly, " I should
like a lovely house, full of all sorts of luxurious things ;
nice food, pretty clothes, handsome furniture, pleasant
people, and heaps of money. I am to be mistress of
it, and manage it as I like, with plenty of servants, so
I never need work a bit. How I should enjoy it ! for
I wouldn't be idle, but do good, and make every one
love me dearly."
" Wouldn't you have a master for your castle in the
air ? " asked Laurie, slyly.
" I said ' pleasant people,' you know ; " and Meg
Castles in the Air. 209
carefully tied up her shoe as she spoke, so that no one
saw her face.
" Why don't you say you'd have a splendid, wise,
good husband, and some angelic little children? you
know your castle wouldn't be perfect without," said
blunt Jo, who had no tender fancies yet, and rather
scorned romance, except in books.
"You'd have nothing but horses, inkstands, and
novels in yours," answered Meg, petulantly.
"Wouldn't I, though! I'd have a stable full of
Arabian steeds, rooms piled with books, and I'd write
out of a magic inkstand, so that my works should be
as famous as Laurie's music. I want to do some-
thing splendid before I go into my castle, something
heroic, or wonderful, that won't be forgotten after
I'm dead. I don't know what, but I'm on the watch
for it, and mean to astonish you all, some day. I
think I shall write books, and get rich and famous ;
that would suit me, so that is my favorite dream."
"Mine is to stay at home safe with father and
mother, and help take care of the family," said Beth,
" Don't you wish for anything else ? " asked Laurie.
" Since I had my little piano I am perfectly satisfied.
I only wish we may all keep well, and be together ;
" I have lots of wishes ; but the pet one is to be an
artist, and go to Rome, and do fine pictures, and be
the best artist in the whole world," was Amy's modest
"We're an ambitious set, aren't we? Every one
of us* but Beth, wants to be rich and famous, and
2io Little Women.
gorgeous in every respect. I do wonder if any of us
will ever get our wishes," said Laurie, chewing grass,
like a meditative calf.
" I've got the key to my castle in the air ; but
whether I can unlock the door, remains to be seen,"
observed Jo, mysteriously.
'I've got the key to mine, but I'm not allowed to
try it. Hang college ! " muttered Laurie, with an
" Here's mine ! " and Amy waved her pencil.
"I haven't got any," said Meg, forlornly.
" Yes you have," said Laurie, at once.
" In your face."
" Nonsense ; that's of no use."
"Wait and see if it doesn't bring you something
worth having," replied the boy, laughing at the
thought of a charming little secret which he fancied
Meg colored behind the brake, but asked no ques-
tions, and looked across the river with the same
expectant expression which Mr. Brooke had worn
when he told the story of the knight.
" If we are all alive ten years hence, let's meet, and
see how many of us have got our wishes, or how
much nearer we are them than now," said Jo, always
ready with a plan.
" Bless me ! how old I shall be, twenty-seven!"
exclaimed Meg, who felt grown up already, having
just reached seventeen.
"You and I shall be twenty-six, Teddy; Beth
Castles in the Air. 211
twenty-four, and Amy twenty-two ; what a venerable
party ! " said Jo.
" I hope I shall have done something to be proud
of by that time ; but I'm such a lazy dog, Fin afraid I
shall ' dawdle,' Jo."
" You need a motive, mother says ; and when you
get it, she is sure you'll work splendidly."
"Is she? By Jupiter I will, if I only get the
chance ! " cried Laurie, sitting up with sudden energy.
"I ought to be satisfied to please grandfather, and I
do try, but it's working against the grain, you see, and
comes hard. He wants me to be an India merchant,
as he was, and I'd rather be shot ; I hate tea, and silk,
and spices, and every sort of rubbish his old ships
bring, and I don't care how soon they go to the
bottom when I own them. Going to college ought to
satisfy him, for if I give him four years he ought to
let me off from the business ; but he's set, and I've got
to do just as he did, unless I break away and please
myself, as my father did. If there was any one left to
stay with the old gentleman, I'd do it to-morrow."
Laurie spoke excitedly, and looked ready to carry
his threat into execution on the slightest provocation ;
for he was growing up very fast, and, in spite of his
indolent ways, had a young man's hatred of subjec-
tion, a young man's restless longing to try the world
" I advise you to sail away in one of your ships, and
never come home again till you have tried your own
way," said Jo, whose imagination was fired by the
thought of such a daring exploit, and whose sympathy
was excited by what she called " Teddy's wrongs."
212 Little Women.
" That's not right, Jo ; you mustn't talk in that way,
and Laurie mustn't take your bad advice. You should
do just what your grandfather wishes, my dear boy,"
said Meg, in her most maternal tone. " Do your best
at college, and, when he sees that you try to please
him, I'm sure he won't be hard or unjust to you. As
you say, there is no one else to stay with and love him,
and you'd never forgive yourself if you left him with-
out his permission. Don't be dismal, or fret, but do
your duty ; and you'll get your reward, as good Mr.
Brooke has, by being respected and loved."
" What do you know about him ? " asked Laurie,
grateful for the good advice, but objecting to the
lecture, and glad to turn the conversation from him-
self, after his unusual outbreak.
" Only what your grandpa told mother about him ;
how he took good care of his own mother till she
died, and wouldn't go abroad as tutor to some nice
person, because he wouldn't leave her ; and how he
provides now for an old woman who nursed his
mother ; and never tells any one, but is just as gen-
erous, and patient, and good as he can be."
" So he is, dear old fellow ! " said Laurie, heartily,
as Meg paused, looking flushed and earnest, with her
story. " If s like grandpa to find out all about him,
without letting him know, and to tell all his good-
ness to others, so that they might like him. Brooke
couldn't understand why your mother was so kind
to him, asking him over with me, and treating him
in her beautiful, friendly way. He thought she was
just perfect, and talked about it for days and days,
Castles in the Air. 213
and went on about you all, in flaming style. If ever
I do get my wish, you see what I'll do for Brooke."
" Begin to do something now, by not plaguing his
life out," said Meg, sharply.
" How do you know I do, miss?"
" I can always tell by his face, when he goes away.
If you have been good, he looks satisfied, and walks
briskly ; if you have plagued him, he's sober, and
walks slowly, as if he wanted to go back and do his
" Well, I like that ! So you keep an account of
my good and bad marks in Brooke's face, do you ? I
see him bow and smile as he passes your window,
but I didn't know you'd got up a telegraph."
" We haven't ; don't be angry, and oh, don't tell him
I said anything ! It was only to show that I cared
how you get on, and what is said here is said in
confidence, you know," cried Meg, much alarmed at
the thought of what might follow from her careless
" /don't tell tales," replied Laurie, with his " high
and mighty" air, as Jo* called a certain expression
which he occasionally wore. "Only if Brooke is
going to be a thermometer, I must mind and have fair
weather for him to report."
" Please don't be offended ; I didn't mean to preach
or tell tales, or be silly ; I only thought Jo was en-
couraging you in a feeling which you'd be sorry for,
by and by. You are so kind to us, we feel as if you
were our brother, and say just what we think ; forgive
me, I meant it kindly ! " and Meg offered her hand with
a gesture both affectionate and timid.
214 Little Women.
Ashamed of his momentary pitjue, Laurie squeezed
the kind little hand, and said, frankly, " I'm the one to
be forgiven ; I'm cross, and have been out of sorts all
day. I like to have you tell me my faults, and be
sisterly ; so don't mind if I am grumpy sometimes ; I
thank you all the same."
Bent on showing that he was not offended, he made
himself as agreeable as possible ; wound cotton for
Meg, recited poetry to please Jo, shook down cones
for Beth, and helped Amy with her ferns, proving
himself a fit person to belong to the " Busy Bee Soci-
ety." In the midst of an animated discussion on the
domestic habits of turtles (one of which amiable crea-
tures having strolled up from the river), the faint
sound of a bell warned them that Hannah had put
the tea " to draw," and they would just have time to
get home to supper.
" May I come again?" asked Laurie.
" Yes, if you are good, and love your book, as the
boys in the primer are told to do," said Meg, smiling.
" I'll try."
" Then you may come, and I'll teach you to knit as
the Scotchmen do ; there's a demand for socks just
now," added Jo, waving hers, like a big blue worsted
banner, as they parted" at the gate.
That night, when Beth played to Mr. Laurence in
the twilight, Laurie, standing in the shadow of the
curtain, listened to the little David, whose simple
music always quieted his moody spirit, and watched
the old man, who sat with his gray head on his hand,
thinking tender thoughts of the dead child he had
loved so much. Remembering the conversation of
Castles in the Air. 215
the afternoon, the boy said to himself, with the resolve
to make the sacrifice cheerfully, "I'll let my castle
go, and stay with the dear old gentleman while he
needs me, for I am all he has."
JO was very busy up in the garret, for the October
days began to grow chilly, and the afternoons
were short. For two or three hours the sun lay
warmly in at the high window, showing Jo seated on
the old sofa writing busily, with her papers spread out
upon a trunk before her, while Scrabble, the pet rat,
promenaded the beams overhead, accompanied by his
oldest son, a fine young fellow, who was evidently very
proud of his whiskers. Quite absorbed in her work,
Jo scribbled away till the last page was filled, when
she signed her name with a flourish, and threw down
her pen, exclaiming,
"There, I've done my best! If this don't suit I
shall have to wait till I can do better."
Lying back on the sofa, she read the manuscript
carefully through, making dashes here and there, and
putting in many exclamation points, which looked like
little balloons ; then she tied it up with a smart red
ribbon, and sat a minute looking at it with a sober, wist-
ful expression, which plainly showed how earnest her
work had been. Jo's desk up here was an old tin
kitchen, which hung against the wall. In it she kept
her papers, and a few books, safely shut away from
Scrabble, who, being likewise of a literary turn, was
fond of making a circulating library of such books as
were left in his way, by eating the leaves. From this
tin receptacle Jo produced another manuscript ; and,
putting both in her pocket, crept quietly down stairs,
leaving her friends to nibble her pens and taste her ink.
She put on her hat and jacket as noiselessly as pos-
sible, and, going to the back entry window, got out
upon the roof of a low porch, swung herself down to
the grassy bank, and took a roundabout way to the
road. Once there she composed herself, hailed a
passing omnibus, and rollefl away to town, looking
very merry and mysterious.
If any one had been watching her, he would have
thought her movements decidedly peculiar ; for, on
alighting, she went off at a great pace till she reached
a certain number in a certain busy street ; having
found the place with some difficulty, she went into
the door-way, looked up the dirty stairs, and, after
standing stock still a minute, suddenly dived into the
street, and walked away as rapidly as she came. This
manoeuvre she repeated several times, to the great
amusement of a black-eyed young gentleman lounging
in the window of a building opposite. On returning
for the third time, Jo gave herself a shake, pulled her
hat over her eyes, and walked up the stairs, looking as
if she was going to have all her teeth out.
There was a dentist's sign, among others, which
adorned the entrance, and, after staring a moment at
the pair of artificial jaws which slowly opened and
2 1 8 Little Women.
shut to draw attention to a fine set of teeth, the young
gentleman put on his coat, took his hat, and went down
to post himself in the opposite door-way, saying, with a
smile and a shiver,
" It's like her to come alone, but if she has a bad
time she'll need some one to help her home."
In ten minutes Jo came running down stairs with a
very red face, and the general appearance of a person
who had just passed through a trying ordeal of some
sort. When she saw the young gentleman she looked
anything but pleased, and passed him with a nod ;
but he followed, asking with an air of sympathy,
" Did you have a bad time? "
" Not very."
" You got through quick."
" Yes, thank goodness ! "
" Why did you go alone ? "
"Didn't want any one to know."
"You're the oddest fellow I ever saw. How many
did you have out ? "
Jo looked at her friend as if she did not understand
him ; then began to laugh, as if mightily amused at
" There are two which I want to have come out,
but I must wait a week."
"What are you laughing at? You are up to some
mischief, Jo," said Laurie, looking mystified.
" So are you. What were you doing, sir, up in that
"Begging your pardon, ma'am, it wasn't a billiard
saloon, but a gymnasium, and I was taking a lesson in
" I'm glad of that ! "
" You can teach me ; and then, when we play Hamlet,
you can be Laertes, and we'll make a fine thing of the
Laurie burst out with a hearty boy's laugh, which
made several passers-by smile in spite of themselves.
" I'll teach you, whether we play Hamlet or not ; it's
grand fun, and will straighten you up capitally. But
I don't believe that was your only reason for saying
' I'm glad,' in that decided way ; was it, now ? "
u No, I was glad you were not in the saloon, be-
cause I hope you never go to such places. Do you ? "
" I wish you wouldn't."
" It's no harm, Jo, I have billiards at home, but it's
no fun unless you have good players ; so, as I'm fond of
it, I come sometimes and have a game with Ned Mof-
fat or some of the other fellows."
" Oh dear, I'm so sorry, for you'll get to liking it
better and better, and will waste time and money, and
grow like those dreadful boys. I did hope you'd stay
respectable, and be a satisfaction to your friends," said
Jo, shaking her head.
" Can't a fellow take a little innocent amusement
now and then without losing his respectability?"
asked Laurie, looking nettled.
" That depends upon how and where he takes it.
I don't like Ned and his set, and wish you'd keep out
of it. Mother won't let us have him at our house,
though he wants to come, and if you grow like him
220 Little Women.
she won't be willing to have us frolic together as we
"Won't she? " asked Laurie, anxiously.
"No, she can't bear fashionable young men, and
she'd shut us all up in bandboxes rather than have us
associate with them."
" Well, she needn't get out her bandboxes yet ; I'm
not a fashionable party, and don't mean to be ; but I do
like harmless larks now and then, don't you?"
" Yes, nobody minds them, so lark away, but don't
get wild, will you ? or there will be an end of all our
" I'll be a double distilled saint."
" I can't bear saints ; just be a simple, honest, re-
spectable boy, and we'll never desert you. I don't
know what I should do if you acted like Mr. King's
son ; he had plenty of money, but didn't know how to
spend it, and got tipsey, and gambled, and ran away,
and forged his father's name, I believe, and was alto-
"You think I'm likely to do the same? Much
"No I don't oh, dear, no! but I hear people
talking about money being such a temptation, and I
sometimes wish you were poor ; I shouldn't worry
" Do you worry about me, Jo? "
" A little, when you look moody or discontented, as
you sometimes do, for you've got such a strong will if
you once get started wrong, I'm afraid it would be
hard to stop you."
Laurie walked in silence a few minutes, and Jo
watched him, wishing she had held her tongue, for
his eyes looked angry, though his lips still smiled as
if at her warnings.
"Are you going to deliver lectures all the way
home?" he asked, presently.
" Of course not ; why ? "
" Because if you are, I'll take a 'bus ; if you are
not, I'd like to walk with you, and tell you something
44 1 won't preach any more, and I'd like to hear the
" Very well, then ; come on. It's a secret, and if I
tell you, you must tell me yours."
44 1 haven't got any," began Jo, but stopped sud-
denly, remembering that she had.
44 You know you have ; you can't hide anything, so
up and 'fess, or I won't tell," cried Laurie.
4< Is your secret a nice one?"
4 Oh, isn't it ! all about people you know, and such
fun ! You ought to hear it, and I've been aching to
tell this long time. Come ! you begin."
44 You'll not say anything about it at home, will
you ? "
44 Not a word."
44 And you won't tease me in private?"
u I never tease."
44 Yes, you do ; you get everything you want out of
people. I don't know how you do it, but you are a
44 Thank you ; fire away ! "
44 Well, I've left two stories with a newspaper man,
222 Little Women.
and he's to give his answer next week," whispered Jo,
in her confidant's ear.
" Hurrah for Miss March, the celebrated American
authoress ! " cried Laurie, throwing up his hat and
catching it again, to the great delight of two ducks,
four cats, five hens, and half a dozen Irish children ;
for they were out of the city now.
" Hush ! it won't come to anything, I dare say ; but
I couldn't rest till I had tried, and I said nothing
about it, because I didn't want any one else to be
" It won't fail ! Why, Jo, your stories are works
of Shakespeare compared to half the rubbish that's
published every day. Won't it be fun to see them in
print ; and shan't we feel proud of our authoress ? "
Jo's eyes sparkled, for it's always pleasant to be
believed in ; and a friend's praise is always sweeter
than a dozen newspaper puffs.
" Where's your secret? Play fair, Teddy, or I'll
never believe you again," she said, trying to extin-
guish the brilliant hopes that blazed up at a word of
" I may get into a scrape for telling ; but I didn't
promise not to, so I will, for I never feel easy in my
mind till I've told you any plummy bit of news I get.
I know where Meg's glove is."
" Is that all?" said Jo, looking disappointed, as
Laurie nodded and twinkled, with a face full of mys-
" If s quite enough for the present, as you'll agree
when I tell you where it is."
" Tell, then."
Laurie bent and whispered three words in Jo's ear,
which produced a comical change. She stood and
stared at him for a minute, looking both surprised and
displeased, then walked on, saying sharply, " How do
you know ? "
" Saw it."
"All this time?"
" Yes ; isn't that romantic? "
" No, it's horrid."
" Don't you like it?"
" Of course I don't ; it's ridiculous ; it won't be
allowed. My patience ! what would Meg say ? "
" You are not to tell any one ; mind that."
'I didn't promise."
" That was understood, and I trusted you."
" Well, I won't for the present, any-way ; but I'm
disgusted, and wish you hadn't told me."
" I thought you'd be pleased."
" At the idea of anybody coming to take Meg
away? No, thank you."
"You'll feel better about it when somebody comes
to take you away."
" I'd like to see any one try it," cried Jo, fiercely.
" So should I ! " and Laurie chuckled at the idea.
" I don't think secrets agree with me ; I feel rumpled
up in my mind since you told me that," said Jo, rather
" Race down this hill with me, and you'll be all
right," suggested Laurie.
' No one was in sight ; the smooth road sloped in-
224 Little Women.
vitingly before her, and, finding the temptation irre-
sistible, Jo darted away, soon leaving hat and comb
behind her, and scattering hair-pins as she ran. Lau-
rie reached the goal first, and was quite satisfied with
the success of his treatment ; for his Atlanta came
panting up with flying hair, bright eyes, ruddy cheeks,
and no signs of dissatisfaction in her face.
" I wish I was a horse ; then I could run for miles
in this splendid air, and not lose my breath. It was
capital ; but see what a guy it's made me. Go, pick
up my things, like a cherub as you are," said Jo, drop-
ping down under a maple tree, which was carpeting
the bank with crimson leaves.
Laurie leisurely departed to recover the lost prop-
erty, and Jo bundled up her braids, hoping no one
would pass by till she was tidy again. But some one
did pass, and who should it be but Meg, looking par-
ticularly lady-like in her state and festival suit, for she
had been making calls.
"What in the world are you doing here?" she
asked, regarding her dishevelled sister with well-bred
" Getting leaves," meekly answered Jo, sorting the
rosy handful she had just swept up.
"And hair-pins," added Laurie, throwing half a
dozen into Jo's lap. " They grow on this road, Meg ;
so do combs and brown straw hats."
"You have been running, Jo; how could you?
When 'will you stop such romping ways?" said Meg,
reprovingly, as she settled her cuflfs and smoothed her
hair, with which the wind had taken liberties.
"Never till I'm stiff and old, and have to use a
crutch. Don't try to make me grow up before my
time, Meg ; it's hard enough to have you change all
of a sudden ; let me be a little girl as long as I can."
As she spoke, Jo bent over her work to hide the
trembling of her lips ; for lately she had felt that Mar-
garet was fast getting to be a woman, and Laurie's
secret made her dread the separation which must
surely come some time, and now seemed very near.
He saw the trouble in her face, and drew Meg's
attention from it by asking, quickly, "Where have
you been calling, all so fine ? "
"At the Gardiners; and Sallie has been telling me
all about Belle Moffat's wedding. It Was very splen-
did, and they have gone to spend the winter in Paris ;
just think how delightful that must be ! "
" Do you envy her, Meg?" said Laurie.
" I'm afraid I do."
" I'm glad of it ! " muttered Jo, tying on her hat
with a jerk.
"Why?" asked Meg, looking surprised.
" Because, if you care much about riches, you will
never go and marry a poor man," said Jo, frowning at
Laurie, who was mutely warning her to mind what
"I shall never l go and marry' any one," observed
Meg, walking on with great dignity, while the others
followed, laughing, whispering, skipping stones, and
" behaving like children," as Meg said to herself,
though she might have been tempted to join them if
she had not had.her best dress on.
For a week or two Jo behaved so queerly, that her
sisters got quite bewildered. She rushed to the door
226 Little Women.
when the postman rang ; was rude to Mr. Brooke
whenever they met ; would sit looking at Meg with a
woe-begone face, occasionally jumping up to shake,
and then to kiss her, in a very mysterious manner ;
Laurie and she were always making signs to one
another, and talking about " Spread Eagles," till the
girls declared they had both lost their wits. On the
second Saturday after Jo got out of the window, Meg,
as she sat sewing at her window, was scandalized by
the sight of Laurie chasing Jo all over the garden, and
finally capturing her in Amy's bower. What went
on there, Meg could not see, but shrieks of laughter
were heard, followed by the murmur of voices, and a
great flapping of newspapers.
"What shall we do with that girl? She never
will behave like a young lady," sighed Meg, as she
w r atched the race with a disapproving face.
" I hope she won't ; she is so funny and dear as she
is," said Beth, who had never betrayed that she was a
little hurt at Jo's having secrets with any one but her.
" It's very trying, but we never can make her comme
la fo" added Amy, who sat making some new frills
for herself, with her curls tied up in a very becoming
way, two agreeable things, which made her feel
unusually elegant and lady-like.
In a few minutes Jo bounced in, laid herself on the
sofa, and affected to read.
. "Have you anything interesting there?" asked
Meg, with condescension.
"Nothing but a story; don't amount to much, I
guess," returned Jo, carefully keeping the name of
the paper out of sight.
" You'd better read it loud ; that will amuse us, and
keep you out of mischief," said Amy, in her most
" What's the name ? " asked Beth, wondering why
Jo kept her face behind the sheet.
"The Rival Painters."
" That sounds well ; read it," said Meg.
With a loud " hem ! " and a long breath, Jo began
to read very fast. The girls listened with interest, for
the tale was romantic, and somewhat pathetic, as most
of the characters died in the end.
" I like that about the splendid picture," was Amy's
approving remark, as Jo paused.
" I prefer the lovering part. Viola and Angelo are
two of our favorite names ; isn't that queer ? " said
Meg, wiping her eyes, for the "lovering part" was
"Who wrote it?" asked Beth, who had caught a
glimpse of Jo's face.
The reader suddenly sat up, cast away the paper,
displaying a flushed countenance, and, with a funny
mixture of solemnity and excitement, replied in a loud
voice, " Your sister ! "
" You ? " cried Meg, dropping her work.
" It's very good," said Amy, critically.
" I knew it ! I knew it ! oh, my Jo, I am so proud ! "
and Beth ran to hug her sister and exult over this
Dear me, how delighted they all were, to be sure ;
how Meg wouldn't believe it till she saw the words,
"Miss Josephine March," actually printed in the
paper ; how graciously Amy criticised the artistic
228 Little Women.
parts of the story, and offered hints for a sequel, which
unfortunately couldn't be carried out, as the hero and
heroine were dead ; how Beth got excited, and skipped
and sung with joy ; how Hannah came in to exclaim,
" Sakes alive, well I never ! " in great astonishment at
" that Jo's doins ; " how proud Mrs. March was when
she knew it ; how Jo laughed, with tears in her eyes,
as she declared she might as well be a peacock and
done with it ; and how the " Spread Eagle" might be
said to flap his wings triumphantly over the house of
March, as the paper passed from hand to hand.
" Tell us about it." " When did it come ? " " How
much did you get for it? " " What ixj ill father say ? "
"Won't Laurie laugh?" cried the family, all in one
breath, as they clustered about Jo ; for these foolish,
affectionate people made -a jubilee of every little house-
" Stop jabbering, girls, and I'll tell you everything,"
said Jo, wondering if Miss Burney felt any grander
over her "Evelina" than she did over her "Rival
Painters." Having told how she disposed of her
tales, Jo added, "And when I went to get my
answer the man said he liked them both, but didn't
pay beginners, only let them print in his paper, and
noticed the stories. It was good practice, he said ;
and, when the beginners improved, any one would pay.
So I let him have the two stories, and today this was
sent to me, and Laurie caught me with it, and insisted
on seeing it, so I let him ; and he said it was good, and
I shall write more, and he's going to get the next paid
for, and oh I am so happy, for in time I may be
able to support myself and help the girls."
Jo's breath gave out here ; and, wrapping her head
in the paper, she bedewed her little story with a few
natural tears ; for to be independent, and earn the praise
of those she loved, were the dearest wishes of her heart,
and this^ seemed to be the first step toward that
' t A TELEGRAM.
NOVEMBER is the most disagreeable month in
the whole year," said Margaret, standing at
the window one dull afternoon, looking out at
the frost-bitten garden.
" That's the reason I was born in it," observed Jo,
pensively, quite unconscious of the blot on her nose.
" If something very pleasant should happen now,
we should think it a delightful month," said Beth, who
took a hopeful view of everything, even November.
" I dare say ; but nothing pleasant ever does happen
in this family," said Meg, who was out of sorts. " We
go grubbing along day after day, without a bit of
change, and very little fun. We might as well be in a
" My patience, how blue we are ! " cried Jo. " I
don't much wonder, poor dear, for you see other girls
having splendid times, while you grind, grind, year in
and year out. Oh, don't I wish I could fix things for
you as I do for my heroines ! you're pretty enough
and good enough already, so I'd have some rich re-
lation leave you a fortune unexpectedly ; then you'd
A Telegram. 231
dash out as an heiress, scorn every one who has
slighted you, go abroad, and come home my Lady
Something, in a blaze of splendor and elegance."
" People don't have fortunes left them in that style
now-a-days ; men have to work, and women to marry
for money. It's a dreadfully unjust world," said Meg,
u Jo and I are going to make fortunes for you all ;
just wait ten years, and see if we don't," said Amy,
who sat in a corner making " mud pies," as Hannah
called her little clay models of birds, fruit and faces.
" Can't wait, and I'm afraid I haven't much faith in
ink and dirt, though I'm grateful for your good in-
Meg sighed, and turned to the frost-bitten garden
again ; Jo groaned, and leaned both elbows on the
table in a despondent attitude, but Amy spatted away
energetically ; and Beth, who sat at the other window,
said, smiling, " Two pleasant things are going to hap-
pen right away ; Marmee is coming down the street,
and Laurie is tramping through the garden as if he
had something nice to tell."
In they both came, Mrs. March with her usual
question, "Any letter from father, girls?" and Laurie
to say, in his persuasive way, " Won't some of you
come for a drive ? I've been pegging away at mathe-
matics till my head is in a muddle, and I'm going to
freshen my wits by a brisk turn. It's a dull day, but
the air isn't bad, and I'm going to take Brooke home,
so it will be gay inside, if it isn't out. Come, Jo, you
and Beth will go, won't you ? "
" Of course we will."
232 Little Women.
" Much obliged, but I'm busy ; " and Meg whisked
out her work-basket, for she had agreed with her
mother that it was best, for her at least, not to drive
often with the young gentleman.
" We three will be ready in a minute," cried Amy,
running away to wash her hands.
"Can I do anything for you, Madam Mother?"
asked Laurie, leaning over Mrs. March's chair, with
the affectionate look and tone he always gave her.
" No, thank you, except call at the office, if you'll be
so kind, dear. It's our day for a letter, and the penny
postman hasn't been. Father is as regular as the sun,
but there's some delay on the way, perhaps."
A sharp ring interrupted her, and a minute after
Hannah came in with a letter.
" It's one of them horrid telegraph things, mum,"
she said, handing it as if she was afraid it would ex-
plode, and do some damage.
At the word " telegraph," Mrs. March snatched it,
read the two lines it contained, and dropped back into
her chair as white as if the little paper had sent a
bullet to her heart. Laurie dashed down stairs for
water, while Meg and Hannah supported her, and Jo
read aloud, in a frightened voice,
U MRS. MARCH:
" Your husband is very ill. Come at once.
" Blank Hospital, Washington."
How still the room was as they listened breath-
lessly ! how strangely the day darkened outside ! and
A Telegram. 233
how suddenly the whole world seemed to change, as
the girls gathered about their mother, feeling as if
all the happiness and support of their lives was about
to be taken from them. Mrs. March was herself
again directly ; read the message over, and stretched
out her arms to her daughters, saying, in a tone they
never forgot, u I shall go at once, but it may be too
late ; oh, children, children ! help me to bear it ! "
For several minutes there was nothing but the sound
of sobbing in the room, mingled with broken words
of comfort, tender assurances of help, and hopeful
whispers, that died away in tears. Poor Hannah was
the first to recover, and with unconscious wisdom she
set all the rest a good example ; for, with her, work
was the panacea for most afflictions.
" The Lord keep the dear man ! I won't waste no
time a cry in', but git your things ready right away,
mum," she said, heartily, as she wiped her face on her
apron, gave her mistress a warm shake of the hand
with her own hard one ? and went away to work, like
three women in one.
" She's right ; there's no time for tears now. Be
calm, girls, and let me think."
They tried to be calm, poor things, as their mother
sat ilp, looking pale, but steady, and put away her
grief to think and plan for them.
" Where's Laurie ?" she asked presently, when she
had collected her thoughts, and decided on the first
duties to be done.
" Here, ma'am ; oh, let me do something ! " cried the
boy, hurrying from the next room, whither he had
234 Little Women.
withdrawn, feeling that their first sorrow was too
sacred for even his friendly eyes to see..
" Send a telegram saying I will come at once. The
next train goes early in the morning ; I'll take that."
" What else ? The horses are ready ; I can go any-
where, do anything," he said, looking ready to fly
to ends of the earth.
" Leave a note at Aunt March's. Jo, give me that
pen and paper."
Tearing off the blank side of one of her newly-
copied pages, Jo drew the table before her mother,
well knowing that money for the long, sad journey,
must be borrowed, and feeling as if she could do any-
thing to add a little to the sum for her father.
" Now go, dear ; but don't kill yourself driving at a
desperate pace ; there is no need of that."
Mrs. March's warning was evidently thrown away ;
for five minutes later Laurie tore by the window, on
his own fleet horse, riding as if for his life.
"Jo, run to the rooms, and tell Mrs. King that I
can't come. On the way get these things. I'll put
them down ; they'll be needed, and I must go prepared
for nursing. Hospital stores are not always good.
Beth, go and ask Mr. Laurence for a couple of bottles
of old wine ; I'm not too proud to beg for father ; he
shall have the best of everything. Amy, tell Hannah
to get down the black trunk ; and Meg, come and held
me find my things, for I'm half bewildered."
Writing, thinking, and directing all at once, might
well bewilder the poor lady, and Meg begged her
to sit quietly in her room for a little while, and let
them work. Every one scattered, like leaves before a
A Telegram. 235
gust of wind ; and the quiet, happy household was
broken up as suddenly as if the paper had been an
Mr. Laurence came hurrying back with Beth, bring-
ing every comfort the kind old gentleman could think
of for the invalid, and friendliest promises of protec-
tion for the girls, during the mother's absence, which
comforted her very much. There was nothing he
didn't offer, from his own dressing-gown to himself as
escort. But that last was impossible. Mrs. March
would not hear of the old gentleman's undertaking the
long journey ; yet an expression of relief was visible
when he spoke of it, for anxiety ill fits one for travel-
ling. He saw the look, knit his heavy eyebrows,
rubbed his hands, and marched abruptly away, saying
he'd be back directly. No one had time to think of
him again till, as Meg ran through the entry, with a
pair of rubbers in one hand and a cup of tea in the
other, she came suddenly upon Mr. Brooke.
" I'm very sorry to hear of this, Miss March," he
said, in the kind, quiet tone which sounded very
pleasantly to her perturbed spirit. " I came to offer
myself as escort to your mother. Mr. Laurence has
commissions for me in Washington, and it will give
me real satisfaction to be of service to her there."
Down dropped the rubbers, and the tea was very
near following, as Meg put out her hand, with a face
so full of gratitude, that Mr. Brooke would have felt
repaid for a much greater sacrifice than the trifling
one of time and comfort, which he was about to make.
" How kind you all are ! Mother will accept, I'm
sure"; and it will be such a relief to know that she has
236 Little Women.
some one to take care of her. Thank you very, very
much ! "
Meg spoke earnestly, and forgot herself entirely till
something in the brown eyes looking down at her
made her remember the cooling tea, and lead the way
into the parlor, saying she would call her mother.
Everything was arranged by the time Laurie re-
turned with a note from Aunt March, enclosing the
desired sum, and a few lines repeating what she had
often said before, that she had always told them it
was absurd for March to go into the army, always
predicted that no good would come of it, and she
hoped they would take her advice next time. Mrs.
March put the note in the fire, the money in her
purse, and went on with her preparations, with her
lips folded tightly, in a way which Jo would have
understood if she had been there.
The short afternoon wore away ; all the other
errands were done, and Meg and her mother busy at
some necessary needle-work, while Beth and Amy got
tea, and Hannah finished her ironing with what she
called a " slap and a bang," but still Jo did not come.
They began to get anxious ; and Laurie went off to
find her, for no one ever knew what freak Jo might
take into her head. " He missed her, however, and she
came walking in with a very queer expression of
countenance, for there was a mixture of fun and fear,
satisfaction and regret in it, which puzzled the family
as much as did the roll of bills she laid before her
mother, saying, with a little choke in her voice,
" That's my contribution towards making father com-
fortable, and bringing him home ! "
A. Telegram. 237
"My dear, where did you get it! Twenty-five
dollars ! Jo, I hope you haven't done anything rash?"
" No, it's mine honestly ; I didn't beg, borrow, nor
steal it. I earned it ; and I don't think you'll blame
me, for I only sold what was my own."
As she spoke, Jo took off her bonnet, and a general
outcry arose, for all her abundant hair was cut short.
" Your hair ! Your beautiful hair ! " " Oh, Jo, how
could you? Your one beauty." u My dear girl, there
was no need of this." " She don't look like my Jo
any more, but I love her dearly for it ! "
As every one exclaimed, and Beth hugged the
cropped head tenderly, Jo assumed an indifferent air,
which did not deceive any one a particle, and said,
rumpling up the brown bush, and trying to look as
if she liked it, "It doesn't affect the fate of the nation,
so don't w r ail, Beth. It will be good for my vanity ; I
was getting too proud of my wig. It will do my
brains good to have that mop taken off; my head feels
deliciously light and cool, and the barber said I could
soon have a curly crop, which will be boyish, becom-
ing, and easy to keep in order. I'm satisfied ; so
please take the money, and let's have supper."
" Tell me all about it, Jo ; I am not quite satisfied,
but I can't blame you, for I know how willingly you
sacrificed your vanity, as you call it, to your love.
But, my dear, it was not necessary, and I'm afraid
you will regret it, one of these days," said Mrs. March.
" No I won't ! " returned Jo, stoutly, feeling much
relieved that her prank was not entirely condemned.
"What made you do it?" asked Amy, who would
238 Little Women.
as soon have thought of cutting oft' her head as her
" Well, I was wild to do something for father,"
replied Jo, as they gathered about the table, for healthy
young people can eat even in the midst of trouble.
" I hate to borrow as much as mother does, and I
knew Aunt March would croak ; she always does, if
you ask for a riinepence. Meg gave all her quarterly
salary toward the rent, and I only got some clothes
with mine, so I felt wicked, and was bound to have
some money, if I sold the nose off my face to get it."
" You needn't feel wicked, my child, you had no
winter things, and got the simplest, with your own
hard earnings," said Mrs. March, with a look that
warmed Jo's heart.
" I hadn't the least idea of selling my hair at first,
but as I went along I kept thinking what I could do,
and feeling as if I'd like to dive into some of the rich
stores and help myself. In a barber's window I saw
tails of hair with the prices marked ; and one black
tail, longer, but not so thick as mine, was forty dollars.
It came over me all of a sudden that I had one thing
to make money out of, and, without stopping to think,
I walked in, asked if they bought hair, and what they
would give for mine."
44 1 don't see how you dared to do it," said Beth, in a
tone of awe.
44 Oh, he was a little man who looked as if he merely
lived to oil his hair. He rather stared, at first, as if he
wasn't used to having girls bounce into his shop and
ask him to buy their hair. He said he didn't care-
about mine, it wasn't the fashionable color, and he
A Telegram. 239
never paid much for it in the first place ; the work put
into it made it dear, and so on. It was getting late,
and I was afraid, if it wasn't done right away, that I
shouldn't have it done at all, and you know, when I
start to do a thing, I hate to give it up ; so I begged
him to take it, and told him why I was in such a hurry.
It was silly, I dare say, but it changed his mind, for I
got rather excited, and told the story in my topsy-
turvy way, and his wife heard, and said so kindly,"
" ' Take it, Thomas, and oblige the young lady ; I'd
do as much for our Jimmy any day if I had a spire
of hair worth selling.' "
"Who was Jimmy?" asked Amy, who liked to
have things explained as they, went along.
" Her son, she said, who is in the army. How
friendly such things make strangers feel, don't they?
She talked away all the time the man clipped, and
diverted my mind nicely."
" Didn't you feel dreadfully when the first cut
came ? " asked Meg, with a shiver.
" I took a last look at my hair while the man got
his things, and that was the end of it. I never snivel
over trifles like that ; I will confess, though, I felt queer
when I saw the dear old hair laid out on the table, and
felt only the short, rough ends on my head. It almost
seemed as if I'd an arm or a leg off. The woman saw
me look at it, and picked out a long lock for me to
keep. I'll give it to you, Marmee, just to remember
past glories by ; for a crop is so comfortable I don't
think I shall ever have a mane again."
Mrs. March folded the wavy, chestnut lock, and laid
it away with a short gray one in her desk. She only
240 Little Women.
said " Thank you, deary," but something in her face
made the girls change the subject, and talk as cheerfully
as they could about Mr. Brooke's kindness, the prospect
of a fine day to-morrow, and the happy times they
would have when father came home to be nursed.
No one wanted to go to bed, when, at ten o'clock,
Mrs. March put by the last finished job, and said,
" Come, girls." Beth went to the piano and played
the father's favorite hymn ; all began bravely, but
broke down one by one till Beth was left alone, sing-
ing with all her heart, for to her music was always a
" Go to bed, and don't talk, for we must be up early,
and shall need all the sleep we can get. Good-night,
my darlings," said Mrs. March, as the hymn ended,
for no one cared to try another.
They kissed her quietly, and went to bed as silently
as if the dear invalid lay in the next room. Beth and
Amy soon fell asleep in spite of the great trouble, but
Meg lay awake thinking the most serious thoughts she
had ever known in her short life. Jo lay motionless,
and her sister fancied that she was asleep, till a stifled
sob made her exclaim, as she touched a wet cheek,
"Jo, dear, what is it? Are you crying about
" No, not now."
" My my hair," burst out poor Jo, trying vainly to
smother her emotion in the pillow.
It did not sound at all comical to Meg, who kissed
and caressed the afflicted heroine in the tenderest
A Telegram. 241
"I'm not sorry," protested Jo, with a choke. "I'd
do it again to-morrow, if I could. It's only the vain,
selfish part of me that goes and cries in this silly way.
Don't tell any one, it's all over now. I thought you
were asleep, so I just made a little private moan for
my one beauty. How came you to be awake?"
u I can't sleep, I'm so anxious," said Meg.
" Think about something pleasant, and you'll soon
" I tried it, but felt wider awake than ever."
" What did you think of? "
" Handsome faces ; eyes particularly," answered
Meg smilingly, to herself, in the dark.
" What color do you like best?"
" Brown that is sometimes blue are lovely."
Jo laughed, and Meg sharply ordered her not to
talk, then amiably promised to make her hair curl,
and fell asleep to dream of living in her castle in the
The clocks were striking midnight, and the rooms
were very still, as a figure glided quietly from bed to
bed, smoothing a coverlid here, setting a pillow there,
and pausing to look long and tenderly at each un-
conscious face, to kiss each with lips that mutely
blessed, and to pray the fervent prayers which only
mothers utter. As she lifted the curtain to look out
into the dreary night, the moon broke suddenly from
behind the clouds, and shone upon her like a bright
benignant face, which seemed to whisper in the silence,
" Be comforted, dear heart ! there is always light
behind the clouds."
IN the cold gray dawn the sisters lit their lamp, and
read their chapter with an earnestness never felt
before, for now the shadow of a real trouble had
come, showing them how rich in sunshine their lives
had been. The little books were full of help and
comfort ; and, as they dressed, they agreed to say good-
by cheerfully, hopefully, and send their mother on her
anxious journey unsaddened by tears or complaints
from them. Everything seemed very strange when
they went down ; so dim and still outside, so full of
light and bustle within. Breakfast at that early hour
seemed odd, and even Hannah's familiar face looked
unnatural as she flew about her kitchen with her night
cap on. The big trunk stood ready in the hall,
mother's cloak and bonnet lay on the sofa, and mother
herself sat trying to eat, but looking so pale and worn
with sleeplessness and anxiety, that the girls found it
very hard to keep their resolution. Meg's eyes kept
filling in spite of herself; Jo was obliged to hide her
face in the kitchen roller more than once, and the
Letters. . 243
little girls' young faces wore a grave, troubled ex-
pression, as if sorrow was a new experience to them.
Nobody talked much, but, as the time drew very
near, and they sat waiting for the carriage, Mrs.
March said to the girls, who were all busied about her,
one folding her shawl, another smoothing out the
strings of her bonnet, a third putting on her over-
shoes, and a fourth fastening up her travelling bag,
" Children, I leave you to Hannah's care, and Mr.
Laurence's protection ; Hannah is faithfulness itself,
and our good neighbor will guard you as if you were
his own. I have no fears for you, yet I am anxious
that you should take this trouble rightly. Don't grieve
and fret when I am gone, or think that you can com-
fort yourselves by being idle, and trying to forget. Go
on with your work as usual, for work is a blessed
solace. Hope, and keep busy ; and, whatever happens,
remember that you never can be fatherless."
u Meg dear, be prudent, watch over your sisters,
consult Hannah, and, in any perplexity, go to Mr.
Laurence. Be patient, Jo, don't get despondent, or
do rash things ; write to me often, and be my brave
girl, ready to help and cheer us all. Beth, comfort
yourself with your music, and be faithful to the little
home duties ; and you, Amy, help all you can, be
obedient, and keep happy safe at home."
" We will, mother ! we will ! "
The rattle of an approaching carriage made them
all start and listen. That was the hard minute, but
the girls stood it well ; no one cried, no one ran away,
or -uttered a lamentation, though their hearts were
244 Little Women.
very heavy as they sent loving messages to father,
remembering, as they spoke, that it might be too late
to deliver them. They kissed their mother quietly,
clung about her tenderly, and tried to wave their hands
cheerfully, when she drove away.
Laurie and his grandfather came over to see her off,
and Mr. Brooke looked so strong, and sensible, and
kind, that the girls christened him " Mr. Greatheart,"
on the spot.
u Good-by, my darlings ! God bless and keep us
all," whispered Mrs. March, as she kissed one dear
little face after the other, and hurried into the carriage.
As she rolled away, the sun came out, and, looking
back, she saw it shining on the group at the gate, like
a good omen. They saw it also, and smiled and
waved their hands ; and the last thing she beheld, as
she turned the corner, was the four bright faces, and
behind them, like a body-guard, old Mr. Laurence,
faithful Hannah, and devoted Laurie.
" How kind every one is to us," she said, turning to
find fresh proof of it in the respectful sympathy of the
young man's face.
" I don't see how they can help it," returned Mr.
Brooke, laughing so infectiously that Mrs. March could
not help smiling ; and so the long journey began with
the good omens of sunshine, smiles, and cheerful
" I feel as if there had been an earthquake," said
Jo, as their neighbors went home to breakfast, leaving
them to rest and refresh themselves.
" It seems as if half the house was gone," added
Beth opened her lips to say something, but could
only point to the pile of nicely-mended hose which
lay on mother's table, showing that even in her last
hurried moments she had thought and worked for
them. It was a little thing, but it went straight to
their hearts ; and, in spite of their brave resolutions,
they all broke down, and cried bitterly.
Hannah wisely allowed them to relieve their feel-
ings ; and, when the shower showed signs of clearing
up, she came to the rescue, armed with a coffee-pot.
" Now, my dear young ladies, remember what your
ma said, and don't fret ; come and have a cup of coffee
all round, and then let's fall to work, and be a credit
to the family."
Coffee was a treat, and Hannah showed great tact
in making it that morning. No one could resist her
persuasive nods, or the fragrant invitation issuing
from the nose of the coffee-pot. They drew up to the
table, exchanged their handkerchiefs for napkins, and,
in ten minutes, were all right again.
" ' Hope and keep busy ; ' that's the motto for us,
so let's see who will remember it best. I shall go to
Aunt March, as usual ; oh, won't she lecture, though ! "
said Jo, as she sipped, with returning spirit.
" I shall go to my Kings, though I'd much rather
stay at home and attend to things here," said Meg,
wishing she hadn't made her eyes so red.
" No need of that ; Beth and I can keep house per-
fectly well," put in Amy, with an important air.
" Hannah will tell us what to do ; and we'll have
everything nice when you come home," added Beth,
getting out her mop and dish-tub without delay.
246 Little Women.
" I think anxiety is very interesting," observed Amy,
eating sugar, pensively.
The girls couldn't help laughing, and felt better for
it, though Meg shook her head at the young lady who
could find consolation in a sugar-bowl.
The sight of the turn-overs made Jo sober again ;
and, when the two went out to their daily tasks,
they looked sorrowfully back at the window where
they were accustomed to see their mother's face. It
was gone ; but Beth had remembered the little house-
hold ceremony, and there she was, nodding away at
them like a rosy-faced mandarin.
" That's so like my Beth ! " said Jo, waving her hat,
with a grateful face. " Good-by, Meggy ; I hope the
Kings won't train to-day. Don't fret about father,
dear," she added, as they parted.
"And I hope Aunt March won't croak. Your
hair is becoming, and it looks very boyish and nice,"
returned Meg, trying not to smile at the curly head,
which looked comically small on her tall sister's
" That's my only comfort ; " and, touching her hat
a la Laurie, away went Jo, feeling like a shorn sheep
on a wintry day.
News from their father comforted the girls very
much ; for, though dangerously ill, the presence of the
best and tenderest of nurses had already done him
good. Mr. Brooke sent a bulletin every day, and, as
the head of the family, Meg insisted on reading the
despatches, which grew more and more cheering as
the week passed. At first, every one was eager to
write, and plump envelopes were carefully poked into
the letter-box, by one or other of the sisters, who felt
rather important with their Washington correspond-
ence. As one of these packets contained characteristic
notes from the party, we will rob an imaginary mail,
and read them :
" MY DEAREST MOTHER,
"It is impossible to tell you how happy your
last letter made us, for the news was so good we
couldn't help laughing and crying over it. How very
kind Mr. Brooke is, and how fortunate that Mr. Lau-
rence's business detains him near you so long, since he
is so useful to you and father. The girls are all as
good as gold. Jo helps me with the sewing, and
insists on doing all sorts of hard jobs. I should be
afraid she might overdo, if I didn't know that her
'moral fit' wouldn't last long. Beth is as regular
about her tasks as a clock, and never forgets what you
told her. She grieves about father, and looks sober,
except when she is at her little piano. Amy minds
me nicely, and I take great care of her. She does her
own hair, and I am teaching her to make button-holes,
and mend her stockings. She tries very hard, and I
know you will be pleased with her improvement when
you come. Mr. Laurence watches over us like a
motherly old hen, as Jo says ; and Laurie is very kind
and neighborly. He and Jo keep us merry, for we
get pretty blue sometimes, and feel like orphans, with
you so far away. Hannah is a perfect saint ; she does
not scold at all, and always calls me ' Miss Margaret,'
which is quite proper, you know, and treats me with
respect. We are all well and busy ; but we long, day
248 Little Women.
and night, to have you back. Give my dearest love
to father, and believe me, ever your own MEG."
This note, prettily written on scented paper, was
a great contrast to the next, which was scribbled on a
big sheet of thin, foreign paper, ornamented with
blots, and all manner of flourishes and curly-tailed
"Mr PRECIOUS MARMEE,
" Three cheers for dear old father ! Brooke was
a trump to telegraph right off, and let us know the
minute he was better. I rushed up garret when the
letter came, and tried to thank God for being so good
to us ; but I could only cry. and say, ' I'm glad ! I'm
glad ! ' Didn't that do as well as a regular prayer ?
for I felt a great many in my heart. We have such
funny times ; and now I can enjoy 'em, for every one
is so desperately good, it's like living in a nest of
turtle-doves. You'd laugh to see Meg head the table,
and try to be motherish. She gets prettier every day,
and I'm in love with her sometimes. The children
are regular archangels, and I well, I'm Jo, and
never shall be anything else. Oh, I must tell you that
I came near having a quarrel with Laurie. I freed my
mind about a silly little thing, and he was offended.
I was right, but didn't speak as I ought, and he
marched home, saying he wouldn't come again till I
begged pardon. I declared I wouldn't, and got mad.
It lasted all day ; I felt bad, and wanted you very
much. Laurie and I are both so proud, it's hard to
beg pardon ; but I thought he'd come to it, for I was
in the right. He didn't came ; and just at night I
remembered what you said when Amy fell into the
river. I read my little book, felt better, resolved not
to let the sun set on my anger, and ran over to tell
Laurie I was sorry. I met him at the gate, coining
for the same thing. We both laughed, begged each
others pardon, and felt all good and comfortable again.
"I made a i pome' yesterday, when I was helping
Hannah wash ; and, as father likes my silly little
things, I put it in to amuse him. Give him the lov-
ingest hug that ever was, and kiss yourself a dozen
times, for your
" TOPSY-TURVY Jo.
" A SONG FROM THE SUDS.
" Queen of my tub, I merrily sing,
While the white foam rises high;
And sturdily wash, and rinse, and wring,
And fasten the clothes to dry;
Then out in the free fresh air they swing,
Under the sunny sky.
" I wish we could wash from our hearts and souls
The stains of the week away,
And let water and air by their magic make
Ourselves as pure as they;
Then on the earth there would be indeed
A glorious washing-day!
"Along the path of a useful life,
Will heart's-ease ever bloom;
The busy mind has no time to think
Of sorrow, or care, or gloom ;
And anxious thoughts may be swept away,
As we busily wield a broom.
250 Little Women.
"I am glad a task to me is given,
To labor at day by day;
For it brings me health, and strength, and hope,
And I cheerfully learn to say,
4 Head you may think, Heart you may feel,
But Hand you shall work alway ! ' "
" There is only room for me to send my love,
and some pressed pansies from the root I have been
keeping safe in the house, for father to see. I read
every morning, try to be good all day, and sing myself
to sleep with father's tune. I can't sing 4 Land of the
Leal' now ; it makes me cry. Every one is very kind,
and we are as happy as we can be without you. Amy
wants the rest of the page, so I must stop. I didn't
forget to cover the holders, and I wind the clock and
air the rooms every day.
" Kiss dear father on the cheek he calls mine. Oh,
do come soon to your loving
" LITTLE BETH."
" MA CHERE MAMMA :
" We are all well I do my lessons always and
never corroberate the girls Meg says I mean con-
tradick so I put in both words and you can take the
properest. Meg is a great comfort to me and lets me
have jelly every night at tea its so good for me Jo says
because it keeps me sweet tempered. Laurie is not
as respeckful as he ought to be now I am almost in
my teens, he calls me Chick and hurts my feelings by
talking French to me very fast when I say Merci or
Bon jour as Hattie King does. The sleeves of my
blue dress were all worn out and Meg put in new
ones but the full front came wrong and they are more
blue than the dress. I felt bad but did not fret I bear
my troubles well but I do wish Hannah would put
more starch in my aprons and have buck wheats every
day. Can't she? Didn't I make that interrigation
point nice. Meg says my punchtuation and spelling
are disgraceful and I am mortyfied but dear me I have
so many things to do I can't stop. Adieu, I send
heaps of love to Papa.
"Your affectionate daughter,
" AMY CURTIS MARCH."
" DEAR Mis MARCH :
"I jes drop a line to say we git on fust rate.
The girls is clever and fly round right smart. Miss
Meg is goin to make a proper good housekeeper ; she
hes the liking for it, and gits the hang of things sur-
prisin quick. Jo doos beat all for goin ahead, but
she don't stop to cal'k'late fust, and you never know
where she's like to bring up. She done out a tub of
clothes on Monday, but she starched em afore they
was wrenched, and blued a pink calico dress till I
thought I should a died a laughin. Beth is the best
of little creeters, and a sight of help to me, bein so
forehanded and dependable. She tries to learn every-
thing, and really goes to market beyond her years ;
likewise keeps accounts, with my help, quite won-
derful. We have got on very economical so fur ; I
252 Little Women.
don't let the girls hev coffee only once a week, accord! n
to your wish, and keep em on plain wholesome vittles.
Amy does well about frettin, wearin her best clothes
and eatin sweet stuff. Mr. Laurie is as full of didoes
as usual, and turns the house upside down frequent ;
but he heartens up the girls, and so I let em hev full
swing. The old man sends heaps of things, and is
rather wearin, but means wal, and it aint my place to
say nothin. My bread is riz, so no more at this time.
I send my duty to Mr. March, and hope he's seen the
last of his Pewmonia.
u HANNAH MULLET."
" HEAD NURSE OF WARD II. :
"All serene on the Rappahannock, troops in
fine condition, commissary department well conducted,
the Home Guard under Colonel Teddy always on
duty, Commander-in-chief General Laurence reviews
the army daily, Quartermaster Mullett keeps order in
camp, and Major Lion does picket duty at night. A
salute of twenty-four guns was fired on receipt of
good news from Washington, and a dress parade took
place at head-quarters. Commander-in-chief sends best
wishes, in which he is heartily joined by
" DEAR MADAM :
" The little girls are all well ; Beth and my
boy report daily ; Hannah is a model servant, guards
pretty Meg like a dragon. Glad the fine weather
holds ; pray make Brooke useful, and draw on me for
funds if expenses exceed your estimate. Don't let
your husband want anything. Thank God he is
" Your sincere friend and servant,
FOR a week the amount of virtue in the old house
would have supplied the neighborhood. It
was really amazing, for every one seemed in
a heavenly frame of mind, and self-denial was all
the fashion. Relieved of their first anxiety about their
father, the girls insensibly relaxed their praiseworthy
efforts a little, and began to fall back into the old ways.
They did not forget their motto, but hoping and keep-
ing busy seemed to grow easier ; and, after such tre-
mendous exertions, they felt that Endeavor deserved a
holiday, and gave it a good many.
Jo caught a bad cold through neglecting to cover
the shorn head enough, and was ordered to stay at
home till she was better, for Aunt March didn't like
to hear people read with colds in their heads. Jo liked
this, and after an energetic rummage from garret to
cellar, subsided on to the sofa to nurse her cold with
arsenicum and books. Amy found that house-work
and art did not go well together, and returned to her
mud pies. Meg went daily to her kingdom, and
sewed, or thought she did, at home, but much time
Little Faithful. 255
was spent in writing long letters to her mother, or
reading the Washington despatches over and over.
Beth kept on with only slight relapses into idleness or
grieving. All the little duties were faithfully done
each day, and many of her sisters' also, for they were
forgetful, and the. house seemed like a clock, whose
pendulum was gone a-visiting. When her heart got
heavy with longings for mother, or fears for father,
she went away into a certain closet, hid her face in
the folds of a certain dear old gown, and made her
little moan, and prayed her little prayer quietly by
herself. Nobody knew what cheered her up after a
sober fit, but every one felt how sweet and helpful
Beth was, and fell into a way of going to her for com-
fort or advice in their small affairs.
All were unconscious that this experience was a test
of character ; and, when the first excitement was over,
felt that they had done well, and deserved praise. So
they did ; but their mistake was in ceasing to do well,
and they learned this lesson through much anxiety and
" Meg, I wish you'd go and see the Hummels ; you
know mother told us not to forget them," said Beth,
ten days after Mrs. March's departure.
" I'm too tired to go this afternoon," replied Meg,
rocking comfortably, as she sewed.
" Can't you, Jo ? " asked Beth.
" Too stormy for me, with my cold."
" I thought it was most well."
" It's well enough for me to go out with Laurie,
but not well enough to go the Hummels," said Jo,
256 Little Women.
laughing, but looking a little ashamed of her in-
" Why don't you go yourself? " asked Meg.
" I have been every day, but the baby is sick, and I
don't know what to do for it. Mrs. Hummell goes
away to work, and Lottchen takes care of it ; but it
gets sicker and sicker, and I think you or Hannah
ought to go."
Beth spoke earnestly, and Meg promised she would
" Ask Hannah for some nice little mess, and take it
round, Beth, the air will do you good ; " said Jo, adding
apologetically, " I'd go, but I want to finish my story."
"My head aches, and I'm tired, so I thought maybe
some of you would go," said Beth.
" Amy will be in presently, and she will run down
for us," suggested Meg.
44 Well, I'll rest a little, and wait for her."
So Beth lay down on the sofa, the others returned to
their work, and the Hummels were forgotten. An
hour passed, Amy did not come ; Meg went to her
room to try on a new dress ; Jo was absorbed in her
story, and Hannah was sound asleep before the kitchen
fire, when Beth quietly put on her hood, filled her
basket with odds and ends for the poor children, and
went out into the chilly air with a heavy head, and a
grieved look in her patient eyes. It was late when she
came back, and no one saw her creep upstairs and
shut herself into her mother's room. Half an hour
after Jo went to " mother's closet" for something, and
there found Beth sitting on the medicine chest, looking
Little Faithful. 257
very grave, with red eyes, and a camphor bottle in her
" Christopher Columbus ! what's the matter?" cried
Jo, as Beth put out her hand as if to warn her oft', and
asked quickly, -
" YouVe had scarlet fever, haven't you ? "
u Years ago, when Meg did. Why ? "
" Then I'll tell you ^- oh, Jo, the baby's dead ! "
" Mrs. Hummel's ; it died in my lap before she got
home," cried Beth, with a sob.
" My poor dear, how dreadful for you ! I ought to
have gone," said Jo, taking her sister in her lap as she
sat down in her mother's big chair, with a remorseful
" It wasn't dreadful, Jo, only so sad ! I saw in a
minute that it was sicker, but Lottchen said her mother
had gone for a doctor, so I took baby and let Lotty rest.
It seemed asleep, but all of a sudden it gave a little
cry, and trembled, and then lay very still. I tried to
warm its feet, and Lotty gave it some milk, but it
didn't stir, and I knew it was dead."
" Don't cry, dear ! what did you do?"
" I just sat and held it softly till Mrs. Hummel came
with the doctor. He said it was dead, and looked at
Heinrich and Minna, who have got sore throats.
4 Scarlet fever, ma'am ; ought to have called me be-
fore,' he said, crossly. Mrs. Hummel told him she
was poor, and had tried to cure baby herself, but now
it was too late, and she could only ask him to help the
others, and trust to charity for his pay. He smiled
then, and was kinder, but it was very sad, and I cried
258 Little Women.
with them till he turned round all of a sudden, and
told me to go home and take belladonna right away,
or I'd have the fever."
" No you won't ! " cried Jo, hugging her close, with
a frightened look. " Oh, Beth, if you should be sick
I never could forgive myself! What shall we do ? "
" Don't be frightened, I guess I shan't have it badly ;
I looked in mother's book, and saw that it begins with
headache, sore throat, and queer feelings like mine, so
I did take some belladonna, and I feel better," said
Beth, laying her cold hands on her hot forehead, and
trying to look well.
" If mother was only at home ! " exclaimed Jo,
seizing the book, and feeling that Washington was an
immense way off. She read a page, looked at Beth,
felt her head, peeped into her throat, and then said,
gravely, u You've been over the baby every day for
more than a week, and among the others who are
going to have it, so I'm afraid you're going to have it,
Beth. I'll call Hannah ; she knows all about sickness."
*' Don't let Amy come ; she never had it, and I
should hate to give it to her. Can't you and Meg
nave it over again?" asked Beth, anxiously.
" I guess not ; don't care if I do ; serve me right,
selfish pig, to let you go, and stay writing rubbish my-
self! " muttered Jo, as she went to consult Hannah.
The good soul was wide awake in a minute, and
took the lead at once, assuring Jo that there was no
need to worry ; every one had scarlet fever, and, if
rightly treated, nobody died ; all of which Jo be-
lieved, and felt much relieved as they went up to call
Little Faithful. 259
" Now I'll tell you what we'll do," said Hannah,
when she had examined and questioned Beth ; " we
will have Dr. Bangs, just to take a look at you, dear,
and see that we start right ; then we'll send Amy off
to Aunt March's, for a spell, to keep her out of harm's
way, and one of you girls can stay at home and
amuse Beth for a day or two."
" I shall stay, of course, I'm oldest ; " began Meg,
looking anxious and self-reproachful.
" / shall, because if s my fault she is sick ; I told
mother I'd do the errands, and I haven't," said Jo,
"Which will you have, Beth? there ain't no need
of but one," said Hannah.
"Jo, please ; " and Beth leaned her head against her
sister, with a contented look, which effectually settled
" I'll go and tell Amy," said Meg, feeling a little
hurt, yet rather relieved, on the whole, for she did not
like nursing, and Jo did.
Amy rebelled outright, and passionately declared
that she had rather have the fever than go to Aunt
March. Meg reasoned, pleaded, and commanded, all
in vain. Amy protested that she would not go ; and
Meg left her in despair, to ask Hannah what should
be done. Before she came back, Laurie walked into
the parlor to find Amy sobbing, with her head in the
sofa cushions. She told her story, expecting to be
consoled ; but Laurie only put his hands in his pockets
and walked about the room, whistling softly, as he knit
his brows in deep thought. Presently he sat down
beside her. and said, in his most wheedlesome tone,
260 Little Women.
" Now be a sensible little woman, and do as they say.
No, don't cry, but hear what a jolly plan I've got.
You go to Aunt March's, and I'll come and take you
out every day, driving or walking, and we'll have
capital times. Won't that be better than moping
" I don't wish to be sent off as if I was in the way,"
began Amy, in an injured voice.
" Bless your heart, child ! it's to keep you well.
You don't want to be sick, do you ? "
* " No, I'm sure I don't ; but I dare say I shall be, for
I've been with Beth all this time."
" Thaf s the very reason you ought to go away at
once, so that you may escape it. Change of air and
care will keep you well, I dare say ; or, if it don't
entirely, you will have the fever more lightly. I
advise you to be off as soon as you can, for scarlet
fever is no joke, miss."
" But it's dull at Aunt March's, and she is so cross,"
said Amy, looking rather frightened.
" It won't be dull with me popping in every day
to tell you how Beth is, and take you out gallivant-
ing. The old lady likes me, and I'll be as clever
as possible to her, so she won't peck at us, whatever
" Will you take me out in the trotting wagon with
" On my honor as a gentleman."
"And come every single day?"
" See if I don't."
"And bring me back the minute Beth is well?"
" The identical minute."
Little Faithful. 261
" And go to the theatre, truly? "
" A dozen theatres, if we may."
"Well I guess I will," said Amy, slowly.
" Good girl ! Sing out for Meg, and tell her you'll
give in," said Laurie, with an approving pat, which
annoyed Amy more than the " giving in."
Meg and Jo came running down to behold the
miracle which had been wrought ; and Amy, feeling
very precious and self-sacrificing, promised to go, if
the doctor said Beth was going to be ill.
"How is the little dear? "asked Laurie; for Beth
was his especial pet, and he felt more anxious about
her than he liked to show.
" She is lying down on mother's bed, and feels bet-
ter. The baby's death troubled her, but I dare say
she has only got cold. Hannah says she thinks so ;
but she looks worried, and that makes me fidgety,"
" What a trying world it is ! " said Jo, rumpling up
her hair in a fretful sort of way. "No sooner do we
get out of one trouble than down comes another.
There don't seem to be anything to hold on to when
mother's gone ; so I'm all at sea."
"Well, don't make a porcupine of yourself, it isn't
becoming. Settle your wig, Jo, and tell me if I shall
telegraph to your mother, or do anything ? " asked
Laurie, who never had been reconciled to the loss of
his friend's one beauty.
" That is what troubles me," said Meg. " I think
we ought to tell her if Beth is really ill, but Hannah
says we mustn't, for mother can't leave father, and it
will only make them anxious. Beth won't be sick
262 Little Women.
long, and Hannah knows just what to do, and mother
said we were to mind her, so I suppose we must, but
it don't seem quite right to me." .
" Hum, well, I can't say ; suppose you ask grand-
father, after the doctor has been."
u We will ; Jo, go and get Dr. Bangs at once," com-
manded Meg ; " we can't decide anything till he has
" Stay where you are, Jo ; I'm errand boy to this
establishment," said Laurie, taking up his cap.
"I'm afraid you are busy," began Meg.
" No, I've done my lessons for the day."
" Do you study in vacation time?" asked Jo.
" I follow the good example my neighbors set me,"
was Laurie's answer, as he swung himself out of the
" I have great hopes of my boy," observed Jo,
watching him fry over the fence with an approving
" He does very well for a boy," was Meg's some-
what ungracious answer, for the subject did not in-
Dr. Bangs came, said Beth had symptoms of the
fever, but thought she would have it lightly, though he
looked sober over the Hummel story. Amy was
ordered off at once, and provided with something to
ward off danger ; she departed in great state, with Jo
and Laurie as escort.
Aunt March received them with her usual hos-
"What do you want now?" she asked, looking
Little Faithful. 263
sharply over her spectacles, while the parrot, sitting
on the back of her chair, called out,
44 Go away ; no boys allowed here."
Laurie retired to the window, and Jo told her story.
" No more than I expected, if you are allowed to go
poking about among poor folks. Amy can stay and
make herself useful if she isn't sick, which I've no
doubt she will be, looks like it now. Don't cry, child,
it worries me to hear people sniff."
Amy 'was on the point of crying, but Laurie slyly
pulled the parrot's tail, which caused Polly to utter an
astonished croak, and call out,
" Bless my boots ! " in such a funny way, that she
" What do you hear from your mother? " asked the
old lady, gruffly.
" Father is much better," replied Jo, trying to keep
"Oh, is he? Well, that won't last long, I fancy;
March never had any stamina," was the cheerful
" Ha, ha ! never say die, take a pinch of snuff, good-
by, good-by ! " squalled Polly, dancing on her perch,
and clawing at the old lady's cap as Laurie tweaked
him in the rear.
" Hold your tongue, you disrespectful old bird !
and, Jo, you'd better go at once ; it isn't proper to
be gadding about so late with a rattle-pated boy
" Hold your tongue, you disrespectful old bird ! "
cried Polly, tumbling off the chair with a bounce, and
264 Little Women.
running to peck the " rattle-pated " boy, who was
shaking with laughter at the last speech.
" I don't think I can bear it, but I'll try," thought
Amy, as she was left alone with Aunt March.
" Get along, you're a fright ! " screamed Polly, and at
that rude speech Amy could not restrain a sniff.
BETH did have the fever, and was much sicker
than any one but Hannah and the doctor sus-
pected. The girls knew nothing about illness,
and Mr. Laurence was not allowed to see her, so
Hannah had everything all her own way, and busy
Dr. Bangs did his best, but left a good deal to the
excellent nurse. Meg stayed at home, lest she should
infect the Kings, and kept house, feeling very anxious,
and a little guilty, when she wrote letters in which no
mention was made of Beth' s illness. She could not
think it right to deceive her mother, but she had been
bidden to mind Hannah, and Hannah wouldn't hear
of " Mrs. March bein' told, and worried just for sech a
trifle." Jo devoted herself to Beth day and night ; not
a hard task, for Beth was very patient, and bore her
pain uncomplainingly as long as she could control
herself. But there came a time when during the
fever fits she began to talk in a hoarse, broken voice, to
play on the coverlet, as if on her beloved little piano,
and try to sing with a throat so swollen, that there was
no music left ; a time when she did not know the
266 Little Women.
familiar faces round her, but addressed them by wrong
names, and called imploringly for her mother. Then
Jo grew frightened, Meg begged to be allowed to
write the truth, and even Hannah said she " would
think of it, though there was no danger yet." A
letter from Washington added to their trouble, for Mr.
March had had a relapse, and could not think of
coming home for a long while.
How dark the days seemed now, how sad and lonely
the house, and how heavy were the hearts of the
sisters as they worked and waited, while the shadow
of death hovered over the once happy home ! Then it
was that Margaret, sitting alone with tears dropping
often on her work, felt how rich she had been in
things more precious than any luxuries money could
buy ; in love, protection, peace and health, the real
blessings of life. Then it was that Jo, living in the
darkened room with that suffering little sister always
before her eyes, and that pathetic voice sounding in
her ears, learned to see the beauty and the sweetness
of Beth's nature, to feel how deep and tender a place
she filled in all hearts, and to acknowledge the worth
of Beth's unselfish ambition, to live for others, and
make home happy by the exercise of those simple
virtues which all may possess, and which all should
love and value more than talent, wealth or beauty.
And Amy, in her exile, longed eagerly to be at home,
that she might work for Beth, feeling now that no
service would be hard or irksome, and remembering,
with regretful grief, how many neglected tasks those
willing hands had done for her. Laurie haunted the
house like a restless ghost, and Mr. Laurence locked
Dark Days. 267
the grand piano, because he could not bear to be re-
minded of the young neighbor who used to make the
twilight pleasant for him. Every one missed Beth.
The milk-man, baker, grocer and butcher inquired
how she did ; poor Mrs. Hummel came to beg pardon
for her thoughtlessness, and to get a shroud for Minna ;
the neighbors sent all sorts of comforts and good
wishes, and even those who knew her best, were sur-
prised to find how many friends shy little Beth had
Meanwhile she lay on her bed with old Joanna at
her side, for even in her wanderings she did not forget
her forlorn protege. She longed for her cats, but
would not have them brought, lest they should get
sick ; and, in her quiet hours, she was full of anxiety
about Jo. She sent loving messages to Amy, bade
them tell her mother that she would write soon ; and
often begged for pencil and paper to try to say a word,
that father might not think she had neglected him.
But soon even these intervals of consciousness ended,
and she lay hour after hour tossing to and fro with in-
coherent words on her lips, or sank into a heavy sleep
which brought her no refreshment. Dr. Bangs came
twice a day, Hannah sat up at night, Meg kept a
telegram in her desk all ready to send off at any
minute, and Jo never stirred from Beth' s side.
The first of December was a wintry day indeed to
them, for a bitter wind blew, snow fell fast, and the
year seemed getting ready for its death. When Dr.
Bangs came that morning, he looked long at Beth,
held the hot hand in both his own a minute, and laid it
gently down, saying, in a low tone, to Hannah,
268 Little Women.
" If Mrs. March can leave her husband, she'd better
be sent for."
Hannah nodded without speaking, for her lips
twitched nervously ; Meg dropped down into a chair
as the strength seemed to go out of her limbs at the
sound of those words, and Jo, after standing with a
pale face for a minute, ran to the parlor, snatched up
the telegram, and, throwing on her things, rushed out
into the storm. She was soon back, and, while noise-
lessly taking off her cloak, Laurie came in with a
letter, saying that Mr. March was mending again. Jo
read it thankfully, but the heavy weight did not seem
lifted off her heart, and her face was so full of misery
that Laurie asked, quickly,
" What is it? is Beth worse ? "
" I've sent for mother," said Jo, tugging at her rub-
ber boots with a tragical expression.
" Good for you, Jo ! Did you do it on your own
responsibility?" asked Laurie, as he seated her in the
hall chair, and took off the rebellious boots, seeing how
her hands shook.
" No, the doctor told us to."
" Oh, Jo, it's not so bad as that? " cried Laurie, with
a startled face.
" Yes, it is ; she don't know us, she don't even talk
about the flocks of green doves, as she calls the vine
leaves on the wall ; she don't look like my Beth, and
there's nobody to help us bear it ; mother and father
both gone, and God seems so far away I can't find
As the tears streamed fast down poor Jo's cheeks,
she stretched out her hand in a helpless sort of way,
Dark Days. 269
as if groping in the dark, and Laurie took it in his,
whispering, as well as he could, with a lump in his
" I'm here, hold on to me, Jo, dear ! "
She could not speak, but she did " hold on," and
the warm grasp of the friendly human hand com-
forted her sore heart, and seemed to lead her nearer
to the Divine arm which alone could uphold her in
her trouble. Laurie longed to say something tender
and comfortable, but no fitting words came to him, so
he stood silent, gently stroking her bent head as her
mother used to do. It was the best thing he could
have done ; far more soothing than the most eloquent
words, for Jo felt the unspoken sympathy, and, in the
silence, learned the sweet solace which affection ad-
ministers to sorrow. Soon she dried the tears which
had relieved her, and looked up with a grateful face.
" Thank you, Teddy, I'm better now ; I don't feel
so forlorn, and will try to bear it if it comes."
" Keep hoping for the best ; that will help you lots,
Jo. Soon your mother will be here, and then every-
thing will be right."
" I'm so glad father is better ; now she won't feel so
bad about leaving him. Oh, me ! it does seem as if
all the troubles came in a heap, and I got the heaviest
part on my shoulders," sighed Jo, spreading her wet
handkerchief over her knees, to dry.
" Don't Meg pull fair?" asked Laurie, looking in-
u Oh, yes ; she tries to, but she don't love Bethy as I
do ; and she won't miss her as I shall. Beth is my
conscience, and I can't give her up ; I can't ! I can't ! "
270 Little Women.
Down went Jo's face into the wet handkerchief,
and she cried despairingly ; for she had kept up
bravely till now, and never shed a tear. Laurie
drew his hand across his eyes, but could not speak
till he had subdued the choky feeling in his throat,
and steadied his lips. It might be unmanly, but he
couldn't help it, and I am glad of it. Presently, as
Jo's sobs quieted, he said, hopefully, " I don't think
she will die ; she's so good, and we all love her so
much, I don't believe God will take her away yet."
" The good and dear people always do die," groaned
Jo, but she stopped crying, for her friend's words
cheered her up, in spite of her own doubts and fears.
" Poor girl ! you're worn out. It isn't like you to
be forlorn. Stop a bit ; I'll hearten you up in a jiffy."
Laurie went off two stairs at a time, and Jo laid her
weaned head down on Beth's little brown hood, which
no one had thought of moving from the table where
she left it. It must have possessed some magic, for
the submissive spirit of its gentle owner seemed to
enter into Jo ; and, when Laurie came running down
with a glass of wine, she took it with a smile, and
said, bravely, " I drink Health to my Beth ! You
are a good doctor, Teddy, and such a comfortable
friend; how can I ever pay you?" she added, as the
wine refreshed her body, as the kind words had done
her troubled mind.
" I'll send in my bill, by and by ; and to-night I'll
give you something that will warm the cockles of your
heart better than quarts of wine," said Laurie, beam-
ing at her with a face of suppressed satisfaction at
Dark Days. 271
"What is it?" cried Jo, forgetting her woes for a
minute, in her wonder.
"I telegraphed to your mother yesterday, and
Brooke answered she'd come at once, and she'll be
here to-night, and everything will be all right. Aren't
you glad I did it?"
Laurie spoke very fast, and turned red and excited
all in a minute, for he had kept his plot a secret, for
fear of disappointing the girls or harming Beth. Jo
grew quite white, flew out of her chair, and the
moment he stopped speaking she electrified him by
throwing her arms round his neck, and crying out,
with a joyful cry, " Oh, Laurie ! oh, mother ! I am so
glad ! " She did not weep again, but laughed hyster-
ically, and trembled and clung to her friend as if she
was a little bewildered by the sudden news. Laurie,
though decidedly amazed, behaved with great pres-
ence of mind ; he patted her back soothingly, and,
finding that she was recovering, followed it up by a
bashful kiss or two, which brought Jo round at once.
Holding on to the banisters, she put him gently
away, saying, breathlessly, " Oh, don't! I didn't
mean to ; it was dreadful of me ; but you were such a
dear to go and do it in spite of Hannah, that I couldn't
help flying at you. Tell me all about it, and don't
give me wine again ; it makes me act so."
" I don't mind ! " laughed Laurie, as he settled his
tie. " Why, you see I got fidgety, and so did grandpa.
We thought Hannah was overdoing the authority
business, and your mother ought to know. She'd
never forgive us if Beth, well, if anything happened,
you know. So I got grandpa to say it was high time
272 Little \Vomen.
we did something, and off I pelted to the office yester-
day, for the doctor looked sober, and Hannah most
took my head off when I proposed a telegram. I
never can bear to be i marmed over ; ' so that settled
my mind, and I did it. Your mother will come, I
know, and the late train is in at two, A. M. I shall go
for her ; and you've only got to bottle up your rapture,
and keep Beth quiet, till that blessed lady gets here."
" Laurie, you're an angel ! How shall I ever thank
you ? "
" Fly at me again ; I rather like it," said Laurie,
looking mischievous, a thing he had not done for a
"No, thank you. I'll do it by proxy, when your
grandpa comes. Don't tease, but go home and rest,
for you'll be up half the night. Bless you, Teddy ;
bless you ! "
Jo had backed into a corner ; and, as she finished her
speech, she vanished precipitately into the kitchen,
where she sat down upon a dresser, and told the
assembled cats that she was " happy, oh, so happy ! "
while Laurie departed, feeling that he had made rather
a neat thing of it.
" That's the interferingest chap I ever see ; but I
forgive him, and do hope Mrs. March is coming on
right away," said Hannah, with an air of relief, when
Jo told the good news.
Meg had a quiet rapture, and then brooded over the
letter, while Jo set the sick room in order, and Han-
nah "knocked up a couple of pies in case of company
unexpected." A breath of fresh air seemed to blow
through the house, and something better than sunshine
Dark Days. 273
brightened the quiet rooms ; everything appeared to
feel the hopeful change ; Beth' s bird began to chirp
again, and a half-blown rose was discovered on Amy's
bush in the window ; the fires seemed to burn with
unusual cheeriness, and every time the girls met their
pale faces broke into smiles as they hugged one another,
whispering, encouragingly, " Mother's coming, dear !
mother's coming ! " Every one rejoiced but Beth ; she
lay in that heavy stupor, alike unconscious of hope and
joy, doubt and danger. It was a piteous sight, the
once rosy face so changed and vacant, the once busy
hands so weak and wasted, the once smiling lips
quite dumb, and the once pretty, well-kept hair
scattered rough and tangled on the pillow. All day
she lay so, only rousing now and then to mutter,
" Water ! " with lips so parched they could hardly
shape the word ; all day Jo and Meg hovered over her,
watching, waiting, hoping, and trusting in God and
mother ; and all day the snow fell, the bitter wind
raged, and the hours dragged slowly by. But night
came at last ; and every time the clock struck the
sisters, still sitting on either side the bed, looked at
each other with brightening eyes, for each hour
brought help nearer. The doctor had been in to say
that some change for better or worse would probably
take place about midnight, at which time he would
Hannah, quite worn out, lay down on the sofa at
the bed's foot, and fell fast asleep ; Mr. Laurence
marched to and fro in the parlor, feeling that he would
rather face a rebel battery than Mrs. March's anxious
countenance as she entered ; Laurie lay on the rug,
274 Little Women.
pretending to rest, but staring into the fire with the
thoughtful look which made his black eyes beautifully
soft and clear.
The girls never forgot that night, for no sleep came
to them as they kept their watch, with that dreadful
sense of powerlessness which comes to us in hours
" If God spares Beth I never will complain again,"
whispered Meg, earnestly.
"If God spares Beth I'll try to love and serve Him
all my life," answered Jo, with equal fervor.
" I wish I had no heart, it aches so," sighed Meg,
after a pause.
" If life is often as hard as this, I don't see how we
ever shall get through it," added her sister, despond-
Here the clock struck twelve, and both forgot them-
selves in watching Beth, for they fancied a change
passed over her wan face. The house was still as
death, and nothing but the wailing of the wind broke
the deep hush. Weary Hannah slept on, and no one
but the sisters saw the pale shadow which seemed to
fall upon the little bed. An hour went by, and nothing
happened except Laurie's quiet departure for the sta-
tion. Another hour, still no one came ; and anxious
fears of delay in the storm, or accidents by the way,
or, worst of all, a great grief at Washington, haunted
the poor girls.
It was past two, when Jo, who stood at the win-
dow thinking how dreary the world looked in its
winding-sheet of snow, heard a movement by the bed,
and, turning quickly, saw Meg kneeling before their
Dark Days. 275
mother's easy-chair, with her face hidden. A dreadful
fear passed coldly over Jo, as she thought, " Beth is
dead, and Meg is afraid to tell me."
She was back at her post in an instant, and to
her excited eyes a great change seemed to have taken
place. The fever flush, and the look of pain, were
gone, and the beloved little face looked so pale and
peaceful in its utter repose, that Jo felt no desire to
weep or to lament. Leaning low over this dearest of
her sisters, she kissed the damp forehead with her
heart on her lips, and softly whispered, " Good-by,
my Beth ; good-by ! "
As if waked by the stir, Hannah started out of her
sleep, hurried to the bed, looked at Beth, felt her
hands, listened at her lips, and then, throwing her
apron over her head, sat down to rock to and fro, ex-
claiming, under her breath, " The fever's turned ; she's
sleepin nat'ral ; her skin's damp, and she breathes easy.
Praise be given ! Oh, my goodness me ! "
Before the girls could believe the happy truth, the
doctor came to confirm it. He was a homely man,
but they thought his face quite heavenly when he
smiled, and said, with a fatherly look at them, "Yes,
my dears ; I think the little girl will pull through this
time. Keep the house quiet ; let her sleep, and when
she wakes, give her "
What they were to give, neither heard ; for both
crept into the dark hall, and, sitting on the stairs, held
each other close, rejoicing with hearts too full for
words. When they went back to be kissed and cud-
dled by faithful Hannah, they found Beth lying, as she
used to do, with her cheek pillowed on her hand, the
276 Little Women.
dreadful pallor gone, and breathing quietly, as if just
" If mother would only come now ! " said Jo, as the
winter night began to wane.
" See," said Meg, coming up with a white, half-
opened rose, " I thought this would hardly be ready
to lay in Beth's hand to-morrow if she went away
from us. But it has blossomed in the night, and now
I mean to put it in my vase here, so that when the
darling wakes, the first thing she sees will be the little
rose, and mother's face."
Never had the sun risen so beautifully, and never
had the world seemed so lovely, as it did to the heavy
eyes of Meg and Jo, as they looked out in the early
morning, when their long, sad vigil was done.
44 It looks like a fairy world," said Meg, smiling to
herself, as she stood behind the curtain watching the
" Hark ! " cried Jo, starting to her feet.
Yes, there was a sound of bells at the door below,
a cry from Hannah, and then Laurie's voice, saying, in
a joyful whisper, u Girls ! she's come ! she's come ! "
WHILE these things were happening at home,
Amy was having hard times at Aunt March's.
She felt her exile deeply, and, for the first time
in her life, realized how much she was beloved and
petted at home. Aunt March never petted any one;
she did not approve of it ; but she meant to be kind, for
the well-behaved little girl pleased her very much, and
Aunt March had a soft place in her old heart for her
nephew's children, though she didn't think proper to
confess it. She really did her best to make. Amy
happy, but, dear me, what mistakes she made ! Some
old people keep young at heart in spite of wrinkles
and gray hairs, can sympathize with childrens' little
cares and joys, make them feel at home, and can hide
wise lessons under pleasant plays, giving and receiving
friendship in the sweetest way. But Aunt March had
not this gift, and she worried Amy most to death with
her rules and orders, her prim ways, and long, prosy
talks. Finding the child more docile and amiable
than her sister, the old lady felt it her duty to try and
counteract, as far as possible, the bad effects of home
278 Little Women.
freedom and indulgence. So she took Amy in hand,
and taught her as she herself had been taught sixty
years ago ; a process which carried dismay to Amy's
soul, and made her feel like a fly in the web of a very
She had to wash the cups every morning, and polish
up the old-fashioned spoons, the fat silver teapot, and
the glasses, till they shone. Then she must dust the
room, and what a trying job that was ! Not a speck
escaped Aunt March's eye, and all the furniture had
claw legs, and much carving, which was never dusted
to suit. Then Polly must be fed, the lap-dog combed,
and a dozen trips upstairs and down, to get things or
deliver orders, for the old lady was very lame, and
seldom left her big chair. After these tiresome labors
she must do her lessons, which was a daily trial of
every virtue she possessed. Then she was allow r ed
one hour for exercise or play, and didn't she enjoy it?
Laurie came every day, and wheedled Aunt March
till Amy was allowed to go out with him, w r hen they
walked and rode, and had capital times. After dinner
she had to read aloud, and sit still while the old lady
slept, which she usually did for an hour, as she
dropped off over the first page. Then patch-w r ork or
towels appeared, and Amy sewed with outward meek-
ness and inward rebellion till dusk, when she was al-
lowed to amuse herself as she liked, till tea-time.
The evenings were the worst of all, for Aunt March
fell to telling long stories about her youth, which were
so unutterably dull, that Amy was always ready to go
to bed, intending to cry over her hard fate, but usually
Amy's Will. ^ 279
going to sleep before she had squeezed out more than
a tear or two.
If it had not been for Laurie and old Esther, the
maid, she felt that she never could have got through
that dreadful time. The parrot alone was enough to
drive her distracted, for he soon felt that she did not
admire him, and revenged himself by being as mis-
chievous as possible. He pulled her hair whenever
she came near him, upset his bread and milk to plague
her when she had newly cleaned his cage, made Mop
bark by pecking at him while Madame dozed ; called
her names before company, and behaved in all re-
spects like a reprehensible old bird. Then she could
not endure the dog, a fat, cross beast, who snarled and
yelped at her when she made his toilet, and who laid
on his back with all his legs in the air, and a most
idiotic expression of countenance, when he wanted
something to eat, which was about a dozen times a
day. The cook was bad-tempered, the old coachman
deaf, and Esther the only one who ever took any
notice of the young lady.
Esther was a French woman, who had lived with
"Madame," as she called her mistress, for many years,
and who rather tyrannized over the old lady, who could
not get along without her. Her real name was Estelle ;
but Aunt March ordered her to change it, and she
obeyed, on condition that she was never asked to
change her religion. She took a fancy to Mad-
emoiselle, and amused her very much, with odd
stories of her life in France, when Amy sat with her
while she got up Madame's laces. She also allowed
her. to roam about the great house, and examine the
280 .Little Women.
curious and pretty things stored away in the big
wardrobes and the ancient chests ; for Aunt March
hoarded like a magpie. Amy's chief delight was an
Indian cabinet full of queer drawers, little pigeon-
holes, and secret places in which were kept all sorts
of ornaments, some precious, some merely curious, all
more or less antique. To examine and arrange these
things gave Amy great satisfaction, especially the jewel
cases ; in which, on velvet cushions, reposed the orna-
ments which had adorned a belle forty years ago.
There was the garnet set which Aunt March wore
when she came out, the pearls her father gave her on
her wedding day, her lover's diamonds, the jet
mourning rings and pins, the queer lockets, with
portraits of dead friends, and weeping willows made
of hair inside, the baby bracelets her one little daughter
had worn ; Uncle March's big watch, with the red seal
so many childish hands had played with, and in a box,
all by itself, lay Aunt March's wedding ring, too small
now for her fat ringer, but put carefully away, like the
most precious jewel of them all.
" Which would Mademoiselle choose if she had her
will ? " asked Esther, who always sat near to watch
over and lock up the valuables.
" I like the diamonds best, but there is no necklace
among them, and I'm fond of necklaces, they are so
becoming. I should choose this if I might," replied
Amy, looking with great admiration at a string of gold
and ebony beads, from which hung a heavy cross of
" I, too, covet that, but not as a necklace ; ah, no ! to
me it is a rosary, and as such I should use it like a
Amy's Will. 281
good Catholic," said Esther, eyeing the hanasome thing
"Is it meant to use as you use the string of good-
smelling wooden beads hanging over your glass?"
" Truly, yes, to pray with. It would be pleasing to
the saints if one used so fine a rosary as this, instead
of wearing it as a vain bijou."
" You seem to take a deal of comfort in your prayers,
.Esther, and always come down looking quiet and
satisfied. I wish I could."
fc * If Mademoiselle was a Catholic, she would find
true comfort ; but, as that is not to be, it would be
well if you went apart each day to meditate, and pray,
as did the good mistress whom I served before
Madame. She had a little chapel, and in it found
solacement for much trouble."
"Would it be right for me to do so too?" asked
Amy, who, in her loneliness, felt the need of help of
some sort, and found that she was apt to forget her
little book, now that Beth was not there to remind
her of it.
u It would be excellent and charming; and I shall
gladly arrange the little dressing-room for you, if you
like it. Say nothing to Madame, but when she sleeps
go you and sit alone a while to think good thoughts,
and ask the dear God to preserve your sister."
Esther was truly pious, and quite sincere in her ad-
vice ; for she had an affectionate heart, and felt much
for the sisters in their anxiety. Amy liked the idea,
and gave her leave to arrange the light closet next her
room-, hoping it would do her good.
282 Little Women.
" I wish I knew where all these pretty things would
go when Aunt March dies," she said, as she slowly
replaced the shining rosary, and shut the jewel cases
one by one.
" To you and your sisters. I know it ; Madame con-
fides in me ; I witnessed her w T ill, and it is to be so,"
whispered Esther, smiling.
41 How nice ! but I wish she'd let us have them now.
Pro-cras-ti-nation is not agreeable," observed Am}',
taking a last look at the diamonds.
" It is too soon yet for the young ladies to wear
these things. The first one who is affianced will have
the pearls Madame has said it ; and I have a fancy
that the little turquoise ring will be given to you when
you go, for Madame approves your good behavior
and charming manners."
" Do you think so ? Oh, I'll be a lamb, if I can only
have that lovely ring ! It's ever so much prettier than
Kitty Bryant's. I do like Aunt March, after all ; " and
Amy tried on the blue ring with a delighted face, and
a firm resolve to earn it.
From that day she was a model of obedience, and
the old lady complacently admired the success of her
training. Esther fitted up the closet with a little table,
placed a footstool before it, and over it a picture,
taken from one of the shut-up rooms. She thought it
was of no great value, but, being appropriate, she bor-
rowed it, well knowing that Madame would never
know it, nor care if she did. It was, however, a very
valuable copy of one of the famous pictures of the
world, and Amy's beauty-loving eyes were never tired
of looking up at the sweet face of the divine mother,
Amy's Will. 283
while tender thoughts of her own were busy at her
heart. On the table she laid her little Testament and
hymn-book, kept a vase always full of the best flowers
Laurie brought her, and came every day to " sit alone,
thinking good thoughts, and praying the dear God to
preserve her sister." Esther had given her a rosary
of black beads, with a silver cross, but Amy hung it up,
and did not use it, feeling doubtful as to its fitness for
The little girl was very sincere in all this, for, being
left alone outside the safe home-nest, she felt the need
of some kind hand to hold by so sorely, that she in-
stinctively turned to the strong and tender Friend,
whose fatherly love most closely surrounds His little
children. She missed her mother's help to understand
and rule herself, but having been taught where to look,
she did her best to find the way, and walk in it con-
fidingly. But Amy was a young pilgrim, and just now
her burden seemed very heavy. She tried to forget
herself, to keep cheerful, and be satisfied with doing
right, though no one saw or praised her for it. In her
first effort at being very, very good, she decided to
make her will, as Aunt March had done ; so that if she
did fall ill and die, her possessions might be justly
and generously divided. It cost her a pang even to
think of giving up the little treasures which in her
eyes were as precious as the old lady's jewels.
During one of her play hours she wrote out the
important document as wel\ as she could, with some
help from Esther as to certain legal terms ; and, when
the good-natured French woman had signed her name,
Amy felt relieved, and laid it by to show Laurie,
284 Little Women.
whom she wanted as a second witness. As it was a
rainy day, she went upstairs to amuse herself in one
of the large chambers, and took Polly with her for
company. In this room there was a wardrobe full of
old-fashioned costumes, with which Esther allowed
her to play, and it was her favorite amusement to
array herself in the faded brocades, and parade up and
down before the long mirror, making stately courtesies,
and sweeping her train about, with a rustle which
delighted her ears. So busy was she on this day, that
she did not hear Laurie's ring, nor see his face peeping
in at her, as she gravely promenaded to and fro, flirt-
ing her fan and tossing her head, on which she wore
a great pink turban, contrasting oddly with her blue
brocade dress and yellow quilted petticoat. She was
obliged to walk carefully, for she had on high-heeled
shoes, and, as Laurie told Jo afterward, it was a com-
ical sight to see her mince along in her gay suit, with
Polly sidling and bridling just behind her, imitating
her as well as he could, and occasionally stopping to
laugh, or exclaim, " Ain't we fine? Get along you
fright ! Hold your tongue ! Kiss me, dear ; ha ! ha ! "
Having with difficulty restrained an explosion of
merriment, lest it should offend her majesty, Laurie
tapped, and was graciously received.
" Sit down and rest while I put these things away ;
then I want to consult you about a very serious mat-
ter," said Amy, when she had shown her splendor,
and driven Polly into a corner. " That bird is the
trial of my life," she continued, removing the pink
mountain from her head, while Laurie seated himself
astride of a chair. " Yesterday, when aunt was
Amy's Will. 285
asleep, and I was trying to be as still as a mouse,
Polly began to squall and flap about in his cage ; so I
went to let him out, and found a big spider there. I
poked it out, and it ran under the book-case ; Polly
marched straight after it, stooped down and peeped
under the book-case, saying, in his funny way, with a
cock of his eye, 'Come out and take a walk, my dear.'
I couldn't help laughing, which made Poll swear, and
aunt woke up and scolded us both."
" Did the spider accept the old fellow's invitation? "
asked Laurie, yawning.
" Yes ; out it came, and away ran Polly, frightened
to death, and scrambled up on aunt's chair, calling
out, ' Catch her ! catch her ! catch her ! ' as I chased
" That's a lie ! Oh lor ! " cried the parrot, pecking
at Laurie's toes.
" I'd wring your neck if you were mine, you old
torment," cried Laurie, shaking his fist at the bird,
who put his head on one side, and gravely croaked,
" Allyluyer ! bless your buttons, dear ! "
" Now I'm ready," said Amy, shutting the ward-
robe, and taking a paper out of her pocket. "I want
you to read that, please, and tell me if it is legal and
right. I felt that I ought to do it, for life is uncertain,
and I don't want any ill-feeling over my tomb."
Laurie bit his lips, and turning a little from the
pensive speaker, read the following document, with
praiseworthy gravity, considering the spelling :
" MY LAST WILL AND TESTIMENT.
" I, Amy Curtis March, being in my sane mind, do
286 Little Women.
give and bequeethe all my earthly property viz. to
wit : namely
" To my father, my best pictures, sketches, maps,
and works of art, including frames. Also my $100,
to do what he likes with.
" To my mother, all my clothes, except the blue
apron with pockets, also my likeness, and my medal,
with much love.
"To my dear sister Margaret, I give my turkquoise
ring (if I get it), also my green box with the doves
on it, also my piece of real lace for her neck, and my
sketch of her as a memorial of her ' little girl.*
"To Jo I leave my breast-pin, the one mended
with sealing wax, also my bronze inkstand she lost
the cover, and my most precious plaster rabbit, be-
cause I am sorry I burnt up her story.
" To Beth (if she lives after me) I give my dolls
and the little bureau, my fan, my linen collars and my
new slippers if she can wear them being thin when
she gets well. And I herewith also leave her my
regret that I ever made fun of old Joanna.
" To my friend and neighbor Theodore Laurence I
bequeethe my paper marshay portfolio, my clay model
of a horse though he did say it hadn't any neck.
Also in return for his great kindness in the hour of
affliction any one of my artistic works he likes, Noter
Dame is the best.
u To our venerable benefactor Mr. Laurence I leave
my purple box with a looking glass in the cover which
will be nice for his pens and remind him of the de-
parted girl who thanks him for his favors to her
family, specially Beth.
Amy's Will. 287
" I wish my favorite playmate Kitty Bryant to have
the blue silk apron and my gold-bead ring with a kiss.
44 To Hannah I give the band-box she wanted and
all the patch work I leave hoping she 4 will remember
me, when it you see.'
"And now having disposed of my most valuable
property I hope all will be satisfied and not blame the
dead. I forgive every one, and trust we may all meet
when the trump shall sound. Amen.
" To this will and testiment I set my hand and seal
on this 2Oth day of Nov. Anni Domino 1861.
" AMY CURTIS MARCH.
C ESTELLE VALNOR,
" Witnesses : < T
The last name was written in pencil, and Amy ex-
plained that he was to rewrite it in ink, and seal it up
for her properly.
"What put it into your head? Did any one tell
you about Beth's giving away her things?" asked
Laurie, soberly, as Amy laid a bit of red tape, with
sealing-wax, a taper, and a standish before him.
She explained ; and then asked, anxiously, " What
about Beth ? "
44 I'm sorry I spoke ; but as I did, I'll tell you. She
felt so ill one day, that she told Jo she wanted to give
her piano to Meg, her bird to you, and the poor old
doll to Jo, who would love it for her sake. She was
sorry she had so little to give, and left locks of hair
to the rest of us, and her best love to grandpa. She
never thought of a will."
Laurie was signing and sealing as he spoke, and
288 Little Women.
did not look up till a great tear dropped on the paper.
Amy's face was full of trouble ; but she only said,
" Don't people put sort of postscrips to their wills,
" Yes ; 4 codicils,' they call them."
" Put one in mine then that I wish all my curls
cut off, and given round to my friends. I forgot it ;
but I want it done, though it will spoil my looks."
Laurie added it, smiling at Amy's last and greatest
sacrifice. Then he amused her for an hour, and was
much interested in all her trials. But when he came
to go, Amy held him back to whisper, with trembling
lips, "Is there really any danger about Beth?"
" I'm afraid there is ; but we must hope for the best,
so don't cry, dear ; " and Laurie put his arm about her
with a brotherly gesture, which was very comforting.
When he had gone, she went to her little chapel,
and, sitting in the twilight, prayed for Beth with
streaming tears and an aching heart, feeling that a
million turquoise rings would not console her for the
loss of her gentle little sister.
I DON'T think I have any words in which to tell
the meeting of the mother and daughters ; such
hours are beautiful to live, but very hard to de-
scribe, so I will leave it to the imagination of my
readers ; merely saying that the house was full of
genuine happiness, and that Meg's tender hope was
realized ; for when Beth woke from that long, healing
sleep, the first objects on which her eyes fell ivere the
little rose and mother's face. Too weak to wonder at
anything, she only smiled, and nestled close into the
loving arms about her, feeling that the hungry longing
was satisfied at last. Then she slept again, and the
girls waited upon their mother, for she would not un-
clasp the thin hand which clung to hers, even in sleep.
Hannah had " dished up " an astonishing breakfast for
the traveller, finding it impossible to vent her ex-
citement in any other way ; and Meg and Jo fed their
mother like dutiful young storks, while they listened to
her whispered account of father's state, Mr. Brooke's
promise to stay and nurse him, the delays which the
storm occasioned on the homeward journey, and the
290 Little Women.
unspeakable comfort Laurie's hopeful face had given
her when she arrived, worn out with fatigue, anxiety
What a strange, yet pleasant day that was ! so bril-
liant and gay without, for all the world seemed abroad
to welcome the first snow ; so quiet and reposeful
within, for every one slept, spent with watching, and
a Sabbath stillness reigned through the house, while
nodding Hannah mounted guard at the door. With a
blissful sense of burdens lifted off, Meg and Jo closed
their weary eyes, and lay at rest like storm-beaten
boats, safe at anchor in a quiet harbor. Mrs. March
would not leave Beth's side, but rested in the big
chair, waking often to look at, touch, and brood over
her child, like a miser over some recovered treasure.
Laurie, meanwhile, posted off to comfort Amy, and
told his story so well that Aunt March actually
" sniffed " herself, and never once said, " I told you
so." Amy came out so strong on this occasion, that I
think the good thoughts in the little chapel really
began to bear fruit. She dried her tears quickly, re-
strained her impatience to see* her mother, and never
even thought of the turquoise ring, when the old lady
heartily agreed in Laurie's opinion, that she behaved
" like a capital little woman." Even Polly seemed
impressed, for he called her " good girl," blessed her
buttons, and begged her to " come and take a walk,
dear," in his most affable tone. She would very
gladly have gone out to enjoy the bright wintry
weather ; but, discovering that Laurie was dropping
with sleep in spite of manful efforts to conceal the
fact, she persuaded him to rest on the sofa, while she
Confidential. 29 1
wrote a note to her mother. She was a long time
about it ; and, when returned, he was stretched out with
both arms under his head, sound asleep, while Aunt
March had pulled down the curtains, and sat doing
nothing in an unusual fit of benignity.
After a while, they began to think he was not going
to wake till night, and I'm not sure that he would, had
he not been effectually roused by Amy's cry of joy at
sight of her mother. ^ There probably were a good
many happy little girls in and about the city that day,
but it is my private opinion that Amy was the happiest
of all, when she sat in her mother's lap and told her
trials, receiving consolation and compensation in the
shape of approving smiles and fond caresses. They
were alone together in the chapel, to which her mother
did not object when its purpose was explained to her.
" On the contrary, I like it very much, dear," she
said, looking from the dusty rosary to the well-worn
little book, and the lovely picture with its garland of
evergreen. " It is an excellent plan to have some
place where we can go to be quiet, when things vex or
grieve us. There are a good many hard times in this
life of ours, but we can always bear them if we ask
help in the right way. I think my little girl is
" Yes, mother ; and when I go home I mean to have
a corner in the big closet to put my books, and the
copy of that picture which I've tried to make. The
woman's face is not good, it's too beautiful for me to
draw, but the baby is done better, and I love it very
much. I like to think He was a little child once, for
then I don't seem so far away, and that helps me."
292 Little Women.
As Amy pointed to the smiling Christ-child on his
mother's knee, Mrs. March saw something on the lifted
hand that made her smile. She said nothing, but
Amy understood the look, and, after a minute's pause,
she added, gravely,
" I wanted to speak to you about this, but I forgot
it. Aunt gave me the ring today ; she called me to
her and kissed me, and put it on my finger, and said I
was a credit to her, and she'd like to keep me always.
She gave that funny guard to keep the torquoise on,
as it's too big. I'd like to wear them, mother ; can I ? "
" They are very pretty, but I think you're rather too
young for such ornaments, Amy," said Mrs. March,
looking at the plump little hand, with the band of sky-
blue stones on the forefinger, and the quaint guard,
formed of two tiny, golden hands clasped together.
" I'll try not to be vain," said Amy ; " I don't think
I like it, only because if s so pretty ; but I want to wear
it as the girl in the story wore her bracelet, to remind
me of something."
" Do you mean Aunt March ? " asked her mother,
" No, to remind me not to be selfish." Amy looked
so earnest and sincere about it, that her mother stopped
laughing, and listened respectfully to the little plan.
"I've thought a great deal lately about 4 my bundle
of naughties,' and being selfish is the largest one in it ;
so I'm going to try hard to cure it, if I can. Beth isn't
selfish, and that's the reason every one loves her, and
feels so bad at the thoughts of losing her. People
wouldn't feel half so bad about me if I was sick, and I
don't deserve to have them ; but I'd like to be loved
and missed by a great many friends, so I'm going to
try and be like Beth all I can. I'm apt to forget my
resolutions ; but, if I had something always about me to
remind me, I guess I should do better. May I try
this way? "
" Yes ; but I have more faith in the corner of the big
closet. Wear your ring, dear, and do your best ; I
think you will prosper, for the sincere wish to be good
is half the battle. Now, I must go back to Beth.
Keep up your heart, little daughter, and we will soon
have you home again."
That evening, while Meg was writing to her father,
to report the traveller's safe arrival, Jo slipped up-
stairs into Beth's room, and, finding her mother in her
usual place, stood a minute twisting her fingers in her
hair, with a w r orried gesture and an undecided look.
"What is it, deary?" asked Mrs. March, holding
out her hand with a face which invited confidence.
" I want to tell you something, mother."
" How quick you guessed ! Yes, if s about her, arid
though it's a little thing, it fidgets me."
" Beth is asleep ; speak low, and tell me all about
it. That MofFat hasn't been here, I hope?" asked
Mrs. March, rather sharply.
" No ; I should have shut the door in his face if
he had," said Jo, settling herself on the floor at her
mother's feet. " Last summer Meg left a pair of
gloves over at the Laurences, and only one was re-
turned. We forgot all about it, till Teddy told me
that Mr. Brooke had it. He kept it in his waistcoat
pocket, and once it fell out, and Teddy joked him
294 Little Women.
about it, and Mr. Brooke owned that he liked Meg,
but didn't dare say so, she was so young and he so
poor. Now isn't it a dreadhA state of things? "
" Do you think Meg cares for him ?" asked Mrs.
March, with an anxious look.
" Mercy me ! I don't know anything about love,
and such nonsense ! " cried Jo, with a funny mixture
of interest and contempt. " In novels, the girls show
it by starting and blushing, fainting away, growing
thin, and acting like fools. Now Meg don't do any-
thing of the sort ; she eats and drinks, and sleeps, like
a sensible creature ; she looks straight in my fece
when I talk about that man, and only blushes a little
bit when Teddy jokes about lovers. I forbid him to
do it, but he don't mind me as he ought."
" Then you fancy that Meg is not interested in
"Who?" cried Jo, staring.
" Mr. Brooke ; I call him 'John ' now ; we fell into
the way of doing so at the hospital, and he likes it."
" Oh, dear ! I know you'll take his part ; he's been
good to father, and you won't send him away, but let
Meg marry him, if she wants to. Mean thing ! to go
petting pa and truckling to you, just to wheedle you
into liking him ; " and Jo pulled her hair again with a
"My dear, don't get angry about it, and I will
tell you how it happened. John went with me at
Mr. Laurence's request, and was so devoted to poor
father, that we couldn't help getting fond of him. He
was perfectly open and honorable about Meg, for he
told us he loved her ; but would earn a comfortable
home before he asked her to marry him. He only
wanted our leave to love her and work for her, and
the right to make her love him if he could. He is a
truly excellent young man, and we could not refuse
to listen to him ; but I will not consent to Meg's en-
gaging herself so young."
" Of course not ; it would be idiotic ! I knew there
was mischief brewing ; I felt it ; and now it's worse
than I imagined. I just wish I could marry Meg
myself, and keep her safe in the family."
This odd arrangement made Mrs. March smile ; but
she said, gravely, " Jo, I confide in you, and don't
wish you to say anything to Meg yet. When John
comes back, and I see them together, I can judge
better of her feelings toward him."
" She'll see his in those handsome eyes that she talks
about, and then it will be all up with her. She's got
such a soft heart, it will melt like butter in the sun if
any one looks sentimentally at her. She read the
short reports he sent more than she did your letters,
and pinched me when I spoke of it, and likes brown
eyes, and don't think John an ugly name, and she'll
go and fall in love, and there's an end of peace and
fun, and cosy times, together. I see it all ! they'll go
lovering round the house, and we shall have to dodge ;
Meg will be absorbed, and no good to me any more ;
Brooke will scratch up a fortune somehow, carry
her off and make a hole in the family ; and I shall
break my heart, and everything will be abominably
uncomfortable. Oh, deary me ! why weren't we all
boys? then there wouldn't be any bother ! "
Jo leaned her chin on her knees, in a disconsolate
296 Little Women.
attitude, and shook her fist at the reprehensible John.
Mrs. March sighed, and Jo looked up with an air of
"You don't like it, mother? Fin glad of it; let's
send him about his business, and not tell Meg a word
of it, but all be jolly together as we always have
" I did wrong to sigh, Jo. It is natural and right
you should all go to homes of your own, in time ; but
I do want to keep my girls as long as I can ; and I
am sorry that this happened so soon, for Meg is only
seventeen, and it will be some years before John can
make a home for her. Your father and I have agreed
that she shall not bind herself in any way, nor be
married, before twenty. If she and John love one
another, they can wait, and test the love by doing so.
She is conscientious, and I have no fear of her treat-
ing him unkindly. My pretty, tender-hearted girl ! I
hope things will go happily with her."
"Hadn't you rather have her marry a rich man?"
asked Jo, as her mother's voice faltered a little over
the last words.
" Money is a good and useful thing, Jo ; and I hope
my girls will never feel the need of it too bitterly, nor
be tempted by too much. I should like to know that
John was firmly established in some good business,
which gave him an income large enough to keep
free from debt, and make Meg comfortable. I'm not
ambitious for a splendid fortune, a fashionable posi-
tion, or a great name for my girls. If rank and
money come with love and virtue, also, I should
accept them gratefully, and enjoy your good fortune ;
but I know, by experience, how much genuine hap-
piness can be had in a plain little house, where the
daily bread is earned, and some privations give sweet-
ness to the few pleasures ; I am content to see Meg
begin humbly, for, if I am not mistaken, she will be
rich in the possession of a good man's heart, and
that is better than a fortune."
" I understand, mother, and quite agree ; but I'm
disappointed about Meg, for I'd planned to have her
marry Teddy by and by, and sit in the lap of luxury
all her days. Wouldn't it be nice ? " asked Jo, looking
up with a brighter face.
" He is younger than she, you know," began Mrs.
March ; but Jo broke in,
" Oh, that don't matter ; he's old for his age, and
tall ; and can be quite grown-up in his manners, if he
likes. Then he's rich, and generous, and good, and
loves us all ; and / say it's a pity my plan is spoilt."
u I'm afraid Laurie is hardly grown-up enough for
Meg, and altogether too much of a weathercock, just
now, for any one to depend on. Don't make plans,
Jo ; but let time and their own hearts mate your
friends. We can't meddle safely in such matters, and
had better not get ' romantic rubbish,' as you call it,
into our heads, lest it spoil our friendship."
" Well, I won't ; but I hate to see things going all
criss-cross, and getting snarled up, when a pull here,
and a snip there, would straighten it out. I wish
wearing flat-irons on our heads would keep us from
growing up. But buds will be roses, and kittens,
cats, more's the pity ! "
"What's that about flat-irons and cats?" asked
298 Little Women.
Meg, as she crept into the room, with the finished
letter in her hand.
" Only one of my stupid speeches. I'm going to
oed ; come on, Peggy," said Jo, unfolding herself, like
an animated puzzle.
" Quite right, and beautifully written. Please add
that I send my love to John," said Mrs. March, as she
glanced over the letter, and gave it back.
"Do you call him 'John'?" asked Meg, smiling,
with her innocent eyes looking down into her mother's.
"Yes; he has been like a son to us, and we are
very fond of him," replied Mrs. March, returning the
look with a keen one.
" I'm glad of that ; he is so lonely. Good-night,
mother, dear. It is so inexpressibly comfortable to
have you here," was Meg's quiet answer.
The kiss her mother gave her was a very tender
one ; and, as she went away, Mrs. March said, with a
mixture of satisfaction and regret, " She does not love
John yet, but will soon learn to."
LAURIE MAKES MISCHIEF, AND JO MAKES PEACE.
JO'S face was a study next day, for the secret rather
weighed upon her, and she found it hard not to
look mysterious and important. Meg observed
it, but did not trouble herself to make inquiries, for she
had learned that the best way to manage Jo was by
the law of contraries, so she felt sure of being told
everything if she did not ask. She was rather sur-
prised, therefore, when the silence remained unbroken,
and Jo assumed a patronizing air, which decidedly
aggravated Meg, who in her turn assumed an air of
dignified reserve, and devoted herself to her mother.
This left Jo to her own devices ; for Mrs. March had
taken her place as nurse, and bid her rest, exercise, and
amuse herself after her long confinement. Amy being
gone, Laurie was her only refuge ; and, much as she
enjoyed his society, she rather dreaded him just then,
for he was an incorrigible tease, and she feared he
would coax her secret from her.
She was quite right ; for the mischief-loving lad no
sooner suspected a mystery, than he set himself to
finding it out, and led Jo a trying life of it. He
300 Litte Women.
wheedled, bribed, ridiculed, threatened and scolded ;
affected indifference, that he might surprise the truth
from her ; declared he knew, then that he didn't care ;
and, at last, by dint of perseverance, he satisfied himself
that it concerned Meg and Mr. Brooke. Feeling in-
dignant that he was not taken into his tutor's con-
fidence, he set his wits to work to devise some proper
retaliation for the slight.
Meg meanwhile had apparently forgotten the matter,
and was absorbed in preparations for her father's re-
turn ; but all of a sudden a change seemed to come
over her, and, for a day or two, she was quite unlike
herself. She started when spoken to, blushed when
looked at, was very quiet, and sat over her sewing
with a timid, troubled look on her face. To her
mother's inquiries she answered that she was quite
well, and Jo's she silenced by begging to be let alone.
"She feels it in the air love, I mean and she's
going very fast. She's got most of the symptoms, is
twittery and cross, don't eat, lies awake, and mopes
in corners. I caught her singing that song about ' the
silver-voiced brook,' and once she said 'John,' as you
do, and then turned as red as a poppy. Whatever
shall we do ? " said Jo, looking ready for any measures,
"Nothing but wait. Let her alone, be kind and
patient, and father's coming will settle everything,"
replied her mother.
" Here's a note to you, Meg, all sealed up. How
odd ! Teddy never seals mine," said Jo, next day, as
she distributed the contents of the little post-office.
Mrs. March and Jo were deep in their own affairs,
Laurie makes Mischief. 301
when a sound from Meg made them look up to see
her staring at her note, with a frightened face.
" My child, what is it?" cried her mother, running
to her, while Jo tried to take the paper which had done
" It's all a mistake he didn't send it oh, Jo, how
could you do it? " and Meg hid her face in her hands,
crying as if her heart was quite broken.
" Me ! I've done nothing ! What's she talking
about?" cried Jo, bewildered.
Meg's mild eyes kindled with anger as she pulled
a crumpled note from her pocket, and threw it at Jo,
" You wrote it, and that bad boy helped you. How
could you be so rude, so mean, and cruel to us both? "
Jo hardly heard her, for she and her mother were
reading the note, which was written in a peculiar hand.
"MY DEAREST MARGARET,
" I can no longer restrain my passion, and must
know my fate before I return. I dare not tell your
parents yet, but I think they would consent if they
knew that we adored one another. Mr. Laurence
will help me to some good place, and then, my sweet
girl, you will make me happy. I implore you to say
nothing to your family yet, but to send one word of
hope through Laurie to
*" Your devoted
" Oh, the little villain ! that's the way he meant to
pay ine for keeping my word to mother. I'll give him
a hearty scolding, and bring him over to beg pardon,"
cried Jo, burning to execute immediate justice. But
her mother held her back, saying, with a look she
" Stop, Jo, you must clear yourself first. You have
played so many pranks, that I am afraid you have had
a hand in this."
" On my word, mother, I haven't ! I never saw
that note before, and don't know anything about it, as
true as I live ! " said Jo, so earnestly, that they believed
her. " If I had taken a part in it I'd have done it
better than this, and have written a sensible note. I
should think you'd have known Mr. Brooke wouldn't
write such stuff as that," she added, scornfully tossing
down the paper.
" It's like his writing," faltered Meg, comparing it
with the note in her hand.
" Oh, Meg, you didn't answer it? " cried Mrs. March,
" Yes, I did ! " and Meg hid her face again, over-
come with shame.
" Here's a scrape ! Do let me bring that wicked
boy over to explain, and be lectured. I can't rest till
I get hold of him ; " and Jo made for the door again.
" Hush ! let me manage this, for it is worse than I
thought. Margaret, tell me the whole story," com-
manded Mrs. March, sitting down by Meg, yet keeping
hold of Jo, lest she should fly off.
"I received the first letter from Laurie, who didn't
look as if he knew anything about it," began Meg,
without looking up. " I was worried at first, and
meant to tell you ; then I remembered how you liked
Laurie makes Mischief. 303
Mr. Brooke, so I thought you wouldn't mind if I kept
my little secret for a few days. I'm so silly that I
liked to think no one knew ; and, while I was deciding
what. to say, I felt like the girls in books, who have
such things to do. Forgive me, mother, I'm paid for
my silliness now ; I never can look him in the face
" What did you say to him?" asked Mrs. March.
" I only said I was too young to do anything about
it yet ; that I didn't wish to have secrets from you, and
he must speak to father. I was very grateful for his
kindness, and would be his friend, but nothing more,
for a long while."
Mrs. March smiled, as if well pleased, and Jo clapped
her hands, exclaiming, with a laugh,
" You are almost equal to Caroline Percy, who was
a pattern of prudence ! Tell on, Meg. What did he
say to that ? "
" He writes in a different way entirely ; telling me
that he never sent any love-letter at all, and is very
sorry that my roguish sister, Jo, should take such
liberties with our names. It's very kind and re-
spectful, but think how dreadful for me ! "
Meg leaned against her^ mother, looking the image
of despair, and Jo tramped about the room, calling
Laurie names. All of a sudden she stopped, caught
up the two notes, and, after looking at them closely,
said, decidedly, "I don't believe Brooke ever saw
either of these letters. Teddy wrote both, and keeps
yours to crow over me with, because I wouldn't tell
him my secret."
" Don't have any secrets, Jo ; tell it to mother, and
304 Little Women.
keep out of trouble, as I should have done," said
u Bless you, child ! mother told me."
" That will do, Jo. I'll comfort Meg while you go
and get Laurie. I shall sift the matter to the bottom,
and put a stop to such pranks at once."
Away ran Jo, and Mrs. March gently told Meg Mr.
Brooke's real feelings. " Now, dear, what are your
own? Do you love him enough to wait till he can
make a home for you, or will you keep yourself quite
free for the present ? "
" I've been so scared and worried, I don't want to
have anything to do with lovers for a long while,
perhaps never," answered Meg, petulantly. " If John
doesn't know anything about this nonsense, don't tell
him, and make Jo and Laurie hold their tongues. I
won't be deceived and plagued, and made a fool of,
it's a shame ! " .
Seeing that Meg's usually gentle temper was roused,
and her pride hurt by this mischievous joke, Mrs.
March soothed her by promises of entire silence, and
great discretion for the future. The instant Laurie's
step was heard in the hall, Meg fled into the study,
and Mrs. March received the culprit alone. Jo had
not told him why he was wanted, fearing he wouldn't
come ; but he knew the minute he saw Mrs. March's
face, and stood twirling his hat with a guilty air,
which convicted him at once. Jo was dismissed, but
chose to march up and down the hall like a sentinel,
having some fear that the prisoner might bolt. The
sound of voices in the parlor rose and fell for half an
Laurie makes Mischief. 305
hour ; but what happened during that interview the
girls never knew.
When they were called in, Laurie was standing by
their mother with such a penitent face, that Jo forgave
him on the spot, but did not think it wise to betray the
fact. Meg received his humble apology, and was
much comforted by the assurance that Brooke knew
nothing of the joke.
" I'll never tell him to my dying day, wild horses
shan't drag it out of me ; so you'll forgive me, Meg,
and I'll do anything to show how out-and-out sorry I
am," he added, looking very much ashamed of himself.
" I'll try ; but it was a very ungentlemanly thing to
do. I didn't think you could be so sly and malicious,
Laurie," replied Meg, trying to hide her maidenly
confusion under a gravely reproachful air.
" It was altogether abominable, and I don't deserve
to be spoken to for a month ; but you will, though,
won't you ? " and Laurie folded his hands together,
with such an imploring gesture, and rolled up his eyes
in such a meekly repentant way, as he spoke in his
irresistibly persuasive tone, that it was impossible to
frown upon him, in spite of his scandalous behavior.
Meg pardoned him, and Mrs. March's grave face re-
laxed, in spite of her efforts to keep sober, when she
heard him declare that he would atone for his sins
by all sorts of penances, and abase himself like a
worm before the injured damsel.
Jo stood aloof, meanwhile, trying to harden her
heart against him, and succeeding only in primming
up her face into an expression of entire disapproba-
tion. Laurie looked at her once or twice, but, as she
306 Little Women.
showed no sign of relenting, he felt injured, and
turned his back on her till the others were done with
him, when he made her a low bow, and walked off
without a word.
As soon as he had gone, she wished she had been
more forgiving; and, when Meg and her mother
went upstairs, she felt lonely, and longed for Teddy.
After resisting for some time, she yielded to the im-
pulse, and, armed with a book to return, went over to
the big house.
" Is Mr. Laurence in?" asked Jo, of a housemaid,
who was coming down stairs.
44 Yes, miss ; but I don't believe he's seeable just yet."
"Why not; is he ill?"
" La, no, miss ! but he's had a scene with Mr. Lau-
rie, who is in one of his tantrums about something,
which vexes the old gentleman, so I dursn't go nigh
" Where is Laurie?"
" Shut up in his room, and he won't answer, though
I've been a-tapping. I don't know what's to become
of the dinner, for it's ready, and there's no one to eat
" I'll go and see what the matter is. I'm not afraid
of either of them."
Up went Jo, and knocked smartly on the door of
Laurie's little study.
" Stop that, or I'll open the door and make you ! "
called out the young gentleman, in a threatening tone.
Jo immediately pounded again ; the door flew open,
and in she bounced, before Laurie could recover from
his surprise. Seeing that he really was out of temper,
Laurie makes Mischief. 307
Jo, who knew how to manage him, assumed a con-
trite expression, and, going artistically down upon her
knees, said, meekly, " Please forgive me for being so
cross. I came to make it up, and can't go away till I
" It's all right ; get up, and don't be a goose, Jo,"
was the cavalier reply to her petition.
" Thank you ; I will. Could I ask what's the mat-
ter? You don't look exactly easy in your mind."
" I've been shaken, and I won't bear it ! " growled
" Who did it?" demanded Jo.
" Grandfather ; if it had been any one else I'd
have " and the injured youth finished his sentence
by an energetic gesture of the right arm.
" That's nothing ; I often shake you, and you don't
mind," said Jo, soothingly.
" Pooh ! you're a girl, and it's fun ; but I'll allow no
man to shake me"
u I don't think any one would care to try it, if you
looked as much like a thunder-cloud as you do now.
Why were you treated so ? "
"Just because I wouldn't say what your mother
wanted me for. I'd promised not to tell, and of course
I wasn't going to break my word."
" Couldn't you satisfy your grandpa in any other
way ? "
" No ; he would have the truth, the whole truth, and
nothing but the truth. I'd have told my part of the
scrape, if I could, without bringing Meg in. As I
couldn't, I held my tongue, and bore the scolding till
308 Little Women.
the old gentleman collared me. Then I got angry,
and bolted, for fear I should forget myself."
" It wasn't nice, but he's sorry, I know ; so go down
and make up. I'll help you."
" Hanged if I do ! I'm not going to be lectured
and pummelled by every one, just for a bit of a frolic.
I was sony about Meg, and begged pardon like a man ;
but I won't do it again, when I wasn't in the wrong."
" He didn't know that."
" He ought to trust me, and not act as if I was a
baby. It's no use, Jo ; he's got to learn that I'm able
to take care of myself, and don't need any one's apron-
string to hold on by."
"What pepper-pots you are !" sighed Jo. "How
do you mean to settle this affair ? "
" Well, he ought to beg pardon, and believe me
when I say I can't tell him what the row's about."
" Bless you ! he won't do that."
" I won't go down till he does."
" Now, Teddy, be sensible ; let it pass, and I'll ex-
plain what I can. You can't stay here, so what's the
use of being melodramatic ? "
" I don't intend to stay here long, any-way. I'll
slip off and take a journey somewhere, and when
grandpa misses me he'll come round fast enough."
" I dare say ; but you ought not to go and worry
" Don't preach. I'll go to Washington and see
Brooke ; it's gay there, and I'll enjoy myself after the
" What fun you'd have ! I wish I could run off
Laurie makes Mischief. 309
too ! " said Jo, forgetting her part of Mentor in lively
visions of martial life at the capital.
" Come on, then ! Why not ? You go and sur-
prise your father, and I'll stir up old Brooke. It
would be a glorious joke ; let's do it, Jo ! We'll leave
a letter saying we are all right, and trot off at once.
I've got money enough ; it will do you good, and be
no harm, as you go to your father."
For a moment Jo looked as if she would agree ; for,
wild as the plan was, it just suited her. She was tired
of care and confinement, longed for change, and
thoughts of her father blended temptingly with the
novel charms of camps and hospitals, liberty and fun.
Her eyes kindled as they turned wistfully toward the
window, but they fell on the old house opposite, and
she shook her head with sorrowful decision.
u If I was a boy, we'd run away together, and have
a capital time ; but as I'm a miserable girl, I must be
proper, and stop at home. Don't tempt me, Teddy,
it's a crazy plan."
" Thaf s the fun of it ! " began Laurie, who had got
a wilful fit on him, and was possessed to break out of
bounds in some way.
"Hold your tongue!" cried Jo, covering her ears.
' Prunes and prisms ' are my doom, and I may as well
make up my mind to it. I came here to moralize,
not to hear about things that make me skip to
" I knew Meg would wet-blanket such a proposal,
but I thought you had more spirit," began Laurie, in-
" Bad boy, be quiet. Sit down and think of your
310 Little Women.
own sins, don't go making me add to mine. If I get
your grandpa to apologize for the shaking, will you
give up running away ? " asked Jo, seriously.
" Yes, but you won't do it," answered Laurie, who
wished to " make up," but felt that his outraged dignity
must be appeased first.
" If I can manage the young one I can the old one,"
muttered Jo, as she walked away, leaving Laurie bent
over a railroad map, with his head propped up on
" Come in ! " and Mr. Laurence's gruff voice sounded
gruffer than ever, as Jo tapped at nis door.
" It's only me, sir, come to return a book," she said,
blandly, as she entered.
" Want any more ? " asked the old gentleman, look-
ing grim and vexed, but trying not to show it.
' Yes, please, I like old Sam so well, I think I'll
try the second volume," returned Jo, hoping to pro-
pitiate him by accepting a second dose of " Boswell's
Johnson," as he had recommended that lively work.
The shaggy eyebrows unbent a little, as he rolled
the steps toward the shelf where the Johnsonian
literature was placed. Jo skipped up, and, sitting on
the top step, affected to be searching for her book, but
was really wondering how best to introduce the dan-
.gerous object of her visit. Mr. Laurence seemed to
suspect that something was brewing in her mind ; for,
after taking several brisk turns about the room, he
faced round on her, speaking so abruptly, that " Ras-
selas " tumbled face downward on the floor.
" What has that boy been about? Don't try to
shield him, now ! I know he has been in mischief,
Laurie makes Mischief. 311
by the way he acted when he came home. I can't get
a word from him ; and, when I threatened to shake the
truth out of him, he bolted upstairs, and locked him-
self into his room."
" He did do wrong, but we forgave him, and all
promised not to say a word to any one," began Jo,
" That won't do ; he shall not shelter himself behind
a promise from you soft-hearted girls. If he's done
anything amiss, he shall confess, beg pardon, and be
punished. Out with it, Jo ! I won't be kept in the
Mr. Laurence looked so alarming, and spoke so
sharply, that Jo would have gladly run away, if she
could, but she was perched aloft on the steps, and he
stood at the foot, a lion in the path, so she had to stay
and brave it out.
" Indeed, sir, I cannot tell, mother forbid it. Laurie
has confessed, asked pardon, and been punished quite
enough. We don't keep silence to shield him, but
some one else, and it will make more trouble if you
interfere. Please don't ; it was partly my fault, but it's
all right now, so let's forget it, and talk about the
4 Rambler,' or something pleasant."
" Hang the ' Rambler ! ' come down and give me
your word that this harum-scarum boy of mine hasn't
done anything ungrateful or impertinent. If he has,
after all your kindness to him, I'll thrash him with
my own hands."
The threat sounded awful, but did not alarm Jo, for
she knew the irascible old man would never lift a
finger against his grandson, whatever he might say to
312 Little Women.
the contrary. She obediently descended, and made as
light of the prank as she could without betraying Meg,
or forgetting the truth.
" Hum ! ha ! well, if the boy held his tongue because
he'd promised, and not from obstinacy, I'll forgive him.
He's a stubborn fellow, and hard to manage," said Mr.
Laurence, rubbing up his hair till it looked as if he'd
been out in a gale, and smoothing the frown from his
brow with an air of relief.
" So am I ; but a kind word will govern me when
all the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't,'*
said Jo, trying to say a kind word for her friend, who
seemed to get out of one scrape only to fall into another.
"You think I'm not kind to him, hey?" was the
" Oh, dear, no, sir ; you are rather too kind some-
times, and then just a trifle hasty when he tries your
patience. Don't you think you are ? "
Jo was determined to have it out now, and tried to
look quite placid, though she quaked a little after her
bold speech. To her great relief and surprise, the old
gentleman only threw his spectacles on to the table
with a rattle, and exclaimed, frankly,
"You're right, girl, I am! I love the boy, but he
tries my patience past bearing, and I don't know how
it will end, if we go on so."
" I'll tell you, he'll run away." Jo was sorry for
that speech the minute it was made; she meant to
warn him that Laurie would not bear much restraint,
and hoped he would be more forbearing with the lad.
Mr. Laurence's ruddy face changed suddenly, and
he sat down with a troubled glance at the picture of
Laurie makes Mischief. 313
a handsome man, which hung over his table. It was
Laurie's father, who had run away in his youth, and
married against the imperious old man's will. Jo
fancied he remembered and regretted the past, and
she wished she had held her tongue.
" He won't do it, unless he is very much worried,
and only threatens it sometimes, when he gets tired of
studying. I often think I should like to, especially
since my hair was cut ; so, if you ever miss us, you
may advertise for two boys, and look among the ships
bound for India."
She laughed as she spoke, and Mr. Laurence looked
relieved, evidently taking the whole as a joke.
" You hussy, how dare you talk in that way? where's
your respect for me, and your proper bringing up?
Bless the boys and girls ! what torments they are ; yet
we can't do without them," he said, pinching her
" Go and bring that boy down to his dinner, tell
him it's all right, and advise him not to put on
tragedy airs with his grandfather ; I won't bear it."
u He won't come, sir ; he feels badly because you
didn't believe him when he said he couldn't tell. I
think the shaking hurt his feelings very much."
Jo tried to look pathetic, but must have failed, for
Mr. Laurence began to laugh, and she knew the day
" I'm sorry for that, and ought to thank him for not
shaking me, I suppose. What the dickens does the
fellow expect ? " and the old gentleman looked a trifle
ashamed of his own testiness.
"If I was you, I'd write him an apology, sir. He
314 Little Women.
says he won't come down till he has one ; and talks
about Washington, and goes on in an absurd way. A
formal apology will make him see how foolish he is,
and bring him down quite amiable. Try it ; he likes
fun, and this way is better than talking. I'll carry it
up, and teach him his duty."
Mr. Laurence gave her a sharp look, and put on his
spectacles, saying, slowly, " You're a sly puss ! but I
don't mind being managed by you and Beth. Here,
give me a bit of paper, and let us have done with this
The note was written in the terms which one gen-
tleman would use to another after offering some deep
insult. Jo dropped a kiss on the top of Mr. Lau-
rence's bald head, and ran up to slip the apology
under Laurie's door, advising him, through the key-
hole, to be submissive, decorous, and a few other
agreeable impossibilities. Finding the door locked
again, she left the note to do its work, and was going
quietly away, when the young gentleman slid down
the banisters, and waited for her at the bottom, say-
ing, with his most virtuous expression of countenance,
" What a good fellow you are, Jo ! Did you get
blown up ? " he added, laughing.
" No ; he was pretty clever, on the whole."
" Ah ! I got it all round ! even you cast me off over
there, and I felt just ready to go to the deuce," he be-
" Don't talk in that way ; turn over a new leaf and
begin again, Teddy, my son."
" I keep turning over new leaves, and spoiling
them, as I used to spoil my copy-books ; and I make
Laurie makes Mischief. 315
so many beginnings there never will be an end," he
" Go and eat your dinner ; you'll feel better after it.
Men always croak when they are hungry," and Jo
whisked out at the front door after that.
u That's a 4 label ' on my ' sect/ answered Laurie,
quoting Amy, as he went to partake of humble-pie
dutifully with his grandfather, who was quite saintly
in temper, and overwhelmingly respectful in manner,
all the rest of the day.
Every one thought the matter ended, and the little
cloud blown over ; but the mischief was done, for,
though others forgot it, Meg remembered. She never
alluded to a certain person, but she thought of him a
good deal, dreamed dreams more than ever ; and, once,
Jo, rummaging her sister's desk for stamps, found a
bit of paper scribbled over with the words, "Mrs.
John Brooke ; " whereat she groaned tragically, and
cast it into the fire, feeling that Laurie's prank had
hastened the evil day for her.
LIKE sunshine after storm were the peaceful
weeks which followed. The invalids im-
proved rapidly, and Mr. March began to talk
of returning early in the new year. Beth was soon
able to lie on the study sofa all day, amusing herself
with the well-beloved cats, at first, and, in time, with
doll's sewing, which had fallen sadly behindhand.
Her once active limbs were so stiff and feeble that Jo
took her a daily airing about the house, in her strong
arms. Meg cheerfully blackened and burnt her white
hands cooking delicate messes for "the dear;" while
Amy, a loyal slave of the ring, celebrated her return
by giving away as many of her treasures as she could
prevail on her sisters to accept.
As Christmas approached, the usual mysteries began
to haunt the house, and Jo frequently convulsed the
family by proposing utterly impossible, or magnifi-
cently absurd ceremonies, in honor of this unusually
merry Christmas. Laurie was equally impracticable,
and would have had bonfires, sky-rockets, and tri-
umphal arches, if he had had his own way. After
many skirmishes and snubbings, the ambitious pair
Pleasant Meadows. 317
were considered effectually quenched, and went about
with forlorn faces, which were rather belied by explo-
sions of laughter when the two got together.
Several days of unusually mild weather fitly ushered
in a splendid Christmas-day. Hannah " felt in her
bones that it was going to be an uncommonly plummy
day," and she proved herself a true prophetess, for
everybody and everything seemed bound to produce
a grand success. To begin with : Mr. March wrote
that he should soon be with them ; then Beth felt
uncommonly well that morning, and, being dressed in
her mother's gift, a soft crimson merino wrapper,
was borne in triumph to the window, to behold the
offering of Jo and Laurie. The Unquenchables had
done their best to be worthy of the name, for, like
elves, they had worked by night, and conjured up a
comical surprise. Out in the garden stood a stately
snow-maiden, crowned with holly, bearing a basket
of fruit and flowers in one hand, a great roll of new
music in the other, a perfect rainbow of an Afghan
round her chilly shoulders, and a Christmas carol
issuing from her lips, on a pink paper streamer :
" THE JUNGFRAU TO BETH.
"God bless you, dear Queen Bess!
May nothing you dismay;
But health, and peace, and happiness,
Be yours, this Christmas-day.
' "Here's fruit to feed our busy bee,
And flowers for her nose;
Here's music for her pianee,
An Afghan for her toes.
318 Little Women.
"A portrait of Joanna, see,
By Raphael No. 2,
Who labored with great industry,
To make it fair and true.
" Accept a ribbon red I beg,
For Madam Purrer's tail;
And ice cream made by lovely Peg,
A Mont Blanc in a pail.
"Their dearest love my makers laid
Within my breast of snow,
Accept it, and the Alpine maid,
From Laurie and from Jo."
How Beth laughed when she saw it \ how Laurie
ran up and down to bring in the gifts, and what ridic-
ulous speeches Jo made as she presented them !
" I'm so full of happiness, that, if father was only
here, I couldn't hold one drop more," said Beth, quite
sighing with contentment as Jo carried her off to the
study to rest after the excitement, and to refresh her-
self with some of the delicious grapes the "Jungfrau"
had sent her.
" So am I," added Jo, slapping the pocket wherein
reposed the long-desired Undine and Sintram.
" I'm sure I am," echoed Amy, poring over the en-
graved copy of the Madonna and Child, which her
mother had given her, in a pretty frame.
" Of course I am," cried Meg, smoothing the silvery
folds of her first silk dress ; for Mr. Laurence had
insisted on giving it.
" How can / be otherwise ! " said Mrs. March, grate-
fully, as her eyes went from her husband's letter to
Pleasant Meadows. 319
Beth's smiling face, and her hand caressed the brooch
made of gray and golden, chestnut and dark brown
hair, which the girls had just fastened on her breast.
Now and then, in this work-a-day world, things do
happen in the delightful story-book fashion, and what
a comfort that is. Half an hour after every one had
said they were so happy they could only hold one
drop more, the drop came. Laurie opened the
parlor door, and popped his head in very quietly.
He might just as well have turned a somersault, and
uttered an Indian war-whoop ; for his face was so
full of suppressed excitement, and his voice so treach-
erously joyful, that every one jumped up, though he
only said, in a queer, breathless voice, " Here's another
Christmas present for the March family." -
Before the words were well out of his mouth, he
was whisked away somehow, and in his place ap-
peared a tall man, muffled up to the eyes, leaning on
the arm of another tall man, who tried to say some-
thing and couldn't. Of course there was a general
stampede ; and for several minutes everybody seemed to
lose their wits, for the strangest things -were done, and
no one said a word. Mr. March became invisible in
the embrace of four pairs of loving arms ; Jo disgraced
herself by nearly fainting away, and had to be doctored
by Laurie in the china closet ; Mr. Brooke kissed Meg
entirely by mistake, as he somewhat incoherently
explained ; and Amy, the dignified, tumbled over a
stool, and, never stopping to get up, hugged and cried
over her father's boots in the most touching manner.
Mrs. March was the first to recover herself, and held
320 Little Women.
up her hand with a warning, " Hush ! remember
Beth ! "
But it was too late ; the study door flew open, the
little red wrapper appeared on the threshold, joy
put strength into the feeble limbs, and Beth ran
straight into her father's arms. Never mind what
happened just after that ; for the full hearts over-
flowed, washing away the bitterness of the past, and
leaving only the sweetness of the present.
It was not at all romantic, but a hearty laugh set
everybody straight again, for Hannah was dis-
covered behind the door, sobbing over the fat turkey,
which she had forgotten to put down when she rushed
up from the kitchen. As the laugh subsided, Mrs.
March began to thank Mr. Brooke for his faithful
care of her husband, at which Mr. Brooke suddenly
remembered that Mr. March needed rest, and, seizing
Laurie, he precipitately retired. Then the two in-
valids were ordered to repose, which they did, by both
sitting in one big chair, and talking hard.
Mr. March told how he had longed to surprise
them, and how, when the fine weather came, he had
been allowed by his doctor to take advantage of it ;
how devoted Brooke had been, and how he was
altogether a most estimable and upright young man.
Why Mr. March paused a minute just there, and,
after a glance at Meg, who w r as violently poking the
fire, looked at his wife with an inquiring lift of the
eyebrows, I leave you to imagine ; also why Mrs.
March gently nodded her head, and asked, rather
abruptly, if he wouldn't have something to eat. Jo
saw and understood the look ; and she stalked grimly
But it was too late; the study-door flew open, and Beth ran
straight into her father's arms. PAGK 320.
Pleasant Meadows. 321
away, to get wine and beef tea, muttering to herself,
as she slammed the door, " I hate estimable young
men with brown eyes ! "
There never was such a Christmas dinner as they
had that day. The fat turkey was a sight to behold,
when Hannah sent him up, stuffed, browned and
decorated. So was the plum-pudding, which quite
melted in one's mouth ; likewise the jellies, in which
Amy revelled like a fly in a honey-pot. Everything
turned out well ; which was a mercy, Hannah said,
44 For my mind was that flustered, mum, that it's a
merrycle I didn't roast the pudding and stuff the
turkey with raisens, let alone bilin' of it in a cloth."
Mr. Laurence and his grandson dined with them ;
also Mr. Brooke, at whom Jo glowered darkly, to
Laurie's infinite amusement. Two easy-chairs stood
side by side at the head of the table, in which sat
Beth and her father, feasting, modestly, on chicken and
a little fruit. They drank healths, told stories, sung
songs, "reminisced," as the old folks say, and had
a thoroughly good time. A sleigh-ride had been
planned, but the girls would not leave their father ; so
the guests departed early, and, as twilight gathered,
the happv family sat together round the fire.
u Just a year ago we were groaning over the dismal
Christmas we expected to have. Do you remember ? "
asked Jo, breaking a short pause, which had followed
a long conversation about many things.
" Rather a pleasant year on the whole ! " said Meg,
smiling at the fire, and congratulating herself on
having treated Mr. Brooke with dignity.
" I think it's been a pretty hard one," observed
322 Little Women.
Amy, watching the light shine on her ring, with
44 I'm glad if s over, because we've 'got you back,"
whispered Beth, who sat on her father's knee.
44 Rather a rough road for you to travel, my little
pilgrims, especially the latter part of it. But you
have got on bravely ; and I think the burdens are in a
fair way to tumble off very soon," said Mr. March,
looking, with fatherly satisfaction, at the four young
faces gathered round him.
44 How do you know? Did mother tell you?"
44 Not much ; straws show which way the wind
blows ; and I've made several discoveries today."
44 Oh, tell us what they are ! " cried Meg, who sat
44 Here is one ! " and, taking up the hand which lay
on the arm of his chair, he pointed to the roughened
forefinger, a burn on the back, and two or three little
hard spots on the palm. 44 1 remember a time when
this hand was white and smooth, and your first care
was to keep it so. It was very pretty then, but to
me it is much prettier now, for in these seeming
blemishes I read a little history. A burnt offering has
been made of vanity ; this hardened palm has earned
something better than blisters, and I'm sure the sew-
ing done by these pricked fingers will last a long time,
so much good-will went into the stitches. Meg, my
dear, I value the womanly skill which keeps home
happy, more than white hands or fashionable accom-
plishments ; I'm proud to shake this good, industrious
Pleasant Meadows. 323
little hand, and hope I shall not soon be asked to give
If Meg had wanted a reward for hours of patient
labor, she received it in the hearty pressure of her
father's hand, and the approving smile he gave her.
i "What about Jo? Please say something nice; for
she has tried so hard, and been so very, very good to
me," said Beth, in her father's ear.
He laughed, and looked across at the tall girl who
sat opposite, with an unusually mild expression in her
" In spite of the curly crop, I don't see the i son Jo*
whom I left a year ago," said Mr. March. " I see a
young lady who pins her collar straight, laces her
boots neatly, and neither whistles, talks slang, nor lies
on the rug, as she used to do. Her face is rather thin
and pale, just now, with watching and anxiety ; but I
like to look at it, for it has grown gentler, and her
voice is lower ; she doesn't bounce, but moves quietly,
and takes care of a certain little person in a motherly
way, which delights me. I rather miss my wild girl ;
but if I get a strong, helpful, tender-hearted woman
in her place, I shall feel quite satisfied. I don't know
whether the shearing sobered our black sheep, but I
do know that in all Washington I couldn't find any-
thing beautiful enough to be bought with the five-and-
twenty dollars which my good girl sent me."
Jo's keen eyes were rather dim for a minute, and
her thin face grew rosy in the firelight, as she received
her father's praise, feeling that she did deserve a
portion of it.
3 2 4
44 Now Beth ; " said Amy, longing for her turn, but
ready to wait.
" There's so little of her I'm afraid to say much, for
fear she will slip away altogether, though she is not
so shy as she used to be," began their father, cheer-
fully ; but, recollecting how nearly he had lost her,
he held her close, saying, tenderly, with her cheek
against his own, " I've got you safe, my Beth, and I'll
keep you so, please God."
After a minute's silence, he looked down at Amy,
who sat on the cricket at his feet, and said, with a
caress of the shining hair,
44 I observed that Amy took drumsticks at dinner,
ran errands for her mother all the afternoon, gave Meg
her place to-night, and has waited on every one with
patience and good-humor. I also observe that she
does not fret much, nor prink at the glass, and has
not even mentioned a very pretty ring which she
wears ; so I conclude that she has learned to think
of other people more, and of herself less, and has
. decided to try and mould her character as carefully as
she moulds her little clay figures. I am glad of this ;
for though I should be very proud of a graceful statue
made by her, I shall be infinitely prouder of a lovable
daughter, with a talent for making life beautiful to
herself and others."
44 What are you thinking of, Beth ? " asked Jo, when
Amy had thanked her father, and told about her ring.
u I read in ' Pilgrim's Progress ' today, how, after
many troubles, Christian and Hopeful came to a
pleasant green meadow, where lilies bloomed all the
year round, and there they rested happily, as we do
Pleasant Meadows. 325
now, before they went on to their journey's end,"
answered Beth ; adding, as she slipped out of her
father's arms, and went slowly to the instrument,
" It's singing time now, and I want to be in my old
place. I'll try to sing the song of the shepherd boy
which the Pilgrim's heard. I made the music for
father, because he likes the verses."
So, sitting at the dear little piano, Beth softly
touched the keys, and, in the sweet voice they had
never thought to hear again, sung, to her own accom-
paniment, the quaint hymn, which was a singularly
fitting song for her :
"He that is down need fear no fall;
He that is low no pride;
He that is humble ever shall
Have God to be his guide.
"I am content with what I have,
Little be it or much ;
And, Lord ! contentment still I crave,
Because Thou savest such.
"Fulness to them a burden is,
That go on Pilgrimage;
Here little, and hereafter bliss,
Is best from age to age ! "
AUNT MARCH SETTLES THE QJJESTION.
LIKE bees swarming after their queen, mother
and daughters hovered about Mr. March the
next day, neglecting everything to look at,
wait upon, and listen to, the new invalid, who was in
a fair way to be killed by kindness. As he sat propped
up in the big chair by Beth's sofa, with the other three
close by, and Hannah popping in her head now and
then, " to peek at the dear man," nothing seemed
needed to complete their happiness. But something
was needed, and the elder ones felt it, though none
confessed the fact. Mr. and Mrs. March looked at
one another with an anxious expression, as their eyes
followed Meg. Jo had sudden fits of sobriety, and
was seen to shake her fist at Mr. Brooke's umbrella,
which had been left in the hall ; Meg was absent-
minded, shy and silent, started when the bell rang,
and colored when John's name was mentioned ; Amy
said " Every one seemed waiting for something, and
couldn't settle down, which was queer, since father
was safe at home," and Beth innocently wondered
why their neighbors didn't run over as usual.
Aunt March settles the Question. 327
Laurie went by in the afternoon, and, seeing Meg
at the window, seemed suddenly possessed w T ith a
melodramatic fit, for he fell down upon one knee in
the snow, beat his breast, tore his hair, and clasped
his hands imploringly, as if begging some boon ; and
when Meg told him to behave himself, and go away,
he wrung imaginary tears out of his handkerchief,
and staggered round the corner as if in utter despair.
" What does the goose mean?" said Meg, laughing,
and trying to look unconscious.
" He's showing you how your John will go on by
and by. Touching, isn't it?" answered Jo, scornfully.
" Don't say my John, it isn't proper or true ; " but
Meg's voice lingered over the words as if they sounded
pleasant to her. "Please ddn't plague me, Jo ; I've
told you I don't care muck about him, and there isn't
to be anything said, but we are all to be friendly, and
go on as before."
" We can't, for something has been said, and Laurie's
mischief has spoilt you for me. I see it, and so does
mother ; you are not like your old self a bit, and seem
ever so far away from me. I don't mean to plague
you, and will bear it like a man, but I do wish it was
all settled. I hate to wait; so if you mean ever to do
it, make haste, and have it over quick," said Jo,
" I can't say or do anything till he speaks, and he
won't, because father said I was too young," began
Meg, bending over her work with a queer little smile,
which suggested that she did not quite agree with her
father on that point.
"If he did speak, you wouldn't know what to say,
328 Little Women.
but would cry or blush, or let him have his own way,
instead of giving a good, decided, No."
"I'm not so silly and weak as you think. I know
just what I should say, for I've planned it all, so I
needn't be taken unawares ; there's no knowing what
may happen, and I wished to be prepared."
Jo couldn't help smiling at the important air which
Meg had unconsciously assumed, and which was as
becoming as the pretty color varying in her cheeks.
"Would you mind telling me what you'd say?"
asked Jo, more respectfully.
4 * Not at all ; you are sixteen now, quite old enough
to be my confidant, and my experience will be useful
to you by and by, perhaps, in your own affairs of this
" Don't mean to have any ; it's fun to watch other
people philander, but I should feel like a fool doing it
myself," said Jo, looking alarmed at the thought.
" I guess not, if you liked any one very much, and he
liked you." Meg spoke as if to herself, and glanced
out at the lane where she had often seen lovers walking
together in the summer twilight.
" I thought you were going to tell your speech to
that man," said Jo, rudely shortening her sister's little
"Oh, I should merely say, quite calmly and de-
cidedly, 4 Thank you, Mr. Brooke, you are very kind,
but I agree with father, that I am too young to enter
into any engagement at present ; so please say no more,
but let us be friends as we were.' "
" Hum ! that's stiff and cool enough. I don't believe
you'll ever say it, and I know he won't be satisfied if
Aunt March settles the Question. 329
you do. If he goes on like the rejected lovers in
books, you'll give in, rather than hurt his feelings."
"No I won't! I shall tell him I've made up my
mind, and shall walk out of the room with dignity."
Meg rose as she spoke, and was just going to re-
hearse the dignified exit, when a step in the hall made
her fly into her seat, and begin to sew as if her life
depended on finishing that particular seam in a given
time. Jo smothered a laugh at the sudden change,
and, when some one gave a modest tap, opened the
door with a grim aspect, which was anything but
"Good afternoon, I came to get my umbrella,
that is, to see how your father finds himself today,"
said Mr. Brooke, getting a trifle confused, as his eye
went from one tell-tale face to the other.
" It's very well, he's in the rack, I'll get him, and
tell it you are here," and having jumbled her father
and the umbrella well together in her reply, Jo slipped
out of the room to give Meg a chance to make her
speech, and air her dignity. But the instant she
vanished, Meg began to sidle toward the door, mur-
"Mother will like to see you, pray sit down, I'll
"Don't go; are you afraid of me, Margaret?" and
Mr. Brooke looked so hurt, that Meg thought she must
have done something very rude. She blushed up to
the little curls on her forehead, for he had never called
her Margaret before, and she was surprised to find
how natural and sweet it seemed to hear him say it.
Anxious to appear friendly and at her ease, she put
330 Little Women.
out her hand with a confiding gesture, and said,
"How can I be afraid when you have been so kind
to father? I only wish I could thank you for it."
" Shall I tell you how? " asked Mr. Brooke, holding
the small hand fast in both his big ones, and looking
down at Meg with so much love in the brown eyes,
that her heart began to flutter, and she both longed to
run away and to stop and listen.
"Oh no, please don't I'd rather not," she said,
trying to withdraw her hand, and looking frightened
in spite of her denial.
" I won't trouble you, I only want to know if you
care for me a little, Meg, I love you so much, dear,"
added Mr. Brooke, tenderly.
This was the moment for the calm, proper speech,
but Meg didn't make it, she forgot every word of it,
hung her head, and answered, "I don't know," so
softly, that John had to stoop down to catch the foolish
He seemed to think it was worth the trouble, for
he smiled to himself as if quite satisfied, pressed the
plump hand gratefully, and said, in his most persua-
sive tone, "Will you try and find out? I want to
know so much ; for I can*t go to work with any heart
until I learn whether I am to have my reward in the
end or not."
" I'm too young," faltered Meg, wondering why she
was so fluttered, yet rather enjoying it.
"I'll wait; and, in the meantime, you could be
learning to like me. Would it be a very hard lesson,
dear ? "
Aunt March settles the Question. 331
"Not if I chose to learn it, but "
" Please choose to learn, Meg. I love to teach, and
this is easier tban German," broke in John, getting
possession of the other hand, so that she had no way
of hiding her face, as he bent to look into it.
His tone was properly beseeching ; but, stealing a
shy look at him, Meg saw that his eyes were merry as
well as tender, and that he wore the satisfied smile of
one who had no doubt of his success. This nettled
her; Annie Moffat's foolish lessons in coquetry came
into her mind, and the love of power, which sleeps in
the bosoms of the best of little women, woke up all
of a sudden, and took possession of her. She felt
excited and strange, and, not knowing what else to do,
followed a capricious impulse, and, withdrawing her
hands, said, petulantly, " I don't choose ; please go
away, and let me be ! "
Poor Mr. Brooke looked as if his lovely castle in the
air was tumbling about his ears, for he had never seen
Meg in such a mood before, and it rather bewildered
" Do you really mean that? "he asked, anxiously,
following her as she walked away.
" Yes, I do ; I don't want to be worried about such
things. Father says I needn't ; it's too soon, and I'd
" Mayn't I hope you'll change your mind by and
by? I'll wait, and say nothing till you have had more
time. Don't play with me, Meg. I didn't think that
" Don't think of me at all. I'd rather you wouldn't,"
332 L \ile Women.
said Meg, taking a naughty satisfaction in trying her
lover's patience and her own power.
He was grave and pale now, and looked decidedly
more like the novel heroes whom she admired ; but he
neither slapped his forehead nor tramped about the
room, as they did ; he just stood looking at her so
wistfully, so tenderly, that she found her heart relent-
ing in spite of her. What would have happened
next I cannot say, if Aunt March had not come hob-
bling in at this interesting minute.
The old lady couldn't resist her longing to see her
nephew ; for she had met Laurie as she took her
airing, and, hearing of Mr. March's arrival, drove
straight out to see him. The family were all busy in
the back part of the house, and she had made her way
quietly in, hoping to surprise them. She did surprise
two of them so much, that Meg started as if she had
seen a ghost, and Mr. Brooke vanished into the study.
"Bless me! what's all this?" cried the old lady,
with a rap of her cane, as she glanced from the pale
young gentleman to the scarlet young lady.
" It's father's friend. I'm so surprised to see you ! "
stammered Meg, feeling that she was in for a lecture
" That's evident," returned Aunt March, sitting
down. " But what is father's friend saying, to make
you look like a peony? There's mischief going on,
and I insist upon knowing what it is ! " with another
" We were merely talking. Mr. Brooke came for
his umbrella," began Meg, wishing that Mr. Brooke
and the umbrella were safelv out of the house.
Aunt March settles the Question. 333
"Brooke? That boy's tutor? Ah! I understand
now. I know all about it. Jo blundered into a
wrong message in one of your pa's letters, and I made
her tell me. You haven't gone and accepted him,
child?" cried Aunt March, looking scandalized.
44 Hush ! he'll hear ! Shan't I call mother ? " said
Meg, much troubled.
" Not yet. I've something to say to you, and I
must free my mind at once. Tell me, do you mean
to marry this Cook ? If you do, not one penny of my
money ever goes to you. Remember that, and be a
sensible girl," said the old lady, impressively.
Now Aunt March possessed, in perfection, the art
of rousing the spirit of opposition in the gentlest
people, and enjoyed doing it. The best of us have
a spice of perversity in us, especially when we are
young, and in love. If Aunt March had begged Meg
to accept John Brooke, she would probably have
declared she couldn't think of it ; but, as she was
peremptorily ordered not to like him, she immediately
made up her mind that she would. Inclination as
well as perversity made the decision easy, and, being
already much excited, Meg opposed the old lady with
" I shall marry whom I please, Aunt March, and
you can leave your money to any one you like," she
said, nodding her head with a resolute air.
"Highty tighty ! Is that the way you take my ad-
vice, miss? You'll be sorry for it, by and by, when
you've tried love in a cottage, and found it a failure."
"It can't be a worse one than some people find in
big houses," retorted Meg.
334 Little Women.
Aunt March put on her glasses and took a look at
the girl, for she did not know her in this new
mood. Meg hardly knew herself, she felt so brave
and independent, so glad to defend John, and assert
her right to love him, if she liked. Aunt March saw
that she had begun wrong, and, after a little pause,
made a fresh start, saying, as mildly as she could,
44 Now, Meg, my dear, be reasonable, and take my
advice. I mean it kindly, and don't want you to
spoil your whole life by making a mistake at the
beginning. You ought to marry well, and help your
family ; it's your duty to make a rich match, and it
ought to be impressed upon you."
44 Father and mother don't think so ; they like John,
though he is poor."
44 Your pa and ma, my dear, have no more worldly
wisdom than two babies."
44 I'm glad of it," cried Meg, stoutly.
Aunt March took no notice, but went on with her
lecture. 44 This Rook is poor, and hasn't got any rich
relations, has he ? "
44 No ; but he has many warm friends."
44 You can't live on friends ; try it, and see how cool
they'll grow. He hasn't any business, has he? "
44 Not yet ; Mr. Laurence is going to help him."
44 That won't last long. James Laurence Is a
crotchety old fellow, and not to be depended on. So
you intend to marry a man without money, position,
or business, and go on working harder than you do
now, when you might be comfortable all your days by
minding me, and doing better? I thought you had
more sense, Meg."
Aunt March settles the Question. 335
" I couldn't do better if I waited half my life !
John is good and wise ; he's got heaps of talent ; he's
willing to work, and sure to get on, he's so energetic
and brave. Every one likes and respects him, and
I'm proud to think he cares for me, though I'm so
poor, and young, and silly," said Meg, looking pret-
tier than ever in her earnestness.
" He knows you have got rich relations, child ;
that's the secret of his liking, I suspect."
"Aunt March, how dare you say such a thing?
John is above such meanness, and I won't listen to
you a minute if you talk so," cried Meg, indignantly,
forgetting everything but the injustice of the old lady's
suspicions. " My John wouldn't marry for money,
any more than I would. We are willing to work, and
we mean to wait. I'm not afraid of being poor, for
I've been happy so far, and I know I shall be with
him, because he loves me, and I "
Meg stopped there, remembering, all of a sudden,
that she hadn't made up her mind ; that she had told
"her John" to go away, and that he might be over-
hearing her inconsistent remarks.
Aunt March was very angry, for she had set her
heart on having her pretty niece make a fine match,
and something in the girl's happy young face made
the lonely old woman feel both sad and sour.
" Well ; I wash my hands of the whole affair !
You are a wilful child, and you've lost more than you
know by this piece of folly. No, I won't stop ; I'm
disappointed in you, and haven't spirits to see your pa
now. Don't expect anything from me when you are
336 Little Women.
married ; your Mr. Book's friends must take care of
you. I'm done with you forever."
And, slamming the door in Meg's face, Aunt March
drove off in high dudgeon. She seemed to take all
the girl's courage with her ; for, when left alone, Meg
stood a moment undecided whether to laugh or crv.
Before she could make up her mind, she was taken
possession of by Mr. Brooke, who said, all in one
breath, " I couldn't help hearing, Meg. Thank you
for defending me, and. Aunt March for proving that
you do care for me a little bit."
" I didn't know how much, till she abused you,"
" And I needn't go away, but may stay and be
happy may I, dear ? "
Here was another fine chance to make the crushing
speech and the stately exit, but Meg never thought of
doing either, and disgraced herself forever in Jo's eyes,
by meekly whispering, "Yes, John," and hiding her
face on Mr. Brooke's waistcoat.
Fifteen minutes after Aunt March's departure, Jo
came softly down stairs, paused an instant at the par-
lor door, and, hearing no sound within, nodded and
smiled, with a satisfied expression, saying to herself,
"She has sent him away as we planned, and that affair
is settled. I'll go and hear the fun, and have a good
laugh over it."
But poor Jo never got her laugh, for she was trans-
fixed upon the threshold by a spectacle which held
her there, staring with her mouth nearly as wide open
as her eyes. Going in to exult over a fallen enemy,
and to praise a strong-minded sister for the banish-
Aunt March settles the Question. 337
ment of an objectionable lover, it certainly ivas a
shock to behold the aforesaid enemy serenely sitting
on the sofa, with the strong-minded sister enthroned
upon his knee, and wearing an expression of the most
abject submission. Jo gave a sort of gasp, as if a cold
shower-bath had suddenly fallen upon her, for such
an unexpected turning of the tables actually took her
breath away. At the odd sound, the lovers turned
and saw her. Meg jumped up, looking both proud
and shy; but " that man," as Jo called him, actually
laughed, and said, coolly, as he kissed the astonished
new comer, " Sister Jo, congratulate us ! "
That was adding insult to injury ! it was altogether
too much ! and, making some wild demonstration
with her hands, Jo vanished without a word. Rush-
ing upstairs, she startled the invalids by exclaiming,
tragically, as she burst into the room, " Oh, do some-
body go down quick ! John Brooke is acting dread-
fully, and Meg likes it ! "
Mr. and Mrs. March left the room with speed ; and,
casting herself upon the bed, Jo cried and scolded
tempestuously as she told the awful news to Beth and
Amy. The little girls, however, considered it a most
agreeable and interesting event, and Jo got little com-
fort from them ; so she went up to her refuge in the
garret, and confided her troubles to the rats.
Nobody ever knew what went on in the parlor that
afternoon ; but a great deal of talking was done,
and quiet Mr. Brooke astonished his friends by the
eloquence and spirit with which he pleaded his suit,
told his plans, and persuaded them to arrange every-
thing just as he wanted it.
338 Little Women.
The tea-bell rang before he had finished describing
the paradise which he meant to earn for Meg, and he
proudly took her into supper, both looking so happy,
that Jo hadn't the heart to be jealous or dismal. Amy
was very much impressed by John's devotion and
Meg's dignity. Beth beamed at them from a distance,
while Mr. and Mrs. March surveyed the young couple
with such tender satisfaction, that it was perfectly
evident Aunt March was right in calling them as
" unworldly as a pair of babies." No one ate much,
but every one looked very happy, and the old room
seemed to brighten up amazingly when the first ro-
mance of the family began there.
" You can't say ' nothing pleasant ever happens
now/ can you, Meg?" said Amy, trying to decide
how she would group the lovers in the sketch she was
planning to take.
" No, I'm sure I can't. How much has happened
since I said that ! It seems a year ago," answered
Meg, who was in a blissful dream, lifted far above
such common things as bread and butter.
" The joys come close upon the sorrows this time,
and I rather think the changes have begun," said Mrs.
March. " In most families there comes, now and
then, a year full of events ; this has been such an one,
but it ends well, after all."
" Hope the next will end better," muttered Jo, who
found it very hard to see Meg absorbed in a stranger
before her face ; for Jo loved a few persons very
dearly, and dreaded to have their affection lost or
lessened in any way.
" I hope the third year from this will end better ; I
Aunt March settles the Question. 339
mean it shall, if I live to work out my plans," said
Mr. Brooke, smiling at Meg, as if everything had
become possible to him now.
" Doesn't it seem very long to wait? " asked Amy,
who was in a hurry for the wedding.
" I've got so much to learn before I shall be ready,
it seems a short time to me," answered Meg, with a
sweet gravity in her face, never seen there before.
" You have only to wait. / am to do the work,"
said John, beginning his labors by picking up Meg's
napkin, with an expression which caused Jo to shake
her head, and then say to herself, with an air of relief,
as the front door banged, " Here comes Laurie ; now
we shall have a little sensible conversation."
But Jo was mistaken ; for Laurie came prancing in,
overflowing with spirits, bearing a great bridal-looking
bouquet for " Mrs. John Brooke," and evidently labor-
ing under the delusion that the whole affair had been
brought about by his excellent management.
" I knew Brooke would have it all his own way,
he always does; for when he makes up his mind to
accomplish anything, it's done, though the sky falls,"
said Laurie, when he had presented his offering and
" Much obliged for that recommendation. I take it
as a good omen for the future, and invite you to my
wedding on the spot," answered Mr. Brooke y who felt
at peace with all mankind, even his mischievous pupil.
" I'll come if I'm at the ends of the earth ; for the
sight of Jo's face alone, on that occasion, would be
worth a long journey. You don't look festive, ma'am ;
what's the matter ? " asked Laurie, following her into
34-O Little Women.
a corner of the parlor, whither all had adjourned to
greet Mr. Laurence.
" I don't approve of the match, but I've made up
my mind to bear it, and shall not say a word against
it," said Jo, solemnly. " You can't know how hard it
is for me to give up Meg," she continued, with a little
quiver in her voice.
kt You don't give her up. You only go halves,"
said Laurie, consolingly.
" It never can be the same again. I've lost my
dearest friend, sighed Jo."
" You've got me, anyhow. I'm not good for much,
I know ; but I'll stand by you, Jo, all the days of my
life ; upon my word I will ! " and Laurie meant what
" I know you will, and I'm ever so much obliged ;
you are always a great comfort to me, Teddy," re-
turned Jo, gratefully shaking hands.
" Well, now, don't be dismal, there's a good fellow.
It's all right, you see. Meg is happy ; Brooke will fly
round and get settled immediately ; grandpa will at-
tend to him, and it will be very jolly to see Meg in her
own little house. We'll have capital times after she
is gone, for I shall be through college before long, and
then we'll go abroad, or some nice trip or other.
Wouldn't that console you ? "
" I rather think it would ; but there's no knowing
what may happen in three years," said Jo, thought-
" That's true ! Don't you wish you could take a
look forward, and see where we shall all be then? I
do," returned Laurie.
Aunt March settles the Question. 341
" I think not, for I might see something sad ; and
every one looks so happy now, I don't believe they
could be much improved," and Jo's eyes went slowly
round the room, brightening as they looked, for the
prospect was a pleasant one.
Father and mother sat together quietly re-living the
first chapter of the romance which for them began
some twenty years ago. Amy was drawing the
lovers, who sat apart in a beautiful world of their
own, the light of which touched their faces with a
grace the little artist could not copy. Beth lay on her
sofa talking cheerily with her old friend, who held
her little hand as if he felt that it possessed the power
to lead him along the peaceful ways she walked. Jo
lounged in her favorite low seat, with the grave, quiet
look which best became her ; and Laurie, leaning on
the back of her chair, his chin on a level with her
curly head, smiled with his friendliest aspect, and
nodded at her in the long glass which reflected them
So grouped the curtain falls upon Meg, Jo, Beth
and Amy. Whether it ever rises again, depends upon
the reception given to the first act of the domestic
drama, called " LITTLE WOMEN."
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