(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Children's Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "Little women, or, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy"

This BOOK may be kept out TWO WEEKS 
ONLY, and is subject to a fine of FIVE 
CENTS a day thereafter. It was taken out on 
the day indicated below: 



it 






uz^ 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2011 with funding from 

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 



http://www.archive.org/details/littlewomenormeg02alco 



Little Women 



MEG, JO, BETH AND AMY 



PART SECOND 



BY LOUISA M. ALCOTT 



WITH ILLUSTRATIONS 



BOSTON 

ROBERTS BROTHERS 

1869 



Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1869, by 

LOUISA M. ALCOTT, 

In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts. 



STEREOTYPED BY REGAN AND LEADBEATER, 

55 Water Street, Boston. 



CONTENTS 



CHAP. PAGE. 

I. Gossip 5 

II. The First Wedding 21 

III. Artistic Attempts 30 

IV. Literary Lessons 44 

V. Domestic Experiences 55 

VI. Calls 75 

VII. Consequences ....... 93 

VIII. Our Foreign Correspondent . . . 109 

IX. Tender Troubles 123 

X. Jo's Journal 139 

XI. A Friend 156 

^J XII. Heartache 177 

*« XIII. Beth's Secret 192 

*N XIV. New Impressions 200 

w XV. On the Shelf 216 



iv CONTENTS. 

CHAP. PAGE. 

XVI. Lazy Laurence 233 

XVII. The Valley of the Shadow . . .252 

XVIII. Learning to Forget . . . . " . 260 

XIX. All Alone 277 

XX. Surprises 288 

XXI. My Lord and Lady 310 

XXII. Daisy and Demi 317 

XXIII. Under the Umbrella 326 

XXIV. Harvest Time 345 



CHAPTER I. 



GOSSIP. 



IN order that we may start afresh and go to Meg's 
wedding with free minds, it will be well to begin 
with a little gossip about the Marches. And here 
let me premise, that if any of the elders think there is 
too much " lovering" in the story, as I fear they may 
(I'm not afraid the young folks will make that objec- 
tion), I can only say with Mrs. March, "What can 
you expect when I have four gay girls in the house, 
and a dashing young neighbor over the way?" 

The three years that have passed have brought but 
few changes to the quiet family. The war is over, 
and Mr. March safely at home, busy with his books 
and the small parish which found in him a minister 
by nature as by grace. A quiet, studious man, rich 
in the wisdom that is better than learning, the charity 
which calls all mankind " brother," the piety that 
blossoms into character, making it august and lovely. 

These attributes, in spite of poverty and the strict 
integrity which shut him out from the more worldly 
successes, attracted to him many admirable persons, as 
naturally as sweet herbs draw bees, and as naturally 
he gave them the honey into which fifty years of hard 
experience had distilled no bitter drop. Earnest 
young men found the gray-headed scholar as earnest 
and as young at heart as they ; thoughtful or troubled 
women instinctively brought their doubts and sorrows 
to him, sure of finding the gentlest sympathy, the 

(5) 



6 LITTLE WOMEN. 

wisest counsel ; sinners told their sins to the pure- 
hearted old man, and were both rebuked and saved ; 
gifted men found a companion in him ; ambitious 
men caught glimpses of nobler ambitions than their 
own ; and even worldlings confessed that his beliefs 
were beautiful and true, although "they wouldn't 
pay." 

To outsiders, the five energetic women seemed to 
rule the house, and so they did in many things ; but 
the quiet man sitting among his books was still the 
head of the family, the household conscience, anchor 
and comforter ; for to him the busy, anxious women 
always turned in troublous times, finding him, in 
the truest sense of those sacred words, husband and 
father. 

The girls gave their hearts into their mother's keep- 
ing — their souls into their father's ; and to both 
parents, who lived and labored so faithfully for them, 
they gave a love that grew with their growth, and 
bound them tenderly together by the sweetest tie 
which blesses life and outlives death. 

Mrs. March is as brisk and cheery, though rather 
grayer than when we saw her last, and just now so 
absorbed in Meg's affairs, that the hospitals and 
homes, still full of wounded "boys" and soldiers' 
widows, decidedly miss the motherly missionary's 
visits. 

John Brooke did his duty manfully for a year, got 
wounded, was sent home, and not allowed to return. 
He received no stars or bars, but he deserved them, for 
he cheerfully risked all he had ; and life and love are 
very precious when both are in full bloom. Perfectly 
resigned to his discharge, he devoted himself to get- 



GOSSIP. *j 

ting well, preparing for business, and earning a home 
for Meg. With the good sense and sturdy indepen- 
dence that characterized him, he refused Mr. Lau- 
rence's more generous offers, and accepted the place 
of under book-keeper, feeling better satisfied to begin 
with an honestly-earned salary, than by running any 
risks with borrowed money. 

Meg had spent the time in working as well as 
waiting, growing womanly in character, wise in 
housewifery arts, and prettier than ever ; for love is 
a great beautifier. She had her girlish ambitions and 
hopes, and felt some disappointment at the humble 
way in which the new life must begin. Ned Moffat 
had just married Sallie Gardiner, and Meg couldn't 
help contrasting their fine house and carriage, many 
gifts, and splendid outfit, with her own, and secretly 
wishing she could have the same. But somehow envy 
and discontent soon vanished when she thought of all 
the patient love and labor John had put into the little 
home awaiting her ; and when they sat together in 
the twilight, talking over their small plans, the future 
always grew so beautiful and bright, that she forgot 
Sallie's splendor, and felt herself the richest, happiest 
girl in Christendom. 

Jo never went back to Aunt March, for the old lady 
took such a fancy to Amy, that she bribed her with 
the offer of drawing lessons from one of the best 
teachers going ; and for the sake of this advantage, 
Amy would have served a far harder mistress. So 
she gave her mornings to duty, her afternoons to 
pleasure, and prospered finely. Jo, meantime, de- 
voted herself to literature and Beth, who remained 
delicate long after the fever was a thing of the past. 



8 LITTLE WOMEN. 

Not an invalid exactly, but never again the rosy, 
healthy creature she had been ; yet always hopeful, 
happy, and serene, busy with the quiet duties she 
loved, every one's friend, and an angel in the house, 
long before those who loved her most had learned to 
know it. 

As long as " The Spread Eagle " paid her a dollar 
a column for her " rubbish," as she called it, Jo felt 
herself a woman of means, and spun her little ro- 
mances diligently. But great plans fermented in her 
busy brain and ambitious mind, and the old tin 
kitchen in the garret held a slowly increasing pile of 
blotted manuscript, which was one day to place the 
name of March upon the roll of fame. 

Laurie, having dutifully gone to college to please 
his grandfather, was now getting through it in the 
easiest possible manner to please himself. A univer- 
sal favorite, thanks to money, manners, much talent, 
and the kindest heart that ever got its owner into 
scrapes by trying to get other people out of them, he 
stood in great danger of being spoilt, and probably 
would have been, like many another promising boy, 
if he had not possessed a talisman against evil in the 
memory of the kind old man who was bound up in 
his success, the motherly friend who watched over 
him as if he were her son, and last, but not least by 
any means, the knowledge that four innocent girls 
loved, admired, and believed in him with all their 
hearts. 

Being only " a glorious human boy," of course he 
frolicked and flirted, grew dandified, aquatic, senti- 
mental or gymnastic, as college fashions ordained ; 
hazed and was hazed, talked slang, and more than 



GOSSIP. 



9 



once came perilously near suspension and expulsion. 
But as high -spirits and the love of fun were the 
causes of these pranks, he always managed to save 
himself by frank confession, honorable atonement, or 
the irresistible power of persuasion which he pos- 
sessed in perfection. In fact, he rather prided him- 
self on his narrow escapes, and liked to thrill the 
girls with graphic accounts of his triumphs over 
wrathful tutors, dignified professors, and vanquished 
enemies. The "men of my class" were heroes in 
the eyes of the girls, who never wearied of the ex- 
ploits of " our fellows," and were frequently allowed 
to bask in the smiles of these great creatures, when 
Laurie brought them home with him. 

Amy especially enjoyed this high honor, and be- 
came quite a belle among them ; for her ladyship 
early felt and learned to use the gift of fascination 
with which she was endowed. Meg was too much 
absorbed in her private and particular John to care 
for any other lords of creation, and Beth too shy to 
do more than peep at them, and wonder how Amy 
dared to order them about so ; but Jo felt quite in her 
element, and found it very difficult to refrain from 
imitating the gentlemanly attitudes, phrases, and feats 
which seemed more natural to her than the decorums 
prescribed for young ladies. They all liked Jo im- 
mensely, but never fell in love with her, though very 
few escaped without paying the tribute of a sentimen- 
tal sigh or two at Amy's shrine. And speaking of 
sentiment brings us very naturally to the " Dove- 
cote." 

That was the name of the little brown house which 
Mr. Brooke had prepared for Meg's first home. Laurie 



IO LITTLE WOMEN. 

had christened it, saying it was highly appropriate 
to the gentle lovers, who " went on together like a 
pair of turtle-doves, with first a bill and then a coo." 
It was a tiny house, with a little garden behind, and 
a lawn about as big as a pocket-handkerchief in front. 
Here Meg meant to have a fountain, shrubbery, and a 
profusion of lovely flowers ; though just at present 
the fountain was represented by a weather-beaten 
urn, very like a dilapidated slop-bowl ; the shrub- 
bery consisted of several young larches, who looked 
undecided whether to live or die, and the profusion 
of flowers was merely hinted by regiments of sticks, 
to show where seeds were planted. But inside, it 
was altogether charming, and the happy bride saw 
no fault from garret to cellar. To be sure, the hall 
was so narrow, it was fortunate that they had no . 
piano, for one never could have been got in whole. 
The dining-room was so small, that six people were a 
tight fit, and the kitchen stairs seemed built for the 
express purpose of precipitating both servants and 
china pell-mell into the coal-bin. But once get used 
to these slight blemishes, and nothing could be more 
complete, for good sense and good taste had presided 
over the furnishing, and the result was highly satisfac- 
tory. There were no marble-topped tables, long mir- 
rors, or lace curtains in the little parlor, but simple 
furniture, plenty of books, a fine picture %r two, a 
stand of flowers in the bay-window, and, scattered all 
about, the pretty gifts which came from friendly 
hands, and were the fairer for the loving messages 
they brought. 

I don't think the Parian Psyche Laurie gave, lost 
any of its beauty because Brooke put up the bracket 



GOSSIP. 



II 



it stood upon ; that any upholsterer could have draped 
the plain muslin curtains more gracefully than Amy's 
artistic hand ; or that any store-room was ever better 
provided with good wishes, merry words, and happy 
hopes, than that in which Jo and her mother put 
away Meg's few boxes, barrels, and bundles ; and I 
am morally certain that the spandy-new kitchen never 
could have looked so cosy and neat, if Hannah had 
not arranged every pot and pan a dozen times over, 
and laid the fire all ready for lighting, the minute 
" Mis. Brooke came home." I also doubt if any 
young matron ever began life with so rich a supply 
of dusters, holders, and piece-bags, — for Beth made 
enough to last till the silver wedding came round, and 
invented three different kinds of dishcloths for the 
express service of the bridal china. 

People who hire all these things done for them, 
never know what they lose ; for the homeliest tasks 
get beautified if loving hands do them, and Meg 
found so many proofs of this, that everything in her 
small nest, from the kitchen roller to the silver vase 
on her parlor table, was eloquent of home love and 
tender forethought. 

What happy times they had planning together ; 
what solemn shopping excursions, what funny mis- 
takes they made, and what shouts of laughter arose 
over Laurie's ridiculous bargains ! In his love of 
jokes, this young gentleman, though nearly through 
college, was as much of a boy as ever. His last 
whim had been to bring with him, on his weekly 
visits, some new, useful, and ingenious article for 
the young housekeeper. Now a bag of remarkable 
clothes-pins ; next a wonderful nutmeg grater, which 



12 LITTLE WOMEN. 

fell to pieces at the first trial ; a knife-cleaner that 
spoilt all the knives ; or a sweeper that picked the 
nap neatly off the carpet, and left the dirt; labor- 
saving soap that took the skin off one's hands ; infal- 
lible cements which stuck firmly to nothing but the 
fingers of the deluded buyer ; and every kind of tin- 
ware, from a toy savings-bank for odd pennies, to a 
wonderful boiler which would wash articles in its 
own steam, with every prospect of exploding in the 
process. 

In vain Meg begged him to stop. John laughed at 
him, and Jo called him " Mr. Toodles." He was 
possessed with a mania for patronizing Yankee in- 
genuity, and seeing his friends fitly furnished forth. 
So each week beheld some fresh absurdity. 

Everything was done at last, even to Amy's ar- 
ranging different colored soaps to match the different 
colored rooms, and Beth's setting the table for the 
first meal. 

"Are you satisfied? Does it seem like home, and 
do you feel as if you should be happy here?" asked 
Mrs. March, as she and her daughter went through 
the new kingdom, arm-in-arm — for just then they 
seemed to cling together more tenderly than ever. 

"Yes, mother, perfectly satisfied, thanks to you all, 
and so happy that I can' t talk about it," answered 
Meg, with a look that was better than words. 

" If she only had a servant or two it would be all 
right," said Amy, coming out of the parlor, where she 
had been trying to decide whether the bronze Mercury 
looked best on the whatnot or the mantle-piece. 

" Mother and I have talked that over, and I have 
made up my mind to try her way first. There will be 



GOSSIP. 



13 



so little to do, that, with Lotty to run my errands and 
help me here and there, I shall only have enough 
work to keep me from getting lazy or homesick," 
answered Meg, tranquilly. 

" Sallie Moffat has four," began Amy. 

"If Meg had four the house wouldn't hold them, 
and master and missis would have to camp in the 
garden," broke in Jo, who, enveloped in a big blue 
pinafore, was giving a last polish to the door-handles. 

" Sallie isn't a poor man's wife, and many maids 
are in keeping with her fine establishment. Meg and 
John begin humbly, but I have a feeling that there 
will be quite as much happiness in the little house as 
in the big one. It's a great mistake for young girls 
like Meg to leave themselves nothing to do but dress, 
give orders, and gossip. When I was first married I 
used to long for my new clothes to wear out, or get 
torn, so that I might have the pleasure of mending 
them ; for I got heartily sick of doing fancy work and 
tending my pocket handkerchief." 

"Why didn't you go into the kitchen and make 
messes, as Sallie says she does, to amuse herself, 
though they never turn out well, and the servants 
laugh at her," said Meg. 

" I did, after a while ; not to l mess,' but to leajrn of 
Hannah how things should be done, that my servants 
need not laugh at me. It was play then ; but there 
came a time when I was truly grateful that I not only 
possessed the will, but the power to cook wholesome 
food for my little girls, and help myself when I could 
no longer afford to hire help. You begin at the other 
end, Meg, dear, but the lessons you learn now will be 
of use to you by and by, when John is a richer man, 



H 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



for the mistress of a house, however splendid, should 
know how work ought to be done, if she wishes to be 
well and honestly served." 

" Yes, mother, I'm sure of that," said Meg, listen- 
ing respectfully to the little lecture ; for the best of 
women will hold forth upon the all-absorbing subject 
of housekeeping. " Do you know I like this room 
best of all in my baby-house," added Meg, a minute 
after, as they went upstairs, and she looked into her 
well-stored linen closet. 

Beth was there, laying the snowy piles smoothly 
on the shelves, and exulting over the goodly array. 
All three laughed as Meg spoke ; for that linen closet 
was a joke. You see, having said that if Meg mar- 
ried "that Brooke" she shouldn't have a cent of her 
money, Aunt March was rather in a quandary, when 
time had appeased her wrath, and made her repent 
her vow. She never broke her word, and was much 
exercised in her mind how to get round it, and at last 
devised a plan whereby she could satisfy herself. 
Mrs. Carrol, Florence's mamma, was ordered to 
buy, have made and marked a generous supply of 
house and table linen, and send it as Jier present. 
All of which was faithfully done, but the secret leaked 
out, and was greatly enjoyed by the family ; for Aunt 
March tried to look utterly unconscious, and insisted 
that she could give nothing but the old-fashioned 
pearls, long promised to the first bride. 

" That's a housewifely taste, which I am glad to 
see. I had a young friend who set up housekeeping 
with six sheets, but she had finger bowls for company, 
and that satisfied her," said Mrs. March, patting the 



GOSSIP. 



15 



damask table-cloths with a truly feminine appreciation 
of their fineness. 

" I haven't a single finger bowl, but this is a c set 
out ' that will last me all my days, Hannah says ; " 
and Meg looked quite contented, as well she might. 

" Toodles is coming," cried Jo from below, and 
they all went down to meet Laurie, whose weekly 
visit was an important event in their quiet lives. 

A tall, broad-shouldered young fellow, with a 
cropped head, a felt-basin of a hat, and a fly-away 
coat, came tramping down the road at a great pace, 
walked over the low fence, without stopping to open 
the gate, straight up to Mrs March, with both hands 
out, and a hearty : — 

" Here I am, mother ! Yes, it's all right." 

The last words were in answer to the look the elder 
lady gave him ; a kindly, questioning look, which the 
handsome eyes met so frankly that the little ceremony 
closed as usual, with a motherly kiss. 

"For Mrs. John Brooke, with the maker's congratu- 
lations and compliments. Bless you, Beth ! What a 
refreshing spectacle you are, Jo ! Amy, you are get- 
ting altogether too handsome for a single lady." 

As Laurie spoke, he delivered a brown paper parcel 
to Meg, pulled Beth's hair ribbon, stared at Jo's big 
pinafore, and fell into an attitude of mock rapture 
before Amy, then shook hands all round, and every 
one began to talk. 

"Where is John?" asked Meg, anxiously. 

" Stopped to get the license for to-morrow, ma'am." 

"Which side won the last match, Teddy?" in- 
quired Jo, who persisted in feeling an interest in 
manly sports, despite her nineteen years. 



16 LITTLE WOMEN. 

" Ours, of course. Wish you'd been there to see." 

"How is the lovely Miss Randal ?" asked Amy, 
with a significant smile. 

" More cruel than ever ; don't you see how I'm 
pining away?" and Laurie gave his broad chest a 
sounding slap, and heaved a melodramatic sigh. 

"What's the last joke? Undo the bundle and see, 
Meg," said Beth, eyeing the knobby parcel with curi- 
osity. 

" It's a useful thing to have in the house in case of 
fire or thieves," observed Laurie, as a small watch- 
man's rattle appeared amid the laughter of the girls. 

" Any time when John is away, and you get fright- 
ened, Mrs. Meg, just swing that out of the front win- 
dow, and it will rouse the neighborhood in a jiffy. 
Nice thing, isn't it?" and Laurie gave them a sample 
of its powers that made them cover up their ears. 

"There's gratitude for you ! and, speaking of grati- 
tude, reminds me to mention that you may thank 
Hannah for saving your wedding-cake from destruc- 
tion. I saw it going into your house as I came by, 
and if she hadn't defended it manfully I'd have had a 
a pick at it, for it looked like a remarkably plummy 
one." 

" I wonder if you will ever grow up, Laurie," said 
Meg, in a matronly tone. 

" I'm doing my best, ma'am, but can't get much 
higher, I'm afraid, as six feet is about all men can do 
in these degenerate days," responded the young gentle- 
man, whose head was about level with the little chan- 
delier. " I suppose it would be profanation to eat 
anything in this bran-new bower, so, as I'm tremen- 



GOSSIP. 



'7 



dously hungry, I propose an adjournment," he added, 
presently. 

"Mother and I are going to wait for John. There 
are some last things to settle," said Meg, bustling 
away. 

" Beth and I are going over to Kitty Bryant's to get 
more flowers for to-morrow," added Amy, tying a 
picturesque hat over her picturesque curls, and enjoy- 
ing the effect as much as anybody. 

" Come, Jo, don't desert a fellow. I'm in such a 
state of exhaustion I can't get home without help. 
Don't take off your apron, whatever you do ; it's 
peculiarly becoming," said Laurie, as Jo bestowed his 
especial aversion in her capacious pocket, and offered 
him her arm to support his feeble steps. 

"Now, Teddy, I want to talk seriously to you 
about to-morrow," began Jo, as they strolled away 
together. "You must promise to behave well, and 
not cut up any pranks, and spoil our plans." 

" Not a prank." 

" And don't say funny things when we ought to be 
sober." 

" I never do ; you are the one for that." 

" And I implore you not to look at me during the 
ceremony ; I shall certainly laugh if you do." 

" You won't see me ; you'll be crying so hard that 
the thick fog round you will obscure the prospect." 

" I never cry unless for some great affliction." 

" Such as old fellows going to college, hey?" cut 
in Laurie, with a suggestive laugh. 

" Don't be a peacock. I only moaned a trifle to 
keep the girls company." 



18 LITTLE V/OMEN. 

" Exactly. I say, Jo, how is grandpa this week ; 
pretty amiable ? " 

" Very ; why, have you got into a scrape, and want 
to know how he'll take it?" asked Jo, rather sharply. 

" Now Jo, do you think I'd look your mother in 
the face, and say ' All right,' if it wasn't ? " — and 
Laurie stopped short, with an injured air. 

" No, I don't." 

" Then don't go and be suspicious ; I only want 
some money," said Laurie, walking on again, ap- 
peased by her hearty tone. 

" You spend a great deal, Teddy." 

"Bless you, /don't spend it; it spends itself, some- 
how, and is gone before I know it." 

" You are so generous and kind-hearted, that you 
let people borrow, and can't say ' No ' to any one. 
We heard about Henshaw, and all you did for him. 
If you always spent money in that way, no one would 
blame you," said Jo, warmly. 

" Oh, he made a mountain out of a mole-hill. You 
wouldn't have me let that fine fellow work himself to 
death, just for the want of a little help, when he is 
worth a dozen of us lazy chaps, would you ? " 

"• Of course not ; but I don't see the use of your 
having seventeen waistcoats, endless neckties, and a 
new hat every time you come home. I thought you'd 
got over the dandy period ; but every now and then it 
breaks out in a new spot. Just now it's the fashion 
to be hideous ; to make your head look like a scrub- 
bing brush, wear a strait-jacket, orange gloves, and 
clumping, square-toed boots. If it was cheap ugli- 
ness, I'd say nothing ; but it costs as much as the 
other, and I don't get any satisfaction out of it." 



GOSSIP. 



l 9 



Laurie threw back his head, and laughed so heart- 
ily at this attack, that the felt-basin fell off, and Jo 
walked on it, which insult only afforded him an 
opportunity for expatiating on the advantages of a 
rough-and-ready costume, as he folded up the mal- 
treated hat, and stuffed it into his pocket. 

" Don't lecture any more, there's a good soul ; I 
have enough all through the week, and like to enjoy 
myself when I come home. I'll get myself up re- 
gardless of expense, to-morrow, and be a satisfaction 
to my friends." 

" I'll leave you in peace if you'll only let your hair 
grow. I'm not aristocratic, but I do object to being 
seen with a person who looks like a young prize- 
fighter," observed Jo, severely. 

" This unassuming style promotes study ; that's 
why we adopt it," returned Laurie, who certainly 
could not be accused of vanity} having voluntarily 
sacrificed a handsome, curly crop, to the demand for 
quarter of an inch long stubble. 

" By the way, Jo, I think that little Parker is really 
getting desperate about Amy. He talks of her con- 
stantly, writes poetry, and moons about in a most 
suspicious manner. He'd better nip his little passion 
in the bud, hadn't he?" added Laurie, in a confiden- 
tial, elder-brotherly tone, after a minute's silence. 

" Of course he had ; we don't want any more mar- 
rying in this family for years to come. Mercy on us, 
what are the children thinking of ! " and Jo looked 
as much scandalized as if Amy and little Parker were 
not yet in their teens. 

" It's a fast age, and I don't know what we are 
coming to, ma'am. You are a mere infant, but you'll 



20 LITTLE WOMEN. 

go next, Jo, and we'll be left lamenting," said Laurie, 
shaking his head over the degeneracy of the times. 

" Me ! don't be alarmed ; I'm not one of the agree- 
able sort. Nobody will want me, and it's a mercy, 
for there should always be one old maid in a family." 

" You won't give any one a chance," said Laurie, 
with a sidelong glance, and a little more color than 
before in his sunburnt face. "You won't show the 
soft side of your character ; and if a fellow gets a 
look at it by accident, and can't help showing that he 
likes it, you treat him as Mrs. Gummidge did her 
sweetheart ; throw cold water over him, and get so 
thorny no one dares touch or look at you." 

" I don't like that sort of thing ; I'm too busy to be 
worried with nonsense, and I think it's dreadful to 
break up families so. Now don't say any more about 
it ; Meg's wedding has turned all our heads, and we 
talk of nothing but lovers and such absurdities. I 
don't wish to get raspy, so lef s change the subject ; " 
and Jo looked quite ready to fling cold water on the 
slightest provocation. 

Whatever his feelings might have been, Laurie 
found a vent for them in a long low whistle, and 
the fearful prediction, as they parted at the gate, — 
" Mark my words, Jo, you'll go next." 



CHAPTER II. 

THE FIRST WEDDING. 

THE June roses over the porch were awake bright 
and early on that morning, rejoicing with all their 
hearts in the cloudless sunshine, like friendly 
little neighbors, as they were. Quite flushed with 
excitement were their ruddy faces, as they swung in 
the wind, whispering to one another what they had 
seen ; for some peeped in at the dining-room win- 
dows, where the feast was spread, some climbed up 
to nod and smile at the sisters, as they dressed the 
bride, others waved a welcome to those who came 
and went on various errands in garden, porch and 
hall, and all, from the rosiest full-blown flower to the 
palest baby-bud, offered their tribute of beauty and 
fragrance to the gentle mistress who had loved and 
tended them so long. 

Meg looked very like a rose herself; for all that 
was best and sweetest in heart and soul, seemed to 
bloom into her face that day, making it fair and 
tender, with a charm more beautiful than beauty. 
Neither silk, lace, nor orange flowers would she 
have. " I don't want to look strange or fixed up, 
to-day," she said ; "I don't want a fashionable wed- 
ding, but only those about me whom I love, and to 
them I wish»to look and be my familiar self." 

So she made her wedding gown herself, sewing 
into it the tender hopes and innocent romances of a 
girlish heart. Her sisters braided up her pretty hair, 

(21) 



22 LITTLE WOMEN. 

and the only ornaments she wore were the lilies of 
the valley, which " her John " liked best of all the 
flowers that grew. 

" You do look just like our own dear Meg, only so 
very sweet and lovely, that I should hug you if it 
wouldn't crumple your dress," cried Amy, surveying 
her with delight, when all was done. 

" Then I am satisfied. But please hug and kiss 
me, every one, and don't mind my dress ; I want a 
great many crumples of this sort put into it to-day ; " 
and Meg opened her arms to her sisters, who clung 
about her with April faces, for a minute, feeling that 
the new love had not changed the old. 

" Now I'm going to tie John's cravat for him, and 
then to stay a few minutes with father, quietly in the 
study ; " and Meg ran down to perform these little 
ceremonies, and then to follow her mother wherever 
she went, conscious that in spite of the smiles on the 
motherly face, there was a secret sorrow hidden in 
the motherly heart, at the flight of the first bird from 
the nest. 

As the younger girls stand together, giving the last 
touches to their simple toilet, it may be a good time 
to tell of a few changes which three years have 
wrought in their appearance ; for all are looking their 
best, just now. 

Jo's angles are much softened ; she has learned to 
carry herself with ease, if not grace. The curly crop 
has been lengthened into a thick coil, more becoming 
to the small head atop of the tall figure^ There is a 
fresh color in her brown cheeks, a soft shine in her 
eyes ; only gentle words fall from her sharp tongue 
to-day. 



THE FIRST WEDDING. 



23 



Beth has grown slender, pale, and more quiet than 
ever ; the beautiful, kind eyes, are larger, and in them 
lies an expression that saddens one, although it is not 
sad itself. It is the shadow of pain which touches 
the young face with such pathetic patience ; but Beth 
seldom complains, and always speaks hopefully of 
" being better soon." 

Amy is with truth considered " the flower of the 
family " ; for at sixteen she has the air and bearing 
of a full-grown woman — not beautiful, but possessed 
of that indescribable charm called grace. One saw 
it in the lines of her figure, the make and motion of 
her hands, the flow of her dress, the droop of her 
hair — unconscious, yet harmonious, and as attractive 
to many as beauty itself. Amy's nose still afflicted 
her, for it never would grow Grecian; so did her 
mouth, being too wide, and having a decided under- 
lip. These offending features gave character to her 
whole face, but she never could see it, and consoled 
herself with her wonderfully fair complexion, keen 
blue eyes, and curls, more golden and abundant than 
ever. 

All three wore suits of thin, silvery gray (their best 
gowns for the summer), with blush roses in hair and 
bosom ; and all three looked just what they were — 
fresh-faced, happy-hearted girls, pausing a moment in 
their busy lives to read with wistful eyes the sweetest 
chapter in the romance of womanhood. 

There were to be no ceremonious performances ; 
everything was to be as natural and homelike as pos- 
sible ; so when Aunt March arrived, she was scan- 
dalized to see the bride come running to welcome and 
lead her in, to find the bridegroom fastening up a 



H 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



garland that had fallen down, and to catch a glimpse 
of the paternal minister marching upstairs with a 
grave countenance, and a wine bottle under each arm. 

" Upon my word, here's a state of things ! " cried 
the old lady, taking the seat of honor prepared for 
her, and settling the folds of her lavender moire with 
a great rustle. " You oughtn't to be seen till the 
last minute, child." 

"I'm not a show, aunty, and no one is coming to 
stare at me, to criticise my dress, or count the cost of 
my luncheon. I'm too happy to care what any one 
says or thinks, and I'm going to have my little wed- 
ding just as I like it. John, dear, here's your ham- 
mer," and away went Meg to help " that man " in his 
highly improper employment. 

Mr. Brooke didn't even say " Thank you," but as 
he stooped for the unromantic tool, he kissed his little 
bride behind the folding-door, with a look that made 
Aunt March whisk out her pocket-handkerchief, with 
a sudden dew in her sharp old eyes. 

A crash, a cry, and a laugh from Laurie, accompa- 
nied by the indecorous exclamation, "Jupiter Am- 
nion ! Jo's upset the cake again ! " caused a momentary 
flurry, which was hardly over, when a flock of cousins 
arrived, and '* the party came in," as Beth used to say 
when a child. 

"Don't let that young giant come near me; he 
worries me worse than mosquitoes," whispered the 
old lady to Amy, as the rooms filled, and Laurie's 
black head towered above the rest. 

" He has promised to be very good to-day, and he 
can be perfectly elegant if he likes," returned Amy, 
gliding away to warn Hercules to beware of the 



THE FIRST WEDDING. 



25 



dragon, which warning caused him to haunt the old 
lady with a devotion that nearly distracted her. 

There was no bridal procession, but a sudden silence 
fell upon the room as Mr. March and the young pair 
took their places under the green arch. Mother and 
sisters gathered close, as if loath to give Meg up ; the 
fatherly voice broke more than once, which only 
seemed to make the service more beautiful and solemn ; 
the bridegroom's hand trembled visibly, and no one 
heard his replies ; but Meg looked straight up in her 
husband's eyes, and said, " I will ! " with such tender 
trust in her own face and voice, that her mother's heart 
rejoiced, and Aunt March sniffed audibly. 

Jo did not cry, though she was very near it once, 
and was only saved from a demonstration by the con- 
sciousness that Laurie was staring fixedly at her, with 
a comical mixture of merriment and emotion in his 
wicked black eyes. Beth kept her face hidden on 
her mother's shoulder, but Amy stood like a graceful 
statue, with a most becoming ray of sunshine touching 
her white forehead and the flower in her hair. 

It wasn't at all the thing, I'm afraid, but the minute 
she was fairly married, Meg cried, " The first kiss for 
Marmee ! " and, turning, gave it with her heart on 
her lips. During the next fifteen minutes she looked 
more like a rose than ever, for every one availed 
themselves of their privileges to the fullest extent, 
from Mr. Laurence to old Hannah, who, adorned with 
a head-dress fearfully and wonderfully made, fell upon 
her in the hall, crying, with a sob and a chuckle, 
" Bless you, deary, a hundred times ! The cake ain't 
hurt a mite, and everything looks lovely." 

Everybody cleared up after that, and said some- 



26 LITTLE WOMEN. 

thing brilliant, or tried to, which did just as well, for 
laughter is ready when hearts are light. There was 
no display of gifts, for they were already in the little 
house, nor was there an elaborate breakfast, but a 
plentiful lunch of cake and fruit, dressed with flowers. 
Mr. Laurence and Aunt March shrugged and smiled 
at one another when water, lemonade, and coffee were 
found to be the only sorts of nectar which the three 
Hebes carried round. No one said anything, how- 
ever, till Laurie, who insisted on serving the bride, 
appeared before her with a loaded salver in his hand, 
and a puzzled expression on his face. 

"Has Jo smashed all the bottles by accident?" he 
whispered, " or am I merely laboring under a delusion 
that I saw some lying about loose this morning? " 

" No ; your grandfather kindly offered us his best, 
and Aunt March actually sent some, but father put 
away a little for Beth, and despatched the rest to the 
Soldier's Home. You know he thinks that wine 
should only be used in illness, and mother says that 
neither she nor her daughters will ever offer it to any 
young man under her roof." 

Meg spoke seriously, and expected to see Laurie 
frown or laugh ; but he did neither, — for after a quick 
look at her, he said, in his impetuous way, " I like 
that ; for I've seen enough harm done to wish other 
women would think as you. do ! " 

"You are not made wise by experience, I hope?" 
and there was an anxious accent in Meg's voice. 

" No ; I give you my word for it. Don't think too 
well of me, either ; this is not one of my temptations. 
Being brought up where wine is as common as water, 



THE FIRST WEDDING. 



27 



and almost as harmless, I don't care for it ; but when 
a pretty girl offers it, one don't like to refuse, you see." 

" But you will, for the sake of others, if not for your 
own. Come, Laurie, promise, and give me one more 
reason to call this the happiest day of my life." 

A demand so sudden and so serious, made the young 
man hesitate a moment, for ridicule is often harder to 
bear than self-denial. Meg knew that if he gave the 
promise he would keep it at all costs ; and, feeljng her 
power, used it as a woman may for her friend's good. 
She did not speak, but she looked up at him with a 
face made very eloquent by happiness, and a smile 
which said, "No one can refuse me anything to-day." 
Laurie, certainly, could not; and, with.. an answering 
smile, he gave her his hand, saying, heartily, " I 
promise, Mrs. Brooke ! " 

" I thank you, very, very much." 

" And I drink i Long life to your resolution,' Ted- 
dy," cried Jo, baptizing him with a splash of lemonade, 
as she waved her glass, and beamed approvingly upon 
him. 

So the toast was drunk, the pledge made, and loy- 
ally kept, in spite of many temptations ; for, with 
instinctive wisdom, the girls had seized a happy 
moment to do their friend a service, for which he 
thanked them all his life. 

After lunch, people strolled about, by twos and 
threes, through house and garden, enjoying the sun- 
shine without and within. Meg and John happened 
to be standing together in the middle of the grass-plot, 
when Laurie was seized with an inspiration which 
put the finishing touch to this unfashionable wedding. 

" All the married people take hands and dance 



28 LITTLE WOMEN. 

round the new-made husband and wife, as the Ger- 
mans do, while we bachelors and spinsters prance in 
couples outside ! " cried Laurie, galloping down the 
path with Amy, with such infectious spirit and skill 
that every one else followed their example without a 
murmur. Mr. and Mrs. March, Aunt and Uncle 
Carrol, began it ; others rapidly joined in ; even Sallie 
Moffat, after a moment's hesitation, threw her train 
over her arm, and whisked Ned into the ring. But 
the crowning joke was Mr. Laurence and Aunt March ; 
for when the stately old gentleman chasseed solemnly 
up to the old lady, she just tucked her cane under her, 
arm, and hopped briskly away to join hands with the 
rest, and dance about the bridal pair, while the young 
folks pervaded the garden, like butterflies on a mid- 
summer day. 

Want of breath brought the impromptu ball to a 
close, and then people began to go. 

" I wish you well, my dear ; I heartily wish you 
well ; but I think you'll be sorry for it," said Aunt 
March to Meg, adding to the bridegroom, as he led 
her to the carriage, "You've got a treasure, young 
man, — see that you deserve it." 

" That is the prettiest wedding I've been to for an 
age, Ned, and I don't see why, for there wasn't a bit 
of style about it," observed Mrs. Moffat to her hus- 
band, as they drove away. 

" Laurie, my lad, if you ever want to indulge in 
this sort of thing, get one of those little girls to help 
you, and I shall be perfectly satisfied," said Mr. Lau- 
rence, settling himself in his easy-chair to rest, after 
the excitement of the morning. 

" I'll do my best to gratify you, sir," was Laurie's 



THE FIRST WEDDING. 



29 



unusually dutiful reply, as he carefully unpinned the 
posy Jo had put in his button-hole. 

The little house was not far away, and the only 
bridal journey Meg had was the quiet walk with John, 
from the old home to the new. When she came 
down, looking like a pretty Quakeress, in her dove- 
colored suit and straw bonnet tied with white, they 
all gathered about her to say " good-by," as tenderly 
as if she had been going to make the grand tour. 

" Don't feel that I am separated from you, Marmee 
dear, or that I love you any the less for loving John so 
much," she said, clinging to her mother, with full eyes, 
for a moment. " I shall come every day, father, and 
expect to keep my old place in all your hearts, though 
I am married. Beth is going to be with me a great 
deal, and the other girls will drop in now and then to 
laugh at my housekeeping struggles. Thank you all 
for my happy wedding-day. Good-by, good-by ! " 

They stood watching her with faces full of love, 
and hope, and tender pride, as she walked away, 
leaning on her husband's arm, with her hands full of 
flowers, and the June sunshine brightening her happy 
face, — and so Meg's married life began. 



CHAPTER III. 

ARTISTIC ATTEMPTS. 

IT takes people a long time to learn the difference 
between talent and genius, especially ambitious 
young men and women. Amy was learning this 
distinction through much tribulation ; for, mistaking 
enthusiasm for inspiration, she attempted every branch 
of art with youthful audacity. For a long time there 
was a lull in the "mud-pie" business, and she devoted 
herself to the finest pen-and-ink drawing, in which 
she showed such taste and skill, that her graceful 
handiwork proved both pleasant and profitable. But 
overstrained eyes soon caused pen and ink to be laid 
aside for a bold attempt at poker-sketching. While 
this attack lasted, the family lived in constant fear of 
a conflagration ; for the odor of burning wood per- 
vaded the house at all hours ; smoke issued from attic 
and shed with alarming frequency, red-hot pokers lay 
about promiscuously, and Hannah never went to bed 
without a pail of water and the dinner-bell at her 
door, in case of fire. Raphael's face was found boldly 
executed on the under side of the moulding board, 
and Bacchus on the head of a beer barrel ; a chanting 
cherub adorned the cover of the sugar bucket, and 
attempts to portray " Garrick buying gloves of the 
grisette," supplied kindlings for some time. 

From fire to oil was a natural transition for burnt 
fingers, and Amy fell to painting with undiminished 
ardor. An artist friend fitted her out with his cast-off 

(30) 



ARTISTIC ATTEMPTS. 31 

palettes, brushes, and colors, and she daubed away, 
producing pastoral and marine views, such as were 
never seen on land or sea. Her monstrosities in the 
way of cattle would have taken prizes at an agricul- 
tural fair ; and the perilous pitching of her vessels 
would have produced sea-sickness in the most nautical 
observer, if the utter disregard to all known rules of 
ship building and rigging had not convulsed him with 
laughter at the first glance. Swarthy boys and dark- 
eyed Madonnas staring at you from one corner of the 
studio, did not suggest Murillo ; oily brown shadows 
of faces, with a lurid streak in the wrong place, 
meant Rembrandt ; buxom ladies and dropsical in- 
fants, Rubens ; and Turner appeared in tempests of 
blue thunder, orange lightning, brown rain, and pur- 
ple clouds, with a tomato-colored splash in the mid- 
dle, which might be the sun or a buoy, a sailor's shirt 
or a king's robe, as the spectator pleased. 

Charcoal portraits came next ; and the entire family 
hung in a row, looking as wild and crocky as if just 
evoked from a coal-bin. Softened into crayon sketches, 
they did better ; for the likenesses were good, and 
Amy's hair, Jo's nose, Meg's mouth, and Laurie's 
eyes were pronounced " wonderfully fine." A return 
to clay and plaster followed, and ghostly casts of her 
acquaintances haunted corners of the house, or tum- 
bled off closet shelves on to people's heads. Children 
were enticed in as models, till their incoherent ac- 
counts of her mysterious doings caused Miss Amy to 
be regarded in the light of a young ogress. Her 
efforts in this line, however, were brought to an ab- 
rupt close by an untoward accident, which quenched 
her ardor. Other models failing her for a time, she 



32 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



undertook to cast her own pretty foot, and the fam- 
ily were one day alarmed by an unearthly bumping 
and screaming ; and, running to the rescue, found the 
young enthusiast hopping wildly about the shed, with 
her foot held fast in a pan-full of plaster, which had 
hardened with unexpected rapidity. With much diffi- 
culty and some danger, she was dug out ; for Jo was 
so overcome with laughter while she excavated, that 
her knife went too far, cut the poor foot, and left a 
lasting memorial of one artistic attempt, at least. 

After this Amy subsided, till a mania for sketching 
from nature set her to haunting river, field, and wood, 
for picturesque studies, and sighing for ruins to 
copy. She caught endless colds sitting on damp grass 
to book "a delicious bit," composed of a stone, a 
stump, one mushroom, and a broken mullein stalk, or 
" a heavenly mass of clouds," that looked like a 
choice display of feather-beds when done. She sacri- 
ficed her complexion floating on the river in the mid- 
summer sun, to study light and shade, and got a 
wrinkle over her nose, trying after " points of sight," 
or whatever the squint-and-string performance is 
called. 

If " genius is eternal patience," as Michael Angelo 
affirms, Amy certainly had some claim to the divine 
attribute, for she persevered in spite or all obstacles, 
failures, and discouragements, firmly believing that in 
time she should do something worthy to be called 
" high art." 

She was learning, doing, and enjoying other things, 
meanwhile, for she had resolved to be an attractive 
and accomplished woman, even if she never became 
a great artist. Here she succeeded better ; for she was 



AR TIS TIC A TTEMPTS. 



33^ 



one of those happily created beings who please with- 
out effort, make friends everywhere, and take life so 
gracefully and easily, that less fortunate souls are 
tempted to believe that such are born under a lucky 
star. Everybody liked her, for among her good gifts 
was tact. She had an instinctive sense of what was 
pleasing and proper, always said the right thing to 
the right person, did just what suited the time and 
place, and was so self-possessed that her sisters used 
to say, " If Amy went to court without any rehearsal 
beforehand, she'd know exactly what to do." 

One of her weaknesses was a desire to move in 
" our best society," without being quite sure what the 
best really was. Money, position, fashionable accom- 
plishments, and elegant manners, were most desirable 
things in her eyes, and she liked to associate with 
those who possessed them ; often mistaking the false 
for the true, and admiring what was not admirable. 
Never forgetting that by birth she was a gentlewoman, 
she cultivated her aristocratic tastes and feelings, so 
that when the opportunity came, she might be ready 
to take the place from which poverty now excluded 
her. 

" My lady," as her friends called her, sincerely 
desired to be a genuine lady, and was so, at heart, 
but had yet to learn that money caTinot buy refine- 
ment of nature, that rank does not always confer 
nobility, and that true breeding makes itself felt in 
spite of external drawbacks. 

" I want to ask a favor of you, mamma," Amy said, 
coming in with an important air, one day. 

" Well, little girl, what is it ? " replied her mother, 
3 



34 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



in whose eyes the stately young lady still remained 
" the baby." 

" Our drawing class breaks up next week, and 
before the girls separate for the summer, I want to 
ask them out here for a day. They are wild to see 
the river, sketch the broken bridge, and copy some of 
the things they admire in my book. They have been 
very kind to me in many ways, and I am grateful ; 
for they are all rich, and know I am poor, yet they 
never made any difference." 

"Why should they ! " and Mrs. March put the ques- 
tion with what the girls called her "Maria Theresa 
air." 

"You know as well as I that it does make a differ- 
ence with nearly every one, so don't ruffle up like a 
dear, motherly hen, when your chickens get pecked 
by smarter birds ; the ugly duckling turned out a swan 
you know ; " and Amy smiled without bitterness, for 
she possessed a happy temper and hopeful spirit. 

Mrs. March laughed, and smoothed down her mater- 
nal pride, as she asked, — 

"Well, my swan, what is your plan?" 

" I should like to ask the girls out to lunch next week, 
to take them a drive to the places they want to see, — a 
row on the river, perhaps, — and make a little artistic 
fete for them." 

"That looks feasible. What do you want for lunch? 
Cake, sandwiches, fruit and coffee, will be all that is 
necessary, I suppose?" 

"Oh dear, no! we must have cold tongue and 
chicken, French chocolate and ice-cream besides. The 
girls are used to such things, and I want my lunch to 
be proper and elegant, though I do work for my living." 



ARTISTIC ATTEMPTS. 35 

"How many young ladies are there?" asked her 
mother, beginning to look sober. 

" Twelve or fourteen in the class, but I dare say they 
won't all come." 

" Bless me, child, you will have to charter an omni- 
bus to carry them about." 

u Why, mother, how can you think of such a thing ; 
not more than six or eight will probably come, so I 
shall hire a beach-wagon and borrow Mr. Laurence's 
cherry-bounce." (Hannah's pronunciation of char-a- 
banc.) 

" All this will be expensive, Amy." 

" Not very ; I've calculated the cost, and I'll pay for 
it myself." 

" Don't you think, dear, that as these girls are used 
to such things, and the best we can do will be nothing 
new, that some simpler plan would be pleasanter to 
them, as a change, if nothing more, and much better 
for us than buying or borrowing what we don't need, 
and attempting a style not in keeping with our cir- 
cumstances?" 

" If I can't have it as I like I don't care to have it 
at all. I know that I can carry it out perfectly well, 
if you and the girls will help a little ; and I don't see 
why I can't, if I'm willing to pay for it," said Amy, 
with the decision which opposition was apt to change 
into obstinacy. 

Mrs. March knew that experience was an excellent 
teacher, and, when it was possible, she left her chil- 
dren to learn alone the lessons which she would gladly 
have made easier, if they had not objected to taking 
advice as much as they did salts and senna. 

" Very well, Amy ; if your heart is set upon it, 



36 LITTLE WOMEN. 

and you see your way through without too great an 
outlay of money, time, and temper, I'll say no more. 
Talk it over with the girls, and whichever way you 
/decide, I'll do my best to help you." 

" Thanks, mother ; you are always so kind," and 
away went Amy to lay her plan before her sisters. 

Meg agreed at once, and promised her aid, — gladly 
offering anything she possessed, from her little house 
itself to her very best salt-spoons. But Jo frowned 
upon the whole project, and would have nothing to 
do with it at first. 

" Why in the world should you spend your money, 
worry your family, and turn the house upside down 
for a parcel of girls who don't care a sixpence for 
you ? I thought you had too much pride and sense to 
truckle to any mortal woman just because she wears 
French boots and rides in a coupe" said Jo, who, 
being called from the tragical climax of her novel, was 
not in the best mood for social enterprises. 

" I dorit truckle, and I hate being patronized as 
much as you do ! " returned Amy, indignantly, for the 
two still jangled when such questions arose. " The 
girls do care for me, and I for them, and there's a 
great deal of kindness, and sense, and talent among 
them, in spite of what you call fashionable nonsense. 
You don't care to make people like you, to go into 
good society, and cultivate your manners and tastes. 
I do, and I mean to make the most of every chance 
that comes. You can go through the world with your 
elbows out and your nose in the air, and call it inde- 
pendence, if you like. That's not my way." 

When Amy whetted her tongue and freed her mind 
she usually got the best of it, for she seldom failed to 



ARTISTIC ATTEMPTS. 



37 



have common sense on her side, while Jo carried her 
love of liberty and hate of conventionalities to such 
an unlimited extent, that she naturally found herself 
worsted in an argument. Amy's definition of Jo's 
idea of independence was such a good hit, that both 
burst out laughing, and the discussion took a more 
amiable turn. Much against her will, Jo at length 
consented to sacrifice a day to Mrs. Grundy, and help 
her sister through what she regarded as " a nonsensical 
business." 

The invitations were sent, most all accepted, and 
the following Monday was set apart for the grand 
event. Hannah was out of humor because her week's 
work was deranged, and prophesied that " ef the 
washin' and ironin' warn't done reg'lar nothin' would 
go well anywheres." This hitch in the main-spring 
of the domestic machinery had a bad effect upon the 
whole concern ; but Amy's motto was " Nil desfer- 
andum" and having made up her mind what to do, 
she proceeded to do it in spite of all obstacles. To 
begin with : Hannah's cooking didn't turn out well ; the 
chicken was tough, the tongue too salt, and the choco- 
late wouldn't froth properly. Then the cake and ice 
cost more than Amy expected, so did the wagon ; and 
various other expenses, which seemed trifling at the 
outset, counted up rather alarmingly afterward. Beth 
got cold and took to her bed ; Meg had an unusual 
number of callers to keep her at home, and Jo was in 
such a divided state of mind that her breakages, acci- 
dents^, and mistakes were uncommonly numerous, 
serious, and trying. 

" If it hadn't been for mother I never should have 
got through," as Amy declared afterward, and grate- 



38 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



fully remembered, when "the best joke of the season" 
was entirely forgotten by everybody else. 

If it was not fair on Monday, the young ladies were 
to come on Tuesday, an arrangement which aggra- 
vated Jo and Hannah to the last degree. On Monday 
morning the weather was in that undecided state 
which is more exasperating than a steady pour. It 
drizzled a little, shone a little, blew a little, and didn't 
make up its mind till it was too late for any one else 
to make up theirs. Amy was up at dawn, hustling 
people out of their beds and through their breakfasts, 
that the house might be got in order. The parlor 
struck her as looking uncommonly shabby, but without 
stopping to sigh for what she had not, she skilfully 
made the best of what she had, arranging chairs over 
the worn places in the carpet, covering stains on the 
walls with pictures framed in ivy, and filling up empty 
corners with home-made statuary, which gave an ar- 
tistic air to the room, as did the lovely vases of flowers 
Jo scattered about. 

The lunch looked charmingly ; and, as she surveyed 
it, she sincerely hoped it would taste good, and that 
the borrowed glass, china, and silver would get safely 
home again. The carriages were promised, Meg and 
mother were all ready to do the honors, Beth was able 
to help Hannah behind the scenes, Jo had engaged to 
be as lively and amiable as an absent mind, an aching 
head, and a very decided disapproval of everybody 
and everything would allow, and, as she wearily 
dressed, Amy cheered herself with anticipations of the 
happy moment when, lunch safely over, she should 
drive awav with her friends for an afternoon of artistic 



ARTISTIC ATTEMPTS. 



39 



delights ; for the " cherry-bounce " and the broken 
bridge were her strong points. 

Then came two hours of suspense, during which 
she vibrated from parlor to porch, while public opinion 
varied like the weathercock. A smart shower, at 
eleven, had evidently quenched the enthusiasm of the 
young ladies who were to arrive at twelve, for nobody 
came ; and, at two, the exhausted family sat down in 
a blaze of sunshine to consume the perishable portions 
of the feast, that nothing might be lost. 

" No doubt about the weather to-day ; they will 
certainly come, so we must fly round and be ready for 
them," said Amy, as the sun woke her next morning. 
She spoke briskly, but in her secret soul she wished 
she had said nothing about Tuesday, for her interest, 
like her cake, was getting a little stale. 

a I can't get any lobsters, so you will have to do 
without salad to-day," said Mr. March, coming in half 
an hour later, with an expression of placid despair. 

"Use the chicken then, the toughness won't matter 
in a salad," advised his wife. 

" Hannah left it on the kitchen table a minute, and 
the kittens got at it. I'm very sorry, Amy," added 
Beth, who was still a patroness of cats. 

" Then, I must have a lobster, for tongue alone won't 
do," said Amy, decidedly. 

"Shall I rush into town and demand one?" asked 
Jo, with the magnanimity of a martyr. 

"You'd come bringing it home under your arm, 
without any paper, just to try me. I'll go myself," 
answered Amy, whose temper was beginning to fail. 

Shrouded in a thick veil, and armed with a genteel 
travelling-basket, she departed, feeling that a cool drive 



4 o 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



would soothe ber ruffled spirit, and fit her for. the 
labors of the day. After some delay, the object of her 
desire was procured, likewise a bottle of dressing, to 
prevent further loss of time at home, and off she drove 
again, well pleased with her own forethought. 

As the omnibus contained only one other passenger, 
a sleepy old lady, Amy pocketed her veil, and beguiled 
the tedium of the way by trying to find out where all 
her mone}^ had gone to. So busy was she with her 
card full of refractory figures that she did not observe 
a new-comer, who entered without stopping the 
vehicle, till a masculine voice said, "Good morning, 
Miss March," and looking up she beheld one of Laurie's 
most elegant college friends. Fervently hoping that 
he would get out before she did, Amy utterly ignored 
the basket at her feet, and congratulating herself that 
she had on her new travelling dress, returned the young 
man's greeting with her usual suavity and spirit. 

They got on excellently ; for Amy's chief care was 
soon set at rest, by learning that the gentleman would 
leave first, and she was chatting away in a peculiarly 
lofty strain, when the old lady got out. In stumbling 
to the door, she upset the basket, and oh, horror ! the 
lobster, in all its vulgar size and brilliancy} was revealed 
to the high-born eyes of a Tudor ! 

* " By Jove, she's forgot her dinner ! " cried the uncon- 
scious youth, poking the scarlet monster into its place 
with his cane, and preparing to hand out the basket 
after the old lady. 

"Please don't — it's — it's mine," murmured Amy, 
with a face nearly as red as her fish. 

" Oh, really, I beg pardon ; it's an uncommonly 
fine one, isn't it? " said Tudor, with great presence of 



ARTISTIC ATTEMPTS. 



4 1 



mind, and an air of sober interest that did credit to 
his breeding. 

Amy recovered herself in a breath, set her basket 
boldly on the seat, and said, laughing, — 

" Don't you wish you were to have some of the 
salad he's to make, and to see the charming young 
ladies who are to eat it ? " 

Now that was tact, for two of the ruling foibles of 
the masculine mind were touched ; the lobster was 
instantly surrounded by a halo of pleasing remin- 
iscences, and curiosity about " the charming young 
ladies" diverted his mind from the comical mishap. 

"I suppose he'll laugh and joke over it with Laurie, 
but I shan't see them ; that's a comfort," thought 
Amy, as Tudor bowed and departed. 

She did not mention this meeting at home (though 
she discovered that, thanks to the upset, her new dress 
was much damaged by the rivulets of dressing that 
meandered down the skirt) , but went through with the 
preparations which now seemed more irksome than 
before ; and at twelve o'clock all was ready again. 
Feeling that the neighbors were interested in her 
movements, she wished to efface the memory of yes- 
terday's failure by a grand success to-day ; so she 
ordered the " cheiiry-bounce," and drove away in 
state to meet and escort her guests to the banquet. 

" There's the rumble, they're coming ! I'll go into 
the porch to meet them ; it looks hospitable, and I 
want the poor child to have a good time after all her 
trouble," said Mrs. March, suiting the action to the 
word. But after one glance, she retired with an in- 
describable expression, for, looking quite lost in the 
big carriage, sat Amy and one young lady. 



4 2 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



" Run, Beth, and help Hannah clear half the things 
off the table ; it will be too absurd to put a luncheon 
for twelve before a single girl," cried Jo, hurrying 
away to the lower regions, too excited to stop even 
for a laugh. 

In came Amy, quite calm, and delightfully cordial 
to the one guest who had kept her promise ; the rest 
of the family, being of a dramatic turn, played their 
parts equally well, and Miss Eliott found them a most 
hilarious set ; for it was impossible to entirely control 
the merriment which possessed them. The remod- 
elled lunch being gaily partaken of, the studio and 
garden visited, and art discussed with enthusiasm, 
Amy ordered a buggy (alas for the elegant cherry- 
bounce ! ) and drove her friend quietly about the 
neighborhood till sunset, when " the party went out." 

As she came walking in, looking very tired, but as 
composed as ever, she observed that every vestige of 
the unfortunate fete had disappeared, except a sus- 
picious pucker about the corners of Jo's mouth. 

" You've had a lovely afternoon for your drive, 
dear," said her mother, as respectfully as if the whole 
twelve had come. 

" Miss Eliott is a very sweet girl, and seemed to 
enjoy herself, I thought," observed Beth, with unusual 
warmth. 

" Could you spare me some of your cake? I really 
need some, I have so much company, and I can't make 
such delicious stuff as yours," asked Meg, soberly. 

" Take it all ; I'm the only one here who likes 
sweet things, and it will mould before I can dispose 
of it," answered Amy, thinking with a sigh of the 
generous store she had laid in for such an end as this ! 



ARTISTIC ATTEMPTS. 



43 



" It's a pity Laurie isn't here to help us," began Jo, 
as they sat down to ice-cream and salad for the fourth 
time in two days. 

A warning look from her mother checked any fur- 
ther remarks, and the whole family ate in heroic 
silence, till Mr. March mildly observed, " Salad was 
one of the favorite dishes of the ancients, and Evelyn " 
— here a general explosion of laughter cut short 
the " history of sallets," to the great surprise of the 
learned gentleman. 

"Bundle everything into a basket, and send it to 
the Hummels — Germans like messes. I'm sick of 
the sight of this ; and there's no reason you should all 
die of a surfeit because I've been a fool," cried Amy, 
wiping her eyes. 

" I thought I should have died when I saw you two 
girls rattling about in the what-you-call-it, like two 
little kernels in a very big nutshell, and mother wait- 
ing in state to receive the throng," sighed Jo, quite 
spent with laughter. 

"I'm very sorry you were disappointed, dear, but 
we all did our best to satisfy you," said Mrs. March, 
in a tone full of motherly regret. 

" I am satisfied ; I've done what I undertook, and 
it's not my fault that it failed ; I comfort myself with 
that," said Amy, with a little quiver in her voice. " I 
thank you all very much for helping me, and I'll 
thank you still more, if you won't allude to it for a 
month, at least." 

No one did for several months ; but the word 
" fete " always produced a general smile, and Laurie's 
birthday gift to Amy was a tiny coral lobster in the 
shape of a charm for her watch-guard. 



CHAPTER IV. 



LITERARY LESSONS 



FORTUNE suddenly smiled upon Jo, and dropped 
a good-luck penny in her path. Not a golden 
penny, exactly, but I doubt if half a million 
would have given more real happiness than did the 
little sum that came to her in this wise. 

Every few weeks she would shut herself up in her 
room, put on her scribbling suit, and " fall into a 
vortex," as she expressed it, writing away at her novel 
with all her heart and soul, for till that was finished she 
could find no peace. Her " scribbling suit" consisted 
of a black pinafore on which she could wipe her pen 
at will, and a cap of the same material, adorned with 
a cheerful red bow, into which she bundled her hair 
when the decks were cleared for action. This cap 
was a beacon to the inquiring eyes of her family, who, 
during these periods, kept their distance, merely pop- 
ping in their heads semi-occasionally, to ask, with 
interest, "Does genius burn, Jo?" They did not 
always venture even to ask this question, but took an 
observation of the cap, and judged accordingly. If 
this expressive article of dress was drawn low upon 
the forehead, it was a sign that hard work was going 
on ; in exciting moments it was pushed rakishly askew, 
and when despair seized the author it was plucked 
wholly off, and cast upon the floor. At such times 
the intruder silently withdrew ; and not until the red 
(44) 



■i, 




JO IN A VORTEX. 

Every few weeks she would shut herself up in her room, put on her scribbling suit, an-1 

" fall into a vortex," as she expressed it. — Page 44. 



LITERART LESSONS. 



45 



bow was seen gaily erect upon the gifted brow, did 
any one dare address Jo. 

She did not think herself a genius by any means ; 
but when the writing fit came on, she gave herself up 
to it with entire abandon, and led a blissful life, un- 
conscious of want, care, or bad weather, while she sat 
safe and happy in an imaginary world, full of friends 
almost as real and dear to her as an} 7 in the flesh. 
Sleep forsook her eyes, meals stood untasted, day and 
night were all too short to enjoy the happiness which 
blessed her only at such times, and made these hours 
worth living, even if they bore no other fruit. The 
divine afflatus usually lasted a week or two, and then 
she emerged from her " vortex " hungry, sleepy, cross, 
or despondent. 

She was just recovering from one of these attacks 
when she was prevailed upon to escort Miss Crocker 
to a lecture, and in return for her virtue was rewarded 
with a new idea. It was a People's Course, — the 
lecture on the Pyramids, — and Jo rather wondered at 
the choice of such a subject for such an audience, but 
took it for granted that some great social evil would be 
remedied, or some great want supplied by unfolding 
the glories of the Pharaohs, to an audience whose 
thoughts were busy with the price of coal and flour, 
and whose lives were spent in trying to solve harder 
riddles than that of the Sphinx. 

They were early ; and while Miss Crocker set the 
heel of her stocking, Jo amused herself by examining 
the faces of the people who occupied the seat with 
them. On her left were two matrons with massive 
foreheads, and bonnets to match, discussing Woman's 
Rights and making tatting. Beyond sat a pair of 



46 LITTLE WOMEN. 

humble lovers artlessly holding each other by the 
hand, a sombre spinster eating peppermints out of a 
paper bag, and an old gentleman taking his prepara- 
tory nap behind a yellow bandanna. On her right, her 
only neighbor was a studious-looking lad absorbed in 
a newspaper. 

It was a pictorial sheet, and Jo examined the work 
of art nearest her, idly wondering what unfortuitous 
concatenation of circumstances needed the melo- 
dramatic illustration of an Indian in full war costume, 
tumbling over a precipice with a wolf at his throat, 
while two infuriated young gentlemen, with unnatu- 
rally small feet and big eyes, were stabbing each other 
close by, and a dishevelled female was flying away in 
the background, with her mouth wide open. Pausing 
to turn a page, the lad saw her looking, and, with 
boyish good-nature, offered half his paper, saying, 
bluntly, " Want to read it ? That's a first-rate story." 

Jo accepted it with a smile, for she had never out- 
grown her liking for lads, and soon found herself 
involved in the usual labyrinth of love, mystery, and 
murder, — for the story belonged to that class of light 
literature in which the passions have a holiday, and 
when the author's invention fails, a grand catastrophe 
clears the stage of one-half the dramatis fiersonce, 
leaving the other half to exult over their downfall. 

" Prime, isn't it?" asked the boy, as her eye went 
down the last paragraph of her portion. 

" I guess you and I could do most as well as that 
if we tried," returned Jo, amused at his admiration 
of the trash. 

" I should think I was a pretty lucky chap if I could. 
She makes a good living out of such stories, they say ; " 



LITER ART LESSONS. 47 

and he pointed to the name of Mrs. S. L. A. N. G. 
Northbury, under the title of the tale. 

^'Do you know her?" asked Jo, with sudden in- 
terest. 

" No ; but I read all her pieces, and I know a fellow 
that works in the office where this paper is printed." 

" Do you say she makes a good living out of 
stories like this?" and Jo looked more respectfully at 
the agitated group and thickly-sprinkled exclamation 
points that adorned the page. 

" Guess she does ! she knows just what folks like, 
and gets paid well for writing it." 

Here the lecture began, but Jo heard very little of 
it, for while Professor Sands was prosing away about 
Belzoni, Cheops, scarabei, and hieroglyphics, she was 
covertly taking down the address of the paper, and 
boldly resolving to try for the hundred dollar prize 
offered in its columns for a sensational story. By the 
time the lecture ended, and the audience awoke, she 
had built up a splendid fortune for herself (not the 
first founded upon paper), and was already deep in 
the concoction of her story, being unable to decide 
whether the duel should come before the elopement or 
after the murder. 

She said nothing of her plan at home, but fell to 
work next day, much to the disquiet of her mother, 
who always looked a little anxious when " genius 
took to burning." Jo had never tried this style be- 
fore, contenting herself with very mild romances for 
the " Spread Eagle." Her theatrical experience and 
miscellaneous reading were of service now, for they 
gave her some idea of dramatic effect, and supplied 
plot, language, and costumes. Her story was as full 



48 LITTLE WOMEN. 

of desperation and despair as her limited acquaint- 
ance with those uncomfortable emotions enabled her 
to make it, and, having located it in Lisbon, she 
wound up with an earthquake, as a striking and ap- 
propriate denouement. The manuscript was privately- 
despatched, accompanied by a note, modestly saying 
that if the tale didn't get the prize, which the writer 
hardly dared expect, she would be very glad to receive 
any sum it might be considered worth. 

Six weeks is a long time to wait, and a still longer 
time for a girl to keep a secret ; but Jo did both, and 
was just beginning to give up all hope of ever seeing 
her manuscript again, when a letter arrived which 
almost took her breath away ; for, on opening it, a 
check for a hundred dollars fell into her lap. For a 
minute she stared at it as if it had been a snake, then 
she read her letter, and began to cry. If the amiable 
gentleman who wrote that kindly note could have 
known what intense happiness he was giving a fellow- 
creature, I think he would devote his leisure hours, if 
he has any, to that amusement ; for Jo valued the letter 
more than the money, because it was encouraging; 
and after years of effort it was so pleasant to find that 
she had learned to do something, though it was only 
to write a sensation story. 

A prouder young woman was seldom seen than she, 
when, having composed herself, she electrified the 
family by appearing before them with the letter in one 
hand, the check in the other, announcing that she had 
won the prize ! Of course there was a great jubilee, 
and when the story came every one read and praised 
it ; though after her father had told her that the language 
was good, the romance fresh and hearty, and the 



LITER AR T LESS ONS. 49 

tragedy quite thrilling, he shook his head, and said in 
his unworldly way, — 

" You can do better than this, Jo. Aim at the high- 
est, and never mind the money." 

"/think the money is the best part of it. What 
will you do with such a fortune?" asked Amy, 
regarding the magic slip of paper with a reverential 
eye. 

" Send Beth and mother to the sea-side for a month 
or two," answered Jo promptly. 

" Oh, how splendid ! No, I can't do it, dear, it would 
be so selfish," cried Beth, who had clapped her thin 
hands, and taken a long breath, as if pining for fresh 
ocean breezes ; then stopped herself, and motioned 
away the check which her sister waved before her. 

" Ah, but you shall go, I've set my heart on it ; that's 
what I tried for, and that's why I succeeded. I never 
get on when I think of myself alone, so it will help 
me to work for you, don't you see. Besides, Marmee 
needs the change, and she won't leave you, so you 
must go. Won't it be fun to see you come home 
plump and rosy again ? Hurrah for Dr. Jo, who always 
cures her patients ! " 

To the sea-side they went, after much discussion ; and 
though Beth didn't come home as plump and rosy as 
could be desired, she was much better, while Mrs. 
March declared she felt ten years younger ; so Jo was 
satisfied with the investment of her prize-money, and 
fell to work with a cheery spirit, bent on earning more 
of those delightful checks. She did earn several that 
year, and began to feel herself a power in the house ; 
for by the magic of a pen, her "rubbish" turned into 
comforts for them. all. " The Duke's Daughter" paid 
4 



50 LITTLE WOMEN. 

the butcher's bill, " A Phantom Hand " put down a 
new carpet, and "The Curse of the Coventrys" proved 
the blessing of the Marches in the way of groceries 
and gowns. 

Wealth is certainly a most desirable thing, but 
poverty has its sunny side, and one of the sweet uses of 
adversity, is the genuine satisfaction which comes from 
hearty work of head or hand ; and to the inspiration 
of necessity, we owe half the wise, beautiful, and 
useful blessings of the world. Jo enjoyed a taste of 
this satisfaction, and ceased to envy richer girls, taking 
great comfort in the knowledge that she could supply 
her own wants, and need ask no one for a penny. 

Little notice was taken of her stories, but they 
found a market ; and, encouraged by this fact, she 
resolved to make a bold stroke for fame and fortune. 
Having copied her novel for the fourth time, read it 
to all her confidential friends, and submitted it with 
fear and trembling to three publishers, she at last dis- 
posed of it, on condition that she would cut it down 
one-third, and omit all the parts which she partic- 
ularly admired. 

" Now I must either bundle it back into my tin- 
kitchen, to mould, pay for printing it myself, or chop 
it up to suit purchasers, and get what I can for it. 
Fame is a very good thing to have in the house, but 
cash is more convenient ; so I wish to take the sense 
of the meeting on this important subject," said Jo, 
calling a family council. 

" Don't spoil your book, my girl, for there is more 
in it than you know, and the idea is well wouked out. 
Let it wait and ripen," was her father's advice ; and 
he practised as he preached, having waited patiently 



LITER AR T LESS ONS. 5 1 

thirty years for fruit of his own to ripen, and being in 
no haste to gather it, even now, when it was sweet 
and mellow. 

" It seems to me that Jo will profit more by making 
the trial than by waiting," said Mrs. March. " Criti- 
cism is the best test of such work, for it will show 
her both unsuspected merits and faults, and help her 
to do better next time. We are too partial ; but the 
praise and blame of outsiders will prove useful, even 
if she gets but little money." 

" Yes," said Jo, knitting her brows, " that's just it ; 
I've been fussing over the thing so long, I really don't 
know whether it's good, bad, or indifferent. It will 
be a great help to have cool, impartial persons take a 
look at it, and tell me what they think of it." 

" I wouldn't leave out a word of it ; you'll spoil it 
if you do, for the interest of the story is more in the 
minds than in the actions of the people, and it will be 
all a muddle if you don't explain as you go on," said 
Meg, who firmly believed that this book was the most 
remarkable novel ever written. 

" But Mr. Allen says, * Leave out the explanations, 
make it brief and dramatic, and let the characters tell 
the story,' " interrupted Jo, turning to the publisher's 
note. 

" Do as he tells you ; he knows what will sell, and 
we don't. Make a good, popular book, and get as 
much money as you can. By and by, when you've 
got a name, you can afford to digress, and have philo- 
sophical and metaphysical people in your novels," 
said Amy, who took a strictly practical view of the 
subject. 

" Well," said Jo, laughing, " if my people are 



52 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



1 philosophical and metaphysical,' it isn't my fault, for 
I know nothing about such things, except what I hear 
father say, sometimes. If I've got some of his wise 
ideas jumbled up with my romance, so much the bet- 
ter for me. Now, Beth, what do you say?" 

" I should so like to see it printed soon" was all 
Beth said, and smiled in saying it ; but there was an 
unconscious emphasis on the last word, and a wistful 
look in the eyes that never lost their child-like candor, 
which chilled Jo's heart, for a minute, with a fore- 
boding fear, and decided her to make her little venture 
"soon." 

So, with Spartan firmness, the young authoress, laid 
her first-born on her table,* and chopped it up as ruth- 
lessly as any ogre. In the hope of pleasing every one, 
she took every one's advice ; and, like the old man 
and his donkey in the fable, suited nobody. 

Her father liked the metaphysical streak which had 
unconsciously got into it, so that was allowed to 
remain, though she had her doubts about it, Her 
mother thought that there was a trifle too much de- 
scription ; out, therefore, it nearly all came, and with 
it many necessary links in the story. Meg admired 
the tragedy ; so Jo piled up the agony to suit her, 
while Amy objected to the fun, and, with the best 
intentions in life, Jo quenched the sprightly scenes 
which relieved the sombre character of the story. 
Then, to complete the ruin, she cut it down one- 
third, and confidingly sent the poor little romance, 
like a picked robin, out into the big, busy world, to 
try its fate. 

Well, it was printed, and she got three hundred 
dollars for it ; likewise plenty of praise and. blame, 



LITERARY LESSONS. 53 

both so much greater than she expected, that she was 
thrown into a state of bewilderment, from which it 
took her some time to recover. 

"You said, mother, that criticism would help me; 
but how can it, when it's so contradictory that I don't 
know whether I have written a promising book, or 
broken all the ten commandments," cried poor Jo, 
turning over a heap of notices, the perusal of which 
filled her with pride and joy one minute — wrath and 
dire dismay the next. " This man says ' An exquisite 
book, full of truth, beauty, and earnestness ; all is 
sweet, pure, and healthy,'" continued the perplexed 
authoress. " The next, ' The theory of the book is 
bad, — full of morbid fancies, spiritualistic ideas, and 
unnatural characters.' Now, as I had no theory of 
any kind, don't believe in spiritualism, and copied my 
characters from life, I don't see how this critic can be 
right. Another says, ' It's one of the best American 
novels which has appeared for years'" (I know 
better than that) ; " and the next asserts that ' though 
it is original, and written with great force and feeling, 
it is a dangerous book.' -'Tisn't ! l Some make fun of 
it, some over-praise, and nearly all insist that I had a 
deep theory to expound, when I only wrote it for the 
pleasure and the money. I wish I'd printed it whole, 
or not at all, for I do hate to be so horridly mis- 
judged." 

Her family and friends administered comfort and 
commendation liberally ; yet it was a hard time for 
sensitive, high-spirited Jo, who meant so well, and 
had apparently done so ill. But it did her good, for 
those whose opinion had real value, gave her the 
criticism which is an author's best education ; and 



54 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



when the first soreness was over, she could laugh at 
her poor little book, yet believe in it still, and feel 
herself the wiser and stronger for the buffeting she 
had received. 

" Not being a genius, like Keats, it won't kill me," 
she said stoutly ; " and I've got the joke on my side, 
after all ; for the parts that were taken straight out of 
real life, are denounced as impossible and absurd, 
and the scenes that I made up out of my own silly 
head, are pronounced ' charmingly natural, tender, 
and true.' So I'll comfort myself with that; and, 
when I'm ready, I'll up again and take another." 



CHAPTER V. 

DOMESTIC EXPERIENCES. 

LIKE most other young matrons, Meg began her 
married life with the determination to be a 
model housekeeper. John should find home 
a paradise; he should always see a smiling face, 
should fare sumptuously every da}-*, and never know 
the loss of a button. She brought so much love, 
energy, and cheerfulness to the work, that she could 
not but succeed, in spite of some obstacles. Her 
paradise was not a tranquil one ; for the little woman 
fussed, was over-anxious to please, and bustled about 
like a true Martha, cumbered with many cares. 
She was too tired, sometimes, even to smile ; John 
grew dyspeptic after a course of dainty dishes, and 
ungratefully demanded plain fare. As for buttons, 
she soon learned to wonder where they went, to shake 
her head over the carelessness of men, and to threaten 
to make him sew them on himself, and then see if his 
work would stand impatient tugs and clumsy fingers 
any better than hers. 

They were very happy, even after they discovered 
that they couldn't live on love alone. John did not 
find Meg's beauty diminished, though she beamed at 
him from behind the familiar coffee-pot ; nor did Meg 
miss any of the romance from the daily parting, when 
her husband followed up his kiss with the tender 
inquiry, " Shall I send home veal or mutton for din- 
ner, darling ? " The little house ceased to be a glo- 

(55) 



56 LITTLE WOMEN. 

rifled bower, but it became a home, and the young 
couple soon felt that it was a change for the better. 
At first they played keep-house, and frolicked over it 
like children ; then John took steadily to business, 
feeling the cares of the head of a family upon his 
shoulders ; and Meg laid by her cambric wrappers, 
put on a big apron, and fell to work, as before said, 
with more energy than discretion. 

While the cooking mania lasted she went through 
Mrs. Cornelius's Receipt Book as if it was a math- 
ematical exercise, working out the problems with pa- 
tience and care. Sometimes her family were invited 
in to help eat up a too bounteous feast of successes, 
or Lotty would be privately despatched with a batch 
of failures which were to be concealed from all eyes, 
in the convenient stomachs of the little Hummels. 
An evening with John over the account books usually 
produced a temporary lull in the culinary enthusiasm, 
and a frugal fit would ensue, during which the poor 
man was put through a course of bread pudding, hash, 
and warmed-over coffee, which tried his soul, although 
he bore it with praiseworthy fortitude. Before the 
golden mean was found, however, Meg added to her 
domestic possessions what young couples seldom get 
on long without, — a family jar. 

Fired with a housewifely wish to see her store-room 
stocked with home-made preserves, she undertook to 
put up her own currant jelly. John was requested 
to order home a dozen or so of little pots, and an 
extra quantity of sugar, for their own currants were 
ripe, and were to be attended to at once. As John 
firmly believed that " my wife " was equal to any- 
thing, and took a natural pride in her skill, he resolved 



DOMESTIC EXPERIENCES. 57 

that she should be gratified, and their only crop of 
fruit laid by in a most pleasing form for winter use. 
Home came four dozen delightful little pots, half a 
barrel of sugar, and a small boy to pick the currants 
for her. With her pretty hair tucked into a little cap, 
arms bared to the elbow, and a checked apron which 
had a coquettish look in spite of the bib,- the young 
housewife fell to work, feeling no doubts about her 
success ; for hadn't she seen Hannah do it hundreds 
of times? The array of pots rather amazed her at 
first, but John was so fond of jelly, and the nice little 
jars would look so well on the top shelf, that Meg 
resolved to fill them all, and spent a long day picking, 
boiling, straining, and fussing over her jelly. She 
did her best ; she asked advice of Mrs. Cornelius ; she 
racked her brain to remember what Hannah did that 
she had left undone ; she reboiled, resugared, and re- 
strained, but that dreadful stuff wouldn't "jell." 

She longed to run home, bib and all, and ask 
mother to lend a hand, but John and she had agreed 
that they would never annoy any one with their private 
worries, experiments, or quarrels. They had laughed 
over that last word as if the idea it suggested was 
a most preposterous one ; but they had held to their 
resolve, and whenever they could get on without help 
they did so, and no one interfered, — for Mrs. March 
had advised the plan. So Meg wrestled alone with 
the refractory sweetmeats all that hot summer day, 
and at five o'clock sat down in her topsy-turvy kitchen, 
wrung her bedaubed hands, lifted up her voice, and 
wept. 

Now in the first flush of the new life, she had often 
said, — 



58 LITTLE WOMEN. 

" My husband shall always feel free to bring a friend 
home whenever he likes. I shall always be prepared ; 
there shall be no flurry, no scolding, no discomfort, 
but a neat house, a cheerful wife, and a good dinner. 
John, dear, never stop to ask my leave, invite whom 
you please, and be sure of a welcome from me." 

How charming that was, to be sure ! John quite 
glowed with pride to hear her say it, and felt what a 
blessed thing it was to have a superior wife. But, 
although they had had company from time to time, it 
never happened to be unexpected, and Meg had never 
had an opportunity to distinguish herself, till now. It 
always happens so in this vale of tears ; there is an 
inevitability about such things which we can only 
wonder at, deplore, and bear as we best can. 

If John had not forgotten all about the jelly, it really 
would have been unpardonable in him to choose that 
day, of all the days in the year, to bring a friend home 
to dinner unexpectedly. Congratulating himself that 
a handsome repast had been ordered that morning, 
feeling sure that it would be ready to the minute, and 
indulging in pleasant anticipations of the charming 
effect it would produce, when his pretty wife came 
running out to meet him, he escorted his friend to his 
mansion, with the irrepressible satisfaction of a young 
host and husband. 

It is a world of disappointments, as John discovered 
when he reached the Dove-cote. The front door usu- 
ally stood hospitably open ; now it was not only shut, 
but locked, and yesterday's mud still adorned the steps. 
The parlor windows were closed and curtained, no 
picture of the pretty wife sewing on the piazza, in 
white, with a distracting little bow in her hair, or a 



DOMESTIC EXPERIENCES. 59 

bright-eyed hostess, smiling a shy welcome as she 
greeted her guest. Nothing of the sort — - for not a soul 
appeared, but a sanguinary-looking boy asleep under 
the currant bushes. 

" I'm afraid something has happened ; step into the 
garden, Scott, while I look up Mrs. Brooke," said' 
John, alarmed at the silence and solitude. 

Round the house he hurried, led by a pungent smell 
of burnt sugar, and Mr. Scott strolled after him, with 
a queer look on his face. He paused discreetly at a 
distance when Brooke disappeared ; but he could both 
see and hear, and, being a bachelor, enjoyed the pros- 
pect mightily. 

In the kitchen reigned confusion and despair ; one 
edition of jelly was trickled from pot to pot, another 
lay upon the floor, and a third was burning gaily on 
the stove. Lotty, with Teutonic phlegm, was calmly 
eating bread and currant wine, for the jelly was still 
in a hopelessly liquid state, while Mrs. Brooke, with 
her apron over her head, sat sobbing dismally. 

"My dearest girl, what is the matter?" cried John, 
rushing in with awful visions of scalded hands, sud- 
den news of affliction, and secret consternation at the 
thought of the guest in the garden. 

" Oh, John, I am so tired, and hot, and cross, and 
worried ! I've been at it till I'm all worn out. Do 
come and help me, or I shall die ; " and the exhausted 
housewife cast herself upon his breast, giving him a 
sweet welcome in every sense of the word, for her 
pinafore had been baptized at the same time as the 
floor. 

" What worries you, dear? Has anything dreadful 



60 LITTLE WOMEN. 

happened ?" asked the anxious John, tenderly kissing 
the crown of the little cap, which was all askew. 

" Yes," sobbed Meg, despairingly. 

" Tell me quick, then ; don't cry, I can bear any- 
thing better than that. Out with it, love." 

"The — the jelly won't jell — and I don't know 
what to do ! " 

John Brooke laughed then as he never dared to 
laugh afterward ; and the derisive Scott smiled invol- 
untarily as he heard the hearty peal, which put the 
finishing stroke to poor Meg's woe. 

"Is that all? Fling it out of window, and don't 
bother any more about it. I'll buy you quarts if you 
want it ; but for heaven's sake don't have hysterics, 
for I've brought Jack Scott home to dinner, and — " 

John got no further, for Meg cast him off, and 
clasped her* hands with a tragic gesture as she fell into 
a chair, exclaiming in a tone of mingled indignation, 
reproach, and dismay, — 

"A man to dinner, and everything in a mess! 
John Brooke, how could you do such a thing ? " 

"Hush, he's in the garden ; I forgot the confounded 
jelly, but it can't be helped now," said John, survey- 
ing the prospect with an anxious eye. 

" You ought to have sent word, or told me this 
morning, and you ought to have remembered how 
busy I was," continued Meg, petulantly ; for even 
turtle-doves will peck when ruffled. 

" I did'nt know it this morning, and there was no 
time to send word, for I met him on the way out. I 
never thought of asking leave, when you have always 
told me to do as I liked. I never tried it before, and 



DOMESTIC EXPERIENCES. 6l 

hang me if I ever do again ! " added John, with an 
aggrieved air. 

"1 should hope not! Take him away at once ; I 
can't see him, and there isn't any dinner." 

"Well, I like that! Where's the beef and veg- 
etables I sent home, and the pudding you promised?" 
cried John, rushing to the larder. 

"I hadn't time to cook anything; I meant to dine 
at mother's. I'm sorry, but I was so busy," — -and 
Meg's tears began again. 

John was a mild man, but he was human ; and 
after a long day's work, to come home tired, hungry 
and hopeful, to find a chaotic house, an empty table, 
and a cross wife, was not exactly conducive to repose 
of mind or manner. He restrained himself, however, 
and the little squall would have blown over but for 
one unlucky word. 

" It's a scrape, I acknowledge ; but if you will 
lend a hand, we'll pull through, and have a good time 
yet. Don't cry, dear, but just exert yourself a bit, 
and knock us up something to eat. We're both as 
hungry as hunters, so we shan't mind what it is. 
Give us the cold meat, and bread and cheese ; we 
won't ask for jelly." 

He meant it for a good-natured joke ; but that one 
word sealed his fate. Meg thought it was too cruel 
to hint about her sad failure, and the last atom of 
patience vanished as he spoke. 

" You must get yourself out of the scrape as 
you can ; I'm too used up to ' exert ' myself for any 
one.* It's like a man, to propose a bone and vulgar 
bread and cheese for company. I won't have any- 
thing of the sort in my house. Take that Scott up to 



62 LITTLE WOMEN,* 

mother's, and tell him I'm away — sick, dead, any- 
thing. I won't see him, and you two can laugh at 
me and my jelly as much as you like ; you won't have 
anything else here ; " and having delivered her de- 
fiance all in one breath, Meg cast away her pinafore, 
and precipitately left the field to bemoan herself in 
her own room. 

What those two creatures did in her absence, she 
never knew ; but Mr. Scott was not taken " up to 
mother's," and when Meg descended, after they had 
strolled away together, she found traces of a pro- 
miscuous lunch which filled her with horror. Lotty 
reported that they had eaten " a much, and greatly 
laughed ; and the master bid her throw away all the 
sweet stuff, and hide the pots." 

Meg longed to go and tell mother ; but a sense of 
shame at her own short-comings, of loyalty to John, 
" who might be cruel, but nobody should know it," 
restrained her ; and after a summary clearing up, she 
dressed herself prettily, and sat down to wait for John 
to come and be forgiven. 

Unfortunately, John didn't come, not seeing the 
matter in that light. He had carried it off as a good 
joke with Scott, excused his little wife as well as he 
could, and played the host so hospitably, that his 
friend enjoyed the impromptu dinner, and promised 
to come again. But John was angry, though he did 
not show it ; he felt that Meg had got him into a 
scrape, and then deserted him in his hour of need. 
u It wasn't fair to tell a man to bring folks home any 
time, with perfect freedom, and when he took you at 
your word, to flare up and blame him, and leave him 
in the lurch, to be laughed at or pitied. No, by 



DOMESTIC EXPERIENCES. 63 

George, it wasn't ! and Meg must know it." He 
had fumed inwardly during the feast, but when the 
flurry was over, and he strolled home, after seeing 
Scott off, a milder mood came over him. " Poor 
little thing ! it was hard upon her when she tried so 
heartily to please me. She was wrong, of course, 
but then she was young. I must be patient, and 
teach her." He hoped she had not gone home — he 
hated gossip and interference. For a minute he was 
ruffled again at the mere thought of it ; and then the 
fear that Meg would cry herself sick, softened his 
heart, and sent him on at a quicker pace, resolving to 
be calm and kind, but firm, quite firm, and show her 
where she had failed in her duty to her spouse. 

Meg likewise resolved to be " calm and kind, but 
firm," and show him his duty. She longed to run to 
meet him, and beg pardon, and be kissed and com- 
forted, as she was sure of being ; but, of course, she 
did nothing of the sort ; and when she saw John 
coming, began to hum quite naturally, as she rocked 
and sewed like a lady of leisure in her best parlor. 

John was a little disappointed not to find a tender 
Niobe ; but, feeling that his dignity demanded the 
first apology, he made none : only came leisurely in, 
and laid himself upon the sofa, with the singularly 
relevant remark, — 

" We are going to have a new moon, my dear." 

" I've no objection," was Meg's equally soothing 
remark. 

A few other topics of general interest were intro- 
duced by Mr. Brooke, and wet-blanketed by Mrs. 
Brooke, and conversation languished. John went to 
one window, unfolded his paper, and wrapt himself 



64 LITTLE WOMEN. 

in it, figuratively speaking. Meg went to the other 
window, and sewed as if new rosettes for her slippers 
were among the necessaries of life. Neither spoke — 
both looked quite " calm and firm," and both felt des- 
perately uncomfortable. 

"Oh, dear," thought Meg, "married life is very 
trying, and does need infinite patience, as well as love, 
as mother says." The word "mother" suggested 
other maternal counsels given long ago, and received 
with unbelieving protests. 

"John is a good man, but he has his faults, and you 
must learn to see and bear with them, remembering 
your own. He is very decided, but never will be 
obstinate, if you reason kindly, not oppose impatiently. 
He is very accurate, and particular about the truth — a 
good trait, though you call him ' fussy.' Never 
deceive him by look or word, Meg, and he will give 
you the confidence you deserve, the support you need. 
He has a temper, not like ours, — one flash, and then all 
over — but the white, still anger that is seldom stirred, 
but once kindled, is hard to quench. Be careful, very 
careful, not to wake this anger against yourself, for 
peace and happiness depend on keeping his respect. 
Watch yourself, be the first to ask pardon if you both 
err, and guard against the ,.little piques, misunder- 
standings, and hasty words that often pave the way 
for bitter sorrow and regret." 

These words came back to Meg, as she sat sewing 
in the sunset, — especially the last. This was the first 
serious disagreement ; her own hasty speeches sounded 
both silly and unkind, as she recalled them, her own 
anger looked childish now, and thoughts of poor John 
coming home to such a scene quite melted her heart. 



DOMESTIC EXPERIENCES. 6$ 

She glanced at him with tears in her eyes, burtie did 
not see them ; she put down her work and got up, 
thinking, " I will be the first to say, ' forgive me,'" but 
he did not seem to hear her ; she went very slowly 
across the room, for pride was hard to swallow, and 
stood by him, but he did not turn his head. For a 
minute, she felt as if she really couldn't do it ; then 
came the thought, " This is the beginning, I'll do my 
part, and have nothing to reproach myself with," and 
stooping down she softly kissed her husband on the 
forehead. Of course that settled it ; the penitent kiss 
was better than a world of words, and John had her 
on his knee in a minute, saying tenderly, — ■ 

" It was too bad to laugh at the poor little jelly- 
pots ; forgive me, dear, I never will again ! " 

But he did, oh, bless you, yes, hundreds of times, 
and so did Meg, both declaring that it was the sweet- 
est jelly they ever made ; for family peace was preserved 
in that little family jar. 

After this, Meg had Mr. Scott to dinner by special 
invitation, and served him up a pleasant feast without 
a cooked wife for the first course ; on which occasion 
she was so gay and gracious, and made everything 
go off so charmingly, that Mr. Scott told John he was 
a happy fellow, and shook his head over the hardships 
of bachelor-hood all the way home. 

In the autumn, new trials and experiences came to 
Meg. Sallie Moffat renewed her friendship, was 
always running out for a dish of gossip at the little 
house, or inviting " that poor dear" to come in and 
spend the day at the big house. It was pleasant, for 
in dull weather Meg often felt lonely ; — all were busy 
at home, John absent till night, and nothing to do but 

5 



66 LITTLE WOMEN. 

sew, or read, or potter about. So it naturally fell out 
that Meg got into the way of gadding and gossiping 
with her friend. Seeing Sallie's pretty things made 
her long for such, and pity herself because she had 
not got them. Sally was very kind, and often offered 
her the coveted trifles ; but Meg declined them, know- 
ing that John wouldn't like it ; and then this foolish 
little woman went and did what John disliked in- 
finitely worse. 

She knew her husband's income, and she loved to 
feel that he trusted her, not only with his happiness, 
but what some men seem to value more, his money. 
She knew where it was, was free to take what she 
liked, and all he asked was that she should keep ac- 
count of every penny, pay bills once a month, and 
remember that she was a poor man's wife. Till now 
she had done well, been prudent and exact, kept her 
little account-books neatly, and showed them to him 
monthly, without fear. But that autumn the serpent 
got into Meg's paradise, and tempted her, like many a 
modern Eve, not with apples, but with dress. Meg 
didn't like to be pitied and made to feel poor ; it irri- 
tated her \ but she was ashamed to confess it, and now 
and then she tried to console herself by buying some- 
thing pretty, so that Sally needn't think she had to 
scrimp. She always felt wicked after it, for the pretty 
things were seldom necessaries ; but then they cost so 
little, it wasn't worth worrying about ; so the trifles in- 
creased unconsciously, and in the shopping excur- 
sions she was no longer a passive looker-on. 

But the trifles cost more than one would imagine ; 
and when she cast up her accounts at the end of the 
month, the sum -total rather scared her. John was 



DOMESTIC EXPERIENCES. 67 

busy that month, and left the bills to her ; the next 
month he was absent ; but the third he had a grand 
quarterly settling up, and Meg never forgot it. A 
few days before she had done a dreadful thing, and it 
weighed upon her conscience. Sallie had been buy- 
ing silks, and Meg ached for a new one — just a 
handsome light one for parties — her black silk was 
so common, and thin things for evening wear were 
only proper for girls. Aunt March usually gave the 
sisters a present of twenty-five dollars apiece, at New- 
Year ; that was only a month to wait, and here was a 
lovely violet silk going at a bargain, and she had the 
money, if she only dared to take it. John always 
said what was his was hers ; but would he think it 
right to spend not only the prospective five-and 
twenty, but another five-and-twenty out of the house- 
hold fund ? That was the question. Sallie had urged 
her to do it, had offered to loan the money, and with 
the best intentions in life, had tempted Meg beyond 
her strength. In an evil moment the shopman held 
up the lovely, shimmering folds, and said, "A bar- 
gain, I assure you, ma'am." She answered, " I'll 
take it " ; and it was cut off and paid for, and Sallie 
had exulted, and she had laughed as if it was a thing 
of no consequence, and driven away feeling as if she 
had stolen something, and the police were after her. 

When she got home, she tried to assuage the pangs 
of remorse by spreading forth the lovely silk ; but it 
looked less silvery now, didn't become her, after all, 
and the words u fifty dollars" seemed stamped like a 
pattern down each breadth. She put it away ; but it 
haunted her, not delightfully, as a new dress should, 
but dreadfully, like the ghost of a folly that was not 



68 LITTLE WOMEN. 

easily laid. When John got out his books that night, 
Meg's heart sank ; and, for the first time in her mar- 
ried life, she was afraid of her husband. The kind, 
brown eyes looked as if they could be stern ; and 
though he was unusually merry, she fancied he had 
found her out, but didn't mean to let her know it. 
The house bills were all paid, the books all in order. 
John had praised her, and was undoing the old 
pocket-book which they called the " bank," when 
Meg, knowing that it was quite empty, stopped his 
hand, saying nervously, — 

" You haven't seen my private expense book, yet." 

John never asked to see it ; but she always insisted 
on his doing so, and used to enjoy his masculine 
amazement at the queer things women wanted, and 
make him guess what "piping" was, demand fiercely 
the meaning of a u hug-me-tight," or wonder how a 
little thing composed of three rosebuds, a bit of vel- 
vet and a pair of strings, could possibly be a bonnet, 
and cost five or six dollars. That night he looked as 
if he would like the fun of quizzing her figures, and 
pretending to be horrified at her extravagance, as he 
often -did, being particularly proud of his prudent 
wife. 

The little book was brought slowly out, and laid 
down before him. Meg got behind his chair, under 
pretence of smoothing the wrinkles out of his tired 
forehead, and standing there, she said, with her panic 
increasing with every word, — 

"John, dear, I'm ashamed to show you my book, 
for I've really been dreadfully extravagant lately. I 
go about so much I must have things, you know, and 
Sallie advised my getting it, so I did ; and my New- 



DOMESTIC EXPERIENCES. 69 

Year's money will partly pay for it ; but I was sorry 
after I'd done it, for I knew you'd think it wrong in 
me." 

John laughed, and drew her round beside him, say- 
ing good-humoredly, " Don't go and hide, I won't 
beat you if you have got a pair of killing' boots; I'm 
rather proud of my wife's feet, and don't mind if she 
does pay eight or nine dollars for her boots, if they 
are good ones." 

That had been one of her last " trifles," and John's 
eye had fallen on it as he spoke. " Oh, what will he 
say when he comes to that awful fifty dollars ! " 
thought Meg, with a shiver. 

" It's worse than boots, it's a silk dress," she said, 
with the calmness of desperation, for she wanted the 
worst over. 

"Well, dear, what is 'the dem'd total?' as Mr. 
Mantalini says." 

That didn't sound like John, and she knew he was 
looking up at her with the straightforward look that 
she had always been ready to meet and answer with 
one as frank, till now. She turned the page and her 
head at the same time, pointing to the sum which 
would have been bad enough without the fifty, but 
which was appalling to her with that added. For a 
minute the room was very still ; then John said, 
slowly — but she could feel it cost him an effort to 
express no displeasure, — 

" Well, I don't know that fifty is much for a dress, 
with all the furbelows and quinny-dingles you have to 
have to finish it off these days." 

" It isn't made or trimmed," sighed Meg faintly, for 



fo LITTLE WOMEN. 

a sudden recollection of the cost still to be incurred 
quite overwhelmed her. 

" Twenty-five yards of silk seems a good deal to 
cover one small woman, but I've no doubt my wife 
will look as fine as Ned Moffat's when she gets it 
on," said John dryly. 

" I know you are angry, John, but I can't help it; 
I don't mean to waste your money, and I didn't think 
those little things would count up so. I can't resist 
them when I see Sallie buying all she wants, and 
pitying me because I don't ; I try to be contented, but 
it is hard, and I'm tired of being poor." 

The last words were spoken so low she thought he 
did not hear them, but he did, and they wounded him 
deeply, for he had denied himself many pleasures for 
Meg's sake. She could have bitten her tongue out the 
minute she had said it, for John pushed the books 
away and got up, saying, with a little quiver in his 
voice, "I was afraid of this ; I do my best, Meg." 
If he had scolded her, or even shaken her, it would 
not have broken her heart like those few words. She 
ran to him and held him close, crying, with repentant 
tears, "Oh, John! my dear, kind, hard-working boy, 
I didn't mean it ! It was so wicked, so untrue and 
ungrateful, how could I say it ! Oh, how could I say 
it!" 

He was very kind, forgave her readily, and did not 
utter one reproach ; but Meg knew that she had done 
and said a thing which would not be forgotten soon, 
although he might never allude to it again. She had 
promised to love him for better for worse ; and then 
she, his wife, had reproached him with his poverty, 
after spending his earnings recklessly. It was dread- 



DOMESTIC EXPERIENCES. 71 

ful ; and the worst of it was John went on so quietly 
afterward, just as if nothing had happened, except 
that he stayed in town later, and worked at night 
when she had gone to cry herself to sleep. A week 
of remorse nearly made Meg sick ; and the discovery 
that John had countermanded the order for his new 
great-coat, reduced her to a state of despair which 
was pathetic to behold. He had simply said, in an- 
swer to her surprised inquiries as to the change, " I 
can't afford it, my dear." 

Meg said no more, but a few minutes after he found 
her in the hall with her face buried in the old great- 
coat, crying as if her heart would break. 

They had a long talk that night, and Meg learned 
to love her husband better for his poverty, because it 
seemed to have made a man of him — giving him the 
strength and courage to fight his own way — and taught 
him a tender patience with which to bear and comfort 
the natural longings and failures of those he loved. 

Next day she put her pride in her pocket, went to 
Sallie, told the truth, and asked her to buy the silk as 
a favor. The good-natured Mrs. Moffat willingly did 
so, and had the delicacy not to make her a present of 
it immediately afterward. Then Meg ordered home 
the great-coat, and, when John arrived, she put it on, 
and asked him how he liked her new silk gown. 
One can imagine what answer he made, how he re- 
ceived his present, and what a blissful state of things 
ensued. John came home early, Meg gadded no more ; 
and that great-coat was put on in the morning by a 
very happy husband*, and taken off at night by a most 
devoted little wife. So the year rolled round, and at 



7 3 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



midsummer there came to Meg a new experience, — 
the deepest and tenderest of a woman's life. 

Laurie came sneaking into the kitchen of the Dove- 
cote one Saturday, with an excited face, and was re- 
ceived with the clash of cymbals ; for Hannah clapped 
her hands with a saucepan in one, and the cover in the 
other. 

"How's the little Ma? Where is everybody? 
Why didn't you tell me before I came home ? " began 
Laurie, in a loud whisper. 

" Happy as a queen, the dear ! Every soul of 'em 
is upstairs a worshipin' ; we didn't want no hurry- 
canes round. Now you go into the parlor, and I'll 
send 'em down to you," with which somewhat in- 
volved reply Hannah vanished, chuckling ecstatically. 

Presently Jo appeared, proudly bearing a small 
flannel bundle laid forth upon a large pillow. Jo's 
face was very sober, but her eyes twinkled, and there 
was an odd sound in her voice of repressed emotion 
of some sort. 

" Shut your eyes and hold out your arms," she said 
invitingly. 

Laurie backed precipitately into a corner, and put 
his hands behind him with an imploring gesture, — 
"No, thank you ; I'd rather not. I shall drop it, or 
smash it, as sure as fate." 

" Then you shan't see your newy," said Jo, de- 
cidedly, turning as if to go. 

" I will, I will ! only you must be responsible for 
damages ;" and, obeying orders, Laurie heroically shut 
his eyes while something was put into his arms. A 
peal of laughter from Jo, Amy, Mrs. March, Hannah 



DOMESTIC EXPERIENCES. 73 

and John, caused him to open them the next minute, 
to find himself invested with two babies instead of one. 

No wonder they laughed, for the expression of his 
face was droll enough to convulse a Quaker, as he 
stood and stared wildly from the unconscious innocents 
to the hilarious spectators, with such dismay that Jo 
sat down on the floor and screamed. 

" Twins, by Jupiter !" was all he said for a minute ; 
then turning to the women with an appealing look 
that was comically piteous, he added, " Take 'em quick, 
somebody ! I'm going to laugh, and I shall drop 'em." 
John rescued his babies, and marched up and down, 
with one on each arm, as if already initiated into the 
mysteries of baby-tending, while Laurie laughed till 
the tears ran down his cheeks. 

"It's the best joke of the season, isn't it? I 
wouldn't have you told, for I set my heart on sur- 
prising you, and I flatter myself I've done it," said Jo, 
when she got her breath. 

" I never was more staggered in my life. Isn't it 
fun ? Are they boys ? What are you going to name 
them ? Let's have another look. Hold me up, Jo ; 
for upon my life it's one too many for me," returned 
Laurie, regarding the infants with the air of a big, 
benevolent Newfoundland looking at a pair of in- 
fantile kittens. 

"Boy and girl. Aren't they beauties?" said the 
proud papa, beaming upon the little, red squirmers 
as if they were unfledged angels. 

" Most remarkable children I ever saw. Which is 
which ? " and Laurie bent like a well-sweep to examine 
the prodigies. 

" Amy put a blue ribbon on the boy and a pink on 



74 LITTLE WOMEN. 

the girl, French fashion, so you can always tell. Be- 
sides, one has blue eyes and one brown. Kiss them, 
Uncle Teddy," said wicked Jo. 

" I'm afraid they mightn't like it," began Laurie, 
with unusual timidity in such matters. 

" Of course they will ; they are used to it now ; do 
it this minute, sir," commanded Jo, fearing he might 
propose a proxy. 

Laurie screwed up his face, and obeyed with a gin- 
gerly peck at each little cheek that produced another 
laugh, and made the babies squeal. 

"There, I knew they didn't like it! Thafs the 
boy ; see him kick ! he hits out with his fists like a 
good one. Now then, young Brooke, pitch into a 
man of your own size, will you ? " cried Laurie, de- 
lighted with a poke in the face from a tiny fist, flap- 
ping aimlessly about. 

" He's to be named John Laurence, and the girl 
Margaret, after mother and grandmother. We shall 
call her Daisy, so as not to have two Megs, and I 
suppose the mannie will be Jack, unless we find a 
better name," said Amy, with aunt-like interest. 

"Name him Demijohn, and call him 'Demi' for 
short," said Laurie. 

"Daisy and Demi, — just the thing! I knew 
Teddy would do it," cried Jo, clapping her hands. 

Teddy certainly had done it that time, for the babies 
were "Daisy" and "Demi" to the end of the chapter. 



CHAPTER VI. 

CALLS. 

COME, Jo, it's time." 
"For what?" 

"You don't mean to say you have forgotten 
that you promised to make half a dozen calls with 
me to-day ? " 

" I've done a good many rash and foolish things in 
my life, but I don't think I ever was mad enough to 
say I'd make six calls in one day, when a single one 
upsets me for a week." 

" Yes you did ; it was a bargain between us. I 
was to finish the crayon of Beth for you, and you 
were to go properly with me, and return our neigh- 
bor's visits." 

"If it was fair — that was in the bond ; and I stand 
to the letter of my bond, Shylock. There is a pile of 
clouds in the east ; it's not fair, and I don't go." 

"Now that's shirking. It's a lovely day, no pros- 
pect of rain, and you pride yourself on keeping prom- 
ises ; so be honorable ; come and do your duty, and 
then be at peace for another six months." 

At that minute Jo was particularly absorbed in 
dressmaking ; for she was mantua-maker general to 
the family, and took especial credit to herself because 
she could use a needle as well as a pen. It was very 
provoking to be arrested in the act of a first trying- 
on, and ordered out to make calls in her best array, 
on a warm July day. She hated calls of the formal 

(75) 



76 LITTLE WOMEN. 

sort, and never made any till Amy cornered her with 
a bargain, bribe, or promise. In the present instance, 
there was no escape ; and having clashed her scissors 
rebelliously, while protesting that ^he smelt thunder, 
she gave in, put away her work, and taking up her 
hat and gloves with an air of resignation, told Amy 
the victim was ready. 

"Jo March, you are perverse enough to provoke a 
saint ! You don't intend to make calls in that state, I 
hope," cried Amy, surveying her with amazement. 

"Why not? I'm neat, and cool, and comfortable; 
quite proper for a dusty walk on a warm day. If 
people care more for my clothes than they do for me, 
I don't wish to see them. You can dress for both, 
and be as elegant as you please ; it pays for you to be 
fine ; it doesn't for me, and furbelows only worry 
me." 

" Oh dear ! " sighed Amy ; " now she's in a con- 
trary fit, and will drive me distracted before I can get 
her properly ready. I'm sure it's no pleasure to me 
to go to-day, but it's a debt we owe society, and 
there's no one to pay it but you and me. I'll do any- 
thing for you, Jo, if you'll only dress yourself nicely, 
and come and help me do the civil. You can talk so 
well, look so aristocratic in your best things, and 
behave so beautifully, if you try, that I'm proud of 
you. I'm afraid to go alone ; do come and take care 
of me." 

" You're an artful little puss to flatter and wheedle 
your cross old sister in that way. The idea of my 
being aristocratic and well-bred, and your being afraid 
to go anywhere alone ! I don't know which is the 
most absurd. Well, I'll go if I must, and do my best ; 



CALLS. ft 

you shall be commander of the expedition, and I'll 
obey blindly; will that satisfy you?" said Jo, with a 
sudden change from perversity to lamb-like submis- 
sion. 

" You're a perfect cherub ! Now put on all your 
best things, and I'll tell you how to behave at* each 
place, so that you will make a good impression. I 
want people to like you, and they would if you'd only 
try to be a little more agreeable. Do your hair the 
pretty way, and put the pink rose in your bonnet ; it's 
becoming, and you look too sober in your plain suit. 
Take your light kids and the embroidered handker- 
chief. We'll stop at Meg's, and borrow her white 
sun-shade, and then you can have my dove-colored 
one." 

While Amy dressed, she issued her orders, and Jo 
obeyed them ; not without entering her protest, how- 
ever, for she sighed as she rustled into her new or- 
gandie, frowned darkly at herself as she tied her 
bonnet strings in an irreproachable bow, wrestled 
viciously with pins as she put on her collar, wrinkled 
up her features generally as she shook out the hand- 
kerchief, whose embroidery was as irritating to her 
nose as the present mission was to her feelings ; and 
when she had squeezed her hands into tight gloves 
with two buttons and a tassel^ as the last touch of 
elegance, she turned to Amy with an imbecile expres- 
sion of countenance, saying meekly, — 

" I'm perfectly miserable ; but if you consider me 
presentable, I die happy." 

" You are highly satisfactory ; turn slowly round, and 
let me get a careful view." Jo revolved, and Amy 
gave a touch here and there, then fell back with her 



78 LITTLE WOMEN. 

head on one side, observing graciously, "Yes, you'll do, 
your head is all I could ask, for that white bonnet 
with the rose is quite ravishing. Hold back your 
shoulders, and carry your hands easily, no matter if 
your gloves do pinch. There's one thing you can do 
well, Jo, that, is wear a shawl — I can't ; but it's very 
nice to see you, and I'm so glad Miss Norton gave you 
that lovely one ; it's simple, but handsome, and those 
folds over the arm are really artistic. Is the point of 
my mantle in the middle, and have I looped my dress 
evenly? I like to show my boots, for my feet are pretty, 
though my nose isn't." 

" You are a thing of beauty, and a joy forever," 
said Jo, looking through her hand with the air of a 
connoisseur at the blue feather against the gold hair. 
" Am I to drag my best dress through the dust, or loop 
it up, please ma'am?" 

" Hold it up when you walk, but drop it in the house ; 
the sweeping style suits you best, and you must learn 
to trail your skirts gracefully. You haven't half 
buttoned one cuff; do it at once. You'll never look 
finished if you are not careful about the little details, 
for they make up the pleasing whole." 

Jo sighed, and proceeded to burst the buttons off her 
glove, in doing up her cuff; but at last both were ready, 
and sailed away, looking as " pretty as picters," 
Hannah said, as she hung out of the upper window 
to watch them. 

" Now, Jo dear, the Chesters are very elegant peo- 
ple, so I want you to put on your best deportment. 
Don't make any of your abrupt remarks, or do any- 
thing odd, will you ? Just be calm, cool and quiet, — 
that's safe and lady-like ; and you can easily do it for 



CALLS. 79 

fifteen minutes," said Amy, as they approached the 
first place, having borrowed the white parasol and 
been inspected by Meg, with a baby on each arm. 

" Let me see ; ' Calm, cool and quiet' ! yes, I think 
I can promise that. I've played the part of a prim 
young lady on the stage, and I'll try it off. My powers 
are great, as you shall see ; so be easy in your mind, 
my child." • 

Amy looked relieved, but naughty Jo took her at 
her word ; for, during the first call, she sat with every 
limb gracefully composed, every fold correctly draped, 
calm as a summer sea, cool as a snow-bank, and as 
silent as a sphinx. In vain Mrs. Chester alluded to 
her " charming novel," and the Misses Chester intro- 
duced parties, picnics, the Opera and the fashions ; 
each and all were answered by a smile, a bow, and a 
demure "Yes" or "No," with the chill on. In vain 
Amy telegraphed the word " Talk," tried to draw her 
out, and administered covert pokes with her foot ; Jo 
sat as if blandly unconscious of it all, with deportment 
like "Maud's" face, "Icily regular, splendidly null." 

" What a haughty, uninteresting creature that old- 
est Miss March is ! " was the unfortunately audible 
remark of one of the ladies, as the door closed upon 
their guests. Jo laughed noiselessly all through the 
hall, but Amy looked disgusted at the failure of her 
instructions, and very naturally laid the blame upon 
Jo. 

" How could you mistake me so? I merely meant 
you to be properly dignified and composed, and you 
made yourself a perfect stock and stone. Try to be 
sociable at the Lambs, gossip as other girls do, and be 
interested in dress, and flirtations, and whatever non- 



80 LITTLE WOMEN. 

sense -comes up. They move in the best society, are 
valuable persons for us to know, and I wouldn't fail to 
make a good impression there for anything." 

" I'll be agreeable ; I'll gossip and giggle, and have 
horrors and raptures over any trifle you like. I rather 
enjoy this, and now I'll imitate what is called ' a 
charming girl ' ; I can do it, for I have May Chester 
as a model, and I'll improve upon her. See if the 
Lambs don't say, ' What a lively, nice creature that 
Jo March is ! '" 

Amy felt anxious, as well she might, for when Jo 
turned freakish there was no knowing where she would 
stop. Amy's face was a study when she saw her sister 
skim into the next drawing-room, kiss all the young 
ladies with effusion, beam graciously upon the young 
gentlemen, and join in the chat with a spirit which 
amazed the beholder. Amy was taken possession of 
by Mrs. Lamb, with whom she was a favorite, and 
forced to hear a long account of Lucretia's last attack, 
while three delightful young gentlemen hovered near, 
waiting for a pause when they might rush in and 
rescue her. So situated she was powerless to check 
Jo, who seemed possessed by a spirit of mischief, and 
talked away as volubly as the old lady. A knot of 
heads gathered about her, and Amy strained her ears to 
hear what was going on ; for broken sentences filled her 
with alarm, round eyes and uplifted hands tormented 
her with curiosity, and frequent peals of laughter 
made her wild to share the fun. One may imagine 
her suffering on overhearing fragments of this sort of 
conversation : — 

" She rides splendidly, — who taught her? " 

" No one ; she used to practise mounting, holding 



CALLS. 8l 

the reins, and sitting straight on an old saddle in a 
tree. Now she rides anything, for she don't know 
what fear is, and the stable-man lets her have horses 
cheap, because she trains them to carry ladies so well. 
She has such a passion for it, I often tell her if every- 
thing else fails she can be a pretty horse-breaker, and 
get her living so." 

At this awful speech Amy contained herself with 
difficulty, for the impression was being given that she 
was rather a fast young lady, which was her especial 
aversion. But what could she do? for the old lady 
was in the middle of her story, and long before it was 
done Jo was off again, making more droll revelations, 
and committing still more fearful blunders. 

u Yes, Amy was in despair that day, for all the 
good beasts were gone, and of three left, one was lame, 
one blind, and the other so balky that you had to put 
dirt in his mouth before he would start. Nice animal 
for a pleasure party, wasn't it?" 

" Which did she choose?" asked one of the laugh- 
ing gentlemen, who enjoyed the subject. 

" None of them ; she heard of a young horse at the 
farm-house over the river, and, though a lady had 
never ridden him, she resolved to try, because he was 
handsome and spirited. Her struggles were really 
pathetic ; there was no one to bring the horse to the 
saddle, so she took the saddle to the horse. My dear 
creature, she actually rowed it over the river, put it 
on her head, and marched up to the barn, to the utter 
amazement of the old man ! " 

u Did she ride the horse?" 

" Of course she did, and had a capital time. I 
expected to see her brought home in fragments, but 



82 LITTLE WOMEN. 

she managed him perfectly, and was the life of the 
party." 

" Well, I call that plucky ! " and young Mr. Lamb 
turned an approving glance upon Amy, wondering 
what his mother could be saying to make the girl look 
so red and uncomfortable. 

She was still redder and more uncomfortable a 
moment after, when a sudden turn in the conversation 
introduced the subject of dress. One of the young 
ladies asked Jo where she got the pretty drab hat she 
wore to the picnic ; and stupid Jo, instead of men- 
tioning the place where it was bought two years ago, 
must needs answer, with unnecessary frankness, " Oh, 
Amy painted it ; you can't buy those soft shades, so 
we paint ours any color we like, It's a great comfort 
to have an artistic sister." 

"Isn't that an original idea?" cried Miss Lamb, 
who found Jo great fun. 

" That's nothing compared to some of her brilliant 
performances. There's nothing the child can't do. 
Why, she wanted a pair of blue boots for Sallie's party, 
so she just painted her soiled white ones the loveliest 
shade of sky-blue you ever saw, and they looked ex- 
actly like satin," added Jo, with an air of pride in her 
sister's accomplishments that exasperated Amy till she 
felt that it would be a relief to throw her card-case at her. 

" We read a story of yours the other day, and en- 
joyed it very much," observed the elder Miss Lamb, 
wishing to compliment the literary lady, who did not 
look the character just then, it must be confessed. 
Any mention of her " works " always had a bad effect 
upon Jo, who either grew rigid and looked offended, 
or changed the subject with a brusque remark, as now. 



CALLS. 



83 



" Sorry you could find nothing better to read. I write 
that rubbish because it sells, and ordinary people like 
it. Are you going to New York this winter ? " 

As Miss Lamb had " enjoyed " the story, this speech 
was not exactly grateful or complimentary. The 
minute it was made Jo saw her mistake ; but, fearing 
to make the matter worse, suddenly remembered that 
it was for her to make the first move toward departure, 
and did so with an abruptness that left three people 
with half-finished sentences in their mouths. 

" Amy, we must go. Good-by, dear ; do come and 
see us ; we are fining for a visit. I don't dare to ask 
you, Mr. Lamb ; but if you should come, I don't think 
I shall have the heart to send you away." 

Jo said this with such a droll imitation of May 
Chester's gushing style, that Amy got out of the- room 
as rapidly as possible, feeling a strong desire to laugh 
and cry at the same time. 

" Didn't I do that well? " asked Jo, with a satisfied 
air, as they walked away. 

" Nothing could have been worse," was Amy's 
crushing reply. " What possessed you to tell those 
stories about my saddle, and the hats and boots, and 
all the rest of it?" 

" Why, it's funny, and amuses people. They know 
we are poor, so it's no use pretending that we have 
grooms, buy three or four hats a season, and have 
things as easy and fine as they do." 

" You needn't go and tell them all our little shifts, 
and expose our poverty in that perfectly unnecessary 
way. You haven't a bit of proper pride, and never 
will learn when to hold your tongue, and when to 
speak," said Amy despairingly. 



84 LITTLE WOMEN. 

Poor Jo looked abashed, and silently chafed the end 
of her nose with the stiff handkerchief, as if perform- 
ing a penance for her misdemeanors. 

"How shall I behave here?" she asked, as they 
approached the third mansion. 

"Just as you please ; I wash my hands of you," was 
Amy's short answer. 

" Then I'll enjoy myself. The boys are at home, 
and we'll have a comfortable time. Goodness knows 
I need a little change, for elegance has a bad effect 
upon my constitution," returned Jo, gruffly, being dis- 
turbed by her failures to suit. 

An enthusiastic welcome from three big boys and 
several pretty children, speedily soothed her ruffled 
feelings ; and, leaving Amy to entertain the hostess 
and Mr. Tudor, who happened to be calling likewise, 
Jo devoted herself to the young folks, and found the 
change refreshing. She listened to college stories 
with deep interest, caressed pointers and poodles 
without a murmur, agreed heartily that " Tom Brown 
was a brick," regardless of the improper form of 
praise ; and when one lad proposed a visit to his turtle- 
tank, she went with an alacrity which caused mamma 
to smile upon her, as that " motherly lady settled the 
cap, which was left in a ruinous condition by filial 
hugs, — bear-like but affectionate, — and dearer to her 
than the most faultless coiffure from the hands of an 
inspired Frenchwoman. 

Leaving her sister to her own devices, Amy pro- 
ceeded to enjoy herself to her heart's content. Mr. 
Tudor's uncle had married an English lady who was 
third cousin to a living lord, and Amy regarded the 
whole family with great respect. For, in spite of 



CALLS. 



85 



her American birth and breeding, she possessed that 
reverence for titles which haunts the best of us, — that 
unacknowledged loyalty to the early faith in kings 
which set the most democratic nation under the sun in 
a ferment at the coming of a royal yellow-haired laddie, 
some years ago, and which still has something to do 
with the love the young country bears the old, — like 
that of a big son for an imperious little mother, who 
held him while she could, and let him go with a 
farewell scolding when he rebelled. But even the 
satisfaction of talking with a distant connection of the 
British nobility did not render Amy forgetful of time ; 
and, when the proper number of minutes had passed, 
she reluctantly tore herself from this aristocratic 
society, and looked abouf for Jo, — fervently hoping 
that her incorrigible sister would not be found in any 
position which should bring disgrace upon the name 
of March. 

It might have been worse ; but Amy considered it 
bad, for Jo sat on the grass with an encampment of 
boys about her, and a dirty-footed dog reposing on 
the skirt of her state and festival dress, as she related 
one of Laurie's pranks to her admiring audience. 
One small child was poking turtles with Amy's cher- 
ished parasol, a second was eating gingerbread over 
Jo's best bonnet, and a third playing ball with her 
gloves. But all were enjoying themselves ; and when 
Jo collected her damaged property to go, her escort 
accompanied her, begging her to come again, " it was 
such fun to hear about Laurie's larks." 

" Capital boys, aren't they ? I feel quite young and 
brisk again after that," said Jo, strolling along with 



86 LITTLE WOMEN. 

her hands behind her, partly from habit, partly to 
conceal the bespattered parasol. 

" Why do you always avoid Mr. Tudor ? " asked 
Amy, wisely refraining from any comment upon Jo's 
dilapidated appearance. 

" Don't like him ; he puts on airs, snubs his sisters, 
worries his father, and don't speak respectfully of his 
mother. Laurie says he is fast, and /don't consider 
him a desirable acquaintance ; so I let him alone." 

" You might treat him civilly, at least. You gave 
him a cool nod ; and just now you bowed and smiled 
in the politest way to Tommy Chamberlain, whose 
father keeps a grocery store. If you had just reversed 
the nod and the bow, it would have been right," said 
Amy, reprovingly. 

" No it wouldn't," returned perverse Jo ; "I neither 
like, respect, nor admire Tudor, though his grand- 
father's uncle's nephew's niece was third cousin to a 
IofJ, Tommy is poor, and bashful, and good, and 
very clever ; I think well of him, and like to show 
that I do, for he is a gentleman in spite of the brown 
paper parcels." 

" Ifs no use trying to argue with you," began 
Amy. 

" Not the least, my dear," cut in Jo ; " so let us 
look amiable, and drop a card here, as the Kings are 
evidently out, for which I'm deeply grateful." 

The family card-case having done its duty, the girls 
walked on, and Jo uttered another thanksgiving on 
reaching the fifth house, and being told that the young 
ladies were engaged. 

" Now let us go home, and never mind Aunt 
March to-day. We can run down there any time, 



CALLS. 8f 

and it's really a pity to trail through the dust in our 
best bibs and tuckers, when we are tired and cross." 

" Speak for yourself, if you please ; aunt likes to 
have us pay her the compliment of coming in style, 
and making a formal call ; it's a little thing to do, but 
it gives her pleasure, and I don't believe it will hurt 
your things half so much as letting dirty dogs and 
clumping boys spoil them. Stoop down, and let me 
take the crumbs off of your bonnet." 

"What a good girl you are, Amy," said Jo, with a 
repentant glance from her own damaged costume to 
that of her sister, which was fresh and spotless still. 

" I wish it was as easy for me to do little things to 
please people, as it is for you. I think of them, but 
it takes too much time to do them ; so I wait for a 
chance to confer a big favor, and let the small ones 
slip ; but they tell best in the end, I guess." 

Amy smiled, and was mollified at once, saying 
with a maternal air, — 

" Women should learn to be agreeable, particularly 
poor ones ; for they have no other way of repaying 
the kindnesses they receive. If you'd remember that, 
and practise it, you'd be better liked than I am, be- 
cause there is more of you." 

" I'm a crotchety old thing, and always shall be ; 
but I'm willing to own that you are right ; only it's 
easier for me to risk my life for a person than to be 
pleasant to them when I don't feel like it. It's a 
great misfortune to have such strong likes and dis- 
likes, isn't it?" 

" It's a greater not to be able to hide them. I don't 
mind saying that I don't approve of Tudor any more 
than you do ; but I'm not called upon to tell him so ; 



88 LITTLE WOMEN. 

neither are you, and there is no use in making your- 
self disagreeable because he is." 

" But I think girls ought to show when they dis- 
approve of young men ; and how can they do it 
except by their manners? Preaching don't do any 
good, as I know to my sorrow, since I've had Teddy 
to manage ; but there are many little ways in which I 
can influence him without a word, and I say we 
ought to do it to others if we can." 

" Teddy is a remarkable boy, and can't be taken as 
a sample of other boys," said Amy, in a tone of 
solemn conviction, which would have convulsed the 
" remarkable boy," if he had heard it. " If we were 
belles, or women of wealth and position, we might 
do something, perhaps ; but for us to frown at one 
set of young gentlemen, because we don't approve of 
them, and smile upon another set, because we do, 
wouldn't have a particle of effect, and we should only 
be considered odd and Puritanical." 

" So we are to countenance things and people 
which we detest, merely because we are not belles 
and millionaires, are we? That's a nice sort of 
morality." 

" I can't argue about it, I only know that it's the 
way of the world ; and people who set themselves 
against it, only get laughed at for their pains. I don't 
like reformers, and I hope you will never try to be 
one." 

" I do like them, and I shall be one if I can ; for in 
spite of the laughing, the world would never get on 
without them. We can't agree about that, for you 
belong to the old set, and I to the new ; you will get 
on the best, but I shall have the liveliest time of it. 



CALLS. 



89 



I should rather enjoy the brickbats and hooting, I 
think." 

" Well, compose yourself now, and don't worry 
aunt with your new ideas." 

" I'll try not to, but I'm always possessed to burst 
out with some particularly blunt speech or revolu- 
tionary sentiment before her ; it's my doom, and I 
can't help it." 

They found Aunt Carrol with the old lady, both 
absorbed in some very interesting subject ; but they 
dropped it as the girls came in, with a conscious look 
which betrayed that they had been talking about their 
nieces. Jo was not in a good humor, and the per- 
verse fit returned ; but Amy, who had virtuously done 
her duty, kept her temper, and pleased everybody, 
was in a most angelic frame of mind. This amiable 
spirit was felt at once, and both the aunts M my 
dear'd" her affectionately, looking what they after- 
wards said emphatically, — "That child improves 
every day." 

"Are you going to help about the fair, dear?" 
asked Mrs. Carrol, as Amy sat down beside her with 
the confiding air elderly people like so well in the 
young. 

" Yes, aunt, Mrs. Chester asked me if I would, and 
I offered to tend a table, as I have nothing but my 
time to give." 

" I'm not," put in Jo, decidedly ; " I hate to be 
patronized, and the Chesters think it's a great favor to 
allow us to help with their highly connected fair. I 
wonder you consented, Amy — they only want ) 7 ou to 
work." 

"lam willing to work, — it's for the Freedmen as 



90 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



well as the Chesters, and I think it very kind of them 
to let me share the labor and the fun. Patronage don't 
trouble me when it is well meant." 

"Quite right and proper ; I like your grateful spirit, 
my dear ; it's a pleasure to help people who appreciate 
our efforts ; some don't, and that is trying," observed 
Aunt March, looking over her spectacles at Jo, who 
sat apart rocking herself with a somewhat morose 
expression. 

If Jo had only known what a great happiness was 
wavering in the balance for one of them, she would 
have turned dove-like in a minute ; but, unfortunately, 
we don't have windows in our breasts, and cannot see 
what goes on in the minds of our friends ; better for us 
that we cannot as a general thing, but now and then 
it would be such a comfort — such a saving of time and 
temper. By her next speech, Jo deprived herself of 
several years of pleasure, and received a timely lesson 
in the art of holding her tongue. 

" I don't like favors ; they oppress and make me feel 
like a slave ; I'd rather do everything for myself, and 
be perfectly independent." 

" Ahem ! " coughed Aunt Carrol, softly, with a look 
at Aunt March. 

" I told you so," said Aunt March, with a decided 
nod to Aunt Carrol. 

Mercifully unconscious of what she had done, Jo 
sat with her nose in the air, and a revolutionary aspect, 
which was anything but inviting. 

"Do you speak French, dear?" asked Mrs. Carrol, 
laying her hand on Amy's. 

" Pretty well, thanks to Aunt March, who lets 
Esther talk to me as often as I like," replied Amy, 



CALLS. gi 

with a grateful look, which caused the old lady to 
smile affably. 

" How are you about languages ? " asked Mrs. Car- 
rol of Jo. 

" Don't know a word ; I'm very stupid about study- 
ing anything ; can't bear French, it's such a slippery, 
silly sort of language," was the brusque reply. 

Another look passed between the ladies, and Aunt 
March said to Amy, "You are quite strong and well, 
now dear, I believe ? Eyes don't trouble you any more, 
do they?" 

" Not at all, thank you, ma'am ; I'm very well, and 
mean to do great things next winter, so that I may be 
ready for Rome, whenever that joyful time arrives." 

" Good girl ! you deserve to go, and I'm sure you 
will some day," said Aunt March, with an approving 
pat on the head, as Amy picked up her ball for her. 

" Cross patch, draw the latch, 
Sit by the fire and spin," 

squalled Polly, bending down from his perch on the 
back of her chair, to peep into Jo's face, with such a 
comical air of impertinent inquiry, that it was impos- 
sible to help laughing. 

" Most observing bird," said the old lady. 

*' Come and take a walk, my dear ? " cried Polly, 
hopping toward the china-closet, with a look suggestive 
of lump-sugar. 

M Thank you, I will — come Amy," and Jo brought 
the visit to an end, feeling, more strongly than ever, 
that calls did have a bad effect upon her constitution. 
She shook hands in a gentlemanly manner, but Amy 
kissed both the aunts, and the girls departed, leaving 



9 2 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



behind them the impression of shadow and sunshine ; 
which impression caused Aunt March to say, as they 
vanished, — 

" You'd better do it, Mary ; I'll supply the money," 
and Aunt Carrol to reply decidedly, " I certainly will, 
if her father and mother consent." 



CHAPTER VII. 



C O N S E qjj E N C E S 



MRS. CHESTER'S fair was so very elegant and 
select, that it was considered a great honor by 
the young ladies of the neighborhood to be 
invited to take a table, and every one was much in- 
terested in the matter. Amy was asked, but Jo avas 
not, which was fortunate for all parties, as her elbows 
were decidedly akimbo at this period of her life, and 
it took a good many hard knocks to teach her how to 
get on easily. The " haughty, uninteresting creature" 
was let severely alone ; but Amy's talent and taste 
were duly complimented by the offer of the Art table, 
and she exerted herself to prepare and secure appro- 
priate and valuable contributions to it. 

Everything went on smoothly till the day before 
the fair opened ; then there occurred one of the little 
skirmishes which it is almost impossible to avoid, 
when some five-and-twenty women, old and young, 
with all their private piques and prejudices, try to 
work together. 

May Chester was rather jealous of Amy because 
the latter was a greater favorite than herself; and, 
just at this time, several trifling circumstances oc- 
curred to increase the feeling. Amy's dainty pen-and- 
ink work entirely eclipsed May's painted vases ; that 
was one thorn ; then the all-conquering Tudor had 
danced four times with Amy, at a late party, and only 
one y.-" f h Mnv : th^t v\i<; thorn number tvro : but the 



94 LITTLE WOMEN. 

chief grievance that rankled in her soul, and gave her 
an excuse for her unfriendly conduct, was a rumor 
which some obliging gossip had whispered to her, 
that the March girls had made fun of her at the 
Lambs. All the blame of this should have fallen 
upon Jo, for her naughty imitation had been too life- 
like to escape detection, and the frolicksome Lambs 
had permitted the joke to escape. No hint of this 
had reached the culprits, however, and Amy's dismay 
can be imagined, when, the very evening before the 
fair, as she was putting her last touches to her pretty 
table, Mrs. Chester, who, of course, resented the sup- 
posed ridicule of her daughter, said in a bland tone, 
but with a cold look, — 

"I find, dear, that there is some feeling among the 
young ladies about my giving this table to any one 
but my girls. As this is the most prominent, and 
some say the most attractive table of all — and they 
are the chief getters-up of the fair — it is thought best 
for them to take this place. I'm sorry, but I know 
you are too sincerely interested in the cause to mind a 
little personal disappointment, and you shall have 
another table if you like." 

Mrs. Chester had fancied beforehand that it would 
be easy to deliver this little speech ; but when the 
time came, she found it rather difficult to utter it 
naturally, with Amy's unsuspicious eyes looking 
straight at her, full of surprise and trouble. 

Amy felt that there was something behind this, but 
could not guess what, and said quietly — ■ feeling hurt, 
and showing that she did, — 

" Perhaps you had rather I took no table at all? " 

" Now, my dear, don't have any ill feeling, I beg ; 



CONSEQUENCES. 95 

it's merely a matter of expediency, you see ; my girls 
will naturally take the lead, and this table is consid- 
ered their proper place. / think it very appropriate 
to you, and feel very grateful for your efforts to make 
it so pretty ; but we must give up our private wishes, 
of course, and I will see that you have a good place 
elsewhere. Wouldn't you like the flower-table ? The 
little girls undertook it, but they are discouraged. 
You could make a charming thing of it, and the 
flower-table is always attractive, you know." 

" Especially to gentlemen," added May, with a look 
which enlightened Amy as to one cause of her sud- 
den fall from favor. She colored angrily, but took no 
other notice of that girlish sarcasm, and answered 
with unexpected amiability, — 

" It shall be as you please, Mrs. Chester ; I'll give 
up my place here at once, and attend to the flowers, 
if you like." 

" You can put your own things on your own table, 
if you prefer," began May, feeling a little conscience- 
stricken, as she looked at the pretty racks, the painted 
shells, and quaint illuminations Amy had so carefully 
made and so gracefully arranged. She meant it 
kindly, but Amy mistook her meaning, and said 
quickly, — 

" Oh, certainly, if they are in your way ; " and 
sweeping her contributions into her apron, pell-mell, 
she walked off, feeling that herself and her works of 
art had been insulted past forgiveness. 

"Now she's mad; Oh dear, I wish I hadn't asked 
you to speak, mamma," said May, looking discon- 
solately at the empty spaces on her table. 

" Girls' quarrels are soon over," returned her mother, 



96 LITTLE WOMEN. 

feeling a trifle ashamed of her own part in this one, 
as well she might. 

The little girls hailed Amy and her treasures with 
delight, which cordial reception somewhat soothed 
her perturbed spirit, and she fell to work, determined 
to succeed florally, if she could not artistically. But 
everything seemed against her ; it was late, and she 
was tired ; every one was too busy with their own 
affairs to help her, and the little girls were only hin- 
drances, for the dears fussed and chattered like so 
many magpies, making a great deal of confusion in 
their artless efforts to preserve the most perfect order. 
The evergreen arch wouldn't stay firm after she got it 
up, but wiggled and threatened to tumble down on 
her head when the hanging baskets were filled ; her 
best tile got a splash of water, which left a sepia tear 
on the cupid's cheek ; she bruised her hands with 
hammering, and got cold working in a draught, which 
last affliction filled her with apprehensions for the 
morrow. Any girl-reader who has suffered like afflic- 
tions, will sympathize with poor Amy, and wish her 
well through with her task. 

There was great indignation at home when she told 
her story that evening. Her mother said it was a 
shame, but told her she had done right. Beth de- 
clared she wouldn't go to the old fair at all, and Jo 
demanded why she didn't take all her pretty things 
and leave those mean people to get on without her. 

" Because they are mean is no reason why I should 
be. I hate such things ; and though I think I've a 
right to be hurt, I don't intend to show it. They will 
feel that more than angry speeches or huffy actions, 
won't thev, Marmee ? " 



CONSEQUENCES. yj 

" That's the right spirit, my dear ; a kiss for a blow 
is always best, though it's not very easy to give it, 
sometimes," said her mother, with the air of one who 
had learned the difference between preaching and 
practising. 

In spite of various very natural temptations to re- 
sent and retaliate, Amy adhered to her resolution all 
the next day, bent on conquering her enemy by kind- 
ness. She began well, thanks to a silent reminder 
that came to her unexpectedly, but most opportunely. 
As she arranged her table that morning, while the 
little girls were in an ante-room filling the baskets, 
she took up her pet production, a little book, the 
antique cover of which her father had found among 
his treasures, and in which, on leaves of vellum, she 
had beautifully illuminated different texts. As she 
turned the pages, rich in dainty devices, with very 
pardonable pride, her eye fell upon one verse that 
made her stop and think. Framed in a brilliant 
scroll-work of scarlet, blue and gold, with little spirits 
of good-will helping one another up and down among 
the thorns and flowers, were the words, "Thou shalt 
love thy neighbor as thyself." 

" I ought, but I don't," thought Amy, as her eye 
went from the bright page to May's discontented face 
behind the big vases, that could not hide the va- 
cancies her pretty work had once filled. Amy stood 
a minute, turning the leaves in her hand, reading on 
each some sweet rebuke for all heart-burnings and 
uncharitableness of spirit. Many wise and true ser- 
mons are preached us every day by unconscious min- 
isters in street, school, office, or home ; even a fair- 
table may become a pulpit, if it can offer the good 

7 



9 8 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



and helpful words which are never out of season. 
Amy's conscience preached her a little sermon from 
that text, then and there ; and she did what many of 
us don't always do. — took the sermon to heart, and 
straightway put it in practice. 

A group of girls were standing about May's table, 
admiring the pretty things, and talking over the 
change of saleswomen. They dropped their voices, 
but Amy knew they were speaking of her, hearing 
one side of the story, and judging accordingly. It 
was not pleasant, but a better spirit had come over 
her, and, presently, a chance offered for proving it. 
She heard May say, sorrowfully, — 

" It's too bad, for there is no time to make other 
things, and I don't want to fill up with odds and ends. 
The table was just complete then — now if s spoilt." 

" I dare say she'd put them back if you asked her," 
suggested some one. 

"How could I, after all the fuss;" began May, 
but she did not finish, for Amy's voice came across 
the hall, saying pleasantly, — 

" You may have them, and welcome, without ask- 
ing, if you want them. I was just thinking I'd offer 
to put them back, for they belong to your table rather 
than mine. Here they are ; please take them, and 
forgive me if I was hasty in carrying them away last 
night." 

As she spoke, Amy returned her contribution with 
a nod and a smile, and hurried away again, feeling 
that it was easier to do a friendly thing than it was to 
stay and be thanked for it. 

M Now I call that lovely of her, don't you?" cried 
one girl. 



CONSEQUENCES. ^ 

May's answer was inaudible ; but another young 
lady, whose temper was evidently a little soured by 
making lemonade, added, with a disagreeable laugh, 
" Very lovely ; for she knew she wouldn't sell them 
at her own table." 

Now that was hard ; when we make little sacrifices 
we like to have them appreciated, at least; and for a 
minute Amy was sorry she had done it, feeling that 
virtue was not always its own reward. But it is, — "as 
she presently discovered ; for her spirits began to rise, 
and her table to blossom under her skilful hands ; the 
girls were very kind, and that one little act seemed to 
have cleared the atmosphere amazingly. 

It was a very long day, and a hard one to Amy, as 
she sat behind her table often quite alone, for the little 
girls deserted very soon ; few cared to buy flowers in 
summer, and her bouquets began to droop long before 
night. 

The Art table was the most attractive in the room ; 
there was a crowd about it all day long, and the 
tenders were constantly flying to and fro with im- 
portant faces and rattling money-boxes. Amy often 
looked wistfully across, longing to be there, where she 
felt at home and happy, instead of in a corner with 
nothing to do. It might seem no hardship to some 
of us ; but to a pretty, blithe young girl, it was not 
only tedious, but very trying ; and the thought of being 
found there in the evening by her family, and Laurie 
and his friends, made it a real martyrdom. 

She did not go home till night, and then she looked 
so pale and quiet that they knew the day had been a 
hard one, though she made no complaint, and did not 
even tell what she had done. Her mother gave her an 



IOO LITTLE WOMEN. 

extra cordial cup of tea, Beth helped her dress, and 
made a charming little wreath for her hair, while 
Jo astonished her family by getting herself up with 
unusual care, and hinting, darkly, that the tables were 
about to be turned. 

" Don't do anything rude, pray, Jo ; I won't have 
any fuss made, so let it all pass, and behave yourself," 
begged Amy, as she departed early, hoping to find 
a reinforcement of flowers to refresh her poor little 
table. 

"I merely intend to make myself entrancingly 
agreeable to every one I know, and to keep them in 
your corner as long as possible. Teddy and his boys 
will lend a hand, and we'll have a good time yet," 
returned Jo, leaning over the gate to watch for Laurie. 
Presently the familiar tramp was heard in the dusk, 
and she ran out to meet him. 

"Is that my boy?" 

" As sure as this is my girl ! " and Laurie tucked her 
hand under his arm with the air of a man whose 
every wish was gratified. 

" Oh, Teddy, such doings ! " and Jo told Amy's 
wrongs with sisterly zeal. 

" A flock of our fellows are going to drive over 
by and by, and I'll be hanged if I don't make them 
buy every flower she's got, and camp down before her 
table afterward," said Laurie, espousing her cause 
with warmth. 

" The flowers are not at all nice, Amy says, and 
the fresh ones may not arrive in time. I don't wish 
to be unjust or suspicious, but I shouldn't wonder if 
they never came at all. When people do one mean 



CONSEQUENCES. IOI 

thing they are very likely to do another," observed Jo, 
in a disgusted tone. 

" Didn't Hayes give you the best out of our gar- 
dens? I told him to." 

" I didn't know that ; he forgot, I suppose ; and, as 
your grandpa was poorly, I didn't like to worry him 
by asking, though I did want some." 

" Now, Jo, how could you think there was any 
need of asking! They are just as much yours as 
mine; don't we always go halves in everything?" 
began Laurie, in the tone that always made Jo turn 
thorny. 

" Gracious ! I hope not ! half of some of your things 
wouldn't suit me at all. But we mustn't stand phil- 
andering here ; I've got to help Amy, so you go and 
make yourself splendid ; and if you'll be so very kind 
as to let Hayes take a few nice flowers up to the Hall, 
I'll bless you forever." 

"Couldn't you do it now?" asked Laurie, so sug- 
gestively that Jo shut the gate in his face with inhos- 
pitable haste, and called through the bars, " Go away, 
Teddy ; I'm busy." 

Thanks to the conspirators, the tables were turned 
that night, for Hayes sent up a wilderness of flowers, 
with a lovely basket arranged in his best manner for 
a centre-piece ; then the March family turned out en 
masse, and Jo exerted herself to some purpose, for 
people not only came, but stayed, laughing at her non- 
sense, admiring Amy's taste, and apparently enjoying 
themselves very much. Laurie and his friends gal- 
lantly threw themselves into the breach, bought up 
the bouquets, encamped before the table, and made 
that corner the liveliest spot in the room. Amy was 



102 LITTLE WOMEN. 

in her element now, and, out of gratitude, if nothing 
more, was as sprightly and gracious as possible, — 
coming to the conclusion, about that time, that virtue 
was its own reward, after all. 

Jo behaved herself with exemplary propriety ; and 
when Amy was happily surrounded by her guard 
of honor, Jo circulated about the hall, picking up 
various bits of gossip, which enlightened her upon 
the subject of the Chester change of base. She re- 
proached herself for her share of the ill-feeling, and 
resolved to exonerate Amy as soon as possible ; she 
also discovered what Amy had done about the things 
in the morning, and considered her a model of mag- 
nanimity. As she passed the Art table, she glanced 
over it for her sister's things, but saw no signs of them. 
" Tucked away out of sight, I dare say/' thought Jo, 
who could forgive her own wrongs, but hotly resented 
any insult offered to her family. 

" Good evening, Miss Jo ; how does Amy get on? " 
asked May, with a conciliatory air, — for she wanted 
to show that she also could be generous. 

" She has sold everything she had that was worth 
selling, and now she is enjoying herself. The flower- 
table is always attractive, you know, ' especially to 
gentlemen.' " 

Jo couldn't resist giving that little slap, but May 
took it so meekly she regretted it a minute after, and 
fell to praising the great vases, which still remained 
unsold. 

"Is Amy's illumination anywhere about? I took a 
fancy to buy that for father ; " said Jo, very anxious to 
learn the fate of her sister's work. 

" Everything of Amy's sold long ago ; I took care 



CONSEQUENCES. 103 

that the right people saw them, and they made a 
nice little sum of money for us," returned May, who 
had overcome sundry small temptations as well as 
Amy that day. 

Much gratified, Jo rushed back to tell the good 
news ; and Amy looked both touched and surprised 
by the report of May's words and manner. 

"Now, gentlemen, I want you to go and do your 
duty by the other tables as generously as you have 
by mine — especially the Art-table," she said, ordering 
out " Teddy's Own," as the girls called the college 
friends. 

" ' Charge, Chester, charge ! ' is the motto for that 
table ; but do your duty like men, and you'll get your 
money's worth of art in every sense of the word," 
said the irrepressible Jo, as the devoted phalanx pre- 
pared to take the field. 

" To hear is to obey, but March is fairer far than 
May," said little Parker, making a frantic effort to be 
both witty and tender, and getting promptly quenched 
by Laurie, who said : " Very well, my son, for a small 
boy ! " and walked him off with a paternal pat on the 
head. 

" Buy the vases," whispered Amy to Laurie, as a 
final heaping of coals of fire on her enemy's head. 

To May's great delight, Mr. Laurence not only 
bought the vases, but pervaded the hall with one 
under each arm. The other gentlemen speculated 
with equal rashness in all sorts of frail trifles, and 
wandered helplessly about afterward, burdened with 
wax flowers, painted fans, filagree portfolios, and other 
useful and appropriate purchases. 

Aunt Carrol was there, heard the story, looked 



104 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



pleased, and said something to Mrs. March in a cor- 
ner, which made the latter lady beam with satisfac- 
tion, and watch Amy with a face full of mingled pride 
and anxiety, though she did not betray the cause of 
her pleasure till several days later. 

The fair was pronounced a success ; and when 
May bid Amy u good-night," she did not " gush," as 
usual, but gave her an affectionate kiss, and a look 
which said, "Forgive and forget." That satisfied 
Amy ; and when she got home she found the vases 
paraded on the parlor chimney-piece, with a great 
bouquet in each. " The reward of merit for a 
magnanimous March," as Laurie announced with a 
flourish. 

"You've a deal more principle, and generosity, and 
nobleness of character than I ever gave you credit for, 
Amy. You've behaved sweetly, and I respect you 
with all my heart," said Jo, warmly, as they brushed 
their hair together late that night. 

" Yes, we all do, and love her for being so ready to 
forgive. It must have been dreadfully hard, after 
working so long, and setting your heart on selling 
your own pretty things. I don't believe I could have 
done it as kindly as you did," added Beth, from her 
pillow. 

"Why, girls, you needn't praise me so ; I only did 
as I'd be done by. You laugh at me when I say I 
want to be a lady, but I mean a true gentlewoman in 
mind and manners, and I try to do it as far as I know 
how. I can't explain exactly, but I want to be above 
the little meannesses, and follies, and faults that spoil 
so many women. I'm far from it now, but I do my 
best, and hope in time to be what mother is." 



CONSEQUENCES. 10 $ 

Amy spoke earnestly, and Jo said, with a cordial 
hug,— 

" I understand now what you mean, and I'll never 
laugh at you again. You are getting on faster than 
you think, and I'll take lessons of you in true polite- 
ness, for you've learned the secret, I believe. Try 
away, deary, you'll get your reward some day, and no 
one will be more delighted than I shall." 

A week later Amy did get her reward, and poor 
Jo found it hard to be delighted. A letter came from 
Aunt Carrol, and Mrs. March's face was illuminated 
to such a degree when she read it, that Jo and Beth, 
who were with her, demanded what the glad tidings 
were. 

"Aunt Carrol is going abroad next month, and 
wants — " 

"Me to go with her !" burst in Jo, flying out of her 
chair in an uncontrollable rapture. 

" No, dear, not you, it's Amy." 

" Oh, mother ! she's too young ; it's my turn first ; 
I've wanted it so long — it would do me so much 
good, and be so altogether splendid — I must go." 

" I'm afraid it's impossible, Jo ; aunt says Amy, 
decidedly, and it is not for us to dictate when she 
offers such a favor." 

" It's always so ; Amy has all the fun, and I have 
all the work. It isn't fair, oh, it isn't fair ! " cried Jo, 
passionately. 

" I'm afraid it is partly your own fault, dear. 
When aunt spoke to me the other day, she regretted 
your blunt manners and too independent spirit ; and 
here she writes as if quoting something you had 
said, — 'I planned at first to ask Jo ; but as " favors 



106 LITTLE WOMEN. 

burden her," and she u hates French," I think I won't 
venture to invite her. Amy is more docile, will make 
a good companion for Flo, and receive gratefully any 
help the trip may give her.' " 

" Oh, my tongue, my abominable tongue ! why 
can't I learn to keep it quiet?" groaned Jo, remem- 
bering words which had been her undoing. When 
she had heard the explanation of the quoted phrases, 
Mrs. March said, sorrowfully, — 

" I wish you could have gone, but there is no hope 
of it this time ; so try to bear it cheerfully, and don't 
sadden Amy's pleasure by reproaches or regrets." 

" I'll try," said Jo, winking hard, as she knelt down 
to pick up the basket she had joyfully upset. " I'll 
take a leaf out of her book, and try not only to seem 
glad, but to be so, and not grudge her one minute of 
happiness ; but it won't be easy, for it is a dreadful 
disappointment ; " and poor Jo bedewed the little fat 
pincushion she held, with several very bitter tears. 

"Jo, dear, I'm very selfish, but I couldn't spare 
you, and I'm glad you ain't going quite yet," whis- 
pered Beth, embracing her, basket and all, with such 
a clinging touch and loving face, that Jo felt com- 
forted in spite of the sharp regret that made her 
want to box her own ears, and humbly beg Aunt 
Carrol to burden her with this favor, and see how 
gratefully she would bear it. 

By the time Amy came in, Jo was able to take her 
part in the family jubilation ; not quite as heartily as 
usual, perhaps, but without repinings at Amy's good 
fortune. The young lady herself received the news 
as tidings of great joy, went about in a solemn sort 
of rapture, and began to sort her colors and pack her 



CONSEQUENCES. 107 

pencils that evening, leaving such trifles as clothes, 
money, and passports, to those less absorbed in visions 
of art than herself. 

" It isn't a mere pleasure trip to me, girls," she 
said impressively, as she scraped her best palette. "It 
will decide my career ; for if I have any genius, I 
shall find it out in Rome, and will do something to 
prove it." 

"Suppose you haven't?" said Jo, sewing away, 
with red eyes, at the new collars which were to be 
handed over to Amy. 

" Then I shall come home and teach drawing for 
my living," replied the aspirant for fame, with philo- 
sophic composure ;. but she made a wry face at the 
prospect, and scratched away at her palette as if bent 
on vigorous measures before she gave up her hopes. 

" No you won't ; you hate hard work, and you'll 
marry some rich man, and come home to sit in the 
lap of luxury all your days," said Jo. 

" Your predictions sometimes come to pass, but I 
don't believe that one will. I'm sure I wish it would, 
for if I can't be an artist myself, I should like to be 
able to help those who are," said Amy, smiling, as if 
the part of Lady Bountiful would suit her better than 
that of a poor drawing teacher. 

" Hum ! " said Jo, with a sigh ; "if you wish it 
you'll have it, for your wishes are always granted — 
mine never." 

" Would you like to go? " asked Amy, thoughtfully 
flattening her nose with her knife. 

" Rather ! " 

"Well, in a year or two I'll send for you, and 



108 LITTLE WOMEN. 

we'll dig in the Forum for relics, and carry out all the 
plans we've made so many times." 

" Thank you ; I'll remind you of your promise 
when that joyful day comes, if it ever does," returned 
Jo, accepting the vague but magnificent offer as grate- 
fully as she could. 

There was not much time for preparation, and the 
house was in a ferment till Amy was off. Jo bore up 
very well till the last flutter of blue ribbon vanished, 
when she retired to her refuge, the garret, and cried 
till she couldn't ciy any more. Amy likewise bore 
up stoutly till the steamer sailed ; then, just as the 
gangway was about to be withdrawn, it suddenly 
came over her, that a whole ocean was soon to roll 
between her and those who loved her best, and she 
clung to Laurie, the last lingerer, saying with a 
sob, — . 

" Oh, take care of them for me ; and if anything 
should happen — " 

" I will, dear, I will ; and if anything happens, I'll 
come and comfort you," whispered Laurie, little 
dreaming how soon he would be called upon to keep 
his word. 

So Amy sailed away to find the old world, which 
is always new and beautiful to young eyes, while her 
father and friend watched her from the shore, fer- 
vently hoping that none but gentle fortunes would 
befall the happy-hearted girl, who waved her hand to 
them till they could see nothing but the summer sun- 
shine dazzling on the sea. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

OUR FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT. 

" London. 

DEAREST People: 
Here I really sit at a front window of the Bath 
Hotel, Piccadilly. It's not a fashionable place, 
but uncle stopped here years ago, and won't go any- 
where else ; however, we don't mean to stay long, so 
it's no great matter. Oh, I can't begin to tell you 
how I enjoy it all ! I never can, so I'll only give 
you bits out of my note-book, for I've done nothing 
but sketch and scribble since I started. 

" I sent a line from Halifax when I felt pretty miser- 
able, but after that I got on delightfully, seldom ill, on 
deck all day, with plenty of pleasant people to amuse 
me. Every one was very kind to me, especially the 
officers. Don't laugh, Jo, gentlemen really are very 
necessary aboard ship, to hold on to, or to wait upon 
one ; and as they have nothing to do, it's a mercy to 
make them useful, otherwise they would smoke them- 
selves to death, I'm afraid. 

" Aunt and Flo were poorly ail the way, and liked 
to be let alone, so when I had done what I could for 
them, I went and enjoyed myself. Such walks on 
deck, such sunsets, such splendid air and waves ! It 
was almost as exciting as riding a fast horse, when 
we went rushing on so grandly. I wish Beth could 
have come, it would have done her so much good ; as 
for Jo, she would have gone up and sat on the main-top 
(109) 



HO LITTLE WOMEN. 

jib, or whatever the high thing is called, made friends 
with the engineers, and tooted on the Captain's speak- 
ing trumpet, she'd have been in such a state of rapture. 

" It was all heavenly, but I was glad to see the Irish 
coast, and found it very lovely, so green and sunny, 
with brown cabins here and there, ruins on some of 
the hills, and gentlemen's country-seats in the valleys, 
with deer feeding in the parks. It was early in the 
morning, but I didn't regret getting up to see it, for 
the bay was full of little boats, the shore so picturesque, 
and a rosy sky over head ; I never shall forget it. 

" At Queenstown one of my new acquaintances left 
us, — Mr. Lennox, — and when I said something about 
the Lakes of Killarney, he sighed, and sung, with a 
look at me, — 

' Oh, have you e'er heard of Kate Kearney, 
She lives on the banks of Killarney; 
From the glance of her eye, 
Shun danger and fly, 
Forfatal's the glance of Kate Kearney.' 

Wasn't that nonsensical ? 

" We only stopped at Liverpool a few hours. It's 
a dirty, noisy place, and I was glad to leave it. Uncle 
rushed out and bought a pair of dog-skin gloves, some 
ugly, thick shoes, and an umbrella, and got shaved h 
la mutton-chop, the first thing. Then he flattered 
himself that he looked like a true Briton ; but the first 
time he had the mud cleaned off his shoes, the little 
boot-black knew that an American stood in them, and 
said, with a grin, w There yer har, sir, I've give 'em the 
latest Yankee shine.' It amused uncle immensely. 
Oh, I must tell you what that absurd Lennox did ! He 



OUR FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT. m 

got his friend Ward, who came on with us, to order 
a bouquet for me, and the first thing I saw in my 
room, was a lovely one, with ' Robert Lennox's com- 
pliments,' on the card. Wasn't that fun, girls? I like 
travelling. 

" I never shall get to London if I don't hurry. The 
trip was like riding through a long picture-gallery, full 
of lovely landscapes. The farm-houses were my 
delight ; with thatched roofs, ivy up to the eaves, lat- 
ticed windows, and stout women with rosy children 
at the doors. The very cattle looked more tranquil 
than ours, as they stood knee-deep in clover, and the 
hens had a contented cluck, as if they never got ner- 
vous, like Yankee biddies. Such perfect color I never 
saw — the grass so green, sky so blue, grain so yellow, 
woods so dark — I was in a rapture all the way. So 
was Flo ; and we kept bouncing from one side to the 
other, trying to see everything while we were whisking 
along at the rate of sixty miles an hour. Aunt was 
tired, and went to sleep, but uncle read his guide-book, 
and wouldn't be astonished at anything. This is the 
way we went on : Amy flying up, — ' Oh, that must 
be Kenilworth, that gray place among the trees ! ' 
Flo darting to my window, — ' How sweet ; we must 
go there some time, won't we, pa ? ' Uncle calmly 
admiring his boots, — 4 No my dear, not unless you 
want beer ; that's a brewery.' 

"A pause, — then Flo cried out, 'Bless me, there's 
a gallows and a man going up.' ' Where, where ! ■ 
shrieks Amy, staring out at two tall posts with a cross- 
beam, and some dangling chains. 'A colliery,' 
remarks uncle, with a twinkle of the eye. ' Here's a 
lovely flock of lambs all lying down,' says Amy. 



H2 LITTLE WOMEN. 

1 See, pa, aren't they pretty ! ' added Flo, sentimentally. 
' Geese, young ladies,' returns uncle, in a tone that 
keeps us quiet till Flo settles down to enjoy ' The 
Flirtations of Capt. Cavendish,' and I have the sce- 
nery all to myself. 

"Of course it rained when we got to London, and 
there was nothing to be seen but fog and umbrellas. 
We rested, unpacked, and shopped a little between the 
showers. Aunt Mary got me some new things, for I 
came off in such a hurry I w r asn't half ready. A 
sweet white hat and blue feather, a distracting muslin 
to match, and the loveliest mantle you ever saw. 
Shopping in Regent Street is perfectly splendid ; things 
seem so cheap — nice ribbons only sixpence a yard. 
I laid in a stock, but shall get my gloves in Paris. 
Don't that sound sort of elegant and rich ? 

" Flo and I, for the fun of it, ordered a Hansom 
cab, while aunt and uncle were out, and went for a 
drive, though we learned afterward that it wasn't the 
thing for young ladies to ride in them alone. It was 
so droll ! for when w r e were shut in by the wooden 
apron, the man drove so fast that Flo was frightened, 
and told me to stop him. But he was up outside 
behind somewhere, and I couldn't get at him. He 
didn't hear me call, nor see me flap my parasol in 
front, and there we were, quite helpless, rattling away, 
and whirling round corners, at a break-neck pace. At 
last, in my despair, I saw a little door in the roof, and 
on poking it open, a red eye appeared, and a beery 
voice said, — 

" ' Now then, mum ? ' 

" I gave my order as soberly as I could, and slam- 
ming down the door, with a 'Aye, aye, mum,' the old 



OUR FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT. 113 

thing made his horse walk, as if going to a funeral. 
I poked again, and said, 'A little faster;' then off he 
went, helter-skelter, as before, and we resigned our- 
selves to our fate. 

"To-day was fair, and we went to Hyde Park, close 
by, for we are more aristocratic than we look. The 
Duke of Devonshire lives near. I often see his foot- 
men lounging at the back gate ; and the Duke of 
Wellington's house is not far off. Such sights as I 
saw, my dear ! It was as good as Punch, for there 
were fat dowagers, rolling about in their red and yel- 
low coaches, with gorgeous Jeameses in silk stockings 
and velvet coats, up behind, and powdered coachmen 
in front. Smart maids, with the rosiest children I ever 
saw ; handsome girls, looking half asleep ; dandies, 
in queer English hats and lavender kids, lounging 
about, and tall soldiers, in short red jackets and muf- 
fin caps stuck on one side, looking so funny, I longed 
to sketch them. 

"Rotten Row means ''Route de Roij or the king's 
way ; but now it's more like a riding-school than any- 
thing else. The horses are splendid, and the men, 
especially the grooms, ride well, but the women are 
stiff, and bounce, which isn't according to our rules. I 
longed to show them a tearing American gallop, for 
they trotted solemnly up and down in their scant 
habits and high hats, looking like the women in a toy 
Noah's Ark. Every one rides — old men, stout ladies, 
little children, and the young folks do a deal of flirting 
here ; I saw a pair exchange rose-buds, for it's the thing 
to wear one in the button-hole, and I thought it rather 
a nice little idea. 

" In the p. m. to Westminster Abbey ; but don't 



II 4 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



expect me to describe it, that's impossible — so I'll 
only say it was sublime ! This evening we are going 
to see Fechter, which will be an appropriate end to 
the happiest day of my life. 

"Midnight. 

" Ifs very late, but I can't let my letter go in the 
morning without telling you what happened last even- 
ing. Who do you think came in, as we were at tea? 
Laurie's English friends, Fred and Frank Vaughn ! I 
was so surprised, for I shouldn't have known them, but 
for the cards. Both are tall fellows, with whiskers ; 
Fred handsome in the English style, and Frank much 
better, for he only limps slightly, and uses no crutches. 
They had heard from Laurie where we were to be, 
and came to ask us to their house, but uncle won't go, 
so we shall return the call, and see them as we can. 
They went to the theatre with us, and we did have 
such 2l good time, for Frank devoted himself to Flo, 
and Fred and I talked over past, present and future fun 
as if we had known each other all our days. Tell 
Beth Frank asked for her, and was sorry to hear of 
her ill health. Fred laughed when I spoke of Jo, and 
sent his ' respectful compliments to the big hat.' 
Neither of "them had forgotten Camp Laurence, or the 
fun we had there. What ages ago it seems, don't it? 

"Aunt is tapping on the wall for the third time, so 
I must stop. I really feel like a dissipated London 
fine lady, writing here so late, with my room full of 
pretty things, and my head a jumble of parks, thea- 
tres, new gowns and gallant creatures, who say ' Ah,' 
and twirl their blond mustaches, with the true Eng- 
lish lordliness. I long to see you all, and in spite of 
my nonsense am, as ever, your loving Amy." 



OUR FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT. 115 

" Paris. 
" Dear Girls : 

"In my last I told you about our London visit, — 
how kind the Vaughns were, and what pleasant par- 
ties they made for us. I enjoyed the trips to Hampton 
Court and the Kensington Museum, more than any- 
thing else, — for at Hampton I saw Raphael's Car- 
toons, and, at the Museum, rooms full of pictures by 
Turner, Lawrence, Reynolds, Hogarth, and the other 
great creatures. The day in Richmond Park was 
charming, — for we had a regular English picnic, — 
and I had more splendid oaks and groups of deer than 
I could copy ; also heard a nightingale, and saw larks 
go up. We 'did' London to our hearts' content, — 
thanks to Fred and Frank, — ■ and were sorry to go 
away ; for, though English people are slow to take 
you in, when they once make up their minds to do it 
they cannot be outdone in hospitality, I think. The 
Vaughns hope to meet us in Rome next winter, and 
I shall be dreadfully disappointed if they don't, for 
Grace and I are great friends, and the boys very nice 
fellows, — especially Fred. 

" Well, we were hardly settled here when he turned 
up again, saying he had come for a holiday, and was 
going to Switzerland. Aunt looked sober at first, 
but he was so cool about it she couldn't say a word ; 
and now we get on nicely, and are very glad he came, 
for he speaks French like a native, and I don't know 
what we should do without him. Uncle don't know 
ten words, and insists on talking English very loud, as 
if that would make people understand him. Aunt's 
pronunciation is old-fashioned, and Flo and I, though 
we flattered ourselves that we knew a good deal, find 



n6 LITTLE WOMEN. 

we don't, and are very grateful to have Fred do the 

' fiarley-vooingj as uncle calls it. 

"Such delightful times as we are having! sight- 
seeing from morning till night ! stopping for nice 
lunches in the gay cafes, and meeting with all sorts of 
droll adventures. Rainy days I spend in the Louvre, 
revelling in pictures. Jo would turn up her naughty 
nose at some of the finest, because she has no soul for 
art ; but I have, and I'm cultivating eye and taste as 
fast as I can. She would like the relics of great 
people better, for I've seen her Napoleon's cocked hat 
and gray coat, his baby's cradle and his old tooth- 
brush ; also Marie Antoinette's little shoe, the ring of 
Saint Denis, Charlemagne's sword, and many other 
interesting things. I'll talk for hours about them when 
I come, but haven't time to write. 

" The Palais Royale is a heavenly place, — so full 
of bijouterie and lovely things that I'm nearly dis- 
tracted because I can't buy them. Fred wanted to 
get me some, but of course I didn't allow it. Then 
the Bois and the Champs Elysees are tres magnifiqite. 
I've seen the imperial family several times, — the 
Emperor an ugly, hard-looking man, the Empress pale 
and pretty, but dressed in horrid taste, / thought, — 
purple dress, green hat, and yellow gloves. Little 
Nap. is a handsome boy, who sits chatting to his tutor, 
and kisses his hand to the people as he passes in his 
four-horse barouche, with postilions in red satin jack- 
ets, and a mounted guard before and behind. 

" We often walk in the Tuileries gardens, for they 
are lovely, though tlie antique Luxembourg gardens 
suit me better. Pere la Chaise is very curious, — for 
many of the tombs are like small rooms, and, looking 



OUR FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT. 117 

in, one sees a table, with images or pictures of the 
dead, and chairs for the mourners to sit in when they 
come to lament. That is so Frenchy, — n'est pas ? 

" Our rooms are on the Rue de Rivoli, and, sitting 
in the balcony, we look up and down the long, bril- 
liant street. It is so pleasant that we spend our 
evenings talking there, — when too tired with our 
day's work to go out. Fred is very entertaining, and 
is altogether the most agreeable young man I ever 
knew, — except Laurie, — whose manners are more 
charming. I wish Fred was dark, for I don't fancy 
light men ; however, the Vaughns are very rich, and 
come of an excellent family, so I won't find fault with 
their yellow hair, as my own is yellower. 

" Next week we are off to Germany and Switzer- 
land ; and, as we shall travel fast, I shall only be able 
to give you hasty letters. I keep my diary, and try 
to c remember correctly and describe clearly all that 
I see and admire,' as father advised. It is good 
practice for me, and, with my sketch-book, will give 
you a better idea of my tour than these scribbles. 

" Adieu ; I embrace you tenderly. 

" Voire Amie" 



" Heidelberg. 
"My Dear Mamma: 

" Having a quiet hour before we leave for Berne, 
I'll try to tell you what has happened, for some of it 
is very important, as you will see. 

" The sail up the Rhine was perfect, and I just sat 
and enjoyed it with all my might. Get father's old 
guide-books, and read about it ; I haven't words beau- 
tiful enough to describe it. At Coblentz we had a 



n8 LITTLE WOMEN. 

lovely time, for some students from Bonn, with whom 
Fred got acquainted on the boat, gave us a serenade. 
It was a moonlight night, and, about one o'clock, Flo 
and I were waked by the most delicious music under 
our windows. We flew up, and hid behind the cur- 
tains ; but sly peeps showed us Fred and the students 
singing away down below. It was the most romantic 
thing I ever saw ; the river, the bridge of boats, the 
great fortress opposite, moonlight everywhere, and 
music fit to melt a heart of stone. 

" When they were done we threw down some 
flowers, and saw them scramble for them, kiss their 
hands to the invisible ladies, and go laughing away, — 
to smoke, and drink beer, I suppose. Next morning 
Fred showed me one of the crumpled flowers in his 
vest pocket, and looked very sentimental. I laughed 
at him, and said I didn't throw it, but Flo, — which 
seemed to disgust him, for he tossed it out of the 
window, and turned sensible again. I'm afraid I'm 
going to have trouble with that boy, — it begins to 
look like it. 

" The baths at Nassau were very gay, so was Baden- 
Baden, where Fred lost some money, and I scolded 
him. He needs some one to look after him when 
Frank is not with him. Kate said once she hoped 
he'd marry soon, and I quite agree with her that it 
would be well for him. Frankfort was delightful ; I 
saw Goethe's house, Schiller's statue, and Dannecker's 
famous c Ariadne.' It was very lovely, but I should 
have enjoyed it more if I had known the story better. 
I didn't like to ask, as every one knew it, or pretended 
they did. I wish Jo would tell me all about it; I 



OUR FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT. 



119 



ought to have read more, for I find I don't know any- 
thing, and it mortifies me. 

"Now comes the serious part, — for it happened 
here, and Fred is just gone. He has been so kind 
and jolly that we all got quite fond of him ; I never 
thought of anything but a travelling friendship, till 
the serenade night. Since then I've begun to feel 
that the moonlight walks, balcony talks, and daily 
adventures were something more to him than fun. I 
haven't flirted, mother, truly, — but remembered what 
you said to me, and have done my very best. I can't 
help it if people like me ; I don't try to make them, 
and it worries me if I don't care for them, though Jo 
says I haven't got any heart. Now I know mother 
will shake her head, and the girls say, ' Oh, the mer- 
cenary little wretch ! ' but I've made up my mind, 
and, if Fred asks me, I shall accept him, though I'm 
not madly in love. I like him, and we get on com- 
fortably together. He is handsome, young, clever 
enough, and very rich, — ever so much richer than 
the Laurences. I don't think his family would object, 
and I should be very happy, for they are all kind, 
well-bred, generous people, and they like me. Fred, 
as the eldest twin, will have the estate, I suppose, — 
and such a splendid one as it is ! A city house, in a 
fashionable street, — not so showy as our big houses, 
but twice as comfortable, and full of solid luxury, 
such as English people believe in. I like it, for it's 
genuine ; I've seen the plate, the family jewels, the 
old servants, and pictures of the country place with 
its park, great house, lovely grounds, and fine horses. 
Oh, it would be all I should ask ! and I'd rather have 
it than any title such as girls snap up so readily, and 



120 LITTLE WOMEN. 

find nothing behind. I may be mercenary, but I hate 
poverty, and don't mean to bear it a minute longer 
than I can help. One of us must marry well ; Meg 
didn't, Jo won't, Beth can't, yet, — so I shall, and 
make everything cosy all round. I wouldn't marry a 
man I hated or despised. You may be sure of that : 
and, though Fred is not my model hero, he does very 
well, and, in time, I should get fond enough of him 
if he was very fond of me, and let me do just as I 
liked. So I've been turning the matter over in my 
mind the last week, — for it was impossible to help 
seeing that Fred liked me. He said nothing, but little 
things showed it ; he never goes with Flo, always gets 
on my side of the carriage, table, or promenade, looks 
sentimental when we are alone, and frowns at any 
one else who ventures to speak to me. Yesterday, at 
dinner, when an Austrian officer stared at us, and 
then said something to his friend, - — a rakish-looking 
Baron, — about \ein wonde?'schones Blondchenj Fred 
looked as fierce as a lion, and cut his meat so sav- 
agely, it nearly flew off his plate. He isn't one of the 
cool, stiff Englishmen, but is rather peppery, for he 
has Scotch blood in him, as one might guess from his 
bonnie blue eyes. 

" Well, last evening we went up to the castle about 
sunset, — at least all of us but Fred, who was to meet 
us there after going to the Poste Restante for letters. 
We had a charming time poking about the ruins, the 
vaults where the monster tun is, and the beautiful 
gardens made by the Elector, long ago, for his English 
wife. I liked the great terrace best, for the view was 
divine ; so, while the rest went to see the rooms inside, 
I sat there trying to sketch the gray-stone lion's head 



OUR FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT. I2 x 

on the wall, with scarlet woodbine sprays hanging 
round it. I felt as if I'd got into a romance, sitting 
there watching the Neckar rolling through the valley, 
listening to the music of the Austrian band below, 
and waiting for my lover, — like a real story-book girl. 
I had a feeling that something was going to happen, 
and I was ready for it. I didn't feel blushyor quakey, 
but quite cool, and only a little excited. 

" By and by I heard Fred's voice, and then he came 
hurrying through the great arch to find me. He 
looked so troubled that I forgot all about myself, and 
asked what the matter was. He said he'd just got a 
letter begging him to come home, for Frank was very 
ill ; so he was going at once, in the night train, and 
only had time to say ' good-by.' I was very sorry 
for him, and disappointed for myself, — but only for a 
minute, — because he said, as he shook hands, — and 
said it in a way that I could not mistake, — ' I shall 
soon come back, — you won't forget me, Amy?' 

" I didn't promise, but I looked at him and he 
seemed satisfied, — and there was no time for anything 
but messages and good-byes, for he was off in an hour, 
and we all miss him very much. I know he wanted 
to speak, but I think, from something he once hinted, 
that he had promised his father not to do anything 
of the sort yet awhile, — for he is a rash boy, and the 
old gentleman dreads a foreign daughter-in-law. We 
shall soon meet in Rome ; and then, if I don't change 
my mind, I'll say ' Yes, thank you,' when he says, 
4 Will you, please ? * 

u Of course this is all very private, but I wished 
you to know what was going on. Don't be anxious 



122 LITTLE WOMEN. 

about me ; remember I am your ' prudent Amy,' and 
be sure I will do nothing rashly. Send me as much 
advice as you like ; I'll use it if I can. I wish I could 
see you for a good talk, Marmee. Love and trust me. 
Ever your Amy." 



CHAPTER IX. 

TENDER TROUBLES. 

JO, I'm anxious about Beth." 
" Why, mother, she has seemed unusually well 
since the babies came." 

" It's not her health that troubles me now ; it's her 
spirits. I'm sure there is something on her mind, and 
I want you to discover what it is." 

"What makes you think so, mother?" 

" She sits alone a good deal, and doesn't talk to her 
father as much as she used. I found her crying over 
the babies the other day. When she sings, the songs 
are always sad ones, and now and then I see a look 
in her face that I don't understand. This isn't like 
Beth, and it worries me." 

" Have you asked her about it?" 

" I have tried once or twice ; but she either evaded 
my questions, or looked so distressed, that I stopped. 
I never force my children's confidence, and I seldom 
have to wait for it long." 

Mrs. March glanced at Jo as she spoke, but the 
face opposite seemed quite unconscious of any secret 
disquietude but Beth's ; and, after sewing thought- 
fully for a minute, Jo said, — 

" I think she is growing up, and so begins to dream 
dreams, and have hopes, and fears, and fidgets, with- 
out knowing why, or being able to explain them. 
Why, mother, Beth's eighteen ; but we don't realize 
("3) 



124 



LITTLE V/OMEN. 



it, and treat her like a child, forgetting she's a 
woman." 

" So she is ; dear heart, how fast you do grow up," 
returned her mother, with a sigh and a smile. 

" Can't be helped, Marmee ; so you must resign 
yourself to all sorts of worries, and let your birds hop 
out of the nest, one by one. I promise never to hop 
very far, if that is any comfort to you." 

" It is a great comfort, Jo ; I always feel strong 
when you are at home, now Meg is gone. Beth is too 
feeble, and Amy too young to depend upon ; but when 
the tug comes, you are alwa}'s ready." 

" Why, you know I don't mind hard jobs much, 
and there must always be one scrub in a family. Amy 
is splendid in fine works, and I'm not ; but I feel in 
my element when all the carpets are to be taken up, 
or half the family fall sick at once. Amy is dis- 
tinguishing herself abroad ; but if anything is amiss 
at home, I'm your man." 

" I leave Beth to your hands then, for she will open 
her tender little heart to her Jo sooner than to any one 
else. Be very kind, and don't let her think any one 
watches or talks about her. If she only would get 
quite strong and cheerful again, I shouldn't have a 
wish in the world." 

" Happy woman ! I've got heaps." 

" My dear, what are they?" 

" I'll settle Bethy's troubles, and then I'll tell you 
mine. They are not very wearing, so they'll keep ; " 
and Jo stitched away with a wise nod, which set her 
mother's heart at rest about her, for the present at 
least. 

While apparently absorbed in her own affairs, Jo 



TENDER TROUBLES. 125 

watched Beth ; and, after many conflicting conjectures, 
finally settled upon one which seemed to explain the 
change in her. A slight incident gave Jo the clue to 
the mystery, she thought, and lively fancy, loving heart 
did the rest. She was affecting to write busily one 
Saturday afternoon, when she and Beth were alone 
together ; yet, as she scribbled, she kept her eye on 
her sister, who seemed unusually quiet. Sitting at 
the window, Beth's work often dropped into her lap, 
and she leaned her head upon her hand, in a dejected 
attitude, while her eyes rested on the dull, autum- 
nal landscape. Suddenly some one passed below, 
whistling like an operatic black-bird, and a voice 
called out, — 

" All serene ! Coming in to-night." 

Beth started, leaned forward, smiled and nodded, 
watched the passer-by till his quick tramp died away, 
then said softly, as if to herself, — 

" How strong, and well, and happy that dear boy 
looks." 

" Hum ! " said Jo, still intent upon her sister's face ; 
for the bright color faded as quickly as it came, the 
smile vanished, and presently a tear lay shining on 
the window-ledge. Beth whisked it off, and glanced 
apprehensively at Jo ; but she was scratching away at 
a tremendous rate, apparently engrossed in " Olym- 
piad Oath." The instant Beth turned, Jo began her 
watch again, saw Beth's hand go quietly to her eyes 
more than once, and, in her half-averted face, read a 
tender sorrow that made her own eyes fill. Fearing 
to betray herself, she slipped away, murmuring some- 
thing about needing more paper. 

" Mercy on me ; Beth loves Laurie !" she said, sit- 



126 LITTLE WOMEN. 

ting down in her own room, pale with the shock of 
the discovery which she believed she had just made. 
" I never dreamt of such a thing ! What will mother 
say? I wonder if he — " there Jo stopped, and turned 
scarlet with a sudden thought. " If he shouldn't love 
back again, how dreadful it would be. He must ; I'll 
make him ! " and she shook her head threateningly at 
the picture of the mischievous looking boy laughing 
at her from the wall. " Oh dear, we are growing up 
with a vengeance. Here's Meg married, and a ma, 
Amy flourishing away at Paris, and Beth in love. 
I'm the only one that has sense enough to keep out of 
mischief." Jo thought intently for a minute, with her 
eyes fixed on the picture ; then she smoothed out her 
wrinkled forehead, and said, with a decided nod at 
the face opposite, — " No, thank you sir! you're very 
charming, but you've no more stability than a weather- 
cock ; so you needn't write touching notes, and smile 
in that insinuating way, for it won't do a bit of good, 
and I won't have it." 

Then she sighed, and fell into a reverie, from which 
she did not wake till the early twilight sent her down 
to take new observations, which only confirmed her 
suspicion. Though Laurie flirted with Amy, and 
joked with Jo, his manner to Beth had always been 
peculiarly kind and gentle, but so was everybody's ; 
therefore, no one thought of imagining that he cared 
more for her than for the others. Indeed, a general 
impression had prevailed in the family, of late, that 
" our boy " was getting fonder than ever of Jo, who, 
however, wouldn't hear a word upon the subject, and 
scolded violently if any one dared to suggest it. If 
they had known the various tender passages of the 



TENDER TROUBLES. 127 

past year, or rather attempts at tender passages, which 
had been nipped in the bud, they would have had the 
immense satisfaction of saying, " I told you so." But 
Jo hated " philandering," and wouldn't allow it, al- 
ways having a joke or a smile ready at the least sign 
of impending danger. 

When Laurie first went to college, he fell in love 
about once a month ; but these small flames were as 
brief as ardent, did no damage, and much amused 
Jo, who took great interest in the alternations of 
hope, despair, and resignation, which were confided 
to her in their weekly conferences. But there came a 
time when Laurie ceased to worship at many shrines, 
hinted darkly at one all-absorbing passion, and in- 
dulged occasionally in Byronic fits of gloom. Then 
he avoided the tender subject altogether, wrote philo- 
sophical notes to Jo, turned studious, and gave out 
that he was going to " dig," intending to graduate in 
a blaze of glory. This suited the young lady better 
than twilight confidences, tender pressures of the 
hand, and eloquent glances of the eye ; for with Jo, 
brain developed earlier than heart, and she preferred 
imaginary heroes to real ones, because, when tired 
of them, the former could be shut up in the tin- 
kitchen till called for, and the latter were less man- 
ageable. 

Things were in this state when the grand discovery 
was made, and Jo watched Laurie that night as she 
had never done before. If she had not got the new 
idea into her head, she would have seen nothing un- 
usual in the fact, that Beth was very quiet, and Laurie 
very kind to her. But having given the rein to her 
lively fancy, it galloped away with her at a great 



128 LITTLE WOMEN. 

pace ; and common sense, being rather weakened by 
a long course of romance writing, did not come to 
the rescue. As usual, Beth lay on the sofa, and 
Laurie sat in a low chair close by, amusing her with 
all sorts of gossip ; for she depended on her weekly 
" spin," and he never disappointed her. But that 
evening, Jo fancied that Beth's eyes rested on the 
lively, dark face beside her with peculiar pleasure, 
and that she listened with intense interest to an ac- 
count of some exciting cricket match, though the 
phrases, " caught off a tice," " stumped off his ground," 
and " the leg hit for three," were as intelligible to her 
as Sanscrit. She also fancied, having set her heart 
upon seeing it, that she saw a certain increase of gen- 
tleness in Laurie's manner, that he dropped his voice 
now and then, laughed less than usual, was a little 
absent-minded, and settled the afghari over Beth's feet 
with an assiduity that was really almost tender. 

" Who knows ! stranger things have happened," 
thought Jo, as she fussed about the room. " She will 
make quite an angel of him, and he will make life 
delightfully easy and pleasant for the dear, if they 
only love each other. I don't see how he can help it ; 
and I do believe he would if the rest of us were out 
of the way." 

As every one was out of the way but herself, Jo 
began to feel that she ought to dispose of herself with 
all speed. But where should she go ? and burning to 
lay herself upon the shrine of sisterly devotion, she 
sat down to settle that point. 

Now the old sofa was a regular patriarch of a sofa — 
long, broad, well-cushioned and low. A trifle shabby, 
as well it might be, for the girls had slept and sprawled 



TENDER TROUBLES. 1 29 

on it as babies, fished over the back, rode on the arms, 
and had menageries under it as children, and rested 
tired heads, dreamed dreams, and listened to tender 
talk on it as young women. They all loved it, for it 
was a family refuge, and one corner had always been 
Jo's favorite lounging place. Among the many pil- 
lows that adorned the venerable couch was one, hard, 
round, covered with prickly horse-hair, and furnished 
with a knobby button at each end ; this repulsive pil- 
low was her especial property, being used as a weapon 
of defence, a barricade, or a stern preventive of too 
much slumber. 

Laurie knew this pillow well, and had cause to re- 
gard it with deep aversion ; having been unmercifully 
pummelled with it in former days, when romping was 
allowed, and now frequently debarred by it from 
taking the seat he most coveted, next to Jo in the sofa 
corner. If " the sausage," as they called it, stood on 
end, it was a sign that he might approach and re- 
pose ; but if it laid flat across the sofa, woe to the 
man, woman or child who dared disturb it. That 
evening Jo forgot to barricade her corner, and had not 
been in her seat five minutes, before a massive form 
appeared beside her, and with both arms spread over 
the sofa-back, both long legs stretched out before him, 
Laurie exclaimed with a sigh of satisfaction, — 

" Now this is filling at the price ! " 

"No slang," snapped Jo, slamming down the pillow. 
But it was too late — there was no room for it ; and 
coasting on to the floor, it disappeared in a most mys- 
terious manner. 

" Come, Jo, don't be thorny. After studying him- 
9 



i3° 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



self to a skeleton all the week, a fellow deserves petting, 
and ought to get it." 

" Beth will pet you, I'm busy." 

" No, she's not to be bothered with me ; but you 
like that sort of thing, unless you've suddenly lost your 
taste for it. Have you ? Do you hate your boy, and 
want to fire pillows at him ? " 

Anything more wheedlesome than that touching 
appeal was seldom seen, but Jo quenched " her boy" 
by turning on him with the stern query, — 

" How many bouquets have you sent Miss Randal 
this week ? " 

" Not one, upon my word ! She's engaged. Now 
then." 

" I'm glad of it ; that's one of your foolish extrava- 
gances, sending flowers and things to girls, for whom 
you don't care two pins," continued Jo, reprovingly. 

" Sensible girls, for whom I do care whole papers 
of pins, won't let me send them * flowers and things,' 
so what can I do? my feelings must have a went." 

" Mother doesn't approve of flirting, even in fun ; 
and you do flirt desperately, Teddy." 

" I'd give anything if I could answer, ' So do you.' 
As I can't, I'll merely say that I don't see any harm in 
that pleasant little game, if all parties understand that 
it's only play." 

" Well, it does look pleasant, but I can't learn how 
it's done. I've tried, because one feels awkward in 
company, not to do as everybody else is doing ; but I 
don't seem to get on," said Jo, forgetting to play 
Mentor. 

" Take lessons of Amy ; she has a regular talent for 
it." 



TENDER TROUBLES. 131 

" Yes, she does it very prettily, and never seems to 
go too far. I suppose it's natural to some people to 
please without trying, and others to always say and 
do the wrong thing in the wrong place." 

" I'm glad you can't flirt ; it's really refreshing to 
see a sensible, straightforward girl, who can be jolly 
and kind without making a fool of herself. Between 
ourselves, Jo, some of the girls I know really do go 
on at such a rate I'm ashamed of them. They don't 
mean any harm, I'm sure ; but if they knew how we 
fellows talked about them afterward, they'd mend their 
ways, I fancy." 

" They do the same ; and, as their tongues are the 
sharpest, you fellows get the worst of it, for you are 
as silly as they, every bit. If you behaved properly, 
they would ; but, knowing you like their nonsense, 
they keep it up, and then you blame them." 

" Much you know about it, ma'am ! " said Laurie, in 
a superior tone. " We don't like romps and flirts, 
though we may act as if we did sometimes. The 
pretty, modest girls are never talked about, except 
respectfully, among gentlemen. Bless your innocent 
soul, if you could be in my place for a month you'd 
see things that would astonish you a trifle. Upon my 
word, when I see one of those harem-scarem girls, I 
always want to say with our friend Cock Robin, — 

" ' Out upon you, fie upon you, 
Bold-faced jig ! ' " 

It was impossible to help laughing at the funny 
conflict between Laurie's chivalrous reluctance to 
speak ill of womankind, and his very natural dislike 
of the unfeminine folly of which fashionable society 



1 32 LITTLE WOMEN. 

showed him many samples. Jo knew that " young 
Laurence " was regarded as a most eligible farti 
by worldly mammas, was much smiled upon by their 
daughters, and flattered enough by ladies of all ages 
to make a cockscomb of him ; so she watched him 
rather jealously, fearing he would be spoilt, and re- 
joiced more than she confessed to find that he still 
believed in modest girls. Returning suddenly to her 
admonitory tone, she said, dropping her voice, "If 
you must have a ' went/ Teddy, go and devote your- 
self to one of the ' pretty modest girls ' whom you do 
respect, and not waste your time with the silly ones." 

"You really advise it?" and Laurie looked at her 
with an odd mixture of anxiety and merriment in his 
face. 

" Yes, I do ; but you'd better wait till you are 
through college, on the whole, and be fitting yourself 
for the place meantime. You're not half good enough 
for — well, whoever the modest girl may be ; " and 
Jo looked a little queer likewise, for a name had 
almost escaped her. 

" That I'm not ! " acquiesced Laurie, with an ex- 
pression of humility quite new to him, as he dropped 
his eyes, and absently wound Joe's apron tassel round 
his finger. 

" Mercy on us, this will never do," thought Jo ; ad- 
ding aloud, " Go and sing to me. I'm dying for some 
music, and ' always like yours.' " 

" I'd rather stay here, thank you." 

" Well, you can't ; there isn't room. Go and make 
yourself useful, since you are too big to be ornamental. 
I thought you hated to be tied to a woman's apron- 



TENDER TROUBLES. 133 

string," retorted Jo, quoting certain rebellious words 
of his own. 

" Ah, that depends on who wears the apron ! " and 
Laurie gave an audacious tweak at the tassel. 

"Are you going?" demanded Jo, diving for the 
pillow. 

He fled at once, and the minute it was well " Up 
with the bonnets of bonnie Dundee," she slipped away, 
to return no more till the young gentleman had de- 
parted in high dudgeon. 

Jo lay long awake that night, and was just drop- 
ping off when the sound of a stifled sob made her fly 
to Beth's bedside, with the anxious inquiry, " What 
is it, dear ? " 

" I thought you were asleep," sobbed Beth. 

" Is it the old pain, my precious? " 

" No ; if s a new one ; but I can bear it," and Beth 
tried to check her tears. 

" Tell me all about it, and let me cure it as I often 
did the other." 

" You can't ; there is no cure." There Beth's voice 
gave way, and, clinging to her sister, she cried so 
despairingly that Jo was frightened. 

" Where is it? Shall I call mother? " 

Beth did not answer the first question ; but in the 
dark one hand went involuntarily to her heart, as if 
the pain were there ; with the other she held Jo fast, 
whispering eagerly, " No, no, don't call her ; don't 
tell her ! I shall be better soon. Lie down here and 
4 poor ' my head. I'll be quiet, and go to sleep ; 
indeed I will." 

Jo obeyed ; but as her hand went softly to and fro 
across Beth's hot forehead and wet eyelids, her heart 



134 LITTLE WOMEN. 

was very full, and she longed to speak. But young as 
she was Jo had learned that hearts, like flowers, 
cannot be rudely handled, but must open naturally ; 
so, though she believed she knew the cause of Beth' s 
new pain, she only said, in her tenderest tone, " Does 
anything trouble you, deary?" 

" Yes, Jo !" after a long pause. 

" Wouldn't it comfort you to tell me what it is?" 

" Not now, not yet." 

" Then I won't ask ; but remember, Bethy, that 
mother and Jo are always glad to hear and help you, 
if they can." 

" I know it. I'll tell you by and by." 

11 Is the pain better now?" 

" Oh, yes, much better ; you are so comfortable, Jo ! " 

" Go to sleep, dear ; I'll stay with you." 

So cheek to cheek they fell asleep, and on the 
morrow Beth seemed quite herself again ; for, at 
eighteen, neither heads nor hearts ache long, and a 
loving word can medicine most ills. 

But Jo had made up her mind, and, after pondering 
over a project for some days, she confided it to her 
mother. 

" You asked me the other day what my wishes 
were. I'll tell you one of them, Marmee," she began, 
as they sat alone together. " I want to go away some- 
where this winter for a change." 

" Why, Jo?" and her mother looked up quickly, as 
if the words suggested a double meaning. 

With her eyes on her work, Jo answered soberly, 
"I want something new; I feel restless, and anxious 
to be seeing, doing, and learning more than I am. I 
brood too much over my own small affairs, and need 



TENDER TROUBLES. T ^ 

stirring up, so, as I can be spared this winter Fd like 
to hop a little way and try my wings." 

" Where will you hop ? " 

"To New York. I had a bright idea yesterday, 
and this is it. You know Mrs. Kirke wrote to you 
for some respectable young person to teach her chil- 
dren and sew. It's rather hard to find just the thing, 
but I think I should suit if I tried." 

"My dear, go out to service in that great boarding- 
house ! " and Mrs. March looked surprised, but not 
displeased. 

" It's not exactly going out to service ; for Mrs. 
Kirke is your friend, — the kindest soul that ever 
lived, — and would make things pleasant for me, I 
know. Her family is separate from the rest, and no 
one knows me there. Don't care if they do; it's 
honest work, and I'm not ashamed of it." 

" Nor I ; but your writing? " 

"All the better for the change. I shall see and 
hear new things, get new ideas, and, even if I haven't 
much time there, I shall bring home quantities of 
material for my rubbish." 

" I have no doubt of it ; but are these your only 
reasons for this sudden fancy?" 

" No, mother." 

" May I know the others? " 

Jo looked up and Jo looked down, then said slowly, 
with sudden color in her cheeks, " It may be vain 
and wrong to say it, but — I'm afraid — Laurie is 
getting too fond of me." 

" Then you don't care for him in the way it is evi- 
dent he begins to care for you?" and Mrs. March 
looked anxious as she put the question. 



136 LITTLE WOMEN. 

" Mercy, no ! I love the dear boy as I always have, 
and am immensely proud of him ; but as for anything 
more, it's out of the question." 

" I'm glad of that, Jo ! " 

"Why, please?" 

" Because, dear, I don't think you suited to one 
another. As friends, you are very happy, and your 
frequent quarrels soon blow over ; but I fear you 
would both rebel if you were mated for life. You are 
too much alike, and too fond of freedom, not to men- 
tion hot tempers and strong wills, to get on happily 
together, in a relation which needs infinite patience 
and forbearance, as well as love." 

" That's just the feeling I had, though I couldn't 
express it. I'm glad you think he is only beginning 
to care for me. It would trouble me sadly to make 
him unhappy ; for I couldn't fall in love with the dear 
old fellow merely out of gratitude, could I ? " 

" You are sure of his feeling for you? " 

The color deepened in Jo's cheeks, as she answered 
with the look of mingled pleasure, pride, and pain 
which young girls wear when speaking of first lovers, — 

"I'm afraid it is so, mother ; he hasn't said any- 
thing, but he looks a great deal. I think I had better 
go away before it comes to anything." 

" I agree with you, and if it can be managed you 
shall go." 

Jo looked relieved, and, after a pause, said, — 
smiling, — 

" How Mrs. Moffat would wonder at your want of 
management, if she knew ; and how she will rejoice 
that Annie still may hope." 

" Ah, Jo, mothers may differ in their management, 



TENDER TROUBLES. 137 

but the hope is the same in all — the desire to see their 
children happy. Meg is so, and I am content with 
her success. You I leave to enjoy your liberty till 
you tire of it ; for only then will you find that there is 
something sweeter. Amy is my chief care now, but 
her good sense will help her. For Beth, I indulge no 
hopes except that she may be well. By the way, she 
seems brighter this last day or two. Have you spoken 
to her?" 

" Yes ; she owned she had a trouble, and promised 
to tell me by and by. I said no more, for I think I 
know it;" and Jo told her little story. 

Mrs. March shook her head, and did not take so 
romantic a view of the case, but looked grave, and 
repeated her opinion that, for Laurie's sake, Jo should 
go away for a time. 

" Let us say nothing about it to him till the plan is 
settled ; then I'll run away before he can collect his 
wits and be tragical. Beth must think I'm going to 
please myself, as I am, for I can't talk about Laurie 
to her ; but she can pet and comfort him after I'm 
gone, and so cure him of this romantic notion. He's 
been through so many little trials of the sort, he's used 
to it, and will soon get over his love-lornity." 

Jo spoke hopefully, but could not rid herself of the 
foreboding fear that this " little trial " would be harder 
than the others, and that Laurie would not get over 
his " love-lornity " as easily as heretofore. 

The plan was talked over in a family council, and 
agreed upon ; for Mrs. Kirke gladly accepted Jo, and 
promised to make a pleasant home for her. The 
teaching would render her independent ; and such 
leisure as she got might be made profitable by writing, 



138 &ITTLE WOMEN. 

while the new scenes and society would be both useful 
and agreeable. Jo liked the prospect, and was eager 
to be gone, for the home-nest was growing too nar- 
row for her restless nature and adventurous spirit. 
When all was settled, with fear and trembling she 
told Laurie ; but, to her surprise, he took it very 
quietly. He had been graver than usual of late, but 
very pleasant ; and, when jokingly accused of turning 
over a new leaf, he answered, soberly, "Sol am ; and 
I mean this one shall stay turned." 

Jo was very much relieved that one of his virtuous 
fits should come on just then, and made her prepara- 
tions with a lightened heart, — for Beth seemed more 
cheerful, — and hoped she was doing the best for all. 

" One thing I leave to your especial care," she said, 
the night before she left. 

" You mean your papers?" asked Beth. 

" No — my boy ; be very good to him, won't you? " 

" Of course I will ; but I can't fill your place, and 
he'll miss you sadly." 

" It won't hurt him ; so remember, I leave him in 
your charge, to plague, pet, and keep in order." 

" I'll do my best, for your sake," promised Beth, 
wondering why Jo looked at her so queerly. 

When Laurie said " Good-by," he whispered, sig- 
nificantly, " It won't do a bit of good, Jo. My eye is 
on you ; so mind what you do, or I'll come and bring 
you home." 



CHAPTER X. 
jo's journal, 

" New York, Nov. 

DEAR Marmee and Beth: 
I'm going to write you a regular volume, for 
I've got lots to tell, though I'm not a fine young 
lady travelling on the continent. When I lost sight 
of father's dear old face, I felt a trifle blue, and might 
have shed a briny drop or two, if an Irish lady with 
four small children, all crying more or less, hadn't 
diverted my mind ; for I amused myself by dropping 
gingerbread nuts over the seat every time they opened 
their mouths to roar. 

" Soon the sun came out ; and taking it as a good 
omen, I cleared up likewise, and enjoyed my journey 
with all my heart. 

"Mrs. Kirke welcomed me so kindly I felt at home 
at once, even in that big house full of strangers. She 
gave me a funny little sky-parlor — all she had ; but 
there is a stove in it, and a nice table in a sunny win- 
dow, so I can sit here and write whenever I like. A 
fine view, and a church tower opposite, atone for the 
many stairs, and I took a fancy to my den on the 
spot. The nursery, where I am to teach and sew, is 
a pleasant room next Mrs. Kirke's private parlor, and 
the two little girls are pretty children — rather spoilt, 
I guess, but they took to me after telling them ' The 
Seven Bad Pigs ' ; and I've no doubt I shall make a 
model governess. 



140 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



" I am to have my meals with the children, if I pre- 
fer it to the great table, and for the present I do, for I 
am bashful, though no one will believe it. 

" ' Now my dear, make yourself at home,' said Mrs. 
K. in her motherly way ; ' I'm on the drive from 
morning to night, as you may suppose, with such a 
family ; but a great anxiety will be off my mind if I 
know the children are safe with you. My rooms are 
always open to you, and your own shall be as com- 
fortable as I can make it. There are some pleasant 
people in the house, if you feel sociable, and your 
evenings are always free. Come to me if anything 
goes wrong, and be as happy as you can. There's 
the tea-bell ; I must run and change my cap ' ; and 
off she bustled, leaving me to settle myself in my new 
nest. 

"As I went down stairs, soon after, I saw something 
I liked. The flights are very long in this tall house, 
and as I stood waiting at the head of the third one 
for a little servant girl to lumber up, I saw a queer- 
looking man come along behind her, take the heavy 
hod of coal out of her hand, cany it all the way up, 
put it down at a door near by, and walk away, say- 
ing, with a kind nod and a foreign accent, — 

" ' It goes better so. The little back is too young 
to haf such heaviness.' 

" Wasn't it good of him? I like such things ; for, 
as father says, trifles show character. When I men- 
tioned it to Mrs. K., that evening, she laughed, and 
said, — 

" ' That must have been Professor Bhaer ; he's al- 
ways doing things of that sort.' 

" Mrs. K. told me he was from Berlin ; very learned 



JO'S JOURNAL. I4I 

and good, but poor as a church mouse, and gives 
lessons to support himself and two little orphan 
nephews whom he is educating here, according to 
the wishes of his sister, who married an American. 
Not a very romantic story, but it interested me ; and 
I was glad to hear that Mrs. K. lends him her parlor 
for some of his scholars. There is a glass door be- 
tween it and the nursery, and I mean to peep at him, 
and then I'll tell you how he looks. He's most forty, 
so it's no harm, Marmee. 

" After tea and a go-to-bed romp with the little 
girls, I attacked the big work-basket, and had a quiet 
evening chatting with my new friend. I shall keep a 
journal-letter, and send it once a week ; so good- 
night, and more to-morrow." 

jf Tuesday t Eve. 
" Had a lively time in my seminary, this morning, 
for the children acted like Sancho ; and at one time 
I really thought I should shake them all round. Some 
good angel inspired me to try gymnastics, and I kept 
it up till they were glad to sit down and keep still. 
After luncheon, the' girl took them out for a walk, 
and I went to my needle-work, like little Mabel, ' with 
a willing mind.' I was thanking my stars that I'd 
learned to make nice button-holes, when the parlor 
door opened and shut, and some one began to hum, — 

' Kennst du das land,' 

like a big bumble-bee. It was dreadfully improper, 
I know, but I couldn't resist the temptation ; and lift- 
ing one end of the curtain before the glass door, I 
peeped in. Professor Bhaer was there ; and while he 



143 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



arranged his books, I took a good look at him. A 
regular German — rather stout, with brown hair tum- 
bled all over his head, a bushy beard, droll nose, the 
kindest eyes I ever saw, and a splendid big voice that 
does one's ears good, after our sharp or slipshod 
American gabble. His clothes were rusty, his hands 
were large, and he hadn't a handsome feature in his 
face, except his beautiful teeth ; yet I liked him, for 
he had a fine head ; his linen was spandy nice, and 
he looked like a gentleman, though two buttons were 
off his coat, and there was a patch on one shoe. He 
looked sober in spite of his humming, till he went to 
the window to turn the hyacinth bulbs toward the 
sun, and stroke the cat, who received him like an old 
friend. Then he smiled ; and when a tap came at 
the door, called out in a loud, brisk tone, — 

"' Herein V 

" I was just going to run, when I caught sight of a 
morsel of a child carrying a big book, and stopped to 
see what was going on. 

" ' Me wants my Bhaer,' said the mite, slamming 
down her book, and running to meet him. 

" ' Thou shalt haf thy Bhaer ; come, then, and take 
a goot hug from him, my Tina,' said the Professor, 
catching her up, with a laugh, and holding her so 
high over his head that she had to stoop her little face 
to kiss him. 

" \ Now me mus tuddy my lessin,' went on the 
funny little thing ; so he put her up at the table, 
opened the great dictionary she had brought, and 
gave her a paper and pencil, and she scribbled away, 
turning a leaf now and then, and passing her little fat 
finger down the page, as if finding a word, so soberly, 




THE PROFESSOR AND TINA. 
'Come then, my Tina, and haf a goot hug from thy Bhaer. " — P age 142. 



JO'S JOURNAL. 143 

that I nearly betrayed myself by a laugh, while Mr. 
Bhaer stood stroking her pretty hair, with a fatherly 
look, that made me think she must be his own, though 
she looked more French than German. 

" Another knock, and the appearance of two young 
ladies sent me back to my work, and there I vir- 
tuously remained through all the noise and gabbling 
that went on next door. One of the girls kept laugh- 
ing affectedly, and saying c Now Professor/ in a co- 
quettish tone, and the other pronounced her German 
with an accent that must have made it hard for him 
to keep sober. 

" Both seemed to try his patience sorely ; for more 
than once I heard him say, emphatically, 4 No, no, it 
is not so ; you haf not attend to what I say * ; and 
once there was a loud rap, as if he struck the table 
with his book, followed by the despairing exclama- 
tion, * Prut ! it all goes bad this day.' 

" Poor man, I pitied him ; and when the girls were 
gone, took just one more peep, to see if he survived 
it. He seemed to have thrown himself back in his 
chair, tired out, and sat there with his eyes shut, till 
the clock struck two, when he jumped up, put his 
books in his pocket, as if ready for another lesson, 
and, taking little Tina, who had fallen asleep on the 
sofa, in his arms, he carried her quietly away. I 
guess he has a hard life of it. 

" Mrs. Kirke asked me if I wouldn't go down to 
the five-o'clock dinner ; and, feeling a little bit home- 
sick, I thought I would, just to see what sort of 
people are under the same roof with me. So I made 
myself respectable, and tried to slip in behind Mrs. 
Kirke ; but as she is short, and I'm tall, my efforts at 



144 LITTLE WOMEN. 

concealment were rather a failure. She gave me a 
seat by her, and after my face cooled off, I piucked 
up courage, and looked about me. The long table 
was full, and every one intent on getting their din- 
ner — the gentlemen especially, who seemed to be 
eating on time, for they bolted in every sense of the 
word, vanishing as soon as they were done. There 
was the usual assortment of young men, absorbed in 
themselves ; young couples absorbed in each other ; 
married ladies in their babies, and old gentlemen in 
politics. I don't think I shall care to have much to 
do with any of them, except one sweet-faced maiden 
lady, who looks as if she had something in her. 

" Cast away at the very bottom of the table was 
the Professor, shouting answers to the questions of a 
very inquisitive, deaf old gentleman on one side, and 
talking philosophy with a Frenchman on the other. 
If Amy had been here, she'd have turned her back on 
him forever, because, sad to relate, he had a great 
appetite, and shovelled in his dinner in a manner 
which would have horrified ' her ladyship.' I didn't 
mind, for I like ' to see folks eat with a relish,' as 
Hannah says, and the poor man must have needed a 
deal of food, after teaching idiots all day. 

"As I went upstairs after dinner, two of the young 
men were settling their beavers before the hall mirror, 
and I heard one say low to the other, f Who's the new 
party ? ' 

" ' Governess, or something of that sort/ 

" ' What the deuce is she at our table for? ' 

" ' Friend of the old lady's.' 

" ' Handsome head, but no style/ 

" ' Not a bit of it. Give us a light and come on.' 



JO'S JOURNAL. 145 

" I felt angry at first, and then I didn't care, for a 
governess is as good as a clerk, and I've got sense, if 
I haven't style, which is more than some people have, 
judging from the remarks of the elegant beings who 
clattered away, smoking like bad chimneys. I hate 
ordinary people ! " 

" Thursday. 

" Yesterday was a quiet day, spent in teaching, 
sewing, and writing in my little room, — which is very 
cosy, with a light and fire. I picked up a few bits 
of news, and was introduced to the Professor. It 
seems that Tina is the child of the Frenchwoman 
who does the fine ironing in the laundry here. The 
little thing has lost her heart to Mr. Bhaer, and fol- 
lows him about the house like a dog whenever he is 
at home, which delights him, — as he is very fond of 
children, though a ' bacheldore.' Kitty and Minnie 
Kirke likewise regard him with affection, and tell all 
sorts of stories about the plays he invents, the presents 
he brings, and the splendid tales he tells. The young 
men quiz him, it seems, call him Old Fritz, Lager 
Beer, Ursa Major, and make all manner of jokes on 
his name. But he enjoys it like a boy, Mrs. K. says, 
and takes it so good-naturedly that they all like him, 
in spite of his odd ways. 

u The maiden lady is a Miss Norton, — rich, cul- 
tivated, and kind. She spoke to me at dinner to-day 
(for I went to table again, it's such fun to watch 
people), and asked me to come and see her at her 
room. She has fine books and pictures, knows inter- 
esting persons, and seems friendly ; so I shall make 
IO 



146 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



myself agreeable, for I do want to get into good 
society, only it isn't the same sort that Amy likes. 

" I was in our parlor last evening, when Mr. Bhaer 
came in with some newspapers for Mrs. Kirke. She 
wasn't there, but Minnie, who is a little old woman, 
introduced me very prettily : ' This is mamma's friend, 
Miss March.' 

" ' Yes ; and she's jolly, and we like her lots,' added 
Kitty, who is an 4 infant terrible? 

" We both bowed, and then we laughed, for the 
prim introduction and the blunt addition were rather 
a comical contrast. 

" ' Ah, yes ; I hear these naughty ones go to vex 
you, Mees Marsch. If so again, call at me and I 
come,' he said, with a threatening frown that de- 
lighted the little wretches. 

" I promised I would, and he departed ; but it 
seems as if I was doomed to see a good deal of him, 
for to-day, as I passed his door on my way out, by 
accident I knocked against it with my umbrella. It 
flew open, and there he stood in his dressing-gown, 
with a big blue sock on one hand and a darning- 
needle in the other ; he didn't seem at all ashamed of 
it, for when I explained and hurried on, he waved 
his hand, sock and all, saying, in his loud, cheerful 
way, — 

" 4 You haf a fine day to make your walk. Bon 
voyage, mademoiselle? 

" I laughed all the way down stairs ; but it was a 
little pathetic, also, to think of the poor man having 
to mend his own clothes. The German gentlemen 
embroider, I know, — but darning hose is another 
thing, and not so pretty." 



JO'S JOURNAL. 147 

" Saturday. 

" Nothing has happened to write about, except a 
call on Miss Norton, who has a room full of lovely 
things, and who was very charming, for she showed 
me all her treasures, and asked me if I would some- 
times go with her to lectures and concerts, *as her 
escort, — if I enjoyed them. She put it as a favor ; 
but I'm sure Mrs. Kirke has told her about us, and 
she does it out of kindness to me. I'm as proud as 
Lucifer, but such favors from such people don't bur- 
den me, and I accepted gratefully. 

" When I got back to the nursery there was such 
an uproar in the parlor that I looked in, and there 
was Mr. Bhaer down on his hands and knees, with 
Tina on his back, Kitty leading him with a jump- 
rope, and Minnie feeding two small boys with seed- 
cakes, as they roared and ramped in cages built of 
chairs. 

" ' We are playing nargeriej explained Kitty. 

" c Dis is mine effalunt ! ' added Tina, holding on 
by the Professor's hair. 

" 8 Mamma always allows us to do what we like 
Saturday afternoon, when Franz and Emil come, 
don't she, Mr. Bhaer?' said Minnie. 

" The ' effalunt ' sat up, looking as much in earnest 
as any of them, and said, soberly, to me, — 

" ' I gif you my wort it is so. If we make too large 
a noise you shall say " hush ! " to us, and we go more 
softly.' 

" I promised to do so, but left the door open, and 
enjoyed the fun as much as they did, — for a more 
glorious frolic I never witnessed. They played tag, 
and soldiers, danced and sung, and when it began to 



148 LITTLE WOMEN. 

grow dark they all piled on to the sofa about the Pro- 
fessor, while he told charming fairy stories of the 
storks on the chimney-tops, and the little i Kobolds,' 
who ride the snow-flakes as they fall. I wish Amer- 
icans were as simple and natural as Germans, don't 
you ? 

M I'm so fond of writing, I should go spinning on 
forever if motives of economy didn't stop me ; for 
though I've used thin paper, and written fine, I tremble 
to think of the stamps this long letter will need. Pray 
forward Amy's as soon as you can spare them. My 
small news will sound very flat after her splendors, 
but you will like them, I know. Is Teddy studying 
so hard that he can't find time to write to his friends ? 
Take good care of him for me, Beth, and tell me all 
about the babies, and give heaps of love to every one. 
" From your faithful Jo. 

" P. S. On reading over my letter, it strikes me 
as rather Bhaery ; but I'm always interested in odd 
people, and I really had nothing else to write about. 
Bless you." 

"Dec. 
"My Precious Betsey: 

"As this is to be a scribble-scrabble letter, I direct 
it to you, for it may amuse you, and give you some 
idea of my goings on ; for, though quiet, they are 
rather amusing, for which, oh, be joyful ! After what 
Amy would call Herculaneum efforts, in the way of 
mental and moral agriculture, my young ideas begin 
to shoot, and my little twigs to bend, as I could wish. 
They are not so interesting to me as Tina and the 



JO'S JOURNAL. 149 

boys, but I do my duty by them, and they are fond of 
me. Franz and Emil are jolly little lads, quite after 
my own heart, for the mixture of German and Amer- 
ican spirit in them produces a constant state of effer- 
vescence. Saturday afternoons are riotous times, 
whether spent in the house or out ; for on pleasant 
days they all go to walk, like a seminary, with the 
Professor and myself to keep order ; and then such 
fun ! 

M We are very good friends now, and Fve begun to 
take lessons. I really couldn't help it, and it all came 
about in such a funny way, that I must tell you. To 
begin at the beginning. Mrs. Kirke called to me, one 
day, as I passed Mr. Bhaer's room, where she was 
rummaging. 

"'Did you ever see such a den, my dear? Just 
come and help me put these books to rights, for I've 
turned everything upside down, trying to discover 
what he has done with the six new handkerchiefs I 
gave him, not long ago.' 

" I went in, and while we worked I looked about 
me, for it was ' a den,' to be sure. Books and papers, 
everywhere ; a broken meerschaum, and an old flute 
over the mantle-piece, as if done with ; a ragged bird, 
without any tail, chirped on one window-seat, and a 
box of white mice adorned the other ; half-finished 
boats, and bits of string, lay among the manuscripts ; 
dirty little boots stood drying before the fire, and 
traces of the dearly beloved boys, for whom he makes 
a slave of himself, were to be seen all over the room. 
After a grand rummage three of the missing articles 
were found, — one over the bird-cage, one covered 



i5o 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



with ink, and a third burnt brown, having been used 
as a holder. 

" ' Such a man ! ' laughed good-natured Mrs. K., 
as she put the relics in the rag-bag. ' I suppose the 
others are torn up to rig ships, bandage cut fingers, or 
make kite tails. It's dreadful, but I can't scold him ; 
he's so absent-minded and good-natured, he lets those 
boys ride over him rough- shod. I agreed to do his 
washing and mending, but he forgets to give out his 
things, and I forget to look them over, so he comes to 
a sad pass sometimes.' 

" 'Let me mend them,' said I; 'I don't mind it, 
and he needn't know. I'd like to, — he's so kind to 
me about bringing my letters, and lending books.' 

" So I have got his things in order, and knit heels 
into two pairs of the socks, — for they were boggled 
out of shape with his queer darns. Nothing was said, 
and I hoped he wouldn't find it out, — but one day 
last week he caught me at it. Hearing the lessons he 
gives to others has interested and amused me so much, 
that I took a fancy to learn ; for Tina runs in and out, 
leaving the door open, and I can hear. I had been 
sitting near this door, finishing off the last sock, and 
trying to understand what he said to a new scholar, 
who is as stupid as I am ; the girl had gone, and I 
thought he had also, it was so still, and I was busily 
gabbling over a verb, and rocking to and fro in a most 
absurd way, when a little crow made me look up, and 
there was Mr. Bhaer looking and laughing quietly, 
when he made signs to Tina not to betray him. 

" ' So,' he said, as I stopped and stared like a 
goose, 'you peep at me, I peep at you, and that is not 



JO'S JOURNAL. 151 

bad ; but see, I am not pleasanting when I say, haf 
you a wish for German? ' 

" ' Yes ; but you are too busy ; I am too stupid to 
learn,' I blundered out, as red as a beet. 

" ' Prut ! we will make the time, and we fail not to 
find the sense. At efening I shall gif a little lesson 
with much gladness; for, look you, Mees Marsch, I 
haf this debt to pay/ and he pointed to my work. 
4 Yes ! they say to one another, these so kind ladies, 
" he is a stupid old fellow ; he will see not what we 
do ; he will never opserve that his sock-heels go not 
in holes any more ; he will think his buttons grow out 
new when they fall, and believe that strings make 
theirselves." Ah ! but I haf an eye, and I see much. 
I haf a heart and I feel the thanks for this. Come, — 
a little lesson then and now, or — no more good fairy 
works for me and mine.' 

u Of course I couldn't say anything after that, and 
as it really is a splendid opportunity, I made the bar- 
gain, and we began. I took four lessons, and then I 
stuck fast in a grammatical bog. The Professor was 
very patient with me, but it must have been torment 
to him, and now and then he'd look at me with such an 
expression of mild despair, that it was a toss up with 
me whether to laugh or cry. I tried both ways ; and 
when it came to a sniff of utter mortification and woe, 
he just threw the grammar on to the floor, and marched 
out of the room. I felt myself disgraced and deserted 
forever, but didn't blame him a particle, and was 
scrambling my papers together, meaning to rush up- 
stairs and shake myself hard, when in he came, as 
brisk and beaming as if I'd covered my name with 
glory : — 



*5* 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



" ' Now we shall try a new way. You and I will 
read these pleasant little Marchen together, and dig 
no more in that dry book, that goes in the corner for 
making us trouble.' 

" He spoke so kindly, and opened Hans Andersen's 
fairy tales so invitingly before me, that I was more 
ashamed than ever, and went at my lesson in a'neck- 
or-nothing style that seemed to amuse him immensely. 
I forgot my bashfulness, and pegged away (no other 
word will express it) with all my might, tumbling 
over long words, pronouncing according to the in- 
spiration of the minute, and doing my very best. 
When I finished reading my first page, and stopped 
for breath, he clapped his hands and cried out, in his 
hearty way, ; Das ist gute ! Now we go well ! My 
turn. I do him in German ; gif me your ear.' And 
away he went, rumbling out the words with his 
strong voice, and a relish which was good to see as 
well as hear. Fortunately, the story was the f Con- 
stant Tin Soldier/ which is droll, you know, so I 
could laugh, — and I did, — though I didn't under- 
stand half he read, — for I couldn't help it, he was so 
earnest, I so excited, and the whole thing so comical. 

" After that we got on better, and now I read my 
lessons pretty well ; for this way of studying suits me, 
and I can see that the grammar gets tucked into the 
tales and poetry, as one gives pills in jelly. I like it 
very much, and he don't seem tired of it yet, — which 
is very good of him, isn't it? I mean to give him 
something on Christmas, for I don't dare offer money. 
Tell me something nice, Marmee. 

" I'm glad Laurie seems so happy and busy, — that 
he has given up smoking, and lets his hair grow. 



JO'S JOURNAL. !53 

You see Beth manages him better than I did. I'm 
not jealous, dear ; do your best, only don't make a 
saint of him. I'm afraid I couldn't like him without 
a spice of human naughtiness. Read him bits of my 
letters. I haven't time to write much, and that will 
do just as well. Thank heaven Beth continues so 
comfortable." 

" Jan. 

" A happy New- Year to you all, my dearest fam- 
ily, which of course includes Mr. L. and a young 
man by the name of Teddy. I can't tell you how 
much I enjoyed your Christmas bundle, for I didn't 
get it till night, and had given up hoping. Your 
letter came in the morning, but you said nothing 
about a parcel, meaning it for a surprise ; so I was 
disappointed, for I'd had a 'kind of a feeling' that 
you wouldn't forget me. I felt a little low in my 
mind, as I sat up in my room, after tea ; and when 
the big, muddy, battered-looking bundle was brought 
to me, I just hugged it, and pranced. It was so 
homey and refreshing, that I sat down on the floor, 
and read, and looked, and eat, and laughed and cried, 
in my usual absurd way. The things were just what 
I wanted, and all the better for being made instead of 
bought. Beth's new ' ink-bib ' was capital ; and Han- 
nah's box of hard gingerbread will be a treasure. I'll 
be sure and wear the nice flannels you sent, Marmee, 
and read carefully the books father has marked. 
Thank you all, heaps and heaps ! 

" Speaking of books, reminds me that I'm getting 
rich in that line ; for, on New-Year's day, Mr. Bhaer 
gave me a fine Shakespeare. It is one he values 
much, and I've often admired it, set up in the place 



i54 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



of honor, with his German Bible, Plato, Homer, and 
Milton ; so you may imagine how I felt when he 
brought it down, without its cover, and showed me 
my name in it, ' from my friend Friedrich Bhaer.' 

" ' You say often you wish a library ; here I gif you 
one ; for between these two lids (he meant covers) is 
many books in one. Read him well, and he will help 
you much ; for the study of character in this book 
will help you to read it in the world, and paint it 
with your pen.' 

" I thanked him as well as I could, and talk now 
about ' my library,' as if I had a hundred books. I 
never knew how much there was in Shakespeare 
before ; but then I never had a Bhaer to explain it to 
me. Now don't laugh at his horrid name ; it isn't 
pronounced either Bear or Beer, as people will say it, 
but something between the two, as only Germans can 
do it. I'm glad you both like what I tell you about 
him, and hope you will know him some day. Mother 
would admire his warm heart, father his wise head. 
I admire both, and feel rich in my new ' friend Freid- 
rich Bhaer.' 

" Not having much money, or knowing what he'd 
like, I got several little things, and put them about 
the room, where he would find them unexpectedly. 
They were useful, pretty, or funny — a new stand- 
dish on his table, a little vase for his flower — he 
always has one — or a bit of green in a glass, to keep 
him fresh, he says ; and a holder for his blower, so 
that he needn't burn up what Amy calls ' mouchoirs.' 
I made it like those Beth invented — a big butterfly 
with a fat body, and black and yellow wings, worsted 
feelers, and bead eyes. It took his fancy immensely, 



JO'S JOURNAL. 155 

and he put it on his mantle-piece as an article of 
virtu; so it was rather a failure after all. Poor as 
he is, he didn't forget a servant or a child in the 
house ; and not a soul here, from the French laundry- 
woman to Miss Norton, forgot him. I was so glad 
of that. 

" They got up a masquerade, and had a gay time, 
New- Year's eve. I didn't mean to go down, having 
no dress ; but, at the last minute, Mrs. Kirke remem- 
bered some old brocades, and Miss Norton lent me 
lace and feathers ; so I rigged up as Mrs. Malaprop, 
and sailed in with a mask on. No one knew me, for 
I disguised my voice, and no one dreamed of the 
silent, haughty Miss March (for they think I am very 
stiff and cool, most of them ; and so I am to whipper- 
snappers) could dance, and dress, and burst out into 
a 4 nice derangement of epitaphs, like an allegory on 
the banks of the Nile.' I enjoyed it very much ; and 
when we unmasked, it was fun to see them stare at 
me. I heard one of the young men tell another that 
he knew I'd been an actress ; in fact, he thought he 
remembered seeing me at one of the minor theatres. 
Meg will relish that joke. Mr. Bhaer was Nick 
Bottom, and Tina was Titania — a perfect little fairy 
in his arms. To see them dance was ' quite a land- 
scape,' to use a Teddyism. 

" I had a very happy New- Year, after all ; and 
when I thought it over in my room, I felt as if I was 
getting on a little in spite of my many failures ; for 
I'm cheerful all the time now, work with a will, and 
take more interest in other people than I used 
to, which is satisfactory. Bless you all. Ever your 
loving Jo." 



CHAPTER XI. 

FRIEND. 

THOUGH very happy in the social atmosphere 
about her, and very busy with the daily work 
that earned her bread, and made it sweeter for 
the effort, Jo still found time for literary labors. The 
purpose which now took possession of her was a 
natural one to a poor and ambitious girl ; but the 
means she took to gain her end were not the best. 
She saw that money conferred power ; money and 
power, therefore, she resolved to have; not to be 
used for herself alone, but for those whom she loved 
more than self. The dream of filling home with 
comforts, giving Beth everything she wanted, from 
strawberries in winter to an organ in her bedroom ; 
♦going abroad herself, and always having more than 
enough, so that she might indulge in the luxury of 
charity, had been for years Jo's most cherished castle 
in the air. 

The prize-story experience had seemed to open a 
way which might, after long travelling, and much 
up-hill work, lead to this delightful chateau en Es- 
fagne. But the novel disaster quenched her courage 
for a time, for public opinion is a giant which has 
frightened stouter-hearted Jacks on bigger beanstalks 
than hers. Like that immortal hero, she reposed a 
while after the first attempt, which resulted in a tum- 
ble, and the least lovely of the giant's treasures, if I 
remember rightly. But the ' k up again and take 

(156) 



A FRIEND. 



157 



another " spirit was as strong in Jo as in Jack ; so she 
scrambled up on the shady side, this time, and got 
more booty, but nearly left behind her what was far 
more precious than the money-bags. 

She took to writing sensation stories — for in those 
dark ages, even all-perfect America read rubbish. 
She told no one, but concocted a u thrilling tale," and 
boldly carried it herself to Mr. Dashwood, editor of 
the " Weekly Volcano." She had never read Sartor 
Resartus, but she had a womanly instinct that clothes 
possess an influence more powerful over many than 
the worth of character or the magic of manners. So 
she dressed herself in her best, and, trying to persuade 
herself that she was neither excited nor nervous, 
bravely climbed two pairs of dark and dirty stairs to 
find herself in a disorderly room, a cloud of cigar 
smoke, and the presence of three gentlemen sitting 
with their heels rather higher than their hats, which 
articles of dress none of them took the trouble to 
remove on her appearance. Somewhat daunted by 
this reception, Jo hesitated on the threshold, murmur- 
ing in much embarrassment, — 

" Excuse me ; I was looking for the ■ Weekly Vol- 
cano office ; ' I wished to see Mr. Dashwood." 

Down went the highest pair of heels, up rose the 
smokiest gentleman, and, carefully cherishing his cigar 
between his fingers, he advanced with a nod, and a 
countenance expressive of nothing but sleep. Feel- 
ing that she must get through with the matter some- 
how, Jo produced her manuscript, and, blushing 
redder and redder with each sentence, blundered out 
fragments of the little speech carefully prepared for 
the occasion. 



158 LITTLE WOMEN. 

"A friend of mine desired me to offer — a story — 
just as an experiment — would like your opinion — 
be glad to write more if this suits." 

While she blushed and blundered, Mr. Dashwood 
had taken the "manuscript, and was turning over the 
leaves with a pair of rather dirty fingers, and casting 
critical glances up and down the neat pages. 

" Not a first attempt, I take it? " observing that the 
pages were numbered, covered only on one side, and 
not tied up with a ribbon — sure sign of a novice. 

" No sir ; she has had some experience, and got a 
prize for a tale in the ' Blarneystone Banner.' " 

"Oh, did she?" and Mr. Dashwood gave Jo a 
quick look, which seemed to take note of everything 
she had on, from the bow in her bonnet to the buttons 
on her boots. " Well, you can leave it, if you like ; 
we've more of this sort of thing on hand than we 
know what to do with, at present ; but I'll run my 
eye over it, and give you an answer next week." 

Now Jo did not like to leave it, for Mr. Dashwood 
didn't suit her at all ; but, under the circumstances, 
there was nothing for her to do but bow and walk 
away, looking particularly tall and dignified, as she 
was apt to do, when nettled or abashed. Just then 
she was both ; for it was perfectly evident from the 
knowing glances exchanged among the gentlemen, 
that her little fiction of "my friend" was considered 
a good joke ; and a laugh produced by some inaudible 
remark of the editor, as he closed the door, com- 
pleted her discomfiture. Half resolving never to re- 
turn, she went home, and worked off her irritation 
by stitching pinafores vigorously ; and in an hour or 



A FRIEND. 159 

two was cool enough to laugh over the scene, and 
long for next week. 

When she went again, Mr. DashwOod was alone, 
whereat she rejoiced. Mr. Dashwood was much 
wider awake than before, — which was agreeable, — 
and Mr. Dashwood was not too deeply absorbed in a 
cigar to remember his manners, — so the second in- 
terview was much more comfortable than the first. 

"We'll take this" (editors never say "I"), "if you 
don't object to a few alterations. It's too long, — ■ but 
omitting the passages I've marked will make it just 
the right length," he said, in a business-like tone. 

Jo hardly knew her own MS. again, so crumpled 
and underscored were its pages and paragraphs ; but, 
feeling as a tender parent might on being asked to cut 
off her baby's legs in order that it might fit into a new 
cradle, she looked at the marked passages, and was 
surprised to find that all the moral reflections, — 
which she had carefully put in as ballast for much 
romance, — had all been stricken out. 

" But, sir, I thought every story should have some 
sort of a moral, so I took care to have a few of my 
sinners repent." 

Mr. Dashwood's editorial gravity relaxed into a 
smile, for Jo had forgotten her " friend," and spoken 
as only an author could. 

" People want to be amused, not preached at, you 
know. Morals don't sell nowadays ; " which was not 
quite a correct statement, by the way. 

H You think it would do with these alterations, 
then?" 

" Yes ; it's a new plot, and pretty well worked up 



160 LITTLE WOMEN. 

— language good, and so on," was Mr. Dashwood's 
affable reply. 

"What do you — that is, what compensation — " 
began Jo, not exactly knowing how to express herself. 

" Oh, yes, — well, we give from twenty-five to 
thirty for things of this sort. Pay when it comes out," 
returned Mr. Dashwood, as if that point had escaped 
him ; such trifles often do escape the editorial mind, 
it is said. 

"Very well; you can have it," said Jo, handing 
back the story, with a satisfied air ; for, after the dollar- 
a-column work, even twenty-five seemed good pay. 

" Shall I tell my friend you will take another if she 
has one better than this ? " asked Jo, unconscious of 
her little slip of the tongue, and emboldened by her 
success. 

" Well, we'll look at it ; can't promise to take it ; 
tell her to make it short and spicy, and never mind 
the moral. What name would your friend like to put 
to it?" in a careless tone. 

" None at all, if you please ; she doesn't wish her 
name to appear, and has no nom de j)lume" said Jo, 
blushing in spite of herself. 

"Just as she likes, of course. The tale will be out 
next week ; will you call for the money, or shall I send 
it?" asked Mr. Dashwood, who felt a natural desire 
to know who his new contributor might be. 

" I'll call ; good morning, sir." 

As she departed, Mr. Dashwood put up his feet, 
with the graceful remark, "Poor and proud, as usual, 
but she'll do." 

Following Mr. Dashwood's directions, and making 
Mrs. Northbury her model, Jo rashly took a plunge 



A FRIEND. 161 

into the frothy sea of sensational literature ; but, 
thanks to the life-preserver thrown her by a friend, she 
came up again, not much the worse for her ducking. 

Like most young scribblers, she went abroad for her 
characters and scenery, and banditti, counts, gypsies, 
nuns, and duchesses appeared upon her stage, and 
played their parts with as much accuracy and spirit 
as could be expected. Her readers were not par- 
ticular about such trifles as grammar, punctuation, 
and probability, and Mr. Dashwood graciously per- 
mitted her to fill his columns at the lowest prices, not 
thinking it necessary to tell her that the real cause of 
his hospitality was the fact that one of his hacks, on 
being offered higher wages, had basely left him in the 
lurch. 

She soon became interested in her work, — for her 
emaciated purse grew stout, and the little hoard she 
was making to take Beth to the mountains next sum- 
mer, grew slowly but surely, as the weeks passed. 
One thing disturbed her satisfaction, and that was 
that she did not tell them at home. She had a feeling 
that father and mother would not approve, — and 
preferred to have her own way first, and beg pardon 
afterward. It was easy to keep her secret, for no 
name appeared with her stories ; Mr. Dashwood had, 
of course, found it out very soon, but promised to be 
dumb ; and, for a wonder, kept his word. 

She thought it would do her no harm, for she sin- 
cerely meant to write nothing of which she should 
be ashamed, and quieted all pricks of conscience by 
anticipations of the happy minute when she should 
show her earnings and laugh over her well-kept 
secret. 

ii 



1 62 LITTLE WOMEN. 

But Mr. Dashwood rejected any but thrilling tales ; 
and, as thrills could not be produced except by har- 
rowing up the souls of the readers, history and ro- 
mance, land and sea, science and art, police records 
and lunatic asylums, had to be ransacked for the 
purpose. Jo soon found that her innocent experience 
had given her but few glimpses of the tragic world 
which underlies society ; so, regarding it in a business 
light, she set about supplying her deficiencies with 
characteristic energy. Eager to find material for 
stories, and bent on making them original in plot, if 
not masterly in execution, she searched newspapers 
for accidents, incidents, and crimes ; she excited the 
suspicions of public librarians by asking for works on 
poisons ; she studied faces in the street, — and char- 
acters good, bad, and indifferent, all about her ; she 
delved in the dust of ancient times, for facts or fictions 
so old that they were as good as new, and introduced 
herself to folly, sin, and misery, as well as her limited 
opportunities allowed. She thought she was pros- 
pering finely ; but, unconsciously, she was beginning 
to desecrate some of the womanliest attributes of a 
woman's character. She was living in bad society ; 
and, imaginary though it was, its influence affected 
her, for she was feeding heart and fancy on dangerous 
and unsubstantial food, and was fast brushing the 
innocent bloom from her nature by a premature ac- 
quaintance with the darker side of life, which comes 
soon enough to all of us. 

She was beginning to feel rather than see this, for 
much describing of other people's passions and feel- 
ings set her to studying and speculating about her 
own, — a morbid amusement, in which healthy young 



A FRIEND. 



163 



minds do not voluntarily indulge. Wrong-doing 
always, brings its own punishment ; and, when Jo 
most needed hers, she got it. 

I don't know whether the study of Shakespeare 
helped her to read character, or the natural instinct 
of a woman for what was honest, brave and strong ; 
but while endowing her imaginary heroes with every 
perfection under the sun, Jo was discovering a live 
hero, who interested her in spite of many human 
imperfections. Mr. Bhaer, in one of their conversa- 
tions, had advised her to study simple, true, and 
lovely characters, wherever she found them, as good 
training for a writer; Jo took him at his word, — for 
she cooHy turned round and studied him, — a pro- 
ceeding which would have much surprised him, had 
he known it, — for the worthy Professor was very 
humble in his own conceit. 

Why everybody liked him was what puzzled Jo, 
at first. He was neither rich nor great, young nor 
handsome, — in no respect what is called fascinating, 
imposing, or brilliant ; and yet he was as attractive as 
a genial fire, and people seemed to gather about him 
as naturally as about a warm hearth. He was poor, 
yet always appeared to be giving something away, — 
a stranger, yet every one was his friend ; no longer 
young, — but as happy-hearted as a boy ; plain and 
odd, — yet his face looked beautiful to many, and his 
oddities were freely forgiven for his sake. Jo often 
watched him, trying to discover the charm, and, at 
last, decided that it was benevolence which worked 
the miracle. If he had any sorrow " it sat with its 
head under its wing," and he turned only his sunny 
side to the world. There were lines upon his fore- 



164 LITTLE WOMEN. 

head, but Time seemed to have touched him gently, 
remembering how kind he was to others. The 
pleasant curves about his mouth were the memorials 
of many friendly words and cheery laughs ; his eyes 
were never cold or hard, and his big hand had a 
warm, strong grasp that was more expressive than 
words. 

His very clothes seemed to partake of the hospitable 
nature of the wearer. They looked as if they were at 
ease, and liked to make him comfortable ; his ca- 
pacious waistcoat was suggestive of a large heart 
underneath ; his rusty coat had a social air, and the 
baggy pockets plainly proved that little hands often 
went in empty and came out full ; his very boots were 
benevolent, and his collars never stiff and raspy like 
other people's. 

" That's it ! " said Jo to herself, when she at length 
discovered that genuine good-will toward one's fellow- 
men could beautify and dignify even a stout German 
teacher, who shovelled in his dinner, darned his own 
socks, and was burdened with the name of Bhaer. 

Jo valued goodness highly, but she also possessed 
a most feminine respect for intellect, and a little 
discovery which she made about the Professor added 
much to her regard for him. He never spoke of 
himself, and no one ever knew that in his native city 
he had been a man much honored and esteemed for 
learning and integrity, till a countryman came to see 
him, and, in a conversation with Miss Norton, divulged 
the pleasing fact. From her Jo learned it, — and liked 
it all the better because Mr. Bhaer had never told it. 
She felt proud to know that he was an honored Pro- 
fessor in Berlin, though only a poor language-master 



A FRIEND. 165 

in America, and his homely, hard-working life, was 
much beautified by the spice of romance which this 
discovery gave it. 

Another and a better gift than intellect was shown 
her in a most unexpected manner. Miss Norton had 
the entree into literary society, which Jo would have 
had no chance of seeing but for her. The solitary 
woman felt an interest in the ambitious girl, and 
kindly conferred many favors of this sort both on Jo 
and the Professor. She took them with her, one 
night, to a select symposium, held in honor of several 
celebrities. 

Jo went prepared to bow down and adore the 
mighty ones whom she had worshipped with youthful 
enthusiasm afar off. But her reverence for genius 
received a severe shock that night, and it took 
her some time to recover from the discovery that the 
great creatures were only men and women, after all. 
Imagine her dismay, on stealing a glance of timid 
admiration at the poet whose lines suggested an 
ethereal being fed on " spirit, fire, and dew,'* to behold 
him devouring his supper with an ardor which flushed 
his intellectual countenance. Turning as from a fallen 
idol, she made other discoveries which rapidly dis- 
pelled her romantic illusions. The great novelist 
vibrated between two decanters with the regularity 
of a pendulum ; the famous divine flirted openly with 
one of the Madame de Staels of the age, who looked 
daggers at another Corinne, who was amiably satir- 
izing her, after out-manoeuvreing her in efforts to 
absorb the profound philosopher, who imbibed tea 
Johnsonianly and appeared to slumber, — the loquacity 
of the lady rendering speech impossible. The scientific 



1 66 LITTLE WOMEN. 

celebrities, forgetting their mollusks and Glacial 
Periods, gossipped about art, while devoting them- 
selves to oysters and ices with characteristic energy ; 
the young musician, who was charming the city like a 
second Orpheus, talked horses ; and the specimen of 
the British nobility present happened to be the most 
ordinary man of the party. 

Before the evening was half over, Jo felt so com- 
pletely desillusionnee , that she sat down in a corner, 
to recover herself. Mr. Bhaer soon joined her, look- 
ing rather out of his element, and presently several of 
the philosophers, each mounted on his fyobby, came 
ambling up to hold an intellectual tournament in the 
recess. The conversation was miles beyond Jo's com- 
prehension, but she enjoyed it, though Kant and Hegel 
were unknown gods, the Subjective and Objective 
unintelligible terms; and the only thing "evolved 
from her inner consciousness," was a bad headache 
after it was all over. It dawned upon her gradually, 
that the world was being picked to pieces, and put 
together on new, and, according to the talkers, on 
infinitely better principles than before ; that religion 
was in a fair way to be reasoned into nothingness, 
and intellect was to be the only God. Jo knew noth- 
ing about philosophy or metaphysics of any sort, but a 
curious excitement, half pleasurable, half painful, came 
over her, as she listened with a sense of being turned 
adrift into time and space, like a young balloon out 
on a holiday. 

She looked round to see how the Professor liked it, 
and found him looking at her with the grimmest ex- 
pression she had ever seen him wear. He shook his 
head, and beckoned her to come away, but she was 



A FRIEND. 167 

fascinated, just then, by the freedom of Speculative 
Philosophy, and kept her seat, trying to find out what 
the wise gentlemen intended to rely upon after they 
annihilated all the old beliefs. 

Now Mr. Bhaer was a diffident man, and slow to 
offer his own opinions, not because they were unset- 
tled, but too sincere and earnest to be lightly spoken. 
As he glanced from Jo to several other young people 
attracted by the brilliancy of the philosophic pyro- 
technics, he knit his brows, and longed to speak, 
fearing that some inflammable young soul would be 
led astray by the rockets, to find, when the display 
was over, that they had only an empty stick, or a 
scorched hand. 

He bore it as long as he could ; but when he was 
appealed to for an opinion, he blazed up with honest 
indignation, and defended religion with all the elo- 
quence of truth — an eloquence which made his 
broken English musical, and his plain face beautiful. 
He had a hard fight, for the wise men argued well ; 
but he didn't know when he was beaten, and stood to 
his colors like a man. Somehow, as he talked, the 
world got right again to Jo ; the old beliefs that had 
lasted so long, seemed better than the new. God was 
not a blind force, and immortality was not a pretty 
fable, but a blessed fact. She felt as if she had solid 
ground under her feet again ; and when Mr. Bhaer 
paused, out-talked, but not one whit convinced, Jo 
wanted to clap her hands and thank him. 

She did neither ; but she remembered this scene, 
and gave the Professor her heartiest respect, for she 
knew it cost him an effort to speak out then and there, 
because his conscience would not let him be silent. 



1 68 LITTLE WOMEN. 

She began to see that character is a better possession 
than money, rank, intellect, or beauty ; and to feel 
that if greatness is what a wise man has defined it to 
be, — "truth, reverence, and good-will," — then her 
friend Friedrich Bhaer was not only good, but great. 

This belief strengthened daily. She valued his 
esteem, she coveted his respect, she wanted to be 
worthy of his friendship ; and, just when the wish 
was sincerest, she came near losing everything. It 
all grew out of a cocked-hat ; for one evening the 
Professor came in to give Jo her lesson, with a paper 
soldier-cap on his head, which Tina had put there, 
and he had forgotten to take off. 

" It's evident he doesn't prink at his glass before 
coming down," thought Jo, with a smile, as he said 
" Goot efening," and sat soberly down, quite uncon- 
scious of the ludicrous contrast between his subject 
and his head-gear, for he was going to read her the 
" Death of Wallenstein." 

She said nothing at first, for she liked to hear him 
laugh out his big, hearty laugh, when anything funny 
happened, so she left him to discover it for himself, 
and presently forgot all about it ; for to hear a Ger- 
man read Schiller is rather an absorbing occupation. 
After the reading came the lesson, which was a lively 
one, for Jo was in a gay mood that night, and the 
cocked-hat kept her eyes dancing with merriment. 
The Professor didn't know what to make of her, and 
stopped, at last, to ask with an air of mild surprise 
that was irresistible, — 

" Mees Marsch, for what do you laugh in your 
master's face ? Haf you no respect for me, that you 
go on so bad ? " 



A FRIEND. 169 

How can I be respectful, sir, when you forget to 
take your hat oft' ? " said Jo. 

Lifting his hand to his head, the absent-minded 
Professor gravely felt and removed the little cocked- 
hat, looked at it a minute, and then threw back his 
head, and laughed like a merry bass-viol. 

" Ah ! I see him now ; it is that imp Tina who 
makes me a fool with my cap. Well, it is nothing ; 
but see you, if this lesson goes not well, you too shall 
wear him." 

But the lesson did not go at all, for a few minutes, 
because Mr. Bhaer caught sight of a picture on the 
hat ; and, unfolding it, said with an air of great dis- 
gust,— 

" I wish these papers did not come in the house ; 
they are not for children to see, nor young people to 
read v . It is not well ; and I haf no patience with 
those who make this harm." 

Jo glanced at the sheet, and saw a pleasing illus- 
tration composed of a lunatic, a corpse, a villain, and a 
viper. She did not like it ; but the impulse that made 
her turn it over was not one of displeasure, but fear, be- 
cause, for a minute, she fancied the paper was the 
11 Volcano." It was not, however, and her panic sub- 
sided as she remembered that, even if it had been, 
and one of her own tales in it, there would have been 
no name to betray her. She had betrayed herself, 
however, by a look and a blush ; for, though an 
absent man, the Professor saw a good deal more than 
people fancied. He knew that Jo wrote, and had 
met her down among the newspaper offices more 
than once ; but as she never spoke of it, he asked no 
questions, in spite of a strong desire to see her work. 



170 LITTLE WOMEN. 

Now it occurred to him that she was doing what she 
was ashamed to own, and it troubled him. He did 
not say to himself, "It is none of my business ; Fve 
no right to say anything," as many people would have 
done ; he only remembered that she was young and 
poor, a girl far away from mother's love and father's 
care ; and he was moved to help her with an impulse 
as quick and natural as that which would prompt him 
to put out his hand to save a baby from a puddle. 
All this flashed through his mind in a minute, but 
not a trace of it appeared in his face ; and by the 
time the paper was turned, and Jo's needle threaded, he 
was ready to say quite naturally, but very gravely, — 

" Yes, you are right to put it from you. I do not 
like to think that good young girls should see such 
things. They are made pleasant to some, but I would 
more rather give my boys gunpowder to play with 
than this bad trash." 

" All may not be bad — only silly, you know; and 
if there is a demand for it, I don't see any harm in 
supplying it. Many very respectable people make an 
honest living out of what are called sensation stories," 
said Jo, scratching gathers so energetically that a row 
of little slits followed her pin. 

" There is a demand for whiskey, but I think you 
and I do not care to sell it. If the respectable people 
knew what harm they did, they would not feel that 
the living was honest. They haf no right to put 
poison in the sugar-plum, and let the small ones eat 
it. No ; they should think a little, and sweep mud in 
the street before they do this thing ! " 

Mr. Bhaer spoke warmly, and walked to the fire, 
crumpling the paper in his hands. Jo sat still, look- 



A FRIEND. jhj 

ing as if the fire had come to her ; for her cheeks 
burned long after the cocked-hat had turned to smoke, 
and gone harmlessly up the chimney. 

" I should like much to send all the rest after him," 
muttered the Professor, coming back with a relieved 
air. 

Jo thought what a blaze her pile of papers, up- 
stairs, would make, and her hard-earned money laid 
rather heavilyon her conscience at that minute. Then 
she thought consolingly to herself, " Mine are not like 
that ; they are only silly, never bad ; so I won't be 
worried ; " and, taking up her book, she said, with a 
studious face, — 

" Shall we go on, sir? I'll be very good and proper 
now." 

" I shall hope so," was all he said, but he meant 
more than she imagined ; and the grave, kind look he 
gave her, made her feel as if the words "Weekly 
Volcano" were printed in large type, on her fore- 
head. 

As soon as she went to her room, she got out her 
papers, and carefully re-read every one of her stories. 
Being a little short-sighted, Mr. Bhaer sometimes used 
eye-glasses, and Jo had tried them once, smiling to 
see how they magnified the fine print of her book ; 
now she seemed to have got on the Professor's mental 
or moral spectacles also, for the faults of these poor 
stories glared at her dreadfully, and filled her with 
dismay. 

"They are trash, and will soon be worse than 
trash if I go on ; for each is more sensational than 
the last. I've gone blindly on, hurting myself and 
other people, for the sake of money ; — I know it's so — 



172 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



for I can't read this stuff in sober earnest without 
being horribly ashamed of it ; and what should I do 
if they were seen at home, or Mr. Bhaer got hold of 
them?" 

Jo turned hot at the bare idea, and stuffed the whole 
bundle into her stove, nearly setting the chimney afire 
with the blaze. 

" Yes, that's the best place for such inflammable 
nonsense ; I'd better burn the house down, I suppose, 
than let other people blow themselves up with my 
gunpowder," she thought, as she watched the " De- 
mon of the Jura " whisk away, a little black cinder 
with fiery eyes. 

But when nothing remained of all her three months' 
work, except a heap of ashes, and the money in her 
lap, Jo looked sober, as she sat on the floor, wonder- 
ing what she ought to do about her wages. 

" I think I haven't done much harm yet, and may 
keep this to pay for my time," she said, after a long 
meditation, adding, impatiently, " I almost wish I 
hadn't any conscience, it's so inconvenient. If I didn't 
care about doing right, and didn't feel uncomfortable 
when doing wrong, I should get on capitally. I can't 
help wishing, sometimes, that father and mother hadn't 
been so dreadfully particular about such things." 

Ah, Jo, instead of wishing that, thank God that 
" father and mother were particular," and pity from 
your heart those who have no such guardians to hedge 
them round with principles which may seem like 
prison walls to impatient youth, but which will prove 
sure foundations to build character upon in woman- 
hood. 

Jo wrote no more sensational stories, deciding that 



A FRIEND. !^ 3 

the money did not pay for her share of the sensation ; 
but, going to the other extreme, as is the way with 
people of her stamp, she took a course of Mrs. Sher- 
wood, Miss Edgeworth, and Hannah More ; and then 
produced a tale which might have been more prop- 
erly called an essay or a sermon, so intensely moral 
was it. She had her doubts about it from the begin- 
ning ; for her lively fancy and girlish romance felt as 
ill at ease in the new style as she would have done 
masquerading in the stiff and cumbrous costume of 
the last century. She sent this didactic gem to several 
-markets, but it found no purchaser ; and she was in- 
clined to agree with Mr. Dashwood, that morals 
didn't sell. 

Then she tried a child's story, which she could 
easily have disposed of if she had not been mercenary 
enough to demand filthy lucre for it. The only per- 
son who offered enough to make it worth her while 
to try juvenile literature, was a worthy gentleman 
who felt it his mission to convert all the world to his 
particular belief. But much as she liked to write for 
children, Jo could not consent to depict all her naughty 
boys as being eaten by bears, or tossed by mad bulls, 
because they did not go to a particular Sabbath-school, 
nor all the good infants who did go, of course, as re- 
warded by every kind of bliss, from gilded ginger- 
bread to escorts of angels, when they departed this 
life, with psalms or sermons on their lisping tongues. 
So nothing came of these trials ; and Jo corked up 
her inkstand, and said, in a fit of very wholesome 
humility, — 

" I don't know anything ; I'll wait till I do before I 
try again, and, meantime, ' sweep mud in the street,' 



1 74 LITTLE WOMEN. 

if I can't do better — that's honest, any way ; " which 
decision proved that her second tumble down the 
bean-stalk had done her some good. 

While these internal revolutions were going on, her 
external life had been as busy and uneventful as usual ; 
and if she sometimes looked serious, or a little sad, 
no one observed it but Professor Bhaer. He did it so 
quietly, that Jo never knew he was watching to see 
if she would accept and profit by his reproof; but she 
stood the test, and he was satisfied ; for, though no 
words passed between them, he knew that she had 
given up writing. Not only did he guess it by the 
fact that the second finger of her right hand was no 
longer inky, but she spent her evenings down stairs, 
now, was met no more among newspaper offices, and 
studied with a dogged patience, which assured him 
that she was bent on occupying her mind with some- 
thing useful, if not pleasant. 

He helped her in many ways, proving himself a 
true friend, and Jo was happy ; for while her pen lay 
idle, she was learning other lessons beside German, 
and laying a foundation for the sensation story of her 
own life. 

It was a pleasant winter and a long one, for she did 
not leave Mrs. Kirke till June. , Every one seemed 
sorry when the time came ; the children were incon- 
solable, and Mr. Bhaer's hair stuck straight up all 
over his head — for he always rumpled it wildly when 
disturbed in mind. 

"Going home! Ah, you are happy that you haf a 
home to go in," he said, when she told him, and sat 
silently pulling his beard, in the corner, while she 
held a little levee on that last evening. 



A FRIEND. 



'75 



She was going early, so she bade them all good- 
by over night; and when his turn came, she said, 
warmly, — 

u Now, sir, you won't forget to come and see us, if 
you ever travel our way, will you ? I'll never forgive 
you, if you do, for I want them all to know my 
friend." 

"Do you? Shall I come?" he asked, looking 
down at her with an eager expression, which she did 
not see. 

" Yes, come next month ; Laurie graduates then, 
and you'd enjoy Commencement as something new." 

"That is your best friend, of whom you speak?" 
he said, in an altered tone. 

" Yes, my boy Teddy ; I'm very proud of him, and 
should like you to see him." 

Jo looked up, then, quite unconscious of anything 
but her own pleasure, in the prospect of showing 
them to one another. Something in Mr. Bhaer's face 
suddenly recalled the fact that she might find Laurie 
more than a best friend, and simply because she par- 
ticularly wished not to look as if anything was the 
matter, she involuntarily began to blush ; and the 
more she tried not to, the redder she grew. If it had 
not been for Tina on her knee, she didn't know what 
would have become of her. Fortunately, the child 
was moved to hug her ; so she managed to hide her 
face an instant, hoping the Professor did not see it. 
But he did, and his own changed again from that 
momentary anxiety to its usual expression, as he said, 
cordially, — 

" I fear I shall not make the time for that, but I 
wish the friend much success, and you all happiness ; 



/ 



7 6 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



Gott bless you ! " and with that, he shook hands 
warmly, shouldered Tina, and went away. 

But after the boys were abed, he sat long before his 
fire, with the tired look on his face, and the " heim- 
weh" or homesickness lying heavy at his heart. Once 
when he remembered Jo, as she sat with the little 
child in her lap, and that new softness in her face, he 
leaned his head on his hands a minute, and then 
roamed about the room, as if in search of something 
that he could not find. 

" It is not for me ; I must not hope it now," he said 
to himself, with a sigh that was almost a groan ; then, 
as if reproaching himself for the longing that he 
could not repress, he went and kissed the two towzled 
heads upon the pillow, took down his seldom-used 
meerschaum, and opened his Plato. 

He did his best, and did it manfully ; but I don't 
think he found that a pair of rampant boys, a pipe, or 
even the divine Plato, were very satisfactory substi- 
tutes for wife and child, and home. 

Early as it was, he was at the station, next morn- 
ing, to see Jo off; and, thanks to him, she began her 
solitary journey with the pleasant memory of a fa- 
miliar face smiling its farewell, a bunch of violets 
to keep her company, and, best of all, the happy 
thought, — 

"Well, the winter's gone, and I've written no 
books — earned no fortune ; but I've made a friend 
worth having, and I'll try to keep him all my life." 



/ 



* 



f 



1 



CHAPTER XII. 



HEARTACHE. 



WHATEVER his motive might have been, 
Laurie " dug" to some purpose that year, for 
he graduated with honor, and gave the Latin 
Oration with the grace of a Phillips, and the eloquence 
of a Demosthenes, — so his friends said. They were 
all there — his grandfather, oh, so proud! Mr. and 
Mrs. March, John and Meg, Jo and Beth, and all 
exulted over him with the sincere admiration which 
boys make light of at the time, but fail to win from 
the world by any after-triumphs. 

" I've got to stay for this confounded supper, — but 
I shall be home early to-morrow ; you'll come and 
meet me as usual, girls ? " Laurie said, as he put the 
sisters into the carriage after the joys of the day were 
over. He said "girls," but he meant Jo, — for she 
was the only only one who kept up the old custom ; 
she had not the heart to refuse her splendid, successful 
boy anything, and answered, warmly, — 

" I'll come, Teddy, rain or shine, and march before 
you, playing ' Hail the conquering hero comes," on a 
jews-harp." 

Laurie thanked her with a look that made her think, 
in a sudden panic, " Oh, deary me ! I know he'll say 
something, and then what shall I do ? " 

Evening meditation and morning work somewhat 
allayed her fears, and, having decided tha|she wouldn't 
be vain enough to think people were going to propose 

12 (177) 



1^8 LITTLE WOMEN. 

when she had given them every reason to know what 
her answer would be, she set forth at the appointed 
time, hoping Teddy wouldn't go and make her hurt 
his poor little feelings. A call at Meg's, and a 
refreshing sniff and sip at the Daisy and Demijohn, 
still further fortified her for the tete~a-t&te, but when 
she saw a stalwart figure looming in the distance, she 
had a strong desire to turn about and run away. 

" Where's the jews-harp, Jo ? " cried Laurie, as soon 
as he was within speaking distance. 

"I forgot it"; and Jo took heart again, for that 
salutation could not be called lover-like. 

She always used to take his arm on these occasions ; 
now she did not, and he made no complaint, — which 
was a bad sign, — but talked on rapidly about all sorts 
of far-away subjects, till they turned from the road 
into the little path that led homeward through the 
grove. Then he walked more slowly, suddenly lost 
his fine flow of language, and, now and then, a 
dreadful pause occurred. To rescue the conversation 
from one of the wells of silence into which it kept 
falling, Jo said, hastily, — 

" Now you must have a good, long holiday ! " 

" I intend to." 

Something in his resolute tone made Jo look up 
quickly, to find him looking down at her with an 
expression that assured her the dreaded moment had 
come, and made her put out her hand with an im- 
ploring,— 

" No, Teddy, —please don't ! " 

" I will ; and you must hear me. It's no use, Jo ; 
we've got to have it out, and the sooner the better for 



HEARTACHE. 179 

both of us," he answered, getting flushed and excited 
all at once. 

" Say what you like, then ; I'll listen," said Jo, with 
a desperate sort of patience. 

Laurie was a young lover, but he was in earnest, 
and meant to " have it out," if he died in the attempt ; 
so he plunged into the subject with characteristic 
impetuosity, saying, in a voice that would get choky 
now and then, in spite of manful efforts to keep it 
steady, — 

" I've loved you ever since I've known you, Jo, — 
couldn't help it, you've been so good to me, — I've 
tried to show it, but you wouldn't let me ; now I'm 
going to make you hear, and give me an answer, for 
I can't go on so any longer." 

" I wanted to save you this ; I thought you'd under- 
stand — " began Jo, finding it a great deal harder than 
she expected. 

" I know you did ; but girls are so queer you never 
know what they mean. They say No, when they 
mean Yes ; and drive a man out of his wits just for 
the fun of it," returned Laurie, entrenching himself 
behind an undeniable fact. 

" / don't. I never wanted to make you care for 
me so, and I went away to keep you from it if I could." 

" I thought so ; it was like you, but it was no use. 
I only loved you all the more, and I worked hard to 
please you, and I gave up billiards and everything you 
didn't like, and waited and never complained, for I 
hoped you'd love me, though I'm not half good 
enough — " here there was a choke that couldn't be 
controlled, so he decapitated butter-cups while he 
cleared his " confounded throat." 



180 LITTLE WOMEN. 

" Yes, you are ; you're a great deal too good for 
me, and I'm so grateful to you, and so proud and fond 
of you, I don't see why I can't love you as you want 
me to. I've tried, but I can't change the feeling, and 
it would be a lie to say I do when I don't." 

"Really, truly, Jo?" 

He stopped short, and caught both her hands as he 
put his question with a look that she did not soon 
forget. 

" Really, truly, dear ! " 

They were in the grove now, — close by the stile ; 
and when the last words fell reluctantly from Jo's lips, 
Laurie dropped her hands and turned as if to go on, 
but for once in his life that fence was too much for 
him ; so he just laid his head down on the mossy post, 
and stood so still that Jo was frightened. 

" Oh, Teddy, I'm so sorry, so desperately sorry, I 
could kill myself if it would do any good ! I wish 
you wouldn't take it so hard ; I can't help it ; you 
know it's impossible for people to make themselves 
love other people if they don't," cried Jo, inelegantly 
but remorsefully, as she softly patted his shoulder, 
remembering the time when he had comforted her so 
long ago. 

" They do sometimes," said a muffled voice from 
the post. 

" I don't believe it's the right sort of love, and I'd 
rather not try it," was the decided answer. 

There was a long pause, while a blackbird sung 
blithely on the willow by the river, and the tall grass 
rustled in the wind. Presently Jo said, very soberly, 
as she sat down on the step of the stile, — 

" Laurie, I want to tell you something." 



HEARTACHE. 181 

He started as if he had been shot, threw up his 
head, and cried out, in a fierce tone, — 

" DonH tell me that, Jo ; I can't bear it now ! " 

" Tell what? " she asked, wondering at his violence. 

" That you love that old man." \ 

" What old man?" demanded Jo, thinking he must 
mean his grandfather. 

" That devilish Professor you were always writing 
about. If you say you love him I know I shall do . 
something desperate " — and he looked as if he would 
keep his word, as he clenched his hands with a 
wrathful spark in his eyes. 

Jo wanted to laugh, but restrained herself, and said, 
warmly, for she, too, was getting excited with all 
this, — 

" Don't swear, Teddy ! He isn't old, nor anything 
bad, but good and kind, and the best friend I've got — 
next to you. Pray don't fly into a passion ; I want to 
be kind, but I know I shall get angry if you abuse my 
Professor. I haven't the least idea of loving him, or 
anybody else." 

" But you will after a while, and then what will 
become of me ? " 

"You'll love some one else, too, like a sensible boy, 
and forget all this trouble." 

" I can't love any one else ; and I'll never forget 
you, Jo, never! never! " with a stamp to emphasize 
his passionate words. 

"What shall I do with him?" sighed Jo, finding 
that emotions were more unmanageable than she 
expected. "You haven't heard what I wanted to tell 
you. Sit down and listen ; for indeed I want to do 
right, and make you happy," she said, hoping to 



182 LITTLE WOMEN. 

soothe him with a little reason, — which proved that 
she % knew nothing about love. 

Seeing a ray of hope in that last speech, Laurie 
threw himself down on the grass at her feet, leaned 
his arm on the lower step of the stile, and looked up at 
her with an expectant face. Now that arrangement 
was not conducive to calm speech or clear thought on 
Jo's part ; for how could she say hard things to her 
boy while he watched her with eyes full of love and 
longing, and lashes still wet with the bitter drop or 
two her hardness of heart had wrung from him ? She 
gently turned his head away, saying, as she stroked 
the wavy hair which had been allowed to grow for 
her sake, — how touching that was to be sure ! — 

" I agree with mother, that you and I are not suited 
to each other, because our quick tempers and strong 
wills would probably make us very miserable, if we 
were so foolish as to — " Jo paused a little over the 
last word, but Laurie uttered it with a rapturous ex- 
pression, — 

"Marry, — no we shouldn't! If you loved me, Jo, 
I should be a perfect saint, — for you can make me 
anything you like ! " 

" No I can't. I've tried it and failed, and I won't 
risk our happiness by such a serious experiment. We 
don't agree, and we never shall ; so we'll be good friends 
all our lives, but we won't go and do anything rash." 

"Yes, we will if we get the chance," muttered 
Laurie, rebelliously. 

" Now do be reasonable, and take a sensible view 
of the case," implored Jo, almost at her wit's end. 

" I won't be reasonable ; I don't want to take what 
you call 4 a sensible view ' ; it won't help me, and it 



HEARTACHE. 183 

only makes you harder. I don't believe you've got 
any heart." 

"I wish I hadn't!" 

There was a little quiver in Jo's voice, and, thinking 
it a good omen, Laurie turned round, bringing all 
his persuasive powers to bear as he said, in the 
wheedlesome tone that had never been so danger- 
ously wheedlesome before, — 

" Don't disappoint us, dear ! every one expects it. 
Grandpa has set his heart upon it, — your people like 
it, — and I -can't get on without you. Say you will, 
and let's be happy ! do, do ! " 

Not until months afterward did Jo understand how 
she had the strength of mind to hold fast to the resolu- 
tion she had made when she decided that slie did not 
love her boy, and never could. It was very hard to 
do, but she did it, knowing that delay was both useless 
and cruel. 

U I can't say 'Yes ' truly, so I won't say it at all. 
You'll see that I'm right, by and by, and thank me for 
it" — she began, solemnly. 

" I'll be hanged if I do ! " and Laurie bounced up off 
the grass, burning with indignation at the bare idea. 

u Yes you will ! " persisted Jo ; " you'll get over this 
after a while, and find some lovely, accomplished girl, 
who will adore you, and make a fine mistress for your 
fine house. I shouldn't. I'm homely, and awkward, 
and odd, and old, and you'd be ashamed of me, and we 
should quarrel, — we can't help it even now, you see, 
— and I shouldn't like elegant society and you would, 
and you'd hate my scribbling, and I couldn't get on 
without it, and we should be unhappy, and wish we 
hadn't done it, — and everything would be horrid I " 



1 84 LITTLE WOMEN. 

"Anything more? " asked Laurie, finding it hard to 
listen patiently to this prophetic burst. 

" Nothing more, — except that I don't believe I shall 
ever marry ; I'm happy as I am, and love my liberty 
too well to be in any hurry to give it up for any 
mortal man," 

" I know better ! " broke in Laurie, " you think so 
now ; but there'll come a time when you will care for 
somebody, and you'll love him tremendously, and live 
and die for him. I know you will, — it's your way, — 
and I shall have to stand by and see it " — and the 
despairing lover cast his hat upon the ground with a 
gesture that would have seemed comical, if his face 
had not been so tragical. 

" Yes, I will live and die for him, if he ever comes 
and makes me love him in spite of myself, and you 
must do the best you can," cried Jo, losing patience 
with poor Teddy. " I've done my best, but you won't 
be reasonable, and it's selfish of you to keep teasing for 
what I can't give. I shall always be fond of you, — 
very fond indeed, as a friend, — but I'll never marry 
you ; and the sooner you believe it the better for both 
of us, — so now." 

That speech was like fire to gunpowder. Laurie 
looked at her a minute, as if he did not quite know 
what to do with himself, then turned sharply away, 
saying, in a desperate sort of tone, — 

"You'll be sorry some day, Jo." 

" Oh, where are you going?" she cried, for his face 
frightened her. 

" To the devil ! " was the consoling answer. 

For a minute Jo's heart stood still, as he swung 
himself down the bank, toward the river ; but it takes 



HEARTACHE. 185 

much folly, sin, or misery to send a young man to a 
violent death, and Laurie was not one of the weak 
sort, who are conquered by a single failure. He had 
no thought of a melodramatic plunge, but some blind 
instinct led him to fling hat and coat into his boat, 
and row away with all his might, making better time 
up the river than he had done in many a race. Jo 
drew a long breath, and unclasped her hands as she 
watched the poor fellow trying to outstrip the trouble 
which he carried in his heart. 

" That will do him good, and he'll come home in 
such a tender, penitent state of mind, that I shan't 
dare to see him," she said ; adding, as she went slowly 
home, feeling as if she had murdered some innocent 
thing, and buried it under the leaves, — 

" Now I must go and prepare Mr. Laurence to be 
very kind to my poor boy. I wish he'd love Beth ; 
perhaps he may, in time, but I begin to think I was 
mistaken about her. Oh dear ! how can girls like to 
have lovers, and refuse them. I think it's dreadful." 

Being sure that no one could do it so well as herself, 
she went straight to Mr. Laurence, told the hard story 
bravely through, and then broke down, crying so dis- 
mally over her own insensibility, that the kind old 
gentleman, though sorely disappointed, did not utter 
a reproach. He found it difficult to understand how 
any girl could help loving Laurie, and hoped she 
would change her mind, but he knew even better than 
Jo, that love cannot be forced, so he shook his head 
sadly, and resolved to carry his boy out of harm's 
way ; for Young Impetuosity's parting words to Jo 
disturbed him more than he would confess. 

When Laurie came home, dead tired, but quite 



1 86 LITTLE WOMEN. 

composed, his grandfather met him as if he knew 
nothing, and kept up the delusion very successfully, 
for an hour or two. But when they sat together in 
the twilight, the time they used to enjoy so much, it 
was hard work for the old man to ramble on as usual, 
and harder still for the young one to listen to praises 
of the last year's success, which to him now seemed 
love's labor lost. He bore it as long as he could, then 
went to his piano, and began to play. The windows 
were open ; and Jo, walking in the garden with Beth, 
for once understood music better than her sister, for 
he played the " Sonata Pathetique," and played it as 
he never did before. 

" That's very fine, I dare say, but it's sad enough to 
make one cry ; give us something gayer, lad," said Mr. 
Laurence, whose kind old heart was full of sympathy, 
which he longed to show, but knew not how. 

Laurie dashed into a livelier strain, played stormily 
for several minutes, and would have got through 
bravely, if, in a momentary lull, Mrs. March's voice 
had not been heard calling, — 

"Jo, dear, come in ; I want you." 

Just what Laurie longed to say, with a different 
meaning ! As he listened, he lost his place ; the 
music ended with a broken chord, and the musician 
sat silent in the dark. 

" I can't stand this," muttered the old gentleman — 
up he got, groped his way to the piano, laid a kind 
hand on either of the broad shoulders, and said, as 
gently as a woman, — 

" I know, my boy, I know." 

No answer for an instant ; then Laurie asked, 
sharply, — 



HEARTACHE. 187 

"Who told you?" 

"Jo herself." 

" Then there's an end of it ! " and he shook off his 
grandfather's hands with an impatient motion ; for, 
though grateful for the sympathy, his man's pride 
could not bear a man's pity. 

" Not quite ; I want to say one thing, and then 
there shall be an end of it," returned Mr. Laurence, 
with unusual mildness. " You won't care to stay at 
home, just now, perhaps? " 

kt I don't intend to run away from a girl. Jo can't 
prevent my seeing her, and I shall stay and do it as 
long as I like," interrupted Laurie, in a defiant tone. 

" Not if you are the gentleman I think you. I'm 
disappointed, but the girl can't help it ; and the only 
thing left for you to do, is to go away for a time. 
Where will you go ? " 

" Anywhere ; I don't care what becomes of me ; " 
and Laurie got up, with a reckless laugh, that grated 
on his grandfather's ear. 

" Take it like a man, and don't do anything rash, 
for God's sake. Why not go abroad, as you planned, 
and forget it?" * 

" I can't." 

" But you've been wild to go, and I promised you 
should, when you got through college." 

" Ah, but I didn't mean to go alone ! " and Laurie 
walked fast through the room, with an expression 
which it was well his grandfather did not see. 

" I don't ask you to go alone ; there's some one 
ready and glad to go with you, anywhere in the 
world." 

" Who, sir?" stopping to listen. 



188 LITTLE WOMEN. 

"Myself." 

Laurie came back as quickly as he went, and put 
out his hand, saying huskily, — 

"I'm a selfish brute; but — you know — grand- 
father—" 

"Lord help me, yes, I do know, for I've been 
through it all before, once in my own young days, and 
then with your father. Now, my dear boy, just sit 
quietly down, and hear my plan. It's all settled, and 
can be carried out at once," said Mr. Laurence, keep- 
ing hold of the young man, as if fearful that he would 
break away, as his father had done before him. 

" Well, sir, what is it? " and Laurie sat down with- 
out a sign of interest in face or voice. 

" There is business in London that needs looking 
after ; I meant you should attend to it ; but I can do 
it better myself, and things here will get on very well 
with Brooke to manage them. My partners. do al- 
most everything ; I'm merely holding on till you take 
my place, and can be off at any time." 

" But you hate travelling, sir ; I can't ask it of you 
at your age," began Laurie, who was grateful for the 
sacrifice, but much preferred to go alone, if he went 
at all. 

The old gentleman knew that perfectly well, and 
particularly desired to prevent it ; for the mood in 
which he found his grandson, assured him that it 
would not be wise to leave him to his own devices. 
So, stifling a natural regret at the thought of the 
home comforts he would leave behind him, he said, 
stoutly, — 

" Bless your soul, I'm not superannuated yet. I 
quite enjoy the idea ; it will do me good, and my old 



HEARTACHE. 189 

bones won't suffer, for travelling nowadays is almost 
as easy as sitting in a chair." 

A restless movement from Laurie suggested that 
his chair was not easy, or that he did not like the 
plan, and made the old man add, hastily, — 

M I don't mean to be a marplot or a burden ; I go 
because I think you'd feel happier than if I was left 
behind. I don't intend to gad about with you, but 
leave you free to go where you like, while I amuse 
myself in my own way. I've friends in London and 
Paris, and should like to visit them ; meantime, you 
can go to Italy, Germany, Switzerland, where you 
will, and enjoy pictures, music, scenery and adven- 
tures, to your heart's content." 

Now, Laurie felt just then that his heart was en- 
tirely broken, and the world a howling wilderness ; 
but, at the sound of certain words which the old gen- 
tleman artfully introduced into his closing sentence, 
the broken heart gave an unexpected leap, and a 
green oasis or two suddenly appeared in the howling 
wilderness. He sighed, and then said, in a spiritless 
tone, — 

"Just as you like, sir ; it doesn't matter where I go, 
or what I do." 

" It does to me — remember that, my lad ; I give you 
entire liberty, but I trust you to make an honest use 
of it. Promise me that, Laurie." 

" Anything you like, sir." 

" Good ! " thought the old gentleman ; " you don't 
care now, but there'll come a time when that promise 
will keep you out of mischief, or I'm much mis- 
taken." 

Being an energetic individual, Mr. Laurence struck 



190 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



while the iron was hot ; and before the blighted being 
recovered spirit enough to rebel, they were off. During 
the time necessary for preparation, Laurie bore him- 
self as young gentlemen usually do in such cases. 
He was moody, irritable, and pensive by turns ; lost 
his appetite, neglected his dress, and devoted much 
time to playing tempestuously on his piano ; avoided 
Jo, but consoled himself by staring at her from his 
window, with a tragical face that haunted her dreams 
by night, and oppressed her with a heavy sense of 
guilt by day. Unlike some sufferers, he never spoke 
of his unrequited passion, and would allow no one, 
not even Mrs. March, to attempt consolation, or offe'r 
sympathy. On some accounts, this was a relief to his 
friends ; but the weeks before his departure were very 
uncomfortable, and every one rejoiced that the "poor, 
dear fellow was going away to forget his trouble, and 
come home happy." Of course he smiled darkly at 
their delusion, but passed it by, with the sad superi- 
ority of one who knew that his fidelity, like his love, 
was unalterable. 

When the parting came he affected high spirits, to 
conceal certain inconvenient emotions which seemed 
inclined to assert themselves. This gayety did not 
impose upon anybody, but they tried to look as if it 
did, for his sake, and he got on very well till Mrs. 
March kissed him, with a whisper full of motherly 
solicitude ; then, feeling that he was going very fast, 
he hastily embraced them all round, not forgetting the 
afflicted Hannah, and ran down stairs as if for his 
life. Jo followed a minute after to wave her hand to 
him if he looked round. He did look round, came 
back, put his arms about her, as she stood on the step 



HEARTACHE. 



191 



above him, and looked up at her with a face that 
made his short appeal both eloquent and pathetic. 

"Oh, Jo, can't you?" 

M Teddy, dear, I wish I could ! " 

That was all, except a little pause ; then Laurie 
straightened himself up, said " It's all right, never 
mind," and went away without another word. Ah, 
but it wasn't all right, and Jo did mind ; for while 
the curly head laid on her arm a minute after her 
hard answer, she felt as if she had stabbed her dearest 
friend ; and when he left her, without a look behind 
him, she knew that the boy Laurie never would come 
again. 



CHAPTER XIII. 



BETHS SECRET 



WHEN Jo came home that spring, she had been 
struck with the change in Beth. No one 
spoke of it, or seemed aware of it, for it had 
come too gradually to startle those who saw her daily ; 
but to eyes sharpened by absence it was very plain, 
and a heavy weight fell on Jo's heart as she saw her 
sister's face. It was no paler, and but little thinner 
than in the autumn ; yet there was a strange, trans- 
parent look about it, as if the mortal was being slowly 
refined away, and the immortal shining through the 
frail flesh with an indescribably pathetic beauty. Jo 
saw and felt it, but said nothing at the time, and soon 
the first impression lost much of its power, for Beth 
seemed happy, — no one appeared to doubt that she 
was better ; and, presently, in other cares, Jo for a 
time forgot her fear. 

But when Laurie was gone, and peace prevailed 
again, the vague anxiety returned and haunted her. 
She had confessed her sins and been forgiven ; but 
when she showed her savings and proposed the moun- 
tain trip, Beth had thanked her heartily, but begged 
not to go so far away from home. Another little visit 
to the seashore would suit her better, and, as grandma 
could not be prevailed upon to leave the babies, Jo 
took Beth down to the quiet place, where she could 
live much in the open air, and let the fresh sea-breezes 
blow a little color into her pale cheeks. 
(192) 




JO AXD BETH. 

With her head in Jo's lap, while the winds blew healthfully over her and the sea made 

music at her feet. — Page 193. 



BETH 'S SECRET. 



r 93 



It was not a fashionable place, but, even among the 
pleasant people there, the girls made few friends, 
preferring to live for one another. Beth was too shy 
to enjoy society, and Jo too wrapt up in her to care 
for any one else ; so they were all in all to each other, 
and came and went, quite unconscious of the interest 
they excited in those about them, — who watched 
with sympathetic eyes the strong sister and the feeble 
one, always together, as if they felt instinctively that a 
long separation was not far away. 

They did feel it, yet neither spoke of it ; for often 
between ourselves and those nearest and dearest to us 
there exists a reserve which it is very hard to over- 
come. Jo felt as if a veil had fallen between her 
heart and Beth's ; but when she put out her hand 
to lift it up there seemed something sacred in the 
silence, and she waited for Beth to speak. She won- 
dered, and was thankful also, that her parents did not 
seem to see what she saw ; and, during the quiet 
weeks, when the shadow grew so plain to her, she 
said nothing of it to those at home, believing that it 
would tell itself when Beth came back no better. She 
wondered still more if her sister really guessed the 
hard truth, and what thoughts were passing through 
her mind during the long hours when she lay on the 
warm rocks with her head in Jo's lap, while the winds 
blew healthfully over her, and the sea made music at 
her feet. 

One day Beth told her. Jo thought she was asleep, 
she lay so still ; and, putting down her book, sat 
looking at her with wistful eyes, — trying to see signs 
of hope in the faint color on Beth's cheeks. But she 
could not find enough to satisfy her, — for the cheeks 
*3 



i 9 4 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



were very thin, and the hands seemed too feeble to 
hold even the rosy little shells they had been gather- 
ing. It came to her then more bitterly than ever that 
Beth was slowly drifting away from her, and her arms 
instinctively tightened their hold upon the dearest 
treasure she possessed. For a minute her eyes were 
too dim for seeing, and, when they cleared, Beth was 
looking up at her so tenderly, that there was hardly 
any need for her to say, — 

"Jo, dear, I'm glad you know it. I've tried to tell 
you, but I couldn't." 

There was no answer except her sister's cheek 
against her own, — not even tears, — for when most 
'deeply moved Jo did not cry. She was the weaker 
then, and Beth tried to comfort and sustain her with 
her arms about her, and the soothing words she "whis- 
pered in her ear. 

"I've known it for a good while, dear, and now 
I'm used to it, it isn't hard to think of or to bear. 
Try to see it so, and don't be troubled about me, 
because it's best ; indeed it is." 

" Is this what made you so unhappy in the autumn, 
Beth? You did not feel it then, and keep it to your- 
self so long, did you ? " asked Jo, refusing to see or 
say that it was best, but glad to know that Laurie had 
no part in Beth's trouble. 

" Yes ; I gave up hoping then, but I didn't like to 
own it ; I tried to think it was a sick fancy, and would 
not let it trouble any one. But when I saw you all so 
well, and strong, and full of happy plans, it was hard 
to feel that I could never be like you, — and then I 
was miserable, Jo." 

" Oh, Beth, and you didn't tell me, — didn't let 



BETH' S SECRET. 195 

me comfort and help you ! How could you shut me 
out, and bear it all alone ? " 

Jo's voice was full of tender reproach, and her heart 
ached to think of the solitary struggle that must have 
gone on while Beth learned to say good-by to health, 
love, and life, and take up her cross so cheerfully. 

" Perhaps it was wrong, but I tried to do right ; I 
wasn't sure, no one said anything, and I hoped I was 
mistaken. It would have been selfish to frighten 
you all when Marmee was so anxious about Meg, and 
Amy away, and you so happy with Laurie, — at least 
I thought so then." 

" And I thought that you loved him, Beth, and I 
went away because I couldn't," cried Jo, — glad to 
say all the truth. 

Beth looked so amazed at the idea, that Jo smiled in 
spite of her pain, and added, softly, — 

" Then you didn't, deary? I was afraid it was so, 
and imagined your poor little heart full of love-lornity 
all that while." 

" Why, Jo ! how could I, when he was so fond of 
you?" asked Beth, as innocently as a child. " I do 
love him dearly ; he is so good to me, how can I help 
it? But he never could be anything to me but my 
brother. I hope he truly will be, some time." 

" Not through me," said Jo, decidedly. " Amy is 
left for him, and they would suit excellently, — but I 
have no heart for such things now. I don't care what 
becomes of anybody but you, Beth. You must get 
well." 

u I want to, — oh, so much ! I try, but every day I 
lose a little, and feel more sure that I shall never gain 



l 9 6 LITTLE WOMEN. 

it back. It's like the tide, Jo, when it turns, — it 
goes slowly, but it can't be stopped." 

" It shall be stopped, — your tide must not turn so 
soon, — nineteen is too young. Beth, I can't let you 
go. I'll work, and pray, and fight against it. I'll 
keep you in spite of everything ; there must be ways, — 
it can't be too late. God won't be so cruel as to take 
you from me," cried poor Jo, rebelliously, — for her 
spirit was far less piously submissive than Beth's. 

Simple, sincere people seldom speak much of their 
piety ; it shows itself in acts, rather than in words, and 
has more influence than homilies or protestations. 
Beth could not reason upon or explain the faith that 
gave her courage and patience to give up life, and 
cheerfully wait for death. Like a confiding child, she 
asked no questions, but left everything to God and 
nature, Father and mother of us all, feeling sure that 
they, and they only, could teach and strengthen heart 
and spirit for this life and the life to come. She did 
not rebuke Jo with saintly speeches, only loved her 
better for her passionate affection, and clung more 
closely to the dear human love, from which our Father 
never means us to be weaned, but through which He 
draws us closer to Himself. She could not say, " I'm 
glad to go," for life was very sweet to her ; she could 
only sob out, "I'll try to be willing," while she held 
fast to Jo, as the first bitter wave of this great sorrow 
broke over them together. 

By and by Beth said, with recovered serenity, — 
"You'll tell them this, when we go home?" 
" I think they will see it without words," sighed Jo ; 
for now it seemed to her that Beth changed every day. 
" Perhaps not ; I've heard that the people who love 



BETH'S SECRET. itf 

best are often blindest to such things. If they don't 
see it, you will tell them for me. I don't want any 
secrets, and it's kinder to prepare them. Meg has 
John and the babies to comfort her, but you must 
stand by father and mother, won't you, Jo?" 

" If I can, but, Beth, I don't give up yet ; I'm going 
to believe that it is a sick fancy, and not let you think 
it's true," said Jo, trying to speak cheerfully. 

Beth lay a minute thinking, and then said in her 
quiet way, — 

" I don't know how to express myself, and shouldn't 
try to any one but you, because I can't speak out, ex- 
cept to my old Jo. I only mean to say, that I have a 
feeling that it never was intended I should live long. 
I'm not like the rest of you ; I never made any plans 
about what I'd do when I grew up ; I never thought 
of being married, as you all did. I couldn't seem to 
imagine myself anything but stupid little Beth, trot- 
ting about at home, of no use anywhere but there. I 
never wanted to go away, and the hard part now is 
the leaving you all. I'm not afraid, but it seems as if 
I should be homesick for you even in heaven." 

Jo could not speak ; and for several minutes there 
was no sound but the sigh of the wind, and the lap- 
ping of the tide. A white-winged gull flew by, with 
the flash of sunshine on its silvery breast ; Beth 
watched it till it vanished, and her eyes were full of 
sadness. A little gray-coated sand-bird came tripping 
over the beach, "peeping" softly to itself, as if enjoy- 
ing the sun and sea ; it came quite close to Beth, 
looked at her with a friendly eye, and sat upon a 
warm stone dressing its wet feathers, quite at home. 
Beth smiled, and felt comforted, for the tiny thing 



198 LITTLE WOMEN. 

seemed to offer its small friendship, and remind her 
that a pleasant world was still to be enjoyed. 

" Dear little bird ! See, Jo, how tame it is. I like 
peeps better than the gulls, they are not so wild and 
handsome, but they seem happy, confiding little things. 
I used to call them my birds, last summer ; and mother 
said they reminded her of me — busy, quaker-colored 
creatures, always near the shore, and always chirping 
that contented little song of theirs. You are the gull, 
Jo, strong and wild, fond of the storm and the wind, 
flying far out to sea, and happy all alone. Meg is 
the turtle-dove, and Amy is like the lark she writes 
about, trying to get up among the clouds, but always 
dropping down into its nest again. Dear little girl ! 
she's so ambitious, but her heart is good and tender, 
and no matter how high she flies, she never will for- 
get home. I hope I shall see her again, but she seems 
so far away." 

" She is coming in the spring, and I mean that you 
shall be all ready to see and enjoy her. I'm going to 
have you well and rosy, by that time," began Jo, 
feeling that of all the changes in Beth, the talking 
change was the greatest, for it seemed to cost no 
effort now, and she thought aloud in a way quite 
unlike bashful Beth. 

"Jo, dear, don't hope any more; it won't do any 
good, I'm sure of that. We won't be miserable, but 
enjoy being together while we wait. We'll have 
happy times, for I don't suffer much, and I think the 
tide will go out easily, if you help me." 

Jo leaned down to kiss the tranquil face ; and with 
that silent kiss, she dedicated herself soul and body 
to Beth. 



BETH'S SECRET. jgy 

She was right — there was no need of any words 
when they got home, for father and mother saw 
plainly, now, what they had prayed to be saved from 
seeing. Tired with her short journey, Beth went at 
once to bed, saying how glad she was to be at home ; 
and when Jo went down, she found that she would be 
spared the hard task of telling Beth's secret. Her 
father stood leaning his head on the mantle-piece, and 
did not turn as she came in ; but her mother stretched 
out her arms as if for help, and Jo went to comfort 
her without a word. 



CHAPTER XIV. 



NEW IMPRESSIONS. 



AT three o'clock in the afternoon, all the fash- 
ionable world at Nice may be seen on the 
Promenade des Anglais — a charming place ; for 
the wide walk, bordered with palms, flowers, and 
tropical shrubs, is bounded on one side by the sea, on 
the other by the grand drive, lined with hotels and 
villas, while beyond lie orange orchards and the hills. 
Many nations are represented, many languages spoken, 
many costumes worn ; and, on a sunny day, the spec- 
tacle is as gay and brilliant as a carnival. Haughty 
English, lively French, sober Germans, handsome 
Spaniards, ugly Russians, meek Jews, free-and-easy 
Americans, — all drive, sit, or saunter here, chatting 
over the news, and criticising the latest celebrity who 
has arrived — Ristori or Dickens, Victor Emanuel 
or the Queen of the Sandwich Islands. The equipages 
are as varied as the company, and attract as much 
attention, especially the low basket barouches in which 
ladies drive themselves, with a pair of dashing ponies, 
gay nets to keep their voluminous flounces from over- 
flowing the diminutive vehicles, and little grooms on 
the perch behind. 

Along this walk, on Christmas day, a tall young 
man walked slowly, with his hands behind him, and 
a somewhat absent expression of countenance. He 
looked like an Italian, was dressed like an English- 
man, and had the independent air of an American — 
(200) 



NE W IMPRESSIONS. 201 

a combination which caused sundry pairs of feminine 
eyes to look approvingly after him, and sundry dan- 
dies in black velvet suits, with rose-colored neckties, 
buff gloves, and orange flowers in their button-holes, 
to shrug their shoulders, and then envy him his 
inches. There were plenty of pretty faces to admire, 
but the young man took little notice of them, except 
to glance now and then at some blonde girl or lady in 
blue. Presently he strolled out of the promenade, 
and stood a moment at the crossing, as if undecided 
whether to go and listen to the band in the Jardin 
Publique, or to wander along the beach toward Castle 
Hill. The quick trot of ponies' feet made him look 
up, as one of the little carriages, containing a single 
lady, came rapidly down the street. The lady was 
young, blonde, and dressed in blue. He stared a 
minute, then his whole face woke up, and, waving 
his hat like a boy, he hurried forward to meet her. 

"Oh Laurie! is it really you? I thought you'd 
never come ! " cried Amy, dropping the reins, and 
holding out both hands, to the great scandalization 
of a French mamma, who hastened her daughter's 
steps, lest she should be demoralized by beholding 
the free manners of these " mad English." 

" I was detained by the way, but I promised to 
spend Christmas with you, and here I am." 

" How is your grandfather? When did you come? 
Where are you staying? " 

" Very well — last night — at the Chavrain. I 
called at your hotel, but you were all out." 

" Mon Dieu ! I have so much to say, and don't 
know where to begin. Get in, and we can talk at 



202 LITTLE WOMEN. 

our ease ; I was going for a drive, and longing for 
company. Flo's saving up for to-night." 

" What happens, then — a ball? " 

" A Christinas party at our hotel. There are many 
Americans there, and they give it in honor of the day. 
You'll go with us, of course ? aunt will be charmed." 

" Thank you ! where now? " asked Laurie, leaning 
back and folding his arms, a proceeding which suited 
Amy, who preferred to drive ; for her parasol-whip 
and blue reins, over the white ponies' backs, afforded 
her infinite satisfaction. 

"I'm going to the banker's first, for letters, and 
then to Castle Hill ; the view is so lovely, and I like 
to feed the peacocks. Have you ever been there ? " 

" Often, years ago ; but I don't mind having a look 
at it." 

" Now tell me all about yourself. The last I heard 
of you, your grandfather wrote that he expected you 
from Berlin." 

" Yes, I spent a month there, and then joined him 
in Paris, where he has settled for the winter* He has 
friends there, and finds plenty to amuse him ; so I go 
and come, and we get on capitally." 

" That's a sociable arrangement," said Amy, miss- 
ing something in Laurie's manner, though she couldn't 
tell what. 

" Why, you see he hates to travel, and I hate to 
keep still ; so we each suit ourselves, and there is no 
trouble. I am often with him, and he enjoys my 
adventures, while I like to feel that some one is glad 
to see me when I get back from my wanderings. 
Dirty old hole, isn't it ? " he added, with a sniff of 



NE W IMPRESSIONS. 203 

disgust, as they drove along the boulevard to the 
Place Napoleon, in the old city. 

" The dirt is picturesque, so I don't mind. The 
river and the hills are delicious, and these glimpses 
of the narrow cross streets are my delight. Now we 
shall have to wait for that procession to pass; it's 
going to the church of St. John." 

While Laurie listlessly watched the procession of 
priests under their canopies, white-veiled nuns bear- 
ing lighted tapers, and some brotherhood in blue, 
chanting as they walked, Amy watched him, and felt 
a new sort of shyness steal over her, for he was 
changed, and she couldn't find the merry-faced boy 
she left, in the moody-looking man beside her. He 
was handsomer than ever, and greatly improved, she 
thought ; but now that the flush of pleasure at meet- 
ing her was over, he looked tired and spiritless — not 
sick, nor exactly unhappy, but older and graver than a 
year or two of prosperous life should have made him. 
She couldn't understand it, and did not venture to ask 
questions ; so she shook her head, and touched up her 
ponies, as the procession wound away across the 
arches of the Paglioni bridge, and vanished in the 
church. 

u £hie fiensez vous?" she said, airing her French, 
which had improved in quantity, if not in quality, 
since she came abroad. 

" That mademoiselle has made good use of her 
time, and the result is charming," replied Laurie, 
bowing, with his hand on his heart, and an admiring 
look. 

She blushed with pleasure, but, somehow, the com- 
pliment did not satisfy her like the blunt praises he 



204 LITTLE WOMEN. 

used to give her at home, when he promenaded round 
her on festival occasions, and told her she was "alto- 
gether jolly," with a hearty smile and an approving 
pat on the head. She didn't like the new tone ; for 
though not dlase, it sounded indifferent in spite of the 
look. 

" If that's the 'way he's going to grow up, I wish 
he'd stay a boy," she thought, with a curious sense 
of disappointment and discomfort; trying, meantime, 
to seem quite easy and gay. 

At Avigdor's she found the precious home-letters, 
and, giving the reins to Laurie, read them luxuriously 
as they wound up the shady road between green 
hedges, where tea-roses bloomed as freshly as in June. 

" Beth is very poorly, mother says. I often think I 
ought to go home, but they all say ; stay '; so I do, 
for I shall never have another chance like this," said 
Amy, looking sober over one page. 

" I think you are right, there ; you could do nothing 
at home, and it is a great comfort to them to know 
that you are well and happy, and enjoying so much, 
my dear." 

He drew a little nearer, and looked more like his 
old self, as he said that ; and the fear that sometimes 
weighed on Amy's heart was lightened, —for the 
look, the act, the brotherly " my dear," seemed to 
assure her that if any trouble did come, she would not 
be alone in a strange land. Presently she laughed", 
and showed him a small sketch of Jo in her scribbling 
suit, with the bow rampantly erect upon her cap, and 
issuing from her mouth the words, " Genius burns ! " 

Laurie smiled, took it, put it in his vest pocket " to 



NB W IMPRESSIONS. 205 

keep it from blowing away," and listened with interest 
to the lively letter Amy read him. 

u This will be a regularly merry Christmas to me, 
with presents in the morning, you and letters in the 
afternoon, and a party at night," said Amy, as they 
alighted among the ruins of the old fort, and a flock 
of splendid peacocks came trooping about them, 
tamely waiting to be fed. While Amy stood laughing 
on the bank above him as she scattered crumbs to the 
brilliant birds, Laurie looked at her as she had looked 
at him, with a natural curiosity to see what changes 
time and absence had wrought. He found nothing to 
perplex or disappoint, much to admire and approve ; 
for, overlooking a few little affectations of speech and 
manner, she was as sprightly and graceful as ever, 
with the addition of that indescribable something in 
dress and bearing which we call elegance. Always 
mature for her age, she had gained a certain aplomb 
in both carriage and conversation, which made her 
seem more of a woman of the world than she was ; 
but her old petulance now and then showed itself, her 
strong will still held its own, and her native frankness 
was unspoiled by foreign polish. 

Laurie did not read all this while he watched her 
feed the peacocks, but he saw enough to satisfy and 
interest him, and carried away a pretty little picture 
of a bright-faced girl standing in the sunshine, which 
brought out the soft hue of her dress, the fresh color 
of her cheeks, the golden gloss of her hair, and made 
her a prominent figure in the pleasant scene. 

As they came up on to the stone plateau that crowns 
the hill, Amy waved her hand as if welcoming him to 
her favorite haunt, and said, pointing here and there, — 



206 LITTLE WOMEN. 

" Do you remember the Cathedral and the Corso, 
the fishermen dragging their nets in the bay, and the 
lovely road to Villa Franca, Schubert's Tower, just 
below, and, best of all, that speck far out to sea which 
they say is Corsica?" 

" I remember ; it's not much changed," he answered, 
without enthusiasm. 

" What Jo would give for a sight of that famous 
speck ! " said Amy, feeling in good spirits, and anxious 
to see him so also. 

"Yes," was all he said, but he turned and strained 
his eyes to see the island which a greater usurper 
than even Napoleon now made interesting in his 
sight. 

" Take a good look at it for her sake, and then 
come and tell me what you have been doing with 
yourself all this while," said Amy, seating herself, 
ready for a good talk. 

But she did not get it ; for, though he joined her, 
and answered all her questions freely, she could only 
learn that he had roved about the continent and been 
to Greece. So, after idling away an hour, they drove 
home again ; and, having paid his respects to Mrs. 
Carrol, Laurie left them, promising to return in the 
evening. 

It must be recorded of Amy, that she deliberately 
" prinked " that night. Time and absence had done 
its work on both the young people ; she had seen her 
old friend in a new light, — not as " our boy," but as 
a handsome and agreeable man, and she was con- 
scious of a very natural desire to find favor in his 
sight. Amy knew her good points, and made the 



NEW IMPRESSIONS. 207 

most of them, with the taste and skill which is a for- 
tune to a poor and pretty woman. 

Tarleton and tulle were cheap at Nice, so she en- 
veloped herself in them on such occasions, and, 
following the sensible English fashion of simple dress 
for young girls, got up charming little toilettes with 
fresh flowers, a few trinkets, and all manner of dainty 
devices, which were both inexpensive and effective. 
It must be confessed that the artist sometimes got 
possession of the woman, and indulged in antique 
coiffures, statuesque attitudes, and classic draperies. 
But, dear heart, we all have our little weaknesses, and 
find it easy to pardon such in the young, who satisfy 
our eyes with their comeliness, and keep our hearts 
merry with their artless vanities. 

" I do want him to think I look well, and tell them 
so at home," said Amy to herself, as she put on Flo's 
old white silk ball dress, and covered it with a cloud 
of fresh illusion, out of which her white shoulders 
and golden head emerged with a most artistic effect. 
Her hair she had the sense to let alone, after gathering 
up the thick waves and curls into a Hebe-like knot at 
the back of her head. 

"It's not the fashion, but it's becoming, and I can't 
afford to make a fright of myself," she used to say, 
when advised to frizzle, puff, or braid as the latest 
style commanded. 

Having no ornaments fine enough for this important 
occasion, Amy looped her fleecy skirts with rosy 
clusters of azalea, and framed the white shoulders 
in delicate green vines. Remembering the painted 
boots, she surveyed her white satin slippers with girlish 



208 LITTLE WOMEN. 

satisfaction, and chasseed down the room, admiring 
her aristocratic feet all by herself. 

" My new fan just matches my flowers, my gloves 
fit to a charm, and the real lace on aunt's mouchoir 
gives an air to my whole dress. If I only had a 
classical nose and mouth I should be perfectly happy," 
she said, surveying herself with a critical eye, and a 
candle in each hand. 

In spite of this affliction, she looked unusually gay 
and graceful as she glided away ; she seldom ran, — 
it did not suit her style, she thought, — for, being tall, 
the stately and Junoesque was more appropriate than 
the sportive or piquante. She walked up and down 
the long saloon while waiting for Laurie, and once 
arranged herself under the chandelier, which had a 
good effect upon her hair ; then she thought better of 
it, and went away to the other end of the room, — as 
if ashamed of the girlish desire to have the first view 
a propitious one. It so happened that she could not 
have done a better thing, for Laurie came in so 
quietly she did not hear him ; and, as she stood at the 
distant window with her head half turned, and one 
hand gathering up her dress, the slender, white figure 
against the red curtains was as effective as a w T ell- 
placed statue. 

u Good evening, Diana !" said Laurie, w # ith the look 
of satisfaction she liked to see in his eyes when they 
rested on her. 

" Good evening, Apollo ! " she answered, smiling 
back at him, — for he, too, looked unusually debon- 
naire, — and the thought of entering the ball-room on 
the arm of such a personable man, caused Amy to 



NE W IMPRESSIONS. 209 

pity the four plain Misses Davis from the bottom of 
her heart. 

" Here are your flowers ! I arranged them myself, 
remembering that you didn't like what Hannah calls 
a : sot-bookay,' " said Laurie, handing her a delicate 
nosegay, in a holder that she had long coveted as she 
daily passed it in Cardiglia's window. 

a How kind you are ! " she exclaimed, gratefully ; 
" if I'd known you were coming I'd have had^some- 
thing ready for you to-day, — though not as pretty as 
this, I'm afraid." 

" Thank you ; it isn't what it should be, but you 
have improved it," he added, as she snapped the silver 
bracelet on her wrist. 

" Please don't ! " 

" I thought you liked that sort of thing ! " 

" Not from you ; it doesn't sound natural, and I like 
your old bluntness better." 

u I'm glad of it ! " he answered, with a look of relief; 
then buttoned her gloves for her, and asked if his tie 
was straight, just as he used to do when they went to 
parties together, at home. 

The company assembled in the long salle a manger, 
that evening, was such as one sees nowhere but on 
the continent. The hospitable Americans had invited 
every acquaintance they had in Nice, and, having no 
prejudice against titles, secured a few to add lustre to 
their Christmas ball. 

A Russian prince condescended to sit in a corner 
for an hour, and talk with a massive lady, dressed like 
Hamlet's mother, in black velvet, with a pearl bridle 
under her chin. A Polish count, aged eighteen, de- 
voted himself to the ladies, who pronounced him " a 
H 



2io LITTLE WOMEN. 

fascinating dear," and a German Serene Something, 
having come for the supper alone, roamed vaguely 
about, seeking what he might devour. Baron Roths- 
child's private secretary, a large-nosed Jew, in tight 
boots, affably beamed upon the world, as if his mas- 
ter's name crowned him with a golden halo ; a stout 
Frenchman, who knew the Emperor, came to in- 
dulge his mania for dancing, and Lady de Jones, a 
British matron, adorned the scene with her little fam- 
ily of eight. Of course, there were many light-footed, 
shrill-voiced American girls, handsome, lifeless look- 
ing English ditto, and a few plain but piquante 
French demoiselles. Likewise the usual set of trav- 
elling young gentlemen, who disported themselves 
gaily, while mammas of all nations lined the walls, 
and smiled upon them benignly when they danced 
with their daughters. 

Any young girl can imagine Amy's state of mind 
when she "took the stage" that night, leaning on 
Laurie's arm. She knew she looked well, she loved 
to dance, she felt that her foot was on her native heath 
in a ball-room, and enjoyed the delightful sense of 
power which comes when young girls first discover 
the new and lovely kingdom they are born to rule by 
virtue of beauty, youth, and womanhood. She did 
pity the Davis girls, who were awkward, plain, and 
destitute of escort — except a grim papa and three 
grimmer maiden aunts — and she bowed to them in 
her friendliest manner, as she passed ; which was 
good of her, as it permitted them to see her dress, 
and burn with curiosity to know who her distin- 
guished-looking friend might be. With the first burst 
of the band, Amy's color rose, her eyes began to 



NE W IMPRESSIONS. 2 1 1 

sparkle, and her feet to tap the floor impatiently ; for 
she danced well, and wanted Laurie to know it; 
therefore, the shock she received can better be imag- 
ined than described, when he said, in a perfectly tran- 
quil tone, — l 

" Do you care to dance? " 

" One usually does at a ball ! " 

Her amazed look and quick answer caused Laurie 
to repair his error as fast as possible. 

" I meant the first dance. May I have the honor? " 

" I can give you one if I put off the Count. He 
dances divinely ; but he will excuse me, as you are 
an old friend," said Amy, hoping that the name would 
have a good effect, and show Laurie that she was not 
to be trifled with. 

"Nice little boy, but rather a short Pole to support 
the steps of 

' A daughter of the gods 
Divinely tall, and most divinely fair,' " 

was all the satisfaction she got, however. 

The set in which they found themselves was com- 
posed of English, and Amy was compelled to walk 
decorously through a cotillion, feeling all the while as 
if she could dance the Tarantula with a relish. Lau- 
rie resigned her to the u nice little boy," and went to 
do his duty to Flo, without securing Amy for the joys 
to come, which reprehensible want of forethought 
was properly punished, for she immediately engaged 
herself till supper, meaning to relent if he then gave 
any sign of penitence. She showed him her ball- 
book with demure satisfaction when he strolled, in- 
stead of rushing, up to claim her for the next, a 



212 LITTLE WOMEN. 

glorious polka-redowa ; but his polite regrets didn't 
impose upon her, and when she gallopaded away with 
the Count, she saw Laurie sit down by her aunt, with 
an actual expression of relief. 

That was unpardonable ; and Amy took no more 
notice of him for a long while, except a word now 
and then, when she came to her chaperon, between 
the dances, for a necessary pin or a moment's rest. 
Her anger had a good effect, however, for she hid it 
under a smiling face, and seemed unusually blithe 
and brilliant. Laurie's eyes followed her with pleas- 
ure, for she neither romped nor sauntered, but danced 
with spirit and grace, making the delightsome pas- 
time what it should be. He very naturally fell to 
studying her from this new point of view ; and before 
the evening was half over, had decided that " little 
Amy was going to make a very charming woman." 

It was a lively scene, for soon the spirit of the 
social season took possession of every one, and Christ- 
mas merriment made all faces shine, hearts happy, 
and heels light. The musicians fiddled, tooted, and 
banged as if they enjoyed it ; everybody danced who 
could, and those who couldn't admired their neigh- 
bors with uncommon warmth. The air was dark 
with Davises, and many Joneses gambolled like a 
flock of young giraffes. The golden secretary darted 
through the room like a meteor, with a dashing 
Frenchwoman, who carpeted the floor with her pink 
satin train. The Serene Teuton found the supper- 
table, and was happy, eating steadily through the bill 
of fare, and dismaying the garcons by the ravages he 
committed. But the Emperor's friend covered him- 
self with glory, for he danced everything, whether 



NE W IMPRESSIONS. 2 1 3 

he knew it or not, and introduced impromptu pirou- 
ettes when the figures bewildered him. The boyish 
abandon of that stout man was charming to behold"; 
for, though he " carried weight," he danced like an 
india-rubber ball. He ran, he flew, he pranced ; his 
face glowed, his bald head shone, his coat tails waved 
wildly, his pumps actually twinkled in the air, and 
when the music stopped, he wiped the drops from his 
brow, and beamed upon his fellow-men like a French 
Pickwick without glasses. 

Amy and her Pole distinguished themselves by 
equal enthusiasm, but more graceful agility ; and 
Laurie found himself involuntarily keeping time to 
the rhythmic rise and fall of the white slippers, as they 
flew by, as indefatigably as if winged. When little 
Vladimir finally relinquished her, with assurances 
that he was " desolated to leave so early," she was 
ready to rest, and see how her recreant knight had 
borne his punishment. 

It had been successful ; for, at three-and-twenty, 
blighted affections find a balm in friendly society, and 
young nerves will thrill, young blood dance, and 
healthy young spirits rise, when subjected to the 
enchantment of beauty, light, music, and motion. 
Laurie had a waked-up look as he rose to give her 
his seat ; and when he hurried away to bring her some 
supper, she said to herself, with a satisfied smile, — 

"Ah, I thought that would do him good !" 

" You look like Balzac's c Femme piente par elle 
meme,' " he said, as he fanned her with one hand, 
and held her coffee-cup in the other. 

" My rouge won't come off; " and Amy rubbed her 



214 LITTLE WOMEN. 

brilliant cheek, and showed him her white glove, with 
a sober simplicity that made him laugh outright. 

" What do you call this stuff ? " he asked, touching 
a fold of her dress that had blown over his knee. 

" Illusion." 

" Good name for it; it's very pretty — new thing, 
isn't it?" 

" It's as old as the hills ; you have seen it on dozens 
of girls, and you never found out that it was pretty 
till now — stuftide!" 

" I never saw it on you, before, which accounts for 
the mistake, you see." 

" None of that, it is forbidden ; I'd rather take 
coffee than compliments, just now. No, don't lounge, 
it makes me nervous." 

Laurie sat bolt upright, and meekly took her empty 
plate, feeling an odd sort of pleasure in having " little 
Amy" order him about; for she had lost her shyness 
now, and felt an irresistible desire to trample on him, 
as girls have a delightful way of doing when lords of 
creation show any signs of subjection. 

"Where did you learn all this sort of thing?" he 
asked, with a quizzical look. 

"As 'this sort of thing' is rather a vague expres- 
sion, would you kindly explain?" returned Amy, 
knowing perfectly well what he meant, but wickedly 
leaving him to describe what is indescribable. 

" Well — the general air, the style, the self-posses- 
sion, the — the — illusion — you know," laughed Lau- 
rie, breaking down, and helping himself out of his 
quandary with the new word. 

Amy was gratified, but, of course, didn't show it, 
and demurely answered, — 



NE W IMPRESSIONS. 215 

"Foreign life polishes one in spite of one's self; I 
study as well as play ; and as for this " — with a little 
gesture toward her dress — "why, tulle is cheap; 
posies to be had for nothing, and I am used to making 
the most of my poor little things." 

Amy rather regretted that last sentence, fearing it 
wasn't in good taste ; but Laurie liked her the better 
for it, and found himself both admiring and respect- 
ing the brave patience that made the most of oppor- 
tunity, and the cheerful spirit that covered poverty 
with flowers. Amy did not know why he looked at 
her so kindly, nor why he' filled up her book with his 
own name, and devoted himself to her for the rest of 
the evening, in the most delightful manner ; but the 
impulse that wrought this agreeable change was the 
result of one of the new impressions which both of 
them were unconsciously giving and receiving. 



CHAPTER XV. 

ON THE SHELF. 

IN France the young girls have a dull time of it 
till they are married, when " Vive la liberie" 
becomes their motto. In America, as every one 
knows, girls early sign a declaration of independence, 
and enjoy their freedom with republican zest ; but the 
young matrons usually abdicate with the first heir to 
the throne, and go into a seclusion almost as close 
as a French nunnery, though by no means as quiet. 
Whether they like it or not, they are virtually put 
upon the shelf as soon as the wedding excitement is 
over, and most of them might exclaim, as did a very 
pretty woman the other day, "I'm as handsome as 
ever, but no one takes any notice of me because Fm 
married." 

Not being a belle, or even a fashionable -lady, Meg 
did not experience this affliction till her babies were 
a year old, — for in her little world primitive customs 
prevailed, and she found herself more admired and 
beloved than ever.. 

As she was a womanly little woman, the maternal 
instinct was very strong, and she was entirely absorbed 
in her children, to the utter exclusion of everything 
and everybody else. Day and night she brooded over 
them with tireless devotion and anxiety, leaving John 
to the tender mercies of the help, — for an Irish lady 
now presided over the kitchen department. Being 
a domestic man, John decidedly missed the wifely 

(2!6) 



ON THE SHELF. 217 

attentions he had been accustomed to receive ; but, as 
he adored his babies, he cheerfully relinquished his 
comfort for a time, supposing, with masculine igno- 
rance, that peace would soon be restored. But three 
months passed, and there was no return of repose ; 
Meg looked worn and nervous, — the babies absorbed 
every minute of her time, — the house was neglected, 
— and Kitty, the cook, who took life " aisy," kept 
him on short commons. When he went out in the 
morning he was bewildered by small commissions for 
the captive mamma ; if he came gaily in at night, 
eager to embrace his family, he was quenched by a 
" Hush ! they are just asleep after worrying all day." 
If he proposed a little amusement at home, i' No, it 
would disturb the babies." If he hinted at a lecture 
or concert, he was answered with a reproachful look, 
and a decided — " Leave my children for pleasure, 
never ! " His sleep was broken by infant wails and 
visions of a phantom figure pacing noiselessly to and 
fro, in the watches of the night ; his meals were 
interrupted by the frequent flight of the presiding 
genius, who deserted him, half-helped, if a muffled 
chirp sounded from the nest above ; and, when he 
read his paper of an evening, Demi's colic got into 
the shipping-list, and Daisy's fall affected the price of 
stocks, — for Mrs. Brooke was only interested in do- 
mestic news'. 

The poor man was very uncomfortable, for the 
children had bereft him of his wife ; home was merely 
a nursery, and the perpetual " hushing" made him 
feel like a brutal intruder whenever he entered the 
sacred precincts of Babydom. He bore it very pa- 
tiently- for six months, and, when no signs of amend- 



2i8 LITTLE WOMEN. 

ment appeared, he did what other paternal exiles do, 
— tried to get a little comfort elsewhere. Scott had 
married and gone to housekeeping not far off, and 
John fell into the way of running over for an hour or 
two of an evening, when his own parlor was empty, 
and his own wife singing lullabies that seemed to have 
no end. Mrs. Scott was a lively, pretty girl, with 
nothing to do but. be agreeable, — and she performed 
her mission most successfully. The parlor was al- 
ways bright and attractive, the chess-board ready, the 
piano in tune, plenty of gay gossip, and a nice little 
supper set forth in tempting style. 

John would have preferred his own fireside if it 
had not been so lonely ; but as it was, he gratefully 
took the next best thing, and enjoyed his neighbor's 
society. 

Meg rather approved of the new arrangement at 
first, and found it a relief to know that John was 
having a good time instead of dozing in the parlor, or 
tramping about the house and waking the children. 
But by and by, when the teething worry was over, 
and the idols went to sleep at proper hours, leaving 
mamma time to rest, she began to miss John, and find 
her work-basket dull company, when he was not 
sitting opposite in his old dressing-gown, comfortably 
scorching his slippers on the fender. She would not 
ask him to stay at home, but felt injured because he 
did not know that she 'wanted him without being 
told, — entirely forgetting the many evenings he had 
waited for her in vain. She was nervous and worn 
out with watching and worry, and in that unreason- 
able frame of mind which the best of mothers occa- 
sionally experience when domestic cares oppress them, 



ON THE SHELF. 



219 



want of exercise robs them of cheerfulness, and too 
much devotion to that idol of American women, — the 
teapot, — makes them feel as if they were all nerve 
and no muscle. 

w Yes," she would say, looking in the glass, "I'm 
getting old and ugly ; John don't find me interesting 
any longer, so he leaves his faded wife and goes to 
see his pretty neighbor, who has no incumbrances. 
Well, the babies love me ; they don't care if I am thin 
and pale, and haven't time to crimp my hair; they 
are my comfort, and some day John will see what I've 
gladly sacrificed for them, — won't he, my precious?" 

To which pathetic appeal Daisy would answer with 
a coo, or Demi with a crow, and Meg would put by 
her lamentations for a maternal revel, which soothed 
her solitude for the time being. But the pain in- 
creased as politics absorbed John, who was always 
running over to discuss interesting points with Scott, 
quite unconscious that Meg missed him. Not a word 
did she say, however, till her mother found her in 
tears one day, and insisted on knowing what the 
matter was, — for Meg's drooping spirits had not 
escaped her observation. 

M I wouldn't tell any one except you, mother ; but I 
really do need advice, for, if John goes on so much 
longer I might as well be widowed," replied Mrs. 
Brooke, drying her tears on Daisy's bib, with an 
injured air. 

"Goes on how, my dear?" asked her mother, 
anxiously. 

" He's away all day, and at night, when I want to 
see him, he is continually going over to the Scotts'. 
It isn't fair that I should have the hardest work, and 



220 LITTLE WOMEN. 

never any amusement. Men are very selfish, even 
the best of them. " 

" So are women ; don't blame John till you see 
where you are wrong yourself." 

" But it can't be right for him to neglect me." 

" Don't you neglect him ? " 

" Why, mother ; I thought you'd take my part ! " 

" So I do as far as sympathizing goes ; but I think 
the fault is yours, Meg." 

"I don't see how." 

" Let me show you. Did John ever neglect you, as 
you call it, while you made it a point to give him 
your society of an evening, — his only leisure time? " 

" No ; but I can't do it now, with two babies to 
tend." 

" I think you could, dear ; and I think you ought. 
May I speak quite freely, and will you remember that 
it's mother who blames as well as mother who sym- 
pathizes?" 

" Indeed I will ! speak to me as if I was little Meg 
again. I often feel as if I needed teaching more than 
ever, since these babies look to me for everything." 

Meg drew her low chair beside her mother's, and, 
with a little interruption in either lap, the two women 
rocked and talked lovingly together, feeling that the 
tie of motherhood made them more one than ever. 

" You have only made the mistake that most young 
wives make, — forgotten your duty to your husband 
in your love for your children. A very natural and 
forgivable mistake, Meg, but one that had better be 
remedied before you take to different ways ; for chil- 
dren should draw you nearer than ever, not separate 
you, — as if they were all yours, and John had nothing 



ON THE SHELF. 2,2,! 

to do but support them. I've seen it for some weeks, 
but have not spoken, feeling sure it would come right, 
in time." 

" I'm afraid it won't. If I ask him to stay he'll 
think I'm jealous ; and I wouldn't insult him by such 
an idea. He don't see that I want him, and I don't 
know how to tell him without words." 

" Make it so pleasant he won't want to go away. 
My dear, he's longing for his little home ; but it isn't 
home without you, and you are always in the nursery." 

" Oughtn't I to be there?" 

" Not all the time ; too much confinement makes 
you nervous, and then you are unfitted for everything. 
Besides, you owe something to John as well as to the 
babies; don't neglect husband for children, — don't 
shut him out of the nursery, but teach him how to 
help in it. His place is there as well as yours, and 
the children need him ; let him feel that he has his 
part to do, and he will do it gladly and faithfully, and 
it will be better for you all." 

"You really think so, mother?" 

"I know it, Meg, for I've tried it; and I seldom 
give advice unless I've proved its practicability. 
When you and Jo were little, I went on just as you 
are, feeling as if I didn't do my duty unless I devoted 
myself wholly to you. Poor father took to his books, 
after I had refused all offers of help, and left me to 
try my experiment alone. I struggled along as well 
as I could, but Jo was too much for me. I nearly 
spoilt her by indulgence. You were poorly, and I 
worried about you till I fell sick myself. Then father 
came to the rescue, quietly managed everything, and 
made himself so helpful that I saw my mistake, and 



222 LITTLE WOMEN. 

never have been able to get on without him since. 
That is the secret of our home happiness ; he does not 
let business wean him from the little cares and duties 
that affect us all, and I try not to let domestic worries 
destroy my interest in his pursuits. Each do our part 
alone in many things, but at home we work together, 
always." 

"It is so, mother ; and my great wish is to be to my 
husband and children what you have been to yours. 
Show me how ; I'll do anything you say." 

" You always were my docile daughter. Well, 
dear, if I were you I'd let John have more to do with 
the management of Demi, — for the boy needs train- 
ing, and it's none too soon to begin. Then I'd do 
what I have often proposed, — let Hannah come and 
help you ; she is a capital nurse, and you may trust 
the precious babies to her while you do more house- 
work. You need the exercise, Hannah would enjoy 
the rest, and John would find his wife again. Go out 
more ; keep cheerful as well as busy, — for you are 
the sunshine-maker of the family, and if you get 
dismal there is no fair weather. Then I'd try to take 
an interest in whatever John likes, talk with him, let 
him read to you, exchange ideas, and help each other 
in that way. Don't shut yourself up in a bandbox 
because you are a woman, but understand what is 
going on, and educate yourself to take your part in 
the world's work, for it all affects you and yours." 

"John is so sensible, I'm afraid he will think I'm 
stupid if I ask questions about politics and things." 

u I don't believe he would ; love covers a multitude 
of sins, and of whom could you ask more freely than 
of him? Try it, and see if he doesn't find your 



ON THE SHELF. 223 

society far more agreeable than Mrs. Scott's sup- 
pers." 

" I will. Poor John ! I'm afraid I have neglected 
him sadly, but I thought I was right, and he never 
said anything." 

" He tried not to be selfish, but he has felt rather 
forlorn, I fancy. This is just the time, Meg, when 
young married people are apt to grow apart, and the 
very time when they ought to be most together ; for 
the first tenderness soon wears off, unless care is taken 
to preserve it ; and no time is so beautiful and precious 
to parents, as the first years of the little lives given 
them to train. Don't let John be a stranger to the 
babies, for they will do more to keep him safe and 
happy in this world of trial and temptation, than any- 
thing else, and through them you will learn to know 
and love one another as you should. Now, dear, 
good-by ; think over mother's preachment, act upon it 
if it seems good, and God bless you all ! " 

Meg did think it over, found it good, and acted 
upon it, though the first attempt was not made exactly 
as she planned to have it. Of course, the children 
tyrannized over her, and ruled the house as soon as 
they found out that kicking and squalling brought 
them whatever they wanted. Mamma was an abject 
slave to their caprices, but papa was not so easily sub- 
jugated, and occasionally afflicted his tender spouse, 
by an attempt at paternal discipline with his obstrep- 
erous son. For Demi inherited a trifle of his sire's 
firmness of character — we won't call it obstinacy — 
and when he made up his little mind to have or to do 
anything, all the king's horses, and all the king's 
men could not change that pertinacious little mind. 



224 LITTLE WOMEN. 

Mamma thought the dear too young to be taught to con- 
quer his prejudices, but papa believed that it never was 
too soon to learn obedience ; so Master Demi early dis- 
covered, that when he undertook to " wrastle " with 
'• parpar," he always got the worst of it ; yet, like 
the Englishman, Baby respected the man who con- 
quered him, and loved the father, whose grave, "No, 
no " was more impressive than all the mother's love 
pats. 

A few days after the talk with her mother, Meg 
resolved to try a social evening with John ; so she 
ordered a nice supper, set the parlor in order, dressed 
herself prettily, and put the children to bed early, 
that nothing should interfere with her experiment. 
But, unfortunately, Demi's most unconquerable preju- 
dice was against going to bed, and that night he 
decided to go on a rampage ; so poor Meg sung and 
rocked, told stories, and tried every sleep-provoking 
wile she could devise, but all in vain — the big eyes 
wouldn't shut ; and long after Daisy had gone to 
byelow, like the chubby little bunch of good nature 
she was, naughty Demi lay, staring at the light, with 
the most discouragingly wide-awake expression of 
v countenance. '*^**^^^ >ii<fc 

" Will Demi lie still, like a good boy. while mamma 
runs down and gives poor papa his tea? " askecWX£gg^ 
as the hall door softly closed, and the well-known 
step went tip-toeing into the dining-room. 

" Me has tea ! " said Demi, preparing to join in the 
revel. ^ss^ ' — 

" No ; but I'll save you some little cakies for 
breakfast, if you'll go bye-bye, E&e^ Daisy. Will you, 
lovey?" 



ON THE SHELF. 



225 



" Iss ! " and Demi shut his eyes tight, as if to catch 
sleep, and hurry the desired day. 

Taking advantage of the propitious moment, Meg 
slipped away, and ran down to greet her husband 
with a smiling face, and the little blue bow in her 
hair, which was his especial admiration. He saw it 
at once, and said, with pleased surprise, — 

" Why, little mother, how gay we are to-night. Do 
you expect company?" 

" Only you, dear." 

" Is it a birthday, anniversary, or anything? " 

" No ; I'm tired of being a dowdy, so I dressed up 
as a change. You always make yourself nice for 
table, no matter how tired you are ; so, why shouldn't 
I, when I have the time ? " 

"I do it out of respect to you, my dear," said old- 
fashioned John. 

" Ditto, ditto, Mr. Brooke," laughed Meg, looking 
young and pretty again, as she nodded to him over 
the teapot. \ \ ^^^^ 

" Well, it's alt&gether delightful, and like old times. 
This tastes irighfr; T drjrik^our health, dear ! " and 
John sipped his tea with an an^^T"repcrsef«i-*apture, 
which was of very short duration, however ; for, a§A 
he put down his cup, the door-handle rattled mysteri- 
ously, and a little voice was heard, saying, impa- 
tiently, — 

" Opy doy ; me's tummin ! " 

u It's that naughty boy ; I told him to go to sleep 
alone, and here he is, down stairs, getting his death 
a-cold pattering over that canvas," said Meg, answer- 
ing the call. 

" Mornin' now," announced Demi, in a joyful tone, 
15 



226 LITTLE WOMEN. 

as he entered, with his long night-gown gracefully- 
festooned over his arm, and every curl bobbing gaily, 
as he pranced about the table, eyeing the"cakies" 
with loving glances. 

" No, it isn't morning yet ; you must go to bed, and 
not trouble poor mamma ; then you can have the 
little cake with sugar on it." 

" Me loves parpar," said the artful one, preparing 
to climb the paternal knee, and revel in forbidden 
joys. But John shook his head, and said to Meg, — 

"If you told him to stay up there, and go to sleep 
alone, make him do it, or he will never learn to mind 
you." 

" Yes, of course ; come, Demi ! " and Meg led her 
son away, feeling a strong desire to spank the little 
marplot who hopped beside her, laboring under the 
delusion that the bribe was to be administered as soon 
as they reached the nursery. 

Nor was he disappointed; for that short-sighted 
woman actually gave him a lump of sugar, tucked 
him into his bed, and forbade any more promenades 
till morning. 

"Iss!"said Demi the perjured, blissfully sucking 
his sugar, and regarding his first attempt as eminently 
successful. 

Meg returned to her place, and supper was pro- 
gressing pleasantly, when the little ghost walked 
again, and exposed the maternal delinquencies, by 
boldly demanding, — 

" More sudar, marmar." 

" Now this won't do," said John, hardening his 
heart against the engaging little sinner. " We shall 
never know any peace till that child learns to go to 



ON THE SHELF. 227 

bed properly. You have made a slave of yourself 
long enough ; give him one lesson, and then there 
will be an end of it. Put him in his bed, and leave 
him, Meg." 

" He won't stay there ; he never does, unless I sit 
by him." 

" I'll manage him. Demi, go upstairs, and get 
into your bed, as mamma bids you." 

" S'ant! " replied the young rebel, helping himself 
to the coveted " cakie," and beginning to eat the same 
with calm audacity. 

" You must never say that to papa; I. shall carry 
you if you don't go yourself." 

" Go 'way ; me don't love parpar ; " and Demi re- 
tired to his mother's skirts for protection. 

But even that refuge proved unavailing, for he was 
delivered over to the enemy, with a " Be gentle with 
him, John," which struck the culprit with dismay ; 
for when mamma deserted him, then the judgment- 
day was at hand. Bereft of his cake, defrauded of 
his frolic, and borne away by a strong hand to that 
detested bed, poor Demi could not restrain his wrath ; 
but openly defied papa, and kicked and screamed 
lustily all the way upstairs. The minute he was put 
into bed on one side, he rolled out at the other, an- 
made for the door, only to be ignominiously caught 
up by the tail of his little toga, and put back again, 
which lively performance was kept up till the young 
man's strength gave out, when he devoted himself to 
roaring at the top of his voice. This vocal exercise 
usually conquered Meg ; but John sat as unmoved as 
the post, which is popularly believed to be deaf. No 
coaxing, no sugar, no lullaby, no story — even the 



228 LITTLE WOMEN. 

light was put out, and only the red glow of the fire 
enlivened the " big dark" which Demi regarded with 
curiosity rather than fear. This new order of things 
disgusted him, and he howled dismally for " marmar," 
as his angry passions subsided, and recollections of 
his tender bond-woman returned to the captive auto- 
crat. The plaintive wail which succeeded the pas- 
sionate roar went to Meg's heart, and she ran up to 
say, beseechingly, — 

" Let me stay with him ; he'll be good, now, John." 

" No, my dear, I've told him he must go to sleep, 
as you bid him ; and he must, if I stay here all night." 

" But he'll cry himself sick," pleaded Meg, re- 
proaching herself for deserting her boy. 

" No he won't, he's so tired he will soon drop off, 
and then the matter is settled ; for he will understand 
that he has got to mind. Don't interfere ; I'll manage 
him." 

" He's my child, and I can't have his spirit broken 
by harshness." 

" He's my child, and I won't have his temper spoilt 
by indulgence. Go down, my dear, and leave the boy 
to me." 

When John spoke in that masterful tone, Meg al- 
ways obeyed, and never regretted her docility. 

" Please let me kiss him, once, John?" 

"Certainly; Demi, say 'good-night' to mamma, 
and let her go and rest, for she is very tired with 
taking care of you all day." 

Meg always insisted upon it, that the kiss won the 
victory ; for, after it was given, Demi sobbed more 
quietly, and lay quite still at the bottom of the bed, 
whither he had wriggled in his anguish of mind. 



ON THE SHELF. 



229 



" Poor little man ! he's worn out with sleep and 
crying ; I'll cover him up, and then go and set Meg's 
heart at rest," thought John, creeping to the bedside, 
hoping to find his rebellious heir asleep. 

But he wasn't ; for the moment his father peeped 
at him, Demi's e) T es opened, his little chin began to 
quiver, and he put up his arms, saying, with a peni- 
tent hiccough, u Me's dood, now." 

Sitting on the stairs, outside, Meg wondered at the 
long silence which followed the uproar ; and, after 
imagining all sorts of impossible accidents, she slipped 
into the room, to set her fears at rest. Demi lay fast 
asleep ; not in his usual spread-eagle attitude, but in a 
subdued bunch, cuddled close in the circle of his 
father's arm, and holding his father's finger, as if he 
felt that justice was tempered with mercy, and had 
gone to sleep a sadder and a wiser baby. So held, 
John had waited with womanly patience till the little 
hand relaxed its hold ; and, while waiting, had fallen 
asleep, more tired by that tussle with his little son 
than with his whole day's work. 

As Meg stood watching the two faces on the pillow, 
she smiled to herself, and then slipped away again, 
saying, in a satisfied tone, — 

"I never need fear that John will be too harsh with 
my babies, he does know how to manage them, and 
will be a great help, for Demi is getting too much for 
me." 

When John came down at last, expecting to find a 
pensive or reproachful wife, he was agreeably sur- 
prised to find Meg placidly trimming a bonnet, and to 
be greeted with the request to read something about 
the election, if he was not too tired. John saw in a 



230 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



minute that a revolution of some kind was going on, 
but wisely asked no questions, knowing that Meg was 
such a transparent little person, she couldn't keep a 
secret to save her life, and therefore the clue would 
soon appear. He read a long debate with the most 
amiable readiness, and then explained it in his most 
lucid manner, while Meg tried to look deeply inter- 
ested, to ask intelligent questions, and keep her 
thoughts from wandering from the state of the na- 
tion to the state of her bonnet. In her secret soul, 
however, she decided that politics were as bad as 
mathematics, and that the mission of politicians 
seemed to be calling each other names ; but she kept 
these feminine ideas to herself, and when John 
paused, shook her head, and said with what she 
thought diplomatic ambiguity, — 

" Well, I really don't see what we are coming too." 

John laughed, and watched her for a minute, as she 
poised a pretty little preparation of tulle and flowers 
0*1 her hand, and regarded it with the genuine inter- 
est which his harangue had failed to waken. 

" She is trying to like politics for my sake, so I'll 
try and like millinery for hers — that's only fair," 
thought John the just, adding aloud, — 

"That's very pretty ; is it what you call a breakfast 
cap?" 

"My dear man, it's a bonnet — my very best go-to- 
concert and theatre bonnet ! " 

"I beg your pardon ; it was so very small, I natu- 
rally mistook it for one of the fly-away things you 
sometimes wear. How do you keep it on ? " 

" These bits of lace are fastened under the chin, 
with a rose-bud, so" — and Meg illustrated by putting 



ON THE SHELF. 231 

on the bonnet, and regarding him with an air of calm 
satisfaction, that was irresistible. 

" It's a love of a bonnet, but I prefer the face inside, 
for it looks young and happy again," and John kissed 
the smiling face, to the great detriment of the rose- 
bud under the chin. 

" I'm glad you like it, for I want you to take me to 
one of the new concerts some night ; I really need 
some music to put me in tune. Will you, please?" 

" Of course I will, with all my heart, or anywhere 
else you like. You have been shut up so long, it will 
do you no end of good, and I shall enjoy it, of all 
things. What put it into your head, little mother?" 

" Well, I had a talk with Marmee the other day, 
and told her how nervous, and cross, and out of sorts 
I felt, and she said I needed change, and less care ; so 
Hannah is to help me with the children, and I'm to 
see to things about the house more, and now and 
then have a little fun, just to keep me from getting to 
be a fidgetty, broken-down old woman before my 
time. It's only an experiment, John, and I want to 
try it for your sake, as much as for mine, because Fve 
neglected you shamefully lately, and I'm going to 
make home what it used to be, if I can. You don't 
object, I hope ? " 

Never mind what John said, or what a very narrow 
escape the little bonnet had from utter ruin ; all that 
we have any business to know, is that John did not 
appear to object, judging from the changes which 
gradually took place in the house and its inmates. It 
was not all Paradise by any means, but every one was 
better for the division of labor system ; the children 
throve under the paternal rule, for accurate, steadfast 



232 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



John brought order and obedience into Babydom, 
while Meg recovered her spirits, and composed her 
nerves, by plenty of wholesome exercise, a little pleas- 
ure, and much confidential conversation with her 
sensible husband. Home grew home-like again, and 
John had no wish to leave it, unless he took Meg 
with him. The Scotts came to the Brookes now, and 
every one found the little house a cheerful place, full 
of happiness, content, and family love ; even gay 
Sallie Moffat liked to go there. "It is always so 
quiet and pleasant here ; it does me good, Meg," she 
used to say, looking about her with wistful eyes, as if 
trying to discover the charm, that she might use it in 
her great house, full of splendid loneliness, for there 
were no riotous, sunny-faced babies there, and Ned 
lived in a world of his own, where there was no place 
for her. 

This household happiness did not come all at once, 
but John and Meg had found the key to it, and each 
year of married life taught them how to use it, un- 
locking the treasuries of real home-love and mutual 
helpfulness, which the poorest may possess, and the 
richest cannot buy. This is the sort of shelf on 
which young wives and mothers may consent to be 
laid, safe from the restless fret and fever of the world, 
finding loyal lovers in the little sons and daughters 
who cling to them, undaunted by sorrow, poverty or 
age ; walking side by side, through fair and stormy , 
weather, with a faithful friend, who is, in the true 
sense of the good old Saxon word, the " house-band," 
and learning, as Meg learned, that a woman's happiest 
kingdom is home, her highest honor the art of ruling 
it — ■ not as a queen, but a wise wife and mother. 



CHAPTER XVI. 



LAZY LAURENCE 



LAURIE went to Nice intending to stay a week, 
and remained a month. He was tired of wan- 
dering about alone, and Amy's familiar presence 
seemed to give a home-like charm to the foreign scenes 
in which she bore a part. He rather missed the 
u muching " he used to receive, and enjoyed a taste 
of it again, — for no attentions, however flattering, 
from strangers, were half so pleasant as the sisterly 
adoration of the girls at home. Amy never would 
pet him like the others, but she was very glad to see 
him now, and quite clung to him, — feeling that he 
was the representative of the dear family for whom 
she longed more than she would confess. They 
naturally took comfort in each other's society, and 
were much together, — riding, walking, dancing, or 
dawdling, — for, at Nice, no one can be very indus- 
trious during the gay season. But, while apparently 
amusing themselves in the most careless fashion, they 
were half-consciously making discoveries and forming 
opinions about each other. Amy rose daily in the 
estimation of her friend, but he sunk in hers, and each 
felt the truth before a word was spoken. Amy tried 
to please, and succeeded, — for she was grateful for 
the many pleasures he gave her, and repaid him 
with the little services to which womanly women 
know how to lend an indescribable charm. Laurie 
made no effort of any kind, but just let himself drift 
(233) 



2 34 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



along as comfortably as possible, trying to forget, and 
feeling that all women owed him a kind word because 
one had been cold to him. It cost him no effort to 
be generous, and he would have given Amy all the 
trinkets in Nice if she would have taken them, — but, 
at the same time, he felt that he could not change 
the opinion she was forming of him, and he rather 
dreaded the keen blue eyes that seemed to watch him 
with such half-sorrowful, half-scornful surprise. 

"All the rest have gone to Moniaco for the day; I 
preferred to stay at home and write letters. They- are 
done now, and I am going to Valrosa to sketch ; will 
you come ? " said Amy, as she joined Laurie one lovely 
day when he lounged in as usual, about noon. 

" Well, yes ; but isn't it rather warm for such a long 
walk?" he answered slowly, — for the shaded salon 
looked inviting, after the glare without. 

" I'm going to have the little carriage, and Baptiste 
can drive, — so you'll have nothing to do but hold 
your umbrella and keep your gloves nice," returned 
Amy, with a sarcastic glance at the immaculate kids, 
which were a weak point with Laurie. 

" Then I'll go with pleasure," and he put out his 
hand for her sketch-book. But she tucked it under 
her arm with a sharp — 

" Don't trouble yourself; it's no exertion to me, but 
you don't look equal to it." 

Laurie lifted his eyebrows, and followed at a 
leisurely pace as she ran down stairs ; but when they 
got into the carriage he took the reins himself, and 
left little Baptiste nothing to do but fold his arms and 
fall asleep on his perch. 

The two never quarrelled ; Amy was too well-bred, 



LAZY LAURENCE. 235 

and just now Laurie was too lazy ; so, in a minute he 
peeped under her hat-brim with an inquiring air ; she 
answered with a smile, and they went on together in 
the most amicable manner. 

It was a lovely drive, along winding roads rich in 
the picturesque scenes that delight beauty-loving eyes. 
Here an ancient monastery, whence the solemn chant- 
ing of the monks came down to them. There a bare- 
legged shepherd, in wooden shoes, pointed hat, and 
rough jacket over one shoulder, sat piping on a stone, 
while his goats skipped among the rocks or lay at his 
feet. Meek, mouse-colored donkeys, laden with pan- 
niers of freshly-cut grass, passed by, with a pretty girl 
in a capaline sitting between the green piles, or an 
old woman spinning with a distaff as she went. 
Brown, soft-eyed children ran out from the quaint 
stone hovels to offer nosegays, or bunches of oranges 
still on the bough. Gnarled olive-trees covered the 
hills with their dusky foliage, fruit hung golden in the 
orchard, and great scarlet anemonies fringed the road- 
side ; while beyond green slopes and craggy heights, 
the Maritime Alps rose sharp and white against the 
blue Italian sky. 

Valrosa well deserved its name, — for in that climate 
of perpetual summer roses blossomed everywhere. 
They overhung the archway, thrust themselves be- 
tween the bars of the great gate with a sweet wel- 
come to passers-by, and lined the avenue, winding 
through lemon-trees and feathery palms up to the villa 
on the hill. Every shadowy nook, where seats invited 
one to stop and rest, was a mass of bloom ; every cool 
grotto had its marble nymph smiling from a veil of 
flowers ; and every fountain reflected crimson, white, 



236 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



or pale pink roses, leaning down to smile at their 
own beauty. Roses covered the walls of the house, 
draped the cornices, climbed the pillars, and ran riot 
over the balustrade of the wide terrace, whence one 
looked down on the sunny Mediterranean and the 
white-walled city on its shore. 

" This is a regular honey-moon Paradise, isn't it? 
Did you ever see such roses?" asked Amy, pausing 
on the terrace to enjoy the view, and a luxurious whirf 
of perfume that came wandering by. 

" No, nor felt such thorns," returned Laurie, with his 
thumb in his mouth, after a vain attempt to capture a 
solitary scarlet flower that grew just beyond his reach. 

" Try lower down, and pick those that have no 
thorns," said Amy, deftly gathering three of the tiny 
cream-colored ones that starred the wall behind her. 
She put them in his button-hole, as a peace-offering, 
and he stood a minute looking down at them with a 
curious expression, for in the Italian part of his nature 
there was a touch of superstition, and he was just then 
in that state of half-sweet, half-bitter melancholy, when 
imaginative young men find significance in trifles, and 
food for romance everywhere. He had thought of 
Jo in reaching after the thorny red rose, — for vivid 
flowers became her, — and she had often worn ones 
like that, from the green-house at home. The pale 
roses Amy gave him were the sort that the Italians 
lay in dead hands, — never in bridal wreaths, — and, 
for a moment, he wondered if the omen was for Jo 
or for himself. But the next instant his American 
common-sense got the better of sentimentality, and he 
laughed a heartier laugh than Amy had heard since 
he came. 



LAZT LAURENCE. 



237 



4 ' It's good advice, — you'd better take it and save 
your fingers," she said, thinking her speech amused 
him. 

" Thank you, I will ! " he answered in jest, ; — and a 
few months later he did it in earnest. 

"Laurie, when are you going to your grandfather?" 
she asked, presently, as she settled herself on a rustic 
seat. 

" Very soon." 

"You have said that a dozen times within the last 
three weeks." 

"I dare say ; short answers save trouble." 

" He expects you, and you really ought to go." 

" Hospitable creature ! I know it." 

" Then why don't you do it? " 

"Natural depravity, I suppose." 

" Natural indolence, you mean. It's really dread- 
ful ! " and Amy looked severe. 

" Not so bad as it seems, for I should only plague 
him if I went, so I might as well stay, and plague 
you a little longer — you can bear it better; in fact, I 
think it agrees with you excellently ! " and Laurie 
composed himself for a lounge on the broad ledge 
of the balustrade. 

Amy shook her head, and opened her sketch-book 
with an air of resignation, but she had made up her 
mind to lecture " that boy," and in a minute she 
began again. 

" What are you doing just now ? " 

" Watching lizards." 

" No, no ! I mean what do you intend, and wish to 
do?" 

" Smoke a cigarette, if you'll allow me." 



238 LITTLE WOMEN. 

" How provoking you are ! I don't approve of 
cigars, and I will only allow it on condition that you 
let me put you into my sketch ; I need a figure." 

" With all the pleasure in life. How will you have 
me? full-length, or three-quarters; on my head or my 
heels? I should respectfully suggest a recumbent 
posture, then put yourself in also, and call it, ■ Dolce 
far niente' " 

" Stay as you are, and go to sleep if you like. / 
intend to work hard," said Amy, in her most energetic 
tone. 

" What delightful enthusiasm ! " and he leaned 
against a tall urn, with an air of entire satisfaction. 

"What would Jo say if she saw you now?" asked 
Amy impatiently, hoping to stir him up by the men- 
tion of her still more energetic sister's name. 

" As usual : ' Go away, Teddy, I'm busy ' ! " He 
laughed as* he spoke, but. the laugh was not natural, 
and a shade passed over his face, for the utterance of 
the familiar name touched the wound that was not 
healed yet. Both tone and shadow struck Amy, for 
she had seen and heard them before, and now she 
looked up in time to catch a new expression on 
Laurie's face — a hard, bitter look, full of pain, dissat- 
isfaction and regret. It was gone before she could 
study it, and the listless expression back again. She 
watched him for a moment with artistic pleasure, 
thinking how like an Italian he looked, as he lay 
basking in the sun, with uncovered head, and eyes 
full of Southern dreaminess ; for he seemed to have 
forgotten her, and fallen into a reverie. 

" You look like the effigy of a young knight asleep 



LAZT LAURENCE. 239 

on his tomb," she said, carefully tracing the well-cut 
profile defined against the dark stone. 

"Wish I was!" 

" That's a foolish wish, unless you have spoilt your 
life. You are so changed I sometimes think — "there 
Amy stopped with a half-timid, half-wistful look, more 
significant than her unfinished speech. 

Laurie saw and understood the affectionate anxiety 
which she hesitated to express, and looking straight 
into her eyes, said, just as he used to say it to her 
mother, — 

" If s all right, ma'am ! " 

That satisfied her, and set at rest the doubts that 
had began to worry her lately. It also touched her, 
and she showed that it did, by the cordial tone in 
which she said, — 

"I'm glad of that! I didn't think you'd been a 
very bad boy, but I fancied you might have wasted 
money at that wicked Baden-Baden, lost your heart 
to some charming Frenchwoman with a husband, 
or got into some of the scrapes that young men seem 
to consider a necessary part of a foreign tour. Don't 
stay out there in the sun, come and lie on the grass 
here, and ' let us be friendly,' as Jo used to say when 
we got in the sofa-corner and told secrets." 

Laurie obediently threw himself down on the turf, 
and began to amuse himself by sticking daisies into 
the ribbons of Amy's hat, that lay there. 

" I'm all ready for the secrets," and he glanced up 
with a decided expression of interest in his eyes. 

" I've none to tell ; you may begin." 

" Haven't one to bless myself with. I thought per- 
haps you'd had some news from home." 



240 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



" You have heard all that has came lately. Don't 
you hear often? I fancied Jo would send you vol- 
umes." 

" She's very busy ; I'm roving about so, it's impos- 
sible to be regular, you know. When do you begin 
your great work of art, Raphaella?" he asked, 
changing the subject abruptly after another pause, in 
which he had been wondering if Amy knew his 
secret, and wanted to talk about it. 

" Never ! " she answered, with a despondent, but 
decided air. " Rome took all the vanity out of me, 
for after seeing the wonders there, I felt too insignifi- 
cant to live, and gave up all my foolish hopes in 
despair." 

" Why should you, with so much energy and 
talent?" 

" That's just why, because talent isn't genius, and 
no amount of energy can make it so. I want to be 
great, or nothing. I won't be a common-place 
dauber, so I don't intend to try any more." 

" And what are you going to do with yourself now, 
if I may ask?" 

" Polish up my other talents, and be an ornament 
to society, if I get the chance." 

It was a characteristic speech, and sounded daring ; 
but audacity becomes young people, and Amy's 
ambition had a good foundation. Laurie smiled, but 
he liked the spirit with which she took up a new 
purpose, when a long cherished one died, and spent 
no time lamenting. 

" Good ! and here is where Fred Vaughn comes in, 
I fancy." 

Amy preserved a discreet silence, but there was a 



LAZY LAURENCE. 



1%l 



conscious look in her downcast face, that made Lau- 
rie sit up and say gravely, — 

" Now I'm going to play brother, and ask questions. 
May I?" 

" I don't promise to answer." 

" Your face will, if your tongue don't. You aren't 
woman of the world enough yet to hide your feelings, 
my dear. I've heard rumors about Fred and you last 
year, and it's my private opinion, that if he had not 
been called home so suddenly, and detained so long, 
that something would have come of it — hey ? " 

" That's not for me to say," was Amy's prim reply ; 
but her lips would smile, and there was a traitorous 
sparkle of the eye, which betrayed that she knew her 
power and enjoyed the knowledge. 

" You are not engaged, I hope? " and Laurie looked 
very elder-brotherly and grave all of a sudden. 

"No." 

" But you will be, if he comes back and goes prop- 
erly down upon his knees, won't you ? " 

" Very likely." 

" Then you are fond of old Fred?" 

" I could be if I tried." 

" But you don't intend to try till the proper mo- 
ment ? Bless my soul, what unearthly prudence ! 
He's a good fellow, Amy, but not the man I fancied 
you'd like." 

" He is rich, a gentleman, and has delightful man- 
ners," — began Amy, trying to be quite cool and dig- 
nified, but feeling a little ashamed of herself, in spite 
of the sincerity of her intentions. 

" I understand — queens of society can't get on with- 
out money, so you mean to make a good match and 
16 



242 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



start in that way? Quite right and proper as the 
world goes, but it sounds odd from the lips of one 
of your mother's girls." 

" True, nevertheless ! " 

A short speech, but the quiet decision with which 
it was uttered, contrasted curiously with the young 
speaker. Laurie felt this instinctively, and laid him- 
self down again, with a sense of disappointment 
which he could not explain. His look and silence, 
as well as a certain inward self-disapproval, ruffled 
Amy — and made her resolve to deliver her lecture 
without delay. 

" I wish you'd do me the favor to rouse yourself a 
little," she said sharply. 

"Do it for me, there's a dear girl ! " 

" I could if I tried," and she looked as if she 
would like doing it in the most summary style. 

" Try then, I give you leave," returned Laurie, 
who enjoyed having some one to tease, after his long 
abstinence from his favorite pastime. 

"You'd be angry in five minutes." 

" I'm never angry with you. It takes two flints to 
make a fire ; you are as cool and soft as snow." 

"You don't know what I can do — snow produces 
a glow and a tingle, if applied rightly. Your indiffer- 
ence is half affectation, and a good stirring up would 
prove it." 

" Stir away, it won't hurt me, and it may amuse 
you, as the big man said when his little wife beat 
him. Regard me in the light of a husband or a 
carpet, and beat till you are tired, if that sort of 
exercise agrees with you." 

Being decidedly nettled herself, and longing to see 



LAZY LAURENCE. 



243 



him shake off the apathy that so altered him, Amy 
sharpened both tongue and pencil, and began, — 

" Flo and I have got a new name for you ; it's ' Lazy 
Laurence ' ; how do you like it ? " 

She thought it would annoy him, but he only folded 
his arms under his head, with an imperturbable — 
" That's not bad ! thank you, ladies." 

" Do you want to know what I honestly think of 
you?" 

" Pining to be told." 

"Well, I despise you." 

If she had even said "I hate you," in a petulant 
or coquettish tone, he would have laughed, and rather 
liked it ; but the grave, almost sad accent of her voice, 
made him open his eyes, and ask quickly, — 

"Why, if you please?" 

" Because with every chance for being good, useful 
and happy, you are faulty, lazy and miserable." 

" Strong language, mademoiselle." 

" If you like it, I'll go on." 

" Pray do, it's quite interesting." 

" I thought you'd find it so ; selfish people always 
like to talk about themselves." 

"Am I selfish?" the question slipped out involun- 
tarily, and in a tone of surprise, for the one virtue on 
which he prided himself was generosity. 

" Yes, very selfish," continued Amy, in a calm, cool 
voice, twice as effective, just then, as an angry one. 
" I'll show you how, for I've studied you while we 
have been frolicking, and I'm not at all satisfied with 
you. Here you have been abroad nearly six months, 
and done nothing but waste time and money, and 
disappoint your friends." 



244 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



" Isn't a fellow to have any pleasure after a four- 
years' grind ? " 

" You don't look as if you'd had much ; at any rate 
you are none the better for it, as far as I can see. I 
said when we first met, that you had improved ; now 
I take it all back, for I don't think you half so nice 
as when I left you at home. You have grown abom- 
inably lazy, you like gossip, and waste time on friv- 
olous tilings ; you are contented to be petted and 
admired by silly people, instead of being loved and 
respected by wise ones. With money, talent, position, 
health, and beauty, — ah, you like that, old vanity! 
but it's the truth, so I can't help saying it, — with all 
these splendid things to use and enjoy, you can find 
nothing to do but dawdle, and instead of being the 
man you might and ought to be, you are only — " 
there she stopped, with a look that had both pain and 
pity in it. 

" Saint Laurence on a gridiron," added Laurie, 
blandly finishing the sentence. But the lecture began 
to take effect, for there was a wide-awake sparkle in 
his eyes now, and a half-angry, half-injured expression 
replaced the former indifference. 

" I supposed you'd take it so. You men tell us we 
are angels, and say we can make you what we will ; 
but the instant we honestly try to do you good, you 
laugh at us, and won't listen, which proves how much 
your flattery is worth." Amy spoke bitterly, and 
turned her back on the exasperating martyr at her 
feet. 

In a minute a hand came down over the page, so 
that she could not draw, and Laurie's voice said, with 
a droll imitation of a penitent child, — 



LAZY LAURENCE. 24^ 

" I will be good ! oh, I will be good ! " 

But Amy did not laugh, for she was in earnest ; 
and, tapping on the outspread hand with her pencil, 
said soberly, — 

"Aren't you ashamed of a hand like that? It's as 
soft and white as a woman's, and looks as if it never 
did anything but wear Jouvin's best gloves, and pick 
flowers for ladies. You are not a dandy, thank 
heaven ! so I'm glad to see there are no diamonds or 
big seal rings on it, only the little old one Jo gave 
you so long ago. Dear soul ! I wish she was here to 
help me." 

" So do I ! " 

The hand vanished as suddenly as it came, and 
there was energy enough in the echo of her wish to 
suit even Amy. She glanced down at him with a 
new thought in her mind, — but he was lying with 
his hat half over his face, as if for shade, and his 
mustache hid his mouth. She only saw his chest 
rise and fall, with a long breath that might have been 
a sigh, and the hand that wore the ring nestle down 
into the grass, as if to hide something too precious or 
too tender to be spoken of. All in a minute various 
hints and trifles assumed shape and significance in 
Amy's mind, and told her what her sister never had 
confided to her. She remembered that Laurie never 
spoke voluntarily of Jo ; she recalled the shadow on 
his face just now, the change in his character, and the 
wearing of the little old ring, which was no ornament 
to a handsome hand. Girls are quick to read such 
signs, and feel their eloquence ; Amy had fancied that 
perhaps a love-trouble was at the bottom of the altera- 
tion, and now she was sure of it ; her keen eyes filled, 



246 LITTLE WOMEN. 

and, when she spoke again, it was in a voice that 
could be beautifully soft and kind when she chose to 
make it so. 

" I know I have no right to talk so to you, Laurie ; 
and if you weren't the sweetest-tempered fellow in the 
world, you'd be very angry with me. But we are all 
so fond and proud of you, I couldn't bear to think they 
should be disappointed in you at home as I have been, 
— though perhaps they would understand the change 
better than I do." 

" I think they would," came from under the hat, in 
a grim tone, quite as touching as a broken one. 

" They ought to have told me, and not let me go 
blundering and scolding, when I should have been 
more kind and patient than ever. I never did like 
that Miss Randal, and now I hate her ! " said artful 
Amy, : — wishing to be sure of her facts this time. 

" Hang Miss Randal ! " and Laurie knocked the hat 
off his face with a look that left no doubt of his 
sentiments toward that young lady. 

"I beg pardon ; I thought — " and there she paused 
diplomatically. 

" No, you didn't ; you knew perfectly well I never 
cared for any one but Jo." Laurie said that in his old, 
impetuous tone, and turned his face away as he spoke. 

"I did think so ; but as they never said anything 
about it, and you came away, I supposed I was mis- 
taken. And Jo wouldn't be kind to you? Why, I 
was sure she loved you dearly." 

;; She was kind, but not in the right way ; and it's 
lucky for her she didn't love me, if I'm the good-for- 
nothing fellow you think me. It's her fault, though, 
and you may tell her so." 



LAZT LAURENCE. 247 

The hard, bitter look came back again as he said 
that, and it troubled Amy, for she did not know what 
balm to apply. 

"I was wrong; I didn't know; I'm very sorry I 
was so cross, but I can't help wishing you'd bear it 
better, Teddy, dear." 

u Don't ! that's her name for me," and Laurie put up 
his hand with a quick gesture to stop the words spoken 
in Jo's half-kind, half-reproachful tone. "Wait till 
you've tried it yourself," he added, in a low voice, as 
he pulled up the grass by the handful. 

" I'd take it manfully, and be respected if I couldn't 
be loved," cried Amy, with the decision of one who 
knew nothing about it. 

Now Laurie nattered himself that he had borne it 
remarkably well, — making no moan, asking no sym- 
pathy, and taking his trouble away to live it down 
alone. Amy's lecture put the matter in a new light, 
and for the first time it did look weak and selfish to 
lose heart at the first failure, and shut himself up in 
moody indifference. He felt as if suddenly shaken 
out of a pensive dream, and found it impossible to 
go to sleep again. Presently he sat up, and asked, 
slowly, — 

" Do you think Jo would despise me as you do?" 

" Yes, if she saw you now. She hates lazy people. 
Why don't you do something splendid, and make her 
love you ? " 

" I did my best, but it was no use." 

"Graduating well, you mean? That was no more 
than you ought to have done, for your grandfather's 
sake. It would have been shameful to fail after 



348 LITTLE WOMEN. 

spending so much time and money, when every one 
knew you could do well." 

" I did fail, say what you will, for Jo wouldn't love 
me," began Laurie, leaning his head on his hand in a 
despondent attitude. 

" No you didn't, and you'll say so in the end, — for 
it did you good, and proved that you could do some- 
thing if you tried. If you'd only set about another 
task of some sort, you'd soon be your hearty, happy 
self again, and forget your trouble." 

u That's impossible ! " 

" Try it and see. You needn't shrug your shoul- 
ders, and think ' Much she knows about such things.' 
I don't pretend to be wise, but I am observing, and I 
see a great deal more than you'd imagine. I'm inter- 
ested in other people's experiences and inconsistencies ; 
and, though I can't explain, I remember and use them 
for my own benefit. Love Jo all your days, if you 
choose, — but don't let it spoil you, — for it's wicked 
to throw away so many good gifts because you can't 
have the one you want. There, — I won't lecture any 
more, for I know you'll wake up, and be a man in 
spite of that hard-hearted girl." 

Neither spoke for several minutes. Laurie sat 
turning the little ring on his finger, and Amy put the 
last touches to the hasty sketch she had been working 
at while she talked. Presently she put it on his 
knee, merely saying, — 

" How do you like that? " 

He looked and then he smiled, — as he could not 
well help doing, for it was capitally done. The long, 
lazy figure on the grass, with listless face, half-shut 
eyes, and one hand holding a cigar, from which came 



LAZT LAURENCE. 



249 



-the little wreath of smoke that encircled the dreamer's 
head. 

" How well you draw ! " he said, with genuine sur- 
prise and pleasure at her skill, adding, with a half- 
laugh, — 

" Yes, that's me." 

"As you are, — this is as you were," and Amy laid 
another sketch beside the one he held. 

It was not nearly so well done, but there was a life 
and spirit in it which atoned for many faults, and it 
recalled the past so vividly that a sudden change 
swept over the young man's face as he looked. Only 
a rough sketch of Laurie taming a horse ; hat and coat 
were oft', and every line of the active figure, resolute 
face, and commanding attitude, was full of energy and 
meaning. The handsome brute, just subdued, stood 
arching his neck under the tightly-drawn rein, with 
one foot impatiently pawing the ground, and ears 
pricked up as if listening for the voice that had mas- 
tered him. In the ruffled mane, the rider's breezy hair 
and erect attitude, there was a suggestion of suddenly 
arrested motion, of strength, courage, and youthful 
buoyancy that contrasted sharply with the supine grace 
of the " Dolce far niente " sketch. Laurie said noth- 
ing ; but, as his eye went from one to the other, Amy 
saw him flush up and fold his lips together as if he 
read and accepted the little lesson she had given him. 
That satisfied her ; and, without waiting for him to 
speak, she said, in her sprightly way, — 

"Don't you remember the day you played * Rarey' 
with Puck, and we all looked on ? Meg and Beth 
were frightened, but Jo clapped and pranced, and I 
sat on the fence and drew you. I found that sketch in 



250 LITTLE WOMEN. 

my portfolio the other day, touched it up, and kept it> 
to show you." 

" Much obliged ! You've improved immensely since 
then, and I congratulate you. May I venture to sug- 
gest in ' a honeymoon Paradise,' that five o'clock is 
the dinner hour at your hotel ? " 

Laurie rose as he spoke, returned the pictures with 
a smile and a bow, and looked at his watch, as if to 
remind her that even moral lectures should have an 
end. He tried to resume his former easy, indifferent 
air, but it was an affectation now, — for the rousing 
had been more efficacious than he would confess. 
Amy felt the shade of coldness in his manner, and 
said to herself, — 

" Now I've offended him. Well, if it does him 
good, I'm glad, — if it makes him hate me, I'm sorry; 
but it's true, and I can't take back a word of it." 

They laughed and chatted all the way home ; and 
little Baptiste, up behind, thought that Monsieur and 
Mademoiselle were in charming spirits. But both felt 
ill at ease ; the friendly frankness was disturbed, the 
sunshine had a shadow over it, and, despite their 
apparent gayety, there was a secret discontent in the 
heart of each. 

" Shall we see you this evening, monfrere?" asked 
Amy, as they parted at her aunt's door. 

" Unfortunately I have an engagement. Au revoir, 
Mademoiselle" and Laurie bent as if to kiss her hand, 
in the foreign fashion, which became him better than 
many men. Something in his face made Amy say, 
quickly and warmly, — 

" No ; be yourself with me, Laurie, and part in the 



LAZT LAURENCE. 



251 



good old way. I'd rather have a hearty English hand- 
shake than all the sentimental salutations in France." 

" Good-by, dear," and, with these words, uttered in 
the tone she liked, Laurie left her, after a hand-shake 
almost painful in its heartiness. 

Next morning, instead of the usual call, Amy re- 
ceived a note which made her smile at the beginning, 
and sigh at the end : — 

" My Dear Mentor : 

" Please make my adieux to your aunt, and exult 
within yourself, for ' Lazy Laurence ' has gone to his 
grandpa, like the best of boys. A pleasant winter to 
you, and may the gods grant you a blissful honeymoon 
at Valrosa. I think Fred would be benefited by a 
rouser. Tell him so, with my congratulations. 

" Yours gratefully, Telemachus." 

" Good boy ! Fm glad he's gone," said Amy, with 
an approving smile ; the next minute her face fell as 
she glanced about the empty room, adding, with an 
involuntary sigh, — 

"Yes, I am glad, — but how I shall miss him." 



CHAPTER XVH. 

THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW. 

WHEN the first bitterness was over, the family 
accepted the inevitable, and tried to bear it 
cheerfully, helping one another by the in- 
creased affection which conies to bind households ten- 
derly together in times of trouble. They put away 
their grief, and each did their part toward making 
that last year a happy one. 

The pleasantest room in the house was set apart for 
Beth, and in it was gathered everything that she most 
loved — flowers, pictures, her piano, the little work- 
table, and the beloved pussies. Father's best books 
found their way there, mother's easy chair, Jo's desk, 
Amy's loveliest sketches ; and every day Meg brought 
her babies on a loving pilgrimage, to make sunshine 
for Aunty Beth. John quietly set apart a little sum, 
that he might enjoy the pleasure of keeping the in- 
valid supplied with the fruit she loved and longed for ; 
old Hannah never wearied of concocting dainty dishes 
to tempt a capricious appetite, dropping tears as she 
worked ; and, from across the sea, came little gifts 
and cheerful letters, seeming to bring breaths of 
warmth and fragrance from lands that know no 
winter. 

Here, cherished like a household saint in its shrine, 

sat Beth, tranquil and busy as ever ; for nothing could 

change the sweet, unselfish nature ; and even while 

preparing to leave life, she tried to make it happier 

(252) 



THE VALLET OF THE SHADOW. 253 

for those who should remain behind. The feeble 
fingers were never idle, and one of her pleasures was 
to make little things for the school children daily- 
passing to and fro. To drop a pair of mittens from 
her window for a pair of purple hands, a needle-book 
for some small mother of many dolls, pen-wipers for 
young penmen toiling through forests of pot-hooks, 
scrap-books for picture-loving eyes, and all manner 
of pleasant devices, till the reluctant climbers up the 
ladder of learning found their way strewn with flow- 
ers, as it were, and came to regard the gentle giver as 
a sort of fairy god-mother, who sat above there, and 
showered down gifts miraculously suited to their 
tastes and needs. If Beth had wanted any reward, 
she found it in the bright little faces always turned up 
to her window, with nods and smiles, and the droll 
little letters which came to her, full of blots and 
gratitude. 

The first few months were very happy ones, and 
Beth often used to look round, and say " How beauti- 
ful this is," as they all sat together in her sunny room, 
the babies kicking and crowing on the floor, mother 
and sisters working near, and father reading in his 
pleasant voice, from the wise old books, which seemed 
rich in good and comfortable words, as applicable 
now as when written centuries ago — a little chapel, 
where a paternal priest taught his flock the hard lessons 
all must learn, trying to show them that hope can 
comfort love, and faith make resignation possible. 
Simple sermons, that went straight to the souls of 
those who listened ; for the father's heart was in the 
minister's religion, and the frequent falter in the voice 



254 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



gave a double eloquence to the words he spoke or 
read. 

It was well for all that this peaceful time was given 
them as preparation for the sad hours to come ; for, by 
and by, Beth said the needle was " so heavy," and put 
it down forever ; talking wearied her, faces troubled 
her, pain claimed her for its own, and her tranquil 
spirit was sorrowfully perturbed by the ills that vexed 
her feeble flesh. Ah me ! such heavy days, such long, 
long nights, such aching hearts and imploring prayers, 
when those who loved her best were forced to see the 
thin hands stretched out to them beseechingly, to hear 
the bitter cry, " Help me, help me !" and to feel that 
there was no help. A sad eclipse of the serene soul, 
a sharp struggle of the young life with death ; but both 
were mercifully brief, and then, the natural rebellion 
over, the old peace returned more beautiful than ever. 
With the wreck of her frail body, Beth's soul grew 
strong ; and, though she said little, those about her 
felt that she was ready, saw that the first pilgrim 
called was likewise the fittest, and waited with her on 
the shore, trying to see the Shining ones coming to 
receive her when she crossed the river. 

Jo never left her for an hour since Beth had said, 
" I feel stronger when you are here." She slept on a 
couch in the room, waking often to renew the fire, to 
feed, lift, or wait upon the patient creature who sel- 
dom asked for anything, and " tried not to be a 
trouble." All day she haunted the room, jealous of 
any other nurse, and prouder of being chosen then 
than of any honor her life ever brought her. Precious 
and helpful hours to Jo, for now her heart received 
the teaching that it needed ; lessons in patience were 



THE VALLBT OF THE SHADOW. 



*55 



so sweetly taught her, that she could not fail to learn 
them ; charity for all, the lovely spirit that can for- 
give and truly forget unkindness, the loyalty to duty 
that makes the hardest easy, and the sincere faith that 
fears nothing, but trusts undoubtingly. 

Often when she woke, Jo found Beth reading in 
her well-worn little book, heard her singing softly, to 
beguile the sleepless night, or saw her lean her face 
upon her hands, while slow tears dropped through 
the transparent fingers ; and Jo would lie watching 
her, with thoughts too deep for tears, feeling that 
Beth, in her simple, unselfish way, was trying to wean 
herself from the dear old life, and fit herself for the 
life to come, by sacred words of comfort, quiet 
prayers, and the music she loved so well. 

Seeing this did more for Jo than the wisest sermons, 
the saintliest hymns, the most fervent prayers that any 
voice could utter ; for, with eyes made clear by many 
tears, and a heart softened by the tenderest sorrow, 
she recognized the beauty of her sister's life — un- 
eventful, unambitious, yet full of the genuine virtues 
which "smell sweet, and blossom in the dust"; the 
self-forgetfulness that makes the humblest on earth 
remembered soonest in heaven, the true success which 
is possible to all. 

One night, when Beth looked among the books 
upon her table, to find something to make her forget 
the mortal weariness that was almost as hard to bear 
as pain, as she turned the leaves of her old favorite 
Pilgrim's Progress, she found a little paper scribbled 
over, in Jo's hand. The name caught her eye, and 
the blurred look of the lines made her sure that tears 
had fallen on it. 



256 LITTLE WOMEN. 

"Poor Jo, she's fast asleep, so I won't wake her to 
ask leave ; she shows me all her things, and I don't 
think she'll mind if I look at this," thought Beth, with 
a glance at her sister, who lay on the rug, with the 
tongs beside her, ready to wake up the minute the log 
fell apart. 

"MY BETH. 

" Sitting patient in the shadow 

Till the blessed light shall come, 
A serene and saintly presence 

Sanctifies our troubled home. 
Earthly joys, and hopes, and sorrows, 

Break like ripples on the strand 
Of the deep and solemn river 

Where her willing feet now stand. 

" Oh, my sister, passing from me, 

Out of human care and strife, 
Leave me, as a gift, those virtues 

Which have beautified your life. 
Dear, bequeath me that great patience 

Which has power to sustain 
A cheerful, uncomplaining spirit 

In its prison-house of pain. 

" Give me, for I need it sorely, 

Of that courage, wise and sweet, 
Which has made the path of duty 

Green beneath your willing feet. 
Give me that unselfish nature, 

That with charity divine 
Can pardon wrong for love's dear sake — 

Meek heart, forgive me mine ! 

" Thus our parting daily loseth 
Something of its bitter pain, 
And while learning this hard lesson, 
My great loss becomes my gain. 



THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW. 257 

For the touch of grief will render 

My wild nature more serene, 
Give to life new aspirations — 

A new trust in the unseen. 

" Henceforth, safe across the river, 

I shall see "forever more 
A beloved, household spirit 

Waiting for me on the shore. 
Hope and faith, born of my sorrow, 

Guardian angels shall become, 
And the sister gone before me, 

By their hands shall lead me home." 

Blurred and blotted, faulty and feeble as the lines 
were, they brought a look of inexpressible comfort to 
Beth' s face, for her one regret had been that she had 
done so little ; and this seemed to assure her that her 
life had not been useless — that her death would not 
bring the despair she feared. As she sat with the 
paper folded between her hands, the charred log fell 
asunder. Jo started up, revived the blaze, and crept 
to the bedside, hoping Beth slept. 

"Not asleep, but so happy, dear. See, I found 
this and read it ; I knew you wouldn't care. Have 
I been all that to you, Jo ? " she asked, with wistful, 
humble earnestness. 

" Oh, Beth, so much, so much ! n and Jo's head 
went down upon the pillow, beside her sister's. 

" Then I don't feel as if I'd wasted my life. I'm 
not so good as you make me, but I have tried to do 
right ; and now, when if s too late to begin even to do 
better, it's such a comfort to know that some one loves 
me so much, and feels as if I'd helped them." 

"More than any one in the world, Beth. I used to 

17 



258 LITTLE WOMEN. 

think I couldn't let you go ; but I'm learning to feel 
that I don't lose you ; that you'll be more to me than 
ever, and death can't part us, though it seems to." 

" I know it cannot, and I don't fear it any longer, 
for I'm sure I shall be your Beth still, to love and 
help you more than ever. You must take my place, 
Jo, and be everything to father and mother when I'm 
gone. They will turn to you — don't fail them ; and 
if it's hard to work alone, remember that I don't for- 
get you, and that you'll be happier in doing that, than 
writing splendid books, or seeing all the world ; for 
love is the only thing that we can carry with us when 
we go, and it makes the end so easy." 

" I'll try, Beth ; " and then and there Jo renounced 
her old ambition, pledged herself to a new and better 
one, acknowledging the poverty of other desires, and 
feeling the blessed solace of a belief in the immor- 
tality of love. 

So the spring days came and went, the sky grew 
clearer, the earth greener, the flowers were up fair 
and early, and the birds came back in time to say 
good-by to Beth, who, like a tired but trustful child, 
clung to the hands that had led her all her life, as 
father and mother guided her tenderly through the 
valley of the shadow, and gave her up to God. 

Seldom, except in books, do the dying utter mem- 
orable words, see visions, or depart with beatified 
countenances ; and those who have sped many part- 
ing souls know, that to most the end comes as nat- 
urally and simply as sleep. As Beth had hoped, the 
" tide went out easily" ; and in the dark hour before 
the dawn, on the bosom where she had drawn her 



THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW. 259 

first breath, she quietly drew her last, with no fare- 
well but one loving look and a little sigh. 

With tears, and prayers, and tender hands, mother 
and sisters made her ready for the long sleep that 
pain would never mar again — seeing with grateful 
eyes the beautiful serenity that soon replaced the 
pathetic patience that had wrung their hearts so long, 
and feeling with reverent joy, that to their darling 
death was a benignant angel — not a phantom full of 
dread. 

When morning came, for the first time in many 
months the fire was out, Jo's place was empty, and 
the room was very still. But a bird sang blithely on 
a budding bough, close by, the snow-drops blossomed 
freshly at the window, and the spring sunshine 
streamed in like a benediction over the placid face 
upon the pillow — a face so full of painless peace, 
that those who loved it best smiled through their 
tears, and thanked God that Beth was well at last. 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

LEARNING TO FORGET. 

AMY'S lecture did Laurie good, though, of course, 
he did not own it till long afterward ; men 
seldom do, — for when women are the advisers, 
the lords of creation don't take the advice till they 
have persuaded themselves that it is just what they 
intended to do ; then they act upon it, and, if it suc- 
ceeds, they give the weaker vessel half the credit of it ; 
if it fails, they generously give her the whole. Laurie 
went back to his grandfather, and was so dutifully 
devoted for several weeks that the old gentleman 
declared the climate of Nice had improved him won- 
derfully, and he had better try it again. There was 
nothing the young gentleman would have liked better, 
— but elephants could not have dragged him back 
after the scolding he had received ; pride forbid, — and 
whenever the longing grew very strong, he fortified 
his resolution by repeating the words that had made 
the deepest impression, — "I despise you ; " " Go and 
do something splendid that will make her love you." 

Laurie turned the matter over in his mind so often 
that he soon brought himself to confess that he had 
been selfish and lazy ; but then when a man has a 
great sorrow, he should be indulged in all sorts of 
vagaries till he has lived it down. He felt that his 
blighted affections were quite dead now ; and, though 
he should never cease to be- a faithful mourner, there 
was no occasion to wear his weeds ostentatiously. 
(260) 



LEARNING TO FORGET. 2 6l 

Jo wouldn't love him, but he might make her respect 
and admire him by doing something which should 
prove that a girl's " No" had not spoilt his life. He 
had always meant to do something, and Amy's advice 
was quite unnecessary. He had only been waiting till 
the aforesaid blighted affections were decently in- 
terred ; that being done, he felt that he was ready to 
" hide his stricken heart, and still toil on." 

As Goethe, when he had a joy or a grief, put it into 
a song, so Laurie resolved to embalm his love-sorrow 
in music, and compose a Requiem which should harrow 
up Jo's soul and melt the heart of every hearer. So 
the next time the old gentleman found him getting 
restless and moody, and ordered him off, he went to 
Vienna, where he had musical friends, and fell to work 
with the firm determination to distinguish himself. 
But, whether the sorrow was too vast to be embodied 
in music, or music too ethereal to uplift a mortal woe, 
he soon discovered that the Requiem was beyond him, 
just at present. It was evident that his mind was not 
in working order yet, and his ideas needed clarifying ; 
for often, in the middle of a plaintive strain, he would 
find himself humming a dancing tune that vividly 
recalled the Christmas ball at Nice, — especially the 
stout Frenchman, — and put an effectual stop to tragf" 
composition for the time being. 

Then he tried an Opera, — for nothing seemed 
impossible in the beginning, — but here, again, un- 
foreseen difficulties beset him. He wanted Jo for his 
heroine, and called upon his memory to supply him 
with tender recollections and romantic visions of his 
love. But memory turned traitor ; and, as if possessed 
by the perverse spirit of the girl, would only recall 



262 LITTLE WOMEN. 

Jo's oddities, faults, and freaks, would only show her 
in the most unsentimental aspects, — beating mats 
with her head tied up in a bandanna, barricading 
herself with the sofa-pillow, or throwing cold water 
over his passion a la Gummidge, — and an irresistible 
laugh spoilt the pensive picture he was endeavoring 
to paint. Jo wouldn't be put into the Opera at any 
price, and he had to give her up with a " Bless that 
girl, what a torment she is ! " and a clutch at his hair, 
as became a distracted composer. 

When he looked about him for another and a less 
intractable damsel to immortalize in melody, memory 
produced one with the most obliging readiness. This 
phantom wore many faces, but it always had golden 
hair, was enveloped in a diaphanous cloud, and floated 
airily before his mind's eye in a pleasing chaos of 
roses, peacocks, white ponies and blue ribbons. He 
did not give the complaisant wraith any name, but he 
took her for his heroine, and grew quite fond of her, 
as well he might, — for he gifted her with every gift 
and grace under the sun, and escorted her, unscathed, 
through trials which would have annihilated any 
mortal woman. 

Thanks to this inspiration, he got on swimmingly 
for a time, but gradually the work lost its charm, and 
he forgot to compose, while he sat musing, pen in 
hand, or roamed about the gay city to get new ideas 
and refresh his mind, which seemed to be in a some- 
what unsettled state that winter. He did not do 
much, but he thought a great deal, and was conscious 
of a change of some sort going on in spite of himself. 
" It's genius simmering, perhaps, — I'll let it simmer, 
and see what comes of it," he said, with a secret 



LEARNING TO FORGET. 2 6$ 

suspicion, all the while, that it wasn't genius, but 
something far more common. Whatever it was, it 
simmered to some purpose, for he grew more and 
more discontented with his desultory life, began to 
long for some real and earnest work to go at, soul and 
body, and finally came to the wise conclusion that 
every one who loved music was not a composer. 
Returning from one of Mozart's grand Operas, splen- 
didly performed at the Royal Theatre, he looked over 
his own, played a few of the best parts, sat staring up 
at the busts of Mendelssohn, Beethoven, and Bach, who 
stared benignly back again ; then suddenly he tore up 
his music-sheets, one by one, and, as the last fluttered 
out of his hand, he said soberly, to himself, — 

" She is right ! talent isn't genius, and you can't 
make it so. That music has taken the vanity out of 
me as Rome took it out of her, and I won't be a 
humbug any longer. Now what shall I do ? " 

That seemed a hard question to answer, and Laurie 
began to wish he had to work for his daily bread. 
Now, if ever, occurred an eligible opportunity for 
" going to the devil," as he once forcibly expressed it, 
— for he had plenty of money and nothing to do, — 
and Satan is proverbially fond of providing employ- 
ment for full and idle hands. The poor fellow had 
temptations enough from without and from within, 
but he withstood them pretty well, — for much as he 
valued liberty he valued good faith and confidence 
more, — so his promise to his grandfather, and his 
desire to be able to look honestly into the eyes of the 
women who loved him, and say "All's well," kept 
him safe and steady. 

Very likely some Mrs. Grundy will observe, " I 



264 LITTLE WOMEN. 

don't believe it ; boys will be boys, young men must 
sow their wild oats, and women must not expect 
miracles." I dare say you don't, Mrs. Grundy, but 
it's true, nevertheless. Women work a good many 
miracles, and I have a persuasion that they may 
perform even that of raising the standard of manhood 
by refusing to echo such sayings. Let the boys be 
boys, — the longer the better, — and let the young 
men sow their wild oats if they must, — but mothers, 
sisters, and friends may help to make the crop a small 
one, and keep many tares from spoiling the harvest, 
by believing, — and showing that they believe, — in 
the possibility of loyalty to the virtues which make 
men manliest in good women's eyes. If it is a. 
feminine delusion, leave us to enjoy it while we may, 
— for without it half the beauty and the romance of 
life is lost, and sorrowful forebodings would embitter 
all our hopes of the brave, tender-hearted little lads, 
who still love the'ir mothers better than themselves, 
and are not ashamed to own it. 

Laurie thought that the task of forgetting his love 
for Jo would absorb all his powers for years ; but, to 
his great surprise, he discovered it grew easier every 
day. He refused to believe it at first, — got angry 
with himself, and couldn't understand it ; but these 
hearts of ours are curious and contrary things, and 
time and nature work their will in spite of us. Lau- 
rie's heart wouldn't ache ; the wound persisted in 
healing with a rapidity that astonished him, and, 
instead of trying to forget, he found himself trying to 
remember. He had not foreseen this turn of affairs, 
and was not prepared for it. He was disgusted with 
himself, surprised at his own fickleness, and full of a 



LEARNING TO FORGET. 



265 



queer mixture of disappointment and relief that he 
could recover from such a tremendous blow so soon. 
He carefully stirred up the embers of his lost love, but 
they refused to burst into a blaze ; there was only a 
comfortable glow that warmed and did him good 
without putting him into a fever, and he was reluc- 
tantly obliged to confess that the boyish passion was 
slowly subsiding into a more tranquil sentiment, — 
very tender, a little sad and resentful still, — but that 
was sure to pass away in time, leaving a brotherly 
affection which would last unbroken to the end. 

As the word " brotherly " passed through his mind 
in one of these reveries, he smiled, and glanced up at 
the picture of Mozart that was before him, — 

" Well, he was a great man ; and when he couldn't 
have one sister he took the other, and was happy." 

Laurie did not utter the words, but he thought them ; 
and the next instant kissed the little old ring, saying 
to himself, — 

" No I won't ! I haven't forgotten, I never can. 
Til try again, and if that fails, why then — " 

Leaving his sentence unfinished, he seized pen and 
paper and wrote to Jo, telling her that he could not 
settle to anything while there was the least hope of 
her changing her mind. Couldn't she, wouldn't she, 
— and let him come home and be happy? While 
waiting for an answer he did nothing, — but he did it 
energetically, for he was in a fever of impatience. It 
came at last, and settled his mind effectually on one 
point, — for Jo decidedly couldn't and wouldn't. She 
was wrapped up in Beth, and never wished to hear 
the word " love" again. Then she begged him to be 
happy with somebody else, but always to keep a little 



266 LITTLE WOMEN. 

corner of his heart for his loving sister Jo. In a post- 
script she desired him not to tell Amy that Beth was 
worse ; she was coming home in the spring, and there 
was no need of saddening the remainder of her stay. 
That would be time enough, please God, but Laurie 
must write to her often, and not let her feel lonely, 
homesick, or anxious. 

"Sol will, at once. Poor little girl ; it will be a 
sad going home for her, I'm afraid;" and Laurie 
opened his desk, as if writing to Amy had been the 
proper conclusion of the sentence left unfinished some 
weeks befere. 

But he did not write the letter that day ; for, as he 
rummaged out his best paper, he came across some- 
thing which changed his purpose. Tumbling about 
in one part of the desk, among bills, passports, and 
business documents of various kinds, were several of 
Jo's letters, and in another compartment were three 
notes from Amy, carefully tied up with one of her 
blue ribbons, and sweetly suggestive of the little dead 
roses put away inside. With a half-repentant, half- 
amused expression, Laurie gathered up all Jo's letters, 
smoothed, folded, and put them neatly into a small 
drawer of the desk, stood a minute turning the ring 
thoughtfully on his finger, then slowly drew it off, 
laid it with the letters, locked the drawer, and went 
out to hear High Mass at Saint Stefan's, feeling as if 
there had been a funeral ; and, though not over- 
whelmed with affliction, this seemed a more proper 
way to spend the rest of the day, than in writing 
letters to charming vounsr ladies. 

The letter went very soon, however, and was 
promptly answered, for Amy was homesick, and con- 



LEARNING TO FORGET. 267 

fessed it in the most delightfully confiding manner. 
The correspondence flourished famously, and letters 
flew to and fro, with unfailing regularity, all through 
the early spring. Laurie sold his busts, made al- 
lumettes of his opera, and went back to Paris, hoping 
somebody would arrive before long. He wanted des- 
perately to go to Nice, but would not till he was 
asked ; and Amy would not ask him, for just then 
she was having little experiences of her own, which 
made her rather wish to avoid the quizzical eyes of 
" our boy." 

Fred Vaughn had returned, and put the question to 
which she had once decided to answer " Yes, thank 
you " ; but now she said, " No, thank you," kindly 
but steadily ; for when the time came, her courage 
failed her, and she found that something more than 
money and position was needed to satisfy the hew 
longing that filled her heart so full of tender hopes 
and fears. The words " Fred is a good fellow, but 
not at all the man I fancied you would ever like," and 
Laurie's face, when he uttered them, kept returning 
to her as pertinaciously as her own did, when she 
said in look, if not in words, " I shall marry for 
money." It troubled her to remember that now, she 
wished she could take it back, it sounded so un- 
womanly. She didn't want Laurie to think her a 
heartless, worldly creature ; she didn't care to be a 
queen of society now half so much as she did to be a 
lovable woman ; she was so glad he didn't hate her 
for the dreadful things she said, but took them so 
beautifully, and was kinder than ever. His letters 
were such a comfort — for the home letters were very 
irregular, and were not half so satisfactory as his 



• 2 6S LITTLE WOMEN. 

when they did come. It was not only a pleasure, but 
a duty to answer them, for the poor fellow was for- 
lorn, and needed petting, since Jo persisted in being 
stony-hearted. She ought to have made an effort, 
and tried to love him — it couldn't be very hard — 
many people would be proud and glad to have such a 
dear boy care for them ; but Jo never would act like 
other girls, so there was nothing to do but be very 
kind, and treat him like a brother. 

If all brothers were treated as well as Laurie was 
at this period, they would be a much happier race of 
beings than they are. Amy never lectured now ; she 
asked his opinion on all subjects ; she was interested 
in everything he did, made charming little presents 
for him, and sent him two letters a week, full of lively 
gossip, sisterly confidences, and captivating sketches 
of the lovely scenes about her. As few brothers are 
complimented by having their letters carried about in 
their sisters' pockets, read and re-read diligently, cried 
over when short, kissed when long, and treasured 
carefully, we will not hint that Amy did any of these 
fond and foolish things. But she certainly did grow 
a little pale and pensive that spring, lost much of her 
relish for society, and went out sketching alone a 
good deal. She never had much to show when she 
came home, but was studying nature, I dare say, 
while she sat for hours with her hands folded, on the 
terrace at Valrosa, or absently sketched any fancy 
that occurred to her — a stalwart knight carved on a 
tomb, a young man asleep in the grass, with his hat 
over his eyes, or a curly-haired girl in gorgeous array, 
promenading down a ball-room, on the arm of a tall 
gentleman, both faces being left a blurr, according to 



LEARNING TO FORGET. 269 

the last fashion in art, which was safe, but not alto- 
gether satisfactory. 

Her aunt thought that she regretted her answer to 
Fred ; and, finding denials useless, and explanations 
impossible, Amy left her to think what she liked, 
taking care that Laurie should know that Fred had 
gone to Egypt. That was all, but he understood it, 
and looked relieved, as he said to himself, with a ven- 
erable air, — 

" I was sure she would think better of it. Poor 
old fellow, Fve been through it all, and I can sym- 
pathize." 

With that he heaved a great sigh, and then, as if he 
had discharged his duty to the past, put his feet up on 
the sofa, and enjoyed Amy's letter luxuriously. 

While these changes were going on abroad, trouble 
had come at home ; but the letter telling that Beth 
was failing, never reached Amy ; and when the next 
found her, the grass was green above her sister. The 
sad news met her at Vevey, for the heat had driven 
them from Nice in May, and they had travelled slowly 
to Switzerland, by way of Genoa and the Italian 
lakes. She bore it very well, and quietly submitted 
to the family decree, that she should not shorten her 
visit, for, since it was too late to say good-by to Beth, 
she had better stay, and let absence soften her sorrow. 
But her heart was very heavy — she longed to be at 
home ; and every day looked wistfully across the lake, 
waiting for Laurie to come and comfort her. 

He did come very soon ; for the same mail brought 
letters to them both, but he was in Germany, and it 
took some days to reach him. The moment he read 
it, he packed his knapsack, bade adieu to his fellow- 



270 LITTLE WOMEN. 

pedestrians, and was off to keep his promise, with a 
heart full of joy and sorrow, hope and suspense. 

He knew Vevey well ; and as soon as the boat 
touched the little quay, he hurried along the shore to 
La Tour, where the Carrols were living en pension. 
The garcon was in despair that the whole family had 
gone to take a promenade on the lake — but no, the 
blonde mademoiselle might be in the chateau garden. 
If monsieur would give himself the pain of sitting 
down, a flash of time should present her. But mon- 
sieur could not wait even " a flash of time," and in 
the middle of the speech, departed to find mademoi- 
selle himself. 

A pleasant old garden on the borders of the lovely 
lake, with chestnuts rustling overhead, ivy climbing 
everywhere, and the black shadow of the tower fall- 
ing far across the sunny water. At one corner of the 
wide, low wall, was a seat, and here Amy often came 
to read or work, or console herself with the beauty all 
about her. She was sitting here that day, leaning 
her head on her hand, with a homesick heart and 
heavy eyes, thinking of Beth, and wondering why 
Laurie did not come. She did not hear him cross 
the court-yard beyond, nor see him pause in the arch- 
way that led from the subterranean path into the 
garden. He stood a minute, looking at her with new 
eyes, seeing what no one had ever seen before — the 
tender side of Amy's character. Everything about 
her mutely suggested love and sorrow ; the blotted 
letters in her lap, the black ribbon that tied up her 
hair, the womanly pain and patience in her face ; 
even the little ebony cross at her throat seemed pa- 
thetic to Laurie, for he had given it to her, and she 



LEARNING TO FORGET. 271 

wore it as her only ornament. If he had any doubts 
about the reception she would give him, they were set 
at rest the minute she looked up and saw him ; for, 
dropping everything, she ran to him, exclaiming in a 
tone of unmistakable love and longing, — 

" Oh, Laurie, Laurie ! I knew you'd come to me ! " 

I think everything was said and settled then ; for, 
as they stood together quite silent for a moment, with 
the dark head bent down protectingly over the light 
one, Amy felt that no one could comfort and sustain 
her so well as Laurie, and Laurie decided that Amy 
was the only woman in the world who could fill Jo's 
place, and make him happy. He did not tell her so ; 
but she was not disappointed, for both felt the truth, 
were satisfied, and gladly left the rest to silence. 

In a minute Amy went back to her place ; and while 
she dried her tears, Laurie gathered up the scattered 
papers, finding in the sight of sundry well-worn letters 
and suggestive sketches, good omens for the future. 
As he sat down beside her, Amy felt shy again, and 
turned rosy red at the recollection of her impulsive 
greeting. 

u I couldn't help it ; I felt so lonely and sad, and was 
so very glad to see you. It was such a surprise to 
look up and find you, just as I was beginning to fear 
you wouldn't come," she said, trying in vain to speak 
quite naturally. 

" I came the minute I heard. I wish I could say 
something to comfort you for the loss of dear little 
Beth, but I can only feel, and — ," he could not get 
any farther, for he, too, turned bashful all of a sudden, 
and did not quite know what to say. He longed to 
lay Amy's head down on his shoulder and tell her to 



272 LITTLE WOMEN. 

have a good cry, but he did not dare, so took her hand 
instead, and gave it a sympathetic squeeze that was 
better than words. 

" You needn't say anything, — this comforts me," 
she said, softly. " Beth is well and happy, and I 
mustn't wish her back, — but I dread the going home, 
much as I long to see them all. We won't talk about 
it now, for it makes me cry, and I want to enjoy you 
while you stay. You needn't go right back, need 
you?" 

" Not if you want me, dear." 

" I do, so much ! Aunt and Flo are very kind, but 
you seem like one of the family, and it would be so 
comfortable to have you for a little while." 

Amy spoke and looked so like a homesick child 
whose heart was full, that Laurie forgot his bashful- 
ness all at once, and gave her just what she wanted, — 
the petting she was used to, and the cheerful conver- 
sation she needed. 

" Poor little soul ! you look as if you'd grieved your- 
self half sick. I'm going to take care of you, so don't 
cry any more, but come and walk about with me, — 
the wind is too chilly for you to sit still," he said, in 
the half-caressing, half-commanding way that Amy 
liked, as he tied on her hat, drew her arm through 
his, and began to pace up and down the sunny walk, 
under the new-leaved chestnuts. He felt more at ease 
upon his legs, and Amy found it very pleasant to have 
a strong arm to lean upon, a familiar face to smile at 
her, and a kind voice to talk delightfully for her alone. 

The quaint old garden had sheltered many pairs of 
lovers, and seemed expressly made for them, so sunny 
and secluded was it, with nothing but the tower to 



LEARNING TO FORGET. 273 

overlook them, and the wide lake to carry away the 
echo of their words, as it rippled by below. For an 
hour this new pair walked and talked, or rested on 
the wall, enjoying the sweet influences which gave 
such a charm to time and place ; and when an un- 
romantic dinner-bell warned them away, Amy felt as 
if she left her burden of loneliness and sorrow behind 
her in the Chateau garden. 

The moment Mrs. Carrol saw the girl's altered face 
she was illuminated with a new idea, and exclaimed 
to herself, " Now I understand it all, — the child has 
been pining for young Laurence. Bless my heart ! I 
never thought of such a thing ! " 

With praiseworthy discretion, the good lady said 
nothing, and betrayed no sign of enlightenment, but 
cordially urged Laurie to stay, and begged Amy to 
enjoy his society, for it would do her more good than 
so much solitude. Amy was a model of docility ; 
and, as her aunt was a good deal occupied with Flo, 
s*he was left to entertain her friend, and did it with 
more than her usual success. 

At Nice, Laurie had lounged and Amy had scolded ; 
at Vevey, Laurie was never idle, but always walking, 
riding, boating, or studying, in the most energetic 
manner ; while Amy admired everything he did, 
and followed his example as far and as fast as she 
could. He said the change was owing to the climate, 
and she did not contradict him, being glad of a like 
excuse for her own recovered health and spirits. 

The invigorating air did them both good, and much 

exercise worked wholesome changes in minds as well 

as bodies. They seemed to get clearer views of life 

and duty up there among the everlasting hills; the 

18 



274 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



fresh winds blew away desponding doubts, delusive 
fancies and moody mists ; the warm spring sunshine 
brought out all sorts of aspiring ideas, tender hopes 
and happy thoughts, — the lake seemed to wash away 
the troubles of the past, and the grand old mountains 
to look benignly down upon them, saying, " Little 
children, love one another." 

In spite of the new sorrow it was a very happy 
time, — so happy that Laurie could not bear to disturb 
it by a word. It took him a little while to recover 
from his surprise at the rapid cure of his first, and, as 
he had firmly believed, his last and only love. He 
consoled himself for the seeming disloyalty by the 
thought that Jo's sister was almost the same as Jo's 
self, and the conviction that it would have been im- 
possible to love any other woman but Amy so soon 
and so well. His first wooing had been of the tem- 
pestuous order, and he looked back upon it as if 
through a long vista of years, with a feeling of com- 
passion blended with regret. He was not ashamed 
of it, but put it away as one of the bitter-sweet experi- 
ences of his life, for which he could be grateful when 
the pain was over. His second wooing he resolved 
should be as calm and simple as possible ; there was 
no need of having a scene, — hardly any need of 
telling Amy that he loved her ; she knew it without 
words, and had given him his answer long ago. It 
all came about so naturally that no one could com- 
plain, and he knew that everybody would be pleased, 
— even Jo. But when our first little passion has been 
crushed, we are apt to be wary and slow in making a 
second trial ; so Laurie let the days pass, enjoying 
every hour, and leaving to chance the utterance of the 



LEARNING TO FORGET. 275 

word that would put an end to the first and sweetest 
part of his new romance. 

He had rather imagined that the denouement would 
take place in the chateau garden by moonlight, and in 
the most graceful and decorous manner ; but it turned 
out exactly the reverse, — for the matter was settled 
on the lake, at noonday, in a few blunt words. They 
had been floating about all the morning, from gloomy 
St. Gingolf to sunny Montreux, with the Alps of Savoy 
on one side, Mont St. Bernard and the Dent du Midi 
on the other, pretty Vevey in the valley, and Lausanne 
upon the hill beyond, a cloudless blue sky overhead, 
and the bluer lake below, dotted with the picturesque 
boats that look like white-winged gulls. 

They had been talking of Bonnivard as they glided 
past Chillon, and of Rousseau as they looked up at 
Clarens, where he wrote his Heloise. Neither had 
read it, but they knew it was a love story, and each 
privately wondered if it was half as interesting as 
their own. Amy had been dabbling her hand in the 
water during the little pause that fell between them, 
and, when she looked up, Laurie was leaning on his 
oars, with an expression in his eyes that made her say, 
hastily, — merely for the sake of saying something, — 

"You must be tired, — rest a little, and let me row ; 
it will do me good, for since you came I have been 
altogether lazy and luxurious." 

" I'm not tired, but you may take an oar if you like. 
There's room enough, though I have to sit nearly in 
the middle, else the boat won't trim," returned Laurie, 
as if he rather liked the arrangement. 

Feeling that she had not mended matters much, 
Amy took the offered third of a seat, shook her hair 



276 LITTLE WOMEN. 

over her face, and accepted an oar. She rowed as 
well as she did many other things ; and, though she 
used both hands, and Laurie but one, the oars kept 
time, and the boat went smoothly through the water. 

" How well we pull together, don't we? " said Amy, 
who objected to silence just then. 

" So well, that I wish we might always pull in the 
same boat. Will you, Amy?" very tenderly. 

" Yes, Laurie ! " very low. 

Then they both stopped rowing, and unconsciously 
added a pretty little tableau of human love and hap- 
piness to the dissolving views reflected in the lake. 



CHAPTER XIX. 



ALL ALONE 



IT was easy to promise self-abnegation when self 
was wrapt up in another, and heart and soul were 
purified by a sweet example ; but when the helpful 
voice was silent, the daily lesson over, the beloved 
presence gone, and nothing remained but loneliness 
and grief, then Jo found her promise very hard to 
keep. How could she " comfort father and mother," 
when her own heart ached with a ceaseless longing 
for her sister ; how could she u make the house cheer- 
ful," when all its light, and warmth, and beauty, 
seemed to have deserted it when Beth left the old 
home for the new ; and where, in all the world, could 
she " find some useful, happy work to do," that would 
take the place of the loving service which had been its 
own reward? She tried in a blind, hopeless way to 
do her duty, secretly rebelling against it all the while, 
for it seemed unjust that her few joys should be les- 
sened, her burdens made heavier, and life get harder 
and harder as she toiled along. Some people seemed 
to get all sunshine, and some all shadow; it was not 
fair, for she tried more than Amy to be good, but 
never got any reward, — only disappointment, trouble, 
and hard work. 

Poor Jo ! these were dark days to her, for something 
like despair came over her when she thought of spend- 
ing all her life in that quiet house, devoted to hum- 
drum cares, a few poor little pleasures, and the duty 
(277) 



278 LITTLE WOMEN. 

that never seemed to grow any easier. " I can't do it. 
I wasn't meant for a life like this, and I know I shall 
break away and do something desperate if somebody 
don't come and help me," she said to herself, when 
her first efforts failed, and she fell into the moody, 
miserable state of mind which often comes when 
strong wills have to yield to the inevitable. 

But some one did come and help her, though Jo did 
not recognize her good angels at once, because they 
wore familiar shapes, and used the simple spells best 
fitted to poor humanity. Often she started up at 
night, thinking Beth called her ; and when the sight 
of the little empty bed made her cry with the bitter 
cry of an unsubmissive sorrow, " Oh, Beth ! come 
back ! come back ! " she did not stretch out her yearn- 
ing arms in vain ; for, as quick to hear her sobbing as 
she had been to hear her sister's faintest whisper, her 
mother came to comfort her. Not with words only, 
but the patient tenderness that soothes by a touch, 
tears that were mute reminders of a greater grief 
than Jo's, and broken whispers, more eloquent than 
prayers, because hopeful resignation went hand-in- 
hand with natural sorrow. Sacred moments ! when 
heart talked to heart in the silence of the night, 
turning affliction to a blessing, which chastened grief 
and strengthened love. Feeling this, Jo's burden 
seemed easier to bear, duty grew sweeter, and life 
looked more endurable, seen from the safe shelter of 
her mother's arms. 

When aching heart was a little comforted, troubled 
mind likewise found help ; for one day she went to 
the study, and, leaning over the good gray head lifted 



ALL ALONE. 279 

to welcome her with a tranquil smile, she said, very 
humbly, — 

" Father, talk to me as you did to Beth. I need it 
more than she did, for I'm all wrong." 

"My dear, nothing can comfort me like this," he 
answered, with a falter in his voice, and both arms 
round her, as if he, too, needed help, and did not fear 
to ask it. 

Then, sitting in Beth's little chair close beside him, 
Jo told her troubles, the resentful sorrow for her loss, 
the fruitless efforts that discouraged her, the want of 
faith that made life look so dark, and all the sad 
bewilderment which we call despair. She gave him 
entire confidence, — he gave her the help she needed, 
and both found consolation in the act ; for the time 
had come when they could talk together not only as 
father and daughter, but as man and woman, able and 
glad to serve each other with mutual sympathy as 
well as mutual love. Happy, thoughtful times there 
in the old study which Jo called " the church of one 
member," and from which she came with fresh cour- 
age, recovered cheerfulness, and a more submissive 
spirit, — for the parents who had taught one child to 
meet death without fear, were trying now to teach 
another to accept life without despondency or dis- 
trust, and to use its beautiful opportunities with 
gratitude and power. 

Other helps had Jo, humble, wholesome duties and 
delights, that would not be denied their part in serv- 
ing her, and which she slowly learned to see and 
value. Brooms and dishcloths never could be as 
distasteful as they once had been, for Beth had 
presided over both ; and something of her housewifely 



280 LITTLE WOMEN. 

spirit seemed to linger round the little mop and the 
old brush, that was never thrown away. As she used 
them, Jo found herself humming the songs Beth used 
to hum, imitating Beth's orderly ways, and giving the 
little touches here and there that kept everything fresh 
and cosy, which was the first step toward making 
home happy, though she didn't know it, till Hannah 
said with an approving squeeze of the hand, — 

" You thoughtful creter, you're determined we 
shan't miss that dear lamb ef you can help it. We 
don't say much, but we see it, and the Lord will bless 
you for't, see ef He don't." 

As they sat sewing together, Jo discovered how 
much improved her sister Meg was ; how well she 
could talk, how much she knew about good, womanly 
impulses, thoughts and feelings, how happy she was 
in husband and children, and how much they were 
all doing for each other. 

" Marriage is an excellent thing after all. I wonder 
if I should blossom out, half as well as you have, if 
I tried it, always 4 fierwisin" I could," said Jo, as she 
constructed a kite for Demi, in the topsy-turvy 
nursery. 

" It's just what you need to bring out the tender, 
womanly half of your nature, Jo. You are like a 
chestnut burr, prickly outside, but silky-soft within, 
and a sweet kernel, if one can only get at it. Love 
will make you show your heart some day, and then 
the rough burr will fall off." 

" Frost opens chestnut burrs, ma'am, and it takes 
a good shake to bring them down. Boys go nutting, 
and I don't care to be bagged by them," returned Jo, 
pasting away at the kite, which no wind that blows 



ALL ALONE. 281 

would ever carry up, for Daisy had tied herself on 
as a bob. 

Meg laughed, for she was glad to see a glimmer of 
Jo's old spirit, but she felt it her duty to enforce her 
opinion by every argument in her power; and the 
sisterly chats were not wasted, especially as two of 
Meg's most effective arguments were the babies, whom 
Jo loved tenderly. Grief is the best opener for some 
hearts, and Jo's was nearly ready for the bag ; a little 
more sunshine to ripen the nut, then, not a boy's 
impatient shake, but a man's hand reached up to pick 
it gently from the burr, and find the kernel sound and 
sweet. If she had suspected this, she would have 
shut up tight, and been more prickly than ever ; 
fortunately she wasn't thinking about herself, so, when 
the time came, down she dropped. 

Now, if she had been the heroine of a moral story- 
book, she ought at this period of her life to have 
become quite saintly, renounced the world, and gone 
about doing good in a mortified bonnet, with tracts in 
her pocket. But you see Jo wasn't a heroine ; she was 
only a struggling human girl, like hundreds of others, 
and she just acted out her nature, being sad, cross, 
listless or energetic, as the mood suggested. It's 
highly virtuous to say we'll be good, but we can't do 
it all at once*, and it takes a long pull, a strong pull, 
and a pull all together, before some of us even get our 
feet set in the right way. Jo had got so far, she was 
learning to do her duty, and to feel unhappy if she 
did not; but to do it cheerfully — ah, that was an- 
other thing ! She had often said she wanted to do 
something splendid, no matter how hard ; and now 
she had her wish, — for what could be more beautiful 



282 LITTLE WOMEN. 

than to devote her life to father and mother, trying to 
make home as happy to them as they had to her? And, 
if difficulties were necessary to increase the splendor 
of the effort, what could be harder for a restless, am- 
bitious girl, than to give up her own hopes, plans and 
desires, and cheerfully live for others? 

Providence had taken her at her word ; here was 
the task, — not what she had expected, but better, 
because self had no part in it ; now could she do it? 
She decided that she would try ; and, in her first 
attempt, she found the helps I have suggested. Still 
another was given her, and she took it, — not as a re- 
ward, but as a comfort, as Christian took the refresh- 
ment afforded by the little arbor where he rested, as 
he climbed the hill called Difficulty. 

"Why don't you write? that always used to make 
you happy," said her mother, once, when the despond- 
ing fit overshadowed Jo. 

" I've no heart to write, and if I had, nobody cares 
for my things." 

" We do ; write something for us, and never mind 
the rest of the world. Tiy it, dear ; I'm sure it 
would do you good, and please us very much." 

" Don't believe I can ; " but Jo got out her desk, 
and began to overhaul her half-finished manuscripts. 

An hour afterward her mother peeped in, and there 
she was scratching away, with her black pinafore on, 
and an absorbed expression, which caused Mrs. March 
to smile, and slip away, well pleased with the success 
of her suggestion. Jo never knew how it happened, 
but something got into that story that went straight 
to the hearts of those who read it ; for, when her 
family had laughed and cried over it, her father sent 



ALL ALONE. 283 

it, much against her will, to one of the popular 
•magazines, and, to her utter surprise, it was not only- 
paid for, but others requested. Letters from several 
persons, whose praise was honor, followed the ap- 
pearance of the little story, newspapers copied it, and 
strangers as well as friends admired it. For a small 
thing, it was a great success ; and Jo was more 
astonished than when her novel was commended 
and condemned all at once. 

"I don't understand it; what can there be in a 
simple little story like that, to make people praise it 
so?" she said, quite bewildered. 

"There is truth in it, Jo — that's the secret; humor 
and pathos make it alive, and you have found your 
style at last. You wrote with no thought of fame or 
money, and put your heart into it, my daughter ; you 
have had the bitter, now comes the sweet ; do your 
best, and grow as happy as we are in your success." 

" If there is anything good or true in what I write, 
it isn't mine ; I owe it all to you and mother, and to 
Beth," said Jo, more touched by her father's words 
than by any amount of praise from the world. 

So, taught by love and sorrow, Jo wrote her little 
stories, and sent them away to make friends for them- 
selves and her, finding it a very charitable world to 
such humble wanderers, for they were kindly wel- 
comed, and sent home comfortable tokens to their 
mother, like dutiful children, whom good fortune 
overtakes. 

When Amy and Laurie wrote of their engagement, 
Mrs. March feared that Jo would find it difficult to 
rejoice over it, but her fears were soon set at rest ; for, 
though Jo looked grave at first, she took it very 



284 LITTLE WOMEN. 

quietly, and was full of hopes and plans for "the 
children," before she read the letter twice. It was a 
sort of written duet, wherein each glorified the other 
in lover-like fashion, very pleasant to read, and satis- 
factory to think of, for no one had any objection to 
make. 

"You like it, mother?" said Jo, as they laid down 
the closely-written sheets, and looked at one another. 

"Yes, I hoped it would be so, ever since Amy 
wrote that she had refused Fred. I felt sure then 
that something better than what you call 4 the mer- 
cenary spirit' had come over her, and a hint here and 
there in her letters made me suspect that love and 
Laurie would win the day." 

" How sharp you are, Marmee, and how silent ; you 
never said a word to me." 

"Mothers have need of sharp eyes and discreet 
tongues, when they have girls to manage. I was half 
afraid to put the idea into your head, lest you should 
write, and congratulate them before the thing was 
settled." 

" I'm not the scatter-brain I was ; you may trust me, 
I'm sober and sensible enough for anyone's confidante 
now." 

" So you are, dear, and I should have made you 
mine, only I fancied it might pain you to learn that 
your Teddy loved any one else." 

" Now, mother, did you really think I could be so 
silly and selfish, after I'd refused his love, when it was 
freshest, if not best ? " 

" I knew you were sincere then, Jo, but lately I 
have thought that if he came back, and asked again, 
you might, perhaps, feel like giving another answer. 



ALL ALONE. 



285 



Forgive me, dear, I can't help seeing that you are 
very lonely, and sometimes there is a hungry look in 
your eyes that goes to my heart ; so I fancied that 
your boy might fill the empty place, if he tried now." 

u No, mother, it is better as it is, and I'm glad Amy 
has learned to love him. But you are right in one 
thing ; I am lonely, and perhaps if Teddy had tried 
again, I might have said 'Yes,' not because I love 
him any more, but because I care more to be loved, 
than when he went away." 

"I'm glad of that, Jo, for it shows that you are 
getting on. There are plenty to love you, so try to 
be satisfied with father and mother, sisters and 
brothers, friends and babies, till the best lover of all 
comes to give you your reward." 

" Mothers are the best lovers in the world ; but, I 
don't mind whispering to Marmee, that I'd like to try 
all kinds. It's very curious, but the more I try to 
satisfy myself with all sorts of natural affections, the 
more I seem to want. I'd no idea hearts could take 
in so many — mine is so elastic, it never seems full 
now, and I used to be quite contented with my 
family ; I don't understand it." 

" I do," and Mrs. March, smiled her wise smile, as 
Jo turned back the leaves to read what Amy said of 
Laurie. 

" It is so beautiful to be loved as Laurie loves me ; 
he isn't sentimental ; doesn't say much about it, but I 
see and feel it in all he says and does, and it makes 
me so happy and so humble, that I don't seem to be 
the same girl I was. I never knew how good, and 
generous, and tender he was till now, for he lets me 
read his heart, and I find it full of noble impulses, 



286 LITTLE WOMEN. 

and hopes, and purposes, and am so proud to know 
it's mine. He says he feels as if he ' could make a 
prosperous voyage now with me aboard as mate, and 
lots of love for ballast.' I pray he may, and try to be 
all he believes me, for I love my gallant captain with 
all my heart, and soul, and might, and never will desert 
him, while God lets us be together. Oh, mother, I 
never knew how much like heaven this world could 
be, when two people love and live for one another ! " 

"And that's our cool, reserved, and worldly Amy! 
Truly love does work miracles. How very, very 
happy they must be ! " and Jo laid the rustling sheets 
together with a careful hand, as one might shut the 
covers of a lovely romance, which holds the reader 
fast till the end comes, and he finds himself alone in 
the work-a-day world again. 

By and by, Jo roamed away upstairs, for it was 
rainy, and she could not walk. A restless spirit 
possessed her, and the old feeling came again, not 
bitter as it once was, but a sorrowfully patient 
wonder why one sister should have all she asked, 
the other nothing. It was not true ; she knew that, 
and tried to put it away, but the natural craving for 
affection was strong, and Amy's happiness woke the 
hungry longing for some one to " love with heart and 
soul, and cling to, while God let them be together." 

Up in the garret, where Jo's unquiet wanderings 
ended, stood four little wooden chests in a row, each 
marked with its owner's name, and each filled with 
relics of the childhood and girlhood ended now for 
all. Jo glanced into them, and when she came to her 
own, leaned her chin on the edge, and stared absently 
at the chaotic collection, till a bundle of old exercise- 



ALL ALONE. 287 

books caught her eye. She drew them out, turned 
them over, and re-lived that pleasant winter at kind 
Mrs. Kirke's. She had smiled at first, then she 
looked thoughtful, next sad, and when she came to a 
little message written in the Professor's hand, her lips 
began to tremble, the books slid out of her lap, and 
she sat looking at the friendly words, as if they took 
a new meaning, and touched a tender spot in her 
heart. 

" Wait for me, my friend, I may be a little late, but 
I shall surely come." 

" Oh, if he only would ! So kind, so good, so 
patient with me always ; my dear old Fritz, I didn't 
value him half enough when I had him, but now 
how I should love to see him, for every one seems 
going away from me, and I'm all alone." 

And holding the little paper fast, as if it were a 
promise yet to be fulfilled, Jo laid her head down on 
a comfortable rag-bag, and cried, as if in opposition 
to the rain pattering on the roof. 

Was it all self-pity, loneliness, or low spirits? or 
was it the waking up of a sentiment which had bided 
its time as patiently as its inspirer? Who shall say. 



CHAPTER XX. 



SURPRISES. 



JO was alone in the twilight, lying on the old sofa, 
looking at the fire, and thinking. It was her 
favorite way of spending the hour of dusk ; no 
one disturbed her, and she used to lie there on Beth's 
little red pillow, planning stories, dreaming dreams, 
or thinking tender thoughts of the sister who never 
seemed far away. Her face looked tired, grave, and 
rather sad ; for to-morrow was her birthday, and she 
was thinking how fast the years went by, how old she 
was getting, and how little she seemed to have accom- 
plished. Almost twenty-five, and nothing to show for 
it, — Jo was mistaken in that ; there was a good deal 
to show, and by and by she saw, and was grateful 
for it. 

" An old maid — that's what I'm to be. A literary 
spinster, with a pen for a spouse, a family of stories 
for children, and twenty years hence a morsel of 
fame, perhaps ; when, like poor Johnson, I'm old, 
and can't enjoy it — solitary, and can't share it, inde- 
pendent, and don't need it. Well, I needn't be a sour 
saint nor a selfish sinner ; and, I dare say, old maids 
are very comfortable when they get used to it ; but — " 
and there Jo sighed, as if the prospect was not in- 
viting. 

It seldom is, at first, and thirty seems the end of all 
things to five-and- twenty ; but it's not so bad as it 
looks, and one can get on quite happily if one has 
(288) 



SURPRISES. 289 

something in one's self to fall back upon. At twenty- 
five, girls begin to talk about being old maids, but 
secretly resolve that they never will ; at thirty, they 
say nothing about it, but quietly accept the fact ; and, 
if sensible, console themselves by remembering that 
they have twenty more useful, happy years, in which 
they may be learning to grow old gracefully. Don't 
laugh at the spinsters, dear girls, for often very ten- 
der, tragical romances are hidden away in the hearts 
that beat so quietly under the sober gowns, and many 
silent sacrifices of youth, health, ambition, love itself, 
make the faded faces beautiful in God's sight. Even 
the sad, sour sisters should be kindly dealt with, be- 
cause they have missed the sweetest part of life if for 
no other reason ; and, looking at them with com- 
passion, not contempt, girls in their bloom should 
remember that they too may miss the blossom time — 
that rosy cheeks don't last forever, that silver threads 
will come in the bonnie brown hair, and, that by and 
by, kindness and respect will be as sweet as love and 
admiration now. 

Gentlemen, which means boys, be courteous to the 
old maids, no matter how poor and plain and prim, 
for the only chivalry worth having is that which is 
the readiest to pay deference to the old, protect the 
feeble, and serve womankind, regardless of rank, age, 
or color. Just recollect the good aunts who have not 
only lectured and fussed, but nursed and petted, too 
often without thanks — the scrapes they have helped 
you out of, the " tips" they have given you from their 
small store, the stitches the patient old fingers have set 
for you, the steps the willing old feet have taken, and 
gratefully pay the dear old ladies the little attentions 
*9 



290 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



that women love to receive as long as they live. The 
bright-eyed girls are quick to see such traits, and will 
like you all the better for them ; and, if death, almost 
the only power that can part mother and son, should 
rob you of yours, you will be sure to find a tender, 
welcome, and maternal cherishing from some Aunt 
Priscilla, who has kept the warmest corner of her 
lonely old heart for " the best newy in the world." 

Jo must have fallen asleep (as I dare say my reader 
has during this little homily), for, suddenly, Laurie's 
ghost seemed to stand before her. A substantial, life- 
like ghost leaning over her, with the very look he 
used to wear when he felt a good deal, and didn't like 
to show it. But, like Jenny in the ballad, — 

" She could not think it he," 

and lay staring up at him, in startled silence, till he 
stooped and kissed her. Then she knew him, and 
flew up, crying joyfully, — 

< ' Oh my Teddy ! Oh my Teddy ! " 

" Dear Jo, you are glad to see me, then?" 

" Glad ! my blessed boy, words can't express my 
gladness. Where's Amy ? " 

"Your mother has got her, down at Meg's. We 
stopped there by the way, and there was no getting 
my wife out of their clutches." 

"Your what?" cried Jo — for Laurie uttered those 
two words with an unconscious pride and satisfaction, 
which betrayed him. 

"Oh, the dickens! now I've done it;" and he 
looked so guilty that Jo was down upon him like a 
flash. 

"You've gone and got married?" 



SURPRISES. 291 

" Yes, please, but T never will again ; " and he 
went down upon his knees with a penitent clasping 
of hands, and a face full of mischief, mirth, and 
triumph. 

" Actually married? " 

" Very much so, thank you." 

" Mercy on us ; what dreadful thing will you do 
next?" and Jo fell into her seat, with a gasp. 

"A characteristic, but not exactly ' complimentary 
congratulation," returned Laurie, still in an abject 
attitude, but beaming with satisfaction. 

" What can you expect, when you take one's breath 
away, creeping in like a burglar, and letting cats out 
of bags like that? Get up, you ridiculous boy, and 
tell me all about it." 

" Not a word, unless you let me come in my old 
place, and promise not to barricade." 

Jo laughed at that as she had not done for many a 
long day, and patted the sofa invitingly, as she said, 
in a cordial tone, — 

" The old pillow is up garret, and we don't need it 
now ; so, come and 'fess, Teddy." 

" How good it sounds to hear you say ' Teddy ' ; 
no one ever calls me that but you ; " and Laurie sat 
down with an air of great content. 

" What does Amy call you? " 

" My lord." 

" That's like her — well, you look it ; " and Jo's eyes 
plainly betrayed that she found her boy comelier than 
ever. 

The pillow was gone, but there was a barricade, 
nevertheless ; a natural one raised by time, absence, 
and change of heart. Both felt it, and for a minute 



292 LITTLE WOMEN. 

looked at one another as if that invisible barrier cast 
a little shadow over them. It was gone directly, 
however, for Laurie said, with a vain attempt at 
dignity, — 

"Don't I look like a married man, and the head of 
a family ? " 

"Not a bit, and you never will. You've grown 
bigger and bonnier, but you are the same scapegrace 
as ever." 

"Now, really, Jo, you ought to treat me with more 
respect," began Laurie, who enjoyed it all immensely. 

" How can I, when the mere idea of you, married 
and settled, is so irresistibly funny that I can't keep 
sober," answered Jo, smiling all over her face, so in- 
fectiously, that they had another laugh, and then 
settled down for a good talk, quite in the pleasant old 
fashion. 

" It's no use your going out in the cold to get Amy, 
for they are all coming up, presently ; I couldn't wait ; 
I wanted to be the one to tell you the grand surprise, 
and have ' first skim,' as we used to say, when we 
squabbled about the cream." 

" Of course you did, and spoilt your story by begin- 
ning at the wrong end. Now, start right, and tell me 
how it all happened ; I'm pining to know." 

" Well, I did it to please Amy," began Laurie, with 
a twinkle, that made Jo exclaim, — 

" Fib number one ; Amy did it to please you. Go 
on, and tell the truth, if you can, sir." 

"Now she's beginning to marm it, isn't it jolly to 
hear her," said Laurie to the fire, and the fire glowed 
and sparkled as if it quite agreed. " It's all the same, 
you know, she and I being one. We planned to come 



SUXPBISES. ■ 293 

home with the Carrols, a month or more ago, but 
they suddenly changed their minds, and decided to 
pass another winter in Paris. But grandpa wanted 
to cpme home ; he went to please me, and I couldn't 
let him go alone, neither could I leave Amy ; and 
Mrs. Carrol had got English notions about chaperons, 
and such nonsense, and wouldn't let Amy come with 
us. So I just settled the difficulty, by saying, ' Let's 
be married, and then we can do as we like.' " 

"Of course you did; you always have things to 
suit you." 

" Not always ; " and something in Laurie's voice 
made Jo say, hastily, — 

" How did you ever get aunt to agree? " 

" It was hard work ; but, between us, we talked 
her over, for we had heaps of good reasons on our 
side. There wasn't time to write and ask leave, but 
you all liked it, and had consented to it by and by — 
and it was only ' taking time by the fetlock,' as my 
wife says." 

" Aren't we proud of those two words, and don't 
we like to say them ? " interrupted Jo, addressing the 
fire in her turn, and watching with delight the happy 
light it seemed to kindle in the eyes that had been so 
tragically gloomy when she saw them last. 

" A trifle, perhaps ; she's such a captivating little 
woman I can't help being proud of her. Well, then, 
uncle and aunt were there to play propriety ; we were 
so absorbed in one another we were of no mortal use 
apart, and that charming arrangement would make 
everything easy all round ; so we did it." 

"When, where, how?" asked Jo, in a fever of 



294 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



feminine interest and curiosity, for she could not 
realize it a particle. 

" Six weeks ago, at the American consul's, in 
Paris — a very quiet wedding, of course ; for even in 
our happiness we didn't forget dear little Beth." 

Jo put her hand in his as he said that, and Laurie 
gently smoothed the little red pillow, which he re- 
membered well. 

" Why didn't you let us know afterward? " asked 
Jo, in a quieter tone, when they had sat quite still a 
minute. 

" We wanted to surprise you ; we thought we were 
coming directly home, at first, but the dear old gen- 
tleman, as soon as we were married, found he couldn't 
be ready under a month, at least, and sent us off to 
spend our honey-moon wherever we liked. Amy had 
once called Valrosa a regular honey-moon home, so 
we went there, and were as happy as people are but 
once in their lives. My faith, wasn't it love among 
the roses ! " 

Laurie seemed to forget Jo, for a minute, and Jo 
was glad of it ; for the fact that he told her these 
things so freely and naturally, assured her that he had 
quite forgiven and forgotten. She tried to draw away 
her hand ; but, as if he guessed the thought that 
prompted the half-involuntary impulse, Laurie held it 
fast, and said, with a manly gravity she had never 
seen in him before, — 

"Jo, dear, I want to say one thing, and then we'll 
put it by forever. As I told you, in my letter, when 
I wrote that Amy had been so kind to me, I never 
shall stop loving you ; but the love is altered, and I 
have learned to see that it is better as it is. Amy and 



SURPRISES. 



295 



you change places in my heart, that's all. I think it 
was meant to be so, and would have come about nat- 
urally, if I had waited, as you tried to make me ; but 
I never could be patient, and so I got a heart-ache. I 
was a boy then — headstrong and violent ; and it took 
a hard lesson to show me my mistake. For it was 
one, Jo, as you said, and I found it out, after making 
a fool of myself. Upon my word, I was so tumbled 
up in my mind, at one time, that I didn't know which 
I loved best — you or Amy, and tried to love both 
alike ; but I couldn't ; and when I saw her in Switz- 
erland, everything seemed to clear up all at once. 
You both got into your right places, and I felt sure 
that it was well off with the old love, before it was on 
with the new ; that I could honestly share my heart 
between sister Jo and wife Amy, and love them both 
dearly. Will you believe it, and go back to the happy 
old times, when we first knew one another ? " 

" I'll believe it, with all my heart ; but, Teddy, we 
never can be boy and girl again — the happy old 
times can't come back, and we mustn't expect it. We 
are man and woman now, with sober work to do, for 
play-time is over, and we must give up frolicking. 
I'm sure you feel this ; I see the change in you, and 
you'll find it in me ; I shall miss my boy, but I shall 
love the man as much, and admire him more, because 
he means to be what I hoped he would. We can't be 
little playmates any longer, but we will be brother 
and sister, to love and help one another all our lives, 
won't we, Laurie ? " 

He did not say a word, but took the hand she 
offered him, and laid his face down on it for a minute, 
feeling that out of the grave of a boyish passion, there 



296 LITTLE WOMEN. 

had risen a beautiful, strong friendship to bless them 
both. Presently Jo said cheerfully, for she didn't 
want the coming home to be a sad one, — 

" I can't make it true that you children are really 
married, and going to set up housekeeping. Why, it 
seems only yesterday that I was buttoning Amy's 
pinafore, and pulling your hair when you teased. 
Mercy me, how time does fly ! " 

"As one of the children is older than yourself, you 
needn't talk so like a grandma. I flatter myself I'm 
a 4 gentleman growed,' as Peggotty said of David ; 
and when you see Amy, you'll find her rather a 
precocious infant," said Laurie, looking amused at 
her maternal air. 

" You may be a little older in years, but I'm ever 
so much older in feeling, Teddy. Women always 
are ; and this last year has been such a hard one, that 
I feel forty." 

" Poor Jo ! we left you to bear it alone, while we 
went pleasuring. You are older ; here's a line, and 
there's another ; unless you smile, your eyes look sad, 
and when I touched the cushion, just now, I found a 
tear on it. You've had a great deal to bear, and had 
to bear it all alone ; what a selfish beast I've been ! " 
and Laurie pulled his own hair, with a remorseful 
look. 

But Jo only turned over the traitorous pillow, and 
answered in a tone which she tried to make quite 
cheerful, — 

"No, I had father and mother to help me, the 
dear babies to comfort me, and the thought that you and 
Amy were safe and happy, to make the troubles here 



SURPRISES. 



297 



easier to bear. I am lonely, sometimes, but I dare 
say it's good for me, and — " 

" You never shall be again," broke in Laurie, put- 
ting his arm about her, as if to fence out every human 
ill. " Amy and I can't get on without you, so you 
must come and teach the children to keep house, and 
go halves in everything, just as we used to do, and 
let us pet you, and all be blissfully happy and friendly 
together." 

" If I shouldn't be in the way, it would be very 
pleasant. I begin to feel quite young already ; for, 
somehow, all my troubles seemed to fly away when 
you came. You always were a comfort, Teddy ; " 
and Jo leaned her head on his shoulder, just as she 
did years ago, when Beth lay ill, and Laurie told her 
to hold on to him. 

He looked down at her, wondering if she remem- 
bered the time, but Jo was smiling to herself, as if, in 
truth, her troubles had all vanished at his coming. 

"You are the same Jo still, dropping tears about 
one minute, and laughing the next. You look a little 
wicked now ; what is it, grandma ? " 

u I was wondering how you and Amy get on to- 
gether." 

" Like angels ! " 

"Yes, of course, at first — but which rules?" 

" I don't mind telling you that she does, now ; at 
least I let her think so, — it pleases her, you know. 
By and by we shall take turns, for marriage, they say, 
halves one's rights and doubles one's duties." 

" You'll go on as you begin, and Amy will rule you 
all the days of your life." 

" Well, she does it so imperceptibly that I don't 



298 LITTLE WOMEN. 

think I shall mind much. She is *the sort of woman 
who knows how to rule well ; in fact, I rather like it, 
for she winds one round her finger as softly and pret- 
tily as a skein of silk, and makes you feel as if she was 
doing you a favor all the while." 

" That ever I should live to see you a henpecked 
husband and enjoying it ! " cried Jo, with uplifted hands. 

It was good to see Laurie square his shoulders, and 
smile with masculine scorn at that insinuation, as he 
replied, with his " high and mighty" air, — 

"Amy is too well-bred for that, and I am not the 
sort of man to submit to it. My wife and I respect 
ourselves and one another too much ever to tyrannize 
or quarrel." 

Jo liked that, and thought the new dignity very 
becoming, but the boy seemed changing very fast into 
the man, and regret mingled with her pleasure. 

" I am sure of that ; Amy and you never did quarrel 
as we used to. She is the sun, and I the wind, in 
the fable, and the sun managed the man best, you 
remember." 

" She can blow him up as well as shine on him," 
laughed Laurie. " Such a lecture as I got at Nice ! 
I give you my word it was a deal worse than any 
of your scoldings. A regular rouser ; I'll tell you all 
about it some time, — she never will, because, after 
telling me that she despised and was ashamed of me, 
she lost her heart to the despicable party, and married 
the good-for-nothing." 

" What baseness ! Well, if she abuses you come to 
me, and I'll defend you ! " 

" I look as if I needed it, don't I?" said Laurie, 
getting up and striking an attitude which suddenly 



SUJRPXISES. 299 

changed from the imposing to the rapturous, as 
Amy's voice was heard calling, — 

" Where is she? where's my dear old Jo?" 

In trooped the whole family, and every one was 
hugged and kissed all over again, and, after several 
vain attempts, the three wanderers were set down to 
be lo#ked at and exulted over. Mr. Laurence, hale 
and hearty as ever, was quite as much improved as 
the others by his foreign tour, — for the crustiness 
seemed to be nearly gone, and the old-fashioned court- 
liness had received a polish which made it kindlier 
than ever. It was good to see him beam at " my 
children," as he called the young pair ; it was better 
still to see Amy pay him the daughterly duty and 
affection which completely won his old heart ; and, 
best of all, to watch Laurie revolve about the two as 
if never tired of enjoying the pretty .picture they made. 

The minute she put her eyes upon Amy, Meg 
became conscious that her own dress hadn't a Parisian 
air, — that young Mrs. Moffat would be entirely 
eclipsed by young Mrs. Laurence, and that "Tier 
ladyship " was altogether a most elegant and graceful 
woman. Jo thought, as she watched the pair, u How 
well they look together ! I was right, and Laurie has 
found the beautiful, accomplished girl who will be- 
come his home better than clumsy old Jo, and be a 
pride, not a torment to him." Mrs. March and her 
husband smiled and nodded at each other with happy 
faces, — for they saw that their youngest had done 
well, not only in worldly things, but the better wealth 
of love, confidence, and happiness. 

For Amy's face was full of the soft brightness 
which betokens a peaceful heart, her voice had a new 



300 LITTLE WOMEN. 

tenderness in it, and the cool, prim carriage was 
changed to a gentle dignity, both womanly and win- 
ning. No little affectations marred it, and the cordial 
sweetness of her manner was more charming than the 
new beauty or the old grace, for it stamped her at 
once with the unmistakable sign of the true gentle- 
woman she had hoped to become. ^ 

" Love has done much for our little girl," said her 
mother, softly. 

" She has had a good example before her all her life, 
my dear," Mr. March whispered back, with a loving 
look at the worn face arid gray head beside him. 

Daisy found it impossible to keep her eyes off her 
" pitty aunty," but attached herself like a lap-dog to 
the wonderful chatelaine full of delightful charms. 
Demi paused to consider the new relationship before 
he compromised himself by the rash acceptance of a 
bribe, which took the tempting form of a family of 
wooden bears, from Berne, A flank movement pro- 
duced an unconditional surrender, however, for Laurie 
knew where to have him : — 

" Young man, when I first had the honor of making 
your acquaintance you hit me in the face ; now I 
demand the satisfaction of a gentleman ! " and with 
that the tall uncle proceeded to toss and tousle the 
small nephew in a way that damaged his philosophical 
dignity as much as it delighted his boyish soul." 

" Blest if she ain't in silk from head to foot ; ain't 
it a relishin' sight to see her settin' there as fine as 
a fiddle, and hear folks calling little Amy ' Mis. 
Laurence ! ' " muttered old Hannah, who could not 
resist frequent " peeks " through the slide as she set 
the table in a most decidedly promiscuous manner. 



SURPRISES. 



301 



Mercy on us, how they did talk ! first one, then the 
other, then all burst out together, — trying to tell the 
history of three years in half an hour. It was for- 
tunate that tea was at hand, to produce a lull and 
provide refreshment, — for they would have been 
hoarse and faint if they had gone on much longer. 
Such a happy procession as filed away into the little 
dining-room ! Mr. March proudly escorted M Mrs. 
Laurence " ; Mrs. March as proudly leaned on the 
arm of " my son " ; the old gentleman took Jo with a 
whispered "You must be my girl now," and a glance 
at the empty corner by the fire, that made Jo whisper 
back, with trembling lips, " I'll try to fill her place, sir." 

The twins pranced behind, feeling that the mil- 
lennium was at hand, — for every one was so busy with 
the new comers that they were left to revel at their 
own sweet will, and you may be sure they made the 
most of the opportunity. Didn't they steal sips of 
tea, stuff gingerbread ad libitum, get a hot biscuit 
apiece, and, as a crowning trespass, didn't they each 
whisk a captivating little tart into their tiny pockets, 
there to stick and crumble treacherously, — teaching 
them that both human nature and pastry are frail ! 
Burdened with the guilty consciousness of the se- 
questered tarts, and fearing that Dodo's sharp eyes 
would pierce the thin disguise of cambric and merino 
which hid their booty, the little sinners attached them- 
selves to " Dranpa," who hadn't his spectacles on. 
Amy, who was handed about like refreshments, re- 
turned to the parlor on Father Laurence's arm ; the 
others paired off as before, and this arrangement left Jo 
companionless. She did not mind it at the minute, 
for she lingered to answer Hannah's eager inquiry, — 



302 LITTLE WOMEN. 

"Will Miss Amy ride in her coop (coupe), and use 
all them lovely silver dishes that's stored away over 
yander?" 

" Shouldn't wonder if she drove six white horses, 
ate off gold plate, and wore diamonds and point-lace 
every day. Teddy thinks nothing too good for her," 
returned Jo, with infinite satisfaction. 

" No more there is ! Will you have hash or fish- 
balls for breakfast?" asked Hannah, who wisely min- 
gled poetry and prose. 

" I don't care," and Jo shut the door, feeling that 
food was an uncongenial topic just then. She stood 
a minute looking at the party vanishing above, 
and, as Demi's short plaid legs toiled up the last 
stair, a sudden sense of loneliness came over her, so 
strongly that she looked about her with dim eyes, as 
if to find something to lean upon, — for even Teddy 
had deserted her. If she had known what birthday 
gift was coming every minute nearer and nearer, she 
would not have said to herself " I'll weep a little weep 
when I go to bed ; it won't do to be dismal now." 
Then she drew her hand over her eyes, — for one of 
her boyish habits was never to know where her hand- 
kerchief was, — and had just managed to call up a 
smile, when there came a knock at the porch door. 

She opened it with hospitable haste, and started as 
if another ghost had come to surprise her, — for there 
stood a stout, bearded gentleman, beaming on her from 
the darkness like a midnight sun. 

" Oh, Mr. Bhaer, I am so glad to see you t " cried 
Jo, with a clutch, as if she feared the night would 
swallow him up before she could get him in. 

"And I to see Miss Marsch, ■ — but no, you haf a 



SURPRISES. 



3°3 



party — " and the Professor paused as the sound of 
voices and the tap of dancing feet came down to 
them. 

I* No, we haven't, — only the family. My brother 
and sister have just come home, and we are all very 
happy. Come in, and make one of us." 

Though a very social man, I think Mr. Bhaer would 
have gone decorously away, and come again another 
day ; but how could he when Jo shut the door behind 
him, and bereft him of his hat? Perhaps her face 
had something to do with it, for she forgot to hide her 
joy at seeing him, and showed it with a frankness 
that proved irresistible to the solitaiy man, whose 
welcome far exceeded his boldest hopes. 

" If I shall not be Monsieur De Trop I will so gladly 
see them all. You haf been ill, my friend ? " 

He put the question abruptly, for, as Jo hung up his 
coat, the light fell on her face, and he saw a change 
in it. 

" Not ill, but tired and sorrowful ; we have had 
trouble since I saw you last." 

" Ah, yes, I know ! my heart was sore for you when 
I heard that ; " and he shook hands again with such a 
sympathetic face, that Jo felt as if no comfort could 
equal the look of the kind eyes, the grasp of the big, 
warm hand. 

" Father, mother, this is my friend, Professor Bhaer," 
she said, with a face and tone of such irrepressible 
pride and pleasure, that she might as well have blown 
a trumpet and opened the door with a flourish. 

If the stranger had had any doubts about his recep- 
tion, they were set at rest in a minute by the cordial 
welcome he received. Every one greeted him kindly, 



3<H 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



for Jo's sake, at first, but very soon they liked him for 
his own. They could not help it, for he carried the 
talisman that opens all hearts, and these simple people 
warmed to him at once, feeling even the more friendly 
because he was poor, — for poverty enriches those who 
live above it, and is a sure passport to truly hospitable 
spirits. Mr. Bhaer sat looking about him with the 
air of a traveller who knocks at a strange door, and, 
when it opens, finds himself at home. The children 
went to him like bees to a honey-pot ; and, establishing 
themselves on each knee, proceeded to captivate him 
by rifling his pockets, pulling his beard, and in- 
vestigating his watch, with juvenile audacity. The 
women telegraphed their approval to one another, 
and Mr. March, feeling that he had got a kindred 
spirit, opened his choicest stores for his guesf s benefit, 
while silent John listened and enjoyed the talk, but said 
not a word, and Mr. Laurence found it impossible to 
go to sleep. 

If Jo had not been otherwise engaged, Laurie's be- 
havior would have amused her ; for a faint twinge, not 
of jealousy, but something like suspicion, caused that 
gentleman to stand aloof at first, and observe the new 
comer with brotherly circumspection. But it did not 
last long ; he got interested in spite of himself, and, 
before he knew it, was drawn into the circle, for Mr. 
Bhaer talked well in this genial atmosphere, and did 
himself justice. He seldom spoke to Laurie, but he 
looked at him often, and a shadow would pass across 
his face, as if regretting his own lost youth, as he 
watched the young man in his prime. Then his eye 
would turn to Jo so wistfully, that she would have 
surely answered the mute inquiry if she had seen it ; 



SUjRPXZSES. 305 

but Jo had her own eyes to take care of, and, feeling 
that they could not be trusted, she prudently kept 
them on the little sock she was knitting, like a model 
maiden aunt. 

A stealthy glance now and then refreshed her like 
sips of fresh water after a dusty walk, for the side- 
long peeps showed her several propitious omens. Mr. 
*Bhaer's face had lost the absent-minded expression, 
and looked all alive with interest in the present 
moment — actually young and handsome, she thought, 
forgetting to compare him with Laurie, as she usually 
did strange men, to their great detriment. Then he 
seemed quite inspired ; though the burial customs of 
the ancients, to which the conversation had strayed, 
might not be considered an exhilarating topic. Jo 
quite glowed with triumph when Teddy got quenched 
in an argument, and thought to herself, as she watched 
her father's absorbed face, " How he would enjoy 
having such a man as my Professor to talk with every 
day ! " Lastly, Mr. Bhaer was dressed in a spandy- 
new suit of black, which made him look more like a 
gentleman than ever. His bushy hair had been cut, 
and smoothly brushed, but didn't stay in order long, 
for, in exciting moments, he rumpled it up in the 
droll way he used to do, and Jo liked it rampantly 
erect, better than flat, because she thought it gave his 
fine forehead a Jove-like aspect. Poor Jo ! how she 
did glorify that plain man, as she sat knitting away so 
quietly, yet letting nothing escape her — not even the 
fact that Mr. Bhaer actually had gold sleeve-buttons 
in his immaculate wristbands. 

" Dear old fellow ; he couldn't have got himself up 
with more care, if he'd been going a-wooing," said Jo 
20 



306 LITTLE WOMEN. 

to herself; and then a sudden thought, born of the 
words, made her blush so dreadfully, that she had to 
drop her ball, and go down after it, to hide her face. 

The manoeuvre did not succeed as well as she ex- 
pected, however ; for, though just in the act of setting 
fire to a funeral pile, the Professor dropped his torch, 
metaphorically speaking, and made a dive after the 
little blue ball. Of course they bumped their heads* 
smartly together, saw stars, and both came up flushed 
and laughing, without the ball, to resume their seats, 
wishing they had not left them. 

Nobody knew where the evening went to, for Han- 
nah skilfully abstracted the babies at an early hour, 
nodding like two rosy poppies, and Mr. Laurence 
went home to rest. The others sat round the fire, 
talking away, utterly regardless of the lapse of time, 
till Meg, whose maternal mind was impressed with a 
firm conviction that Daisy had tumbled out of bed, 
and Demi set his night-gown afire, studying the 
structure of matches, made a move to go. 

" We must have our sing in the good old way, for 
we are all together again, once more," said Jo, feeling 
that a good shout would be a safe and {pleasant vent 
for the jubilant emotions of her soul. 

They were not all there, but no one found the 
words thoughtless or untrue ; for Beth still seemed 
among them — a peaceful presence — invisible, but 
dearer than ever ; since death could not break the 
household league that love made indissoluble. The 
little chair stood in its old place ; the tidy basket, with 
the bit of work she left unfinished when the needle 
grew so heavy, was still on its accustomed shelf; the 
beloved instrument, seldom touched now, had not 



SURPRISES. 307 

been moved; and above it, Beth's face, serene and 
smiling, as in the early days, looked down upon them, 
seeming to say, " Be happy ! I am here." 

" Play something. Amy ; let them hear how much 
you have improved," said Laurie, with pardonable 
pride in his promising pupil. 

But Amy whispered, with full eyes, as she twirled 
the faded stool, — 

" Not to-night, dear ; I can't show off to-night." 

But she did show something better than brilliancy 
or skill, for she sung Beth's songs, with a tender 
music in her voice which the best master could not 
have taught, and touched the listeners' hearts with a 
sweeter power than any other inspiration could have 
given her. The room w r as very still when the clear 
voice failed suddenly, at the last line of Beth's favorite 
hymn. It was hard to say, — 

" Earth hath no sorrow that heaven cannot heal " ; - 

and Amy leaned against her husband, who stood be- 
hind her, feeling that her welcome home was not 
quite perfect without Beth's kiss. 

" Now we must finish with Mignon's song, for Mr. 
Bhaer sings that," said Jo, before the pause grew 
painful ; and Mr. Bhaer cleared his throat with a 
gratified " hem," as he stepped into the corner where 
Jo stood, saying, — 

" You will sing with me ; we go excellently well 
together." 

A pleasing fiction, by the way, for Jo had no more 
idea of music than a grasshopper ; but she would 
have consented, if he had proposed to sing a whole 



308 LITTLE WOMEN. 

opera, and warbled away, blissfully regardless of time 
and tune. It didn't much matter, for Mr. Bhaer sang 
like a true German, heartily and well ; and Jo soon 
subsided into a subdued hum, that she might listen to 
the mellow voice that seemed to sing for her alone. 

" Know'st thou the land where the citron blooms," 

used to be the Professor's favorite line ; for " das 
land " meant Germany to him ; but now he seemed to 
dwell, with peculiar warmth and melody, upon the 
words, — 

" There, oh there, might I with thee, 
Oh my beloved, go"; 

and one listener was so thrilled by the tender invita- 
tion, that she longed to say she did know the land, 
and would joyfully depart thither, whenever he liked. 

The song was considered a great success, and the 
singer bashfully retired, covered with laurels. But a 
few minutes afterward, he forgot his manners entirely, 
and stared at Amy putting on her bonnet — for she 
had been introduced simply as " my sister," and no 
one had called her by her new name since he came. 
He forgot himself still farther, when Laurie said, in 
his most gracious manner, at parting, — 

" My wife and I are very glad to meet you, sir ; 
please remember that there is always a welcome 
waiting for you, over the way." 

Then the Professor thanked him so heartily, and 
looked so suddenly illuminated with satisfaction, that 
Laurie thought him the most delightfully-demonstra- 
tive old fellow he ever met. 



SURPRISES. 



309 



" I too shall go ; but I shall gladly come again, if 
you will gif me leave, dear madame, for a little 
business in the city will keep me here some days." 

He spoke to Mrs. March, but he looked at Jo ; and 
the mother's voice gave as cordial an assent as did the 
daughter's eyes ; for Mrs. March was not so blind to 
her children's interest as Mrs. Moffat supposed. 

" I suspect that is a wise man," remarked Mr. 
March, with placid satisfaction, from the hearth-rug, 
after the last guest had gone. 

" I know he is a good one," added Mrs. March, 
with decided approval, as she wound up the clock. 

" I thought you'd like him," was all Jo said, as she 
slipped away to her bed. 

She wondered what the business was that brought 
Mr. Bhaer to the city, and finally decided that he had 
been appointed to some great honor, somewhere, but 
had been too modest to mention the fact. If she 
had seen his face when, safe in his own room, he 
looked at the picture of a severe and rigid young 
lady, with a good deal of hair, who appeared to be 
gazing darkly into futurity, it might have thrown 
some light upon the subject, especially when he 
turned off the gas, and kissed the picture in the 
dark. 



CHAPTER XXI. 



MY LORD AND LADY, 



PLEASE, Madam Mother, could you lend me my 
wife for half an hour? The luggage has come, 
and I've been making hay of Amy's Paris finery, 
trying to find some things I want," said Laurie, coming 
in the next day to find Mrs. Laurence sitting in her 
mother's lap, as if being made " the baby" again. 

" Certainly ; go dear ; I forget that you have any 
home but this," and Mrs. March pressed the white 
hand that wore the wedding-ring, as if asking pardon 
for her maternal coveteousness. 

" I shouldn't have come over if I could have helped 
it ; but I can't get on without my little woman any 
more than a — " 

" Weathercock can without wind," suggested Jo, as 
he paused for a simile ; Jo had grown quite her own 
saucy self again since Teddy came home. 

" Exactly ; for Amy keeps me pointing due west 
most of the time, with only an occasional whiffle 
round to the south, and I haven't had an easterly spell 
since I was married ; don't know anything about the 
north, but am altogether salubrious and balmy, — hey, 
my lady?" 

" Lovely weather so far ; I don't know how long it 
will last, but I'm not afraid of storms, for I'm learning 
how to sail my ship. Come home, dear, and I'll find 
your bootjack ; I suppose that's what you are rum- 
maging after among my things. Men are so helpless, 
(3 T °) 



MT LORD AND LADT. 



3" 



mother," said Amy, with a matronly air, which de- 
lighted her husband. 

" What are you going to do with yourselves after 
you get settled ? " asked Jo, buttoning Amy's cloak as 
she used to button her pinafores. 

" We have our plans ; we don't mean to say much 
about them yet, because we are such very new 
brooms, but we don't intend to be idle. I'm going 
into business with a devotion that shall delight grand- 
pa, and prove to him that I'm not spoilt. I need 
something of the sort to keep me steady. I'm tired 
of dawdling, and mean to work like a man." 

" And Amy, what is she going to do? " asked Mrs. 
March, well pleased at Laurie's decision, and the 
energy with which he spoke. 

" After doing the civil all round, and airing our 
best bonnet, we shall astonish you by the elegant hos- 
pitalities of our mansion, the brilliant society we shall 
draw about us, and the beneficial influence we shall 
exert over the world at large. That's about it, isn't 
it, Madame Recamier? " asked Laurie, with a quiz- 
zical look at Amy. 

" Time will show. Come away, Impertinence, and 
don't shock my family by calling me names before 
their faces," answered Amy, resolving that there should 
be a home with a good wife in it before she set up a 
salon as a queen of society. 

" How happy those children seem together ! " ob- 
served Mr. March, finding it difficult to become 
absorbed in his Aristotle after the young couple had 
gone. 

" Yes, and I think it will last," added Mrs. March, 



312 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



with the restful expression of a pilot who has brought 
a ship safely into port. 

" I know it will. Happy Amy ! " and Jo sighed, 
then smiled brightly as Professor Bhaer opened the 
gate with an impatient push. 

Later in the evening, when his mind had been set 
at rest about the bootjack, Laurie said suddenly to his 
wife, who was flitting about, arranging her new art 
treasures, — 

" Mrs. Laurence." 

" My lord ! " 

" That man intends to marry our Jo ! " 

" I hope so ; don't you, dear? " 

"Well, my love, I consider him a trump, in the 
fullest sense of that expressive word, but I do wish he 
w T as a little younger and a good deal richer." 

" Now, Laurie, don't be too fastidious and worldly- 
minded. If they love one another it doesn't matter a 
particle how old they are, nor how poor. Women 
never should marry for money — " Amy caught her- 
self up short as the words escaped her, and looked at 
her husband, who replied, with malicious gravity, — 

" Certainly not, though you do hear charming girls 
say that they intend to do it sometimes. If my 
memory serves me, you once thought it your duty 
to make a rich match ; that accounts, perhaps, for 
your marrying a good-for-nothing like me." 

" Oh, my dearest boy, don't, don't say that ! I 
forgot you were rich wdien I said ' Yes.' I'd have 
married you if )^ou hadn't a penny, and I sometimes 
wish you were poor that I might show how much I 
love you ; " and Amy, who was very dignified in public 



MY LORD AND LADT. 



3*3 



and very fond in private, gave convincing proofs of 
the truth of her words. 

" You don't really think I am such a mercenary 
creature as I tried to be once, do you ? It would break 
my heart, if you didn't believe that I'd gladly pull 
in the same boat with you, even if you had to get your 
living by rowing on the lake." 

"Am I an idiot and a brute? How could I think 
so, when you refused a richer man for me, and won't 
let me give you half I want to now, when I have 
the right? Girls do it every day, poor things, and 
are taught to think it is their only salvation ; but you 
had better lessons, and, though I trembled for you at 
one time, I was not disappointed, — for the daughter 
was true to the mother's teaching. I told mamma so 
yesterday, and she looked as glad and grateful as 
if I'd given her a check for a million, to be spent in 
charity. You are not listening to my moral remarks, 
Mrs. Laurence," — and Laurie paused, for Amy's eyes 
had an absent look, though fixed upon his face. 

"Yes I am, and admiring the dimple in your chin 
at the same time. I don't wish to make you vain, but 
I must confess that I'm prouder of my handsome hus- 
band than of all his money. Don't laugh, — but your 
nose is such a comfort to me," and Amy softly caressed 
the well-cut feature with artistic satisfaction. 

Laurie had received many compliments in his life, 
but never one that suited him better, as he plainly 
showed, though he did laugh at his wife's peculiar 
taste, while she said slowly, — 

" May I ask you a question, dear?" 

" Of course you may." 

" Shall you care if Jo does marry Mr. Bhaer?" 



3H 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



" Oh, that's the trouble, is it? I thought there was 
something in the dimple that didn't suit you. Not 
being a dog in the manger, but the happiest fellow 
alive, I assure you I can dance at Jo's wedding with 
a heart as light as my heels. Do you doubt it, ma 
amie ? " 

Amy looked up at him, and was satisfied ; her last 
little jealous fear vanished forever, and she thanked 
him, with a face full of love and confidence. 

" I wish we could do something for that capital 
old Professor. Couldn't we invent a rich relation, 
who shall obligingly die out there in Germany, and 
leave him a tidy little fortune?" said Laurie, when 
they began to pace up and down the long drawing- 
room, arm-in-arm, as they were fond of doing, in 
memory of the chateau garden. 

" Jo would find us out, and spoil it all ; she is very 
proud of him, just as he is, and said yesterday that 
she thought poverty was a beautiful thing." 

" Bless her dear heart, she won't think so when she 
has a literary husband, and a dozen little professors 
and professorins to support. We won't interfere 
now, but watch our chance, and do them a good turn 
in spite of themselves. I owe Jo for a part of my 
education, and she believes in people's paying their 
honest debts, so I'll get round her in that way." 

" How delightful it is to be able to help others, 
isn't it? That was always one of my dreams, to have 
the power of giving freely ; and, thanks to you, the 
dream has come true." 

"Ah, we'll do lots of good, won't we? There's 
one sort of poverty that I particularly like to help. 
Out-and-out beggars get taken care of, but poor gen- 



MT LORD AND LADT. 



315 



tlefolks fare badly, because they won't ask, and people 
don't dare to offer charity ; yet there are a thousand 
ways of helping them, if one only knows how to do 
it so delicately that it don't offend. I must say, I like 
to serve a decayed gentleman better than a blarneying 
beggar ; I suppose it's wrong, but I do, though it is 
harder." 

" Because it takes a gentleman to do it," added the 
other member of the domestic admiration society. 

"Thank you, I'm afraid I don't deserve that pretty 
compliment. But I was going to say, that while I 
was dawdling about abroad, I saw a good many 
talented young fellows making all sorts of sacrifices, 
and enduring real hardships, that they might realize 
their dreams. Splendid fellows, some of them,. work- 
ing like heroes, poor and friendless, but so full of 
courage, patience and ambition, that I was ashamed 
of myself, and longed to give them a right good lift. 
Those are people whom it's a satisfaction to help, for 
if they've got genius, it's an honor to be allowed to 
serve them, and not let it be lost or delayed for want 
of fuel to keep the pot boiling ; if they haven't, it's 
a pleasure to comfort the poor souls, and keep them 
from despair, when they find it out." 

u Yes indeed ; and there's another class who can't 
ask, and who suffer in silence ; I know something of 
it, for I belonged to it, before you made a princess of 
me, as the king does the beggar-maid in the old story. 
Ambitious girls have a hard time, Laurie, and often 
have to see youth, health, and precious opportunities 
go by, just for want of a little help at the right 
minute. People have been very kind to me, and when- 
ever I see girls struggling along, as we used to do, 



316 LITTLE WOMEN. 

I want to put out my hand and help them, as I was 
helped." 

" And so you shall, like an angel as you are ! " cried 
Laurie, resolving, with a glow of philanthropic zeal, 
to found and endow an institution, for the express 
benefit of young women with artistic tendencies. 
'■ Rich people have no right to sit down and enjoy 
themselves, or let their money accumulate for others 
to waste. It's not half so sensible to leave a lot of 
legacies when one dies, as it is to use the money 
wisely while alive, and enjoy making one's fellow- 
creatures happy with it. We'll have a good time 
ourselves, and add an extra relish to our own pleas- 
ure, by giving other people a generous taste. Will 
you be a little Dorcas, going about emptying a big 
basket of comforts, and filling it up with good 
deeds?" 

" With all my heart, if you will be a brave St. 
Martin, stopping, as you ride gallantly through the 
world, to share your cloak with the beggar." 

" It's a bargain, and we shall get the best of it ! " 

So the young pair shook hands upon it, and then 
paced happily on again, feeling that their pleasant 
home was more home-like, because they hoped to 
brighten other homes, believing that their own feet 
would walk more uprightly along the flowery path 
before them, if they smoothed rough ways for other 
feet, and feeling that their hearts were more closely 
knit together by a love which could tenderly re- 
member those less blest than they. 



CHAPTER XXII. 



DAISY AND DEMI 



I CANNOT feel* that I have done my duty as 
humble historian of the March family, without 
devoting at least one chapter to the two most 
precious and important members of it. Daisy and 
Demi had now arrived at years of discretion ; for in 
this fast age babies of three or four assert their rights, 
and get them, too, which is more than many of their 
elders do. If there ever were a pair of twins in danger 
of being utterly spoilt by adoration, it was these prat- 
tling Brookes. Of course they were the most remark- 
able children ever born ; as will be shown when I 
mention that they walked at eight months, talked 
fluently at twelve months, and at two years they took 
their places at table, and behaved with a propriety 
which charmed all beholders. At three Daisy de- 
manded a " needier," and actually made a bag with 
four stitches in it ; she likewise set up housekeeping 
in the side-board, and managed a microscopic cook- 
ing-stove with a skill that brought tears of pride to 
Hannah's eyes, while Demi learned his letters with his 
grandfather, who invented a new mode of teaching 
the alphabet by forming the letters with his arms and 
legs, — thus uniting gymnastics for head and heels. 
The boy early developed a mechanical genius which 
delighted his father, and distracted his mother, for 
he tried to imitate every machine he saw, and kept 
the nursery in a chaotic condition, with his " sewing- 

(317) 



318 LITTLE WOMEN. 

sheen," — a mysterious structure of string, chairs, 
clothes-pins and spools, for wheels to go "wound and 
wound" ; also a basket hung over the back of a big 
chair, in which he vainly tried to hoist his too con- 
fiding sister, who, with feminine devotion, allowed 
her little head to be bumped till rescued, when the 
young inventor indignantly remarked, " Why, mar- 
mar, dats mine lellywaiter, and me's trying to pull 
her up." 

Though utterly unlike in character, the twins got 
on remarkably well together, and seldom quarrelled 
more than thrice a day. Of course, Demi tyrannized 
over Daisy, and gallantly defended her from every 
other aggressor ; while Daisy made a galley-slave 
of herself, and adored her brother, as the one perfect 
being in the world. A rosy, chubby, sunshiny little 
soul was Daisy, who found her way to everybody's 
heart, and nestled there. One of the captivating 
children, who seem made to be kissed and cuddled, 
adorned and adored like little goddesses, and pro- 
duced for general approval on all festive occasions. 
Her small virtues were so sweet, that she would have 
been quite angelic, if a few small naughtinesses had 
not kept her delightfully human. It was all fair 
weather in her world, and every morning she scram- 
bled up to the window in her little night-gown to 
look out, and say, no matter whether it rained or 
shone, " Oh pitty day, oh pitty day ! " Every one was 
a friend, and she offered kisses to a stranger so con- 
fidingly, that the most inveterate bachelor relented 
and baby-lovers became faithful worshippers. 

" Me loves evvybody," she once said, opening her 
arms, with her spoon in one hand, and her mug in 



DAISY AND DEMI. 



3*9 



the other, as if eager to embrace and nourish the 
whole world. 

As she grew, her mother began to feel that the 
Dove-cote would be blest by the presence of an 
inmate as serene and loving as that which had 
helped to make the old house home, and to pray that 
she might be spared a loss like that which had lately 
taught them how long they had entertained an angel 
unawares. Her grandfather often called her " Beth," 
and her grandmother watched over her with untiring 
devotion, as if trying to atone for some past mistake, 
which no eye but her own could see. 

Demi, like a true Yankee, was of an inquiring turn, 
wanting to know everything, and often getting much 
disturbed, because he could not get satisfactory an- 
swers to his perpetual " What for? " 

He also possessed a philosophic bent, to the great 
delight of his grandfather, who used to hold Socratic 
conversations with him, in which the precocious 
pupil occasionally posed his teacher to the un- 
disguised satisfaction of the women folk. 

"What makes my legs go, Dranpa?" asked the 
young philosopher, surveying those active portions of 
his frame with a meditative air, while resting after a 
go-to-bed frolic one night. 

" It's your little mind, Demi," replied the sage, 
stroking the yellow head respectfully. 

"What is a little mine?" 

" It is something which makes your body move, as 
the spring made the wheels go in my watch "when I 
showed it to you." 

" Open me ; I want to see it go wound." 

" I can't do that any more than you could open the 



320 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



watch. God winds you up, and you go till He stops 
you." 

"Does I?" and Demi's brown eyes grew big and 
bright as he took in the new thought. " Is I wounded 
up like the watch?" 

" Yes ; but I can't show you how ; for it is done 
when we don't see." 

Demi felt of his back, as if expecting to find it like 
that of the watch, and then gravely remarked, — 

" I dess Dod does it when I's asleep." 

A careful explanation followed, to which he lis- 
tened so attentively that his anxious grandmother 
said, — 

" My dear, do you think it wise to talk about such 
things to that baby? He's getting great bumps over 
his eyes, and learning to ask the most unanswerable 
questions." 

"If he is old enough to ask the questions he is old 
enough to receive true answers. I am not putting the 
thoughts into his head, but helping him unfold those 
already there. These children are wiser than we are, 
and I have no doubt the boy understands every word 
I have said to him. Now, Demi, tell me where you 
keep your mind ? " 

If the boy had replied like Alcibiades, " By the 
gods, Socrates, I cannot tell," his grandfather would 
not have been surprised ; but when, after standing a 
moment on one leg, like a meditative young stork, he 
answered, in a tone of calm conviction, " In my little 
belly," the old gentleman* could only join in grandma's 
laugh, and dismiss the class in metaphysics. 

There might have been cause for maternal anxiety, 
if Demi had not given convincing proofs that he was 



DAISY AND DEMI. 



321 



a true boy, as well as a budding philosopher ; for, 
often, after a discussion which caused Hannah to 
prophecy, with ominous nods, " that child ain't long 
for this world," he would turn about and set her fears 
at rest by some of the pranks with which dear, dirty, 
naughty little rascals distract and delight their parents' 
souls. 

Meg made many moral rules, and tried to keep 
them ; but what mother was ever proof against the 
winning wiles, the ingenious evasions, or the tranquil 
audacity of the miniature men and women who so 
early show themselves accomplished Artful Dodgers ? 

" No more raisins, Demi, they'll make you sick," 
says mamma to the young person who offers his ser- 
vices in the kitchen with unfailing regularity on plum- 
pudding day. 

" Me likes to be sick." 

" I don't want to have you, — so run away and help 
Daisy make patty-cakes." 

He reluctantly departs, but his wrongs weigh upon 
his spirit ; and, by and by, when an opportunity comes 
to redress them, he outwits mamma by a shrewd 
bargain. 

" Now you have been good children, and I'll play 
anything you like," says Meg, as she leads her assistant 
cooks upstairs, when the pudding is safely bouncing 
in the pot. 

" Truly, marmar?" asks Demi, with a brilliant idea 
in his well-powdered head. 

u Yes, truly ; anything you say," replies the short- 
sighted parent, preparing herself to sing " The Three 
Little Kittens " half a dozen times over, or to take her 
21 



322 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



family to "Buy a penny bun," regardless of wind or 
limb. But Demi corners her by the cool reply, — 

" Then we'll go and eat up all the raisins." 

Aunt Dodo was chief playmate and confidante of 
both children, and the trio turned the little house 
topsy-turvy. Aunt Amy was as yet only a name to 
them, Aunt Beth soon faded into a pleasantly vague 
memory, but Aunt Dodo was a living reality, and they 
made the most of her, — for which compliment she 
was deeply grateful. But when Mr. Bhaer came, Jo 
neglected her playfellows, and dismay and desolation 
fell upon their little souls. Daisy, who was fond of 
going about peddling kisses, lost her best customer 
and became bankrupt ; Demi, with infantile penetra- 
tion, soon discovered that Dodo liked to play with 
" the bear-man " better than she did with him ; but, 
though hurt, he concealed his anguish, for he hadn't 
the heart to insult a rival who kept a mine of chocolate 
drops in his waistcoat pocket, and a watch that could 
be taken out of its case and freely shaken by ardent 
admirers. 

Some persons might have considered these pleasing 
liberties as bribes ; but Demi didn't see it in that 
light, and continued to patronize the "bear-man" 
with pensive affability, while Daisy bestowed her 
small affections upon him at the third call, and con- 
sidered his shoulder her throne, his arm her refuge, 
his gifts treasures of surpassing worth. 

Gentlemen are sometimes seized with sudden fits 
of admiration for the young relatives of ladies whom 
they honor with their regard ; but this counterfeit 
philoprogenitiveness sits uneasily upon them, and 
does not deceive anybody a particle. Mr. Bhaer's 



DAISY AND DEMI. 323 

devotion was sincere, however, likewise effective, — 
for honesty is the best policy in love as in law ; he 
was one of the men who are at home with children, 
and looked particularly well when little faces made a 
pleasant contrast with his manly one. His business, 
whatever it was, detained him from day to day, but 
evening seldom failed to bring him out to see — well, 
he always asked for Mr. March, so I suppose he was 
the attraction. The excellent papa labored under the 
delusion that he was, and revelled in long discussions 
with the kindred spirit, till a chance remark of his 
more observing grandson suddenly enlightened him. 

Mr. Bhaer came in one evening to pause on the 
threshold of the study, astonished by the spectacle that 
met his eye. Prone upon the floor lay Mr. March, 
with his respectable legs in the air, and beside 
him, likewise prone, was Demi, trying to imitate 
the attitude with his own short, scarlet-stockinged 
legs, both grovellers so seriously absorbed that they 
were unconscious of spectators, till Mr. Bhaer laughed 
his sonorous laugh, and Jo cried out, with a scan- 
dalized face, — 

u Father, father ! here's the Professor ! " 

Down went the black legs and up came the gray 
head, as the preceptor said, with undisturbed dig- 
nity, — 

" Good evening, Mr. Bhaer. Excuse me for a mo- 
ment, — we are just finishing our lesson. Now, Demi, 
make the letter and tell its name." 

" I knows him," and, after a few convulsive efforts, 
the red legs took the shape of a pair of compasses, 
and the intelligent pupil triumphantly shouted " It's a 
We, Dranpa, it's a We I " 



324 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



" He's a born Weller," laughed Jo, as her parent 
gathered himself up, and her nephew tried to stand 
on his head, as the only mode of expressing his sat- 
isfaction that school was over. 

" What have you been at to-day, biibchen? " asked 
Mr. Bhaer, picking up the gymnast. 

" Me went to see little Mary." 

* ' And what did you there ? " 

" I kissed her," began Demi, with artless frankness. 

" Prut ! thou beginnest early. What did the little 
Mary say to that?" asked Mr. Bhaer, continuing to 
confess the young sinner, who stood upon his knee, 
exploring the waistcoat pocket. 

u Oh, she liked it, and she kissed me, and I liked 
it. Don't little boys like little girls?" added Demi, 
with his mouth full, and an air of bland satisfaction. 

" You precocious chick, -r- who put that into your 
head?" said Jo, enjoying the innocent revelations as 
much as the Professor. 

" Tisn't in mine head, it's in mine mouf," answered 
literal Demi, putting out his tongue with a chocolate- 
drop on it, — thinking she alluded to confectionery, 
not ideas. 

"Thou shouldst save some for the little friend; 
sweets to the sweet, mannling," and Mr. Bhaer offered 
Jo some with a look that made her wonder if chocolate 
was not the nectar drunk by the gods. Demi also 
saw the smile, was impressed by it, and artlessly 
inquired, — 

" Do great boys like great girls too, 'Fessor? " 

Like young Washington, Mr. Bhaer " couldn't tell 
a lie" ; so he gave the somewhat vague reply, that he 
believed they did, sometimes, in a tone that made Mr. 



DAISY AND DEMI. 325 

March put down his clothes-brush, glance at Jo's 
retiring face, and then sink into his chair, looking as 
if the "precocious chick" had put an idea into his 
head that was both sweet and sour. 

Why Dodo, when she caught him in the china- 
closet half an hour afterward, nearly squeezed the 
breath out of his little body with a tender embrace, 
instead of shaking him for being there, and why she 
followed up this novel performance by the unexpected 
gift of a big slice of bread and jelly, remained one 
of the problems over which Demi puzzled his small 
wits, and was forced to leave unsolved forever. 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

UNDER THE UMBRELLA. 

WHILE Laurie and Amy were taking conjugal 
strolls over velvet carpets, as they set their 
house in order, and planned a blissful future, 
Mr. Bhaer and Jo were enjoying promenades of a 
different sort, along muddy roads and sodden fields. 

" I always do take a walk toward evening, and I 
don't know why I should give it up, just because I 
often happen to meet the Professor on his way out," 
said Jo to herself, after two or three encounters ; for, 
though there were two paths to Meg's, whichever one 
she took she was sure to meet him, either going or 
returning. He was always walking rapidly, and 
never seemed to see her till quite close, when he 
would look as if his short-sighted eyes had failed to 
recognize the approaching lady till that moment. 
Then, if she was going to Meg's, he always had 
something for the babies ; if her face was turned 
homeward, he had merely strolled down to see the 
river, and was just about returning, unless they were 
tired of his frequent calls. 

Under the circumstances, what could Jo do but 
greet him civilly, and invite him in? If she was 
tired of his visits, she concealed her weariness with 
perfect skill, and took care that there should be coffee 
for supper, " as Friedrich — I mean Mr. Bhaer — don't 
like tea." 

By the second week, every one knew perfectly well 

(326) 



UNDER THE UMBRELLA. 327 

what was going on, yet every one tried to look as if 
they were stone-blind to the changes in Jo's face — 
never asked why she sang about her work, did up her 
hair three times a day, and got so blooming with her 
evening exercise ; and no one seemed to have the 
slightest suspicion that Professor Bhaer, while talking 
philosophy with the father, was giving the daughter 
lessons in love. 

Jo couldn't even lose her heart in a decorous man- 
ner, but sternly tried to quench her feelings ; and, fail- 
ing do so, led a somewhat agitated life. She was 
mortally afraid of being laughed at for surrendering, 
after her many and vehement declarations of indepen- 
dence. Laurie was her especial dread ; but, thanks to 
the new manager, he behaved with praiseworthy pro- 
priety, never called Mr. Bhaer " a capital old fellow " 
in public, never alluded, in the remotest manner, to 
Jo's improved appearance, or expressed the least 
surprise at seeing the Professor's hat on the Marches 
hall-table, nearly every evening. But he exulted in 
private, and longed for the time to come when he 
could give Jo a m piece of plate, with a bear and a 
ragged staff on it as an appropriate coat of arms. 

For a fortnight, the Professor came and went with 
lover-like regularity ; then he stayed away for three 
whole days, and made no sign — a proceeding which 
caused everybody to look sober, and Jo to become 
pensive, at first, and then, — alas for romance, — very 
cross. 

" Disgusted, I dare say, and gone home as suddenly 
as he came. It's nothing to me, of course ; but I should 
think he would have come and bid us good-by, like a 
gentleman," she said to herself, with a despairing look 



328 LITTLE WOMEN. 

at the gate, as she put on her things for the customary 
walk, one dull afternoon. 

u You'd better take the little umbrella, dear ; it 
looks like rain," said her mother, observing that she 
had on her new bonnet, but not alluding to the fact. 

"Yes, Marmee ; do you want anything in town? 
I've got to run in and get some paper," returned Jo, 
pulling out the bow under her chin, before the glass, 
as an excuse for not looking at her mother. 

" Yes ; I want some twilled silesia, a paper of 
number nine needles, and two yards of narrow lav- 
ender ribbon. Have you got your thick boots on, and 
something warm under your cloak? " 

"I believe so," answered Jo, absently. 

u If you happen to meet Mr. Bhaer, bring him 
home to tea ; I quite long to see the dear man," added 
Mrs. March. 

Jo heard that, but made no answer, except to kiss 
her mother, and walk rapidly away, thinking with a 
glow of gratitude, in spite of her heartache, — 

" How good she is to me ! What do girls do 
who haven't any mothers to help them through their 
troubles ? " 

The dry-goods stores were not down among the 
counting-houses, banks, and wholesale warerooms, 
where gentlemen most do congregate ; but Jo found 
herself in that part of the city before she did a single 
errand, loitering along as if waiting for some one, 
examining engineering instruments in one window, 
and samples of wool in another, with most unfemi- 
nine interest ; tumbling over barrels, being half- 
smothered by descending bales, and hustled uncer- 
emoniously by busy men, who looked as if they 



UNDER THE UMBRELLA. 329 

wondered " how the deuce she got there." A drop 
of rain on her cheek recalled her thoughts from 
baffled hopes to ruined ribbons ; for the drops con- 
tinued to fall, and, being a woman as well as a lover, 
she felt that, though it was too late to save her heart, 
she might her bonnet. Now she remembered the 
little umbrella, which she had forgotten to take in her 
hurry to be oft'; but regret was unavailing, and 
nothing could be done but borrow one, or submit to a 
drenching. She looked up at the lowering sky, down 
at the crimson bow, already flecked with black, for- 
ward along the muddy street, then one long, lingering 
look behind, at a certain grimy warehouse, with 
" Hoffmann, Swartz & Co." over the door, and, said 
to herself, with a sternly-reproachful air, — 

" It serves me right ! What business had I to put 
on all my best things, and come philandering down 
here, hoping to see the Professor? Jo, I'm ashamed 
of you ! No, you shall not go there to borrow an 
umbrella, or find out where he is, from his friends. 
You shall slop away, and do your errands in the 
rain ; and if you catch your death, and ruin your 
bonnet, it's no more than you deserve. Now then ! " 

With that she rushed across the street so impetu- 
ously, that she narrowly escaped annihilation from a 
passing truck, and precipitated herself into the arms 
of a stately old gentleman, who said, " I beg pardon, 
ma'am," and looked mortally offended. Somewhat 
daunted, Jo righted herself, spread her handkerchief 
over the devoted ribbons, and putting temptation be- 
hind her, hurried on, with increasing dampness about 
the ankles, and much clashing of umbrellas overhead. 
The fact that a somewhat dilapidated blue one re- 



330 LITTLE WOMEN. 

mained stationary above the unprotected bonnet, at- 
tracted her attention ; and, looking up, she saw Mr. 
Bhaer looking down. 

" I feel to know the strong-minded lady who goes 
so bravely under many horse-noses, and so fast through 
much mud. What do you down here, my friend?" 

" I'm shopping." 

Mr. Bhaer smiled, as he glanced from the pickle- 
factory on one side, to the wholesale hide and leather 
concern on the other ; but he only said, politely, — 

" You haf no umbrella ; may I go also, and take 
for you the bundles? " 

"Yes, thank you." 

Jo's cheeks were as red as her ribbon, and she won- 
dered what he thought of her ; but she didn't care, 
for in a minute she found herself walking away, arm- 
in-arm with her Professor, feeling as if the sun had 
suddenly burst out with uncommon brilliancy, that 
the world was all right again, and that one thoroughly 
happy woman was paddling through the wet that 
day. 

" We thought you had gone," said Jo, hastily, for 
she knew he was looking at her, — her bonnet wasn't 
big enough to hide her face, and she feared he might 
think the joy it betrayed unmaidenly. 

" Did you believe that I should go with no fare- 
well to those who haf been so heavenly kind to me ? " 
he asked, so reproachfully, that she felt as if she 
had insulted him by the suggestion, and answered, 
heartily, — 

" No, / didn't ; I knew you were busy about your 
own affairs, but we rather missed you, — father and 
mother especially." 



UNDER THE UMBRELLA. 



33 1 



"And you?" 

M I'm always glad to see you, sir." 

In her anxiety to keep her voice quite calm, Jo 
made it rather cool, and the frosty little monosyl- 
lable at the end seemed to chill the Professor, for his 
smile vanished, as he said, gravely, — 

" I thank you, and come one time more before I go." 

" You are going, then? " 

" I haf no longer any business here ; it is done." 

" Successfully, I hope? " said Jo, for the bitterness 
of disappointment was in that short reply of his. 

" I ought to think so, for I haf a way opened to me 
by which I can make my bread and gif my Jiinglings 
much help." 

" Tell me, please ! I like to know all about the — 
the boys," said Jo eagerly. 

" That is so kind, I gladly tell you. My friends 
find for me a place in a college, where I teach as at 
home, and earn enough to make the way smooth for 
Franz and Emil. For this I should be grateful, should 
I not?" 

" Indeed you should ! How splendid it will be to 
have you doing what you like, and be able to see you 
often, and the boys — " cried Jo, clinging to the lads 
as an excuse for the satisfaction she could not help 
betraying. 

" Ah, but we shall not meet often, I fear ; this place 
is at the West." 

" So far away ! " and Jo left her skirts to their fate, 
as if it didn't matter now what became of her clothes 
or herself. 

Mr. Bhaer could read several languages, but he had 
not learned to read women yet. He flattered himself 



332 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



that he knew Jo pretty well, and was, therefore, much 
amazed by the contradictions of voice, face, and 
manner, which she showed him in rapid succession 
that day, — for she was in half a dozen different moods 
in the course of half an hour. When she met him 
she looked surprised, though it was impossible to help 
suspecting that she had come for that express purpose. 
When he offered her his arm, she took it with a look 
that filled him with delight ; but when he asked if she 
missed him, she gave such a chilly, formal reply, that 
despair fell upon him. On learning his good fortune 
she almost clapped her hands, — was the joy all for 
the boys? Then, on hearing his destination, she said, 
" So far away ! " in a tone of despair that lifted him 
on to a pinnacle of hope ; but the next minute she 
tumbled him down again by observing, like one en- 
tirely absorbed in the matter, — 

" Here's the place for my errands ; will you come 
in ? It won't take long." 

Jo rather prided herself upon her shopping capa- 
bilities, and particularly wished to impress her escort 
with the neatness and despatch with which she would 
accomplish the business. But, owing to the flutter 
she was in, everything went amiss ; she upset the tray 
of needles, forgot the silesia was to be " twilled" till 
it was cut off, gave the wrong change, and covered 
herself with confusion by asking for lavender ribbon 
at the calico counter. Mr. Bhaer stood by, watching 
her blush and blunder ; and, as he watched, his own 
bewilderment seemed to subside, for he was beginning 
to see that on some occasions women, like dreams, go 
by contraries. 

When they came out, he put the parcel under his 



UNDER THE UMBRELLA. 



333 



arm with a more cheerful aspect, and splashed through 
the puddles as if he rather enjoyed it, on the whole. 

" Should we not do a little what you call shopping 
for the babies, and haf a farewell feast to-night if I go 
for my last call at your so pleasant home ? " he asked, 
stopping before a window full of fruit and flowers. 

"What will we buy?" said Jo, ignoring the latter 
part of his speech, and sniffing the mingled odors 
with an affectation of delight, as they went in. 

"May they haf oranges and figs?" asked Mr. 
Bhaer, with a paternal air. 

" They eat them when they can get them." 

"Do you care for nuts? " 

" Like a squirrel." 

" Hamburg grapes ; yes, we shall surely drink to 
the Fatherland in those ? " 

Jo frowned upon that piece of extravagance, and 
asked why he didn't buy a frail of dates, a cask of 
raisins, and a bag of almonds, and done with it? 
Whereat Mr. Bhaer confiscated her purse, produced 
his own, and finished the marketing by buying several 
pounds of grapes, a pot of rosy daisies, and a pretty 
jar of honey, to be regarded in the light of a demi- 
john. Then, distorting his pockets with the knobby 
bundles, and giving her the flowers to hold, he put up 
the old umbrella, and they travelled on again. 

" Miss Marsch, I haf a great favor to ask of you," 
began the Professor, after a moist promenade of half a 
block. 

"Yes, sir," and Jo's heart began to beat so hard she 
was afraid he would hear it. 

" I am bold to say it in spite of the rain, because so 
short a time remains to me." 



334 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



" Yes, sir," and Jo nearly smashed the small flower- 
pot with the sudden squeeze she gave it. 

" I wish to get a little dress for my Tina, and I am 
too stupid to go alone. Will you kindly gif me a 
word of taste and help ? " 

" Yes sir," and Jo felt as calm and cool all of a 
sudden, as if she had stepped into a refrigerator. 

" Perhaps also a shawl for Tina's mother, she is so 
poor and sick, and the husband is such a care, — yes, 
yes, a thick, warm shawl would be a friendly thing 
to take the little mother." 

"I'll do it with pleasure, Mr. Bhaer. I'm going very 
fast, and he's getting dearer every minute," added Jo to 
herself; then, with a mental shake, she entered into the 
business with an energy which was pleasant to behold. 

Mr. Bhaer left it all to her, so she chose a pretty 
gown for Tina, and then ordered out the shawls. 
The clerk, being a married man, condescended to 
take an interest in the couple, who appeared to be 
shopping for their family. 

" Your lady may prefer this ; it's a superior article, 
a most desirable color, quite chaste and genteel," he 
said, shaking out a comfortable gray shawl, and 
throwing it over Jo's shoulders. 

"Does this suit you, Mr. Bhaer?" she asked, 
turning her back to him, and feeling deeply grateful 
for the chance of hiding her face. 

"Excellently well, we will haf it," answered the 
Professor, smiling to himself, as he paid for it, while 
Jo continued to rummage the counters, like a con- 
firmed bargain-hunter. 

"Now shall we go home?" he asked, as if the 
words were very pleasant to him. 



UNDER THE UMBRELLA. 335 



a 



Yes, ifs late, and I'm so tired." Jo's voice was 
more pathetic than she knew, for now the sun seemed 
to have gone in as suddenly as it came out, the world 
grew muddy and miserable again, and for the first 
time she discovered that her feet were cold, her head 
ached, and that her heart was colder than the former, 
fuller of pain than the latter. Mr. Bhaer was going 
away ; he only cared for her as a friend, it was all a 
mistake, and the sooner it was over the better. With 
this idea in her head, she hailed an approaching 
omnibus with such a hasty gesture that the daisies 
flew out of the pot, and were badly damaged. 

"That is not 'our omniboos," said the Professor, 
waving the loaded vehicle away, and stopping to 
pick up the poor little posies. 

" I beg your pardon, I didn't see the name dis- 
tinctly. Never mind, I can walk, I'm used to plod- 
ding in the mud," returned Jo, winking hard, because 
she would have died rather than openly wipe her 
eyes. 

Mr. Bhaer saw the drops on her cheeks, though she 
turned her head away ; the sight seemed to touch 
him very much, for suddenly stooping down, he asked 
in a tone that meant a great deal, — 

" Heart's dearest, why do you cry?" 

Now if Jo had not been new to this sort of thing 
she would have said she wasn't crying, had a cold 
in her head, or told any other feminine fib proper to 
the occasion ; instead of which that undignified crea- 
ture answered, with an irrepressible sob, — 

" Because you are going away." 

" Ah, my Gott, that is so good ! " cried Mr. Bhaer, 
managing to clasp his hands in spite of the umbrella 



336 LITTLE WOMEN. 

and the bundles. " Jo, I haf nothing but much love 
to gif you ; I came to see if you could care for it, 
and I waited to be sure that I was something more 
than a friend. Am I ? Can you make a little place in 
your heart for old Fritz?" he added, all in one breath. 

" Oh, yes ! " said Jo, and he was quite satisfied, for 
she folded both hands over his arm, and looked up at 
him with an expression that plainly showed how 
happy she would be to walk through life beside him, 
even though she had no better shelter than the old 
umbrella, if he carried it. 

It was certainly proposing under difficulties, for 
even if he had desired to do so, Mr. Bhaer could 
not go down upon his knees, on account of the mud, 
neither could he offer Jo his hand, except figuratively, 
for both were full ; much less could he indulge in 
tender demonstrations in the open street, though he 
was near it ; so the only way in which he could 
express his rapture was to look at her, with an 
expression which glorified his face to such a degree 
that there actually seemed to be little rainbows in 
the drops that sparkled on his beard. If he' had not 
loved Jo very much, I don't think he could have done 
it then, for she looked far from lovely, with her skirts 
in a deplorable state, her rubber boots splashed to 
the ankle, and her bonnet a ruin. Fortunately, Mr. 
Bhaer considered her the most beautiful woman 
living, and she found him more "Jove-like" than 
ever, though his hat-brim was quite limp with the 
little rills trickling thence upon his shoulders (for he 
held the umbrella all over Jo), and every finger of his 
gloves needed mending. 

Passers-by probably thought them a pair of harm- 



UNDER THE UMBRELLA. 



337 



less lunatics, for they entirely forgot to hail a 'bus, 
and strolled leisurely along, oblivious of deepening 
dusk and fog. Little they cared what anybody 
thought, for they were enjoying the happy hour that 
seldom comes but once in any life — the magical 
moment which bestows youth on the old, beauty on 
the plain, wealth on the poor, and gives human hearts 
a foretaste of heaven. The Professor looked as if he 
had conquered a kingdom, and the world had nothing 
more to offer him in the way of bliss, while Jo trudged 
beside him, feeling as if her place had always been 
there, and wondering how she ever could have chosen 
any other lot. Of course, she was the first to speak — 
intelligibly, I mean, for the emotional remarks which 
followed her impetuous " Oh yes ! " were not of a 
coherent or reportable character. 

" Friedrich, why didn't you — " 

" Ah, heaven ! she gifs me the name that no one 
speaks since Minna died ! " cried the Professor, 
pausing in a puddle to regard her with grateful 
delight. 

" I always call you so to myself — I forgot; but I 
won't, unless you like it." 

" Like it ! it is more sweet to me than I can tell. 
Say ' thou,' also, and I shall say your language is 
almost as beautiful as mine." 

" Isn't ' thou ' a little sentimental?" asked Jo, pri- 
vately thinking it a lovely monosyllable. 

" Sentimental? yes; thank Gott, we Germans be- 
lieve in sentiment, and keep ourselves young mit it. 
Your English 'you' is so cold — say 'thou,' heart's 
dearest, it means so much to me," pleaded Mr. Bhaer, 
more like a romantic student than a grave professor. 
22 



338 LITTLE WOMEN. 

"Well, then, why didn't thou tell me all this 
sooner?" asked Jo, bashfully. 

" Now I shall haf to show thee all my heart, and I 
so gladly will, because thou must take care of it here- 
after. See, then, my Jo — ah, the dear, funny little 
name ! — I had a wish to tell something the day I said 
good-by, in New York ; but I thought the handsome 
friend was betrothed to thee, and so I spoke not. 
Would'st thou have said 'Yes,' then, if I had 
spoken ? " 

" I don't know ; I'm afraid not, for I didn't have 
any heart, just then." 

" Prut ! that I do not believe. It was asleep till 
the fairy prince came through the wood, and waked 
it up. Ah well, ' Die erste Liebe ist die beste ' ; but 
that I should not expect." 

" Yes, the first love is the best ; so be contented, 
for I never had another. Teddy was only a boy, and 
soon got over his little fancy," said Jo, anxious to 
correct the Professor's mistake. 

" Good ! then I shall rest happy, and be sure that 
thou givest me all. I haf waited so long, I am grown 
selfish, as thou wilt find, Professorin." 

" I like that," cried Jo, delighted with her new 
name. " Now tell me what brought you, at last, just 
when I most wanted you ? " 

" This," — and Mr. Bhaer took a little worn paper 
out of his waistcoat pocket. 

Jo unfolded it, and looked much abashed, for it was 
one of her own contributions to a paper that paid for 
poetry, which accounted for her sending it an oc- 
casional attempt. 



UNDER THE UMBRELLA. 



339 



"How could that bring you?" she asked, wonder- 
ing what he meant. 

" I found it by chance ; I knew it by the names and 
the initials, and in it there was one little verse that 
seemed to call me. Read and find him ; I will see 
that you go not in the wet." 

Jo obeyed, and hastily skimmed through the lines 
which she had christened — 

"IN THE GARRET. 

" Four little chests all in a row, 

Dim with dust, and worn by time, 
All fashioned and filled, long ago, 

By children now in their prime. 
Four little keys hung side by side, 

With faded ribbons, brave and gay, 
When fastened there with childish pride, 

Long ago, on a rainy day. 
Four little names, one on each lid, 

Carved out by a boyish hand, 
And underneath, there lieth hid 

Histories of the happy band 
Once playing here, and pausing oft 

To hear the sweet refrain, 
That came and went on the roof aloft, 

In the falling summer rain. 

" 'Meg' on the first lid, smooth and fair, 

I look in with loving eyes, 
For folded here, with well-known care, 

A goodly gathering lies — 
The record of a peaceful life, 

Gifts to gentle child and girl, 
A bridal gown, lines to a wife, 

A tiny shoe, a baby curl. 



34o 



LITTLE WOMEN. ' 

No toys in this first chest remain, 

For all are carried away, 
In their old age, to join again 

In another small Meg's play. 
Ah, happy mother ! well I know 

You hear like a sweet refrain, 
^ullabies ever soft and low, 

In the falling summer rain. 

" 'Jo' on the next lid, scratched and worn, 

And within a motley store 
Of headless dolls, of school-books torn, 

Birds and beasts that speak no more. 
Spoils brought home from the fairy ground 

Only trod by youthful feet, 
Dreams of a future never found, 

Memories of a past still sweet; 
Half-writ poems, stories wild, 

April letters, warm and cold, 
Diaries of a wilful child, 

Hints of a woman early old ; 
A woman in a lonely home, 

Hearing like a sad refrain, — 
' Be worthy love, and love will come,' 

In the falling summer rain. 

" My ' Beth ! ' the dust is always swept 

From the lid that bears your name, 
As if by loving eyes that wept, 

By careful hands that often came. 
Death canonized for us one saint, 

Ever less human than divine, 
And still we lay, with tender plaint, 

Relics in this household shrine. 
The silver bell, so seldom rung, 

The little cap which last she wore, 
The fair, dead Catherine that hung 

By angels borne above her door ; 



UNDER THE UMBRELLA. 

The songs she sang, without lament, 
In her prison-house of pain, 

Forever are they sweetly blent 
With the falling summer rain. 

; Upon the last lid's polished field — 

Legend now both fair and true — 
A gallant knight bears on his shield, 

' Amy,' in letters gold and blue. 
Within the snoods that bound her hair, 

Slippers that have danced their last, 
Faded flowers laid by with care, 

Fans whose airy toils are past — 
Gay valentines all ardent flames, 

Trifles that have borne their part 
In girlish hopes, and fears, and shames. 

The record of a maiden heart, 
Now learning fairer, truer spells, 

Hearing, like a blithe refrain, 
The silver sound of bridal bells 

In the falling summer rain. 



" Four little chests all in a row, 

Dim with dust, and worn by time, 
Four women, taught by weal and woe, 

To love and labor in their prime. 
Four sisters, parted for an hour, — 

None lost, one only gone before, 
Made by love's immortal power, 

Nearest and dearest evermore. 
Oh, when these hidden stores of .ours 

Lie open to the Father's sight, 
May they be rich in golden hours, — 

Deeds that show fairer for the light. 
Lives whose brave music long shall ring 

Like a spirit-stirring strain, 
Souls that shall gladly soar and sing 

In the long sunshine, after rain. 

"J. M.' 



341 



342 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



" It's very bad poetry, but I felt it when I wrote it 
one day when I was very lonely, and had a good cry 
on a rag-bag. I never thought it would go where it 
could tell tales," said Jo, tearing up the verses the 
Professor had treasured so long. 

" Let it go, — it has done its duty, — and I will haf 
a fresh one when I read all the brown book in which 
she keeps her little secrets," said Mr. Bhaer with a 
smile, as he watched the fragments fly away on the 
wind. " Yes," he added earnestly, " I read that, and 
I think to myself, 4 She has a sorrow, she is lonely, 
she would find comfort in true love.' I haf a heart 
full, full for her ; shall I not go and say, 4 If this is not 
too poor a thing to gif for what I shall hope to receive, 
take it, in Gott's name/ " 

" And so you came to find that it was not too poor, 
but the one precious thing I needed," whispered Jo. 

" I had no courage to think that at first, heavenly 
kind as was your welcome to me. But soon I began 
to hope, and then I said, ' I will haf her if I die for 
it,' and so I will ! " cried Mr. Bhaer, with a defiant 
nod, as if the walls of mist closing round them were 
barriers which he was to surmount or valiantly knock 
down. 

Jo thought that was splendid, and resolved to be 
worthy of her knight, though he did not come pranc- 
ing on a charger in gorgeous array. 

"What made you stay away so long?" she asked 
presently, finding it so pleasant to ask confidential 
questions, and get delightful answers, that she could 
not keep silent. 

" It was not easy, but I could not find the heart to 
take you from that so happy home until I could haf a 



UNDER THE UMBRELLA. 



343 



prospect of one to give you, after much time perhaps, 
and hard work. How could I ask you to gif up so 
much for a poor old fellow, who has no fortune but a 
little learning?" 

"I'm glad you are poor; I couldn't bear a rich 
husband ! " said Jo, decidedly, adding, in a softer tone, 
<; Don't fear poverty ; I've known it long enough to 
lose my dread, and be happy working for those I love ; 
and don't call yourself old, — I never think of it, — 
I couldn't help loving you if you were seventy ! " 

The Professor found that so touching that he would 
have been glad of his handkerchief if he could have 
got at it ; as he couldn't, Jo wiped his eyes for him, 
and said, laughing, as she took away a bundle or 
two, — « - 

" I may be strong-minded, but no one can say I'm 
out of my sphere now, — for woman's special mission 
is supposed to be drying tears and bearing burdens. 
I'm to carry my share, Friedrich, and help to earn the 
home. Make up your mind to that, or I'll never go," 
she added, resolutely, as he tried to reclaim his load. 

" We shall see. Haf you patience to wait a long 
time, Jo? I must go away and do my work alone ; I 
must help my boys first, because even for you I may 
not break my word to Minna. Can you forgif that, 
and be happy, while we hope and wait?" 

" Yes, I know I can ; for we love one another, and 
that makes all the rest easy to bear. I have my duty 
also, and my work. I couldn't enjoy myself if I neg- 
lected them even for you, — so there's no need of hurry 
or impatience. You can do your part out West, — I 
can do mine here, — and both be happy, hoping for 
the best, and leaving the future to be as God wills." 



344 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



" Ah ! thou gifest me such hope and courage, and I 
haf nothing to gif back but a full heart and these 
empty hands," cried the Professor, quite overcome. 

Jo never, never would learn to be proper ; for when 
he said that as they stood upon the steps, she just put 
both hands into his, whispering tenderly, k ' Not empty 
now " ; and, stooping down, kissed her Friedrich 
under the umbrella. It was dreadful, but she would 
have done it if the flock of draggle-tailed sparrows on 
the hedge had been human beings, — for she was very 
far gone indeed, and quite regardless of everything 
but her own happiness. Though it came in such a 
very simple guise, that was the crowning moment of 
both their lives, when, turning from the night, and 
storm, and loneliness^ to the household light, and 
warmth, and peace, waiting to receive them with a 
glad " Welcome home," Jo led her lover in, and shut 
the door. 



CHAPTER XXIV. 



HARVEST TIME. 



FOR a year Jo and her Professor worked and 
waited, hoped and loved ; met occasionally, and 
wrote such voluminous letters, that the rise in 
the price of paper was accounted for, Laurie said. 
The second year began rather soberly, for their pros- 
pect did not brighten, and Aunt March died suddenly. 
But when their first sorrow was over, — for they loved 
the old lady in spite of her sharp tongue, — they found 
they had cause for rejoicing, for she had left Plum- 
field to Jo, which made all sorts of joyful things 
possible. 

" It's a fine old place, and will bring a handsome 
sum, for of course you intend to sell it? " said Laurie, 
as they were all talking the matter over, some weeks 
later. 

" No, I don't," was Jo's decided answer, as she 
petted the fat poodle, whom she had adopted, out of 
respect to his former mistress. 

" You don't mean to live there?" 

"Yes, I do." 

" But, my dear girl, it's an immense house, and 
will take a power of money to keep it in order. The 
garden and orchard alone need two or three men, and 
farming isn't in Bhaer's line, I take it." 

" He'll try his hand at it there, if I propose it." 

" And you expect to live on the produce of the 
(345) 



346 LITTLE WOMEN. 

place ? Well, that sounds Paradisiacal, but you'll find 
it desperate hard work." 

" The crop we are going to raise is a profitable 
one ; " and Jo laughed. 

" Of what is this fine crop to consist, ma'am?" 

" Boys ! I want to open a school for little lads — 
a good, happy, homelike school, with me to take care 
of them, and Fritz to teach them." 

" There's a truly Joian plan for you ! Isn't that 
just like her ? " cried Laurie, appealing to the family, 
who looked as much surprised as he. 

" I like it," said Mrs. March, decidedly. 

44 So do I," added her husband, who welcomed the 
thought of a chance for trying the Socratic method of 
education on modern youth. 

" It will be an immense care for Jo," said Meg, 
stroking the head of her one all-absorbing son. 

"Jo can do it, and be happy in it. It's a splendid 
idea — tell us all about it," cried Mr. Laurence, who 
had been longing to lend the lovers a hand, but knew 
that they would refuse his help. 

" I knew you'd stand by me, sir. Amy does too — 
I see it in her eyes, though she prudently waits to 
turn it over in her mind before she speaks. Now, my 
dear people," continued Jo, earnestly, "just under- 
stand that this isn't a new idea of mine, but a long- 
cherished plan. Before my Fritz came, I used to 
think how, when I'd made my fortune, and no one 
needed me at home, I'd hire a big house, and pick up 
some poor, forlorn little lads, who hadn't any mothers, 
and take care of them, and make life jolly for them 
before it was too late. I see so many going to ruin 
for want of help, at the right minute ; I love so to do 



HARVEST TIME. 347 

anything for them ; I seem to feel their wants, and 
sympathize with their troubles; and, oh, I should 
so like to be a mother to them ! " 

Mrs. March held out her hand to Jo, who took it 
smiling, with tears in her eyes, and went on in the 
old enthusiastic way, which they had not seen for a 
long while. 

" I told my plan to Fritz once, and he said it was 
just what he would like, and agreed to try it when 
we got rich. Bless his dear heart, he's been doing it 
all his life, — helping poor boys, I mean, — not get- 
ting rich ; that he'll never be — money don't stay in 
his pocket long enough to lay up any. But now, 
thanks to my good old aunt, who loved me better than 
I ever deserved, I'm rich — at least I feel so, and we 
can live at Plumfield, perfectly well, if we have a 
flourishing school. It's just the place for boys — the 
house is big, and the furniture strong and plain. 
There's plenty of room for dozens inside, and splen- 
did grounds outside. They could help in the garden 
and orchard — such work is healthy, isn't it, sir? 
Then Fritz can train and teach in his own way, and 
father will help him. I can feed, and nurse, and pet, 
and scold them ; and mother will be my stand-by. 
I've always longed for lots of boys, and never had 
enough ; now I can fill the house full, and revel in 
the little dears to my heart's content. Think what 
luxury ; Plumfield my own, and a wilderness of boys 
to enjoy it with me ! " 

As Jo waved her hands, and gave a sigh of rapture, 
the family went off into a gale of merriment, and Mr. 
Laurence laughed till they thought he'd have an 
apoplectic fit. 



348 LITTLE WOMEN. 

" I don't see anything funny," she said, gravely, 
when she could be heard. " Nothing could be more 
natural or proper than for my Professor to open 
a school, and for me to prefer to reside on my own 
estate." 

" She is putting on airs already," said Laurie, who 
regarded the idea in the light of a capital joke. " But 
may I inquire how you intend to support the estab- 
lishment? If all the pupils are little ragamuffins, I'm 
afraid your crop won't be profitable, in a worldly 
sense, Mrs. Bhaer." 

" Now don't be a wet-blanket, Teddy. Of course, 
I shall have rich pupils, also, — perhaps begin with 
such altogether ; then, when I've got a start, I can 
take a ragamuffin or two, just for a relish. Rich 
people's children often need care and comfort, as well 
as poor. I've seen unfortunate little creatures left to 
servants, or backward ones pushed forward, when it's 
real cruelty. Some are naughty through mismanage- 
ment or neglect, and some lose their mothers. Be- 
sides, the best have to get through the hobbledehoy 
age, and that's the very time they need most patience 
and kindness. People laugh at them, and hustle 
them about, try to keep them out of sight, and expect 
them to turn, all at once, from pretty children into 
fine young men. They don't complain much, — 
plucky little souls, — but they feel it. I've been through 
something of it, and I know all about it, I've a 
special interest in such young bears, and like to show 
them that I see the warm, honest, well-meaning 
boys' hearts, in spite of the clumsy arms and legs, 
and the topsy-turvy heads. I've had experience, too, 



HARVEST TIME. 



349 



for haven't I brought up one boy to be a pride and 
honor to his family ? " 

" I'll testify that you tried to do it," said Laurie, 
with a grateful look. 

a And I've succeeded beyond my hopes ; for here 
you are, a steady, sensible, business man, doing lots 
of good with your money, and laying up the blessings 
of the poor, instead of dollars. But you aren't 
merely a business man, — you love good and beautiful 
things, enjoy them yourself, and let others go halves, 
as you always did in the old times. I am proud of 
you, Teddy, for you get better every year, and every 
one feels it, though you won't let them say so. Yes, 
and when I have my flock, I'll just point to you, and 
say, ; There's your model, my lads.' " 

Poor Laurie didn't know where to look, for, man 
though he was, something of the old bashfulness 
came over him, as this burst of praise made all faces 
turn approvingly upon him. 

" I say, Jo, that's rather too much," he began, just 
in his old boyish way. " You have all done more for 
me than I can ever thank you for, except by doing my 
best not to disappoint you. You have rather cast me 
off lately, Jo, but I've had the best of help, never- 
theless ; so, if I've got on at all, you may thank these 
two for it," — and he laid one hand gently on his 
grandfather's white head, the other on Amy's golden 
one, for the three were never far apart. 

"I do think that families are the most beautiful 
things in all the world ! " burst out Jo, who was in an 
unusually uplifted frame of mind, just then. " When 
I have one of my own, I hope it will be as happy as 
the three I know and love the best. If John and my 



35° 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



Fritz were only here, it would be quite a little heaven 
on earth," she added more quietly. And that night, 
when she went to her room, after a blissful evening 
of family counsels, hopes and plans, her heart was so 
full of happiness, that she could only calm it by kneel- 
ing beside the empty bed always near her own, and 
thinking tender thoughts of Beth. 

It was a very astonishing year, altogether, for 
things seemed to happen in an unusually rapid and 
delightful manner. Almost before she knew where 
she was, Jo found herself married and settled at 
Plumfield. Then a family of six or seven boys sprung 
up like mushrooms, and flourished surprisingly. Poor 
boys, as well as rich, — for Mr. Laurence was contin- 
ually finding some touching case of destitution, and 
begging the Bhaers to take pity on the child, and he 
would gladly pay a trifle for its support. In this 
way the sly old gentleman got round proud Jo, and 
furnished her with the style of boy in which she most 
delighted. 

Of course it was up-hill work at first, and Jo made 
queer mistakes ; but the wise Professor steered her safely 
into calmer waters, and the most rampant ragamuffin 
was conquered in the end. How Jo did enjoy her 
" wilderness of boys," and how poor, dear Aunt March 
would have lamented had she been there* to see the 
sacred precincts of prim, well-ordered Plumfield over- 
run with Toms, Dicks, and Harrys. There was a sort 
of poetic justice about it after all, — for the old lady 
had been the terror of all the boys for miles round ; 
and now the exiles feasted freely on forbidden plums, 
kicked up the gravel with profane boots unreproved, 
and played cricket in the big field where the irritable 



HARVEST TIME. 



351 



" cow with a crumpled horn" used to invite rash 
youths to come and be tossed. It became a sort of 
boys' paradise, and Laurie suggested that it should be 
called the " Bhaer-garten," as a compliment to its 
master, and appropriate to its inhabitants. 

It never was a fashionable school, and the Professor 
did not lay up a fortune, but it was just what Jo 
intended it to be, ^ a happy, home-like place for boys 
who needed teaching, care, and kindness." Every 
room in the big house was soon full, every little plot 
in the garden soon had its owner, a regular menagerie 
appeared in barn and shed, — for pet animals were 
allowed, — and, three times a day, Jo smiled at her 
Fritz from the head of a long table lined on either 
side with rows of happy young faces, which all turned 
to her with affectionate eyes, confiding words, and 
grateful hearts full of love for " Mother Bhaer." She 
had boys enough now, and did not tire of them, though 
they were not angels by any means, and some of them 
caused both Professor and Professorin much trouble 
and anxiety. But her faith in the good spot which 
exists in the heart of the naughtiest, sauciest, most 
tantalizing little ragamuffin gave her patience, skill, 
and, in time, success, — for no mortal boy could hold 
out long with Father Bhaer shining on him as benev- 
olently as the sun, and Mother Bhaer forgiving him 
seventy times seven. Very precious to Jo was the 
friendship of the lads, their penitent sniffs and whispers 
after wrong-doing, their droll or touching little con- 
fidences, their pleasant enthusiasms, hopes, and plans ; 
even their misfortunes, — for they only endeared them 
to her all the more. There were slow boys and 
bashful boys, feeble boys and riotous boys, boys that 



352 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



lisped and boys that stuttered, one or two lame ones, 
and a merry little quadroon, who could not be taken 
in elsewhere, but who was welcome to the " Bhaer- 
garten," though some people predicted that his ad- 
mission would ruin the school. 

Yes, Jo was a very happy woman there, in spite of 
hard work, much anxiety, and a perpetual racket. She 
enjoyed it heartily, and found the applause of her boys 
more satisfying than any praise of the world, — for 
now she told no stories except to her flock of enthu- 
siastic believers and admirers. As the years went on, 
two little lads of her own came to increase her hap- 
piness. Rob, named for grandpa, and Teddy, — a 
happy-go-lucky baby, who seemed to have inherited 
his papa's sunshiny temper as well as his mother's 
lively spirit. How they ever grew up alive in that 
whirlpool of boys, was a mystery to their grandma 
and aunts ; but they flourished like dandelions in 
spring, and their rough nurses loved and served them 
well. 

There were a great many holidays at Plumfield, 
and one of the most delightful was the yearly apple- 
picking, — for then the Marches, Laurences, Brookeses, 
and Bhaers turned out in full force, and made a day 
of it. Five years after Jo's wedding one of these, 
fruitful festivals occurred. A mellow October day, 
when the air was full of an exhilarating freshness 
which made the spirits rise, and the blood dance 
healthily in the veins. The old orchard wore its 
holiday attire ; golden-rod and asters fringed the mossy 
walls ; grasshoppers skipped briskly in the sere grass, 
and crickets chirped like fairy pipers at a feast. 
Squirrels were busy with their small harvesting, 



HARVEST TIME. 



353 



birds twittered their adieux from the alders in the 
lane, and every tree stood ready to send down its 
shower of red or yellow apples at the first shake. 
Everybody was there, — everybody laughed and sang, 
climbed up and tumbled down ; everybody declared 
that there never had been such a perfect day or such a 
jolly set to enjoy it, — and every one gave themselves 
up to the simple pleasures of the hour as freely as if 
there were no such things as care or sorrow in the 
world. 

Mr. March strolled placidly about, quoting Tusser, 
Cowley, and Columella to Mr. Laurence, while en- 
joying— 

" The gentle apple's winey juice." 

The Professor charged up and down the green aisles 
like a stout Teutonic knight, with a pole for a lance, 
leading on the bo} T s, who made a hook and ladder 
company of themselves, and performed wonders in 
the way of ground and lofty tumbling. Laurie devoted 
himself to the little ones, rode his small daughter in a 
bushel basket, took Daisy up among the birds' nests, 
and kept adventurous Rob from breaking his neck. 
Mrs. March and Meg sat among the apple piles like 
a pair of Pomonas, sorting the contributions that kept 
pouring in ; while Amy, with a beautiful motherly 
expression in her face, sketched the various groups, 
and watched over one pale lad who sat adoring her 
with his little crutch beside him. 

Jo was in her element that day, and rushed about 

with her gown pinned up, her hat anywhere but on 

her head, and her baby tucked under her arm, ready 

for any lively adventure which might turn up. Little 

23 



354 



LITTLE WOMEN. 



Teddy bore a charmed life, for nothing ever happened 
to him, and Jo never felt any anxiety when he was 
whisked up into a tree by one lad. galloped off on the 
back of another, or supplied with sour russets by his 
indulgent papa, who labored under the Germanic 
delusion that babies could digest anything, from 
pickled cabbage to buttons, nails, and their own small 
shoes. She knew that little Ted would turn up again 
in time, safe and rosy, dirty and serene, and she 
always received him back with a hearty welcome, — 
for Jo loved her babies tenderly. 

At four o'clock a lull took place, and baskets re- 
mained empty, while the apple-pickers rested, and 
compared rents and bruises. Then Jo and Meg, with 
a detachment of the bigger boys, set forth the supper 
on the grass, — for an out-of-door tea was always the 
crowning joy of the day. The land literally flowed 
with milk and honey on such occasions, — for the lads 
were not required to sit at table, but allowed to par- 
take of refreshment as they liked, — freedom being the 
sauce best beloved by the boyish soul. They availed 
themselves of the rare privilege to the fullest extent, 
for some tried the pleasing experiment of drinking 
milk while standing on their heads, others lent a charm 
to leap-frog by eating pie in the pauses of the game, 
cookies were sown broadcast over the field, and apple 
turnovers roosted in the trees like a new style Of bird. 
The little girls had a private tea-party, and Ted roved 
among the edibles at his own sweet will. 

When no one could eat any more, the Professor 
proposed the first regular toast, which was always 
drunk at such times, — " Aunt March, God bless 
her ! " A toast heartily given by the good man, who 



HARVEST TIME. • 355 

never forgot how much he owed her, arid quietly 
drunk by the boys, who had been taught to keep her 
memory green. 

" Now, grandma's sixtieth birthday ! Long life to 
her, with three times three ! " 

That was given with a will, as you may well be- 
lieve ; and the cheering once begun, it was hard to stop 
it. Everybody's health was proposed, from Mr. Lau- 
rence, who was considered their special patron, to the 
astonished guinea-pig, who had strayed from its proper 
sphere in search of its young master. Demi, as the 
oldest grandchild, then presented the queen of the day 
with various gifts, so numerous that they were trans- 
ported to the festive scene in a wheelbarrow. Funny 
presents, some of them, but what would have been 
defects to other e}^es were ornaments to grandma's, — 
for the children's gifts were all their own. Every 
stitch Daisy's patient little fingers had put into the 
handkerchiefs she hemmed, was better than em- 
broidery to Mrs. March ; Demi's shoe-box was a 
miracle of mechanical skill, though the cover wouldn't 
shut ; Rob's footstool had a wiggle in its uneven legs, 
that she declared was very soothing ; and no page of 
the costly book Amy's child gave her, was so fair as 
that on which appeared, in tipsy capitals, the words, — 
" To dear Grandma, from her little Beth." 

During this ceremony the boys had mysteriously 
disappeared ; and, when Mrs. March had tried to thank 
her children, and broken down, while Teddy wiped 
her eyes on his pinafore, the Professor suddenly began 
to sing. Then, from above him, voice after voice took 
up the words, and from tree to tree echoed the music 
of the unseen choir, as the boys sung, with all their 



356 LITTLE WOMEN. 

hearts, the little song Jo had written, Laurie set to 
music, and the Professor trained his lads to give with 
the best effect. This was something altogether new, 
and it proved a grand success, for Mrs. March couldn't 
get over her surprise, and insisted on shaking hands 
with every one of the featherless birds, from tall Franz 
and Emil to the little quadroon, who had the sweetest 
voice of all. 

After this, the boys dispersed for a final lark, 
leaving Mrs. March and her daughters under the 
festival tree. 

u I don't think I ever ought to call myself ' Unlucky 
Jo ' again, when my greatest wish has been so beau- 
tifully gratified," said Mrs. Bhaer, taking Teddy's 
little fist out of the milk pitcher, in which he was 
rapturously churning. 

" And yet your life is very different from the one 
you pictured so long ago. Do you remember our 
castles in the air?" asked Amy, smiling as she 
watched Laurie and John playing cricket with the 
boys. 

" Dear fellows ! It does my heart good to see them 
forget business, and frolic for a day," answered Jo, 
who now spoke in a maternal way of all mankind. 
" Yes, I remember ; but the life I wanted then seems 
selfish, lonely and cold to me now. I haven't given 
up the hope that I may write a good book yet, but I 
can wait, and I'm sure it will be all the better for 
such experiences and illustrations as these ; " and Jo 
pointed from the lively lads in the distance to her 
father, leaning on the Professor's arm, as they walked 
to and fro in the sunshine, deep in one of the con- 



HARVEST TIME. 



357 



versations which both enjoyed so much, and then to 
her mother, sitting enthroned among her daughters, 
with their children in her lap and at her feet, as if 
all found help and happiness in the face which never 
could grow old to them. 

" My castle was the most nearly realized of all. I 
asked for splendid things, to be sure, but in my heart 
I knew I should be satisfied, if I had a little home, 
and John, and some dear children like these. I've got 
them all, thank God, and am the happiest woman in 
the world;" and Meg laid her hand on her tall 
boy's head, with a face full of tender and devout 
content. 

" My castle is very different from what I planned, 
but I would not alter it, though, like Jo, I don't relin- 
quish all my artistic hopes, or confine myself to 
helping others fulfil their dreams of beauty. I've 
begun to model a figure of baby, and Laurie says it 
is the best thing I've ever done. I think so myself, 
and mean to do it in marble, so that whatever hap- 
pens, I may at least keep the image of my little 
angel." 

As Amy spoke, a great tear dropped on the golden 
hair of the sleeping child in her arms ; for her one 
well-beloved daughter was a frail little creature, and 
the dread of losing her was the shadow over Amy's 
sunshine. This cross was doing much for both father 
and mother, for one love and sorrow bound them 
closely together. Amy's nature was growing sweeter, 
deeper and more tender ; Laurie was growing more 
serious, strong and firm, and both were learning that 
beauty, youth, good fortune, even love itself, cannot 



358 LITTLE WOMEN. 

keep care and pain, loss and sorrow, from the most 
blest; for — 

" Into each life some rain must fall, 
Some days must be dark, and sad, and dreary." 

11 She is growing better, I am sure of it, my dear ; 
don't despond, but hope, and keep happy," said Mrs. 
March, as tender-hearted Daisy stooped from her 
knee, to lay her rosy cheek against her little cousin's 
pale one. 

" I never ought to, while I have you to cheer me 
up, Marmee, and Laurie to take more than half of 
every burden," replied Amy, warmly. " He never lets 
me see his anxiety, but is so sweet and patient with 
me, so devoted to Beth, and such a stay and comfort 
to me always, that I can't love him enough. So, in 
spite of my one cross, I can say with Meg, i Thank 
God, I'm a happy woman.' " 

"There's no need for me to say it, for every one 
can see that I'm far happier than I deserve," added 
Jo, glancing from her good husband to her chubby 
children, tumbling on the grass beside her. "Fritz 
is getting gray and stout, I'm growing as thin as a 
shadow, and am over thirty ; we never shall be rich, 
and Plumfield may burn up any night, for that incor- 
rigible Tommy Bangs will smoke sweet-fern cigars 
under the bed-clothes, though he's set himself afire 
three times already. But in spite of these unromantic 
facts, I have nothing to complain of, and never was 
so jolly in my life. Excuse the remark, but living 
among boys, I can't help using their expressions now 
and then." 



HARVEST TIME. 



359 



" Yes, Jo, I think your harvest will be a good one,'* 
began Mrs. March, frightening away a big black 
cricket, that was staring Teddy out of countenance. 

" Not half so good as yours, mother. Here it is, 
and we never can thank you enough for the patient 
sowing and reaping you have done," cried Jo, with the 
loving impetuosity which she never could outgrow. 

" I hope there will be more wheat and fewer tares 
every year," said Amy, softly. 

"A large sheaf, but I know there's room in your 
heart for it, Marmee dear," added Meg's tender voice. 

Touched to the heart, Mrs. March could only stretch 
out her arms, as if to gather children and grand- 
children to herself, and say, with face and voice full 
of motherly love, gratitude, and humility, — 

" Oh, my girls, however long you may live, I never 
can wish you a greater happiness than this ! " 



Messrs. Roberts Brothers' Publications. 



THE LAYMAN'S BREVIARY. A Selection for Every 
Day in the Year. Translated from the German of Leopold Schefer, 
by Charles T. Brooks. In one square 16mo. volume, bevelled cloth, 
gilt edges. Price, $2.50. A cheaper edition. Price, $1.50. 

"The * Layman's Breviary* will adorn drawing-room centre-tables, 
boudoirs, library nooks; it will be a favorite travelling companion, and 
be carried on summer excursions to read under trees and on verandas. 
For every day of the year there are thoughts, counsels, aspirations — ma- 
ny of them Oriental in tone, or patriarchal in spirit; there are delineations 
of nature, pure utterances of faith ; each page contains fresh and earnest 
expressions of a poetic, believing, humane soul — often clad in exquisite 
language. It is eminently a household book, and one to be taken up and 
enjoyed at intervals." — Boston Transcript. 

" Each poem is in itself a sermon ; not of dry, theological dogmas, but 
the love and care of the Infinite, the yearning and outreaching of the hu- 
man to grasp the divine. It is a book not to be lightly read and carelessly 
tossed aside, but to be studied daily until the lessons it conveys are 
learned, and its comforting words written on every heart. Of the au- 
thor's religious opinions we know nothing ; what creed he subscribe* to 
we cannot tell ; but we do know that he is a true worshipper of God, and 
lover of his fellow-men. This book should be on every table ; all house- 
holds should possess it; we cannot too highly recommend it to the notice 
of all. It has been truly said, that * these blooming pictures of Nature, 
praising the love, the goodness, the wisdom of the Creator and His work, 
form in truth a poetical book of devotion for the layman whom the dogma 
does not satisfy — a breviary for man.' " — The Wide World. t 

MY PRISONS. Memoirs of Silvio Pellico. With an 
Introduction by Epes Sargent, and embellished with fifty Illustra- 
tions from drawings by Billings. One square 12mo. volume, bevelled 
cloth, gilt edges. Price, $ 3.50. A cheaper edition. Price, $ 2.00. 

" Some thirty-five years ago the publication of" My Prisons, Memoirs of 
Silvio Pellico," first appealed to the sympathies of the Italian people. 
The history of a martyr to freedom is always entertaining, and the pathos 
and beauty which surround the narrative in question have always kept 
alive the interest of all intelligent nations. It ranks, therefore, deservedly 
high in biographical literature. The present edition is a very superior one, 
and is introduced by Epes Sargent, who vigorously reviews the despotism 
of Austria in the incarceration of Pellico, and the changes which have 
since occurred in European politics." — Chicago Evening Journal. 

«* The story is simply told, for adventures like those of the author need 
no graces of style or highly wrought figures. The book has a charm 
which few novels possess ; indeed, one can hardly believe that it is true, 
and that so few years have passed since men of noble birth and fine cul- 
ture were condemned to suffer for years in prison on account of their po- 
litical opinions." — Boston Transcript. 

fcr Mailed, post paid, to any address, on receipt of the price, by the 
Publishers. # 

16 



Messrs. Roberts Brothers' Publications. 



LIVES OF EXEMPLARY WOMEN. 

Messrs. Roberts' Bros, are publishing a series of Lives of Exemplary 
Women, uniform in 6ize and price. The first volume is 

MEMOIRS AND CORRESPONDENCE OF MADAME 
RECAMIER. Translated from the French and edited by Misa 
Luystkr. With a fine portrait of Madame Eecamier. Sixth edition. 
One handsome 12mo volume. Price $ 2.00. 

" Her own contributions to it are exceedingly brief, but ber individuality permeates th« 
whole work and gives it unity. She was undoubtedly a woman of genius ; but it was in her 
life alone, in her noble friendships, in her unselfish devotion to all bound to her bj any ties, 
that gave her genius expression, and it is only fair, therefore, tbat she should attain immor- 
tality not through the labor of her own spirit, but rather through the praise of those by 
whom she was so well beloved." — Virginia Vaughan in " The Leader." 

The second volume is 
LIFE AND LETTERS OF MADAME SWETCHINE. By 
Count de Fallodx. Translated by Miss Preston. Fourth edition. 
In one volume. 12mo. Price $2.00. 

" The Life and Letters of Madame Swetchine, is a companion volume to Mme. Recamier, 
and both works give us two phases of contemporary Paris life, aud two characters that, 
with some accidental resemblances, present strong points of contrast 

" The social influence both women exercised was good, but when we compare the two, 
Madame Recamier's sinks to a much lower leveL She (Madame R.) was gentle and kind, 
ready to sacrifice herself to any extent to advance the material influence of her friends, but 
she was essentially a worldly woman ; whereas Madame Swetchine was ' in the world but 
not of it.' She exerted an immense spiritual as well as intellectual influence on all who 
approached her, and raised her friends to her own level. Madame Recamier made her asso- 
ciates pleased with themselves, whilst Madame Swetchine taught hers to forget themselves. 

" As a biography, the life of Madame Swetchine is more satisfactory and much better 
written ; that of Madame Recamier is fuller of personal anecdote respecting distinguished 
persons, and a3 a book of reference is more valuable. We frequently meet the same people 
m each, and in this respect they serve to illustrate and explain each other." — Providence 
Journal. 

The third volume is 
THE FRIENDSHIPS OF 'WOMEN. By Eev. W. E, Alger. 

Fourth edition. One volume, 12mo. Price $2.00. 

" Mr. Alger is*among our most diligent students and earnest thinkers ; and this volume 
will add to the reputation he has fairly earned as the occupant of quite a prominent place in 
American literature. He deserves all the popularity he has won ; for, always thoughtful, 
sincere, and excellent of purpose with his pen, he allows no success to seduce him into any 
content with what he has already accomplished. His ' Friendships of Women,' for many 
reasons, will have a wide circle of readers, and cannot fail to increase our sense of the 
worth of human nature, as it enthusiastically delineates some of its most elevated manifes- 
tations. By telling what woman has been, he tells what woman may be ; intellectually as 
well as morally, in the beauty of her mind as well as in the affections of her heart, and th« 
loveliness of her person." — Salem Gazette. 

The fourth volume is 

SAINT BEUVE'S PORTRAITS OF CELEBRATED 

WOMEN. 
MADAME DE SEVTQNE. MADAME DE DURAS. 

MADAME DE LA FAYETTE. MADAME DE EBMUSAT. 

MADAME DE SOVZA. MADAME DE KRZTDENER. 

MATi JMK ROLAND. MAT)AMJi GUIZOT. 

MADAME DE STAEL. 

To match "Madame Recamier," "Madame Swetchine," and "The 
Friendships of Women." In one volume, 12mo. Price $2.00. 



MS" Mkiltd, post-paid, to any address, on receipt of the price, by the 
Publishers. 

12 



Messrs. Roberts Brothers' Publications. 



ON THE HEIGHTS. A Novel. By Berthold Auer- 

bach. 16mo. With Pictorial Title. Price, $2.00. 

" ' On the Heights,' in its calm beauty, is like a hillside meadow on a bright 
May morning, when every blade of grass holds a sparkling world, and the air is 
stirred by no sound save the matin songs of the birds, and no darkness falls upon 
the ground save the occasional shadow of a cloud, which creeps slowly away, 
giving place to the full flood of sunlight. 

* The ' Heights ' are heights of social position, of intellectual striving, and of 
moral purity ; and the problems treated are the deepest problems of life." — 
Rochester Democrat. 

WHERE IS THE CITY? 

It is the experience of a young man in search of the true church, with sketches 
of the Baptists, Congregationalists, Methodists, Episcopalians, Quakers, Sweden- 
borgians, Spiritualists, Universalists, Unitarians, and how he found the City with 
the name The Lord is there. 1 volume, 16mo. Price, $ 1.50. 

'^The remarkable thing about this book is the knowledge as well as the candor 
displayed in describing the different sects, their peculiar beliefs, the varieties of 
belief existing in the same sect, and the history of the various denominations ; 
and while there are now and then sharp thrusts at some of the denominational 
points, a genuinely charitable and Christian spirit pervades the whole." — 
Springfield Republican. 

THE PRODIGAL SOW". Four Discourses, by Rev. 
W. Morlet Punshon, with a Preface by Rev. Gilbert 
Haven, editor of "Zion's Herald." 16mo. Paper covers, 
price, 25 cents ; cloth, 50 cents. 

A BOOK ABOUT BOYS. By Ascott R. Hope, Author 
of "A Book about Dominies." 16mo. Price, $1.25. 

" Often playful, but always in earnest, the writer says a great deal which will 
be entirely new to minds that should be familiar with all that concerns the lives 
of boys. His book, indeed, is one that demands the best attention of parents, 
especially, and ought to receive it." — The Leader. 

A BOOK ABOUT DOMINIES. By Ascott R. Hope. 
One volume, 16mo. Price, $1.25. 

" Not since Henry Taylor wrote his essay on children have we seen anything 
on the important subject of this work so sensibly conceived or uttered so grace- 
fully. It ought to find its way at once to the hands of every pupil teacher in 
the country ; but the oldest member of the profession will be a man of no or- 
dinary accomplishment and experience if he does not here find something to 
encourage, to incite, to instruct, and to console him." — London Daily Review. 

STORIES OF SCHOOL LIFE. By Ascott R. Hope. 
In Press. 

Jgir" Mailed, post-paid, to any address, on receipt of the price, by the 
Publishers. 

11 



Jean Ingelow's Writings. 



QTUDIES FOR STORIES. Comprising Five Stories, 

^ with an Illustration to each Story. In one vol. i6mo, 

Price, $ 1.50. 

" Simple in style, warm with human affection, and written in faultless Eng- 
lish, these five stories are studies for the artist, sermons for the thoughtful, and 
a rare source of delight for all who can find pleasure in really good works of 
prose fiction. . . . They are prose poems, carefully meditated, and exquisitely 
touched in by a teacher ready to sympathize with every joy and sorrow." — 
Athen&um. 

Q TORIES TOLD TO A CHILD. Comprising Fourteen 

*—* Stories, with an Illustration to each Story. In one voL 

i6mo. Price, $ 1.75. 

A cheaper edition, with Five Illustrations. Price, $ 1.25. 

"This is one of the most charming juvenile books ever laid on our table/ It 
is beautifully printed and bound, and profusely illustrated. The stories are 
very interesting, and breathe a sweet, pure, happy Christian spirit. Jean In- 
gelow, the noble English poet, second only to Mrs. Browning, bends easily and 
gracefully from the heights of thought and fine imagination to commune with 
the minds and hearts of children ; to sympathize with their little joys and sor- 
rows ; to feel for their temptations. She is a safe guide for the little pilgrims ; 
for her paths, though 'paths of pleasantness,' lead straight upward." — Grace 
Greenwood in " The Little Pilgrim." 

T3OOR MATT; or, The Clouded Intellect. With an 

"*■ Illustration. One vol. iSmo. Price, 60 cents. 

" A lovely story, told in most sweet and simple language. There is a deep 
spiritual significance in the character of the poor half-idiot boy, which should 
touch the hearts of 'children of a larger growth.'" — Grace Greenwood in 
" Tke Little Pilgrtnt." 



A 



SISTER'S BYE-HOURS. Comprising Seven Stories. 
In one vol. i6mo. Price, $ 1.25. 



(Jr^ir* Mailed to any address, post-paid, on receipt of the price, by the 
Publishers, 

ROBERTS BROTHERS, Boston. 
3 



Messrs. Roberts Brothers' Publications. 



Jean Ingelow's Writings. 



*' Except Mrs. Browning, Jean Ingelow is first among the women whom tha 
World calls poets." — The Independent. 

" Miss Ingelow's new volume exhibits abundant evidence that time, study, and 
devotion to her vocation have both elevated and mellowed the powers of the most 
gifted poetess we possess, now that Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Adelaide 
Procter sing no more on earth. Lincolnshire has claims to be considered the 
Arcadia of England at present, having given birth both to Mr. Tennyson and our 
present Lady Laureate." — London Morning Star. 

" We have read and reread, always with a better and softer heart We 

wish everybody loved Jean Ingelow's writings, or, rather, that everybody would 
read them, for their admiration would follow." — Providence Post. 

POEMS. Illustrated Edition, with One Hundred Pictures from 
Drawings by the first Artists in England. In one quarto vol- 
ume, bound in cloth, bevelled and gilt, price, $ 12.00 ; or in 
Morocco, price, $ 18.00. 

"The book is certainly among the most beautiful of the holiday offerings 
The lovers of the poet will not tolerate even this slightly qualified praise, but 
pronounce it the most beautiful." 

SONGS OP SEVEN. Illustrated Edition, small quarto, 
bound in cloth, gilt, price $5.00 ; or in Morocco, price $ 8.00. 

" This work is an acknowledged triumph of typographic art, with its delicate 
creamy page and red-line border." 

POEMS. The first volume. 

A STORY OF DOOM, and Other Poems. 

Both volumes, 16mo, cloth, gilt top, price $3.50; or sep 
arately, nrice $ 1.75 each. 

Both volumes, 32mo, Blue and Gold Edition, price $ 3.00 ; 
or separately, price $ 1.50 each. 

Cabinet Edition, complete in one volume, 16mo, cloth, 
gilt top, bevelled boards, price $2.25. 



U2P" Mailed to any address, post-paid, on receipt of price, by the 
Publishers. 

2 



HANDY VOLUME SERIES. 



HAPPY THOUGHTS. By F. C. Burnand. Price, in Cloth, 
$ i.oo; in Illuminated Paper Covers, 75 cents. 
From the London A thetueum. 
" Of the many ' Happy Thoughts ' which have occurred either to Mr. Bur- 
nand or his hero, the thought of having such thoughts is the happiest As we 
read, we laugh and we admire. Mr. Burnand is so fertile in extravagant com- 
edy, that we have no other resource ; but, at least, our laughter is genuine. 
We do not feel ashamed of having been amused. There is no painful feeling 
of humiliation afterwards, like the ' next morning ' which follows a revel. We 
may say of Air. Burnand's fun, that there is not a neadache in a hogshead of 
it. Utterly ludicrous as his characters are, they are neither monstrosities nor 
abortions. They are exaggerations of what is perfectly real, living ' humors,' 
combined too copiously, but not invented. But then he overlays them with 
such a vivid wealth of caricature that we forget our first impression, and give 
ourselves up to the most uncritical enjoyment We cannot decide wheth- 
er we ought to quote or not ; we find ourselves again reading and laughing : 
and, after all, we resolve upon sending our readers to the book itself, that they 
may read and laugh with us." 

From the London Spectator. 

" 'Happy Thought ! ' (Mr. Burnand must have said to himself when he re- 
printed these papers_ — 'puzzle the critics.' The present critic confesses him- 
self puzzled. There is such a fund of humor in every page of the book that 
calm analysis is out of the question. Mr. Burnand is not only comic, but he 
knows it and he means it. He contrives the most ludicrous situations and 
thrusts his man into them simply to see what he will say. It is not enough 
that his man should drink too much at a club dinner, and take short-hand notes 
of his inarticulate phrases, but he must go and have a serious interview with 
his ' s'lic'tor,' merely in order that his note-book may record all the stages in 
the typical development of drunkenness. This interview with the solicitor is, 
perhaps, the most characteristic part of the book. It is marked by more than 
Mr Burnand's usual daring. The idea of a man writing down in a note-book, 
' Happ T light. — Go to bed in my boots,' is not comic if you try to analyze 
it. But then you don't analyze it You accept it without scrutiny- A ou 
know the whole thing is a caricature, and so long as you laugh heartily you 
don't ask whether this or that detail is out of drawing. If you did, the absurd- 
ity of a man who can't speak plainly writing down his words exactly as he 
pronounces them would of course shock your nice sense of proportion. Some- 
how or other, it does not shock ours. We are in Mr. Burnand's hands. He 
may do what he likes with us." 

From tJie Pall Mall Gazette. 

" It is a handsome little book, and as good as it is good-looking. We do not 
know when we have seen more fun, or a truer or better kind of fun, than that 
which sparkles from end to end of Mr. Burnand's brochure." 
From TJie London Review. 

" Mr. Burnand is a skilled inventor of clever nonsense, and there is this 
peculiarity about his fooling which distinguishes it from funny writing in 
general, — he is never vulgar. A more idle book could not, perhaps, be bought, 
or one which a reader would sooner buy when he or she wanted to feel idle. 
It needs no more effort to take in what Mr. Burnand wishes to say than it 

does to smoke a cigar He only aims to amuse, and he succeeds 

admirably." 

Mailed to any address, post-paid, on receipt of the advertised 
price. 

ROBERTS BROTHERS, Publishers, Boston. 



HANDY VOLUME SERIES. 

II. 

DOCTOR JACOB. A Novel. By Miss M. Betham Ed- 
wards. Price, in Cloth, $ i.oo ; in Illuminated Paper Cov- 
ers, 75 cents. 

From The Round Table. 
" This is a story which partakes somewhat of the domestic style of the 
German novelists without their extreme tediousness. It represents certain 
phases of life which afford but little scope for novelty or adventure, but which 
nevertheless call out whatever there is of good or bad, of passionate or enthu- 
siastic, in the nature of each individual. .... Doctor Jacob is the centre 
figure, to which all the others are subordinate ; one of the most skilfully drawn, 
original, and unsatisfactory characters we have ever met with. A man of 
brilliant attainments, not bad at heart, but seemingly devoid of principle, with 
a profound appreciation of all that is good in others, and trusting to his intel- 
lectual strength to keep him from the consequences of his errors. Though 
sixty years of age, his attractions are so great that he wins the love of a very 
young girl, whose affection is displayed with such artless simplicity, and yet 
with such earnestness that we can scarcely blame the doctor for lacking courage 
to resist the temptation of loving in return." 

Front The Nation. 
" Her hero, Doctor Jacob, strikes us as a new acquaintance in fiction. He is 
a clergyman of the English Church, who comes to Frankfort for the purpose 
of raising funds to aid him in fulfilling his duties as a self-appointed missionary 
to the Jews. He is sixty years old, but handsomer than most handsome men 
of thirty. He has also a 'vast and well-stored mind,' great knowledge of hu- 
man naiure, manners which fascinate everybody, and a ' gift ' in preaching 
which charms money out of all pockets. The actions of this aged Adonis do 
not in all respects conform to the received codes of either clerical or lay moral- 
ity. In the first place, the reader is left until nearly the close of the book in 
suspense, which, considering that it is intentional on the author's part, is not 
too harrowing, as to the nature of his relations with Miss Macartney, the Eng- 
lish governess in a school superintended by the Fraulein Fink. Miss Macart- 
ney is evidently greatly troubled by Doctor Jacob's advent in Frankfort ; she 
has a horror of meeting him, and yet she loves him tenderly." 

From The Co7n?nonivealth. 
" This is a novel of the higher order, — a German story told in that smooth, 
graceful, leisurely style that contrasts so strongly with the crispness and sparkle 
of some of our most acceptable American novels, — an admirable style for 
certain purposes, and perfectly adapted to a minute and subtle analysis of 
character like this. Dr. Jacob, the hero, is a nobler sort of Harold Skimpole, 
with none of the childish inconsequence of that exasperating innocent. This 
is a generous-gifted, high-toned, and powerful nature, marred by one fatal 
flaw, — a tendency to profuseness and improvidence. The reader feels through- 
out all the charm and attractiveness of the winsome and benignant old man 
who, all his life, had ' plucked down hearts to pleasure him, as you would roses 
from a bough.' Yet his career is carried out unflinchingly to its logical se- 
quence, and we see the gray-haired Sybarite sitting solitary and repentant 
among the ruins of a mistaken life, yet we view the wreck with compassion, 
and not without respect for the inherent nobleness visible through all. Only 
a profound student of human nature could have drawn such a portrait." 

Mailed to any address, post-paid, on receipt of the advertised 
price. 

ROBERTS BROTHERS, Publishers, Boston. 



THE HANDY VOLUME SERIES. 



Messrs. Roberts Brothers propose to issue, under the 
above heading, a Series of Handy Volumes, which shall be at 
once various, valuable, and popular, — their size a most conven- 
ient one, their typography of the very best, and their price ex- 
tremely low. They will entertain the reader with poetry as well 
as with prose ; now with fiction, then with fact ; here with narra- 
tion, there with inquiry ; in some cases with the works of living 
authors, in others with the works of those long since dead. It is 
hoped that they will prove to be either amusing or instructive, 
sometimes curious, often valuable, always handy. Each Volume 
will, as a rule, form a work complete in itself. 

OPINIONS OF THE PRESS. 
Pall Mall Gazette. — "The size and shape of this volume justifies the 
name given to the series, and it is as well and as clearly printed as many a 
hook of double the price." 

Athen.eum. — " The size is handy, the type neat, the paper good, and the 
price moderate." . 

Illustrated Times. — " We hail this new series of ' Handy Volumes ' with 
pleasure, and shall be careful to add each work as it appears to our own rivate 
library ; and would advise all who value good, substantial, interesting reading 
to go and do likewise." 

London News. — " The handy volume, — the pretty volume, — the volume 
of good reading, is a cheap volume." 

The Handy Volume Series will be neatly bound in cloth, 
flexible covers, and also in illuminated paper covers. 



HANDT VOLUME SERIES. 
i. 
HAPPY THOUGHTS. By F. C. Burxand. Price in 
cloth, $1.00; paper covers, 75 cents. 

2. 
DOCTOR JACOB. A Novel. By Miss M. Betham Ed- 
wards. Price in cloth, 1.00; paper covers, 75 cents. 

3- 
PLANCHETTE ; or, The Despair of Science. Being a full 
account of Modern Spiritualism. Price in cloth, 61.25; 
paper covers, $1.00. 

Other volumes will follow the above at convenient intervals. 

ROBERTS BROTHERS, Publishers, Boston. 
14