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by Louisa M. Alcott
Chapter 1 Ten Years Later
Chapter 2 Parnassus
Chapter 3 Jo's Last Scrape
Chapter 4 Dan
Chapter 5 Vacation
Chapter 6 Last Words
Chapter 7 The Lion and the Lamb
Chapter 8 Josie Plays Mermaid
Chapter 9 The Worm Turns
Chapter 10 Demi Settles
Chapter 11 Emil's Thanksgiving
Chapter 12 Dan's Christmas
Chapter 13 Nat's New Year
Chapter 14 Plays at Plumfield
Chapter 15 Waiting
Chapter 16 In the Tennis-court
Chapter 17 Among the Maids
Chapter 18 Class Day
Chapter 19 White Roses
Chapter 20 Life for Life
Chapter 21 Aslauga's Knight
Chapter 22 Positively Last Appearance
Chapter 1 TEN YEARS LATER
If anyone had told me what wonderful changes were to take place
here in ten yearsI wouldn't have believed it' said Mrs Jo to Mrs
Megas they sat on the piazza at Plumfield one summer day
looking about them with faces full of pride and pleasure.
'This is the sort of magic that money and kind hearts can work. I
am sure Mr Laurence could have no nobler monument than the
college he so generously endowed; and a home like this will keep
Aunt March's memory green as long as it lasts' answered Mrs
Megalways glad to praise the absent.
'We used to believe in fairiesyou rememberand plan what we'd
ask for if we could have three wishes. Doesn't it seem as if mine
had been really granted at last? Moneyfameand plenty of the
work I love' said Mrs Jocarelessly rumpling up her hair as she
clasped her hands over her head just as she used to do when a girl.
'I have had mineand Amy is enjoying hers to her heart's content.
If dear MarmeeJohnand Beth were hereit would be quite
perfect' added Megwith a tender quiver in her voice; for
Marmee's place was empty now.
Jo put her hand on her sister'sand both sat silent for a little while
surveying the pleasant scene before them with mingled sad and
It certainly did look as if magic had been at workfor quiet
Plumfield was transformed into a busy little world. The house
seemed more hospitable than everrefreshed now with new paint
added wingswell-kept lawn and gardenand a prosperous air it
had not worn when riotous boys swarmed everywhere and it was
rather difficult for the Bhaers to make both ends meet. On the hill
where kites used to be flownstood the fine college which Mr
Laurence's munificent legacy had built. Busy students were going
to and fro along the paths once trodden by childish feetand many
young men and women were enjoying all the advantages that
wealthwisdomand benevolence could give them.
Just inside the gates of Plumfield a pretty brown cottagevery like
the Dovecotenestled among the treesand on the green slope
westward Laurie's white-pillared mansion glittered in the sunshine;
for when the rapid growth of the city shut in the old housespoilt
Meg's nestand dared to put a soap-factory under Mr Laurence's
indignant noseour friends emigrated to Plumfieldand the great
These were the pleasant ones; and the loss of the dear old people
was sweetened by the blessings they left behind; so all prospered
now in the little communityand Mr Bhaer as presidentand Mr
March as chaplain of the collegesaw their long-cherished dream
beautifully realized. The sisters divided the care of the young
people among themeach taking the part that suited her best. Meg
was the motherly friend of the young womenJo the confidante
and defender of all the youthsand Amy the lady Bountiful who
delicately smoothed the way for needy studentsand entertained
them all so cordially that it was no wonder they named her lovely
home Mount Parnassusso full was it of musicbeautyand the
culture hungry young hearts and fancies long for.
The original twelve boys had of course scattered far and wide
during these yearsbut all that lived still remembered old
Plumfieldand came wandering back from the four quarters of the
earth to tell their various experienceslaugh over the pleasures of
the pastand face the duties of the present with fresh courage; for
such home-comings keep hearts tender and hands helpful with the
memories of young and happy days. A few words will tell the
history of eachand then we can go on with the new chapter of
Franz was with a merchant kinsman in Hamburga man of
twenty-six nowand doing well. Emil was the jolliest tar that ever
'sailed the ocean blue'. His uncle sent him on a long voyage to
disgust him with this adventurous life; but he came home so
delighted with it that it was plain this was his professionand the
German kinsman gave him a good chance in his ships; so the lad
was happy. Dan was a wanderer still; for after the geological
researches in South America he tried sheep-farming in Australia
and was now in California looking up mines. Nat was busy with
music at the Conservatorypreparing for a year or two in Germany
to finish him off. Tom was studying medicine and trying to like it.
Jack was in business with his fatherbent on getting rich. Dolly
was in college with Stuffy and Ned reading law. Poor little Dick
was deadso was Billy; and no one could mourn for themsince
life would never be happyafflicted as they were in mind and
Rob and Teddy were called the 'Lion and the Lamb'; for the latter
was as rampant as the king of beastsand the former as gentle as
any sheep that ever baaed. Mrs Jo called him 'my daughter'and
found him the most dutiful of childrenwith plenty of manliness
underlying the quiet manners and tender nature. But in Ted she
seemed to see all the faultswhimsaspirationsand fun of her own
youth in a new shape. With his tawny locks always in wild
confusionhis long legs and armsloud voiceand continual
activityTed was a prominent figure at Plumfield. He had his
moods of gloomand fell into the Slough of Despond about once a
weekto be hoisted out by patient Rob or his motherwho
understood when to let him alone and when to shake him up. He
was her pride and joy as well as tormentbeing a very bright lad
for his ageand so full of all sorts of budding talentthat her
maternal mind was much exercised as to what this remarkable boy
Demi had gone through College with honourand Mrs Meg had set
her heart on his being a minister picturing in her fond fancy the
first sermon her dignified young parson would preachas well as
the longusefuland honoured life he was to lead. But Johnas she
called him nowfirmly declined the divinity schoolsaying he had
had enough of booksand needed to know more of men and the
worldand caused the dear woman much disappointment by
deciding to try a journalist's career. It was a blow; but she knew
that young minds cannot be drivenand that experience is the best
teacher; so she let him follow his own inclina tionsstill hoping to
see him in the pulpit. Aunt Jo raged when she found that there was
to be a reporter in the familyand called him 'Jenkins' on the spot.
She liked his literary tendenciesbut had reason to detest official
Paul Prysas we shall see later. Demi knew his own mind
howeverand tranquilly carried out his plansunmoved by the
tongues of the anxious mammas or the jokes of his mates. Uncle
Teddy encouraged himand painted a splendid careermentioning
Dickens and other celebrities who began as reporters and ended as
famous novelists or newspaper men.
The girls were all flourishing. Daisyas sweet and domestic as
everwas her mother's comfort and companion. Josie at fourteen
was a most original young personfull of pranks and peculiarities
the latest of which was a passion for the stagewhich caused her
quiet mother and sister much anxiety as well as amusement. Bess
had grown into a tallbeautiful girl looking several years older
than she waswith the same graceful ways and dainty tastes which
the little Princess hadand a rich inheritance of both the father's
and mother's giftsfostered by every aid love and money could
give. But the pride of the community was naughty Nan; forlike so
many restlesswilful childrenshe was growing into a woman full
of the energy and promise that suddenly blossoms when the
ambitious seeker finds the work she is fitted to do well. Nan began
to study medicine at sixteenand at twenty was getting on bravely;
for nowthanks to other intelligent womencolleges and hospitals
were open to her. She had never wavered in her purpose from the
childish days when she shocked Daisy in the old willow by saying:
'I don't want any family to fuss over. I shall have an officewith
bottles and pestle things in itand drive round and cure folks.' The
future foretold by the little girl the young woman was rapidly
bringing to passand finding so much happiness in it that nothing
could win her from the chosen work. Several worthy young
gentlemen had tried to make her change her mind and chooseas
Daisy did'a nice little house and family to take care of'. But Nan
only laughedand routed the lovers by proposing to look at the
tongue which spoke of adorationor professionally felt the pulse in
the manly hand offered for her acceptance. So all departed but one
persistent youthwho was such a devoted Traddles it was
impossible to quench him.
This was Tomwho was as faithful to his child sweetheart as she
to her 'pestle things'and gave a proof of fidelity that touched her
very much. He studied medicine for her sake alonehaving no taste
for itand a decided fancy for a mercantile life. But Nan was firm
and Tom stoutly kept ondevoutly hoping he might not kill many
of his fellow-beings when he came to practise. They were
excellent friendshoweverand caused much amusement to their
comradesby the vicissitudes of this merry love-chase.
Both were approaching Plumfield on the afternoon when Mrs Meg
and Mrs Jo were talking on the piazza. Not together; for Nan was
walking briskly along the pleasant road alonethinking over a case
that interested herand Tom was pegging on behind to overtake
heras if by accidentwhen the suburbs of the city were past a
little way of hiswhich was part of the joke.
Nan was a handsome girlwith a fresh colourclear eyequick
smileand the self-poised look young women with a purpose
always have. She was simply and sensi bly dressedwalked easily
and seemed full of vigourwith her broad shoulders well back
arms swinging freelyand the elasticity of youth and health in
every motion. The few people she met turned to look at heras if it
was a pleasant sight to see a heartyhappy girl walking
countryward that lovely day; and the red-faced young man
steaming along behindhat off and every tight curl wagging with
impatienceevidently agreed with them.
Presently a mild 'Hallo!' was borne upon the breezeand pausing
with an effort to look surprised that was an utter failureNan said
'Ohis that youTom?'
'Looks like it. Thought you might be walking out today'; and Tom's
jovial face beamed with pleasure.
'You knew it. How is your throat?' asked Nan in her professional
tonewhich was always a quencher to undue raptures.
'Throat? Ohah! yesI remember. It is well. The effect of that
prescription was wonderful. I'll never call homoeopathy a humbug
'You were the humbug this timeand so were the unmedicated
pellets I gave you. If sugar or milk can cure diphtheria in this
remarkable mannerI'll make a note of ~t. 0 TomTomwill you
never be done playing tricks?'
'0 NanNanwill you never be done getting the better of me?' And
the merry pair laughed at one another just as they did in the old
timeswhich always came back freshly when they went to
'WellI knew I shouldn't see you for a week if I didn't scare up
some excuse for a call at the office.
8 JO'S BOYS
You are so desperately busy all the time I never get a word'
'You ought to be busy tooand above such nonsense. ReallyTom
if you don't give your mind to your lecturesyou'll never get on'
said Nan soberly.
'I have quite enough of them as it is' answered Tom with an air of
disgust. 'A fellow must lark a bit after dissecting corpuses all day. I
can't stand it long at a timethough some people seem to enjoy it
'Then why not leave itand do what suits you better? I always
thought it a foolish thingyou know' said Nanwith a trace of
anxiety in the keen eyes that searched for signs of illness in a face
as ruddy as a Baldwin apple.
'You know why I chose itand why I shall stick to it if it kills me. I
may not look delicatebut I've a deep-seated heart complaintand
it will carry me off sooner or later; for only one doctor in the world
can cure itand she won't.'
There was an air of pensive resignation about Tom that was both
comic and pathetic; for he was in earnestand kept on giving hints
of this sortwithout the least encouragement.
Nan frowned; but she was used to itand knew how to treat him.
'She is curing it in the best and only way; but a more refractory
patient never lived. Did you go to that ballas I directed?'
'And devote yourself to pretty Miss West?'
'Danced with her the whole evening.'
'No impression made on that susceptible organ of yours?' 'Not the
slightest. I gaped in her face onceforgot to feed herand gave a
sigh of relief when I handed her over to her mamma.'
'Repeat the dose as often as possibleand note the symptoms. I
predict that you'll "cry for it" by and by.'
'Never! I'm sure it doesn't suit my constitution.'
'We shall see. Obey orders!' sternly.
Silence reigned for a moment; thenas if the bone of contention
was forgotten in the pleasant recollections called up by familiar
objectsNan said suddenly:
'What fun we used to have in that wood! Do you remember how
you tumbled out of the big nut-tree and nearly broke your
'Don't I! and how you steeped me in wormwood till I was a fine
mahogany colourand Aunt Jo wailed over my spoilt jacket'
laughed Toma boy again in a minute.
'And how you set the house afire?'
'And you ran off for your band-box?'
'Do you ever say "Thunder-turtles" now?'
'Do people ever call you "Giddy-gaddy"?'
'Daisy does. Dear thingI haven't seen her for a week.'
'I saw Demi this morningand he said she was keeping house for
'She always does when Aunt Jo gets into a vortex. Daisy is a model
housekeeper; and you couldn't do better than make your bow to
herif you can't go to work and wait till you are grown up before
you begin lovering.'
'Nat would break his fiddle over my head if I sug gested such a
thing. Nothank you. Another name is engraved upon my heart as
indelibly as the blue anchor on my arm. "Hope" is my mottoand
No surrenderyours; see who will hold out longest.'
'You silly boys think we must pair off as we did when children; but
we shall do nothing of the kind. How well Parnassus looks from
here!' said Nanabruptly changing the conversation again.
'It is a fine house; but I love old Plum best. Wouldn't Aunt March
stare if she could see the changes here?' answered Tomas they
both paused at the great gate to look at the pleasant landscape
A sudden whoop startled themas a long boy with a wild yellow
head came leaping over a hedge like a kangaroofollowed by a
slender girlwho stuck in the hawthornand sat there laughing like
a witch. A pretty little lass she waswith curly dark hairbright
eyesand a very expressive face. Her hat was at her backand her
skirts a good deal the worse for the brooks she had crossedthe
trees she had climbedand the last leapwhich added several fine
'Take me downNanplease. Tomhold Ted; he's got my book
and I will have it' called Josie from her perchnot at all daunted
by the appearance of her friends.
Tom promptly collared the thiefwhile Nan picked Josie from
among the thorns and set her on her feet without a word of
reproof; for having been a romp in her own girlhoodshe was very
indulgent to like tastes in others. "What's the matterdear?' she
askedpinning up the longest ripwhile Josie examined the
scratches on her hands. 'I was studying my part in the willowand
Ted came slyly up and poked the book out of my hands with his
rod. It fell in the brookand before I could scrabble down he was
off. You wretchgive it back this moment or I'll box your ears'
cried Josielaughing and scolding in the same breath.
Escaping from TomTed struck a sentimental attitudeand with
tender glances at the wettorn young person before himdelivered
Claude Melnotte's famous speech in a lackadaisical way that was
irresistibly funnyending with 'Dost like the picturelove?' as he
made an object of himself by tying his long legs in a knot and
distorting his face horribly.
The sound of applause from the piazza put a stop to these antics
and the young folks went up the avenue together very much in the
old style when Tom drove four in hand and Nan was the best horse
in the team. Rosybreathlessand merrythey greeted the ladies
and sat down on the steps to restAunt Meg sewing up her
daughter's rags while Mrs Jo smoothed the Lion's maneand
rescued the book. Daisy appeared in a moment to greet her friend
and all began to talk.
'Muffins for tea; better stay and eat 'em; Daisy's never fail' said
'He's a judge; he ate nine last time. That's why he's so fat' added
Josiewith a withering glance at her cousinwho was as thin as a
'I must go and see Lucy Dove. She has a whitlowand it's time to
lance it. I'll tea at college' answered Nanfeeling in her pocket to
be sure she had not forgotten her case of instruments.
'ThanksI'm going there also. Tom Merryweather has granulated
lidsand I promised to touch them up for him. Save a doctor's fee
and be good practice for me. I'm clumsy with my thumbs' said
Tombound to be near his idol while he could.
'Hush! Daisy doesn't like to hear you saw-bones talk of your work.
Muffins suit us better'; and Ted grinned sweetlywith a view to
future favours in the eating line.
'Any news of the Commodore?' asked Tom.
'He is on his way homeand Dan hopes to come soon. I long to see
my boys togetherand have begged the wanderers to come to
Thanksgivingif not before' answered Mrs Jobeaming at the
'They'll comeevery man of themif they can. Even Jack will risk
losing a dollar for the sake of one of our jolly old dinners' laughed
'There's the turkey fattening for the feast. I never chase him now
but feed him well; and he's "swellin' wisibly"bless his
drumsticks!' said Tedpointing out the doomed fowl proudly
parading in a neighbouring field.
'If Nat goes the last of the month we shall want a farewell frolic for
him. I suppose the dear old Chirper will come home a second Ole
Bull' said Nan to her friend.
A pretty colour came into Daisy's cheekand the folds of muslin on
her breast rose and fell with a quick breath; but she answered
placidly: 'Uncle Laurie says he has real talentand after the
training he will get abroad he can command a good living here
though he may never be famous.'
'Young people seldom turn out as one predictsso it is of little use
to expect anything' said Mrs Meg with a sigh. 'If our children are
good and useful men and womenwe should be satisfied; yet it's
very natural to wish them to be brilliant and successful.'
'They are like my chickensmighty uncertain. Nowthat
fine-looking cockerel of mine is the stupidest one of the lotand
the uglylong-legged chap is the king of the yardhe's so smart;
crows loud enough to wake the Seven Sleepers; but the handsome
one croaksand is no end of a coward. I get snubbed; but you wait
till I grow upand then see'; and Ted looked so like his own
long-legged pet that everyone laughed at his modest prediction.
'I want to see Dan settled somewhere. "A rolling stone gathers no
moss"and at twenty-five he is still roaming about the world
without a tie to hold himexcept this'; and Mrs Meg nodded
towards her sister.
'Dan will find his place at lastand experience is his best teacher.
He is rough stillbut each time he comes home I see a change for
the betterand never lose my faith in him. He may never do
anything greator get rich; but if the wild boy makes an honest
manI'm satisfied' said Mrs Jowho always defended the black
sheep of her flock.
'That's rightmotherstand by Dan! He's worth a dozen Jacks and
Neds bragging about money and trying to be swells. You see if he
doesn't do something to be proud of and take the wind out of their
sails' added Tedwhose love for his 'Danny' was now strengthened
by a boy's admiration for the boldadventurous man.
'Hope soI'm sure. He's just the fellow to do rash things and come
to glory climbing the Matterhorntaking a "header" into Niagara
or finding a big nugget. That's his way of sowing wild oatsand
per- haps it's better than ours' said Tom thoughtfully; for he had
gained a good deal of experience in that sort of agriculture since
he became a medical student.
'Much better!' said Mrs Jo emphatically. 'I'd rather send my boys
off to see the world in that way than leave them alone in a city full
of temptationswith nothing to do but waste timemoneyand
healthas so many are left. Dan has to work his wayand that
teaches him couragepatienceand self-reliance. I don't worry
about him as much as I do about George and Dolly at collegeno
more fit than two babies to take care of themselves.'
'How about John? He's knocking round town as a newspaper man
reporting all sorts of thingsfrom sermons to prize-fights' asked
Tomwho thought that sort of life would be much more to his own
taste than medical lectures and hospital wards.
'Demi has three safeguards good principlesrefined tastesand a
wise mother. He won't come to harmand these experiences will
be useful to him when he begins to writeas I'm sure he will in
time' began Mrs Jo in her prophetic tone; for she was anxious to
have some of her geese turn out swans.
'Speak of Jenkinsand you'll hear the rustling of his paper' cried
Tomas a fresh-facedbrown-eyed young man came up the
avenuewaving a newspaper over his head.
'Here's your Evening Tattler! Latest Edition! Awful murder! Bank
clerk absconded! Powder-mill explosionand great strike of the
Latin School boys!' roared Tedgoing to meet his cousin with the
graceful gait of a young giraffe.
'The Commodore is inand will cut his cable and run before the
wind as soon as he can get off' called Demiwith 'a nice
derangement of nautical epitaphs'as he came up smiling over his
Everyone talked together for a momentand the paper passed from
hand to hand that each eye might rest on the pleasant fact that the
Brendafrom Hamburgwas safe in port.
'He'll come lurching out by tomorrow with his usual collection of
marine monsters and lively yarns. I saw himjolly and tarry and
brown as a coffee-berry. Had a good runand hopes to be second
mateas the other chap is laid up with a broken leg' added Demi.
'Wish I had the setting of it' said Nan to herselfwith a
professional twist of her hand.
'How's Franz?' asked Mrs Jo.
'He's going to be married! There's news for you. The first of the
flockAuntyso say good-bye to him. Her name is Ludmilla
Heldegard Blumenthal; good familywell-offprettyand of course
an angel. The dear old boy wants Uncle's consentand then he will
settle down to be a happy and an honest burgher. Long life to him!'
'I'm glad to hear jt. I do so like to settle my boys with a good wife
and a nice little home. Nowif all is rightI shall feel as if Franz
was off my mind' said Mrs Jofolding her hands contentedly; for
she often felt like a distracted hen with a large brood of mixed
chickens and ducks upon her hands.
'So do I' sighed Tomwith a sly glance at Nan. 'That's what a
fellow needs to keep him steady; and it's the duty of nice girls to
marry as soon as possibleisn't itDemi?' 'If there are enough nice
fellows to go round. The female population exceeds the maleyou
knowespecially in New England; which accounts for the high
state of culture we are inperhaps' answered Johnwho was
leaning over his mother's chairtelling his day's experiences in a
'It is a merciful provisionmy dears; for it takes three or four
women to get each man intothroughand out of the world. You
are costly cteaturesboys; and it is well that motherssisters
wivesand daughters love their duty and do it so wellor you
would perish off the face of the earth' said Mrs Jo solemnlyas she
took up a basket filled with dilapidated hose; for the good
Professor was still hard on his socksand his sons resembled him
in that respect.
'Such being the casethere is plenty for the "superfluous women"
to doin taking care of these helpless men and their families. I see
that more clearly every dayand am very glad and grateful that my
profession will make me a usefulhappyand independent
Nan's emphasis on the last word caused Tom to groanand the rest
'I take great pride and solid satisfaction in youNanand hope to
see you very successful; for we do need just such helpful women
in the world. I sometimes feel as if I've missed my vocation and
ought to have remained single; but my duty seemed to point this
wayand I don't regret it' said Mrs Jofolding a large and very
ragged blue sock to her bosom.
'Neither do I. What should I ever have done without my dearest
Mum?' added Tedwith a filial hug which caused both to disappear
behind the newspaper in which he had been mercifully absorbed
for a few minutes.
'My darling boyif you would wash your hands semi-occasionally
fond caresses would be less disastrous to my collar. Never mind
my precious tousleheadbetter grass stains and dirt than no
cuddlings at all'; and Mrs Jo emerged from that brief eclipse
looking much refreshedthough her back hair was caught in Ted's
buttons and her collar under one ear.
Here Josiewho had been studying her part at the other end of the
piazzasuddenly burst forth with a smothered shriekand gave
Juliet's speech in the tomb so effectively that the boys applauded
Daisy shiveredand Nan murmured: 'Too much cerebral
excitement for one of her age.'
'I'm afraid you'll have to make up your mind to itMeg. That child
is a born actress. We never did anything so wellnot even the
Witch's Curse' said Mrs Jocasting a bouquet of many-coloured
socks at the feet of her flushed and panting niecewhen she fell
gracefully upon the door-mat.
'It is a sort of judgement upon me for my passion for the stage
when a girl. Now I know how dear Marmee felt when I begged to
be an actress. I never can consentand yet I may be obliged to give
up my wisheshopesand plans again.'
There was an accent of reproach in his mother's voicewhich made
Demi pick up his sister with a gentle shakeand the stern
command to 'drop that nonsense in public'.
'Drop meMinionor I'll give you the Maniac Bridewith my best
Ha-ha!' cried Josieglaring at him like an offended kitten. Being
set on her feetshe made a splendid courtesyand dramatically
proclaiming'Mrs Woffington's carriage waits' swept down the
steps and round the cornertrailing Daisy's scarlet shawl
majestically behind her.
'Isn't she great fun? I couldn't stop in this dull place if I hadn't that
child to make it lively for me. If ever she turns primI'm off; so
mind how you nip her in the bud' said Teddyfrowning at Demi
who was now writing out shorthand notes on the steps.
'You two are a teamand it takes a strong hand to drive youbut I
rather like it. Josie ought to have been my childand Rob yours
Meg. Then your house would have been all peace and mine all
Bedlam. Now I must go and tell Laurie the news. Come with me
Mega little stroll will do us good'; and sticking Ted's straw hat on
her headMrs Jo walked off with her sisterleaving Daisy to attend
to the muffinsTed to appease Josieand Tom and Nan to give
their respective patients a very bad quarter of an hour.
Chapter 2 PARNASSUS
It was well named; and the Muses seemed to be at home that day
for as the newcomers went up the slope appropriate sights and
sounds greeted them. Passing an open windowthey looked in
upon a library presided over by ClioCalliopeand Urania;
Melpomene and Thalia were disporting themselves in the hall
where some young people were dancing and rehearsing a play;
Erato was walking in the garden with her loverand in the
music-room Phoebus himself was drilling a tuneful choir.
A mature Apollo was our old friend Lauriebut comely and genial
as ever; for time had ripened the freakish boy into a noble man.
Care and sorrowas well as ease and happinesshad done much for
him; and the responsibility of carrying out his grandfather's wishes
had been a duty most faithfully performed. Prosperity suits some
peopleand they blossom best in a glow of sunshine; others need
the shadeand are the sweeter for a touch of frost. Laurie was one
of the former sortand Amy was another; so life had been a kind of
poem to them since they married not only harmonious and happy
but earnestusefuland rich in the beautiful benevolence which
can do so much when wealth and wisdom go hand in hand with
charity. Their house was full of unostentatious beauty and comfort
and here the art-loving host and hostess attracted and entertained
artists of all kinds. Laurie had music enough nowand was a
generous patron to the class he most liked to help. Amy had her
proteges among ambitious young painters and sculptorsand found
her own art double dear as her daughter grew old enough to share
its labours and delights with her; for she was one of those who
prove that women can be faithful wives and mothers without
sacrificing the special gift bestowed upon them for their own
development and the good of others.
Her sisters knew where to find herand Jo went at once to the
studiowhere mother and daughter worked together. Bess was
busy with the bust of a little childwhile her mother added the last
touches to a fine head of her husband. Time seemed to have stood
still with Amyfor happiness had kept her young and prosperity
given her the culture she needed. A statelygraceful womanwho
showed how elegant simplicity could be made by the taste with
which she chose her dress and the grace with which she wore it. As
someone said: 'I never know what Mrs Laurence has onbut I
always receive the impression that she is the best-dressed lady in
It was evident that she adored her daughterand well she might;
for the beauty she had longed for seemedto her fond eyes at least
to be impersonated in this younger self. Bess inherited her mother's
Diana-like figureblue eyesfair skinand golden hairtied up in
the same classic knot of curls. Also ah! never-ending source of
joy to Amy she had her father's handsome nose and mouthcast in
a feminine mould. The severe simplicity of a long linen pinafore
suited her; and she worked away with the entire absorption of the
true artistunconscious of the loving eyes upon hertill Aunt Jo
came in exclaiming eagerly:
'My dear girlsstop your mud-pies and hear the news!'
Both artists dropped their tools and greeted the irrepressible
woman cordiallythough genius had been burning splendidly and
her coming spoilt a precious hour. They were in the full tide of
gossip when Lauriewho had been summoned by Megarrived
and sitting down between the sisterswith no barricade anywhere
listened with interest to the news of Franz and Emil.
'The epidemic has broke outand now it will rage and ravage your
flock. Be prepared for every sort of romance and rashness for the
next ten yearsJo. Your boys are growing up and will plunge
headlong into a sea of worse scrapes than any you have had yet'
said Laurieenjoying her look of mingled delight and despair.
'I know itand I hope I shall be able to pull them through and land
them safely; but it's an awful responsibilityfor they will come to
me and insist that I can make their poor little loves run smoothly. I
like itthoughand Meg is such a mush of sentiment she revels in
the prospect' answered Jofeeling pretty easy about her own boys
whose youth made them safe for the present.
'I'm afraid she won't revel when our Nat begins to buzz too near
her Daisy. Of course you see what all that means? As musical
director I am also his confidanteand would like to know what
advice to give' said Laurie soberly. 'Hush! you forget that child'
began Jonodding towards Besswho was at work again.
'Bless you! she's in Athensand doesn't hear a word. She ought to
leave offthoughand go out. My darlingput the baby to sleep
and go for a run. Aunt Meg is in the parlour; go and show her the
new pictures till we come' added Laurielooking at his tall girl as
Pygmalion might have looked at Galatea; for he considered her the
finest statue in the house.
'Yespapa; but please tell me if it is good'; and Bess obediently put
down her toolswith a lingering glance at the bust.
'My cherished daughtertruth compels me to confess that one
cheek is plumper than the other; and the curls upon its infant brow
are rather too much like horns for perfect grace; otherwise it rivals
Raphael's Chanting Cherubsand I'm proud of it.'
Laurie was laughing as he spoke; for these first attempts were so
like Amy's early onesit was impossible to regard them as soberly
as the enthusiastic mamma did.
'You can't see beauty in anything but music' answered Bess
shaking the golden head that made the one bright spot in the cool
north lights of the great studio.
'WellI see beauty in youdear. And if you are not artwhat is? 1
wish to put a little more nature into youand get you away from
this cold clay and marble into the sunshineto dance and laugh as
the others do. I want a flesh-and-blood girlnot a sweet statue in a
grey pinaforewho forgets everything but her work.' and Bess said
earnestlypunctuating her words with soft touches of her lips:
'I never forget youpapa; but I do want to do something beautiful
that you may be proud of me by and by. Mamma often tells me to
stop; but when we get in here we forget there is any world outside
we are so busy and so happy. Now I'll go and run and singand be
a girl to please you.' And throwing away the apronBess vanished
from the roomseeming to take all the light with her.
'I'm glad you said that. The dear child is too much absorbed in her
artistic dreams for one so young. It is my fault; but I sympathize so
deeply in it allI forget to be wise' sighed Amycarefully covering
the baby with a wet towel.
'I think this power of living in our children is one of the sweetest
things in the world; but I try to remember what Marmee once said
to Meg that fathers should have their share in the education of
both girls and boys; so I leave Ted to his father all I canand Fritz
lends me Robwhose quiet ways are as restful and good for me as
Ted's tempests are for his father. Now I advise youAmyto let
Bess drop the mud-pies for a timeand take up music with Laurie;
then she won't be one-sidedand he won't be jealous.'
'Hearhear! A Daniel a very Daniel!' cried Lauriewell pleased. 'I
thought you'd lend a handJoand say a word for me. I am a little
jealous of Amyand want more of a share in my girl. Comemy
ladylet me have her this summerand next yearwhen we go to
RomeI'll give her up to you and high art. Isn't that a fair bargain?'
'I agree; but in trying your hobbynaturewith music thrown in
don't forget thatthough only fifteenour Bess is older than most
girls of that ageand cannot be treated like a child. She is so very
precious to meI feel as if I wanted to keep her always as pure and
beautiful as the marble she loves so well.'
Amy spoke regretfully as she looked about the lovely room where
she had spent so many happy hours with this dear child of hers.
Turn and turn about is fair playas we used to say when we all
wanted to ride on Ellen Tree or wear the russet boots' said Jo
briskly; 'so you must share your girl between youand see who will
do the most for her.'
'We will' answered the fond parentslaughing at the recollections
Jo's proverb brought up to them.
'How I did use to enjoy bouncing on the limbs of that old
apple-tree! No real horse ever gave me half the pleasure or the
exercise' said Amylooking out of the high window as if she saw
the dear old orchard again and the little girls at play there.
'And what fun I had with those blessed boots!' laughed Jo. 'I've got
the relics now. The boys reduced them to rags; but I love them
stilland would enjoy a good theatrical stalk in them if it were
'My fondest memories twine about the warming-pan and the
sausage. What larks we had! And how long ago it seems!' said
Lauriestaring at the two women before him as if he found it hard
to realize that they ever had been little Amy and riotous Jo.
'Don't suggest that we are growing oldmy Lord. We have only
bloomed; and a very nice bouquet we make with our buds about
us' answered Mrs Amyshaking out the folds of her rosy muslin
with much the air of dainty satisfaction the girl used to show in a
'Not to mention our thorns and dead leaves' added Jowith a sigh;
for life had never been very easy to herand even now she had her
troubles both within and without.
'Come and have a dish of teaold dearand see what the young
folks are about. You are tiredand want to be "stayed with flagons
and comforted with apples"' said Laurieoffering an arm to each
sisterand leading them away to afternoon teawhich flowed as
freely on Parnassus as the nectar of old.
They found Meg in the summer-parlouran airy and delightful
roomfull now of afternoon sunshine and the rustle of trees; for
the three long windows opened on the garden. The great
music-room was at one endand at the otherin a deep alcove
hung with purple curtainsa little household shrine had been made.
Three portraits hung theretwo marble busts stood in the corners
and a couchan oval tablewith its urn of flowerswere the only
articles of furniture the nook contained. The busts were John
Brooke and Beth Amy's work both excellent likenessesand
both full of the placid beauty which always recalls the sayingthat
'Clay represents life; plasterdeath; marbleimmortality'. On the
rightas became the founder of the househung the portrait of Mr
Laurencewith its expression of mingled pride and benevolenceas
fresh and attractive as when he caught the girl Jo admiring it.
Opposite was Aunt March a legacy to Amy in an imposing
turbanimmense sleevesand long mittens decorously crossed on
the front of her plum-coloured satin gown. Time had mellowed the
severity of her aspect; and the fixed regard of the handsome old
gentleman opposite seemed to account for the amiable simper on
lips that had not uttered a sharp word for years.
In the place of honourwith the sunshine warm upon itand a
green garland always round itwas Marmee's beloved facepainted
with grateful skill by a great artist whom she had befriended when
poor and unknown. So beautifully lifelike was it that it seemed to
smile down upon her daughterssaying cheerfully:
'Be happy; I am with you still.'
The three sisters stood a moment looking up at the beloved picture
with eyes full of tender reverence and the longing that never left
them; for this noble mother had been so much to them that no one
could ever fill her place. Only two years since she had gone away
to live and love anewleaving such a sweet memory behind her
that it was both an inspiration and a comforter to all the household.
They felt this as they drew closer to one anotherand Laurie put it
into words as he said earnestly:
'I can ask nothing better for my child than that she may be a
woman like our mother. Please Godshe shall beif I can do it; for
I owe the best I have to this dear saint.'
Just then a fresh voice began to sing 'Ave Maria' in the
music-roomand Bess unconsciously echoed her father's prayer for
her as she dutifully obeyed his wished. The soft sound of the air
Marmee used to sing led the listeners back into the world again
from that momentary reaching after the loved and lostand they sat
down together near the open windows enjoying the musicwhile
Laurie brought them teamaking the little service pleasant by the
tender care he gave to it.
Nat came in with Demisoon followed by Ted and Josiethe
Professor and his faithful Roball anxious to hear more about 'the
boys'. The rattle of cups and tongues grew briskand the setting
sun saw a cheerful company resting in the bright room after the
varied labours of the day.
Professor I3haer was grey nowbut robust and genial as ever; for
he had the work he lovedand did it so heartily that the whole
college felt his beautiful influence. Rob was as much like him as it
was possible for a boy to beand was already called the 'young
Professor'he so adored study and closely imitated his honoured
father in all ways.
'Wellheart's dearestwe go to have our boys againall twoand
may rejoice greatly' said Mr Bhaerseating himself beside Jo with
a beaming face and a handshake of congratulation.
'OhFritzI'm so delighted about Emiland if you approve about
Franz also. Did you know Ludmilla? Is it a wise match?' asked Mrs
Johanding him her cup of tea and drawing closeras if she
welcomed her refuge in joy as well as sorrow.
'It all goes well. I saw the M dchen when I went over to place
Franz. A child thenbut most sweet and charming. Blumenthal is
satisfiedI thinkand the boy will be happy. He is too German to
be content away from Vaterlandso we shall have him as a link
between the new and the oldand that pleases me much.'
'And Emilhe is to be second mate next voyage; isn't that fine? I'm
so happy that both your boys have done well; you gave up so much
for them and their mother. You make light of itdearbut I never
forget it' said Jowith her hand in his as sentimentally as if she
was a girl again and her Fritz had come a-wooing.
He laughed his cheery laughand whispered behind her fan: 'If I
had not come to America for the poor ladsI never should have
found my Jo. The hard times are very sweet nowand I bless Gott
for all I seemed to losebecause I gained the blessing of my life.'
'Spooning! spooning! Here's an awful flirtation on the sly' cried
Teddypeering over the fan just at that interesting momentmuch
to his mother's confusion and his father's amusement; for the
Professor never was ashamed of the fact that he still considered his
wife the dearest woman in the world. Rob promptly ejected his
brother from one windowto see him skip in at the otherwhile
Mrs Jo shut her fan and held it ready to rap her unruly boy's
knuckles if he came near her again.
Nat approached in answer to Mr Bhaer's beckoning teaspoonand
stood before them with a face full of the respectful affection he
felt for the excellent man who had done so much for him.
'I have the letters ready for theemy son. They are two old friends
of mine in Leipzigwho will befriend thee in that new life. It is
well to have themfor thou wilt be heartbroken with Heimweh at
the firstNatand need comforting' said the Professorgiving him
'Thankssir. YesI expect to be pretty lonely till I get startedthen
my music and the hope of getting on will cheer me up' answered
Natwho both longed and dreaded to leave all these friends behind
him and make new ones.
He was a man now; but the blue eyes were as honest as everthe
mouth still a little weakin spite of the carefully cherished
moustache over itand the broad forehead more plainly than ever
betrayed the music-loving nature of the youth. Modest
affectionateand dutifulNat was considered a pleasant though not
a brilliant success by Mrs Jo. She loved and trusted himand was
sure he would do his bestbut did not expect that he would be
great in any wayunless the stimulus of foreign training and
self-dependence made him a better artist and a stronger man than
now seemed likely.
'I've marked all your things or ratherDaisy did and as soon as
your books are collectedwe can see about the packing' said Mrs
Jowho was so used to fitting boys off for all quarters of the globe
that a trip to the North Pole would not have been too much for her.
Nat grew red at mention of that name~ or was it the last glow of
sunset on his rather pale cheek? and his heart beat happily at the
thought of the dear girl working Ns and Bs on his humble socks
and handkerchiefs; for Nat adored Daisyand the cherished dream
of his life was to earn a place for himself as a musician and win
this angel for his wife. This hope did more for him than the
Professor's counselsMrs Jo's careor Mr Laurie's generous help.
For her sake he workedwaitedand hopedfinding courage and
patience in the dream of that happy future when Daisy should
make a little home for him and he fiddle a fortune into her lap.
Mrs Jo knew this; and though he was not exactly the man she
would have chosen for her nieceshe felt that Nat would always
need just the wise and loving care Daisy could give himand that
without it there was danger of his being one of the amiable and
aimless men who fail for want of the right pilot to steer them
safely through the world. Mrs Meg decidedly frowned upon the
poor boy's loveand would not hear of giving her dear girl to any
but the best man to be found on the face of the earth. She was very
kindbut as firm as such gentle souls can be; and Nat fled for
comfort to Mrs Jowho always espoused the interests of her boys
heartily. A new set of anxieties was beginning now that the
aforesaid boys were growing upand she foresaw no end of worry
as well as amusement in the love-affairs alrcady budding in her
flock. Mrs Meg was usually her best ally and adviserfor she loved
romances as well now as when a blooming girl herself. But in this
case she hardened her heartand would not hear a word of
entreaty. 'Nat was not man enoughnever would beno one knew
his familya musician's life was a hard one; Daisy was too young
five or six years hence when time had proved both perhaps. Let us
see what absence will do for him.' And that was the end of itfor
when the maternal Pelican was roused she could be very firm
though for her precious children she would have plucked her last
feather and given the last drop of her blood.
Mrs Jo was thinking of this as she looked at Nat while he talked
with her husband about Leipzigand she resolved to have a clear
understanding with him before he went; for she was used to
confidencesand talked freely with her boys about the trials and
temptations that beset all lives in the beginningand so often mar
themfor want of the right word at the right moment.
This is the first duty of parentsand no false delicacy should keep
them from the watchful carethe gentle warningwhich makes
self-knowledge and self-control the compass and pilot of the young
as they leave the safe harbour of home.
'Plato and his disciples approach' announced irreverent Teddyas
Mr March came in with several young men and women about him;
for the wise old man was universally belovedand ministered so
beautifully to his flock that many of them thanked him all their
lives for the help given to both hearts and souls.
Bess went to him at once; for since Marmee diedGrandpapa was
her special careand it was sweet to see the golden head bend over
the silver one as she rolled out his easy-chair and waited on him
with tender alacrity.
'Aesthetic tea always on tap heresir; will you have a flowing bowl
or a bit of ambrosia?' asked Lauriewho was wandering about with
a sugar-basin in one hand and a plate of cake in the other; for
sweetening cups and feeding the hungry was work he loved.
'Neitherthanks; this child has taken care of me'; and Mr March
turned to Besswho sat on one arm of his chairholding a glass of
'Long may she live to do itsirand I be here to see this pretty
contradiction of the song that "youth and age cannot live
together"!' answered Lauriesmiling at the pair. "Crabbed age"
papa; that makes all the difference in the world' said Bess quickly;
for she loved poetryand read the best.
'Wouldst thou see fresh roses grow
In a reverend bed of snow?'
quoted Mr Marchas Josie came and perched on the other arm
looking like a very thorny little rose; for she had been having a hot
discussion with Tedand had got the worst of it.
'Grandpamust women always obey men and say th~y arc the
wi~c~tju~t bt~AU~ Ihey are the strongest?' she criedlooking
fiercely at her cousinwho came stalking up with a provoking
smile on the boyish face that was always very comical ~ that tall
'Wellmy dearthat is the old-fashioned beliefand it will take
some time to change it. But I think the woman's hour has struck;
and it looks to me as if the boys must do their bestfor the girls are
abreast nowand may reach the goal first' answered Mr March
surveying with paternal satisfaction the bright faces of the young
womenwho were among the best students in the college.
'The poor little Atalantas are sadly distracted and delayed by the
obstacles thrown in their way not golden applesby any means
but I think they will stand a fair chance when they have learned to
run better' laughed Uncle Lauriestroking Josie's breezy hair
which stood up like the fur of an angry kitten.
'Whole barrels of apples won't stop me when I startand a dozen
Teds Won't trip me upthough they may try. I'll show him that a
woman can act as wellif not betterthan a man. It has been done
and will be again; and I'll never own that my brain isn't as good as
histhough it may be smaller' cried the excited young person.
'If you shake your head in that violent way you'll addle what brains
you have got; and I'd take care of 'emif I were you' began teasing
'What started this civil war?' asked Grandpapawith a gentle
emphasis on the adjectivewhich caused the combatants to calm
their ardour a little.
'Whywe were pegging away at the Iliad and came to where Zeus
tells Juno not to inquire into his plans or he'll whip herand Jo was
disgusted because Juno meekly hushed up. I said it was all right
and agreed with the old fellow that women didn't know much and
ought to obey men' explained Tedto the great amusement of his
'Goddesses may do as they likebut those Greek and Trojan
women were poor-spirited things if they minded men who couldn't
fight their own battles and had to be hustled off by Pallasand
Venusand Junowhen they were going to get beaten. The idea of
two armies stopping and sitting down while a pair of heroes flung
stones at one another! I don't think much of your old Homer. Give
me Napoleon or Grant for my hero.'
Josie's scorn was as funny as if a humming-bird scolded at an
ostrichand everyone laughed as she sniffed at the immortal poet
and criticized the gods.
'Napoleon's Juno had a nice time; didn't she? That's just the way
girls argue first one way and then the other' jeered Ted.
'Like Johnson's young ladywho was "not categori calbut all
wiggle-waggle"' added Uncle Laurieenjoying the battle
'I was only speaking of them as soldiers. But if you come to the
woman side of itwasn't Grant a kind husband and Mrs Grant a
happy woman? He didn't threaten to whip her if she asked a natural
question; and if Napoleon did do wrong about Josephinehe could
fightand didn't want any Minerva to come fussing over him. They
were a stupid setfrom dandified Paris to Achilles sulking in his
shipsand I won't change my opinion for all the Hectors and
Agamemnons in Greece' said Josiestill unconquered.
'You can fight like a Trojanthat's evident; and we will be the two
obedient armies looking on while you and Ted have it out' began
Uncle Laurieassuming the attitude of a warrior leaning on his
'I fear we must give it upfor Pallas is about to descend and carry
off our Hector' said Mr Marchsmilingas Jo came to remind her
son that suppertime was near.
'We will fight it out later when there are no goddesses to interfere'
said Teddyas he turned away with unusual alacrityremembering
the treat in store.
'Conquered by a muffinby Jove!' called Josie after himexulting
in an opportunity to use the classical exclamation forbidden to her
But Ted shot a Parthian arrow as he retired in good order by
replyingwith a highly virtuous expression:
'Obedience is a soldier's first duty.'
Bent on her woman's privilege of having the last wordJosie ran
after himbut never uttered the scathing speech upon her lipsfor a
very brown young man in a blue suit came leaping up the steps
with a cheery 'Ahoy! ahoy! where is everybody?'
'Emil! Emil!' cried Josieand in a moment Ted was upon himand
the late enemies ended their fray in a joyful welcome to the
Muffins were forgottenand towing their cousin like two fussy
little tugs with a fine merchantmanthe children returned to the
parlourwhere Emil kissed all the women and shook hands with
all the men except his uncle; him he embraced in the good old
German styleto the great delight of the observers.
'Didn't think I could get off todaybut found I couldand steered
straight for old Plum. Not a soul thereso I luffed and bore away
for Parnassusand here is every man Jack of you. Bless your
heartshow glad I am to see you all!' exclaimed the sailor boy
beaming at themas he stood with his legs apart as if he still felt
the rocking deck under his feet.
'You ought to "shiver your timbers"not "bless our hearts"Emil;
it's not nautical at all. Ohhow nice and shippy and tarry you do
smell!' said Josiesniffing at him with great enjoyment of the fresh
sea odours he brought with him. This was her favourite cousinand
she was his pet; so she knew that the bulging pockets of the blue
jacket contained treasures for her at least.
'Avastmy heartyand let me take soundings before you dive'
laughed Emilunderstanding her affectionate caressesand holding
her off with one hand while with the other he rummaged out
sundry foreign little boxes and parcels marked with different
namesand handed them round with appropriate remarkswhich
caused much laughter; for Emil was a wag.
'There's a hawser that will hold our little cock-boat still about five
minutes' he saidthrowing a necklace of pretty pink coral over
Josie's head; sand here's something the mermaids sent to Undine'
he addedhanding Bess a string of pearly shells on a silver chain.
gh~ ~i~y wcu~ci ~ij‡‡ ~ fI‡idle1 and Nat can find her a beau'
continued the sailorwith a laughas he undid a dainty filigree
brooch in the shape of a violin.
'I know she willand I'll take it to her' answered Natas he
vanishedglad of an errandand sure that he could find Daisy
though Emil had missed her.
Emil chuckledand handed out a quaintly carved bear whose head
openedshowing a capacious ink-stand. This he presentedwith a
scrapeto Aunt Jo.
'Knowing your fondness for these fine animalsI brought this one
to your pen.'
'Very goodCommodore! Try again' said Mrs Jomuch pleased
with her giftwhich caused the Professor to prophesy 'works of
Shakespeare' from its depthsso great would be the inspiration of
the beloved bruin.
'As Aunt Meg will wear capsin spite of her youthI got Ludmilla
to get me some bits of lace. Hope you'll like 'em'; and out of a soft
paper came some filmy thingsone of which soon lay like a net of
snowflakes on Mrs Meg's pretty hair.
'I couldn't find anything swell enough for Aunt Amybecause she
has everything she wantsso I brought a little picture that always
makes me think of her when Bess was a baby'; and he handed her
an oval ivory locketon which was painted a goldenhaired
Madonnawith a rosy child folded in her blue mantle.
'How lovely!' cried everyone; and Aunt Amy at once hung it about
her neck on the blue ribbon from Bess's haircharmed with her
gift; for it recalled the happiest year of her life.
'NowI flatter myself I've got just the thing for Nanneat but not
gaudya sort of sign you seeand very appropriate for a doctor'
said Emilproudly displaying a pair of lava earrings shaped like
'Horrid!' And Besswho hated ugly thingsturned her eyes to her
own pretty shells.
'She won't wear earrings' said Josie.
'Wellshe'll enjoy punching your ears then. She's never so happy as
when she's overhauling her fellow creatures and going for 'em with
a knife' answered Emilundisturbed. 'I've got a lot of plunder for
you fellows in my chestbut I knew I should have no peace till my
cargo for the girls was unloaded. Now tell me all the news.' And
seated on Amy's best marbletopped tablethe sailor swung his legs
and talked at the rate of ten knots an hourtill Aunt Jo carried
them all off to a grand family tea in honour of the Commodore.
Chapter 3 JO'S LAST SCRAPE
The March family had enjoyed a great many surprises in the course
of their varied careerbut the greatest of all was when the Ugly
Duckling turned out to benot a swanbut a golden goosewhose
literary eggs found such an unexpected market that in ten years
Jo's wildest and most cherished dream actually came true. How or
why it happened she never clearly understoodbut all of a sudden
she found herself famous in a small wayandbetter stillwith a
snug little fortune in her pocket to clear away the obstacles of the
present and assure the future of her boys.
It began during a bad year when everything went wrong at
Plumfield; times were hardthe school dwindledJo overworked
herself and had a long illness; Laurie and Amy were abroadand
the Bhaers too proud to ask help even of those as near and dear as
this generous pair. Confined to her roomJo got desperate over the
state of affairstill she fell back upon the long-disused pen as the
only thing she could do to help fill up the gaps in the income. A
book for girls being wanted by a certain publishershe hastily
scribbled a little story describing a few scenes and adventures in
the lives of herself and sisters though boys were more in her line
and with very slight hopes of success sent it out to seek its fortune.
Things always went by contraries with Jo. Her first booklaboured
over for yearsand launched full of the high hopes and ambitious
dreams of youthfoundered on its voyagethough the wreck
continued to float long afterwardto the profit of the publisher at
least. The hastily written storysent away with no thought beyond
the few dollars it might bringsailed with a
rair wind and a wise pilot at the helm into public favourand came
home heavily laden with an unexpected cargo of gold and glory.
A more astonished woman probably never existed than Josephine
Bhaer when her little ship came into port with flags flyingcannon
that had been silent before now booming gailyandbetter than all
many kind faces rejoicing with hermany friendly hands grasping
hers with cordial congratulations. After that it was plain sailing
and she merely had to load her ships and send them off on
prosperous tripsto bring home stores of comfort for all she loved
and laboured for.
The fame she never did quite accept; for it takes very little fire to
make a great deal of smoke nowadaysand notoriety is not real
glory. The fortune she could not doubtand gratefully received;
though it was not half so large a one as a generous world reported
it to be. The tide having turned continued to riseand floated the
family comfortably into a snug harbour where the older members
could rest secure from stormsand whence the younger ones could
launch their boats for the voyage of life.
All manner of happinesspeaceand plenty came in those years to
bless the patient waitershopeful work- ersand devout believers
in the wisdom and justice of Him who sends disappointment
povertyand sorrow to try the love of human hearts and make
success the sweeter when it comes. The world saw the prosperity
and kind souls rejoiced over the improved fortunes of the family;
but the success Jo valued mostthe happiness that nothing could
change or take awayfew knew much about.
It was the power of making her mother's last years happy and
serene; to see the burden of care laid down for everthe weary
hands at restthe dear face untroubled by any anxietyand the
tender heart free to pour itself out in the wise charity which was its
delight. As a girlJo's favourite plan had been a room where
Marmee could sit in peace and enjoy herself after her hardheroic
life. Now the dream had become a happy factand Marmee sat in
her pleasant chamber with every comfort and luxury about her
loving daughters to wait on her as infirmities increaseda faithful
mate to lean uponand grand-children to brighten the twilight of
life with their dutiful affection. A very precious time to allfor she
rejoiced as only mothers can in the good fortunes of their children.
She had lived to reap the harvest she sowed; had seen prayers
answeredhopes blossomgood gifts bear fruitpeace and
prosperity bless the home she had made; and thenlike some
bravepatient angelwhose work was doneturned her face
heavenwardglad to rest.
This was the sweet and sacred side of the change; but it had its
droll and thorny oneas all things have in this curious world of
ours. After the first surpriseincredulityand joywhich came to
Jowith the ingratitude of human natureshe soon tired of renown
and began to resent her loss of liberty. For suddenly the admiring
public took possession of her and all her affairspastpresentand
to come. Strangers demanded to look at herquestionadvise
warncongratulateand drive her out of her wits by well-meant but
very wearisome attentions. If she declined to open her heart to
themthey reproached her; if she refused to endow her pet
charitiesrelieve private wantsor sympathize with every ill and
trial known to humanityshe was called hard-heartedselfishand
haughty; if she found it impossible to answer the piles of letters
sent hershe was neglectful of her duty to the admiring public; and
if she preferred the privacy of home to the pedestal upon which
she was requested to pose'the airs of literary people' were freely
She did her best for the childrenthey being the public for whom
she wroteand laboured stoutly to supply the demand always in the
mouths of voracious youth 'More stories; more right away!' Her
family objected to this devotion at their expenseand her health
suffered; but for a time she gratefully offered herself up on the
altar of juvenile literaturefeeling that she owed a good deal to the
little friends in whose sight she had found favour after twenty
years of effort.
But a time came when her patience gave out; and wearying of
being a lionshe became a bear in nature as in nameand returning
to her dengrowled awfully when ordered out. Her family enjoyed
the funand had small sympathy with her trialsbut Jo came to
consider it the worse scrape of her life; for liberty had always been
her dearest possessionand it seemed to be fast going from her.
Living in a lantern soon loses its charmand she was too oldtoo
tiredand too busy to like it. She felt that she had done all that
could reasonably be required of her when autographsphotographs
and autobiographical sketches had been sown broadcast over the
land; when artists had taken her home in all its aspectsand
reporters had taken her in the grim one she always assumed on
these trying occasions; when a series of enthusiastic
boarding-schools had ravaged her grounds for trophiesand a
steady stream of amiable pilgrims had worn her doorsteps with
their respectful feet; when servants left after a week's trial of the
bell that rang all day; when her husband was forced to guard her at
mealsand the boys to cover her retreat out of back windows on
certain occasions when enterprising guests walked in unannounced
at unfortunate moments.
A sketch of one day may perhaps explain the state of thingsoffer
some excuse for the unhappy womanand give a hint to the
autograph-fiend now rampant in the land; for it is a true tale.
'There ought to be a law to protect unfortunate authors' said Mrs
Jo one morning soon after Emil's arrivalwhen the mail brought
her an unusually large and varied assortment of letters. 'To me it is
a more vital subject than international copyright; for time is
moneypeace is healthand I lose both with no return but less
respect for my fellow creatures and a wild desire to fly into the
wildernesssince I cannot shut my doors even in free America.'
'Lion-hunters are awful when in search of their prey. If they could
change places for a while it would do them good; and they'd see
what bores they were when they "do themselves the honour of
calling to express their admiration of our charming work"' quoted
Tedwith a bow to his parentnow frowning over twelve requests
'I have made up my mind on one point' said Mrs Jo with great
firmness. 'I will not answer this kind of letter. I've sent at least six
to this boyand he probably sells them. This girl writes from a
seminaryand if I send her one all the other girls will at once write
for more. All begin by saying they know they intrudeand that I
am of course annoyed by these requests; but they venture to ask
because I like boysor they like the booksor it is only one.
Emerson and Whittier put these things in the wastepaper-basket;
and though only a literary nursery-maid who provides moral pap
for the youngI will follow their illustrious example; for I shall
have no time to eat or sleep if I try to satisfy these dear
unreasonable children'; and Mrs Jo swept away the entire batch
with a sigh of relief.
'I'll open the others and let you eat your breakfast in peaceliebe
Mutter' said Robwho often acted as her secretary. 'Here's one
from the South'; and breaking an imposing sealhe read:
'MADAMAs it has pleased Heaven t‡ l~‡~ ~ efforts with a large
fortuneI feel no hesitation in asking you to supply funds to
purchase a new communion-service for our church. To whatever
denomination you belongyou will of course respond with
liberality to such a request
'MRS X.Y. ZAVIER'
'Send a civil refusaldear. All I have to give must go to feed and
clothe the poor at my gates. That is my thank-offering for success.
Go on' answered his motherwith a grateful glance about her
'A literary youth of eighteen proposes that you put your name to a
novel he has written; and after the first edition your name is to be
taken off and his put on. There's a cool proposal for you. I guess
you won't agree to thatin spite of your soft-heartedness towards
most of the young scribblers.'
'Couldn't be done. Tell him so kindlyand don't let him send the
manuscript. I have seven on hand nowand barely time to read my
own' said Mrs Jopensively fishing a small letter out of the
slop-bowl and opening it with carebecause the down-hill address
suggested that a child wrote it.
'I will answer this myself. A little sick girl wants a bookand she
shall have itbut I can't write sequels to all the rest to please her. I
should never come to an end if I tried to suit these voracious little
Oliver Twistsclamouring for more. What nextRobin?'
'This is short and sweet.
'DEAR MRS BHAERI am now going to give you my opinion of
your works. I have read them all many timesand call them
first-rate. Please go ahead.
'Now that is what I like. Billy is a man of sense and a critic worth
havingsince he had read my works many times before expressing
his opinion. He asks for no answerso send my thanks and regards.'
'Here's a lady in England with seven girlsand she wishes to know
your views upon education. Also what careers they shall follow
the oldest being twelve. Don't wonder she's worried' laughed Rob.
'I'll try to answer it. But as I have no girlsmy opinion isn't worth
much and will probably shock heras I shall tell her to let them run
and play and build up goodstout bodies before she talks about
careers. They will soon show what they wantif they are let alone
and not all run in the same mould.'
'Here's a fellow who wants to know what sort of a girl he shall
marryand if you know of any like those in your stories.'
'Give him Nan's addressand see what he'll get' proposed Ted
privately resolving to do it himself if possible.
'This is from a lady who wants you to adopt her child and lend her
money to study art abroad for a few years. Better take itand try
your hand at a girlmother.'
'Nothank youI will keep to my own line of business. What is that
blotted one? It looks rather awfulto judge by the ink' asked Mrs
Jowho beguiled her daily task by trying to guess from the outside
what was inside her many letters. This proved to be a poem from
an insane admirerto judge by its incoherent style.
'Ohwere I a heliotrope
I would play poet
And blow a breeze of fragrance
To you; and none should know it. 'Your form like the stately elm
When Phoebus gilds the morning ray;
Your cheeks like the ocean bed
That blooms a rose in May.
'Your words are wise and bright
I bequeath them to you a legacy given;
And when your spirit takes its flight
May it bloom aflower in heaven.
'My tongue in flattering language spokeAnd sweeter silence never
in busiest street or loneliest glen.
I take you with the flashes of my pen.
'Consider the lilieshow they grow;
They toil notyet are fair
Gems and flowers and Solomon's seal.
The geranium of the world isj. M. Bhaer.
While the boys shouted over this effusion which is a true one
their mother read several liberal offers from budding magazines
for her to edit them gratis; one long letter from a young girl
inconsolable because her favourite hero diedand 'would dear Mrs
Bhaer rewrite the taleand make it end good?' another from an
irate boy denied an autographwho darkly foretold financial ruin
and loss of favour if she did not send him and all other fellows
who asked autographsphotographsand auto- biographical
sketches; a minister wished to know her religion; and an
undecided maiden asked which of her two lovers she should
marry. These samples will suffice to show a few of the claims
made on a busy woman's timeand make my readers pardon Mrs
Jo if she did not carefully reply to all.
'That job is done. Now I will dust a bitand then go to my work.
I'm all behind-handand serials can't wait; so deny me to
everybodyMary. I won't see Queen Victoria if she comes today.'
And Mrs Bhaer threw down her napkin as if defying all creation.
'I hope the day will go well with theemy dearest' answered her
husbandwho had been busy with his own voluminous
correspondence. 'I will dine at college with Professor Plockwho is
to visit us today. The Junglings can lunch on Parnassus; so thou
shalt have a quiet time.' And smoothing the worried lines out of
her forehead with his good-bye kissthe excellent man marched
awayboth pockets full of booksan old umbrella in one handand
a bag of stones for the geology class in the other.
'If all literary women had such thoughtful angels for husbands
they would live longer and write more. Perhaps that wouldn't be a
blessing to the world thoughas most of us write too much now'
said Mrs Jowaving her feather duster to her spousewho
responded with flourishes of the umbrella as he went down the
Rob started for school at the same timelooking so much like him
with his books and bag and square shoulders and steady air that his
mother laughed as she turned awaysaying heartily: 'Bless both my
dear professorsfor better creatures never lived!'
Emil was already gone to his ship in the city; but Ted lingered to
steal the address he wantedravage the sugar-bowland talk with
'Mum'; for the two had great larks together. Mrs Jo always
arranged her own parlourrefilled her vasesand gave the little
touches that left it cool and neat for the day. Going to draw down
the curtainshe beheld an artist sketching on the lawnand groaned
as she hastily retired to the back window to shake her duster.
At that moment the bell rang and the sound of wheels was heard in
'I'll go; Mary lets 'em in'; and Ted smoothed his hair as he made for
'Can't see anyone. Give me a chance to fly upstairs' whispered Mrs
Jopreparing to escape. But before she could do soa man
appeared at the door with a card in his hand. Ted met him with a
stern airand his mother dodged behind the window-curtains to
bide her time for escape.
'I am doing a series of articles for the Saturday Tattlerand I called
to see Mrs Bhaer the first of all' began the newcomer in the
insinuating tone of his tribewhile his quick eyes were taking in all
they couldexperience having taught him to make the most of his
timeas his visits were usually short ones.
'Mrs Bhaer never sees reporterssir.'
'But a few moments will be all I ask' said the manedging his way
'You can't see herfor she is out' replied Teddyas a backward
glance showed him that his unhappy parent had vanished through
the windowhe supposedas she sometimes did when hard bested.
'Very sorry. I'll call again. Is this her study? Charming room!' And
the intruder fell back on the parlourbound to see something and
bag a fact if he died in the attempt. 'It is not' said Teddygently
but firmly backing him down the halldevoutly hoping that his
mother had escaped round the corner of the house.
'If you could tell me Mrs Bhaer's age and birthplacedate of
marriageand number of childrenI should be much obliged'
continued the unabashed visitor as he tripped over the door-mat.
'She is about sixtyborn in Nova Zemblamarried just forty years
ago todayand has eleven daughters. Anything elsesir?' And Ted's
sober face was such a funny contrast to his ridiculous reply that the
reporter owned himself routedand retired laughing just as a lady
followed by three beaming girls came up the steps.
'We are all the way from Oshkoshand couldn't go home without
seem' dear Aunt Jo. My girls just admire her worksand lot on
gettin' a sight of her. I know it's early; but we are goin' to see
Holmes and Longfellerand the rest of the celebritiesso we ran
out here fust thing. Mrs Erastus Kingsbury Parmaleeof Oshkosh
tell her. We don't mind waitin'; we can took round a spell if she
ain't ready to see folks yet.'
All this was uttered with such rapidity that Ted could only stand
gazing at the buxom damselswho fixed their six blue eyes upon
him so beseechingly that his native gallantry made it impossible to
deny them a civil reply at least.
'Mrs Bhaer is not visible today out just nowI believe; but you
can see the house and grounds if you like' he murmuredfalling
back as the four pressed in gazing rapturously about them.
'Ohthank you! Sweetpretty place I'm sure! That's where she
writesain't it? Do tell me if that's her picture! Looks just as I
With these remarks the ladies paused before a fine engraving of
the Hon. Mrs Nortonwith a pen in her hand and a rapt expression
of countenancelikewise a diadem and pearl necklace.
Keeping his gravity with an effortTeddy pointed to a very bad
portrait of Mrs Jowhich hung behind the doorand afforded her
much amusementit was so dismalin spite of a curious effect of
light upon the end of the nose and cheeks as red as the chair she
'This was taken for my mother; but it is not very good' he said
enjoying the struggles of the girls not to look dismayed at the sad
difference between the real and the ideal. The youngestaged
twelvecould not conceal her disappointmentand turned away
feeling as so many of us have felt when we discover that our idols
are very ordinary men and women.
'I thought she'd be about sixteen and have her hair braided in two
tails down her back. I don't care about seeing her now' said the
honest childwalking off to the hall doorleaving her mother to
apologizeand her sisters to declare that the bad portrait was
'perfectly lovelyso speaking and poeticyou know'specially
about the brow'.
'Come girlswe must be goin'if we want to get through today.
You can leave your albums and have them sent when Mrs Bhaer
has written a sentiment in 'em. We are a thousand times obliged.
Give our best love to your maand tell her we are so sorry not to
see her.' words her eye fell upon a middle-aged woman in a large
checked apronwith a handkerchief tied over her headbusily
dusting an end room which looked like a study.
'One peep at her sanctum since she is out' cried the enthusiastic
ladyand swept across the hall with her flock before Teddy could
warn his motherwhose retreat had been cut off by the artist in
frontthe reporter at the back of the house for he hadn't gone
and the ladies in the hall.
'They've got her!' thought Teddyin comical dismay. 'No use for
her to play housemaid since they've seen the portrait.'
Mrs Jo did her bestand being a good actresswould have escaped
if the fatal picture had not betrayed her. Mrs Parmalee paused at
the deskand regardless of the meerschaum that lay therethe
man's slippers close byand a pile of letters directed to 'Prof.
F. Bhaer'she clasped her handsexclaiming impressively: 'Girls
this is the spot where she wrote those sweetthose moral tales
which have thrilled us to the soul! Could I ahcould I take one
morsel of paperan old pena postage stamp evenas a memento
of this gifted woman?'
'Yes'mhelp yourselves' replied the maidmoving away with a
glance at the boywhose eyes were now full of merriment he could
The oldest girl saw itguessed the truthand a quick look at the
woman in the apron confirmed her suspicion. Touching her
mothershe whispered: 'Mait's Mrs Bhaer herself. I know it is.'
'No? yes? it is! WellI do declarehow nice that is!' And hastily
pursuing the unhappy womanwho was making for the doorMrs
Parmalee cried eagerly:
'Don't mind US! I know you're busybut just let me take your hand
and then we'll go.'
Giving herself up for lostMrs Jo turned and presented her hand
like a tea-traysubmitting to have it heartily shakenas the matron
saidwith somewhat alarming hospitality:
'If ever you come to Oshkoshyour feet won't be allowed to touch
the pavement; for you'll be borne in the arms of the populacewe
shall be so dreadful glad to see you.'
Mentally resolving never to visit that effusive townJo responded
as cordially as she could; and having written her name in the
albumsprovided each visitor with a mementoand kissed them all
roundthey at last departedto call on 'LongfellerHolmesand the
rest' who were all outit is devoutly to be hoped.
'You villainwhy didn't you give me a chance to whip away? Oh
my dearwhat fibs you told that man! I hope we shall be forgiven
our sins in this linebut I don't know what is to become of us if we
don't dodge. So many against one isn't fair play.' And Mrs Jo hung
up her apron in the hall closetwith a groan at the trials of her lot.
'More people coming up the avenue! Better dodge while the coast
is clear! I'll head them off!' cried Teddylooking back from the
stepsas he was departing to school.
Mrs Jo flew upstairsand having locked her doorcalmly viewed a
young ladies' seminary camp on the lawnand being denied the
houseproceed to enjoy themselves by picking the flowersdoing
up their haireating lunchand freely expressing their opinion of
the place and its possessors before they went.
A few hours of quiet followedand she was just settling down to a
long afternoon of hard workwhen Rob came home to tell her that
the Young Men's Christian Union would visit the collegeand two
or three of the fellows whom she knew wanted to pay their
respects to her on the way.
'It is going to rainso they won't comeI dare say; but father
thought you'd like to be readyin case they do call. You always see
the boysyou knowthough you harden your heart to the poor
girls' said Robwho had heard from his brother about the morning
'Boys don't gushso I can stand it. The last time I let in a party of
girls one fell into my arms and saidDarling, love me!I wanted
to shake her' answered Mrs Jowiping her pen with energy.
'You may be sure the fellows won't do itbut they will want
autographsso you'd better be prepared with a few dozen' said
Roblaying out a quire of notepaperbeing a hospitable youth and
sympathizing with those who admired his mother.
'They can't outdo the girls. At X College I really believe I wrote
three hundred during the day I was thereand I left a pile of cards
and albums on my table when I came away. It is one of the most
absurd and tiresome manias that ever afflicted the world.'
Nevertheless Mrs Jo wrote her name a dozen timesput on her
black silkand resigned herself to the impending callpraying for
rainhoweveras she returned to her work.
The shower cameand feeling quite secureshe rumpled up her
hairtook off her cuffsand hurried to finish her chapter; for thirty
pages a day was her taskand she liked to have it well done before
evening. Josie had brought some flowers for the vasesand was
just putting the last touches when she saw several umbrellas
bobbing down the hill.
'They are comingAunty! I see uncle hurrying across the field to
receive them' she called at the stair-foot.
'Keep an eye on themand let me know when they enter the
avenue. It will take but a minute to tidy up and run down'
answered Mrs Joscribbling away for dear lifebecause serials
wait for no mannot even the whole Christian Union en masse.
'There are more than two or three. I see half a dozen at least'
called sister Ann from the hall door. 'No! a dozenI do believe;
Auntylook out; they are all coming! What shall we do?' And Josie
quailed at the idea of facing the black throng rapidly approaching.
'Mercy on usthere are hundreds! Run and put a tub in the back
entry for their umbrellas to drip into. Tell them to go down the hall
and leave themand pile their hats on the table; the tree won't hold
them all. No use to get mats; my poor carpets!' And down went
Mrs Jo to prepare for the invasionwhile Josie and the maids flew
about dismayed at the prospect of so many muddy boots.
On they camea long line of umbrellaswith splashed legs and
flushed faces underneath; for the gentlemen had been having a
good time all over the townundisturbed by the rain. Professor
Bhaer met them at the gateand was making a little speech of
welcomewhen Mrs Jotouched by their bedraggled state
appeared at the doorbeckoning them in. Leaving their host to
orate bareheaded in the wetthe young men hastened up the steps
merrywarmand eagerclutching off their hats as they cameand
struggling with their umbrellasas the order was passed to march
in and stack arms.
Tramptramptrampdown the hall went seventy-five pairs of
boots; soon seventy-five umbrellas dripped sociably in the
hospitable tubwhile their owners swarmed all over the lower part
of the house; and seventy-five hearty hands were shaken by the
hostess without a murmurthough some were wetsome very
warmand nearly all bore trophies of the day's ramble. One
impetuous party flourished a small turtle as he made his
compliments; another had a load of sticks cut from noted spots;
and all begged for some memento of Plumfield. A pile of cards
mysteriously appeared on the tablewith a written request for
autographs; and despite her morning vowMrs Jo wrote everyone
while her husband and boys did the honours of the house.
Josie fled to the back parlourbut was discovered by exploring
youthsand mortally insulted by one of themwho innocently
inquired if she was Mrs Bhaer. The reception did not last longand
the end was better than the beginning; for the rain ceasedand a
rainbow shone beautifully over them as the good fellows stood
upon the lawn singing sweetly for a farewell. A happy omenthat
bow of promise arched over the young headsas if Heaven smiled
upon their unionand showed them that above the muddy earth
and rainy skies the blessed sun still shone for all. Three cheersand
then away they wentleaving a pleasant recollection of their visit
to amuse the family as they scraped the mud off the carpets with
shovels and emptied the tub half-full of water.
'Nicehonesthard-working fellowsand I don't begrudge my
half-hour at all; but I must finishso don't let anyone disturb me till
tea-time' said Mrs Joleaving Mary to shut up the house; for papa
and the boys had gone off with the guestsand Josie had run home
to tell her mother about the fun at Aunt Jo's.
Peace reigned for an hourthen the bell rang and Mary came
giggling up to say: 'A queer kind of a lady wants to know if she can
catch a grasshopper in the garden.'
'A what?' cried Mrs Jodropping her pen with a blot; for of all the
odd requests ever madethis was the oddest.
'A grasshopperma'am. I said you was busyand asked what she
wantedand says she: "I've got grasshoppers from the grounds of
several famous folksand I want one from Plumfield to add to my
collection." Did you ever?' And Mary giggled again at the idea.
'Tell her to take all there are and welcome. I shall be glad to get rid
of them; always bouncing in my face and getting in my dress'
laughed Mrs Jo.
Mary retiredto return in a moment nearly speechless with
'She's much obligedma'amand she'd like an old gown or a pair of
stockings of yours to put in a rug she's making. Got a vest of
Emerson'sshe saysand a
piir of MF S!~i~s trousersanJ a dress of Mrs Stowe's. She must be
'Give her that old red shawlthen I shall make a gay show among
the great ones in that astonishing rug. Yesthey are all lunatics
these lion-hunters; but this seems to be a harmless maniacfor she
doesn't take my timeand gives me a good laugh' said Mrs Jo
returning to her work after a glance from the windowwhich
showed her a tallthin lady in rusty blackskipping wildly to and
fro on the lawn in pursuit of the lively insect she wanted.
No more interruptions till the light began to fadethen Mary
popped her head in to say a gentleman wished to see Mrs Bhaer
and wouldn't take no for an answer.
'He must. I shall not go down. This has been an awful dayand I
won't be disturbed again' replied the harassed authoresspausing
in the midst of the grand finale of her chapter.
'I told him soma'am; but he walked right in as bold as brass. I
guess he's another crazy oneand I declare I'm 'most afraid of him
he's so big and blackand cool as cucumbersthough I will say he's
good-looking' added Marywith a simper; for the stranger had
evidently found favour in her sight despite his boldness.
'My day has been ruinedand I will have this last half-hour to
finish. Tell him to go away; I won't go down' cried Mrs Jo
Mary went; and listeningin spite of herselfher mistress heard
first a murmur of voicesthen a cry from Maryand remembering
the ways of reportersalso that her maid was both pretty and timid
Mrs Bhaer flung down her pen and went to the rescue. Descending
with her most majestic air she demanded in an awe-inspiring
voiceas she paused to survey the somewhat brigandish intruder
who seemed to be storming the staircase which Mary was gallantly
'Who is this person who insists on remaining when I have declined
to see him?'
'I'm sure I don't knowma'am. He won't give no nameand says
you'll be sorry if you don't see him' answered Maryretiring
flushed and indignant from her post.
'Won't you be sorry?' asked the strangerlooking up with a pair of
black eyes full of laughterthe flash of white teeth through a long
beardand both hands out as he boldly approached the irate lady.
Mrs Jo gave one keen lookfor the voice was familiar; then
completed Mary's bewilderment by throwing both arms round the
brigand's neckexclaiming joyfully: 'My dearest boywhere did
you come from?'
'Californiaon purpose to see youMother Bhaer. Now won't you
be sorry if I go away?' answered Danwith a hearty kiss.
'To think of my ordering you out of the house when I've been
longing to see you for a year' laughed Mrs Joand she went down
to have a good talk with her returned wandererwho enjoyed the
Chapter 4 DAN
Mrs Jo often thought that Dan had Indian blood in himnot only
because of his love of a wildwandering lifebut his appearance;
for as he grew upthis became more striking. At twenty-five he
was very tallwith sinewy limbsa keendark faceand the alert
look of one whose senses were all alive; rough in mannerfull of
energyquick with word and bloweyes full of the old firealways
watchful as if used to keep guardand a general air of vigour and
freshness very charming to those who knew the dangers and
delights of his adventurous life. He was looking his best as he sat
talking with 'Mother Bhaer'one strong brown hand in hersand a
world of affection in his voice as he said:
'Forget old friends! How could I forget the only home I ever knew?
WhyI was in such a hurry to come and tell my good luck that I
didn't stop to fix upyou see; though I knew you'd think I looked
more like a wild buffalo than ever' with a shake of his shaggy
black heada tug at his beardand a laugh that made the room ring.
'I like it; I always had a fancy for banditti and you look just like
one. Marybeing a newcomerwas frightened at your looks and
manners. Josie won't know youbut Ted will recognize his Danny
in spite of the big beard and flowing mane. They will all be here
soon to welcome you; so before they come tell me more about
yourself. WhyDandear! it's nearly two years since you were
here! Has it gone well with you?' asked Mrs Jowho had been
listening with maternal interest to his account of life in California
and the unexpected success of a small investment he had made.
'First-rate! I don't care for the moneyyou know. I only want a
trifle to pay my way rather earn as I goand not be bothered with
the care of a lot. It's the fun of the thing coming to meand my
being able to give awaythat I like. No use to lay up; I shan't live
to be old and need it my sort never do' said Danlooking as if his
little fortune rather oppressed him.
'But if you marry and settle somewhereas I hope you willyou
must have something to begin withmy son. So be prudent and
invest your money; don't give it awayfor rainy days come to all of
usand dependence would be very hard for you to bear' answered
Mrs Jo with a sage airthough she liked to see that the
money-making fever had not seized her lucky boy yet.
Dan shook his headand glanced about the room as if he already
found it rather confined and longed for all out-of-doors again.
'Who would marry a jack-o'-lantern like me? Women like a
steady-going man; I shall never be that.'
'My dear boywhen I was a girl I liked just such adventurous
fellows as you are. Anything fresh and daringfree and romanticis
always attractive to us womenfolk. Don't be discouraged; you'll
find an anchor some dayand be content to take shorter voyages
and bring home a good cargo.'
'What should you say if I brought you an Indian squaw some day?'
asked Danwith a glimmer of mischief in the eyes that rested on a
marble bust of Galatea gleaming white and lovely in the corner.
'Welcome her heartilyif she was a good one. Is there a prospect of
it?' and Mrs Jo peered at him with the interest which even literary
ladies take in love affairs.
'Not at presentthank you. I'm too busy "to gallivant"as Ted calls
it. How is the boy?' asked Danskilfully turning the conversation
as if he had had enough of sentiment.
Mrs Jo was off at onceand expatiated upon the talents and virtues
of her sons till they came bursting in and fell upon Dan like two
affectionate young bearsfinding a vent for their joyful emotions
in a sort of friendly wrestling-match; in which both got worstedof
coursefor the hunter soon settled them. The Professor followed
and tongues went like mill-clappers while Mary lighted up and
cook devoted herself to an unusually good supperinstinctively
divining that this guest was a welcome one.
After tea Dan was walking up and down the long rooms as he
talkedwith occasional trips into the hall for a fresher breath of air
his lungs seeming to need more than those of civilized people. In
one of these trips he saw a white figure framed in the dark
doorwayand paused to look at it. Bess paused alsonot
recognizing her old friendand quite unconscious of the pretty
picture she made standingtall and slenderagainst the soft gloom
of the summer nightwith her golden hair like a halo round her
headand the ends of a white shawl blown out like wings by the
cool wind sweeping through the hail. 'Is it Dan?' she askedcoming
in with a gracious smile and outstretched hand.
'Looks like it; but I didn't know youPrincess. I thought it was a
spirit' answered Danlooking down at her with a curious softness
and wonder in his face.
'I've grown very muchbut two years have changed you entirely';
and Bess looked up with girlish pleasure at the picturesque figure
before her for it was a
decideci contrast to the well~dressed people about
Before they could say moreJosie rushed inandforgetfull of the
newly acquired dignity of her teenslet Dan catch her up and kiss
her like a child. Not till he set her down did he discover she also
was changedand exclaimed in comic dismay:
'Hallo! Whyyou are growing up too! What am I going to dowith
no young one to play with? Here's Ted going it like a beanstalk
and Bess a young ladyand even youmy mustard-seedletting
down your frocks and putting on airs.'
The girls laughedand Josie blushed as she stared at the tall man
conscious that she had leaped before she looked. They made a
pretty contrastthese two young cousins one as fair as a lilythe
other a little wild rose. And Dan gave a nod of satisfaction as he
surveyed them; for he had seen many bonny girls in his travelsand
was glad that these old friends were blooming so beautifully.
'Here! we can't allow any monopoly of Dan!' called Mrs Jo. 'Bring
him back and keep an eye on himor he will be slipping off for
another little run of a year or two before we have half seen him.'
Led by these agreeable captorsDan returned to the
parlour to receive a scolding from Josie for getting ahead of all the
other boys and looking like a man first.
'Emil is older; but he's only a boyand dances jigs and sings sailor
songs just as he used to. You look about thirtyand as big and
black as a villain in a play. OhI've got a splendid idea! You are
just the thing for Arbaces in The Last Days of Pompeii. We want
to act it; have the lion and the gladiators and the eruption. Tom
and Ted are going to shower bushels of ashes down and roll barrels
of stones about. We wanted a dark man for the Egyptian; and you
will be gorgeous in red and white shawls. Won't heAunt Jo?'
This deluge of words made Dan clap his hands over his ears; and
before Mrs Bhaer could answer her impetuous niece the
Laurenceswith Meg and her familyarrivedsoon followed by
Tom and Nanand all sat down to listen to Dan's adventures told
in brief yet effective manneras the varying expressions of interest
wondermerrimentand suspense painted on the circle of faces
round him plainly showed. The boys all wanted to start at once for
California and make fortunes; the girls could hardly wait for the
curious and pretty things he had picked up for them in his travels;
while the elders rejoiced heartily over the energy and good
prospects of their wild boy.
'Of course you will want to go back for another stroke of luck; and
I hope you will have it. But speculation is a dangerous gameand
you may lose all you've won' said Mr Lauriewho had enjoyed the
stirring tale as much as any of the boysand would have liked to
rough it with Dan as well as they.
'I've had enough of itfor a while at least; too much like gambling.
The excitement is all I care forand it isn't good for me. I have a
notion to try farming out West. It's grand on a large scale; and I
feel as if steady work would be rather jolly after loafing round so
long. I can make a beginningand you can send me your black
sheep to stock my place with. I tried sheep-farming in Australia
and know something about black onesany way.'
A laugh chased away the sober look in Dan's face as he ended; and
those who knew him best guessed that he had learned a lesson
there in San Franciscoand dared not try again.
'That is a capital ideaDan!' cried Mrs Joseeing great hope in this
desire to fix himself somewhere and help others. 'We shall know
where you areand can go and see youand not have half the world
between us. I'll send my Ted for a visit. He's such a restless spirit
it would do him good. With you he would be safe while he worked
off his surplus energies and learned a wholesome business.'
'I'll use the "shubble and de hoe" like a good oneif I get a chance
out there; but the Speranza mines sound rather jollier' said Ted
examining the samples of ore Dan had brought for the Professor.
'You go and start a new townand when we are ready to swarm we
will come out and settle there. You will want a newspaper very
soonand I like the idea of running one myself much better than
grinding away as I do now' observed Demipanting to distinguish
himself in the journalistic line.
'We could easily plant a new college there. These sturdy
Westerners are hungry for learningand very quick to see and
choose the best' added ever-young Mr Marchbeholding with his
prophetic eye many duplicates of their own flourishing
establishment springing up in the wide West.
'Go onDan. It is a fine planand we will back you up. I shouldn't
mind investing in a few prairies and cowboys myself' said Mr
Lauriealways ready to help the lads to help themselvesboth by
his cheery words and ever-open purse.
'A little money sort of ballasts a fellowand investing it in land
anchors him for a whileat least. I'd like to see what I can dobut
I thought I'd consult you before I decided. Have my doubts about it
suiting me for many years; but I can cut loose when I'm tired'
answered Danboth touched and pleased at the eager interest of
these friends in his plans.
'I know you won't like it. After having the whole world to roam
overone farm will seem dreadfully small and stupid' said Josie
who much preferred the romance of the wandering life which
brought her thrilling tales and pretty things at each return.
'Is there any art out there?' asked Bessthinking what a good study
in black and white Dan would make as he stood talkinghalf
turned from the light.
'Plenty of naturedear; and that is better. You will find splendid
animals to modeland scenery such as you never saw in Europe to
paint. Even prosaic pumpkins are grand out there. You can play
Cinderella in one of themJosiewhen you open your theatre in
Dansville' said Mr Laurieanxious that no cold water should be
thrown on the new plan.
Stage-struck Josie was caught at onceand being promised all the
tragic parts on the yet unbuilt stageshe felt a deep interest in the
project and begged Dan to lose no time in beginning his
experiment. Bess also confessed that studies from nature would be
good for herand wild scenery improve her tastewhich might
grow over-nice if only the delicate and beautiful were set before
'I speak for the practice of the new town' said Nanalways eager
for fresh enterprises. 'I shall be ready by the time you get well
started towns grow so fast out there.'
'Dan isn't going to allow any woman under forty in his place. He
doesn't like them'specially young and pretty onesput in Tom
who was raging with jealousybecause he read admiration for Nan
in Dan's eyes.
'That won't affect mebecause doctors are exceptions to all rules.
There won't be much sickness in Dansvilleeveryone will lead
such activewholesome livesand only energetic young people
will go there. But accidents will be frequentowing to wild cattle
fast ridingIndian scrimmagesand the recklessness of Western
life. That will just suit me. I long for broken bonessurgery is so
interesting and I get so little here' answered Nanyearning to put
out her shingle and begin.
'I'll have youDoctorand be glad of such a good sample of what
we can do in the East. Peg awayand I'll send for you as soon as I
have a roof to cover you. I'll scalp a few red fellows or smash up a
dozen or so of cowboys for your special benefit' laughed Dan
well pleased with the energy and fine physique which made Nan a
conspicuous figure among other girls.
'Thanks. I'll come. Would you just let me feel your arm? Splendid
biceps! Nowboyssee here: this is what I call muscle.' And Nan
delivered a short lecture with Dan's sinewy arm to illustrate it.
Tom retired to the alcove and glowered at the starswhile he
swung his own right arm with a vigour suggestive of knocking
'Make Tom sexton; he'll enjoy burying the patients Nan kills. He's
trying to get up the glum expression proper to the business. Don't
forget himDan' said Teddirecting attention to the blighted being
in the corner.
But Tom never sulked longand came out from his brief eclipse
with the cheerful proposition:
'Look herewe'll get the city to ship out to Dansville all the cases
of yellow feversmallpoxand cholera that arrive; then Nan will
be happy and her mistakes won't matter much with emigrants and
'I should advise settling near Jacksonvilleor some such citythat
you might enjoy the society of cultivated persons. The Plato Club
is thereand a most ardent thirst for philosophy. Everything from
the East is welcomed hospitablyand new enterprises would
flourish in such kindly soil' observed Mr Marchmildly offering a
suggestionas he sat among the elders enjoying the lively scene.
The idea of Dan studying Plato was very funny; but no one except
naughty Ted smiledand Dan made haste to unfold another plan
seething in that active brain of his.
'I'm not sure the farming will succeedand have a strong leaning
towards my old friends the Montana Indians. They are a peaceful
tribeand need help awfully; hundreds have died of starvation
because they don't get their share. The Sioux are fightersthirty
thousand strongso Government fears 'emand gives 'em all they
want. I call that a damned shame!' Dan stopped short as the oath
slipped outbut his eyes flashedand he went on quickly: 'It is just
thatand I won't beg pardon. If I'd had any money when I was there
I'd have given every cent to those poor devilscheated out of
everythingand waiting patientlyafter being driven from their
own land to places where nothing will grow. Nowhonest agents
could do muchand I've a feeling that I ought to go and lend a
hand. I know their lingoand I like 'em. I've got a few thousands
and I ain't sure I have any right to spend it on myself and settle
down to enjoy it. Hey?'
Dan looked very manly and earnest as he faced his friendsflushed
and excited by the energy of his words; and all felt that little thrill
of sympathy which links hearts together by the tie of pity for the
'Do itdo it!' cried Mrs Jofired at once; for misfortune was much
more interesting to her than good luck.
'Do itdo it!' echoed Tedapplauding as if at a play'and take me
along to help. I'm just raging to get among those fine fellows and
'Let us hear more and see if it is wise' said Mr Laurieprivately
resolving to people his as yet unbought prairies with Montana
Indiansand increase his donations to the society that sent
missionaries to this much wronged people.
Dan plunged at once into the history of what he saw among the
Dakotasand other tribes in the Northwesttelling of their wrongs
patienceand courage as if they were his brothers.
'They called me Dan Fire Cloudbecause my rifle was the best
they ever saw. And Black Hawk was as good a friend as a fellow
would want; saved my life more than onceand taught me just
what will be useful if I go back. They are down on their lucknow
and I'd like to pay my debts.'
By this time everyone was interestedand Dansville began to lose
its charm. But prudent Mr Bhaer suggested that one honest agent
among many could not do muchand noble as the effort would be
it was wiser to think over the matter carefullyget influence and
authority from the right quartersand meantime look at lands
'WellI will. I'm going to take a run to Kansas and see how that
promises. Met a fellow in 'Frisco who'd been thereand he spoke
well of it. The fact isthere's so much to be done every where that I
don't know where to catch onand half wish I hadn't any money'
answered Danknitting his brows in the perplexity all kind souls
feel when anxious to help at the great task of the world's charity.
'I'll keep it for you till you decide. You are such an impetuous lad
you'll give it to the first beggar that gets hold of you. I'll turn it
over while you are prospectingand hand it back when you are
ready to investshall I?' asked Mr Lauriewho had learned wisdom
since the days of his own extravagant youth.
'ThankysirI'd be glad to get rid of it. You just hold on till I say
the word; and if anything happens to me this timekeep it to help
some other scamp as you helped me. This is my willand you all
witness it. Now I feel better.' And Dan squared his shoulders as if
relieved of a burdenafter handing over the belt in which he
carried his little fortune.
No one dreamed how much was to happen before Dan came to
take his money backnor how nearly that act was his last will and
testament; and while Mr Laurie was explaining how he would
invest ita cheery voice was heard singing:
'OhPeggy was a jolly lass
Ye heave hoboysye heave ho!
She never grudged her Jack a glass
Ye heave hoboysye heave ho!
And when he sailed the raging main
She faithful was unto her swain
Ye heave hoboyshe yeave ho!'
Emil always announced his arrival in that fashionand in a
moment he came hurrying in with Natwho had been giving
lessons in town all day. It was good to see the latter beam at his
friend as he nearly shook his hand off; better still to see how Dan
gratefully remembered all he owed Natand tried to pay the debt
in his rough way; and best of all to hear the two travellers compare
notes and reel off yarns to dazzle the land-lubbers and
After this addition the house would not contain the gay youngsters
so they migrated to the piazza and settled on the stepslike a flock
of night-loving birds. Mr March and the Professor retired to the
studyMeg and Amy went to look after the little refection of fruit
and cake which was to comeand Mrs Jo and Mr Laurie sat in the
long window listening to the chat that went on outside.
'There they arethe flower of our flock!' she saidpointing to the
group before them. 'The others are dead or scatteredbut these
seven boys and four girls are my especial comfort and pride.
Counting Alice Heathmy dozen is made upand my hands are full
trying to guide these young lives as far as human skill can do it.'
'When we remember how different they arefrom what some of
them cameand the home influences about othersI think we may
feel pretty wellsatisfied so far' answered Mr Laurie soberlyas his
eyes rested on one bright head among the black and brown ones
for the young moon shone alike on all.
'I don't worry about the girls; Meg sees to themand is so wise and
patient and tender they can't help doing well; but my boys are more
care every yearand seem to drift farther away from me each time
they go' sighed Mrs Jo. 'They will grow upand I can only hold
them by one little threadwhich may snap at any timeas it has
with Jack and Ned. Dolly and George still like to come backand I
can say my word to them; and dear old Franz is too true ever to
forget his own. But the three who are soon going out into the world
again I can't help worrying about. Emil's good heart will keep him
straightI hopeand A sweet little cherub sits up aloft
To look out for the life of poor Jack.
Nat is to make his first flightand he's weak in spite of your
strengthening influence; and Dan is still untamed. I fear it will take
some hard lesson to do that.'
'He's a fine fellowJoand I almost regret this farming project. A
little polish would make a gentleman of himand who knows what
he might become here among us' answered Mr Laurieleaning
over Mrs Bhaer's chairjust as he used to do years ago when they
had mischievous secrets together. 'It wouldn't be safeTeddy.
Work and the free life he loves will make a good man of himand
that is better than any amount of polishwith the dangers an easy
life in a city would bring him. We can't change his nature only
help it to develop in the right direction. The old impulses are there
and must be controlledor he will go wrong. I see that; but his love
for us is a safeguardand we must keep a hold on him till he is
older or has a stronger tie to help him.'
Mrs Jo spoke earnestlyforknowing Dan better than anyone else
she saw that her colt was not thoroughly broken yetand feared
while she hopedknowing that life would always be hard for one
like him. She was sure that before he went away againin some
quiet moment he would give her a glimpse of his inner selfand
then she could say the word of warning or encouragement that he
needed. So she bided her timestudying him meanwhileglad to
see all that was promisingand quick to detect the harm the world
was doing him. She was very anxious to make a success of her
'firebrand' because others predicted failure; but having learned that
people cannot be moulded like clayshe contented herself with the
hope that this neglected boy might become a good manand asked
no more. Even that was much to expectso full was he of wayward
impulsesstrong passionsand the lawless nature born in him.
Nothing held him but the one affection of his life the memory of
Plumfieldthe fear of disappointing these faithful friendsthe
pridestronger than principlethat made him want to keep the
regard of the mates who always had admired and loved him in
spite of all his faults.
'Don't fretold dear; Emil is one of the happy-go- lucky sort who
always fall on their legs. I'll see to Natand Dan is in a good way
now. Let him take a look at Kansasand if the farm plan loses its
charmhe can fall back on poor Loand really do good out there.
He's unusually fitted for that peculiar task and I hope he'll decide
to do it. Fighting oppressorsand befriending the oppressed will
keep those dangerous energies of his busyand the life will suit
him better than sheep-folds and wheat-fields.'
'I hope so. What is that?' and Mrs Jo leaned forward to listenas
exclamations from Ted and Josie caught her ear.
'A mustang! a reallive one; and we can ride it. Danyou are a
first-class trump!' cried the boy.
'A whole Indian dress for me! Now I can play Namiokaif the boys
act Metamora' added Josieclapping her hands.
'A buffalo's head for Bess! Good graciousDanwhy did you bring
such a horrid thing as that to her?' asked Nan.
'Thought it would do her good to model something strong and
natural. She'll never amount to anything if she keeps on making
namby-pamby gods and pet kittens' answered irreverent Dan
remembering that when he was last here Bess was vibrating
distractedly between a head of Apollo and her Persian cat as
'Thank you; I'll try itand if I fail we can put the buffalo up in the
hail to remind us of you' said Bessindignant at the insult offered
the gods of her idolatrybut too well bred to show it except in her
voicewhich was as sweet and as cold as ice-cream.
'I suppose you won't come out to see our new settlement when the
rest do? Too rough for you?' asked Dantrying to assume the
deferential air all the boys used when addressing their Princess.
'I am going to Rome to study for years. All the beauty and art of
the world is thereand a lifetime isn't long enough to enjoy it'
'Rome is a mouldy old tomb compared to the "Garden of the gods"
and my magnificent Rockies. I don't care a hang for art; nature is
as much as I can standand I guess I could show you things that
would knock your old masters higher than kites. Better comeand
while Josie rides the horses you can model 'em. If a drove of a
hundred or so of wild ones can't show you beautyI'll give up'
cried Danwaxing enthusiastic over the wild grace and vigour
which he could enjoy but had rio power to describe.
'I'll come some day with papaand see if they are better than the
horses of St Mark and those on Capitol Hill. Please don't abuse my
godsand I will try to like yours' said Bessbeginning to think the
West might be worth seeingthough no Raphael or Angelo had yet
'That's a bargain! I do think people ought to see their own country
before they go scooting off to foreign partsas if the new world
wasn't worth discovering' began Danready to bury the hatchet.
'It has some advantagesbut not all. The women of England can
voteand we can't. I'm ashamed of America that she isn't ahead in
all good things' cried Nanwho held advanced views on all
reformsand was anxious about her rightshaving had to fight for
some of them.
'Ohplease don't begin on that. People always quar
rei over that questionand call namesand never agree. Do let us
be quiet and happy tonight' pleaded Daisywho hated discussion
as much as Nan loved
'You shall vote as much as you like in our new townNan; be
mayor and aldermenand run the whole concern. It's going to be as
free-as airor I can't live in it' said Danaddingwith a laugh'I see
Mrs Giddygaddy and Mrs Shakespeare Smith don't agree any
better than they used to.'
'If everyone agreedwe should never get on. Daisy is a dearbut
inclined to be an old fogy; so I stir her up; and next fall she will go
and vote with me. Demi will escort us to do the one thing we are
allowed to do as yet.'
'Will you take 'emDeacon?' asked Danusing the old name as if
he liked it. 'It works capitally in Wyoming.'
'I shall be proud to do it. Mother and the aunts go every yearand
Daisy will come with me. She is my better half still; and I don't
mean to leave her behind in anything' said Demiwith an arm
round his sister of whom he was fonder than ever.
Dan looked at them wistfullythinking how sweet it must be to
have such a tie; and his lonely youth seemed sadder than ever as he
recalled its struggles. A gusty sigh from Tom made sentiment
impossibleas he said pensively:
'I always wanted to be a twin. It's so sociable and so cosy to have
someone glad to lean on a fellow and comfort himif other girls
As Tom's unrequited passion was the standing joke of the family
this allusion produced a laughwhich Nan increased by whipping
out a bottle of Nuxsayingwith her professional air:
'I knew you ate too much lobster for tea. Take four pelletsand
your dyspepsia will be all right. Tom always sighs and is silly
when he's overeaten.'
'I'll take 'em. These are the only sweet things you ever give me.'
And Tom gloomily crunched his dose.
'"Who can minister to a mind diseasedor pluck out a rooted
sorrow?" quoted Josie tragically from her perch on the railing.
'Come with meTommyand I'll make a man of you. Drop your
pills and powdersand cavort round the world a spelland you'll
soon forget you've got a heartor a stomach either' said Dan
offering his one panacea for all ills.
'Ship with meTom. A good fit of seasickness will set you upand
a stiff north-easter blow your blue-devils away. Come along as
surgeon easy berthand no end of larks.'
'And if your Nancy frownsmy lad
And scorns a jacket blue
Just hoist your sails for other ports
And find a maid more true.' added Emilwho had a fragment of
song to cheer
every care and sorrowand freely offered them to his friends.
'Perhaps I'll think of it when I've got my diploma. I'm not going to
grind three mortal years and have nothing to show for it. Till then '
'I'll never desert Mrs Micawber' interrupted Teddywith a gurgling
sob. Tom immediately rolled him off the step into the wet grass
below; and by the time this slight skirmish was overthe jingle of
teaspoons suggested refreshments of a more agreeable sort. In
former times the little girls waited on the boysto save confusion;
now the young men flew to serve the ladiesyoung and old; and
that slight fact showed plainly how the tables were turned by time.
And what a pleasant arrangement it was! Even Josie sat stilland
let Emil bring her berries; enjoying her young lady-hoodtill Ted
stole her cakewhen she forgot mannersand chastised him with a
rap on the knuckles. As guest of honourDan was only allowed to
wait on Besswho still held the highest place in this small world.
Tom carefully selected the best of everything for Nanto be
crushed by the remark:
'I never eat at this hour; and you will have a nightmare if you do.'
Sodutifully curbing the pangs of hungerhe gave the plate to
Daisyand chewed rose-leaves for his supper.
When a surprising quantity of wholesome nourishment had been
consumedsomeone said'Let's sing!' and a tuneful hour followed.
Nat fiddledDemi pipedDan strummed the old banjoand Emil
warbled a doleful ballad about the wreck of the Bounding Betsey;
then everybody joined in the old songs till there was very
decidedly 'music in the air'; and passers-by saidas they listened
smiling: 'Old Plum is gay tonight!'
When all had gone Dan lingered on the piazzaenjoying the balmy
wind that blew up from the hayfieldsand brought the breath of
flowers from Parnas
78 JO'S BOYS
sus; and as he leaned there romantically in the moonlightMrs Jo
came to shut the door.
'Dreaming dreamsDan?' she askedthinking the tender moment
might have come. Imagine the shock wheninstead of some
interesting confidence or affectionate wordDan swung round
'I was wishing I could smoke.'
Mrs Jo laughed at the downfall of her hopesand answered kindly:
'You mayin your room; but don't set the house afire.'
Perhaps Dan saw a little disappointment in her faceor the
memory of the sequel of that boyish frolic touched his heart; for he
stooped and kissed hersaying in a whisper: 'Good nightmother.'
And Mrs Jo was half satisfied.
Chapter 5 VACATION
Everyone was glad of a holiday next morningand all lingered over
the breakfast-tabletill Mrs Jo suddenly exclaimed:
'Whythere's a dog!' And on the threshold of the door appeared a
great deer-houndstanding motionlesswi' his eyes fixed on Dan.
'Halloold boy! Couldn't you wait till I came for you? Have you cut
away on the sly? Own up nowand take your whipping like a man'
said Danrising to meet the dogwho reared on his hind legs to
look his master in the face and bark as if uttering an indignant
denial of any disobedience.
'All right; Don never lies.' And Dan gave the tall beast a hug
adding as he glanced out of the windowwhere a man and horse
were seen approaching:
'I left my plunder at the hotel over nightnot knowing how I should
find you. Come out and see Octoomy mustang; she's a beauty.'
And Dan was offwith the family streaming after himto welcome
They found her preparing to go up the steps in her eagerness to
reach her masterto the great dismay of the manwho was holding
'Let her come' called Dan; 'she climbs like a cat and jumps like a
deer. Wellmy girldo you want a gallop?' he askedas the pretty
creature clattered up to him and whinnied with pleasure as he
rubbed her nose and slapped her glossy flank.
'That's what I call a horse worth having' said Tedfull of
admiration and delight; for he was to have the care of her during
'What intelligent eyes! She looks as if she would speak' said Mrs
'She talks like a human in her way. Very little that she don't know.
Heyold Lass?' and Dan laid his cheek to hers as if the little black
mare was very dear to him.
'What does "Octoo" mean?' asked Rob.
'Lightning; she deserves itas you'll see. Black Hawk gave her to
me for my rifleand we've had high times together out yonder.
She's saved my life more than once. Do you see that scar?'
Dan pointed to a small onehalf hidden by the long mane; and
standing with his arm about Octoo's neckhe told the story of it.
'Black Hawk and I were after buffalo one timebut didn't find 'em
as soon as we expected; so our food gave outand there we were a
hundred miles from Red Deer Riverwhere our camp was. I
thought we were done forbut my brave pal says: "Now I'll show
you how we can live till we find the herds." We were unsaddling
for the night by a little pond; there wasn't a living creature in sight
anywherenot even a birdand we could see for miles over the
prairies. What do you think we did?' And Dan looked into the faces
'Ate worms like the Australian fellows' said Rob. 'Boiled grass or
leaves' added Mrs Jo.
'Perhaps filled the stomach with clayas we read of savages doing?'
suggested Mr Bhaer.
'Killed one of the horses' cried Tedeager for bloodshed of some
'No; but we bled one of them. Seejust here; filled a tin cupput
some wild sage leaves in itwith waterand heated it over a fire of
sticks. It was goodand we slept well.'
'I guess Octoo didn't.' And Josie patted the animalwith a face full
'Never minded it a bit. Black Hawk said we could live on the
horses several days and still travel before they felt it. But by
another morning we found the buffaloand I shot the one whose
head is in my boxready to hang up and scare brats into fits. He's a
fierce old fellowyou bet.'
'What is this strap for?' asked Tedwho was busily examining the
Indian saddlethe single rein and snafflewith lariatand round the
neck the leather band he spoke of.
'We hold on to that when we lie along the horse's flank farthest
from the enemyand fire under the neck as we gallop round and
round. I'll show you.' And springing into the saddleDan was off
down the stepstearing over the lawn at a great pacesometimes
on Octoo's backsometimes half hidden as he hung by stirrup and
strapand sometimes off altogetherrunning beside her as she
loped alongenjoying the fun immensely; while Don raced afterin
a canine rapture at being free again and with his mates.
It was a fine sight the three wild things at playso full of vigour
graceand freedomthat for the moment the smooth lawn seemed
a prairie; and the spectators felt as if this glimpse of another life
made their own seem rather tame and colourless.
'This is better than a circus!' cried Mrs Jowishing she were a girl
againthat she might take a gallop on this chained lightning of a
horse. 'I foresee that Nan will have her hands full setting bonesfor
Ted will break every one of his trying to rival Dan.'
'A few falls will not harmand this new care and pleasure will be
good for him in all ways. But I fear Dan will never follow a plough
after riding a Pegasus like that' answered Mr Bhaeras the black
mare leaped the gate and came flying up the avenueto stop at a
word and stand quivering with excitementwhile Dan swung
himself off and looked up for applause.
He received plenty of itand seemed more pleased for his pet's
sake than for his own. Ted clamoured for a lesson at onceand was
soon at ease in the queer saddlefinding Octoo gentle as a lambas
he trotted away to show off at college. Bess came hastening down
the hillhaving seen the race from afar; and all collected on the
piazza while Dan 'yanked' the cover off the big box the express had
'dumped' before the door to borrow his own words.
Dan usually travelled in light marching orderand hated to have
more luggage than he could carry in his well-worn valise. But now
that he had a little money of his ownhe had cumbered himself
with a collection of trophies won by his bow and spearand
brought them home to bestow upon his friends.
'We shall be devoured with moths' thought Mrs Joas the shaggy
head appearedfollowed by a wolf-skin rug for her feeta
bear-skin ditto for the Professor's studyand Indian garments
bedecked with foxes' tails for the boys.
All nice and warm for a July daybut received with delight
nevertheless. Ted and Josie immediately 'dressed up'learned the
war-whoopand proceeded to astonish their friends by a series of
skirmishes about the house and groundswith tomahawks and
bows and arrowstill weariness produced a lull.
Gay birds' wingsplumy pampas grassstrings of wampumand
pretty work in beadsbarkand featherspleased the girls.
Mineralsarrow-headsand crude sketches interested the
Professor; and when the box was emptyDan gave Mr Laurieas
his giftseveral plaintive Indian songs written on birch-bark.
'We only want a tent over us to be quite perfect. I feel as if I ought
to give you parched corn and dried meat for dinnermy braves.
Nobody will want lamb and green peas after this splendid
pow-wow' said Mrs Josurveying the picturesque confusion of the
long hallwhere people lay about on the rugsall more or less
bedecked with feathersmoccasinsor beads.
'Moose nosesbuffalo tonguesbear steaksand roasted
marrow-bones would be the thingbut I don't mind a change; so
bring on your baa-baa and green meat' answered Dan from the
boxwhere he sat in state like a chief among his tribewith the
great hound at his feet.
The girls began to clear upbut made little headway; for
everything they touched had a storyand all were thrilling
comicalor wild; so they found it hard to settle to their worktill
Dan was carried off by Mr Laurie.
This was the beginning of the summer holidayand it was curious
to see what a pleasant little stir Dan's and Emil's coming made in
the quiet life of the studious community; for they seemed to bring
a fresh breeze with them that enlivened everyone. Many of the
collegians remained during vacation; and Plumfield and Parnassus
did their best to make these days pleasant for themsince most
came from distant Stateswere poorand had few opportunities but
this for culture or amusement. Emil was hail-fellow-well-met with
men and maidsand went rollicking about in true sailor fashion;
but Dan stood rather in awe of the 'fair girl-graduates'and was
silent when among themeyeing them as an eagle might a flock of
doves. He got on better with the young menand was their hero at
once. Their admiration for his manly accomplishments did him
good; because he felt his educational defects keenlyadd often
wondered if he could find anything in books to satisfy him as
thoroughly as did the lessons he was learning from Nature's
splendidly illustrated volume. In spite of his silencethe girls
found out his good qualitiesand regarded 'the Spaniard'as they
named himwith great favour; for his black eyes were more
eloquent than his tongueand the kind creatures tried to show their
friendly interests in many charming ways.
He saw thisand endeavoured to be worthy of it curbing his free
speechtoning down his rough mannersand watching the effect of
all he said and didanxious to make a good impression. The social
atmosphere warmed his lonely heartthe culture excited him to do
his bestand the changes which had taken place during his
absenceboth in himself and othersmade the old home seem like
a new world. After the life in Californiait was sweet and restful to
be herewith these familiar faces round himhelping him to forget
much that he regrettedand to resolve to deserve more entirely the
confidence of these good fellowsthe respect of these innocent
So there was ridingrowingand picnicking by daymusic
dancingand plays by night; and everyone said there had not been
so gay a vacation for years. Bess kept her promiseand let the dust
gather on her beloved clay while she went pleasuring with her
mates or studied music with her fatherwho rejoiced over the fresh
roses in her cheeks and the laughter which chased away the
dreamy look she used to wear. Josie quarrelled less with Ted; for
Dan had a way of looking at her which quelled her instantlyand
had almost as good an effect upon her rebellious cousin. But Octoo
did even more for the lively youthwho found that her charms
entirely eclipsed those of the bicycle which had been his heart's
delight before. Early and late he rode this untiring beastand began
to gain flesh to the great joy of his motherwho feared that her
beanstalk was growing too fast for health.
Demifinding business dullsolaced his leisure by
rhobo~fhhuhi ~)i1Jtil1~J j~ ~Ull1~ 1II~llC[ III ~1t 011
stand to himproducing some excellent pictures among many
failures; for he had a pretty taste in groupingand endless patience.
He might be said to view the world through the lens of his camera
and seemed to enjoy himself very much squinting at his fellow
beings from under a bit of black cambric. Dan was a treasure to
him; for he took welland willingly posed in his Mexican costume
with horse and houndand all wanted copies of these effective
photographs. Bessalsowas a favourite sitter; and Demi received
a prize at the Amateur Photographic Exhibition for one of his
cousin with all her hair about her facewhich rose from the cloud
of white lace draping the shoulders. These were freely handed
round by the proud artist; and one copy had a tender little history
yet to be told.
Nat was snatching every minute he could get with Daisy before the
long parting; and Mrs Meg relented somewhatfeeling sure that
absence would quite cure this unfortunate fancy. Daisy said little;
but her gentle face was sad when she was aloneand a few quiet
tears dropped on the handkerchiefs she marked so daintily with her
Own hair. She was sure Nat would not forget her; and life looked
rather forlorn without the dear fellow who had been her friend
since the days of patty-pans and confidences in the willow-tree.
She was an old-fashioned daughterdutiful and docilewith such
love and reverence for her mother that her will was law; and if
love was forbiddenfriendship must suffice. So she kept her little
sorrow to herselfsmiled cheerfully at Natand made his last days
of home-life very happy with every comfort and pleasure she could
givefrom sensible advice and sweet words to a well-filled
work-bag for his bachelor establishment and a box of goodies for
Tom and Nan took all the time they could spare from their studies
to enjoy high jinks at Plumfield with their old friends; for Emil's
next voyage was to be a long oneNat's absence was uncertainand
no one ever knew when Dan would turn up again. They all seemed
to feel that life was beginning to grow serious; and even while they
enjoyed those lovely summer days together they were conscious
that they were children no longerand often in the pauses of their
fun talked soberly of their plans and hopesas if anxious to know
and help one another before they drifted farther apart on their
A few weeks were all they had; then the Brenda was readyNat
was to sail from New Yorkand Dan went along to see him off; for
his own plans fermented in his headand he was eager to be up
and doing. A farewell dance was given on Parnassus in honour of
the travellersand all turned out in their best array and gayest
spirits. George and Dolly came with the latest Harvard airs and
gracesradiant to beholdin dresssuits and 'crushed hats'as Josie
called the especial pride and joy of their boyish souls. Jack and
Ned sent regrets and best wishesand no one mourned their
absence; for they were among what Mrs Jo called her failures.
Poor Tom got into troubleas usualby deluging his head with
some highly scented preparation in the vain hope of making his
tight curls lie flat and smoothas was the style. Unhappilyhis
rebellious crop only kinked the closerand the odour of many
barbers' shops clung to him in spite of his frantic efforts to banish
it. Nan wouldn't allow him near herand flapped her fan
vigorously whenever he was in sight; which cut him to the heart
and made him feel like the Pen shut out from Paradise. Of course
his mates jeered at himand nothing but the unquenchable jollity
of his nature kept him from despair.
Emil was resplendent in his new uniformand danced with an
abandon which only sailors know. His pumps seemed to be
everywhereand his partners soon lost breath trying to keep up
with him; but the girls all declared he steered like an angeland in
spite of his pace no collisions took place; so he was happyand
found no lack of damsels to ship with him.
Having no dress-suitDan had been coaxed to wear his Mexican
costumeand feeling at ease in the many-buttoned trousersloose
jacketand gay sashflung his serape over his shoulder with a
flourish and looked his bestdoing great execution with his long
spursas he taught Josie strange steps or rolled his black eyes
admiringly after certain blonde damsels whom he dared not
The mammas sat in the alcovesupplying pinssmilesand kindly
words to allespecially the awkward youths new to such scenes
and the bashful girls conscious of faded muslins and cleaned
gloves. It was pleasant to see stately Mrs Amy promenade on the
arm of a tall country boywith thick boots and a big foreheador
Mrs Jo dance like a girl with a shy fellow whose arms went like
pump-handlesand whose face was scarlet with confusion and
pride at the honour of treading on the toes of the president's wife.
Mrs Meg always had room on her sofa for two or three girlsand
Mr Laurie devoted himself to these plainpoorly dressed damsels
with a kindly grace that won their hearts and made them happy.
The good Professor circulated like refreshmentsand his cheerful
face shone on all alikewhile Mr March discussed Greek comedy
in the study with such serious gentlemen as never unbent their
mighty minds to frivolous joys.
The long music-roomparlourhalland piazza were full of
white-gowned maidens with attendant shadows; the air was full of
lively voicesand hearts and feet went lightly together as the home
band played vigor- ouslyand the friendly moon did her best to add
enchantment to the scene.
'Pin me upMeg; that dear Dunbar boy has nearly rent me "in
sunder"as Mr Peggotty would say. But didn't he enjoy himself
bumping against his fellow men and swinging me round like a
mop. On these occasions I find that I'm not as young as I wasnor
as light of foot. In ten years more we shall be meal-bagssister; so
be resigned.' And Mrs Jo subsided into a cornermuch dishevelled
by her benevolent exertions.
'I know I shall be stout; but you won't keep still long enough to get
much flesh on your bonesdear; and Amy will always keep her
lovely figure. She looks about eighteen tonightin her white gown
and roses' answered Megbusily pinning up one sister's torn frills
while her eyes fondly followed the other's graceful movements; for
Meg still adored Amy in the old fashion.
It was one of the family jokes that Jo was getting fatand she kept
it upthough as yet she had only acquired a matronly outline
which was very becoming. They were laughing over the impending
double chinswhen Mr Laurie came off duty for a moment.
'Repairing damages as usualJo? You never could take a little
gentle exercise without returning in rags. Come and have a quiet
stroll with me and cool off before supper. I've a series of pretty
tableaux to show you while Meg listens to the raptures of lisping
Miss Carrwhom I made happy by giving her Demi for a partner.'
As he spokeLaurie led Jo to the music-roomnearly empty now
after a dance which sent the young people into garden and hail.
Pausing before the first of the four long windows that opened on a
very wide piazzahe pointed to a group outsidesaying: 'The name
of this is "Jack Ashore".'
A pair of longblue legsending in very neat pumpshung from the
veranda roof among the vines; and rosesgathered by unseen
handsevidently appertaining to aforesaid legswere being
dropped into the laps of several girls perched like a flock of white
birds on the railing below; while a manly voice 'fell like a falling
star'as it sung this pensive ditty to a most appreciative audience:
'The moon had climbed the eastern hill
Which rises o'er the sands of Dee
And from its highest summit shed
A silver light on tower and tree
When Mary laid her down to sleep
(Her thoughts on Sandy far at sea);
When soft and low a voice was heard
SayingMary, weep no more for me.
'She from her pillow gently raised
Her headto see who there might be
And saw young Sandyshivering stand With visage pale and
Oh Mary dear, cold is my clay;
It lies beneath the stormy sea;
Far,far from thee, I sleep in death.
Dear Mary, weep no more for me.
Three stormy nights and stormy days We tossed upon the raging
main. And long we strove our bark to save; But all our striving was
E'en thenwhen terror chilled my bloodMy heart was filled with
love of thee.
The storm is pastandJ'm at rest;
SoMaryweep no more for me.
Oh maiden dear, yourself prepare;
We soon shall meet upon that shore
Where love is free from doubt and care, And you and I shall part
Loud crew the cockthe shadow fled;
No more her Sandy did she see;
But soft the passing spirit said
Sweet Mary, weep no more for me.
'The constant jollity of that boy is worth a fortune to him. He'll
never sink with such a buoyant spirit to keep him afloat through
life' said Mrs Joas the roses were tossed back with much
applause when the song ˆrided.
'Not he; and it's a blessing to be grateful forisn't it? We moody
people know its worth. Glad you like my first tableau. Come and
see number two. Hope it isn't spoilt; it was very pretty just now.
This is "Othello telling his adventures to Desdemona".'
The second window framed a very picturesque group of three. Mr
March in an arm-chairwith Bess on a cushion at his feetwas
listening to Danwholeaning against a pillarwas talking with
unusual animation. The old man was in shadowbut little
Desdemona was looking up with the moonlight full upon her into
young Othello's facequite absorbed in the story he was telling so
well. The gay drapery over Dan's shoul derhis dark colouringand
the gesture of his arm made the picture very strikingand both
spectators enjoyed it with silent pleasuretill Mrs Jo said in a
'I'm glad he's going away. He's too picturesque to have here among
so many romantic girls. Afraid his "grandgloomyand peculiar"
style will be too much for our simple maids.'
'No danger; Dan is in the rough as yetand always will beI fancy;
though he is improving in many ways. How well Queenie looks in
that soft light!'
'Dear little Goldilocks looks well everywhere.' And
with a backward glance full of pride and fondnessMrs Jo went
on. But that scene returned to her long afterward and her own
prophetic words also.
Number three was a tragical tableau at first sight; and Mr Laurie
stifled a laugh as he whispered 'The Wounded Knight'pointing to
Tom with his head enveloped in a large handkerchiefas he knelt
before Nanwho was extracting a thorn or splinter from the palm
of his hand with great skillto judge from the patient's blissful
expression of countenance.
'Do I hurt you?' she askedturning the hand to the moonlight for a
'Not a bit; dig away; I like it' answered Tomregardless of his
aching knees and the damage done to his best trousers.
'I won't keep you long.'
'Hoursif you please. Never so happy as here.'
Quite unmoved by this tender remarkNan put on a pair of large
round-eyed glassessaying in a matterof-fact tone: 'Now I see it.
Only a splinterand there it 'My hand is bleeding; won't you bind-it
up?' asked Tomwishing to prolong the situation.
'Nonsense; suck it. Only take care of it tomorrow if you dissect.
Don't want any more blood-poisoning.'
'That was the only time you were kind to me. Wish I'd lost my
'I wish you'd lost your head; it smells more like turpentine and
kerosene than ever. Do take a run in the garden and air it.'
Fearing to betray themselves by laughterthe watchers went on
leaving the Knight to rush away in despairand the Lady to bury
her nose in the cup of a tall lily for refreshment.
'Poor Tomhis fate is a hard oneand he's wasting his time! Do
advise him to quit philandering and go to workJo.'
'I haveTeddyoften; but it will take some great shock to make
that boy wise. I wait with interest to see what it will be. Bless me!
what is all this?'
She might well ask; for on a rustic stool stood Ted trying to pose
on one footwith the other extendedand both hands waving in the
air. Josiewith several young mateswas watching his contortions
with deep interest as they talked about 'little wings''gilded wire
twisted'and a 'cunning skull-cap'.
'This might be called "Mercury Trying to Fly"' said Mr Laurieas
they peeped through the lace curtains.
'Bless the long legs of that boy! how does he expect to manage
them? They are planning for the Owlsdark Marblesand a nice
muddle they will make of my gods and goddesses with no one to
show them how' answered Mrs Joenjoying this scene immensely.
'Nowhe's got it!' 'That's perfectly splendid!' 'See how long you can
keep so!' cried the girlsas Ted managed to maintain his
equilibrium a moment by resting one toe on the trellis.
Unfortunately this brought all his weight on the other foot; the
straw seat of the stool gave wayand the flying Mercury came
down with a crashamid shrieks of laughter from the girls. Being
accustomed to ground and lofty tumblinghe quickly recovered
himselfand hopped gaily aboutwith one leg through the stool as
he improvised a classic jig.
'Thanks for four nice little pictures. You have given me an idea
and I think some time we will get up regular tableaux of this sort
and march our company round a set of dissolving views. New and
striking; I'll propose it to our manager and give you all the glory'
said Mrs Joas they strolled towards the room whence came the
clash of glass and chinaand glimpses of agitated black coats.
Let us follow the example of our old friends and stroll about
among the young peopleeavesdroppingso gathering up various
little threads to help in the weaving of the story. George and Dolly
were at supperand having served the ladies in their care stood in a
corner absorbing nourishment of all kinds with a vain attempt to
conceal hearty appetites under an air of elegant indifference.
'Good spreadthis; Laurence does things in style. First-rate coffee
but no wineand that's a mistake' said Stuffywho still deserved
his nameand was a stout youth with a heavy eye and bilious
'Bad for boyshe says. Jove! wish he could see us at some of our
wines. Don't we just "splice the main- brace" as Emil says'
answered Dollythe dandycarefully spreading a napkin over the
glossy expanse of shirt-front whereon a diamond stud shone like a
lone star. His stutter was nearly outgrown; but heas well as
Georgespoke in the tone of condescensionwhichwith the blas‚
airs they assumedmade a very funny contrast to their youthful
faces and foolish remarks. Good-hearted little fellows bothbut
top-heavy with the pride of being Sophs and the freedom that
college life gave them.
'Little Jo is getting to be a deuced pretty girlisn't she?' said
Georgewith a long sigh of satisfaction as his first mouthful of ice
went slowly down his throat.
'H'm wellfairish. The Princess is rather more to my taste. I like
'em blonde and queenly and elegantdon't you know.'
'YesJo is too lively; might as well dance with a grasshopper. I've
tried herand she's one too many for me. Miss Perry is a nice
easy-going girl. Got her for the german.'
'You'll never be a dancing man. Too lazy. Now I'll undertake to
steer any girl and dance down any fellow you please. Dancing's my
forte.' And Dolly glanced from his trim feet to his flashing gem
with the defiant air of a young turkey-cock on parade.
'Miss Grey is looking for you. Wants more grub. Just see if Miss
Nelson's plate is emptythere's a good fellow. Can't eat ice in a
hurry.' And George remained in his safe cornerwhile Dolly
struggled through the crowd to do his dutycoming back in a fume
with a splash of salad dressing on his coat-cuff.
'Confound these country chaps! they go blundering round like so
many dor-bugsand make a deuce of a mess. Better stick to books
and not try to be society men. Can't do it. Beastly stain. Give it a
ruband let me bolt a mouthfulI'm starved. Never saw girls eat
such a lot. It proves that they ought not to study so much. Never
liked co-ed' growled Dollymuch ruffled in spirit.
'So they do. 'Tisn't ladylike. Ought to be satisfied with an ice and a
bit of cakeand eat it prettily. Don't like to see a girl feed. We
hard-working men need itandby JoveI mean to get some more
of that meringue if it's not all gone. Herewaiter! bring along that
dish over thereand be lively' commanded Stuffypoking a young
man in a rather shabby dress-suitwho was passing with a tray of
His order was obeyed promptly; but George's appetite was taken
away the next moment by Dolly's exclaimingas he looked up
from his damaged coatwith a scandalized face:
'You've put your foot in it nowold boy! that's MortonMr Bhaer's
crack man. Knows everythingno end of a "dig"and bound to
carry off all the honours. You won't hear the last of it in a hurry.'
And Dolly laughed so heartily that a spoonful of ice flew upon the
head of a lady sitting below himand got him into a scrape also.
Leaving them to their despairlet us listen to the whispered chat of
two girls comfortably seated in a recess waiting till their escorts
'I do think the Laurences give lovely parties. Don't you enjoy
them?' asked the youngerlooking about her with the eager air of
one unused to this sort of pleasure.
'Very muchonly I never feel as if I was dressed right. My things
seemed elegant at homeand I thought I'd be over over-dressed if
anything; but I look countrified and dowdy here. No time or money
to change noweven if I knew how to do it' answered the other
glancing anxiously at her bright pink silk growntrimmed with
'You must get Mrs Brooke to tell you how to fix your things. She
was very kind to me. I had a green silkand it looked so cheap and
horrid by the side of the nice dresses here I felt regularly unhappy
about itand asked her how much a dress like one Mrs Laurence
had would cost. That looked so simple and elegant I thought it
wouldn't be costly; but it was India mull and Valenciennes laceso
of courseI couldn't have it. Then Mrs Brooke said: "Get some
muslin to cover the green silkand wear hops or some white
flowersinstead of pinkin your hairand you will have a pretty
suit." Isn't it lovely and becoming?' And Miss Burton surveyed
herself with girlish satisfaction; for a little taste had softened the
harsh greenand hop-bells became her red hair better than roses.
'It's sweet: I've been admiring it. I'll do mine so and ask about my
purple one. Mrs Brooke has helped me tO get rid of my headaches
and Mary Clay's dyspepsia is all gone since she gave up coffee and
'Mrs Laurence advised me to walk and run and use the gymnasium
to cure my round shoulders and open my chestand I'm a much
better figure than I was.'
'Did you know that Mr Laurence pays all Amelia Merrill's bills?
Her father failedand she was heartbroken at having to leave
college; but that splendid man just stepped in and made it all right.'
'Yesand Professor Bhaer has several of the boys down at his
house evenings to help them along so they can keep up with the
rest; and Mrs Bhaer took care of Charles Mackey herself when he
had a fever last year. I do think they are the best and kindest
people in the world.'
'So do Iand my time here will be the happiest and most useful
years of my life.'
And both girls forgot their gowns and their suppers for a moment
to look with gratefulaffectionate eyes at the friends who tried to
care for bodies and for souls as well as minds.
Now come to a lively party supping on the stairsgirls like foam at
the topand a substratum of youths belowwhere the heaviest
particles always settle. Emilwho never sat if he could climb or
perchadorned the newel-post; TomNatDemiand Dan were
camped on the stepseating busilyas their ladies were well served
and they had earned a moment's restwhich they enjoyed with their
eyes fixed on the pleasing prospect above them.
'I'm so sorry the boys are going. It will be dreadfully dull without
them. Now they have stopped teasing and are politeI really enjoy
them' said Nanwho felt unusually gracious tonight as Tom's
mishap kept him from annoying her.
'So do I; and Bess was mourning about it todaythough as a
general thing she doesn't like boys unless they are models of
elegance. She has been doing Dan's headand it is not quite
finished. I never saw her so interested in any workand it's very
well done. He is so striking and big he always makes me think of
the Dying Gladiator or some of those antique creatures. There's
Bess now. Dear childhow sweet she looks tonight!' answered
Daisywaving her hand as the Princess went by with Grandpa on
'I never thought he would turn out so well. Don't you remember
how we used to call him "the bad boy" and be sure he would
become a pirate or something awful because he glared at us and
swore sometimes? Now he is the handsomest of all the boysand
very entertaining with his stories and plans. I like him very much;
he's so big and strong and independent. I'm tired of mollycoddles
and book-worms' said Nan in her decided way.
'Not handsomer that Nat!' cried loyal Daisycontrasting two faces
belowone unusually gaythe other sentimentally sober even in the
act of munching cake. 'I like Danand am glad he is doing well;
but he tires meand I'm still a little afraid of him. Quiet people suit
'Life is a fightand I like a good soldier. Boys take things too
easilydon't see how serious it all is and go to work in earnest.
Look at that absurd Tomwasting his time and making an object of
himself just because he can't have what he wantslike a baby
crying for the moon. I've no patience with such nonsensescolded
Nanlooking down at the jovial Thomaswho was playfully
putting macaroons in Emil's shoesand trying to beguile his exile
as best he could.
'Most girls would be touched by such fidelity. I think it's beautiful'
said Daisy behind her fan; for other girls sat just below.
'You are a sentimental goose and not a judge. Nat will be twice the
man when he comes back after his trip. I wish Tom was going with
him. My idea is that if we girls have any influence we should use it
for the good of these boysand not pamper them upmaking slaves
of ourselves and tyrants of them. Let them prove what they can do
and be before they ask anything of usand give us a chance to do
the same. Then we know where we areand shall not make
mistakes to mourn over all our lives.'
'Hearhear!' cried Alice Heathwho was a girl after Nan's own
heartand had chosen a careerlike a brave and sensible young
woman. 'Only give us a chanceand have patience till we can do
our best. Now we are expected to be as wise as men who have had
generations of all the help there isand we scarcely anything. Let
us have equal opportunitiesand in a few generations we will see
what the judgement is. I like justiceand we get very little of it.'
'Still shouting the battle-cry of freedom?' asked Demipeering
through the banisters at this moment. 'Up with your flag! I'll stand
by and lend a hand if you want it. With you and Nan to lead the
vanI think you won't need much help.'
'You are a great comfortDemiand I'll call on you in all
emergencies; for you are an honest boyand don't forget that you
owe much to your mother and your sisters and your aunts'
continued Nan. 'I do like men who come out frankly and own that
they are not gods. How can we think them so when such awful
mistakes are being made all the time by these great creatures? See
them sickas I dothen you know them.'
'Don't hit us when we are down; be mercifuland set us up to bless
and believe in you evermore' pleaded Demi from behind the bars.
'We'll be kind to you if you will be just to us. I don't say generous
only just. I went to a suffrage debate in the Legislature last winter;
and of all the feeblevulgar twaddle I ever heardthat was the
worst; and those men were our representatives. I blushed for them
and the wives and mothers. I want an intelligent man to represent
meif I can't do it myselfnot a fool.'
'Nan is on the stump. Now we shall catch it' cried Tomputting up
an umbrella to shield his unhappy head; for Nan's earnest voice
was audibleand her indignant eye happened to rest on him as she
'Go ongo on! I'll take notesand put in "great applause" liberally'
added Demiproducing his ball-book and pencilwith his Jenkins
Daisy pinched his nose through the barsand the meeting was
rather tumultuous for a momentfor Emil called: 'Avastavast
here's a squall to wind'ard'; Tom applauded wildly; Dan looked up
as if the prospect of a fighteven with wordspleased himand Nat
went to support Demias his position seemed to be a good one. At
this crisiswhen everyone laughed and talked at onceBess came
floating through the upper hall and looked down like an angel of
peace upon the noisy group belowas she askedwith wondering
eyes and smiling lips:
'What is it?'
'An indignation meeting. Nan and Alice are on the rampageand
we are at the bar to be tried for our lives. Will Your Highness
preside and judge between us?' answered Demias a lull at once
took place; for no one rioted in the presence of the Princess.
'I'm not wise enough. I'll sit here and listen. Please go on.' And
Bess took her place above them all as cool and calm as a little
statue of Justicewith fan and nosegay in place of sword and
'Nowladiesfree your mindsonly spare us till morning; for we've
got a german to dance as soon as everyone is fedand Parnassus
expects every man to do his duty. Mrs President Giddy-gaddy has
the floor' said Demiwho liked this Sort of fun better than the very
mild sort of flirtation which was allowed at Plum-fieldfor the
simple reason that it could not be entirely banishedand is a part of
all educationco or
'I have only one thing to sayand it is this' began Nan soberly
though her eyes sparkled with a mixture of fun and earnestness. 'I
want to ask every boy of you what you really think on this subject.
Dan and Emil have seen the world and ought to know their own
minds. Tom and Nat have had five examples before them for
years. Demi is ours and we are proud of him. So is Rob. Ted is a
weathercockand Dolly and Georgeof courseare fogies in spite
of the Annexand girls at Girton going ahead of the men.
Commodoreare you ready for the question?'
'Do you believe in Woman's Suffrage?'
'Bless your pretty figger head! I doand I'll ship a crew of girls any
time you say so. Aren't they worse than a press-gang to carry a
fellow out of his moorings? Don't we all need one as pilot to steer
us safe to port? and why shouldn't they share our mess afloat and
ashore since we are sure to be wrecked without 'em?'
'Good for youEmil! Nan will take you for first mate after that
handsome speech' said Demias the girls applaudedand Tom
glowered. 'NowDanyou love liberty so well yourselfare you
willing we should have it?'
'All you can getand I'll fight any man who's mean enough to say
you don't deserve it.'
This brief and forcible reply delighted the energetic Presidentand
she beamed upon the member from Californiaas she said briskly:
'Nat wouldn't dare to say he was on the other side even if he were
but I hope he has made up his mind to pipe for usat least when
we take the fieldand not be one of those who wait till the battle is
rii~n IJ~ ~ ~ ~n‡l share the glory.'
Mrs Giddy-gaddy's doubts were most effectually removedand her
sharp speech regrettedas Nat looked up blushingbut with a new
sort of manliness in face and mannersayingin a tone that
touched them all:
'I should be the most ungrateful fellow alive if I did not love
honourand serve women with all my heart and mightfor to them
I owe everything I am or ever shall be.'
Daisy clapped her handsand Bess threw her bouquet into Nat's
lapwhile the other girls waved their fanswell pleased; for real
feeling made his little speech eloquent.
'Thomas B. Bangscome into courtand tell the truththe whole
truthand nothing but the truthif you can' commanded Nanwith
a rap to call the meeting to order.
Tom shut the umbrellaand standing up raised his handsaying
'I believe in suffrage of all kinds. I adore all womenand will die
for them at any moment if it will help the cause.'
'Living and working for it is harderand therefore more
honourable. Men are always ready to die for usbut not to make
our lives worth having. Cheap sentiment and bad logic. You will
passTomonly don't twaddle. Nowhaving taken the sense of the
meeting we will adjournas the hour for festive gymnastics has
arrived. I am glad to see that old Plum has given six true men to
the worldand hope they will continue to be staunch to her and the
principles she has taught themwherever they may go. Nowgirls
don't sit in draughtsandboysbeware of ice-water when you are
With this characteristic close Nan retired from officeand the girls
went to enjoy one of the few rights allowed them.
Chapter 6 LAST WORDS
The next day was Sundayand a goodly troop of young and old set
forth to church some drivingsome walkingall enjoying the
lovely weather and the happy quietude which comes to refresh us
when the work and worry of the week are over. Daisy had a
headache; and Aunt Jo remained at home to keep her company
knowing very well that the worst ache was in the tender heart
struggling dutifully against the love that grew stronger as the
parting drew nearer.
'Daisy knows my wishesand I trust her. You must keep an eye on
Natand let him clearly understand that there is to be no
loveringor I shall forbid the letter-writing. I hate to seem cruel
but it is too soon for my dear girl to bind herself in any way' said
Mrs Megas she rustled about in her best grey silkwhile waiting
for Demiwho always escorted his pious mother to church as a
peace-offering for crossing her wishes in other things.
'I willdear; I'm lying in wait for all three boys todaylike an old
spider; and I will have a good talk with each. They know I
understand themand they always open their hearts sooner or later.
You look like a niceplump little QuakeressMeg; and no one will
believe that big boy is your son' added Mrs Joas Demi came in
shining with Sunday neatnessfrom his well-blacked boots to his
smooth brown head.
'You flatter meto soften my heart toward your boy. I know your
waysJoand I don't give in. Be firmand spare me a scene by and
by. As for Johnas long as he is satisfied with his old motherI
don't care what people think' answered Mrs Megaccepting with a
smile the little posy of sweet peas and mignonette Demi brought
Thenhaving buttoned her dove-coloured gloves with careshe
took her son's arm and went proudly away to the carriagewhere
Amy and Bess waitedwhile Jo called after themjust as Marmee
used to do:
'Girlshave you got nice pocket-handkerchiefs?' They all smiled at
the familiar wordsand three white banners waved as they drove
awayleaving the spider to watch for her first fly. She did not wait
long. Daisy was lying down with a wet cheek on the little
hymnbook out of which she and Nat used to sing together; so Mrs
Jo strolled about the lawnlooking very like a wandering
mushroom with her large buff umbrella.
Dan had gone for a ten-mile stroll; and Nat was supposed to have
accompanied himbut presently came sneaking backunable to
tear himself away from the Dovecote or lose a moment of nearness
to his idol that last day. Mrs Jo saw him at onceand beckoned him
to a rustic seat under the old elmwhere they could have their
confidences undisturbedand both keep an eye on a certain
white-curtained windowhalf hidden in vines.
'Nice and cool here. I'm not up to one of Dan's tramps today it's so
warmand he goes so like a steam-engine. He headed for the
swamp where his pet snakes used to liveand I begged to be
excused' said Natfanning himself with his straw hatthough the
day was not oppressive.
'I'm glad you did. Sit and rest with meand have one of our good
old talks. We've both been so busy latelyI feel as if I didn't half
know your plans; and I want to' answered Mrs Jofeeling sure that
though they might start with Leipzig they would bring up at
'You are very kindand there's nothing I'd like better. I don't realize
I'm going so far suppose I shan't till I get afloat. It's a splendid
startand I don't know how 1 can ever thank Mr Laurie for all he's
doneor you either' added Natwith a break in his voice; for he
was a tender-hearted fellowand never forgot a kindness.
'You can thank us beautifully by being and doing all we hope and
expect of youmy dear. In the new life you are going to there will
be a thousand trials and temptationsand only your own wit and
wisdom to rely on. That will be the time to test the principles we
have tried to give youand see how firm they are. Of courseyou
will make mistakes we all do; but don't let go of your conscience
and drift along blindly. Watch and praydear Nat; and while your
hand gains skilllet your head grow wiserand keep your heart as
innocent and warm as it is now.'
'I'll tryMother Bhaermy very best to be a credit to you. I know I
shall improve in my music can't help it there; but I never shall be
very wiseI'm afraid. As for my heartyou knowI leave it behind
me in good keeping.'
As he spokeNat's eyes were fixed on the window with a look of
love and longing that made his quiet face both manly and sad
plainly showing how strong a hold this boyish affection had upon
'I want to speak of that; and I know you will forgive what seems
hardbecause I do most heartily sympathize with you' said Mrs Jo
glad to have her say.
'Yesdo talk about Daisy! I think of nothing but leaving and losing
her. I have no hope I suppose it is too much to ask; only I can't
help loving herwherever I am!' cried Natwith a mixture of
defiance and despair in his face that rather startled Mrs Jo.
'Listen to me and I'll try to give you both comfort and good advice.
We all know that Daisy is fond of youbut her mother objectsand
being a good girl she tries to obey. Young people think they never
can changebut they do in the most wonderful mannerand very
few die of broken hearts.' Mrs Jo smiled as she remembered
another boy whom she had once tried to comfortand then went
soberly on while Nat listened as if his fate hung upon her lips.
'One of two things will happen. You will find someone else to
loveorbetter stillbe so busy and happy in your music that you
will be willing to wait for time to settle the matter for you both.
Daisy will perhaps forget when you are goneand be glad you are
only friends. At any rate it is much wiser to have no promises
made; then both are freeand in a year or two may meet to laugh
over the little romance nipped in the bud.'
'Do you honestly think that?' asked Natlooking at her so keenly
that the truth had to come; for all his heart was in those frank blue
eyes of his.
'NoI don't!' answered Mrs Jo. 'Then if you were in my placewhat
would you do?' he addedwith a tone of command never heard in
his gentle voice before.
'Bless me! the boy is in dead earnestand I shall forget prudence in
sympathy I'm afraid' thought Mrs Josurprised and pleased by the
unexpected manliness Nat showed.
'I'll tell you what I should do. I'd say to myself:
I'll prove that my love is strong and faithful, and make Daisy's
mother proud to give her to me by being not only a good musician
but an excellent man, and so command respect and confidence.
This I will try for; and if I fail, I shall be the better for the effort,
and find comfort in the thought that I did my best for her sake.'
'That is what I meant to do. But I wanted a word of hope to give
me courage' cried Natfiring up as if the smouldering spark was
set ablaze by a breath of encouragement. 'Other fellowspoorer
and stupider than Ihave done great things and come to honour.
Why may not Ithough I'm nothing now? I know Mrs Brooke
remembers what I came frombut my father was honest though
everything went wrong; and I have nothing to be ashamed of
though I was a charity boy. I never will be ashamed of my people
or myselfand I'll make other folks respect me if I can.'
'Good! that's the right spiritNat. Hold to it and make yourself a
man. No one will be quicker to see and admire the brave work
than my sister Meg. She does not despise your poverty or your
past; but mothers are very tender over their daughtersand we
Marchesthough we have been poorareI confessa little proud
of our good family. We don't care for money; but a long line of
virtuous ancestors is something to desire and to be proud of.'
'Wellthe Blakes are a good lot. I looked 'em upand not one was
ever in prisonhangedor disgraced in any way. We used to be rich
and honoured years agobut we've died out and got poorand
father was a street musician rather than beg; and I'll be one again
before I'll do the mean things some men do and pass muster.'
Nat was so excited that Mrs Jo indulged in a laugh to calm him
and both went on more quietly.
'I told my sister all that and it pleased her. I am sure if you do well
these next few years that she will relent and all be happily settled
unless that wonderful changewhich you don't believe possible
should occur. Nowcheer up; don't be lackadaisical and blue. Say
good-bye cheerfully and bravelyshow a manly frontand leave a
pleasant memory behind you. We all wish you well and hope much
for you. Write to me every week and I'll send a goodgossipy
answer. Be careful what you write to Daisy; don't gush or wailfor
sister Meg will see the letters; and you can help your cause very
much by sending sensiblecheery accounts of your life to us all.'
'I will; I will; it looks brighter and better alreadyand I won't lose
my one comfort by any fault of my own. Thank you so much
Mother Bhaerfor taking my side. I felt so ungrateful and mean
and crushed when I thought you all considered me a sneak1 whc
had no business to love such a precious girl as Daisy. No one said
anythingbut I knew how you feltand that Mr Laurie sent me off
partly to get me out of the way. Oh dearlife is pretty tough
sometimesisn't it?' And Nat took his head in both hands as if it
ached with the confusion of hopes and fearspassions and plans
that proved boyhood was past and manhood had begun.
'Very toughbut it is that very struggle with obstacles which does
us good. Things have been made easy for you in many waysbut
no on‡ can do evcrything. You must paddle your own canoe now
and learn to avoid the rapids and steer straight to the port you want
to reach. I don't know just what your temptatiQflS will he~ for you
have n~ bad habits and seem to
love music so wellnothing can lure you from it. I only hope you
won't work too hard.'
'I feel as if I could work like a horseI'm so eager to get on; but I'll
take care. Can't waste time being sickand you've given me doses
enough to keep me all rightI guess.' Nat laughed as he
remembered the book of directions Mrs Jo had written for him to
consult on all occasions.
She immediately added some verbal ones on the subject of foreign
messesand having mounted one of her pet hobbieswas in full
gallop when Emil was seen strolling about on the roof of the old
housethat being his favourite promenade; for there he could fancy
himself walking the deckwith only blue sky and fresh air about
'I want a word with the Commodoreand up there we shall be nice
and quiet. Go and play to Daisy: it will put her to sleep and do you
both good. Sit in the porchso I can keep an eye on you as I
promised'; and with a motherly pat on the shoulder Mrs Jo left Nat
to his delightful task and briskly ascended to the house- topnot up
the trellis as of old but by means of the stairs inside.
Emerging on the platform she found Emil cutting his initials afresh
in the wood-work and singing 'Pull for the Shore'like the tuneful
mariner he was.
'Come aboard and make yourself at homeAunty' he saidwith a
playful salute. 'I'm just leaving a P.P.C. in the old placeso when
you fly up here for refuge you'll remember me.'
'Ahmy dearI'm not likely to forget you. It doesn't need E. B. H.
cut on all the trees and railings to remind me of my sailor boy'; and
Mrs Jo took the seat nearest the blue figure astride the balustrade
not quite sure how to begin the little sermon she wanted to preach.
'Wellyou don't pipe your eye and look squally when I sheer off as
you used toand that's a comfort. I like to leave port in fair weather
and have a jolly send-off all round. Specially this timefor it will
be a year or more before we drop anchor here again' answered
Emilpushing his cap backand glancing about him as if he loved
old Plum and would be sorry never to see it any more.
'You have salt water enough without my adding to it. I'm going to
be quite a Spartan motherand send my sons to battle with no
wailingonly the command:
With your shield or on it' said Mrs Jo cheerfullyadding after a
pause: 'I often wish I could go tooand some day I willwhen you
are captain and have a ship of your own as I've no doubt you will
before longwith Uncle Herman to push you on.'
'When I do I'll christen her the Jolly Jo and take you as first mate.
It would be regular larks to have you aboardand I'd be a proud
man to carry you round the world you've wanted to see so long and
never could' answered Emilcaught at once by this splendid
'I'll make my first voyage with you and enjoy myself immensely in
spite of seasickness and all the stormy winds that blow. I've always
thought I'd like to see a wrecka nice safe one with all saved after
great danger and heroic deedswhile we clung like Mr Pillicoddy
to main-top jibs and lee scuppers.'
'No wrecks yetma'ambut we'll try to accommodate customers.
Captain says I'm a lucky dog and bring fair weatherso we'll save
the dirty weather for you if you want it' laughed Emildigging at
the ship in full sail which he was adding to his design.
'ThanksI hope you will. This long voyage will give you new
experiencesand being an officeryou will have new duties and
responsibilities. Are you ready for them? You take everything so
gailyI've been wondering if you realized that now you will have
not only to obey but to command alsoand power is a dangerous
thing. Be careful that you don't abuse it- or let it make a tyrant of
'Right you arema'am. I've seen plenty of thatand have got my
bearings pretty wellI guess. I shan't have very wide swing with
Peters over mebut I'll see that the boys don't get abused when he's
bowsed up his jib. No right to speak beforebut now I won't stand
'That sounds mysteriously awful; could I ask what nautical torture
bowsing jibsis?' asked Mrs Join a tone of deep interest.
'Getting drunk. Peters can hold more grog than any man I ever saw;
he keeps right side upbut is as savage as a northerand makes
things lively all round. I've seen him knock a fellow down with a
belaying pinand couldn't lend a hand. Better luck nowI hope.'
And Emil frowned as if he already trod the quarter-decklord of all
'Don't get into troublefor even Uncle Herman's favour won't cover
insubordinationyou know. You have proved yourself a good
sailor; now be a good officerwhich is a harder thingI fancy. It
takes a fine character to rule justly and kindly; you will have to put
by your boyish ways and remember your dignity. That will be
excellent training for youEmiland sober you down a bit. No
more skylarking except hereso mind your waysand do honour to
your buttons' said Mrs Jotapping one of the very bright brass
ones that ornamented the new suit Emil was so proud of.
'I'll do my best. I know my time for skirmshander (chaff) is over
and I must steer a straighter course; but don't you fearJack ashore
is a very different craft from what he is with blue water under his
keel. I had a long talk with Uncle last night and got my orders; I
won't forget 'em nor all I owe him. As for youI'll name my first
ship as I sayand have your bust for the figureheadsee if I don't;
and Emil gave his aunt a hearty kiss to seal the vowwhich
proceeding much amused Natplaying softly in the porch of the
'You do me proudCaptain. ButdearI want to say one thing and
then I'm done; for you don't need much advice of mine after my
good man has spoken. I read somewhere that every inch of rope
used in the British Navy has a strand of red in itso that wherever a
bit of it is found it is known. That is the text of my little sermon to
you. Virtuewhich means honourhonestycourageand all that
makes characteris the red thread that marks a good man wherever
he is. Keep that always and everywhereso that even if wrecked by
misfortunethat sign shall still be found and recognized. Yours is a
rough lifeand your mates not all we could wishbut you can be a
gentleman in the true sense of the word; and no matter what
happens to your bodykeep your soul cleanyour heart true to
those who love youand do your duty to the end.'
As she spoke Emil had risen and stood listening with his cap off
and a gravebright look as if taking orders from a superior officer;
when she endedhe answered brieflybut heartily:
'Please GodI will!'
'That's all; I have little fear for youbut one never knows when or
how the weak moment may comeand sometimes a chance word
helps usas so many my dear mother spoke come back to me now
for my own comfort and the guidance of my boys' said Mrs Jo
rising; for the words had been said and no more were needed.
'I've stored 'em up and know where to find 'em when wanted. Often
and often in my watch I've seen old Plumand heard you and
Uncle talking so plainlyI'd have sworn I was here. It is a rough
lifeAuntybut a wholesome one if a fellow loves it as I doand
has an anchor to windward as I have. Don't worry about meand
I'll come home next year with a chest of tea that will cheer your
heart and give you ideas enough for a dozen novels. Going below?
All rightsteady in the gangway! I'll be along by the time you've
got out the cake-box. Last chance for a good old lunch ashore.'
Mrs Jo descended laughingand Emil finished his ship whistling
cheerfullyneither dreaming when and where this little chat on the
house-top would return to the memory of one of them.
Dan was harder to catchand not until evening did a quiet moment
come in that busy family; whenwhile the rest were roaming
aboutMrs Jo sat down to read in the studyand presently Dan
looked in at the window.
'Come and rest after your long tramp; you must be tired' she
calledwith an inviting nod towards the big sofa where so many
boys had reposed as much as that active animal ever does.
'Afraid I shall disturb you'; but Dan looked as if he wanted to stay
his restless feet somewhere.
'Not a bit; I'm always ready to talkshouldn't be a woman if I were
not' laughed Mrs Joas Dan swung himself in and sat down with
an air of contentment very pleasant to see.
'Last day is overyet somehow I don't seem to hanker to be off.
GenerallyI'm rather anxious to cut loose after a short stop. Odd
ain't it?' asked Dangravely picking grass and leave's out of his hair
and beard; for he had been lying on the grassthinking many
thoughts in the quiet summer night.
'Not at all; you are beginning to get civilized. It's a good signand
I'm glad to see it' answered Mrs Jo promptly. 'You've had your
swingand want a change. Hope the farming will give it to you
though helping the Indians pleases me more: it is so much better to
work for others than for one's self alone.' 'So 'tis' assented Dan
heartily. 'I seem to want to root somewhere and have folks of my
own to take care
of. Tired of my own companyI supposenow I've seen so much
better. I'm a roughignorant lotand I've been thinking maybe I've
missed it loafing round creationinstead of going in for education
as the other chaps did. Hey?'
He looked anxiously at Mrs Jo; and she tried to hide the surprise
this new outburst caused her; for till now Dan had scorned books
and gloried in his freedom.
'No; I don't think so in your case. So far I'm sure the free life was
best. Now that you are a man you can control that lawless nature
better; but as a boy only great activity and much adventure could
keep you out of mischief. Time is taming my coltyou seeand I
shall yet be proud of himwhether he makes a pack-horse of
himself to carry help to the starving or goes to ploughing as
Dan liked the comparisonand smiled as he lounged in the
sofa-cornerwith the new thoughtfulness in his eyes.
'Glad you think so. The fact is it's going to take a heap of taming to
make me go well in harness anywhere. I want toand I try now and
thenbut always kick over the traces and run away. No lives lost
yet; but I shouldn't wonder if there was some timeand a general
'WhyDandid you have any dangerous adventures during this last
absence? I fancied sobut didn't ask beforeknowing you'd tell me
if I could help in any way. Can I?' And Mrs Jo looked anxiously at
him; for a sudden lowering expression had come into his faceand
he leaned forward as if to hide it. 'Nothing very bad; but 'Frisco
isn't just a heaven on earthyou knowand it's harder to be a saint
there than here' he answered slowly; thenas if he had made up his
mind to ''fess'as the children used to sayhe sat upand added
rapidlyin a half-defianthalf-shamefaced way'I tried gambling
and it wasn't good for me.'
'Was that how you made your money?'
'Not a penny of it! That's all honestif speculation isn't a bigger
sort of gambling. I won a lot; but I lost or gave it awayand cut the
whole concern before it got the better of me.'
'Thank heaven for that! Don't try it again; it may have the terrible
fascination for you it has for so many. Keep to your mountains and
prairiesand shun citiesif these things tempt youDan. Better lose
your life than your souland one such passion leads to worse sins
as you know better than I.'
Dan noddedand seeing how troubled she wassaidin a lighter
tonethough still the shadow of that past experience remained:
'Don't be scared; I'm all right now; and a burnt dog dreads the fire.
I don't drinkor do the things you dread; don't care for 'em; but I
get excitedand then this devilish temper of mine is more than I
can manage. Fighting a moose or a buffalo is all right; but when
you pitch into a manno matter how great a scamp he isyou've
got to look out. I shall kill someone some day; that's all I'm afraid
of. I do hate a sneak!' And Dan brought his fist down on the table
with a blow that made the lamp totter and the books skip.
'That always was your trialDanand I can sympathize with you;
for I've been trying to govern my own temper all my lifeand
haven't learnt yet' said Mrs Jowith a sigh. 'For heaven's sake
guard your demon welland don't let a moment's fury ruin all your
life. As I said to Natwatch and praymy dear boy. There is no
other help or hope for human weakness but God's love and
Tears were in Mrs Jo's eyes as she spoke; for she felt this deeply
and knew how hard a task it is to rule these bosom sins of ours.
Dan looked touchedalso uncomfortableas he always did when
religion of any sort was mentionedthough he had a simple creed
of his ownand tried to live up to it in his blind way.
'I don't do much praying; don't seem to come handy to me; but I
can watch like a redskinonly it's easier to mount guard over a
lurking grizzly than my own cursed temper. It's that I'm afraid ofif
I settle down. I can get on with wild beasts first-rate; but men rile
me awfullyand I can't take it out in a free fightas I can with a
bear or a wolf. Guess I'd better head for the Rockiesand stay there
a spell longer till I'm tame enough for decent folksif I ever am.'
And Dan leaned his rough head on his hands in a despondent
'Try my sort of helpand don't give up. Read morestudy a little
and try to meet a better class of peoplewho won't "rile"but
soothe and strengthen you. We don't make you savageI'm sure;
for you have been as meek as a lamband made us very happy.'
'Glad of it; but I've felt like a hawk in a hen-house all the same
and wanted to pounce and tear more than once. Not so much as I
usedthough' added Danafter a short laugh at Mrs Jo's surprised
face. 'I'll try your planand keep good company this bout if I can;
but a man can't pick and chooseknocking about as I do.'
'Yesyou can this time; for you are going on a peaceful errand and
can keep clear of temptation if you try. Take some books and read;
that's an immense help; and books are always good company if you
have the right sort. Let me pick out some for you.' And Mrs Jo
made a bee-line to the well-laden shelveswhich were the joy of
her heart and the comfort of her life.
'Give me travels and storiesplease; don't want any pious works
can't seem to relish 'emand won't pretend I do' said Dan
following to look over her head with small favour at the long lines
of well-worn volumes.
Mrs Jo turned short roundand putting a hand on either broad
shoulderlooked him in the eyesaying soberly:
'NowDansee here; never sneer at good things or pretend to be
worse than you are. Don't let false shame make you neglect the
religion without which no man can live. You needn't talk about it
if you don't likebut don't shut your heart to it in whatever shape it
comes. Nature is your God now; she has done much for you; let
her do moreand lead you to know and love a wiser and more
tender teacherfriendand comforter than she can ever be. That is
your only hope; don't throw it awayand waste time; for sooner or
later you will feel the need of Himand He will come to you and
hold you up when all other help fails.'
Dan stood motionlessand let her read in his softened eyes the
dumb desire that lived in his heartthough he had no words to tell
itand only permitted her to itch a glimpse of the divine spark
which smoulders or burns clearly in every human soul. He did not
speak; and glad to be spared some answer which should belie his
real feelingsMrs Jo hastened to saywith her most motherly
'I saw in your room the little Bible I gave you long ago; it was well
worn outsidebut fresh withinas if not much read. Will you
promise me to read a little once a weekdearfor my sake? Sunday
is a quiet day everywhereand this book is never old nor out of
place. Begin with the stories you used to love when I told them to
you boys. David was your favouriteyou remember? Read him
again; he'll suit you even better nowand you'll find his sins and
repentance useful reading till you come to the life and work of a
diviner example than he. You will do itfor love of mother Bhaer
who always loved her "firebrand" and hoped to save him?'
'I will' answered Danwith a sudden brightening of face that was
like a sunburst through a cloudfull of promise though so
short-lived and rare.
Mrs Jo turned at once to the books and began to talk of them
knowing well that Dan would not hear any more just then. He
seemed relieved; for it was always hard for him to show his inner
selfand he took pride in hiding it as an Indian does in concealing
pain or fear.
'Hallohere's old Sintram! I remember him; used to like him and
his tantrumsand read about 'em to Ted. There he is riding ahead
with Death and the Devil
As Dan looked at the little picture of the young man with horse
and hound going bravely up the rocky defileaccompanied by the
companions who ride beside most men through this worlda
curious impulse made Mrs Jo say quickly:
'That's youDanjust you at this time! Danger and sin are near you
in the life you lead; moods and passions torment you; the bad
father left you to fight aloneand the wild spirit drives you to
wander up and down the world looking for peace and self-control.
Even the horse and hound are thereyour Octoo and Donfaithful
friendsunscared by the strange mates that go with you. You have
not got the armour yetbut I'm trying to show you where to find it.
Remember the mother Sintram loved and longed to findand did
find when his battle was bravely foughthis reward well earned?
You can recollect your mother; and I have always felt that all the
good qualities you possess come from her. Act out the beautiful
old story in this as in the other partsand try to give her back a son
to be proud of.'
Quite carried away by the likeness of the quaint tale to Dan's life
and needsMrs Jo went on pointing to the various pictures which
illustrated itand when she looked up was surprised to see how
struck and interested he seemed to be. Like all people of his
temperament he was very impressionableand his life among
hunters and Indians had made him superstitious; he believed in
dreamsliked weird talesand whatever appealed to the eye or
mindvividly impressed him more than the wisest words. The
story of poortormented Sintram came back clearly as he looked
and listenedsymbolizing his secret trials even more truly than Mrs
Jo knew; and just at that moment this had an effect upon him that
never was forgotten. But all he said was:
'Small chance of that. I don't take much stock in the idea of
meeting folks in heaven. Guess mother won't remember the poor
little brat she left so long ago; why should she?'
'Because true mothers never forget their children; and I know she
was onefrom the fact that she ran away from the cruel husband
to save her little son from bad influences. Had she livedlife would
have been happier for youwith this tender friend to help and
comfort you. Never forget that she risked everything for your sake
and don't let it be in vain.'
Mrs Jo spoke very earnestlyknowing that this was the one sweet
memory of Dan's early lifeand glad to have recalled it at this
moment; for suddenly a great tear splashed down on the page
where Sintram kneels at his mother's feetwoundedbut victorious
over sin and death. She looked upwell pleased to have touched
Dan to the heart's coreas that drop proved; but a sweep of the arm
brushed away the tell-taleand his beard hid the mate to itas he
shut the booksaying with a suppressed quiver in his strong voice:
'I'll keep thisif nobody wants it. I'll read it overand maybe it will
do me good. I'd like to meet her anywherebut don't believe I ever
'Keep it and welcome. My mother gave it to me; and when you
read it try to believe that neither of your mothers will ever forget
Mrs Jo gave the book with a caress; and simply saying: 'Thanks;
good night' Dan thrust it into his pocketand walked straight away
to the river to recover
124 JO'S BOYS
from this unwonted mood of tenderness and confidence.
Next day the travellers were off. All were in good spiritsand a
cloud of handkerchiefs whitened the air as they drove away in the
old buswaving their hats to everyone and kissing their hands
especially to mother Bhaerwho said in her prophetic tone as she
wiped her eyeswhen the familiar rumble died away:
'I have a feeling that something is going to happen to some of
themand they will never come back to meor come back
changed. WellI can only sayGod be with my boys!'
And He was.
Chapter 7 THE LION AND THE LAMB
When the boys were gone a lull fell upon Plumfieldand the
family scattered to various places for brief outingsas August had
come and all felt the need of change. The Professor took Mrs Jo to
the mountains. The Laurences were at the seashoreand there
Meg's family and the Bhaer boys took turns to visitas someone
must always be at home to keep things in order.
Mrs Megwith Daisywas in office when the events occurred
which we are about to relate. Rob and Ted were just up from
Rocky Nookand Nan was passing a week with her friend as the
only relaxation she allowed herself. Demi was off on a run with
Tomso Rob was man of the housewith old Silas as general
overseer. The sea air seemed to have gone to Ted's headfor he
was unusually freakishand led his gentle aunt and poor Rob a life
of it with his pranks. Octoo was worn out with the wild rides he
tookand Don openly rebelled when ordered to leap and show off
his accomplishments; while the girls at college were both amused
and worried by the ghosts who haunted the grounds at nightthe
unearthly melodies that disturbed their studious hoursand the
hairbreadth escapes of this restless boy by flood and field and fire.
Something happened at length which effectually sobered Ted and
made a lasting impression on both the boys; for sudden danger and
a haunting fear turned the Lion into a lamb and the Lamb into a
lionas far as courage went.
On the first of September the boys never forgot the date after a
pleasant tramp and good luck with their fishingthe brothers were
lounging in the barn; for Daisy had companyand the lads kept out
'I tell you what it isBobbythat dog is sick. He won't playnor eat
nor drinkand acts queerly. Dan will kill us if anything happens to
him' said Tedlooking at Donwho lay near his kennel resting a
moment after one of the restless wanderings which kept him
vibrating between the door of Dan's room and the shady corner of
the yardwhere his master had settled him with an old cap tO
guard till he came back.
'It's the hot weatherperhaps. But I sometimes think he's pining for
Dan. Dogs doyou knowand the poor fellow has been low in his
mind ever since the boys went. Maybe something has happened to
Dan. Don howled last night and can't rest. I've heard of such
things' answered Rob thoughtfully.
'Pooh! he can't know. He's cross. I'll stir him up and take him for a
run. Always makes me feel better. Hiboy! wake up and be jolly';
and Ted snapped his fingers at the dogwho only looked at him
'Better let him alone. If he isn't right tomorrowwe'll take him to
Dr Watkins and see what he says.' And Rob went on watching the
swallows as he lay in the hay polishing up some Latin verses he
The spirit of perversity entered into Tedand merely because he
was told not to tease Don he went on doing itpretending that it
was for the dog's good. Don took no heed of his patscommands
reproachesor insultstill Ted's patience gave out; and seeing a
convenient switch near by he could not resist the temptation to
conquer the great hound by forcesince gentleness failed to win
obedience. He had the wisdom to chain Don up first; for a blow
from any hand but his master's mide him ~av~gi'iI?ILI T~4 had
more than once tr~ed
the experimentas the dog remembered. This indignity roused Don
and he sat up with a growl. Rob heard itand seeing Ted raise the
switchran to interfereexclaiming:
'Don't touch him! Dan forbade it! Leave the poor thing in peace; I
won't allow it.'
Rob seldom commandedbut when he did Master Ted had to give
in. His temper was upand Rob's masterful tone made it
impossible to resist one cut at the rebellious dog before he
submitted. Only a single blowbut it was a costly one; for as it fell
the dog sprang at Ted with a snarland Robrushing between the
twofelt the sharp teeth pierce his leg. A word made Don let go
and drop remorsefully at Rob's feetfor he loved him and was
evidently sorry to have hurt his friend by mistake. With a forgiving
pat Rob left himto limp to the barn followed by Tedwhose wrath
was changed to shame and sorrow when he saw the red drops on
Rob's sock and the little wounds in his leg.
'I'm awfully sorry. Why did you get in the way? Herewash it up
and I'll get a rag to tie on it' he said quickly filling a sponge with
water and pulling out a very demoralized handkerchief. Rob
usually made light of his own mishaps and was over ready to
forgive if others were to blame; but now he sat quite stilllooking
at the purple marks with such a strange expression on his white
face that Ted was troubledthough he added with a laugh: 'Why
you're not afraid of a little dig like thatare youBobby?'
'I am afraid of hydrophobia. But if Don is mad I'd rather be the one
to have it' answered Robwith a smile and a shiver.
At that dreadful word Ted turned whiter than his brotherand
dropping sponge and handkerchiefstared at him with a frightened
facewhispering in a tone of despair:
'OhRobdon't say it! What shall we dowhat shall we do?'
'Call Nan; she will know. Don't scare Auntyor tell a soul but Nan;
she's on the back piazza; get her out here as quick as you can. I'll
wash it till she comes.
Maybe it's nothing; don't look so staggeredTed. I only thought it
might beas Don is queer.'
Rob tried to speak bravely; but Ted's long legs felt strangely weak
as he hurried awayand it was lucky he met no onefor his face
would have betrayed him. Nan was swinging luxuriously in a
hammockamusing herself with a lively treatise on croupwhen an
agitated boy suddenly clutched herwhisperingas he nearly pulled
'Come to Rob in the barn! Don's mad and he's bitten himand we
don't know what to do; it's all my fault; no one must know. Ohdo
Nan was on her feet at oncestartledbut with her wits about her
and both were off without more words as they dodged round the
house where unconscious Daisy chatted with her friends in the
parlour and Aunt Meg peacefully took her afternoon nap upstairs.
Rob was braced upand was as calm and steady as ever when they
found him in the harness-roomwhither he had wisely retiredto
escape observation. The story was soon toldand after a look at
Donnow in his kennelsad and surlyNan said slowlywith her
eye on the full water-pan:
'Robthere is one thing to do for the sake of safetyand it must be
done at once. We can't wait to see if Don is sick or to go for a
doctor. I can do itand I will; but it is very painfuland I hate to
A most unprofessional quiver got into Nan's voice as she spoke
and her keen eyes dimmed as she looked at the two anxious young
faces turned so confidingly to her for help.
'I knowburn it; welldo itplease; I can bear it. But Ted better go
away' said Robwith a firm setting of his lipsand a nod at his
'I won't stir; I can stand it if he canonly it ought to be me!' cried
Tedwith a desperate effort not to cryso full of grief and fear and
shame was he that it seemed as if he couldn't bear it like a man.
'He'd better stay and help; do him good' answered
Nun ~tcrn1~bccaui~ h~r 1i~oir w~ P~ti~ Wthin herknowing as
she did all that might be in store for both poor boys. 'Keep quiet;
I'll be back in a minute' she addedgoing towards the housewhile
her quick mind hastily planned what was best to be done.
It was ironing dayand a hot fire still burned in the empty kitchen
for the maids were upstairs resting. Nan put a slender poker to
heatand as she sat waiting for itcovered her face with her hands
asking help in this sudden need strengthcourageand wisdom;
for there was no one else to call uponand young as she wasshe
knew what was to be done if she only had the nerve to do it. Any
other patient would have been calmly interestingbut deargood
Robinhis father's pridehis mother's comforteveryone's favourite
and friendthat he should be in danger was very terrible; and a few
hot tears dropped on the well-scoured table as Nan tried to calm
her trouble by remembering how very likely it was to be all a
mistakea natural but vain
'I must make light of itor the boys will break downand then there
will be a panic. Why afflict and frighten everyone when all is in
doubt? I won't. I'll take Rob to Dr Morrison at onceand have the
dog man see Don. Thenhaving done all we canwe will either
laugh at our scare if it is one or be ready for whatever comes.
Now for my poor boy.'
Armed with the red-hot pokera pitcher of ice-waterand several
handkerchiefs from the clotheshorseNan went back to the barn
ready to do her best in this her most serious 'emergency case'. The
boys sat like statuesone of despairthe other of resignation; and it
took all Nan's boasted nerve to do her work quickly and well.
'NowRobonly a minutethen we are safe. Stand byTed; he may
be a bit faintish.'
Rob shut his eyesclinched his handsand sat like a hero. Ted
knelt beside himwhite as a sheetand as weak as a girl; for the
pangs of remorse were rending himand his heart failed at the
thought of all this pain because of his wilfulness. It was all over in
a momentwith only one little groan; but when Nan looked to her
assistant to hand the waterpoor Ted needed it the mostfor he had
fainted awayand lay on the floor in a pathetic heap of arms and
Rob laughedandcheered by that unexpected soundNan bound
up the wound with hands that never trembledthough great drops
stood on her forehead; and she shared the water with patient
number one before she turned to patient number two. Ted was
much ashamedand quite broken in spiritwhen he found how he
had failed at the critical momentand begged them not to tellas
he really could not help it; then by way of finishing his utter
humiliationa burst of hysterical tears disgraced his manly soul
and did him a world of good.
'Never mindnever mindwe are all right nowand no one need be
the wiser' said Nan brisklyas poor Ted hiccoughed on Rob's
shoulderlaughing and crying in the most tempestuous manner
while his brother soothed himand the young doctor fanned both
with Silas's old straw hat.
'Nowboyslisten to me and remember what I say. We won't alarm
anyone yetfor I've made up my mind our scare is all nonsense.
Don was out lapping the water as I came byand I don't believe
he's mad any more than I am. Stillto ease our minds and compose
our spiritsand get our guilty faces out of sight for a whileI think
we had better drive into town to my old friend Dr Morrisonand
let him just take a look at my workand give us some quieting
little dose; for we are all rather shaken by this flurry. Sit stillRob;
and Tedyou harness up while I run and get my hat and tell Aunty
to excuse me to Daisy. I don't know those Penniman girlsand she
will be glad of our room at teaand we'll have a cosy bite at my
houseand come home as gay as larks.'
Nan talked on as a vent for the hidden emotions which
professional pride would not allow her to showand the boys
approved her plan at once; for action is always easier than quiet
waiting. Ted went staggering away to wash his face at the pump
and rub some colour into his cheeks before he harnessed the horse.
Rob lay tranquilly on the haylooking up at the swallows again as
he lived through some very memorable moments. Boy as he was
the thought of death coming suddenly to himand in this way
might well make him sober; for it is a very solemn thing to be
arrested in the midst of busy life by the possibility of the great
change. There were no sins to be repented offew faultsand many
happydutiful years to remember withinfinite comfort. So Rob
had no fears to daunt himno regrets to saddenand best of alla
very strong and simple piety to sustain and cheer him.
'Mein Vater' was his first thought; for Rob was very near the
Professor's heartand the loss of his eldest would have been a
bitter blow. These wordswhispered with a tremble of the lips that
had been so firm when the hot iron burnedrecalled that other
Father who is always nearalways tender and helpful; andfolding
his handsRob said the heartiest little prayer he ever prayedthere
on the hayto the soft twitter of the brooding birds. It did him
good; and wisely laying all his fear and doubt and trouble in God's
handthe boy felt ready for whatever was to comeand from that
hour kept steadily before him the one duty that was plain to be
brave and cheerfulkeep silentand hope for the best.
Nan stole her hatand left a note on Daisy's pincushionsaying she
had taken the boys to driveand all would be out of the way till
after tea. Then she hurried back and found her patients much
betterthe one for workthe other for rest. In they gotandputting
Rob on the back seat with his leg up drove awaylooking as gay
and care-free as if nothing had happened.
Dr Morrison made light of the affairbut told Nan she had done
right; and as the much-relieved lads went downstairshe added in a
whisper: 'Send the dog off for a whileand keep your eye on the
boy. Don't let him know itand report to me if anything seems
wrong. One never knows in these cases. No harm to be careful.'
Nan noddedand feeling much relieved now that the responsibility
was off her shoulderstook the lads to Dr Watkinswho promised
to come out later and examine Don. A merry tea at Nan's house
which was kept open for her all summerdid them goodand by
the time they got home in the cool of the evening no sign of the
panic remained but Ted's heavy eyesand a slight limp when Rob
walked. As the guests were still chattering on the front piazza they
retired to the backand Ted soothed his remorseful soul by
swinging Rob in the hammockwhile Nan told stories till the dog
He said Don was a little under the weatherbut no more mad than
the grey kitten that purred round his legs while the examination
'He wants his masterand feels the heat. Fed too wellperhaps. I'll
keep him a few weeks and send him home all right' said Dr
Watkinsas Don laid his great head in his handand kept his
intelligent eyes on his faceevidently feeling that this man
understood his trialsand knew what to do for him.
So Don departed without a murmurand our three conspirators
took counsel together how to spare the family all anxietyand give
Rob the rest his leg demanded. Fortunatelyhe always spent many
hours in his little studyso he could lie on the sofa with a book in
his hand as long as he likedwithout exciting any remark. Being of
a quiet temperamenthe did not worry himself or Nan with useless
fearsbut believed what was told himand dismissing all dark
possibilitieswent cheerfully on his waysoon recovering from the
shock of what he called 'our scare'.
But excitable Ted was harder to manageand it took all Nan's wit
and wisdom to keep him from betraying the secret; for it was best
to say nothing and spare all discussion of the subject for Rob's
sake. Ted's remorse preyed upon himand having no 'Mum' to
confide inhe was very miserable. By day he devoted himself to
Robwaiting on himtalking to himgazing anxiously at himand
worrying the good fellow very much; though he wouldn't own it
since Ted found comfort in it. But at nightwhen all was quiet
Ted's lively imagination and heavy heart got the better of himand
kept him awakeor set him walking in his sleep. Nan had her eye
on himand more than once administered a little dose to give him
a restread to himscolded himand when she caught him
haunting the house in the watches of the nightthreatened to lock
him up if he did not stay in his bed. This wore off after a while;
but a change came over the freakish boyand everyone observed it
even before his mother returned to ask what they had done to
quench the Lion's spirits. He was gaybut not so heedless; and
often when the old wilfulness beset himhe would check it
sharplylook at Roband give upor stalk away to have his sulk
out alone. He no longer made fun of his brother's old-fashioned
ways and bookish tastesbut treated him with a new and very
marked respectwhich touched and pleased modest Roband much
amazed all observers. It seemed as if he felt that he owed him
reparation for the foolish act that might have cost him his life; and
love being stronger than willTed forgot his prideand paid his
debt like an honest boy.
'I don't understand it' said Mrs Joafter a week of home lifemuch
impressed by the good behaviour of her younger son. 'Ted is such a
saintI'm afraid we are going to lose him. Is it Meg's sweet
influenceor Daisy's fine cookingor the pellets I catch Nan giving
him on the sly? Some witchcraft has been at work during my
absenceand this will-o'-the-wisp is so amiablequietand
obedientI don't know him.'
'He is growing upheart's-dearestand being a precocious planthe
begins to bloom early. I also see a change in my Robchen. He is
more manly and serious than everand is seldom far from meas if
his love for the old papa was growing with his growth. Our boys
will often surprise us in this wayJoand we can only rejoice over
them and leave them to become what Gott pleases.'
As the Professor spokehis eyes rested proudly on the brothers
who came walking up the steps togetherTed's arm over Rob's
shoulder as he listened attentively to some geological remarks Rob
was making on a stone he held. UsuallyTed made fun of such
tastesand loved to lay boulders in the student's pathput brickbats
under his pillowgravel in his shoesor send parcels of dirt by
express to 'Prof. R. M. Bhaer'. Latelyhe had treated Rob's hobbies
respectfullyand had begun to appreciate the good qualities of this
quiet brother whom he had always loved but rather undervalued
till his courage under fire won Ted's admirationand made it
impossible to forget a faultthe consequences of which might have
been so terrible. The leg was still lamethough doing welland
Ted was always offering an arm as supportgazing anxiously at his
brotherand trying to guess his wants; for regret was still keen in
Ted's souland Rob's forgiveness only made it deeper. A fortunate
slip on the stairs gave Rob an excuse for limpingand no one but
Nan and Ted saw the wound; so the secret was safe up to this time.
'We are talking about youmy lads. Come in and tell us what good
fairy has been at work while we were gone. Or is it because
absence sharpens our eyesthat we find such pleasant changes
when we come back?' said Mrs Jopatting the sofa on either side
while the Professor forgot his piles of letters to admire the pleasing
prospect of his wife in a bower of armsas the boys sat down
beside hersmiling affectionatelybut feeling a little guilty; for till
now 'Mum' and 'Vater' knew every event in their boyish lives.
'Ohit's only because Bobby and I have been alone so much; we
are sort of twins. I stir him up a bitand he steadies me a great
deal. You and father do the sameyou know. Nice plan. I like it';
and Ted felt that he had settled the matter capitally.
'Mother won't thank you for comparing yourself to herTed. I'm
flattered at being like father in any way. I try to be' answered Rob
as they laughed at Ted's compliment.
'I do thank himfor it's true; and if youRobindo half as much for
your brother as Papa has for meyour life won't be a failure' said
Mrs Jo heartily. 'I'm very glad to see you helping one another. It's
the right wayand we can't begin too soon to try to understand the
needsvirtuesand failings of those nearest us. Love should not
make us blind to faultsnor familiarity make us too ready to blame
the shortcomings we see. So work awaymy sonniesand give us
more surprises of this sort as often as you like.'
'The liebe Mutter has said all. I too am well pleased at the friendly
brother-warmth I find. It is good for everyone; long may it last!'
and Professor Bhaer nodded at the boyswho looked gratifiedbut
rather at a loss how to respond to these flattering remarks.
Rob wisely kept silentfearing to say too much; but Ted burst out
finding it impossible to help telling something:
'The fact is I've been finding out what a brave good chap Bobby is
and I'm trying to make up for all the bother I've been to him. I
knew he was awfully wisebut I thought him rather softbecause
he liked books better than larksand was always fussing about his
conscience. But I begin to see that it isn't the fellows who talk the
loudest and show off best that are the manliest. Nosir! quiet old
Bob is a hero and a trumpand I'm proud of him; so would you be
if you knew all about it.'
Here a look from Rob brought Ted up with a round turn; he
stopped shortgrew redand clapped his hand on his mouth in
'Wellare we not to "know all about it"?' asked Mrs Jo quickly; for
her sharp eye saw signs of danger and her maternal heart felt that
something had come between her and her sons. 'Boys' she went on
solemnly'I suspect that the change we talk about is not altogether
the effect of growing upas we say. It strikes me that Ted has been
in mischief and Rob has got him out of some scrape; hence the
lovely mood of my bad boy and the sober one of my conscientious
sonwho never hides anything from his mother.'
Rob was as red as Ted nowbut after a moment's hesitation he
looked up and answered with an air of relief:
'Yesmotherthat's it; but it's all over and no harm doneand I
think we'd better let it befor a while at least. I did feel guilty to
keep anything from youbut now you know so much I shall not
worry and you needn't either. Ted's sorryI don't mindand it has
done us both good.'
Mrs Jo looked at Tedwho winked hard but bore the look like a
man; then she turned to Robwho smiled at her so cheerfully that
she felt reassured; but something in his face struck herand she
saw what it was that made him seem oldergraveryet more
lovable than ever. It was the look pain of mindas well as body
bringsand the patience of a sweet submission to some inevitable
trial. Like a flash she guessed that some danger had been near her
boyand the glances she had caught between the two lads and Nan
confirmed her fears.
'Robdearyou have been illhurtor seriously troubled by Ted?
Tell me at once; I will not have any secrets now. Boys sometimes
suffer all their lives from neglected accidents or carelessness.
Fritzmake them speak out!'
Mr Bhaer put down his papers and came to stand before them
saying in a tone that quieted Mrs Joand gave the boys courage:
'My sonsgive us the truth. We can bear it; do not hold it back to
spare us. Ted knows we forgive much because we love himso be
Ted instantly dived among the sofa pillows and kept therewith
only a pair of scarlet ears visiblewhile Rob in a few words told
the little storytruthfullybut as gently as he couldhastening to
add the comfortable assurance that Don was not madthe wound
nearly welland no danger would ever come of it.
But Mrs Jo grew so pale he had to put his arms about herand his
father turned and walked awayexclaiming: 'Ach Himmel!' in a
tone of such mingled painreliefand gratitudethat Ted pulled an
extra pillow over his head to smother the sound. They were all
right in a minute; but such news is always a shockeven if the peril
is pastand Mrs Jo hugged her boy close till his father came and
took him awaysaying with a strong shake of both hands and a
quiver in his voice:
'To be in danger of one's life tries a man's mettleand you bear it
well; but I cannot spare my good boy yet; thank Gottwe keep him
A smothered soundbetween a choke and a groancame from
under the pillowsand the writhing of Ted's long legs so plainly
expressed despair that his mother relented towards himand
burrowing till she found a tousled yellow headpulled it out and
smoothed itexclaiming with an irrepressible laughthough her
cheeks were wet with tears:
'Come and be forgivenpoor sinner! I know you have suffered
enoughand I won't say a word; only if harm had come to Rob you
would have made me more miserable than yourself. OhTeddy
Teddydo try to cure that wilful spirit of yours before it is too late!'
'OhMumI do try! I never can forget this I hope it's cured me; if
it hasn'tI am afraid I ain't worth saving' answered Tedpulling his
own hair as the only way of expressing his deep remorse.
'Yesyou aremy dear; I felt just so at fifteen when Amy was
nearly drownedand Marmee helped me as I'll help you. Come to
meTeddywhen the evil one gets hold of youand together we'll
rout him. Ahme! I've had many a tussle with that old Apollyon
and often got worstedbut not always. Come under my shieldand
we'll fight till we win.'
No one spoke for a minute as Ted and his mother laughed and
cried in one handkerchiefand Rob stood with his father's arm
round him so happy that all was told and forgiventhough never to
be forgotten; for such experiences do one goodand knit hearts
that love more closely together.
Presently Ted rose straight up and going to his fathersaid bravely
'I ought to be punished. Please do it; but first say you forgive me
as Rob does.'
'Always thatmein Sohnseventy time sevenif needs beelse I am
not worthy the name you give me. The punishment has come; I can
give no greater. Let it not be in vain. It will not with the help of the
mother and the All Father. Room here for bothalways!'
The good Professor opened his arms and embraced his boys like a
true Germannot ashamed to express by gesture or by word the
fatherly emotions an American would have compressed into a slap
on the shoulder and a brief 'All right'.
Mrs Jo sat and enjoyed the prospect like a romantic soul as she
wasand then they had a quiet talk togethersaying freely all that
was in their heartsand finding much comfort in the confidence
which comes when love casts out fear. It was agreed that nothing
be said except to Nanwho was to be thanked and rewarded for her
'I always knew that girl had the making of a fine woman in her
and this proves it. No panics and shrieks and faintings and fuss
but calm sense and energetic skill. Dear childwhat can I give or
do to show my gratitude?' said Mrs Jo enthusiastically.
'Make Tom clear out and leave her in peace' suggested Ted
almost himself againthough a pensive haze still partially obscured
his native gaiety.
'Yesdo! he frets her like a mosquito. She forbade him to come out
here while she stayedand packed him off with Demi. I like old
Tombut he is a regular noodle about Nan' added Robas he went
away to help his father with the accumulated letters.
'I'll do it!' said Mrs Jo decidedly. 'That girl's career shall nor be
hampered by a foolish boy's fancy. In a moment of weariness she
may give inand then it's all over. Wiser women have done so and
regretted it all their lives. Nan shall earn her place firstand prove
that she can fill it; then she may marry if she likesand can find a
man worthy of her.'
But Mrs Jo's help was not needed; for love and gratitude can work
miraclesand when youthbeautyaccidentand photography are
addedsuccess is sure; as was proved in the case of the
unsuspecting but too susceptible Thomas.
Chapter 8 JOSIE PLAYS MERMAID
While the young Bhaers were having serious experiences at home
Josie was enjoying herself immensely at Rocky Nook; for the
Laurences knew how to make summer idleness both charming and
wholesome. Bess was very fond of her little cousin; Mrs Amy felt
that whether her niece was an actress or not she must be a
gentlewomanand gave her the social training which marks the
well-bred woman everywhere; while Uncle Laurie was never
happier than when rowingridingplayingor lounging with two
gay girls beside him. Josie bloomed like a wild flower in this free
lifeBess grew rosybriskand merryand both were great
favourites with the neighbourswhose villas were by the shore or
perched on the cliffs along the pretty bay.
One crumpled rose-leaf disturbed Josie's peaceone baffled wish
filled her with a longing which became a maniaand kept her as
restless and watchful as a detective with a case to 'work up'. Miss
Cameronthe great actresshad hired one of the villas and retired
thither to rest and 'create' a new part for next season. She saw no
one but a friend or twohad a private beachand was invisible
except during her daily driveor when the opera-glasses of curious
gazers were fixed on a blue figure disporting itself in the sea. The
Lau rences knew herbut respected her privacyand after a call left
her in peace till she expressed a wish for society a courtesy which
she remembered and repaid lateras we shall see.
But Josie was like a thirsty fly buzzing about a sealed honey-pot
for this nearness to her idol was both delightful and maddening.
She pined to seeheartalk withand study this great and happy
woman who could thrill thousands by her artand win friends by
her virtuebenevolenceand beauty. This was the sort of actress
the girl meant to beand few could object if the gift was really
hers; for the stage needs just such women to purify and elevate the
profession which should teach as well as amuse. If kindly Miss
Cameron had known what passionate love and longing burned in
the bosom of the little girl whom she idly observed skipping over
the rockssplashing about the beachor galloping past her gate on
a Shetland ponyshe would have made her happy by a look or a
word. But being tired with her winter's work and busy with her
new partthe lady took no more notice of this young neighbour
than of the sea-gulls in the bay or the daisies dancing in the fields.
Nosegays left on her doorstepserenades under her garden-wall
and the fixed stare of admiring eyes were such familiar things that
she scarcely minded them; and Josie grew desperate when all her
little attempts failed.
'I might climb that pine-tree and tumble off on her piazza roofor
get Sheltie to throw me just at her gate and be taken in fainting. It's
no use to try to drown myself when she is bathing. I can't sinkand
she'd only send a man to pull me out. What can I do? I will see her
and tell her my hopes and make her say I can act some day.
Mamma would believe her; and if ohif she only would let me
study with herwhat perfect joy that would be!'
Josie made these remarks one afternoon as she and Bess prepared
for a swima fishing party having prevented their morning bathe.
'You must bide your timedearand not be so impatient. Papa
promised to give you a chance before the season is overand he
always manages things nicely. That will be better than any queer
prank of yours' answered Besstying her pretty hair in a white net
to match her suitwhile Josie made a little lobster of herself in
'I hate to wait; but I suppose I must. Hope she will bathe this
afternoonthough it is low tide. She told Uncle she should have to
go in then because in the morning people stared so and went on
her beach. Come and have a good dive from the big rock. No one
round but nurses and babiesso we can romp and splash as much
as we like.'
Away they went to have a fine time; for the little bay was free
from other bathersand the babies greatly admired their aquatic
gymnasticsboth being expert swimmers.
As they sat dripping on the big rock Josie suddenly gave a clutch
that nearly sent Bess overboardas she cried excitedly:
'There she is! Look! coming to bathe. How splendid! Ohif she
only would drown a little and let me save her! or even get her toe
nipped by a crab; anything so I could go and speak!'
'Don't seem to look; she comes to be quiet and enjoy herself.
Pretend we don't see herthat's only civil' answered Bessaffecting
to be absorbed in a white-winged yacht going by.
'Let's carelessly float that way as if going for seaweed on the rocks.
She can't mind if we are flat on our backswith only our noses out.
Then when we can't help seeing herwe'll swim back as if anxious
to retire. That will impress herand she may call to thank the very
polite young ladies who respect her wishes' proposed Josiewhose
lively fancy was always planning dramatic situations.
Just as they were going to slip from their rockas if Fate relented
at lastMiss Cameron was seen to beckon wildly as she stood
waist-deep in the waterlooking down. She called to her maid
who seemed searching along the beach for somethingand not
finding what she soughtwaved a towel towards the girls as if
summoning them to help her.
'Runfly! she wants usshe wants us!' cried Josietumbling into
the water like a very energetic turtleand swimming away in her
best style towards this long desired haven of joy. Bess followed
more slowlyand both came panting and smiling up to Miss
Cameronwho never lifted her eyesbut said in that wonderful
voice of hers:
'I've dropped a bracelet. I see itbut can't get it. Will the little boy
find me a long stick? I'll keep my eye on itso the water shall not
wash it away.'
'I'll dive for it with pleasure; but I'm not a boy' answered Josie
laughing as she shook the curly head which at a distance had
deceived the lady.
'I beg your pardon. Dive awaychild; the sand is covering it fast. I
value it very much. Never forgot to take it off before.' 'I'll get it!'
and down went Josieto come up with a handful of pebblesbut no
'It's gone; never mind my fault' said Miss Camerondisappointed
but amused at the girl's dismay as she shook the water out of her
eyes and gasped bravely:
'Noit isn't. I'll have itif I stay down all night!' and with one long
breath Josie dived againleaving nothing but a pair of agitated feet
to be seen.
'I'm afraid she will hurt herself' said Miss Cameronlooking at
Besswhom she recognized by her likeness to her mother.
'Ohno; Josie is a little fish. She likes it'; and Bess smiled happily
at this wonderful granting of her cousin's desire.
'You are Mr Laurence's daughterI think? How d'ye dodear? Tell
papa I'm coming to see him soon. Too tired before. Quite savage.
Better now. Ah! here's our pearl of divers. What luck?' she asked
as the heels went down and a dripping head came up.
Josie could only choke and splutter at firstbeing half strangled;
but though her hands had failed againher courage had not; and
with a resolute shake of her wet haira bright look at the tall lady
and a series of puffs to fill her lungsshe said calmly:
Never give upis my motto. I'm going to get itif I go to
Liverpool for it! Nowthen!' and down went the mermaid quite out
of sight this timegroping like a real lobster at the bottom of the
'Plucky little girl! I like that. Who is she?' asked the ladysitting
down on a half-covered stone to watch her diversince the bracelet
was lost sight of.
Bess told heraddingwith the persuasive smile of her father:
'Josie longs to be an actressand has waited for a month to see you.
This is a great happiness for her.'
'Bless the child! why didn't she come and call? I'd have let her in;
though usually I avoid stage-struck girls as I do reporters' laughed
There was no time for more; a brown handgrasping the bracelet
rose out of the seafollowed by a purple face as Josie came up so
blind and dizzy she could only cling to Besshalf drowned but
Miss Cameron drew her to the rock where she satand pushing the
hair out of her eyesrevived her with a hearty 'Bravo! bravo!'
which assured the girl that her first act was a hit. Josie had often
imagined her meeting with the great actress the dignity and grace
with which she would enter and tell her ambitious hopesthe
effective dress she would wearshe witty things she would saythe
deep impression her budding genius would make. But never in her
wildest moments had she imagined an interview like this; scarlet
sandystreamingand speechless she leaned against the illustrious
shoulderlooking like a beautiful seal as she blinked and wheezed
till she could smile joyfully and exclaim proudly:
'I did get it! I'm so glad!'
'Now get your breathmy dear; then I shall be glad also. It was
very nice of you to take all that trouble for me. How shall I thank
you?' asked the ladylooking at her with the beautiful eyes that
could say so many things without words.
Josie clasped her hands with a wet spat which rather destroyed the
effect of the gestureand answered in a beseeching tone that would
have softened a far harder heart than Miss Cameron's:
'Let me come and see you once only once! I want you to tell me if
I can act; you will know. I'll abide by what you say; and if you
think I can by and bywhen I've studied very hard I shall be the
happiest girl in the world. May I?'
'Yes; come tomorrow at eleven. We'll have a good talk; you shall
show me what you can doand I'll give you my opinion. But you
won't like it.'
'I willno matter if you tell me I'm a fool. I want it settled; so does
mamma. I'll take it bravely if you say no; and if you say yesI'll
never give up till I've done my best as you did.'
'Ahmy childit's a weary roadand there are plenty of thorns
among the roses when you've won them. I think you have the
courageand this proves that you have perseverance. Perhaps you'll
do. Comeand we'll see.'
Miss Cameron touched the bracelet as she spokeand smiled so
kindly that impetuous Josie wanted to kiss her; but wisely
refrainedthough her eyes were wet with softer water than any in
the sea as she thanked her.
'We are keeping Miss Cameron from her batheand the tide is
going out. ComeJosie' said thoughtful Bessfearing to outstay
'Run over the beach and get warm. Thank you very muchlittle
mermaid. Tell papa to bring his daughter to see me any time.
Good-bye'; and with a wave of her hand the tragedy queen
dismissed her courtbut remained on her weedy throne watching
the two lithe figures race over the sand with twinkling feet till they
were out of sight. Thenas she calmly bobbed up and down in the
watershe said to herself: 'The child has a good stage facevivid
mobile; fine eyesabandonpluckwill. Perhaps she'll do. Good
stock talent in the family. We shall see.'
Of course Josie never slept a winkand was in a fever of joyful
excitement next day. Uncle Laurie enjoyed the episode very much
and Aunt Amy looked out her most becoming white dress for the
grand occasion; Bess lent her most artistic hatand Josie ranged
the wood and marsh for a bouquet of wild rosessweet white
azaleafernsand graceful grassesas the offering of a very
At ten she solemnly arrayed herselfand then sat looking at her
neat gloves and buckled shoes till it was time to gogrowing pale
and sober with the thought that her fate was soon to be decided;
forlike all young people she was sure that her whole life could be
settled by one human creaturequite forgetting how wonderfully
Providence trains us by disappointmentsurprises us with
unexpected successand turns our seeming trials into blessings.
'I will go alone: we shall be freer so. OhBesspray that she may
tell me rightly! So much depends on that! Don't laughuncle! It is a
very serious moment for me. Miss Cameron knows thatand will
tell you so. Kiss meAunt Amysince mamma isn't here. If you say
I look niceI'm quite satisfied. Good-bye.' And with a wave of the
hand as much like her model's as she could make itJosie
departedlooking very pretty and feeling very tragical.
Sure now of admittanceshe boldly rang at the door which
excluded so manyand being ushered into a shady parlourfeasted
her eyes upon several fine portraits of great actors while she
waited. She had read about most of themand knew their trials and
triumphs so well that she soon forgot herselfand tried to imitate
Mrs Siddons as Lady Macbethlooking up at the engraving as she
held her nosegay like the candle in the sleep-walking sceneand
knit her youthful brows distressfully while murmuring the speech
of the haunted queen. So busy was she that Miss Cameron watched
her for several minutes unseenthen startled her by suddenly
sweeping in with the words upon her lipsthe look upon her face
which made that one of her greatest scenes.
'I never can do it like that; but I'll keep tryingif you say I may'
cried Josieforgetting her manners in the intense interest of the
'Show me what you can do' answered the actresswisely plunging
into the middle of things at oncewell knowing that no common
chat would satisfy this very earnest little person.
'First let me give you these. I thought you'd like wild things better
than hot-house flowers; and I loved to bring themas I'd no other
way to thank you for your great kindness to me' said Josie
offering her nosegay with a simple warmth that was very sweet.
'I do love them bestand keep my room full of the posies some
good fairy hangs on my gate. Upon my wordI think I've found the
fairy out these are so like' she added quicklyas her eye went
from the flowers in her hand to others that stood near byarranged
with the same taste.
Josie's blush and smile betrayed her before she saidwith a look
full of girlish adoration and humility: 'I couldn't help it; I admire
you so much. I know it was a liberty; but as I couldn't get in
myselfI loved to think my posies pleased you.'
Something about the child and her little offering touched the
womananddrawing Josie to hershe saidwith no trace of
actress in face or voice:
'They did please medearand so do you. I'm tired of praise; and
love is very sweetwhen it is simple and sincere like this.'
Josie remembered to have heardamong many other storiesthat
Miss Cameron lost her lover years agoand since had lived only
for art. Now she felt that this might have been true; and pity for the
splendidlonely life made her face very eloquentas well as
grateful. Thenas if anxious to forget the pasther new friend
saidin the commanding way that seemed natural to her:
'Let me see what you can do. Julietof course. All begin with that.
Poor soulhow she is murdered!'
NowJosie had intended to begin with Romeo's much- enduring
sweetheartand follow her up with BiancaPaulineand several of
the favourite idols of stage-struck girls; but being a shrewd little
personshe suddenly saw the wisdom of Uncle Laurie's adviceand
resolved to follow it. So instead of the rant Miss Cameron
expectedJosie gave poor Ophelia's mad sceneand gave it very
wellhaving been trained by the college professor of elocution and
done it many times. She was too youngof coursebut the white
gownthe loose hairthe real flowers she scattered over the
imaginary graveadded to the illusion; and she sung the songs
sweetlydropped her pathetic curtsiesand vanished behind the
curtain that divided the rooms with a backward look that surprised
her critical auditor into a quick gesture of applause. Cheered by
that welcome soundJosie ran back as a little hoyden in one of the
farces she had often actedtelling a story full of fun and
naughtiness at firstbut ending with a sob of repentance and an
earnest prayer for pardon.
'Very good! Try again. Better than I expected' called the voice of
Josie tried Portia's speechand recited very wellgiving due
emphasis to each fine sentence. Thenunable to refrain from what
she considered her greatest effortshe burst into Juliet's balcony
sceneending with the poison and the tomb. She felt sure that she
surpassed herselfand waited for applause. A ringing laugh made
her tingle with indignation and disappointmentas she went to
stand before Miss Cameronsaying in a tone of polite surprise:
'I have been told that I did it very well. I'm sorry you don't think
'My dearit's very bad. How can it help being so? What can a child
like you know of love and fear and death? Don't try it yet. Leave
tragedy alone till you are ready for it.'
'But you clapped Ophelia.'
'Yesthat was very pretty. Any clever girl can do it effectively. But
the real meaning of Shakespeare is far above you yetchild. The
comedy bit was best. There you showed real talent. It was both
comic and pathetic. That's art. Don't lose it. The Portia was good
declamation. Go on with that sort of thing; it trains the voice
teaches shades of expression. You've a good voice and natural
grace great helps bothhard to acquire.'
'WellI'm glad I've got something' sighed Josiesitting meekly on
a stoolmuch crestfallenbut not daunted yetand bound to have
her say out.
'My dear little girlI told you that you would not like what I should
say to you; yet I must be honest if I would really help you. I've had
to do it for many like you; and most of them have never forgiven
methough my words have proved trueand they are what I
advised them to be good wives and happy mothers in quiet
homes. A few have kept onand done fairly well. One you will
hear of soonI think; for she has talentindomitable patienceand
mind as well as beauty. You are too young to show to which class
you belong. Geniuses are very rareand even at fifteen seldom give
much promise of future power.'
'OhI don't think I'm a genius!' cried Josiegrowing calm and sober
as she listened to the melodious voice and looked into the
expressive face that filled her with confidenceso strongsincere
and kindly was it. 'I only want to find out if I have talent enough to
go onand after years of study to be able to act well in any of the
good plays people never tire of seeing. I don't expect to be a Mrs
Siddons or a Miss Cameronmuch as I long to be; but it does seem
as if I had something in me which can't come out in any way but
this. When I act I'm perfectly happy. I seem to liveto be in my
own worldand each new part is a new friend. I love Shakespeare
and am never tired of his splendid people. Of courseI don't
understand it all; but it's like being alone at night with the
mountains and the starssolemn and grandand I try to imagine
how it will look when the sun comes upand all is glorious and
clear to me. I can't seebut I feel the beautyand long to express it.'
As she spoke with the most perfect self-forgetfulness Josie was
pale with excitementher eyes shoneher lips trembledand all her
little soul seemed trying to put into words the emotions that filled
it to overflowing. Miss Cameron understoodfelt that this was
something more than a girlish whim; and when she answered there
was a new tone of sympathy in her voicea new interest in her
facethough she wisely refrained from saying all she thoughtwell
knowing what splendid dreams young people build upon a word
and how bitter is the pain when the bright bubbles burst.
'If you feel thisI can give you no better advice than to go on
loving and studying our great master' she said slowly; but Josie
caught the changed toneand feltwith a thrill of joythat her new
friend was speaking to her now as to a comrade. 'It is an education
in itselfand a lifetime is not long enough to teach you all his
secret. But there is much to do before you can hope to echo his
words. Have you the patiencecouragestrengthto begin at the
beginningand slowlypainfullylay the foundation for future
work? Fame is a pearl many dive for and only a few bring up. Even
when they doit is not perfectand they sigh for moreand lose
better things in struggling for them.'
The last words seemed spoken more to herself than to her hearer
but Josie answered quicklywith a smile and an expressive
'I got the bracelet in spite of all the bitter water in my eyes.'
'You did! I don't forget it. A good omen. We will accept it.'
Miss Cameron answered the smile with one that was like sunshine
to the girland stretched her white hands as if taking some
invisible gift. Then added in a different tonewatching the effect
of her words on the expressive face before her:
'Now you will be disappointedfor instead of telling you to come
and study with meor go and act in some second-rate theatre at
onceI advise you to go back to school and finish your education.
That is the first stepfor all accomplishments are neededand a
single talent makes a very imperfect character. Cultivate mind and
bodyheart and souland make yourself an intelligentgraceful
beautifuland healthy girl. Thenat eighteen or twentygo into
training and try your powers. Better start for the battle with your
arms in orderand save the hard lesson which comes when we rush
on too soon. Now and then genius carries all before itbut not
often. We have to climb slowlywith many slips and falls. Can you
wait as well as work?'
'We shall see. It would be pleasant to me to know that when I quit
the stage I leave behind me a well-trainedfaithfulgifted comrade
to more than fill my placeand carry on what I have much at heart
the purification of the stage. Perhaps you are she; but remember
mere beauty and rich costumes do not make an actressnor are the
efforts of a clever little girl to play great characters real art. It is all
dazzle and shamand a disgrace and disappointment now. Why
will the public be satisfied with opera bouffeor the trash called
society plays when a world of truth and beautypoetry and pathos
lies waiting to be interpreted and enjoyed?'
Miss Cameron had forgotten to whom she spokeand walked to
and frofull of the noble regret all cultivated people feel at the low
state of the stage nowadays.
'That's what Uncle Laurie says; and he and Aunt Jo try to plan
plays about true and lovely things simple domestic scenes that
touch people's heartsand make them laugh and cry and feel better.
Uncle says that sort is my styleand I must not think of tragedy.
But it's so much nicer to sweep about in crowns and velvet trains
than to wear everyday clothesand just be myselfthough it is so
'Yet that is high artchildand what we need for a time till we are
ready for the masters. Cultivate that talent of yours. It is a special
giftthis power to bring tears and smilesand a sweeter task to
touch the heart than to freeze the blood or fire the imagination.
Tell your uncle he is rightand ask your aunt to try a play for you.
I'll come and see it when you are ready.'
'Will you? Oh! will you? We are going to have some at Christmas
with a nice part for me. A simple little thingbut I can do itand
should be so proudso happy to have you there.'
Josie rose as she spokefor a glance at the clock showed her that
her call was a long one; and hard as it was to end this momentous
interviewshe felt that she must go. Catching up her hat she went
to Miss Cameronwho stood looking at her so keenly that she felt
as transparent as a pane of glassand coloured prettily as she
looked upsayingwith a grateful little tremor in her voice:
'I can never thank you for this hour and all you have told me. I
shall do just what you adviseand mamma will be very glad to see
me settled at my books again. I can study now with all my heart
because it is to help me on; and I won't hope too muchbut work
and waitand try to please youas the only way to pay my debt.'
'That reminds me that I have not paid mine. Little friendwear this
for my sake. It is fit for a mermaidand will remind you of your
first dive. May the next bring up a better jeweland leave no bitter
water on your lips!'
As she spokeMiss Cameron took from the lace at her throat a
pretty pin of aquamarineand fastened it like an order on Josie's
proud bosom; then lifting the happy little faceshe kissed it very
tenderlyand watched it go smiling away with eyes that seemed to
see into a future full of the trials and the triumphs which she knew
Bess expected to see Josie come flying inall raptures and
excitementor drowned in tears of disappointmentbut was
surprised at the expression of calm content and resolution which
she wore. Pride and satisfactionand a new feeling of
responsibility both sobered and sustained herand she felt that any
amount of dry study and long waiting would be bearableif in the
glorious future she could be an honour to her profession and a
comrade to the new friend whom she already adored with girlish
She told her little story to a deeply interested audienceand all felt
that Miss Cameron's advice was good. Mrs Amy was relieved at
the prospect of delay; for she did not want her niece to be an
actress and hoped the fancy would die out.
Uncle Laurie was full of charming plans and prophecies and wrote
one of his most delightful notes to thank their neighbour for her
kindness; while Besswho loved art of all kindsfully sympathized
with her cousin's ambitious hopesonly wondering why she
preferred to act out her visions rather than embody them in marble.
That first interview was not the last; for Miss Cameron was really
interestedand had several memorable conversations with the
Laurenceswhile the girls sat bydrinking in every word with the
delight all artists feel in their own beautiful worldand learning to
see how sacred good gifts arehow powerfuland how faithfully
they should be used for high endseach in its own place helping to
Josie wrote reams to her mother; and when the visit ended rejoiced
her heart by bringing her a somewhat changed little daughterwho
fell to work at the once-detested books with a patient energy which
surprised and pleased everyone. The right string had been touched
and even French exercises and piano practice became endurable
since accomplishments would be useful by and by; dressmanners
and habits were all interesting nowbecause 'mind and bodyheart
and soulmust be cultivated'and while training to become an
'intelligentgracefulhealthy girl'little Josie was unconsciously
fitting herself to play her part well on whatever stage the great
Manager might prepare for her.
Chapter THE WORM TURNS
Two very superior bicycles went twinkling up the road to
Plumfield one September afternoonbearing two brown and dusty
riders evidently returning from a successful runfor though their
legs might be a trifle wearytheir faces beamed as they surveyed
the world from their lofty perches with the air of calm content all
wheelmen wear after they have learned to ride; before that happy
period anguish of mind and body is the chief expression of the
'Go ahead and reportTom; I'm due here. See you later' said Demi
swinging himself down at the door of the Dovecote.
'Don't peachthere's a good fellow. Let me have it out with Mother
Bhaer first' returned Tomwheeling in at the gate with a heavy
Demi laughedand his comrade went slowly up the avenue
devoutly hoping that the coast was clear; for he was the bearer of
tidings which wouldhe thoughtconvulse the entire family with
-astonishment and dismay.
To his great joy Mrs Jo was discovered alone in a grove of
proof-sheetswhich she droppedto greet the returning wanderer
cordially. But after the first glance she saw that something was the
matterrecent events having made her unusually sharp-eyed and
'What is it nowTom?' she askedas he subsided into an easy-chair
with a curious expression of mingled fearshameamusementand
distress in his brick-red countenance.
'I'm in an awful scrapema'am.'
'Of course; I'm always prepared for scrapes when you appear. What
is it? Run over some old lady who is going to law about it?' asked
Mrs Jo cheerfully.
'Worse than that' groaned Tom.
'Not poisoned some trusting soul who asked you to prescribeI
'Worse than that.'
'You haven't let Demi catch any horrid thing and left him behind
'Worse even than that.'
'I give it up. Tell me quick; I hate to wait for bad news.'
Having got his listener sufficiently excitedTom launched his
thunderbolt in one brief sentenceand fell back to watch the effect.
Mrs Jo's proof-sheets flew wildly about as she clasped her hands
exclaiming in dismay:
'If Nan has yieldedI'll never forgive her!'
'She hasn't; it's another girl.'
Tom's face was so funny as he said the wordsthat it was
impossible to help laughing; for he looked both sheepish and
pleasedbesides very much perplexed and worried.
'I'm gladvery glad indeed! Don't care who it is; and I hope you'll
be married soon. Now tell me all about it' commanded Mrs Joso
much relieved that she felt ready for anything.
'What will Nan say?' demanded Tomrather taken aback at this
view of his predicament.
'She will be rejoiced to get rid of the mosquito who has plagued
her so long. Don't worry about Nan. Who is this "other girl"?'
'Demi hasn't written about her?'
'Only something about your upsetting a Miss West down at Quitno;
I thought that was scrape enough.'
'That was only the beginning of a series of scrapes. Just my luck!
Of course after sousing the poor girl I had to be attentive to her
hadn't I? Everyone seemed to think soand I couldn't get awayand
so I was lost before I knew it. It's all Demi's faulthe would stay
there and fuss with his old photosbecause the views were good
and all the girls wanted to be taken. Look at thesewill you
ma'am? That's the way we spent our time when we weren't playing
tennis'; and Tom pulled a handful of pictures from his pocket
displaying several in which he was conspicuouseither holding a
sun-umbrella over a very pretty young lady on the rocksreposing
at her feet in the grassor perched on a piazza railing with other
couples in seaside costumes and effective attitudes.
'This is she of course?' asked Mrs Jopointing to the much-ruffled
damsel with the jaunty hatcoquettish shoesand racket in her
'That's Dora. Isn't she lovely?' cried Tomforgetting his tribulations
for a moment and speaking with lover-like ardour.
'Very nice little person to look at. Hope she is not a Dickens Dora?
That curly crop looks like it.' 'Not a bit; she's very smart; can keep
houseand sewand do lots of thingsI assure youma'am. All the
girls like herand she's sweet-tempered and jollyand sings like a
birdand dances beautifullyand loves books. Thinks yours are
splendidand made me talk about you no end.'
'That last sentence is to flatter me and win my help to get you out
of the scrape. Tell me first how you got in'; and Mrs Jo settled
herself to listen with interestnever tired of boys' affairs.
Tom gave his head a rousing rub all over to clear his witsand
plunged into his story with a will.
'Wellwe've met her beforebut I didn't know she was there. Demi
wanted to see a fellowso we wentand finding it nice and cool
rested over Sunday. Found some pleasant people and went out
rowing; I had Doraand came to grief on a confounded rock. She
could swimno harm doneonly the scare and the spoilt gown. She
took it welland we got friendly at once couldn't help it
scrambling into that beast of a boat while the rest laughed at us. Of
course we had to stay another day to see that Dora was all right.
Demi wanted to. Alice Heath is down there and two other girls
from our collegeso we sort of lingered alongand Demi kept
taking picturesand we dancedand got into a tennis tournament;
and that was as good exercise as wheelingwe thought. Fact is
tennis is a dangerous gamema'am. A great deal of courting goes
on in those courtsand we fellows find that sort of "serving"
mighty agreeabledon't you know?'
'Not much tennis in my daybut I understand perfectly' said Mrs
Joenjoying it all as much as Tom did. 'Upon my wordI hadn't the
least idea of being serious' he continued slowlyas if this part of
his tale was hard to tell; 'but everyone else spoonedso I did. Dora
seemed to like it and expect itand of course I was glad to be
agreeable. She thought I amounted to somethingthough Nan does
notand it was pleasant to be appreciated after years of snubbing.
Yesit was right down jolly to have a sweet girl smile at you all
dayand blush prettily when you said a neat thing to herand look
glad when you camesorry when you leftand admire all you did
and make you feel like a man and act your best. That's the sort of
treatment a fellow enjoys and ought to get if he behaves himself;
not frowns and cold shoulders year in and year outand made to
look like a fool when he means welland is faithfuland has loved
a girl ever since he was a boy. Noby Joveit's not fairand I won't
Tom waxed warm and eloquent as he thought over his wrongsand
bounced up to march about the roomwagging his head and trying
to feel aggrieved as usualbut surprised to find that his heart did
not ache a bit.
'I wouldn't. Drop the old fancyfor it was nothing more and take
up the new oneif it is genuine. But how came you to propose
Tomas you must have done to be engaged?' asked Mrs Jo
impatient for the crisis of the tale.
'Ohthat was an accident. I didn't mean it at all; the donkey did it
and I couldn't get out of the scrape without hurting Dora's feelings
you see' began Tomseeing that the fatal moment had come.
'So there were two donkeys in itwere there?' said Mrs Jo
foreseeing fun of some sort.
'Don't laugh! It sounds funnyI know; but it might have been
awful' answered Tom darklythough a twinkle of the eye showed
that his love trials did not quite blind him to the comic side of the
'The girls admired our new wheelsand of course we liked to show
off. Took 'em to rideand had larks generally. Wellone dayDora
was on behindand we were going nicely along a good bit of road
when a ridiculous old donkey got right across the way. I thought
he'd movebut he didn'tso I gave him a kick; he kicked backand
over we went in a heapdonkey and all. Such a mess! I thought
only of Doraand she had hysterics; at leastshe laughed till she
criedand that beast brayedand I lost my head. Any fellow would
with a poor girl gasping in the roadand he wiping her tears and
begging pardonnot knowing whether her bones were broken or
not. I called her my darlingand went on like a fool in my flurry
till she grew calmerand saidwith such a look: "I forgive you
Tom. Pick me upand let us go on again."
'Wasn't that sweet nowafter I'd upset her for the second time? It
touched me to the heart; and I said I'd like to go on for ever with
such an angel to steer forand - well I don't know what I did say;
but you might have knocked me down with a feather when she put
her arm round my neck and whispered: "Tomdearwith you I'm
not afraid of any lions in the path." She might have said donkeys;
but she was in earnestand she spared my feelings. Very nice of
the dear girl; but there I am with two sweethearts on my hands
and in a deu~ of a scrape.'
Finding it impossible to contain herself another momentMrs Jo
laughed till the tears ran down her cheeks at this characteristic
episode; and after one reproachful lookwhich only added to her
merrimentTom burst into a jolly roar that made the room ring.
'Tommy Bangs! Tommy Bangs! who but you could ever get into
such a catastrophe?' said Mrs Jowhen she recovered her breath.
'Isn't it a muddle all roundand won't everyone chaff me to death
about it? I shall have to quit old Plum for a while' answered Tom
as he mopped his facetrying to realize the full danger of his
'Noindeed; I'll stand by youfor I think it the best joke of the
season. But tell me how things ended. Is it really seriousor only a
summer flirtation? I don't approve of thembut boys and girls will
play with edged tools and cut their fingers.'
'WellDora considers herself engagedand wrote to her people at
once. I couldn't say a word when she took it all in solemn earnest
and seemed so happy. She's only seventeennever liked anyone
beforeand is sure all will be all right; as her father knows mine
and we are both well off. I was so staggered that I said:
Why, you can't love me really when we know so little of one
another?But she answered right out of her tender little heart:
Yes, I do, dearly, Tom; you are so gay and kind and honest, I
couldn't help it.Nowafter that what could I do but go ahead and
make her happy while I stayedand trust to luck to straighten the
snarl out afterwards?'
'A truly Tomian way of taking things easy. I hope you told your
father at once.'
'Oh yesI wrote off and broke it to him in three lines. I said: "Dear
FatherI'm engaged to Dora Westand I hope she will suit the
family. She suits me tip-top. Yours everTom." He was all right
never liked Nanyou know; but Dora will suit him down to the
ground.' And Tom looked entirely satisfied with his own tact and
'What did Demi say to this rapid and funny lovemaking? Wasn't he
scandalized?' asked Mrs Jotrying not to laugh again as she
thought of the unromantic spectacle of donkeybicycleboyand
girl all in the dust together.
'Not a bit. He was immensely interested and very kind; talked to
me like a father; said it was a good thing to steady a fellowonly I
must be honest with her and myself and not trifle a moment. Demi
is a regular Solomonespecially when he is in the same boat'
answered Tomlooking wise.
'You don't mean ?' gasped Mrs Join sudden alarm at the bare
idea of more love-affairs just yet.
'YesI dopleasema'am; it's a regular sell all the way throughand
I owe Demi one for taking me into temptation blindfold. He said
he went to Quitno to see Fred Wallacebut he never saw the
fellow. How could hewhen Wallace was off in his yacht all the
time we were there? Alice was the real attractionand I was left to
my fatewhile they were maundering round with that old camera.
There were three donkeys in this affairand I'm not the worst one
though I shall have to bear the laugh. Demi will look innocent and
soberand no one will say a word to him.'
'The midsummer madness has broken outand no one knows who
will be stricken next. Wellleave Demi to his motherand let us
see what you are going to doTom.'
'I don't know exactly; it's awkward to be in love with two girls at
once. What do you advise?' 'A common-sense view of the caseby
all means. Dora loves you and thinks you love her. Nan does not
care for youand you only care for her as a friendthough you have
tried to do more. It is my opinionTomthat you love Doraor are
on the way to it; for in all these years I've never seen you look or
speak about Nan as you do about Dora. Opposition has made you
obstinately cling to her till accident has shown you a more
attractive girl. NowI think you had better take the old love for a
friendthe new one for a sweetheartand in due timeif the
sentiment is genuinemarry her.'
If Mrs Jo had any doubts about the matterTom's face would have
proved the truth of her opinion; for his eyes shonehis lips smiled
and in spite of dust and sunburn a new expression of happiness
quite glorified him as he stood silent for a momenttrying to
understand the beautiful miracle which real love works when it
comes to a young man's heart.
'The fact is I meant to make Nan jealousfor she knows Doraand
I was sure would hear of our doings. I was tired of being walked
onand I thought I'd try to break away and not be a bore and a
laughing-stock any more' he said slowlyas if it relieved him to
pour out his doubts and woes and hopes and joys to his old friend.
'I was regularly astonished to find it so easy and so pleasant. I
didn't mean to do any harmbut drifted along beautifullyand told
Demi to mention things in his letters to Daisyso Nan might know.
Then I forgot Nan altogetherand sawheardfeltcared for no one
but Doratill the donkey bless his old heart! pitched her into my
arms and I found she loved me. Upon my soulI don't see why she
should! I'm not half good enough.' 'Every honest man feels that
when an innocent girl puts her hand in his. Make yourself worthy
of herfor she isn't an angelbut a woman with faults of her own
for you to bearand forgiveand you must help one another' said
Mrs Jotrying to realize that this sober youth was her scapegrace
'What troubles me is that I didn't mean it when I beganand was
going to use the dear girl as an instrument of torture for Nan. It
wasn't rightand I don't deserve to be so happy. If all my scrapes
ended as well as thiswhat a state of bliss I should be in!' and Tom
beamed again at the rapturous prospect.
'My dear boyit is not a scrapebut a very sweet experience
suddenly dawning upon you' answered Mrs Jospeaking very
soberly; for she saw he was in earnest. 'Enjoy it wisely and be
worthy of itfor it is a serious thing to accept a girl's love and trust
and let her look up to you for tenderness and truth in return. Don't
let little Dora look in vainbut be a man in all things for her sake
and make this affection a blessing to you both.'
'I'll try. YesI do love heronly I can't believe it just yet. Wish you
knew her. Dear little soulI long to see her already! She cried
when we parted last night and I hated to go.' Tom's hand went to
his cheek as if he still felt the rosy little seal Dora had set upon his
promise not to forget herand for the first time in his
happy-go-lucky life Tommy Bangs understood the difference
between sentiment and sentimentality. The feeling recalled Nan
for he had never known that tender thrill when thinking of herand
the old friendship seemed rather a prosaic affair beside this
delightful mingling of romancesurpriseloveand fun. 'I declareI
feel as if a weight was off mebut what the dickens will Nan say
when she knows it!' he exclaimed with a chuckle.
'Knows what?' asked a clear voice that made both start and turn
for there was Nan calmly surveying them from the doorway.
Anxious to put Tom out of suspense and see how Nan would take
the newsMrs Jo answered quickly:
'Tom's engagement to Dora West.'
'Really?' and Nan looked so surprised that Mrs Jo was afraid she
might be fonder of her old playmate than she knew; but her next
words set the fear at restand made everything comfortable and
merry at once.
'I knew my prescription would work wonders if he only took it
long enough. Dear old TomI'm so glad. Bless you! bless you!'
And she shook both his hands with hearty affection.
'It was an accidentNan. I didn't mean tobut I'm always getting
into messesand I couldn't seem to get out of this any other way.
Mother Bhaer will tell you all about it. I must go and make myself
tidy. Going to tea with Demi. See you later.'
Stammeringblushingand looking both sheepish and gratified
Tom suddenly boltedleaving the elder lady to enlighten the
younger at lengthand have another laugh over this new sort of
courtshipwhich might well be called accidental. Nan was deeply
interestedfor she knew Dorathought her a nice little thingand
predicted that in time she would make Tom an excellent wife
since she admired and 'appreciated' him so much.
'I shall miss him of coursebut it will be a relief to me and better
for him; dangling is so bad for a boy. Now he will go into business
with his father and do welland everyone be happy. I shall give
Dora an elegant family medicine-chest for a wedding-presentand
teach her how to use it. Tom can't be trustedand is no more fit for
the profession than Silas.'
The latter part of this speech relieved Mrs Jo's mindfor Nan had
looked about her as if she had lost something valuable when she
began; but the medicine-chest seemed to cheer herand the
thought of Tom in a safe profession was evidently a great comfort.
'The worm has turned at lastNanand your bond-man is free. Let
him goand give your whole mind to your work; for you are fitted
for the professionand will be an honour to it by and by' she said
'I hope so. That reminds me measles are in the villageand you
had better tell the girls not to call where there are children. It
would be bad to have a run of them just as term begins. Now I'm
off to Daisy. Wonder what she will say to Tom. Isn't he great fun?'
And Nan departedlaughing over the joke with such genuine
satisfaction that it was evident no sentimental regrets disturbed her
'I shall have my eye on Demibut won't say a word. Meg likes to
manage her children in her own wayand a very good way it is.
But the dear Pelican will be somewhat ruffled if her boy has
caught the epidemic which seems to have broken out among us
Mrs Jo did not mean the measlesbut that more serious malady
called lovewhich is apt to ravage communitiesspring and
autumnwhen winter gaiety and summer idleness produce whole
bouquets of en- gagementsand set young people to pairing off
like the birds. Franz began itNat was a chronic and Tom a sudden
case; Demi seemed to have the symptoms; and worst of allher
own Ted had only the day before calmly said to her: 'MumI think
I should be happier if I had a sweetheartlike the other boys.' If her
cherished son had asked her for dynamite to play withshe would
hardly have been more startledor have more decidedly refused the
'WellBarry Morgan said I ought to have one and
offered to pick me out a nice one among our set. I
asked Josie firstand she hooted at the ideaso I
thought I'd let Barry look round. You say it steadies a
fellowand I want to be steady' explained Ted in a
serious tonewhich would have convulsed his parent
at any other time.
'Good lack! What are we coming to in this fast age when babes and
boys make such demands and want to play with one of the most
sacred things in life?' exclaimed Mrs Joand having in a few words
set the matter in its true lightsent her son away to wholesome
baseball and Octoo for a safe sweetheart.
Nowhere was Tom's bomb-shell to explode in their midst
carrying widespread destructionperhaps; for though one swallow
does not make a summerone engagement is apt to make several
and her boys weremost of themat the inflammable age when a
spark ignites the flamewhich soon flickers and dies outor burns
warm and clear for life. Nothing could be done about it but to help
them make wise choicesand be worthy of good mates. But of all
the lessons Mrs Jo had tried to teach her boysthis great one was
the hardest; for love is apt to make lunatics of even saints and
sagesso young people cannot be expected to escape the delusions
disappointmentsand mistakesas well as the delightsof this
'I suppose it is inevitablesince we live in Americaso I won't
borrow troublebut hope that some of the new ideas of education
will produce a few heartyhappycapableand intelligent girls for
my lads. Lucky for me that I haven't the whole twelve on my
handsI should lose my wits if I hadfor I foresee complications
and troubles ahead worse than Tom's boatsbicyclesdonkeysand
Doras' meditated Mrs Joas she went back to her neglected
Tom was quite satisfied with the tremendous effect his
engagement produced in the little community at Plum-field. 'It was
paralysing' as Demi said; and astonishment left most of Tom's
mates little breath for chaff. That hethe faithful oneshould turn
from the idol to strange goddesseswas a shock to the romantic
and a warning to the susceptible. It was comical to see the airs our
Thomas put on; for the most ludicrous parts of the affair were
kindly buried in oblivion by the few who knew themand Tom
burst forth as a full-blown hero who had rescued the maiden from
a watery graveand won her gratitude and love by his daring deed.
Dora kept the secretand enjoyed the fun when she came to see
Mother Bhaer and pay her respects to the family generally.
Everyone liked her at oncefor she was a gay and winning little
soul; freshfrankand so happyit was beautiful to see her
innocent pride in Tomwho was a new boyor man rather; for with
this change in his life a great change took place in him. Jolly he
would always beand impulsivebut he tried to become all that
Dora believed himand his best side came uppermost for everyday
wear. It was surprising to see how many good traits Tom had; and
his efforts to preserve the manly dignity belonging to his proud
position as an engaged man was very comical. So was the entire
change from his former abasement and devotion to Nan to a
somewhat lordly air with his little betrothed; for Dora made an
idol of himand resented the idea of a fault or a flaw in her Tom.
This new state of things suited bothand the once blighted being
bloomed finely in the warm atmosphere of appreciationloveand
confidence. He was very fond of the dear girlbut meant to be a
slave no longerand enjoyed his freedom immenselyquite
unconscious that the great tyrant of the world had got hold of him
To his father's satisfaction he gave up his medical studiesand
prepared to go into business with the old gentlemanwho was a
flourishing merchantready now to make the way smooth and
smile upon his marriage with Mr West's well-endowed daughter.
The only thorn in Tom's bed of roses was Nan's placid interest in
his affairsand evident relief at his disloyalty. He did not want her
to sufferbut a decent amount of regret at the loss of such a lover
would have gratified him; a slight melancholya word of reproach
a glance of envy as he passed with adoring Dora on his arm
seemed but the fitting tribute to such years of faithful service and
sincere affection. But Nan regarded him with a maternal sort of air
that nettled him very muchand patted Dora's curly head with a
worldlywise air worthy of the withered spinsterJulia Millsin
It took some time to get the old and the new emo tions
comfortably adjustedbut Mrs Jo helped himand Mr Laurie gave
him some wise advice upon the astonishing gymnastic feats the
human heart can performand be all the better for it if it only held
fast to the balancing-pole of truth and common sense. At last our
Tommy got his bearingsand as autumn came on Plumfield saw
but little of him; for his new lode star was in the cityand business
kept him hard at work. He was evidently in his right place now
and soon throve finelyto his father's great contentment; for his
jovial presence pervaded the once quiet office like a gale of fresh
windand his lively wits found managing men and affairs much
more congenial employment than studying diseaseor playing
unseemly pranks with skeletons.
Here we will leave him for a time and turn to the more serious
adventures of his matesthough this engagementso merrily made
was the anchor which kept our mercurial Tom happyand made a
Chapter 10 DEMI SETTLES
'Mothercan I have a little serious conversation with you?' asked
Demi one eveningas they sat together enjoying the first fire of the
seasonwhile Daisy wrote letters upstairs and Josie was studying
in the little library close by.
'Certainlydear. No bad newsI hope?' and Mrs Meg looked up
from her sewing with a mixture of pleasure and anxiety on her
motherly face; for she dearly loved a good talk with her sonand
knew that he always had something worth telling.
'It will be good news for youI think' answered Demismiling as
he threw away his paper and went to sit beside her on the little sofa
which just held two.
'Let me hear itthenat once.'
'I know you don't like the reportingand will be glad to hear that I
have given it up.'
'I am very glad! It is too uncertain a businessand there is no
prospect of getting on for a long time. I want you settled in some
good place where you can stayand in time make money. I wish
you liked a profession; but as you don'tany cleanwell-established
business will do.'
'What do you say to a railroad office?'
'I don't like it. A noisyhurried kind of placeI knowwith all sorts
of rough men about. I hope it isn't thatdear?'
'I could have it; but does book-keeping in a wholesale leather
business please you better?'
'No; you'll get round-shouldered writing at a tall desk; and they
sayonce a book-keeper always a bookkeeper.'
'How does a travelling agent suit your views?'
'Not at all; with all those dreadful accidentsand the exposure and
bad food as you go from place to placeyou are sure to get killed
or lose your health.'
'I could be private secretary to a. literary man; but the salary is
smalland may end any time.'
'That would be betterand more what I want. It isn't that I object to
honest work of any kind; but I don't want my son to spend his best
years grubbing for a little money in a dark officeor be knocked
about in a rough-and-tumble scramble to get on. I want to see you
in some business where your tastes and talents can be developed
and made useful; where you can go on risingand in time put in
your little fortune and be a partner; so that your years of
apprenticeship will not be wastedbut fit you to take your place
among the honourable men who make their lives and work useful
and respected. I talked it all over with your dear father when you
were a child; and if he had lived he would have shown you what I
meanand helped you to be what he was.'
Mrs Meg wiped away a quiet tear as she spoke; for the memory of
her husband was a very tender oneand the education of his
children had been a sacred task to which she gave all her heart and
lifeand so far she had done wonderfully well as her good son
and loving daughters tried to prove. Demi's arm was round her
nowas he saidin a voice so like his father's that it was the
sweetest music to her ear:
'Mother dearI think I have got just what you want ~or me; and h
shall not be ¤~ fMll? ~f I don't b~comr the man you hope to see
me. Let me tell you all about
it. I didn't ~ay anything till it was surer because ~t would only
worry you; but Aunt Jo and I have been on the look-out for it some
timeand now it has come. You know her publisherMr Tiberis
one of the most successful men in the business; also generous
kindand the soul of honour as his treatment of Aunty proves.
WellI've rather hankered for that place; for I love booksand as I
can't make them I'd like to publish them. That needs some literary
taste and judgementit brings you in contact with fine peopleand
is an education in itself. Whenever I go into that largehandsome
room to see Mr Tiber for Aunt JoI always want to stay; for it's
lined with books and picturesfamous men and women come and
goand Mr Tiber sits at his desk like a sort of kingreceiving his
subjects; for the greatest authors are humble to himand wait his
Yes or No with anxiety. Of course I've nothing to do with all that
and may never have; but I like to see itand the atmosphere is so
different from the dark offices and hurly-burly of many other
tradeswhere nothing but money is talked aboutthat it seems
another worldand I feel at home in it. YesI'd rather beat the
door-mats and make fires there than be head clerk in the great hide
and leather store at a big salary.' Here Demi paused for breath; and
Mrs Megwhose face had been growing brighter and brighter
exclaimed eagerly: 'Just what I should like! Have you got it? Oh
my dear boy! your fortune is made if you go to that
well-established and flourishing placewith those good men to
help you along!'
'I think I havebut we mustn't be too sure of anything yet. I may
not suit; I'm only on trialand must begin at the beginning and
work my way up faithfully. Mr Tiber was very kindand will push
me on as fast as is fair to the other fellowsand as I prove myself
fit to go up. I'm to begin the first of next month in the book-room
filing orders; and I go round and get ordersand do various other
things of the sort. I like it. I am ready to do anything about books
if it's only to dust them' laughed Demiwell pleased with his
prospectsforafter trying various thingshe seemed at last to have
found the sort of work he likedand a prospect that was very
inviting to him.
'You inherit that love of books from grandpa; he can't live without
them. I'm glad of it. Tastes of that kind show a refined natureand
are both a comfort and a help all one's life. I am truly glad and
gratefulJohnthat at last you want to settleand have got such an
entirely satisfactory place. Most boys begin much earlier; but I
don't believe in sending them out to face the world so youngjust
when body and soul need home care and watchfulness. Now you
are a manand must begin your life for yourself. Do your bestand
be as honestusefuland happy as your fatherand I won't care
about making a fortune.'
'I'll trymother. Couldn't have a better chance; for Tiber & Co.
treat their people like gentlemenand pay generously for faithful
work. Things are done in a businesslike way thereand that suits
me. I hate prom- ises that are not keptand shiftless or tyrannical
ways anywhere. Mr Tiber said: "This is only to teach you the
ropesBrooke; I shall have other work for you by and by." Aunty
told him I had done book noticesand
had rather a ~M 1it~!!iltllP~ ~O t11Oll~h I CIfl't produce any
works of Shakespeareas she saysI may get up some little
things later. If I don'tI think it a very honourable and noble
profession to select and give good books to the world; and I'm
satisfied to be a humble helper in the work.'
'I'm glad you feel so. It adds so much to one's happiness to love the
task one does. I used to hate teaching; but housekeeping for my
own family was always sweetthough much harder in many ways.
Isn't Aunt Jo pleased about all this?' asked Mrs Megalready
seeing in her mind's eye a splendid sign with 'TiberBrooke & Co.'
over the door of a famous publishing house.
'So pleased that I could hardly keep her from letting the cat out of
the bag too soon. I've had so many plansand disappointed you so
oftenI wanted to be very sure this time. I had to bribe Rob and
Ted to keep her at home tonight till I'd told my newsshe was
eager to rush down and tell you herself. The castles that dear
woman has built for me would fill all Spainand have kept us jolly
while we waited to know our fate. Mr Tiber doesn't do things in a
hurry; but when he makes up his mindyou are all right; and I feel
that I am fairly launched.'
'Bless youdearI hope so! It is a happy day for mebecause I've
been so anxious lestwith all my careI have been too easy and
indulgentand my boywith his many good giftsmight fritter his
time away in harmless but unsatisfactory things. Now I am at ease
about you. If only Daisy can be happyand Josie give up her
dreamI shall be quite contented.'
Demi let his mother enjoy herself for a few minuteswhile he
smiled over a certain little dream of his ownnot ready yet for the
telling; then he saidin the paternal tone which he unconsciously
used when speaking of his sisters:
'I'll see to the girls; but I begin to think grandpa is right in saying
we must each be what God and nature makes us. We can't change
it much only help to develop the good and control the bad
elements in us. I have fumbled my way into my right place at lastI
hope. Let Daisy be happy in her waysince it is a good and
womanly one. If Nat comes home all rightI'd say: "Bless youmy
children and.give them a nest of their own. Then you and I will
help little Jo to find out if it is to be All the world's a stage" or
Home, sweet homefor her.'
'I suppose we mustJohn; but I can't help making plansand
hoping they will come to pass. I see that Daisy is bound up in Nat;
and if he is worthy of her I shall let them be happy in their own
wayas my parents let me. But Josie will be a trialI foresee; and
much as I love the stageand always didI don't see how 1 can ever
let my little girl be an actressthough she certainly has great talent
'Whose fault is that?' asked Demismilingas he remembered his
mother's early triumphs and unquenchable interest in the dramatic
efforts of the young people round her.
'MineI know. How could it be otherwise when I acted Babes in
the Wood with you and Daisy before you could speakand taught
Josie to declaim Mother Goose in her cradle. Ahme! the tastes of
the mother come out in her childrenand she must atone for them
by letting them have their own wayI suppose.' And Mrs Meg
laughedeven while she shook her head over the undeniable fact
that the Marches were a theatrical family.
'Why not have a great actress of our nameas well as an authoress
a ministerand an eminent publisher? We don't choose our talents
but we needn't hide them in a napkin because they are not just
what we want. I saylet Jo have her wayand do what she can.
Here am I to take care of her; and you can't deny you'd enjoy fixing
her furbelowsand seeing her shine before the footlightswhere
you used to long to be. Comemotherbetter face the music and
march gailysince your wilful children will "gang their am gait".'
'I don't see but I mustand "leave the consequences to the Lord"as
Marmee used to say when she had to decideand only saw a step
of the road. I should enjoy it immenselyif I could only feel that
the life would not hurt my girland leave her unsatisfied when it
was too late to change; for nothing is harder to give up than the
excitements of that profession. I know something of it; and if your
blessed father had not come alongI'm afraid I should have been
an actress in spite of Aunt March and all our honoured ancestors.'
'Let Josie add new honour to the nameand work out the family
talent in its proper place. I'll play dragon to herand you play
nurseand no harm can come to our little Julietno matter how
many Romeos spoon under her balcony. Reallyma'amopposition
comes badly from an old lady who is going to wring the hearts of
our audience in the heroine's part in Aunty's play next Christmas.
It's the most pathetic thing I ever sawmother; and I'm sorry you
didn't become an actressthough we should be nowhere if you had.'
Demi was on his legs nowwith his back to the firein the lordly
attitude men like to assume when things go well with themor they
want to lay down the law on any subject.
Mrs Meg actually blushed at her son's hearty praiseand could not
deny that the sound of applause was as sweet now as when she
played the Witch's Curse and The Moorish Maiden's Vow long
'It's perfectly absurd for me to do itbut I couldn't resist when Jo
and Laurie made the part for meand you children were to act in it.
The minute I get on the old mother's dress I forget myself and feel
the same thrill at the sound of the bell that I used to feel when we
got up plays in the garret. If Daisy would only take the daughter's
part it would be so complete; for with you and Josie I am hardly
actingit is all so real.'
'Especially the hospital scenewhere you find the wounded son.
Whymotherdo you know when we did that at last rehearsal my
face was wet with real tears as you cried over me. It will bring
down the house; but don't forget to wipe 'em offor I shall sneeze'
said Demilaughing at the recollection of his mother's hit.
'I won't; but it almost broke my heart to see you so pale and
dreadful. I hope there will never he another war in my timefor I
should have to let you go; and I never want to live through the
same experience we had with father.' 'Don't you think Alice does
the part better than Daisy would? Daisy hasn't a bit of the actress
in herand Alice puts llPe into the dullest words she speaks. I think
the Marquise is just perfect in our piece' said Demistrolling
about the room as if the warmth of the fire sent a sudden colour to
'So do I. She is a dear girland I'm proud and fond of her. Where is
'Pegging away at her GreekI suppose. She usually is in the
evening. More's the pity' added Demiin a low toneas he stared
intently at the book-casethough he couldn't read a title.
'Nowthere is a girl after my own heart. Prettywell-bred
well-educatedand yet domestica real companion as well as
help-meet for some good and intelligent man. I hope she will find
'So do I' muttered Demi.
Mrs Meg had taken up her work againand was surveying a
half-finished buttonhole with so much interest that her son's face
escaped her eye. He shed a beaming smile upon the rows of poets
as if even in their glass prison they could sympathize and rejoice
with him at the first rosy dawn of the great passion which they
knew so well. But Demi was a wise youthand never leaped before
looking carefully. He hardly knew his own heart yetand was
contented to wait till the sentimentthe fluttering of those folded
wings he began to feelshould escape from the chrysalis and be
ready to soar away in the sunshine to seek and claim its lovely
mate. He had said nothing; but the brown eyes were eloquentand
there was an unconscious underplot to all the little plays he and
Alice Heath acted so well together. She was busy with her books
bound to graduate with high honoursand he was trying to do the
same in that larger college open to alland where each man has his
own prize to win or lose. Demi had nothing but himself to offer
andbeing a modest youthconsidered that a poor gift till he had
proved his power to earn his livingand the right to take a woman's
happiness into his keeping.
No one guessed that he had caught the fever except sharp-eyed
Josieand shehaving a wholesome fear of her brother who could
be rather awful when she went too far wisely contented herself
with watching him like a little catready to pounce on the first
visible sign of weakness. Demi had taken to playing pensively
upon his flute after he was in his room for the nightmaking this
melodious friend his confidanteand breathing into it all the tender
hopes and fears that filled his heart. Mrs Megabsorbed in
domestic affairsand Daisywho cared for no music but Nat's
violinpaid no heed to these chamber concertsbut Josie always
murmured to herselfwith a naughty chuckle'Dick Swiveller is
thinking of his Sophy Wackles' and bided her time to revenge
certain wrongs inflicted upon her by Demiwho always took
Daisy's side when she tried to curb the spirits of her unruly little
This evening she got her chanceand made the most of it. Mrs
Meg was just rounding off her buttonholeand Demi still strolling
restlessly about the roomwhen a book was heard to slam in the
studyfollowed by an audible yawn and the appearance of the
student looking as if sleep and a desire for mischief were
struggling which should be master.
'I heard my name; have you been saying anything bad about mc?'
she demandedperching on the arm of an easychair.
Her mother told the good newsover which Josie duly rejoiced
and Demi received her congratulations with a benignant air which
made her feel that too much satisfaction was not good for himand
incited her to put a thorn into his bed of roses at once.
'I caught something about the play just nowand I want to tell you
that I'm going to introduce a song into my part to liven it up a bit.
How would this do?' and seating herself at the piano she began to
sing to these words the air of 'Kathleen Mavourneen':
'Sweetest of maidensohhow can I tell
The love that transfigures the whole earth to me? The longing that
causes my bosom to swell
When I dream of a life all devoted to thee?'
She got no furtherfor Demired with wrathmade a rush at her
and the next moment a very agile young person was seen dodging
round tables and chairs with the future partner of Tiber & Co. in
hot pursuit. 'You monkeyhow dare you meddle with my papers?'
cried the irate poetmaking futile grabs at the saucy girlwho
skipped to and frowaving a bit of paper tantalizingly before him.
'Didn't; found it in the big "Dic". Serves you right if you leave your
rubbish about. Don't you like my song? It's very pretty.'
'I'll teach you one that you won't like if you don't give me my
'Come and get it if you can'; and Josie vanished into the study to
have out her squabble in peacefor Mrs Meg was already saying:
'Childrenchildren! don't quarrel.'
The paper was in the fire by the time Demi arrived and he at once
calmed downseeing that the bone of contention was out of the
'I'm glad it's burnt; I don't care for itonly some verse I was trying
to set to music for one of the girls. But I'll trouble you to let my
papers aloneor I shall take back the advice I gave mother tonight
about allowing you to act as much as you like.'
Josie was sobered at once by this dire threatand in her most
wheedling tone begged to know what he had said. By way of
heaping coals of fire on her head he told herand this diplomatic
performance secured him an ally on the spot.
'You dear old boy! I'll never tease you again though you moon and
spoon both day and night. If you stand by meI'll stand by you and
never say a word. See here! I've got a note for you from Alice.
Won't that be a peace-offering and soothe your little feelings?'
Demi's eyes sparkled as Josie held up a paper cocked hatbut as he
knew what was probably in ithe took the wind out of Josie's sails
and filled her with blank astonishment by saying carelessly:
'That's nothing; it's only to say whether she will go to the concert
with us tomorrow night. You can read it if you like.'
With the natural perversity of her sex Josie ceased to be curious
the moment she was told to read itand meekly handed it over; but
she watched Demi as he calmly read the two lines it contained and
then threw it into the fire. 'Why~ Ja~K~ I thci~gh~ y~'~ ~i~~t~is
cyc~y ~crap the
sweetest maidtouched. Don't you care for her?'
'Very much; we all do; but "mooning and spooning"as you
elegantly express itis not in my line. My dear little girlyour plays
make you romanticand because Alice and I act lovers sometimes
you take it into your silly head that we are really so. Don't waste
time hunting mares nestsbut attend to your own affairs and leave
me to mine. I forgive youbut don't do it again; it's bad tasteand
tragedy queens don't romp.'
The last cut finished Josie; she humbly begged pardon and went
off to bedwhile Demi soon followedfeeling that he had not only
settled himself but his too inquisitive little sister also. But if he had
seen her face as she listened to the soft wailing of his flute he
would not have been so surefor she looked as cunning as a
magpie as she saidwith a scornful sniff: 'Poohyou can't deceive
me; I know Dick is serenading Sophy Wackles.'
Chapter 11 EMIL'S THANKSGIVING
The Brenda was scudding along with all sail set to catch the rising
windand everyone on board was rejoicingfor the long voyage
was drawing towards an end.
'Four weeks moreMrs Hardyand we'll give you a cup of tea such
as you never had before' said second mate Hoffmannas he paused
beside two ladies sitting in a sheltered corner of the deck.
'I shall be glad to get itand still gladder to put my feet on solid
ground' answered the elder ladysmiling; for our friend Emil was
a favouriteas well he might besince he devoted himself to the
captain's wife and daughterwho were the only passengers on
'So shall Ieven if I have to wear a pair of shoes like Chinese
junks. I've tramped up and down the deck so muchI shall be
barefooted if we don't arrive soon' laughed Marythe daughter
showing two shabby little boots as she glanced up at the
companion of these trampsremembering gratefully how pleasant
he had made them.
'Don't think there are any small enough in China' answered Emil
with a sailor's ready gallantryprivately resolving to hunt up the
handsomest shoes he could find the moment he landed.
'I don't know what you would have done for exer cisedearif Mr
Hoffmann had not made you walk every day. This lazy life is bad
for young peoplethough it suits an old body like me well enough
in calm weather. Is this likely to be a galethink ye?' added Mrs
Hardywith an anxious glance at the westwhere the sun was
'Only a capful of windma'amjust enough to send us along lively'
answered Emilwith a comprehensive glance aloft and alow.
'Please singMr Hoffmannit's so pleasant to have music at this
time. We shall miss it very much when we get ashore' said Mary
in a persuasive tone which would have won melody from a shark
if such a thing were possible.
Emil had often blessed his one accomplishment during these
monthsfor it cheered the long daysand made the twilight hour
his happiest timewind and weather permitting. So now he gladly
tuned his pipeand leaning on the taffrail near the girlwatched the
brown locks blowing in the wind as he sang her favourite song:
'Give me freshening breezemy boys
A white and swelling sail
A ship that cuts the dashing waves
And weathers every gale.
What lzfe is like a sailor's life
So freeso boldso brave?
His home the ocean's wide expanse
A coral bed his grave.'
Just as the last notes of the clearstrong voice died awayMrs
Hardy suddenly exclaimed: 'What's that?' Emil's quick eye saw at
once the little puff of smoke coming up a hatchway where no
smoke should beand his heart seemed to stand still for an instant
as the dread word 'Fire!' flashed through his mind. Then he was
quite steadyand strolled away saying quietly:
'Smoking not allowed thereI'll go and stop it.' But the instant he
was out of sight his face changedand he leaped down the
hatchwaythinkingwith a queer smile on his lips: 'If we are afire
shouldn't wonder if I did make a coral bed my grave!'
He was gone a few minutesand when he came uphalf stifled
with smokehe was as white as a very brown man could bebut
calm and cool as he went to report to the captain.
'Fire in the holdsir.'
'Don't frighten the women' was Captain Hardy's first order; then
both be stirred themselves to discover how strong the treacherous
enemy wasand to rout it if possible.
The Brenda's cargo was a very combustible oneand in spite of the
streams of water poured into the hold it was soon evident that the
ship was doomed. Smoke began to ooze up between the planks
everywhereand the rising gale soon fanned the smouldering fire
to flames that began to break out here and theretelling the
dreadful truth too plainly for anyone to hide. Mrs Hardy and Mary
bore the shock bravely when told to be ready to quit the ship at a
minute's notice; the boats were hastily preparedand the men
worked with a will to batten down every loophole whence the fire
might escape. Soon the poor Brenda was a floating furnaceand
the order to 'Take to the boats!' came for all. The women firstof
courseand it was fortunate thatbeing a merchantmanthere were
no more passengers on boardso there was no panicand one after
the other the boats pushed off. That in which the women were
lingered nearfor the brave captain would be the last to leave his
Emil stayed by him till ordered awayand reluctantly obeyed; but
it was well for him he wentfor just as he had regained the boat
rocking far belowhalf hidden by a cloud of smokea mast
undermined by the fire now raging in the bowels of the shipfell
with a crashknocking Captain Hardy overboard. The boat soon
reached him as he floated out from the wreckand Emil sprung
into the sea to rescue himfor he was wounded and senseless. This
accident made it necessary for the young man to take command
and he at once ordered the men to pull for their livesas an
explosion might occur at any moment.
The other boats were out of danger and all lingered to watch the
splendid yet awesome spectacle of the burning ship alone on the
wide seareddening the night and casting a lurid glare upon the
waterwhere floated the frail boats filled with pale facesall
turned for a last look at the fated Brendaslowly settling to her
watery grave. No one saw the endhoweverfor the gale soon
swept the watchers far away and separated themsome never to
meet again till the sea gives up its dead.
The boat whose fortunes we must follow was alone when dawn
came upshowing these survivors all the dangers of their situation.
Food and water had been put inand such provision for comfort
and safety as time allowed; but it was evident that with a badly
wounded mantwo womenand seven sailorstheir supply would
not last longand help was sorely needed. Their only hope was in
meeting a shipalthough the galewhich had raged all nighthad
blown them out of their course. To this hope all clungand wiled
away the weary hourswatching the horizon and cheering one
another with prophecies of speedy rescue.
Second mate Hoffmann was very brave and helpfulthough his
unexpected responsibility weighed heavily on his shoulders; for
the captain's state seemed desperatethe poor wife's grief wrung
his heartand the blind confidence of the young girl in his power
to save them made him feel that no sign of doubt or fear must
lessen it. The men did their part readily nowbut Emil knew that if
starvation and despair made brutes of themhis task might be a
terrible one. So he clutched
his courage with both handgkept up a manly frontand spoke so
cheerily of their good chancesthat all instinctively turned to him
for guidance and support.
The first day and night passed in comparative comfortbut when
the third camethings looked dark and hope began to fail. The
wounded man was deliriousthe wife worn out with anxiety and
suspensethe girl weak for want of foodhaving put away half her
biscuit for her motherand given her share of water to wet her
father's feverish lips. The sailors ceased rowing and sat grimly
waitingopenly reproaching their leader for not following their
adviceothers demanding more foodall waxing dangerous as
privation and pain brought out the animal instincts lurking in them.
Emil did his bestbut mortal man was helpless thereand he could
only turn his haggard face from the pitiless skythat dropped no
rain for their thirstto the boundless sea where no sail appeared to
gladden their longing eyes. All day he tried to cheer and comfort
themwhile hunger gnawedthirst parchedand growing fear lay
heavy at his heart. He told stories to the menimplored them to
bear up for the helpless women's sakeand promised rewards if
they would pull while they had strength to regain the lost routeas
nearly as he could make it outand increase their chance of rescue.
He rigged an awning of sailcloth over the suffering man and
tended him like a soncomforted the wifeand tried to make the
pale girl forget herselfby singing every song he knew or
recounting his adventures by land and seatill she smiled and took
heart; for all ended well.
The fourth day came and the supply of food and water was nearly
gone. Emil proposed to keep it for the sick man and the women
but two of the men rebelleddemanding their share. Emil gave up
his as an exampleand several of the good fellows followed it
with the quiet heroism which so often crops up in rough but manly
natures. This shamed the othersand for another day an ominous
peace reigned in that little world of suffering and suspense. But
during the nightwhile Emilworn out with fatigueleft the watch
to the most trustworthy sailorthat he might snatch an hour's rest
these two men got at the stores and stole the last of the bread and
waterand the one bottle of brandywhich was carefully hoarded
to keep up their strength and make the brackish water drinkable.
Half mad with thirstthey drank greedily and by morning one was
in a stuporfrom which he never woke; the other so crazed by the
strong stimulantthat when Emil tried to control himhe leaped
overboard and was lost. Horror-stricken by this terrible scenethe
other men were submissive henceforth? and the boat floated on
and on with its sad freight of suffering souls and bodies.
Another trial came to them that left all more despairing than
before. A sail appearedand for a time a frenzy of joy ptevthledto
be turned to bitterest disappointment when it passed bytoo far
away to see the signals waved to them or hear the frantic cries for
help that rang across the sea. Emil's heart sank thenfor the captain
seemed dyingand the women could not hold out much longer. He
kept up till night came; then in the darknessbroken only by the
feeble murmuring of the sick manthe whispered prayers of the
poor wifethe ceaseless swash of wavesEmil hid his faceand
had an hour of silent agony that aged him more than years of
happy life could have done. It was not the physical hardship that
daunted himthough want and weakness tortured him; it was his
dreadful powerlessness to conquer the cruel fate that seemed
hanging over them. The men he cared little forsince these perils
were but a part of the life they chose; but the master he lovedthe
good woman who had been so kind to himthe sweet girl whose
winsome presence had made the long voyage so pleasant for them
all if he could only save these dear and innocent creatures from a
cruel deathhe felt that he could willingly give his life for them.
As he sat there with his head in his handsbowed down by the first
great trial of his young lifethe starless sky overheadthe restless
sea beneathand all around him sufferingfor which he had no
helpa soft sound broke the silenceand he listened like one in a
dream. It was Mary singing to her motherwho lay sobbing in her
armsspent with this long anguish. A very faint and broken voice it
wasfor the poor girl's lips were parched with thirst; but the loving
heart turned instinctively to the great Helper in this hour of
despairand He heard her feeble cry. It was a sweet old hynm often
sung at Plumfield; and as he listenedall the happy past came back
so clearly that Emil forgot the bitter presentand was at home
again. His talk on the housetop with Aunt Jo seemed but yesterday
andwith a pang of self-reproachhe thought:
'The scarlet strand! I must remember itand do my duty to the end.
Steer straightold boy; and if you can't come into portgo down
with all sail set.'
Thenas the soft voice crooned on to lull the weary woman to a
fitful sleepEmil for a little while forgot his burden in a dream of
Plumfield. He saw them allheard the familiar voicesfelt the grip
of welcoming handsand seemed to say to himself: 'Wellthey
shall not be ashamed of me if I never see them any more.'
A sudden shout startled him from that brief restand a drop on his
forehead told him that the blessed rain had come at lastbringing
salvation with it; for thirst is harder to bear than hungerheator
cold. Welcomed by cries of joyall lifted up their parched lips
held out their handsand spread their garments to catch the great
drops that soon came pouring down to cool the sick man's fever
quench the agony of thirstand bring refreshment to every weary
body in the boat. All night it fellall night the castaways revelled
in the saving showerand took heart againlike dying plants
revived by heaven's dew. The clouds broke away at dawnand
Emil sprung upwonderfully braced and cheered by those hours of
silent gratitude f& this answer to their cry ~or help. But this was
not all; as his eye swept the horizonclear against the rosy sky
shone the white sails of a shipso near that they could see the
pennon at her mast-head and black figures moving on the deck.
One cry broke from all those eager throatsand rang across the sea
as every man waved hat or handkerchief and the women stretched
imploring hands towards this great white angel of deliverance
coming down upon them as if the fresh wind filled every sail to
help her on.
No disappointment now; answering signals assured them of help;
and in the rapture of that moment the happy women fell on Emil's
neckgiving him his reward in tears and blessings as their grateful
hearts overflowed. He always said that was the proudest moment
of his lifeas he stood there holding Mary in his arms; for the
brave girlwho had kept up so longbroke down thenand clung to
him half fainting; while her mother busied herself about the
invalidwho seemed to feel the joyful stirand gave an orderas if
again on the deck of his lost ship.
It was soon over; and then all were safely aboard the good Urania
homeward bound. Emil saw his friends in tender handshis men
among their matesand told the story of the wreck before he
thought of himself. The savoury odour of the soupcarried by to
the cabin for the ladiesreminded him that he was starvingand a
sudden stagger betrayed his weakness. He was instantly borne
awayto be half killed by kindnessand being fedclothedand
comfortedwas left to rest. Just as the surgeon left the state-room
he asked in his
198 JO'S BOYS
broken voice: 'What day is this? My head is so confusedI've lost
'Thanksgiving Dayman! And we'll give you a regular New
England dinnerif you'll eat it' answered the surgeon heartily.
But Emil was too spent to do anythingexcept lie still and give
thanksmore fervently and gratefully than ever beforefor the
blessed gift of lifewhich was the sweeter for a sense of duty
Chapter 12 DAN'S CHRISTMAS
Where was Dan? In prison. Alas for Mrs Jo! how her heart would
have ached if she had known that while old Plum shone with
Christmas cheer her boy sat alone in his celltrying to read the
little book she gave himwith eyes dimmed now and then by the
hot tears no physical suffering had ever wrung from himand
longing with a homesick heart for all that he had lost.
YesDan was in prison; but no cry for help from him as he faced
the terrible strait he was in with the dumb despair of an Indian at
the stake; for his own bosom sin had brought him thereand this
was to be the bitter lesson that tamed the lawless spirit and taught
The story of his downfall is soon told; for it cameas so often
happensjust when he felt unusually full of high hopesgood
resolutionsand dreams of a better life. On his journey he met a
pleasant young fellowand naturally felt an interest in himas
Blair was on his way to join his elder brothers on a ranch in
Kansas. Card-playing was going on in the smoking-carand the lad
for he was barely twenty tired with the long journeybeguiled the
way with such partners as appearedbeing full of spiritsand a
little intoxicated with the freedom of the West. Dantrue to his
promisewould not joinbut watched with intense interest the
games that went onand soon made up his mind that two of the
men were sharpers anxious to fleece the boywho had imprudently
displayed a well-filled pocket-book. Dan always had a soft spot in
his heart for any youngerweaker creature whom he metand
something about the lad reminded him of Teddy; so he kept an eye
on Blairand warned him against his new friends.
Vainlyof course; for when all stopped overnight in one of the
great citiesDan missed the boy from the hotel whither he had
taken him for safe-keeping; and learning who had come for him
went to find himcalling himself a fool for his painsyet unable to
leave the confiding boy to the dangers that surrounded him.
He found him gambling in a low place with the menwho were
bound to have his money; and by the look of relief on Blair's
anxious face when he saw him Dan knew without words that
things were going badly with himand he saw the peril too late.
'I can't come yet I've lost; it's not my money; I must get it backor
I dare not face my brothers' whispered the poor ladwhen Dan
begged him to get away without further loss. Shame and fear made
him desperate; and he played onsure that he could recover the
money confided to his care. Seeing Dan's resolute facekeen eye
and travelled airthe sharpers were waryplayed fairand let the
boy win a little; but they had no mind to give up their preyand
finding that Dan stood sentinel at the boy's backan ominous
glance was exchanged between themwhich meant:
'We must get this fellow out of the way.'
Dan saw itand was on his guard; for he and Blair were strangers
evil deeds are easily done in such placesand no tales told. But he
would not desert the boyand still kept watch of every card till he
plainly detected false playand boldly said so. High words passed
Dan's indignation overcame his prudence; and when the cheat
refused to restore his plunder with insulting words and drawn
pistolDan's hot temper flashed outand he knocked the man down
with a blow that sent him crashing head first against a stoveto roll
senseless and bleeding to the floor. A wild scene followedbut in
the midst of it Dan whispered to the boy: 'Get awayand hold your
tongue. Don't mind me.'
Frightened and bewilderedBlair quitted the city at onceleaving
Dan to pass the night in the lock-upand a few days later to stand
in court charged with manslaughter; for the man was dead. Dan
had no friendsand having once briefly told the storyheld his
peaceanxious to keep all knowledge of this sad affair from those
at home. He even concealed his name giving that of David Kent
as he had done several times before in emergencies. It was all over
very soon; but as there were extenuating circumstances his
sentence was a year in prisonwith hard labour.
Dazed by the rapidity with which this horrible change in his life
came upon himDan did not fully realize it till the iron door
clanged behind him and he sat alone in a cell as narrowcoldand
silent as a tomb. He knew that a word would bring Mr Laurie to
help and comfort him; but he could not bear to tell of this disgrace
or see the sorrow and the shame it would cause the friends who
hoped so much for him.
'No' he saidclenching his fist'I'll let them think me dead first. I
shall be if I am kept here long'; and he sprang up to pace the stone
floor like a caged lionwith a turmoil of wrath and griefrebellion
and remorseseething in heart and braintill he felt as if he should
go mad and beat upon the walls that shut him away from the
liberty which was his life. For days he suffered terriblythen worn
outsank into a black melancholy sadder to see than his
The warden of this prison was a rough man who had won the ill
will of all by unnecessary harshnessbut the chaplain was full of
sympathyand did his hard duty faithfully and tenderly. He
laboured with poor Danbut seemed to make no impressionand
was forced to wait till work had soothed the excited nerves and
captivity tamed the proud spirit that would suffer but not
Dan was put in the brush-shopand feeling that activity was his
only salvationworked with a feverish energy that soon won the
approval of the master and the envy of less skilful mates. Day after
day he sat in his placewatched by an armed overseerforbidden
any but necessary wordsno intercourse with the men beside him
no change but from cell to shopno exercise but the dreary
marches to and froeach man's hand on the other's shoulder
keeping step with the dreary tramp so different from the ringing
tread of soldiers. Silentgauntand grimDan did his daily task
ate his bitter breadand obeyed commands with a rebellious flash
of the eyethat made the warden say:
'That's a dangerous man. Watch him. He'll break out some day.'
There were others more dangerous than hebecause older in crime
and ready for any desperate outbreak to change the monotony of
long sentences. These men soon divined Dan's moodand in the
mysterious way convicts inventmanaged to convey to him before
a month was over that plans were being made for a mutiny at the
first opportunity. Thanksgiving Day was one of the few chances
for them to speak together as they enjoyed an hour of freedom in
the prison yard. Then all would be settled and the rash attempt
made if possibleprobably to end in bloodshed and defeat for
mostbut liberty for a few. Dan had already planned his own
escape and bided his timegrowing more and more moodyfierce
and rebelliousas loss of liberty wore upon soul and body; for this
sudden change from his freehealthy life to such a narrow
gloomyand miserable onecould not but have a terrible effect
upon one of Dan's temperament and age.
He brooded over his ruined lifegave up all his happy hopes and
plansfelt that he could never face dear old Plumfield againor
touch those friendly handswith the stain of blood upon his own.
He did not care for the wretched man whom he had killedfor such
a life was better endedhe thought; but the disgrace of prison
would never be wiped out of his memorythough the cropped hair
would grow againthe grey suit easily be replacedand the bolts
and bars left far behind.
'It's all over with me; I've spoilt my lifenow let it go. I'll give up
the fight and get what pleasure I can anywhereanyhow. They shall
think me dead and so still care for mebut never know what I am.
Poor Mother Bhaer! she tried to help mebut it's no use; the
firebrand can't be saved.'
And dropping his head in his hands as he sat on his low bedDan
would mourn over all he had lost in tearless miserytill merciful
sleep would comfort him with dreams of the happy days when the
boys played togetheror those still later and happier ones when all
smiled on himand Plumfield seemed to have gained a new and
There was one poor fellow in Dan's shop whose fate was harder
than hisfor his sentence expired in the springbut there was little
hope of his living till that time; and the coldest-hearted man pitied
poor Mason as he sat coughing his life away in that close place and
counting the weary days yet to pass before he could see his wife
and little child again. There was some hope that he might be
pardoned outbut he had no friends to bestir themselves in the
matterand it was evident that the great Judge's pardon would soon
end his patient pain for ever.
Dan pitied him more than he dared to showand this one tender
emotion in that dark time was like the little flower that sprung up
between the stones of the prison yard and saved the captive from
despairin the beautiful old story. Dan helped Mason with his
work when he was too feeble to finish his taskand the grateful
look that thanked him was a ray of sunshine to cheer his cell when
he was alone. Mason envied the splendid health of his neighbour
and mourned to see it wasting there. He was a peaceful soul and
triedas far as a whispered word or warning glance could do itto
deter Dan from joining the 'bad lot'as the rebels were called. But
having turned his face from the lightDan found the downward
way easyand took a grim satisfaction in the prospect of a general
outbreak during which he might revenge himself upon the
tyrannical wardenand strike a blow for his own libertyfeeling
that an hour of insurrection would be a welcome vent for the
pent-up passions that tormented him. He had tamed many a wild
animalbut his own lawless spirit was too much for himtill he
found the curb that made him master of himself.
The Sunday before Thanksgivingas he sat in chapelDan
observed several guests in the seats reserved for themand looked
anxiously to see if any familiar face was there; for he had a mortal
fear that someone from home would suddenly confront him. No
all were strangersand he soon forgot them in listening to the
chaplain's cheerful wordsand the sad singing of many heavy
hearts. People often spoke to the convictsso it caused no surprise
whenon being invited to address themone of the ladies rose and
said she would tell them a little story; which announcement caused
the younger listeners to pack up their earsand even the older ones
to look interested; for any change in their monotonous life was
The speaker was a middle-aged woman in blackwith a
sympathetic faceeyes full of compassionand a voice that seemed
to warm the heartbecause of certain motherly tones in it. She
reminded Dan of Mrs Joand he listened intently to every word
feeling that each was meant for himbecause by chancethey came
at the moment when he needed a softening memory to break up the
ice of despair which was blighting all the good impulses of his
It was a very simple little storybut it caught the men's attention at
oncebeing about two soldiers in a hospital during the late war
both badly wounded in the right armand both anxious to save
these breadwin ners and go home unmaimed. One was patient
docileand cheerfully obeyed orderseven when told that the arm
must go. He submitted and after much suffering recovered
grateful for lifethough he could fight no more. The other rebelled
would listen to no adviceand having delayed too longdied a
lingering deathbitterly regretting his folly when it was too late.
'Nowas all stories should have a little morallet me tell you mine'
added the ladywith a smileas she looked at the row of young
men before hersadly wondering what brought them there.
'This is a hospital for soldiers wounded in life's battle; here are
sick soulsweak willsinsane passionsblind consciencesall the
ills that come from broken lawsbringing their inevitable pain and
punishment with themThere is hope and help for every onefor
God's mercy is infinite and man's charity is great; but penitence
and submission must come before the cure is possible. Pay the
forfeit manfullyfor it is just; but from the suffering and shame
wring new strength for a noblerlife. The scar will remainbut it is
better for a man to lose both arms than his soul; and these hard
yearsinstead of being lostmay be made the most precious of
your livesif they teach you to rule yourselves. 0 friendstry to
outlive the bitter pastto wash the sin awayand begin anew. If not
for your own sakesfor that of the dear motherswivesand
childrenwho wait and hope so patiently for you. Remember them
and do not let them love and long in vain. And if there be any here
so forlorn that they have no friend to care for themnever forget
the Father whose arms are always open to receiveforgiveand
comfort His prodigal sonseven at the eleventh hour.' There the
little sermon ended; but the preacher of it felt that her few hearty
words had not been uttered in vainfor one boy's head was down
and several faces wore the softened look which told that a tender
memory was touched. Dan was forced to set his lips to keep them
steadyand drop his eyes to hide the sudden dew that dimmed
them when waitinghoping friends were spoken of. He was glad to
be alone in his cell againand sat thinking deeplyinstead of trying
to forget himself in sleep. It seemed as if those words were just
what he needed to show him where he stood and how fateful the
next few days might be to him. Should he join the 'bad lot'and
perhaps add another crime to the one already committedlengthen
the sentence already so terrible to beardeliberately turn his back
on all that was goodand mar the future that might yet be
redeemed? Or should helike the wiser man in the storysubmit
bear the just punishmenttry to be better for it; and though the scar
would remainit might serve as a reminder of a battle not wholly
lostsince he had saved his soul though innocence was gone? Then
he would dare go homeperhapsconfessand find fresh strength
in the pity and consolation of those who never gave him up.
Good and evil fought for Dan that night as did the angel and the
devil for Sintramand it was hard to tell whether lawless nature or
loving heart would conquer. Remorse and resentmentshame and
sorrowpride and passionmade a battle-field of that narrow cell
and the poor fellow felt as if he had fiercer enemies to fight now
than any he had met in all his wanderings. A little thing turned the
scaleas it so often does in these mysterious hearts of oursand a
touch of sympathy helped Dan decide the course which would
bless or ban his life.
In the dark hour before the dawnas he lay wakeful on his beda
ray of light shone through the barsthe bolts turned softlyand a
man came in. It was the good chaplainled by the same instinct
that brings a mother to her sick child's pillow; for long experience
as nurse of souls had taught him to see the signs of hope in the
hard faces about himand to know when the moment came for a
helpful word and the cordial of sincere prayer that brings such
comfort and healing to tried and troubled hearts. He had been to
Dan before at unexpected hoursbut always found him sullen
indifferentor rebelliousand had gone away to patiently bide his
time. Now it had come; a look of relief was in the prisoner's face
as the light shone on itand the sound of a human voice was
strangely comfortable after listening to the whispers of the
passionsdoubtsand fears which had haunted the cell for hours
dismaying Dan by their powerand showing him how much he
needed help to fight the good fightsince he had no armour of his
'Kentpoor Mason has gone. He left a message for youand I felt
impelled to come and give it nowbecause I think you were
touched by what we heard todayand in need of the help Mason
tried to give you' said the chaplaintaking the one seat and fixing
his kind eyes on the grim figure in the bed.
'Thank yousirI'd like to hear it' was all Dan's answer; but he
forgot himself in pity for the poor fellow dead in prisonwith no
last look at wife or child. begged me to say these words: "Tell him
not to do itbut to hold ondo his bestand when his time is out go
right to Maryand she'll make him welcome for my sake. He's got
no friends in these parts and will feel lonesomebut a woman's
always safe and comfortable when a fellow's down on his luck.
Give him my love and good-bye for he was kind to meand God
will bless him for it." Then he died quietlyand tomorrow will go
home with God's pardonsince man's came too late.'
Dan said nothingbut laid his arm across his face and lay quite
still. Seeing that the pathetic little message had done its work even
better than he hopedthe chaplain went onunconscious how
soothing his paternal voice was to the poor prisoner who longed to
'go home'but felt he had forfeited the right.
'I hope you won't disappoint this humble friend whose last thought
was for you. I know that there is trouble brewingand fear that you
may be tempted to lend a hand on the wrong side. Don't do itfor
the plot will not succeed it never does and it would be a pity to
spoil your record which is fair so far. Keep up your couragemy
sonand go out at the year's end betternot worsefor this hard
experience. Remember a grateful woman waits to welcome and
thank you if you have no friends of your own; if you havedo your
best for their sakeand let us ask God to help you as Heonlycan.'
Then waiting for no answer the good man prayed heartilyand Dan
listened as he never had before; for the lonely hourthe dying
messagethe sudden uprising of his better selfmade it seem as if
some kind angel had come to save and comfort him. After that
night there was a change in Danthough no one knew it but the
chaplain; for to all the rest he was the same silentsternunsocial
fellow as beforeand turning his back on the bad and the good
alikefound his only pleasure in the books his friend brought him.
Slowlyas the steadfast drop wears away the rockthe patient
kindness of this man won Dan's confidenceand led by him he
began to climb out of the Valley of Humiliation towards the
mountainswhencethrough the cloudsone can catch glimpses of
the Celestial City whither all true pilgrims sooner or later turn
their wistful eyes and stumbling feet. There were many
back-slidingsmany struggles with Giant Despair and fiery
Apollyonmany heavy hours when life did not seem worth living
and Mason's escape the only hope. But through allthe grasp of a
friendly handthe sound of a brother's voicethe unquenchable
desire to atone for the past by a better futureand win the right to
see home againkept poor Dan to his great task as the old year
drew to its endand the new waited to turn another leaf in the book
whose hardest lesson he was learning now.
At Christmas he yearned so for Plumfield that he devised a way to
send a word of greeting to cheer their anxious heartsand comfort
his own. He wrote to Mary Masonwho lived in another State
asking her to mail the letter he enclosed. In it he merely said he
was well and busyhad given up the farmand had other plans
which he would tell later; would not be home before autumn
probablynor write oftenbut was all rightand sent love and
merry Christmas to everyone.
Then he took up his solitary life againand tried to pay his forfeit
Chapter 13 NAT'S NEW YEAR
'I don't expect to hear from Emil yetand Nat writes regularlybut
where is Dan? Only two or three postals since he went. Such an
energetic fellow as he is could buy up all the farms in Kansas by
this time' said Mrs Jo one morning when the mail came in and no
card or envelope bore Dan's dashing hand.
'He never writes oftenyou knowbut does his work and then
comes home. Months and years seem to mean little to himand he
is probably prospecting in the wildernessforgetful of time'
answered Mr Bhaerdeep in one of Nat's long letters from Leipzig.
'But he promised he would let me know how he got onand Dan
keeps his word if he can. I'm afraid something has happened to
him'; and Mrs Jo comforted herself by patting Don's headas he
came at the sound of his master's name to look at her with eyes
almost human in their wistful intelligence.
'Don't worryMum dearnothing ever happens to the old fellow.
He'll turn up all rightand come stalking in some day with a
gold-mine in one pocket and a prairie in the otheras jolly as a
grig' said Tedwho was in no haste to deliver Octoo to her rightful
'Perhaps he has gone to Montana and given up the farm plan. He
seemed to like Indians bestI thought'; and Rob went to help his
mother with her pile of letters and his cheerful suggestions.
'I hope soit would suit him best. But I am sure he would have told
us his change of plan and sent for some money to work with. NoI
feel in my prophetic bones that something is wrong' said Mrs Jo
looking as solemn as Fate in a breakfast-cap.
'Then we shall hear; ill news always travels fast. Don't borrow
troubleJobut hear how well Nat is getting on. I'd no idea the boy
would care for anything but music. My good friend Baumgarten
has launched him welland it will do him good if he lose not his
head. A good ladbut new to the worldand Leipzig is full of
snares for the unwary. Gott be with him!'
The Professor read Nat's enthusiastic account of certain literary
and musical parties he had been tothe splendours of the operathe
kindness of his new friendsthe delight of studying under such a
master as Bergmannhis hopes of rapid gainand his great
gratitude to those who had opened this enchanted world to him.
'Thatnowis satisfactory and comfortable. I felt that Nat had
unsuspected power in him before he went away; he was so manly
and full of excellent plans' said Mrs Join a satisfied tone.
'We shall see. He will doubtless get his lesson and be the better for
it. That comes to us all in our young days. I hope it will not be too
hard for our good Jungling' answered the Professorwith a wise
smileremembering his own student life in Germany.
He was right; and Nat was already getting his lesson in life with a
rapidity which would have astonished his friends at home. The
manliness over which Mrs Jo rejoiced was developing in
unexpected waysand quiet Nat had plunged into the more
harmless dissipations of the gay city with all the ardour of an
inexperienced youth taking his first sip of pleasure. The entire
freedom and sense of independence was deliciousfor many
benefits began to burden himand he longed to stand on his own
legs and make his own way. No one knew his past here; and with a
well-stocked wardrobea handsome sum at his banker'sand the
best teacher in Leipzighe made his debut as a musical young
gentlemanpresented by the much-respected Professor Bhaer and
the wealthy Mr Laurencewho had many friends glad to throw
open their houses to his prot‚g‚. Thanks to these introductionshis
fluent Germanmodest mannersand undeniable talentthe
stranger was cordially welcomedand launched at once into a
circle which many an ambitious young man strove in vain to enter.
All this rather turned Nat's head; and as he sat in the brilliant
opera-housechatted among the ladies at some select coffee-party
or whisked an eminent professor's amiable daughter down the
roomtrying to imagine she was Daisyhe often asked himself if
this gay fellow could be the poor homeless little Street musician
who once stood waiting in the rain at the gates of Plumfield. His
heart was truehis impulses goodand his ambitions high; but the
weak side of his nature came uppermost here; vanity led him
astraypleasure intoxicated himand for a time he forgot
everything but the delights of this new and charming life. Without
meaning to deceivehe allowed people to imagine him a youth of
good family and prospects; he boasted a little of Mr Laurie's
wealth and influenceof Professor Bhaer's eminenceand the
flourishing college at which he himself had been educated. Mrs Jo
was introduced to the sentimental Fr uleins who read her books
and the charms and virtues of his own dear M„dchen confided to
sympathetic mammas. All these boyish boastings and innocent
vanities were duly circulated among the gossipsand his
importance much increased therebyto his surprise and
gratificationas well as some shame.
But they bore fruit that was bitter in the end; forfinding that he
was considered one of the upper classit very soon became
impossible for him to live in the humble quarters he had chosenor
to lead the studiousquiet life planned for him. He met other
studentsyoung officersand gay fellows of all sortsand was
flattered at being welcomed among them; though it was a costly
pleasureand often left a thorn of regret to vex his honest
conscience. He was tempted to take better rooms in a more
fashionable streetleaving good Frau Tetzel to lament his lossand
his artist neighbourFr„ulein Vogelsteinto shake her grey ringlets
and predict his returna sadder and a wiser man.
The sum placed at his disposal for expenses and such simple
pleasures as his busy life could command seemed a fortune to Nat
though it was smaller than generous Mr Laurie first proposed.
Professor Bhaer wisely counselled prudenceas Nat was unused to
the care of moneyand the good man knew the temptations that a
well-filled purse makes possible at this pleasure-loving age. So
Nat enjoyed his handsome little apartment immenselyand
insensibly let many unaccustomed luxuries creep in. He loved his
music and never missed a lesson; but the hours he should have
spent in patient practice were too often wasted at theatreball
beer-gardenor club doing no harm beyond that waste of precious
timeand money not his own; for he had no vicesand took his
recreation like a gentlemanso far. But slowly a change for the
worse was beginning to show itselfand he felt it. These first steps
along the flowery road were downwardnot upward; and the
constant sense of disloyalty which soon began to haunt him made
Nat feelin the few quiet hours he gave himselfthat all was not
well with himspite of the happy whirl in which he lived.
'Another monthand then I will be steady' he said more than once
trying to excuse the delay by the fact that all was new to himthat
his friends at home wished him to be happyand that society was
giving him the polish he needed. But as each month slipped away
it grew harder to escape; he was inevitably drawn onand it was so
easy to drift with the tide that he deferred the evil day as long as
possible. Winter festivities followed the more wholesome summer
pleasuresand Nat found them more costly; for the hospitable
ladies expected some return from the stranger; and carriages
bouquetstheatre ticketsand all the little expenses a young man
cannot escape at such timestold heavily on the purse which
seemed bottomless at first. Taking Mr Laurie for his modelNat
became quite a gallantand was universally liked; for through all
the newly acquired airs and graces the genuine honesty and
simplicity of his character plainly shonewinning confidence and
affection from all who knew him. musical daughter well-born but
poorand very anxious to marry the aforesaid daughter to some
wealthy man. Nat's little fictions concerning his prospects and
friends charmed the gn…dige Frau as much as his music and
devoted manners did the sentimental Minna. Their quiet parlour
seemed homelike and restful to Natwhen tired of gayer scenes;
and the motherly interest of the elder lady was sweet and
comfortable to him; while the tender blue eyes of the pretty girl
were always so full of welcome when he cameof regret when he
leftand of admiration when he played to herthat he found it
impossible to keep away from this attractive spot. He meant no
harmand feared no dangerhaving confided to the Frau Mamma
that he was betrothed; so he continued to calllittle dreaming what
ambitious hopes the old lady cherishednor the peril there was in
receiving the adoration of a romantic German girltill it was too
late to spare her pain and himself great regret.
Of course some inkling of these new and agreeable experiences
got into the voluminous letters he never was too gaytoo busyor
too tired to write each week; and while Daisy rejoiced over his
happiness and successand the boys laughed at the idea of 'old
Chirper coming out as a society man'the elders looked soberand
said among themselves:
'He is going too fast; he must have a word of warningor trouble
But Mr Laurie said: 'Ohlet him have his fling; he's been
dependent and repressed long enough. He can't go far with the
money he hasand I've no fear of his getting into debt. He's too
timid and too honest to be reckless. It is his first taste of freedom;
let him enjoy itand he'll work the better by and by; I know and
I'm sure I'm right.'
So the warnings were very gentleand the good people waited
anxiously to hear more of hard studyand less of 'splendid times'.
Daisy sometimes wonderedwith a pang of her faithful heartif
one of the charming MinnasHildegardesand Lottchens
mentioned were not stealing her Nat away from her; but she never
askedalways wrote calmly and cheerfullyand looked in vain for
any hint of change in the letters that were worn out with much
Month after month slipped awaytill the holidays came with gifts
good wishesand brilliant festivities. Nat expected to enjoy
himself very muchand did at first; for a German Christmas is a
spectacle worth seeing. I~ut he paid dearly for the abandon with
which he threw himself into the gaieties of that memorable week;
and on New Year's Day the reckoning came. It seemed as if some
malicious fairy had prepared the surprises that arrivedso
unwelcome were theyso magical the change they wrought
turning his happy world into a scene of desolation and despair as
suddenly as a transformation at the pantomime.
The first came in the morning whenduly armed with costly
bouquets and bon-bonshe went to thank Minna and her mother
for the braces embroidered with forget-me-nots and the silk socks
knit by the old lady's nimble fingerswhich he had found upon his
table that day. The Frau Mamma received him graciously; but
when he asked for the daughter the good lady frankly demanded
what his intentions wereadding that certain gossip which had
reached her ear made it necessary for him to declare himself or
come no moreas Minna's peace must not be compromised.
A more panic-stricken youth was seldom seen than Nat as he
received this unexpected demand. He saw too late that his
American style of gallantry had deceived the artless girland might
be used with terrible effect by the artful motherif she chose to do
it. Nothing but the truth could save himand he had the honour and
honesty to tell it faithfully. A sad scene followed; for Nat was
obliged to strip off his fictitious splendourconfess himself only a
poor studentand humbly ask pardon for the thoughtless freedom
with which he had enjoyed their too confiding hospitality. If he
had any doubts of Frau Schomburg's motives and desiresthey
were speedily set at rest by the frankness with which she showed
her disappointmentthe vigour with which she scolded himand
the scorn with which she cast him off when her splendid castles in
the air collapsed.
The sincerity of Nat's penitence softened her a little and she
consented to a farewell word with Minnawho had listened at the
keyholeand was produced drenched in tearsto fall on Nat's
bosomcrying: 'Ahthou dear onenever can I forget theethough
my heart is broken!'
This was worse than the scolding; for the stout lady also weptand
it was only after much German gush and twaddle that he escaped
feeling like another Werther; while the deserted Lotte consoled
herself self with the bonbonsher mother with the more valuable
The second surprise arrived as he dined with Professor
Baumgarten. His appetite had been effectually taken away by the
scene of the morningand his spirits received another damper
when a fellow student cheerfully informed him that he was about
to go to Americaand should make it his agreeable duty to call on
the 'lieber Herr Professor Bhaer'to tell him how gaily his prot‚g‚
was disporting himself at Leipzig. Nat's heart died within him as
he imagined the effect these glowing tales would have at
Plumfield not that he had wilfully deceived thembut in his
letters many things were left untold; and when Carlsen addedwith
a friendly winkthat he would merely hint at the coming betrothal
of the fair Minna and his 'heart's friend'Nat found himself
devoutly hoping that this other inconvenient heart's friend might
go to the bottom of the sea before he reached Plumfield to blast all
his hopes by these tales of a mis-spent winter. Collecting his wits
he cautioned Carlsen with what he flattered himself was
Mephistophelian artand gave him such confused directions that it
would be a miracle if he ever found Professor Bhaer. But the
dinner was spoilt for Natand he got away as soon as possibleto
wander disconsolately about the streetswith no heart for the
theatre or the supper he was to share with some gay comrades
afterwards. He comforted himself a little by giving aims to sundry
beggarsmaking two children happy with gilded gingerbreadand
drinking a lonely glass of beerin which he toasted his Daisy and
wished himself a better year than the last had been.
Going home at lengthhe found a third surprise awaiting him in
the shower of bills which had descended upon him like a
snowstormburying him in an avalanche of remorsedespairand
self-disgust. These bills were so many and so large that he was
startled and dismayed; foras Mr Bhaer wisely pre dictedhe knew
little about the value of money. It would take every dollar at the
bankers to pay them all at onceand leave him penniless for the
next six monthsunless he wrote home for more. He would rather
starve than do that; and his first impulse was to seek help at the
gaming-tablewhither his new friends had often tempted him. But
he had promised Mr Bhaer to resist what then had seemed an
impossible temptation; and now he would not add another fault to
the list already so long. Borrow he would notnor beg. What could
he do? For these appalling bills must be paidand the lessons go
on; or his journey was an ignominious failure. But he must live
meantime. And how? Bowed down with remorse for the folly of
these monthshe saw too late whither he was driftingand for
hours paced up and down his pretty roomsfloundering in a Slough
of Despondwith no helping hand to pull him out at least he
thought so till letters were brought inand among fresh bills lay
one well-worn envelope with an American stamp in the corner.
Ahhow welcome it was! how eagerly he read the long pages full
of affectionate wishes from all at home! For everyone had sent a
lineand as each familiar name appearedhis eyes grew dimmer
and dimmer tillas he read the last 'God bless my boy! Mother
Bhaer' he broke down; and laying his head on his armsblistered
the paper with a rain of tears that eased his heart and washed away
the boyish sins that now lay so heavy on his conscience.
'Dear peoplehow they love and trust me! And how bitterly they
would be disappointed if they knew what a fool I've been! I'll
fiddle in the streets again before I'll ask for help from them!' cried
Natbrushing away the tears of which he was ashamedalthough
he felt the good they had done.
Now he seemed to see more clearly what to do; for the helping
hand had been stretched across the seaand Lovethe dear
Evangelisthad lifted him out of the slough and shown him the
narrow gatebeyond which deliverance lay. When the letter had
been rereadand one corner where a daisy was painted
passionately kissedNat felt strong enough to face the worst and
conquer it. Every bill should be paidevery salable thing of his
own soldthese costly rooms given up; and once back with thrifty
Frau Tetzelhe would find work of some sort by which to support
himselfas many another student did. He must give up the new
friendsturn his back on the gay lifecease to be a butterflyand
take his place among the grubs. It was the only honest thing to do
but very hard for the poor fellow to crush his little vanities
renounce the delights so dear to the youngown his follyand step
down from his pedestal to be pitiedlaughed atand forgotten.
It took all Nat's pride and courage to do thisfor his was a sensitive
nature; esteem was very precious to himfailure very bitterand
nothing but the inborn contempt for meanness and deceit kept him
from asking help or trying to hide his need by some dishonest
device. As he sat alone that nightMr Bhaer's words came back to
him with curious clearnessand he saw himself a boy again at
Plumfieldpunishing his teacher as a lesson to himselfwhen
timidity had made him lie.
'He shall not suffer for me againand I won't be a sneak if I am a
fool. I'll go and tell Professor Baum- garten all about it and ask his
advice. I'd rather face a loaded cannon; but it must be done. Then
I'll sell outpay my debtsand go back where I belong. Better be an
honest pauper than a jackdaw among peacocks'; and Nat smiled in
the midst of his troubleas he looked about him at the little
elegancies of his roomremembering what he came from.
He kept his word manfullyand was much comforted to find that
his experience was an old story to the professorwho approved his
planthinking wisely that the discipline would be good for him
and was very kind in offering help and promising to keep the
secret of his folly from his friend Bhaer till Nat had redeemed
The first week of the new year was spent by our prodigal in
carrying out his plan with penitent dispatchand his birthday found
him alone in the little room high up at Frau Tetzel'swith nothing
of his former splendourbut sundry unsalable keepsakes from the
buxom maidenswho mourned his absence deeply. His male
friends had ridiculedpitiedand soon left him alonewith one or
two exceptionswho offered their purses generously and promised
to stand by him. He was lonely and heavy-heartedand sat
brooding over his small fire as he remembered the last New Year's
Day at Plumfieldwhen at this hour he was dancing with his Daisy.
A tap at the door roused himand with a careless 'Herein'he
waited to see who had climbed so far for his sake. It was the good
Frau proudly bearing a trayon which stood a bottle of wine and an
astonishing cake bedecked with sugar-plums of every hueand
crowned with candles. Fr„ulein Vogelstein followedembracing a
blooming rose-treeabove which her grey curls waved and her
friendly face beamed joyfully as she cried:
'Dear Herr Blakwe bring you greetings and a little gift or two in
honour of this ever-to-be-remembered day. Best wishes! and may
the new year bloom for you as beautifully as we your heart-warm
'Yesyesin truth we dodear Herr' added Frau Tetzel. 'Eat of this
with-joy-made Kuchenand drink to the health of the far-away
beloved ones in the good wine.'
Amusedyet touched by the kindness of the good soulsNat
thanked them bothand made them stay to enjoy the humble feast
with him. This they gladly didbeing motherly women full of pity
for the dear youthwhose straits they knewand having substantial
help to offeras well as kind words and creature comforts.
Frau Tetzelwith some hesitationmentioned a friend of hers who
forced by illness to leave his place in the orchestra of a second-rate
theatrewould gladly offer it to Natif he could accept so humble a
position. Blushing and toying with the roses like a shy girlgood
old Vogelstein asked if in his leisure moments he could give
English lessons in the young ladies' school where she taught
paintingadding that a small but certain salary would be paid him.
Gratefully Nat accepted both offersfinding it less humiliating to
be helped by women than by friends of his own sex. This work
would support him in a frugal wayand certain musical drudgery
promised by his master assured his own teaching. Delighted with
the success of their little plotthese friendly neighbours left him
with cheery wordswarm hand-graspsand faces beaming with
feminine satisfaction at the hearty kiss Nat put on each faded
cheekas the only return he could make for all their helpful
It was strange how much brighter the world looked after that; for
hope was a better cordial than the wineand good resolutions
bloomed as freshly as the little rose-tree that filled the room with
fragranceas Nat woke the echoes with the dear old airsfinding
now as always his best comforter in musicto whom henceforth he
swore to be a more loyal subject.
Chapter 14 PLAYS AT PLUMFIELD
As it is as impossible for the humble historian of the March family
to write a story without theatricals in it as for our dear Miss Yonge
to get on with less than twelve or fourteen children in her
interesting taleswe will accept the factand at once cheer
ourselves after the last afflicting eventsby proceeding to the
Christmas plays at Plumfield; for they influence the fate of several
of our charactersand cannot well be skipped.
When the college was built Mr Laurie added a charming little
theatre which not only served for playsbut declamationslectures
and concerts. The drop-curtain displayed Apollo with the Muses
grouped about him; and as a compliment to the donor of the hall
the artist had given the god a decided resemblance to our friend
which was considered a superb joke by everyone else. Home talent
furnished starsstock companyorchestraand scene painter; and
astonishing performances were given on this pretty little stage.
Mrs Jo had been trying for some time to produce a play which
should be an improvement upon the adaptations from the French
then in voguecurious mixtures of fine toilettesfalse sentiment
and feeble witwith no touch of nature to redeem them. It was
easy to plan plays full of noble speeches and thrilling situations
but very hard to write them; so she contented herself with a few
scenes of humble life in which the comic and pathetic were
mingled; and as she fitted her characters to her actorsshe hoped
the little venture would prove that truth and simplicity had not
entirely lost their power to charm. Mr Laurie helped herand they
called themselves Beaumont and Fletcherenjoying their joint
labour very much; for Beaumont's knowledge of dramatic art was
of great use in curbing Fletcher's too-aspiring penand they
flattered themselves that they had produced a neat and effective bit
of work as an experiment.
All was ready now; and Christmas Day was much enlivened by last
rehearsalsthe panics of timid actorsthe scramble for forgotten
propertiesand the decoration of the theatre. Evergreen and holly
from the woodsblooming plants from the hothouse on Parnassus
and flags of all nations made it very gay that night in honour of the
guests who were comingchief among themMiss Cameronwho
kept her promise faithfully. The orchestra tuned their instruments
with unusual carethe scene-shifters set their stage with lavish
elegancethe prompter heroically took his seat in the stifling nook
provided for himand the actors dressed with trembling hands that
dropped the pinsand perspiring brows whereon the powder
wouldn't stick. Beaumont and Fletcher were everywherefeeling
that their literary reputation was at stake; for sundry friendly critics
were invitedand reporterslike mosquitoescannot be excluded
from any earthly scenebe it a great man's death-bed or a dime
'Has she come?' was the question asked by every tongue behind the
curtain; and when Tomwho played an old manendangered his
respectable legs among the footlights to peepannounced that he
saw Miss Cameron's handsome head in the place of honoura thrill
pervaded the entire companyand Josie declared with an excited
gasp that she was going to have stage fright for the first time in her
'I'll shake you if you do' said Mrs Jowho was in such a wild state
of dishevelment with her varied labours that she might have gone
on as Madge Wildlifewithout an additional rag or crazy elf-lock.
'You'll have time to get your wits together while we do our piece.
We are old stagers and calm as clocks' answered Demiwith a nod
towards Aliceready in her pretty dress and all her properties at
But both clocks were going rather faster than usualas heightened
colourbrilliant eyesand a certain flutter under the laces and
velvet coat betrayed. They were to open the entertainment with a
gay little piece which they had played before and did remarkably
well. Alice was a tall girlwith dark hair and eyesand a face
which intelligencehealthand a happy heart made beautiful. She
was looking her best nowfor the brocadesplumesand powder of
the Marquise became her stately figure; and Demi in his court suit
with swordthree-cornered hatand white wigmade as gallant a
Baron as one would wish to see. Josie was the maidand looked
her part to the lifebeing as prettypertand inquisitive as any
French soubrette. These three were all the characters; and the
success of the piece depended on the spirit and skill with which
the quickly changing moods of the quarrelsome lovers were given
their witty speeches made to telland by- play suited to the courtly
period in which the scene was laid.
Few would have recognized sober John and studious Alice in the
dashing gentleman and coquettish ladywho kept the audience
laughing at their caprices; while they enjoyed the brilliant
costumesand admired the ease and grace of the young actors.
Josie was a prominent figure in the plotas she listened at
keyholespeeped into notesand popped in and out at all the most
inopportune momentswith her nose in the airher hands in her
apron-pocketsand curiosity pervading her little figure from the
topmost bow of her jaunty cap to the red heels of her slippers. All
went smoothly; and the capricious Marquiseafter tormenting the
devoted Baron to her heart's contentowned herself conquered in
the war of witsand was just offering the hand he had fairly won
when a crash startled themand a heavily decorated side-scene
swayed forwardready to fall upon Alice. Demi saw it and sprung
before her to catch and hold it upstanding like a modern Samson
with the wall of a house on his back. The danger was over in a
momentand he was about to utter his last speechwhen the
excited young scene-shifterwho had flown up a ladder to repair
the damageleaned over to whisper 'All right'and release Demi
from his spread-eagle attitude: as he did soa hammer slipped out
of his pocketto fall upon the upturned face belowinflicting a
smart blow and literally knocking the Baron's part out of his head.
'A quick curtain' robbed the audience of a pretty little scene not
down on the bill; for the Marquise flew to staunch the blood with a
cry of alarm: 'Oh! Johnyou are hurt! Lean on me' which John
gladly did for a momentbeing a trifle dazed yet quite able to
enjoy the tender touch of the hands busied about him and the
anxiety of the face so near his own; for both told him something
which he would have considered cheaply won by a rain of
hammers and the fall of the whole college on his head.
Nan was on the spot in a moment with the case that never left her
pocket; and the wound was neatly plastered up by the time Mrs Jo
'Is he too much hurt to go on again? If he ismy play is lost!'
'I'm all the fitter for itAunty; for here's a real instead of a painted
wound. I'll be ready; don't worry about me.' And catching up his
wigDemi was offwith only a very eloquent look of thanks to the
Marquisewho had spoilt her gloves for his sakebut did not seem
to mind it at allthough they reached above her elbowsand were
'How are your nervesFletcher?' asked Mr Laurie as they stood
together during the breathless minute before the last bell rings.
'About as calm as yoursBeaumont' answered Mrs Jo
gesticulating wildly to Mrs Meg to set her cap straight.
'Bear uppartner! I'll stand by you whatever comes!'
'I feel that it ought to go; forthough it's a mere triflea good deal
of honest work and truth have gone into it. Doesn't Meg look the
picture of a dear old country woman?'
She certainly didas she sat in the farmhouse kitchen by a cheery
firerocking a cradle and darning stock- ingsas if she had done
nothing else all her life. Grey hairskilfully drawn lines on the
foreheadand a plain gownwith caplittle shawland check
apronchanged her into a comfortablemotherly creature who
found favour the moment the curtain went up and discovered her
rockingdarningand crooning an old song. In a short soliloquy
about Samher boywho wanted to enlist; Dollyher discontented
little daughterwho longed for city ease and pleasures; and poor
'Elizy'who had married badlyand came home to diebequeathing
her baby to her motherlest its bad father should claim itthe little
story was very simply openedand made effective by the real
boiling of the kettle on the cranethe ticking of a tall clockand
the appearance of a pair of blue worsted shoes which waved
fitfully in the air to the soft babble of a baby's voice. Those
shapeless little shoes won the first applause; and Mr Laurie
forgetting elegance in satisfactionwhispered to his coadjutor:
'I thought the baby would fetch them!'
'If the dear thing won't squall in the wrong placewe are saved. But
it is risky. Be ready to catch it if all Meg's cuddlings prove in vain'
answered Mrs Joaddingwith a clutch at Mr Laurie's arm as a
haggard face appeared at the window:
'Here's Demi! I hope no one will recognize him when he comes on
as the son. I'll never forgive you for not doing the villain yourself.'
'Can't run the thing and act too. He's capitally made upand likes a
bit of melodrama.'
'This scene ought to have come later; but I wanted to show that the
mother was the heroine as soon as possible. I'm tired of love-sick
girls and runaway wives. We'll prove that there's romance in old
women also. Now he's coming!'
And in slouched a degraded-looking manshabbyunshavenand
evil-eyedtrying to assume a masterful air as he dismayed the
tranquil old woman by demanding his child. A powerful scene
followed; and Mrs Meg surprised even those who knew her best by
the homely dignity with which she at first met the man she
dreaded; thenas he brutally pressed his claimshe pleaded with
trembling voice and hands to keep the little creature she had
promised the dying mother to protect; and when he turned to take
it by forcequite a thrill went through the house as the old woman
sprung to snatch it from the cradleand holding it closedefied
him in God's name to tear it from that sacred refuge. It was really
well done; and the round of applause that greeted the fine tableau
of the indignant old womanthe rosyblinking baby clinging to her
neckand the daunted man who dared not execute his evil purpose
with such a defender for helpless innocencetold the excited
authors that their first scene was a hit.
The second was quieterand introduced Josie as a bonny country
lass setting the supper-table in a bad humour. The pettish way in
which she slapped down the plateshustled the cupsand cut the
big brown loafas she related her girlish trials and ambitionswas
capital. Mrs Jo kept her eye on Miss Cameronand saw her nod
approval several times at some natural tone or gesturesome good
bit of by-play or a quick change of expression in the young face
which was as variable as an April day. Her struggle with the
toasting-fork made much merriment; so did her con- tempt for the
brown sugarand the relish with which she sweetened her irksome
duties by eating it; and when she satlike Cinderellaon the hearth
tearfully watching the flames dance on the homely rooma girlish
voice was heard to exclaim impulsively:
'Poor little thing! she ought to have some fun!'
The old woman enters; and mother and daughter have a pretty
scenein which the latter coaxes and threatenskisses and cries
till she wins the reluctant consent of the former to visit a rich
relation in the city; and from being a little thunder-cloud Dolly
becomes bewitchingly gay and goodas soon as her wilful wish is
granted. The poor old soul has hardly recovered from this trial
when the son entersin army bluetells he has enlisted and must
go. That is a hard blow; but the patriotic mother bears it welland
not till the thoughtless young folks have hastened away to tell their
good news elsewhere does she break down. Then the country
kitchen becomes pathetic as the old mother sits alone mourning
over her childrentill the grey head is hidden in the hands as she
kneels down by the cradle to weep and praywith only Baby to
comfort her fond and faithful heart.
Sniffs were audible all through the latter part of this scene; and
when the curtain fellpeople were so busy wiping their eyes that
for a moment they forgot to applaud. That silent moment was more
flattering than noise; and as Mrs Jo wiped the real tears off her
sister's faceshe said as solemnly as an unconscious dab of rouge
on her nose permitted:
'Megyou have saved my play! Ohwhy aren't you a real actress
and I a real playwright?'
'Don't gush nowdearbut help me dress Josie; she's in such a
quiver of excitementI can't manage herand this is her best scene
So it was; for her aunt had written it especially for herand little Jo
was happy in a gorgeous dresswith a train long enough to satisfy
her wildest dreams. The rich relation's parlour was in festival
arrayand the country cousin sails inlooking back at her sweeping
flounces with such artless rapture that no one had the heart to
laugh at the pretty jay in borrowed plumes. She has confidences
with herself in the mirrorfrom which it is made evident that she
had discovered all is not gold that glittersand has found greater
temptations than those a girlish love of pleasureluxuryand
flattery bring her. She is sought by a rich lover; but her honest
heart resists the allurements he offersand in its innocent
perplexity wishes 'mother' was there to comfort and counsel.
A gay little dancein which DoraNanBessand several of the
boys took partmade a good background for the humble figure of
the old woman in her widow's bonnetrusty shawlbig umbrella
and basket. Her na‹ve astonishmentas she surveys the spectacle
feels the curtainsand smooths her old gloves during the moment
she remains unseenwas very good; but Josie's unaffected start
when she sees herand the cry: 'Whythere's mother!' was such a
hearty little bit of natureit hardly needed the impatient tripping
over her train as she ran into the arms that seemed now to be her
The lover plays his part; and ripples of merriment greeted the old
woman's searching questions and blunt answers during the
interview which shows the girl how shallow his love isand how
near she had been to ruining her life as bitterly as poor 'Elizy' did.
She gives her answer franklyand when they are alonelooks from
her own bedizened self to the shabby dresswork-worn handsand
tender facecrying with a repentant sob and kiss: 'Take me home
motherand keep me safe. I've had enough of this!'
'That will do you goodMaria; don't forget it' said one lady to her
daughter as the curtain went down; and the girl answered: 'Well
I'm sure I don't see why it's touching; but it is' as she spread her
lace handkerchief to dry.
Tom and Nan came out strong in the next scene; for it was a ward
in an army hospitaland surgeon and nurse went from bed to bed
feeling pulsesadministering dosesand hearing complaints with
an energy and gravity which convulsed the audience. The tragic
elementnever far from the comic at such times and placescame
in whenwhile they bandaged an armthe doctor told the nurse
about an old woman who was searching through the hospital for
her sonafter days and nights on battlefieldsthrough ambulances
and among scenes which would have killed most women.
'she will fli lirrc dircctly~nd I drc~i1 11cr comingfor I'm afraid
the poor lad who has just gone is her boy. I'd rather face a cannon
than these brave womenwith their hope and courage and great
sorrow' says the surgeon.
'Ahthese poor mothers break my heart!' adds the nursewiping
her eyes on her big apron; and with the words Mrs Meg came in.
There was the same dressthe basket and umbrellathe rustic
speechthe simple manners; but all were made pathetic by the
terrible experience which had changed the tranquil old woman to
that haggard figure with wild eyesdusty feettrembling hands
and an expression of mingled anguishresolutionand despair
which gave the homely figure a tragic dignity and power that
touched all hearts. A few broken words told the story of her vain
searchand then the sad quest began again. People held their
breath asled by the nurseshe went from bed to bedshowing in
her face the alternations of hopedreadand bitter disappointment
as each was passed. On a narrow cot was a long figure covered
with a sheetand here she paused to lay one hand on her heart and
one on her eyesas if to gather courage to look at the nameless
dead. Then she drew down the sheetgave a long shivering sigh of
'Not my sonthank God! but some mother's boy.' And stooping
downshe kissed the cold forehead tenderly.
Somebody sobbed thereand Miss Cameron shook two tears out of
her eyesanxious to lose no look or gesture as the poor soulnearly
spent with the long strainstruggled on down the long line. But her
search wa~ happily ended~ foras if her voice had rou~d him from
his feverish sleepa gauntwild-eyed man sat up in his bedand
stretching his arms to hercried in a voice that echoed through the
'Mothermother! I knew you'd come to me!'
She did go to himwith a cry of love and joy that thrilled every
listeneras she gathered him in her arms with the tears and prayers
and blessing such as only a fond and faithful old mother could
The last scene was a cheerful contrast to this; for the country
kitchen was bright with Christmas cheerthe wounded herowith
black patch and crutches well displayedsat by the fire in the old
chair whose familiar creak was soothing to his ear; pretty Dolly
was stirring aboutgaily trimming dressersettlehigh
chimney-pieceand old-fashioned cradle with mistletoe and holly;
while the mother rested beside her sonwith that blessed baby on
her knee. Refreshed by a nap and nourishmentthis young actor
now covered himself with glory by his ecstatic prancings
incoherent remarks to the audienceand vain attempts to get to the
footlightsas he blinked approvingly at these brilliant toys. It was
good to see Mrs Meg pat him on the backcuddle the fat legs out
of sightand appease his vain longings with a lump of sugartill
Baby embraced her with a grateful ardour that brought him a round
of applause all for his little self.
A sound of singing outside disturbs the happy familyandafter a
carol in the snowy moonlighta flock of neighbours troop in with
Christmas gifts and greetings. Much by-play made this a lively
picture; for Sam's sweetheart hovered round him with a tenderness
the Marquise did not show the Baron; and Dolly had a pretty bit
under the mistletoe with her rustic adorerwho looked so like Ham
Peggotty in his cowhide bootsrough jacketand dark beard and
wigthat no one would have recognized Ted but for the long legs
which no extent of leather could disguise. It ended with a homely
feastbrought by the guests; and as they sat round the table
covered with doughnuts and cheesepumpkin-pieand other
delicaciesSam rises on his crutches to propose the first toastand
holding up his mug of cidersayswith a saluteand a choke in his
voice: 'MotherGod bless her!' All drink it stand- ingDolly with
her arm round the old woman's neckas she hides her happy tears
on her daughter's breast; while the irrepressible baby beat
rapturously on the table with a spoonand crowed audibly as the
curtain went down.
They had it up again in a jiffy to get a last look at the group about
that central figurewhich was showered with bouquetsto the great
delight of the infant Roscius; till a fat rosebud hit him on the nose
and produced the much-dreaded squallwhichfortunatelyonly
added to the fun at that moment.
'Wellthat will do for a beginning' said Beaumontwith a sigh of
reliefas the curtain descended for the last timeand the actors
scattered to dress for the closing piece.
'As an experimentit is a success. Now we can venture to begin
our great American drama' answered Mrs Jofull of satisfaction
and grand ideas for the famous play whichwe may addshe did
not write that yearowing to various dramatic events in her own
The Owisdark Marbles closed the entertainmentandbeing
something newproved amusing to this very indulgent audience.
The gods and goddesses on Parnassus were displayed in full
conclave; andthanks to Mrs Amy's skill in draping and posingthe
white wigs and cotton-flannel robes were classically correct and
gracefulthough sundry modern additions somewhat marred the
effectwhile adding point to the showman's learned remarks. Mr
Laurie was Professor Owisdark in cap and gown; andafter a
high-flown introductionhe proceeded to exhibit and explain his
marbles. The first figure was a stately Minerva; but a second
glance produced a laughfor the words
'Women's Rights' adorned her shielda scroll bearing the motto
'Vote early and often' hung from the beak of the owl perched on
her lanceand a tiny pestle and mortar ornamented her helmet.
Attention was drawn to the firm mouththe piercing eyethe
awe-inspiring browof the strong-minded woman of antiquityand
some scathing remarks made upon the degeneracy of her modern
sisters who failed to do their duty. Mercury came nextand was
very fine in his airy attitudethough the winged legs quivered as if
it was difficult to keep the lively god in his place. His restless
nature was dilated uponhis mischievous freaks alluded toand a
very bad character given to the immortal messenger-boy; which
delighted his friends and caused the marble nose of the victim to
curl visibly with scorn when derisive applause greeted a
particularly hard hit. A charming little Hebe stood nextpouring
nectar from a silver teapot into a blue china tea-cup. She also
pointed a moral; for the Professor explained that the nectar of old
was the beverage which cheers but does not inebriateand
regretted that the excessive devotion of American women to this
classic brew proved so harmfulowing to the great development of
brain their culture produced. A touch at modern servantsin
contrast to this accomplished table-girlmade the statue's cheeks
glow under the chalkand brought her a hearty round as the
audience recognized Dolly and the smart soubrette.
Jove in all his majesty followedas he and his wife occupied the
central pedestals in the half-circle of immortals. A splendid
Jupiterwith hair well set up off the fine browambrosial beard
silver thunderbolts in one handand a well-worn ferule in the
other. A large stuffed eagle from the museum stood at his feet; and
the benign expression of his august countenance showed that he
was in a good humour as well he might befor he was paid some
handsome compliments upon his wise rulethe peaceful state of
his kingdomand the brood of all-accomplished Pallases that
yearly issued from his mighty brain. Cheers greeted this and other
pleasant wordsand caused the thunderer to bow his thanks; for
'Jove nods'as everyone knowsand flattery wins the heart of gods
Mrs Junowith her peacocksdarning-needlepenand
cooking-spoondid not get off so easily; for the Professor was
down on her with all manner of mirth-provoking accusations
criticismsand insults even. He alluded to her domestic infelicity
her meddlesome dispositionsharp tonguebad temperand
jealousyclosinghoweverwith a tribute to her skill in caring for
the wounds and settling the quarrels of belligerent heroesas well
as her love for youths in Olympus and on earth. Gales of laughter
greeted these hitsvaried by hisses from some indignant boyswho
would not beareven in jokeany disrespect to dear Mother Bhaer
whohoweverenjoyed it all immenselyas the twinkle in her eye
and the irrepressible pucker of her lips betrayed.
A jolly Bacchus astride of his cask took Vulcan's placeand
appeared to be very comfortable with a beer-mug in one handa
champagne bottle in the otherand a garland of grapes on his curly
head. He was the text of a short temperance lectureaimed directly
at a row of smart young gentlemen who lined the walls of the
auditorium. George Cole was seen to dodge behind a pillar at one
pointDolly nudged his neighbour at anotherand there was
laughter all along the line as the Professor glared at them through
his big glassesand dragged their bacchanalian orgies to the light
and held them up to scorn.
Seeing the execution he had donethe learned man turned to the
lovely Dianawho stood as white and still as the plaster stag beside
herwith sandalsbowand crescent; quite perfectand altogether
the best piece of statuary in the show. She was very tenderly
treated by the paternal critic whomerely alluding to her
confirmed spinsterhoodfondness for athletic sportsand oracular
powersgave a graceful little exposition of true art and passed on
to the last figure.
This was Apollo in full fighis curls skilfully arranged to hide a
well-whitened patch over the eyehis handsome legs correctly
poisedand his gifted fingers about to draw divine music from the
silvered gridiron which was his lyre. His divine attributes were
describedas well as his little follies and failingsamong which
were his weakness for photography and flute-playinghis attempts
to run a newspaperand his fondness for the society of the Muses;
which latter slap produced giggles and blushes among the
girl-graduatesand much mirth among the stricken youths; for
misery loves companyand after this they began to rally.
Thenwith a ridiculous conclusionthe Professor bowed his
thanks; and after several recalls the curtain fellbut not quickly
enough to conceal Mercurywildly waving his liberated legsHebe
dropping her teapotBacchus taking a lovely roll on his barreland
Mrs Juno rapping the impertinent Owlsdark on the head with
While the audience filed out to supper in the hallthe stage was a
scene of dire confusion as gods and goddessesfarmers and barons
maids and carpenterscongratulated one another on the success of
their labours. Assuming various costumesactors and actresses
soon joined their gueststo sip bounteous draughts of praise with
their coffeeand cool their modest blushes with ice-cream. Mrs
Meg was a proud and happy woman when Miss Cameron came to
her as she sat by Josiewith Demi serving bothand saidso
cordially that it was impossible to doubt the sincerity of her
'Mrs BrookeI no longer wonder where your children get their
talent. I make my compliments to the Baron and next summer you
must let me have little "Dolly" as a pupil when we are at the
One can easily imagine how this offer was receivedas well as the
friendly commendation bestowed by the same kind critic on the
work of Beaumont and Fletcherwho hastened to explain that this
trifle was only an attempt to make nature and art go hand in hand
with little help from fine writing or imposing scenery. Everybody
was in the happiest moodespecially 'little Dolly'who danced like
a will-o'-the-wisp with light-footed Mercury and Apollo as he
promenaded with the Marquise on his armwho seemed to have
left her coquetry in the green room with her rouge.
When all was overMrs Juno said to Joveto whose arm she clung
as they trudged home along the snowy paths: 'Fritz dearChristmas
is a good time for new resolutionsand I've made one never to be
impatient or fretful with my beloved husband again. I know I am
though you won't own it; but Laurie's fun had some truth in itand
I felt hit in a tender spot. Henceforth I am a model wifeelse I
don't deserve the dearestbest man ever born'; and being in a
dramatic moodMrs Juno tenderly embraced her excellent Jove in
the moonlightto the great amusement of sundry lingerers behind
So all three plays might be considered successesand that merry
Christmas night a memorable one in the March family; for Demi
got an unspoken question answeredJosie's fondest wish was
grantedandthanks to Professor Owlsdark's jestMrs Jo made
Professor Bhaer's busy life quite a bed of roses by the keeping of
her resolution. A few days later she had her reward for this burst of
virtue in Dan's letterwhich set her fears at rest and made her very
happythough she was unable to tell him sobecause he sent her
Chapter 15 WAITING
'My wifeI have bad news for thee' said Professor Bhaercoming
in one day early in January.
'Please tell it at once. I can't bear to waitFritz' cried Mrs Jo
dropping her work and standing up as if to take the shot bravely.
'But we must wait and hopeheart's-dearest. Come and let us bear
it together. Emil's ship is lostand as yet no news of him.'
It was well Mr Bhaer had taken his wife into his strong armsfor
she looked ready to dropbut bore up after a momentand sitting
by her good manheard all that there was to tell. Tidings had been
sent to the shipowners at Hamburg by some of the survivorsand
telegraphed at once by Franz to his uncle. As one boat-load was
safethere was hope that others might also escapethough the gale
had sent two to the bottom. A swift-sailing steamer had brought
these scanty newsand happier ones might come at any hour; but
kind Franz had not added that the sailors reported the captain's
boat as undoubtedly wrecked by the falling mastsince the smoke
hid its escapeand the gale soon drove all far asunder. But this sad
rumour reached Plumfield in time; and deep was the mourning for
the happyhearted Commodorenever to come singing home again.
Mrs Jo refused to believe itstoutly insisting that Emil would
outlive any storm and yet turn up safe and gay. It was well she
clung to this hopeful viewfor poor Mr Bhaer was much afflicted
by the loss of his boybecause his sister's sons had been his so long
he scarcely knew a different love for his very own. Now was a
chance for Mrs Juno to keep her word; and she didspeaking
cheerily of Emileven when hope waxed faint and her heart was
heavy. If anything could comfort the Bhaers for the loss of one
boyit would have been the affection and sorrow shown by all the
rest. Franz kept the cable busy with his varying messagesNat sent
loving letters from Leipzigand Tom harassed the shipping agents
for news. Even busy Jack wrote them with unusual warmth; Dolly
and George came oftenbearing the loveliest flowers and the
daintiest bon-bons to cheer Mrs Bhaer and sweeten Josie's grief;
while good-hearted Ned travelled all the way from Chicago to
press their hands and saywith a tear in his eye: 'I was so anxious
to hear all about the dear old boyI couldn't keep away.'
'That's right comfortableand shows me that if I didn't teach my
boys anything elseI did give them the brotherly love that will
make them stand by one another all their lives' said Mrs Jowhen
he had gone.
Rob answered reams of sympathizing letterswhich showed how
many friends they had; and the kindly praises of the lost man
would have made Emil a hero and a sainthad they all been true.
The elders bore it quietlyhaving learned submission in life's hard
school; but the younger people rebelled; some hoped against hope
and kept upothers despaired at onceand little JosieEmil's pet
cousin and playmatewas so broken-hearted nothing could comfort
her. Nan dosed in vainDaisy's cheerful words went by like the
windand Bess's devices to amuse her all failed utterly. To cry in
mother's arms and talk about the wreckwhich haunted her even in
her sleepwas all she cared to do; and Mrs Meg was getting
anxious when Miss Cameron sent Josie a kind note bidding her
learn bravely her first lesson in real tragedyand be like the
self-sacrificing heroines she loved to act. That did the little girl
goodand she made an effort in which Teddy and Octoo helped
her much; for the boy was deeply impressed by this sudden eclipse
of the firefly whose light and life all missed when they were gone
and lured her out every day for long drives behind the black mare
who shook her silvery bells till they made such merry music Josie
could not help listening to itand whisked her over the snowy
roads at a pace which set the blood dancing in her veins and sent
her home strengthened and comforted by sunshinefresh airand
congenial society three aids young sufferers seldom can resist.
As Emil was helping nurse Captain Hardysafe and wellaboard
the shipall this sorrow would seem wasted; but it was notfor it
drew many hearts more closely together by a common grieftaught
some patiencesome sympathysome regret for faults that lie
heavy on the conscience when the one sinned against is goneand
all of them the solemn lesson to be ready when the summons
comes. A hush lay over Plumfield for weeksand the studious
faces on the hill reflected the sadness of those in the valley. Sacred
music sounded from Parnassus to comfort all who heard; the
brown cottage was beseiged with gifts for the little mournerand
Emil's flag hung at half-mast on the roof where he last sat with
So the weeks went heavily by till suddenlylike a thunderbolt out
of a clear skycame the news'All safeletters on the way.' Then
up went the flagout rang the college bellsbang went Teddy's
long-unused cannonand a chorus of happy voices cried 'Thank
God'as people went aboutlaughingcryingand embracing one
another in a rapture of delight. By and by the longed-for letters
cameand all the story of the wreck was told; briefly by Emil
eloquently by Mrs Hardygratefully by the captainwhile Mary
added a few tender words that went straight to their hearts and
seemed the sweetest of all. Never were letters so readpassed
roundadmiredand cried over as these; for Mrs Jo carried them in
her pocket when Mr Bhaer did not have them in hisand both took
a look at them when they said their prayers at night. Now the
Professor was heard humming like a big bee again as he went to
his classesand the lines smoothed out of Mother Bhaer's forehead
while she wrote this real story to anxious friends and let her
romances wait. Now messages of congratulation flowed inand
beaming faces showed everywhere. Rob amazed his parents by
producing a poem which was remarkably good for one of his years
and Demi set it to music that it might be sung when the sailor boy
returned. Teddy stood on his head literallyand tore about the
neighbourhood on Octoolike a second Paul Revere only his
tidings were good. But best of alllittle Josie lifted up her head as
the snowdrops didand began to bloom againgrowing tall and
quietwith the shadow of past sorrow to tone down her former
vivacity and show that she had learned a lesson in trying to act
well her part on the real stagewhere all have to take their share in
the great drama of life.
Now another sort of waiting began; for the travellers were on their
way to Hamburgand would stay there awhile before coming
homeas Uncle Hermann owned the Brendaand the captain must
report to him. Emil must remain to Franz's weddingdeferred till
now because of the season of mourningso happily ended. These
plans were doubly welcome and pleasant after the troublous times
which went beforeand no spring ever seemed so beautiful as this
one; foras Teddy put it:
'Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious by these sons of Bhaer!'
Franz and Emil being regarded in the light of elder brothers by the
real 'sons of Bhaer'.
There was great scrubbing and dusting among the matrons as they
set their houses in order not only for Class Daybut to receive the
bride and groomwho were to come to them for the honeymoon
trip. Great plans were madegifts preparedand much joy felt at
the prospect of seeing Franz again; though Emilwho was to
accompany themwould be the greater hero. Little did the dear
souls dream what a surprise was in store for themas they
innocently laid their plans and wished all the boys could be there
to welcome home their eldest and their Casablanca.
While they wait and work so happilylet us see how our other
absent boys are faring as they too wait and work and hope for
better days. Nat was toiling steadily along the path he had wisely
chosenthough it was by no means strewn with flowers quite
thorny was itin factand hard to travelafter the taste of ease and
pleasure he had got when nibbling at forbidden fruit. But his crop
of wild oats was a light oneand he resolutely reaped what he had
sowedfinding some good wheat among the tares. He taught by
day; he fiddled night after night in the dingy little theatreand he
studied so diligently that his master was well pleasedand kept
him in mind as one to whom preferment was dueif any chance
occurred. Gay friends forgot him; but the old ones stood fastand
cheered him up when Heimweh and weariness made him sad. As
spring came on things mended expenses grew lesswork
pleasanterand life more bearable than when wintry storms beat on
his thinly clad backand frost pinched the toes that patiently
trudged in old boots. No debts burdened him; the year of absence
was nearly over; and if he chose to stayHerr Berg-mann had
hopes for him that would bring independence for a time at least.
So he walked under the lindens with a lighter heartand in the May
evenings went about the city with a band of strolling students
making music before houses where he used to sit as guest. No one
recognized him in the darknessthough old friends often listened
to the band; and once Minna threw him moneywhich he humbly
received as part of his penancebeing morbid on the subject of his
His reward came sooner than he expectedand was greater than he
deservedhe thoughtthough his heart leaped with joy when his
master one day informed him that he was chosenwith several
other of his most promising pupilsto join the musical society
which was to take part in the great festival in London the next July.
Here was not only honour for the violinist but happiness for the
manas it brought him nearer homeand would open a chance of
further promotion and profit in his chosen profession.
'Make thyself useful to Bachmeister there in London with thy
Englishand if all goes well with himhe will be glad to take thee
to Americawhither he goes in the early autumn for winter
concerts. Thou hast done well these last monthsand I have hopes
As the great Bergmann seldom praised his pupilsthese words
filled Nat's soul with pride and joyand he worked yet more
diligently than before to fulfil his master's prophecy. He thought
the trip to England happiness enoughbut found room for more
whenearly in JuneFranz and Emil paid him a flying visit
bringing all sorts of good newskind wishesand comfortable gifts
for the lonely fellowwho could have fallen on their necks and
cried like a girl at seeing his old mates again. How glad he was to
be found in his little room busy at his proper worknot living like
an idle gentleman on borrowed money! How proud he was to tell
his plansassure them that he had no debtsand receive their
praises for his improvement in musictheir respect for his
economy and steadfastness in well-doing! How relieved when
having honestly confessed his shortcomingsthey only laughed
and owned that they also had known like experiencesand were
the wiser for them. He was to go to the wedding late in Juneand
join his comrades in London. As best manhe could not refuse the
new suit Franz insisted on ordering for him; and a cheque from
home about that time made him feel like a millionaire and a
happy one; for this was accompanied by such kind letters full of
delight in his successhe felt that he had earned itand waited for
his joyful holiday with the impatience of a boy.
Dan meantime was also counting the weeks till Augustwhen he
would be free. But neither marriage-bells nor festival music
awaited him; no friends would greet him as he left the prison; no
hopeful prospect lay before him; no happy home-going was to be
his. Yet his success was far greater than Nat'sthough only God
and one good man saw it. It was a hard-won battle; but he would
never have to fight so terrible a one again; for though enemies
would still assail from within and from withouthe had found the
little guide-book that Christian carried in his bosomand Love
Penitenceand Prayerthe three sweet sistershad given him the
armour which would keep him safe. He had not learned to wear it
yetand chafed against itthough he felt its valuethanks to the
faithful friend who had stood by him all that bitter year.
Soon he was to be free againworn and scarred in the fraybut out
among men in the blessed sun and air. When he thought of it Dan
felt as if he could not waitbut must burst that narrow cell and fly
awayas the caddis-worms he used to watch by the brookside shed
their stony coffinsto climb the ferns and soar into the sky. Night
after night he lulled himself to sleep with planning howwhen he
had seen Mary Mason according to his promisehe would steer
straight for his old friendsthe Indiansand in the wilderness hide
his disgrace and heal his wounds. Working to save the many would
atone for the sin of killing onehe thought; and the old free life
would keep him safe from the temptations that beset him in cities.
'By and bywhen I'm all right againand have something to tell
that I'm not ashamed ofI'll go home' he saidwith a quicker beat
of the impetuous heart that longed to be there so intenselyhe
found it as hard to curb as one of his unbroken horses on the
plains. 'Not yet. I must get over this first. They'd see and smell and
feel the prison taint on meif I went nowand I couldn't look them
in the face and hide the truth. I can't lose Ted's loveMother
Bhaer's confidenceand the respect of of the girls for they did
respect my strengthanyway; but now they wouldn't touch me.'
And poor Dan looked with a shudder at the brown fist he clenched
involuntarily as he remembered what it had done since a certain
little white hand had laid in it confidingly. 'I'll make 'em prOud of
me yet; and no one shall ever know of this awful year. I can wipe it
outand I willso help me God!' And the clenched hand was held
up as if to take a solemn oath that this lost year should yet be made
goodif resolution and repentance could work the miracles
Chapter 16 IN THE TENNIS-COURT
Athletic sports were in high favour at Plumfield; and the river
where the old punt used to wabble about with a cargo of small
boysor echo to the shrill screams of little girls trying to get lilies
now was alive with boats of all kindsfrom the slender wherry to
the trim pleasure-craftgay with cushionsawningsand fluttering
pennons. Everyone rowedand the girls as well as the youths had
their racesand developed their muscles in the most scientific
manner. The largelevel meadow near the old willow was now the
college playgroundand here baseball battles raged with fury
varied by footballleapingand kindred sports fitted to split the
fingersbreak the ribsand strain the backs of the too ambitious
participants. The gentler pastimes of the damsels were at a safe
distance from this Champ de Mars; croquet mallets clicked under
the elms that fringed the fieldrackets rose and fell energetically in
several tennis-courtsand gates of different heights were handy to
practise the graceful bound by which every girl expected to save
her life some day when the mad bullwhich was always coming
but never seemed to arriveshould be bellowing at her heels.
One of these tennis grounds was called 'Jo's Court'and here the
little lady ruled like a queen; for she was fond of the gameand
being bent on developing her small self to the highest degree of
perfectionshe was to be found at every leisure moment with some
victim hard at it. On a certain pleasant Saturday afternoon she had
been playing with Bess and beating her; forthough more graceful
the Princess was less active than her cousinand cultivated her
roses by quieter methods.
'Oh dear! you are tiredand every blessed boy is at that stupid
baseball match. 'What shall I do?' sighed Josiepushing back the
great red hat she woreand gazing sadly round her for more worlds
'I'll play presentlywhen I'm a little cooler. But it is dull work for
meas I never win' answered Bessfanning herself with a large
Josie was about to sit down beside her on the rustic seat and wait
when her quick eye saw afar off two manly forms arrayed in white
flannel; their blue legs seemed bearing them towards the battle
going on in the distance; but they never reached the fray; for with a
cry of joyJo raced away to meet thembent on securing this
heaven-sent reinforcement. Both paused as she came flying up
and both raised their hats; but ohthe difference there was in the
salutes! The stout youth pulled his off lazily and put it on again at
onceas if glad to get the duty over; the slender beingwith the
crimson tielifted his with a graceful bendand held it aloft while
he accosted the rosybreathless maidthus permitting her to see
his raven locks smoothly partedwith one little curl upon the brow.
Dolly prided himself upon that bowand practised it before his
glassbut did not bestow it upon all alikeregarding it as a work of
artfit only for the fairest and most favoured of his female
admirers; for he was a pretty youthand fancied himself an
Eager Josie evidently did not appreciate the honour he did herfor
with a nod she begged them both to 'come along and play tennis
not go and get all hot and dirty with the boys'. These two
adjectives won the day; for Stuffy was already warmer than he
liked to beand Dolly had on a new suit which he desired to keep
immaculate as long as possibleconscious that it was very
'Charmed to oblige' answered the polite onewith another bend.
'You playI'll rest' added the fat boyyearning for repose and
gentle converse with the Princess in the cooling shade.
'Wellyou can comfort Bessfor I've beaten her all to bits and she
needs amusing. I know you've got something nice in your pocket
George; give her someand 'Dolphus can have her racket. Now
thenfly round'; and driving her prey before herJosie returned in
triumph to the court.
Casting himself ponderously upon the benchwhich creaked under
his weightStuffy as we will continue to call himthough no one
else dared to use the old name now promptly produced the box of
confectionerywithout which he never travelled farand regaled
Bess with candied violets and other daintieswhile Dolly worked
hard to hold his own against a most accomplished antagonist. He
would have beaten her if an unlucky stumblewhich produced an
unsightly stain upon the knee of those new shortshad not
distracted his mind and made him careless. Much elated at her
victoryJosie permitted him to restand offered ironi cal
consolation for the mishap which evidently weighed upon his
'Don't be an old Betty; it can be cleaned. You must have been a cat
in some former stateyou are so troubled about dirt; or a tailorand
lived for clothes.'
'Come nowdon't hit a fellow when he is down' responded Dolly
from the grass where he and Stuffy now lay to make room for both
girls on the seat. One handkerchief was spread under himand his
elbow leaned upon anotherwhile his eyes were sadly fixed upon
the green and brown spot which afflicted him. 'I like to be neat;
don't think it civil to cut about in old shoes and grey flannel shirts
before ladies. Our fellows are gentlemenand dress as such' he
addedrather nettled at the word 'tailor'; for he owed one of those
too attractive persons an uncomfortably big bill.
'So are ours; but good clothes alone don't make a gentleman here.
We require a good deal more' flashed Josiein arms at once to
defend her college. 'You will hear of some of the men in "old boots
and grey flannel" when you and your fine gentlemen are twiddling
your ties and scenting your hair in obscurity. I like old boots and
wear themand I hate dandies; don't youBess?'
'Not when they are kind to meand belong to our old set' answered
Besswith a nod of thanks to Dollywho was carefully removing
an inquisitive caterpillar from one of her little russet shoes.
'I like a lady who is always politeand doesn't snap a man's head
off if he has a mind of his own; don't youGeorge?' asked Dolly
with his best smile for Bess and a Harvard stare of disapprobation
A tranquil snore was Stuffy's sole replyand a gen eral laugh
restored peace for the moment. But Josie loved to harass the lords
of creation who asserted themselves too muchand bided her time
for another attack till she had secured more tennis. She got another
game; for Dolly was a sworn knight of damesso he obeyed her
callleaving Bess to sketch George as he lay upon his backhis
stout legs crossedand his round red face partially eclipsed by his
hat. Josie got beaten this time and came back rather crossso she
woke the peaceful sleeper by tickling his nose with a straw till he
sneezed himself into a sitting postureand looked wrathfully about
for 'that confounded fly'.
'Comesit up and let us have a little elegant conversation; you
howling swellsought to improve our minds and mannersfor we
are only poor "country girls in dowdy gowns and hats"' began the
gad-flyopening the battle with a sly quotation from one of Dolly's
unfortunate speeches about certain studious damsels who cared
more for books than finery.
'I didn't mean you! Your gowns are all rightand those hats the
latest thing out' began poor 'Dolphusconvicting himself by the
'Caught you that time; I thought you fellows were all gentlemen
civil as well as nice. But you are always sneering at girls who don't
dress well and that is a very unmanly thing to do; my mother said
so'; and Josie felt that she had dealt a shrewd blow at the elegant
youth who bowed at many shrines if they were welldecorated ones.
'Got you thereold boyand she's right. You never hear me talk
about clothes and such twaddle' said Stuffysuppressing a yawn
and feeling for another bon-bon wherewith to refresh himself. 'You
talk about eatingand that is even worse for a man. You will marry
a cook and keep a restaurant some day' laughed Josiedown on
him at once.
This fearful prediction kept him silent for several moments; but
Dolly ralliedand wisely changing the subjectcarried war into the
'As you wanted us to improve your mannersallow me to say that
young ladies in good society don't make personal remarks or
deliver lectures. Little girls who are not out do itand think it
witty; but I assure you it's not good form.'
Josie paused a moment to recover from the shock of being called 'a
little girl'when all the honours of her fourteenth birthday were
fresh upon her; and Bess saidin the lofty tone which was
infinitely more crushing than Jo's impertinence:
'That is true; but we have lived all our lives with superior people
so we have no society talk like your young ladies. We are so
accustomed to sensible conversationand helping one another by
telling our faultsthat we have no gossip to offer you.'
When the Princess reprovedthe boys seldom resented it; so Dolly
held his peaceand Josie burst outfollowing her cousin's lead
which she thought a happy one:
'Our boys like to have us talk with themand take kindly any hints
we give. They don't think they know everything and are quite
perfect at eighteenas I've observed the Harvard men do
especially the very young ones.'
Josie took immense satisfaction in that return shot; and Dolly
showed that he was hitby the nettled tone in which he answered
with a supercilious glance at the hotdustyand noisy crowd on the
baseball ground: 'The class of fellows you have here need all the
polish and culture you can give them; and I'm glad they get it. Our
men are largely from the best families all over the countryso we
don't need girls to teach us anything.'
'It's a pity you don't have more of such "fellows" as ours. They
value and use well what college gives themand aren't satisfied to
slip throughgetting all the fun they can and shirking the work. Oh
I've heard you "men" talkand heard your fathers say they wish
they hadn't wasted time and money just that you might say you'd
been through college. As for the girlsyou'll be much better off in
all ways when they do get inand keep you lazy things up to the
markas we do here.'
'If you have such a poor opinion of uswhy do you wear our
colour?' asked Dollypainfully conscious that he was not
improving the advantages his Alma Mater offered himbut bound
to defend her.
'I don't; my hat is scarletnot crimson. Much you know about a
colour' scoffed Josie.
'I know that a cross cow would soon set you scamperingif you
flaunted that red tile under her nose' retorted Dolly.
'I'm ready for her. Can your fine young ladies do this? or you
either?' and burning to display her latest accomplishmentJosie ran
to the nearest gateput one hand on the top railand vaulted over
as lightly as a bird.
Bess shook her headand Stuffy languidly applauded; but Dolly
scorning to be braved by a girltook a flying leap and landed on
his feet beside Josiesaying calmly: 'Can you do that?'
'Not yet; but I will by and by.'
As his foe looked a little crestfallenDolly relentedand affably
added sundry feats of a like naturequite unconscious that he had
fallen into a dreadful snare; for the dull red paint on the gatenot
being used to such vigorous handlingcame off in streaks upon his
shoulders when he turned a backward swing and came up smiling
to be rewarded with the aggravating remark:
'If you want to know what crimson islook at your back; it's nicely
stamped on and won't wash outI think.'
'The deuce it won't!' cried Dollytrying to get an impossible view
and giving it up in great disgust.
'I guess we'd better be goingDoif' said peaceable Stuffyfeeling
that it would be wise to retreat before another skirmish took place
as his side seemed to be getting the worst of it.
'Don't hurryI beg; stay and rest; you must need it after the
tremendous amount of brain work you've done this week. It is time
for our Greek. ComeBess. Good afternoongentlemen.' Andwith
a sweeping courtesyJosie led the waywith her hat belligerently
cocked upand her racket borne like a triumphal banner over one
shoulder; for having had the last wordshe felt that she could retire
with the honours of war.
Dolly gave Bess his best bowwith the chill on; and Stuffy
subsided luxuriouslywith his legs in the airmurmuring in a
'Little Jo is as cross as two sticks today. I'm going in for another
nap: too hot to play anything.' 'So it is. Wonder if Spitfire was right
about these beastly spots?' And Dolly sat down to try dry cleansing
with one of his handkerchiefs. 'Asleep?' he askedafter a few
moments of this cheerful occupationfearing that his chum might
be too comfortable when he was in a fume himself.
'No. I was thinking that Jo wasn't far wrong about shirking. 'Tis a
shame to get so little donewhen we ought to be grinding like
Morton and Torry and that lot. I never wanted to go to college; but
my governor made me. Much good it will do either of us!'
answered Stuffywith a groan; for he hated workand saw two
more long years of it before him.
'Gives a man prestigeyou know. No need to dig. I mean to have a
gay old timeand be a "howling swell"if I choose. Between you
and me thoughit would be no end jolly to have the girls along.
Study be hanged! But if we've got to turn the grindstoneit would
be mighty nice to have some of the little dears to lend a hand.
Wouldn't it now?'
'I'd like three this minute one to fan meone to kiss meand one
to give me some iced lemonade!' sighed Stuffywith a yearning
glance towards the housewhence no succour appeared.
'How would root-beer do?' asked a voice behind themwhich made
Dolly spring to his feet and Stuffy roll over like a startled porpoise.
Sitting on the stile that crossed the wall near by was Mrs Jowith
two jugs slung over her shoulder by a strapseveral tin mugs in her
handand an oldfashioned sun-bonnet on her head.
'I knew the boys would be killing themselves with ice-water; so I
strolled down with some of my goodwholesome beer. They drank
like fishes. But Silas was with me; so my cruse still holds out.
'Yesthanksvery much. Let us pour it.' And Dolly held the cup
while Stuffy joyfully filled it; both very gratefulbut rather afraid
she had heard what went before the wish she fulfilled.
She proved that she had by sayingas they stood drinking her
healthwhile she sat between themlooking like a middle-aged
vivandiŠrewith her jugs and mugs:
'I was glad to hear you say you would like to have girls at your
college; but I hope you will learn to speak more respectfully of
them before they come; for that will be the first lesson they will
'Reallyma'amI was only joking' began Stuffygulping down his
beer in a hurry.
'So was I. I'm sure I I'm devoted to 'em' stuttered Dolly
panic-stricken; for he saw that he was in for a lecture of some sort.
'Not in the right way. Frivolous girls may like to be called "little
dears" and things of that sort; but the girls who love study wish to
be treated like reasonable beingsnot dolls to flirt with. YesI'm
going to preach; that's my business; so stand up and take it like
Mrs Jo laughed; but she was in earnest; for by various hints and
signs during the past winter she knew that the boys were beginning
to 'see life' in the way she especially disapproved. Both were far
from homehad money enough to wasteand were as
inexperiencedcuriousand credulous as most lads of their age.
Not fond of bookstherefore without the safeguard which keeps
many studious fellows out of harm; one selfindulgentindolent
and so used to luxury that pampering of the senses was an easy
thing; the other vainas all comely boys arefull of conceitand so
eager to find favour in the eyes of his comrades that he was ready
for anything which would secure it. These traits and foibles made
both peculiarly liable to the temptations which assail
pleasure-loving and weak-willed boys. Mrs Jo knew them well
and had dropped many a warning word since they went to college;
but till lately they seemed not to understand some of her friendly
hints; now she was sure they wouldand meant to speak out: for
long experience with boys made her both bold and skilful in
handling some of the dangers usually left to silencetill it is too
late for anything but pity and reproach.
'I'm going to talk to you like a motherbecause yours are far away;
and there are things that mothers can manage bestif they do their
duty' she solemnly began from the depths of the sunbonnet.
'Great Scott! We're in for it now!' thought Dollyin secret dismay;
while Stuffy got the first blow by trying to Sustain himself with
another mug of beer.
'That won't hurt you; but I must warn you about drinking other
thingsGeorge. Overeating is an old story; and a few more fits of
illness will teach you to be wise. But drinking is a more serious
thingand leads to worse harm than any that can afflict your body
alone. I hear you talk about wines as if you knew them and cared
more for them than a boy should; and several times I've heard
jokes that meant mischief. For heaven's sakedon't begin to play
with this dangerous taste "for fun"as you sayor because it's the
fashionand the other fellows do. Stop at onceand learn that
temperance in all things is the only safe rule.' 'Upon my honourI
only take wine and iron. I need a tonicmother saysto repair the
waste of brain-tissue while I'm studying' protested Stuffyputting
down the mug as if it burnt his fingers.
'Good beef and oatmeal will repair your tissues much better than
any tonic of that sort. Work and plain fare are what you want; and
I wish I had you here for a few months out of harm's way. I'd
Banting youand fit you to run without puffingand get on without
four or five meals a day. What an absurd hand that is for a man!
You ought to be ashamed of it!' And Mrs Jo caught up the plump
fistwith deep dimples at each knucklewhich was fumbling
distressfully at the buckle of the belt girt about a waist far too large
for a youth of his age.
'I can't help it we all grow fat; it's in the family' said Stuffy in
'All the more reason you should live carefully. Do you want to die
earlyor be an invalid all your life?'
Stuffy looked so scared that Mrs Jo could not be hard upon his
budding sinsfor they lay at his overindulgent mother's door line in
a great measure; so she softened the tone of her voiceand added
with a little slap on the fat handas she used to do when it was
small enough to pilfer lumps of sugar from her bowl:
'Then be careful; for a man Writes his character in his face; and
you don't want gluttony and intemperance in yoursI know.'
'I'm sure I don't! Please make out a wholesome bill of fareand I'll
stick to itif~I can. I am getting stoutand I don't like it; and my
liver's torpidand I have palpitations and headache. Overwork
mother says; but it may be overeating.' And Stuffy gave a sigh of
mingled regret for the good things he renouncedand relief as he
finished loosening his belt as soon as his hand was free.
'I will; follow itand in a year you'll be a man and not a meal-bag.
NowDolly'; and Mrs Jo turned to the other culpritwho shook in
his shoes and wished he hadn't come.
'Are you studying French as industriously as you were last winter?'
'No ma'am; I don't care for it that isI I'm busy with G-Greek just
now' answered Dollybeginning bravelyquite in the dark as to
what that odd question meant till a sudden memory made him
stutter and look at his shoes with deep interest.
'Ohhe doesn't study it; only reads French novels and goes to the
theatre when the opera bouffe is here' said Stuffyinnocently
confirming Mrs Jo's suspicions.
'So I understood; and that is what I want to speak about. Ted had a
sudden desire to learn French in that wayfrom something you
saidDolly; so I went myselfand was quite satisfied that it was no
place for a decent boy. Your men were out in full force; and I was
glad to see that some of the younger ones looked as ashamed as I
felt. The older fellows enjoyed itand when we came out were
waiting to take those painted girls to supper. Did you ever go with
'Did you like it?'
'No 'm; I I came away early' stammered Dollywith a face as red
as his splendid tie. 'I'm glad you have not lost the grace of blushing
yet; but you will soonif you keep up this sort of study and forget
to be ashamed. The society of such women will unfit you for that
of good onesand lead you into trouble and sin and shame. Oh
why don't the city fathers stop that evil thingwhen they know the
harm it does? It made my heart ache to see those boyswho ought
to be at home and in their bedsgoing off for a night of riot which
would help to ruin some of them for ever.'
The youths looked scared at Mrs Jo's energetic protest against one
of the fashionable pleasures of the dayand waited in
conscience-stricken silence Stuffy glad that he never went to
those gay suppersand Dolly deeply grateful that he 'came away
early'. With a hand on either shoulderand all the terrors smoothed
from her browMrs Jo went on in her most motherly toneanxious
to do for them what no other woman wouldand do it kindly:
'My dear boysif I didn't love youI would not say these things. I
know they are not pleasant; but my conscience won't let me hold
my peace when a word may keep you from two of the great sins
that curse the world and send so many young men to destruction.
You are just beginning to feel the allurement of themand soon it
will be hard to turn away. Stop nowI beg of youand not only
save yourselves but help others by a brave example. Come to me if
things worry you; don't be afraid or ashamed; I have heard many
sadder confessions than any you are ever likely to bring meand
been able to comfort many poor fellowsgone wrong for want of a
word in time. Do thisand you will be able to kiss your mothers
with clean lipsand by and by have the right to ask innocent girls
to love you.'
'Yes'mthank you. I suppose you're right; but it's pretty hard work
to toe the mark when ladies give you wine and gentlemen take
their daughters to see Aim‚e' said Dollyforeseeing tribulations
ahead though he knew it was time to 'pull up'.
'So it is; but all the more honour to those who are brave and wise
enough to resist public opinionand the easy-going morals of bad
or careless men and women. Think of the persons whom you
respect mostand in imitating them you will secure the respect of
those who look up to you. I'd rather my boys should be laughed at
and cold-shouldered by a hundred foolish fellows than lose what
once goneno power can give them back innocence and
self-respect. I don't wonder you find it "hard to toe the mark"
when bookspicturesball-roomstheatresand streets offer
temptations; yet you can resistif you try. Last winter Mrs Brooke
used to worry about John's being out so late reporting; but when
she spoke to him about the things he must see and hear on his way
to and fro from the office at midnighthe said in his sober wayI
know what you mean, mother; but no fellow need to go wrong
unless he wants to.
'That's like the Deacon!' exclaimed Stuffywith an approving smile
on his fat face.
'I'm glad you told me that. He's right; and it's because he doesn't
want to go wrong we all respect him so' added Dollylooking up
now with an expression which assured his Mentor that the right
string had been touchedand a spirit of emulation rousedmore
helpfulperhapsthan any words of hers. Seeing thisshe was
satisfiedand saidas she prepared to leave the bar before which
her culprits had been tried and found guiltybut recommended to
'Then be to others what John is to you a good example. Forgive
me for troubling youmy dear ladsand remember my little
preachment. I think it will do you goodthough I may never know
it. Chance words spoken in kindness often help amazingly; and
that's what old people are here for else their experience is of little
use. Nowcome and find the young folk. I hope I shall never have
to shut the gates of Plumfield upon youas I have on some of your
gentlemen. I mean to keep my boys and girls safe if I canand
this a wholesome place where the good old-fashioned virtues are
lived and taught.'
Much impressed by that dire threatDolly helped her from her
perch with deep respect; and Stuffy relieved her of her empty jugs
solemnly vowing to abstain from all fermented beverages except
root-beeras long as feeble flesh could hold out. Of course they
made light of 'Mother Bhaer's lecture' when they were alone that
was to be expected of 'men of our class' but in their secret souls
they thanked her for giving their boyish consciences a jogand
more than once afterward had cause to remember gratefully that
halfhour in the tennis-court.
Chapter 17 AMONG THE MAIDS
Although this story is about Jo's boysher girls cannot be
neglectedbecause they held a high place in this little republicand
especial care was taken to fit them to play their parts worthily in
the great republic which offered them wider opportunities and
more serious duties. To many the social influence was the better
part of the training they received; for education is not confined to
booksand the finest characters often graduate from no college
but make experience their masterand life their book. Others cared
only for the mental cultureand were in danger of over-studying
under the delusion which pervades New England that learning
must be had at all costsforgetting that health and real wisdom are
better. A third class of ambitious girls hardly knew what they
wantedbut were hungry for whatever could fit them to face the
world and earn a livingbeing driven by necessitythe urgency of
some half-conscious talentor the restlessness of strong young
natures to break away from the narrow life which no longer
At Plumfield all found something to help them; for the growing
institution had not yet made its rules as fixed as the laws of the
Medes and Persiansand believed so heartily in the right of all
sexescolourscreedsand ranks to educationthat there was room
for everyone who knockedand a welcome to the shabby youths
from up countrythe eager girls from the Westthe awkward
freedman or woman from the Southor the well-born student
whose poverty made this college a possibility when other doors
were barred. There still was prejudiceridiculeneglect in high
placesand prophecies of failure to contend against; but the
Faculty was composed of cheerfulhopeful men and women who
had seen greater reforms spring from smaller rootsand after
stormy seasons blossom beautifullyto add prosperity and honour
to the nation. So they worked on steadily and bided their timefull
of increasing faith in their attempt as year after year their numbers
grewtheir plans succeededand the sense of usefulness in this
most vital of all professions blessed them with its sweet rewards.
Among the various customs which had very naturally sprung up
was one especially useful and interesting to 'the girls'as the young
women liked to be called. It all grew out of the old sewing hour
still kept up by the three sisters long after the little work-boxes had
expanded into big baskets full of household mending. They were
busy womenyet on Saturdays they tried to meet in one of the
three sewing-rooms; for even classic Parnassus had its nook where
Mrs Amy often sat among her servantsteaching them to make and
mendthereby giving them a respect for economysince the rich
lady did not scorn to darn her hoseand sew on buttons. In these
household retreatswith books and workand their daughters by
themthey read and sewed and talked in the sweet privacy that
domestic women loveand can make so helpful by a wise mixture
of cooks and chemistrytable linen and theologyprosaic duties
and good poetry.
Mrs Meg was the first to propose enlarging this little circle; for as
she went her motherly rounds among the young women she found
a sad lack of orderskilland industry in this branch of education.
LatinGreekthe higher mathematicsand science of all sorts
prospered finely; but the dust gathered on the work-basketsfrayed
elbows went unheededand some of the blue stockings sadly
needed mending. Anxious lest the usual sneer at learned women
should apply to 'our girls'she gently lured two or three of the most
untidy to her houseand made the hour so pleasantthe lesson so
kindlythat they took the hintwere grateful for the favourand
asked to come again. Others soon begged to make the detested
weekly duty lighter by joining the partyand soon it was a
privilege so much desired that the old museum was refitted with
sewing-machinestablesrocking-chairand a cheerful fireplace
so thatrain or shinethe needles might go on undisturbed.
Here Mrs Meg was in her gloryand stood wielding her big shears
like a queen as she cut out white workfitted dressesand directed
Daisyher special aideabout the trimming of hatsand completing
the lace and ribbon trifles which add grace to the simplest costume
and save poor or busy girls so much money and time. Mrs Amy
contributed tasteand decided the great question of colours and
complexions; for few womeneven the most learnedare without
that desire to look well which makes many a plain face comelyas
well as many a pretty one ugly for want of skill and knowledge of
the fitness of things. She also took her turn to provide books for
the readingsand as art was her forte she gave them selections
from RuskinHamertonand Mrs Jamesonwho is never old. Bess
read these aloud as her contributionand Josie took her turn at the
romancespoetryand plays her uncles recommended. Mrs Jo gave
little lectures on healthreligionpoliticsand the various questions
in which all should be interestedwith copious extracts from Miss
Cobbe's Duties of WomenMiss Brackett's Education of American
GirlsMrs Duffy's No Sex in EducationMrs Woolson's Dress
Reformand many of the other excellent books wise women write
for their sistersnow that they are waking up and asking: 'What
shall we do?'
It was curious to see the prejudices melt away as ignorance was
enlightenedindifference change to interestand intelligent minds
set thinkingwhile quick wits and lively tongues added spice to the
discussions which inevitably followed. So the feet that wore the
neatly mended hose carried wiser heads than beforethe pretty
gowns covered hearts warmed with higher purposesand the hands
that dropped the thimbles for penslexiconsand celestial globes
were better fitted for life's workwhether to rock cradlestend the
sickor help on the great work of the world.
One day a brisk discussion arose concerning careers for women.
Mrs Jo had read something on the subject and asked each of the
dozen girls sitting about the roomwhat she intended to do on
leaving college. The answers were as usual: 'I shall teachhelp
motherstudy medicineart' etc.; but nearly all ended with:
'Till I marry.'
'But if you don't marrywhat then?' asked Mrs Jofeeling like a girl
again as she listened to the answersand watched the thoughtful
gayor eager faces.
'Be old maidsI suppose. Horridbut inevitablesince there are so
many superfluous women' answered a lively lasstoo pretty to fear
single blessedness unless she chose it.
'It is well to consider that factand fit yourselves to be usefulnot
superfluous women. That classby the wayis largely made up of
widowsI find; so don't consider it a slur on maidenhood.'
'That's a comfort! Old maids aren't sneered at half as much as they
used to besince some of them have grown famous and proved that
woman isn't a half but a whole human beingand can stand alone.'
'Don't like it all the same. We can't all be like Miss
~ Mii~ Ni~hhngaleMiss Phelpsand the rest.
So what can we do but sit in a corner and look on?' asked a plain
girl with a dissatisfied expression.
'Cultivate cheerfulness and contentif nothing else. But there are
so many little odd jobs waiting to be done that nobody need "sit
idle and look on"unless she chooses' said Mrs Megwith a smile
laying on the girl's head the new hat she had just trimmed.
'Thank you very much. YesMrs BrookeI see; it's a little jobbut
it makes me neat and happy and grateful' she addedlooking up
with brighter eyes as she accepted the labour of love and the lesson
as sweetly as they were given.
'One of the best and most beloved women I know has been doing
odd jobs for the Lord for yearsand will keep at it till her dear
hands are folded in her coffin. All sorts of things she does picks
up neglected children and puts them in safe homessaves lost girls
nurses poor women in troublesewsknitstrotsbegsworks for
the poor day after day with no reward but the thanks of the needy
the love and honour of the rich who make Saint Matilda their
almoner. That's a life worth living; and I think that quiet little
woman will get a higher seat in Heaven than many of those of
whom the world has heard.'
'I know it's lovelyMrs Bhaer; but it's dull for young folks. We do
want a little fun before we buckle to' said a Western girl with a
'Have your funmy dear; but if you must earn your breadtry to
make it sweet with cheerfulnessnot bitter with the daily regret
that it isn't cake. I used to think mine was a very hard fate because
I had to amuse a somewhat fretful old lady; but the books I read in
that lonely library have been of immense use to me sinceand the
dear old soul bequeathed me Plum-field for my "cheerful service
and affectionate care". I didn't deserve itbut I did use to try to be
jolly and kindand get as much honey out of duty as I could
thanks to my dear mother's help and advice.'
'Gracious! if I could earn a place like thisI'd sing all day and be an
angel; but you have to take your chanceand get nothing for your
painsperhaps. I never do' said the Westernerwho had a hard
time with small means and large aspirations.
'Don't do it for the reward; but be sure it will comethough not in
the shape you expect. I worked hard for fame and money one
winter; but I got neitherand was much disappointed. A year
afterwards I found I had earned two prizes: skill with my penand
Mrs Jo's laugh was echoed blithely by the girlswho liked to have
these conversations enlivened by illustrations from life.
'You are a very lucky woman' began the discontented damsel
whose soul soared above new hatswelcome as they werebut did
not quite know where
'Yet her name used to be "Luckless Jo"and she never had what
she wanted till she had given up hoping for it' said Mrs Meg.
'I'll give up hopingthenright awayand see if my wishes will
come. I only want to help my folksand get a good school.'
'Take this proverb for your guide: "Get the distaff readyand the
Lord will send the flax"' answered Mrs Jo.
'We'd better all do thatif we are to be spinst~r~' said the pretty
oneadding gaily'I think I should like iton the whole they are
so independent. My Aunt Jenny can do just what she likesand ask
no one's leave; but Ma has to consult Pa about everything. YesI'll
give you my chanceSallyand be a "superfluum"as Mr Plock
'You'll be one of the first to go into bondagesee if you aren't.
Much obligedall the same.'
'WellI'll get my distaff readyand take whatever flax the Fates
send singleor double-twistedas the powers please.'
'That is the right spiritNelly. Keep it upand see how happy life
will be with a brave hearta willing handand plenty to do.'
'No one objects to plenty of domestic work or fashionable
pleasureI find; but the minute we begin to studypeople tell us we
can't bear itand warn us to be very careful. I've tried the other
thingsand got so tired I came to college; though my people
predict nervous exhaustion and an early death. Do you think there
is any danger?' asked a stately girlwith an anxious glance at the
blooming face reflected in the mirror opposite.
'Are you stronger or weaker than when you came two years ago
'Stronger in bodyand much happier in mind. I think I was dying of
ennui; but the doctors called it inherited delicacy of constitution.
That is why mamma is so anxiousand I wish not to go too fast.'
'Don't worrymy dear; that active brain of yours was starving for
good food; it has plenty nowand plain living suits you better than
luxury and dissipation. It is all nonsense about girls not being able
to study as well as boys. Neither can bear cramming; but with
proper care both are better for it; so enjoy the life your instinct led
you toand we will prove that wise headwork is a better cure for
that sort of delicacy than tonicsand novels on the sofawhere far
too many of our girls go to wreck nowadays. They burn the candle
at both ends; and when they break down they blame the booksnot
'Dr Nan was telling me about a patient of hers who thought she had
heart-complainttill Nan made her take off her corsetsstopped her
coffee and dancing all nightand made her eatsleepwalkand
live regularly for a time; and now she's a brilliant cure. Common
sense versus customNan said.'
'I've had no headaches siflce I came hereand can do twice as
much studying as I did at home. It's the airI thinkand the fun of
going ahead of the boys' said another girltapping her big
forehead with her thimbleas if the lively brain inside was in good
working order and enjoyed the daily gymnastics she gave it.
'Qualitynot quantitywins the dayyou know. Our brains may be
smallerbut I don't see that they fall short of what is required of
them; and if I'm not mistakenthe largest-headed man in our class
is the dullest' said Nellywith a solemn air which produced a gale
of merriment; for all knew that the young Goliath she mentioned
had been metaphorically slain by this quick-witted David on many
a battle-fieldto the great disgust of himself and his mates.
'Mrs Brookedo I gauge on the right or the wrong side?' asked the
best Greek scholar of her classeyeing a black silk apron with a
'The rightMiss Pierson; and leave a space between the tucks; it
looks prettier so.'
'I'll never make another; but it will save my dresses from
ink-stainsso I'm glad I've got it'; and the erudite Miss Pierson
laboured onfinding it a harder task than any Greek root she ever
'We paper-stainers must learn how to make shieldsor we are lost.
I'll give you a pattern of the pinafore I used to wear in my
blood-and-thunder daysas we call them' said Mrs Jotrying to
remember what became of the old tin-kitchen which used to hold
'Speaking of writers reminds me that my ambition is to be a
George Eliotand thrill the world! It must be so splendid to know
that one has such powerand to hear people own that one
possesses a "masculine intellect"! I don't care for most women's
novelsbut hers are immense; don't you think soMrs Bhaer?'
asked the girl with the big foreheadand torn braid on her skirt.
'Yes; but they don't thrill me as little Charlotte Bront‰'s books do.
The brain is therebut the heart seems left out. I admirebut I don't
loveGeorge Eliot; and her life is far sadder to me than Miss
Bront‰'sbecausein spite of the geniusloveand fameshe
missed the light without which no soul is truly greatgoodor
'Yes'mI know; but still it's so romantic and sort of new and
mysteriousand she was great in one sense. Her nerves and
dyspepsia do rather destroy the illusion; but I adore famous people
and mean to go and see all I can scare up in London some day.'
'You will find some of the best of them busy about just the work I
recommend to you; and if you want to see a great ladyI'll tell you
that Mrs Laurence means to bring one here today. Lady
Abercrombie is lunching with herand after seeing the college is to
call on us. She especially wanted to see our sewing-schoolas she
is interested in things of this sortand gets them up at home.'
'Bless me! I always imagined lords and ladies did nothing but ride
round in a coach and sixgo to ballsand be presented to the
Queen in cocked hatsand trains and feathers' exclaimed an
artless young person from the wilds of Mainewhither an
illustrated paper occasionally wandered.
'Not at all; Lord Abercrombie is over here studying up our
American prison systemand my lady is busy with the schools
both very high-bornbut the simplest and most sensible people I've
met this long time. They are neither of them young nor handsome
and dress plainly; so don't expect anything splendid. Mr Laurence
was telling me last night about a friend of his who met my lord in
the halland owing to a rough greatcoat and a red facemistook
him for a coachmanand said: "Nowmy manwhat do you want
here?" Lord Abercrombie mildly mentioned who he wasand that
he had come to dinner. And the poor host was much afflicted
saying afterward: "Why didn't he wear his stars and garters? then a
fellow would know he was a lord."'
The girls laughed againand a general rustle betrayed that each
was prinking a bit before the titled guest arrived. Even Mrs Jo
settled her collarand Mrs Meg felt if her cap was rightwhile
Bess shook out her curls and Josie boldly consulted the glass; for
they were womenin spite of philosophy and philanthropy.
'Shall we all rise?' asked one girldeeply impressed by the
'It would be courteous.'
'Shall we shake hands?'
'NoI'll present you en masseand your pleasant faces will be
'I wish I'd worn my best dress. Ought to have told us' whispered
'Won't my folks be surprised when I tell them we have had a real
lady to call on us?' said another.
'Don't look as if you'd never seen a gentlewoman beforeMilly. We
are not all fresh from the wilderness' added the stately damsel
whohaving Mayflower ancestorsfelt that she was the equal of all
the crowned heads of Europe.
'Hushshe's coming! Ohmy heartwhat a bonnet!' cried the gay
girl in a stage whisper; and every eye was demurely fixed upon the
busy hands as the door opened to admit Mrs Laurence and her
It was rather a shock to findafter the general introduction was
overthat this daughter of a hundred earls was a stout lady in a
plain gownand a rather weather-beaten bonnetwith a bag of
papers in one hand and a note-book in the other. But the face was
full ~f benevolencethe sonorous voice very kindthe genial
manners very winningand about the whole person an
indescribable air of high breeding which made beauty of no
consequencecostume soon forgottenand the moment memorable
to the keen-eyed girls whom nothing escaped.
A little chat about the risegrowthand success of this particular
classand then Mrs Jo led the conversation to the English lady's
workanxious to show her pupils how rank dignifies labourand
charity blesses wealth.
It was good for these girls to hear of the evening-schools supported
and taught by women whom they knew and honoured; of Miss
Cobbe's eloquent protest winning the protection of the law for
abused wives; Mrs Butler saving the lost; Mrs Taylorwho devoted
one room in her historic house to a library for the servants; Lord
Shaftesburybusy with his new tenement-houses in the slums of
London; of prison reforms; and all the brave work being done in
God's name by the rich and great for the humble and the poor. It
impressed them more than many quiet home lectures would have
doneand roused an ambition to help when their time should
comewell knowing that even in glorious America there is still
plenty to be done before she is what she should be truly justand
freeand great. They were also quick to see that Lady Abercrombie
treated all there as her equalsfrom stately Mrs Laurenceto little
Josietaking notes of everything and privately resolving to have
some thick-soled English boots as soon as possible. No one would
have guessed that she had a big house in Londona castle in
Walesand a grand country seat in Scotlandas she spoke of
Parnassus with admirationPlumfield as a 'dear old home'and the
college as an honour to all concerned in it. At thatof courseevery
head went up a littleand when my lady leftevery hand was ready
for the hearty shake the noble Englishwoman gave themwith
words they long remembered:
'I am very pleased to see this much-neglected branch of a woman's
education so well conducted hereand I have to thank my friend
Mrs Laurence for one of the most charming pictures I've seen in
America Penelope among her maids.'
A group of smiling faces watched the stout boots trudge away
respectful glances followed the shabby bonnet till it was out of
sightand the girls felt a truer respect for their titled guest than if
she had come in the coach and sixwith all her diamonds on.
'I feel better about the "odd jobs" now. I only wish I could do them
as well as Lady Abercrombie does' said one.
'I thanked my stars my buttonholes were nicefor she looked at
them and said: "Quite workmanlikeupon my word added
another, feeling that her gingham gown had come to honour.
'Her manners were as sweet and kind as Mrs Brooke's. Not a bit
stiff or condescending, as I ex pected. I see now what you meant,
Mrs Bhaer, when you said once that well-bred people were the
same all the world over.'
Mrs Meg bowed her thanks for the compliment, and Mrs Bhaer
'I know them when I see them, but never shall be a model of
deportment myself. I'm glad you enjoyed the little visit. Now, if
you young people don't want England to get ahead of us in many
ways, you must bestir yourselves and keep abreast; for our sisters
are in earnest, you see, and don't waste time worrying about their
sphere, but make it wherever duty calls them.'
'We will do our best, ma'am,' answered the girls heartily, and
trooped away with their work-baskets, feeling that though they
might never be Harriet Martineaus, Elizabeth Brownings, or
George Eliots, they might become noble, useful, and independent
women, and earn for themselves some sweet title from the grateful
lips of the poor, better than any a queen could bestow.
Chapter 18 CLASS DAY
The clerk of the weather evidently has a regard for young people,
and sends sunshine for class days as often as he can. An especially
lovely one shone over Plumfield as this interesting anniversary
came round, bringing the usual accompaniments of roses,
strawberries, white-gowned girls, beaming youths, proud friends,
and stately dignitaries full of well-earned satisfaction with the
yearly harvest. As Laurence College was a mixed one, the presence
of young women as students gave to the occasion a grace and
animation entirely wanting where the picturesque half of creation
appear merely as spectators. The hands that turned the pages of
wise books also possessed the skill to decorate the hall with
flowers; eyes tired with study shone with hospitable warmth on the
assembling guests; and under the white muslins beat hearts as full
of ambition, hope, and courage as those agitating the broadcloth of
the ruling sex.
College Hill, Parnassus, and old Plum swarmed with cheery faces,
as guests, students, and professors hurried to and fro in the
pleasant excitement of arriving and receiving. Everyone was
welcomed cordially, whether he rolled up in a fine carriage, or
trudged afoot to see the good son or daughter come to honour on
the happy day that rewarded many a mutual sacrifice. Mr Laurie
and his wife were on the reception committee, and their lovely
house was overflowing. Mrs Meg, with Daisy and Jo as aides, was
in demand among the girls, helping on belated toilettes, giving an
eye to spreads, and directing the decorations. Mrs Jo had her hands
full as President's lady, and the mother of Ted; for it took all the
power and skill of that energetic woman to get her son into his
Not that he objected to be well arrayed; far from it; he adored good
clothes, and owing to his great height already revelled in a
dress-suit, bequeathed him by a dandy friend. The effect was very
funny; but he would wear it in spite of the jeers of his mates, and
sighed vainly for a beaver, because his stern parent drew the line
there. He pleaded that English lads of ten wore them and were 'no
end nobby'; but his mother only answered, with a consoling pat of
the yellow mane:
'My child, you are absurd enough now; if I let you add a tall hat,
Plumfield wouldn't hold either of us, such would be the scorn and
derision of all beholders. Content yourself with looking like the
ghost of a waiter, and don't ask for the most ridiculous head-gear
in the known world.'
Denied this noble badge of manhood, Ted soothed his wounded
soul by appearing in collars of an amazing height and stiffness, and
ties which were the wonder of all female eyes. This freak was a
sort of vengeance on his hard-hearted mother; for the collars drove
the laundress to despair, never being just right, and the ties
required such art in the tying that three women sometimes
laboured long before like Beau Brummel
he turned from a heap of 'failures' with the welcome words:
'That will do.' Rob was devoted on these trying occasions, his own
toilet being distinguished only by its speed, simplicity, and
neatness. Ted was usually in a frenzy before he was suited, and
roars, whistles, commands, and groans were heard from the den
wherein the Lion raged and the Lamb patiently toiled. Mrs Jo bore
it till boots were hurled and a rain of hair-brushes set in, then,
fearing for the safety of her eldest, she would go to the rescue, and
by a wise mixture of fun and authority finally succeed in
persuading Ted that he was 'a thing of beauty', if not 'a joy for
ever'. At last he would stalk majestically forth, imprisoned in
collars compared to which those worn by Dickens's afflicted Biler
were trifles not worth mentioning. The dresscoat was a little loose
in the shoulders, but allowed a noble expanse of glossy bosom to
be seen, and with a delicate handkerchief negligently drooping at
the proper angle, had a truly fine effect. Boots that shone, and
likewise pinched, appeared at one end of the 'long, black
clothes-pin' as Josie called him and a youthful but solemn face
at the other, carried at an angle which, if long continued, would
have resulted in spinal curvature. Light gloves, a cane, and oh,
bitter drop in the cup of joy! an ignominious straw hat, not to
mention a choice floweret in the buttonhole, and a festoon of
watchguard below, finished off this impressive boy.
'How's that for style?' he asked, appearing to his mother and
cousins whom he was to escort to the hall on this particular
A shout of laughter greeted him, followed by exclamations of
horror; for he had artfully added the little blond moustache he
often wore when acting. It was very becoming, and seemed the
only balm to heal the wound made by the loss of the beloved hat.
'Take it off this moment, you audacious boy! What would your
father say to such a prank on this day when we must all behave our
best?' said Mrs Jo, trying to frown, but privately thinking that
among the many youths about her none were so beautiful and
original as her long son.
'Let him wear it, Aunty; it's so becoming. No one will ever guess
he isn't eighteen at least,' cried Josie, to whom disguise of any sort
was always charming.
'Father won't observe it; he'll be absorbed in his big-wigs and the
girls. No matter if he does, he'll enjoy the joke and introduce me as
his oldest son. Rob is nowhere when I'm in full fig'; and Ted took
the stage with a tragic stalk, like Hamlet in a tail-coat and choker.
'My son, obey me!' and when Mrs Jo spoke in that tone her word
was law. Later, however, the moustache appeared, and many
strangers firmly believed that there were three young Bhaers. So
Ted found one ray of joy to light his gloom.
Mr Bhaer was a proud and happy man when, at the appointed hour,
he looked down upon the parterre of youthful faces before him,
thinking of the 'little gardens' in which he had hopefully and
faithfully sowed good seed years ago, and from which this
beautiful harvest seemed to have sprung. Mr March's fine old face
shone with the serenest satisfaction, for this was the dream of his
life fulfilled after patient waiting; and the love and reverence in
the countenances of the eager young men and women looking up
at him plainly showed that the reward he coveted was his in fullest
measure. Laurie always effaced himself on these occasions as
much as courtesy would permit; for everyone spoke gratefully in
ode, poem, and oration of the founder of the college and noble
dispenser of his beneficence. The three sisters beamed with pride
as they sat among the ladies, enjoying, as only women can, the
honour done the men they loved; while 'the original Plums', as the
younger ones called themselves, regarded the whole affair as their
work, receiving the curious, admiring, or envious glances of
strangers with a mixture of dignity and delight rather comical to
The music was excellent, and well it might be when Apollo waved
the baton. The poems were as usual on such occasions of varied
excellence, as the youthful speakers tried to put old truths into new
words, and made them forceful by the enthusiasm of their earnest
faces and fresh voices. It was beautiful to see the eager interest
with which the girls listened to some brilliant brother-student, and
applauded him with a rustle as of wind over a bed of flowers. It
was still more significant and pleasant to watch the young men's
faces when a slender white figure stood out against the background
of black-coated dignitaries, and with cheeks that flushed and
paled, and lips that trembled till earnest purpose conquered
maiden fear, spoke to them straight out of a woman's heart and
brain concerning the hopes and doubts, the aspirations and rewards
all must know, desire, and labour for. This clear, sweet voice
seemed to reach and rouse all that was noblest in the souls of these
youths, and to set a seal upon the years of comradeship which
made them sacred and memorable for ever.
Alice Heath's oration was unanimously pronounced the success of
the day; for without being flowery or sentimental, as is too apt to
be the case with these first efforts of youthful orators, it was
earnest, sensible, and so inspiring that she left the stage in a storm
of applause, the good fellows being as much fired by her stirring
appeal to 'march shoulder to shoulder', as if she had chanted the
'Marseillaise' then and there. One young man was so excited that
he nearly rushed out of his seat to receive her as she hastened to
hide herself among her mates, who welcomed her with faces full
of tender pride and tearful eye. A prudent sister detained him,
however, and in a moment he was able to listen with composure to
the President's remarks.
They were worth listening to, for Mr Bhaer spoke like a father to
the children whom he was dismissing to the battle of life; and his
tender, wise, and helpful words lingered in their hearts long after
the praise was forgotten. Then came other exercises peculiar to
Plum-field, and the end. Why the roof did not fly off when the
sturdy lungs of the excited young men pealed out the closing hymn
will for ever be a mystery; but it remained firm, and only the
fading garlands vibrated as the waves of music rolled up and died
away, leaving sweet echoes to haunt the place for another year.
Dinners and spreads consumed the afternoon, and at sunset came a
slight lull as everyone sought some brief repose before the
festivities of the evening began. The President's reception was one
of the enjoyable things in store, also dancing on Parnassus, and as
much strolling, singing, and flirting, as could be corn- pressed into
a few hours by youths and maidens just out of school.
Carriages were rolling about, and gay groups on piazzas, lawns,
and window-seats idly speculated as to who the distinguished
guests might be. The appearance of a very dusty vehicle loaded
with trunks at Mr Bhaer's hospitably open door caused much
curious comment among the loungers, especially as two rather
foreign-looking gentlemen sprang out, followed by two young
ladies, all four being greeted with cries of joy and much embracing
by the Bhaers. Then they all disappeared into the house, the
luggage followed, and the watchers were left to wonder who the
mysterious strangers were, till a fair collegian declared that they
must be the Professor's nephews, one of whom was expected on
his wedding journey.
She was right; Franz proudly presented his blonde and buxom
bride, and she was hardly kissed and blessed when Emil led up his
bonny English Mary, with the rapturous announcement:
'Uncle, Aunt, Jo, here's another daughter! Have you room for my
There could be no doubt of that; and Mary was with difficulty
rescued from the glad embraces of her new relatives, who,
remembering all the young pair had suffered together, felt that this
was the natural and happy ending of the long voyage so perilously
'But why not tell us, and let us be ready for two brides instead of
one?' asked Mrs Jo, looking as usual rather demoralizing in a
wrapper and crimping-pins, having rushed down from her
chamber, where she was preparing for the labours of the evening.
'Well, I remembered what a good joke you all consid ered Uncle
Laurie's marriage, and I thought I'd give you another nice little
surprise,' laughed Emil. 'I'm off duty, and it seemed best to take
advantage of wind and tide, and come along as convoy to the old
boy here. We hoped to get in last night, but couldn't fetch it, so
here we are in time for the end of the jollification, anyway.'
'Ah, my sons, it is too feeling-full to see you both so happy and
again in the old home. I haf no words to outpour my gratitude, and
can only ask of the dear Gott in Himmel to bless and keep you all,'
cried Professor Bhaer, trying to gather all four into his arms at
once, while tears rolled down his cheeks, and his English failed
An April shower cleared the air and relieved the full hearts of the
happy family; then of course everyone began to talk Franz and
Ludmilla in German with uncle, Emil and Mary with the aunts;
and round this group gathered the young folk, clamouring to hear
all about the wreck, and the rescue, and the homeward voyage. It
was a very different story from the written one; and as they
listened to Emil's graphic words, with Mary's soft voice breaking
in now and then to add some fact that brought out the courage,
patience, and self-sacrifice he so lightly touched upon, it became a
solemn and pathetic thing to see and hear these happy creatures
tell of that great danger and deliverance.
'I never hear the patter of rain now that I don't want to say my
prayers; and as for women, I'd like to take my hat off to every one
of 'em, for they are braver than any man I ever saw,' said Emil,
with the new gravity that was as becoming to him as the new
gentleness with which he treated everyone. 'If women are brave,
some men are as tender and self-sacrificing as women. I know one
who in the night slipped his share of food into a girl's pocket,
though starving himself, and sat for hours rocking a sick man in
his arms that he might get a little sleep. No, love, I will tell, and
you must let me!' cried Mary, holding in both her own the hand he
laid on her lips to silence her.
'Only did my duty. If that torment had lasted much longer I might
have been as bad as poor Barry and the boatswain. Wasn't that an
awful night?' And Emil shuddered as he recalled it.
'Don't think of it, dear. 'Tell about the happy days on the Urania,
when papa grew better and we were all safe and homeward bound,'
said Mary, with the trusting look and comforting touch which
seemed to banish the dark and recall the bright side of that terrible
Emil cheered up at once, and sitting with his arm about his 'dear
lass', in true sailor fashion told the happy ending of the tale.
'Such a jolly old time as we had at Hamburg! Uncle Hermann
couldn't do enough for the captain, and while mamma took care of
him, Mary looked after me. I had to go into dock for repairs; fire
hurt my eyes, and watching for a sail and want of sleep made 'em
as hazy as a London fog. She was pilot and brought me in all right,
you see, only I couldn't part company, so she came aboard as first
mate, and I'm bound straight
for glory now.'
'Hush! that's silly, dear,' whispered Mary, trying in her turn to stop
him, with English shyness about tender topics. But he took the soft
hand in his, and proudly surveying the one ring it wore, went on
with the air of an admiral aboard his flagship.
'The captain proposed waiting a spell; but I told him we weren't
like to see any rougher weather than we'd pulled through together,
and if we didn't know one another after such a year as this, we
never should. I was sure I shouldn't be worth my pay without this
hand on the wheel; so I had my way, and my brave little woman
has shipped for the long voyage. God bless her!'
'Shall you really sail with him?' asked Daisy, admiring her courage,
but shrinking with cat-like horror from the water.
'I'm not afraid,' answered Mary, with a loyal smile. 'I've proved my
captain in fair weather and in foul, and if he is ever wrecked again,
I'd rather be with him than waiting and watching ashore.'
'A true woman, and a born sailor's wife! You are a happy man,
Emil, and I'm sure this trip will be a prosperous one,' cried Mrs Jo,
delighted with the briny flavour of this courtship. 'Oh, my dear
boy, I always felt you'd come back, and when everyone else
despaired I never gave up, but insisted that you were clinging to
the main-top jib somewhere on that dreadful sea'; and Mrs Jo
illustrated her faith by grasping Emil with a truly Pillycoddian
'Of course I was!' answered Emil heartily; 'and my main-top jib"
in this case was the thought of what you and Uncle said to me.
That kept me up; and among the million thoughts that came to me
during those long nights none was clearer than the idea of the red
strandyou remember English navyand all that. I liked the
notionand resolved that if a bit of my cable was left afloatthe
red stripe should be there.' 'And it wasmy dearit was! Captain
Hardy testifies to thatand here is your reward'; and Mrs Jo kissed
Mary with a maternal tenderness which betrayed that she liked the
English rose better than the blue-eyed German Kornblumensweet
and modest though it
Emil surveyed the little ceremony with complacencysayingas he
looked about the room which he never thought to see again: 'Odd
isn't ithow clearly trifles come back to one in times of danger? As
we floated therehalf-starvedand in despairI used to think I
heard the bells ringing hereand Ted tramping downstairsand you
callingBoys, boys, it's time to get up!I actually smelt the coffee
we used to haveand one night I nearly cried when I woke from a
dream of Asia's ginger cookies. I declareit was one of the bitterest
disappointments of my life to face hunger with that spicy smell in
my nostrils. If you've got anydo give me one!'
A pitiful murmur broke from all the aunts and cousinsand Emil
was at once borne away to feast on the desired cookiesa supply
always being on hand. Mrs Jo and her sister joined the other group
glad to hear what Franz was saying about Nat.
'The minute I saw how thin and shabby he wasI knew that
something was wrong; but he made light of itand was so happy
over our visit and news that I let him off with a brief confession
and went to Professor Baumgarten and Bergmann. From them I
learned the whole story of his spending more money than he ought
and trying to atone for it by unnecessary work and sacrifice.
Baumgarten thought it would do him goodso kept his secret till I
came. It did him goodand he's paid his debts and earned his bread
by the sweat of his browlike an honest fellow.'
'I like that much in Nat. It isas I saida lessonand he learns it
well. He proves himself a manand has deserved the place
Bergmann offers him' said Mr Bhaerlooking well pleased as
Franz added some facts already recorded.
'I told youMegthat he had good stuff in himand love for Daisy
would keep him straight. Dear ladI wish I had him here this
moment!' cried Mrs Joforgetting in delight the doubts and
anxieties which had troubled her for months past.
'I am very gladand suppose I shall give in as I always do
especially now that the epidemic rages so among us. You and Emil
have set all their heads in a fermentand Josie will be demanding a
lover before I can turn round' answered Mrs Megin a tone of
But her sister saw that she was touched by Nat's trialsand
hastened to add the triumphsthat the victory might be complete
for success is always charming.
'This offer of Herr Bergmann is a good oneisn't it?' she asked
though Mr Laurie had already satisfied her on that point when
Nat's letter brought the news.
'Very fine in every way. Nat will get capital drill in Bachmeister's
orchestrasee London in a delightful wayand if he suits come
home with themwell started among the violins. No great honour
but a sure thing and a step up. I congratulated himand he was
very jolly over itsayinglike the true lover he is: "Tell Daisy; be
sure and tell her all about it." I'll leave that to youAunt Megand
you can also break it gently to her that the old boy had a fine blond
beard. Very becoming; hides his weak mouthand gives a noble air
to his big eyes and "Mendelssohnian brow"as a gushing girl
called it. Ludmilla has a photo of it for you.'
This amused them; and they listened to many other interesting bits
of news which kind Franzeven in his own happinesshad not
forgotten to remember for his friend's sake. He talked so welland
painted Nat's patient and pathetic shifts so vividlythat Mrs Meg
was half won; though if she had learned of the Minna episode and
the fiddling in beer-gardens and streetsshe might not have
relented so soon. She stored up all she heardhoweverand
womanlikepromised herself a delicious talk with Daisyin which
she would allow herself to melt by degreesand perhaps change
the doubtful 'We shall see' to a cordial 'He has done well; be
In the midst of this agreeable chat the sudden striking of a clock
recalled Mrs Jo from romance to realityand she exclaimedwith a
clutch at her crimping-pins:
'My blessed peopleyou must eat and rest; and I must dressor
receive in this disgraceful rig. Megwill you take Ludmilla and
Mary upstairs and see to them? Franz knows the way to the
dining-room. Fritzcome with me and be made tidyfor what with
heat and emotionwe are both perfect wrecks.'
Chapter 19 WHITE ROSES
While the travellers refreshedand Mrs President struggled into
her best gownJosie ran into the garden to gather flowers for the
brides. The sudden arrival of these interesting beings had quite
enchanted the romantic girland her head was full of heroic
rescuestender admirationdramatic situationsand feminine
wonder as to whether the lovely creatures would wear their veils or
not. She was standing before a great bush of white rosesculling
the most perfect for the bouquets which she meant to tie with the
ribbon festooned over her armand lay on the toilette tables of the
new cousinsas a delicate attention. A step startled herand
looking up she saw her brother coming down the path with folded
armsbent headand the absent air of one absorbed in deep
'Sophy Wackles' said the sharp childwith a superior smileas she
sucked her thumb just pricked by a too eager pull at the thorny
'What are you at hereMischief?' asked Demiwith an Irvingesque
startas he felt rather than saw a disturbing influence in his
'Getting flowers for "our brides". Don't you wish you had one?'
answered Josieto whom the word 'mischief' suggested her
favourite amusement. 'A bride or a flower?' asked Demi calmly
though he eyed the blooming bush as if it had a sudden and
unusual interest for him.
'Both; you get the oneand I'll give you the other.'
'Wish I could!' and Demi picked a little budwith a sigh that went
to Josie's warm heart.
'Why don't youthen? It's lovely to see people so happy. Now's a
good time to do it if you ever mean to. She will be going away for
'Who?' and Demi pulled a half-opened budwith a sudden colour
in his own face; which sign of confusion delighted little Jo.
'Don't be a hypocrite. You know I mean Alice. NowJackI'm fond
of youand want to help; it's so interesting all these lovers and
weddings and thingsand we ought to have our share. So you take
my advice and speak up like a manand make sure of Alice before
Demi laughed at the seriousness of the small girl's advice; but he
liked itand showed that it suited him by saying blandlyinstead of
snubbing her as usual:
'You are very kindchild. Since you are so wisecould you give me
a hint how I'd better 'speak up'as you elegantly express it?'
'Ohwellthere are various waysyou know. In plays the lovers go
down on their knees; but that's awkward when they have long legs.
Ted never does it wellthough I drill him for hours. You could say
Be mine, be mine!like the old man who threw cucumbers over
the wall to Mrs Nicklebyif you want to be gay and easy; or you
could write a poetical pop. You've tried ~tI dare say.'
'But seriouslyJoI do love Aliceand I think she knows it. I want
to tell her so; but I lose my head when I tryand don't care to make
a fool of myself. Thought you might suggest some pretty way; you
read so much poetry and are so romantic.'
Demi tried to express himself clearlybut forgot his dignity and his
usual reserve in the sweet perplexity of his loveand asked his
little sister to teach him how to put the question which a single
word can answer. The arrival of his happy cousins had scattered all
his wise plans and brave resolutions to wait still longer. The
Christmas play had given him courage to hopeand the oration
today had filled him with tender pride; but the sight of those
blooming brides and beaming grooms was too much for himand
he panted to secure his Alice without an hour's delay. Daisy was
his confidante in all things but this; a brotherly feeling of
sympathy had kept him from telling her his hopesbecause her
own were forbidden. His mother was rather jealous of any girl he
admired; but knowing that she liked Alicehe loved on and
enjoyed his secret alonemeaning soon to tell her all about it.
Now suddenly Josie and the rose-bush seemed to suggest a speedy
end to his tender perplexities; and he was moved to accept her aid
as the netted lion did that of the mouse.
'I think I'll write' he was slowly beginningafter a pause during
which both were trying to strike out a new and brilliant idea.
'I've got it! perfectly lovely! just suit herand you toobeing a
poet!' cried Josiewith a skip.
'What is it? Don't be ridiculousplease' begged the bashful lover
eagerbut afraid of this sharp-tongued bit of womanhood. 'I read in
one of Miss Edgeworth's stories about a man who offers three
roses to his lady a buda half-blownand a full-blown rose. I
don't remember which she took; but it's a pretty way; and Alice
knows about it because she was there when we read it. Here are all
kinds; you've got the two budspick the sweetest rose you can find
and I'll tie them up and put them in her room. She is coming to
dress with Daisyso I can do it nicely.'
Demi mused a moment with his eyes on the bridal bushand a
smile came over his face so unlike any it had ever worn before
that Josie was touchedand looked away as if she had no right to
see the dawn of the great passion whichwhile it lastsmakes a
young man as happy as a god.
'Do it' was all he saidand gathered a full-blown rose to finish his
Charmed to have a finger in this romantic pieJosie tied a graceful
bow of ribbon about the stemsand finished her last nosegay with
much contentwhile Demi wrote upon a card:
DEAR ALICEYou know what the flowers mean. Will you wear
oneor all tonightand make me still prouderfonderand happier
than I am?
Offering this to his sisterhe said in a tone that made her feel the
deep importance of her mission:
'I trust youJo. This means everything to me. No jokesdearif you
Josie's answer was a kiss that promised all things; and then she ran
away to do her 'gentle spiriting'like Arielleaving Demi to dream
among the roses like Ferdinand.
Mary and Ludmilla were charmed with their bouquets; and the
giver had the delight of putting some of the flowers into the dark
hair and the light as she played maid at the toilettes of 'our brides'
which consoled her for a disappointment in the matter of veils.
No one helped Alice dress; for Daisy was in the next room with
her mother; and not even their loving eyes saw the welcome which
the little posy receivednor the tears and smiles and blushes that
came and went as she read the note and pondered what answer she
should give. There was no doubt about the one she wished to give;
but duty held her back; for at home there was an invalid mother
and an old father. She was needed therewith all the help she
could now bring by the acquirements four years of faithful study
had given her. Love looked very sweetand a home of her own
with John a little heaven on earth; but not yet. And she slowly laid
away the full-blown rose as she sat before the mirrorthinking over
the great question of her life.
Was it wise and kind to ask him to waitto bind him by any
promiseor even to put into words the love and honour she felt for
him? No; it would be more generous to make the sacrifice alone
and spare him the pain of hope deferred. He was young; he would
forget; and she would do her duty betterperhapsif no impatient
lover waited for her. With eyes that saw but dimlyand a hand that
lingered on the stem he had stripped of thornsshe laid the
half-blown flower by the roseand asked herself if even the little
bud might be worn. It looked very poor and pale beside the others;
yet being in the self-sacrificing mood which real love bringsshe
felt that even a small hope was too much to giveif she could not
follow it up with more.
As she sat looking sadly down on the symbols of an affection that
grew dearer every momentshe listened half unconsciously to the
murmur of voices in the adjoining room. Open windowsthin
partitionsand the stillness of summer twilight made it impossible
to help hearingand in a few moments more she could not refrain;
for they were talking of John.
'So nice of Ludmilla to bring us all bottles of real German cologne!
Just what we need after this tiring day! Be sure John has his! He
likes it so!'
'Yesmother. Did you see him jump up when Alice ended her
oration? He'd have gone to her if I hadn't held him back. I don't
wonder he was pleased and proud. I spoilt my gloves clappingand
quite forgot my dislike of seeing women on platformsshe was so
earnest and unconscious and sweet after the first moment.'
'Has he said anything to youdear?'
'No; and I guess why. The kind boy thinks it would make me
unhappy. It wouldn't. But I know his ways; so I waitand hope all
will go well with him.'
'It must. No girl in her senses would refuse our Johnthough he
isn't richand never will be. DaisyI've been longing to tell you
what he did with his money. He told me last nightand I've had no
time since to tell you. He sent poor young Barton to the hospital
and kept him there till his eyes were saved a costly thing to do.
But the man can work now and care for his old parents. He was in
despairsick and poorand too proud to beg; and our dear boy
found it outand took every penny he hadand never told even his
mother till she made him.'
Alice did not hear what Daisy answeredfor she was busy with her
own emotions happy ones nowto judge from the smile that
shone in her eyes and the decided gesture with which she put the
little bud in her bosomas if she said: 'He deserves some reward
for that good deedand he shall have it.'
Mrs Meg was speakingand still of Johnwhen she could hear
'Some people would call it unwise and reckless
when John has so little; but I think his first investment
a safe and good onefor "he who giveth to the poor
lendeth to the Lord"; and I was so pleased and proud
I wouldn't spoil it by offering him a penny.'
'It is his having nothing to offer that keeps him silentI think. He is
so honesthe won't ask till he has much to give. But he forgets that
love is everything. I know he's rich in that; I see and feel it; and
any woman should be glad to get it.'
'Rightdear. I felt just soand was willing to work and wait with
and for my John.'
'So she will beand I hope they will find it out. But she is so
dutiful and goodI'm afraid she won't let herself be happy. You
would like itmother?'
'Heartily; for a betternobler girl doesn't live. She is all I want for
my son; and I don't mean to lose the dearbrave creature if I can
help it. Her heart is big enough for both love and duty; and they
can wait more happily if they do it together for wait they mustof
course.' 'I'm so glad his choice suits youmotherand he is spared
the saddest sort of disappointment.'
Daisy's voice broke there; and a sudden rustlefollowed by a soft
murmurseemed to tell that she was in her mother's armsseeking
and finding comfort there.
Alice heard no moreand shut her window with a guilty feeling but
a shining face; for the proverb about listeners failed hereand she
had learned more than she dared to hope. Things seemed to change
suddenly; she felt that her heart was large enough for both love and
duty; she knew now that she would be welcomed by mother and
sister; and the memory of Daisy's less happy fateNat's weary
probationthe long delayand possible separation for ever all
came before her so vividly that prudence seemed cruelty;
self-sacrificesentimental folly; and anything but the whole truth
disloyalty to her lover. As she thought thusthe half-blown rose
went to join the bud; and thenafter a pauseshe slowly kissed the
perfect roseand added it to the tell-tale groupsaying to herself
with a sort of sweet solemnityas if the words were a vow:
'I'll love and work and wait with and for my John.'
It was well for her that Demi was absent when she stole down to
join the guests who soon began to flow through the house in a
steady stream. The new brightness which touched her usually
thoughtful face was easily explained by the congratulations she
received as oratorand the slight agitation observablewhen a
fresh batch of gentlemen approached soon passedas none of them
noticed the flowers she wore over a very happy heart. Demi
meantime was escorting certain venerable personages about the
collegeand helping his grandfather entertain them with discussion
of the Socratic method of instructionPythagorasPestalozzi
Froebeland the restwhom he devoutly wished at the bottom of
the Red Seaand no wonderfor his head and his heart were full of
love and roseshopes and fears. He piloted the 'potentgraveand
reverend seigniors' safely down to Plumfield at lastand landed
them before his uncle and aunt Bhaerwho were receiving in state
the one full of genuine delight in all men and thingsthe other
suffering martyrdom with a smileas she stood shaking hand after
handand affecting utter unconsciousness of the sad fact that
ponderous Professor Plock had camped upon the train of her state
and festival velvet gown.
With a long sigh of relief Demi glanced about him for the beloved
girl. Most persons would have looked some time before any
particular angel could be discovered among the white-robed throng
in parlourshalland study; but his eye went like the needle to the
pole to the corner where a smooth dark headwith its braided
crownrose like a queen'she thoughtabove the crowd which
surrounded her. Yesshe has a flower at her throat; onetwooh
blessed sight! he saw it all across the roomand gave a rapturous
sigh which caused Miss Perry's frizzled crop to wave with a sudden
gust. He did not see the rosefor it was hidden by a fold of lace;
and it was wellperhapsthat bliss came by instalmentsor he
might have electrified the assembled multitude by flying to his
idolthere being no Daisy to clutch him by the coat-tail. A stout
ladythirsting for informationseized him at that thrilling moment
and he was forced to point out celebrities with a saintly patience
which deserved a better reward than it received; for a certain
absence of mind and incoherence of speech at times caused the
ungrateful dowager to whisper to the first friend she met after he
'I saw no wine at any of the spreads; but it is plain that young
Brooke has had too much. Quite gentlemanlybut evidently a trifle
Ahso he was! but with a diviner wine than any that ever sparkled
at a class-day lunchthough many collegians know the taste of it;
and when the old lady was disposed ofhe gladly turned to find the
young onebent on having a single word. He saw her standing by
the piano nowidly turning over music as she talked with several
gentlemen. Hiding his impatience under an air of scholastic
reposeDemi hovered nearready to advance when the happy
moment camewondering meantime why elderly persons persisted
in absorbing young ones instead of sensibly sitting in corners with
their contemporaries. The elderly persons in question retired at
lengthbut only to be replaced by two impetuous youths who
begged Miss Heath to accompany them to Parnassus and join the
dance. Demi thirsted for their bloodbut was appeased by hearing
George and Dolly sayas they lingered a moment after her refusal:
'Reallyyou knowI'm quite converted to co-education and almost
wish I'd remained here. It gives a grace to studya sort of relish
even to Greek to see charming girls at it' said Stuffywho found
the feast of learning so dryany sauce was welcome; and he felt as
if he had discovered a new one.
'Yesby Jove! we fellows will have to look out or you'll carry off
all the honours. You were superb todayand held us all like magic
though it was so hot thereI really think I couldn't have stood it for
anyone else' added Dollylabouring to be gallant and really
offering a touching proof of devotion; for the heat melted his
collartook the curl out of his hairand ruined his gloves.
'There is room for all; and if you will leave us the bookswe will
cheerfully yield the baseballboatingdancingand flirtingwhich
seem to be the branches you prefer' answered Alice sweetly.
'Ahnow you are too hard upon us! We can't grind all the time and
you ladies don't seem to mind taking a turn at the two latter
branchesyou mention' returned Dollywith a glance at George
which plainly said'I had her there.'
'Some of us do in our first years. Later we give up childish things
you see. Don't let me keep you from Parnassus'; and a smiling nod
dismissed themsmarting under the bitter consciousness of youth.
'You got it thereDoll. Better not try to fence with these superior
girls. Sure to be routedhorsefootand dragoons' said Stuffy
lumbering awaysomewhat cross with too many spreads.
'So deuced sarcastic! Don't believe she's much older than we are.
Girls grow up quickerso she needn't put on airs and talk like a
grandmother' muttered Dollyfeeling that he had sacrificed his
kids upon the altar of an ungrateful Pallas.
'Come along and let's find something to eat. I'm faint with so much
talking. Old Plock cornered me and made my head spin with Kant
and Hegel and that lot.'
'I promised Dora West I'd give her a turn. Must look her up; she's a
jolly little thingand doesn't bother about anything but keeping in
And arm in arm the boys strolled awayleaving Alice to read
music as diligently as if society had indeed no charms for her. As
she bent to turn a pagethe eager young man behind the piano saw
the rose and was struck speechless with delight. A moment he
gazedthen hastened to seize the coveted place before a new
detachment of bores arrived.
'AliceI can't believe it did you understand how shall I ever
thank you?' murmured Demibending as if hetooread the song
not a note or word of which did he seehowever.
'Hush! not now. I understood I don't deserve it we are too young
we must waitbut I'm very proud and happyJohn!'
What would have happened after that tender whisper I tremble to
thinkif Tom Bangs had not come bustling upwith the cheerful
'Music? just the thing. People are thinning outand we all want a
little refreshment. My brain fairly reels with the 'ologies and 'isms
I've heard discussed tonight. Yesgive us this; sweet thing! Scotch
songs are always charming.'
Demi glowered; but the obtuse boy never saw itand Alicefeeling
that this would be a safe vent for sundry unruly emotionssat down
at onceand sang the song which gave her answer better than she
could have done: BIDE A WEE
'The puir auld folk at homeye mind
Are frail and failing sair;
And weel I ken they'd miss melad
Gin I come hame nae mair.
The grist is outthe times are hard
The kine are only three;
I canna leave the auld folk now.
We'd better bide a wee.
'Ifear me sair they're failing baith;
For when I sit apart
They talk o' Heaven so earnestly
It welinigh breaks my heart.
Soladdiedinna urge me now
It surely winna be;
I canna leave the auld folk yet.
We'd better bide a wee.'
The room was very still before the first verse ended; and Alice
skipped the nextfearing she could not get through; for John's eyes
were on hershowing that he knew she sang for him and let the
plaintive little ballad tell what her reply must be. He took it as she
meant itand smiled at her so happily that her heart got the better
of her voiceand she rose abruptlysaying something about the
'Yesyou are tired; come out and restmy dearest'; and with a
masterful air Demi took her into the starlightleaving Tom to stare
after them winking as if a sky-rocket had suddenly gone off under
'Bless my soul! the Deacon really meant business last summer and
never told me. Won't Dora laugh?' And Tom departed in hot haste
to impart and exult over his discovery.
What was said in the garden was never exactly known; but the
Brooke family sat up very late that nightand any curious eye at
the window would have seen Demi receiving the homage of his
womankind as he told his little romance. Josie took great credit to
herself in the matterinsisting that she had made the match; Daisy
was full of the sweetest sympathy and joyand Mrs Meg so happy
that when Jo had gone to dream of bridal veilsand Demi sat in his
room blissfully playing the air of 'Bide a Wee'she had her talk
about Natending with her arms round her dutiful daughter and
these welcome words as her reward:
'Wait till Nat coma homefind thei~ my good girl shall wear white
Chapter 20 LIFE FOR LIFE
The summer days that followed were full of rest and pleasure for
young and oldas they did the honours of Plumfield to their happy
guests. While Franz and Emil were busy with the affairs of Uncle
Hermann and Captain HardyMary and Ludmilla made friends
everywhere; forthough very unlikeboth were excellent and
charming girls. Mrs Meg and Daisy found the German bride a
Hausfrau after their own heartsand had delightful times learning
new disheshearing about the semi-yearly washes and the splendid
linen-room at Hamburgor discussing domestic life in all its
branches. Ludmilla not only taughtbut learnedmany thingsand
went home with many new and useful ideas in her blonde head.
Mary had seen so much of the world that she was unusually lively
for an English girl; while her various accomplishments made her a
most agreeable companion. Much good sense gave her ballast; and
the late experiences of danger and happiness added a sweet gravity
at timeswhich contrasted well with her natural gaiety. Mrs Jo was
quite satisfied with Emil's choiceand felt sure this true and tender
pilot would bring him safe to port through fair or stormy weather.
She had feared that Franz would settle down into a comfort- able
moneymaking burgherand be content with that; but she soon saw
that his love of music and his placid Ludmilla put much poetry
into his busy lifeand kept it from being too prosaic. So she felt at
rest about these boysand enjoyed their visit with realmaternal
satisfaction; parting with them in September most regretfullyyet
hopefullyas they sailed away to the new life that lay before them.
Demi's engagement was confided to the immediate family onlyas
both were pronounced too young to do anything but love and wait.
They were so happy that time seemed to stand still for themand
after a blissful week they parted bravely Alice to home duties
with a hope that sustained and cheered her through many trials;
and John to his businessfull of a new ardour which made all
things possible when such a reward was offered.
Daisy rejoiced over themand was never tired of hearing her
brother's plans for the future. Her own hope soon made her what
she used to be a cheerybusy creaturewith a smilekind word
and helping hand for all; and as she went singing about the house
againher mother felt that the right remedy for past sadness had
been found. The dear Pelican still had doubts and fearsbut kept
them wisely to herselfpreparing sundry searching tests to be
applied when Nat came homeand keeping a sharp eye on the
letters from London; for some mysterious hint had flown across
the seaand Daisy's content seemed reflected in Nat's present
cheerful state of mind.
Having passed through the Werther periodand tried a little Faust
of which experience he spoke to his Marguerite as if it had
included an acquaintance with MephistophelesBlocksburgand
Auerbach's wine-cellar he now felt that he was a Wilhelm
Meisterserving his apprenticeship to the great masters of life. As
she knew the truth of his small sins and honest repentanceDaisy
only smiled at the mixture of love and philosophy he sent her
knowing that it was impossible for a young man to live in
Germany without catching the German spirit.
'His heart is all right; and his head will soon grow clear when he
gets out of the fog of tobaccobeerand metaphysics he's been
living in. England will wake up his common senseand good salt
air blow his little follies all away' said Mrs Jomuch pleased with
the good prospects of her violinist whose return was delayed till
springto his private regretbut professional advancement.
Josie had a month with Miss Cameron at the seasideand threw
herself so heartily into the lesson given her that her energy
promiseand patience laid the foundation of a friendship which
was of infinite value to her in the busybrilliant years to come; for
little Jo's instincts were right; and the dramatic talent of the
Marches was to blossom by and by into an actressvirtuousand
Tom and his Dora were peacefully ambling altar-ward; for Bangs
senior was so afraid his son would change his mind again and try a
third professionthat he gladly consented to an early marriageas a
sort of anchor to hold the mercurial Thomas fast. Aforesaid
Thomas could not complain of cold shoulders now; for Dora was a
most devoted and adoring little mateand made life so pleasant to
him that his gift for getting into scrapes seemed lostand he bade
fair to become a thriving manwith undeniable talent for the
business he had chosen.
'We shall be married in the autumnand live with my father for a
while. The governor is getting onyou knowand my wife and I
must look after him. Later we shall have an establishment of our
own' was a favourite speech of his about this timeand usually
received with smiles; for the idea of Tommy Bangs at the head of
an 'establishment' was irresistibly funny to all who knew him.
Things were in this flourishing conditionand Mrs Jo was
beginning to think her trials were over for that yearwhen a new
excitement came. Several postal cards had arrived at long intervals
from Danwho gave them 'Care of M. Masonetc.'as his address.
By this means he was able to gratify his longing for home news
and to send brief messages to quiet their surprise at his delay in
settling. The last onewhich came in Septemberwas dated
'Montana'and simply said:
Here at lasttrying mining again; but not going to stay long. All
sorts of luck. Cave up the farm idea. Tell plans soon. Wellbusy
and very happy. D. K.
If they had known what the heavy dash under 'happy' meantthat
postal would have been a very eloquent bit of pasteboard; for Dan
was freeand had gone straight away to the liberty he panted for.
Meeting an old friend by accidenthe obliged him at a pinch by
acting as overseer for a timefinding the society even of rough
miners very sweetand something in the muscular work
wonderfully pleasantafter being cooped up in the brush-shop so
long. He loved to take a pick and wrestle with rock and earth till
he was weary which was very soon; for that year of captivity had
told upon his splendid physique. He longed to go homebut waited
week after week to get the prison taint off him and the haggard
look out Qf h~s face. Meanwhile he made friends of masters and
men; and as no one knew his storyhe took his place again in the
world gratefully and gladly with little pride nowand no plans but
to do some good somewhereand efface the past.
Mrs Jo was having a grand clearing-out of her desk one October
daywhile the rain poured outsideand peace reigned in her
mansion. Coming across the postalsshe pondered over themand
then put them carefully away In the drawer labelled 'Boys' Letters'
saying to herselfas she bundled eleven requests for autographs
into the waste-paper basket:
'It is quite time for another cardunless he is coming to tell his
plans. I'm really curious to know what he has been about all this
yearand how he's getting on now.'
That last wish was granted within an hour; for Ted came rushing
inwith a newspaper in one handa collapsed umbrella in the
otherand a face full of excitementannouncingall in one
'Mine caved in twenty men shut up no way out wives crying
water rising Dan knew the old shaft
risked his life got 'em out most killed papers full of it I knew
he'd be a hero hurray for old Dan!'
'What? Where? When? Who? Stop roaringand let me read!'
commanded his motherentirely bewildered.
Relinquishing the paperTed allowed her to read for herselfwith
frequent interruptions from him and Robwho soon followed
eager for the tale. It was nothing new; but courage and devotion
always stir generous heartsand win admiration; so the account
was both graphic and enthusiastic; and the name of Daniel Kean
the brave man who saved the lives of others at the risk of his own
was on many lips that day. Very proud were the faces of these
friends as they read how their Dan was the only one whoin the
first panic of the accidentremembered the old shaft that led into
the mine walled upbut the only hope of escapeif the men could
be got out before the rising water drowned them; how he was
lowered down alonetelling the others to keep back till he saw if it
was safe; how he heard the poor fellows picking desperately for
their lives on the other sideand by knocks and calls guided them
to the right spot; then headed the rescue partyand working like a
herogot the men out in time. On being drawn up last of allthe
worn rope brokeand he had a terrible fallbeing much hurtbut
was still alive. How the grateful women kissed his blackened face
and bloody handsas the men bore him away in triumphand the
owners of the mine promised a handsome rewardif he lived to
'He must live; he shalland come home to be nursed as soon as he
can stirif I go and bring him myself! I always knew he'd do
something fine and braveif he didn't get shot or hung for some
wild prank instead' cried Mrs Jomuch excited.
'Do goand take me with youMum. I ought to be the oneDan's so
fond of me and I of him' began Tedfeeling that this would be an
expedition after his own heart.
Before his mother could replyMr Laurie came inwith almost as
much noise and flurry as Teddy the secondexclaiming as he
waved the evening paper:
'Seen the newsJo? What do you think? Shall I go off at onceand
see after that brave boy?'
'I wish you would. But the thing may not be all true
rumour lies so. Perhaps a few hours will bring an entirely new
version of the story.'
'I've telephoned to Demi for all he can find out; and if it's trueI'll
go at once. Should like the trip. If he's ableI'll bring him home; if
notI'll stay and see to him. He'll pull through. Dan will never die
of a fall on his head. He's got nine livesand not lost half of them
'If you gounclemayn't I go with you? I'm just spoiling for a
journey; and it would be such larks to go out there with youand
see the mines and Danand hear all about itand help. I can nurse.
Can't IRob?' cried Teddyin his most wheedlesome tones.
'Pretty well. But if mother can't spare youI'm ready if uncle needs
anyone' answered Robin his quiet waylooking much fitter for
the trip than excitable Ted.
'I can't spare either of you. My boys get into troubleunless I keep
them close at home. I've no right to hold the others; but I won't let
you out of my sightor something will happen. Never saw such a
yearwith wrecks and weddings and floods and engagementsand
every sort of catastrophe!' exclaimed Mrs Jo.
'If you deal in girls and boysyou must expect this sort of thing
ma'am. The worst is overI hopetill these lads begin to go off.
Then I'll stand by you; for you'll need every kind of support and
comfortspecially if Ted bolts early' laughed Mr Laurieenjoying
'I don't think anything can surprise me now; but I am anxious about
Danand feel that someone had better go to him. It's a rough place
out thereand he may need careful nursing. Poor ladhe seems to
get a good many hard knocks! But perhaps he needs them as "a
mellerin' process"as Hannah used to say.'
'We shall hear from Demi before longand then I'll be off.' With
which cheerful promise Mr Laurie departed; and Tedfinding his
mother firmsoon followedto coax his uncle to take him.
Further inquiry confirmed and added interest to the news. Mr
Laurie was off at once; and Ted went into town with himstill
vainly imploring to be taken to his Dan. He was absent all day; but
his mother saidcalmly:
'Only a fit of the sulks because he is thwarted. He's safe with Tom
or Demiand will come home hungry and meek at night. I know
But she soon found that she could still be surprised; for evening
brought no Tedand no one had seen him. Mr Bhaer was just
setting off to find his lost sonwhen a telegram arriveddated at
one of the way-stations on Mr Laurie's route:
Found Ted in the cars. Take him along. Write tomorrow.
'Ted bolted sooner than you expectedmother. Never mind uncle
will take good care of himand Dan be very glad to see him' said
Robas Mrs Jo sattrying to realize that her youngest was actually
on his way to the wild West.
'Disobedient boy! He shall be severely punishedif I ever get him
again. Laurie winked at this prank; I know he did. Just like him.
Won't the two rascals have a splendid time? Wish I was with them!
Don't believe that crazy boy took even a night-gown with himor
an overcoat. Wellthere will be two patients for us to nurse when
they get backif they ever do. Those reckless express trains always
go down precipicesand burn upor telescope. Oh! my Tedmy
precious boyhow can I let him go so far away from me?'
And mother-likeMrs Jo forgot the threatened chastisement in
tender lamentations over the happy scapegracenow whizzing
across the continent in high feather at the success of his first
revolt. Mr Laurie was much amused at his insisting that those
words'when Ted bolts'put the idea into his head; and therefore
the responsibility rested upon his shoulders. He assumed it kindly
from the moment he came upon the runaway asleep in a carwith
no visible- luggage but a bottle of wine for Dan and a
blacking-brush for himself; and as Mrs Jo suspectedthe 'two
rascals' did have a splendid time. Penitent letters arrived in due
seasonand the irate parents soon forgot to chide in their anxiety
about Danwho was very illand did not know his friends for
several days. Then he began to mend; and everyone forgave the
bad boy when he proudly reported that the first conscious words
Dan said were: 'HalloTed!' with a smile of pleasure at seeing a
familiar face bent over him.
'Glad he wentand I won't scold any more. Nowwhat shall we put
in the box for Dan?' And Mrs Jo worked off her impatience to get
hold of the invalid by sending comforts enough for a hospital.
Cheering accounts soon began to comeand at length Dan was
pronounced able to travelbut seemed ifi hO haste to go home
though never tired of hearing his nurses talk of it.
'Dan is strangely altered' wrote Laurie to Jo; 'not by this illness
alonebut by something which has evidently gone before. I don't
know whatand leave you to ask; but from his ravings when
delirious I fear he has been in some serious trouble the past year.
He seems ten years olderbut improvedquieterand so grateful to
us. It is pathetic to see the hunger in his eyes as they rest on Ted
as if he couldn't see enough of him. He says Kansas was a failure
but can't talk much; so I bide my time. The people here love him
very muchand he cares for that sort of thing now; used to scorn
any show of emotionyou know; now he wants everyone to think
well of himand can't do enough to win affection and respect. I
may be all wrong. You will soon find out. Ted is in cloverand the
trip has done him a world of good. Let me take him to Europe
when we go? Apron-strings don't agree with him any better than
they did with me when I proposed to run away to Washington with
you some century ago. Aren't you sorry you didn't?'
This private letter set Mrs Jo's lively fancy in a fermentand she
imagined every known crimeafflictionand complication which
could possibly have befallen Dan. He was too feeble to be worried
with questions nowbut she promised herself most interesting
revelations when she got him safe at home; for the 'firebrand' was
her most interesting boy. She begged him to comeand spent more
time in composing a letter that should bring himthan she did over
a~t thrilling ~pi~o~c~i in hcr 'work~'.
No one but Dan saw the letter; but it did bring himand one
November day Mr Laurie helped a feeble man out of a carriage at
the door of Plumfieldand Mother Bhaer received the wanderer
like a recovered son; while Tedin a disreputable-looking hat and
an astonishing pair of bootsperformed a sort of war-dance round
the interesting group.
'Right upstairs and rest; I'm nurse nowand this ghost must eat
before he talks to anyone' commanded Mrs Jotrying not to show
how shocked she was at this shorn and shavengaunt and pallid
shadow of the stalwart man she parted with.
He was quite content to obeyand lay on the long lounge in the
room prepared for himlooking about as tranquilly as a sick child
restored to its own nursery and mother's armswhile his new nurse
fed and refreshed himbravely controlling the questions that
burned upon her tongue. Being weak and wearyhe soon fell
asleep; and then she stole away to enjoy the society of the 'rascals'
whom she scolded and pettedpumped and praisedto her heart's
'JoI think Dan has committed some crime and suffered for it' said
Mr Lauriewhen Ted had departed to show his boots and tell
glowing tales of the dangers and delights of the miners' life to his
mates. 'Some terrible experience has come to the ladand broken
his spirit. He was quite out of his head when we arrivedand I took
the watchingso I heard more of those sad wanderings than anyone
else. He talked of the "warden"some traila dead manand Blair
and Masonand would keep offering me his handasking me if I
would take it and forgive him. Oncewhen he was very wildI held
his armsand he quieted in a momentimploring me not to "put the
handcuffs on". I declareit was quite awful sometimes to hear him
in the night talk of old Plum and youand beg to be let out and go
home to die.'
'He isn't going to diebut live to repent of anything he may have
done; so don't harrow me up with these dark hintsTeddy. I don't
care if he's broken the Ten CommandmentsI'll stand by himand
so will youand we'll set him on his feet and make a good man of
him yet. I know he's not spoiltby the look in his poor face. Don't
say a word to anyoneand I'll have the truth before long' answered
Mrs Jostill loyal to her bad boythough much afflicted by what
she had heard.
For some days Dan restedand saw few people; their good care
cheerful surroundingsand the comfort of being at home began to
telland he seemed more like himselfthough still very silent as to
his late experiencespleading the doctor's orders not to talk much.
Everyone wanted to see him; but he shrank from any but old
friendsand 'wouldn't lionize worth a cent'Ted saidmuch
disappointed that he could not show off his brave Dan.
'Wasn't a man there who wouldn't have done the sameso why
make a row over me?' asked the herofeeling more ashamed than
proud of the broken armwhich looked so interesting in a sling.
'But isn't it pleasant to think that you saved twenty livesDanand
gave husbandssonsand fathers back to the women who loved
them?' asked Mrs Jo one evening as they were alone together after
several callers had been sent away.
'Pleasant! it's all that kept me aliveI do believe; yesI'd rather
have done it than be made president or any other big bug in the
world. No one knows what a comfort it is to think I've saved
twenty men to more than pay forThere Dan stopped short
having evidently spoken out of some strong emotion to which his
hearer had no key.'
'I thought you'd feel so. It is a splendid thing to save life at the risk
of one's ownas you didand nearly lose it' began Mrs Jowishing
he had gone on with that impulsive speech which was so like his
'"He that loseth his life shall gain it"' muttered Danstaring at the
cheerful fire which lighted the roomand shone on his thin face
with a ruddy glow.
Mrs Jo was so startled at hearing such words from his lips that she
'Then you did read the little book I gave youand kept your
'I read it a good deal after a while. I don't know much yetbut I'm
ready to learn; and that's something.'
'It's everything. Ohmy deartell me about it! I know something
lies heavy on your heart; let me help you bear itand so make the
'I know it would; I want to tell; but some things even you couldn't
forgive; and if you let go of meI'm afraid I can't keep afloat.'
'Mothers can forgive anything! Tell me alland be sure that I will
never let you gothough the whole world should turn from you.'
Mrs Jo took one of the big wasted hands in both of hers and held it
fastwaiting silently till that sustaining touch warmed poor Dan's
heartand gave him courage to speak. Sitting in his old attitude
with his head in his handshe slowly told it allnever once looking
up till the last words left his lips.
'Now you know; can you forgive a murdererand keep a jail-bird in
Her only answer was to put her arms about himand lay the shorn
head on her breastwith eyes so full of tears they could but dimly
see the hope and fear that made his own so tragical.
That was better than any words; and poor Dan clung to her in
speechless gratitudefeeling the blessedness of mother love that
divine gift which comfortspurifiesand strengthens all who seek
it. Two or three greatbitter drops were hidden in the little woollen
shawl where Dan's cheek restedand no one ever knew how soft
and comfortable it felt to him after the hard pillows he had known
so long. Suffering of both mind and body had broken will and
prideand the lifted burden brought such a sense of relief that he
paused a moment to enjoy it in dumb delight.
'My poor boyhow you have suffered all this yearwhen we
thought you free as air! Why didn't you tell usDanand let us help
you? Did you doubt your friends?' asked Mrs Joforgetting all
other emotions in sympathyas she lifted up the hidden faceand
looked reproachfully into the great hollow eyes that met her own
'I was ashamed. I tried to bear it alone rather than shock and
disappoint youas I know I havethough you try not to show it.
Don't mind; I must get used to it'; and Dan's eyes dropped again as
if they could not bear to see the trouble and dismay his confession
painted on his best friend's face.
'I am shocked and disappointed by the sinbut I am also very glad
and proud and grateful that my sinner has repentedatonedand is
ready to profit by the bitter lesson. No one but Fritz and Laurie
need ever know the truth; we owe it to themand they will feel as I
do' answered Mrs Jowisely thinking that entire frankness would
be a better tonic than too much sympathy.
'Nothey won't; men never forgive like women. But it's right.
Please tell 'em for meand get it over. Mr Laurence knows itI
guess. I blabbed when my wits were gone; but he was very kind all
the same. I can bear their knowing; but ohnot Ted and the girls!'
Dan clutched her arm with such an imploring face that she
hastened to assure him no one should know except the two old
friendsand he calmed down as if ashamed of his sudden panic.
'It wasn't murdermind youit was in self-defence; he drew first
and I had to hit him. Didn't mean to kill him; but it doesn't worry
me as much as it oughtI'm afraid. I've more than paid for itand
such a rascal is better out of the world than in itshowing boys the
way to hell. YesI know you think that's awful in me; but I can't
help ~t. I hate a scamp as I do a skulking coyoteand always want
to get a shot at 'em. Perhaps it would have been better if he had
killed me; my life
All the old prison gloom seemed to settle like a black cloud on
Dan's face as he spokeand Mrs Jo was frightened at the glimpse it
gave her of the fire through which he had passed to come out alive
but scarred for life. Hoping to turn his mind to happier thingsshe
'Noit isn't; you have learned to value it more and use it better for
this trial. It is not a lost yearbut one that may prove the most
helpful of any you ever know. Try to think soand begin again; we
will helpand have all the more confidence in you for this failure.
We all do the same and struggle on.'
'I never can be what I was. I feel about sixtyand don't care for
anything now I've got here. Let me stay till I'm on my legsthen I'll
clear out and never trouble you any more' said Dan despondently.
'You are weak and low in your mind; that will passand by and by
you will go to your missionary work among the Indians with all the
old energy and the new patienceself-controland knowledge you
have gained. Tell me more about that good chaplain and Mary
Mason and the lady whose chance word helped you so much. I
want to know all about the trials of my poor boy.'
Won by her tender interestDan brightened up and talked on till he
had poured out all the story of that bitter yearand felt better for
the load he lifted off.
If he had known how it weighed upon his hearer's hearthe would
have held his peace; but she hid her sorrow till she had sent him to
bedcomforted and calm; then she cried her heart outto the great
dismay of Fritz and Laurietill they heard the tale and could mourn
with her; after which they all cheered up and took counsel together
how best to help this worst of all the 'catastrophes' the year had
Chapter 21 ASLAUGA'S KNIGHT
It was curious to see the change which came over Dan after that
talk. A weight seemed off his mind; and though the old impetuous
spirit flashed out at timeshe seemed intent on trying to show his
gratitude and love and honour to these true friends by a new
humility and confidence very sweet to themvery helpful to him.
After hearing the story from Mrs Jothe Professor and Mr Laurie
made no allusion to it beyond the hearty hand-graspthe look of
compassionthe brief word of good cheer in which men convey
sympathyand a redoubled kindness which left no doubt of pardon.
Mr Laurie began at once to interest influential persons in Dan's
missionand set in motion the machinery which needs so much
oiling before anything can be done where Government is
concerned. Mr Bhaerwith the skill of a true teachergave Dan's
hungry mind something to doand helped him understand himself
by carrying on the good chaplain's task so paternally that the poor
fellow often said he felt as if he had found a father. The boys took
him to driveand amused him with their pranks and plans; while
the womenold and youngnursed and petted him till he felt like a
sultan with a crowd of devoted slavesobedient to his lightest
wish. A very little of this was enough for Danwho had a
masculine horror of 'molly-coddling'and so brief an acquaintance
with illness that he rebelled against the doctor's orders to keep
quiet; and it took all Mrs Jo's authority and the girls' ingenuity to
keep him from leaving his sofa long before strained back and
wounded head were well. Daisy cooked for him; Nan attended to
his medicines; Josie read aloud to while away the long hours of
inaction that hung so heavily on his hands; while Bess brought all
her pictures and casts to amuse himandat his special desireset
up a modelling-stand in his parlour and began to mould the buffalo
head he gave her. Those afternoons seemed the pleasantest part of
his day; and Mrs Jobusy in her study close bycould see the
friendly trio and enjoy the pretty pictures they made. The girls
were much flattered by the success of their effortsand exerted
themselves to be very entertainingconsulting Dan's moods with
the feminine tact most women creatures learn before they are out
of pinafores. When he was gaythe room rang with laughter; when
gloomythey read or worked in respectful silence till their sweet
patience cheered him up again; and when in pain they hovered
over him like 'a couple of angels'as he said. He often called Josie
'little mother'but Bess was always 'Princess'; and his manner to
the two cousins was quite different. Josie sometimes fretted him
with her fussy waysthe long plays she liked to readand the
maternal scoldings she administered when he broke the rules; for
having a lord of creation in her power was so delightful to her that
she would have ruled him with a rod of iron if he had submitted.
To Bessin her gentler ministrationshe never showed either
impatience or wearinessbut obeyed her least wordexerted
himself to seem well in her presenceand took such interest in her
work that he lay looking at her with unwearied eyes; while Josie
read to him in her best style unheeded.
Mrs Jo observed thisand called them 'Una and the Lion'which
suited them very wellthough the lion's mane was shornand Una
never tried to bridle him. The elder ladies did their part in
providing delicacies and supplying all his wants; but Mrs Meg was
busy at homeMrs Amy preparing for the trip to Europe in the
springand Mrs Jo hovering on the brink of a 'vortex' for the
forthcoming book had been sadly delayed by the late domestic
events. As she sat at her desksettling papers or meditatively
nibbling her pen while waiting for the divine afflants to descend
upon hershe often forgot her fictitious heroes and heroines in
studying the live models before herand thus by chance looks
wordsand gestures discovered a little romance unsuspected by
The portiŠre between the rooms was usually drawn asidegiving a
view of the group in the large bay-window Bess at one sidein
her grey blousebusy with her tools; Josie at the other side with
her book; and betweenon the long couchpropped with many
cushionslay Dan in a many-hued eastern dressing-gown presented
by Mr Laurie and worn to please the girlsthough the invalid much
preferred an old jacket 'with no confounded tail to bother over'. He
faced Mrs Jo's roombut never seemed to see herfor his eyes
were on the slender figure before himwith the pale winter
sunshine touching her golden headand the delicate hands that
shaped the clay so deftly. Josie was just visiblerocking violently
in a little chair at the head of the couchand the steady murmur of
her girlish voice was usually the only sound that broke the quiet of
the roomunless a sudden discussion arose about the book or the
Something in the big eyesbigger and blacker than ever in the thin
white facefixedso steadily on one objecthad a sort of
fascination for Mrs Jo after a timeand she watched the changes in
them curiously; for Dan's mind was evidently not on the storyand
he often forgot to laugh or exclaim at the comic or exciting crises.
Sometimes they were soft and wistfuland the watcher was very
glad that neither damsel caught that dangerous look for when they
spoke it vanished; sometimes it was full of eager fireand the
colour came and went rebelliouslyin spite of his attempt to hide it
with an impatient gesture of hand or head; but oftenest it was dark
and sadand sternas if those gloomy eyes looked out of captivity
at some forbidden light or joy. This expression came so often that
it worried Mrs Joand she longed to go and ask him what bitter
memory overshadowed those quiet hours. She knew that his crime
and its punishment must lie heavy on his mind; but youthand
timeand new hopes would bring comfortand help to wear away
the first sharpness of the prison brand. It lifted at other timesand
seemed almost forgotten when he joked with the boystalked with
old friendsor enjoyed the first snows as he drove out every fair
day. Why should the shadow always fall so darkly on him in the
society of these innocent and friendly girls? They never seemed to
see itand if either looked or spokea quick smile came like a
sunburst through the clouds to answer them. So Mrs Jo went on
watchingwonderingand discoveringtill accident confirmed her
Josie was called away one dayand Besstired of workingoffered
to take her place if he cared for more reading.
'I do; your reading suits me better than Jo's. She goes so fast my
stupid head gets in a muddle and soon begins to ache. Don't tell
her; she's a dear little souland so good to sit here with a bear like
The smile was ready as Bess went to the table for a new bookthe
last story being finished.
'You are not a bearbut very good and patientwe think. It is
always hard for a man to be shut upmamma saysand must be
terrible for youwho have always been so free.'
If Bess had not been reading titles she would have seen Dan shrink
as if her last words hurt him. He made no answer; but other eyes
saw and understood why he looked as if he would have liked to
spring up and rush away for one of his long races up the hillas he
used to do when the longing for liberty grew uncontrollable.
Moved by a sudden impulseMrs Jo caught
up h~r wor1c-~a~1cct ~ wcn~ w j~•~ hcr neighboursfeeling that
a non-conductor might be needed; for Dan looked like a
thundercloud full of electricity.
'What shall we readAunty? Dan doesn't seem to care. You know
his taste; tell me something quiet and pleasant and short. Josie will
be back soon' said Bessstill turning over the books piled on the
Before Mrs Jo could answerDan pulled a shabby little volume
from under his pillowand handing it to her said: 'Please read the
third one; it's short and pretty I'm fond of it.' The book opened at
the right placeas if the third story had been often readand Bess
smiled as she saw the name.
'WhyDanI shouldn't think you'd care for this romantic German
tale. There is fighting in it; but it is very sentimentalif I remember
'I know it; but I've read so few storiesI like the simple ones best.
Had nothing else to read sometimes; I guess I know it all by heart
and never seem to be tired of those fighting fellowsand the fiends
and angels and lovely ladies. You read "Aslauga's Knight"and see
if you don't like it. Edwald was rather too soft for my fancy; but
Froda was first-rate and the spirit with the golden hair always
reminded me of you.'
As Dan spoke Mrs Jo settled herself where she could watch him in
the glassand Bess took a large chair facing himsayingas she put
up her hands to retie the ribbon that held the cluster of thicksoft
curls at the back of her head:
'I hope Aslauga's hair wasn't as troublesome as minefor it's always
tumbling down. I'll be ready in a minute.'
'Don't tie it up; please let it hang. I love to see it shine that way. It
will rest your headand be just right for the storyGoldilocks'
pleaded Danusing the childish name and looking more like his
boyish self than he had done for many a day.
Bess -laughedshook down her pretty hairand began to readglad
to hide her face a little; for compliments made her shyno matter
who paid them. Dan listened intently on; and Mrs Jowith eyes
that went often from her needle to the glasscould seewithout
turninghow he enjoyed every word as if it had more meaning for
him than for the other listeners. His face brightened wonderfully
and soon wore the look that came when anything brave or
beautiful inspired and touched his better self. It was Fouqu‚'s
charming story of the knight Frodaand the fair daughter of
Sigurdwho was a sort of spiritappearing to her lover in hours of
danger and trialas well as triumph and joytill she became his
guide and guardinspiring him with couragenoblenessand truth
leading him to great deeds in the fieldsacrifices for those he
lovedand victories over himself by the gleaming of her golden
hairwhich shone on him in battledreamsand perils by day and
nighttill after death he finds the lovely spirit waiting to receive
and to reward him.
Of all the stories in the book this was the last one would have
supposed Dan would like bestand even Mrs Jo was surprised at
his perceiving the moral of the tale through the delicate imagery
and romantic language by which it was illustrated. But as she
looked and listened she remembered the streak of sentiment and
refinement which lay concealed in Dan like the gold vein in a
rockmaking him quick to feel and to enjoy fine colour in a
flowergrace in an animalsweetness in womenheroism in men
and all the tender ties that bind heart to heart; though he was slow
to show ithaving no words to express the tastes and instincts
which he inherited from his mother. Suffering of soul and body
had tamed his stronger passionsand the atmosphere of love and
pity now surrounding him purified and warmed his heart till it
began to hunger for the food neglected or denied so long. This was
plainly written in his too expressive faceasfancying it unseenhe
let it tell the longing after beautypeaceand happiness embodied
for him in the innocent fair girl before him.
The conviction of this sad yet natural fact came to Mrs Jo with a
pangfor she felt how utterly hopeless such a longing was; since
light and darkness were not farther apart than snow-white Bess and
sin-stained Dan. No dream of such a thing disturbed the young girl
as her entire unconsciousness plainly showed. But how long would
it be before the eloquent eyes betrayed the truth? And then what
disappointment for Danwhat dismay for Besswho was as cool
and high and pure as her own marblesand shunned all thought of
love with maidenly reserve.
'How hard everything is made for my poor boy! How can I spoil his
little dreamand take away the spirit of good he is beginning to
love and long for? When my own dear lads are safely settled I'll
never try anotherfor these things are heart-breakingand I can't
manage any more' thought Mrs Joas she put the lining into
Teddy's coat-sleeve upside downso perplexed and grieved was
she at this new catastrophe.
The story was soon doneand as Bess shook back her hairDan
asked as eagerly as a boy:
'Don't you like it?'
'Yesit's very prettyand I see the meaning of it; but Undine was
always my favourite.'
'Of coursethat's like you lilies and pearls and souls and pure
water. Sintram used to be mine; but I took a fancy to this when I
was ahem rather down on my luck one timeand it did me good
it was so cheerful and sort of spiritual in its meaningyou know.'
Dan's for anything 'spiritual'; but she only noddedsaying: 'Some of
the little songs are sweet and might be set to music.'
Dan laughed; 'I used to sing the last one to a tune of my own
sometimes at sunset:
Listening to celestial lays
Bending thy unclouded gaze
(in the pure and h'vi'ng light
Thou art blestAslauga's Knight!
And I was' he addedunder his breathas he glanced towards the
sunshine dancing on the wall.
'This one suits you better now'; and glad to please him by her
interestBess read in her soft voice:
'Healfasthealfastye hero wounds;
O knightbe quickly strong! Beloved strife
For fame and life
Ohtarry not too long!'
'I'm no heronever can beand "fame and life" can't do much for
me. Never mindread me that paperplease. This knock on the
head has made a regular fool of me.'
Dan's voice was gentle; but the light was gone out of his face now
and he moved restlessly as if the silken pillows were full of thorns.
Seeing that his mood had changedBess quietly put down the
booktook up the paperand glanced along the columns for
something to suit him.
'You don't care for the money marketI knownor musical news.
Here's a murder; you used to like those; shall I read it? One man
Only a wordbut it gave Mrs Jo a thrilland for a moment she
dared not glance at the tell-tale mirror. When she did Dan lay
motionless with one hand over his eyesand Bess was happily
reading the art news to ears that never heard a word. Feeling like a
thief who has stolen something very preciousMrs Jo slipped away
to her studyand before long Bess followed to report that Dan was
Sending her homewith the firm resolve to keep her there as much
as possibleMother Bhaer had an hour of serious thought all alone
in the red sunset; and when a sound in the next room led her there
she found that the feigned sleep had become real repose; for Dan
lay breathing heavilywith a scarlet spot on either cheekand one
hand clinched on his broad breast. Yearning over him with a
deeper pity than ever beforeshe sat in the little chair beside him
trying to see her way out of this tangletill his hand slipped down
and in doing so snapped a cord he wore about his neck and let a
small case drop to the floor.
Mrs Jo picked it upand as he did not wakesat looking at itidly
wondering what charm it held; for the case was of Indian
workmanship and the broken cordof closely woven grasssweet
scented and pale yellow.
'I won't pry into any more of the poor fellow's secrets. I'll mend and
put it backand never let him know I've seen his talisman.'
As she spoke she turned the little wallet to examine the fracture
and a card fell into her lap. It was a photographcut to fit its
coveringand two words were written underneath the face'My
Aslauga'. For an instant Mrs Jo fancied that it might be one of
herselffor all the boys had them; but as the thin paper fell away
she saw the picture Demi took of Bess that happy summer day.
There was no doubt nowand with a sigh she put it backand was
about to slip it into Dan's bosom so that not even a stitch should
betray her knowledgewhen as she leaned towards himshe saw
that he was looking straight at her with an expression that
surprised her more than any of the strange ones she had ever seen
in that changeful face before.
'Your hand slipped down; it fell; I was putting it back' explained
Mrs Jofeeling like a naughty child caught in mischief.
'You saw the picture?'
'And know what a fool I am?'
'YesDanand am so grieved '
'Don't worry about me. I'm all right glad you knowthough I never
meant to tell you. Of course it is only a crazy fancy of mineand
nothing can ever come of it. Never thought there would. Good
Lord! what could that little angel ever be to me but what she is a
sort of dream of all that's sweet and good?'
More afflicted by the quiet resignation of his look and tone than by
the most passionate ardourMrs Jo could only saywith a face full
'It is very harddearbut there is no other way to look at it. You are
wise and brave enough to see thatand to let the secret be ours
'I swear I will! not a word nor a look if I can help it. No one
guessesand if it troubles no oneis there any harm in my keeping
thisand taking comfort in the pretty fancy that kept me sane in
that cursed place?'
Dan's face was eager nowand he hid away the little worn case as
if defying any hand to take it from him. Anxious to know
everything before giving counsel or comfortMrs Jo said quietly:
'Keep itand tell me all about the "fancy". Since I have stumbled
on your secretlet me know how it cameand how I can help to
make it lighter to bear.'
'You'll laugh; but I don't mind. You always did find out our secrets
and give us a lift. WellI never cared much for booksyou know;
but down yonder when the devil tormented me I had to do
something or go stark madso I read both the books you gave me.
One was beyond metill that good old man showed me how to
read it; but the otherthis onewas a comfortI tell you. It amused
meand was as pretty as poetry. I liked 'em alland most wore out
Sintram. See how used up he is! Then I came to thisand it sort of
fitted that other happy part of my lifelast summer here.'
Dan stopped a moment as the words lingered on his lips; then
with a long breathwent onas if it was hard to lay bare the foolish
little romance he had woven about a girla pictureand a child's
story there in the darkness of the place which was as terrible to
him as Dante's Infernotill he found his Beatrice.
'I couldn't sleepand had to think about somethingso I used to
fancy I was Folkoand see the shining of Aslauga's hair in the
sunset on the wallthe gum of the watchman's lampand the light
that came in at dawn. My cell was high. I could see a bit of sky;
sometimes there was a star in itand that was most as good as a
face. I set great store by that patch of blueand when a white cloud
went byI thought it was the prettiest thing in all this world. I
guess I was pretty near a fool; but those thoughts and things helped
me throughso they are all solemn true to meand I can't let them
go. The dear shiny headthe white gownthe eyes like starsand
sweetcalm ways that set her as high above me as the moon in
heaven. Don't take it away! it's only a fancybut a man must love
somethingand I'd better love a spirit like her than any of the poor
common girls who would care for me.'
The quiet despair in Dan's voice pierced Mrs Jo to the heart; but
there was no hope and she gave none. Yet she felt that he was
rightand that his hapless affection might do more to uplift and
purify him than any other he might know. Few women would care
to marry Dan nowexcept such as would hindernot helphim in
the struggle which life would always be to him; and it was better to
go solitary to his grave than become what she suspected his father
had been a handsomeunprincipledand dangerous manwith
more than one broken heart to answer for.
'YesDanit is wise to keep this innocent fancyif it helps and
comforts youtill something more real and possible comes to make
you happier. I wish I could give you ~ny hope; but we both know
that the dear child is the apple of her father's eyethe pride of her
mother's heartand that the most perfect lover they can find will
hardly seem to them worthy of their precious daughter. Let her
remain for you the highbright star that leads you up and makes
you believe in heaven.' Mrs Jo broke down there; it seemed so
cruel to destroy the faint hope Dan's eyes betrayedthat she could
not moralize when she thought of his hard life and lonely future.
Perhaps it was the wisest thing she could have donefor in her
hearty sympathy he found comfort for his own lossand very soon
was able to speak again in the manly tone of resignation to the
inevitable that showed how honest was his effort to give up
everything but the pale shadow of whatfor anothermight have
been a happy possibility.
They talked long and earnestly in the twilight; and this second
secret bound them closer than the first; for in it there was neither
sin nor shame only the tender pain and patience which has made
saints and heroes of far worse men than our poor Dan. When at
length they rose at the summons of a bellall the sunset glory had
departedand in the wintry sky there hung one starlargesoftand
clearabove a snowy world. Pausing at the window before she
dropped the curtainsMrs Jo said cheerfully:
'Come and see how beautiful the evening star issince you love it
so.' And as he stood behind hertall and palelike the ghost of his
former selfshe added softly: 'And rememberdearif the sweet
girl is denied youthe old friend is always here-to love and trust
and pray for you.'
This time she was not disappointed; and had she asked any reward
for many anxieties and caresshe received it when Dan's strong
arm came round heras he saidin a voice which showed her that
she had not laboured in vain to pluck her firebrand from the
'I never can forget that; for she's helped to save my souland make
me dare to look u.p there and say:
God bless her!'
Chapter 22 POSITIVELY LAST APPEARANCE
'Upon my wordI feel as if I lived in a powder-magazineand don't
know which barrel will explode nextand send me flying' said
Mrs Jo to herself next dayas she trudged up to Parnassus to
suggest to her sister that perhaps the most charming of the young
nurses had better return to her marble gods before she
unconsciously added another wound to those already won by the
human hero. She told no secrets; but a hint was sufficient; for Mrs
Amy guarded her daughter as a pearl of great priceand at once
devised a very simple means of escape from danger. Mr Laurie
was going to Washington on Dan's behalfand was delighted to
take his family with him when the idea was carelessly suggested.
So the conspiracy succeeded finely; and Mrs Jo went home
feeling more like a traitor than ever. She expected an explosion;
but Dan took the news so quietlyit was plain that he cherished no
hope; and Mrs Amy was sure her romantic sister had been
mistaken. If she had seen Dan's face when Bess went to say
good-byeher maternal eye would have discovered far more than
the unconscious girl did. Mrs Jo trembled lest he should betray
himself; but he had learned self-control in a stern schooland
would have got through the hard moment bravelyonlywhen he
took both handssaying heartily:
'Good-byePrincess. If we don't meet againremember your old
friend Dan sometimes' shetouched by his late danger and the
wistful look he woreanswered with unusual warmth: 'How can I
help itwhen you make us all so proud of you? God bless your
missionand bring you safely home to us again!'
As she looked up at him with a face full of frank affection and
sweet regretall that he was losing rose so vividly before him that
Dan could not resist the impulse to take the 'dear goldy head'
between his hands and kiss itwith a broken 'Good-bye'; then
hurried back to his roomfeeling as if it were the prison-cell again
with no glimpse of heaven's blue to comfort him.
This abrupt caress and departure rather startled Bess; for she felt
with a girl's quick instinct that there was something in that kiss
unknown beforeand looked after him with sudden colour in her
cheeks and new trouble in her eyes. Mrs Jo saw itand fearing a
very natural question answered it before it was put.
'Forgive himBess. He has had a great troubleand it makes him
tender at parting with old friends; for you know he may never
come back from the wild world he is going to.'
'You mean the fall and danger of death?' asked Bessinnocently.
'Nodear; a greater trouble than that. But I cannot tell you any
more except that he has come through it bravely; so you may trust
and respect himas I do.'
'He has lost someone he loved. Poor Dan! We must be very kind to
Bess did not ask the questionbut seemed content with her solution
of the mystery which was so true that Mrs Jo confirmed it by a
nodand let her go away believing that some tender loss and
sorrow wrought the great change all saw in Danand made him so
slow to speak concerning the past year.
But Ted was less easily satisfiedand this unusual reticence
goaded him to desperation. His mother had warned him not to
trouble Dan with questions till he was quite well; but this prospect
of approaching departure made him resolve to have a fullclear
and satisfactory account of the adventures which he felt sure must
have been thrillingfrom stray words Dan let fall in his fever. so
one day when the coast was clearMaster Ted volunteered to
amuse the invalidand did so in the following manner:
'Look hereold boyif you don't want me to readyou've got to
talkand tell me all about Kansasand the farmsand that part. The
Montana business I knowbut you seem to forget what went
before. Brace upand let's have it' he beganwith an abruptness
which roused Dan from a brown study most effectually.
'NoI don't forget; it isn't interesting to anyone but myself. I didn't
see any farms gave it up' he said slowly.
'Other things to do.'
'Wellbrush-making for one thing.'
'Don't chaff a fellow. Tell true.'
'I truly did.'
'To keep out of mischiefas much as anything.'
'Wellof all the queer things and you've done a lot that's the
queerest' cried Tedtaken aback at this disappointing discovery.
But he didn't mean to give up yetand began again.
'Never you mind. Boys shouldn't bother.'
'But I do want to knowawfullybecause I'm your paland care for
you no end. Always did. Comenowtell me a good yarn. I love
scrapes. I'll be mum as an oyster if you don't want it known.'
'Will you?' and Dan looked at himwondering how the boyish face
would change if the truth were suddenly told him.
'I'll swear it on locked fistsif you like. I know it was jollyand I'm
aching to hear.'
'You are as curious as a girl. More than some Josie and and Bess
never asked a question.'
'They don't care about rows and things; they liked the mine
businessheroesand that sort. So do Iand I'm as proud as Punch
over it; but I see by your eyes that there was something else before
thatand I'm bound to find out who Blair and Mason areand who
was hit and who ran awayand all the rest of it.'
'What!' cried Danin a tone that made Ted jump.
'Wellyou used to mutter about 'em in your sleepand Uncle
Laurie wondered. So did I; but don't mindif you can't remember
or would rather not.'
'What else did I say? Queerwhat stuff a man will talk when his
wits are gone.'
'That's all I heard; but it seemed interestingand I just mentioned
itthinking it might refresh your memory a bit' said Teddyvery
politely; for Dan's frown was heavy at that moment.
It cleared off at this replyand after a look at the boy squirming
with suppressed impatience in his chairDan made up his mind to
amuse him with a game of cross-purposes and half-truthshoping
to quench his curiosityand so get peace.
'Let me see; Blair was a lad I met in the carsand Mason a poor
fellow who was in a wella sort of hospital where I happened to
be. Blair ran off to his brothersand I suppose I might say Mason
was hitbecause he died there. Does that suit you?'
'Noit doesn't. Why did Blair run? and who hit the other fellow?
I'm sure there was a fight somewherewasn't there?'
'I guess I know what it was about.'
'The devilyou do! Let's hear you guess. Must be amusing' said
Danaffecting an ease he did not feel.
Charmed to be allowed to free his mindTed at once unfolded the
boyish solution of the mystery which he had been cherishingfor
he felt that there was one somewhere.
'You needn't say yesif I guess right and you are under oath to keep
silent. I shall know by your faceand never tell. Now see if I'm not
right. Out there they have wild doingsand it's my belief you were
some of 'em. I don't mean robbing mailsand KluKluxingand that
sort of thing; but defending the settlersor hanging some scampor
even shooting a fewas a fellow must sometimesin self-defence.
Ahha! I've hit itI see. Needn't speak; I know the flash of your old
eyeand the clench of your big fist.' And Ted pranced with
'Drive onsmart boyand don't lose the trail' said Danfinding a
curious sense of comfort in some of these random wordsand
longingbut not daringto confirm the true ones. He might have
confessed the crimebut not the punishment that followedthe
sense of its disgrace was still so strong upon him.
'I knew I should get it; can't deceive me long'
began Tedwith such an air of pride Dan could not help a short
'It's a reliefisn't itto have it off your mind? Nowjust confide in
me and it's all safeunless you've sworn not to tell.'
'Ohwellthen don't'; and Ted's face fellbut he was himself again
in a moment and saidwith the air of a man of the world: 'It's all
right I understand honour binds silence to deathetc. Glad you
by your mate in the hospital. How many did you kill?'
'Bad lotof Course?'
'A damned rascal.'
'Welldon't look so fierce; I've no objection. Wouldn't mind
popping at some of those bloodthirsty blackguards myself. Had to
dodge and keep quiet after itI suppose.'
'Pretty quiet for a long spell.'
'Got off all right in the endand headed for your mines and did that
jolly brave thing. NowI call that decidedly interesting and capital.
I'm glad to know it; but I won't blab.'
'Mind you don't. Look here. Tedif you'd killed a manwould it
trouble you a bad oneI mean?'
The lad opened his mouth to say'Not a bit' but checked that
answer as if something in Dan's face made him change his mind.
'Wellif it was my duty in war or self-defenceI suppose I
shouldn't; but if I'd pitched into him in a rageI guess I should be
very sorry. Shouldn't wonder if he sort of haunted meand remorse
gnawed me as it did Aram and those fellows. You don't minddo
you? It was a fair fightwasn't it?'
'YesI was in the right; but I wish I'd been out of it. Women don't
see it that wayand look horrified at such things. Makes it hard;
but it don't matter.'
'Don't tell 'em; then they can't worry' said Tedwith the nod of one
versed in the management of the sex.
'Don't intend to. Mind you keep your notions to yourselffor some
of 'em are wide of the mark. Now you may read if you like'; and
there the talk ended; but Ted took great comfort in itand looked
as wise as an owl afterwards.
A few quiet weeks followedduring which Dan chafed at the
delay; and when at length word came that his credentials were
readyhe was eager to be offto forget a vain love in hard work
and live for otherssince he might not for himself.
So one wild March morning our Smtram rode awaywith horse
and houndto face again the enemies who would have conquered
himbut for Heaven's help and human pity.
'Ahme! it does seem as if life was made of partingsand they get
harder as we go on' sighed Mrs Joa week lateras she sat in the
long parlour at Parnassus one eveningwhither the family had gone
to welcome the travellers back.
'And meetings toodear; for here we areand Nat is on his way at
last. Look for the silver liningas Marmee used to sayand be
comforted' answered Mrs Amyglad to be at home and find no
wolves prowling near her sheepfold.
'I've been so worried latelyI can't help croaking. I wonder what
Dan thought at not seeing you again? It was wise; but he would
have enjoyed another look at home faces before he went into the
Mrs Jo regretfully.
'Much better so. We left notes and all we could think of that he
might needand slipped away before he came. Bess really seemed
relieved; I'm sure I was'; and Mrs Amy smoothed an anxious line
out of her white foreheadas she smiled at her daughterlaughing
happily among her cousins.
Mrs Jo shook her head as if the silver lining of that cloud was hard
to find; but she had no time to croak
againfor just then Mr Laurie camn~ in lo~JRin~ well pleased at
'A new picture has arrived; face towards the music-roomgood
peopleand tell me how you like it. I call it "Only a fiddler"after
Andersen's story. What name will you give it?'
As he spoke he threw open the wide doorsand just beyond they
saw a young man standingwith a beaming faceand a violin in his
hand. There was no doubt about the name to this pictureand with
the cry 'Nat!
Nat!' there was a general uprising. But Daisy reached him firstand
seemed to have lost her usual composure somewhere on the way
for she clung to himsobbing with the shock of a surprise and joy
too great for her to bear quietly. Everything was settled by that
tearful and tender embraceforthough Mrs Meg speedily
detached her daughterit was only to take her place; while Demi
shook Nat's hand with brotherly warmthand Josie danced round
them like Macbeth's three witches in onechanting in her most
'Chirper thou wast; second violin thou art; first thou shalt be. Hail
This caused a laughand made things gay and comfortable at once.
Then the usual fire of questions and answers beganto be kept up
briskly while the boys admired Nat's blond beard and foreign
clothesthe girls his improved appearance for he was ruddy with
good English beef and beerand fresh with the sea-breezes which
had blown him swiftly home and the older folk rejoiced over his
prospects. Of course all wanted to hear him play; and when
tongues tiredhe gladly did his best for themsurprising the most
critical by his progress in music even more than by the energy and
self-possession which made a new man of bashful Nat. By and by
when the violin that most human of all instruments had sung to
them the loveliest songs without wordshe saidlooking about him
at these old friends with what Mr Bhaer called a 'feeling-full'
expression of happiness and content:
'Now let me play something that you will all remember though you
won't love it as I do'; and standing in the attitude which Ole Bull
has immortalizedhe played the street melody he gave them the
first night he came to Plumfield. They remembered itand joined
in the plaintive choruswhich fitly expressed his own emotions:
'Oh my heart is sad and weary
Everywhere I roam
Longing for the old plant ation
And for the old folks at home.'
'Now I feel better' said Mrs Joas they all trooped down the hill
soon after. 'Some of our boys are failuresbut I think this one is
going to be a successand patient Daisy a happy girl at last. Nat is
your workFritzand I congratulate you heartily.'
'Achwe can but sow the seed and trust that it falls on good
ground. I plantedperhapsbut you watched that the fowls of the
air did not devour itand brother Laurie watered generously; so we
will share the harvest among usand be glad even for a small one
'I thought the seed had fallen on very stony ground with my poor
Dan; but I shall not be surprised if he surpasses all the rest in the
real success of lifesince there is more rejoicing over one
repentant sinner than many saints' answered Mrs Jostill clinging
fast to her black sheep although a whole flock of white ones
trotted happily before her.
It is a strong temptation to the weary historian to close the present
tale with an earthquake which should engulf Plumfield and its
environs so deeply in the bowels of the earth that no youthful
Schliemann could ever find a vestige of it. But as that somewhat
melodramatic conclusion might shock my gentle readersI will
refrainand forestall the usual question'How did they end?' by
briefly stating that all the marriages turned out well. The boys
prospered in their various callings; so did the girlsfor Bess and
Josie won honours in their artistic careersand in the course of
time found worthy mates. Nan remained a busycheerful
independent spinsterand dedicated her life to her suffering sisters
and their childrenin which true woman's work she found abiding
happiness. Dan never marriedbut livedbravely and usefully
among his chosen people till he was shot defending themand at
last lay quietly asleep in the green wilderness he loved so well
with a lock of golden hair upon his breastand a smile on his face
which seemed to say that Aslauga's Knight had fought his last fight
and was at peace. Stuffy became an aldermanand died suddenly
of apoplexy after a public dinner. Dolly was a society man of mark
till he lost his moneywhen he found congenial employment in a
fashionable tailoring establishment. Demi became a partnerand
lived to see his name above the doorand Rob was a professor at
Laurence College; but Teddy eclipsed them all by becoming an
eloquent and famous clergymanto the great delight of his
astonished mother. And nowhaving endeavoured to suit everyone
by many weddingsfew deathsand as much prosperity as the
eternal fitness of things will permitlet the music stopthe lights
die outand the curtain fall for ever on the March family.