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LITTLE WOMEN

by Louisa May Alcott

CHAPTER ONE

Christmas won't be Christmas without any presentsgrumbled
Jolying on the rug.

It's so dreadful to be poor!sighed Meglooking down at
her old dress.

I don't think it's fair for some girls to have plenty of
pretty thingsand other girls nothing at alladded little Amy
with an injured sniff.

We've got Father and Motherand each othersaid Beth
contentedly from her corner.

The four young faces on which the firelight shone brightened
at the cheerful wordsbut darkened again as Jo said sadly
We haven't got Fatherand shall not have him for a long time.
She didn't say "perhaps never but each silently added itthinking
of Father far awaywhere the fighting was.

Nobody spoke for a minute; then Meg said in an altered tone
You know the reason Mother proposed not having any presents this
Christmas was because it is going to be a hard winter for everyone;
and she thinks we ought not to spend money for pleasurewhen
our men are suffering so in the army. We can't do muchbut we can
make our little sacrificesand ought to do it gladly. But I am
afraid I don't." And Meg shook her headas she thought regretfully
of all the pretty things she wanted.

But I don't think the little we should spend would do any
good. We've each got a dollarand the army wouldn't be much helped
by our giving that. I agree not to expect anything from Mother or
youbut I do want to buy UNDINE AND SINTRAM for myself. I've
wanted it so longsaid Jowho was a bookworm.

I planned to spend mine in new musicsaid Bethwith a
little sighwhich no one heard but the hearth brush and kettle
holder.

I shall get a nice box of Faber's drawing pencils. I
really need themsaid Amy decidedly.

Mother didn't say anything about our moneyand she won't
wish us to give up everything. Let's each buy what we wantand
have a little fun. I'm sure we work hard enough to earn itcried
Joexamining the heels of her shoes in a gentlemanly manner.

I know I do--teaching those tiresome children nearly all
daywhen I'm longing to enjoy myself at homebegan Megin the
complaining tone again.


You don't have half such a hard time as I dosaid Jo.
How would you like to be shut up for hours with a nervousfussy
old ladywho keeps you trottingis never satisfiedand worries
you till you you're ready to fly out the window or cry?


It's naughty to fretbut I do think washing dishes and
keeping things tidy is the worst work in the world. It makes me
crossand my hands get so stiffI can't practice well at all.
And Beth looked at her rough hands with a sigh that any one could
hear that time.


I don't believe any of you suffer as I docried Amyfor
you don't have to go to school with impertinent girlswho plague
you if you don't know your lessonsand laugh at your dressesand
label your father if he isn't richand insult you when your nose
isn't nice.


If you mean libelI'd say soand not talk about labelsas
if Papa was a pickle bottleadvised Jolaughing.


I know what I meanand you needn't be statirical about it.
It's proper to use good wordsand improve your vocabilary
returned Amywith dignity.


Don't peck at one anotherchildren. Don't you wish we
had the money Papa lost when we were littleJo? Dear me! How
happy and good we'd beif we had no worries!said Megwho
could remember better times.


You said the other day you thought we were a deal happier
than the King childrenfor they were fighting and fretting all
the timein spite of their money.


So I didBeth. WellI think we are. For though we do
have to workwe make fun of ourselvesand are a pretty jolly
setas Jo would say.


Jo does use such slang words!observed Amywith a
reproving look at the long figure stretched on the rug.


Jo immediately sat upput her hands in her pocketsand
began to whistle.


Don'tJo. It's so boyish!


That's why I do it.


I detest rudeunladylike girls!


I hate affectedniminy-piminy chits!


Birds in their little nests agreesang Beththe
peacemakerwith such a funny face that both sharp voices
softened to a laughand the "pecking" ended for that time.


Reallygirlsyou are both to be blamedsaid Meg
beginning to lecture in her elder-sisterly fashion."You are old
enough to leave off boyish tricksand to behave better
Josephine. It didn't matter so much when you were a little
girlbut now you are so talland turn up your hairyou should
remember that you are a young lady."


I'm not! And if turning up my hair makes me oneI'll
wear it in two tails till I'm twentycried Jopulling off



her netand shaking down a chestnut mane. "I hate to think
I've got to grow upand be Miss Marchand wear long gowns
and look as prim as a China Aster! It's bad enough to be a
girlanywaywhen I like boy's games and work and manners! I
can't get over my disappointment in not being a boy. And it's
worse than ever nowfor I'm dying to go and fight with Papa.
And I can only stay home and knitlike a poky old woman!"

And Jo shook the blue army sock till the needles rattled
like castanetsand her ball bounded across the room.

Poor Jo! It's too badbut it can't be helped. So you
must try to be contented with making your name boyishand
playing brother to us girlssaid Bethstroking the rough
head with a hand that all the dish washing and dusting in the
world could not make ungentle in its touch.

As for youAmycontinued Megyou are altogether
to particular and prim. Your airs are funny nowbut you'll
grow up an affected little gooseif you don't take care. I
I like your nice manners and refined ways of speakingwhen
you don't try to be elegant. But your absurd words are as bad
as Jo's slang.

If Jo is a tomboy and Amy a goosewhat am Iplease?
asked Bethready to share the lecture.

You're a dearand nothing elseanswered Meg warmly
and no one contradicted herfor the `Mouse' was the pet of the
family.

As young readers like to know `how people look'we will
take this moment to give them a little sketch of the four
sisterswho sat knitting away in the twilightwhile the
December snow fell quietly withoutand the fire crackled
cheerfully within. It was a comfortable roomthough the carpet
was faded and the furniture very plainfor a good picture or
two hung on the wallsbooks filled the recesseschrysanthemums
and Christmas roses bloomed in the windowsand a pleasant
atmosphere of home peace pervaded it.

Margaretthe eldest of the fourwas sixteenand very pretty
being plump and fairwith large eyesplenty of soft brown haira
sweet mouthand white handsof which she was rather vain. Fifteenyear-
old Jo was very tallthinand brownand reminded one of a
coltfor she never seemed to know what to do with her long limbs
which were very much in her way. She had a decided moutha comical
noseand sharpgray eyeswhich appeared to see everythingand
were by turns fiercefunnyor thoughtful. Her longthick hair
was her one beautybut it was usually bundled into a netto be
out of her way. Round shoulders had Jobig hands and feet
a flyaway look to her clothesand the uncomfortable appearance of
a girl who was rapidly shooting up into a woman and didn't like it.
Elizabethor Bethas everyone called herwas a rosysmoothhaired
bright-eyed girl of thirteenwith a shy mannera timid
voiceand a ;peaceful expression which was seldom disturbed. Her
father called her `Little Miss Tranquility'and the name suited
her excellentlyfor she seemed to live in a happy world of her
ownonly venturing out to meet the few whom she trusted and loved.
Amythough the youngestwas a most important personin her own
opinion at least. A regular snow maidenwith blue eyesand
yellow hair curling on her shoulderspale and slenderand always
carrying herself like a young lady mindful of her manners. What
the characters of the four sisters were we will leave to be found out.


The clock struck six andhaving swept up the hearthBeth
put a pair of slippers down to warm. Somehow the sight of the old
shoes had a good effect upon the girlsfor Mother was comingand
everyone brightened to welcome her. Meg stopped lecturingand
lighted the lampAmy got out of the easy chair without being asked
and Jo forgot how tired she was as she sat up to hold the slippers
nearer to the blaze.


They are quite worn out. Marmee must have a new pair.


I thought I'd get her some with my dollarsaid Beth.


NoI shall!cried Amy.


I'm the oldestbegan Megbut Jo cut in with a decided
I'm the man of the family now Papa is awayand I shall provide
the slippersfor he told me to take special care of Mother while
he was gone.


I'll tell you what we'll dosaid Bethlet's each get her
something for Christmasland not get anything for ourselves.


That's like youdear! What will we get?exclaimed Jo.


Everyone thought soberly for a minutethen Meg announcedas
if the idea was suggested by the sight of her own pretty hands
I shall give her a nice pair of gloves.


Army shoesbest to be hadcried Jo.


Some handkerchiefsall hemmedsaid Beth.


I'll get a little bottle of cologne. She likes itand it won't
cost muchso I'll have some left to buy my pencilsadded Amy.


How will we give the things?asked Meg.


Put them on the tableand bring her in and see her open
the bundles. Don't you remember how we used to do on our
birthdays?answered Jo.


I used to be so frightened when it was my turn to sit in the
chair with the crown onand see you all come marching round to
give the presentswith a kiss. I liked the things and the kisses
but it was dreadful to have you sit looking at me while I opened
the bundlessaid Bethwho was toasting her face and the bread
for tea at the same time.


Let Marmee think we are getting things for ourselvesand
then surprise her. We must go shopping tomorrow afternoonMeg.
There is so much to do about the play for Christmas nightsaid
Jomarching up and downwith her hands behind her backand her
nose in the air.


I don't mean to act any more after this time. I'm getting
too old for such thingsobserved Megwho was as much a child
as ever about `dressing-up' frolics.


You won't stopI knowas long as you can trail round in a
white gown with your hair downand wear gold-paper jewelry.
You are the best actress we've gotand there'll be an end
of everything if you quit the boardssaid Jo. "We ought
to rehearse tonight. Come hereAmyand do the fainting scene



for you are as stiff as a poker in that."


I can't help it. I never saw anyone faintand I don't choose
to make myself all black and bluetumbling flat as you do. If I
can go down easilyI'll drop. If I can'tI shall fall into a
chair and be graceful. I don't care if Hugo does come at me with
a pistolreturned Amywho was not gifted with dramatic power
but was chosen because she was small enough to be borne out shrieking
by the villain of the piece.


Do it this way. Clasp your hands soand stagger across the
roomcrying frantically`Roderigo Save me! Save me!' and away
went Jowith a melodramatic scream which was truly thrilling.


Amy followedbut she poked her hands out stiffly before her
and jerked herself along as if she went by machineryand her Ow!"
was more suggestive of pins being run into her than of fear and
anguish. Jo gave a despairing groanand Meg laughed outright
while Beth let her bread burn as she watched the fun with interest.
It's no use! Do the best you can when the time comesand if
the audience laughsdon't blame me. Come onMeg.


Then things went smoothlyfor Don Pedro defied the world in
a speech of two pages without a single break. Hagarthe witch
chanted an awful incantation over her kettleful of simmering toads
with weird effect. Roderigo rent his chains asunder manfullyand
Hugo died in agonies of remorse and arsenicwith a wildHa! Ha!"


It's the best we've had yetsaid Megas the dead villain
sat up and rubbed his elbows.


I don't see how you can write and act such splendid things
Jo. You're a regular Shakespeare!exclaimed Bethwho firmly
believed that her sisters were gifted with wonderful genius in all
things.


Not quitereplied Jo modestly. "I do think THE WITCHES CURSE
an Operatic Tragedy is rather a nice thingbut I'd like to try
McBETHif we only had a trapdoor for Banquo. I always wanted to
do the killing part. `Is that a dagger that I see before me?"
muttered Jorolling her eyes and clutching at the airas she had
seen a famous tragedian do.


Noit's the toasting forkwith Mother's shoe on it instead
of the bread. Beth's stage-struck!cried Megand the rehearsal
ended in a general burst of laughter.


Glad to find you so merrymy girlssaid a cheery voice at
the doorand actors and audience turned to welcome a tallmotherly
lady with a `can I help you' look about her which was truly delightful.
She was not elegantly dressedbut a noble-looking womanand the
girls thought the gray cloak and unfashionable bonnet covered the most
splendid mother in the world.


Welldearieshow have you got on today? There was so much to
dogetting the boxes ready to go tomorrowthat I didn't come home
to dinner. Has anyone calledBeth? How is your coldMeg? Jo
you look tired to death. Come and kiss mebaby.


While making these maternal inquiries Mrs. March got her wet
things offher warm slippers onand sitting down in the easy
chairdrew Amy to her lappreparing to enjoy the happiest hour
of her busy day. The girls flew abouttrying to make things
comfortableeach in her own way. Meg arranged the tea tableJo



brought wood and set chairsdroppingover-turningand clattering
everything she touched. Beth trotted to and fro between parlor
kitchenquiet and busywhile Amy gave directions to everyoneas
she sat with her hands folded.


As they gathered about the tableMrs. March saidwith a
particularly happy faceI've got a treat for you after supper.


A quickbright smile went round like a streak of sunshine.
Beth clapped her handsregardless of the biscuit she held
and Jo tossed up her napkincryingA letter! A letter! Three
cheers for Father!


Yesa nice long letter. He is welland thinks he shall
get through the cold season better than we feared. He sends all
sorts of loving wishes for Christmasand an especial message
to you girlssaid Mrs. Marchpatting her pocket as if she
had got a treasure there.


Hurry and get done! Don't stop to quirk your little finger
and simper over your plateAmycried Jochoking on her tea
and dropping her breadbutter side downon the carpet in her
haste to get at the treat.


Beth ate no morebut crept away to sit in her shadowy corner
and brood over the delight to cometill the others were ready.


I think it was so splendid in Father to go as chaplain
when he was too old to be draftedand not strong enough for
a soldiersaid Meg warmly.


Don't I wish I could go as a drummera vivan--what's its
name? Or a nurseso I could be near him and help himexclaimed
Jowith a groan.


It must be very disagreeable to sleep in a tentand eat
all sorts of bad-tasting thingsand drink out of a tin mug
sighed Amy.


When will he come homeMarmee? asked Bethwith a little
quiver in her voice.


Not for many monthsdearunless he is sick. He will stay
and do his work faithfully as long as he canand we won't ask
for him back a minute sooner than he can be spared. Now come and
hear the letter."


They all drew to the fireMother in the big chair with Beth
at her feetMeg and Amy perched on either arm of the chairand
Jo leaning on the backwhere no one would see any sign of emotion
if the letter should happen to be touching. Very few letters were
written in those hard times that were not touchingespecially
those which fathers sent home. In this one little was said of the
hardships enduredthe dangers facedor the homesickness conquered.
It was a cheerfulhopeful letterfull of lively descriptions
of camp lifemarchesand military newsand only at the end
did the writer's heart over-flow with fatherly love and longing
for the little girls at home.


Give them all of my dear love and a kiss. Tell them I think
of them by daypray for them by nightand find my best comfort
in their affection at all times. A year seems very long to wait
before I see thembut remind them that while we wait we may all
workso that these hard days need not be wasted. I know they will



remember all I said to themthat they will be loving children to
youwill do their duty faithfullyfight their bosom enemies bravely
and conquer themselves so beautifully that when I come back to them
I may be fonder and prouder than ever of my little women.
Everybody sniffed when they came to that part. Jo wasn't
ashamed of the great tear that dropped off the end of her noseand
Amy never minded the rumpling of her curls as she hid her face on
her mother's shoulder and sobbed outI am a selfish girl! But
I'll truly try to be betterso he mayn't be disappointed in me
by-and-by.

We all will cried Meg. I think too much of my looks and
hate to workbut won't any moreif I can help it."

I'll try and be what he loves to call me`a little woman'
and not be rough and wildbut do my duty here instead of wanting
to be somewhere elsesaid Jothinking that keeping her temper
at home was a much harder task than facing a rebel or two down South.

Beth said nothingbut wiped away her tears with the blue army
sock and began to knit with all her mightlosing no time in doing
the duty that lay nearest herwhile she resolved in her quiet
little soul to be all that Father hoped to find her when the year
brought round the happy coming home.

Mrs. March broke the silence that followed Jo's wordsby
saying in her cheery voiceDo you remember how you used to play
Pilgrims Progress when you were little things? Nothing delighted
you more than to have me tie my piece bags on your backs for burdens
give you hats and sticks and rolls of paperand let you travel
through the house from the cellarwhich was the City of Destruction
upupto the housetopwhere you had all the lovely things you
could collect to make a Celestial City.

What fun it wasespecially going by the lionsfighting
Apollyonand passing through the valley where the hob-goblins
weresaid Jo.

I liked the place where the bundles fell off and tumbled
downstairssaid Meg.

I don't remember much about itexcept that I was afraid of
the cellar and the dark entryand always liked the cake and milk
we had up at the top. If I wasn't too old for such thingsI'd
rather like to play it over againsaid Amywho began to talk
of renouncing childish things at the mature age of twelve.

We never are too old for thismy dearbecause it is a play
we are playing all the time in one way or another. Out burdens are
hereour road is before usand the longing for goodness and
happiness is the guide that leads us through many troubles and
mistakes to the peace which is a true Celestial City. Nowmy little
pilgrimssuppose you begin againnot in playbut in earnest
and see how far on you can get before Father comes home.

ReallyMother? Where are our bundles?asked Amywho was
a very literal young lady.

Each of you told what your burden was just nowexcept Beth.
I rather think she hasn't got anysaid her mother.

YesI have. Mine is dishes and dustersand envying girls
with nice pianosand being afraid of people.


Beth's bundle was such a funny one that everybody wanted to
laughbut nobody didfor it would have hurt her feelings very
much.

Let us do itsaid Meg thoughtfully. "It is only another
name for trying to be goodand the story may help usfor though
we do want to be goodit's hard work and we forgetand don't do
our best."

We were in the Slough of Despond tonightand Mother came
and pulled us out as Help did in the book. We ought to have our
roll of directionslike Christian. What shall we do about that?
asked Jodelighted with the fancy which lent a little romance to
the very dull task of doing her duty.

Look under your pillows christmas morningand you will
find your guidebookreplied Mrs. March.

They talked over the new plan while old Hannah cleared the
tablethen out came the four little work basketsand the needles
flew as the girls made sheets for Aunt March. It was uninteresting
sewingbut tonight no one grumbled. They adopted Jo's plan of
dividing the long seams into four partsand calling the quarters
EuropeAsiaAfricaand Americaand in that way got on capitally
especially when they talked about the different countries as they
stitched their way through them.

At nine they stopped workand sangas usualbefore they
went to bed. No one but Beth could get much music out of the old
pianobut she had a way of softly touching the yellow keys and
making a pleasant accompaniment to the simple songs they sang. Meg
had a voice like a fluteand she and herr mother led the little
choir. Amy chirped like a cricketand Jo wandered through the airs
at her own sweet willalways coming out at the wrong place with a
croak or a quaver that spoiled the most pensive tune. They had
always done this from the time they could lisp...

Crinklecrinkle'ittle 'tar

and it had become a household customfor the mother was a born
singer. The first sound in the morning was her voice as she went
about the house singing like a larkand the last sound at night
was the same cheery soundfor the girls never grew too old for
that familiar lullaby.

CHAPTER TWO

Jo was the first to wake in the gray dawn of Christmas morning.
No stockings hung at the fireplaceand for a moment she
felt as much disappointed as she did long agowhen her little
sock fell down because it was crammed so full of goodies. Then
she remembered her mother's promise andslipping her hand under
her pillowdrew out a little crimson-covered book. She knew
it very wellfor it was that beautiful old story of the best
life ever livedand Jo felt that it was a true guidebook for
any pilgrim going on a long journey. She woke Meg with a "Merry
Christmas and bade her see what was under her pillow. A greencovered
book appearedwith the same picture insideand a few
words written by their motherwhich made their one present very
precious in their eyes. Presently Beth and Amy woke to rummage
and find their little books alsoone dove-coloredthe other
blueand all sat looking at and talking about themwhile the


east grew rosy with the coming day.

In spite of her small vanitiesMargaret had a sweet and
pious naturewhich unconsciously influenced her sisters
especially Jowho loved her very tenderlyand obeyed her
because her advice was so gently given.

Girls said Meg seriouslylooking from the tumbled head
beside her to the two little night-capped ones in the room beyond
Mother wants us to read and love and mind these booksand we
must begin at once. We used to be faithful about itbut since
Father went away and all this war trouble unsettled uswe have
neglected many things. You can do as you pleasebut I shall keep
my book on the table here and read a little every morning as soon
as I wakefor I know it will do me good and help me through the day."

Then she opened her new book and began to read. Jo put her
arm round her andleaning cheek to cheekread alsowith the
quiet expression so seldom seen on her restless face.

How good Meg is! ComeAmylet's do as they do. I'll
help you with the hard wordsand they'' explain things if we
don't understandwhispered Bethvery much impressed by the
pretty books and her sistersexample.

I'm glad mine is bluesaid Amy. and then the rooms were
very still while the pages were softly turnedand the winter
sunshine crept in to touch the bright heads and serious faces
with a Christmas greeting.

Where is Mother?asked Megas she and Jo ran down to
thank her for their giftshalf an hour later.

Goodness only knows. some poor creeter came a-beggin'and
your ma went straight off to see what was needed. There never was
such a woman for givin' away vittles and drinkclothes and firin'
replied Hannahwho had lived with the family since Meg was born
and was considered by them all more as a friend than a servant.

She will be back soonI thinkso fry your cakesand have
everything readysaid Meglooking over the presents which were
collected in a basket and kept under the sofaready to be produced
at the proper time. "whywhere is Amy's bottle of cologne?"
she addedas the little flask did not appear.

She took it out a minute agoand went off with it to put a
ribbon on itor some such notionreplied Jodancing about the
room to take the first stiffness off the new army slippers.

How nice my handkerchiefs lookdon't they? Hannah washed
and ironed them for meand I marked them all myselfsaid Beth
looking proudly at the somewhat uneven letters which had cost her
such labor.

Bless the child! She's gone and put `Mother' on them instead
of `M. March'. How funny!cried Jotaking one up.

Isn't that right? I thought it was better to do it so
because Meg's initials are M.M.and I don't want anyone to use
these but Marmeesaid Beth;looking troubled.

It's all rightdearand a very pretty ideaquite sensible
toofor no one can ever mistake now. It will please her very much
I knowsaid Megwith a frown for Jo and a smile for Beth.


There's Mother. Hide the basketquick!cried Joas a door
slammed and steps sounded in the hall.

Amy came in hastilyand looked rather abashed when she saw
her sisters all waiting for her.

Where have you beenand what are you hiding behind you?
asked Megsurprised to seeby her hood and cloakthat lazy Amy
had been out so early.

Don't laugh at meJo! I didn't mean anyone should know till
the time came. I only meant to change the little bottle for a big
oneand I gave all my money to get itand I'm truly trying not
to be selfish any more.

As she spokeAmy showed the handsome flask which replaced
the cheap oneand looked so earnest and humble in her little
effort to forget herself that Meg hugged her on the spotand Jo
pronounced her `a trump'while Beth ran to the windowand picked
her finest rose to ornament the stately bottle.

You see I felt ashamed of my presentafter reading and talking
about being good this morningso I ran round the corner and changed
it the minute I was upand I'm so gladfor mine is the handsomest
now.

Another bang of the street door sent the basket under the sofa
and the girls to the tableeager for breakfast.

Merry ChristmasMarmee! Many of them! Thank you for our
books. We read someand mean to every daythey all cried in
chorus.
Merry Christmaslittle daughters! I'm glad you began at
onceand hope you will keep on. But I want to say one word
before we sit down. Not far away from here lies a poor woman
with a little newborn baby. Six children are huddled into one bed
to keep from freezingfor they have no fire. There is nothing to
eat over thereand the oldest boy came to tell me they were
suffering hunger and cold. My girlswill you give them your
breakfast as a Christmas present?

They were all unusually hungryhaving waited nearly an hour
and for a minute no one spokeonly a minutefor Jo exclaimed
impetuouslyI'm so glad you came before we began!

May I go and help carry the things to the poor little children?
asked Beth eagerly.

I shall take the cream and the muffingsadded Amyheroically
giving up the article she most liked.

Meg was already covering the buckwheatsand piling the bread
into one big plate.

I thought you'd do itsaid Mrs. Marchsmiling as if satisfied.
You shall all go and help meand when we come back we will have bread
and milk for breakfastand make it up at dinnertime.

They were soon readyand the procession set out. Fortunately
it was earlyand they went through back streetsso few people saw
themand no one laughed at the queer party.

A poorbaremiserable room it waswith broken windowsno


fireragged bedclothesa sick motherwailing babyand a group
of palehungry children cuddled under one old quilttrying to
keep warm.

How the big eyes stared and the blue lips smiled as the girls
went in.

Achmein Gott! It is good angels come to us!said the poor
womancrying for joy.

Funny angels in hoods and mittenssaid Joand set them to
laughing.

In a few minutes it really did seem as if kind spirits had been
at work there. Hannahwho had carried woodmade a fireand
stopped up the broken panes with old hats and her own cloak. Mrs.
March gave the mother tea and grueland comforted her with promises
of helpwhile she dressed the little baby as tenderly as if it had
been her own. The girls meantime spread the tableset the children
round the fireand fed them like so many hungry birdslaughing
talkingand trying to understand the funny broken English.

Das ist gut!Die Engel-kinder!cried the poor things as
they ate and warmed their purple hands at the comfortable blaze.
The girls had never been called angel children beforeand
thought it very agreeableespecially Jowho had been considered
a `Sancho' ever since she was born. That was a very happy breakfast
though they didn't get any of it. And when they went away
leaving comfort behindI think there were not in all the city
four merrier people than the hungry little girls who gave away
their breakfasts and contented themselves with bread and milk
on Christmas morning.

That's loving our neighbor better than ourselvesand I
like itsaid Megas they set out their presents while their
mother was upstairs collecting clothes for the poor Hummels.

Not a very splendid showbut there was a great deal of
love done up in the few little bundlesand the tall vase of
red roseswhite chrysanthemumsand trailing vineswhich
stood in the middlegave quite an elegant air to the table.

She's coming! Strike upBeth! Open the doorAmy! Three
cheers for Marmee!cried Joprancing about while Meg went to
conduct Mother to the seat of honor.

Beth played her gayest marchamy threw open the doorand
Meg enacted escort with great dignity. Mrs. March was both
surprised and touchedand smiled with her eyes full as she
examined her presents and read the little notes which accompanied
them. The slippers went on at oncea new handkerchief was slipped
into her pocketwell scented with Amy's colognethe rose was
fastened in her bosomand the nice gloves were pronounced a perfect
fit.

There was a good deal of laughing and kissing and explaining
in the simpleloving fashion which makes these home festivals so
pleasant at the timeso sweet to remember long afterwardand
then all fell to work.

The morning charities and ceremonies took so much time that
the rest of the day was devoted to preparations for the evening
festivities. Being still too young to go often to the theater
and not rich enough to afford any great outlay for private


performancesthe girls put their wits to workand necessity being
the mother of inventionmade whatever they needed. Very clever
were some of their productionspasteboard guitarsantique lamps
made of old-fashioned butter boats covered with silver paper
gorgeous robes of old cottonglittering with tin spangles from
a pickle factoryand armor covered with the same useful diamond
shaped bits left inn sheets when the lids of preserve pots were
cut out. The big chamber was the scene of many innocent revels.


No gentleman were admittedso Jo played male parts to her
heart's content and took immense satisfaction in a pair of russet
leather boots given her by a friendwho knew a lady who knew an
actor. These bootsan old foiland a slashed doublet once used
by an artist for some picturewere Jo's chief treasures and
appeared on all occasions. The smallness of the company made it
necessary for the two principal actors to take several parts
apieceand they certainly deserved some credit for the hard work
they did in learning three or four different partswhisking in
and out of various costumesand managing the stage besides. It
was excellent drill for their memoriesa harmless amusementand
employed many hours which otherwise would have been idlelonely
or spent in less profitable society.


On christmas nighta dozen girls piled onto the bed which
was the dress circleand sat before the blue and yellow chintz
curtains in a most flattering state of expectancy. There was a
good deal of rustling and whispering behind the curtaina trifle
of lamp smokeand an occasional giggle from Amywho was apt to
get hysterical in the excitement of the moment. Presently a bell
soundedthe curtains flew apartand the OPERATIC TRAGEDY began.


A gloomy woodaccording to the one playbillwas represented
by a few shrubs in potsgreen baize on the floorand a
cave in the distance. This cave was made with a clothes horse
for a roofbureaus for wallsand in it was a small furnace in
full blastwith a black pot on it and an old witch bending over
it. The stage was dark and the glow of the furnace had a fine
effectespecially as real steam issued from the kettle when the
witch took off the cover. A moment was allowed for the first
thrill to subsidethen Hugothe villainstalked in with a
clanking sword at his sidea slouching hatblack beard
mysterious cloakand the boots. After pacing to and fro in much
agitationhe struck his foreheadand burst out in a wild
strainsinging of his hatred to Roderigohis love for Zara
and his pleasing resolution to kill the one and win the other.
The gruff tones of Hugo's voicewith an occasional shout when
his feelings overcame himwere very impressiveand the audience
applauded the moment he paused for breath. bowing with the air
of one accustomed to public praisehe stole to the cavern and
ordered Hagar to come forth with a commandingWhat hominion!
I need thee!


Out came Megwith gray horsehair hanging about her face
a red and black robea staffand cabalistic signs upon her
cloak. Hugo demanded a potion to make Zara adore himand one
destroy Roderigo. Hagarin a fine dramatic melodypromised
bothand proceeded to call up the spirit who would bring the
love philter.


Hitherhitherfrom thy home
Airy spriteI bid thee come!
Born of rosesfed on dew
Charms and potions canst thou brew?
Bring me herewith elfin speed



The fragrant philter which I need.
Make it sweet and swift and strong
Spiritanswer now my song!


A soft strain of music soundedand then at the back of the
cave appeared a little figure in cloudy whitewith glittering
wingsgolden hairand a garland of roses on its head. Waving
a wandit sang...


Hither I come
From my airy home
Afar in the silver moon.
Take the magic spell
And use it well
Or its power will vanish soon!


And dropping a smallgilded bottle at the witch's feetthe
spirit vanished. Another chant from Hagar produced another apparition
not a lovely onefor with a bang an ugly black imp appeared and
having croaked a replytossed a dark bottle at Hugo and disappeared
with a mocking laugh. Having warbled his thanks and put the potions
in his bootsHugo departedand Hagar informed the audience that
as he had killed a few of her friends in times pastshe had cursed
himand intends to thwart his plansand be revenged on him. Then
the curtain felland the audience reposed and ate candy while
discussing the merits of the play.


A good deal of hammering went on before the curtain rose again
but when it became evident what a masterpiece of stage carpentery
had been got upno one murmured at the delay. It was truly superb.
A tower rose to the ceilinghalfway up appeared a window with a
lamp burning in itand behind the white curtain appeared Zara in
a lovely blue and silver dresswaiting for Roderigo. He came in
gorgeous arraywith plumed capred cloakchestnut lovelocksa
guitarand the bootsof course. Kneeling at the foot of the tower
he sang a serenade in melting tones. Zara replied andafter a
musical dialogueconsented to fly. Then came the grand effect of
the play. Roderigo produced a rope ladderwith five steps to it
threw up one endand invited Zara to descend. Timidly she crept
from her latticeput her hand on Roderigo's shoulderand was
about to leap gracfully down when "Alas! Alas for Zara!" she
forgot her train. It caught in the windowthe tower tottered
leaned forwardfell with a crashand buried the unhappy lovers
in the ruins.


A universal shriek arose as the russet boots waved wildly
from the wreck and a golden head emergedexclaimingI told you
so! I told you so!With wonderful presence of mindDon Pedro
the cruel sirerushed indragged out his daughterwith a hasty
aside...


Don't laugh! Act as if it was all right!andordering
Roderigo upbanished him form the kingdom with wrath and scorn.
Though decidedly shaken by the fall from the tower upon him
Roderigo defied the old gentleman and refused to stir. This
dauntless example fired Zara. She also defied her sireand he
ordered them both to the deepest dungeons of the castle. A stout
little retainer came in with chains and led them awaylooking very
much frightened and evidently forgetting the speech he ought to
have made.


Act third was the castle halland here Hagar appearedhaving
come to free the lovers and finish Hugo. She hears him coming and
hidessees him put the potions into two cups of wine and bid the



the timid little servantBear them to the captives in their cells
and tell them I shall come anon.The servant takes Hugo aside to
tell him somethingand Hagar changes the cups for two others which
are harmless. Ferdinandothe `minion'carries them awayand
Hagar puts back the cup which holds the poison meant for Roderigo.
Hugogetting thirsty after a long warbledrinks itloses his wits
and after a good deal of clutching and stampingfalls flat and dies
while Hagar informs him what she has done in a song of exquisite
power and melody.


This was a truly thrilling scenethough some persons might
have thought that the sudden tumbling down of a quantity of long red
hair rather marred the effect of the villain's death. He was called
before the curtainand with great propriety appearedleading Hagar
whose singing was considered more wonderful than all the rest of the
performance put together.


Act fourth displayed the despairing Roderigo on the point of
stabbing himself because he has been told that Zara has deserted him.
Just as the dagger is at his hearta lovely song is sung under his
windowinforming him that Zara is true but in dangerand he can
save her if he will. A key is thrown inwhich unlocks the door
and in a spasm of rapture he tears off his chains and rushes away
to find and rescue his lady love.


Act fifth opened with a stormy scene between Zara and Don Pedro.
He wishes her to go into a conventbut she won't hear of itand
after a touching appealis about to faint when Roderigo dashes in
and demands her hand. Don Pedro refusesbecause he is not rich.
They shout and gesticulate tremendously but cannot agreeand
Rodrigo is about to bear away the exhausted Zarawhen the timid
servant enters with a letter and a bag from Hagarwho has mysteriously
disappeared. The latter informs the party that she bequeths
untold wealth to the young pair and an awful doom to Don Pedroif
he doesn't make them happy. The bag is openedand several quarts of
tin money shower down upon the stage till it is quite glorified with
the glitter. This entirely softens the stern sire. He consents
without a murmurall join in a joyful chorusand the curtain falls
upon the lovers kneeling to receive Don Pedro's blessing in attitudes
of the most romantic grace.


Tumultuous applause followed but received an unexpected check
for the cot bedon which the dress circle was builtsuddenly shut
up and extinguished the enthusiastic audience. Roderigo and Don
Pedro flew to the rescueand all were taken out unhurtthough many
were speechless with laughter. the excitement had hardly subsided
when Hannah appearedwith "Mrs. March's complimentsand would the
ladies walk down to supper."


This was a surprise even to the actorsand when they saw the
tablethey looked at one another in rapturous amazement. It was
like Marmee to get up a little treat for thembut anything so fine
as this was unheard of since the departed days of plenty. There was
ice creamactually two dishes of itpink and whiteand cake and
fruit and distracting french bonbons andin the middle of the
tablefour great bouquets of hot house flowers.


It quite took their breath awayand they stared first at the
table and then at their motherwho looked as if she enjoyed it
immensely.
Is it fairies?asked Amy.


Santa Claussaid Beth.



Mother did it.And Meg smiled her sweetestin spite of her
gray beard and white eyebrows.

Aunt March had a good fit and sent the suppercried Jowith
a sudden inspiration.

All wrong. Old Mr. Laurence sent itreplied Mrs. March.

The Laurence boy's grandfather! What in the world put such a
thing into his head? We don't know him!' exclaimed Meg.

Hannah told one of his servants about your breakfast party.
He is an odd old gentlemanbut that pleased him. He knew my father
years agoand he sent me a polite note this afternoonsaying he
hoped I would allow him to express his friendly feeling toward my
children by sending them a few trifles in honor of the day. I
could not refuseand so you have a little feast at night to make
up for the bread-and-milk breakfast."

That boy; put it into his headI know he did! He's a capital
fellowand I wish we could get acquainted. He looks as if he'd
like to know us but he's bashfuland Meg is so prim she won't let
me speak to him when we passsaid Joas the plates went round
and the ice began to melt out of sightwith ohs and ahs of satisfaction.

You mean the people who live in the big house next doordon't
you?asked one of the girls. "My mother knows old Mr. Laurence
but says he's very proud and doesn't like to mix with his neighbors.
He keeps his grandson shut upwhen he isn't riding or walking with
his tutorand makes him study very hard. We invited him to our
partybut he didn't come. Mother says he's very nicethough he
never speaks to us girls."

Our cat ran away onceand he brought her backand we
talked over the fenceand were getting on capitallyall about
cricketand so onwhen he saw Meg comingand walked off. I
mean to know him some dayfor he needs funI'm sure he does
said Jo decidedly.

I like his mannersand he looks like a little gentlemanso
I've no objection to your knowing himif a proper opportunity comes.
He brought the flowers himselfand I should have asked him inif
I had been sure what was going on upstairs. He looked so wistful
as he went awayhearing the frolic and evidently having none of
his own.

It's a mercy you didn'tMother!laughed Jolooking at
her boots. "But we'll have another play sometime that he can
see. Perhaps he'll help act. Wouldn't that be jolly?"

I never had such a fine bouquet before! How pretty it is!
And Meg examined her flowers with great interest.

They are lovely. But Beth's roses are sweeter to mesaid
Mrs. Marchsmelling the half-dead posy in her belt.

Beth nestled up to herand whispered softlyI wish I
could send my bunch to Father. I'm afraid he isn't having such
a merry Christmas as we are.

CHAPTER THREE


Jo! Jo! Where are you?cried Meg at the foot of the garret stairs.


Here!answered a husky voice from aboveandrunning up
Meg found her sister eating apples and crying over the Heir of
Redclyffewrapped up in a comforter on an old three-legged sofa
by the sunny window. This was Jo's favorite refugeand here she
loved to retire with half a dozen russets and a nice bookto enjoy
the quiet and the society of a pet rat who lived near by and didn't
mind her a particle. As Meg appearedScrabble whisked into his
hole. Jo shook the tears off her cheeks and waited to hear the news.


Such fun! Only see! A regular note of invitation from Mrs.
Gardiner for tomorrow night!cried Megwaving the precious paper
and then proceeding to read it with girlish delight.


`Mrs. Gardiner would be happy to see Miss March and Miss Josephine
at a little dance on New Year's Eve.' Marmee is willing we should go
now what shall we wear?


What's the use of asking thatwhen you know we shall wear
our poplinsbecause we haven't got anything else?answered Jo
with her mouth full.


If I only had a silk!sighed Meg. "Mother says I may when
I'm eighteen perhapsbut two years is an everlasting time to wait."


I'm sure our pops look like silkand they are nice enough for
us. Yours is as good as newbut I forgot the burn and the tear in
mine. Whatever shall I do? The burn shows badlyand I can't take
any out.


You must sit still all you can and keep your back out of sight.
The front is all right. I shall have a new ribbon for my hairand
Marmee will lend me her little pearl pinand my new slippers are
lovelyand my gloves will dothough they aren't as nice as I'd like.


Mine are spoiled with lemonadeand I can't get any new ones
so I shall have to go withoutsaid Jowho never troubled herself
much about dress.


You must have glovesor I won't gocried Meg decidedly.
Gloves are more important than anything else. You can't dance
without themand if you don't I should be so mortified.
Then I'll stay still. I don't care much for company dancing.
It's no fun to go sailing round. I like to fly about and cut capers.


You can't ask Mother for new onesthey are so expensiveand
you are so careless. She said when you spoiled the others that she
shouldn't get you any more this winter. Can't you make them do?


I can hold them crumpled up in my handso no one will know
how stained they are. That's all I can do. No! I'll tell you how
we can manageeach wear one good one and carry a bad one. Don't
you see?


Your hands are bigger than mineand you will stretch my glove
dreadfullybegan Megwhose gloves were a tender point with her.


Then I'll go without. I don't care what people say!cried Jo
taking up her book.


You may have ityou may! Only don't stain itand do behave
nicely. Don't put your hands behind youor stareor say `Christopher
Columbus!' will you?



Don't worry about me. I'll be as prim ad I can and not get
into any scrapesif I can help it. Now go and answer your note
and let me finish this splendid story.

So Meg went away to `accept with thanks'look over her dress
and sing blithely as she did up her one real lace frillwhile Jo
finished her storyher four applesand had a game of romps with
Scrabble.

On New Year's Eve the parlor was desertedfor the two younger
girls played dressing maids and the two elder were absorbed in the
all-important business of `getting ready for the party'. Simple
as the toilets werethere was a great deal of running up and down
laughing and talkingand at one time a strong smell of burned hair
pervaded the house. Meg wanted a few curls about her faceand Jo
undertook to pinch the papered locks with a pair of hot tongs.

Ought they to smoke like that?asked Beth from her perch
on the bed.

It's the dampness dryingreplied Jo.

What a queer smell! It's like burned feathersobserved Amy
smoothing her own pretty curls with a superior air.

Therenow I'll take off the papers and you'll see a cloud
of little ringletssaid Joputting down the tongs.

She did take off the papersbut no cloud of ringlets appeared
for the hair came with the papersand the horrified hairdresser
laid a row of little scorched bundles on the bureau before her victim.

Ohohoh! What have you done? I'm spoiled! I can't go! My
hairohmy hair!wailed Meglooking with despair at the uneven
frizzle on her forehead.

Just my luck! You shouldn't have asked me to do it. I always
spoil everything. I'm so sorrybut the tongs were too hotand so
I've made a messgroaned poor Joregarding the little black
pancakes with tears of regret.

It isn't spoiled. Just frizzle itand tie your ribbon so
the ends come on your forehead a bitand it will look like the
last fashion. I've seen many girls do it sosaid Amy consolingly.

Serves me right for trying to be fine. I wish I'd let my hair
alonecried Meg petulantly.

So do Iit was so smooth and pretty. But it will soon grow
out againsaid Bethcoming to kiss and comfort the shorn sheep.

After various lesser mishapsMeg was finished at lastand
by the united exertions of the entire family Jo's hair was got up
and her dress on. They looked very well in their simple suits
Meg's in silvery drabwith a blue velvet snoodlace frillsand
the pearl pin. Jo in maroonwith a stiffgentlemanly linen
collarand a white chrysanthemum or two for her only ornament.
Each put on one nice light gloveand carried one soiled oneand
all pronounced the effect "quite easy and fine". Meg's high-heeled
slippers were very tight and hurt herthough she would not own it
and Jo's nineteen hairpins all seemed stuck straight into her head
which was not exactly comfortablebutdear melet us be elegant
or die.


Have a good timedearies!said Mrs. Marchas the sisters
went daintily down the walk. "Don't eat much supperand come
away at eleven when I send Hannah for you." As the gate clashed
behind thema voice cried from a window...


Girlsgirls! Have you you both got nice pocket handkerchiefs?


Yesyesspandy niceand Meg has cologne on herscried Jo
adding with a laugh as they went onI do believe Marmee would ask
that if we were all running away from an earthquake.


It is one of her aristocratic tastesand quite properfor a
real lady is always known by neat bootsglovesand handkerchief
replied Megwho had a good many little `aristocratic tastes' of
her own.


Now don't forget to keep the bad breadth out of sightJo.
Is my sash right? And does my hair look very bad?" said Megas
she turned from the glass in Mrs. Gardiner's dressing room after
a prolonged prink.
I know I shall forget. If you see me doing anything wrong
just remind me by a winkwill you?returned Jogiving her
collar a twitch and her head a hasty brush.


Nowinking isn't ladylike. I'll lift my eyebrows if any
thing is wrongand nod if you are all right. Now hold your
shoulder straightand take short stepsand don't shake hands if
you are introduced to anyone. It isn't the thing.


How do you learn all the proper ways? I never can. Isn't
that music gay?


Down they wentfeeling a trifle timidfor they seldom went
to partiesand informal as this little gathering wasit was an
event to them. Mrs. Gardinera stately old ladygreeted them
kindly and handed them over to the eldest of her six daughters.
Meg knew Sallie and was at her ease very soonbut Jowho didn't
care much for girls or girlish gossipstood aboutwith her back
carefully against the walland felt as much out of place as a
colt in a flower garden. Half a dozen jovial lads were talking
about skates in another part of the roomand she longed to go
and join themfor skating was one of the joys of her life. She
telegraphed her wish to Megbut the eyebrows went up so alarmingly
that she dared not stir. No one came to talk to herand one by
one the group dwindled away till she was left alone. She could
not roam about and amuse herselffor the burned breadth would
showso she stared at people rather forlornly till the dancing
began. Meg was asked at onceand the tight slippers tripped
about so briskly that none would have guessed the pain their
wearer suffered smilingly. Jo saw a big red headed youth
approaching her cornerand fearing he meant to engage hershe
slipped into a curtained recessintending to peep and enjoy
herself in peace. Unfortunatelyanother bashful person had
chosen the same refugeforas the curtain fell behind her
she found herself face to face with the `Laurence boy'.


Dear meI didn't know anyone was here!stammered Jo
preparing to back out as speedily as she had bounced in.


But the boy laughed and said pleasantlythough he looked
a little startledDon't mind mestay if you like.


Shan't I disturb you?



Not a bit. I only came here because I don't know many
people and felt rather strange at firstyou know.

So did I. Don't go awaypleaseunless you'd rather.

The boy sat down again and looked at his pumpstill Jo
saidtrying to be polite and easyI think I've had the pleasure
of seeing you before. You live near usdon't you?

Next door.And he looked up and laughed outrightfor Jo's
prim manner was rather funny when he remembered how they had chatted
about cricket when he brought the cat home.

That put Jo at her ease and she laughed tooas she saidin
her heartiest wayWe did have such a good time over your nice
Christmas present.

Grandpa sent it.

But you put it into his headdidn't younow?

How is your catMiss March?asked the boytrying to look
sober while his black eyes shone with fun.

Nicelythank youMr. Laurence. But I am not Miss MarchI'm
only Joreturned the young lady.

I'm not Mr. LaurenceI'm only Laurie.

Laurie Laurencewhat an odd name.

My first name is theodorebut I don't like itfor the
fellows called me Doraso I made the say Laurie instead.

I hate my nametooso sentimental! I wish every one would
say Jo instead of Josephine. How did you make the boys stop calling
you Dora?

I thrashed `em.

I can't thrash Aunt Marchso I suppose I shall have to bear
it.And Jo resigned herself with a sigh.

Don't you like to danceMiss Jo?asked Laurielooking
as if he thought the name suited her.

I like it well enough if there is plenty of roomand everyone
is lively. In a place like this I'm sure to upset something
tread on people's toesor do something dreadfulso I keep out
of mischief and let Meg sail about. Don't you dance?

Sometimes. You see I've been abroad a good many yearsand
haven't been into company enough yet to know how you do things here.

Abroad!.cried Jo. "Ohtell me about it! I love dearly to
hear people describe their travels."

Laurie didn't seem to know where to beginbut Jo's eager
questions soon set him goingand he told her how he had been at
school in Vevaywhere the boys never wore hats and had a fleet of
boats on the lakeand for holiday fun went on walking trips about
Switzerland with their teachers.


Don't I wish I'd been there!cried Jo. "Did you go to Paris?"

We spent last winter there.

Can you talk French?

We were not allowed to speak anything else at Vevay.

Do say some! I can read itbut can't pronounce.

Quel nom a cetter jeune demoiselle en les pantoulles jolis?

How nicely you do it! Let me see...you said`Who is the
young lady in the pretty slippers'didn't you?


Ouimademoiselle.


It's my sister Margaretand you knew it was! Do you think
she is pretty?


Yesshe makes me think of the German girlsshe looks so
fresh and quietand dances like a lady.


Jo quite glowed with pleasure at this boyish praise of her
sisterand stored it up to repeat to Meg. Both peeped and
critisized and chatted till they felt like old acquaintances. Laurie's
bashfulness soon wore offfor Jo's gentlemanly demeanor amused and
set him at his easeand Jo was her merry self againbecause her
dress was forgotten and nobody lifted their eyebrows at her. She
liked the `Laurence boy' better than ever and took several good
looks at himso that she might describe him to the girlsfor they
had no brothersvery few male cousinsand boys were almost unknown
creatures to them.


Curly black hairbrown skinbig black eyeshandsome nose
fine teethsmall hands and feettaller than I amvery polite
for a boyand altogether jolly. Wonder how old he is?


It was on the tip of Jo's tongue to askbut she checked
herself in time andwith unusual tacttried to find out in a
round-about way.


I suppose you are going to college soon? I see you pegging
away at your booksnoI mean studying hard.And Jo blushed
at the dreadful `pegging' which had escaped her.


Laurie smiled but didn't seem shockedand answered with a
shrug. "Not for a year or two. I won't go before seventeen
anyway."


Aren't you but fifteen?asked Jolooking at the tall lad
whom she had imagined seventeen already.


Sixteennext month.


How I wish I was going to college! You don't look as if
you liked it.


I hate it! Nothing but grinding or skylarking. And I don't
like the way fellows do eitherin this country.
What do you like?


To live in Italyand to enjoy myself in my own way.



Jo wanted very much to ask what his own way wasbut his
black brows looked rather threatening as he knit themso she
changed the subject by sayingas her foot kept timeThat's a
splendid polka! Why don't you go and try it?


If you will come toohe answeredwith a gallant little bow.


I can'tfor I told meg I wouldn'tbecause...There Jo
stoppedand looked undecided whether to tell or to laugh.


Becausewhat?


You won't tell?


Never!


WellI have a bad trick of standing before the fireand so
I burn my frocksand I scorched this oneand though it's nicely
mendedit showsand Meg told me to keep still so no one would
see it. You may laughif you want to. It is funnyI know.


But Laurie didn't laugh. He only looked dawn a minuteand
the expression of his face puzzled Jo when he said very gently
Never mind that. I'll tell you how we can manage. There's a long
hall out thereand we can dance grandlyand no one will see us.
Please come.


Jo thanked him and gladly wentwishing she had two neat gloves
when she saw the nicepearl-colored ones her partner wore. The
hall was emptyand they had a grand polkafor Laurie danced well
and taught her the German stepwhich delighted Jobeing full of
swing and spring. When the music stoppedthey sat down on the
stairs to get their breathand Laurie was in the midst of an account
of a students' festival at Heidelberg when Meg appeared in search of
her sister. She beckonedand Jo reluctantly followed her into a
side roomwhere she found her on a sofaholding her footand
looking pale.


I've sprained my ankle. That stupid high heel turned and
gave me a sad wrench. It aches soI can hardly standand I don't
know how I'm ever going to get homeshe saidrocking to and fro
in pain.


I knew you'd hurt your feet with those silly shoes. I'm
sorry. But I don't see what you can doexcept get a carriageor
stay here all nightanswered Josoftly rubbing the poor ankle as
she spoke.


I can't have a carriage without its costing ever so much. I
dare say I can't get one at allfor most people come in their own
and it's a long way to the stableand no one to send.
I'll go.


Noindeed! It's past nineand dark as Egypt. I can't stop
herefor the house is full. Sallie has some girls staying with her.
I'll rest till Hannah comesand then do the best I can.


I'll ask Laurie. He will gosaid Jo looking relieved as
the idea occurred to her.


Mercyno! Don't ask or tell anyone. Get me my rubbersand
put these slippers with our things. I can't dance anymorebut as
soon as supper is overwatch for Hannah and tell me the minute she
comes."



They are going out to supper now. I'll stay with you. I'd
rather.

Nodearrun alongand bring me some coffee. I'm so tired
I can't stir.

So Meg reclinedwith rubbers well hiddenand Jo went blundering
away to the dining roomwhich she found after going into a
china closetand opening the door of a room where old Mr. Gardiner
was taking a little private refreshment. Making a dart at the
tableshe secured the coffeewhich she immediately spilled
thereby making the front of her dress as bad as the back.

Ohdearwhat a blunderbuss I am!exclaimed Jofinishing
Meg's glove by scrubbing her gown with it.

Can I help you?said a friendly voice. And there was Laurie
with a full cup in one hand and a plate of ice in the other.

I was trying to get something for Megwho is very tiredand
someone shook meand here I am in a nice stateanswered Jo
glancing dismally from the stained skirt to the coffee-colored glove.

Too bad! I was looking for someone to give this to. May I
take it to your sister?

Ohthank you! I'll show you where she is. I don't offer to
take it myselffor I should only get into another scrape if I did.

Jo led the wayand as if used to waiting on ladiesLaurie
drew up a little tablebrought a second installment of coffee and
ice for Joand was so obliging that even particular Meg pronounced
him a `nice boy'. They had a merry time over the bonbons and mottoes
and were in the midst of a quiet game of BUZZwith two or three
other young people who had strayed inwhen Hannah appeared. Meg
forgot her foot and rose so quickly that she was forced to catch
hold of Jowith an exclamation of pain.

Hush! Don't say anythingshe whisperedadding aloudIt's
nothing. I turned my foot a littlethat's alland limped upstairs
to put her things on.
Hannah scoldedMeg criedand Jo was at her wits' endtill
se decided to take things into her own hands. Slipping outshe ran
down andfinding a servantasked if he could get her a carriage.
It happened to be a hired waiter who knew nothing about the
neighborhood and Jo was looking round for help when Lauriewho had
heard what she saidcame up and offered his grandfather's carriage
which had just come for himhe said.

It's so early! You can't mean to go yet?began Jo. looking
relieved but hesitating to accept the offer.

I always go earlyI dotruly! Please let me take you home.
It's all on my wayyou knowand it rainsthey say.

That settled itand telling him of Meg's mishapJo gratefully
accepted and rushed up to bring down the rest of the party. Hannah
hated rain as much as a cat does so she made no troubleand they
rolled away in the luxurious close carriagefeeling very festive
and elegant. Laurie went on the box so Meg could keep her foot up
and the girls talked over their party in freedom.

I had a capital time. Did you?' asked Jorumpling up her


hairand making herself comfortable.


Yestill I hurt myself. Sallie's friendAnnie Moffattook
a fancy to meand asked me to come and spend a week with her when
Sallie does. She is going in the spring when the opera comesand
it will be perfectly splendidif Mother only lets me go answered
Megcheering up at the thought.


I saw you dancing with the red headed man I ran away from. Was
he nice?"


Oh. very! His hair is auburnnot redand he was very polite
and I had a delicious redowa with him.


He looked like a grasshopper in a fit when he did the new step.
Laurie and I couldn't help laughing. Did you hear us?


Nobut it was very rude. What were you about all that time
hidden away there?


Jo told her adventuresand by the time she had finished they
were at home. With many thanksthey said good night and crept in
hoping to disturb no onebut the instant their door creakedtwo
little nightcaps bobbed upand two sleepy but eager voices cried out...


Tell about the party! Tell about the party!


With what Meg called `a great want of manners' Jo had saved some
bonbons for the little girlsand they soon subsidedafter hearing
the most thrilling events of the evening.


I declareit really seems like being a fine young ladyto
come home from the party in a carriage and sit in my dressing gown
wit a maid to wait on mesaid Megas Jo bound up her foot with
arnica and brushed her hair.


I don't believe fine young ladies enjoy themselves a bit more
than we doin spite of our burned hairold gownsone glove apiece
and tight slippers that sprain our ankles when we are silly enough
to wear themAnd I think Jo was quite right.


CHAPTER 4


Ohdearhow hard it does seem to take up our packs
and go onsighed Meg the morning after the partyfor now
the holidays were overthe week of merrymaking did not fit
her for going on easily with the task she never liked.


I wish it was Christmas or New Year's all the time.
Wouldn't it be fun?answered Joyawning dismally.


We shouldn't enjoy ourselves half so much as we do now.
But it does seem so nice to have little suppers and bouquets
and go to partiesand drive homeand read and restand not
work. It's like other peopleyou knowand I always envy
girls who do such thingsI'm so fond of luxurysaid Meg
trying to decide which of two shabby gowns was the least
shabby.


Wellwe can't have itso don't let us grumble but
shoulder our bundles and trudge along as cheerfully as
Marmee does. I'm sure Aunt March is a regular Old Man of



the Sea to mebut I suppose when I've learned to carry her
without complainingshe will tumble offor get so light
that I shan't mind her.

This idea tickled Jo's fancy and put her in good spirits
but Meg didn't brightenfor her burdenconsisting
of four spoiled childrenseemed heavier than ever.
She had not heart enough even to make herself pretty
as usual by putting on a blue neck ribbon and dressing
her hair in the most becoming way.

Where's the use of looking nicewhen no one sees me
but those cross midgetsand no one cares whether I'm pretty
or not?she mutteredshutting her drawer with a jerk. "I
shall have to toil and moil all my dayswith only little
bits of fun now and thenand get old and ugly and sour
because I'm poor and can't enjoy my life as other girls do.
It's a shame!"

So Meg went downwearing an injured lookand wasn't at
all agreeable at breakfast time. Everyone seemed rather out
of sorts and inclined to croak.

Beth had a headache and lay on the sofatrying to comfort
herself with the cat and three kittens. Amy was fretting
because her lessons were not learnedand she couldn't
find her rubbers. Jo would whistle and make a great racket
getting ready.

Mrs. March was very busy trying to finish a letter
which must go at onceand Hannah had the grumpsfor being
up late didn't suit her.

There never was such a cross family!cried Jolosing
her temper when she had upset an inkstandbroken both boot
lacingsand sat down upon her hat.

You're the crossest person in it!returned Amywashing
out the sum that was all wrong with the tears that had
fallen on her slate.

Bethif you don't keep these horrid cats down cellar
I'll have them drownedexclaimed Meg angrily as she tried
to get rid of the kitten which had scrambled up her back and
stuck like a burr just out of reach.

Jo laughedMeg scoldedBeth imploredand Amy wailed
because she couldn't remember how much nine times twelve was.

Girlsgirlsdo be quiet one minute! I must get this
off by the early mailand you drive me distracted with your
worrycried Mrs. Marchcrossing out the third spoiled sentence
in her letter.

There was a momentary lullbroken by Hannahwho stalked in
laid two hot turnovers on the tableand stalked out again.
These turnovers were an institutionand the girls called
them `muffs'for they had no others and found the hot
pies very comforting to their hands on cold mornings.

Hannah never forgot to make themno matter how busy or
grumpy she might befor the walk was long and bleak.
The poor things got no other lunch and were seldom home
before two.


Cuddle your cats and get over your headacheBethy.
GoodbyeMarmee. We are a set of rascals this morningbut
we'll come home regular angels. Now thenMeg!And Jo
tramped awayfeeling that the pilgrims were not setting out
as they ought to do.


They always looked back before turning the cornerfor
their mother was always at the window to nod and smileand
wave her hand to them. Somehow it seemed as if they couldn't
have got through the day without thatfor whatever their
mood might bethe last glimpse of that motherly face was
sure to affect them like sunshine.


If Marmee shook her fist instead of kissing her hand
to usit would serve us rightfor more ungrateful wretches
than we are were never seencried Jotaking a remorseful
satisfaction in the snowy walk and bitter wind.
Don't use such dreadful expressionsreplied Meg from
the depths of the veil in which she had shrouded herself
like a nun sick of the world.


I like good strong words that mean somethingreplied
Jocatching her hat as it took a leap off her head
preparatory to flying away altogether.


Call yourself any names you likebut I am neither a
rascal nor a wretch and I don't choose to be called so.


You're a blighted beingand decidedly cross today because
you can't sit in the lap of luxury all the time. Poor dear
just wait till I make my fortuneand you shall revel
in carriages and ice cream and high-heeled slippers
and posiesand red-headed boys to dance with.


How ridiculous you areJo!But Meg laughed at the
nonsense and felt better in spite of herself.


Lucky for you I amfor if I put on crushed airs and
tried to be dismalas you dowe should be in a nice state.
Thank goodnessI can always find something funny to keep me
up. Don't croak any morebut come home jollythere's a dear.


Jo gave her sister an encouraging pat on the shoulder
as they parted for the dayeach going a different wayeach
hugging her little warm turnoverand each trying to be
cheerful in spite of wintry weatherhard workand the
unsatisfied desires of pleasure-loving youth.


When Mr. March lost his property in trying to help an
unfortunate friendthe two oldest girls begged to be allowed
to do something toward their own supportat least. Believing
that they could not begin too early to cultivate energy
industryand independencetheir parents consentedand
both fell to work with the hearty good will which in spite
of all obstacles is sure to succeed at last.


Margaret found a place as nursery governess and felt
rich with her small salary. As she saidshe was `fond of
luxury'and her chief trouble was poverty. She found it
harder to bear than the others because she could remember a
time when home was beautifullife full of ease and pleasure
and want of any kind unknown. She tried not to be envious
or discontentedbut it was very natural that the young girl



should long for pretty thingsgay friendsaccomplishments
and a happy life. At the Kings' she daily saw all she wanted
for the children's older sisters were just outand Meg
caught frequent glimpses of dainty ball dresses and bouquets
heard lively gossip about theatersconcertssleighing parties
and merrymakings of all kindsand saw money lavished
on trifles which would have been so precious to her. Poor
Meg seldom complainedbut a sense of injustice made her feel
bitter toward everyone sometimesfor she had not yet learned
to know how rich she was in the blessings which alone can
make life happy.

Jo happened to suit Aunt Marchwho was lame and needed
an active person to wait upon her. The childless old lady
had offered to adopt one of the girls when the troubles came
and was much offended because her offer was declined. Other
friends told the Marches that they had lost all chance of
being remembered in the rich old lady's willbut the
unworldly Marches only said...

We can't give up our girls for a dozen fortunes. Rich
or poorwe will keep together and be happy in one another.

The old lady wouldn't speak to them for a timebut happening
to meet Jo at at a friend'ssomething in her comical face
and blunt manners struck the old lady's fancyand she
proposed to take her for a companion. This did not suit Jo
at allbut she accepted the place since nothing better
appeared andto every one's surprisegot on remarkably well
with her irascible relative. There was an occasional tempest
and once Jo marched homedeclaring she couldn't bear
it longerbut Aunt March always cleared up quicklyand
sent for her to come back again with such urgency that she
could not refusefor in her heart she rather liked the
peppery old lady.

I suspect that the real attraction was a large library
of fine bookswhich was left to dust and spiders since
Uncle March died. Jo remembered the kind old gentlemanwho
used to let her build railroads and bridges with his big
dictionariestell her stories about queer pictures in his
Latin booksand buy her cards of gingerbread whenever he
met her in the street. The dimdusty roomwith the busts
staring down from the tall bookcasesthe cozy chairsthe
globesand best of allthe wilderness of books in which
she could wander where she likedmade the library a region
of bliss to her.

The moment Aunt March took her napor was busy with
companyJo hurried to this quiet placeand curling herself
up in the easy chairdevoured poetryromancehistory
travelsand pictures like a regular bookworm. Butlike
all happinessit did not last longfor as sure as she had
just reached the heart of the storythe sweetest verse of
a songor the most perilous adventure of her travelera
shrill voice calledJosy-phine! Josy-phine! and she had
to leave her paradise to wind yarnwash the poodleor
read Belsham's Essays by the hour together.

Jo's ambition was to do something very splendid. What
it wasshe had no idea as yetbut left it for time to tell
herand meanwhilefound her greatest affliction in the
fact that she couldn't readrunand ride as much as she
liked. A quick tempersharp tongueand restless spirit


were always getting her into scrapesand her life was a
series of ups and downswhich were both comic and pathetic.
But the training she received at Aunt March's was just what
she neededand the thought that she was doing something to
support herself made her happy in spite of the perpetual
Josy-phine!"

Beth was too bashful to go to school.It had been tried
but she suffered so much that it was given upand she did
her lessons at home with her father. Even when he went away
and her mother was called to devote her skill and energy to
Soldiers' Aid SocietiesBeth went faithfully on by herself
and did the best she could. She was a housewifely little
creatureand helped Hannah keep home neat and comfortable
for the workersnever thinking of any reward but to be
loved. Longquiet days she spentnot lonely nor idlefor
her little world was peopled with imaginary friendsand she
was by nature a busy bee. There were six dolls to be taken
up and dressed every morningfor Beth was a child still
and and loved her pets as well as ever. Not one whole or
handsome one among themall were outcasts till Beth took
them infor when her sisters outgrew these idolsthey
passed to her because Amy would have nothing old or ugly.
Beth cherished them all the more tenderly for that very
reasonand set up a hospital for infirm dolls. No pins
were ever stuck into their cotton vitalsno harsh words or
blows were ever given themno neglect ever saddened the
heart or the most repulsivebut all were fed and clothed
nursed and caressed with an affection which never failed.
One forlorn fragment of dollanity had belonged to Jo and
having led a tempestuous lifewas left a wreck in the rag
bagfrom which dreary poorhouse it was rescued by Beth
and taken to her refuge. Having no top to its headshe
tied on a neat little capand as both arms and legs were
goneshe hid these deficiencies by folding it in a blanket
and devoting her best bed to this chronic invalid. If anyone
had known the care lavished on that dollyI think it
would have touched their heartseven while they laughed.
She brought it bits of bouquetsshe read to ittook it
out to breathe fresh airhidden under her coatshe sang
it lullabies and never went to be without kissing its dirty
face and whispering tenderlyI hope you'll have a good
nightmy poor dear.

Beth had her troubles as well as the othersand not
being an angel but a very human little girlshe often `wept
a little weep' as Jo saidbecause she couldn't take music
lessons and have a fine piano. She loved music so dearly
tried so hard to learnand practiced away so patiently at
the jingling old instrumentthat it did seem as if someone
(not to hint Aunt March) ought to help her. Nobody did
howeverand nobody saw Beth wipe the tears off the yellow
keysthat wouldn't keep in tunewhen she was all alone.
She sang like a little lark about her worknever was too
tired for Marmee and the girlsand day after day said
hopefully to herself I know I'll get my music some time
if I'm good.

There are many Beths in the worldshy and quietsitting
in corners till neededand living for others so cheerfully
that no one sees the sacrifices till the little cricket on
the hearth stops chirpingand the sweetsunshiny presence
vanishesleaving silence and shadow behind.


If anybody had asked Amy what the greatest trial of her
life wasshe would have answered at onceMy nose.When
she was a babyJo had accidently dropped her into the coal hod
and Amy insisted that the fall had ruined her nose forever. It
was not big nor redlike poor `Petrea's'it was only rather
flatand all the pinching in the world could not give it an
aristocratic point. No one minded it but herselfand it was
doing its best to growbut Amy felt deeply the want of a
Grecian noseand drew whole sheets of handsome ones to console
herself.

Little Raphaelas her sisters called herhad a decided
talent for drawingand was never so happy as when copying
flowersdesigning fairiesor illustrating stories with queer
specimens of art. Her teachers complained that instead of
doing her sums she covered her slate with animalsthe blank
pages of her atlas were used to copy maps onand caricatures
of the most ludicrous description came fluttering out of all
her books at unlucky moments. She got through her lessons as
well as she couldand managed to escape reprimands by being
a model of deportment. She was a great favorite with her mates
being good-tempered and possessing the happy art of pleasing
without effort. Her little airs and graces were much admired
so were her accomplishmentsfor besides her drawingshe could
play twelve tunescrochetand read French without mispronouncing
more than two-thirds of the words. She had a plaintive
way of sayingWhen Papa was rich we did so-and-sowhich
was very touchingand her long words were considered `perfectly
elegant' by the girls.

Amy was in a fair way to be spoiledfor everyone petted
herand her small vanities and selfishnesses were growing nicely.
One thinghoweverrather quenched the vanities. She had to wear
her cousin's clothes. Now Florence's mama hadn't a particle of
tasteand Amy suffered deeply at having to wear a red instead of
a blue bonnetunbecoming gownsand fussy aprons that did not
fit. Everything was goodwell madeand little wornbut Amy's
artistic eyes were much afflictedespecially this winterwhen
her school dress was a dull purple with yellow dots and no
trimming.

My only comfortshe said to Megwith tears in her eyes
is that Mother doesn't take tucks in my dresses whenever I'm
naughtyas Maria Parks's mother does. My dearit's really
dreadfulfor sometimes she is so bad her frock is up to her
kneesand she can't come to school. When I think of this
deggerredationI fell that I can bear even my flat nose and
purple gown with yellow skyrockets on it.

Meg was Amy's confidante and monitorand by some strange
attraction of opposites Jo was gentle Beth's. To Jo alone did
the shy child tell her thoughtsand over her big harum-scarum
sister Beth unconsciously exercised more influence than anyone
in the family. The two older girls were a great deal to one
anotherbut each took one of the younger sisters into her
keeping and watched over her in her own way`playing mother'
they called itand put their sisters in the places of
discarded dolls with the maternal instinct of litte women.

Has anybody got anything to tell? It's been such a dismal
day I'm really dying for some amusementsaid Megas they sat
sewing together that evening.

I had a queer time with Aunt todayandas I got the best


of itI'll tell you about itbegan Jowho dearly loved to tell
stories. "I was reading that everlasting Belshamand droning
away as I always dofor Aunt soon drops offand then I take out
some nice bookand read like fury till she wakes up. I actually
made myself sleepyand before she began to nodI gave such a
gape that she asked me what I meant by opening my mouth wide
enough to take the whole book in at once.

I wish I couldand be done with itsaid Itrying not to
be saucy.

Then she gave me a long lecture on my sinsand told me to
sit and think them over while she just `lost' herself for a moment.
She never finds herself very soonso the minute her cap began to
bob like a top-heavy dahliaI whipped the VICAR OF WAKEFIELD out
of my pocketand read awaywith one eye on him and one on Aunt.
I'd just got to where they all tumbled into the water when I
forgot and laughed out loud. Aunt woke up andbeing more
good-natured after her naptold me to read a bit and show what
frivolous work I preferred to the worthy and instructive Belsham.
I did my very bestand she liked itthough she only said...

I don't understand what it's all about. Go back and begin
itchild."

Back I wentand made the Primroses as interesting as ever I
could. Once I was wicked enough to stop in a thrilling placeand
say meeklyI'm afraid it tires youma'am. Shan't I stop now?"

She caught up her knittingwhich had dropped out of her
handsgave me a sharp look through her specsand saidin her
short way`Finish the chapterand don't be impertinentmiss'.

Did she own she liked it?asked Meg.

Ohbless youno! But she let old Belsham restand when I
ran back after my gloves this afternoonthere she wasso hard at
the Vicar that she didn't hear me laugh as I danced a jig in the hall
because of the good time coming. What a pleasant life she might have
if only she chose! I don't envy her muchin spite of her moneyfor
after all rich people have about as many worries as poor onesI
thinkadded Jo.

That reminds mesaid Megthat I've got something to tell.
It isn't funnylike Jo's storybut I thought about it a good deal
as I came home. At the Kings' today I found everybody in a flurry
and one of the children said that her oldest brother had done
something dreadfuland Papa had sent him away. I heard Mrs. King
crying and Mr. King talking very loudand Grace and Ellen turned
away their faces when they passed meso I shouldn't see how red and
swollen their eyes were. I didn't ask any questionsof coursebut
I felt so sorry for them and was rather glad I hadn't any wild
brothers to do wicked things and disgrace the family.

I think being disgraced in school is a great deal tryinger
than anything bad boys can dosaid Amyshaking her headas if
her experience of life had been a deep one. "Susie Perkins came
to school today with a lovely red carnelian ring. I wanted it
dreadfullyand wished I was her with all my might. Wellshe
drew a picture of Mr. Daviswith a monstrous nose and a hump
and the words`Young ladiesmy eye is upon you!' coming out of
his mouth in a balloon thing. We were laughing over it when all
of a sudden his eye was on usand he ordered Susie to bring up
her slate. She was parrylized with frightbut she wentand oh


what do you think he did? He took her by the ear--the ear! Just
fancy how horrid!--and led her to the recitation platformand
made her stand there half and hourholding the slate so everyone
could see."


Didn't the girls laugh at the picture?asked Jowho
relished the scrape.


Laugh? Not one! They sat still as miceand Susie cried
quartsI know she did. I didn't envy her thenfor I felt that
millions of carnelian rings wouldn't have made me happy after that.
I nevernever should have got over such a agonizing mortification.
And Amy went on with her workin the proud consciousness of virtue
and the successful utterance of two long words in a breath.


I saw something I liked this morningand I meant to tell it
at dinnerbut I forgotsaid Bethputting Jo's topsy-turvy basket
in order as she talked. "When I went to get some oysters for Hannah
Mr. Laurence was in the fish shopbut he didn't see mefor I kept
behind the fish barreland he was busy with Mr. Cutter the fishman.
A poor woman came in with a pail a mopand asked Mr. Cutter if he
would let her do some scrubbing for a bit of fishbecause she
hadn't any dinner for her childrenand had been disappointed of a
day's work. Mr. Cutter was in a hurry and said `No'rather
crosslyso she was going awaylooking hungry and sorrywhen Mr.
Laurence hooked up a big fish with the crooked end of his cane and
held it out to her. She was so glad and surprised she took it
right into her armsand thanked him over and over. He told her to
`go along and cook it'and she hurried offso happy! Wasn't it
good of him? Ohshe did look so funnyhugging the bigslippery
fishand hoping Mr. Laurence's bed in heaven would be `aisy'."


When they had laughed at Beth's storythey asked their mother
for oneand after a moments thoughtshe said soberlyAs I sat
cutting out blue flannel jackets today at the roomsI felt very
anxious about Fatherand thought how lonely and helpless we should
beif anything happened to him. It was not a wise thing to do
but I kept on worrying till an old man came in with an order for some
clothes. He sat down near meand I began to talk to himfor he
looked poor and tired and anxious.


`Have you sons in the army?' I askedfor the note he brought
was not to me.
Yesma'am. I had fourbut two were killedone is a prisoner
and I'm going to the otherwho is very sick in a Washington hospital.'
he answered quietly.


`You have done a great deal for your countrysir' I said
feeling respect nowinstead of pity.


`Not a mite more than I oughtma'am. I'd go myselfif I was
any use. As I ain'tI give my boysand give 'em free.'


He spoke so cheerfullylooked so sincereand seemed so glad
to give his allthat I was ashamed of myself. I'd given one man and
thought it too muchwhile he gave four without grudging them. I had
all my girls to comfort me at homeand his last son was waiting
miles awayto say good-by to himperhaps! I felt so richso happy
thinking of my blessingsthat I made him a nice bundlegave him
some moneyand thanked him heartily for the lesson he had taught me."


Tell another storyMotherone with a moral to itlike this.
I like to think about them afterwardif they are real and not too
preachysaid Joafter a minute's silence.



Mrs. March smiled and began at oncefor she had told stories to
this little audience for many yearsand knew how to please them.


Once upon a timethere were four girlswho had enough to eat
and drink and weara good many comforts and pleasureskind friends
and parents who loved them dearlyand yet they were not contented.
(Here the listeners stole sly looks at one anotherand began to sew diligently.) "These girls were
anxious to be good and made many
excellent resolutionsbut they did not keep them very welland were
constantly saying`If only we had this' or `If we could only do
that' quite forgetting how much they already hadand how many
things they actually could do. So they asked an old woman what spell
they could use to make them happyand she said`When you feel
discontentedthink over your blessingsand be grateful.'" (Here Jo
looked up quicklyas if about to speakbut changed her mindseeing
that the story was not done yet.)


Being sensible girlsthey decided to try her adviceand soon
were surprised to see how well off they were. One discovered that
money couldn't keep shame and sorrow out of rich people's houses
another thatthough she was poorshe was a great deal happierwith
her youthhealthand good spiritsthan a certain fretfulfeeble
old lady who couldn't enjoy her comfortsa third thatdisagreeable
as it was to help get dinnerit was harder still to go begging for
it and the fourththat even carnelian rings were not so valuable as
good behavior. So they agreed to stop complainingto enjoy the
blessings already possessedand try to deserve themlest they
should be taken away entirelyinstead of increasedand I believe
they were never disappointed or sorry that they took the old woman's
advice.


NowMarmeethat is very cunning of you to turn our own
stories against usand give us a sermon instead of a romance!
cried Meg.
I like that kind of sermon. It's the sort Father used to tell
ussaid Beth thoughtfullyputting the needles straight on Jo's
cushion.


I don't complain near as much as the others doand I shall be
more careful than ever nowfor I've had warning from Susies's downfall
said Amy morally.


We needed that lessonand we won't forget it. If we do so
you just say to usas old Chloe did in UNCLE TOM`Tink ob yer
marcieschillen! `Tink ob yer marcies!'added Jowho could not
for the life of herhelp getting a morsel of fun out of the little
sermonthough she took it to heart as much as any of them.


CHAPTER FIVE


What in the world are you going to do nowJo.asked
Meg one snowy afternoonas her sister came tramping through
the hallin rubber bootsold sackand hoodwith a broom
in one hand and a shovel in the other.


Going out for exerciseanswered Jo with a mischievous
twinkle in her eyes.


I should think two long walks this morning would have
been enough! It's cold and dull outand I advise you to
stay warm and dry by the fireas I dosaid Meg with a



shiver.


Never take advice! Can't keep still all dayand not
being a pussycatI don't like to doze by the fire. I like
adventuresand I'm going to find some.


Meg went back to toast her feet and read IVANHOEand Jo
began to dig paths with great energy. The snow was lightand
with her broom she soon swept a path all round the gardenfor
Beth to walk in when the sun came out and the invalid dolls
needed air. Nowthe garden separated the Marches' house from
that of Mr. Laurence. Both stood in a suburb of the citywhich
was still countrylikewith groves and lawnslarge gardensand
quiet streets. A low hedge parted the two estates. On one side
was an oldbrown houselooking rather bare and shabbyrobbed
of the vines that in summer covered its walls and the flowers
which then surrounded it. On the other side was a stately stone
mansionplainly betokening every sort of comfort and luxuryfrom
the big coach house and well-kept grounds to the conservatory and
the glimpses of lovely things one caught between the rich curtains.


Yet it seemed a lonelylifeless sort of housefor no children
frolicked on the lawnno motherly face ever smiled at the windows
and few people went in and outexcept the old gentleman and his
grandson.


To Jo's lively fancythis fine house seemed a kind of enchanted
palacefull of splendors and delights which no one enjoyed. She
had long wanted to behold these hidden gloriesand to know the
Laurence boywho looked as if he would like to be knownif he only
knew how to begin. Since the partyshe had been more eager than ever
and had planned many ways of making friends with himbut he had not
been seen latelyand Jo began to think he had gone awaywhen she
one day spied a brown face at an upper windowlooking wistfully down
into their gardenwhere Beth and Amy were snow-balling one another.


That boy is suffering for society and funshe said to herself.
His grandpa does not know what's good for himand keeps him shut up
all alone. He needs a party of jolly boys to play withor somebody
young and lively. I've a great mind to go over and tell the old
gentleman so!


The idea amused Jo. who liked to do daring things and was
always scandalizing Meg by her queer performances. The plan of
`going over' was not forgotten. And when the snowy afternoon came
Jo resolved to try what could be done. She saw Mr. Lawrence drive off
and then sallied out to dig her way down to the hedgewhere she
paused and took a survey. All quietcurtains down at the lower windows
servants out of sightand nothing human visible but a curly
black head leaning on a thin hand at the upper window.


There he isthought JoPoor boy! All alone and sick this
dismal day. It's a shame! I'll toss up a snowball and make him look
outand then say a kind word to him.


Up went a handful of soft snowand the head turned at once
showing a face which lost its listless look in a minuteas the big
eyes brightened and the mouth began to smile. Jo nodded and laughed
and flourished her broom as she called out...


How do you do? Are you sick?


Laurie opened the windowand croaked out as hoarsely as a raven...



Betterthank you. I've had a bad coldand been shut up a
week.

I'm sorry. What do you amuse yourself with?

Nothing. It's dull as tombs up here.

Don't you read?

Not much. They won't let me.

Can't somebody read to you?

Grandpa does sometimesbut my books don't interest himand
I hate to ask Brooke all the time.

Have someone come and see you then.

There isn't anyone I'd like to see. Boys make such a rowand
my head is weak.

Isn't there some nice girl who'd read and amuse you? Girls
are quiet and like to play nurse.

Don't know any.

You know usbegan Jothen laughed and stopped.

So I do! Will you comeplease?cried Laurie.

I'm not quiet and nicebut I'll comeif Mother will let me.
I'll go ask her. Shut the windowlike a good boyand wait till I
come.

With thatJo shouldered her broom and marched into the house
wondering what they would all say to her. Laurie was in a flutter
of excitement at the idea of having companyand flew about to get
readyfor as Mrs. March saidhe was `a little gentleman'. and did
honor to the coming guest by brushing his curly pateputting on a
fresh colorand trying tidy up the roomwhich in spite of half a
dozen servantswas anything but neat. Presently there came a loud
ringthan a decided voiceasking for `Mr. laurie'and a surprisedlooking
servant came running up to announce a young lady.

All rightshow her upit's Miss Josaid Lauriegoing to the
door of his little parlor to meet Jowho appearedlooking rosy and
quite at her easewith a covered dish in one hand and Beth's three
kittens in the other.

Here I ambag and baggageshe said briskly. "Mother sent her
loveand was glad if I could do anything for you. Meg wanted me to
bring some of her blancmangeshe makes it very nicelyand Beth thought
her cats would be comforting. I knew you'd laugh at thembut I couldn't
refuseshe was so anxious to do something."

It so happened that Beth's funny loan was just the thingfor
in laughing over the kitsLaurie forgot his bashfulnessand grew
sociable at once.

That looks too pretty to eathe saidsmiling with pleasure
as Jo uncovered the dishand showed the blancmangesurrounded by a
garland of green leavesand the scarlet flowers of Amy's pet geranium.

It isn't anythingonly they all felt kindly and wanted to show


it. Tell the girl to put it away for your tea. It's so simple you can
eat itand being softit will slip down without hurting your sore
throat. What a cozy room this is!

It might be it it was kept nicebut the maids are lazyand
I don't know how to make them mind. It worries me though.

I'll right it up in two minutesfor it only needs to have the
hearth brushedso--and the things made straight on the mantelpiece
so--and the books put hereand the bottles thereand your sofa
turned from the lightand the pillows plumped up a bit. Now then
you're fixed.

And so he wasforas she laughed and talkedJo had whisked
things into place and given quite a different air to the room. Laurie
watched her in respectful silenceand when she beckoned him to his
sofahe sat down with a sigh of satisfactionsaying gratefully...

How kind you are! Yesthat's what it wanted. Now please take
the big chair and let me do something to amuse my company.

NoI came to amuse you. Shall I read aloud?and Jo looked
affectionately toward some inviting books near by.

Thank you! I've read all thoseand if you don't mindI'd
rather talkanswered Laurie.

Not a bit. I'll talk all day if you'll only set me going.
Beth says I never know when to stop.

Is Beth the rosy onewho stays at home good deal and sometimes
goes out with a little basket?asked Laurie with interest.

Yesthat's Beth. She's my girland a regular good one she istoo.

The pretty one is Megand the curly-haired one is AmyI believe?

Laurie colored upbut answered franklyWhyyou see I often
hear you calling to one anotherand when I'm alone up hereI can't
help looking over at your houseyou always seem to be having such
good times. I beg your pardon for being so rudebut sometimes you
forget to put down the curtain at the window where the flowers are.
And when the lamps are lightedit's like looking at a picture to
see the fireand you all around the table with your mother. Her
face is right oppositeand it looks so sweet behind the flowers
I can't help watching it. I haven't got any motheryou know.
And Laurie poked the fire to hide a little twitching of the lips
that he could not control.

The solitaryhungry look in his eyes went straight to Jo's
warm heart. she had been so simply taught that there was no
nonsense in her headand at fifteen she was as innocent and frank
as any child. Laurie was sick and lonelyand feeling how rich she
was in home and happinessshe gladly tried to share it with him.
Her face was very friendly and her sharp voice unusually gentle as
she said...

We'll never draw that curtain any moreand I give you leave
to look as much as you like. I just wishthoughinstead of peeping
you'd come over and see us. Mother is so splendidshe'd do you heaps
of goodand Beth would sing to you if I begged her toand Amy would
dance. Meg and I would make you laugh over our funny stage
propertiesand we'd have jolly times. Wouldn't your grandpa let you?


I think he wouldif your mother asked him. He's very kind
though he does not look soand he lets me do what I likepretty much
only he's afraid I might be a bother to strangersbegan Laurie
brightening more and more.

We are not strangerswe are neighborsand you needn't think
you'd be a bother. We want to know youand I've been trying to do
it this ever so long. We haven't been here a great whileyou know
but we have got acquainted with all our neighbors but you.

You seeGrandpa lives among his booksand doesn't mind much
what happens outside. Mr. Brookemy tutordoesn't stay hereyou
knowand I have no one to go about with meso I just stop at home
and get on as I can.

That's bad. You ought to make an effort and go visiting
everywhere you are askedthen you'll have plenty of friendsand
pleasant places to go to. Never mind being bashful. It won't last
long if you keep going.

Laurie turned red againbut wasn't offended at being accused
of bashfulnessfor there was so much good will in Jo it was
impossible not to take her blunt speeches as kindly as they were
meant.

Do you like your school?asked the boychanging the subject
after a little pauseduring which he stared at the fire and Jo
looked about herwell pleased.

Don't go to schoolI'm a businessman--girlI mean. I go to
wait on my great-auntand a dearcross old soul she istoo
answered Jo.

Laurie opened his mouth to ask another questionbut remembering
just in time that it wasn't manners to make too many inquiries into
people's affairshe shut it againand looked uncomfortable.

Jo liked his good breedingand didn't mind having a laugh at
Aunt Marchso she gave him a lively description of the fidgety
old ladyher fat poodlethe parrot that talked Spanishand the
library where she reveled.

Laurie enjoyed that immenselyand when she told about the
prim old gentleman who came once to woo Aunt Marchand in the
middle of a fine speechhow Poll had tweaked his wig off to his
great dismaythe boy lay back and laughed till the tears ran
down his cheeksand a maid popped her head in to see what was
the matter.

Oh! That does me no end of good. Tell onpleasehe
saidtaking his face out of the sofa cushionred and shining
with merriment.

Much elated with her successJo did `tell on'all about
their plays and planstheir hopes and fears for Fatherand
the most interesting events of the little world in which the
sisters lived. Then they got to talking about booksand to
Jo's delightshe found that Laurie loved them as well as she
didand had read even more than herself.

If you like them so muchcome down and see ours. Grandfather
is outso you needn't be afraidsaid Lauriegetting up.

I'm not afraid of anythingreturned Jowith a toss of


the head.


I don't believe you are!exclaimed the boylooking at her
with much admirationthough he privately thought she would have
good reason to be a trifle afraid of the old gentlemanif she
met hem in some of his moods.


The atmosphere of the whole house being summerlikeLaurie
led the way from room to roomletting Jo stop to examine whatever
struck her fancy. And soat last they came to the library
where she clapped her hands and prancedas she always did when
especially delighted. It was lined with booksand there were
pictures and statuesand distracting little cabinets full of
coins and curiositiesand Sleepy Hollow chairsand queer tables
and bronzesand best of alla great open fireplace with quaint
tiles all round it.


What richness!sighed Josinking into the depth of a velour
chair and gazing about her with an air of intense satisfaction.
Theodore Laurenceyou ought to be the happiest boy in the world
she added impressively.


A fellow can't live on bookssaid Laurieshaking his head
as he perched on a table opposite.


Before he could morea bell rangand Jo flew upexclaiming
with alarmMercy me! It's your grandpa!


Wellwhat if it is? You are not afraid of anythingyou
knowreturned the boylooking wicked.


I think I am a little bit afraid of himbut I don't know
why I should be. Marmee said I might comeand I don't think
you're any the worse for itsaid Jocomposing herselfthough
she kept her eyes on the door.


I'm a great deal better for itand ever so much obliged.
I'm only afraid you are very tired of talking to me. It was so
pleasantI couldn't bear to stopsaid Laurie gratefully.


The doctor to see yousirand the maid beckoned as she
spoke.


Would you mind if I left you for a minute? I suppose I
must see himsaid Laurie.


Don't mind me. I'm happy as a cricket hereanswered Jo.


Laurie went awayand his guest amused herself in her own way.
She was standing before a fine portrait of the old gentleman when
the door opened againand without turningshe said decidedlyI'm
sure now that I shouldn't be afraid of himfor he's got kind eyes
though his mouth is grimand he looks as if he had a tremendous will
of his own. He isn't as handsome as my grandfatherbut I like him.


Thank youma'amsaid a gruff voice behind herand there
to her great dismaystood old Mr. Laurence.


Poor Jo blushed till she couldn't blush any redderand her
heart began to beat uncomfortably fast as she thought what she had
said. For a minute a wild desire to run away possessed herbut
that was cowardlyand the girls would laugh at herso she resolved
to stay and get out of the scrape as she could. A second look showed
her that the living eyesunder the bushy eyebrowswere kinder even



than the painted onesand there was a sly twinkle in themwhich
lessened her fear a good deal. The gruff voice was gruffer than ever
as the old gentleman said abruptlyafter the dreadful pauseSo
you're not afraid of mehey?

Not muchsir.

And you don't think me as handsome as your grandfather?

Not quitesir.

And I've got a tremendous willhave I?

I only said I thought so.

But you like me in spite of it?

YesI dosir.

That answer pleased the old gentleman. He gave a short laugh
shook hands with herandputting his finger under her chinturned
up her faceexamined it gravelyand let it gosaying with a nod
You've got your grandfather's spiritif you haven't his face. He
was a fine manmy dearbut what is betterhe was a brave and an
honest oneand I was proud to be his friend.

Thank yousirAnd Jo was quite comfortable after thatfor
it suited her exactly.

What have you been doing to this boy of minehey?was the
next questionsharply put.

Only trying to be neighborlysir.And Jo to how her visit
came about.

You think he needs cheering up a bitdo you?

Yessirhe seems a little lonelyand young folks would do
him good perhaps. We are only girlsbut we should be glad to
help if we couldfor we don't forget the splendid Christmas present
you sent ussaid Jo eagerly.

Tuttuttut! That was the boy's affair. How is the poor
woman?

Doing nicelysir.And off went Jotalking very fastas
she told all about the Hummelsin whom her mother had interested
richer friends than they were.

Just her father's way of doing good. I shall come and see
your mother some fine day. Tell her so. There's the tea bell
we have it early on the boy's account. Come down and go on being
neighborly.

If you'd like to have mesir.

Shouldn't ask youif I didn't.And Mr. Laurence offered
her his arm with old-fashioned courtesy.

What would Meg say to this?thought Joas she was marched
awaywhile her eyes danced with fun as she imagined herself telling
the story at home.

Hey! Whywhat the dickens has come to the fellow?said the


old gentlemanas Laurie came running downstairs and brought up with
a start of surprise at the astounding sight of Jo arm in arm with
his redoubtable grandfather.

I didn't know you'd comesirhe beganas Jo gave him a
triumphant little glance.

That's evidentby the way you racket downstairs. Come to
your teasirand behave like a gentleman.And having pulled
the boy's hair by way of a caressMr. Laurence walked onwhile
Laurie went through a series of comic evolutions behind their
backswhich nearly produced an explosion of laughter from Jo.

The old gentleman did not say much as he drank his four
cups of teabut he watched the young peoplewho soon chatted
away like old friendsand the change in his grandson did not
escape him. There was colorlightand life in the boy's face
nowvivacity in his mannerand genuine merriment in his laugh.

She's rightthe lad is lonely. I'll see what these little
girls can do for himthought Mr. Laurenceas he looked and
listened. He liked Jofor her oddblunt ways suited himand
she seemed to understand the boy almost as well as if she had
been one herself.

If the Laurences had been what Jo called `prim and poky'
she would not have got on at allfor such people always made
her shy and awkward. But finding them free and easyshe was
so herselfand made a good impression. When they rose she
proposed to gobut Laurie said he had something more to show
herand took her away to the conservatorywhich had been
lighted for her benefit. It seemed quite fairylike to Joas
she went up and down the walksenjoying the blooming walls on
either sidethe soft lightthe damp sweet airand the wonderful
vines and trees that hung about herwhile her new friend cut the
finest flowers till his hands were full. Then he tied them up
sayingwith the happy look Jo liked to seePlease give these
to your motherand tell her I like the medicine she sent me very
much.

They found Mr. Laurence standing before the fire in the great
drawing roomby Jo's attention was entirely absorbed by a grand
pianowhich stood open.

Do you play?she askedturning to Laurie with a respectful
expression.

Sometimeshe answered modestly.

Please do now. I want to hear itso I can tell Beth.

Won't you first?

Don't know how. Too stupid to learnbut I love music dearly.

So Laurie played and Jo listenedwith her nose luxuriously
buried in heliotrope and tea roses. Her respect and regard for
the `Laurence' boy increased very muchfor he played remarkably well
and didn't put on any airs. She wished Beth could hear himbut
she did not say soonly praised him till he was quite abashedand
his grandfather came to his rescue.

That will dothat will doyoung lady. too many sugarplums
are not good for him. His music isn't badbut I hope he will do


as well in more important things. Going? wellI'm much obliged
to youand I hope you'll come again. My respects to your mother.
Good nightDoctor Jo.


He shook hands kindlybut looked as if something did not
please him. When they got into the hallJo asked Laurie if she
had said something amiss. He shook his head.


Noit was me. He doesn't like to hear me play.


Why not?


I'll tell you some day. John is going home with youas I
can't.
No need of that. I am not a young ladyand it's only a
step. Take care of yourselfwon't you?


Yesbut you will come againI hope?


If you promise to come and see us after you are well.


I will.


Good nightLaurie!
Good nightJogood night!


When all the afternoon's adventures had been toldthe family
felt inclined to go visiting in a bodyfor each found something
very attractive in the big house on the other side of the hedge.
Mrs. March wanted to talk of her father with the old man who had
not forgotten himMeg longed to walk in the conservatoryBeth
sighed for the grand piano. and Amy was eager to see the fine
pictures and statues.


Motherwhy didn't Mr. Laurence like to have Laurie play?
asked Jowho was of an inquiring disposition.


I am not surebut I think it was because his sonLaurie's
fathermarried an Italian ladya musicianwhich displeased the
old manwho is very proud. The lady was good and lovely and
accomplishedbut he did not like herand never saw his son after
he married. They both died when Laurie was a little childand
then his grandfather took him home. I fancy the boywho was born
in Italyis not very strongand the old man is afraid of losing
himwhich makes him so careful. Laurie comes naturally by his
love of musicfor he is like his motherand I dare say his
grandfather fears that he may want to be a musician. At any rate
his skill reminds him of the woman he did not likeand so he
`glowered' as Jo said.


Dear mehow romantic!exclaimed Meg.


How silly!said Jo. "Let him be a musician if he wants to
and not plague his life out sending him to collegewhen he hates
to go."


That's why he has such handsome black eyes and pretty manners
I suppose. Italians are always nicesaid Megwho was a little
sentimental.


What do you know about his eyes and his manners? You never
spoke to himhardlycried Jowho was not sentimental.


I saw him at the partyand what you tell shows that he knows



how to behave. That was a nice little speech about the medicine
Mother sent him.


He meant the blanc mangeI suppose.
How stupid you arechild! He meant youof course.


Did he?And Jo opened her eyes as if it had never occurred
to her before.


I never saw such a girl! You don't know a compliment when
you get itsaid Megwith the air of a young lady who knew all
about the matter.


I think they are great nonsenseand I'll thank you not to
be silly and spoil my fun. Laurie's a nice boy and I like him
and I won't have any sentimental stuff about compliments and such
rubbish. We'll all be good to him because he hasn't got any mother
and he may come over and see usmayn't heMarmee?


YesJoyour little friend is very welcomeand I hope Meg
will remember that children should be children as long as they can.


I don't call myself a childand I'm not in my teens yet
observed Amy. "What do you sayBeth?"


I was thinking about our `PILGRIM'S PROGRESS'answered Beth
who had not heard a word. "How we got out of the Slough and through
the Wicket Gate by resolving to be goodand up the steep hill by
tryingand that maybe the house over therefull of splendid things
is going to be our Palace Beautiful."


We have got to get by the lions firstsaid Joas if she
rather liked the prospect.


CHAPTER SIX


The big house did prove a Palace Beautifulthough it took
some time for all to get inand Beth found it very hard to pass
the lions. Old Mr. Laurence was the biggest onebut after he
had calledsaid something funny or kind to each one of the girls
and talked over old times with their mothernobody felt much
afraid of himexcept timid Beth. The other lion was the fact that
they were poor and Laurie richfor this made them shy of accepting
favors which they could not return. Butafter a whilethey found
that he considered them the benefactorsand could not do enough to
show how grateful he was for Mrs. March's motherly welcometheir
cheerful societyand the comfort he took in that humble home of
theirs. So they soon forgot their pride and interchanged kindnesses
without stopping to think which was the greater.


All sorts of pleasant things happened about that timefor the
new friendship flourished like grass in spring. Every one liked
Laurieand he privately informed his tutor that "the Marches were
regularly splendid girls." With the delightful enthusiasm of youth
they took the solitary boy into their midst and made much of him
and he found something very charming in the innocent companionship
of these simple-hearted girls. Never having known mother or sisters
he was quick to feel the influences they brought about himand
their busylively ways made him ashamed of the indolent life he led.
He was tired of booksand found people so interesting now that Mr.
Brooke was obliged to make very unsatisfactory reportsfor Laurie
was always playing truant and running over to the Marches'.



Never mindlet him take a holidayand make it up afterward
said the old gentleman. "The good lady next door says he is studying
too hard and needs young societyamusementand exercise. I suspect
she is rightand that I've been coddling the fellow as if I'd been
his grandmother. Let him do what he likesas long as he is happy.
He can't get into mischief in that little nunnery over thereand
Mrs. March is doing more for him than we can."

What good times they hadto be sure. Such plays and tableaux
such sleigh rides and skating frolicssuch pleasant evenings in
the old parlorand now and then such gay little parties at the
great house. Meg could walk in the conservatory whenever she liked
and revel in bouquetsJo browsed over the new library voraciously
and convulsed the old gentleman with her criticismsAmy copied
pictures and enjoyed beauty to her heart's contentand Laurie
played `lord of the manor' in the most delightful style.

But Beththough yearning for the grand pianocould not
pluck up courage to go to the `Mansion of Bliss'as Meg called
it. She went once with Jobut the old gentlemannot being
aware of her infirmitystared at her so hard from under his
heavy eyebrowsand said "Hey!" so loudthat he frightened her
so much her `feet chattered on the floor'she never told her
motherand she ran awaydeclaring she would never go there
any morenot even for the dear piano. No persuasions or
enticements could overcome her feartillthe fact coming to
Mr. Laurence's ear in some mysterious wayhe set about mending
matters. During one of the brief calls he madehe artfully
led the conversation to musicand talked away about great
singers whom he had seenfine organs he had heardand told
such charming anecdotes that Beth found it impossible to stay
in her distant cornerbut crept nearer and neareras if
fascinated. At the back of his chair she stopped and stood
listeningwith her great eyes wide open and her cheeks red
with excitement of this unusual performance. Taking no more
notice of her than if she had been a flyMr. Laurence talked on
about Laurie's lessons and teachers. And presentlyas if the
idea had just occurred to himhe said to Mrs. March...

The boy neglects his music nowand I'm glad of itfor
he was getting too fond of it. But the piano suffers for want
of use. Wouldn't some of your girls like to run overand
practice on it now and thenjust to keep it in tuneyou know
ma`am?

Beth took a step forwardand pressed her hands tightly
together to keep from clapping themfor this was an irresistible
temptationand the thought of practicing on that splendid
instrument quite took her breath away. Before Mrs. March could
replyMr. Laurence went on with an odd little nod and smile...

They needn't see or speak to anyonebut run in at any time.
For I'm shut up in my study at the other end of the houseLaurie
is out a great dealand the servants are never near the drawing
room after nine o'clock.

Here he roseas if goingand Beth made up her mind to speak
for that last arrangement left nothing to be desired. "Pleasetell
the young ladies what I sayand if they don't care to comewhy
never mind." Here a little hand slipped into hisand Beth looked
up at him with a face full of gratitudeas she saidin her earnest
yet timid way...

Oh sirthey do carevery very much!


Are you the musical girl?he askedwithout any startling
Hey!as he looked down at her very kindly.

I'm Beth. I love it dearlyand I'll comeif you are quite
sure nobody will hear meand be disturbedshe addedfearing to
be rudeand trembling at her own boldness as she spoke.

Not a soulmy dear. The house is empty half the dayso
come and drum away as much as you likeand I shall be obliged to
you.

How kind you aresir!

Beth blushed like a rose under the friendly look he worebut she
was not frightened nowand gave the hand a grateful squeeze because
she had no words to thank him for the precious gift he had given her.
The old gentleman softly stroked the hair off her foreheadand
stooping downhe kissed herrsayingin a tone few people ever heard...

I had a little girl oncewith eyes like these. God bless you
my dear! Good day. madam.And away he wentin a great hurry.

Beth had a rapture with her motherand then rushed up to
impart the glorious news to her family of invalidsas the girls
were not home. How blithely she sang that eveningand how they
all laughed at her because she woke Amy in the night by playing
the piano on her face in her sleep. Next dayhaving seen both
the old and young gentleman out of the houseBethafter two or
three retreatsfairly got in at the side doorand made her way
as noiselessly as any mouse to the drawing room where her idol
stood. Quite by accidentof coursesome prettyeasy music lay
on the pianoand with trembling fingers and frequent stops to
listen and look aboutBeth at last touched the great instrument
and straightway forgot her fearherselfand everything else but
the unspeakable delight which the music gave herfor it was like
the voice of a beloved friend.

She stayed till Hannah came to take her home to dinnerbut she
had no appetiteand could only sit and smile upon everyone in a general
state of beatitude.

After thatthe little brown hood slipped through the hedge
nearly every dayand the great drawing room was haunted by a tuneful
spirit that came and went unseen. She never knew that Mr. Laurence
opened his study door to hear the old-fashioned airs he liked. She
never saw Laurie mount guard in the hall to warn the servants away.
She never suspected that the exercise books and new songs which she
found in the rack were put there for her especial benefitand when
he talked to her about music at homeshe only thought how kind he
was to tell things that helped her so much. So she enjoyed herself
heartilyand foundwhat isn't always the casethat her granted
wish was all she had hoped. Perhaps it was because she was so grateful
for this blessing that a greater was given her. At any rate she
deserved both.
MotherI'm going to work Mr. Laurence a pair of slippers. He
is so kind to meI must thank himand I don't know any other way.
Can I do it?asked Betha few weeks after that eventful call of his.

Yesdear. It will please him very muchand be a nice way of
thanking him. The girls will help you about themand I will pay for
the making upreplied Mrs. Marchwho took peculiar pleasure in
granting Beth's requests because she so seldom asked anything for
herself.


After many serious discussions with Meg and Jothe pattern was
chosenthe materials boughtand the slippers begun. A cluster of
grave yet cheerful pansies on a deeper purple ground was pronounced
very appropriate and prettyand beth worked away early and latewith
occasional lifts over hard parts. She was a nimble little needlewoman
and they were finished before anyone got tired of them. Then she wrote
a shortsimple noteand with Laurie's helpgot them smuggled onto
the study table one morning before the old gentleman was up.


When this excitement was overBeth waited to see what would
happen. All day passed a a part of the next before any
acknowledgement arrivedand she was beginning to fear she had offended
her crochety friend. On the afternoon of the second dayshe went out
to do an errandand give poor Joannathe invalid dollher daily
exercise. As she came up the streeton her returnshe saw three
yesfour heads popping in and out of the parlor windowsand the
moment they saw herseveral hands were wavedand several joyful
voices screamed...


Here's a letter from the old gentleman! Come quickand read it!


OhBethhe's sent you...began Amygesticulating with
unseemly energybut she got no furtherfor Jo quenched her by
slamming down the window.


Beth hurried on in a flutter of suspense. At the door her
sisters seized and bore her to the parlor in a triumphal procession
all pointing and all saying at onceLook there! Look there!Beth
did lookand turned pale with delight and surprisefor there stood
a little cabinet pianowith a letter lying on the glossy liddirected
like a sign board to "Miss Elizabeth March."


For me?gasped Bethholding onto Jo and feeling as if she
should tumble downit was such an overwhelming thing altogether.


Yesall for youmy precious! Isn't it splendid of him? Don't
you think he's the dearest old man in the world? Here's the key in
the letter. We didn't open itbut we are dying to know what he says
cried Johugging her sister and offering the note.


You read it! I can'tI feel so queer! Ohit is too lovely!
and Beth hid her face in Jo's apronquite upset by her present.


Jo opened the paper and began to laughfor the first worked she
saw were...


Miss March:
Dear Madam--"
How nice it sounds! I wish someone would write to me so!said
Amywho thought the old-fashioned address very elegant.


`I have had many pairs of slippers in my lifebut I never had
any that suited me so well as yours'continues Jo. "`Heartsease is
my favorite flowerand these will always remind me of the gentle
giver. I like to pay my debtsso I know you will allow `the old
gentleman' to send you something which once belonged to the little
grand daughter he lost. With hearty thanks and best wishesI remain
`Your grateful friend and humble servant
`JAMES LAURENCE'


ThereBeththat's an honor to be proud ofI'm sure! Laurie
told me how fond Mr.Laurence used to be of the child who diedand
how he kept all her little things carefully. Just thinkhe's given
you her piano. That comes of having big blue eyes and loving music



said Jotrying to soothe Bethwho trembled and looked more excited
than she had ever been before.

See the cunning brackets to hold candlesand the nice green
sildpuckered upwith a gold rose in the middleand the pretty
rack and stoolall completeadded Megopening the instrument
and displaying its beauties.

`Your humble servantJames Laurence'. Only think of his
writing that to you. I'll tell the girls. They'll think it's
splendidsaid Amymuch impressed by the note.

Try ithoney. Let's hear the sound of the baby pianny
said Hannahwho always took a share in the family joys and sorrows.

So Beth tried itand everyone pronounced it the most remarkable
piano ever heard. It had evidently been newly tuned and put in applepie
orderbutperfect as it wasI think the real charm lay in the
happiest of all happy faces which leaned over itas Beth lovingly
touched the beautiful black and white keys and pressed the bright pedals.

You'll have to go and thank himsaid Joby way of a joke
for the idea of the child's really going never entered her head.

YesI mean to. I guess I'll go nobefore I get frightened
thinking about it.Andto the utter amazement of the assembled
familyBeth walked deliberately down the gardenthrough the
hedgeand in at the Laurences' door.

WellI wish I may die if it ain't the queerest thing I ever
see! The pianny has turned her head! She'd never have gone in
her right mindcried Hannahstaring after herwhile the girls
were rendered quite speechless by the miracle.

They would have been still more amazed if they had seen what
Beth did afterward. If you will believe meshe went and knocked
at the study door before she gave herself time to thinkand when
a gruff voice called outcome in!she did go inright up to
Mr. Laurencewho looked quite taken abackand held out her hand
sayingwith only a small quaver in her voiceI came to thank you
sirfor...But she didn't finishfor he looked so friendly that
she forgot her speech andonly remembering that he had lost the
little girl he lovedshe put both arms round his neck and kissed
him.

If the roof of the house had suddenly flown offthe old
gentleman wouldn't have been more astonished. But he liked it.
Ohdearyeshe liked it amazingly! And was so touched and
pleased by that confiding little kiss that all his crustiness
vanishedand he just set her on his kneeand laid his
wrinkled cheek against her rosy onefeeling as if he had got his
own little grand daughter back again. Beth ceased to fear him
from that momentand sat there talking to him as cozily as if
she had known him all her lifefor love casts out fearand
gratitude can conquer pride. When she went homehe walked with
her to her own gateshook hands cordiallyand touched his hat
as he marched back againlooking very stately and erectlike
a handsomesoldierly old gentlemanas he was.

When the girls saw that performanceJo began to dance a jig
by way of expressing her satisfactionAmy nearly fell out of the
window in her surpriseand Meg exclaimedwith up-lifted hands
WellI do believe the world is coming to an end.


CHAPTER SEVEN

That boy is a perfect cyclopsisn't he?" said Amy one day
as Laurie clattered by on horsebackwith a flourish of his whip
as he passed.

How dare you say sowhen he's got both his eyes? And
very handsome ones they aretoocried Jowho resented any
slighting remarks about her friend.

I didn't day anything about his eyesand I don't see why
you need fire up when I admire his riding.

Ohmy goodness! That little goose means a centaurand she
called him a Cyclopsexclaimed Jowith a burst of laughter.
You needn't be so rudeit's only a `lapse of lingy'as Mr.
Davis saysretorted Amyfinishing Jo with her Latin. "I just
wish I had a little of the money Laurie spends on that horse she
addedas if to herselfyet hoping her sisters would hear.

Why?" asked Meg kindlyfor Jo had gone off in another laugh
at Amy's second blunder.

I need it so much. I'm dreadfully in debtand it won't be
my turn to have the rag money for a month.

In debtAmy? What do you mean?And Meg looked sober.

WhyI owe at least a dozen pickled limesand I can't pay
themyou knowtill I have moneyfor Marmee forbade my having
anything charged at the shop.

Tell me all about it. Are limes the fashion now? It used
to be pricking bits of rubber to make balls.And Meg tried to
keep her countenanceAmy looked so grave and important.

Whyyou seethe girls are always buying themand unless
you want to be thought meanyou must do it too. It's nothing
but limes nowfor everyone is sucking them in their desks in
schooltimeand trading them off for pencilsbead ringspaper
dollsor something elseat recess. If one girl likes another
she gives her a lime. If she's mad with hershe eats one before
her faceand doesn't offer even a suck. They treat by turns
and I've had ever so many but haven't returned themand I ought
for they are debts of honoryou know.

How much will pay them off and restore your credit?asked
Megtaking out her purse."

A quarter would more than do itand leave a few cents over
for a treat for you. Don't you like limes?

Not much. You may have my share. Here's the money. Make it
last as long as you canfor it isn't very plentyyou know.

Ohthank you! It must be so nice to have pocket money! I'll
have a grand feastfor I haven't tasted a lime this week. I felt
delicate about taking anyas I couldn't return themand I'm
actually suffering for one.

Next day Amy was rather late at schoolbut could not resist the
temptation of displayingwith pardonable pridea moist brown-paper


parcelbefore she consigned it to the inmost recesses of her desk.
During the next few minutes the rumor that Amy March had got twenty-
four delicious limes (she ate one on the way) and was going to
treat circulated through her `set'and the attentions of her friends
became quite overwhelming. Katy Brown invited her to her next party
on the spot. Mary Kinglsey insisted on lending her her watch till
recessand Jenny Snowa satirical young ladywho had basely twitted
Amy upon her limeless statepromptly buried the hatchet and offered
to furnish answers to certain appalling sums. But Amy had not
forgotten Miss Snow's cutting remarks about `some persons whose noses
were not too flat to smell other people's limesand stuck-up people
who were not too proud to ask for them'and she instantly crushed
`that Snow girl's' hopes by the withering telegramYou needn't be
so polite all of a suddenfor you won't get any.


A distinguished personage happened to visit the school that
morningand Amy's beautifully drawn maps received praisewhich
honor to her foe rankled in the soul of Miss Snowand caused Miss
March to assume the airs of a studious young peacock. Butalas
alas! Pride goes before a falland the revengeful Snow turned the
tables with disastrous success. No sooner had the guest paid the
usual stale compliments and bowed himself outthan Jennyunder
pretense of asking an important questioninformed Mr. Davisthe
teacherthat Amy March had pickled limes in her desk.


Now Mr. Davis had declared limes a contraband articleand
solemnly vowed to publicly ferrule the first person who was found
breaking the law. This much-enduring man had succeeded in banishing
chewing gum after a long and stormy warhad made a bonfire of the
confiscated novels and newspapershad suppressed a private post
officehad forbidden distortions of the facenicknamesand
caricaturesand done all that one man could do to keep half a hundred
rebellious girls in order. Boys are trying enough to human patience
goodness knowsbut girls are infinitely more soespecially to
nervous gentlemen with tyrannical tempers and no more talent for
teaching than Dr. Blimber. Mr. Davis knew any quantity of Greek
Latinalgebraand ologies of all sorts so he was called a fine
teacherand mannersmoralsfeelingsand examples were not
considered of any particular importance. It was a most unfortunate
moment for denouncing Amyand Jenny knew it. Mr. Davis had
evidently taken his coffee too strong that morningthere was an
east windwhich always affected his neuralgiaand his pupils had
not done him the credit which he felt he deserved. Thereforeto
use the expressiveif not elegantlanguage of a schoolgirlHe
was as nervous as a witch and as cross as a bear. The word `limes'
was like fire to powderhis yellow face flushedand he rapped on
his desk with an energy which made Jenny skip to her seat with
unusual rapidity.


Young ladiesattentionif you please!


At the stern order the buzz ceasedand fifty pairs of blue
blackgrayand brown eyes were obediently fixed upon his awful
countenance.


Miss Marchcome to the desk.


Amy rose to comply with outward composurebut a secret fear
oppressed herfor the limes weighed upon her conscience.


Bring with you the limes you have in your deskwas the
unexpected command which arrested her before she got out of her seat.


Don't take all.whispered her neighbora young lady of great



presence of mind.


Amy hastily shook out half a dozen and laid the rest down before
Mr. Davisfeeling that any man possessing a human heart would relent
when that delicious perfume met his nose. UnfortunatelyMr. Davis
particularly detested the odor of the fashionable pickleand disgust
added to his wrath.


Is that all?


Not quitestammered Amy.


Bring the rest immediately.


With a despairing glance at her setshe obeyed.


You are sure there are no more?'


I never liesir."


So I see. Now take these disgusting things two by twoand
throw them out of the window.


There was a simultaneous sighwhich created quite a little gust
as the last hope fledand the treat was ravished from their longing
lips. Scarlet with shame and angerAmy went to and fro six dreadful
timesand as each doomed couplelooking ohso plump and juicyfell
from her reluctant handsa shout from the street completed the anguish
of the girlsfor it told them that their feast was being exulted over
by the little Irish childrenwho were their sworn foes. This--this
was too much. All flashed indignant or appealing glances at the
inexorable Davisand one passionate lime lover burst into tears.


As Amy returned from her last tripMr. Davis gave a portentous
Hem!and saidin his most impressive manner...


Young ladiesyou remember what I said to you a week ago. I
am sorry this has happenedbut I never allow my rules to be infringed
and I never break my word. Miss Marchhold out your hand.


Amy startedand put both hands behind herturning on him an
imploring look which pleaded for her better than the words she could
not utter. She was rather a favorite with `old Davis'asof course
he was calledand it's my private belief that he would have broken
his word if the indignation of one irrepressible young lady had not
found vent in a hiss. That hissfaint as it wasirritated the
irascible gentlemanand sealed the culprit's fate.


Your handMiss March!was the only answer her mute appeal
receivedand too proud to cry or beseechAmy set her teeththrew
bach her head defiantlyand bore without flinching several tingling
blows on her little palm. They were neither many nor heavybut that
made no difference to her. For the first time in her life she had
been struckand the disgracein her eyeswas as deep as if he had
knocked her down.


You will now stand on the platform till recesssaid Mr. Davis
resolved to do the thing thoroughlysince he had begun.


That was dreadful. It would have been bad enough to go to her
seatand see the pitying faces of her friendsor the satisfied
ones of her few enemiesbut to face the whole schoolwith that
shame fresh upon herseemed impossibleand for a second she felt
as if she could only drop down where she stoodand break her heart



with crying. A bitter sense of wrong and the thought of Jenny Snow
helped her to bear itandtaking the ignominious placeshe fixed
her eyes on the stove funnel above what now seemed a sea of faces
and stood thereso motionless and white that the girls found it
hard to study with that pathetic figure before them.

During the fifteen minutes that followedthe proud and sensitive
little girl suffered a shame and pain which she never forgot. To
others it might seem a ludicrous or trivial affairbut to her it was
a hard experiencefor during the twelve years of her life she had been
governed by love aloneand a blow of that sort had never touched her
before. The smart of her hand and the ache of her heart were forgotten
in the sting of the thoughtI shall have to tell at homeand they
will be so disappointed in me!

The fifteen minutes seemed an hourbut they came to an end at
lastand the word `Recess!' had never seemed so welcome to her before.

You can goMiss Marchsaid Mr. Davislookingas he felt
uncomfortable.

He did not soon forget the reproachful glance Amy gave himas
she wentwithout a word to anyonestraight into the anteroom
snatched her thingsand left the place "forever as she passionately
declared to herself. She was in a sad state when she got homeand
when the older girls arrivedsome time lateran indignation meeting
was held at once. Mrs. March did not say much but looked disturbed
and comforted her afflicted little daughter in her tenderest manner.
Meg bathed the insulted hand with glycerine and tearsBeth felt
that even her beloved kittens would fail as a balm for griefs like
thisJo wrathfully proposed that Mr. Davis be arrested without delay
and Hannah shook her fist at the `villain' and pounded potatoes for
dinner as if she had him under her pestle.

No notice was taken of Amy's flightexcept by her matesbut
the sharp-eyed demoiselles discovered that Mr. Davis was quite
benignant in the afternoonalso unusually nervous. Just before
school closedJo appearedwearing a grim expression as she
stalked up to the deskand delivered a letter from her mother
then collected Amy's propertyand departedcarefully scraping
the mud from her boots on the door matas if she shook that dust
of the place off her feet.

Yesyou can have a vacation from schoolbut I want you to
study a little every day with Beth said Mrs. March that evening.
I don't approve of corporal punishmentespecially for girls. I
dislike Mr. Davis's manner of teaching and don't think the girls
you associate with are doing you any goodso I shall ask your
father's advice before I send you anywhere else."

That's good! I wish all the girls would leaveand spoil
his old school. It's perfectly maddening to think of those lovely
limessighed Amywith the air of a martyr.

I am not sorry you lost themfor you broke the rulesand
deserved some punishment for disobediencewas the severe reply
which rather disappointed the young ladywho expected nothing but
sympathy.

Do you mean you are glad I was disgraced before the whole
school?cried Amy.

I should not have chosen that way of mending a fault
replied her motherbut I'm not sure that it won't do you more


good than a molder method. You are getting to be rather conceited
my dearand it is quite time you set about correcting it. You
have a good many little gifts and virtuesbut there is no need of
parading themfor conceit spoils the finest genius. There is not
much danger that real talent or goodness will be overlooked long
even if it isthe consciousness of possessing and using it well
should satisfy oneand the great charm of all power is modesty.


So it is!cried Lauriewho was playing chess in a corner
with Jo. "I knew a girl oncewho had a really remarkable talent
for musicand she didn't know itnever guessed what sweet little
things she composed when she was aloneand wouldn't have believed
it if anyone had told her."


I wish I'd known that nice girl. Maybe she would have helped
meI'm so stupidsaid Bethwho stood beside himlistening
eagerly.


You do know herand she helps you better than anyone else
couldanswered Laurielooking at her with such mischievous
meaning in his merry black eyes that Beth suddenly turned very
redand hid her face in the sofa cushionquite overcome by such
an unexpected discovery.


Jo let Laurie win the game to pay for that praise of her Beth
who could not be prevailed upon to play for them after her compliment.
So Laurie did his bestand sang delightfullybeing in a particularly
lively humorfor to the Marches he seldom showed the moody side
of his character. When he was goneamywho had been pensive
all eveningsaid suddenlyas if busy over some new idea
Is Laurie an accomplished boy?


Yeshe has had an excellent educationand has much talent.
He will make a fine manif not spoiled by pettingreplied her mother.


And he isn't conceitedis he?asked Amy.


Not in the least. That is why he is so charming and we all
like him so much.
I see. It's nice to have accomplishments and be elegantbut
not to show off or get perked upsaid Amy thoughtfully.


These things are always seen and felt in a person's manner
and conversationsif modestly usedbut it is not necessary to
display themsaid Mrs. March.


Any more than it's proper to wear all your bonnets and gowns
and ribbons at oncethat folks may know you've got themadded Jo
and the lecture ended in a laugh.


CHAPTER EIGHT


Girlswhere are you going?asked Amycoming into their
room one Saturday afternoonand finding them getting ready to
go out with an air of secrecy which excited her curiosity.


Never mind. Little girls shouldn't ask questionsreturned
Jo sharply.


Now if there is anything mortifying to out feelings when we
are youngit is to be told thatand to be bidden to "run away



dear" is still more trying to us. Amy bridled up at this insult
and determined to find out the secretif she teased for an hour.
Turning to Megwho never refused her anything very longshe said
coaxinglyDo tell me! I should think you might let me gotoo
for Beth is fussing over her pianoand I haven't got anything to
doand am so lonely.

I can'tdearbecause you aren't invitedbegan Megbut
Jo broke in impatientlyNowMegbe quiet or you will spoil it
all. You can't goAmyso don't be a baby and whine about it.

You are going somewhere with LaurieI know you are. You
were whispering and laughing together on the sofa last nightand
you stopped when I came in. Aren't you going with him?

Yeswe are. Now do be stilland stop bothering.

Amy held her tonguebut used her eyesand saw Meg slip a
fan into her pocket.

I know! I know! You're going to the theater to see the
SEVEN CASTLES!she criedadding resolutelyand I shall go
for Mother said I might see itand I've got my rag moneyand
it was mean not to tell me in time.

Just listen to me a minuteand be a good childsaid Meg
soothingly. "Mother doesn't wish you to go this weekbecause
your eyes are not well enough yet to bear the light of this
fairy piece. Next week you can go with Beth and Hannahand
have a nice time."

I don't like that half as well as going with you and Laurie.
Please let me. I've been sick with this cold so longand shut
upI'm dying for some fun. DoMeg! I'll be ever so good
pleaded Amylooking as pathetic as she could.

Suppose we take her. I don't believe Mother would mind
if we bundle her up wellbegan Meg.

If she goes I shan'tand if I don'tLaurie won't like it
and it will be very rudeafter he invited only usto go and
drag in Amy. I should think she'd hate to poke herself where
she isn't wantedsaid Jo crosslyfor she disliked the trouble
of overseeing a fidgety child when she wanted to enjoy herself.

Her tone and manner angered Amywho began to put her boots
onsayingin her most aggravating wayI shall go. Meg says I
mayand if I pay for myselfLaurie hasn't anything to do with it.

You can't sit with usfor our seats are reservedand you
mustn't sit aloneso Laurie will give you his placeand that
will spoil our pleasure. Or he'll get another seat for youand
that isn't proper when you weren't asked. You shan't stir a
stepso you may just stay where you arescolded Jocrosser
than everhaving just pricked her finger in her hurry.

Sitting on the floor with one boot onAmy began to cry
and Meg to reason with herwhen Laurie called from belowand
the two girls hurried downleaving their sister wailing. For
now and then she forgot her grown-up ways and acted like a
spoiled child. Just as the party was setting outAmy called
over the banisters in a threatening toneYou'll be sorry for
thisJo Marchsee if you ain't.


Fiddlesticks!returned Joslamming the door.

They had a charming timefor THE SEVEN CASTLES OF THE
DIAMOND LAKE was as brilliant and wonderful as heart could wish.
But in spite of the comical red impssparkling elvesand the
gorgeous princes and princessesJo's pleasure had a drop of
bitterness in it. The fairy queen's yellow curls reminded her
of Amyand between the acts she amused herself with wondering
what her sister would do to make her `sorry for it'. She and
Amy had had many lively skirmishes in the course of their lives
for both had quick tempers and were apt to be violent when fairly
roused. Amy teased Joand Jo irritated Amyand semioccasional
explosions occurredof which both were much ashamed afterward.
Although the oldestJo had the least self-controland had hard
times trying to curb the fiery spirit which was continually getting
her into trouble. Her anger never lasted longand having humbly
confessed her faultshe sincerely repented and tried to do better.
Her sisters used to say that they rather liked to get Jo into a
fury because she was such an angel afterward. Poor Jo tried
desperately to be goodbut her bosom enemy was always ready to
flame up and defeat herand it took years of patient effort to
subdue it.

When they got homethey found amy reading in the parlor.
She assumed an injured air as they came innever lifted her eyes
from her bookor asked a single question. Perhaps curiosity
might have conquered resentmentif Beth had not been there to
inquire and receive a glowing description of the play. On going
up to put away her best hatJo's first look was toward the
bureaufor in their last quarrel Amy had soothed her feelings
by turning Jo's top drawer upside down on the floor. Everything
was in its placehoweverand after a hasty glance into her
various closetsbagsand boxesJo decided that Amy had
forgiven and forgotten her wrongs.

There Jo was mistakenfor next day she made a discovery
which produced a tempest. MegBethand Amy were sitting together
late in the afternoonwhen Jo burst into the roomlooking excited
and demanding breathlesslyHas anyone taken my book?

Meg and Beth saidNo.at onceand looked surprised. Amy
poked the fire and said nothing. Jo saw her color rise and was
down upon her in a minute.

Amyyou've got it!

NoI haven't.

You know where it isthen!

NoI don't.

That's a fib!cried Jotaking her by the shouldersand
looking fierce enough to frighten a much braver child than Amy.

It isn't. I haven't got itdon't know where it is nowand
don't care.

You know something about itand you'd better tell at once
or I'll make you.And Jo gave her a slight shake.

Scold as much as you likeyou'll never see your silly old
book againcried Amygetting excited in her turn.


why not?

I burned it up.

What! My little book I was so fond ofand worked overand
meant to finish before Father got home? Have you really burned it?
said Joturning very palewhile her eyes kindled and her hands
clutched Amy nervously.

YesI did! I told you I'd make you pay for being so cross
yesterdayand I haveso...

Amy got no fartherfor Jo's hot temper mastered herand
she shook Amy till her teeth chattered in her headcrying in a
passion of grief and anger...

You wickedwicked girl! I never can write it againand
I'll never forgive you as long as I live.

Meg flew to rescue Amyand Beth to pacify Jobut Jo was
quite beside herselfand with a parting box on her sister's ear
she rushed out of the room up to the old sofa in the garretand
finished her fight alone.

The storm cleared up belowfor Mrs. March came homeand
having heard the storysoon brought Amy to a sense of the wrong
she had done her sister. Jo's book was the pride of her heart
and was regarded by her family as a literary sprout of great
promise. It was only half a dozen little fairy talesbut Jo
had worked over them patientlyputting her whole heart into
her workhoping to make something good enough to print. She
had just copied them with great careand had destroyed the old
manuscriptso that Amy's bonfire had consumed the loving work
of several years. It seemed a small loss to othersbut to Jo
it was a dreadful calamityand she felt that it never could be
made up to her. Beth mourned as for a departed kittenand Meg
refused to defend her pet. Mrs. March looked grave and grieved
and Amy felt that no one would love her till she had asked pardon
for the act which she now regretted more than any of them.

When the tea bell rangJo appearedlooking so grim and
unapproachable that it took all Amy's courage to say meekly...

Please forgive meJo. I'm veryvery sorry.

I never shall forgive youwas Jo's stern answerand
from that moment she ignored Amy entirely.

No one spoke of the great troublenot even Mrs. Marchfor
all had learned by experience that when Jo was in that mood words
were wastedand the wisest course was to wait till some little
accidentor her own generous naturesoftened Jo's resentment
and healed the breach. It was not a happy eveningfor though
they sewed as usualwhile their mother read aloud from Bremer
Scottor Edgeworthsomething was wantingand the sweet home
peace was disturbed. They felt this most when singing time came
for Beth could only playJo stood dumb as a stoneand Amy broke
downso Meg and Mother sang alone. But in spite of their efforts
to be as cheery as larksthe flutelike voices did not seem to
chord as well as usualand all felt out of tune.

As Jo received her good-night kissMrs. March whispered gently
My deardon't let the sun go down upon your anger. Forgive each
otherhelp each otherand begin again tomorrow.


Jo wanted to lay her head down on that motherly bosomand
cry her grief and anger all awaybut tears were an unmanly
weaknessand she felt so deeply injured that she really couldn't
quite forgive yet. So she winked hardshook her headand said
gruffly because Amy was listeningIt was an abominable thing
and she doesn't deserve to be forgiven.


With that she marched off to bedand there was no merry
or confidential gossip that night.


Amy was much offended that her overtures of peace had been
repulsedand began to wish she had not humbled herselfto feel
more injured than everand to plume herself on her superior
virtue in a way which was particularly exasperating. Jo still
looked like a thunder cloudand nothing went well all day. It
was bitter cold in the morningshe dropped her precious turnover
in the gutterAunt March had an attack of the fidgetsMeg was
sensitiveBeth would look grieved and wistful when she got home
and Amy kept making remarks about people who were always talking
about being good and yet wouldn't even try when other people set
them a virtuous example.
Everybody is so hatefulI'll ask Laurie to go skating. He
is always kind and jollyand will put me to rightsI knowsaid
Jo to herselfand off she went.


Amy heard the clash of skatesand looked out with an impatient
exclamation.


There! She promised I should go next timefor this is the
last ice we shall have. But it's no use to ask such a crosspatch
to take me.


Don't say that. You were very naughtyand it is hard to
forgive the loss of her precious little bookbut I think she
might do it nowand I guess she willif you try her at the
right minutesaid Meg. "Go after them. Don't say anything till
Jo has got good-natured with Lauriethan take a quiet minute and
just kiss heror do some kind thingand I'm sure she'll be
friends again with all her heart."


I'll trysaid Amyfor the advice suited herand after a
flurry to get readyshe ran after the friendswho were just
disappearing over the hill.


It was not far to the riverbut both were ready before Amy
reached them. Jo saw her comingand turned her back. Laurie did
not seefor he was carefully skating along the shoresounding the
icefor a warm spell had preceded the cold snap.


I'll go on to the first bendand see if it's all right before
we begin to raceAmy heard him sayas he shot awaylooking like
a young Russian in his fur-trimmed coat and cap.


Jo heard Amy panting after her runstamping her feet and
blowing on her fingers as she tried to put her skates onbut Jo
never turned and went slowly zigzagging down the rivertaking a
bitterunhappy sort of satisfaction in her sister's troubles.
She had cherished her anger till it grew strong and took possession
of heras evil thoughts and feelings always do unless cast out at
once. As Laurie turned the bendhe shouted back...


Keep near the shore. It isn't safe in the middle.
Jo heardbut Amy was struggling to her feet and did not catch



a word. Jo glanced over her shoulderand the little demon she was
harboring said in her ear...

No matter whether she heard or notlet her take care of
herself.

Laurie had vanished round the bendJo was just at the turn
and Amyfar behindstriking out toward the the smoother ice in
the middle of the river. For a minute Jo stood still with a
strange feeling in her heartthen she resolved to go onbut
something held and turned her roundjust in time to see Amy throw
up her hands and go downwith a sudden crash of rotten icethe
splash of waterand a cry that made Jo's heart stand still with
fear. She tried to call Lauriebut her voice was gone. She tried
to rush forwardbut her feet seemed to have no strength in them
and for a secondshe could only stand motionlessstaring with a
terror-stricken face at the little blue hood above the black water.
Something rushed swiftly by herand Laurie's voice cried out...

Bring a rail. Quickquick!

How she did itshe never knewbut for the next few minutes
she worked as if possessedblindly obeying Lauriewho was quite
self-possessedand lying flatheld Amy up by his arm and hockey
stick till Jo dragged a rail from the fenceand together they
got the child outmore frightened than hurt.

Now thenwe must walk her home as fast as we can. Pile our
things on herwhile I get off these confounded skatescried
Lauriewrapping his coat round Amyand tugging away at the straps
which never seemed so intricate before.

Shiveringdrippingand cryingthey got Amy homeand after
an exciting time of itshe fell asleeprolled in blankets before
a hot fire. During the bustle Jo had scarcely spoken but flown
aboutlooking pale and wildwith her things half offher dress torn
and her hands cut and bruised by ice and rails and refractory buckles.
When Amy was comfortably asleepthe house quietand Mrs. March sitting
by the bedshe called Jo to her and began to bind up the hurt hands.

Are you sure she is safe?whispered Jolooking remorsefully
at the golden headwhich might have been swept away from her sight
forever under the treacherous ice.

Quite safedear. she is not hurtand won't even take cold
I thinkyou were so sensible in covering and getting her home
quicklyreplied her mother cheerfully.

Laurie did it all. I only let her go. Motherif she should
dieit would be my fault.And Jo dropped down beside the bed in
a passion of penitent tearstelling all that had happenedbitterly
condemning her hardness of heartand sobbing out her gratitude for
being spared the heavy punishment which might have come upon her.
It's my dreadful temper! I try to cure itI think I have
and then it breaks out worse than ever. OHMotherwhat shall I
do? What shall I do?cried poor Join despair.

Watch and praydearnever get tired of tryingand never
think it is impossible to conquer your faultsaid Mrs. March
drawing the blowzy head to her shoulder and kissing the wet cheek
so tenderly that Jo cried even harder.

You don't knowyou can't guess how bad it is! It seems as
if I could do anything when I'm in a passion. I get so savageI


could hurt anyone and enjoy it. I'm afraid I shall do something
dreadful some dayand spoil my lifeand make everybody hate me.
OhMotherhelp medo help me!


I willmy childI will. Don't cry so bitterlybut remember
this dayand resolve with all your soul that you will never know
another like it. Jodearwe all have our temptationssome far
greater than yoursand it often takes us all our lives to conquer
them. You think your temper is the worst in the worldbut mine
used to be just like it.


YoursMother? Whyyou are never angry!And for the
moment Jo forgot remorse in surprise.


I've been trying to cure it for forty yearsand have only
succeeded in controlling it. I am angry nearly every day of my
lifeJobut I have learned not to show itand I still hope to
learn not to feel itthough it may take me another forty years
to do so.


The patience and the humility of the face she loved so well
was a better lesson to Jo than the wisest lecturethe sharpest
reproof. She felt comforted at once by the sympathy and confidence
given her. The knowledge that her mother had a fault like
hersand tried to mend itmade her own easier to bear and
strengthened her resolution to cure itthough forty years seemed
rather a long time to watch and pray to a girl of fifteen.


Motherare you angry when you fold your lips tight together
and go out of the room sometimeswhen Aunt March scolds or people
worry you?asked Jofeeling nearer and dearer to her mother
than ever before.


YesI've learned to check the hasty words that rise to my
lipsand when I feel that they mean to break out against my will
I just go away for a minuteand give myself a little shake for
being so weak and wickedanswered Mrs. March with a sigh and a
smileas she smoothed and fastened up Jo's disheveled hair.


How did you learn to keep still? That is what troubles me
for the sharp words fly out before I know what I'm aboutand the
more I say the worse I gettill it's a pleasure to hurt people's
feelings and say dreadful things. Tell me how you do itMarmee
dear.
My good mother used to help me...


As you do us...interrupted Jowith a grateful kiss.


But I lost her when I was a little older than you areand
for years had to struggle on alonefor I was too proud to confess
my weakness to anyone else. I had a hard timeJoand shed a good
many bitter tears over my failuresfor in spite of my efforts I
never seemed to get on. Then your father cameand I was so happy
that i found it easy to be good. But by-and-bywhen I had four
little daughters round me and we were poorthen the old trouble
began againfor I am not patient by natureand it tried me very
much to see my children wanting anything.


Poor Mother! What helped you then?


Your fatherJo. He never loses patiencenever doubts or
complainsbut always hopesand works and waits so cheerfully
that one is ashamed to do otherwise before him. He helped and
comforted meand showed me that I must try to practice all the



virtues I would have my little girls possessfor I was their
example. It was easier to try for your sakes than for my own.
A startled or surprised look from one of you when I spoke sharply
rebuked me more than any words could have doneand the love
respectand confidence of my children was the sweetest reward I
could receive for my efforts to be the woman I would have them
copy.

OhMotherif I'm ever half as good as youI shall be
satisfiedcried Jomuch touched.

I hope you will be a great deal betterdearbut you must
keep watch over your `bosom enemy'as father calls itor it
may saddenif not spoil your life. You have had a warning.
Remember itand try with heart and soul to master this quick
temperbefore it brings you greater sorrow and regret than you
have known today.

I will tryMotherI truly will. But you must help me
remind meand keep me from flying out. I used to see Father
sometimes put his finger on his lipsand look at you with a
very kind but sober faceand you always folded your lips tight
and went away. Was he reminding you then?asked Jo softly.

Yes. I asked him to help me soand he never forgot it
but saved me from many a sharp word by that little gesture
and kind look.

Jo saw that her mother's eyes filled and her lips trembled
as she spokeand fearing that she had said too muchshe
whispered anxiouslyWas it wrong to watch you and to speak of
it? I didn't mean to be rudebut it's so comfortable to say all
I think to youand feel so safe and happy here.

Mu Joyou may say anything to your motherfor it is my
greatest happiness and pride to feel that my girls confide in me
and know how much I love them.

I thought I'd grieved you.

Nodearbut speaking of Father reminded me how much I
miss himhow much I owe himand how faithfully I should watch
and work to keep his little daughters safe and good for him.

Yet you told him to goMotherand didn't cry when he
wentand never complain nowor seem as if you needed any help
said Jowondering.

I gave my best to the country I loveand kept my tears
till he was gone. Why should I complainwhen we both have
merely done our duty and will surely be the happier for it in
the end? If I don't seem to need helpit is because I have a
better friendeven than Fatherto comfort and sustain me. My
childthe troubles and temptations of your life are beginning
and may be manybut you can overcome and outlive them all if
you learn to feel the strength and tenderness of your Heavenly
Father as you do that of your earthly one. The more you love
and trust Himand the less you will depend on human power and
wisdom. His love and care never tire or changecan never be
taken from youbut my become the source of lifelong peace
happinessand strength. Believe this heartilyand go to God
with all your little caresand hopesand sinsand sorrowsas
freely and confidingly as you come to your mother.


Jo's only answer was to hold her mother closeand in the
silence which followed the sincerest prayer she had ever prayed
left her heart without words. For in that sad yet happy hour
she had learned not only the bitterness of remorse and despair
but the sweetness of self-denial and self-controland led by
her mother's handshe had drawn nearer to the Friend who always
welcomes every child with a love stronger than that of any father
tenderer than that of any mother.

Amy stirred and sighed in her sleepand as if eager to begin
at once to mend her faultl Jo looked up with an expression on her
face which it had never worn before.

I let the sun go down on my anger. I wouldn't forgive her
and todayif it hadn't been for Laurieit might have been too
late! How could I be so wicked?said Johalf aloudas she
leaned over her sister softly stroking the wet hair scattered on
the pillow.

As if she heardAmy opened her eyesand held out her arms
with a smile that went straight to Jo's heart. Neither said a
wordbut they hugged one another closein spite of the blankets
and everything was forgiven and forgotten in one hearty kiss.

CHAPTER NINE

I do think it was the most fortunate thing in the world that
those children should have the measles just nowsaid Megone
April dayas she stood packing the `go abroady' trunk in her room
surrounded by her sisters.

And so nice of Annie Moffat not to forget her promise. A
whole fortnight of fun will be regularly splendidreplied Jo
looking like a windmill as she folded skirts with her long arms.

And such lovely weatherI'm so glad of thatadded Beth
tidily sorting neck and hair ribbons in her best boxlent for
the great occasion.

I wish I was going to have a fine time and wear all these
nice thingssaid Amy with her mouth full of pinsas she
artistically replenished her sister's cushion.

I wish you were all goingbut as you can'tI shall keep
my adventures to tell you when I come back. I'm sure it's the
least I can do when you have been so kindlending me things
and helping me get readysaid Megglancing round the room
at the very simple outfitwhich seemed nearly perfect in their
eyes.

What did Mother give you out of the treasure box?asked
Amywho had not been present at the opening of a certain cedar
chest in which Mrs. March kept a few relics of past splendoras
gifts for her girls when the proper time came.

A pair of silk stockingsthat pretty carved fanand a
lovely blue sash. I wanted the violet silkbut there isn't
time to make it overso I must be contented with my old tarlatan.

It will look nice over my new muslin skirtand the sash will
set it off beautifully. I wish I hadn't smashed my coral bracelet


for you might have had itsaid Jowho loved to give and lend
but whose possessions were usually too dilapidated to be of much
use.

There is a lovely old-fashioned pearl set in the treasure
chestbut Mother said real flowers were the prettiest ornament
for a young girland Laurie promised to send me all I want
replied Meg. "Nowlet me seethere's my new gray walking suit
just curl up the feather in my hatBeththen my poplin for
Sunday and the small partyit looks heavy for springdoesn't
it? The violet silk would be so nice. Ohdear!"

Never mindyou've got the tarlatan for the big partyand
you always look like an angel in whitesaid Amybrooding
over the little store of finery in which her soul delighted.

It isn't low-neckedand it doesn't sweep enoughbut it
will have to do. My blue housedress looks so wellturned and
freshly trimmedthat I feel as if I'd got a new one. My silk
sacque isn't a bit the fashionand my bonnet doesn't look like
Sallie's. I didn't like to say anythingbut I was sadly
disappointed in my umbrella. I told Mother black with a white
handlebut she forgot and bought a green one with a yellowish
handle. It's strong and neatso I ought not to complainbut I
know I shall feel ashamed of it beside Annie's silk one with a
gold topsighed Megsurveying the little umbrella with great
disfavor.

Change itadvised Jo.

I won't be so sillyor hurt Marmee's feelingswhen she
took so much pains to get my things. It's a nonsensical notion
of mineand I'm not going to give up to it. My silk stockings
and two pairs of new gloves are my comfort. You are a dear to
lend me yoursJo. I feel so rich and sort of elegantwith
two new pairsand the old ones cleaned up for common.And
Meg took a refreshing peep at her glove box.
Annie Moffat has blue and pink bows on her nightcaps.
Would you put some on mine?she askedas Beth brought up a
pile of snowy muslinsfresh from Hannah's hands.

NoI wouldn'tfor the smart caps won't match the plain
gowns without any trimming on them. Poor folks shouldn't rig
said Jo decidedly.

I wonder if I shall ever be happy enough to have real lace
on my clothes and bows on my caps?said Meg impatiently.

You said the other day that you'd be perfectly happy if
you could only go to Annie Moffat'sobserved Beth in her quiet
way.

So I did! WellI am happyand I won't fretbut it does
seem as if the more one gets the more one wantsdoesn't it? There
nowthe trays are readyand everything in but my ball dress
which I shall leave for Mother to packsaid Megcheering upas
she glanced from the half-filled trunk to the many times pressed
and mended white tarlatanwhich she called her `ball dress' with
an important air.

The next day was fineand Meg departed in style for a fortnight
of novelty and pleasure. Mrs. March had consented to the
visit rather reluctantlyfearing that Margaret would come back
more discontented than she went. But she begged so hardand


Sallie had promised to take good care of herand a little pleasure
seemed so delightful after a winter of irksome work that the mother
yieldedand the daughter went to take her first taste of fashionable life.

The Moffats were very fashionableand simple Meg was rather
dauntedat firstby the splendor of the house and the elegance
of its occupants. But they were kindly peoplein spite of the
frivolous life they ledand soon put their guest at her ease.
Perhaps Meg feltwithout understanding whythat they were not
particularly cultivated or intelligent peopleand that all their
gilding could not quite conceal the ordinary material of which
they were made. It certainly was agreeable to fare sumptuously
drive in a fine carriagewear her best frock every dayand do
nothing but enjoy herself. It suited her exactlyand soon she
began to imitate the manners and conversation of those about her
to put on little airs and gracesuse French phrasescrimp her
hairtake in her dressesand talk about the fashions as well as
she could. The more she saw of Annie Moffat's pretty thingsthe
more she envied her and sighed to be rich. Home now looked bare
and dismal as she thought of itwork grew harder than everand
she felt that she was a very destitute and much-injured girlin
spite of the new gloves and silk stockings.

She had not much time for repininghoweverfor the three
young girls were busily employed in `having a good time'. They
shoppedwalkedrodeand called all daywent to theaters and
operas or frolicked at home in the eveningfor Annie had many
friends and knew how to entertain them. Her older sisters were
very fine young ladiesand one was engagedwhich was extremely
interesting and romanticMeg thought. Mr. Moffat was a fat
jolly old gentlemanwho knew her fatherand Mrs. Moffata fat
jolly old ladywho took as great a fancy to Meg as her daughter
had done. Everyone petted herand `Daisey'as they called her
was in a fair way to have her head turned.

When the evening for the small party cameshe found that
the poplin wouldn't do at allfor the other girls were putting
on thin dresses and making themselves very fine indeed. So out
came the tarlatanlooking olderlimperand shabbier than ever
beside Sallie's crisp new one. Meg saw the girls glance at it
and then at one anotherand her cheeks began to burnfor with
all her gentleness she was very proud. No one said a word about
itbut Sallie offered to dress her hairand Annie to tie her
sashand Bellethe engaged sisterpraised her white arms. But
in their kindness Meg saw only pity for her povertyand her
heart felt very heavy as she stood by herselfwhile the others
laughedchatteredand flew about like gauzy butterflies. The
hardbitter feeling was getting pretty badwhen the maid
brought in a box of flowers. Before she could speakAnnie had
the cover offand all were exclaiming at the lovely rosesheath
and fern within.

It's for Belleof courseGeorge always sends her some
but these are altogether ravishingcried Anniewith a great
sniff.

They are for Miss Marchthe man said. And here's a note
put in the maidholding it to Meg.

What fun! Who are they from? Didn't know you had a lover
cried the girlsfluttering about Meg in a high state of curiosity
and surprise.

The note is from Motherand the flowers from Lauriesaid


Meg simplyyet much gratified that he had not forgotten her.

Ohindeed!said Annie with a funny lookas Meg slipped
the note into her pocket as a sort of talisman against envy
vanityand false pridefor the few loving words had done her
goodand the flowers cheered her up by their beauty.

Feeling almost happy againshe laid by a few ferns and roses
for herselfand quickly made up the rest in dainty bouquets for
the breastshairor skirts of her friendsoffering them so
prettily that Clarathe elder sistertold her she was `the
sweetest little thing she ever saw'and they looked quite
charmed with her small attention. Somehow the kind act finished
her despondencyand when all the rest went to show themselves
to Mrs. Moffatshe saw a happybright-eyed face in the mirror
as she laid her ferns against her rippling hair and fastened
the roses in the dress that didn't strike her as so very shabby
now.

She enjoyed herself very much that eveningfor she danced
to her heart's content. Everyone was very kindand she had
three compliments. Annie made her singand some one said she
had a remarkably fine voice. Major Lincoln asked who `the fresh
little girl with the beautiful eyes' wasand Mr. Moffat insisted
on dancing with her because she `didn't dawdlebut had some spring
in her'as he gracefully expressed it. So altogether she had a
very nice timetill she overheard a bit of conversationwhich
disturbed her extremely. She was sitting just inside the
conservatorywaiting for her partner to bring her an icewhen she
heard a voice ask on the other side of the flowery wall...

How old is he?

Sixteen or seventeenI should sayreplied another voice.

It would be a grand thing for one of those girlswouldn't
it? Sallie says they are very intimate nowand the old man quite
dotes on them.

Mrs. M. has made her plansI dare sayand will play her
cards wellearly as it is. The girl evidently doesn't think of it
yetsaid Mrs. Moffat.

She told that fib about her mommaas if she did knowand
colored up when the flowers came quite prettily. Poor thing!
She'd be so nice if she was only got up in style. Do you think
she'd be offended if we offered to lend her a dress for Thursday?
asked another voice.

She's proudbut I don't believe she'd mindfor that dowdy
tarlatan is all she has got. She may tear it tonightand that
will be a good excuse for offering a decent one.

Here Meg's partner appearedto find her looking much flushed
and rather agitated. She was proudand her pride was useful
just thenfor it helped her hide her mortificationangerand
disgust at what she had just heard. Forinnocent and unsuspicious
as she wasshe could not help understanding the gossip of her
friends. She tried to forget itbut could notand kept repeating
to herselfMrs. M. has made her plansthat fib about her
mammaand 'dowdy tarlatan till she was ready to cry and rush
home to tell her troubles and ask for advice. As that was impossible
she did her best to seem gayand being rather excitedshe
succeeded so well that no one dreamed what an effort she was making.


She was very glad when it was all over and she was quiet in her bed
where she could think and wonder and fume till her head ached and
her hot cheeks were cooled by a few natural tears. Those foolish
yet well meant wordshad opened a new world to Megand much
disturbed the peace of the old one in which till now she had lived
as happily as a child. Her innocent friendship with Laurie was
spoiled by the silly speeches she had overheard. Her faith in her
mother was a little shaken by the worldly plans attributed to her
by Mrs. Moffatwho judged others by herselfand the sensible
resolution to be contented with the simple wardrobe which suited
a poor man's daughter was weakened by the unnecessary pity of
girls who thought a shabby dress one of the greatest calamities
under heaven.


Poor Meg had a restless nightand got up heavy-eyedunhappy
half resentful toward her friendsand half ashamed of herself for
not speaking out frankly and setting everything right. Everybody
dawdled that morningand it was noon before the girls found
energy enough even to take up their worsted work. Something in
the manner of her friends struck Meg at once. They treated her
with more respectshe thoughttook quite a tender interest in
what she saidand looked at her with eyes that plainly betrayed
curiosity. All this surprised and flattered herthough she did
not understand it till Miss Belle looked up from her writingand
saidwith a sentimental air...


DaisydearI've sent an invitation to your friendMr.
Laurencefor Thursday. We should like to know himand it's only
a proper compliment to you."


Meg coloredbut a mischievous fancy to tease the girls made
her reply demurelyYou are very kindbut I'm afraid he won't
come.


Why notCherie?asked Miss Belle.


He's too old.


My childwhat do you mean? What is his ageI beg to
know!cried Miss Clara.


Nearly seventyI believeanswered Megcounting stitches
to hide the merriment in her eyes.


You sly creature! Of course we meant the young man
exclaimed Miss Bellelaughing.


There isn't anyLaurie is only a little boy.And Meg
laughed also at the queer look which the sisters exchanged as she
thus described her supposed lover.
About you ageNan said.


Nearer my sister Jo'sI am seventeen in Augustreturned
Megtossing her head.


It's very nice of him to send you flowersisn't it?said
Annielooking wise about nothing.


Yeshe often doesto all of usfor their house is fulland
we are so fond of them. My mother and old Mr. Laurence are friends
you knowso it is quite natural that we children should play together.
And Meg hoped they would say no more.


It's evident Daisy isn't out yetsaid Miss Clara to Belle with a nod.



Quite a pastoral state of innocence all roundreturned
Miss Belle with a shrug.

I'm going out to get some little matters for my girls. Can
I do anything for youyoung ladies?asked Mrs. Moffatlumbering
in like an elephant in silk and lace.

Nothank youma'amreplied Sallie. "I've got my new
pink silk for Thursday and don't want a thing."

Nor I...began Megbut stopped because it occurred to
her that she did want several things and could not have them.

What shall you wear?asked Sallie.

My old white one againif I can mend it fit to be seenit
got sadly torn last nightsaid Megtrying to speak quite easily
but feeling very uncomfortable.

Why don't you send home for another?said Salliewho was
not an observing young lady.

I haven't got any other.It cost Meg an effort to say that
but Sallie did not see it and exclaimed in amiable surpriseOnly
that?How funny..." She did not finish her speechfor Belle
shook her head at her and broke insaying kindly...

Not at all. Where is the use of having a lot of dresses
when she isn't out yet? There's no need of sending homeDaisy
even if you had a dozenfor I've got a sweet blue silk laid away
which I've outgrownand you shall wear it to please mewon't
youdear?

You are very kindbut I don't mind my old dress if you
don'tit does well enough for a little girl like mesaid Meg.

Now do let me please myself by dressing you up in style.
I admire to do itand you'd be a regular little beauty with a
touch here and there. I shan't let anyone see you till you are
doneand then we'll burst upon them like Cinderella and her
godmother going to the ballsaid Belle in her persuasive tone.

Meg couldn't refuse the offer so kindly madefor a desire to
see if she would be `a little beauty' after touching up caused
her to accept and forget all her former uncomfortable feelings
toward the Moffats.

On the Thursday eveningBelle shut herself up with her maid
and between them they turned Meg into a fine lady. They crimped
and curled her hairthey polished her neck and arms with some
fragrant powdertouched her lips with coralline salve to make
them redderand Hortense would have added `a soupcon of rouge'
if Meg had not rebelled. They laced her into a sky-blue dress
which was so tight she could hardly breathe and so low in the
neck that modest Meg blushed at herself in the mirror. A set
of silver filagree was addedbraceletsnecklacebroochand
even earringsfor Hortense tied them on with a bit of pink
silk which did not show. A cluster of tea-rose buds at the
bosom and a ruchereconciled Meg to the display of her pretty
white shouldersand a pair of high-heeled silk boots satisfied
the last wish of her heart. A lace handkerchiefa plumy fan
and a bouquet in a shoulder holder finished her offand Miss
Belle surveyed her with the satisfaction of a little girl with


a newly dressed doll.

Mademoiselle is chatmantetres jolieis she not?cried
Hortenseclasping her hands in an affected rapture.

Come and show yourselfsaid Miss Belleleading the way
to the room where the others were waiting.

As Meg went rustling afterwith her long skirts trailing
her earrings tinklingher curls wavingand her heart beating
she felt as if her fun had really begun at lastfor the mirror
had plainly told her that she was `a little beauty'. Her friends
repeated the pleasing phrase enthusiasticallyand for several
minutes she stoodlike a jackdaw in the fableenjoying her
borrowed plumeswhile the rest chattered like a party of magpies.

While I dressdo you drill herNanin the management of her
skirt and those French heelsor she will trip herself up. Take
your silver butterflyand catch up that long curl on the left side
of her headClaraand don't any of you disturb the charming work
of my handssaid Belleas she hurried awaylooking well pleased
with her success.

You don't look a bit like yourselfbut you are very nice.
I'm nowhere beside youfor Belle has heaps of tasteand you're
quite FrenchI assure you. Let your flowers hangdon't be so
careful of themand be sure you don't tripreturned Sallietrying
not to care that Meg was prettier than herself.

Keeping that warning carefully in mindMargaret got safely
downstairs and sailed into the drawing rooms where the Moffats and
a few early guests were assembled. She very soon discovered that
there is a charm about fine clothes which attracts a certain class
of people and secures their respect. Several young ladieswho
had taken no notice of her beforewere very affectionate all of
a sudden. Several young gentlemenwho had only stared at her at
the other partynow not only staredbut asked to be introduced
and said all manner of foolish but agreeable things to herand
several old ladieswho sat on the sofasand criticized the rest
of the partyinquired who she was with an air of interest. She
heard Mrs. Moffat reply to one of them...

Daisy March--father a colonel in the army--one of our first
familiesbut reverses of fortuneyou know; intimate friends of
the Laurences; sweet creatureI assure you; my Ned is quite wild
about her.

Dear me!said the old ladyputting up her glass for
another observation of Megwho tried to look as if she had not
heard and been rather shocked at Mrs. Moffat's fibs.
The `queer feeling' did not pass awaybut she imagined
herself acting the new part of fine lady and so got on pretty
wellthough the tight dress gave her a side-achethe train kept
getting under her feetand she was in constant fear lest her
earrings should fly off and get lost or broken. She was flirting
her fan and laughing at the feeble jokes of a young gentleman
who tried to be wittywhen she suddenly stopped laughing and
looked confusedfor just oppositeshe saw Laurie. He was
staring at her with undisguised surpriseand disapproval also
she thoughtfor though he bowed and smiledyet something in
his honest eyes made her blush and wish she had her old dress on.
To complete her confusionshe saw Belle nudge Annieand both
glance from her to Lauriewhoshe was happy to seelooked
unusually boyish and shy.


Silly creaturesto put such thoughts into my head. I won't
care for itor let it change me a bitthought Megand rustled
across the room to shake hands with her friend.

I'm glad you cameI was afraid you wouldn't.she said
with her most grown-up air.

Jo wanted me to comeand tell her how you lookedso I
didanswered Lauriewithout turning his eyes upon herthough
he half smiled at her maternal tone.

What shall you tell her?asked Megfull of curiosity to
know his opinion of heryet feeling ill at ease with him for the
first time.

I shall say I didn't know youfor you look so grown-up and
unlike yourselfI'm quite afraid of youhe saidfumbling at
his glove button.

How absurd of you! The girls dressed me up for funand I
rather like it. Wouldn't Jo stare if she saw me?said Megbent
on making him say whether he thought her improved or not.
YesI think she wouldreturned Laurie gravely.

Don't you like me so?' asked Meg.

NoI don't was the blunt reply.

Why not?" in an anxious tone.

He glanced at her frizzled headbare shouldersand fantastically
trimmed dress with an expression that abashed her more than
his answerwhich had not particle of his usual politeness in it.

I don't like fuss and feathers.

That was altogether too much from a lad younger than herself
and Meg walked awaysaying petulantlyYou are the rudest boy I
ever saw.

Feeling very much ruffledshe went and stood at a quiet window
to cool her cheeksfor the tight dress gave her an uncomfortably
brilliant color. As she stood thereMajor Lincoln passed byand
a minute after she heard him saying to his mother...

They are making a fool of that little girl. I wanted you
to see herbut they have spoiled her entirely. She's nothing
but a doll tonight.

Ohdear!sighed Meg. "I wish I'd been sensible and worn
my own thingsthen I should not have disgusted other peopleor
felt so uncomfortable and ashamed of myself."

She leaned her forehead on the cool paneand stood half
hidden by the curtainsnever minding that her favorite waltz
had beguntill some one touched herand turningshe saw
Laurielooking penitentas he saidwith his very best bow
and his hand out...

Please forgive my rudenessand come and dance with me.

I'm afraid it will be to disagreeable to yousaid Meg
trying to look offended and failing entirely.


Not a bit of itI'm dying to do it. ComeI'll be good.
I don't like your gownbut I do think you are just splendid.
And he waved his handsas if words failed to express his
admiration.


Meg smiled and relentedand whispered as they stood waiting
to catch the timeTake care my skirt doesn't trip you up. It's
the plague of my life and I was a goose to wear it.


Pin it round your neckand then it will be usefulsaid
Laurielooking down at the little blue bootswhich he evidently
approved of.
Away they went fleetly and gracefullyfor having practiced
at homethey were well matchedand the blithe young couple were
a pleasant sight to seeas they twirled merrily round and round
feeling more friendly than ever after their small tiff.


LaurieI want you to do me a favorwill you?' said Meg
as he stood fanning her when her breath gave outwhich it did
very soon though she would not own why.


Won't I!" said Lauriewith alacrity.


Please don't tell them at home about my dress tonight.
They won't understand the jokeand it will worry Mother.'


Then why did you do it?" said Laurie's eyesso plainly
that Meg hastily added...


I shall tell them myself all about itand `fess' to Mother
how silly I've been. But I'd rather do it myself. So you'll not
tellwill you?


I give you my word I won'tonly what shall I say when
they ask me?


Just say I looked pretty well and was having a good time.


I'll say the first with all my heartbut how about the
other? You don't look as if you were having a good time. Are
you?' And Laurie looked at her with an expression which made her
answer in a whisper...


Nonot just now. Don't think I'm horrid. I only wanted
a little funbut this sort doesn't payI findand I'm getting
tired of it."


Here comes Ned Moffat. What does he want?said Laurie
knitting his black brows as if he did not regard his young host
in the light of a pleasant addition to the party.


He put his name down for three dancesand I suppose he's
coming for them. What a bore!said Megassuming a languid air
which amused Laurie immensely.


He did not speak to her again till suppertimewhen he saw
her drinking champagne with Ned and his friend Fisherwho were
behaving `like a pair of fools'as Laurie said to himselffor
he felt a brotherly sort of right to watch over the Marches and
fight their battles whenever a defender was needed.


You'll have a splitting headache tomorrowif you drink
much of that. I wouldn'tMegyour mother doesn't like ityou



knowhe whisperedleaning over her chairas Ned turned to
refill her glass and Fisher stooped to pick up her fan.

I'm not Meg tonightI'm `a doll' who does all sorts of
crazy things. Tomorrow I shall put away my `fuss and feathers'
and be desperately good againse answered with an affected
little laugh.

Wish tomorrow was herethenmuttered Lauriewalking off
ill-pleased at the change he saw in her.

Meg danced and flirtedchattered and giggledas the other
girls did. After supper she undertook the Germanand blundered
through itnearly upsetting her partner with her long skirtand
romping in a way that scandalized Lauriewho looked on and meditated
a lecture. But he got no chance to deliver itfor Meg kept away
from him till he came to say good night.

Remember!she saidtrying to smilefor the splitting
headache had already begun.

Silence a` la mortreplied Lauriewith a melodramatic
flourishas he went away.

This little bit of byplay excited Annie's curiositybut Meg
was too tired for gossip and went to bedfeeling as if she had
been to a masquerade and hadn't enjoyed herself as much as she
expected. She was sick all the next dayand on Saturday went home
quite used up with her fortnight's fun and feeling that she had
`sat in the lap of luxury' long enough.

It does seem pleasant to be quietand not have company
manners on all the time. Home is a nice placethough it isn't
splendidsaid Meglooking about her with a restful expression
as she sat with her mother and Jo on the Sunday evening.

I'm glad to hear you say sodearfor I was afraid home
would seem dull and poor to you after your fine quartersreplied
her motherwho had given her many anxious looks that day. For
motherly eyes are quick to see any change in children's faces.

Meg had told her adventures gayly and said over and over what
a charming time she had hadbut something still seemed to weigh
upon her spiritsand when the younger girls were gone to bedshe
sat thoughtfully staring at the firesaying little and looking
worried. As the clock struck nine and Jo proposed bedMeg
suddenly left her chair andtaking Beth's stoolleaned her elbows
on her mother's kneesaying bravely...

MarmeeI want to `fess'.

I thought so. What is itdear?

Shall I go away?asked Jo discreetly.

Of course not. Don't I always tell you everything? I was
ashamed to speak of it before the younger childrenbut I want you
to know all the dreadful things I did at the Moffats'.

We are preparedsaid Mrs. Marchsmiling but looking a
little anxious.

I told you they dressed me upbut I didn't tell you that
they powdered and squeezed and frizzledand made me look like a


fashion plate. Laurie thought I wasn't proper. I know he did
though he didn't say soand one man called me `a doll'. I knew
it was sillybut they flattered me and said I was a beautyand
quantities of nonsenseso I let them make a fool of me.

Is that all?asked Joas Mrs. March looked silently at
the downcast face of her pretty daughterand could not find it
in her heart to blame her little follies.

NoI drank champagne and romped and tried to flirtand
was altogether abominablesaid Meg self-reproachfully.

There is something moreI think.And Mrs. March smoothed
the soft cheekwhich suddenly grew rosy as Meg answered slowly...

Yes. It's very sillybut I want to tell itbecause I hate
to have people say and think such things about us and Laurie.

Then she told the various bits of gossip she had heard at the
Moffats'and as she spokeJo saw her mother fold her lips tightly
as if ill pleased that such ideas should be put into Meg's innocent
mind.

Wellif that isn't the greatest rubbish I ever heardcried
Jo indignantly. "Why didn't you pop out and tell them so on the
spot?'

I couldn'tit was so embarrassing for me. I couldn't help
hearing at firstand then I was so angry and ashamedI didn't
remember that I ought to go away.

Just wait till I see Annie Moffatand I'll show you how to
settle such ridiculous stuff. The idea of having `plans' and being
kind to Laurie because he's rich and may marry us by-and-by! Won't
he shout when I tell him what those silly things say about us poor
children?And Jo laughedas if on second thoughts the thing
struck her as a good joke.

If you tell LaurieI'll never forgive you! She mustn't
must sheMother?said Meglooking distressed.

Nonever repeat that foolish gossipand forget it as soon
as you cansaid Mrs. March gravely. "I was very unwise to let
you go among people of whom I know so littlekindI dare say
but worldlyill-bredand full of these vulgar ideas about young
people. I am more sorry than I can express for the mischief this
visit may have done youMeg."

Don't be sorryI won't let it hurt me. I'll forget all the
bad and remember only the goodfor I did enjoy a great dealand
thank you very much for letting me go. I'll not be sentimental or
dissatisfiedMother. I know I'm a silly little girland I'll
stay with you till I'm fit to take care of myself. But it is nice
to be praised and admiredand I can't help saying I like itsaid
Meglooking half ashamed of the confession.

That is perfectly naturaland quite harmlessif the liking
does not become a passion and lead one to do foolish or unmaidenly
things. Learn to know and value the praise which is worth having
and to excite the admiration of excellent people by being modest
as well as prettyMeg.

Margaret sat thinking a momentwhile Jo stood with her hands
behind herlooking both interested and a little perplexedfor it


was a new thing to see Meg blushing and talking about admiration
loversand things of that sort. And Jo felt as if during that
fortnight her sister had grown up amazinglyand was drifting away
from her into a world where she could not follow.

Motherdo you have `plans'as Mrs. Moffat said?asked Meg
bashfully.

Yesmy dearI have a great manyall mothers dobut mine
differ somewhat from Mrs. Moffat'sI suspect. I will tell you
some of themfor the time has come when a word may set this
romantic little head and heart of yours righton a very serious
subject. You are youngMegbut not too young to understand me
and mothers' lips are the fittest to speak of such things to girls
like you. Joyour turn will come in timeperhapsso listen to
my `plans' and help me carry them outif they are good.

Jo went and sat on one arm of the chairlooking as if she
thought they were about to join in some very solemn affair.
Holding a hand of eachand watching the two young faces wistfully
Mrs. March saidin her serious yet cheery way...

I want my daughters to be beautifulaccomplishedand good.
To be admiredlovedand respected. To have a happy youthto
be well and wisely marriedand to lead usefulpleasant lives
with as little care and sorrow to try them as God sees fit to send.
To be loved and chosen by a good man is the best and sweetest thing
which can happen to a womanand I sincerely hope my girls may
know this beautiful experience. It is natural to think of itMeg
right to hope and wait for itand wise to prepare for itso that
when the happy time comesyou may feel ready for the duties and
worthy of the joy. My dear girlsI am ambitious for youbut not
to have you make a dash in the worldmarry rich men merely because
they are richor have splendid houseswhich are not homes because
love is wanting. Money is a needful and precious thingand when
well useda noble thingbut I never want you to think it is the
first or only prize to strive for. I'd rather see you poor men's
wivesif you were happybelovedcontentedthan queens on thrones
without self-respect and peace.

Poor girls don't stand any chanceBelle saysunless they
put themselves forwardsighed Meg.

Then we'll be old maidssaid Jo stoutly.
rightJo. Better be happy old maids than unhappy wivesor
unmaidenly girlsrunning about to find husbandssaid Mrs. March
decidedly. "Don't be troubledMegpoverty seldom daunts a sincere
lover. Some of the best and most honored women I know were poor
girlsbut so love-worthy that they were not allowed to be old maids.
Leave these things to time. Make this home happyso that you may
be fit for homes of your ownif they are offered youand contented
here if they are not. One thing remembermy girls. Mother is
always ready to be your confidanteFather to be your friendand
both of hope and trust that our daughterswhether married or single
will be the pride and comfort of out lives."

We willMarmeewe will!cried bothwith all their hearts
as she bade them good night.

CHAPTER TEN

As spring came ona new set of amusements became the


fashionand the lengthening days gave long afternoons for
work and play of all sorts. The garden had to be put in order
and each sister had a quarter of the little plot to do what she
liked with. Hannah used to sayI'd know which each of them
gardings belonged toef I see 'em in Chinyand so she might
for the girls' tastes differed as much as their characters. Meg's
had roses and heliotropemyrtleand a little orange tree in it.
Jo's bed was never alike two seasonsfor she was always trying
experiments. This year it was to be a plantation of sun flowers
the seeds of which cheerful land aspiring plant were to feed
Aunt Cockle-top and her family of chicks. Beth had old-fashioned
fragrant flowers in her gardensweet peas and mignonette
larkspurpinkspansiesand southernwoodwith chickweed for
the birds and catnip for the pussies. Amy had a bower in hers
rather small and earwiggybut very pretty to look atwith
honeysuckle and morning-glories hanging their colored horns and
bells in graceful wreaths all over ittall white liliesdelicate
fernsand as many brilliantpicturesque plants as would consent
to blossom there.

Gardeningwalksrows on the riverand flower hunts employed
the fine daysand for rainy onesthey had house diversions
some oldsome newall more or less original. One of these
was the `P.C'for as secret societies were the fashion
it was thought proper to have oneand as all of the girls
admired Dickensthey called themselves the Pickwick Club. With
a few interruptionsthey had kept this up for a yearand met
every Saturday evening in the big garreton which occasions the
ceremonies were as follows: Three chairs were arranged in a row
before a table on which was a lampalso four white badgeswith
a big `P.C.' in different colors on eachand the weekly
newspaper calledThe Pickwick Portfolioto which all contributed
somethingwhile Jowho reveled in pens and inkwas the editor.
At seven o'clockthe four members ascended to the clubroom
tied their badges round their headsand took their seats with
great solemnity. Megas the eldestwas Samuel PickwickJo
being of a literary turnAugustus SnodgrassBethbecause she
was round and rosyTracy Tupmanand Amywho was always trying
to do what she couldn'twas Nathaniel Winkle. Pickwickthe
presidentread the paperwhich was filled with original tales
poetrylocal newsfunny advertisementsand hintsin which
they good-naturedly reminded each other of their faults and
short comings. On one occasionMr. Pickwick put on a pair
of spectacles without any glassrapped upon the tablehemmed
and having stared hard at Mr. Snodgrasswho was tilting back
in his chairtill he arranged himself properlybegan to read:

THE PICKWICK PORTFOLIO

MAY 2018--


POET'S CORNER

ANNIVERSARY ODE

Again we meet to celebrate
With badge and solemn rite
Our fifty-second anniversary
In Pickwick Halltonight.


We all are here in perfect health
None gone from our small band:
Again we see each well-known face
And press each friendly hand.


Our Pickwickalways at his post
With reverence we greet
Asspectacles on nosehe reads
Our well-filled weekly sheet.


Although he suffers from a cold
We joy to hear him speak
For words of wisdom from him fall
In spite of croak or squeak.


Old six-foot Snodgrass looms on high
With elephantine grace
And beams upon the company
With brown and jovial face.


Poetic fire lights up his eye
He struggles 'gainst his lot.
Behold ambition on his brow
And on his nosea blot.


Next our peaceful Tupman comes
So rosyplumpand sweet
Who chokes with laughter at the puns
And tumbles off his seat.


Prim little Winkle too is here
With every hair in place
A model of propriety
Though he hates to wash his face.


The year is gonewe still unite
To joke and laugh and read
And tread the path of literature
That doth to glory lead.


Long may our paper prosper well
Our club unbroken be
And coming years their blessings pour
On the usefulgay `P. C.'.


A. SNODGRASS
THE MASKED MARRIAGE
(A Tale Of Venice)

Gondola after gondola swept up to the marble
stepsand left its lovely load to swell the
brilliant throng that filled the stately halls of Count
Adelon. Knights and ladieselves and pagesmonks
and flower girlsall mingled gaily in the dance.
Sweet voices and rich melody filled the airand so
with mirth and music the masquerade went on.
Has your Highness seen the Lady viola tonight?
asked a gallant troubadour of the fairy queen who
floated down the hall upon his arm.
Yesis she not lovelythough so sad! Her
dress is well chosentoofor in a week she weds


Count Antoniowhom she passionately hates.

By my faithI envy him. Yonder he comes
arrayed like a bridegroomexcept the black mask.
When that is off we shall see how he regards the
fair maid whose heart he cannot winthough her
stern father bestows her handreturned the troubadour.

Tis whispered that she loves the young English
artist who haunts her stepsand is spurned by the
old Countsaid the ladyas they joined the dance.
The revel was at its height when a priest
appearedand withdrawing the young pair to an alcove
hung with purple velvethe motioned them to kneel.
Instant silence fell on the gay throngand not a
soundbut he dash of fountains or the rustle of
orange groves sleeping in the moonlightbroke the
hushas Count de Adelon spoke thus:

My lords and ladiespardon the ruse by which
I have gathered you here to witness the marriage of
my daughter. Fatherwe wait your services.
All eyes turned toward the bridal partyand a
murmur of amazement went through the throngfor
neither bride nor groom removed their masks. Curiosity
and wonder possessed all heartsbut respect restrained
all tongues till the holy rite was over. Then the
eager spectators gathered round the countdemanding
an explanation.

Gladly would I give it if I couldbut I only
know that it was the whim of my timid Violaand I
yielded to it. Nowmy childrenlet the play end.
Unmask and receive my blessing.

But neither bent the kneefor the young bridegroom
replied in a tone that startled all listeners
as the mask felldisclosing the noble face of Ferdinand
Devereuxthe artist loverand leaning on the
breast where now flashed the star of an English earl
was the lovely Violaradiant with joy and beauty.

My lordyou scornfully bade me claim your
daughter when I could boast as high a name and vast a
fortune as the Count antonio. I can do morefor even
your ambitious soul cannot refuse the Earl of Devereux
and De Verewhen he gives his ancient name and boundless
wealth in return for the beloved hand of this fair lady
now my wife.

The count stood like one changed to stoneand
turning to the bewildered crowdFerdinand addedwith
a gay smile of triumphTo youmy gallant friendsI
can only wish that your wooing may prosper as mine has
doneand that you may all win as fair a bride as I have
by this masked marriage."

S. PICKWICK
Why is the P. C. like the Tower of Babel?
It is full of unruly members.


THE HISTORY OF A SQUASH

Once upon a time a farmer planted a little seed.
in his gardenand after a while it sprouted and became
a vine and bore many squashes. One day in October
when they were ripehe picked one and took it
to market. A gorcerman bought and put it in his shop.
That same morninga little girl in a brown hat
and blue dresswith a round face and snub nosewent
and bought it for her mother. She lugged it homecut
it upand boiled it in the big potmashed some of it
salt and butterfor dinner. And to the rest she added
a pint of milktwo eggsfour spoons of sugarnutmeg
and some crackersput it in a deep dishand baked it
till it was brown and niceand next day it was eaten
by a family named March.

T. TUPMAN
Mr. PickwickSir:I
address you upon the subject of sin the sinner
I mean is a man named Winkle who makes trouble in his
club by laughing and sometimes won't write his piece in
this fine paper I hope you will pardon his badness and
let him send a French fable because he can't write out
of his head as he has so many lessons to do and no brains
in future I will try to take time by the fetlock and
prepare some work which will be all commy la fo that
means all right I am in haste as it is nearly school
time
Yours respectably

N. WINKLE
[The above is a manly and handsome aknowledgment of past
misdemeanors. If our young friend studied punctuationit
would be well.]

A SAD ACCIDENT

On Friday lastwe were startled by a violent shock
in our basementfollowed by cries of distress.
On rushing in a body to the cellarwe discovered our beloved
President prostrate upon the floorhaving tripped and
fallen while getting wood for domestic purposes. A perfect
scene of ruin met our eyesfor in his fall Mr. Pickwick
had plunged his head and shoulders into a tub of water
upset a keg of soft soap upon his manly formand torn
his garments badly. On being removed from this perilous
situationit was discovered that he had suffered
no injury but several bruisesand we are happy to add
is now doing well.
ED.

THE PUBLIC BEREAVEMENT


It is our painful duty to record the sudden and
mysterious disappearance of our cherished friendMrs.
Snowball Pat Paw. This lovely and beloved cat was the
pet of a large circle of warm and admiring friends; for
her beauty attracted all eyesher graces and virtues
endeared her to all heartsand her loss is deeply felt
by the whole community.


When last seenshe was sitting at the gatewatching
the butcher's cartand it is feared that some villain
tempted by her charmsbasely stole her. Weeks have passed
but no trace of her has been discoveredand we relinquish
all hopetie a black ribbon to her basketset aside her
dishand weep for her as one lost to us forever.


A sympathizing friend sends the following gem:


A LAMENT
(FOR S. B. PAT PAW)


We mourn the loss of our little pet
And sigh o'er her hapless fate
For never more by the fire she'll sit
Nor play by the old green gate.


The little grave where her infant sleeps
Is 'neath the chestnut tree.
But o'er her grave we may not weep
We know not where it may be.


Her empty bedher idle ball
Will never see her more;
No gentle tapno loving purr
Is heard at the parlor door.


Another cat comes after her mice
A cat with a dirty face
But she does not hunt as our darling did
Nor play with her airy grace.


Her stealthy paws tread the very hall
Where Snowball used to play
But she only spits at the dogs our pet
So gallantly drove away.


She is useful and mildand does her best
But she is not fair to see
And we cannot give her your place dear
Nor worship her as we worship thee.


A.S.
ADVERTISEMENTS

Miss Oranthy Bluggagethe accomplished
strong-minded lecturerwill deliver her
famous lecture on "WOMAN AND HER POSITION"
at Pickwick Hallnext Saturday Evening
after the usual performances.


A weekly meeting will be held at Kitchen
placeto teach young ladies how to cook.
Hannah Brown will presideand all are
invited to attend.

The DUSTPAN SOCIETY will meet on Wednesday
nextand parade in the upper story of the
Club House. All members to appear in uniform
and shoulder their brooms at nine precisely.

Mrs. Beth Bouncer will open her new
assortment of Doll's Millinery next week.
The latest Paris fashions have arrived
and orders are respectfully solicited.

A new play will appear at the Barnville
Theatrein the course of a few weekswhich
will surpass anything ever seen on the American stage.
The Greek Slaveor Constantine the Avengeris the name
of this thrilling drama.!!!

HINTS

If S.P. didn't use so much soap on his hands
he wouldn't always be late at breakfast. A.S.
is requested not to whistle in the street. T.T
please don't forget Amy's napkin. N.W. must
not fret because his dress has not nine tucks.

WEEKLY REPORT

Meg--Good.
Jo--Bad.
Beth--Very Good.
Amy--Middling.

As the President finished reading the paper (which I beg
leave to assure my readers is a bona fide copy of one written
by bona fide girls once upon a time)a round of applause
followedand then Mr. Snodgrass rose to make a proposition.

Mr. President and gentlemenhe beganassuming a
parliamentary attitude and toneI wish to propose the admission
of a new member--one who highly deserves the honorwould be
deeply grateful for itand would add immensely to the spirit
of the clubthe literary value of the paperand be no end
jolly and nice. I propose Mr. Theodore Laurence as an honorary
member of the P. C. Come nowdo have him.


Jo's sudden change of tone made the girls laughbut all
looked rather anxiousand no one said a word as Snodgrass
took his seat.

We'll put it to a votesaid the President. "All in
favor of this motion please to manifest it by saying`Aye'."

Contrary-minded say`No'.

Meg and Amy were contrary-mindedand Mr. Winkle rose to
say with great eleganceWe don't wish any boysthey only
joke and bounce about. This is a ladies' cluband we wish to
be private and proper.

I'm afraid he'll laugh at our paperand make fun of us
afterwardobserved Pickwickpulling the little curl on her
foreheadas she always did when doubtful.

Up rose Snodgrassvery much in earnest. "SirI give you
my word as a gentlemanLaurie won't do anything of the sort. He
likes to writeand he'll give a tone to our contributions and
keep us from being sentimentaldon't you see? We can do so little
for himand he does so much for usI think the least we can do
is to offer him a place hereand make him welcome if he comes."

This artful allusion to benefits conferred brought Tupman to
his feetlooking as if he had quite made up his mind.

Yeswe ought to do iteven if we are afraid. I say he may
comeand his grandpatooif he likes.

This spirited burst from Beth electrified the cluband Jo
left her seat to shake hands approvingly. "Now thenvote again.
Everybody remember it's our Laurieand say`Aye!'"
cried Snodgrass excitedly.

Aye! Aye! Aye!replied three voices at once.

Good! Bless you! Nowas there's nothing like `taking time
by the fetlock'as Winkle characteristically observesallow me
to present the new member.Andto the dismay of the rest of the
clubJo threw open the door of the closetand displayed Laurie
sitting on a rag bagflushed and twinkling with suppressed laughter.

You rogue! You traitor! Johow could you?cried the three
girlsas Snodgrass led her friend triumphantly forthand producing
both a chair and a badgeinstalled him in a jiffy.

The coolness of you two rascals is amazingbegan Mr. Pickwick
trying to get up an awful frown and only succeeding in producing
an amiable smile. But the new member was equal to the occasion
and risingwith a grateful salutation to the Chairsaid
in the most engaging mannerMr. President and ladies--I beg pardon
gentlemen--allow me to introduce myself as Sam Wellerthe very
humble servant of the club.

Good! Good!cried Jopounding with the handle of the old
warming pan on which she leaned.

My faithful friend and noble patroncontinued Laurie with
a wave of the handwho has so flatteringly presented meis not
to be blamed for the base stratagem of tonight. I planned itand
she only gave in after lots of teasing.


Come nowdon't lay it all on yourself. You know I proposed
the cupboardbroke in Snodgrasswho was enjoying the joke
amazingly.

Never mind what she says. I'm the wretch that did itsir
said the new memberwith a Welleresque nod to Mr. Pickwick. "But
on my honorI never will do so againand henceforth devote myself
to the interest of this immortal club."

Hear! Hear!cried Joclashing the lid of the warming pan
like a cymbal.

Go ongo on!added Winkle and Tupmanwhile the President
bowed benignly.

I merely wish to saythat as a slight token of my gratitude
for the honor done meand as a means of promoting friendly relations
between adjoining nationsI have set up a post office in the hedge
in the lower corner of the gardena finespacious building with
padlocks on the doors and every convenience for the mailsalso the
femalesif I may be allowed the expression. It's the old martin
housebut I've stopped up the door and made the roof openso it
will hold all sorts of thingsand save our valuable time. Letters
manuscriptsbooksand bundles can be passed in thereand as each
nation has a keyit will be uncommonly niceI fancy. Allow me to
present the club keyand with many thanks for your favortake my
seat.

Great applause as Mr. Weller deposited a little key on the
table and subsidedthe warming pan clashed and waved wildlyand
it was some time before order could be restored. A long discussion
followedand everyone came out surprisingfor everyone did her
best. So it was an unusually lively meetingand did not adjourn
till a late hourwhen it broke up with three shrill cheers for the
new member. No one ever regretted the admittance of Sam Wellerfor
a more devotedwell-behavedand jovial member no club could have.
He certainly did add `spirit' to the meetingsand `a tone' to the
paperfor his orations convulsed his hearers and his contributions
were excellentbeing patrioticclassicalcomicalor dramatic
but never sentimental. Jo regarded them as worthy of BaconMilton
or Shakespeareand remodeled her own works with good effectshe
thought.

The P. O. was a capital little institutionand flourished
wonderfullyfor nearly as many queer things passed through it as
through the real post office. Tragedies and cravatspoetry and
picklesgarden seeds and long lettersmusic and gingerbread
rubbersinvitationsscoldingsand puppies. The old gentleman
liked the funand amused himself by sending odd bundles
mysterious messagesand funny telegramsand his gardenerwho was
smitten with Hannah's charmsactually sent a love letter to Jo's
care. How they laughed when the secret came outnever dreaming
how many love letters that little post office would hold in the
years to come.

CHAPTER ELEVEN

The first of June! The Kings are off to the seashore tomorrow
and I'm free. Three months' vacation--how I shall enjoy it!
exclaimed Megcoming home one warm day to find Jo laid
upon the sofa in an unusual state of exhaustionwhile Beth took


off her dusty bootsand Amy made lemonade for the refreshment
of the whole party.


Aunt March went todayfor whichohbe joyful!said Jo.
I was mortally afraid she'd ask me to go with her. If she
hadI should have felt as if I ought to do itbut Plumfield is
about as gay as a churchyardyou knowand I'd rather be excused.
We had a flurry getting the old lady offand I had a fright every
time she spoke to mefor I was in such a hurry to be through that
I was uncommonly helpful and sweetand feared she'd find it
impossible to part from me. I quaked till she was fairly in the
carriageand had a final frightfor as it drove ofshe popped
out her headsaying`Josyphinewon't you--?' I didn't hear any
morefor I basely turned and fled. I did actually runand
whisked round the corner whee I felt safe.


Poor old Jo! She came in looking as if bears were after her
said Bethas she cuddled her sister's feet with a motherly air.


Aunt March is a regular samphireis she not?observed Amy
tasting her mixture critically.


She means vampirenot seaweedbut it doesn't matter. It's
too warm to be particular about one's parts of speechmurmured
Jo.


What shall you do all your vacation?asked Amychanging
the subject with tact.


I shall lie abed lateand do nothingreplied Megfrom
the depths of the rocking chair. "I've been routed up early all
winter and had to spend my days working for other peopleso now
I'm going to rest and revel to my heart's content."


Nosaid Jothat dozy way wouldn't suit me. I've laid
in a heap of booksand I'm going to improve my shining hours
reading on my perch in the old apple treewhen I'm not having
l...


Don't say `larks!'implored Amyas a return snub for the
samphire' correction.


I'll say `nightingales' thenwith Laurie. That's proper
and appropriatesince he's a warbler.


Don't let us do any lessonsBethfor a whilebut play
all the time and restas the girls mean toproposed Amy.


WellI willif Mother doesn't mind. I want to learn some
new songsand my children need fitting up for the summer. They
are dreadfully out of order and really suffering for clothes.


May weMother?asked Megturning to Mrs. Marchwho
sat sewing in what they called `Marmee's corner'.
You may try your experiment for a week and see how you like
it. I think by Saturday night you will find that all play and no
work is as bad as all work and no play.


Ohdearno! It will be deliciousI'm suresaid Meg
complacently.


I now propose a toastas my `friend and pardner
Sairy Gamp'says. Fun foreverand no grubbing!
cried Jorisingglass in handas the lemonade went round.



They all drank it merrilyand began the experiment by
lounging for the rest of the day. Next morningMeg did not
appear till ten o'clock. Her solitary breakfast did not taste
niceand the room seemed lonely and untidyfor Jo had not
filled the vasesBeth had not dustedand Amy's books lay
scattered about. Nothing was neat and pleasant but `Marmee's
corner'which looked as usual. And there Meg satto `rest and
read'which meant to yawn and imagine what pretty summer dresses
she would get with her salary. Jo spent the morning on the river
with Laurie and the afternoon reading and crying over The Wide
Wide Worldup in the apple tree. Beth began by rummaging everything
out of the big closet where her family residedbut getting
tired before half doneshe left her establishment topsy-turvy
and went to her musicrejoicing that she had no dishes to wash.
Amy arranged her bowerput on her best white frocksmoothed her
curlsand sat down to draw under the honeysucklehoping someone
would see and inquire who the young artist was. As no one appeared
but an inquisitive daddy-longlegswho examined her work with interest
she went to walkgot caught in a showerand came home dripping.

At teatime they compared notesand all agreed that it had
been a delightfulthough unusually long day. Megwho went shopping
in the afternoon and got a `sweet blue muslinhad discovered
after she had cut the breadths offthat it wouldn't washwhich
mishap made her slightly cross. Jo had burned the skin off her
nose boatingand got a raging headache by reading too long. Beth
was worried by the confusion of her closet and the difficulty of
learning three or four songs at onceand Amy deeply regretted the
damage done her frockfor Katy Brown's party was to be the next
day and now like Flora McFlimseyshe had `nothing to wear'. But
these were mere triflesand they assured their mother that the
experiment was working finely. She smiledsaid nothingand with
Hannah's help did their neglected workkeeping home pleasant and
the domestic machinery running smoothly. It was astonishing what
a peculiar and uncomfortable state of things was produced by the
`resting and reveling' process. The days kept getting longer and
longerthe weather was unusually variable and so were tempersand
unsettled feeling possessed everyoneand Satan found plenty of
mischief for the idle hands to do. As the height of luxuryMeg
put out some of her sewingand then found time hang so heavily that
she fell to snipping and spoiling her clothes in her attempts to
furbish them up a`la Moffat. Jo read till her eyes gave out and
she was sick of booksgot so fidgety that even good-natured Laurie
had a quarrel with herand so reduced in spirits that she desperately
wished she had gone with Aunt March. Beth got on pretty well
for she was constantly forgetting that it was to be all play and
no workand fell back into her old ways now and then. But something
in the air affected herand more than once her tranquility was much
disturbedso much so that on one occasion she actually shook poor
dear Joanna and told her she was a fright'. Amy fared worst of all
for her resources were smalland when her sisters left her to amuse
herselfshe soon found that accomplished and important little self
a great burden. She didn't like dollsfairy tales were childish
and one couldn't draw all the time. Tea parties didn't amount to
much neither did picnics unless very well conducted. "If one could
have a fine housefull of nice girlsor go travelingthe summer
would be delightfulbut to stay at home with three selfish sisters
and a grown-up boy was enough to try the patience of a Boaz
complained Miss Malapropafter several days devoted to pleasure
frettingand ennui.

No one would own that they were tired of the experimentbut
by Friday night each acknowledged to herself that she was glad the


week was nearly done. Hoping to impress the lesson more deeply
Mrs. Marchwho had a good deal of humorresolved to finish off
the trial in an appropriate mannerso she gave Hannah a holiday and
let the girls enjoy the full effect of the play system.

When they got up on Saturday morningthere was no fire in
the kitchenno breakfast in the dining roomand no mother
anywhere to be seen.

Mercy on us! What has happened?" cried Jostaring about
her in dismay.

Meg ran upstairs and soon came back againlooking relieved
but rather bewilderedand a little ashamed.

Mother isn't sickonly very tiredand she says she is
going to stay quietly in her room all day and let us do the best
we can. It's a very queer thing for her to doshe doesn't act
a bit like herself. But she says it has been a hard week for
herso we mustn't grumble but take care of ourselves.

That's easy enoughand I like the ideaI'm aching for
something to dothat issome new amusementyou knowadded
Jo quickly.

In fact it was an immense relief to them all to have a little
workand they took hold with a willbut soon realized the truth
of Hannah's sayingHousekeeping ain't no joke.There was plenty
of food in the larderand while Beth and Amy set the tableMeg and
Jo got breakfastwondering as they did why servants ever talked
about hard work.

I shall take some up to Motherthough she said we were not
to think of herfor she'd take care of herselfsaid Megwho
presided and felt quite matronly behind the teapot.

So a tray was fitted out before anyone beganand taken up
with the cook's compliments. The boiled tea was very bitterthe
omelet scorchedand the biscuits speckled with saleratusbut
Mrs. March received her repast with thanks and laughed heartily
over it after Jo was gone.

Poor little soulsthey will have a hard timeI'm afraid
but they won't sufferand it will do them goodshe said
producing the more palatable viands with which she had provided
herselfand disposing of the bad breakfastso that their
feelings might not be hurta motherly little deception for which
they were grateful.

Many were the complaints belowand great the chagrin of
the head cook at her failures. "Never mindI'll get the dinner
and be servantyou be mistresskeep your hands nicesee
companyand give orders said Jowho knew still less than Meg
about culinary affairs.

This obliging offer was gladly acceptedand Margaret retired
to the parlorwhich she hastily put in order by whisking the
litter under the sofa and shutting the blinds to save the trouble
of dusting. Jowith perfect faith in her own powers and a
friendly desire to make up the quarrelimmediately put a note in
the officeinviting Laurie to dinner.

You'd better see what you have got before you think of having
company said Megwhen informed of the hospitable but rash act.


Ohthere's corned beef and plenty of poatoesand I shall
get some asparagus and a lobster`for a relish'as Hannah says.
We'll have lettuce and make a salad. I don't know howbut the
book tells. I'll have blancmange and strawberries for dessert
and coffee tooif you want to be elegant."

Don't try too many messesJofor you can't make anything
but gingerbread and molasses candy fit to eat. I wash my hands
of the dinner partyand since you have asked Laurie on your own
responsibilityyou may just take care of him.

I don't want you to do anything but be civil to him and help
to the pudding. You'll give me your advice if I get in a muddle
won't you?asked Jorather hurt.

Yesbut I don't know muchexcept about bread and a few
trifles. You had better ask Mother's leave before you order
anythingreturned Meg prudently.

Of course I shall. I'm not a fool.And Jo went off in a
huff at the doubts expressed of her powers.

Get what you likeand don't disturb me. I'm going out to
dinner and can't worry about things at homesaid Mrs. Marchwhen
Jo spoke to her. "I never enjoyed housekeepingand I'm going to
take a vacation todayand readwritego visitingand amuse myself."

The unusual spectacle of her busy mother rocking comfortably
and reading early in the morning made Jo feel as if some unnatural
phenomenon had occurredfor an eclipsean earthquakeor a
volcanic eruption would hardly have seemed stranger.

Everything is out of sortssomehowshe said to herself
going downstairs. "There's Beth cryingthat's a sure sign that
something is wrong in this family. If Amy is botheringI'll
shake her."

Feeling very much out of sorts herselfJo hurried into the
parlor to find Beth sobbing over Pipthe canarywho lay dead in
the cage with his little claws pathetically extendedas if
imploring the food for want of which he had died.

It's all my faultI forgot himthere isn't a seed or a
drop left. OhPip! OhPip! How could I be so cruel to you?
cried Bethtaking the poor thing in her hands and trying to
restore him.

Jo peeped into his half-open eyefelt his little heartand
finding him stiff and coldshook her headand offered her domino
box for a coffin.

Put him in the ovenand maybe his will get warm and revive
said Amy hopefully.

He's been starvedand he shan't be baked now he's dead. I'll
make him a shroudand he shall be buried in the gardenand I'll
never have another birdnevermy Pip! For I am too bad to own
onemurmured Bethsitting on the floor with her pet folded in
her hands.
The funeral shall be this afternoonand we will all go. Now
don't cryBethy. It's a pitybut nothing goes right this week
and Pip has had the worst of the experiment. Make the shroudand
lay him in my boxand after the dinner partywe'll have a nice


little funeralsaid Jobeginning to feel as if she had undertaken
a good deal.

Leaving the others to console Bethshe departed to the kitchen
which was in a most discouraging state of confusion. Putting on a
big apronshe fell to work and got the dishes piled up ready for
washingwhen she discovered that the fire was out.

Here's a sweet prospect!muttered Joslamming the stove
door openand poking vigorously among the cinders.

Having rekindled the fireshe thought she would go to market
while the water heated. The walk revived her spiritsand flattering
herself that she had made good barginsshe trudged home againafter
buying a very young lobstersome very old asparagusand two boxes
of acid strawberries. By the time she got cleared upthe dinner
arrived and the stove was red-hot. Hannah had left a pan of bread
to riseMeg had worked it up earlyset it on the hearth for a
second risingand forgotten it. Meg was entertaining Sallie
Gardiner in the parlorwhen the door flew open and a flourycrocky
flushedand disheveled figure appeareddemanding tartly...

I sayisn't bread `riz' enough when it runs over the pans?

Sallie began to laughbut Meg nodded and lifted her eyebrows
as high as they would gowhich caused the apparition to vanish and
put the sour bread into the oven without further delay. Mrs. March
went outafter peeping here and there to see how matters wentalso
saying a word of comfort to Bethwho sat making a winding sheet
while the dear departed lay in state in the domino box. A strange
sense of helplessness fell upon the girls as the gray bonnet
vanished round the cornerand despair seized them when a few minutes
later Miss Crocker appearedand said she'd come to dinner. Now
this lady was a thinyellow spinsterwith a sharp nose and
inquisitive eyeswho saw everything and gossiped about all she saw.
They disliked herbut had been taught to be kind to hersimply
because she was old and poor and had few friends. So Meg gave her
the easy chair and tried to entertain herwhile she asked questions
critsized everythingand told stories of the people whom she knew.

Language cannot describe the anxietiesexperiencesand exertions
which Jo underwent that morningand the dinner she served up became a
standing joke. Fearing to ask any more adviceshe did her best alone
and discovered that something more than energy and good will is
necessary to make a cook. She boiled the asparagus for an hour and was
grieved to find the heads cooked off and the stalks harder than ever.
The bread burned blackfor the salad dressing so aggravated her that
she could not make it fit to ear. The lobster was a scarlet mystery to
herbut she hammered and poked till it was unshelled and its meager
proportions concealed in a grove of lettuce leaves. The potatoes had
to be hurriednot to keep the asparagus waitingand were not done
at the last. The blancmange was lumpyand the strawberries not as
ripe as they lookedhaving been skilfully `deaconed'.

Wellthey can eat beef and bread and butterif they are
hungryonly it's mortifying to have to spend your whole morning for
nothingthought Joas she rang the bell half an hour later than
usualand stoodhottiredand dispiritedsurveying the feast
spread before Laurieaccustomed to all sorts of eleganceand Miss
Crockerwhose tattling tongue would report them far and wide.

Poor Jo would gladly have gone under the tableas one thing
after another was tasted and leftwhile Amy giggledMeg looked
distressedMiss Crocker pursed her lipsand Laurie talked and


laughed with all his might to give a cheerful tone to the festive
scene. Jo's one strong point was the fruitfor she had sugared it
welland had a pitcher of rich cream to eat with it. Her hot cheeks
cooled a trifleand she drew a long breath as the pretty glass
plates went roundand everyone looked graciously at the little rosy
islands floating in a sea of cream. Miss Crocker tasted firstmade
a wry faceand drank some water hastily. Jowho refusedthinking
there might not be enoughfor they dwindled sadly after the picking
overglanced at Lauriebut he was eating away manfullythough there
was a slight pucker about his mouth and he kept his eye fixed on his
plate. Amywho was fond of delicate faretook a heaping spoonful
chokedhid her face in her napkinand left the table precipitately.


Ohwhat is it?exclaimed Jotrembling.


Salt instead of sugarand the cream is sourreplied Meg
with a tragic gesture.


Jo uttered a groan and fell back in her chairremembering that
she had given a last hasty powdering to the berries out of one of
the two boxes on the kitchen tableand had neglected to put the
milk in the refrigerator. She turned scarlet and was on the verge
of cryingwhen she met Laurie's eyeswhich would look merry in
spite of his heroic efforts. The comical side of the affair suddenly
struck herand she laughed till the tears ran down her cheeks. So
did everyone elseeven `Croaker' as the girls called the old lady
and the unfortunate dinner ended gailywith bread and butterolives
and fun.


I haven't strength of mind enough to clear up nowso we will
sober ourselves with a funeralsaid Joas they roseand Miss
Crocker made ready to gobeing eager to tell the new story at
another friend's dinner table.


They did sober themselves for Beth's sake. Laurie dug a grave
under the ferns in the grovelittle Pip was laid inwith many tears
by his tender-hearted mistressand covered with mosswhile a wreath
of violets and chickweed was hung on the stone which bore his epitaph
composed by Jo while she struggled with the dinner.


Here lies Pip March
Who died the 7th of June;
Loved and lamented sore
And not forgotten soon.


At the conclusion of the ceremoniesBeth retired to her room
overcome with emotion and lobsterbut there was no place of repose
for the beds were not madeand she found her grief much assuaged
by beating up the pillows and putting things in order. Meg helped
Jo clear away the remains of the feastwhich took half the afternoon
and left them so tired that they agreed to be contented with tea and
toast for supper.


Laurie took Amy to drivewhich was a deed of charityfor the
sour cream seemed to have had a bad effect upon her temper. Mrs.
March came home to find the three older girls hard at work in the
middle of the afternoonand a glance at the closet gave her an idea
of the success of one part of the experiment.


Before the housewives could restseveral people calledand
there was a scramble to get ready to see them. Then tea must be got
errands doneand one or two necessary bits of sewing neglected until
the last minute. As twilight felldewy and stillone by one they
gathered on the porch where the June roses were budding beautifully



and each groaned or sighed as she sat downas if tired or troubled.

What a dreadful day this has been!began Jousually the first
to speak.

It has seemed shorter than usualbut so uncomfortablesaid Meg.

Not a bit like homeadded Amy.

It can't seem so without Marmee and little Pipsighed Beth
glancing with full eyes at the empty cage above her head.

Here's Motherdearand you shall have another bird tomorrow
if you want it.

As she spokeMrs. March came and took her place among them
looking as if her holiday had not been much pleasanter than theirs.

Are you satisfied with your experimentgirlsor do you want
another week of it?she askedas Beth nestled up to her and the
rest turned toward her with brightening facesas flowers turn
toward the sun.

I don't!cried Jo decidedly.

Nor Iechoed the others.

You think thenthat it is better to have a few duties and
live a little for othersdo you?

Lounging and larking doesn't payobserved Joshaking her head.
I'm tired of it and mean to go to work at something right off.

Suppose you learn plain cooking. That's a useful accomplishment
which no woman should be withoutsaid Mrs. Marchlaughing
inaudibly at the recollection of Jo's dinner partyfor she had
met Miss Crocker and heard her account of it.

Motherdid you go away and let everything bejust to see how
we'd get on?cried Megwho had had suspicions all day.

YesI wanted you to see how the comfort of all depends on
each doing her share faithfully. While Hannah and I did your work
you got on pretty wellthough I don't think you were very happy
or amiable. So I thoughtas a little lessonI would show you
what happens when everyone thinks only of herself. Don't you feel
that it is pleasanter to help one anotherto have daily duties
which make leisure sweet when it comesand to bear and forbear
that home may be comfortable and lovely to us all?

We doMother we do!cried the girls.

Then let me advise you to take up your little burdens again
for though they seem heavy sometimesthey are good for usand
lighten as we learn to carry them. Work is wholesomeand there
is plenty for everyone. It keeps us from ennui and mischiefis
good for health and spiritsand gives us a sense of power and
independence better than money or fashion.

We'll work like beesand love it toosee if we don't
said Jo. "I'll learn plain cooking for my holiday taskand the
dinner party I have shall be a success."

I'll make the set of shirts for fatherinstead of letting


you do itMarmee. I can and I willthough I'm not fond of sewing.
That will be better than fussing over my own thingswhich are plenty
nice enough as they are.said Meg.

I'll do my lessons every dayand not spend so much time with
my music and dolls. I am a stupid thingand ought to be studying
not playingwas Beth's resolutionwhile Amy followed their example
by heroically declaringI shall learn to make buttonholesand
attend to my parts of speech.

Very good! Then I am quite satisfied with the experimentand
fancy that we shall not have to repeat itonly don't go to the other
extreme and delve like slaves. Have regular hours for work and play
make each day both useful and pleasantand prove that you understand
the worth of time by employing it well. Then youth will be delightful
old age will bring few regretsand life become a beautiful successin
spite of poverty.

We'll rememberMother!And they did.

CHAPTER TWELVE

Beth was postmistressforbeing most at homeshe could
attend to it regularlyand dearly liked the daily task of
unlocking the little door and distributing the mail. One July
day she came in with her hands fulland went about the house
leaving letters and parcels like the penny post.

Here's your posyMother! Laurie never forgets thatshe
saidputting the fresh nosegay in the vase that stood in `Marmee's
corner'and was kept supplied by the affectionate boy.

Miss Meg Marchone letter and a glovecontinued Beth
delivering the articles to her sisterwho sat near her mother
stitching wristbands.

WhyI left a pair over thereand here is only onesaid
Meglooking at the gray cotton glove. "Didn't you drop the
other in the garden?"

NoI'm sure I didn'tfor there was only one in the office.

I hate to have odd gloves! Never mindthe other may be
found. My letter is only a translation of the German song I
wanted. I think Mr. Brooke did itfor this isn't Laurie's
writing.

Mrs. March glanced at Megwho was looking very pretty in
her gingham morning gownwith the little curls blowing about her
foreheadand very womanlyas she sat sewing at her little worktable
full of tidy white rollsso unconscious of the thought in her
mother's mind as she sewed and sangwhile her fingers flew
and her thoughts were busied with girlish fancies as innocent
and fresh as the pansies in her beltthat Mrs. March smiled and
was satisfied.

Two letters for Doctor Joa bookand a funny old hat
which covered the whole post office and stuck outsidesaid
Bethlaughing as she went into the study where Jo sat writing.

What a sly fellow Laurie is! I said I wished bigger hats
were the fashionbecause I burn my face every hot day. He said


`Why mind the fashion? Wear a big hatand be comfortable!' I
said I would if I had oneand he has sent me this to try me. I'll
wear it for funand show him I don't care for the fashion.And
hanging the antique broadbrim on a bust of PlatoJo read her
letters.


One from her mother made her cheeks glow and her eyes fill
for it said to her...


My Dear:


I write a little word to tell you with how much satisfaction
I watch your efforts to control your temper. You say nothing
about your trialsfailuresor successesand thinkperhaps
that no one sees them but the Friend whose help you daily ask
if I may trust the well-worn cover of your guidebook. Itoo
have seen them alland heartily believe in the sincerity of
your resolutionsince it begins to bear fruit. Go ondear
patiently and bravelyand always believe that no one sympathizes
more tenderly with you than your loving...


Mother


That does me good! That's worth millions of money and
pecks of praise. OhMarmeeI do try! I will keep on trying
and not get tiredsince I have you to help me.


Laying her head on her armsJo wet her little romance with
a few happy tears. for she had thought that no one saw and
appreciated her efforts to be goodand this assurance was doubly
preciousdoubly encouragingbecause unexpected and from the
person whose commendation she most valued. Feeling stronger than
ever to meet and subdue her Apollyonshe pinned the note inside her
frockas a shield and a reminderlest she be taken unawareand
proceeded to open her other letterquite ready for either good or
bad news. In a bigdashing handLaurie wrote...


Dear Jo
What ho!


Some english girls and boys are coming to see me tomorrow
and I want to have a jolly time. If it's fineI'm going to pitch
my tent in Longmeadowand row up the whole crew to lunch and
croquet--have a firemake messesgypsy fashionand all sorts
of larks. They are nice peopleand like such things. Brooke will
go to keep us boys steadyand Kate Vaughn will play propriety for
the girls. I want you all to comecan't let Beth off at any price
and nobody shall worry her. Don't bother about rationsI'll see
to that and everything elseonly do comethere's a good fellow!


In a tearing hurry
Yours everLaurie.


Here's richness!cried Joflying in to tell the news to Meg.


Of course we can goMother? It will be such a help to
Lauriefor I can rowand Meg see to the lunchand the children
be useful in some way.


I hope the Vaughns are not fine grown-up people. Do you
know anything about themJo?asked Meg.



Only that there are four of them. Kate is older than you
Fred and Frank (twins) about my ageand a little girl (Grace)who
is nine or ten. Laurie knew them abroadand liked the boys. I
fanciedfrom the way he primmed up his mouth in speaking of her
that he didn't admire Kate much.


I'm so glad my French print is cleanit's just the thing
and so becoming!observed Meg complacently. "Have you anything
decentJo?"


Scarlet and gray boating suitgood enough for me. I shall
row and tramp aboutso I don't want any starch to think of. You'll
comeBetty?


If you won't let any boys talk to me.


Not a boy!


I like to please Laurieand I'm not afraid of Mr. Brooke
he is so kind. But I don't want to playor singor say anything.
I'll work hard and not trouble anyoneand you'll take care of me
Joso I'll go.


That's my good girl. You do try to fight off your shyness
and I love you for it. Fighting faults isn't easyas I knowand
a cheery word kind of gives a lift. Thank youMotherAnd Jo
gave the thin cheek a grateful kissmore precious to Mrs. March
than if it had given back the rosy roundness of her youth.


I had a box of chocolate dropsand the picture I wanted to
copysaid Amyshowing her mail.


And I got a note from Mr. Laurenceasking me to come over
and play to him tonightbefore the lamps are lightedand I shall
goadded Bethwhose friendship with the old gentleman prospered
finely.
Now let's fly roundand do double duty todayso that we can
play tomorrow with free mindssaid Jopreparing to replace her
pen with a broom.


When the sun peeped into the girls' room early next morning
to promise them a fine dayhe saw a comical sight. Each had
made such preparation for the fete as seemed necessary and proper.
Meg had an extra row of little curlpapers across her foreheadJo
had copiously anointed her afflicted face with cold creamBeth
had taken Joanna to bed with her to atone for the approaching
separationand Amy had capped the climax by putting a colthespin
on her nose to uplift the offending feature. It was one of the
kind artists use to hold the paper on their drawing boards
therefore quite appropriate and effective for the purpose it was now
being put. This funny spectacle appeared to amuse the sunfor
he burst out with such radiance that Jo woke up and roused her
sisters by a hearty laugh at Amy's ornament.


Sunshine and laughter were good omens for a pleasure party
and soon a lively bustle began in both houses. Bethwho was
ready firstkept reporting what went on next doorand enlivened
her sisters' toilets by frequent telegrams from the window.


There goes the man with the tent! I see Mrs. Barker doing
up the lunch in a hamper and a great basket. Now Mr. Laurence is
looking up at the sky and the weathercock. I wish he would go
too. There's Laurielooking like a sailornice boy! Ohmercy
me! Here's a carriage full of peoplea tall ladya little girl



and two dreadful boys. One is lamepoor thinghe's got a crutch.
Laurie didn't tell us that. Be quickgirls! It's getting late.
Whythere is Ned MoffatI do declare. Megisn't that the man
who bowed to you one day when we were shopping?


So it is. How queer that he should come. I thought he was
at the mountains. There is Sallie. I'm glad she got back in time.
Am I all rightJo?cried Meg in a flutter.


A regular daisy. Hold up your dress and put your hat on
straightit looks sentimental tipped that way and will fly off
at the first puff. Now thencome on!


OhJoyou are not going to wear that awful hat? It's too
absurd! You shall not make a guy of yourselfremonstrated Meg
as Jo tied down with a red ribbon the broad-brimmedold-fashioned
leghorn Laurie had sent for a joke.


I just willthoughfor it's capitalso shadylightand big.
It will make funand I don't mind being a guy if I'm comfortable.
With that Jo marched straight away and the rest followed
a bright little band of sistersall looking their best in summer
suitswith happy faces under the jaunty hatbrims.


Laurie ran to meet and present them to his friends in the
most cordial manner. The lawn was the reception roomand for
several minutes a lively scene was enacted there. Meg was
grateful to see that Miss Katethough twentywas dressed with
a simplicity which American girls would do well to imitateand
who was much flattered by Mr. Ned's assurances that he came
especially to see her. Jo understood why Laurie `primmed up
his mouth' when speaking of Katefor that young lady had a
standoff-don't-touch-me airwhich contrasted strongly with the
free and easy demeanor of the other girls. Beth took an observation
of the new boys and decided that the lame one was not `dreadful'
but gentle and feebleand she would be kind to him on that
account. Amy found Grace a well-manneredmerrylittle person
and after staring dumbly at one another for a few minutesthey
suddenly became very good friends.


Tentslunchand croquet utensils having been sent on
beforehandthe party was soon embarkedand the two boats
pushed off togetherleaving Mr. Laurence waving his hat on the
shore. Laurie and Jo rowed one boatMr. Brooke and Ned the
otherwhile Fred Vaughnthe riotous twindid his best to
upset both by paddling about in a wherry like a disturbed water
bug. Jo's funny hat deserved a vote of thanksfor it was of
general utility. It broke the ice in the beginning by producing
a laughit created quite a refreshing breezeflapping to and
fro as she rowedand would make an excellent umbrella for the
whole partyif a shower came upshe said. Miss Kate decided
that she was `odd'but rather cleverand smiled upon her from
afar.


Megin the other boatwas delightfully situatedface to
face with the rowerswho both admired the prospect and feathered
their oars with uncommon `skill and dexterity'. Mr. Brooke was
a gravesilent young manwith handsome brown eyes and a pleasant
voice. Meg liked his quiet manners and considered him a walking
encyclopedia of useful knowledge. He never talked to her muchbut
he looked at her a good dealand she felt sure that he did not
regard her with aversion. Nedbeing in collegeof course put
on all the airs which freshmen think it their bounden duty to
assume. He was not very wisebut very good-naturedand altogether



an excellent person to carry on a picnic. Sallie Gardiner was
absorbed in keeping her white pique dress clean and chattering with
the ubiquitous Fredwho kept Beth in constant terror by his pranks.

It was not far to Longmeadowbut the tent was pitched and
the wickets down by the time they arrived. A pleasant green field
with three wide-spreading oaks in the middle and a smooth strip of
turf for croquet.

Welcome to Camp Laurence!said the young hostas they
landed with exclamations of delight.

Brooke is commander in chiefI am commissary generalthe
other fellows are staff officersand youladiesare company.
The tent is for your especial benefit and that oak is your drawing
roomthis is the messroom and the third is the camp kitchen. Now
let's have a game before it gets hotand then we'll see about
dinner.

FrankBethAmyand Grace sat down to watch the game
played by the other eight. Mr. Brooke chose MegKateand Fred.
Laurie took SallieJoand Ned. The English played wellbut
the Americans played betterand contested every inch of the
ground as strongly as if the spirit of `76 inspired them. Jo and
Fred had several skirmishes and once narrowly escaped high words.
Jo was through the last wicket and had missed the strokewhich
failure ruffled her a good deal. Fred was close behind her and
his turn came before hers. He gave a strokehis ball hit the
wicketand stopped an inch on the wrong side. No one was very
nearand running up to examinehe gave it a sly nudge with his
toewhich put it just an inch on the right side.

I'm through! NowMiss JoI'll settle youand get in
firstcried the young gentlemanswinging his mallet for another
blow.

You pushed it. I saw you. It's my turn nowsaid Jo
sharply.

Upon my wordI didn't move it. It rolled a bitperhaps
but that is allowed. Sostand off pleaseand let me have a go
at the stake.

We don't cheat in Americabut you canif you choosesaid
Jo angrily.

Yankees are a deal the most trickyeverybody knows. There
you go!returned Fredcroqueting her ball far away.

Jo opened her lips to say something rudebut checked herself
in timecolored up to her forehead and stood a minutehammering
down a wicket with all her mightwhile Fred hit the stake and
declared himself out with much exultation. She went off to get her
balland was a long time finding it among the bushesbut she came
backlooking cool and quietand waited her turn patiently. It
took several strokes to regain the place she had lostand when she
got therethe other side had nearly wonfor Kate's ball was the
last but one and lay near the stake.

By Georgeit's all up with us! GoodbyeKate. Miss Jo
owes me oneso you are finishedcried Fred excitedlyas they
all drew near to see the finish.

Yankees have a trick of being generous to their enemies


said Jowith a look that made the lad reddenespecially when
they beat themshe addedasleaving Kate's ball untouchedshe
won the game by a clever stroke.


Laurie threw up his hatthen remembered that it wouldn't do
to exult over the defeat of his guestsand stopped in the middle
of the cheer to whisper to his friendGood for youJo! He did
cheatI saw him. We can't tell him sobut he won't do it again
take my word for it.


Meg drew her asideunder pretense of pinning up a loose
braidand said approvinglyIt was dreadfully provokingbut you
kept your temperand I'm so gladJo.


Don't praise meMegfor I could box his ears this minute.
I should certainly have boiled over if I hadn't stayed among the
nettles till I got my rage under control enough to hold my tongue..
It's simmering nowso I hope he'll keep out of my wayreturned
Jobiting her lips as she glowered at Fred from under her big hat.


Time for lunchsaid Mr. Brookelooking at his watch.
Commissary generalwill you make the fire and get waterwhile
Miss MarchMiss Sallieand I spread the table? Who can make good
coffee?


Jo cansaid Megglad to recommend her sister. So Jo
feeling that her late lessons in cookery were to do her honorwent
to preside over the coffeepotwhile the children collected dry
sticksand the boys made a fire and got water from a spring near
by. Miss Kate sketched and Frank talked to Bethwho was making
little mats of braided rushes to serve as plates.


The commander in chief and his aides soon spread the
tablecloth with an inviting array of eatables and drinkables
prettily decorated with green leaves. Jo announced that the coffee
was readyand everyone settled themselves to a hearty mealfor youth
is seldom dyspepticand exercise develops wholesome appetites.
A very merry lunch it wasfor everything seemed fresh and funnyand
frequent peals of laughter startled a venerable horse who fed near
by. There was a pleasing inequality in the tablewhich produced
many mishaps to cups and platesacorns dropped in the milklittle
black ants partook of the refreshments without being invitedand
fuzzy caterpillars swung down from the tree to see what was going
on. Three white-headed children peeped over the fenceand an
objectionable dog barked at them from the other side of the river
with all his might and main.


There's salt heresaid Laurieas he handed Jo a saucer
of berries.


Thank youI prefer spidersshe repliedfishing up two
unwary little ones who had gone to a creamy death. "How dare
you remind me of that horrid dinner partywhen your's is so
nice in every way?' added Joas they both laughed and ate out
of one platethe china having run short.


I had an uncommonly good time that dayand haven't got
over it yet. This is no credit to meyou knowI don't do
anything. It's you and Meg and Brooke who make it all goand
I'm no end obliged to you. what shall we do when we can't eat
anymore?asked Lauriefeeling that his trump card had been
played when lunch was over.


Have games till it's cooler. I brought Authorsand I dare



say Miss Kate knows something new and nice. Go and ask her. She's
companyand you ought to stay with her more.

Aren't you company too? I thought she'd suit Brookebut
he keeps talking to Megand Kate just stares at them through that
ridiculous glass of hers'. I'm goingso you needn't try to preach
proprietyfor you can't do itJo.

Miss Kate did know several new gamesand as the girls would
notand the boys could noteat any morethey all adjourned to
the drawing room to play Rig-marole.

One person begins a storyany nonsense you likeand tells
as long as he pleasesonly taking care to stop short at some
exciting pointwhen the next takes it up and does the same. It's
very funny when well doneand makes a perfect jumble of tragical
comical stuff to laugh over. Please start itMr. Brookesaid
Katewith a commanding airwhich surprised Megwho treated the
tutor with as much respect as any other gentleman.

Lying on the grass at the feet of the two young ladiesMr.
Brooke obediently began the storywith the handsome brown eyes
steadily fixed upon the sunshiny river.

Once on a timea knight went out into the world to seek
his fortunefor he had nothing but his sword and his shield.
He traveled a long whilenearly eight-and-twenty yearsand
had a hard time of ittill he came to the palace of a good old
kingwho had offered a reward to anyone who could tame and train
a fine but unbroken coltof which he was very fond. The knight
agreed to tryand got on slowly but surelyfor the colt was a
gallant fellowand soon learned to love his new masterthough
he was freakish and wild. Every daywhen he gave his lessons to
this pet of the king'sthe knight rode him through the cityand
as he rodehe looked everywhere for a certain beautiful face
which he had seen many times in his dreamsbut never found. One
dayas he went prancing down a quiet streethe saw at the window
of a ruinous castle the lovely face. He was delightedinquired
who lived in this old castleand was told that several captive
princesses were kept there by a spelland spun all day to lay
up money to buy their liberty. The knight wished intensely that
he could free thembut he was poor and could only go by each
daywatching for the sweet face and longing to see it out in
the sunshine. At last he resolved to get into the castle and
ask how he could help them. He went and knocked. The great
door flew openand he beheld . ..

A ravishingly lovely ladywho exclaimedwith a cry of
rapture`At last! At last!'continued Katewho had read
French novelsand admired the style. "`Tis she!' cried Count
Gustaveand fell at her feet in an ecstasy of joy. `Ohrise!'
she saidextending a hand of marble fairness. `Never! Till you
tell me how I may rescue you' swore the knightstill kneeling.
`Alasmy cruel fate condemns me to remain here till my tyrant
is destroyed.' `Where is the villain?' `In the mauve salon. Go
brave heartand save me from despair.' `I obeyand return
victorious or dead!' With these thrilling words he rushed away
and flinging open the door of the mauve salonwas about to enter
when he received..."
A stunning blow from the big Greek lexiconwhich an old
fellow in a black gown fired at himsaid Ned. "InstantlySir
What's-his-name recovered himselfpitched the tyrant out of the
windowand turned to join the ladyvictoriousbut with a bump
on his browfound the door lockedtore up the curtainsmade a


rope laddergot halfway down when the ladder brokeand he went
headfirst into the moatsixty feet below. Could swim like a
duckpaddled round the castle till he came to a little door
guarded by two stout fellowsknocked their heads together till
they cracked like a couple of nutsthenby a trifling exertion
of his prodigious strengthhe smashed in the doorwent up a
pair of stone steps covered with dust a foot thicktoads as big
as your fistand spiders that would frighten you into hysterics
MIss March. At the top of these steps he came plump upon a sight
that took his breath away and chilled his blood..."

A tall figureall in white with a veil over its face and a
lamp in its wasted handwent on Meg. "It beckonedgliding
noiselessly before him down a corridor as dark and cold as any
tomb. Shadowy effigies in armor stood on either sidea dead
silence reignedthe lamp burned blueand the ghostly figure ever
and anon turned its face toward himshowing the glitter of awful
eyes through its white veil. They reached a curtained doorbehind
which sounded lovely music. He sprang forward to enterbut the
specter plucked him backand waved threateningly before him a..."

Snuffboxsaid Join a sepulchral tonewhich convulsed the
audience. "`Thankee' said the knight politelyas he took a pinch
and sneezed seven times so violently that his head fell off. `Ha!
Ha!' laughed the ghostand having peeped through the keyhole at the
princesses spinning away for dear lifethe evil spirit picked up
her victim and put him in a large tin boxwhere there were eleven
other knights packed together without their headslike sardines
who all rose and began to..."

Dance a hornpipecut in Fredas Jo paused for breathand
as they dancedthe rubbishy old castle turned to a man-of-war in
full sail. `Up with the jibreef the tops'l halliardshelm hard
aleeand man the guns!' roared the captainas a Portuguese pirate
hove in sightwith a flag black as ink flying from her foremast.
`Go in and winmy hearties!' says the captainand a tremendous
fight began. Of course the British beatthey always do.

Nothey don't!cried Joaside.

Having taken the pirate captain prisonersailed slap over
the schoonerwhose decks were piled high with dead and whose
lee scuppers ran bloodfor the order had been `Cutlassesand
die hard!' `Bosun's matetake a bight of the flying-jib sheet
and start this villain if he doesn't confess his sins double
quick' said the British captain. The Portuguese held his tongue
like a brickand walked the plankwhile the jolly tars cheered
like mad. But the sly dog divedcame up under the man-of-war
scuttled herand down she wentwith all sail set`To the
bottom of the seaseasea' where...
Ohgracious! What shall I say?cried Sallieas Fred
ended his rigmarolein which he had jumbled together pell-mell
nautical phrases and facts out of one of his favorite books.
Wellthey went to the bottomand a nice mermaid welcomed them
but was much grieved on finding the box of headless knightsand
kindly pickled them in brinehoping to discover the mystery
about themfor being a womanshe was curious. By-and-by a diver
came downand the mermaid said`I'll give you a box of pearls
if you can take it up' for she wanted to restore the poor things
to lifeand couldn't raise the heavy load herself. So the diver
hoisted it upand was much disappointed on opening it to find
no pearls. He left it in a great lonely fieldwhere it was
found by a...


Little goose girlwho kept a hundred fat geese in the field
said Amywhen Sallie's invention gave out. "The little girl was
sorry for themand asked an old woman what she should do to help
them. `Your geese will tell youthey know everything.' said the
old woman. So she asked what she should use for new headssince
the old ones were lostand all the geese opened their hundred
mouths and screamed..."


`Cabbages!'continued Laurie promptly. "`Just the thing'
said the girland ran to get twelve fine ones from her garden.
She put them onthe knights revived at oncethanked herand
went on their way rejoicingnever knowing the differencefor
there were so many other heads like them in the world that no one
thought anything of it. The knight in whom I'm interest went back
to find the pretty faceand learned that the princesses had spun
themselves free and all gone and marriedbut one. He was in a
great state of mind at thatand mounting the coltwho stood by
him through thick and thinrushed to the castle to see which was
left. Peeping over the hedgehe saw the queen of his affections
picking flowers in her garden. `Will you give me a rose?' said
he. `You must come and get it. I can't come to youit isn't
proper' said sheas sweet as honey. He tried to climb over
the hedgebut it seemed to grow higher and higher. Then he
tried to push throughbut it grew thicker and thickerand he
was in despair. So he patiently broke twig after twig till he
had made a little hole through which he peepedsaying imploringly
`Let me in! Let me in!' But the pretty princess did not seem
to understandfor she picked her roses quietlyand left him
to fight his way in. Whether he did or notFrank will tell you."


I can't. I'm not playingI never dosaid Frankdismayed
at the sentimental predicament out of which he was to rescue the
absurd couple. Beth had disappeared behind Joand Grace was
asleep.


So the poor knight is to be left sticking in the hedgeis
he?asked Mr. Brookestill watching the riverand playing
with the wild rose in his buttonhole.


I guess the princess gave him a posyand opened the gate
after a whilesaid Lauriesmiling to himselfas he threw
acorns at his tutor.


What a piece of nonsense we have made! With practice we
might do something quite clever. Do you know Truth?


I hope sosaid Meg soberly.


The gameI mean?


what is it?said Fred.


Whyyou pile up your handschoose a numberand draw out
in turnand the person who draws at the number has to answer
truly any question put by the rest. It's great fun.


Let's try itsaid Jowho liked new experiments.


Miss Kate and Mr. BookeMegand Ned declinedbut Fred
SallieJoand Laurie piled and drewand the lot fell to Laurie.


Who are your heroes?asked Jo.


Grandfather and Napoleon.



Which lady here do you think prettiest?said Sallie.
Margaret.

Which do you like best?from Fred.

Joof course.
What silly questions you ask!And Jo gave a disdainful
shrug as the rest laughed at Laurie's matter-of-fact tone.


Try again. Truth isn't a bad gamesaid Fred.


It's a very good one for youretorted Jo in a low voice.
Her turn came next.


What is your greatest fault?' asked Fredby way of testing
in her the virtue he lacked himself.


A quick temper."


What do you most wish for?said Laurie.
A pair of boot lacingsreturned Joguessing and defeating his purpose.


Not a true answer. You must say what you really do want most.


Genius. Don't you wish you could give it to meLaurie?
And she slyly smiled in his disappointed face.
What virtues do you most admire in a man?asked Sallie.


Courage and honesty.
Now my turnsaid Fredas his hand came last.


Let's give it to himwhispered Laurie to Jowho nodded
and asked at once...

Didn't you cheat at croquet?'

Wellyesa little bit."

Good! Didn't you take your story out of THE SEA LION?
said Laurie.
Rather.


Don't you think the English nation perfect in every respect?
asked Sallie.


I should be ashamed of myself if I didn't.


He's a true John Bull. NowMiss Sallieyou shall have
a chance without waiting to draw. I'll harrrow up your feelings
first by asking if you don't think you are something of a flirt
said Laurieas Jo nodded to Fred as a sign that peace was declared.


You impertinent boy! Of course I'm notexclaimed Sallie
with an air that proved the contrary.


What do you hate most?asked Fred.
Spiders and rice pudding.


What do you like best?asked Jo.

Dancing and French gloves.

WellI think Truth is a very silly play. Let's have a
sensible game of Authors to refresh our mindsproposed Jo.

Nedfrankand the little girls joined in thisand while it
went onthe three elders sat aparttalking. Miss Kate took out
her sketch againand Margaret watched herwhile Mr. Brooke lay
on the grass with a bookwhich he did not read.

How beautifully you do it! I wish I could drawsaid Meg
with mingled admiration and regret in her voice.

Why don't you learn? I should think you had taste and talent
for itreplied Miss Kate graciously.

I haven't time.

Your mamma prefers other accomplishmentsI fancy. So did
minebut I proved to her that I had talent by taking a few lessons
privatelyand then she was quite willing I should go on. Can't
you do the same with your governess?

I have none.

I forgot young ladies in America go to school more than with
us. Very fine schools they aretooPapa says. You go to a
private oneI suppose?

I don't go at all. I am a governess myself.

Oh. indeed!said Miss Katebut she might as well have said
Dear mehow dreadful!for her tone implied itand something in
her face made Meg colorand wish she had not been so frank.

Mr. Brooke looked up and said quicklyYoung ladies in America
love independence as much as their ancestors didand are admired
and respected for supporting themselves."

Ohyesof course it's very nice and proper in them to do
so. We have many most respectable and worthy young women who do
the same and are employed by the nobilitybecausebeing the
daughters of gentlementhey are both well bred and accomplished
you knowsaid Miss Kate in a patronizing tone that hurt Meg's
prideand made her work seem not only more distastefulbut
degrading.

Did the German song suitMiss March?inquired Mr. Brooke
breaking an awkward pause.

Ohyes! It was very sweetand I'm much obliged to whoever
translated it for me.And Meg's downcast face brightened as she spoke.

Don't you read German?asked Miss Kate with a look of surprise.

Not very well. My fatherwho taught meis awayand I don't
get on very fast alonefor I've no one to correct my pronunciation.

Try a little now. Here is Schiller's Mary Stuart and a tutor who
loves to teach.And Mr. Brooke laid his book on her lap with
an inviting smile.


It's so hard I'm afraid to trysaid Meggratefulbut bashful
in the presence of the accomplished young lady beside her.


I'll read a bit to encourage you.And Miss Kate read one
of the most beautiful passages in a perfectly correct but
perfectly expressionless manner.


Mr. Brooke made no comment as she returned the book to Meg
who said innocentlyI thought it was poetry.
Some of it is. Try this passage.


There was a queer smile about Mr. Brooke's mouth as he
opened at poor Mary's lament.


Meg obediently following the long grass-blade which her new
tutor used to point withread slowly and timidlyunconsciously
making poetry of the hard words by the soft intonation of her
musical voice. Down the page went the green guideand presently
forgetting her listener in the beauty of the sad sceneMeg read
as if alonegiving a little touch of tragedy to the words of the
unhappy queen. If she had seen the brown eyes thenshe would
have stopped shortbut she never looked upand the lesson was
not spoiled for her.


Very well indeed!said Mr. Brookeas she pausedquite ignoring
her many mistakesand looking as if he did indeed love to teach.


Miss Kate put up her glassandhaving taken a survey of
the little tableau before hershut her sketch booksaying with
condescensionYou've a nice accent and in time will be a clever
reader. I advise you to learnfor German is a valuable
accomplishment to teachers. I must look after Graceshe is romping.
And Miss Kate strolled awayadding to herself with a shrugI
didn't come to chaperone a governessthough she is young and
pretty. What odd people these Yankees are. I'm afraid Laurie
will be quite spoiled among them.


I forgot that English people rather turn up their noses at
governesses and don't treat them as we dosaid Meglooking
after the retreating figure with an annoyed expression.


Tutors also have rather a hard time of it thereas I know
to my sorrow. There's no place like America for us workersMiss
Margaret.And Mr. Brooke looked so contented and cheerful that
Meg was ashamed to lament her hard lot.


I'm glad I live in it then. I don't like my workbut I get
a good deal of satisfaction out of it after allso I won't complain.
I only wished I liked teaching as you do.


I think you would if you had Laurie for a pupil. I shall
be very sorry to lose him next yearsaid Mr. Brookebusily
punching holes in the turf.


Going to collegeI suppose?Meg's lips asked the question
but her eyes addedAnd what becomes of you?


Yesit's high time he wentfor he is readyand as soon as
he is offI shall turn soldier. I am needed.


I am glad of that!exclaimed Meg. "I should think every
young man would want to gothough it is hard for the mothers
and sisters who stay at home she added sorrowfully.



I have neitherand very few friends to care whether I live
or die said Mr. Brooke rather bitterly as he absently put the
dead rose in the hole he had made and covered it uplike a
little grave.

Laurie and his grandfather would care a great dealand we
should all be very sorry to have any harm happen to you said
Meg heartily.

Thank youthat sounds pleasant began Mr. Brookelooking
cheerful againbut before he could finish his speechNedmounted
on the old horsecame lumbering up to display his equestrian skill
before the young ladiesand there was no more quiet that day.

Don't you love to ride?" asked Grace of Amyas they stood
resting after a race round the field with the othersled by Ned.

I dote upon it. My sisterMegused to ride when Papa was
richbut we don't keep any horses nowexcept Ellen Treeadded
Amylaughing.

Tell me about Ellen Tree. Is it a donkey?asked Grace
curiously.

Whyyou seeJo is crazy about horses and so am Ibut
we've only got an old sidesaddle and no horse. Out in our
garden is an apple tree that has a nice low branchso Jo put
the saddle on itfixed some reins on the part that turns up
and we bounce away on Ellen Tree whenever we like.

How funny!laughed Grace. "I have a pony at homeand
ride nearly every day in the park with Fred and Kate. It's very
nicefor my friends go tooand the Row is full of ladies and
gentlemen."

Dearhow charming! I hope I shall go abroad some day
but I'd rather go to Rome than the rowsaid Amywho had
not the remotest idea what the Row was and wouldn't have asked
for the world.

Franksitting just behind the little girlsheard what they
were sayingand pushed his crutch away from him with an impatient
gesture as he watched the active lads going through all sorts of
comical gymnastics. Bethwho was collecting the scattered
Author cardslooked up and saidin her shy yet friendly way
I'm afraid you are tired. Can I do anything for you?

Talk to meplease. It's dullsitting by myselfanswered
Frankwho had evidently been used to being made much of at home.

If he asked her to deliver a Latin orationit would not
have seemed a more impossible task to bashful Bethbut there
was no place to run tono Jo to hide behind nowand the poor
boy looked so wistfully at her that she bravely resolved to try.

What do you like to talk about?she askedfumbling over
the cards and dropping half as she tried to tie them up.

WellI like to hear about cricket and boating and hunting
said Frankwho had not yet learned to suit his amusements to
his strength.

My heart! What shall I do? I don't know anything about them
thought Bethand forgetting the boy's misfortune in her flurry


she saidhoping to make him talkI never saw any huntingbut
I suppose you know all about it.

I did oncebut I can never hunt againfor I got hurt leaping
a confounded five-barred gateso there are no more horses and
hounds for mesaid Frank with a sigh that made Beth hate herself
for her innocent blunder.

Your deer are much prettier than our ugly buffaloesshe
saidturning to the prairies for help and feeling glad that she
had read one of the boys' books in which Jo delighted.

Buffaloes proved soothing and satisfactoryand in her eagerness
to amuse anotherBeth forgot herselfand was quite unconscious
of her sisters' surprise and delight at the unusual spectacle
of Beth talking away to one of the dreadful boysagainst whom she
had begged protection.

Bless her heart! She pities himso she is good to him
aid Jobeaming at her from the croquet ground.

I always said she was a little saintadded Megas if
there could be no further doubt of it.

I haven't heard Frank laugh so much for ever so longsaid
Grace to Amyas they sat discussing dolls and making tea sets
out of the acorn cups.

My sister Beth is a very fastidious girlwhen she likes to be
said Amywell pleased at Beth's success. She meant `facinating'
but as Grace didn't know the exact meaning of either word
fastidious sounded well and made a good impression.

An impromptu circusfox and geeseand an amicable game of
croquet finished the afternoon. At sunset the tent was struck
hampers packedwickets pulled upboats loadedand the whole
party floated down the riversinging at the tops of their voices.
Nedgetting sentimentalwarbled a serenade with the pensive
refrain...

Alonealoneah! Woealone

and at the lines...

We each are youngwe each have a heart
Ohwhy should we stand thus coldly apart?

he looked at Meg with such a lackadiasical expression that she
laughed outright and spoiled his song.

How can you be so cruel to me?he whisperedunder cover
of a lively chorus. "You've kept close to that starched-up
Englishwoman all dayand now you snub me."

I didn't mean tobut you looked so funny I really couldn't
help itreplied Megpassing over the first part of his reproach
for it was quite true that she had shunned himremembering the
Moffat party and the talk after it.

Ned was offended and turned to Sallie for consolationsaying
to her rather pettishlyThere isn't a bit of flirt in that girl
is there?


Not a particlebut she's a dearreturned Salliedefending
her friend even while confessing her shortcomings.

She's not a stricken deer anywaysaid Nedtrying to be
wittyand succeeding as well as very young gentlemen usually do.

On the lawn where it had gatheredthe little party separated
with cordial good nights and good-bysfor the Vaughns were going
to Canada. As the four sisters went home through the gardenMiss
Kate looked after themsayingwithout the patronizing tone in
her voiceIn spite of their demonstrative mannersAmerican girls
are very nice when one knows them.

I quite agree with yousaid Mr. Brooke.

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

Laurie lay luxuriously swinging to and fro in his hammock
one warm September afternoonwondering what his neighbors were
aboutbut too lazy to go and find out. He was in one of his
moodsfor the day had been both unprofitable and unsatisfactory
and he was wishing he could live it over again. The hot weather
made him indolentand he had shirked his studiestried Mr.
Brooke's patience to the utmostdispleased his grandfather by
practicing half the afternoonfrightened the maidservants half
out of their wits by mischievously hinting that one of his dogs
was going madandafter high words with the stableman about
some fancied neglect of his horsehe had flung himself into
his hammock to fume over the stupidity of the world in general
till the peace of the lovely day quieted him in spite of himself.
Staring up into the green gloom of the horse-chestnut trees above
himhe dreamed dreams of all sortsand was just imagining
himself tossing on the ocean in a voyage round the world
when the sound of voices brought him ashore in a flash.
Peeping through the meshes of the hammockhe saw the Marches
coming outas if bound on some expedition.

What in the world are those girls about now?thought
Laurieopening his sleepy eyes to take a good lookfor there
was something rather peculiar in the appearance of his
neighbors. Each wore a largeflapping hata brown linen pouch
slung over one shoulderand carried a long staff. Meg had a
cushionJo a bookBeth a basketand Amy a portfolio. All
walked quietly through the gardenout at the little back gate
and began to climb the hill that lay between the house and river.

Wellthat's coolsaid Laurie to himselfto have a picnic
and never ask me! They can't be going in the boatfor they
haven't got the key. Perhaps they forgot it. I'll take it to them
and see what's going on.

Though possessed of half a dozen hatsit took him some time
to find onethen there was a hunt for the keywhich was at last
discovered in his pocketso that the girls were quite out of sight
when leaped the fence and ran after them. Taking the shortest way
to the boathousehe waited for them to appearbut no one came
and he went up the hill to take an observation. A grove of pines
covered one part of itand from the heart of this green spot came
a clearer sound than the soft sigh of the pines or the drowsy chirp
of the crickets.

Here's a landscape!thought Lauriepeeping through the


bushesand looking wide-awake and good-natured already.

It was a rather pretty little picturefor the sisters sat
together in the shady nookwith sun and shadow flickering over
themthe aromatic wind lifting their hair and cooling their hot
cheeksand all the little wood people going on with their affairs
as if these were no strangers but old friends. Meg sat upon her
cushionsewing daintily with her white handsand looking as fresh
and sweet as a rose in her pink dress among the green. Beth was
sorting the cones that lay thick under the hemlock near byfor
she made pretty things with them. Amy was sketching a group of
fernsand Jo was knitting as she read aloud. A shadow passed
over the boy's face as he watched themfeeling that he ought to
go away because uninvitedyet lingering because home seemed very
lonely and this quiet party in the woods most attractive to his
restless spirit. He stood so still that a squirrelbusy with it's
harvestingran dawn a pine close beside himsaw him suddenly
and skipped backscolding so shrilly that Beth looked upespied
the wistful face behind the birchesand beckoned with a reassuring
smile.

May I come inplease? Or shall I be a bother?he asked
advancing slowly.

Meg lifted her eyebrowsbut Jo scowled at her defiantly and
said at onceOf course you may. We should have asked you before
only we thought you wouldn't care for such a girl's game as this.

I always like your gamesbut if Meg doesn't want meI'll
go away.

I've no objectionif you do something. It's against the
rules to be idle herereplied Meg gravely but graciously.

Much obliged. I'll do anything if you'll let me stop a bit
for it's as dull as the Desert of Sahara down there. Shall I sew
readconedrawor do all at once? Bring on your bears.
I'm ready.And Laurie sat down with a submissive expression
delightful to behold.

Finish this story while I set my heelsaid Johanding him
the book.

Yes'm.was the meek answeras he begandoing his best to
prove his gratitude for the favor of admission into the `Busy Bee
Society'.

The story was not a long oneand when it was finishedhe
ventured to ask a few questions as a reward of merit.

Pleasema'amcould I inquire if this highly instructive
and charming institution is a new one?

Would you tell him?asked Meg of her sisters.

He'll laughsaid Amy warningly.

Who cares?said Jo.

I guess he'll like itadded Beth.

Of course I shall! I give you my word I won't laugh. Tell
awayJoand don't be afraid.


The idea of being afraid of you! Wellyou see we used to
play Pilgrim's Progressand we have been going on with it in
earnestall winter and summer.

YesI knowsaid Laurienodding wisely.

Who told you?demanded Jo.

Spirits.

NoI did. I wanted to amuse him one night when you were
all awayand he was rather dismal. He did like itso don't
scoldJosaid Beth meekly.

You can't keep a secret. Never mindit saves trouble now.

Go onpleasesaid Laurieas Jo became absorbed in her
worklooking a trifle displeased.

Ohdidn't she tell you about this new plan of ours? Well
we have tried not to waste our holidaybut each has had a task
and worked at it with a will. The vacation is nearly overthe
stints are all doneand we are ever so glad that we didn't dawdle.

YesI should think soand Laurie thought regretfully of
his own idle days.
Mother likes to have us out-of-doors as much as possibleso
we bring our work here and have nice times. For the fun of it we
bring our things in these bagswear the old hatsuse poles to
climb the hilland play pilgrimsas we used to do years ago. We
call this hill the Delectable Mountainfor we can look far away
and see the country where we hope to live some time.

Jo pointedand Laurie sat up to examinefor through an
opening in the wood one could look cross the wideblue river
the meadows on the other sidefar over the outskirts of the
great cityto the green hills that rose to meet the sky. The
sun was lowand the heavens glowed with the splendor of an
autumn sunset. Gold and purple clouds lay on the hilltops
and rising high into the ruddy light were silvery white peaks
that shone like the airy spires of some Celestial City.

How beautiful that is!said Laurie softlyfor he was quick
to see and feel beauty of any kind.

It's often soand we like to watch itfor it is never the
samebut always splendidreplied Amywishing she could paint it.

Jo talks about the country where we hope to live sometime--the
real countryshe meanswith pigs and chickens and haymaking.
It would be nicebut I wish the beautiful country up there was real
and we could ever go to itsaid Beth musingly.

There is a lovelier country even than thatwhere we shall go
by-and-bywhen we are good enoughanswered Meg with her sweetest voice.

It seems so long to waitso hard to do. I want to fly away
at onceas those swallows flyand go in at that splendid gate.

You'll get thereBethsooner or laterno fear of that
said Jo. "I'm the one that will have to fight and workand climb
and waitand maybe never get in after all."

you'll have me for companyif that's any comfort. I shall


have to do a deal of traveling before I come in sight of your
Celestial City. If I arrive lateyou'll say a good word for me
won't youBeth?

Something in the boy's face troubled his little friendbut
she said cheerfullywith her quiet eyes on the changing clouds
If people really want to goand really try all their livesI
think they will get infor I don't believe there are any locks
on that door or any guards at the gate. I always imagine it is
as it is in the picturewhere the shining ones stretch out their
hands to welcome poor Christian as he comes up from the river.

Wouldn't it be fun if all the castles in the air which we
make could come trueand we could live in them?" said Joafter
a little pause.

I've made such quantities it would be hard to choose which
I'd havesaid Laurielying flat and throwing cones at the
squirrel who had betrayed him.

You'd have to take your favorite one. What is it?asked
Meg.

If I tell minewill you tell yours?

Yesif the girls will too.

We will. NowLaurie.

After I'd seen as much of the world as I want toI'd like
to settle in Germany and have just as much music as I choose. I'm
to be a famous musician myselfand all creation is to rush to hear
me. And I'm never to be bothered about money or businessbut just
enjoy myself and live for what I like. That's my favorite castle.
What's yoursMeg?

Margaret seemed to find it a little hard to tell hersand
waved a brake before her faceas if to disperse imaginary gnats
while she said slowlyI should like a lovely housefull of all
sorts of luxurious things--nice foodpretty clotheshandsome
furniturepleasant peopleand heaps of money. I am to be
mistress of itand manage it as I likewith plenty of servants
so I never need work a bit. How I should enjoy it! For I wouldn't
be idlebut do goodand make everyone love me dearly.

Wouldn't you have a master for your castle in the air?asked
Laurie slyly.

I said `pleasant people'you knowAnd Meg carefully tied
up her shoe as she spokeso that no one saw her face.

Why don't you say you'd have a splendidwisegood husband
and some angelic little children? You know your castle wouldn't
be perfect withoutsaid blunt Jowho had no tender fancies yet
and rather scorned romanceexcept in books.

You'd have nothing but horsesinkstandsand novels in
yoursanswered Meg petulantly.

Wouldn't I though? I'd have a stable full of Arabian steeds
rooms piled high with booksand I'd write out of a magic inkstand
so that my works should be as famous as Laurie's music. I want to
do something splendid before I go into my castlesomething heroic
or wonderful that won't be forgotten after I'm dead. I don't know


whatbut I'm on the watch for itand mean to astonish you all
some day. I think I shall write booksand get rich and famous
that would suit meso that is my favorite dream.


Mine is to stay at home safe with Father and Motherand
help take care of the familysaid Beth contentedly.


Don't you wish for anything else?asked Laurie.
Since I had my little pianoI am perfectly satisfied. I
only wish we may all keep well and be togethernothing else.


I have ever so many wishesbut the pet one is to be an
artistand go to Romeand do fine picturesand be the best
artist in the whole worldwas Amy's modest desire.


We're an ambitious setaren't we? Every one of usbut
Bethwants to be rich and famousand gorgeous in every respect.
I do wonder if any of us will ever get our wishessaid Laurie
chewing grass like a meditative calf.


I've got the key to my castle in the airbut whether I can
unlock the door remains to be seenobserved Jo mysteriously.


I've got the key to minebut I'm not allowed to try it.
Hang college!muttered Laurie with an impatient sigh.


Here's mine!and Amy waved her pencil.


I haven't got anysaid Meg forlornly.


Yesyou havesaid Laurie at once.


Where?


In your face.


Nonsensethat's of no use.
Wait and see if it doesn't bring you something worth having
replied the boylaughing at the thought of a charming little
secret which he fancied he knew.


Meg colored behind the brakebut asked no questions and
looked across the river with the same expectant expression which
Mr. Brooke had worn when he told the story of the knight.


If we are all alive ten years hencelet's meetand see how
many of us have got our wishesor how much nearer we are then than
nowsaid Joalways ready with a plan.


Bless me! How old I shall betwenty-seven!exclaimed Meg
who felt grown up alreadyhaving just reached seventeen.


You and I will be twenty-sixTeddyBeth twenty-fourand
Amy twenty-two. What a venerable party!said Jo.


I hope I shall have done something to be proud of by that
timebut I'm such a lazy dogI'm afraid I shall dawdleJo.


You need a motiveMother saysand when you get itshe is
sure you'll work splendidly.


Is she? By JupiterI willif I only get the chance!cried
Lauriesitting up with sudden energy. "I ought to be satisfied to
please Grandfatherand I do trybut it's working against the grain



you seeand comes hard. He wants me to be an India merchantas he
wasand I'd rather be shot. I hate tea and sild and spicesand
every sort of rubbish his old ships bringand I don't care how soon
they go to the bottom when I own them. Going to college ought to
satisfy himfor if I give him four years he ought to let me off
from the business. But he's setand I've got to do just as he did
unless I break away and please myselfas my father did. If there
was anyone left to stay with the old gentlemanI'd do it tomorrow."

Laurie spoke excitedlyand looked ready to carry his threat
into execution on the slightest provocationfor he was growing up
very fast andin spite of his indolent wayshad a young man's
hatred of subjectiona young man's restless longing to try the
world for himself.

I advise you to sail away in one of your shipsand never
come home again till you have tried your own waysaid Jowhose
imagination was fired by the thought of such a daring exploitand
whose sympathy was excited by what she called `Teddy's Wrongs'.

That's not rightJo. You mustn't talk in that wayand Laurie
mustn't take your bad advice. You should do just what your
grandfather wishesmy dear boysaid Meg in her most maternal tone.
Do your best at collegeand when he sees that you try to please him
I'm sure he won't be hard on you or unjust to you. As you saythere
is no one else to stay with and love himand you'd never forgive
yourself if you left him without his permission. Don't be dismal or
fretbut do your duty and you'll get your rewardas good Mr. Brooke
hasby being respected and loved.

What do you know about him?asked Lauriegrateful for the
good advicebut objecting to the lectureand glad to turn the
conversation from himself after his unusual outbreak.

Only what your grandpa told us about himhow he took good
care of his own mother till she diedand wouldn't go abroad as
tutor to some nice person because he wouldn't leave her. And how
he provides now for an old woman who nursed his motherand never
tells anyonebut is just as generous and patient and good as he
can be.

So he isdear old fellow!said Laurie heartilyas Meg
pausedlooking flushed and earnest with her story. "It's like
Grandpa to find out all about him without letting him knowand
to tell all his goodness to othersso that they might like him.
Brooke couldn't understand why your mother was so kind to him
asking him over with me and treating him in her beautiful friendly
way. He thought she was just perfectand talked about it for
days and daysand went on about you all in flaming style. If ever
I do get my wishyou see what I'll do for Booke."

Begin to do something now by not plaguing his life out
said Meg sharply.

How do you know I doMiss?
I can always tell by his face when he goes away. If you
have been goodhe looks satisfied and walks briskly. If you
have plagued himhe's sober and walks slowlyas if he wanted
to go back and do his work better.

WellI like that? So you keep an account of my good and
bad marks in Brooke's facedo you? I see him bow and smile as
he passes your windowbut I didn't know you'd got up a telegraph.


We haven't. Don't be angryand ohdon't tell him I said
anything! It was only to show that I cared how you get onand
what is said here is said in confidenceyou knowcried Meg
much alarmed at the thought of what might follow from her
careless speech.

I don't tell talesreplied Lauriewith his `high and mighty'
airas Jo called a certain expression which he occasionally wore.
Only if Brooke is going to be a thermometerI must mind and have
fair weather for him to report.

Please don't be offended. I didn't meant to preach or tell
tales or be silly. I only thought Jo was encouraging you in a
feeling which you'd be sorry for by-and-by. You are so kind to
uswe feel as if you were our brother and say just what we think.
Forgive meI meant it kindly.And Meg offered her hand with a
gesture both affectionate and timid.

Ashamed of his momentary piqueLaurie squeezed the kind
little handand said franklyI'm the one to be forgiven. I'm
cross and have been out of sorts all day. I like to have you
tell me my faults and be sisterlyso don't mind if I am grumpy
sometimes. I thank you all the same.

Bent on showing that he was not offendedhe made himself as
agreeable as possiblewound cotton for Megrecited poetry to
please Joshook down cones for Bethand helped Amy with her
fernsproving himself a fit person to belong to the `Busy Bee
Society'. In the midst of an animated discussion on the domestic
habits of turtles (one of those amiable creatures having strolled
up from the river)the faint sound of a bell warned them that
Hannah had put the tea `to draw'and they would just have time
to get home to supper.

May I come again?asked Laurie.

Yesif your are goodand love your bookas the boys in
the primer are told to dosaid Megsmiling.

i'll try.

Then you may comeand I'll teach you to knit as the Scotchmen do.
There's a demand for socks just nowadded Jowaving hers
like a big blue worsted banner as they parted at the gate.

That nightwhen Beth played to Mr. Laurence in the twilight
Lauriestanding in the shadow of the curtainlistened to the
little Davidwhose simple music always quieted his moody spirit
and watched the old manwho sat with his gray head on his hand
thinking tender thoughts of the dead child he had loved so much.
Remembering the conversation of the afternoonthe boy said to
himselfwith the resolve to make the sacrifice cheerfullyI'll
let my castle goand stay with the dear old gentleman while he
needs mefor I am all he has.

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Jo was very busy in the garretfor the October days began
to grow chillyand the afternoons were short. For two or three
hours the sun lay warmly in the high windowshowing Jo seated
on the old sofawriting busilywith her papers spread out
upon a trunk before herwhile Scrabblethe pet rat


promenaded the beams overheadaccompanied by his oldest son
a fine young fellowwho was evidently very proud of his whiskers.
Quite absorbed in her workJo scribbled away till the last page
was filledwhen she signed her name with a flourish and threw
down her penexclaiming...

ThereI've done my best! If this won't suit I shall have
to wait till I can do better.

Lying back on the sofashe read the manuscript carefully
throughmaking dashes here and thereand putting in many
exclamation pointswhich looked like little balloons. Then she
tied it up with a smart red ribbonand sat a minute looking at
it with a soberwistful expressionwhich plainly showed how
ernest her work had been. Jo's desk up here was an old tin
kitchen which hung against the wall. It it she kept her papers
and a few bookssafely shut away from Scrabblewhobeing
likewise of a literary turnwas fond of making a circulating
library of such books as were left in his way by eating the
leaves. From this tin receptacle Jo produced another manuscript
and putting both in her pocketcrept quietly downstairsleaving
her friends to nibble on her pens and taste her ink.

She put on her hat and jacket as noiselessly as possibleand
going to the back entry windowgot out upon the roof of a low
porchswung herself down to the grassy bankand took a roundabout
way to the road. Once thereshe composed herselfhailed a passing
omnibusand rolled away to townlooking very merry and mysterious.

If anyone had been watching herhe would have thought her
movements decidedly peculiarfor on alightingshe went off at a
great pace till she reached a certain number in a certain busy
street. Having found the place with some difficultyshe went
into the doorwaylooked up the dirty stairsand after standing
stock still a minutesuddenly dived into the street and walked
away as rapidly as she came. This maneuver she repeated several
timesto the great amusement of a black-eyed young gentleman
lounging in the window of a building opposite. On returning for
the third timeJo gave herself a shakepulled her hat over her
eyesand walked up the stairslooking as if she were going to
have all her teeth out.

There was a dentist's signamong otherswhich adorned the
entranceand after staring a moment at the pair of artificial
jaws which slowly opened and shut to draw attention to a fine
set of teeththe young gentleman put on his coattook his hat
and went down to post himself in the opposite doorwaysaying
with a smile and a shiverIt's like her to come alonebut if
she has a bad time she'll need someone to help her home.

In ten minutes Jo came running downstairs with a very red
face and the general appearance of a person who had just passed
through a trying ordeal of some sort. When she saw the young
gentleman she looked anything but pleasedand passed him with a
nod. But he followedasking with an air of sympathyDid you
have a bad time?

Not very.

You got through quickly.

Yesthank goodness!

Why did you go alone?


Didn't want anyone to know.

You're the oddest fellow I ever saw. How many did you
have out?

Jo looked at her friend as if she did not understand himthen
began to laugh as if mightily amused at something.

There are two which I want to have come outbut I must wait
a week.

What are you laughing at? You are up to some mischiefJo
said Laurielooking mystified.

So are you. What were you doingsirup in that billiard
saloon?

Begging your pardonma'amit wasn't a billiard saloonbut
a gymnasiumand I was taking a lesson in fencing.

I'm glad of that.

why?

You can teach meand then when we play HAMLETyou can be
Laertesand we'll make a fine thing of the fencing scene.

Laurie burst out with a hearty boy's laughwhich made
several passers-by smile in spite of themselves.

I'll teach you whether we play HAMLET or not. It's grand
fun and will straighten you up capitally. But I don't believe
that was your only reason for saying `I'm glad' in that decided
waywas it now?"

NoI was glad that you were not in the saloonbecause I
hope you never go to such places. Do you?

Not often.

I wish you wouldn't.

It's no harmJo. I have billiards at homebut it's no fun
unless you have good playerssoas I'm fond of itI come sometimes
and have a game with Ned Moffat or some of the other fellows.

OhdearI'm so sorryfor you'll get to liking it better and
betterand will waste time and moneyand grow like those dreadful
boys. I did hope you'd stay respectable and be a satisfaction to
your friendssaid Joshaking her head.

Can't a fellow take a little innocent amusement now and then
without losing his respectability?asked Laurielooking nettled.

That depends upon how and where he takes it. I don't like
Ned and his setand wish you'd keep out of it. Mother won't let
us have him at our housethough he wants to come. And if you
grow like him she won't be willing to have us frolic together as
we do now.
Won't she?asked Laurie anxiously.

Noshe can't bear fashionable young menand she'd shut us
all up in bandboxes rather than have us associate with them.


Wellshe needn't get out her bandboxes yet. I'm not a
fashionable party and don't mean to bebut I do like harmless
larks now and thendon't you?

Yesnobody minds themso lark awaybut don't get wild
will you? Or there will be an end of all our good times.

I'll be a double distilled saint.

I can't bear saints. Just be a simplehonestrespectable
boyand we'll never desert you. I don't know what I should do
if you acted like Mr. King's son. He had plenty of moneybut
didn't know how to spend itand got tipsy and gambledand ran
awayand forged his father's nameI believeand was altogether
horrid.

You think I'm likely to do the same? Much obliged.

NoI don't--ohdearno!--but I hear people talking about
money being such a temptationand I sometimes wish you were poor.
I shouldn't worry then.

Do you worry about meJo?

A littlewhen you look moody and discontentedas you sometimes do
for you've got such a strong willif you once get started wrong
I'm afraid it would be hard to stop you.

Laurie walked in silence a few minutesand Jo watched him
wishing she had held her tonguefor his eyes looked angrythough
his lips smiled as if at her warnings.

Are you going to deliver lectures all the way home?he
asked presently.

Of course not. Why?

Because if you areI'll take a bus. If you're notI'd like
to walk with you and tell you something very interesting.

I won't preach any moreand I'd like to hear the news
immensely.

Very wellthencome on. It's a secretand if I tell you
you must tell me yours.

I haven't got anybegan Jobut stopped suddenly
remembering that she had.

You know you have--you can't hide anythingso up and fess
or I won't tellcried Laurie.

Is your secret a nice one?

Ohisn't it! All about people you knowand such fun! You
ought to hear itand I've been aching to tell it this long time.
Comeyou begin.

You'll not say anything about it at homewill you?

Not a word.

And you won't tease me in private?


I never tease.

Yesyou do. You get everything you want out of people. I
don't know how you do itbut you are a born wheedler.

Thank you. Fire away.

WellI've left two stories with a newspapermanand he's to
give his answer next weekwhispered Join her confidant's ear.

Hurrah for Miss Marchthe celebrated American authoress!
cried Lauriethrowing up his hat and catching it againto the
great delight of two ducksfour catsfive hensand half a
dozen Irish childrenfor they were out of the city now.
Hush! It won't come to anythingI dare saybut I couldn't
rest till I had triedand I said nothing about it because I didn't
want anyone else to be disappointed.

It won't fail. WhyJoyour stories are works of Shakespeare
compared to half the rubbish that is published every day.
Won't it be fun to see them in printand shan't we feel proud of
our authoress?

Jo's eyes sparkledfor it is always pleasant to be believed
inand a friend's praise is always sweeter than a dozen newspaper
puffs.

Where's your secret? Play fairTeddyor I'll never believe
you againshe saidtrying to extinguish the brilliant hopes that
blazed up at a word of encouragement.

I may get into a scrape for tellingbut I didn't promise
not toso I willfor I never feel easy in my mind till I've told
you any plummy bit of news I get. I know where Meg's glove is.

Is that all? said Jolooking disappointedas Laurie nodded
and twinkled with a face full of mysterious intelligence.

It's quite enough for the presentas you'll agree when I
tell you where it is."

Tellthen.

Laurie bentand whispered three words in Jo's earwhich
produced a comical change. She stood and stared at him for a
minutelooking both surprised and displeasedthen walked on
saying sharplyHow do you know?

Saw it.

Where?'

Pocket."

All this time?

Yesisn't that romantic?

Noit's horrid.

Don't you like it?

Of course I don't. It's ridiculousit won't be allowed. My


patience! What would Meg say?

You are not to tell anyone. Mind that.

I didn't promise.

That was understoodand I trusted you.

WellI won't for the presentanywaybut I'm disgustedand
wish you hadn't told me.

I thought you'd be pleased.

At the idea of anybody coming to take Meg away? Nothank you.

You'll feel better about it when somebody comes to take you
away.

I'd like to see anyone try itcried Jo fiercely.

So should I!And Laurie chuckled at the idea.

I don't think secrets agree with meI feel rumpled up in
my mind since you told me thatsaid Jo rather ungratefully.

Race down this hill with meand you'll be all right
suggested Laurie.

No one was in sightthe smooth road sloped invitingly before
herand finding the temptation irresistibleJo darted awaysoon
leaving hat and comb behind her and scattering hairpins as she ran.
Laurie reached the goal first and was quite satisfied with the
success of his treatmentfor his Atalanta came panting up
with flying hairbright eyesruddy cheeksand no signs of
dissatisfaction in her face.

I wish I was a horsethen I could run for miles in this
splendid airand not lose my breath. It was capitalbut see
what a guy it's made me. Gopick up my thingslike a cherub
as you aresaid Jodropping down under a maple treewhich
was carpeting the bank with crimson leaves.

Laurie leisurely departed to recover the lost propertyand
Jo bundled up her braidshoping no one would pass by till she
was tidy again. But someone did passand who should it be but
Meglooking particularly ladylike in her state and festival
suitfor she had been making calls.

What in the world are you doing here?she askedregarding
her disheveled sister with well-bred surprise.

Getting leavesmeekly answered Josorting the rosy handful
she had just swept up.

And hairpinsadded Lauriethrowing half a dozen into Jo's
lap. "They grow on this roadMegso do combs and brown straw
hats."

You have been runningJo. How could you? When will you stop
such romping ways?said Meg reprovinglyas she settled her cuffs
and smoothed her hairwith which the wind had taken liberties.

Never till I'm stiff and old and have to use a crutch. Don't
try to make me grow up before my timeMeg. It's hard enough to


have you change all of a sudden. Let me be a little girl as long
as I can.

As she spokeJo bent over the leaves to hide the trembling
of her lipsfor lately she had felt that Margaret was fast getting
to be a womanand Laurie's secret made her dread the separation
which must surely come some time and now seemed very near. He saw
the trouble in her face and drew Meg's attention from it by asking
quicklyWhere have you been callingall so fine?

At the Gardiners'and Sallie has been telling me all about
Belle Moffat's wedding. It was very splendidand they have gone
to spend the winter in Paris. Just think how delightful that
must be!

Do you envy herMeg?said Laurie.

I'm afraid I do.

I'm glad of it!muttered Jotying on her hat with a jerk.

Why?asked Meglooking surprised.

Because if you care much about richesyou will never go and
marry a poor mansaid Jofrowning at Lauriewho was mutely
warning her to mind what she said.

I shall never `go and marry' anyoneobserved Megwalking
on with great dignity while the others followedlaughing
whisperingskipping stonesand `behaving like children'
as Meg said to herselfthough she might have been tempted
to join them if she had not had her best dress on.

For a week or twoJo behaved so queerly that her sisters
were quite bewildered. She rushed to the door when the postman
rangwas rude to Mr. Brooke whenever they metwould sit looking
at Meg with a woe-begone faceoccasionally jumping up to shake
and then kiss her in a very mysterious manner. Laurie and she
were always making signs to one anotherand talking about
`Spread Eagles' till the girls declared they had both lost their
wits. On the second Saturday after Jo got out of the windowMeg
as she sat sewing at her windowwas scandalized by the sight of
Laurie chasing Jo all over the garden and finally capturing her
in Amy's bower. What went on thereMeg could not seebut shrieks
of laughter were heardfollowed by the murmur of voices and a
great flapping of newspapers.

What shall we do with that girl? She never will behave like
a young ladysighed Megas she watched the race with a
disapproving face.

I hope she won't. She is so funny and dear as she issaid
Bethwho had never betrayed that she was a little hurt at Jo's
having secrets with anyone but her.

It's very tryingbut we never can make her commy la fo
added Amywho sat making some new frills for herselfwith her
curls tied up in a very becoming way.two agreeable things that
made her feel unusually elegant and ladylike.

In a few minutes Jo bounced inlaid herself on the sofa
and affected to read.

Have you anything interesting there?asked Megwith condescension.


Nothing but a storywon't amount to muchI guessreturned
Jocarefully keeping the name of the paper out of sight.

You'd better read it aloud. That will amuse us and keep you
out of mischiefsaid Amy in her most grown-up tone.

What's the name?asked Bethwondering why Jo kept her face
behind the sheet.

The Rival Painters.

That sounds well. Read itsaid Meg.

With a loud "Hem!" and a long breathJo began to read very
fast. The girls listened with interestfor the tale was romantic
and somewhat patheticas most of the characters died in the end.
I like that about the splendid picturewas Amy's approving
remarkas Jo paused.

I prefer the lovering part. Viola and Angelo are two of our
favorite namesisn't that queer?said Megwiping her eyesfor
the lovering part was tragical.

Who wrote it?asked Bethwho had caught a glimpse of Jo's
face.

The reader suddenly sat upcast away the paperdisplaying
a flushed countenanceand with a funny mixture of solemnity and
excitement replied in a loud voiceYour sister.

You?cried Megdropping her work.

It's very goodsaid Amy critically.

I knew it! I knew it! Ohmy JoI am so proud!And Beth
ran to hug her sister and exult over this splendid success.

Dear mehow delighted they all wereto be sure! How Meg
wouldn't believe it till she saw the words. "Miss Josephine
March actually printed in the paper. How graciously Amy
critisized the artistic parts of the storyand offered hints for
a sequelwhich unfortunately couldn't be carried outas the
hero and heroine were dead. How Beth got excitedand skipped
and sang with joy. How Hannah came in to exclaimSakes alive
well I never!" in great astonishment at `that Jo's doin's'. How
proud Mrs. March was when she knew it. How Jo laughedwith
tears in her eyesas she declared she might as well be a peacock
and done with it. and how th `Spread Eagle' might be said to
flap his wings triumphantly over the House of Marchas the
paper passed from hand to hand.

Tell us about it.When did it come?How much did you
get for it?What will Father say?Won't Laurie laugh?cried
the familyall in one breath as they clustered about Jofor
these foolishaffectionate people mad a jubilee of every little
household joy.

Stop jabberinggirlsand I'll tell you everything
said Jowondering if Miss Burney felt any grander over her
Evilina than she did over her `Rival Painters'. Having told
how she disposed of her talesJo addedAnd when I went to
get my answerthe man said he liked them bothbut didn't
pay beginnersonly let them print in his paperand noticed


the stories. It was good practicehe saidand when the
beginners improvedanyone would pay. So I let him have the two
storiesand today this was sent to meand Laurie caught me
with it and insisted on seeing itso I let him. And he said
it was goodand I shall write moreand he's going to get the
next paid forand I am so happyfor in time I may be able to
support myself and help the girls.

Jo's breath gave out hereand wrapping her head in the
papershe bedewed her little story with a few natural tears
for to be independent and earn the praise of those she loved
were the dearest wishes of her heartand this seemed to be the
first step toward that happy end.

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

November is the most disagreeable month in the whole year
said Margaretstanding at the window one dull afternoon
looking out at the frostbitten garden.

That's the reason I was born in itobserved Jo pensively
quite unconscious of the blot on her nose.

If something very pleasant should happen nowwe should
think it a delightful monthsaid Bethwho took a hopeful view
of everythingeven November.

I dare saybut nothing pleasant ever does happen in this
familysaid Megwho was out of sorts. "We go grubbing along
day after daywithout a bit of changeand very little fun. We
might as well be in a treadmill."

My patiencehow blue we are!cried Jo. "I don't much
wonderpoor dearfor you see other girls having splendid times
while you grindgrindyear in and year out. Ohdon't I wish
I could manage things for you as I do for my heroines! You're
pretty enough and good enough alreadyso I'd have some rich relation
leave you a fortune unexpectedly. Then you'd dash out as an heiress
scorn everyone who has slighted yougo abroadand come home my Lady
Something in a blaze of splendor and elegance."

People don't have fortunes left them in that style nowadays
men have to work and women marry for money. It's a dreadfully unjust
worldsaid Meg bitterly.

Jo and I are going to make fortunes for you all. Just wait ten
yearsand see if we don'tsaid Amywho sat in a corner making mud
piesas Hannah called her little clay models of birdsfruitand
faces.

Can't waitand I'm afraid I haven't much faith in ink and dirt
though I'm grateful for your good intentions.

Meg sighedand turned to the frostbitten garden again. Jo
groaned and leaned both elbows on the table in a despondent attitude
but Amy spatted away energeticallyand Bethwho sat at the other
windowsaidsmilingTwo pleasant things are going to happen
right away. Marmee is coming down the streetand Laurie is tramping
through the garden as if he had something nice to tell."

In they both cameMrs. March with her usual questionAny letter
from Fathergirls?and Laurie to say in his persuasive wayWon't


some of you come for a drive? I've been working away at mathematics
till my head is in a muddleand I'm going to freshen my wits by a
brisk turn. It's a dull daybut the air isn't badand I'm going to
take Brooke homeso it will be gay insideif it isn't out. Come
Joyou and Beth will gowon't you?


Of course we will.


Much obligedbut I'm busy.And Meg whisked out her workbasket
for she had agreed with her mother that it was bestfor her at least
not to drive too often with the young gentleman.


We three will be ready in a minutecried Amyrunning away to
wash her hands.


Can I do anything for youMadam Mother?asked Laurieleaning
over Mrs. March's chair with the affectionate look and tone he always
gave her.


Nothank youexcept call at the officeif you'll be so kind
dear. It's our day for a letterand the postman hasn't been. Father
is as regular as the sunbut there's some delay on the wayperhaps.


A sharp ring interrupted herand a minute after Hannah came in
with a letter.


It's one of them horrid telegraph thingsmumshe said
handling it as if she was afraid it would explode and do some damage.


At the word `telegraph'Mrs. March snatched itread the two
lines it containedand dropped back into her chair as white as if
the little paper had sent a bullet to her heart. Laurie dashed
downstairs for waterwhile Meg and Hannah supported herand Jo read
aloudin a frightened voice...


Mrs. March:
Your husband is very ill. Come at once.


S. HALE
Blank HospitalWashington.
How still the room was as they listened breathlesslyhow
strangely the day darkened outsideand how suddenly the whole world
seemed to changeas the girls gathered about their motherfeeling
as if all the happiness and support of their lives was about to be
taken from them.

Mrs. March was herself again directlyread the message over
and stretched out her arms to her daughterssayingin a tone they
never forgotI shall go at oncebut it may be too late. Oh
childrenchildrenhelp me to bear it!

For several minutes there was nothing but the sound of sobbing
in the roommingled with broken words of comforttender assurances
of helpand hopeful whispers that died away in tears. Poor Hannah
was the first to recoverand with unconscious wisdom she set all the
rest a good examplefor with herwork was panacea for most
afflictions.

The Lord keep the dear man! I won't waste no time a-cryin'
but git your things ready right awaymumshe said heartilyas she
wiped her face on her aprongave her mistress a warm shake of the
hand with her own hard oneand went away to work like three women
in one.


She's rightthere's no time for tears now. Be calmgirls
and let me think.


They tried to be calmpoor thingsas their mother sat up
looking pale but steadyand put away her grief to think and plan
for them.


Where's Laurie?' she asked presentlywhen she had collected
her thoughts and decided on the first duties to be done.


Herema'am. Ohlet me do something!" cried the boy
hurrying from the next room whither he had withdrawnfeeling that
their first sorrow was too sacred for even his friendly eyes to see.


Send a telegram saying I will come at once. The next train
goes early in the morning. I'll take that.


What else? The horses are ready. I can go anywheredo
anythinghe saidlooking ready to fly to the ends of the earth.


Leave a note at Aunt March's. Jogive me that pen and paper.


Tearing off the blank side of one of her newly copied pages
Jo drew the table before her motherwell knowing that money for the
longsad journey must be borrowedand feeling as if she could do
anything to add to a little to the sum for her father.


Now godearbut don't kill yourself driving at a desperate
pace. There is no need of that.


Mrs. March's warning was evidently thrown awayfor five minutes
later Laurie tore by the window on his own fleet horseriding as if
for his life.


Jorun to the roomsand tell Mrs. King that I can't come.
On the way get these things. I'll put them downthey'll be needed
and I must go prepared for nursing. Hospital stores are not always
good. Bethgo and ask Mr. Laurence for a couple of bottles of old
wine. I'm not too proud to beg for Father. He shall have the best
of everything. Amytell Hannah to get down the black trunkand
Megcome and help me find my thingsfor I'm half bewildered.


Writingthinkingand directing all at once might well bewilder
the poor ladyand Meg begged her to sit quietly in her room
for a little whileand let them work. Everyone scattered
like leaves before a gust of windand the quiethappy household
was broken up as suddenly as if the paper had been an evil spell.


Mr. Laurence came hurrying back with Bethbringing every
comfort the kind old gentleman could think of for the invalidand
friendliest promises of protection for the girls during the mother's
absencewhich comforted her very much. There was nothing he didn't
offerfrom his own dressing gown to himself as escort. But the
last was impossible. Mrs. March would not hear of the old
gentleman's undertaking the long journeyyet an expression of relief was
visible when he spoke of itfor anxiety ill fits one for traveling.
He saw the lookknit his heavy eyebrowsrubbed his handsand
marched abruptly awaysaying he'd be back directly. No one had
time to think of him again tillas Meg ran through the entrywith
a pair of rubbers in one hand and a cup of tea in the othershe
came suddenly upon Mr. Brooke.


I'm very sorry to hear of thisMiss Marchhe saidin the



kindquiet tone which sounded very pleasantly to her perturbed
spirit. "I came to offer myself as escort to your mother. Mr.
Laurence has commissions for me in Washingtonand it will give me
real satisfaction to be of service to her there."


Down dropped the rubbersand the tea was very near following
as Meg put out her handwith a face so full of gratitude that Mr.
Brooke would have felt repaid for a much greater sacrifice than
the trifling one of time and comfort which he was about to take.


How kind you all are! Mother will acceptI'm sureand it
will be such a relief to know that she has someone to take care of
her. Thank you veryvery much!


Meg spoke earnestlyand forgot herself entirely till something
in the brown eyes looking down at her made her remember the
cooling teaand lead the way into the parlorsaying she would
call her mother.


Everything was arranged by the time Laurie returned with a
note from Aunt Marchenclosing the desired sumand a few lines
repeating what she had often said beforethat she had always told
them it was absurd for March to go into the armyalways predicted
that no good would come of itand she hoped they would take her
advice the next time. Mrs. March put the note in the firethe
money in her purseand went on with her preparationswith her
lips folded tightly in a way which Jo would have understood if she
had been there.


The short afternoon wore away. All other errands were done
and Meg and her mother busy at some necessary needleworkwhile
Beth and Amy goth teaand Hannah finished her ironing with what
she called a `slap and a bang'but still Jo did not come. They
began to get anxiousand Laurie went off to find herfor no one
knew what freak Jo might take into her head. He missed her
howeverand she came walking in with a very queer expression of
countenancefor there was a mixture of fun and fearsatisfaction
and regret in itwhich puzzled the family as much as did the roll
of bills she laid before her mothersaying with a little choke in
her voiceThat's my contribution toward making Father comfortable
and bringing him home!
My dearwhere did you get it? Twenty-five dollars! JoI
hope you haven't done anything rash?


Noit's mine honestly. I didn't begborrowor steal it. I
earned itand I don't think you'll blame mefor I only sold what
was my own.


As she spokeJo took off her bonnetand a general outcry arose
for all her abundant hair was cut short.


Your hair! Your beautiful hair!OhJohow could you? Your
one beauty.My dear girlthere was no need of this.She doesn't
look like my Jo any morebut I love her dearly for it!


As everyone exclaimedand Beth hugged the cropped head tenderly
Jo assumed an indifferent airwhich did not deceive anyone a particle
and saidrumpling up the brown bush and trying to look as if she liked
itIt doesn't affect the fate of the nationso don't wailBeth. It
will be good for my vanityI getting too proud of my wig. It will do
my brains good to have that mop taken off. My head feels deliciously
light and cooland the barber said I could soon have a curly crop
which will be boyishbecomingand easy to keep in order. I'm satisfied
so please take the money and let's have supper.



Tell me all about itJo. I am not quite satisfiedbut I can't
blame youfor I know how willingly you sacrificed your vanityas
you call itto your love. Butmy dearit was not necessaryand
I'm afraid you will regret it one of these dayssaid Mrs. March.

NoI won't!returned Jo stoutlyfeeling much relieved that
her prank was not entirely condemned.

What made you do it?asked Amywho would as soon have thought
of cutting off her head as her pretty hair.

WellI was wild to to something for Fatherreplied Joas
they gathered about the tablefor healthy young people can eat even
in the midst of trouble. "I hate to borrow as much as Mother does
and I knew Aunt March would croakshe always doesif you ask for
a ninepence. Meg gave all her quarterly salary toward the rentand
I only got some clothes with mineso I felt wickedand was bound
to have some moneyif I sold the nose off my face to get it."

You needn't feel wickedmy child! You had no winter things and
got the simplest with your own hard earningssaid Mrs. March with a
look that warmed Jo's heart.

I hadn't the least idea of selling my hair at firstbut as I
went along I kept thinking what I could doand feeling as if I'd
like to dive into some of the rich stores and help myself. In a
barber's window I saw tails of hair with the prices markedand one
black tailnot so thick as minewas forty dollars. It came to me
all of a sudden that I had one thing to make money out ofand
without stopping to thinkI walked inasked if they bought hair
and what they would give for mine.

I don't see how you dared to do itsaid Beth in a tone of awe.

Ohhe was a little man who looked as if he merely lived to oil
his hair. He rather stared at firstas if he wasn't used to having
girls bounce into his shop and ask him to buy their hair. He said he
didn't care about mineit wasn't the fashionable colorand he never
paid much for it in the first place. The work he put it into it made
it dearand so on. It was getting lateand I was afraid if it
wasn't done right away that I shouldn't have it done at alland you
know when I start to do a thingI hate to give it up. So I begged
him to take itand told him why I was in such a hurry. It was
sillyI dare saybut it changed his mindfor I got rather excited
and told the story in my topsy-turvy wayand his wife heardand
said so kindly`Take itThomasand oblige the young lady. I'd do
as much for our Jimmy any day if I had a spire of hair worth selling.

Who was Jimmy?asked Amywho liked to have things explained
as they went along.

Her sonshe saidwho was in the army. How friendly such
things make strangers feeldon't they? She talked away all the
time the man clippedand diverted my mind nicely.

Didn't you feel dreadfully when the first cut came?asked
Megwith a shiver.

I took a last look at my hair while the man got his things
and that was the end of it. I never snivel over trifles like that.
I will confessthoughI felt queer when I saw the dear old hair
laid out on the tableand felt only the short rough ends of my head.
It almost seemed as if I'd an arm or leg off. The woman saw me look


at itand picked out a long lock for me to keep. I'll give it to
youMarmeejust to remember past glories byfor a crop is so
comfortable I don't think I shall ever have a mane again.


Mrs. March folded the wavy chestnut lockand laid it away with
a short gray one in her desk. She only saidThank youdeary
but something in her face made the girls change the subjectand
talk as cheerfully as they could about Mr. Brooke's kindnessthe
prospect of a fine day tomorrowand the happy times they would have
when Father came home to be nursed.


No one wanted to go to bed when at ten o'clock Mrs. March put
by the last finished joband saidCome girls.Beth went to the
piano and played the father's favorite hymn. All began bravelybut
broke down one by one till Beth was left alonesinging with all her
heartfor to her music was always a sweet consoler.


Go to bed and don't talkfor we must be up early and shall
need all the sleep we can get. Good nightmy darlingssaid Mrs.
Marchas the hymn endedfor no one cared to try another.


They kissed her quietlyand went to bed as silently as if the
dear invalid lay in the next room. Beth and Amy soon fell asleep in
spite of the great troublebut Meg lay awakethinking the most
serious thoughts she had ever known in her short life. Jo lay
motionlessand her sister fancied that she was asleeptill a stifled
sob made her exclaimas she touched a wet cheek...


Jodearwhat is it? Are you crying about father?


Nonot now.


What then?


My...My hair!burst out poor Jotrying vainly to smother
her emotion in the pillow.


It did not seem at all comical to Megwho kissed and caressed
the afflicted heroine in the tenderest manner.


I'm not sorryprotested Jowith a choke. "I'd do it again
tomorrowif I could. It's only the vain part of me that goes and
cries in this silly way. Don't tell anyoneit's all over now. I
thought you were asleepso I just made a little private moan for my
one beauty. How came you to be awake?"


I can't sleepI'm so anxioussaid Meg.


Think about something pleasantand you'll soon drop off.


I tried itbut felt wider awake than ever.


What did you think of?


Handsome faces--eyes particularlyanswered Megsmiling to
herself in the dark.
What color do you like best?


Brownthat issometimes. Blue are lovely.


Jolaughedand Meg sharply ordered her not to talkthen
amiably promised to make her hair curland fell asleep to dream of
living in her castle in the air.



The clocks were striking midnight and the rooms were very still
as a figure glided quietly from bed to bedsmoothing a coverlet here
settling a pillow thereand pausing to look long and tenderly at each
unconscious faceto kiss each with lips that mutely blessedand to
pray the fervent prayers which only mothers utter. As she lifted the
curtain to look out into the dreary nightthe moon broke suddenly
from behind the clouds and shone upon her like a brightbenignant
facewhich seemed to whisper in the silence Be comforteddear
soul! There is always light behind the clouds.

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

In the cold gray dawn the sisters lit their lamp and read
their chapter with an earnestness never felt before. For now
the shadow of a real trouble had comethe little books were full
of help and comfortand as they dressedthey agreed to say goodbye
cheerfully and hopefullyand send their mother on her anxious
journey unsaddened by tears or complaints from them. Everything
seemed very strange when they went downso dim and still outside
so full of light and bustle within. Breakfast at that early hour
seemed oddand even Hannah's familiar face looked unnatural as she
flew about her kitchen with her nightcap on. The big trunk stood
ready in the hallMother's cloak and bonnet lay on the sofaand
Mother herself sat trying to eatbut looking so pale and worn
with sleeplessness and anxiety that the girls found it very hard
to keep their resolution. Meg's eyes kept filling in spite of
herselfJo was obliged to hide her face in the kitchen roller
more than onceant the little girls wore a gravetroubled
expressionas if sorrow was a new experience to them.

Nobody talked muchbut as the time drew very near and they
sat waiting for the carriageMrs. March said to the girlswho
were all busied about herone folding her shawlanother smoothing
out the strings of her bonneta third putting on her overshoes
and a forth fastening up her travelling bag...

ChildrenI leave you to Hannah's care and Mr. Laurence's
protection. Hannah is faithfulness itselfand our good neighbor
will guard you as if you were his own. I have no fears for you
yet I am anxious that you should take this trouble rightly. Don't
grieve and fret when I am goneor think that you can be idle and
comfort yourselves by being idle and trying to forget. Go on with
your work as usualfor work is a blessed solace. Hope and keep busy
and whatever happensremember that you never can be fatherless.

YesMother.

Megdearbe prudentwatch over your sistersconsult
Hannahand in any perplexitygo to Mr. Laurence. Be patientJo
don't get despondent or do rash thingswrite to me oftenand be
my brave girlready to help and cheer all. Bethcomfort yourself
with your musicand be faithful to the little home dutiesand You
Amyhelp all you canbe obedientand keep happy safe at home.

We willMother! We will!

The rattle of an approaching carriage made them all start and
listen. That was the hard minutebut the girls stood it well. No
one criedno one ran away or uttered a lamentationthough their
hearts were very heavy as they sent loving messages to Father
rememberingas they spoke that it might be too late to deliver them.
They kissed their mother quietlyclung about her tenderlyand


tried to wave their hands cheerfully when she drove away.


Laurie and his grandfather came over to see her offand Mr.
Brooke looked so strong and sensible and kind that the girls
christened him `Mr. Greatheart' on the spot.


Goodbymy darlings! God bless and keep us all!whispered
Mrs. Marchas she kissed one dear little face after the other
and hurried into the carriage.


As she rolled awaythe sun came outand looking backshe
saw it shining on the group at the gate like a good omen. They
saw it alsoand smiled and waved their handsand the last thing
she beheld as she turned the corner was the four bright facesand
behind them like a bodyguardold Mr. Laurencefaithful Hannah
and devoted Laurie.


How kind everyone is to us!she saidturning to find fresh
proof of it in the respectful sympathy of the young man's face.


I don't see how they can help itreturned Mr. Brooke
laughing so infectiously that Mrs. March could not help smiling.
And so the journey began with the good omens of sunshinesmiles
and cheerful words.


I feel as if there had been an earthquakesaid Joas their
neighbors went home to breakfastleaving them to rest and refresh
themselves.


It seems as if half the house was goneadded Meg forlornly.


Beth opened her lips to say somethingbut could only point to
the pile of nicely mended hose which lay on Mother's tableshowing
that even in her last hurried moments she had thought and worked
for them. It was a little thingbut it went straight to their
heartsand in spite of their brave resolutionsthey all broke
down and cried bitterly.


Hannah wisely allowed them to relieve their feelingsand
when the shower showed signs of clearing upshe came to the
rescuearmed with a coffeepot.


Nowny dear young ladiesremember what your ma saidand
don't fret. Come and have a cup of coffee all roundand then
let's fall to work and be a credit to the family.


Coffee was a treatand Hannah showed great tact in making it
that morning. No one could resist her persuasive nodsor the
fragrant invitation issuing from the nose of the coffee pot. They
drew up to the tableexchanged their handkerchiefs for napkins
and in ten minutes were all right again.


`Hope and keep busy'that's the motto for usso let's see
who will remember it best. I shall go to Aunt Marchas usual.
Ohwon't she lecture though!said Joas she sipped with
returning spirit.


I shall go to my Kingsthough I'd much rather stay at home
and attend to things heresaid Megwishing she hadn't made her
eyes so red.


No need of that. Beth and I can keep house perfectly well
put in Amywith an important air.
Hannah will tell us what to doand we'll have everything



nice when you come homeadded Bethgetting out her mop and dish
tub without delay.

I think anxiety is very interestingobserved Amyeating
sugar pensively.

The girls couldn't help laughingand felt better for it
though Meg shook her head at the young lady who could find
consolation in a sugar bowl.

The sight of the turnovers made Jo sober againand when the
two went out to their daily tasksthey looked sorrowfully back
at the window where they were accustomed to see their mother's
face. It was gonebut Beth had remembered the little household
ceremonyand there she wasnodding away at them like a
rosyfaced mandarin.

That's so like my Beth!said Jowaving her hatwith a
grateful face. "GoodbyeMeggyI hope the Kings won't strain
today. Don't fret about Fatherdear she addedas they parted.

And I hope Aunt March won't croak. Your hair is becoming
and it looks very boyish and nice returned Megtrying not to
smile at the curly headwhich looked comically small on her tall
sister's shoulders.

That's my only comfort." Andtouching her hat a` la Laurie
away went Jofeeling like a shorn sheep on a wintry day.

News from their father comforted the girls very muchfor
though dangerously illthe presence of the best and tenderest of
nurses had already done him good. Mr. Brooke sent a bulletin every
dayand as the head of the familyMeg insisted on reading the
dispatcheswhich grew more cheerful as the week passed. At first
everyone was eager to writeand plump envelopes were carefully
poked into the letter box by one or other of the sisterswho felt
rather important with their Washington correspondence. As one of
these packets contained characteristic notes from the partywe will
rob an imaginary mailand read them.

My dearest Mother:

It is impossible to tell you how happy your last letter made
usfor the news was so good we couldn't help laughing and crying
over it. How very kind Mr. Brooke isand how fortunate that Mr.
Laurence's business detains him near you so longsince he is so
useful to you and Father. The girls are all as good as gold. Jo
helps me with the sewingand insists on doing all sorts of hard
jobs. I should be afraid she might overdoif I didn't know her
`moral fit' wouldn't last long. Beth is as regular about her tasks
as a clockand never forgets what you told her. She grieves about
Fatherand looks sober except when she is at her little piano. Amy
minds me nicelyand I take great care of her. She does her own
hairand I am teaching her to make buttonholes and mend her stockings.
She tries very hardand I know you will be pleased with her
improvement when you come. Mr. Laurence watches over us like a
motherly old henas Jo saysand Laurie is very kind and neighborly.
He and Jo keep us merryfor we get pretty blue sometimesand feel
like orphanswith you so far away. Hannah is a perfect saint. She
does not scold at alland always calls me Miss Margaretwhich is
quite properyou knowand treats me with respect. We are all
well and busybut we longday and nightto have you back. Give
my dearest love to Fatherand believe meever your own...


MEG


This noteprettily written on scented paperwas a great
contrast to the nextwhich was scribbled on a big sheet of thin
foreign paperornamented with blots and all manner of flourishes
and curly-tailed letters.


My precious Marmee:


Three cheers for dear Father! Brooke was a trump to telegraph
right offand let us know the minute he was better. I rushed up
garret when the letter cameand tried to thank god for being so
good to usbut I could only cryand sayI'm glad! I'm glad!
Didn't that do as well as a regular prayer? For I felt a great
many in my heart. We have such funny timesand now I can enjoy
themfor everyone is so desperately goodit's like living in a
nest of turtledoves. You'd laugh to see Meg head the table and
try to be motherish. She gets prettier every dayand I'm in love
with her sometimes. The children are regular archangelsand I--
wellI'm Joand never shall be anything else. OhI must tell
you that I came near having a quarrel with Laurie. I freed my mind
about a silly little thingand he was offended. I was rightbut
didn't speak as I oughtand he marched homesaying he wouldn't
come again till I begged pardon. I declared I wouldn't and got mad.
It lasted all day. I felt bad and wanted you very much. Laurie and
I are both so proudit's hard to beg pardon. But I thought he'd
come to itfor I was in the right. He didn't comeand just at
night I remembered what you said when Amy fell into the river. I
read my little bookfelt betterresolved not to let the sun set
on my angerand ran over to tell Laurie I was sorry. I met him
at the gatecoming for the same thing. We both laughedbegged
each other's pardonand felt all good and comfortable again.


I made a `pome' yesterdaywhen I was helping Hannah wash
and as Father likes my silly little thingsI put it in to amuse
him. Give him my lovingest hug that ever wasand kiss yourself
a dozen times for your...


TOPSY-TURVY JO


A SONG FROM THE SUDS


Queen of my tubI merrily sing
While the white foam rises high
And sturdily wash and rinse and wring
And fasten the clothes to dry.
Then out in the free fresh air they swing
Under the sunny sky.


I wish we could wash from out hearts and souls
The stains of the week away
And let water and air by their magic make
Ourselves as pure as they.
Then on the earth there would be indeed
A glorious washing day!


Along the path of a useful life
Will heartsease ever bloom.
The busy mind has no time to think
Of sorrow or care or gloom.
And anxious thoughts may be swept away
As we bravely wield a broom.


I am glad a task to me is given



To labor at day by day
For it brings me health and strength and hope
And I cheerfully learn to say
Headyou may thinkHeartyou may feel
ButHandyou shall work alway!


Dear Mother


There is only room for me to send my loveand some pressed
pansies from the root I have been keeping safe in the house for
Father to see. I read every morningtry to be good all dayand
sing myself to sleep with Father's tune. I can't sing `LAND OF
THE LEAL' nowit makes me cry. Everyone is very kindand we are
as happy as we can be without you. Amy wants the rest of the page
so I must stop. I didn't forget to cover the holdersand I wind
the clock and air the rooms every day.


Kiss dear Father on the cheek he calls mine. Ohdo come soon
to your loving . ..


LITTLE BETH


Ma Chere Mamma


We are all well I do my lessons always and never corroberate
the girls--Meg says I mean contradick so I put in both words and
you can take the properest. Meg is a great comfort to me and lets
me have jelly every night at tea its so good for me Jo says because
it keeps me sweet tempered. Laurie is not as respeckful as he ought
to be now I am almost in my teenshe calls me Chick and hurts my
feelings by talking French to me very fast when I say Merci or Bon
jour as Hattie King does. The sleeves of my blue dress were all
worn outand Meg put in new onesbut the full front came wrong
and they are more blue than the dress. I felt bad but did not fret
I bear my troubles well but I do wish Hannah would put more starch
in my aprons and have buckwheats every day. Can't she? Didn't I
make that interrigation point nice? Meg says my punchtuation and
spelling are disgraceful and I am mortyfied but dear me I have so
many things to doI can't stop. AdieuI send heaps of love to
Papa. Your affectionate daughter . ..


AMY CURTIS MARCH


Dear Mis March


I jes drop a line to say we git on fust rate. The girls is
clever and fly round right smart. Miss Meg is going to make a
proper good housekeeper. She hes the liking for itand gits the
hang of things surprisin quick. Jo doos beat all for goin ahead
but she don't stop to cal'k'late fustand you never know where
she's like to bring up. She done out a tub of clothes on Monday
but she starched 'em afore they was wrenchedand blued a pink
calico dress till I thought I should a died a laughin. Beth is the
best of little creetersand a sight of help to mebein so
forehanded and dependable. She tries to learn everythingand really
goes to market beyond her yearslikewise keeps accountswith my
helpquite wonderful. We have got on very economical so fur. I
don't let the girls hev coffee only once a weekaccordin to your
wishand keep em on plain wholesome vittles. Amy does well
without frettinwearin her best clothes and eatin sweet stuff.
Mr. Laurie is as full of didoes as usualand turns the house upside
down frequentbut he heartens the girlsso I let em hev full
swing. The old gentleman send heaps of thingsand is rather
wearinbut means waland it aint my place to say nothin. My



bread is rizso no more at this time. I send my duty to Mr.
Marchand hope he's seen the last of his Pewmonia.

Yours respectful

Hannah Mullet

Head Nurse of Ward No. 2

All serene on the Rappahannocktroops in fine condition
commisary department well conductedthe Home Guard under Colonel
Teddy always on dutyCommander in Chief General Laurence reviews
the army dailyQuartermaster Mullet keeps order in campand Major
Lion does picket duty at night. A salute of twenty-four guns was
fired on reciept of good news from Washingtonand a dress parade
took place at headquarters. Commander in chief sends best wishes
in which he is heartily joined by...

COLONEL TEDDY

Dear Madam:

The little girls are all well. Beth and my boy report daily.
Hannah is a model servantand guards pretty Meg like a dragon.
Glad the fine weather holds. Pray make Brooke usefuland draw
on me for funds if expenses exceed your estimate. Don't let your
husband want anything. Thank God he is mending.

Your sincere friend and servant
JAMES LAURENCE

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

For a week the amount of virtue in the old house would have
supplied the neighborhood. It was really amazingfor everyone
seemed in a heavenly frame of mindand self-denial was all the
fashion. Relieved of their first anxiety about their father
girls insensibly relaxed their praiseworthy efforts a little
and began to fall back into old ways. They did not forget
their mottobut hoping and keeping busy seemed to grow easier
and after such tremendous exertionsthey felt that Endeavor
deserved a holidayand gave it a good many.

Jo caught a bad cold through neglect to cover the shorn
head enoughand was ordered to stay at home till she was better
for Aunt March didn't like to hear people read with colds in
their heads. Jo liked thisand after an energetic rummage from
garret to cellarsubsided on the sofa to nurse her cold with
arsenicum and books. Amy found that housework and art did not
go well togetherand returned to her mud pies. Meg went daily
to her pupilsand sewedor thought she didat homebut much
time was spent in writing long letters to her motheror reading
the Washington dispatches over and over. Beth kept onwith only
slight relapses into idleness or grieving.

All the little duties were faithfully done each dayand
many of her sisters' alsofor they were forgetfuland the house
seemed like a clock whose pendulum was gone a-visiting. When her
heart got heavy with longings for Mother or fears for Fathershe
went away into a certain closethid her face in the folds of a
dear old gownand made her little moan and prayed her little


prayer quietly by herself. Nobody knew what cheered her up after
a sober fitbut everyone felt how sweet and helpful Beth wasand
fell into a way of going to her for comfort or advice in their
small affairs.

All were unconscious that this experience was a test of
characterand when the first excitement was overfelt that they
had done well and deserved praise. So they didbut their
mistake was in ceasing to do welland they learned this lesson
through much anxiety and regret.

MegI wish you'd go and see the Hummels. You know Mother
told us not to forget them.said Bethten days after Mrs. March's
departure.

I'm too tired to go this afternoonre;lied Megrocking
comfortably as she sewed.

Can't youJo?' asked Beth.

Too stormy for me with my cold."

I thought it was almost well.

It's well enough for me to go out with Lauriebut not well
enough to go to the Hummels'said Jolaughingbut looking a
little ashamed of her inconsistency.

Why don't you go yourself?asked Meg.

I have been every daybut the baby is sickand I don't
know what to do for it. Mrs. Hummel goes away to workand
Lottchen takes care of it. But it gets sicker and sicker
and I think you or Hannah ought to go.

Beth spoke earnestlyand Meg promised she would go tomorrow.

Ask Hannah for some nice little messand take it roundBeth
the air will do you goodsaid Joadding apologeticallyI'd go
but I want to finish my writing.

My head aches and I'm tiredso I thought maybe some of you
would gosaid Beth.

Amy will be in presentlyand she will run down for us
suggested Meg.

So Beth lay down on the sofathe others returned to their work
and the Hummels were forgotten. An hour passed. Amy did not come
Meg went to her room to try on a new dressJo was absorbed in her
storyand Hannah was sound asleep before the kitchen firewhen
Beth quietly put on her hoodfilled her basket with odds and ends
for the poor childrenand went out into the chilly air with a heavy
head and a grieved look in her patient eyes. It was late when she
came backand no one saw her creep upstairs and shut herself into
her mother's room. Half an hour afterJo went to `Mother's closet'
for somethingand there found little Beth sitting on the medicine
chestlooking very gravewith red eyes and a camphor bottle in
her hand.

Christopher Columbus! What's the matter?" cried Joas Beth
put out her hand as if to warn her offand asked quicklyYou've
had the scarlet feverhavent't you?


Years agowhen Meg did. Why?'

Then I'll tell you. OhJothe baby's dead!"

What baby?

Mrs. Hummel's. It died in my lap before she got homecried
Beth with a sob.


My poor dearhow dreadful for you! I ought to have gone
said Jotaking her sister in her arms as she sat down in her
mother's bit chairwith a remorseful face.


It wasn't dreadfulJoonly so sad! I saw in a minute it
was sickerbut Lottchen said her mother had gone for a doctorso
I took Baby and let Lotty rest. It seemed asleepbut all of a
sudden if gave a little cry and trembledand then lay very still.
I tried to warm its feetand Lotty gave it some milkbut it didn't
stirand I knew it was dead.


Don't crydear! What did you do?


I just sat and held it softly till Mrs. Hummel came with the
doctor. He said it was deadand looked at Heinrich and Minnawho
have sore throats. `Scarlet feverma'am. Ought to have called me
before' he said crossly. Mrs. Hummel told him she was poorand
had tried to cure baby herselfbut now it was too lateand she
could only ask him to help the others and trust to charity for his
pay. He smiled thenand was kinderbut it was very sadand I
cried with them till he turned round all of a suddenand told me
to go home and take belladonna right awayor I'd have the fever.


Noyou won't!cried Johugging her closewith a frightened
look. "OhBethif you should be sick I never could forgive myself!
What shall we do?"


Don't be frightenedI guess I shan't have it badly. I looked
in Mother's bookand saw that it begins with headachesore throat
and queer feelings like mineso I did take some belladonnaand I
feel bettersaid Bethlaying her cold hands on her hot forehead
and trying to look well.


If Mother was only at home!exclaimed Joseizing the book
and feeling that Washington was an immense way off. She read a page
looked at Bethfelt her headpeeped into her throatand then
said gravelyYou've been over the baby every day for more than a
weekand among the others who are going to have itso I'm afraid
you are going to have itBeth. I'll call Hannahshe knows all
about sickness.
Don't let Amy come. She never had itand I should hate to
give it to her. Can't you and Meg have it over again?asked Beth
anxiously.


I guess not. Don't care if I do. Serve me rightselfish pig
to let you goand stay writing rubbish myself!muttered Joas she
went to consult Hannah.


The good soul was wide awake in a minuteand took the lead at
onceassuring that there was no need to worry; every one had scarlet
feverand if rightly treatednobody diedall of which Jo believed
and felt much relieved as they went up to call Meg.


Now I'll tell you what we'll dosaid Hannahwhen she had
examined and questioned Bethwe will have Dr. Bangsjust to take



a look at youdearand see that we start right. Then we'll send
Amy off to Aunt March's for a spellto keep her out of harm's way
and one of you girls can stay at home and amuse Beth for a day or two.

I shall stayof courseI'm oldestbegan Meglooking anxious
and self-reproachful.

I shallbecause it's my fault she is sick. I told Mother I'd
do the errandsand I haven'tsaid Jo decidedly.

Which will you haveBeth? There ain't no need of but one
aid Hannah.

Joplease.And Beth leaned her head against her sister with
a contented lookwhich effectually settled that point.

I'll go and tell Amysaid Megfeeling a little hurtyet
rather relieved on the wholefor she did not like nursingand Jo
did.

Amy rebelled outrightand passionately declared that she had
rather have the fever than go to Aunt March. Meg reasonedpleaded
and commandedall in vain. Amy protested that she would not go
and Meg left her in despair to ask Hannah what should be done. Before
she came backLaurie walked into the parlor to find Amy sobbingwith
her head in the sofa cushions. She told her storyexpecting to be
consoledbut Laurie only put his hands in his pockets and walked
about the roomwhistling softlyas he knit his brows in deep
thought. Presently he sat down beside herand saidin his most
wheedlesome toneNow be a sensible little womanand do as they say.
Nodon't crybut hear what a jolly plan I've got. You go to Aunt
March'sand I'll come and take you out every daydriving or walking
and we'll have capital times. Won't that be better than moping here?

I don't wish to be sent off as if I was in the waybegan Amy
in an injured voice.

Bless your heartchildit's to keep you well. You don't
want to be sickdo you?

NoI'm sure I don'tbut I dare say I shall befor I've been
with Beth all the time.

That's the very reason you ought to go away at onceso that
you may escape it. Change of air and care will keep you wellI
dare sayor if it does not entirelyyou will have the fever more
lightly. I advise you to be off as soon as you canfor scarlet fever
is no jokemiss.

But it's dull at Aunt March'sand she is so crosssaid Amy
looking rather frightened.

It won't be dull with me popping; in every day to tell you how
Beth isand take you out gallivanting. The old lady likes meand
I'll be as sweet as possible to herso she won't peck at us
whatever we do.

Will you take me out in the trotting wagon with Puck?

On my honor as a gentleman.

And come every single day?

See if I don't/


And bring me back the minute Beth is well?

The identical minute.

And go to the theatertruly?

A dozen theatersif we may.

Well--I guess I willsaid Amy slowly.

Good girl! Call Megand tell her you'll give insaid
Lauriewith an approving patwhich annoyed Amy more than the
`giving in'.


Meg and Jo came running down to behold the miracle which had
been wroughtand Amyfeeling very precious and self-sacrificing
promised to goif the doctor said Beth was going to be ill.


How is the little dear?asked Lauriefor Beth was his
especial petand he felt more anxious about her than he liked to
show.


She is lying down on Mother's bedand feels better. The
baby's death troubled herbut I dare say she has only got cold.
Hannah says she thinks sobut she looks worriedand that makes me
fidgetyanswered Meg.


What a trying world it is!said Jorumpling up her hair in
a fretful way. "No sooner do we get out of one trouble than down
comes another. There doesn't seem to be anything to hold on to
when Mother's goneso I'm all at sea."


Welldon't make a porcupine of yourselfit isn't becoming.
Settle your wigJoand tell me if I shall telegraph to your mother
or do anything?asked Lauriewho never had been reconciled to the
loss of his friend's one beauty.


That is what troubles mesaid Meg. "I think we ought to tell
her if Beth is really illbut Hannah says we mustn'tfor Mother
can't leave Fatherand it will only make them anxious. Beth won't
be sick longand Hannah knows just what to doand Mother said we
were to mind herso I suppose we mustbut it doesn't seem quite
right to me."


HumwellI can't say. Suppose you ask Grandfather after
the doctor has been.


We will. Jogo and get Dr. Bangs at oncecommanded Meg.
We can't decide anything till he has been.


Stay where you areJo. I'm errand boy to this establishment
said Laurietaking up his cap.


I'm afraid you are busybegan Meg.


NoI've done my lessons for the day.


Do you study in vacation time?asked Jo.


I follow the good example my neighbors set mewas Laurie's
answeras he swung himself out of the room.


I have great hopes for my boyobserved Jowatching him



fly over the fence with an approving smile.

He does very wellfor a boywas Meg's somewhat ungracious
answerfor the subject did not interest her.

Dr. Bangs camesaid Beth had symptoms of the feverbut he thought
she would have it lightlythough he looked sober over the Hummel story.
Amy was ordered off at onceand provided with something to ward
off dangershe departed in great statewith Jo and Laurie as escort.

Aunt March received them with her usual hospitality.

What do you want now?she askedlooking sharply over her
spectacleswhile the parrotsitting on the back of her chair
called out...

Go away. No boys allowed here.

Laurie retired to the windowand Jo told her story.

No more than I expectedif you are allowed to go poking
about among poor folks. Amy can stay and make herself useful
if she isn't sickwhich I've no doubt she will belooks like
it now. Don't crychildit worries me to hear people sniff.
Amy was on the point of cryingbut Laurie slyly pulled the
parrot's tailwhich caused Polly to utter an astonished croak and
call outBless my boots!in such a funny waythat she laughed
instead.

What do you hear from your mother?asked the old lady
gruffly.

Father is much betterreplied Jotrying to keep sober.

Ohis her? Wellthat won't last longI fancy. March
never had any staminawas the cheerful reply.

Haha! Never say dietake a pinch of snuffgoodbyegoodbye!
squalled Pollydancing on her perchand clawing at the old
lady's cap as Laurie tweaked him in the rear.

Hold your tongueyou disrespectful old bird! AndJoyou'd
better go at once. It isn't proper to be gadding about so late with
a rattlepated boy like...

Hold your tongueyou disrespectful old bird!cried Polly
tumbling off the chair with a bounceand running to peck the
`rattlepated' boywho was shaking with laughter at the last speech.

I don't think I can bear itbut I'll trythought Amyas
she was left alone with Aunt March.

Get alongyou fright!screamed Pollyand at that rude speech
Amy could not restrain a sniff.

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

Beth did have the feverand was much sicker than anyone but
Hannah and the doctor suspected. The girls knew nothing about
illnessand Mr. Laurence was not allowed to see herso Hannah had
everything her own wayand busy Dr. Bangs did his bestbut left a
good deal to the excellent nurse. Meg stayed at homelest she


should infect the Kingsand kept housefeeling very anxious and a
little guilty when she wrote letters in which no mention was made of
Beth's illness. She could not think it right to deceive her mother
but she had been bidden to mind Hannahand Hannah wouldn't hear of
`Mrs. March bein' toldand worried just for sech a trifle.'

Jo devoted herself to Beth day and nightnot a hard taskfor
Beth was very patientand bore her pain uncomplainingly as long as
she could control herself. But there came a time when during the
fever fits she began to talk in a hoarsebroken voiceto play on
the coverlet as if on her beloved little pianoand try to sing with
a throat so swollen that there was no music lefta time when she
did not know the familiar faces around herbut addressed them by
wrong namesand called imploringly for her mother. Then Jo grew
frightenedMeg begged to be allowed to write the truthand even
Hannah said she `would think of itthough there was no danger
yet'. A letter from Washington added to their troublefor Mr.
March had had a relapseand could not think of coming home for a
long while.

How dark the days seemed nowhow sad and lonely the house
and how heavy were the hearts of the sisters as they worked and
waitedwhile the shadow of death hovered over the once happy home.
Then it was that Margaretsitting alone with tears dropping often
on her workfelt how rich she had been in things more precious
than any luxuries money could buy--in loveprotectionpeaceand
healththe real blessings of life. Then it was that Joliving in
the darkened roomwith that suffering little sister always before
her eyes and that pathetic voice sounding in her earslearned to
see the beauty and to sweetness of Beth's natureto feel how deep
and tender a place she filled in all heartsand to acknowledge the
worth of Beth's unselfish ambition to live for othersand make
home happy by that exercise of those simple virtues which all may
possessand which all should love and value more than talentwealth
or beauty. And Amyin her exilelonged eagerly to be at homethat
she might work for Bethfeeling now that no service would be hard or
irksomeand rememberingwith regretful griefhow many neglected
tasks those willing hands had done for her. Laurie haunted the house
like a restless ghostand Mr. Laurence locke the grand pianobecause
he could not bear to be reminded of the young neighbor who used to
make the twilight pleasant for him. Everyone missed Beth. The milkman
bakergrocerand butcher inquired how she didpoor Mrs. Hummel
came to beg pardon for her thoughtlessness and to get a shroud
for Minnathe neighbors sent all sorts of comforts and good wishes
and even those who knew her best were surprised to find how many
friends shy little Beth had made.

Meanwhile she lay on her bed with old Joanna at her sidefor
even in her wanderings she did not forget her forlorn protege. She
longed for her catsbut would not have them broughtlest they
should get sickand in her quiet hours she was full of anxiety
about Jo. She sent loving messages to Amybade them tell her mother
that she would write soonand often begged for pencil and paper to
try to say a wordthat Father might not think she had neglected him.
But soon even these intervals of consciousness endedand she lay
hour after hourtossing to and frowith incoherent words on her
lipsor sank into a heavy sleep which brought her no refreshment.
Dr. Bangs came twice a dayHannah sat up at nightMeg kept a
telegram in her desk all ready to send off at any minuteand Jo
never stirred from Beth's side.

The first of December was a wintry day indeed to themfor a
bitter wind blewsnow fell fastand the year seemed getting ready
for its death. When Dr. Bangs came that morninghe looked long at


Bethheld the hot hand in both his own for a minuteand laid it
gently downsayingin a low voice to HannahIf Mrs. March can
leave her husband she'd better be sent for.

Hannah nodded without speakingfor her lips twitched nervously
Meg dropped down into a chair as the strength seemed to go out of
her limbs at the sound of those wordsand Jostanding with a pale
face for a minuteran to the parlorsnatched up the telegramand
throwing on her thingsrushed out into the storm. She was soon
backand while noiselessly taking off her cloakLaurie came in
with a lettersaying that Mr. March was mending again. Jo read
it thankfullybut the heavy weight did not seem lifted off her
heartand her face was so full of misery that Laurie asked quickly
What is it? Is Beth worse?

I've sent for Mothersaid Jotugging at her rubber boots
with a tragic expression.

Good for youJo! Did you do it on your own responsibility?
asked Laurieas he seated her in the hall chair and took off the
rebellious bootsseeing how her hands shook.

No. The doctor told us to.

OhJoit's not so bad as that?cried Lauriewith a
startled face.

Yesit is. She doesn't know usshe doesn't even talk about
the flocks of green dovesas she calls the vine leaves on the wall.
She doesn't look like my Bethand there's nobody to help us bear it.
Mother and father both goneand God seems so far away I can't find
Him.

As the tears streamed fast down poor Jo's cheeksshe stretched
out her hand in a helpless sort of wayas if groping in the dark
and Laurie took it in hiswhispering as well as he could with a
lump in his throatI'm here. Hold on tomeJodear!

She could not speakbut she did `hold on'and the warm grasp
of the friendly human hand comforted her sore heartand seemed to
lead her nearer to the Divine arm which alone could uphold her in
her trouble.

Laurie longed to say something tender and comfortablebut no
fitting words came to himso he stood silentgently stroking her
bent head as her mother used to do. It was the best thing he could
have donefar more soothing than the most eloquent wordsfor Jo
felt the unspoken sympathyand in the silence learned the sweet
solace which affection administers to sorrow. Soon she dried the
tears which had relieved herand looked up with a grateful face.

Thank youTeddyI'm better now. I don't feel so forlorn
and will try to bear it if it comes.

Keep hoping for the bestthat will help youJo. Soon your
mother will be hereand then everything will be all right.

I'm so glad Father is better. Now she won't feel so bad about
leaving him. Ohme! It does seem as if all the troubles came in
a heapand I got the heaviest part on my shoulderssighed Jo
spreading her wet handkerchief over her knees to dry.

Doesn't Meg pull fair?asked Laurielooking indignant.


Ohyesshe tries tobut she can't love Bethy as I doand
she won't miss her as I shall. Beth is my conscienceand I can't
give her up. I can't! I can't!

Down went Jo's face into the wet handkerchiefand she cried
despairinglyfor she had kept up bravely till now and never shed
a tear. Laurie drew his hand across his eyesbut could not speak
till he had subdued the choky feeling in his throat and steadied his
lips. It might be unmanlybut he couldn't help itand I am glad
of it. Presentlyas Jo's sobs quietedhe said hopefullyI
don't think she will die. She's so goodand we all love her so
muchI don't believe God will take her away yet.

The good and dear people always do diegroaned Jobut she
stopped cryingfor her friend's words cheered her up in spite of
her own doubts and fears.

Poor girlyou're worn out. It isn't like you to be forlorn.
Stop a bit. I'll hearten you up in a jiffy.

Laurie went off two stairs at a timeand Jo laid her wearied
head down on Beth's little brown hoodwhich no one had thought of
moving from the table where she left it. It must have possessed
some magicfor the submissive spirit of its gentle owner seemed
to enter into Joand when Laurie came running down with a glass
of wineshe took it with a smileand said bravelyI drink--
Health to my Beth! You are a good doctorTeddyand such a comfortable
friend. How can I ever pay you?she addedas the wine
refreshed her bodyas the kind words had done her troubled mind.

I'll send my billby-and-byand tonight I'll give you something
that will warm the cockles of your heart better than quarts
of winesaid Lauriebeaming at her with a face of suppressed
satisfaction at something.

What is it?cried Joforgetting her woes for a minute in her wonder.

I telegraphed to your mother yesterdayand Brooke answered
she'd come at onceand she'll be here tonightand everything will
be all right. Aren't you glad I did it?

Laurie spoke very fastand turned red and excited all in a minute
for he had kept his plot a secretfor fear of disappointing
the girls or harming Beth. Jo grew quite whiteflew out
of her chairand the moment he stopped speaking she electrified him
by throwing her arms round his neckand crying outwith a joyful
cryOhLaurie! OhMother! I am so glad!She did not weep
againbut laughed hystericallyand trembled and clung to her
friend as if she was a little bewildered by the sudden news.

Lauriethough decidedly amazedbehaved with great
presence of mind. He patted her back soothinglyand finding that
she was recoveringfollowed it up by a bashful kiss or twowhich
brought Jo round at once. Holding on to the banistersshe put
him gently awaysaying breathlesslyOhdon't! I didn't mean
toit was dreadful of mebut you were such a dear to go and do
it in spite of Hannah that I couldn't help flying at you. Tell
me all about itand don't give me wine againit makes me act so.

I don't mindlaughed Laurieas he settled his tie. "Why
you see I got fidgetyand so did Grandpa. We thought Hannah was
overdoing the authority businessand your mother ought to know.
She'd never forgive us if Beth... Wellif anything happened
you know. So I got grandpa to say it was high time we did something


and off I pelted to the office yesterdayfor the doctor looked sober
and Hannah most took my head off when I proposed a telegram. I never
can bear to be `lorded over'so that settled my mindand I did it.
Your mother will comeI knowand the late train is in at two A.M.
I shall go for herand you've only got to bottle up your rapture
and keep Beth quiet till that blessed lady gets here."


Laurieyou're an angel! How shall I ever thank you?


Fly at me again. I rather liked itsaid Laurielooking
mischievousa thing he had not done for a fortnight.


Nothank you. I'll do it by proxywhen your grandpa comes.
Don't teasebut go home and restfor you'll be up half the night.
Bless youTeddybless you!


Jo had backed into a cornerand as she finished her speech
she vanished precipitately into the kitchenwhere she sat down
upon a dresser and told the assembled cats that she was "happy
ohso happy!" while Laurie departedfeeling that he had made a
rather neat thing of it.


That's the interferingest chap I ever seebut I forgive
him and do hope Mrs. March is coming right awaysaid Hannah
with an air of reliefwhen Jo told the good news.


Meg had a quiet raptureand then brooded over the letter
while Jo set the sickroom in orderand Hannah `knocked up a
couple of pies in case of company unexpected". A breath of
fresh air seemed to blow through the houseand something better
than sunshine brightened the quiet rooms. Everything appeared
to feel the hopeful change. Beth's bird began to chirp again
and a half-blown rose was discovered on Amy's bush in the window.
The fires seemed to burn with unusual cheerinessand every time
the girls mettheir pale faces broke into smiles as they hugged
one anotherwhispering encouraginglyMother's comingdear!
Mother's coming!Every one rejoiced but Beth. She lay in that
heavy stuporalike unconscious of hope and joydoubt and danger.
It was a piteous sightthe once rosy face so changed and vacant
the once busy hands so weak and wastedthe once smiling lips
quite dumband the once prettywell-kept hair scattered rough
and tangled on the pillow. All day she say soonly rousing now
and then to mutterWater!with lips so parched they could
hardly shape the word. All day Jo and Meg hovered over her
watchingwaitinghopingand trusting in God and Motherand
all day the snow fellthe bitter wind ragedand the hours
dragged slowly by. But night came at lastand every time
the clock struckthe sistersstill sitting on either side of
the bedlooked at each other with brightening eyesfor each
hour brought help nearer. The doctor had been in to say that
some changefor better or worsewould probably take place
about midnightat which time he would return.


Hannahquite worn outlay down on the sofa at the bed's
foot and fell fast asleepMr. Laurence marched to and fro in the
parlorfeeling that he would rather face a rebel battery than
Mrs. March's countenance as she entered. Laurie lay on the rug
pretending to restbut staring into the fire with the thoughtful
look which made his black eyes beautifully soft and clear.


The girls never forgot that nightfor no sleep came to them
as they kept their watchwith that dreadful sense of
powerlessness which comes to us in hours like those.



If God spares BethI never will complain againwhispered
Meg earnestly.

If god spares BethI'll try to love and serve Him all my
lifeanswered Jowith equal fervor.

I wish I had no heartit aches sosighed Megafter a pause.

If life is often as hard as thisI don't see how we ever
shall get through itadded her sister despondently.

Here the clock struck twelveand both forgot themselves in
watching Bethfor they fancied a change passed over her wan face.
The house was still as deathand nothing but the wailing of the
wind broke the deep hush. Weary Hannah slept onand no one but
the sisters saw the pale shadow which seemed to fall upon the
little bed. An hour went byand nothing happened except Laurie's
quiet departure for the station. Another hourstill no one came
and anxious fears of delay in the stormor accidents by the way
orworst of alla great grief at Washingtonhaunted the girls.

It was past twowhen Jowho stood at the window thinking
how dreary the world looked in its winding sheet of snowheard
a movement by the bedand turning quicklysaw Meg kneeling
before their mother's easy chair with her face hidden. A dreadful
fear passed coldly over Joas she thoughtBeth is deadand Meg
is afraid to tell me.

She was back at her post in an instantand to her excited
eyes a great change seemed to have taken place. The fever flush
and the look of pain were goneand the beloved little face looked
so pale and peaceful in its utter repose that Jo felt no desire to
weep or to lament. Leaning low over this dearest of her sisters
she kissed the damp forehead with her heart on her lipsand softly
whisperedGoodbymy Beth. Goodby!

As if awaked by the stirHannah started out of her sleep
hurried to the bedlooked at Bethfelt her handslistened at
her lipsand thenthrowing her apron over her headsat down
to rock to and froexclaimingunder her breathThe fever's
turnedshe's sleepin' nat'ralher skin's dampand she breathes
easy. Praise be given! Ohmy goodness me!

Before the girls could believe the happy truththe doctor
came to confirm it. He was a homely manbut they thought his
face quite heavenly when he smiled and saidwith a fatherly look
at themYesmy dearsI think the little girl will pull through
this time. Keep the house quietlet her sleepand when she wakes
give her...

What they were to giveneither heardfor both crept into
the dark hallandsitting on the stairsheld each other close
rejoicing with hearts too full for words. When they went back to
be kissed and cuddled by faithful Hannahthey found Beth lying
as she used to dowith her cheek pillowed on her handthe
dreadful pallor goneand breathing quietlyas if just fallen
asleep.

If Mother would only come now!said Joas the winter night
began to wane.

Seesaid Megcoming up with a whitehalf-opened rose
I thought this would hardly be ready to lay in Beth's hand
tomorrow if she--went away from us. But it has blossomed in the


nightand now I mean to put it in my vase hereso that when
the darling wakesthe first thing she sees will be the little
roseand Mother's face.

Never had the sun risen so beautifullyand never had the
world seemed so lovely as it did to the heavy eyes of Meg and Jo
as they looked out in the early morningwhen their longsad
vigil was done.

It looks like a fairy worldsaid Megsmiling to herself
as she stood behind the curtainwatching the dazzling sight.

Hark!cried Jostarting to her feet.

Yesthere was a sound of bells at the door belowa cry
from Hannahand then Laurie's voice saying in a joyful whisper
Girlsshe's come! She's come!

CHAPTER NINETEEN

While these things were happening at homeAmy was having
hard times at Aunt March's. She felt her exile deeplyand
for the first time in her liferealized how much she was
beloved and petted at home. Aunt March never petted any one.
She did not approve of itbut she meant to be kindfor the wellbehaved
little girl pleased her very muchand Aunt March had
a soft place in her old heart for her nephew's childrenthough
she didn't think it proper to confess it. She really did her
best to make Amy happybutdear mewhat mistakes she made.
Some old people keep young at heart in spite of wrinkles and
gray hairscan sympathize with children's little cares and
joysmake them feel at homeand can hide wise lessons under
pleasant playsgiving and receiving friendship in the sweetest
way. But Aunt March had not this giftand she worried Amy very
much with her rules and ordersher prim waysand longprosy
talks. Finding the child more docile and amiable than her sister
the old lady felt it her duty to try and counteractas far as
possiblethe bad effects of home freedom and indulgence. So she
took Amy by the handand taught her as she herself had been
taught sixty years agoa process which carried dismay to Amy's
souland made her feel like a fly in the web of a very strict
spider.

She had to wash the cups every morningand polish up the
old-fashioned spoonsthe fat silver teapotand the glasses till
they shone. Then she must dust the roomand what a trying job
that was. Not a speck escaped Aunt March's eyeand all the
furniture had claw legs and much carvingwhich was never dusted
to suit. Then Polly had to be fedthe lap dog combedand a
dozen trips upstairs and down to get things or deliver orders
for the old lady was very lame and seldom left her big chair. After
these tiresome laborsshe must do her lessonswhich was a daily
trial of every virtue she possessed. Then she was allowed one
hour for exercise or playand didn't she enjoy it?

Laurie came every dayand wheedled Aunt March till Amy was
allowed to go out with himwhen they walked and rode and had
capital times. After dinnershe had to read aloudand sit still
while the old lady sleptwhich she usually did for an houras
she dropped off over the first page. Then patchwork or towels
appearedand Amy sewed with outward meekness and inward rebellion
till duskwhen she was allowed to amuse herself as she liked


till teatime. The evenings were the worst of allfor Aunt March
fell to telling long stories about her youthwhich were so
unutterably dull that Amy was always ready to go to beintending
to cry over her hard fatebut usually going to sleep before
she had squeezed out more than a tear or two.

If it had not been for Laurieand old Estherthe maid
she felt that she never could have got through that dreadful
time. The parrot alone was enough to drive her distractedfor
he soon felt that she did not admire himand revenged himself
by being as mischievous as possible. He pulled her hair
whenever she came near himupset his bread and milk to plague her
when she had newly cleaned his cagemade Mop bark by pecking
at him while Madam dozedcalled her names before companyand
behaved in all respects like an reprehensible old bird. Then she
could not endure the doga fatcross beast who snarled and
yelped at her when she made his toiletand who lay on his back
with all his legs in the air and a most idiotic expression of
countenance when he wanted something to eatwhich was about a
dozen times a day. The cook was bad-temperedthe old coachman
was deafand Esther the only one who ever took any notice of
the young lady.

Esther was a Frenchwomanwho had lived with`Madame'as
she called her mistressfor many yearsand who rather
tyrannized over the old ladywho could not get along without her.
Her real name was Estellebut Aunt March ordered her to change it
and she obeyedon condition that she was never asked to change
her religion. She took a fancy to Mademoiselleand amused her
very much with odd stories of her life in Francewhen Amy sat
with her while she got up Madam's laces. She also allowed her
to roam about the great houseand examine the curious and pretty
things stored away in the big wardrobes and the ancient chests
for Aunt March hoarded like a magpie. Amy's chief delight was
an Indian cabinetfull of queer drawerslittle pigeonholes
and secret placesin which were kept all sorts of ornaments
some precioussome merely curiousall more or less antique.
To examine and arrange these things gave Amy great satisfaction
especially the jewel casesin which on velvet cushions reposed
the ornaments which had adorned a belle forty years ago. There
was the garnet set which Aunt March wore when she came outthe
pearls her father gave her on her wedding dayher lover's diamonds
the jet mourning rings and pinsthe queer locketswith portraits
of dead friends and weeping willows made of hair insidethe baby
bracelets her one little daughter had wornUncle March's big
watchwith the red seal so many childish hands had played with
and in a box all by itself lay Aunt March's wedding ringtoo small
now for her fat fingerbut put carefully away like the most
precious jewel of them all.

Which would Mademoiselle choose if she had her will?asked
Estherwo always sat near to watch over and lock up the valuables.

I like the diamonds bestbut there is no necklace among them
and I'm fond of necklacesthey are so becoming. I should choose
this if I mightreplied Amylooking with great admiration at a
string of gold and ebony beads from which hung a heavy cross of
the same.

Itoocovet thatbut not as a necklace. Ahno! To me it
is a rosaryand as such I should use it like a good catholicsaid
Esthereyeing the handsome thing wistfully.

Is it meant to use as you use the string of good-smelling


wooden beads hanging over your glass?asked Amy.


Trulyyesto pray with. It would be pleasing to the saints
if one used so fine a rosary as thisinstead of wearing it as a
vain bijou.


You seem to take a great deal of comfort in your prayers
Estherand always come down looking quiet and satisfied. I wish
I could.


If Mademoiselle was a Catholicshe would find true comfort
but as that is not to beit would be well if you went apart each
day to meditate and prayas did the good mistress whom I served
before Madame. She had a little chapeland in it found solacement
for much trouble.


Would it be right for me to do so too?asked Amywho in
her loneliness felt the need of help of some sortand found that
she was apt to forget her little booknow that Beth was not there
to remind her of it.


It would be excellent and charmingand I shall gladly
arrange the little dressing room for you if you like it. Say
nothing to Madamebut when she sleeps go you and sit alone a
while to think good thoughtsand pray the dear God preserve
your sister.


Esther was truly piousand quite sincere in her advicefor
she had an affectionate heartand felt much for the sisters in
their anxiety. Amy liked the ideaand gave her leave to arrange
the light closet next her roomhoping it would do her good.


I wish I knew where all these pretty things would go when
Aunt March diesshe saidas she slowly replaced the shining
rosary and shut the jewel cases one by one.


To you and your sisters. I know itMadame confides in me.
I witnessed her willand it is to be sowhispered Esther smiling.


How nice! But I wish she'd let us have them now.
Procrastination is not agreeableobserved Amytaking a last
look at the diamonds.


It is too soon yet for the young ladies to wear these things.
The first one who is affianced will have the pearlsMadame has said
itand I have a fancy that the little turquoise ring will be given
to you when you gofor Madame approves your good behavior and
charming manners.


Do you think so? OhI'll be a lambif I can only have that
lovely ring! It's ever so much prettier than Kitty Bryant's. I do
like Aunt March after all.And Amy tried on the blue ring with a
delighted face and a firm resolve to earn it.


From that day she was a model of obedienceand the old lady
complacently admired the success of her training. Esther fitted
up the closet with a little tableplaced a footstool before it
and over it a picture taken from one of the shut-up rooms. She
thought it was of no great valuebutbeing appropriateshe
borrowed itwell knowing that Madame would never know itnor
care if she did. It washowevera very valuable copy of one of
the famous pictures of the worldand Amy's beauty-loving eyes were
never tired of looking up at the sweet face of the Divine Mother



while her tender thoughts of her own were busy at her heart. On
the table she laid her little testament and hymnbookkept a vase
always full of the best flowers Laurie brought herand came every
day to `sit alone' thinking good thoughtsand praying the dear
God to preserve her sister. Esther had given her a rosary of black
beads with a silver crossbut Amy hung it up and did not use it
feeling doubtful as to its fitness for Protestant prayers.

The little girl was very sincere in all thisfor being left
alone outside the safe home nestshe felt the need of some kind
hand to hold by so sorely that she instinctively turned to the
strong and tender Friendwhose fatherly love most closely
surrounds His little children. She missed her mother's help to
understand and rule herselfbut having been taught where to look
she did her best to find the way and walk in it confidingly. But
Amy was a young pilgrimand just now her burden seemed very heavy.
She tried to forget herselfto keep cheerfuland be satisfied with
doing rightthough no one saw or praised her for it. In her first
effort at being veryvery goodshe decided to make her willas
Aunt March had doneso that if she did fall ill and dieher
possessions might be justly and generously divided. It cost her a pang
even to think of giving up the little treasures which in her eyes
were as precious as the old lady's jewels.

During one of her play hours she wrote out the important
document as well as she couldwith some help from Esther as
to certain legal termsand when the good-natured Frenchwoman
had signed her nameAmy felt relieved and laid it by to show
Lauriewhom she wanted as a second witness. As it was a rainy
dayshe went upstairs to amuse herself in one of the large
chambersand took Polly with her for company. In this room
there was a wardrobe full of old-fashioned costumes with which
Esther allowed her to playand it was her favorite amusement to
array herself in the faded brocadesand parade up and down before
the long mirrormaking stately curtsiesand sweeping her train
about with a rustle which delighted her ears. So busy was she on
this day that she did not hear Laurie's ring nor see his face
peeping in at her as she gravely promenaded to and froflirting
her fan and tossing her headon which she wore a great pink turban
contrasting oddly with her blue brocade dress and yellow quilted
petticoat. She was obliged to walk carefullyfor she had on
highheeled shoesandas Laurie told Jo afterwardit was a comical
sight to see her mince along in her gay suitwith Polly sidilng
and bridling just behind herimitating her as well as he could
and occasionally stopping to laugh or exclaimAin't we fine?
Get alongyou fright! Hold your tongue! Kiss medear! Ha! Ha!

Having with difficulty restrained an explosion of merriment
lest it should offend her majestyLaurie tapped and was graciously
received.

Sit down and rest while I put these things awaythen I want
to consult you about a very serious mattersaid Amywhen she
had shown her splendor and driven Polly into a corner. "That bird
is the trial of my life she continuedremoving the pink mountain
from her headwhile Laurie seated himself astride a chair.
Yesterdaywhen Aunt was asleep and I was trying to be as still as a
mousePolly began to squall and flap about in his cageso I went
to let him outand found a big spider there. I poked it outand
it ran under the bookcase. Polly marched straight after itstooped
down and peeped under the bookcasesayingin his funny waywith a
cock of his eye`Come out and take a walkmy dear.' I couldn't help
laughingwhich made Poll swearand Aunt woke up and scolded us both."


Did the spider accept the old fellow's invitation?asked Laurieyawning.

Yesout it cameand away ran Pollyfrightened to deathand
scrambled up on Aunt's chaircalling out`Catch her! Catch her!
Catch her!' as I chased the spider.

That's a lie! Ohlor!cried the parrotpecking at Laurie's toes.

I'd wring your neck if you were mineyou old tormentcried
Laurieshaking his fist at the birdwho put his head on one side
and gravely croakedAllyluyer! Bless your buttonsdear!

Now I'm readysaid Amyshutting the wardrobe and taking a
piece of paper out of her pocket. "I want you to read thatplease
and tell me if it is legal and right. I felt I ought to do itfor
life is uncertain and I don't want any ill feeling over my tomb."

Laurie bit his lipsand turning a little from the pensive
speakerread the following documentwith praiseworthy gravity
considering the spelling:

MY LAST WILL AND TESTIMENT

IAmy Curtis Marchbeing in my sane mindgo give and
bequeethe all my earthly property--viz.to wit:--namely

To my fathermy best picturessketchesmapsand works
of artincluding frames. Also my $100to do what he likes with.

To my motherall my clothesexcept the blue apron with
pockets--also my likenessand my medalwith much love.

To my dear sister MargaretI give my turkquoise ring (if I
get it)also my green box with the doves on italso my; piece
of real lace for her neckand my sketch of her as a memorial of
her 'little girl'.

To Jo I leave my breastpinthe one mended with sealing wax
also my bronze inkstand--she lost the cover--and my most precious
plaster rabbitbecause I am sorry I burned up her story.

To Beth (if she lives after me) I give my dolls and the
little bureaumy fanmy linen collars and my new slippers if
she can wear them being thin when she gets well. And I herewith
also leave her my regret that I ever made fun of old Joanna.

To my friend and neighbor Theodore Laurence I bequeethe my
paper mashay portfoliomy clay model of a horse though he did
say it hadn't any neck. Also in return for his great kindness
in the hour of affliction any one of my artistic works he likes
Noter Dame is the best.

To our venerable benefactor Mr. Laurence I leave my purple
box with a looking glass in the cover which will be nice for
his pens and remind him of the departed girl who thanks him
for his favors to her familyespecially Beth.

I wish my favorite playmate Kitty Bryant to have the blue
silk apron and my gold-bead ring with a kiss.

To Hannah I give the bandbox she wanted and all the patchwork
I leave hoping she `will remember mewhen it you see'.

And now having disposed of my most valuable property I hope


all will be satisfied and not blame the dead. I forgive everyone
and trust we may all meet when the trump shall sound. Amen.

To this will and testiment I set my hand and seal on this
20th day of Nov. Anni Domino 1861.

Amy Curtis March

Witnesses:

Estelle Valnor
Theodore Laurence.

The last name was written in penciland Amy explained
that he was to rewrite it in ink and seal it up for her properly.

What put it into your head? Did anyone tell you about Beth's
giving away her things?asked Laurie soberlyas Amy laid a bit
of red tapewith sealing waxa taperand a standish before him.

She explained and then asked anxiouslyWhat about Beth?

I'm sorry I spokebut as I didI'll tell you. She felt so
ill one day that she told Jo she wanted to give her piano to Meg
her cats to youand the poor old doll to Jowho would love it for
her sake. She was sorry she had so little to giveand left locks
of hair to the rest of usand her best love to Grandpa. She never
thought of a will.

Laurie was signing and sealing as he spokeand did not look
up till a great tear dropped on the paper. Amy's face was full
of troublebut she only saidDon't people put sort of
postscripts to their willssometimes?

Yes`codicils'they call them.

Put one in mine thenthat I wish all my curls cut offand
given round to my friends. I forgot itbut I want it done though
it will spoil my looks.

Laurie added itsmiling at Amy's last and greatest sacrifice.
Then he amused her for an hourand was much interested in all her
trials. But when he came to goAmy held him back to whisper with
trembling lipsIs there really any danger about Beth?

I'm afraid there isbut we must hope for the bestso don't
crydear.And Laurie put his arm about her with a brotherly
gesture which was very comforting.

When he had goneshe went to her little chapeland sitting
in the twilightprayed for Bethwith streaming tears and an
aching heartfeeling that a million turquoise rings would not
console her for the loss of her gentle little sister.

CHAPTER TWENTY

I don't think I have any words in which to tell the meeting
of the mother and daughters. Such hours are beautiful to live
but very hard to describeso I will leave it to the imagination
of my readersmerely saying that the house was full of genuine
happinessand that Meg's tender hope was realizedfor when Beth


woke from that longhealing sleepthe first objects on which
her eyes fell were the little rose and Mother's face. Too weak
to wonder at anythingshe only smiled and nestled close in the
loving arms about herfeeling that the hungry longing was
satisfied at last. Then she slept againand the girls waited upon
their motherfor she would not unclasp the thin hand which
clung to hers even in sleep.

Hannah had `dished up' and astonishing breakfast for the
travelerfinding it impossible to vent her excitement in any
other wayand Meg and Jo fed their mother like dutiful young
storkswhile they listened to her whispered account of Father's
stateMr. Brooke's promise to stay and nurse himthe delays
which the storm occasioned on the homeward journeyand the
unspeakable comfort Laurie's hopeful face had given her when she
arrivedworn out with fatigueanxietyand cold.

What a strange yet pleasant day that was. So brilliant and
gay withoutfor all the world seemed abroad to welcome the first
snow. So quiet and reposeful withinfor everyone sleptspent
with watchingand a Sabbath stillness reigned through the house
while nodding Hannah mounted guard at the door. With a blissful
sense of burdens lifted offMeg and Jo closed their weary eyes
and lay at restlike storm-beaten boats safe at anchor in a
quiet harbor. Mrs. March would not leave Beth's sidebut rested
in the big chairwaking often to look attouchand brood over
her childlike a miser over some recovered treasure.

Laurie meanwhile posted off to comfort Amyand told his
story so well that Aunt March actually `sniffed' herselfand
never once said "I told you so". Amy came out so strong on
this occasion that I think the good thoughts in the little chapel
really began to bear fruit. She dried her tears quickly
restrained her impatience to see her motherand never even thought
of the turquoise ringwhen the old lady heartily agreed in Laurie's
opinionthat she behaved `like a capital little woman'. Even
Polly seemed impressedfor he called her a good girlblessed
her buttonsand begged her to "come and take a walkdear"in
his most affable tone. She would very gladly have gone out to
enjoy the bright wintry weatherbut discovering that Laurie
was dropping with sleep in spite of manful efforts to conceal
the factshe persuaded him to rest on the sofawhile she wrote
a note to her mother. She was a long time about itand when she
returnedhe was stretched out with both arms under his head
sound asleepwhile Aunt March had pulled down the curtains and
sat doing nothing in an unusual fit of benignity.

After a whilethey began to think he was not going to wake
up till nightand I'm not sure that he wouldhad he not been
effectually roused by Amy's cry of joy at sight of her mother.
There probably were a good many happy little girls in and about
the city that daybut it is my private opinion that Amy was the
happiest of allwhen she sat in her mother's lap and told her
trialsreceiving consolation and compensation in the shape of
approving smiles and fond caresses. They were alone together
in the chapelto which her mother did not object when its
purpose was explained to her.

On the contraryI like it very muchdearlooking from
the dusty rosary to the well-worn little bookand the lovely
picture with its garland of evergreen. "It is an excellent plan
to have some place where we can go to be quietwhen things vex
or grieve us. There are a good many hard times in this life of
oursbut we can always bear them if we ask help in the right


way. I think my little girl is learning this."


YesMotherand when I go home I mean to have a corner
in the big closet to put my books and the copy of that picture
which I've tried to make. The woman's face is not goodit's
too beautiful for me to drawbut the baby is done betterand
I love it very much. I like to think He was a little child once
for then I don't seem so far awayand that helps me.


As Amy pointed to the smiling Christ child on his Mother's
kneeMrs. March saw something on the lifted hand that made her
smile. She said nothingbut Amy understood the lookand after
a minute's pauseshe added gravelyI wanted to speak to you
about thisbut I forgot it. Aunt gave me the ring today. She
called me to her and kissed meand put it on my fingerand
said I was a credit to herand she'd like to keep me always.
She gave that funny guard to keep the turquoise onas it's too
big. I'd like to wear them Mothercan I?


They are very prettybut I think you're rather too young
for such ornamentsAmysaid Mrs. Marchlooking at the plump
little handwith the band of sky-blue stones on the forefinger
and the quaint guard formed of two tiny golden hands clasped
together.


I'll try not to be vainsaid Amy. "I don't think I like
it only because it's so prettybut I want to wear it as the girl
in the story wore her braceletto remind me of something."


Do you mean Aunt March?asked her motherlaughing.


Noto remind me not to be selfish.Amy looked so
earnest and sincere about it that her mother stopped laughing
and listened respectfully to the little plan.


I've thought a great deal lately about my `bundle of
naughties'and being selfish is the largest one in itso I'm
going to try hard to cure itif I can. Beth isn't selfishand
that's the reason everyone loves her and feels so bad at the
thoughts of losing her. People wouldn't feel so bat about me
if I was sickand I don't deserve to have thembut I'd like
to be loved and missed by a great many friendsso I'm going
to try and be like Beth all I can. I'm apt to forget my
resolutionsbut if I had something always about me to remind me
I guess I should do better. May we try this way?


Yesbut I have more faith in the corner of the big closet.
Wear your ringdearand do your best. I think you will prosper
for the sincere wish to be good is half the battle. Now I must
go back to Beth. Keep up your heartlittle daughterand we will
soon have you home again.


That evening while Meg was writing to her father to report
the traveler's safe arrivalJo slipped upstairs into Beth's room
and finding her mother in her usual placestood a minute twisting
her fingers in her hairwith a worried gesture and an undecided
look.


What is itdeary?' asked Mrs. Marchholding out her hand
with a face which invited confidence.


I want to tell you somethingMother."


About Meg?



How quickly you guessed! Yesit's about herand though
it's a little thingit fidgets me.


Beth is asleep. Speak lowand tell me all about it. That
Moffat hasn't been hereI hope?asked Mrs. March rather sharply.


No. I should have shut the door in his face if he had
said Josettling herself on the floor at her mother's feet. "Last
summer Meg left a pair of gloves over at the Laurences' and only
one was returned. We forgot about ittill Teddy told me that Mr.
Brooke owned that he liked Meg but didn't dare say soshe was so
young and he so poor. Nowisn't it a dreadful state of things?"


Do you think Meg cares for him?asked Mrs. Marchwith an
anxious look.


Mercy me! I don't know anything about love and such
nonsense!cried Jowith a funny mixture of interest and contempt.
In novelsthe girls show it by starting and blushingfainting
awaygrowing thinand acting like fools. Now Meg does not do
anything of the sort. She eats and drinks and sleeps like a
sensible creatureshe looks straight in my face when I talk
about that manand only blushes a little bit when Teddy jokes
about lovers. I forbid him to do itbut he doesn't mind me as
he ought.


Then you fancy that Meg is not interested in John?'


Who?" cried Jostaring.


Mr. Brooke. I call him `John' now. We fell into the way
of doing so at the hospitaland he likes it.


Ohdear! I know you'll take his part. He's been good to
Fatherand you won't send him awaybut let Meg marry himif
she wants to. Mean thing! To go petting Papa and helping you
just to wheedle you into liking him.And Jo pulled her hair
again with a wrathful tweak.


My deardon't get angry about itand I will tell you how
it happened. John went with me at Mr. Laurence's requestand
was so devoted to poor Father that we couldn't help getting fond
of him. He was perfectly open and honorable about Megfor he
told us he loved herbut would earn a comfortable home before
he asked her to marry him. He only wanted our leave to love her
and work for herand the right to make her love him if he could.
He is a truly excellent young manand we could not refuse to
listen to himbut I will not consent to Meg's engaging herself
so young.


Of course not. It would be idiotic! I knew there was
mischief brewing. I felt itand now it's worse than I imagined.
I just wish I could marry Meg myselfand keep her safe in the
family.


This odd arrangement made Mrs. March smilebut she said
gravelyJoI confide in you and don't wish you to say anything
to Meg yet. When John comes backand I see them togetherI can
judge better of her feelings toward him.


She'll see those handsome eyes that she talks aboutand
then it will be all up with her. She's got such a soft heart
it will melt like butter in the sun if anyone looks sentimentlly



at her. She read the short reports he sent more than she did
your lettersand pinched me when I spoke of itand likes brown
eyesand doesn't think John an ugly nameand she'll go and fall
in loveand there's an end of peace and funand cozy times together.
I see it all! They'll go lovering around the houseand we shall
have to dodge. Meg will be absorbed and no good to me any more.
Brooke will scratch up a fortune somehowcarry her off
and make a hole in the familyand I shall break my heartand
everything will be abominably uncomfortable. Ohdear me! Why
weren't we all boysthen there wouldn't be any bother.

Jo leaned her chin on her knees in a disconsolate attitude
and shook her fist at the reprehensible John. Mrs. March sighed
and Jo looked up with an air of relief.

You don't like itMother? I'm glad of it. Let's send him
about his businessand not tell Meg a word of itbut all be
happy together as we always have been.

I did wrong to sighJo. It is natural and right you should
all go to homes of your own in timebut I do want to keep my girls
as long as I canand I am sorry that this happened so soonfor
Meg is only seventeen and it will be some years before John can
make a home for her. Your father and I have agreed that she shall
not bind herself in any waynor be marriedbefore twenty. If
she and John love one anotherthey can waitand test the love
by doing so. She is conscientiousand I have no fear of her
treating him unkindly. My prettytender hearted girl! I hope
things will go happily with her.

Hadn't you rather have her marry a rich man?asked Joas
her mother's voice faltered a little over the last words.

Money is a good and useful thingJoand I hope my girls
will never feel the need of it too bitterly not be tempted by
too much. I should like to know that John was firmly established
in some good businesswhich gave him an income large enough to
keep free from debt and make Meg comfortable. I'm not ambitious
for a splendid fortunea fashionable positionor a great name
for my girls. If rank and money come with love and virtuealso
I should accept them gratefullyand enjoy your good fortunebut
I knowby experiencehow much genuine happiness can be had in
a plain little housewhere the daily bread is earnedand some
privations give sweetness to the few pleasures. I am content to
see Meg begin humblyfor if I am not mistakenshe will be rich
in the possession of a good man's heartand that is better than
a fortune.

I understandMotherand quite agreebut I'm disappointed
about Megfor I'd planned to have her marry Teddy by-and-by and
sit in the lap of luxury all her days. Wouldn't it be nice?
asked Jolooking up with a brighter face.

He is younger than sheyou knowbegan Mrs. Marchbut Jo
broke in...

Only a littlehe's old for his ageand talland can be
quite grown-up in his manners if he likes. Then he's rich and
generous and goodand loves us alland I say it's a pity my
plan is spoiled.

I'm afraid Laurie is hardly grown-up enough for Megand
altogether too much of a weathercock just now for anyone to
depend on. Don't make plansJobut let time and their own


hearts mate your friends. We can't meddle safely in such
mattersand had better not get `romantic rubbish' as you
call itinto our headslest it spoil our friendship.

WellI won'tbut I hate to see things going all crisscross
and getting snarled upwhen a pull her and a snip there
would straighten it out. I wish wearing flatirons on our heads
would keep us from growing up. But buds will be rosesand
kittens catsmore's the pity!

What's that about flatirons and cats?asked Megas she
crept into the room with the finished letter in her hand.

Only one of my stupid speeches. I'm going to bed. Come
Peggysaid Jounfolding herself like an animated puzzle.

Quite rightand beautifully written. Please add that I
send my love to Johnsaid Mrs. Marchas she glanced over
the letter and gave it back.

Do you call him `John'?asked Megsmilingwith her
innocent eyes looking down into her mother's.

Yeshe has been like a son to usand we are very fond of him
replied Mrs. Marchreturning the look with a keen one.

I'm glad of thathe is so lonely. Good nightMother
dear. It is so inexpressibly comfortable to have you here
was Meg's answer.

The kiss her mother gave her was a very tender oneand
as she went awayMrs. March saidwith a mixture of satisfaction
and regretShe does not love John yetbut will soon learn to.

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

Jo's face was a study next dayfor the secret rather weighed
upon herand she found it hard not to look mysterious and
important. Meg observed itbut did not trouble herself to make
inquiriesfor she had learned that the best way to manage Jo was
by the law of contrariesso she felt sure of being told everything
if she did not ask. She was rather surprisedtherefore
when the silence remained unbrokenand Jo assumed a patronizing
airwhich decidedly aggravated Megwho in turn assumed an air
of dignified reserve and devoted herself to her mother. This left
Jo to her own devicesfor Mrs. March had taken her place as nurse
and bade her restexerciseand amuse herself after her long
confinement. Amy being goneLaurie was her only refugeand much
as she enjoyed his societyshe rather dreaded him just thenfor
he was an incorrigible teaseand she feared he would coax the
secret from her.

She was quite rightfor the mischief-loving lad no sooner
suspected a mystery than he set himself to find it outand led
Jo a trying life of it. He wheedledbribedridiculed
threatenedand scolded; affected indifferencethat he might surprise
the truth from her; declared her knewthen that he didn't care;
and at lastby dint of perseverancehe satisfied himself that
it concerned Meg and Mr. Brooke. Feeling indignant that he was
not taken into his tutor's confidencehe set his wits to work
to devise some proper retaliation for the slight.


Meg meanwhile had apparently forgotten the matter and was
absorbed in preparations for her father's returnbut all of a
sudden a change seemed to come over herandfor a day or two
she was quite unlike herself. She started when spoken to
blushed when looked atwas very quietand sat over her sewing
with a timidtroubled look on her face. To her mother's inquiries
she answered that she was quite welland Jo's she silenced by
begging to be let alone.


She feels it in the air--loveI mean--and she's going very
fast. She's got most of the symptoms--is twittery and cross
doesn't eatlies awakeand mopes in corners. I caught her
singing that song he gave herand once she said `John'as you
doand then turned as red as a poppy. whatever shall we do?"
said Jolooking ready for any measureshowever violent.


Nothing but wait. Let her alonebe kind and patientand
Father's coming will settle everythingreplied her mother.


Here's a note to youMegall sealed up. How odd! Teddy
never seals minesaid Jo next dayas she distributed the
contents of the little post office.


Mrs. March and Jo were deep in their own affairswhen a
sound from Meg made them look up to see her staring at her
note with a frightened face.


My childwhat is it?cried her motherrunning to her
while Jo tried to take the paper which had done the mischief.


It's all a mistakehe didn't send it. OhJohow could
you do it?and Meg hid her face in her handscrying as if her
heart were quite broken.


Me! I've done nothing! What's she talking about?cried
Jobewildered.


Meg's mild eyes kindled with anger as she pulled a crumpled
note from her pocket and threw it at Josaying reproachfully
You wrote itand that bad boy helped you. How could you be
so rudeso meanand cruel to us both?


Jo hardly heard herfor she and her mother were reading the
notewhich was written in a peculiar hand.


My Dearest Margaret


I can no longer restrain my passionand must know my fate
before I return. I dare not tell your parents yetbut I think
they would consent if they knew that we adored one another. Mr.
Laurence will help me to some good placeand thenmy sweet
girlyou will make me happy. I implore you to say nothing to
your family yetbut to send one word of hope through Laurie to


Your devoted John.


Ohthe little villain! That's the way he meant to pay me
for keeping my word to Mother. I'll give him a hearty scolding
and bring him over to beg pardoncried Joburning to execute
immediate justice. But her mother held her backsayingwith
a look she seldom wore...



StopJoyou must clear yourself first. You have played
so many pranks that I am afraid you have had a hand in this.


On my wordMotherI haven't! I never saw that note
beforeand don't know anything about itas true as I live!
said Joso earnestly that they believed her. "If I had taken
part in it I'd have done it better than thisand have written
a sensible note. I should think you'd have known Mr. Brooke
wouldn't write such stuff as that she addedscornfully
tossing down the paper.


It's like his writing faltered Megcomparing it with the
note in her hand.
OhMegyou didn't answer it?" cried Mrs. March quickly.


YesI did!and Meg hid her face againovercome with shame.


Here's a scrape! Do let me bring that wicked boy over to
explain and be lectured. I can't rest till I get hold of him.
And Jo made for the door again.


Hush! Let me handle thisfor it is worse than I thought.
Margarettell me the whole storycommanded Mrs. Marchsitting
down by Megyet keeping hold of Jolest she should fly off.


I received the first letter from Lauriewho didn't look
as if he knew anything about itbegan Megwithout looking up.
I was worried at first and meant to tell youthen I remembered
how you liked Mr. Brookeso I thought you wouldn't mind if I
kept my little secret for a few days. I'm so silly that I liked
to think no one knewand while I was deciding what to sayI
felt like the girls in bookswho have such things to do. Forgive
meMotherI'm paid for my silliness now. I never can look him
in the face again.


What did you say to him?' asked Mrs. March.


I only said I was too young to do anything about it yet
that I didn't wish to have secrets from youand he must speak
to father. I was very grateful for his kindnessand would be
his friendbut nothing morefor a long while."


Mrs. March smiledas if well pleasedand Jo clapped her
handsexclaimingwith a laughYou are almost equal to
Caroline Percywho was a pattern of prudence! Tell onMeg.
What did he say to that?


He writes in a different way entirelytelling me that he
never sent any love letter at alland is very sorry that my
roguish sisterJoshould take liberties with our names. It's
very kind and respectfulbut think how dreadful for me!


Meg leaned against her motherlooking the image of despair
and Jo tramped about the roomcalling Laurie names. All of a
sudden she stoppedcaught up the two notesand after looking
at them closelysaid decidedlyI don't believe Brooke ever
saw either of these letters. Teddy wrote bothand keeps yours
to crow over me with because I wouldn't tell him my secret.


Don't have any secretsJo. Tell it to Mother and keep
out of troubleas I should have donesaid Meg warningly.


Bless youchild! Mother told me.



That will doJo. I'll comfort Meg while you go and get
Laurie. I shall sift the matter to the bottomand put a stop
to such pranks at once.
Away ran Joand Mrs. March gently told Meg Mr. Brooke's
real feelings. "Nowdearwhat are your own? Do you love him
enough to wait till her can make a home for youor will you
keep yourself quite free for the present?"

I've been so scared and worriedI don't want to have
anything to do with lovers for a long whileperhaps never

answered Meg petulantly. "If John doesn't know anything about
this nonsensedon't tell himand make Jo and Laurie hold their
tongues. I won't be deceived and plagued and made a fool of.
It's a shame!"

Seeing Meg's usually gentle temper was roused and her
pride hurt by this mischievous jokeMrs. March soothed her
by promises of entire silence and great discretion for the
future. The instant Laurie's step was heard in the hallMeg
fled into the studyand Mrs. March received the culprit alone.
Jo had not told him why he was wantedfearing he wouldn't come
but he knew the minute he saw Mrs. March's faceand stood
twirling his hat with a guilty air which convicted him at once.
Jo was dismissedbut chose to march up and down the hall like
a sentinelhaving some fear that the prisoner might bolt. The
sound of voices in the parlor rose and fell for half an hour
but what happened during that interview the girls never knew.

When they were called inLaurie was standing by their
mother with such a penitent face that Jo forgave him on the
spotbut did not think it wise to betray the fact. Meg received
his humble apologyand was much comforted by the assurance that
Brooke knew nothing of the joke.

I'll never tell him to my dying daywild horses shan't
drag it out of meso you'll forgive meMegand I'll do
anything to show how out-and-out sorry I amhe added
looking very much ashamed of himself.

I'll trybut it was a very ungentlemanly thing to doI
didn't think you could be so sly and maliciousLauriereplied
Megtrying to hid her maidenly confusion under a gravely
reproachful air.

It was altogether abominableand I don't deserve to be
spoken to for a monthbut you willthoughwon't you?And
Laurie folded his hands together with such and imploring gesture
as he spoke in his irresistibly persuasive tonethat it was
impossible to frown upon him in spite of his scandalous behavior.

Meg pardoned himand Mrs. March's grave face relaxedin
spite of her efforts to keep soberwhen she heard him declare
that he would atone for his sins by all sorts of penancesand
abase himself like a worm before the injured damsel.

Jo stood aloofmeanwhiletrying to harden her heart
against himand succeeding only in primming up her face into
an expression of entire disapprobation. Laurie looked at her
once or twicebut as she showed no sign of relentinghe felt
injuredand turned his back on her till the others were done
with himwhen he made her a low bow and walked off without a
word.


As soon as he had goneshe wished she had been more forgiving
and when Meg and her mother went upstairsshe felt
lonely and longed for Teddy. After resisting for some time
she yielded to the impulseand armed with a book to return
went over to the big house.


Is Mr. Laurence in?asked Joof a housemaidwho was
coming downstairs.


YesMissbut I don't believe he's seeable just yet.


Why not? Is he ill?


Lano Missbut he's had a scene with Mr. Lauriewho is
in one of his tantrums about somethingwhich vexes the old
gentlemanso I dursn't go nigh him.


Where is Laurie?'


Shut up in his roomand he won't answerthough I've been
a-tapping. I don't know what's to become of the dinnerfor it's
readyand there's no one to eat it."


I'll go and see what the matter is. I'm not afraid of either
of them.


Up went Joand knocked smartly on the door of Laurie's
little study.


Stop thator I'll open the door and make you!called out
the young gentleman in a threatening tone.


Jo immediately knocked again. The door flew openand in
she bounced before Laurie could recover from his surprise. Seeing
that he really was out of temperJowho knew how to manage him
assumed a contrite expressionand going artistically down upon
her kneessaid meeklyPlease forgive me for being so cross. I
came to make it upand can't go away till I have.


It's all right. Get upand don't be a gooseJowas the
cavalier reply to her petition.


Thank youI will. Could I ask what's the matter? You don't
look exactly easy in your mind.


I've been shakenand I won't bear it!growled Laurie indignantly.


Who did it?demanded Jo.


Grandfather. If it had been anyone else I'd have...
And the injured youth finished his sentence by an energetic
gesture of the right arm.


That's nothing. I often shake youand you don't mind
said Jo soothingly.


Pooh! You're a girland it's funbut I'll allow no man
to shake me!


I don't think anyone would care to try itif you looked
as much like a thundercloud as you do now. Why were you treated
so?


Just because I wouldn't say what your mother wanted me for.



I'd promised not to telland of course I wasn't going to break
my word.


Couldn't you satisfy your grandpa in any other way?


Nohe would have the truththe whole truthand nothing
but the truth. I'd have told my part of the scrapeif I could
without bringing Meg in. As I couldn'tI held my tongueand
bore the scolding till the old gentleman collared me. Then I
boltedfor fear I should forget myself.


It wasn't nicebut he's sorryI knowso go down and
make up. I'll help you.


Hanged if I do! I'm not going to be lectured and pummelled
by everyonejust for a bit of a frolic. I was sorry about Meg
and begged pardon like a manbut I won't do it again
when I wasn't in the wrong.


He didn't know that.


He ought to trust meand not act as if I was a baby. It's
no useJohe's got to learn that I'm able to take care of
myselfand don't need anyone's apron string to hold on by.
What pepper pots you are! sighed Jo. "How do you mean
to settle this affair?"


Wellhe ought to beg pardonand believe me when I say I
can't tell him what the fuss's about.


Bless you! He won't do that.


I won't go down till he does.


NowTeddybe sensible. Let it passand I'll explain
what I can. You can't stay hereso what's the use of being
melodramatic?


I don't intend to stay here longanyway. I'll slip off and
take a journey somewhereand when Grandpa misses me he'll come
round fast enough.
I dare saybut you ought not to go and worry him.


Don't preach. I'll go to Washington and see Brooke. It's
gay thereand I'll enjoy myself after the troubles.


What fun you'd have! I wish I could run off toosaid
Joforgetting her part of mentor in lively visions of martial
life at the capital.


Come onthen! Why not? You go and surprise your father
and I'll stir up old Brooke. It would be a glorious joke. Let's
do itJo. We'll leave a letter saying we are all rightand trot
off at once. I've got money enough. It will do you goodand no
harmas you go to your father.


For a moment Jo looked as if she would agreefor wild as
the plan wasit just suited her. She was tired of care and
confinementlonged for changeand thoughts of her father
blended temptingly with the novel charms of camps and hospitals
liberty and fun. Her eyes kindled as they turned wistfully
toward the windowbut they fell on the old house opposite
and she shook her head with sorrowful decision.



If I was a boywe'd run away togetherand have a capital time
but as I'm a miserable girlI must be proper and stop at home.
Don't tempt meTeddyit's a crazy plan.

That's the fun of itbegan Lauriewho had got a willful
fit on him and was possessed to break out of bounds in some way.

Hold your tongue!cried Jocovering her ears. "`Prunes
and prisms' are my doomand I may as well make up my mind to
it. I came here to moralizenot to hear things that make me
skip to think of."

I know Meg would wet-blanket such a proposalbut I
thought you had more spiritbegan Laurie insinuatingly.

Bad boybe quiet! Sit down and think of your own sins
don't go making me add to mine. If I get your grandpa to
apologize for the shakingwill you give up running away?
asked Jo seriously.

Yesbut you won't do itanswered Lauriewho wished
to make upbut felt that his outraged dignity must be
appeased first.

If I can manage the young oneI can the old onemuttered Jo
as she walked awayleaving Laurie bent over a railroad map
with his head propped up on both hands.

Come in!And Mr. Laurence's gruff voice sounded gruffer
than everas Jo tapped at his door.

It's only meSircome to return a bookshe said blandly
as she entered.

Want any more?asked the old gentlemanlooking grim and
vexedbut trying not to show it.

Yesplease. I like old Sam so wellI think I'll try the
second volumereturned Johoping to propitiate him by
accepting a second dose of Boswell's Johnsonas he had recommended
that lively work.

The shaggy eyebrows unbent a little as he rolled the steps
toward the shelf where the Johnsonian literature was placed. Jo
skipped upand sitting on the top stepaffected to be searching
for her bookbut was really wondering how best to introduce the
dangerous object of her visit. Mr. Laurence seemed to suspect
that something was brewing in her mindfor after taking several
brisk turns about the roomhe faced round on herspeaking so
abruptly that Rasselas tumbled face downward on the floor.

What has that boy been about? Don't try to shield him. I
know he has been in mischief by the way he acted when he came
home. I can't get a word from himand when I threatened to
shake the truth out of him he bolted upstairs and locked himself
into his room.

He did wrongbut we forgave himand all promised not to
say a word to anyonebegan Jo reluctantly.

That won't do. He shall not shelter himself behind a promise
from you softhearted girls. If he's done anything amisshe
shall confessbeg pardonand be punished. Out with itJo.
I won't be kept in the dark.


Mr. Laurence looked so alarming and spoke so sharply that Jo
would have gladly run awayif she couldbut she was perched aloft
on the stepsand he stood at the foota lion in the pathso she
had to stay and brave it out.


IndeedSirI cannot tell. Mother forbade it. Laurie has
confessedasked pardonand been punished quite enough. We don't
keep silence to shield himbut someone elseand it will make
more trouble if you interfere. Please don't. It was partly my
faultbut it's all right now. So let's forget itand talk about
the RAMBLER or something pleasant.


Hang the RAMBLER! Come down and give me your word that
this harum-scarum boy of mine hasn't done anything ungrateful or
impertinent. If he hasafter all your kindness to himI'll
thrash him with my own hands.


The threat sounded awfulbut did not alarm Jofor she knew
the irascible old gentleman would never lift a finger against his
grandsonwhatever he might say to the contrary. She obediently
descendedand made as light of the prank as she could without
betraying Meg or forgetting the truth.


Hum... ha... wellif the boy held his tongue
because he promisedand not from obstinacyI'll forgive him.
He's a stubborn fellow and hard to managesaid Mr. Laurence
rubbing up his hair till it looked as if he had been out in a gale
and smoothing the frown from his brow with an air of relief.


So am Ibut a kind word will govern me when all the king's
horses and all the king's men couldn'tsaid Jotrying to say
a kind word for her friendwho seemed to get out of one scrape
only to fall into another.


You think I'm not kind to himhey?was the sharp answer.


Ohdear noSir. You are rather too kind sometimesand
then just a trifle hasty when he tries your patience. Don't you
think you are?


Jo was determined to have it out nowand tried to look
quite placidthough she quaked a little after her bold speech.
To her great relief and surprisethe old gentleman only threw
his spectacles onto the table with a rattle and exclaimed frankly
You're rightgirlI am! I love the boybut he tries my
patience past bearingand I know how it will endif we go on so.


I'll tell youhe'll run away.Jo was sorry for that speech the minute
it was made. She meant to warn him that Laurie would not bear much restraint
and hoped he would be more forebearing with the lad.


Mr. Laurence's ruddy face changed suddenlyand he sat down
with a troubled glance at the picture of a handsome manwhich
hung over his table. It was Laurie's fatherwho had run away
in his youthand married against the imperious old man's will.
Jo fancied her remembered and regretted the pastand she wished
she had held her tongue.


He won't do it unless he is very much worriedand only
threatens it sometimeswhen he gets tired of studying. I often
think I should like toespecially since my hair was cutso if
you ever miss usyou may advertise for two boys and look among
the ships bound for India.



She laughed as she spokeand Mr. Laurence looked relieved
evidently taking the whole as a joke.

You hussyhow dare you talk in that way? Where's your
respect for meand your proper bringing up? Bless the boys
and girls! What torments they areyet we can't do without
themhe saidpinching her cheeks good-humoredly. "Go and
bring that boy down to his dinnertell him it's all rightand
advise him not to put on tragedy airs with his grandfather. I
won't bear it."

He won't comeSir. He feels badly because you didn't believe him
when he said he couldn't tell. I think the shaking hurt his feelings
very much.

Jo tried to look pathetic but must have failedfor Mr.
Laurence began to laughand she knew the day was won.

I'm sorry for thatand ought to thank him for not shaking
meI suppose. What the dickens does the fellow expect?And
the old gentleman looked a trifle ashamed of his own testiness.

If I were youI'd write him an apologySir. He says he
won't come down till he has oneand talks about Washingtonand
goes on in an absurd way. A formal apology will make him see
how foolish he isand bring him down quite amiable. Try it. He
likes funand this was is better than talking. I'll carry it
upand teach him his duty.

Mr. Laurence gave her a sharp lookand put on his spectacles
saying slowlyYou're a sly pussbut I don't mind being
managed by you and Beth. Heregive me a bit of paper
and let us have done with this nonsense.

The note was written in the terms which one gentleman would
use to another after offering some deep insult. Jo dropped a kiss
on the top of Mr. Laurence's bald headand ran up to slip the
apology under Laurie's dooradvising him through the keyhole to
be submissivedecorousand a few other agreeable impossibilities.
Finding the door locked againshe left the note to do its work
and was going quietly awaywhen the young gentleman slid down
the banistersand waited for her at the bottomsayingwith his
most virtuous expression of countenanceWhat a good fellow you
areJo! Did you get blown up?he addedlaughing.

Nohe was pretty mildon the whole.

AH! I got it all round. Even you cast me off over there
and I felt just ready to go to the deucehe began apologetically.

Don't talk that wayturn over a new leaf and begin again
Teddymy son.

I keep turning over new leavesand spoiling themas I
used to spoil my copybooksand I make so many beginnings there
never will be an endhe said dolefully.

Go and eat your dinneryou'll feel better after it. Men
always croak when they are hungryand Jo whisked out at the
front door after that.

That's a `label' on my `sect'answered Lauriequoting
Amyas he went to partake of humble pie dutifully with his


grandfatherwho was quite saintly in temper and overwhelmingly
respectful in manner all the rest of the day.


Everyone thought the matter ended and the little cloud
blown overbut the mischief was donefor though others forgot
itMeg remembered. She never alluded to a certain personbut
she thought of him a good dealdreamed dreams more than ever
and once Jorummaging her sister's desk for stampsfound a
bit of paper scribbled over with the words`Mrs. John Brooke'
whereat she groaned tragically and cast it into the firefeeling
that Laurie's prank had hastened the evil day for her.


CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO


Like sunshine after a storm were the peaceful weeks which
followed. The invalids improved rapidlyand Mr. March began
to talk or returning early in the new year. Beth was soon able
to lie on the study sofa all dayamusing herself with the
well-beloved cats at firstand in time with doll's sewingwhich had
fallen sadly behindhand. Her once active limbs were so stiff
and feeble that Jo took her for a daily airing about the house
in her strong arms. Meg cheerfully blackened and burned her
white hands cooking delicate messes for `the dear'while Amy
a loyal slave of the ringcelebrated her return by giving away as
many of her treasures as she could prevail on her sisters to accept.


As Christmas approachedthe usual mysteries began to haunt
the houseand Jo frequently convulsed the family by proposing
utterly impossible or magnificently absurd ceremoniesin honor
of this unusually merry Christmas. Laurie was equally impracticable
and would have had bonfiresskyrocketsand triumphal arches
if he had had his own way. After many skirmishes and snubbings
the ambitious pair were considered effectually quenched
and went about with forlorn faceswhich were rather belied
by explosions of laughter when the two got together.


Several days of unusually mild weather fitly ushered in a
splendid Christmas Day. Hannah `felt in her bones' that it was
going to be an unusually fine dayand she proved herself a
true prophetessfor everybody and everything seemed bound to
produce a grand success. To begin withMr. March wrote that
he should soon be with themthen Beth felt uncommonly well
that morningandbeing dressed in her mother's gifta soft
crimson merino wrapperwas borne in high triumph to the window
to behold the offering of Jo and Laurie. The Unquenchables had
done their best to be worthy of the namefor like elves they
had worked by night and conjured up a comical surprise. Out in
the garden stood a stately snow maidencrowned with holly
bearing a basket of fruit and flowers in one handa great roll
of music in the othera perfect rainbow of an Afghan round her
chilly shouldersand a Christmas carol issuing from her lips
on a pink paper streamer.


THE JUNGFRAU TO BETH


God bless youdear Queen Bess!
May nothing you dismay
But health and peace and happiness
Be yoursthis Christmas day.
Here's fruit to feed our busy bee
And flowers for her nose.
Here's music for her pianee



An afghan for her toes


A portrait of Joannasee
By Raphael No. 2
Who laboured with great industry
To make it fair and true.


Accept a ribbon redI beg
For Madam Purrer's tail
And ice cream made by lovely Peg
A Mont Blanc in a pail.


Their dearest love my makers laid
Within my breast of snow.
Accept itand the Alpine maid
From Laurie and from Jo.


How Beth laughed when she saw ithow Laurie ran up and
down to bring in the giftsand what ridiculous speeches Jo
made as she presented them.


I'm so full of happinessthat if Father was only hereI
couldn't hold one drop moresaid Bethquite sighing with
contentment as Jo carried her off to the study to rest after the
excitementand to refresh herself with some of the delicious
grapes the `Jungfrau' had sent her.


So am Iadded Joslapping the pocket wherein reposed
the long-desired UNDINE AND SINTRAM.


I'm sure I amechoed Amyporing over the engraved copy
of the Madonna and Childwhich her mother had given her in a
pretty frame.


Of course I am!cried Megsmoothing the silvery folds of
her first sild dressfor Mr. Laurence had insisted on giving it.
How can I be otherwise?said Mrs. March gratefullyas her
eyes went from her husband's letter to Beth's smiling faceand
her hand carressed the brooch made of gray and goldenchestnut
and dark brown hairwhich the girls had just fastened on her
breast.


Now and thenin this workaday worldthings do happen in
the delightful storybook fashionand what a comfort it is. Half
an hour after everyone had said they were so happy they could
only hold one drop morethe drop came. Laurie opened the parlor
door and popped his head in very quietly. He might just as well
have turned a somersault and uttered an Indian war whoopfor his
face was so full of suppressed excitement and his voice so
treacherously joyful that everyone jumped upthough he only said
in a queerbreathless voiceHere's another Christmas present
for the March family.


Before the words were well out of his mouthhe was whisked
away somehowand in his place appeared a tall manmuffled up to
the eyesleaning on the arm of another tall manwho tried to say
something and couldn't. Of course there was a general stampede
and for several minutes everybody seemed to lose their witsfor
the strangest things were doneand no one said a word.


Mr. March became invisible in the embrace of four pairs of
loving arms. Jo disgraced herself by nearly fainting awayand
had to be doctored by Laurie in the china closet. Mr. Brooke
kissed Meg entirely by mistakeas he somewhat incoherently



explained. And Amythe dignifiedtumbled over a stooland never
stopping to get uphugged and cried over her father's boots in
the most touching manner. Mrs. March was the first to recover
herselfand held up her hand with a warningHush! Remember Beth.


But it was too late. The study door flew openthe little
red wrapper appeared on the thresholdjoy put strength into the
feeble limbsand Beth ran straight into her father's arms. Never
mind what happened just after thatfor the full hearts overflowed
washing away the bitterness of the past and leaving only the
sweetness of the present.


It was not at all romanticbut a hearty laugh set everybody
straight againfor Hannah was discovered behind the doorsobbing
over the fat turkeywhich she had forgotten to put down when she
rushed up from the kitchen. As the laugh subsidedMrs. March began
to thank Mr. Brooke for his faithful care of her husbandat which
Mr. Brooke suddenly remembered that Mr. March needed restand
seizing Lauriehe precipitately retired. Then the two invalids
were ordered to reposewhich they didby both sitting in one
big chair and talking hard.


Mr. March told how he had longed to surprise themand how
when the fine weather camehe had been allowed by his doctorto
take advantage of ithow devoted Brooke had beenand how he was
altogether a most estimable and upright young man. Why Mr. March
paused a minute just thereand after a glance at Megwho was
violently poking the firelooked at his wife with an inquiring
lift of the eyebrowsI leave you to imagine. Also why Mrs.
March gently nodded her head and askedrather abruptlyif he
wouldn't like to have something to eat. Jo saw and understood
the lookand she stalked grimly away to get wine and beef tea
muttering to herself as she slammed the doorI hate estimable
young men with brown eyes!


There never was such a Christmas dinner as they had that day.
The fat turkey was a sight to beholdwhen Hannah sent him up
stuffedbrownedand decorated. So was the plum puddingwhich
melted in one's mouthlikewise the jelliesin which Amy reveled
like a fly in a honeypot. Everything turned out wellwhich was
a mercyHannah saidFor my mind was that flusteredMumthat
it's a merrycle I didn't roast the puddingand stuff the turkey
with raisinslet alone bilin' of it in a cloth.


Mr. Laurence and his grandson dined with themalso Mr.
Brookeat whom Jo glowered darklyto Laurie's infinite amusement.
Two easy chairs stood side by side at the head of the tablein
which sat Beth and her fatherfeasting modestly on chicken and a
little fruit. They drank healthstold storiessang songs
`reminisced'as the old folks sayand had a thoroughly good time.
A sleigh ride had been plannedbut the girls would not leave their
fatherso the guests departed earlyand as twilight gatheredthe
happy family sat together round the fire.


Just a year ago we were groaning over the dismal Christmas we
expected to have. Do you remember?asked Jobreaking a short
pause which had followed a long conversation about many things.


Rather a pleasant year on the whole!said Megsmiling at
the fireand congratulating herself on having treated Mr. Brooke
with dignity.


I think it's been a pretty hard oneobserved Amywatching
the light shine on her ring with thoughtful eyes.



i'm glad it's overbecause we've got you backwhispered
Bethwho sat on her father's knee.


Rather a rough road for you to travelmy little pilgrims
especially the latter part of it. But you have got on bravely
and I think the burdens are in a fair way to tumble off very soon
said Mr. Marchlooking with fatherly satisfaction at the four
young faces gathered round him.


How do you know? Did Mother tell you?' asked Jo.


Not much. Straws show which way the wind blowsand I've
made several discoveries today."


Ohtell us what they are!cried Megwho sat beside him.


Here is one.And taking up the hand which lay on the arm
of his chairhe pointed to the roughened forefingera burn on
the backand two or three little hard spots on the palm. "I
remember a time when this hand was white and smoothand your
first care was to keep it so. It was very pretty thenbut to
me it is much prettier nowfor in this seeming blemishes I read
a little history. A burnt offering has been made to vanitythis
hardened palm has earned something better than blistersand I'm
sure the sewing done by these pricked fingers will last a long
timeso much good will went into the stitches. Megmy dear
I value the womanly skill which keeps home happy more than white
hands or fashionable accomplishments. I'm proud to shake this
goodindustrious little handand hope I shall not soon be
asked to give it away."


If Meg had wanted a reward for hours of patient laborshe
received it in the hearty pressure of her father's hand and the
approving smile he gave her.


What about Jo? Please say something nicefor she has tried
so hard and been so veryvery good to mesaid Beth in her father's
ear.


He laughed and looked across at the tall girl who sat opposite
with and unusually mild expression in her face.


In spite of the curly cropI don't see the `son Jo' whom I
left a year agosaid Mr. March. "I see a young lady who pins
her collar straightlaces her boots neatlyand neither whistles
talks slangnor lies on the rug as she used to do. Her face is
rather thin and pale just nowwith watching and anxietybut I
like to look at itfor it has grown gentlerand her voice is
lower. She doesn't bouncebut moves quietlyand takes care of
a certain little person in a motherly way which delights me. I
rather miss my wild girlbut if I get a stronghelpful
tenderhearted woman in her placeI shall feel quite satisfied.
I don't know whether the shearing sobered our black sheepbut I do
know that in all Washington I couldn't find anything beautiful enough
to be bought with the five-and-twenty dollars my good girl sent me."


Jo's keen eyes were rather dim for a minuteand her thin
face grew rosy in the firelight as she received her father's praise
feeling that she did deserve a portion of it.


NowBethsaid Amylonging for her turnbut ready to wait.


There's so little of herI'm afraid to say muchfor fear



she will slip away altogetherthough she is not so shy as she used
to bebegan their father cheerfully. But recollecting how nearly
he had lost herhe held her closesaying tenderlywith her cheek
against his ownI've got you safemy Bethand I'll keep you so
please God.


After a minute's silencehe looked down at Amywho sat on
the cricket at his feetand saidwith a caress of the shining
hair...


I observed that Amy took drumsticks at dinnerran errands
for her mother all the afternoongave Meg her place tonightand
has waited on every on with patience and good humor. I also
observe that she does not fret much nor look in the glassand has
not even mentioned a very pretty ring which she wearsso I
conclude that she has learned to think of other people more and of
herself lessand has decided to try and mold her character as
carefully as she molds her little clay figures. I am glad of
thisfor though I should be very proud of a graceful statue made
by herI shall be infinitely prouder of a lovable daughter with
a talent for making life beautiful to herself and others.


What are you thinking ofBeth?asked Jowhen Amy had
thanked her father and told about her ring.


I read in PILGRIM'S PROGRESS today howafter many troubles
christian and Hopeful came to a pleasant green meadow where lilies
bloomed all year roundand there they rested happilyas we do
nowbefore they went on to their journey's endanswered Beth
addingas she slipped out of her father's arms and went to the
instrumentIt's singing time nowand I want to be in my old
place. I'll try to sing the song of the shepherd boy which the
Pilgrims heard. I made the music for Fatherbecause he likes
the verses.


Sositting at the dear little pianoBeth softly touched the
keysand in the sweet voice they had never thought to hear again
sang to her own accompaniment the quaint hymnwhich was a
singularly fitting song for her.


He that is down need fear no fall
He that is low no pride.
He that is humble ever shall
Have God to be his guide.


I am content with what I have
Little be itor much.
AndLord! Contentment still I crave
Because Thou savest such.


Fulness to them a burden is
That go on pilgrimage.
Here littleand hereafter bliss
Is best from age to age!


CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE


Like bees swarming after their queenmother and daughters
hovered about Mr. March the next dayneglecting everything to
look atwait uponand listen to the new invalidwho was in a
fair way to be killed by kindness. As he sat propped up in a



big chair by Beth's sofawith the other three close byand
Hannah popping in her head now and then `to peek at the dear
man'nothing seemed needed to complete their happiness. But
something was neededand the elder ones felt itthough none
confessed the fact. Mr. and Mrs. March looked at one another
with an anxious expressionas their eyes followed Meg. Jo
had sudden fits of sobrietyand was seen to shake her fist at
Mr. Brooke's umbrellawhich had been left in the hall. Meg
was absent-mindedshyand silentstarted when the bell rang
and colored when John's name was mentioned. Amy said
Everyone seemed waiting for somethingand couldn't settle down
which was queersince Father was safe at homeand Beth innocently
wondered why their neighbors didn't run over as usual.

Laurie went by in the afternoonand seeing Meg at the window
seemed suddenly possessed with a melodramatic fitfor he fell
down on one knee in the snowbeat his breasttore his hair
and clasped his hands imploringlyas if begging some boon.
And when Meg told him to behave himself and go awayhe wrung
imaginary tears out of his handkerchiefand staggered round the
corner as if in utter despair.

What does the goose mean?said Meglaughing and trying to
look unconscious.

He's showing you how your John will go on by-and-by.
Touchinisn't it?answered Jo scornfully.

Don't say my Johnit isn't proper or truebut Meg's voice
lingered over the words as if they sounded pleasant to her. "Please
don't plague meJoI've told you I don't care much about himand
there isn't to be anything saidbut we are all to be friendlyand
go on as before."

We can'tfor something has been saidand Laurie's mischief
has spoiled you for me. I see itand so does Mother. You are not
like your old self a bitand seem ever so far away from me. I
don't mean to plague you and will bear it like a manbut I do wish
it was all settled. I hate to waitso if you mean ever to do it
make haste and have it over quicklysaid Jo pettishly.

I can't say anything till he speaksand he won'tbecause
Father said I was too youngbegan Megbending over her work
with a queer little smilewhich suggested that she did not quite
agree with her father on that point.

If he did speakyou wouldn't know what to saybut would
cry or blushor let him have his own wayinstead of giving a
gooddecided no.

I'm not so silly and weak as you think. I know just what
I should sayfor I've planned it allso I needn't be taken
unawares. There's no knowing what may happenand I wished to
be prepared.

Jo couldn't help smiling at the important air which Meg had
unconsciously assumed and which was as becoming as the pretty
color varying in her cheeks.

Would you mind telling me what you'd say?asked Jo more
respectfully.

Not at all. You are sixteen nowquite old enough to be
my confidenteand my experience will be useful to you by-and-by


perhapsin your own affairs of this sort.

Don't mean to have any. It's fun to watch other people
philanderbut I should feel like a fool doing it myselfsaid
Jolooking alarmed at the thought.

I think notif you liked anyone very muchand he liked
you.Meg spoke as if to herselfand glanced out at the lane
where she had often seen lovers walking together in the summer
twilight.

I thought you were going to tell your speech to that man
said Jorudely shortening her sister's little reverie.

OhI should merely sayquite calmly and decidedly`Thank
youMr. Brookeyou are very kindbut I agree with Father that
I am too young to enter into any engagement at presentso please
say no morebut let us be friends as we were.

Humthat's stiff and cool enough! I don't believe you'll
ever say itand I know he won't be satisfied if you do. If he
goes on like the rejected lovers in booksyou'll give inrather
than hurt his feelings.

NoI won't. I shall tell him I've made up my mindand
shall walk out of the room with dignity.

Meg rose as she spokeand was just going to rehearse the
dignified exitwhen a step in the hall made her fly into her
seat and begin to sew as fast as if her life depended on finishing
that particular seam in a given time. Jo smothered a laugh
at the sudden changeand when someone gave a modest tapopened
the door with a grim aspect which was anything but hospitable.

Good afternoon. I came to get my umbrellathat isto see
how your father finds himself todaysaid Mr. Brookegetting a
trifle confused as his eyes went from one telltale face to the other.

It's very wellhe's in the rack. I'll get himand tell it
you are here.And having jumbled her father and the umbrella well
together in her replyJo slipped out of the room to give Meg a
chance to make her speech and air her dignity. But the instant she
vanishedMeg began to sidle toward the doormurmuring...

Mother will like to see you. Pray sit downI'll call her.

Don't go. Are you afraid of meMargaret?And Mr. Brooke
looked so hurt that Meg thought she must have done something very
rude. She blushed up to the little curls on her foreheadfor he
had never called her Margaret beforeand she was surprised to
find how natural and sweet it seemed to hear him say it. Anxious
to appear friendly and at her easeshe put out her hand with a
confiding gestureand said gratefully...

How can I be afraid when you have been so kind to Father?
I only wish I could thank you for it.

Shall I tell you how?asked Mr. Brookeholding the small
hand fast in both his ownand looking down at Meg with so much
love in the brown eyes that her heart began to flutterand she
both longed to run away and to stop and listen.

Oh noplease don'tI'd rather notshe saidtrying to
withdraw her handand looking frightened in spite of her denial.


I won't trouble you. I only want to know if you care for
me a littleMeg. I love you so muchdearadded Mr. Brooke
tenderly.

This was the moment for the calmproper speechbut Meg
didn't make it. She forgot every word of ithung her headand
answeredI don't knowso softly that John had to stoop down
to catch the foolish little reply.

He seemed to think it was worth the troublefor he smiled
to himself as if quite satisfiedpressed the plump hand
gratefullyand said in his most persuasive toneWill you try and
find out? I want to know so muchfor I can't go to work with
any heart until I learn whether I am to have my reward in the end
or not.

I'm too youngfaltered Megwondering was she was so
flutteredyet rather enjoying it.

I'll waitand in the meantimeyou could be learning to
like me. Would it be a very hard lessondear?

Not if I chose to learn itbut. . .

Please choose to learnMeg. I love you to teachand this
is easier than Germanbroke in Johngetting possession of the
other handso that she had no way of hiding her face as he bent
to look into it.

His tone was properly beseechingbut stealing a shy look
at himMeg saw that his eyes were merry as well as tenderand
that he wore the satisfied smile of one who had no doubt of his
success. This nettled her. Annie Moffat's foolish lessons in
coquetry came into her mindand the love of powerwhich sleeps
in the bosoms of the best of little womenwoke up all of a
sudden and took possession of her. She felt excited and
strangeand not knowing what else to dofollowed a
capricious impulseandwithdrawing her handssaid petulantly
I don't choose. Please go away and let me be!

Poor Mr. Brooke looked as if his lovely castle in the air
was tumbling about his earsfor he had never seen Meg in such
a mood beforeand it rather bewildered him.

Do you really mean that?he asked anxiouslyfollowing
her as she walked away.

YesI do. I don't want to be worried about such things.
Father says I needn'tit's too soon and I'd rather not.

Mayn't I hope you'll change your mind by-and-by? I'll
wait and say nothing till you have had more time. Don't play
with meMeg. I didn't think that of you.

Don't think of me at all. I'd rather you wouldn'tsaid
Megtaking a naughty satisfaction in trying her lover's patience
and her own power.
He was grave and pale nowand looked decidedly more like
the novel heroes whom she admiredbut he neither slapped his
forehead nor tramped about the room as they did. He just stood
looking at her so wistfullyso tenderlythat she found her
heart relenting in spite of herself. What would have happened
next I cannot sayif Aunt March had not come hobbling in at


this interesting minute.

The old lady couldn't resist her longing to see her nephew
for she had met Laurie as she took her airingand hearing of
Mr. March's arrivaldrove straight out to see him. The family
were all busy in the back part of the houseand she had made
her way quietly inhoping to surprise them. She did surprise
two of them so much that Meg started as if she had seen a
ghostand Mr. Brooke vanished into the study.

Bless mewhat's all this?cried the old lady with a rap
of her cane as she glanced from the pale young gentleman to the
scarlet young lady.

It's Father's friend. I'm so surprised to see you!stammered Meg
feeling that she was in for a lecture now.

That's evidentreturned Aunt Marchsitting down. "But
what is Father's friend saying to make you look like a peony?
There's mischief going onand I insist upon knowing what it
is with another rap.

We were only talking. Mr. Brooke came for his umbrella
began Megwishing that Mr. Brooke and the umbrella were safely
out of the house.

Brooke? That boy's tutor? Ah! I understand now. I know
all about it. Jo blundered into a wrong message in one of your
Father's lettersand I made her tell me. You haven't gone and
accepted himchild?" cried Aunt Marchlooking scandalized.

Hush! He'll hear. Shan't I call Mother?said Megmuch
troubled.

Not yet. I've something to say to youand I must free my
mind at once. Tell medo you mean to marry this Cook? If you
donot one penny of my money ever goes to you. Remember that
and be a sensible girlsaid the old lady impressively.

Now Aunt March possessed in perfection the art of rousing
the spirit of opposition in the gentlest peopleand enjoyed
doing it. The best of us have a spice of perversity in us
especially when we are young and in love. If Aunt March had
begged Meg to accept John Brookeshe would probably have
declared she couldn't think of itbut as she was preemptorily
ordered not to like himshe immediately made up her mind that
she would. Inclination as well as perversity made the decision
easyand being already much excitedMeg opposed the old lady
with unusual spirit.
I shall marry whom I pleaseAunt Marchand you can
leave your money to anyone you likeshe saidnodding her
head with a resolute air.

Highty-tighty! Is that the way you take my adviceMiss?
You'll be sorry for it by-and-bywhen you've tried love in a
cottage and found it a failure.

It can't be a worse one than some people find in big
housesretorted Meg.

Aunt March put on her glasses and took a look at the girl
for she did not know her in this new mood. Meg hardly knew
herselfshe felt so brave and independentso glad to defend
John and assert her right to love himif she liked. Aunt March


saw that she had begun wrongand after a little pausemade a
fresh startsaying as mildly as she couldNowMegmy dear
be reasonable and take my advice. I mean it kindlyand don't
want you to spoil your whole life by making a mistake at the
beginning. You ought to marry well and help your family. It's
your duty to make a rich match and it ought to be impressed
upon you.

Father and Mother don't think so. They like John though
he is poor.

Your parentsmy dearhave no more worldly wisdom than a
pair of babies.

I'm glad of itcried Meg stoutly.

Aunt March took no noticebut went on with her lecture.
This Rook is poor and hasn't got any rich relationshas he?

Nobut he has many warm friends.

You can't live on friendstry it and see how cool they'll
grow. He hasn't any businesshas he?

Not yet. Mr. Laurence is going to help him.

That won't last long. James Laurence is a crotchety old
fellow and not to be depended on. So you intend to marry a man
without moneypositionor businessand go on working harder
than you do nowwhen you might be comfortable all your days
by minding me and doing better? I thought you had more sense
Meg.

I couldn't do better if I waited half my life! John is
good and wisehe's got heaps of talenthe's willing to work
and sure to get onhe's so energetic and brave. Everyone likes
and respects himand I'm proud to think he cares for methough
I'm so poor and young and sillysaid Meglooking prettier than
ever in her earnestness.

He knows you have got rich relationschild. That's the
secret of his likingI suspect.

Aunt Marchhow dare you say such a thing? John is above
such meannessand I won't listen to you a minute if you talk so
cried Meg indignantlyforgetting everything but the injustice of
the old lady's suspicions. "My John wouldn't marry for moneyany
more than I would. We are willing to work and we mean to wait. I'm
not afraid of being poorfor I've been happy so farand I know I
shall be with him because he loves meand I..."

Meg stopped thereremembering all of a sudden that she hadn't
made up her mindthat she had told `her John' to go awayand that
he might be overhearing her inconsistent remarks.

Aunt March was very angryfor she had set her heart on having
her pretty niece make a fine matchand something in the girl's
happy young face made the lonely old woman feel both sad and sour.

WellI wash my hands of the whole affair! You are a willful
childand you've lost more than you know by this piece of folly.
NoI won't stop. I'm disappointed in youand haven't spirits to
see your father now. Don't expect anything from me when you are
married. Your Mr. Book's friends must take care of you. I'm done


with you forever.

And slamming the door in Meg's faceAunt March drove off in
high dudgeon. She seemed to take all the girl's courage with her
for when left aloneMeg stood for a momentundecided whether to
laugh or cry. Before she could make up her mindshe was taken
possession of by Mr. Brookewho said all in one breathI couldn't
help hearingMeg. Thank you for defending meand Aunt March for
proving that you do care for me a little bit.

I didn't know how much till she abused youbegan Meg.

And I needn't go awaybut my stay and be happymay Idear?

Here was another fine chance to make the crushing speech
and the stately exitbut Meg never thought of doing either
and disgraced herself forever in Jo's eyes by meekly whispering
YesJohnand hiding her face on Mr. Brooke's waistcoat.

Fifteen minutes after Aunt March's departureJo came softly
downstairspaused an instant at the parlor doorand hearing no
sound withinnodded and smiled with a satisfied expressionsaying
to herselfShe has seen him away as we plannedand that affair
is settled. I'll go and hear the funand have a good laugh over it.

But poor Jo never got her laughfor she was transfixed upon
the threshold by a spectacle which held her therestaring with
her mouth nearly as wide open as her eyes. Going in to exult over
a fallen enemy and to praise a strong-minded sister for the
banishment of an objectionable loverit certainly was a shock
to behold the aforesaid enemy serenely sitting on the sofawith the
strongminded sister enthroned upon his knee and wearing an expression of
the most abject submission. Jo gave a sort of gaspas if a cold
shower bath had suddenly fallen upon herfor such an unexpected
turning of the tables actually took her breath away. At the odd
sound the lovers turned and saw her. Meg jumped uplooking both
proud and shybut `that man'as Jo called himactually laughed
and said coollyas he kissed the astonished newcomerSister Jo
congratulate us!

That was adding insult to injuryit was altogether too much
and making some wild demonstration with her handsJo vanished
without a word. Rushing upstairsshe startled the invalids by
exclaiming tragically as she burst into the roomOhdo somebody
go down quick! John Brooke is acting dreadfullyand Meg likes it!

Mr. and Mrs. March left the room with speedand casting herself
upon the beJo cried and scolded tempestuously as she told the awful
news to Beth and Amy. The little girlshoweverconsidered it a
most agreeable and interesting eventand Jo got little comfort from
themso she went up to her refuge in the garretand confided her
troubles to the rats.

Nobody ever knew what went on in the parlor that afternoonbut
a great deal of talking was doneand quiet Mr. Brooke astonished his
friends by the eloquence and spirit with which he pleaded his suit
told his plansand persuaded them to arrange everything just as he
wanted it.

The tea bell rang before he had finished describing the paradise
which he meant to earn for Megand he proudly took her in to supper
both looking so happy that Jo hadn't the heart to be jealous or dismal.
Amy was very much impressed by John's devotion and Meg's dignityBeth
beamed at them from a distancewhile Mr. and Mrs. March surveyed the


young couple with such tender satisfaction that it was perfectly
evident Aunt March was right in calling them as `unworldly as a pair
of babies'. No one ate muchbut everyone looked very happyand the
old room seemed to brighten up amazingly when the first romance of
the family began there.


You can't say nothing pleasant ever happens nowcan youMeg?
said Amytrying to decide how she would group the lovers in a sketch
she was planning to make.
NoI'm sure I can't. How much has happened since I said that!
It seems a year agoanswered Megwho was in a blissful dream
lifted far above such common things as bread and butter.


The joys come close upon the sorrows this timeand I rather
think the changes have begunsaid Mrs. March. "In most families
there comesnow and thena year full of events. This has been such
a onebut it ends wellafter all."


Hope the next will end bettermuttered Jowho found it very
hard to see Meg absorbed in a stranger before her facefor Jo loved
a few persons very dearly and dreaded to have their affection lost
or lessened in any way.
I hope the third year from this will end better. I mean it
shallif I live to work out my planssaid Mr. Brookesmiling at
Megas if everything had become possible to him now.


Doesn't it seem very long to wait?asked Amywho was in a
hurry for the wedding.


I've got so much to learn before I shall be readyit seems
a short time to meanswered Megwith a sweet gravity in her face
never seen there before.


You have only to waitI am to do the worksaid John beginning
his labors by picking up Meg's napkinwith an expression which
caused Jo to shake her headand then say to herself with an air
of relief as the front door bangedHere comes Laurie. Now we
shall have some sensible conversation.


But Jo was mistakenfor Laurie came prancing inoverflowing
with good spiritsbearing a great bridal-looking bouquet for `Mrs.
John Brooke'and evidently laboring under the delusion that the
whole affair had been brought about by his excellent management.


I knew Brooke would have it all his own wayhe always does
for when he makes up his mind to accomplish anythingit's done
though the sky fallssaid Lauriewhen he had presented his
offering and his congratulations.


Much obliged for that recommendation. I take it as a good
omen for the future and invite you to my wedding on the spot
answered Mr. Brookewho felt at peace with all mankindeven his
mischievous pupil.


I'll come if I'm at the ens of the earthfor the sight of
Jo's face alone on that occasion would be worth a long journey.
You don't look festivema'amwhat's the matter?asked Laurie
following her into a corner of the parlorwhither all had adjourned
to greet Mr. Laurence.


I don't approve of the matchbut I've made up my mind to bear
itand shall not say a word against itsaid Jo solemnly. "You
can't know how hard it is for me to give up Meg she continued
with a little quiver in her voice.



You don't give her up. You only go halves said Laurie
consolingly.


It can never be the same again. I've lost my dearest friend
sighed Jo.


You've got meanyhow. I'm not good for muchI knowbut
I'll stand by youJoall the days of my life. Upon my word I will!"
And Laurie meant what he said.


I know you willand I'm ever so much obliged. You are always
a great comfort to meTeddyreturned Jogratefully shaking hands.
Wellnowdon't be dismalthere's a good fellow. It's all
right you see. Meg is happyBrooke will fly round and get settled
immediatelyGrandpa will attend to himand it will be very jolly
to see Meg in her own little house. We'll have capital times after
she is gonefor I shall be through college before longand then
we'll go abroad on some nice trip or other. Wouldn't that console you?


I rather think it wouldbut there's no knowing what may happen
in three yearssaid Jo thoughtfully.


That's true. Don't you wish you could take a look forward and
wee where we shall all be then? I doreturned Laurie.


I think notfor I might see something sadand everyone looks
so happy nowI don't believe they could be much improved.And Jo's
eyes went slowly round the roombrightening as they lookedfor the
prospect was a pleasant one.


Father and Mother sat togetherquietly reliving the first
chapter of the romance which for them began some twenty years ago.
Amy was drawing the loverswho sat apart in a beautiful world of
their ownthe light of which touched their faces with a grace the
little artist could not copy. Beth lay on her sofatalking cheerily
with her old friendwho held her little hand as if he felt that it
possessed the power to lead him along the peaceful way she walked.
Jo lounged in her favorite low seatwith the grave quiet look which
best became herand Laurieleaning on the back of her chairhis
chin on a level with her curly headsmiled with his friendliest
aspectand nodded at her in the long glass which reflected them both.


So the curtain falls upon MegJoBethand Amy. Whether it
ever rises againdepends upon the reception giveN the first act of
the domestic drama called LITTLE WOMEN.


LITTLE WOMEN PART 2


CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR


In order that we may start afresh and go to Meg's wedding
with free mindsit will be well to begin with a little gossip
about the Marches. And here let me premise that if any of the
elders think there is too much `lovering' in the storyas I fear
they may (I'm not afraid the young folks will make that objection)
I can only say with Mrs. MarchWhat can you expect when I have



four gay girls in the houseand a dashing young neighbor over the
way?

The three years that have passed have brought but few changes
to the quiet family. The war is overand Mr. March safely at
homebusy with his books and the small parish which found in him
a minister by nature as by gracea quietstudious manrich in
the wisdom that is better than learningthe charity which calls
all mankind `brother'the piety that blossoms into character
making it august and lovely.

These attributesin spite of poverty and the strict integrity
which shut him out from the more worldly successesattracted to
him many admirable personsas naturally as sweet herbs draw bees
and as naturally he gave them the honey into which fifty years of
hard experience had distilled no bitter drop. Earnest young men
found the gray-headed scholar as young at heart as theythoughtful
or troubled women instinctively brought their doubts to himsure
of finding the gentlest sympathythe wisest counsel. Sinners told
their sins to the pure-hearted old man and were both rebuked and
saved. Gifted men found a companion in him. Ambitious men caught
glimpses of nobler ambitions than their ownand even worldlings
confessed that his beliefs were beautiful and truealthough `they
wouldn't pay'.

To outsiders the five energetic women seemed to rule the house
and so they did in many thingsbut the quiet scholarsitting among
his bookswas still the head of the familythe household conscience
anchorand comforterfor to him the busyanxious women always
turned in troublous timesfinding himin the truest sense of those
sacred wordshusband and father.

The girls gave their hearts into their mother's keepingtheir
souls into their father'sand to both parentswho lived and labored
so faithfully for themthey gave a love that grew with their growth
and bound them tenderly together by the sweetest tie which blesses
life and outlives death.

Mrs. March is as brisk and cheerythough rather grayerthan
when we saw her lastand just now so absorbed in Meg's affairs that
the hospitals and homes still full of wounded `boys' and soldiers'
widowsdecidedly miss the motherly missionary's visits.

John Brooke did his duty manfully for a yeargot woundedwas
sent homeand not allowed to return. He received no stars or bars
but he deserved themfor he cheerfully risked all he hadand life
and love are very precious when both are in full bloom. Perfectly
resigned to his dischargehe devoted himself to getting well
preparing for businessand earning a home for Meg. With the good
sense and sturdy independence that characterized himhe refused
Mr. Laurence's more generous offersand accepted the place of
bookkeeperfeeling better satisfied to begin with an honestly earned
salary than by running any risks with borrowed money.

Meg had spent the time in working as well as waitinggrowing
womanly in characterwise in housewifely artsand prettier than
everfor love is a great beautifier. She had her girlish ambitions
and hopesand felt some disappointment at the humble way in which
the new life must begin. Ned Moffat had just married Sallie Gardiner
and Meg couldn't help contrasting their fine house and carriage
many giftsand splendid outfit with her ownand secretly wishing
she could have the same. But somehow envy and discontent soon
vanished when she thought of all the patient love and labor John had
put into the little home awaiting herand when they sat together in


the twilighttalking over their small plansthe future always grew
so beautiful and bright that she forgot Sallie's splendor and felt
herself the richesthappiest girl in Christendom.

Jo never went back to Aunt Marchfor the old lady took such
a fancy to AMy that she bribed her with the offer of drawing lessons
from one of the best teachers goingand for the sake of this
advantageAmy would have served a far harder mistress. So she gave her
mornings to dutyher afternoons to pleasureand prospered finely.
Jo meantime devoted herself to literature and Bethwho remained
delicate long after the fever was a thing of the past. Not an
invalid exactlybut never again the rosyhealthy creature she had
beenyet always hopefulhappyand sereneand busy with the quiet
duties she lovedeveryone's friendand an angel in the houselong
before those who loved her most had learned to know it.

As long as THE SPREAD EAGLE paid her a dollar a column for her
`rubbish'as she called itJo felt herself a woman of meansand
spun her little romances diligently. But great plans fermented in
her busy brain and ambitious mindand the old tin kitchen in the
garret held a slowly increasing pile of blotted manuscriptwhich
was one day to place the name of March upon the roll of fame.

Lauriehaving dutifully gone to college to please his grandfather
was now getting through it in the easiest possible manner
to please himself. A universal favoritethanks to moneymanners
much talentand the kindest heart that ever got its owner into
scrapes by trying to get other people out of themhe stood in
great danger of being spoiledand probably would have beenlike
many another promising boyif he had not possessed a talisman
against evil in the memory of the kind old man who was bound up in
his successthe motherly friend who watched over him as if he were
her sonand lastbut not least by any meansthe knowledge that
four innocent girls lovedadmiredand believed in him with all
their hearts.

Being only `a glorious human boy'of course he frolicked and
flirtedgrew dandifiedaquaticsentimentalor gymnasticas
college fashions ordainedhazed and was hazedtalked slangand
more than once came perilously near suspension and expulsion. But
as high spirits and the love of fun were the causes of these pranks
he always managed to save himself by frank confessionhonorable
atonementor the irresistible power of persuasion which he possessed
in perfection. In facthe rather prided himself on his narrow
escapesand liked to thrill the girls with graphic accounts of his
triumphs over wrathful tutorsdignified professorsand vanquished
enemies. The `men of my class'were heroes in the eyes of the girls
who never wearied of the exploits of `our fellows'and were frequently
allowed to bask in the smiles of these great creatureswhen Laurie
brought them home with him.

Amy especially enjoyed this high honorand became quite a belle
among themfor her ladyship early felt and learned to use the gift
of fascination with which she was endowed. Meg was too much absorbed
in her private and particular John to care for any other lords of
creationand Beth too shy to do more than peep at them and wonder
how Amy dared to order them about sobut Jo felt quite in her own
elementand found it very difficult to refrain from imitating the
gentlemanly attitudesphrasesand featswhich seemed more natural
to her than the decorums prescribed for young ladies. They all liked
Jo immenselybut never fell in love with herthough very few escaped
without paying the tribute of a sentimental sigh or two at Amy's shrine.
And speaking of sentiment brings us very naturally to the `Dovecote'.


That was the name of the little brown house Mr. Brooke had prepared
for Meg's first home. Laurie had christened itsaying it was
highly appropriate to the gentle lovers who `went on together like a
pair of turtledoveswith first a bill and then a coo'. It was a
tiny housewith a little garden behind and a lawn about as big as a
pocket handkerchief in the front. Here Meg meant to have a fountain
shrubberyand a profusion of lovely flowersthough just at present
the fountain was represented by a weather-beaten urnvery like a
dilapidated slopbowlthe shrubbery consisted of several young larches
undecided whether to live or dieand the profusion of flowers was
merely hinted by regiments of sticks to show where seeds were planted.
But insideit was altogether charmingand the happy bride saw no
fault from garret to cellar. To be surethe hall was so narrow it
was fortunate that they had no pianofor one never could have been
got in wholethe dining room was so small that six people were a
tight fitand the kitchen stairs seemed built for the express
purpose of precipitating both servants and china pell-mell into the
coalbin. But once get used to these slight blemishes and nothing
could be more completefor good sense and good taste had presided
over the furnishingand the result was highly satisfactory. There
were no marble-topped tableslong mirrorsor lace curtains in the
little parlorbut simple furnitureplenty of booksa fine picture
or twoa stand of flowers in the bay windowandscattered all
aboutthe pretty gifts which came from friendly hands and were the
fairer for the loving messages they brought.

I don't think the Parian Psyche Laurie gave lost any of its
beauty because John put up the bracket it stood uponthat any
upholsterer could have draped the plain muslin curtains more
gracefully than Amy's artistic handor that any store-room was ever
better provided with good wishesmerry wordsand happy hopes
than that in which Jo and her mother put away Meg's few boxes
barrelsand bundlesand I am morally certain that the spandy new
kitchen never could have looked so cozy and neat if Hannah had not
arranged every pot and pan a dozen times overand laid the fire
all ready for lighting the minute `Mis. Brooke came home'. I also
doubt if any young matron ever began life with so rich a supply of
dustersholdersand piece bagsfor Beth made enough to last till
the silver wedding came roundand invented three different kinds
of dishcloths for the express service of the bridal china.

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

What happy times they had planning togetherwhat solemn
shopping excursionswhat funny mistakes they madeand what
shouts of laughter arose over Laurie's ridiculous bargains. In
his love of jokesthis young gentlemanthough nearly through
collegewas a much of a boy as ever. His last whim had been to
bring with him on his weekly visits some newusefuland ingenious
article for the young housekeeper. Now a bag of remarkable
clothespinsnexta wonderful nutmeg grater which fell to pieces at the
first triala knife cleaner that spoiled all the knivesor a
sweeper that picked the nap neatly off the carpet and left the dirt
labor-saving soap that took the skin off one's handsinfallible
cements which stuck firmly to nothing but the fingers of the
deluded buyerand every kind of tinwarefrom a toy savings bank for
odd penniesto a wonderful boiler which would wash articles in its
own steam with every prospect of exploding in the process.

In vain Meg begged him to stop. John laughed at himand Jo called


him `Mr. Toodles'. He was possessed with a mania for patronizing
Yankee ingenuityand seeing his friends fitly furnished forth.
So each week beheld some fresh absurdity.

Everything was done at lasteven to Amy's arranging different
colored soaps to match the different colored roomsand Beth's
setting the table for the first meal.

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

YesMotherperfectly satisfiedthanks to you alland so
happy that I can't talk about itwith a look that was far better
than words.

If she only had a servant or two it would be all rightsaid Amy
coming out of the parlorwhere she had been trying to decide whether
the bronze Mercury looked best on the whatnot or the mantlepiece.

Mother and I have talked that overand I have made up my
mind to try her way first. There will be so little to do that with
Lotty to run my errands and help me here and thereI shall only
have enough work to keep me from getting lazy or homesickanswered
Meg tranquilly.

Sallie Moffat has fourbegan Amy.

If Meg had fourthe house wouldn't hold themand master and
missis would have to camp in the gardenbroke in Jowhoenveloped
in a big blue pinaforewas giving the last polish to the door handles.

Sallie isn't a poor man's wifeand many maids are in keeping
with her fine establishment. Meg and John begin humblybut I have
a feeling that there will be quite as much happiness in the little
house as in the big one. It's a great mistake for young girls like
Meg to leave themselves nothing to do but dressgive ordersand
gossip. When I was first marriedI used to long for my new clothes
to wear out or get tornso that i might have the pleasure of mending
themfor I got heartily sick of doing fancywork and tending my
pocket handkerchief.

Why didn't you go into the kitchen and make messesas Sallie
says she does to amuse herselfthough they never turn out well and
the servants laugh at hersaid Meg.

I did after a whilenot to `mess' but to learn of Hannah how
things should be donethat my servants need not laugh at me. It
was play thenbut there came a time when I was truly grateful that
I not only possessed the will but the power to cook wholesome food
for my little girlsand help myself when I could no longer afford
to hire help. You begin at the other endMegdearbut the lessons
you learn now will be of use to you by-and-by when John is a richer
manfor the mistress of a househowever splendidshould know how
work ought to be doneif she wishes to be well and honestly served.

YesMotherI'm sure of thatsaid Meglistening respectfully
to the little lecturefor the best of women will hold forth
upon the all absorbing subject of house keeping. "Do you know I
like this room most of all in my baby house added Mega minute
afteras they went upstairs and she looked into her well-stored
linen closet.


Beth was therelaying the snowy piles smoothly on the shelves
and exulting over the goodly array. All three laughed as Meg spoke
for that linen closet was a joke. You seehaving said that if Meg
married `that Brooke' she shouldn't have a cent of her moneyAunt
March was rather in a quandary when time had appeased her wrath and
made her repent her vow. She never broke her wordand was much
exercised in her mind how to get round itand at last devised a
plan whereby she could satisfy herself. Mrs. CarrolFlorence's
mammawas ordered to buyhave madeand marked a generous supply
of house and table linenand send it as her presentall of which
was faithfully donebut the secret leaked outand was greatly
enjoyed by the familyfor Aunt March tried to look utterly
unconsciousand insisted that she could give nothing but the
old-fashioned pearls long promised to the first bride.

That's a housewifely taste which I am glad to see. I had a
young friend who set up housekeeping with six sheetsbut she had
finger bowls for company and that satisfied her said Mrs. March
patting the damask tableclothswith a truly feminine appreciation
of their fineness.

I haven't a single finger bowlbut this is a setout that will
last me all my daysHannah says." And Meg looked quite contented
as well she might.

A tallbroad-shouldered young fellowwith a cropped heada
felt basin of a hatand a flyaway coatcame tramping down the
road at a great pacewalked over the low fence without stopping to
open the gatestraight up to Mrs. Marchwith both hands out and
a hearty . ..

Here I amMother! Yesit's all right.

The last words were in answer to the look the elder lady gave
hima kindly questioning look which the handsome eyes met so
frankly that the little ceremony closedas usualwith a motherly
kiss.

For Mrs. John Brookewith the maker's congratulations and
compliments. Bless youBeth! What a refreshing spectacle you
areJo. Amyyou are getting altogether too handsome for a
single lady.

As Laurie spokehe delivered a brown paper parcel to Meg
pilled Beth's hair ribbonstared at Jo's bib pinaforeand fell
into an attitude of mock rapture before Amythen shook hands all
roundand everyone began to talk.

Where is John?asked Meg anxiously.

Stopped to get the license for tomorrowma'am.

Which side won the last matchTeddy?inquired Jowho persisted
in feeling an interest in manly sports despite her nineteen years.

Oursof course. Wish you'd been there to see.

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

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

What's the last joke? Undo the bundle and seeMegsaid


Betheying the knobby parcel with curiosity.


It's a useful thing to have in the house in case of fire
or thievesobserved Laurieas a watchman's rattle appeared
amid the laughter of the girls.


Any time when John is away and you get frightenedMrs.
Megjust swing that out of the front windowand it will rouse
the neighborhood in a jiffy. Nice thingisn't it?And Laurie
gave them a sample of its powers that made them cover up their ears.


There's gratitude for you! And speaking of gratitude reminds
me to mention that you may thank Hannah for saving your wedding cake
from destruction. I saw it going into your house as I came byand
if she hadn't defended it manfully I'd have had a pick at itfor it
looked like a remarkably plummy one.


I wonder if you will ever grow upLauriesaid Meg in a
matronly tone.


I'm doing my bestma'ambut can't get much higherI'm afraid
as six feet is about all men can do in these degenerate days
responded the young gentlemanwhose head was about level with the
little chandelier.


I suppose it would be profanation to eat anything in this
spick-and-span bowerso as I'm tremendously hungry
I propose an adjournmenthe added presently.


Mother and I are going to wait for John. There are some last
things to settlesaid Megbustling away.


Beth and I are going over to Kitty Bryant's to get more flowers
for tomorrowadded Amytying a picturesque hat over her picturesque
curlsand enjoying the effect as much as anybody.


ComeJodon't desert a fellow. I'm in such a state of exhaustion
I can't get home without help. Don't take off your apron
whatever you doit's peculiarly becomingsaid Laurieas Jo
bestowed his especial aversion in her capacious pocket and offered
her arm to support his feeble steps.


NowTeddyI want to talk seriously to you about tomorrow
began Joas they strolled away together. "You must promise to
behave welland not cut up any pranksand spoil our plans."


Not a prank.


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


I never do. You are the one for that.


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


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


I never cry unless for some great affliction.


Such as fellows going to collegehey?cut in Lauriewith
suggestive laugh.


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



company.
Exactly. I sayJohow is Grandpa this week? Pretty amiable?


Very. Whyhave you got into a scrape and want to know how
he'll take it?asked Jo rather sharply.


NowJodo you think I'd look your mother in the face and say
`All right'if it wasn't?And Laurie stopped shortwith an injured
air.


NoI don't.


Then don't go and be suspicious. I only want some moneysaid
Lauriewalking on againappeased by her hearty tone.


You spend a great dealTeddy.


Bless youI don't spend itit spends itself somehowand is
gone before I know it.


You are so generous and kind-hearted that you let people borrow
and can't say `No' to anyone. We heard about Henshaw and all you did
for him. If you always spent money in that wayno one would blame
yousaid Jo warmly.


Ohhe made a mountain out of a molehill. You wouldn't have me
let that fine fellow work himself to death just for want of a little
helpwhen he is worth a dozen of us lazy chapswould you?


Of course notbut I don't see the use of your having seventeen
waistcoatsendless necktiesand a new hat every time you come home.
I thought you'd got over the dandy periodbut every now and then it
breaks out in a new spot. Just now it's the fashion to be hideous
to make your head look like a scrubbing brushwear a strait jacket
orange glovesand clumping square-toed boots. If it was cheap
uglinessI'd say nothingbut it costs as much as the otherand I
don't get any satisfaction out of it.


Laurie threw back his headand laughed so heartily at this
attackthat the felt hat fell offand Jo walked on itwhich
insult only afforded him an opportunity for expatiating on the
advantages of a rough-and-ready costumeas he folded up the
maltreated hatand stuffed it into his pocket.


Don't lecture any morethere's a good soul! I have enough
all through the weekand like to enjoy myself when I come home.
I'll get myself up regardless of expense tomorrow and be a
satisfaction to my friends.


I'll leave you in peace if you'll only let your hair grow.
I'm not aristocraticbut I do object to being seen with a person
who looks like a young prize fighterobserved Jo severely.


This unassuming style promotes studythat's why we adopt it
returned Lauriewho certainly could not be accused of vanityhaving
voluntarily sacrificed a handsome curly crop to the demand for
quarterinch-long stubble.


By the wayJoI think that little Parker is really getting
desperate about Amy. He talks of her constantlywrites poetryand
moons about in a most suspicious manner. He'd better nip his little
passion in the budhadn't he?added Lauriein a confidential
elder brotherly toneafter a minute's silence.



Of course he had. We don't want any more marrying in this
family for years to come. Mercy on uswhat are the children
thinking of?And Jo looked as much scandalized as if Amy and little
Parker were not yet in their teens.

It's a fast ageand I don't know what we are coming toma'am.
You are a mere infantbut you'll go nextJoand we'll be left
lamentingsaid Laurieshaking his head over the degeneracy of the
times.

Don't be alarmed. I'm not one of the agreeable sort. Nobody
will want meand it's a mercyfor there should always be one old
maid in a family.

You won't give anyone a chancesaid Lauriewith a sidelong
glance and a little more color than before in his sunburned face.
You won't show the soft side of your characterand if a fellow
gets a peep at it by accident and can't help showing that he likes
ityou treat him as Mrs. Gummidge did her sweetheartthrow cold
water over himand get so thorny no one dares touch or look at you.

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

Whatever his feelings might have beenLaurie found a vent for
them in a long low whistle and the fearful prediction as they parted
at the gateMark my wordsJoyou'll go next.

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

The June roses over the porch were awake bright and early on
that morningrejoicing with all their hearts in the cloudless
sunshinelike friendly little neighborsas they were. Quite flushed
with excitement were their ruddy facesas they swung in the wind
whispering to one another what they had seenfor some peeped in at
the dining room windows where the feast was spreadsome climbed up
to nod and smile at the sisters as they dressed the brideothers
waved a welcome to those who came and went on various errands in
gardenporchand halland allfrom the rosiest full-blown
flower to the palest baby budoffered their tribute of beauty and
fragrance to the gentle mistress who had loved and tended them so
long.

Meg looked very like a rose herselffor all that was best and
sweetest in heart and soul seemed to bloom into her face that day
making it fair and tenderwith a charm more beautiful than beauty.
Neither silklacenor orange flowers would she have. "I don't
want a fashionable weddingbut only those about me whom I love
and to them I wish to look and be my familiar self."

So she made her wedding gown herselfsewing into it the tender
hopes and innocent romances of a girlish heart. her sisters braided
up her pretty hairand the only ornaments she wore were the lilies
of the valleywhich `her John' liked best of all the flowers that
grew.

You do look just like our own dear Megonly so very sweet
and lovely that I should hug you if it wouldn't crumple your dress


cried Amysurveying her with delight when all was done.


Then I am satisfied. But please hug and kiss meeveryone
and don't mind my dress. I want a great many crumples of this
sort put into it today.And Meg opened her arms to her sisters
who clung about her with April faces for a minutefeeling that
the new love had not changed the old.


Now I'm going to tie John's cravat for himand then to stay
a few minutes with Father quietly in the study.And Meg ran
down to perform these little ceremoniesand then to follow her
mother wherever she wentconscious that in spite of the smiles
on the motherly facethere was a secret sorrow hid in the motherly
heart at the flight of the first bird from the nest.


As the younger girls stand togethergiving the last touches
to their simple toiletit may be a good time to tell of a few
changes which three years have wrought in their appearancefor
all are looking their best just now.


Jo's angles are much softenedshe has learned to carry herself
with easeif not grace. The curly crop has lengthened into
a thick coilmore becoming to the small head atop of the tall
figure. There is a fresh color in her brown cheeksa soft shine
in her eyesand only gentle words fall from her sharp tongue today.


Beth has grown slenderpaleand more quiet than ever. The
beautifulkind eyes are largerand in them lies an expression
that saddens onealthough it is not sad itself. It is the shadow
of pain which touches the young face with such pathetic patience
but Beth seldom complains and always speaks hopefully of `being
better soon'.


Amy is with truth considered `the flower of the family'for
at sixteen she has the air and bearing of a full-grown womannot
beautifulbut possessed of that indescribable charm called grace.
One saw it in the lines of her figurethe make and motion of her
handsthe flow of her dressthe droop of her hairunconscious
yet harmoniousand as attractive to many as beauty itself. Amy's
nose still afflicted herfor it never would grow Grecianso did
her mouthbeing too wideand having a decided chin. These offending
features gave character to her whole facebut she never could see it
and consoled herself with her wonderfully fair complexion
keen blue eyesand curls more golden and abundant than ever.


All three wore suits of thin silver gray (their best gowns for
the summer)with blush roses in hair and bosomand all three
looked just what they werefresh-facedhappy-hearted girlspausing
a moment in their busy lives to read with wistful eyes the sweetest
chapter in the romance of womanhood.


There were to be no ceremonious performanceseverything was
to be as natural and homelike as possibleso when Aunt March arrived
she was scandalized to see the bride come running to welcome and lead her in
to find the bridegroom fastening up a garland that had fallen down
and to catch a glimpse of the paternal minister marching upstairs
with a grave countenance and a wine bottle under each arm.


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


I'm not a showAuntyand no one is coming to stare at me



to criticize my dressor count the cost of my luncheon. I'm too
happy to care what anyone says or thinksand I'm going to have
my little wedding just as I like it. Johndearhere's your
hammer.And away went Meg to help `that man' in his highly
improper employment.

Mr. Brooke didn't even sayThank youbut as he stooped
for the unromantic toolhe kissed his little bride behind the
folding doorwith a look that made Aunt March whisk out her
pocket handkerchief with a sudden dew in her sharp old eyes.

A crasha cryand a laugh from Laurieaccompanied by the
indecorous exclamationJupiter Ammon! Jo's upset the cake again!
caused a momentary flurrywhich was hardly over when a flock of
cousins arrivedand `the party came in'as Beth used to say when
a child.

Don't let that young giant come near mehe worries me worse
than mosquitoeswhispered the old lady to Amyas the rooms filled
and Laurie's black head towered above the rest.

He has promised to be very good todayand he can be perfectly
elegant if he likesreturned Amyand gliding away to warn
Hercules to beware of the dragonwhich warning caused him to haunt
the old lady with a devotion that nearly distracted her.

There was no bridal processionbut a sudden silence fell upon
the room as Mr. March and the young couple took their places under
the green arch. Mother and sisters gathered closeas if loath to
give Meg up. The fatherly voice broke more than oncewhich only
seemed to make the service more beautiful and solemn. The bridegroom's
hand trembled visiblyand no one heard his replies. But Meg
looked straight up in her husband's eyesand saidI will!
with such tender trust in her own face and voice that her mother's
heart rejoiced and Aunt March sniffed audibly.

Jo did not crythough she was very near it onceand was only
saved from a demonstration by the consciousness that Laurie was
staring fixedly at herwith a comical mixture of merriment and
emotion in his wicked black eyes. Beth kept her face hidden on her
mother's shoulderbut Amy stood like a graceful statuewith a
most becoming ray of sunshine touching her white forehead and the
flower in her hair.

It wasn't at all the thingI'm afraidbut the minute she was
fairly marriedMeg criedThe first kiss for Marmee!and turning
gave it with her heart on her lips. During the next fifteen minutes
she looked more like a rose than everfor everyone availed themselves
of their privileges to the fullest extentfrom Mr. Laurence
to old Hannahwhoadorned with a headdress fearfully and
wonderfully madefell upon her in the hallcrying with a sob
and a chuckleBless youdearya hundred times! The cake ain't
hurt a miteand everything looks lovely.

Everybody cleared up after thatand said something brilliant
or tried towhich did just as wellfor laughter is ready when
hearts are light. There was no display of giftsfor they were
already in the little housenor was there an elaborate breakfast
but a plentiful lunch of cake and fruitdressed with flowers.
Mr. Laurence and Aunt March shrugged and smiled at one another when
waterlemonadeand coffee were found to be to only sorts of
nectar which the three Hebes carried around. No one said anything
till Lauriewho insisted on serving the brideappeared before her
with a loaded salver in his hand and a puzzled expression on his face.


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


Noyour grandfather kindly offered us his bestand Aunt
March actually sent somebut Father put away a little for Beth
and dispatched the rest to the Soldier's Home. You know he thinks
that wine should be used only in illnessand Mother says that
neither she nor her daughters will ever offer it to any young man
under her roof.


Meg spoke seriously and expected to see Laurie frown or laugh
but he did neitherfor after a quick look at herhe saidin
his impetuous wayI like that! For I've seen enough harm done
to wish other women would think as you do.


You are not made wise by experienceI hope?And there was
an anxious accent in Meg's voice.


No. I give you my word for it. Don't think too well of me
eitherthis is not one of my temptations. Being brought up where
wine is as common as water and almost as harmlessI don't care for
itbut when a pretty girl offers itone doesn't like to refuse
you see.


But you willfor the sake of othersif not for your own.
ComeLauriepromiseand give me one more reason to call this the
happiest day of my life.


A demand so sudden and so serious made the young man hesitate
a momentfor ridicule is often harder to bear than self-denial.
Meg knew that if he gave the promise he would keep it at all costs
and feeling her powerused it as a woman may for her friend's good.
She did not speakbut she looked up at him with a face made very
eloquent by happinessand a smile which saidNo one can refuse
me anything today.


Laurie certainly could notand with an answering smilehe
gave her his handsaying heartilyI promiseMrs. Brooke!


I thank youveryvery much.


And I drink `long life to your resolution'Teddycried Jo
baptizing him with a splash of lemonadeas she waved her glass and
beamed approvingly upon him.


So the toast was drunkthe pledge made and loyally kept in
spite of many temptationsfor with instinctive wisdomthe girls
seized a happy moment to do their friend a servicefor which he
thanked them all his life.


After lunchpeople strolled aboutby twos and threesthrough
the house and gardenenjoying the sunshine without and within. Meg
and John happened to be standing together in the middle of the grass
plotwhen Laurie was seized with an inspiration which put the
finishing touch to this unfashionable wedding.


All the married people take hands and dance round the new-made
husband and wifeas the Germans dowhile we bachelors and spinsters
prance in couples outside!cried Lauriepromenading down the path
with Amywith such infectious spirit and skill that everyone else
followed their example without a murmur. Mr. and Mrs. MarchAunt
and Uncle Carrol began itothers rapidly joined ineven Sallie



Moffatafter a moment's hesitationthrew her train over her arm
and whisked Ned into the ring. But the crowning joke was Mr.
Laurence and Aunt Marchfor when the stately old gentleman chass'ed
solemnly up to the old ladyshe just tucked her cane under armand
hopped briskly away to join hands with the rest and dance about the
bridal pairwhile the young folks pervaded the garden like butterflies
on a midsummer day.

Want of breath brought the impromptu ball to a closeand then
people began to go.

I wish you wellmy dearI heartily wish you wellbut I think
you'll be sorry for itsaid Aunt March to Megadding to the
bridegroomas he led her to the carriageYou've got a treasure
young mansee that you deserve it.

That is the prettiest wedding I've been to for an ageNedand
I don't see whyfor there wasn't a bit of style about itobserved
Mrs. Moffat to her husbandas they drove away.

Lauriemy ladif you ever want to indulge in this sort of
thingget one of those little girls to help youand I shall be
perfectly satisfiedsaid Mr. Laurencesettling himself in his
easy chair to rest after the excitement of the morning.

I'll do my best to gratify youSirwas Laurie's unusually
dutiful replyas he carefully unpinned the posy Jo had put in his
buttonhole.

The little house was not far awayand the only bridal journey
Meg had was the quiet walk with John from the old home to the new.
When she came downlooking like a pretty Quakeress in her
dovecolored suit and straw bonnet tied with whitethey all gathered
about her to say goodbyas tenderly as if she had been going to
make the grand tour.

Don't feel that I am separated from youMarmee dearor that
I love you any the less for loving John so muchshe saidclinging
to her motherwith full eyes for a moment. "I shall come every day
Fatherand expect to keep my old place in all your heartsthough I
am married. Beth is going to be with me a great dealand the other
girls will drop in now and then to laugh at my housekeeping struggles.
Thank you all for my happy wedding day. Goodbygoodby!"

They stood watching herwith faces full of love and hope and
tender pride as she walked awayleaning on her husband's armwith
her hands full of flowers and the June sunshine brightening her happy
face--and so Meg's married life began.

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

It takes people a long time to learn the difference between
talent and geniusespecially ambitious young men and women.
Amy was learning this distinction through much tribulationfor
mistaking enthusiasm for inspirationshe attempted every branch of
art with youthful audacity. For a long time there was a lull in
the `mud-pie' businessand she devoted herself to the finest
pen-and-ink drawingin which she showed such taste and skill that
her graceful handiwork proved both pleasant and profitable. But
over-strained eyes caused pen and ink to be laid aside for a bold
attempt at poker sketching.


While this attack lastedthe family lived in constant fear
of a conflagrationfor the odor of burning wood pervaded the
house at all hourssmoke issued from attic and shed with
alarming frequencyred-hot pokers lay about promiscuouslyand Hannah
never went to bed without a pail of water and the dinner bell at
her door in case of fire. Raphael's face was found boldly executed
on the underside of the moulding boardand Bacchus on the head of a
beer barrel. A chanting cherub adorned the cover of the sugar bucket
and attempts to portray Romeo and Juliet supplied kindling for some time.

From fire to oil was a natural transition for burned fingers
and Amy fell to painting with undiminished ardor. An artist friend
fitted her out with his castoff palettesbrushesand colorsand
she daubed awayproducing pastoral and marine views such as were
never seen on land or sea. Her monstrosities in the way of cattle
would have taken prizes at an agricultural fairand the perilous
pitching of her vessels would have produced seasickness in the most
nautical observerif the utter disregard to all known rules of
shipbuilding and rigging had not convulsed him with laughter at the
first glance. Swarthy boys and dark-eyed Madonnasstaring at you
from one corner of the studiosuggested Murillo. Oily brown shadows
of faces with a lurid streak in the wrong placemeant Rembrandt.
Buxom ladies and dropiscal infantsRubensand Turner appeared in
tempests of blue thunderorange lightningbrown rainand purple
cloudswith a tomato-colored splash in the middlewhich might be
the sun or a bouya sailor's shirt or a king's robeas the
spectator pleased.

Charcoal portraits came nextand the entire family hung in a
rowlooking as wild and crocky as if just evoked from a coalbin.
Softened into crayon sketchesthey did betterfor the likenesses
were goodand Amy's hairJo's noseMeg's mouthand Laurie's
eyes were pronounced `wonderfully fine'. A return to clay and
plaster followedand ghostly casts of her acquaintances haunted
corners of the houseor tumbled off closet shelves onto people's
heads. Children were enticed in as modelstill their incoherent
accounts of her mysterious doings caused Miss Amy to be regarded in
the light of a young ogress. Her efforts in this linehowever
were brought to an abrupt close by an untoward accidentwhich
quenched her ardor. Other models failing her for a timeshe
undertook to cast her own pretty footand the family were one day
alarmed by an unearthly bumping and screaming and running to the rescue
found the young enthusiast hopping wildly about the shed with her
foot held fast in a pan full of plasterwhich had hardened with
unexpected rapidity. With much difficulty and some danger she was
dug outfor Jo was so overcome with laughter while she excavated
that her knife went too farcut the poor footand left a lasting
memorial of one artistic attemptat least.

After this Amy subsidedtill a mania for sketching from nature
set her to haunting riverfieldand woodfor picturesque studies
and sighing for ruins to copy. She caught endless colds sitting on
damp grass to book `delicious bit'composed of a stonea stumpone
mushroomand a broken mullein stalkor `a heavenly mass of clouds'
that looked like a choice display of featherbeds when done. She
sacrificed her complexion floating on the river in the midsummer sun to
study light and shadeand got a wrinkle over her nose trying after
`points of sight'or whatever the squint-and-string performance is called.

If `genius is eternal patience'as Michelangelo affirmsAmy
had some claim to the divine attributefor she persevered in spite
of all obstaclesfailuresand discouragementsfirmly believing
that in time she should do something worthy to be called `high art'.


She was learningdoingand enjoying other thingsmeanwhile
for she had resolved to be an attractive and accomplished woman
even if she never became a great artist. Here she succeeded better
for she was one of those happily created beings who please without
effortmake friends everywhereand take life so gracefully and
easily that less fortunate souls are tempted to believe that such
are born under a lucky star. Everybody liked herfor among her
good gifts was tact. She had an instinctive sense of what was
pleasing and properalways said the right thing to the right person
did just what suited the time and placeand was so self-possessed
that her sisters used to sayIf Amy went to court without any
rehearsal beforehandshe'd know exactly what to do.


One of her weaknesses was a desire to move in `our best society'
without being quite sure what the best really was. Moneyposition
fashionable accomplishmentsand elegant manners were most desirable
things in her eyesand she liked to associate with those who
possessed themoften mistaking the false for the trueand admiring what
was not admirable. Never forgetting that by birth she was a gentlewoman
she cultivated her aristocratic tastes and feelingsso that when
the opportunity came she might be ready to take the place from
which poverty now excluded her.


My ladyas her friends called hersincerely desired to be
a genuine ladyand was so at heartbut had yet to learn that money
cannot buy refinement of naturethat rank does not always confer
nobilityand that true breeding makes itself felt in spite of
external drawbacks.


I want to ask a favor of youMammaAmy saidcoming in
with an important air one day.


Welllittle girlwhat is it?replied her motherin whose
eyes the stately young lady still remained `the baby'.


Our drawing class breaks up next weekand before the girls
separate for the summerI want to ask them out here for a day. They
are wild to see the riversketch the broken bridgeand copy some
of the things they admire in my book. They have been very kind to
me in many waysand I am gratefulfor they are all rich and I know
I am pooryet they never made any difference.


Why should they?And Mrs. March put the question with what
the girls called her `Maria Theresa air'.


You know as well as I that it does make a difference with
nearly everyoneso don't ruffle up like a dearmotherly henwhen
your chickens get pecked by smarter birds. The ugly duckling turned
out a swanyou know.And Amy smiled without bitternessfor she
possessed a happy temper and hopeful spirit.


Mrs. March laughedand smoothed down her maternal pride as
she askedWellmy swanwhat is your plan?


I should like to ask the girls out to lunch next weekto take
them for a drive to the places they want to seea row on the river
perhapsand make a little artistic fete for them.


That looks feasible. What do you want for lunch? Cake
sandwichesfruitand coffee will be all that is necessaryI suppose?


Ohdearno! We must have cold tongue and chickenFrench
chocolate and ice creambesides. The girls are used to such things
and I want my lunch to be proper and elegantthough I do work for



my living.

How many young ladies are there?asked her motherbeginning
to look sober.

Twelve or fourteen in the classbut I dare say they won't all come.

Bless mechildyou will have to charter an omnibus to carry
them about.

WhyMotherhow can you think of such a thing? Not more than
six or eight will probably comeso I shall hire a beach wagon and
borrow Mr. Laurence's cherry-bounce.(Hannah's pronunciation of
charabanc.)

All of this will be expensiveAmy.

Not very. I've calculated the costand I'll pay for it myself.

Don't you thinkdearthat as these girls are used to such
thingsand the best we can do will be nothing newthat some simpler
plan would be pleasanter to themas a change if nothing moreand
much better for us than buying or borrowing what we don't needand
attempting a style not in keeping with our circumstances?

If I can't have it as I likeI don't care to have it at all.
I know that I can carry it out perfectly wellif you and the girls
will help a littleand I don't see why I can't if I'm willing to pay
for itsaid Amywith the decision which opposition was apt to
change into obstinacy.

Mrs. March knew that experience was an excellent teacherand
when it was possible she left her children to learn alone the lessons
which she would gladly have made easierif they had not objected to
taking advice as much as they did salts and senna.

Very wellAmyif your heart is set upon itand you see your
way through without too great an outlay of moneytimeand temper
I'll say no more. Talk it over with the girlsand whichever way
you decideI'll do my best to help you.

ThanksMotheryou are always so kind.And away went Amy to
lay her plan before her sisters.
Meg agreed at onceand promised to her aidgladly offering
anything she possessedfrom her little house itself to her very
best saltspoons. But Jo frowned upon the whole project and would
have nothing to do with it at first.

Why in the world should you spend your moneyworry your family
and turn the house upside down for a parcel of girls who don't care a
sixpence for you? I thought you had too much pride and sense to
truckle to any mortal woman just because she wears French boots and
rides in a coupesaid Jowhobeing called from the tragic climax
of her novelwas not in the best mood for social enterprises.

I don't truckleand I hate being patronized as much as you do!
returned Amy indignantlyfor the two still jangled when such
questions arose. "The girls do care for meand I for themand there's a
great deal of kindness and sense and talent among themin spite of
what you call fashionable nonsense. You don't care to make people
like youto go into good societyand cultivate your manners and
tastes. I doand I mean to make the most of every chance that comes.
You can go through the world with your elbows out and your nose in the
airand call it independenceif you like. That's not my way."


When Amy had whetted her tongue and freed her mind she usually
got the best of itfor she seldom failed to have common sense on her
sidewhile Jo carried her love of liberty and hate of conventionalities
to such an unlimited extent that she naturally found herself
worsted in an argument. Amy's definition of Jo's idea of independence
was such a good hit that both burst out laughingand the discussion
took a more amiable turn. Much against her willJo at length
consented to sacrifice a day to Mrs. Grundyand help her sister
through what she regarded as `a nonsensical business'.

The invitations were sentnearly all acceptedand the following
Monday was set apart for the grand event. Hannah was out of humor
because her week's work was derangedand prophesied that "ef the
washin' and ironin' warn't done reg'larnothin' would go well
anywheres". This hitch in the mainspring of the domestic machinery
had a bad effect upon the whole concernbut Amy's motto was `Nil
desperandum'and having made up her mind what to doshe proceeded
to do it in spite of all obstacles. To begin withHannah's cooking
didn't turn out well. The chicken was toughthe tongue too salt
and the chocolate wouldn't froth properly. Then the cake and ice cost
more than Amy expectedso did the wagonand various other expenses
which seemed trifling at the outsetcounted up rather alarmingly
afterward. Beth got a cold and took to her bed. Meg had an unusual
number of callers to keep her at homeand Jo was in such a divided
state of mind that her breakagesaccidentsand mistakes were
uncommonly numerousseriousand trying.

It it was not fair on Mondaythe young ladies were to come on
Tuesdayand arrangement which aggravated Jo and Hannah to the last
degree. On Monday morning the weather was in that undecided state
which is more exasperating than a steady pour. It drizzled a little
shone a littleblew a littleand didn't make up its mind till it
was too late for anyone else to make up theirs. Amy was up at dawn
hustling people out of their beds and through their breakfaststhat
the house might be got in order. The parlor struck her as looking
uncommonly shabbybut without stopping to sigh for what she had not
she skillfully made the best of what she hadarranging chairs over
the worn places in the carpetcovering stains on the walls with
homemade statuarywhich gave an artistic air to the roomas did the
lovely vases of flowers Jo scattered about.

The lunch looked charmingand as she surveyed itshe sincerely
hoped it would taste welland that the borrowed glasschinaand
silver would get safely home again. The carriages were promisedMeg
and Mother were all ready to do the honorsBeth was able to help
Hannah behind the scenesJo had engaged to be as lively and amiable
as an absent mindand aching headand a very decided disapproval of
everybody and everything would allowand as she wearily dressedAmy
cheered herself with anticipations of the happy moment whenlunch
safely overshe should drive away with her friends for an afternoon
of artistic delightsfor the `cherry bounce' and the broken bridge
were her strong points.

Then came the hours of suspenseduring which she vibrated from
parlor to porchwhile public opinion varied like the weathercock. A
smart shower at eleven had evidently quenched the enthusiasm of the
young ladies who were to arrive at twelvefor nobody cameand at two
the exhausted family sat down in a blaze of sunshine to consume the
perishable portions of the feastthat nothing might be lost.

No doubt about the weather todaythey will certainly comeso
we must fly round and be ready for themsaid Amyas the sun woke
her next morning. She spoke brisklybut in her secret soul she wished


she had said nothing about Tuesdayfor her interest like her cake was
getting a little stale.

I can't get any lobstersso you will have to do without salad
todaysaid Mr. Marchcoming in half an hour laterwith an
expression of placid despair.

Use the chicken thenthe toughness won't matter in a salad
advised his wife.

Hannah left it on the kitchen table a minuteand the kittens got at it.
I'm very sorryamyadded Bethwho was still a patroness of cats.

Then I must have a lobsterfor tongue alone won't dosaid Amy decidedly.

Shall I rush into town and demand one?asked Jowith the
magnanimity of a martyr.

You'd come bringing it home under your arm without any paper
just to try me. I'll go myselfanswered Amywhose temper was
beginning to fail.

Shrouded in a thick veil and armed with a genteel traveling basket
she departedfeeling that a cool drive would soothe her ruffled spirit
and fit her for the labors of the day. After some delaythe object of
her desire was procuredlikewise a bottle of dressing to prevent
further loss of time at homeand off she drove againwell pleased with
her own forethought.

As the omnibus contained only one other passengera sleepy old
ladyAmy pocketed her veil and beguiled the tedium of the way by
trying to find out where all her money had gone to. So busy was she
with her card full of refractory figures that she did not observe a
newcomerwho entered without stopping the vehicletill a masculine
voice saidGood morningMiss Marchandlooking upshe beheld
one of Laurie's most elegant college friends. Fervently hoping that
he would get out before she didAmy utterly ignored the basket at her
feetand congratulating herself that she had on her new traveling
dressreturned the young man's greeting with her usual suavity and
spirit.

They got on excellentlyfor Amy's chief care was soon set at
rest by learning that the gentleman would leave firstand she was
chatting away in a peculiarly lofty strainwhen the old lady got out.
In stumbling to the doorshe upset the basketand--oh horror!--the
lobsterin all its vulgar size and brilliancywas revealed to the
highborn eyes of a Tudor.

By Joveshe's forgotten her dinner!cried the unconscious
youthpoking the scarlet monster into its place with his caneand
preparing to hand out the basket after the old lady.

Please don't--it's--it's minemurmured Amywith a face nearly
as red as her fish.

OhreallyI beg pardon. It's an uncommonly fine oneisn't it?
said Tudorwith great presence of mindand an air of sober interest
that did credit to his breeding.

Amy recovered herself in a breathset her basket boldly on the
seatand saidlaughingDon't you wish you were to have some of the
salad he's going to makeand to see the charming young ladies who are
to eat it?


Now that was tactfor two of the ruling foibles of the masculine
mind were touched. The lobster was instantly surrounded by a halo of
pleasing reminiscencesand curiosity about `the charming young ladies'
diverted his mind from the comical mishap.

I suppose he'll laugh and joke over it with Lauriebut I shan't
see themthat's a comfortthought Amyas Tudor bowed and departed.

She did not mention this meeting at home (though she discovered
thatthanks to the upsether new dress was much damaged by the
rivulets of dressing that meandered down the skirt)but went through
with the preparations which now seemed more irksome than beforeand
at twelve o'clock all was ready again. feeling that the neighbors
were interested in her movementsshe wished to efface the memory of
yesterday's failure by a grand success todayso she ordered the
`cherry bounce'and drove away in state to meet and escort her guests
to the banquet.

There's the rumblethey're coming! I'll go onto the porch and
meet them. It looks hospitableand I want the poor child to have a
good time after all her troublesaid Mrs. Marchsuiting the action
to the word. But after one glanceshe retiredwith an indescribable
expressionfor looking quite lost in the big carriagesat Amy and
one young lady.

RunBethand help Hannah clear half the things off the table.
It will be too absurd to put a luncheon for twelve before a single
girlcried Johurrying away to the lower regionstoo excited to
stop even for a laugh.

In came Amyquite calm and delightfully cordial to the one
guest who had kept her promise. The rest of the familybeing of
a dramatic turnplayed their parts equally welland Miss Eliott
found them a most hilarious setfor it was impossible to control
entirely the merriment which possessed them. The remodeled lunch
being gaily partaken ofthe studio and garden visitedand art
discussed with enthusiasmAmy ordered a buggy (alas for the elegant
cherry-bounce)and drove her friend quietly about the neighborhood
till sunsetwhen `the party went out'.

As she came walking inlooking very tired but as composed as
evershe observed that every vestige of the unfortunate fete had
disappearedexcept a suspicious pucker about the corners of Jo's
mouth.

You've had a loverly afternoon for your drivedearsaid
her motheras respectfully as if the whole twelve had come.

Miss Eliott is a very sweet girland seemed to enjoy herself
I thoughtobserved Bethwith unusual warmth.

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

Take it all. I'm the only one here who likes sweet thingsand
it will mold before I can dispose of itanswered Amythinking with
a sigh of the generous store she had laid in for such an end as this.

It's a pity Laurie isn't here to help usbegan Joas they sat
down to ice cream and salad for the second time in two days.

A warning look from her mother checked any further remarksand
the whole family ate in heroic silencetill Mr. March mildly observed


salad was one of the favorite dishes of the ancientsand Evelyn...
Here a general explosion of laughter cut short the `history of salads'
to the great surprise of the learned gentleman.

Bundle everything into a basket and send it to the Hummels. Germans
like messes. I'm sick of the sight of thisand there's no reason you
should all die of a surfeit because I've been a foolcried Amywiping
her eyes.
I thought I should have died when I saw you two girls rattling
about in the what-you-call-itlike two little kernels in a very big
nutshelland Mother waiting in state to receive the throngsighed
Joquite spent with laughter.

I'm very sorry you were disappointeddearbut we all did our
best to satisfy yousaid Mrs. Marchin a tone full of motherly
regret.

I am satisfied. I've done what I undertookand it's not my
fault that it failed. I comfort myself with thatsaid Amy with a
little quiver in her voice. "I thank you all very much for helping
meand I'll thank you still more if you won't allude to it for a
monthat least."

No one did for several monthsbut the word `fete' always produced
a general smileand Laurie's birthday gift to Amy was a tiny
coral lobster in the shape of a charm for her watch guard.

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

Fortune suddenly smiled upon Joand dropped a good luck
penny in her path. Not a golden pennyexactlybut I doubt
if half a million would have given more real happiness then did
the little sum that came to her in this wise.

Every few weeks she would shut herself up in her roomput
on her scribbling suitand `fall into a vortex'as she expressed
itwriting away at her novel with all her heart and soulfor till
that was finished she could find no peace. Her `scribbling suit'
consisted of a black woolen pinafore on which she could wipe her
pen at willand a cap of the same materialadorned with a
cheerful red bowinto which she bundled her hair when the decks were
cleared for action. This cap was a beacon to the inquiring eyes of
her familywho during these periods kept their distancemerely
popping in their heads semi-occasionally to askwith interest
Does genius burnJo?They did not always venture even to ask
this questionbut took an observation of the capand judged
accordingly. If this expressive article of dress was drawn low
upon the foreheadit was a sign that hard work was going onin
exciting moments it was pushed rakishly askewand when despair
seized the author it was plucked wholly offand cast upon the
floorand cast upon the floor. At such times the intruder silently
withdrewand not until the red bow was seen gaily erect upon the
gifted browdid anyone dare address Jo.

She did not think herself a genius by any meansbut when the
writing fit came onshe gave herself up to it with entire abandon
and led a blissful lifeunconscious of wantcareor bad weather
while she sat safe and happy in an imaginary worldfull of friends
almost as real and dear to her as any in the flesh. Sleep forsook
her eyesmeals stood untastedday and night were all too short to
enjoy the happiness which blessed her only at such timesand made
these hours worth livingeven if they bore no other fruit. The


devine afflatus usually lasted a week or twoand then she emerged
from her `vortex'hungrysleepycrossor despondent.


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


They were earlyand while Miss Crocker set the heel of her
stockingJo amused herself by examining the faces of the people who
occupied the seat with them. On her left were two matronswith
massive foreheads and bonnets to matchdiscussing Women's Rights and
making tatting. Beyond sat a pair of humble loversartlessly
holding each other by the handa somber spinster eating peppermints out
of a paper bagand an old gentleman taking his preparatory nap
behind a yellow bandanna. On her righther only neighbor was a
studious looking lad absorbed in a newspaper.


It was a pictorial sheetand Jo examined the work of art nearest
heridly wondering what fortuitous concatenation of circumstances
needed the melodramatic illustration of an Indian in full war costume
tumbling over a precipice with a wolf at his throatwhile two
infuriated young gentlemenwith unnaturally small feet and big eyes
were stabbing each other close byand a disheveled female was flying away
in the background with her mouth wide open. Pausing to turn a page
the lad saw her looking andwith boyish good nature offered half his
papersaying bluntlywant to read it? That's a first-rate story.


Jo accepted it with a smilefor she had never outgrown her
liking for ladsand soon found herself involved in the usual labyrinth
of lovemysteryand murderfor the story belonged to that class of
light literature in which the passions have a holidayand when the
author's invention failsa grand catastrophe clears the stage of one
half the dramatis personaeleaving the other half to exult over
their downfall.


Primeisn't it?asked the boyas her eye went down the last
paragraph of her portion.


I think you and I could do as well as that if we tried
returned Joamused at his admiration of the trash.


I should think I was a pretty lucky chap if I could. She makes
a good living out of such storiesthey say.And he pointed to the
name of Mrs. S.L.A.N.G. Northburyunder the title of the tale.


Do you know her?asked Jowith sudden interest.


Nobut I read all her piecesand I know a fellow who works in
the office where this paper is printed.
Do you say she makes a good living out of stories like this?
And Jo looked more respectfully at the agitated group and thickly
sprinkled exclamation points that adorned the page.


Guess she does! She knows just what folks likeand gets paid
well for writing it.


Here the lecture beganbut Jo heard very little of itfor while
Professor Sands was prosing away about BelzoniCheopsscarabeiand



hieroglyphicsshe was covertly taking down the address of the paper
and boldly resolving to try for the hundred-dollar prize offered in
its columns for a sensational story. By the time the lecture ended
and the audience awokeshe had built up a splendid fortune for herself
(not the first founded on paper)and was already deep in the
concoction of her storybeing unable to decide whether the duel
should come before the elopement or after the murder.

she said nothing of her plan at homebut fell to work next day
much to the disquiet of her motherwho always looked a little anxious
when `genius took to burning'. Jo had never tried this style before
contenting herself with very mild romances for THE SPREAD EAGLE. Her
experience and miscellaneous reading were of service nowfor they
gave her some idea of dramatic effectand supplied plotlanguage
and costumes. Her story was as full of desperation and despair as her
limited acquaintance with those uncomfortable emotions enabled her to
make itand having located it in Lisbonshe wound up with an earthquake
as a striking and appropriate denouement. The manuscript was
privately dispatchedaccompanied by a notemodestly saying that if
the tale didn't get the prizewhich the writer hardly dared expect
she would be very glad to receive any sum it might be considered worth.

Six weeks is a long time to waitand a still longer time for
a girl to keep a secretbut Jo did bothand was just beginning
to give up all hope of ever seeing her manuscript again
when a letter arrived which almost took her breath awayfor on
opening ita check for a hundred dollars fell into her lap. For
a minute she stared at it as if it had been a snakethen she read
her letter and began to cry. If the amiable gentleman who wrote
that kindly note could have known what intense happiness he was
giving a fellow creatureI think he would devote his leisure hours
if he has anyto that amusementfor Jo valued the letter more than
the moneybecause it was encouragingand after years of effort it
was so pleasant to find that she had learned to do somethingthough
it was only to write a sensation story.

A prouder young woman was seldom seen than shewhenhaving
composed herselfshe electrified the family by appearing before them
with the letter in one handthe check in the otherannouncing that
she had won the prize. Of course there was a great jubileeand when
the story came everyone read and praised itthough after her father
had told her that the language was goodthe romance fresh and hearty
and the tragedy quite thrillinghe shook his headand said in his
unworldly way...

You can do better than thisJo. Aim at the highestand never
mind the money.

I think the money is the best part of it. What will you do with
such a fortune?asked Amyregarding the magic slip of paper with a
reverential eye.

Send Beth and Mother to the seaside for a month or twoanswered
Jo promptly.

To the seaside they wentafter much discussionand though Beth
didn't come home as plump and rosy as could be desiredshe was much
betterwhile Mrs. March declared she felt ten years younger. So Jo
was satisfied with the investment of her prize moneyand fell to work
with a cheery spiritbent on earning more of those delightful checks.
She did earn several that yearand began to feel herself a power
in the housefor by the magic of a penher `rubbish' turned into
comforts for them all. The Duke's Daughter paid the butcher's bill
A Phantom Hand put down a new carpetand the Curse of the Coventrys


proved the blessing of the Marches in the way of groceries and gowns.

Wealth is certainly a most desirable thingbut poverty has its
sunny sideand one of the sweet uses of adversity is the genuine
satisfaction which comes from hearty work of head or handand to the
inspiration of necessitywe owe half the wisebeautifuland useful
blessings of the world. Jo enjoyed a taste of this satisfaction
and ceased to envy richer girlstaking great comfort in the knowledge
that she could supply her own wantsand need ask no one for a penny.

Little notice was taken of her storiesbut they found a market
and encouraged by this factshe resolved to make a bold stroke for
fame and fortune. Having copied her novel for the fourth timeread
it to all her confidential friendsand submitted it with fear and
trembling to three publishersshe at last disposed of iton condition
that she would cut it down one thirdand omit all the parts
which she particularly admired.

Now I must either bundle it back in to my tin kitchen to mold
pay for printing it myselfor chop it up to suit purchasers and get
what I can for it. Fame is a very good thing to have in the house
but cash is more convenientso I wish to take the sense of the meeting
on this important subjectsaid Jocalling a family council.

Don't spoil your bookmy girlfor there is more in it than
you knowand the idea is well worked out. Let it wait and ripen
was her father's adviceand he practiced what he preachedhaving
waited patiently thirty years for fruit of his own to ripenand
being in no haste to gather it even now when it was sweet and mellow.

It seems to me that Jo will profit more by taking the trial
than by waitingsaid Mrs. March. "Criticism is the best test of
such workfor it will show her both unsuspected merits and faults
and help her to do better next time. We are too partialbut the
praise and blame of outsiders will prove usefuleven if she gets
but little money."

Yessaid Joknitting her browsthat's just it. I've been
fussing over the thing so longI really don't know whether it's good
bador indifferent. It will be a great help to have coolimpartial
persons take a look at itand tell me what they think of it.

I wouldn't leave a word out of it. You'll spoil it if you do
for the interest of the story is more in the minds than in the actions
of the peopleand it will be all a muddle if you don't explain as you
go onsaid Megwho firmly believed that this book was the most
remarkable novel ever written.

But Mr. Allen says`Leave out the explanationsmake it brief
and dramaticand let the characters tell the story'interrupted
Joturning to the publisher's note.

Do as he tells you. He knows what will saleand we don't.
Make a goodpopular bookand get as much money as you can.
By-and-bywhen you've got a nameyou can afford to digress
and have philosophical and metaphysical people in your novels
said Amywho took a strictly practical view of the subject.

Wellsaid Jolaughingif my people are `philosophical and
metaphysical'it isn't my faultfor I know nothing about such
thingsexcept what I hear father say;sometimes. If I've got some
of his wise ideas jumbled up with my romanceso much the better for
me. NowBethwhat do you say?


I should so like to see it printed soonwas all Beth said
and smiled in saying it. But there was an unconscious emphasis on
the last wordand a wistful look in the eyes that never lost their
childlike candorwhich chilled Jo's heart for a minute with a
forboding fearand decided her to make her little venture `soon'.

Sowith Spartan firmnessthe young authoress laid her first-born
on her tableand chopped it up as ruthlessly as any ogre. In the hope
of pleasing everyoneshe took everyone's adviceand like the old man
and his donkey in the fable suited nobody.

Her father liked the metaphysical streak which had unconsciously
got into itso that was allowed to remain though she had her
doubts about it. Her mother thought that there was a trifle too much
description. Outtherefore it cameand with it many necessary
links in the story. Meg admired the tragedyso Jo piled up the
agony to suit herwhile Amy objected to the funandwith the
best intentions in lifeJo quenched the spritly scenes which
relieved the somber character of the story. Thento complicate
the ruinshe cut it down one thirdand confidingly sent the
poor little romancelike a picked robinout into the bigbusy
world to try its fate.

Wellit was printedand she got three hundred dollars for
itlikewise plenty of praise and blameboth so much greater than
she expected that she was thrown into a state of bewilderment from
which it took her some time to recover.

You saidMotherthat criticism would help me. But how can
itwhen it's so contradictory that I don't know whether I've written
a promising book or broken all the ten commandments?cried poor
Joturning over a heap of noticesthe perusal of which filled her
with pride and joy one minutewrath and dismay the next. "This
man says`An exquisite bookfull of truthbeautyand earnestness.

All is sweetpureand healthy.'" continued the perplexed
authoress. "The next`The theory of the book is badfull of
morbid fanciesspiritualistic ideasand unnatural characters.'
Nowas I had no theory of any kinddon't believe in Spiritualism
and copied my characters from lifeI don't see how this critic can
be right. Another says`It's one of the best American novels which
has appeared for years.' (I know better than that)and the next
asserts that `Though it is originaland written with great force
and feelingit is a dangerous book.' 'Tisn't! Some make fun of it
some overpraiseand nearly all insist that I had a deep theory to
expoundwhen I only wrote it for the pleasure and the money. I
wish I'd printed the whole or not at allfor I do hate to be so
misjudged."

Her family and friends administered comfort and commendation
liberally. Yet it was a hard time for sensitivehigh-spirited Jo
who meant so well and had apparently done so ill. But it did her
goodfor those whose opinion had real value gave her the critism
which is an author's best educationand when the first soreness
was overshe could laugh at her poor little bookyet believe in
it stilland feel herself the wiser and stronger for the buffeting
she had received.

Not being a geniuslike Keatsit won't kill meshe said
stoutlyand I've got the joke on my sideafter allfor the parts
that were taken straight out of real life are denounced as impossible
and absurdand the scenes that I made up out of my own silly head
are pronounced `charmingly naturaltenderand true'. So I'll
comfort myself with thatand when I'm readyI'll up again and take


another.

CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT

Like most other young matronsMeg began her married life
with the determination to be a model housekeeper. John should
find home a paradisehe should always see a smiling face
should fare sumptuously every dayand never know the loss of
a button. She brought so much loveenergyand cheerfulness
to the work that she could not but succeedin spite of some
obstacles. Her paradise was not a tranquil onefor the little
woman fussedwas over-anxious to pleaseand bustled about like
a true Marthacumbered with many cares. She was too tiredsometimes
even to smileJohn grew dyspeptic after a course of dainty
dishes and ungratefully demanded plain fare. As for buttons
she soon learned to wonder where they wentto shake her head over
the carelessness of menand to threaten to make him sew them
on himselfand see if his work would stand impatient and clumsy
fingers any better than hers.

They were very happyeven after they discovered that they
couldn't live on love alone. John did not find Meg's beauty diminished
though she beamed at him from behind the familiar coffee pot.
Nor did Meg miss any of the romance from the daily partingwhen her
husband followed up his kiss with the tender inquiryShall I send
some veal or mutton for dinnerdarling?The little house ceased
to be a glorified bowerbut it became a homeand the young couple
soon felt that it was a change for the better. At first they played
keep-houseand frolicked over it like children. Then John took
steadily to businessfeeling the cares of the head of a family upon
his shouldersand Meg laid by her cambric wrappersput on a big apron
and fell to workas before saidwith more energy than discretion.

While the cooking mania lasted she went through Mrs. Cornelius's
Receipt Book as if it were a mathematical exerciseworking out the
problems with patience and care. Sometimes her family were invited
in to help eat up a too bounteous feast of successesor Lotty would
be privately dispatched with a batch of failureswhich were to be
concealed from all eyes in the convenient stomachs of the little
Hummels. An evening with John over the account books usually produced
a temporary lull in the culinary enthusiasmand a frugal fit
would ensueduring which the poor man was put through a course of
bread puddinghashand warmed-over coffeewhich tried his soul
although he bore it with praiseworthy fortitude. Before the golden
mean was foundhoweverMeg added to her domestic possessions what
young couples seldom get on long withouta family jar.

Fired a with housewifely wish to see her storeroom stocked with
homemade preservesshe undertook to put up her own currant jelly.
John was requested to order home a dozen or so of little pots and an
extra quantity of sugarfor their own currants were ripe and were
to be attended to at once. As John firmly believed that `my wife'
was equal to anythingand took a natural pride in her skillhe
resolved that she should be gratifiedand their only crop of fruit
laid by in a most pleasing form for winter use. Home came four
dozen delightful little potshalf a barrel of sugarand a small
boy to pick the currants for her. With her pretty hair tucked into
a little caparms bared to the elbowand a checked apron which
had a coquettish look in spite of the bibthe young housewife fell
to workfeeling no doubts about her successfor hadn't she seen
Hannah do it hundreds of times? The array of pots rather amazed her
at firstbut John was so fond of jellyand the nice little jars


would look so well on the top shelfthat Meg resolved to fill them
alland spend a long day pickingboilingstrainingand fussing
over her jelly. She did her bestshe asked advice of Mrs. Cornelius
she racked her brain to remember what Hannah did that she left
undoneshe reboiledresugaredand restrainedbut that dreadful
stuff wouldn't `jell'.

She longed to run homebib and alland ask Mother to lend her
a handbut John and she had agreed that they would never annoy anyone
with their private worriesexperimentsor quarrels. They had
laughed over that last word as if the idea it suggested was a most
preposterous onebut they had held to their resolveand whenever
they could get on without help they did soand no one interfered
for Mrs. March had advised the plan. So Meg wrestled alone with the
refractory sweetmeats all that hot summer dayand at five o'clock
sat down in her topsy-turvey kitchenwrung her bedaubed hands
lifted up her voice and wept.

Nowin the first flush of the new lifeshe had often said
My husband shall always feel free to bring a friend home whenever
he likes. I shall always be prepared. There shall be no flurryno
scoldingno discomfortbut a neat housea cheerful wifeand a
good dinner. Johndearnever stop to ask my leaveinvite whom
you pleaseand be sure of a welcome from me.

How charming that wasto be sure! John quite glowed with
pride to hear her say itand felt what a blessed thing it was to
have a superior wife. Butalthough they had had company from time
to timeit never happened to be unexpectedand Meg had never had
an opportunity to distinguish herself till now. It always happens
so in this vale of tearsthere is an inevitability about such things
which we can only wonder atdeploreand bear as we best can.

If John had not forgotten all about the jellyit really would
have been unpardonable in him to choose that dayof all the days in
the yearto bring a friend home to dinner unexpectedly. Congratulating
himself that a handsome repast had been ordered that morning
feeling sure that it would be ready to the minuteand indulging in
pleasant anticipations of the charming effect it would producewhen
his pretty wife came running out to meet himhe escorted his friend
to his mansionwith the irrepressible satisfaction of a young host and husband.

It is a world of disappointmentsas John discovered when he
reached the Dovecote. the front door usually stood hospitably open.
Now it was not only shutbut lockedand yesterday's mud still
adorned the steps. The parlor windows were closed and curtained
no picture of the pretty wife sewing on the piazzain whitewith
a distracting little bow in her hairor a bright-eyed hostess
smiling a shy welcome as she greeted her guest. Nothing of the sort
for not a soul appeared but a sanginary-looking boy asleep under the
current bushes.

I'm afraid something has happened. Step into the gardenScott
while I look up Mrs. Brookesaid Johnalarmed at the silence and
solitude.

Round the house he hurriedled by a pungent smell of burned
sugarand Mr. Scott strolled after himwith a queer look on his
face. He paused discreetly at a distance when Brooke disappeared
but he could both see and hearand being a bachelorenjoyed the
prospect mightily.

In the kitchen reigned confusion and despair. One edition of
jelly was trickled from pot to potanother lay upon the floor


and a third was burning gaily on the stove. Lottywith Teutonic
phlegmwas calmly eating bread and currant winefor the jelly was
still in a hopelessly liquid statewhile Mrs. Brookewith her apron
over her headsat sobbing dismally.


My dearest girlwhat is the matter?cried Johnrushing in
with awful visions of scalded handssudden news of afflictionand
secret consternation at the thought of the guest in the garden.


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


What worries you dear? Has anything dreadful happened?
asked the anxious Johntenderly kissing the crown of the little
capwhich was all askew.


Yessobbed Meg despairingly.


Tell me quickthen. Don't cry. I can bear anything better
than that. Out with itlove.


The...The jelly won't jell and I don't know what to do!


John Brooke laughed then as he never dared to laugh afterward
and the derisive Scott smiled involuntarily as he heard the hearty
pealwhich put the finishing stroke to poor Meg's woe.


Is that all? Fling it out of the windowand don't bother any
more about it. I'll buy you quarts if you want itbut for heaven's
sake don't have hystericsfor I've brought Jack Scott home to dinner
and...


John got no furtherfor Meg cast him offand clasped her hands
with a tragic gesture as she fell into a chairexclaiming in a tone
of mingled indignationreproachand dismay...


A man to dinnerand everything in a mess! John Brookehow
could you do such a thing?


Hushhe's in the garden! I forgot the confounded jellybut
it can't be helped nowsaid Johnsurveying the prospect with an
anxious eye.


You ought to have sent wordor told me this morningand you
ought to have remembered how busy I wascontinued Meg petulantly
for even turtledoves will peck when ruffled.


I didn't know it this morningand there was no time to send
wordfor I met him on the way out. I never thought of asking leave
when you have always told me to do as I liked. I never tried it before
and hang me if I ever do again!added Johnwith an aggrieved air.


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


WellI like that! Where's the beef and vegetables I sent
homeand the pudding you promised?cried Johnrushing to the
larder.
I hadn't time to cook anything. I meant to dine at Mother's.
I'm sorrybut I was so busyand Meg's tears began again.



John was a mild manbut he was humanand after a long day's
work to come home tiredhungryand hopefulto find a chaotic
housean empty tableand a cross wife was not exactly conductive
to repose of mind or manner. He restrained himself howeverand the
little squall would have blown overbut for one unlucky word.

It's a scrapeI acknowledgebut if you will lend a hand
we'll pull through and have a good time yet. Don't crydearbut
just exert yourself a bitand fix us up something to eat. We're
both as hungry as huntersso we shan't mind what it is. Give us
the cold meatand bread and cheese. We won't ask for jelly.

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

You must get yourself out of the scrape as you can. I'm too
used up to `exert' myself for anyone. It's like a man to propose
a bone and vulgar bread and cheese for company. I won't have anything
of the sort in my house. Take that Scott up to Mother'sand
tell him I'm awaysickdeadanything. I won't see himand you
two can laugh at me and my jelly as much as you like. You won't
have anything else here.And having delivered her defiance all
on one breathMeg cast away her pinafore and precipitately left the
field to bemoan herself in her own room.

What those two creatures did in her absenceshe never knew
but Mr. scott was not taken `up to Mother's'and when Meg descended
after they had strolled away togethershe found traces of a promiscuous
lunch which filled her with horror. Lotty reported that they had eaten
a muchand greatly laughedand the master bid her throw away all
the sweet stuffand hide the pots.

Meg longed to go and tell Motherbut a sense of shame at her own
short comingsof loyalty to Johnwho might be cruelbut nobody
should know itrestrained herand after a summary cleaning up
she dressed herself prettilyand sat down to wait for John to
come and be forgiven.

UnfortunatelyJohn didn't comenot seeing the matter in that
light. He had carried it off as a good joke with Scottexcused his
little wife as well as he couldand played the host so hospitably
that his friend enjoyed the impromptu dinnerand promised to come
againbut John was angrythough he did not show ithe felt that
Meg had deserted him in his hour of need. "It wasn't fair to tell
a man to bring folks home any timewith perfect freedomand when
he took you at your wordto flame up and blame himand leave him
in the lurchto be laughed at or pitied. Noby Georgeit wasn't!
And Meg must know it."

He had fumed inwardly during the feastbut when the flurry was
over and he strolled home after seeing Scott offa milder mood came
over him. "Poor little thing! It was hard upon her when she tried so
heartily to please me. She was wrongof coursebut then she was
young. I must be patient and teach her." He hoped she had not gone
home--he hated gossip and interference. For a minute he was ruffled
again at the mere thought of itand then the fear that Meg would cry
herself sick softened his heartand sent him on at a quicker pace
resolving to be calm and kindbut firmquite firmand show her
where she had failed in her duty to her spouse.

Meg likewise resolved to be `calm and kindbut firm'and show
him his duty. She longed to run to meet himand beg pardonand be
kissed and comfortedas she was sure of beingbutof courseshe


did nothing of the sortand when she saw John comingbegan to hum
quite naturallyas she rocked and sewedlike a lady of leisure in
her best parlor.


John was a little disappointed not to find a tender Niobebut
feeling that his dignity demanded the first apologyhe made none
only came leisurely in and laid himself upon the sofa with the singularly
relevant remarkWe are going to have a new moonmy dear.


I've no objectionwas Meg's equally soothing remark. A few
other topics of general interest were introduced by Mr. Brooke and
wet-blanketed by Mrs. Brookeand conversation languished. John
went to one windowunfolded his paperand wrapped himself in it
figuratively speaking. Meg went to the other windowand sewed as
if new rosettes for slippers were among the necessaries of life.
Neither spoke. Both looked quite `calm and firm'and both felt
desperately uncomfortable.


Ohdearthought Megmarried life is very tryingand
does need infinite patience as well as loveas Mother says.The
word `Mother' suggested other maternal counsels given long agoand
received with unbelieving protests.


John is a good manbut he has his faultsand you must learn
to see and bear with themremembering your own. He is very decided
but never will be obstinateif you reason kindlynot oppose impatiently.
He is very accurateand particular about the truth--a good
traitthough you call him `fussy'. Never deceive him by look or
wordMegand he will give you the confidence you deservethe
support you need. He has a tempernot like ours--one flash and then
all over--but the whitestill anger that is seldom stirredbut
once kindled is hard to quench. Be carefulbe very carefulnot to
wake his anger against yourselffor peace and happiness depend on
keeping his respect. Watch yourselfbe the first to ask pardon if
you both errand guard against the little piquesmisunderstandings
and hasty words that often pave the way for bitter sorrow and regret.


These words came back to Megas she sat sewing in the sunset
especially the last. This was the first serious disagreementher
own hasty speeches sounded both silly and unkindas she recalled
themher own anger looked childish nowand thoughts of poor John
coming home to such a scene quite melted her heart. She glanced at
him with tears in her eyesbut he did not see them. She put down
her work and got upthinkingI will be the first to say
`Forgive me'but he did not seem to hear her. She went very slowly
across the roomfor pride was hard to swallowand stood by him
but he did not turn his head. For a minute she felt as if she
really couldn't do itthen came the thoughtThis is the beginning.
I'll do my partand have nothing to reproach myself with
and stooping sownshe softly kissed her husband on the forehead.
Of course that settled it. The penitent kiss was better than a
world of wordsand John had her on his knee in a minutesaying
tenderly...


It was too bad to laugh at the poor little jelly pots.
Forgive medear. I never will again!


But he didoh bless youyeshundreds of timesand so did
Megboth declaring that it was the sweetest jelly they ever made
for family peace was preserved in that little family jar.


After thisMeg had Mr. Scott to dinner by special invitation
and served him up a pleasant feast without a cooked wife for the
first courseon which occasion she was so gay and graciousand



made everything go off so charminglythat Mr. Scott told John he
was a lucky fellowand shook his head over the hardships of bachelorhood
all the way home.

In the autumnnew trials and experiences came to Meg. Sallie
Moffat renewed her friendshipwas always running out for a dish of
gossip at the little houseor inviting `that poor dear' to come in
and spend the day at the big house. It was pleasantfor in dull
weather Meg often felt lonely. All were busy at homeJohn absent
till nightand nothing to do but sewor reador potter about. So
it naturally fell out that Meg got into the way of gadding and gossiping
with her friend. Seeing Sallie's pretty things made her long for
suchand pity herself because she had not got them. Sallie was very
kindand often offered her the coveted triflesbut Meg declined
themknowing that John wouldn't like itand then this foolish little
woman went and did what John disliked even worse.

She knew her husband's incomeand she loved to feel that he
trusted hernot only with his happinessbut what some men seem to
value more--his money. She knew where it waswas free to take what
she likedand all he asked was that she should keep account of every
pennypay bills once a monthand remember that she was a poor man's
wife. Till now she had done wellbeen prudent and exactkept her
little account books neatlyand showed them to him monthly without
fear. But that autumn the serpent got into Meg's paradiseand tempted
her like many a modern Evenot with applesbut with dress. Meg
didn't like to be pitied and made to feel poor. It irritated her
but she was ashamed to confess itand now and then she tried to console
herself by buying something prettyso that Sallie needn't think
she had to economize. She always felt wicked after itfor the pretty
things were seldom necessariesbut then they cost so littleit wasn't
worth worrying aboutso the trifles increased unconsciouslyand in
the shopping excursions she was no longer a passive looker-on.

But the trifles cost more than one would imagineand when she
cast up her accounts at the end of the month the sum total rather
scared her. John was busy that month and left the bills to herthe
next month he was absentbut the third he had a grand quarterly
settling upand Meg never forgot it. A few days before she had done
a dreadful thingand it weighed upon her conscience. Sallie had
been buying silksand Meg longed for a new onejust a handsome light
one for partiesher black silk was so commonand thin things for
evening wear were only proper for girls. Aunt March usually gave the
sisters a present of twenty-five dollars apiece at New Year's. That
was only a month to waitand here was a lovely violet silk going at
a bargainand she had the moneyif she only dared to take it. John
always said what was his was hersbut would he think it right to
spend not only the prospective five-and-twentybut another
five-and-twenty out of the household fund? That was the question.
Sallie had urged her to do ithad offered to lend the moneyand with
the best intentions in life had tempted Meg beyond her strength.
In an evil moment the shopman held up the lovelyshimmering folds
and saidA bargainI assureyouma'am.She answeredI'll take
itand it was cut off and paid forand Sallie had exultedand she
had laughed as if it were a thing of no consequenceand driven away
feeling as if she had stolen somethingand the police were after her.

When she got homeshe tried to assuage the pangs of remorse
by spreading forth the lovely silkbut it looked less silvery now
didn't become herafter alland the words `fifty dollars' seemed
stamped like a pattern down each breadth. She put it awaybut it
haunted hernot delightfully as a new dress shouldbut dreadfully
like the ghost of a folly that was not easily laid. When John got
out his books that nightMeg's heart sankand for the first time


in her married lifeshe was afraid of her husband. The kindbrown
eyes looked as if they could be sternand though he was unusually
merryshe fancied he had found her outbut didn't mean to let her
know it. The house bills were all paidthe books all in order.
John had praised herand was undoing the old pocketbook which they
called the `bank'when Megknowing that it was quite emptystopped
his handsaying nervously...

You haven't seen my private expense book yet.

John never asked to see itbut she always insisted on his doing
soand used to enjoy his masculine amazement at the queer things women
wantedand made him guess what piping wasdemand fiercely the meaning
of a hug-me-tightor wonder how a little thing composed of three
rosebudsa bit of velvetand a pair of stringscould possibly be
a bonnetand cost six dollars. That night he looked as if he would
like the fun of quizzing her figures and pretending to be horrified
at her extravaganceas he often didbeing particularly proud of
his prudent wife.

The little book was brought slowly out and laid down before him.
Meg got behind his chair under pretense of smoothing the wrinkles
out of his tired foreheadand standing thereshe saidwith her
panic increasing with every word . ..

JohndearI'm ashamed to show you my bookfor I've really
been dreadfully extravagant lately. I go about so much I must have
thingsyou knowand Sallie advised my getting itso I didand
my New Year's money will partly pay for itbut I was sorry after
I had done itfor I knew you'd think it wrong in me.

John laughedand drew her round beside himsaying goodhumoredly
Don't go and hide. I won't beat you if you have got
a pair of killing boots. I'm rather proud of my wife's feetand
don't mind if she does pay eight or nine dollars for her bootsif
they are good ones.

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

It's worse than bootsit's a silk dressshe saidwith the
calmness of desperationfor she wanted the worst over.

Welldearwhat is the `dem'd total'as Mr. Mantalini says?

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

WellI don't know that fifty is much for a dresswith all the
furbelows and notions you have to have to finish it off these days.

It isn't made or trimmedsighed Megfaintlyfor a sudden
recollection of the cost still to be incurred quite overwhelmed her.

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


I know you are angryJohnbut I can't help it. I don't mean
to waste your moneyand I didn't think those little things would
count up so. I can't resist them when I see Sallie buying all she
wantsand pitying me because I don't. I try to be contentedbut
it is hardand I'm tired of being poor.

The last words were spoken so low she thought he did not hear
thembut he didand they wounded him deeplyfor he had denied
himself many pleasures for Meg's sake. She could have bitten her
tongue out the minute she had said itfor John pushed the books
away and got upsaying with a little quiver in his voiceI was
afraid of this. I do my bestMeg.If he had scolded heror
even shaken herit would not have broken her heart like those few
words. She ran to him and held him closecryingwith repentant
tearsOhJohnmy dearkindhard-working boy. I didn't mean
it! It was so wickedso untrue and ungratefulhow could I say it!
Ohhow could I say it!
He was very kindforgave her readilyand did not utter one
reproachbut Meg knew that she had done and said a thing which
would not be forgotten soonalthough he might never allude to it
again. She had promised to love him for better or worseand then
shehis wifehad reproached him with his povertyafter spending
his earnings recklessly. It was dreadfuland the worst of it was
John went on so quietly afterwardjust as if nothing had happened
except that he stayed in town laterand worked at night when she
had gone to cry herself to sleep. A week or remorse nearly made
Meg sickand the discovery that John had countermanded the order
for his new greatcoat reduced her to a state of despair which was
pathetic to behold. He had simply saidin answer to her surprised
inquiries as to the changeI can't afford itmy dear.

Meg said no morebut a few minutes after he found her in the
hall with her face buried in the old greatcoatcrying as if her
heart would break.

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

Next day she put her pride in her pocketwent to Sallietold
the truthand asked her to buy the silk as a favor. The goodnatured
Mrs. Moffat willingly did soand had the delicacy not to
make her a present of it immediately afterward. Then Meg ordered
home the greatcoatand when John arrivedshe put it onand asked
him how he liked her new silk gown. One can imagine what answer he
madehow he received his presentand what a blissful state of
things ensued. John came home earlyMeg gadded no moreand that
greatcoat was put on in the morning by a very happy husbandand
taken off at night by a most devoted little wife. So the year
rolled roundand at midsummer there came to Meg a new experience
the deepest and tenderest of a woman's life.

Laurie came sneaking into the kitchen of the Dovecote one
Saturdaywith an excited faceand was received with the clash
of cymbalsfor Hannah clapped her hands with a saucepan in one
and the cover in the other.

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

Happy as a queenthe dear! Every soul of `em is upstairs


a worshipin'. We didn't want no hurrycanes round. Now you go
into the parlorand I'll send `em down to youwith which
somewhat involved reply Hannah vanishedchuckling ecstatically.


Presently Jo appearedproudly bearing a flannel bundle laid
forth upon a large pillow. Jo's face was very soberbut her eyes
twinkledand there was an odd sound in her voice of repressed
emotion of some sort.


Shut your eyes and hold out your armsshe said invitingly.


Laurie backed precipitately into a cornerand put his hands
behind him with an imploring gesture. "Nothank you. I'd rather
not. I shall drop it or smash itas sure as fate."


Then you shan't see your nevvysaid Jo decidedlyturning
as if to go.


I willI will! Only you must be responsible for damages.
And obeying ordersLaurie heroically shut his eyes while something
was put into his arms. A peal of laughter from JoAmy
Mrs. MarchHannahand John caused him to open them the next
minuteto find himself invested with two babies instead of one.


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


Twinsby Jupiter!was all he said for a minutethen
turning to the women with an appealing look that was comically
piteoushe addedTake `em quicksomebody! I'm going to
laughand I shall drop `em.


Jo rescued his babiesand marched up and downwith one
on each areas if already initiated into the mysteries of babytending
while Laurie laughed till the tears ran down his cheeks.


It's the best joke of the seasonisn't it? I wouldn't have
told youfor I set my heart on surprising youand I flatter
myself I've done itsaid Jowhen she got her breath.


I never was more staggered in my life. Isn't it fun? Are they boys?
What are you going to name them? Let's have another look. Hold me up
Jofor upon my life it's one too many for mereturned Laurie
regarding the infants with the air of a bigbenevolent Newfoundland
looking at a pair of infantile kittens.


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


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


Amy put a blue ribbon on the boy and a pink on the girl
French fashionso you can always tell. Besidesone has blue
eyes and one brown. Kiss themUncle Teddysaid wicked Jo.


I'm afraid they mightn't like itbegan Lauriewith unusual
timidity in such matters.


Of course they willthey are used to it now. Do it this
minutesir!commanded Jofearing he might propose a proxy.



Laurie screwed up his face and obeyed with a gingerly peck
at each little cheek that produced another laughand made the
babies squeal.

ThereI knew they didn't like it! That's the boysee
him kickhe hits out with his fists like a good one. Now then
young Brookepitch into a man of your own sizewill you?cried
Lauriedelighted with a poke in the face from a tiny fistflapping
aimlessly about.

He's to be named John Laurenceand the girl Margaretafter
mother and grandmother. We shall call her Daiseyso as not to
have two Megsand I suppose the mannie will be Jackunless we
find a better namesaid Amywith aunt-like interest.

Name him Demijohnand call him Demi for shortsaid Laurie

Daisy and Demijust the thing! I knew Teddy would do it
cried Jo clapping her hands.

Teddy certainly had done it that timefor the babies were
`Daisy' and `Demi' to the end of the chapter.

CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE

ComeJoit's time.

For what?

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

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

Yesyou didit was a bargain between us. I was to finish
the crayon of Beth for youand you were to go properly with me
and return our neighbors' visits.

If it was fairthat was in the bondand I stand to the
letter of my bondShylock. There is a pile of clouds in the east
it's not fairand I don't go.

Nowthat's shirking. It's a lovely dayno prospect of rain
and you pride yourself on keeping; promisesso be honorablecome
and do your dutyand then be at peace for another six months.

At that minute Jo was particularly absorbed in dressmaking
for she was mantua-maker general to the familyand took especial
credit to herself because she could use a needle as well as a pen.
It was very provoking to be arrested in the act of a first tryingon
and ordered out to make calls in her best array on a warm July day.
She hated calls of the formal sortand never made any till Amy
compelled her with a bargainbribeor promise. In the present
instance there was no escapeand having clashed her scissors
rebelliouslywhile protesting that she smelled thundershe gave in
put away her workand taking up her hat and gloves with an air of
resignationtold Amy the victim was ready.

Jo Marchyou are perverse enough to provoke a saint! You don't
intend to make calls in that stateI hopecried Amysurveying


her with amazement.

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

Ohdear!sighed Amynow she's in a contrary fitand
will drive me distracted before I can get her properly ready.
I'm sure it's no pleasure to me to go todaybut it's a debt we
owe societyand there's no one to pay it but you and me. I'll
do anything for youJoif you'll only dress yourself nicely
and come and help me do the civil. You can talk so welllook
so aristocratic in your best thingsand behave so beautifully
if you trythat I'm proud of you. I'm afraid to go alonedo
come and take care of me.

You're an artful little puss to flatter and wheedle your
cross old sister in that way. The idea of my being aristocratic
and well-bredand your being afraid to go anywhere alone! I
don't know which is the most absurd. WellI'll go if I must
and do my best. You shall be commander of the expeditionand
I'll obey blindlywill that satisfy you?said Jowith a sudden
change from perversity to lamblike submission.

You're a perfect cherub! Now put on all your best things
and I'll tell you how to behave at each placeso that you will
make a good impression. I want people to like youand they
would if you'd only try to be a little more agreeable. Do your
hair the pretty wayand put the pink rose in your bonnet. It's
becomingand you look too sober in your plain suit. Take your
light gloves and the embroidered handkerchief. We'll stop at
Meg'sand borrow her white sunshadeand then you can have my
dove-colored one.

While Amy dressedshe issued her ordersand Jo obeyed
themnot without entering her protesthoweverfor she sighed
as she rustled into her new organdiefrowned darkly at herself
as she tied her bonnet strings in an irreproachable bow
wrestled viciously with pins as she put on her collar
wrinkled up her features generally as she shook out the handkerchief
whose embroidery was as irritating to her nose as the present mission
was to her feelingsand when she had squeezed her hands into
tight gloves with three buttons and a tasselas the last touch
of eleganceshe turned to Amy with an imbecile expression of
countenancesaying meekly...

I'm perfectly miserablebut if you consider me presentable
I die happy.

You're highly satisfactory. turn slowly roundand let me
get a careful view.Jo revolvedand Amy gave a touch here and
therethen fell backwith her head on one sideobserving graciously
Yesyou'll do. Your head is all I could askfor that
white bonnet with the rose is quite ravishing. Hold back your
shouldersand carry your hands easilyno matter if your gloves
do pinch. There's one thing you can do wellJothat iswear a
shawl. I can'tbut it's very nice to see youand I'm so glad
Aunt March gave you that lovely one. It's simplebut handsome
and those folds over the arm are really artistic. Is the point of
my mantle in the middleand have I looped my dress evenly? I like
to show my bootsfor my feet are prettythough my nose isn't.


You are a thing of beauty and a joy foreversaid Jolooking
through her hand with the air of a connoisseur at the blue feather
against the golden hair. "Am I to drag my best dress through the
dustor loop it uppleasema'am?"


Hold it yup when you walkbut drop it in the house. The
sweeping style suits you bestand you must learn to trail your
skirts gracefully. You haven't half buttoned one cuffdo it at
once. You'll never look finished if you are not careful about the
little detailsfor they make yup the pleasing whole.


Jo sighedand proceeded to burst the buttons off her glove
in doing up her cuffbut at last both were readyand sailed away
looking as `pretty as picters'Hannah saidas she hung out of the
upper window to watch them.


NowJo dearthe Chesters consider themselves very elegant
peopleso I want you to put on your best deportment. Don't make
any of your abrupt remarksor do anything oddwill you? Just be
calmcooland quietthat's safe and ladylikeand you can easily
do it for fifteen minutessaid Amyas they approached the first
placehaving borrowed the white parasol and been inspected by Meg
with a baby on each arm.


Let me see. `Calmcooland quiet'yesI think I can
promise that. I've played the part of a prim young lady on the
stageand I'll try it off. My powers are greatas you shall see
so be easy in your mindmy child.


Amy looked relievedbut naughty Jo took her at her wordfor
during the first call she sat with every limb gracefully composed
every fold correctly drapedcalm as a summer seacool as a snowbank
and as silent as the sphinx. In vain Mrs. Chester alluded to
her `charming novel'and the Misses Chester introduced parties
picnicsthe operaand the fashions. Each and all were answered
by a smilea bowand a demure "Yes" or "No" with the chill on.
In vain Amy telegraphed the word `talk'tried to draw her outand
administered covert pokes with her foot. Jo sat as if blandly unconcious
of it allwith deportment like Maud's face`icily regularsplendidly null'.


What a haughtyuninteresting creature that oldest Miss March is!
was the unfortunately audible remark of one of the ladiesas
the door closed upon their guests. Jo laughed noiselessly all
through the hallbut Amy looked disgusted at the failure of her
instructionsand very naturally laid the blame upon Jo.


How could you mistake me so? I merely meant you to be properly
dignified and composedand you made yourself a perfect stock and
stone. Try to be sociable at the Lamb's'. Gossip as other girls do
and be interested in dress and flirtations and whatever nonsense
comes up. They move in the best societyare valuable persons for
us to knowand I wouldn't fail to make a good impression there for
anything.


I'll be agreeable. I'll gossip and giggleand have horrors
and raptures over any trifle you like. I rather enjoy thisand
now I'll imitate what is called `a charming girl'. I can do it
for I have May Chester as a modeland I'll improve upon her. See if
the Lambs don't say`What a livelynice creature that Jo March is!


Amy felt anxiousas well she mightfor when Jo turned freakish
there was no knowing where she would stop. Amy's face was a
study when she saw her sister skim into the next drawing roomkiss
all the young ladies with effusionbeam graciously upon the young



gentlemenand join in the chat with a spirit which amazed the beholder.
Amy was taken possession of by Mrs. Lambwith whom she
was a favoriteand forced to hear a long account of Lucretia's
last attackwhile three delightful young gentlemen hovered near
waiting for a pause when they might rush in and rescue her. So
situatedshe was powerless to check Jowho seemed possessed by
a spirit of mischiefand talked away as volubly as the lady. A
knot of heads gathered about herand Amy strained her ears to hear
what was going onfor broken sentences filled her with curiosity
and frequent peals of laughter made her wild to share the fun. One
may imagine her suffering on overhearing fragments of this sort of
conversation.

She rides splendidly. who taught her?

No one. She used to practice mountingholding the reinsand
sitting straight on an old saddle in a tree. Now she rides anything
for she doesn't know what fear isand the stableman lets her have
horses cheap because she trains them to carry ladies so well. She
has such a passion for itI often tell her if everything else fails
she can be a horsebreakerand get her living so.

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

YesAmy was in despair that dayfor all the good beasts were
goneand of three leftone was lameone blindand the other so
balky that you had to put dirt in his mouth before he would start.
Nice animal for a pleasure partywasn't it?

Which did she choose?asked one of the laughing gentlemen
who enjoyed the subject.

None of them. She heard of a young horse at the farm house
over the riverand though a lady had never ridden himshe resolved
to trybecause he was handsome and spirited. Her struggles
were really pathetic. There was no one to bring the horse to the
saddleso she took the saddle to the horse. My dear creatureshe
actually rowed it over the riverput it on her headand marched
up to the barn to the utter amazement of the old man!

Did she ride the horse?'

Of course she didand had a capital time. I expected to see
her brought home in fragmentsbut she managed him perfectlyand
was the life of the party."

WellI call that plucky!And young Mr. Lamb turned an approving
glance upon Amywondering what his mother could be saying to make
the girl look so red and uncomfortable.

She was still redder and more uncomfortable a moment after
when a sudden turn in the conversation introduced the subject of
dress. One of the young ladies asked Jo where she got the pretty
drab hat she wore to the picnic and stupid Joinstead of mentioning
the place where it was bought two years agomust needs answer
with unnecessary franknessOhAmy painted it. You can't buy
those soft shadesso we paint ours any color we like. It's a great
comfort to have an artistic sister.


Isn't that an original idea?cried Miss Lambwho found Jo great fun.

That's nothing compared to some of her brilliant performances.
There's nothing the child can't do. Whyshe wanted a pair of blue
boots for Sallie's partyso she just painted her soiled white ones
the loveliest shade of sky blue you ever sawand they looked exactly
like satinadded Jowith an air of pride in her sister's accomplishments
that exasperated Amy till she felt that it would be a relief to throw her
cardcase at her.

We read a story of yours the other dayand enjoyed it very much
observed the elder Miss Lambwishing to compliment the literary
ladywho did not look the character just thenit must be confessed.

Any mention of her `works' always had a bad effect upon Jo
who either grew rigid and looked offendedor changed the subject
with a brusque remarkas now. "Sorry you could find nothing better
to read. I write that rubbish because it sellsand ordinary people
like it. Are you going to New York this winter?'

As Miss Lamb had `enjoyed' the storythis speech was not
exactly grateful or complimentary. The minute it was made Jo saw
her mistakebut fearing to make the matter worsesuddenly remembered
that it was for her to make the first move toward departure
and did so with an abruptness that left three people with halffinished
sentences in their mouths.

Amywe must go. Good-bydeardo come and see us. We are
pining for a visit. I don't dare to ask youMr. Lambbut if you
should comeI don't think I shall have the heart to send you away.

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

Didn't I do well?asked Jowith a satisfied air as they walked away.

Nothing could have been worsewas Amy's crushing reply.
What possessed you to tell those stories about my saddleand
the hats and bootsand all the rest of it?

Whyit's funnyand amuses people. They know we are poor
so it's no use pretending that we have groomsbuy three or
four hats a seasonand have things as easy and fine as they do.

You needn't go and tell them all our little shiftsand
expose our; poverty in that perfectly unnecessary way. You haven't
a bit of proper prideand never will learn when to hold your
tongue and when to speaksaid Amy despairingly.

Poor Jo looked abashedand silently chafed the end of her
nose with the stiff handkerchiefas if performing a penance for
her misdemeanors.

How shall I behave here?she askedas they approached the
third mansion.

Just as you please. I wash my hands of youwas Amy's short
answer.

Then I'll enjoy myself. The boys are at homeand we'll have
a comfortable time. Goodness knows I need a little changefor
elegance has a bad effect upon my constitutionreturned Jo gruffly
being disturbed by her failure to suit.


An enthusiastic welcome from three big boys and several pretty
children speedily soothed her ruffled feelingsand leaving Amy to
entertain the hostess and Mr. Tudorwho happened to be calling
likewiseJo devoted herself to the young folks and found the
change refreshing. She listened to college stories with deep interest
caressed pointers and poodles without a murmuragreed heartily
that "Tom Brown was a brick regardless of the improper form
of praiseand when one lad proposed a visit to his turtle tank
she went with an alacrity which caused Mamma to smile upon her
as that motherly lady settled the cap which was left in a ruinous
condition by filial hugsbearlike but affectionateand dearer to
her than the most faultless coiffure from the hands of an inspired
Frenchwoman.

Leaving her sister to her own devicesAmy proceeded to enjoy
herself to her heart's content. Mr. Tudor's uncle had married an
English lady who was third cousin to a living lordand Amy regarded
the whole family with great respectfor in spite of her American
birth and breedingshe possessed that reverence for titles which
haunts the best of us--that unacknowledged loyalty to the early
faith in kings which set the most democratic nation under the sun
in ferment at the coming of a royal yellow-haired laddiesome years
agoand which still has something to do with the love the young
country bears the oldlike that of a big son for an imperious little
motherwho held him while she couldand let him go with a farewell
scolding when he rebelled. But even the satisfaction of talking with
a distant connection of the British nobility did not render Amy forgetful
of timeand when the proper number of minutes had passedshe
reluctantly tore herself from this aristocratic societyand looked
about for Jofervently hoping that her incorrigible sister would not
be found in any position which should bring disgrace upon the name of March.

It might have been worsebut Amy considered it bad. For Jo
sat on the grasswith an encampment of boys about herand a
dirty-footed dog reposing on the skirt of her state and festival dress
as she related one of Laurie's pranks to her admiring audience. One
small child was poking turtles with Amy's cherished parasola second
was eating gingerbread over Jo's best bonnetand a third playing
ball with her gloves. but all were enjoying themselvesand when Jo
collected her damaged property to goher escort accompanied her
begging her to come againIt was such fun to hear about Laurie's larks."

Capital boysaren't they? I feel quite young and brisk again
after that.said Jostrolling along with her hands behind her
partly from habitpartly to conceal the bespattered parasol.

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

Don't like himhe puts on airssnubs his sistersworries
his fathera nd doesn't speak respectfully of his mother. Laurie
says he is fastand I don't consider him a desirable acquaintance
so I let him alone.

You might treat him civillyat least. You gave him a cool
nodand just now you bowed and smiled in the politest way to
Tommy Chamberlainwhose father keeps a grocery store. If you
had just reversed the nod and the bowit would have been right
said Amy reprovingly.

Noit wouldn'treturned JoI neither likerespectnor
admire Tudorthough his grandfather's uncle's nephew's niece was
a third cousin to a lord. Tommy is poor and bashful and good and


very clever. I think well of himand like to show that I dofor
he is a gentleman in spite of the brown paper parcels.

It's no use trying to argue with youbegan Amy.

Not the leastmy dearinterrupted Joso let us look
amiableand drop a card hereas the Kings are evidently out
for which I'm deeply grateful.

The family cardcase having done its duty the girls walked
onand Jo uttered another thanksgiving on reaching the fifth
houseand being told that the young ladies were engaged.

now let us go homeand never mind Aunt March today. We
can run down there any timeand it's really a pity to trail
through the dust in our best bibs and tuckerswhen we are
tired and cross.

Speak for yourselfif you please. Aunt March likes to have us
pay her the compliment of coming in styleand making a formal call.
It's a little thing to dobut it gives her pleasureand I don't
believe it will hurt your things half so much as letting dirty dogs
and clumping boys spoil them. Stoop downand let me take the
crumbs off of your bonnet.

What a good girl you areAmy!said Jowith a repentant
glance from her own damaged costume to that of her sisterwhich
was fresh and spotless still. "I wish it was as easy for me to do
little things to please people as it is for you. I think of them
but it takes too much time to do themso I wait for a chance to
confer a great favorand let the small ones slipbut they tell
best in the endI fancy."

Amy smiled and was mollified at oncesaying with a maternal
airWomen should learn to be agreeableparticularly poor ones
for they have no other way of repaying the kindnesses they receive.
If you'd remember thatand practice ityou'd be better liked
than I ambecause there is more of you.

I'm a crotchety old thingand always shall bebut I'm
willing to own that you are rightonly it's easier for me to
risk my life for a person than to be pleasant to him when I don't
feel like it. It's a great misfortune to have such strong likes
and dislikesisn't it?

It's a greater not to be able to hide them. I don't mind
saying that I don't approve of Tudor any more than you dobut I'm
not called upon to tell him so. Neither are youand there is no
use in making yourself disagreeable because he is.

But I think girls ought to show when they disapprove of
young menand how can they do it except by their manners?
Preaching does not do any goodas I know to my sorrowsince I've
had Teddie to manage. But there are many little ways in which I can
influence him without a wordand I say we ought to do it to others
if we can.

Teddy is a remarkable boyand can't be taken as a sample
of other boyssaid Amyin a tone of solemn convictionwhich
would have convulsed the `remarkable boy' if he had heard it. "If
we were bellesor women of wealth and positionwe might do something
perhapsbut for us to frown at one set of young gentlemen because
we don't approve of themand smile upon another set because
we dowouldn't have a particle of effectand we should


only be considered odd and puritanical."

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

I can't argue about itI only know that it's the way of
the worldand people who set themselves against it only get
laughed at for their pains. I don't like reformersand I hope
you never try to be one.

I do like themand I shall be one if I canfor in spite of
the laughing the world would never get on without them. We can't
agree about that. for you belong to the old setand I to the new.
You will get on the bestbut I shall have the liveliest time of it.
I should rather enjoy the brickbats and hootingI think.

Wellcompose yourself nowand don't worry Aunt with your
new ideas.

I'll try not tobut I'm always possessed to burst out with
some particularly blunt speech or revolutionary sentiment before
her. It's my doomand I can't help it.

They found Aunt Carrol with the old ladyboth absorbed in
some very interesting subjectbut they dropped it as the girls
came inwith a conscious look which betrayed that they had been
talking about their nieces. Jo was not in a good humorand the
perverse fit returnedbut Amywho had virtuously done her duty
kept her temper and pleased everybodywas in a most angelic frame
of mind. This amiable spirit was felt at onceand both aunts `my
deared' her affectionatelylooking what they afterward said emphatically
That child improves every day.

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

YesAunt. Mrs. Chester asked me if I wouldand I offered to
tend a tableas I have nothing but my time to give.

I'm notput in Jo decidedly. "I hate to be patronizedand
the Chesters think it's a great favor to allow us to help with their
highly connected fair. I wonder you consentedAmythey only want
you to work."

I am willing to work. It's for the freedmen as well as the
Chestersand I think it very kind of them to let me share the
labor and the fun. Patronage does not trouble me when it is well
meant.

Quite right and proper. I like your grateful spiritmy dear.
It's a pleasure to help people who appreciate our efforts. Some do
notand that is tryingobserved Aunt Marchlooking over her
spectacles at Jowho sat apartrocking herselfwith a somewhat
morose expression.

If Jo had only known what a great happiness was wavering in
the balance for one of themshe would have turned dove-like in a
minutebut unfortunatelywe don't have windows in our breasts
and cannot see what goes on in the minds of our friends. Better
for us that we cannot as a general thingbut now and then it
would be such a comfortsuch a saving of time and temper. By her
next speechJo deprived herself of several years of pleasureand


received a timely lesson in the art of holding her tongue.

I don't like favorsthey oppress and make me feel like a
slave. I'd rather do everything for myselfand be perfectly
independent.

Ahem!coughed Aunt Carrol softlywith a look at Aunt March.

I told you sosaid Aunt Marchwith a decided nod to Aunt Carrol.

Mercifully unconscious of what she had doneJo sat with her nose in
the airand a revolutionary aspect which was anything but inviting.

Do you speak Frenchdear?asked Mrs. Carrollaying a hand on Amy's.

Pretty wellthanks to Aunt Marchwho lets Esther talk to
me as often as I likereplied amywith a grateful lookwhich
caused the old lady to smile affably.

How are you about languages?asked Mrs. Carrol of JO.

Don't know a word. I'm very stupid about studying anything
can't bear Frenchit's such a slipperysilly sort of language
was the brusque reply.

Another look passed between the ladiesand Aunt March said
to Amy'You are quite strong and well nodearI believe? Eyes
don't trouble you any moredo they?"

Not at allthank youma'am. I'm very welland mean to do
great things next winterso that I may be ready for Romewhenever
that joyful time arrives.

Good girl! You deserve to goand I'm sure you will some
daysaid Aunt Marchwith an approving; pat on the headas Amy
picked up her ball for her.

Crosspatchdraw the latch
Sit by the fire and spin

squalled Pollybending down from his perch on the back of her
chair to peep into Jo's facewith such a comical air of impertinent
inquiry that it was impossible to help laughing.

Most observing birdsaid the old lady.

Come and take a walkmy dear?cried Pollyhopping toward
the china closetwith a look suggestive of a lump of sugar.

Thank youI will. Come Amy.And Jo brought the visit to
an endfeeling more strongly than ever that calls did have a bad
effect upon her constitution. She shook hands in a gentlemanly
mannerbut Amy kissed both the auntsand the girls departed
leaving behind them the impression of shadow and sunshinewhich
impression caused Aunt March to sayas they vanished...

You'd better do itMary. I'll supply the money. And Aunt
Carrol to reply decidedlyI certainly willif her father and
mother consent."

CHAPTER THIRTY


Mrs. Chester's fair was so very elegant and select that it
was considered a great honor by the young ladies of the neighborhood
to be invited to take a tableand everyone was much interest
in the matter. Amy was askedbut Jo was notwhich was
fortunate for all partiesas her elbows were decidedly
akimbo at this period of her lifeand it took a good many hard
knocks to teach her how to get on easily. The `haughtyuninteresting
creature' was let severely alonebut Amy's talent and taste were duly
complimented by the offer of the art tableand she exerted herself
to prepare and secure appropriate and valuable contributions to it.

Everything went on smoothly till the day before the fair
openedthen there occurred one of the little skirmishes which
it is almost impossible to avoidwhen some five-and-twenty
womenold and youngwith all their private piques and prejudices
try to work together.

May Chester was rather jealous of Amy because the latter
was a greater favorite than herselfand just at this time
several trifling circumstances occurred to increase the feeling.
Amy's dainty pen-and-ink work entirely eclipsed May's painted
vases--that was one thorn. Then the all conquering Tudor had
danced four times with Amy at a late party and only once with
May--that was thorn number two. But the chief grievance that
rankled in her souland gave an excuse for her unfriendly conduct
was a rumor which some obliging gossip had whispered to
herthat the March girls had made fun of her at the Lambs'.
All the blame of this should have fallen upon Jofor her
naughty imitation had been too lifelike to escape detection
and the frolicsome Lambs had permitted the joke to escape. No
hint of this had reached the culpritshoweverand Amy's dismay
can be imaginedwhenthe very evening before the fairas she
was putting the last touches to her pretty tableMrs. Chester
whoof courseresented the supposed ridicule of her daughter
saidin a bland tonebut with a cold look...

I finddearthat there is some feeling among the young
ladies about my giving this table to anyone but my girls. As
this is the most prominentand some say the most attractive
table of alland they are the chief getters-up of the fairit
is thought best for them to take this place. I'm sorrybut I
know you are too sincerely interested in the cause to mind a
little personal disappointmentand you shall have another table
if you like.

Mrs. Chester fancied beforehand that it would be easy to
deliver this little speechbut when the time cameshe found
it rather difficult to utter it naturallywith Amy's unsuspicious
eyes looking straight at her full of surprise and trouble.

Amy felt that there was something behind thisbut would
not guess whatand said quietlyfeeling hurtand showing that
she didPerhaps you had rather I took no table at all?"

Nowmy deardon't have any ill feelingI beg. It's
merely a matter of expediencyyou seemy girls will naturally
take the leadand this table is considered their proper place.
I think it very appropriate to youand feel very grateful for
your efforts to make it so prettybut we must give up our private
wishesof courseand I will see that you have a good place
elsewhere. Wouldn't you like the flower table? The little girls
undertook itbut they are discouraged. You could make a charming
thing of itand the flower table is always attractive you know.


Especially to gentlemenadded Maywith a look which enlightened
Amy as to one cause of her sudden fall from favor. She colored
angrilybut took no other notice of that girlish sarcasm
and answered with unexpected amiability...

It shall be as you pleaseMrs. Chester. I'll give up my
place here at onceand attend to the flowersif you like.

You can put your own things on your own tableif you
preferbegan Mayfeeling a little conscience-strickenas she
looked at the pretty racksthe painted shellsand quaint
illuminations Amy had so carefully made and so gracefully arranged.
She meant it kindlybut Amy mistook her meaningand said quickly . ..

Ohcertainlyif they are in your wayand sweeping her
contributions into her apronpell-mellshe walked offfeeling
that herself and her works of art had been insulted past forgiveness.

Now she's mad. OhdearI wish I hadn't asked you to speakMama
said Maylooking disconsolately at the empty spaces on her table.

Girls' quarrels are soon overreturned her motherfeeling
a trifle ashamed of her own part in this oneas well she might.

The little girls hailed Amy and her treasures with delight
which cordial reception somewhat soothed her perturbed spiritand
she fell to workdetermined to succeed florallyif she could not
artistically. But everything seemed against her. It was lateand
she was tired. Everyone was too busy with their own affairs to help
herand the little girls were only hindrancesfor the dears fussed
and chattered like so many magpiesmaking a great deal of confusion
in their artless efforts to preserve the most perfect order. The
evergreen arch wouldn't stay firm after she got it upbut wiggled
and threatened to tumble down on her head when the hanging baskets
were filled. Her best tile got a splash of waterwhich left a sephia
tear on the Cupid's cheek. She bruised her hands with hammeringand
got cold working in a draftwhich last affliction filled her with
apprehensions for the morrow. Any girl reader who has suffered like
afflictions will sympathize with poor Amy and wish her well through
her task.

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

Because they are mean is no reason why i should be. I hate
such thingsand though I think I've a right to be hurtI don't
intend to show it. They will feel that more than angry speeches
or huffy actionswon't theyMarmee?

That's the right spiritmy dear. A kiss for a blow is always
bestthough it's not very easy to give it sometimessaid her
motherwith the air of one who had learned the difference between
preaching and practicing.

In spite of various very natural temptations to resent and
retaliateAmy adhered to her resolution all the next daybent
on conquering her enemy by kindness. She began wellthanks to a
silent reminder that came to her unexpectedlybut most opportunely.
As she arranged her table that morningwhile the little girls were
in the anteroom filling the basketsshe took up her pet production
a little bookthe antique cover of which her father had found among


his treasuresand in which on leaves of vellum she had beautifully
illuminated different texts. As she turned the pages rich in dainty
devices with very pardonable prideher eye fell upon one verse that
made her stop and think. Framed in a brilliant scrollwork of scarlet
blue and goldwith little spirits of good will helping one another
up and down among the thorns and flowerswere the wordsThou shalt
love thy neighbor as thyself.

I oughtbut I don'tthought Amyas her eye went from the
bright page to May's discontented face behind the big vasesthat
could not hide the vacancies her pretty work had once filled. Amy
stood a minuteturning the leaves in her handreading on each some
sweet rebuke for all heartburnings and uncharitableness of spirit.
Many wise and true sermons are preached us every day by unconscious
ministers in streetschoolofficeor home. Even a fair table
may become a pulpitif it can offer the good and helpful words
which are never out of season. Amy's conscience preached her a
little sermon from that textthen and thereand she did what many
of us do not always dotook the sermon to heartand straightway
put it in practice.
A group of girls were standing about May's tableadmiring
the pretty thingsand talking over the change of saleswomen. They
dropped their voicesbut Amy knew they were speaking of herhearing
one side of the story and judging accordingly. It was not pleasant
but a better spirit had come over herand presently a chance
offered for proving it. She heard May say sorrowfully...

It's too badfor there is no time to make other thingsand
I don't want to fill up with odds and ends. The table was just
complete then. Now it's spoiled.

I dare say she'd put them back if you asked hersuggested
someone.

How could I after all the fuss?began Maybut she did not
finishfor Amy's voice came across the hallsaying pleasantly...

You may have themand welcomewithout askingif you want
them. I was just thinking I'd offer to put them backfor they
belong to your table rather than mine. Here they areplease take
themand forgive me if I was hasty in carrying them away last night.

As she spokeAmy returned her contributionwith a nod and a
smileand hurried away againfeeling that it was easier to do a
friendly thing than it was to stay and be thanked for it.

NowI call that lovely of herdon't you?cried one girl.

May's answer was inaudiblebut another young ladywhose
temper was evidently a little soured by making lemonadeadded
with a disagreeable laughVery lovelyfor she knew she wouldn't
sell them at her own table.

Nowthat was hard. When we make little sacrifices we like
to have them appreciatedat leastand for a minute Amy was sorry
she had done itfeeling that virtue was not always its won reward.
But it isas she presently discoveredfor her spirits began to
riseand her table to blossom under her skillful handsthe girls
were very kindand that one little act seemed to have cleared the
atmosphere amazingly.

It was a very long day and a hard one for Amyas she sat behind
her tableoften quite alonefor the little girls deserted
very soon. Few cared to buy flowers in summerand her bouquets


began to droop long before night.

The art table was the most attractive in the room. There was
a crowd about it all day longand the tenders were constantly flying
to and fro with important faces and rattling money boxes. Amy
often looked wistfully acrosslonging to be therewhere she felt
at home and happyinstead of in a corner with nothing to do. It
might seem no hardship to some of usbut to a prettyblithe young
girlit was not only tediousbut very tryingand the thought of
Laurie and his friends made it a real martyrdom.

She did not go home till nightand then she looked so pale
and quiet that they knew the day had been a hard onethough she
made no complaintand did not even tell what she had done. Her
mother gave her an extra cordial cup of tea. Beth helped her dress
and made a charming little wreath for her hairwhile Jo astonished
her family by getting herself up with unusual careand hinting
darkly that the tables were about to be turned.

Don't do anything rudepray Jo. I won't have any fuss made
so let it all pass and behave yourselfbegged Amyas she departed
earlyhoping to find a reinforcement of flowers to refresh her poor
little table.

I merely intend to make myself entrancingly agreeable to ever
one I knowand to keep them in your corner as long as possible.
Teddy and his boys will lend a handand we'll have a good time yet.
returned Joleaning over the gate to watch for Laurie. Presently
the familiar tramp was heard in the duskand she ran out to meet him.

Is that my boy?

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

Ohteddysuch doings!And Jo told Amy's wrongs with sisterly zeal.

A flock of our fellows are going to drive over by-and-byand
I'll be hanged if I don't make them buy every flower she's gotand
camp down before her table afterwardsaid Laurieespousing her
cause with warmth.

The flowers are not at all niceAmy saysand the fresh ones
may not arrive in time. I don't wish to be unjust or suspiciousbut
I shouldn't wonder if they never came at all. When people do one
mean thing they are very likely to do anotherobserved Jo in a
disgusted tone.

Didn't Hayes give you the best out of our gardens? I told him to.

I didn't know thathe forgotI supposeandas your grandpa was
poorlyI didn't like to worry him by askingthough I did want some.

NowJohow could you think there was any need of asking?
They are just as much yours as mine. Don't we always go halves
in everything?began Lauriein the tone that always made Jo
turn thorny.

GraciousI hope not! Half of some of your things wouldn't
suit me at all. But we mustn't stand philandering here. I've got
to help Amyso you go and make yourself splendidand if you'll
be so very kind as to let Hayes take a few nice flowers up to the
HallI'll bless you forever.


Couldn't you do it now?asked Laurieso suggestively that
Jo shut the gate in his face with inhospitable hasteand called
through the barsGo awayTeddyI'm busy.

Thanks to the conspiratorsthe tables were turned that night
for Hayes sent up a wilderness of flowerswith a loverly basket
arranged in his best manner for a centerpiece. Then the March family
turned out en masseand Jo exerted herself to some purposefor
people not only camebut stayedlaughing at her nonsenseadmiring
Amy's tasteand apparently enjoying themselves very much. Laurie
and his friends gallantly threw themselves into the breachbought
up the bouquetsencamped before the tableand made that corner
the liveliest spot in the room. Amy was in her element nowand out
of gratitudeif nothing morewas as spritely and gracious as possible
coming to the conclusionabout that timethat virtue was
it's own rewardafter all.

Jo behaved herself with exemplary proprietyand when Amy was
happily surrounded by her guard of honorJo circulated about the
hallpicking up various bits of gossipwhich enlightened her upon
the subject of the Chester change of base. She reproached herself
for her share of the ill feeling and resolved to exonerate Amy as
soon as possible. She also discovered what Amy had done about the
things in the morningand considered her a model of magnanimity. As
she passed the art tableshe glanced over it for her sister's
thingsbut saw no sign of them. "Tucked away out of sightI dare
say thought Jowho could forgiver her own wrongsbut hotly resented
any insult offered her family.

Good eveningMiss Jo. How does Amy get on?" asked May with
a conciliatory airfor she wanted to show that she also could be
generous.

She has sold everything she had that was worth sellingand
now she is enjoying herself. The flower table is always attractive
you know`especially to gentlemen'.

Jo couldn't resist giving that little slapbut May took it
so meekly she regretted it a minute afterand fell to praising
the great vaseswhich still remained unsold.

Is Amy's illumination anywhere aboutI took a fancy to
buy that for Father said Jovery anxious to learn the fate of
her sister's work.

Everything of Amy's sold long ago. I took care that the
right people saw themand they made a nice little sum of money
for us returned Maywho had overcome sundry small temptations
as well as Amy hadthat day.

Much gratifiedJo rushed back to tell the good newsand
Amy looked both touched and surprised by the report of May's
word and manner.

NowgentlemenI want you to go and do your duty by the
other tables as generously as you have by mineespecially the
art table she saidordering out `Teddy's own'as the girls
called the college friends.

`ChargeChestercharge!' is the motto for that tablebut
do your duty like menand you'll get your money's worth of art
in every sense of the word said the irrepressible Joas the
devoted phalanx prepared to take the field.


To hear is to obeybut March is fairer far than May said
little Parkermaking a frantic effort to be both witty and tender
and getting promptly quenched by Lauriewho said...


Very wellmy sonfor a small boy!" and walked him offwith
a paternal pat on the head.


Buy the vaseswhispered Amy to Laurieas a final heaping
of coals of fire on her enemy's head.


To May's great delightMr. Laurence not only bought the vases
but pervaded the hall with one under each arm. The other gentlemen
speculated with equal rashness in all sorts of frail triflesand
wandered helplessly about afterwardburdened with wax flowers
painted fansfiligree portfoliosand other useful and appropriate
purchases.


Aunt Carrol was thereheard the storylooked pleasedand
said something to Mrs. March in a cornerwhich made the latter
lady beam with satisfactionand watch Amy with a face full of
mingled pride and anxietythough she did not betray the cause
of her pleasure till several days later.


The fair was pronounced a successand when May bade Amy
goodnightshe did not gush as usualbut gave her an affectionate
kissand a look which said `forgive and forget'. That satisfied
Amyand when she got home she found the vases paraded on
the parlor chimney piece with a great bouquet in each. "The
reward of merit for a magnanimous March as Laurie announced
with a flourish.


You've a deal more principle and generosity and nobleness
of character than I ever gave you credit forAmy. You've behaved
sweetlyand I respect you with all my heart said Jo
warmlyas they brushed their hair together late that night.


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


Whygirlsyou needn't praise me so. I only did as I'd
be done by. You laugh at me when I say I want to be a ladybut
I mean a true gentlewoman in mind and mannersand I try to do
it as far as I know how. I can't explain exactlybut I want to
be above the little meannesses and follies and faults that spoil
so many women. I'm far from it nowbut I do my bestand hope in
time to be what Mother is."


Amy spoke earnestlyand Jo saidwith a cordial hugI
understand now what you meanand I'll never laugh at you again.
You are getting on faster than you thinkand I'll take lessons
of you in true politenessfor you've learned the secretI believe.
Try awaydearyyou'll get your reward some dayand
no one will be more delighted than I shall.


A week later Amy did get her rewardand poor Jo found it
hard to be delighted. A letter came from Aunt Carroland Mrs.
March's face was illuminated to such a degree when she read it
that Jo and Bethwho were with herdemanded what the glad
tiding were.


Aunt Carrol is going abroad next monthand wants...



Me to go with her!burst in Joflying out of her chair
in an uncontrollable rapture.


Nodearnot you. It's Amy.


OhMother! She's too youngit's my turn first. I've
wanted it so long. It would do me so much goodand be so altogether
splendid. I must go!


I'm afraid it's impossibleJo. Aunt says Amydecidedly
and it is not for us to dictate when she offers such a favor.


It's always so. Amy has all the fun and I have all the work.
It isn't fairohit isn't fair!cried Jo passionately.


I'm afraid it's partly your own faultdear. When Aunt spoke
to me the other dayshe regretted your blunt manners and too
independent spiritand here she writesas if quoting something you
had said--`I planned at first to ask Jobut as `favors burden her'
and she `hates French'I think I won't venture to invite her. Amy
is more docilewill make a good companion for Floand receive
gratefully any help the trip may give her.


Ohmy tonguemy abominable tongue! Why can't I learn to
keep it quiet?' groaned Joremembering words which had been
her undoing. When she had heard the explanation of the quoted
phrasesMrs. March said sorrowfully...


I wish you could have gonebut there is no hope of it this
timeso try to bear it cheerfullyand don't sadden Amy's pleasure
by reproaches or regrets."


I'll trysaid Jowinking hard as she knelt down to pick
up the basket she had joyfully upset. "I'll take a leaf out of
her bookand try not only to seem gladbut to be soand not
grudge her one minute of happiness. But it won't be easyfor
it is a dreadful disappointment." And poor Jo bedewed the little
fat pincushion she held with several very bitter tears.
JodearI'm very selfishbut I couldn't spare youand
I'm glad you are not going quite yetwhispered Bethembracing
herbasket and allwith such a clinging touch and loving face
that Jo felt comforted in spite of the sharp regret that made her
want to box her own earsand humbly beg Aunt Carrol to burden
her with this favorand see how gratefully she would bear it.


By the time Amy came inJo was able to take her part in
the family jubilationnot quite as heartily as usualperhaps
but without repinings at Amy's good fortune. The young lady
herself received the news as tidings of great joywent about
in a solemn sort of raptureand began to sort her colors and
pack her pencils that eveningleaving such trifles as clothes
moneyand passports to those less absorbed in visions of art
than herself.


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


Suppose you haven't?said Josewing awaywith red eyes
at the new collars which were to be handed over to Amy.


Then I shall come home and teach drawing for my living
replied the aspirant for famewith philosophic composure.



But she made a wry face at the prospectand scratched away
at her palette as if bent on vigorous measures before she
gave up her hopes.

Noyou won't. You hate hard workand you'll marry some
rich manand come home to sit in the lap of luxury all your
dayssaid Jo.

Your predictions sometimes come to passbut I don't believe
that one will. I'm sure I wish it wouldfor if I can't be
an artist myselfI should like to be able to help those who are
said Amysmilingas if the part of Lady Bountiful would suit
her better than that of a poor drawing teacher.

Hum!said Jowith a sigh. "If you wish it you'll have it
for your wishes are always granted--mine never."

Would you like to go?asked Amythoughtfully patting her
nose with her knife.

Rather!

Wellin a year or two I'll send for youand we'll dig in
the Forum for relicsand carry out all the plans we've made so
many times.

Thank you. I'll remind you of your promise when that joyful
day comesif it ever doesreturned Joaccepting the vague but
magnificent offer as gratefully as she could.
There was not much time for preparationand the house was
in a ferment till Amy was off. Jo bore up very well till the
last flutter of blue ribbon vanishedwhen she retired to her
refugethe garretand cried till she couldn't cry any more.
Amy likewise bore up stoutly till the steamer sailed. Then
just as the gangway was about to be withdrawnit suddenly came
over her that a whole ocean was soon to roll between her and
those who loved her bestand she clung to Lauriethe last
lingerersaying with a sob...

Ohtake care of them for meand if anything should
happen... "

I willdearI willand if anything happensI'll come
and comfort youwhispered Laurielittle dreaming that he would
be called upon to keep his word.

So Amy sailed away to find the Old Worldwhich is always
new and beautiful to young eyeswhile her father and friend
watched her from the shorefervently hoping that none but gentle
fortunes would befall the happy-hearted girlwho waved her hand
to them till they could see nothing but the summer sunshine dazzling
on the sea.

CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE

London

Dearest People
Here I really sit at a front window of the Bath Hotel
Piccadilly. It's not a fashionable placebut Uncle stopped
here years agoand won't go anywhere else. Howeverwe don't
mean to stay longso it's no great matter. OhI can't begin


to tell you how I enjoy it all! I never canso I'll only give
you bits out of my notebookfor I've done nothing but sketch
and scribble since I started.


I sent a line from Halifaxwhen I felt pretty miserable
but after that I got on delightfullyseldom illon deck all
daywith plenty of pleasant people to amuse me. Everyone was
very kind to meespecially the officers. Don't laughJo
gentlemen really are very necessary aboard shipto hold on to
or to wait upon oneand as they have nothing to doit's a mercy
to make them usefulotherwise they would smoke themselves to death
I'm afraid.


Aunt and Flo were poorly all the wayand liked to be let
aloneso when I had done what I could for themI went and
enjoyed myself. Such walks on decksuch sunsetssuch splendid
air and waves! It was almost as exciting as riding a fast horse
when we went rushing on so grandly. I wish Beth could have come
it would have done her so much good. As for Joshe would have
gone up and sat on the maintop jibor whatever the high thing
is calledmade friends with the engineersand tooted on the
captain's speaking trumpetshe'd have been in such a state of
rapture.


It was all heavenlybut I was glad to see the Irish coast
and found it very lovelyso green and sunnywith brown cabins
here and thereruins on some of the hillsand gentlemen's
countryseats in the valleyswith deer feeding in the parks.
It was early in the morningbut I didn't regret getting up to
see itfor the bay was full of little boatsthe shore so picturesque
and a rosy sky overhead. I never shall forget it.


At Queenstown on of my new acquaintances left usMr.
Lennoxand when I said something about the Lakes of Killarney
he sighed and andwith a look at me...


Ohhave you e'er heard of Kate Kearney?
She lives on the banks of Killarney;
From the glance of her eye
Shun danger and fly
For fatal's the glance of Kate Kearney.


Wasn't that nonsensical?


We only stopped at Liverpool a few hours. It's a dirty
noisy placeand I was glad to leave it. Uncle rushed out and
bought a pair of dogskin glovessome uglythick shoesand an
umbrellaand got shaved `a la mutton chopthe first thing.
Then he flattered himself that he looked like a true Briton
but the first time he had the mud cleaned off his shoesthe
little bootblack knew that an American stood in themand said
with a grinThere yer harsir. I've given `em the latest
Yankee shine.It amused Uncle immensely. OhI must tell you
what that absurd Lennox did! He got his friend Wardwho came
on with usto order a bouquet for meand the first thing I
saw in my room was a lovely onewith "Robert Lennox's compliments
on the card. Wasn't that fungirls? I like traveling.


I never shall get to London if I don't hurry. The trip was
like riding through a long picture galleryfull of lovely landscapes.
The farmhouses were my delightwith thatched roofs
ivy up to the eaveslatticed windowsand stout women with rosy
children at the doors. The very cattle looked more tranquil
than oursas they stood knee-deep in cloverand the hens had



a contented cluckas if they never got nervous like Yankee
biddies. Such perfect color I never sawthe grass so greensky
so bluegrain so yellowwoods so darkI was in a rapture all
the way. So was Floand we kept bouncing from one side to the
othertrying to see everything while we were whisking along at
the rate of sixty miles an hour. Aunt was tired and went to sleep
but Uncle read his guidebookand wouldn't be astonished at anything.
This is the way we went on. Amyflying up--Ohthat
must be Kenilworththat gray place among the trees!" Flodarting
to my window--"How sweet! We must go there sometimewon't we
Papa?" Unclecalmly admiring his boots--"Nomy dearnot unless
you want beerthat's a brewery."

A pause--then Flo cried outBless methere's a gallows and
a man going up.Wherewhere?shrieks Amystaring out at two
tall posts with a crossbeam and some dangling chains. "A colliery
remarks Unclewith a twinkle of the eye. Here's a lovely flock
of lambs all lying down says Amy. SeePapaaren't they
pretty?" added Flo sentimentally. "Geeseyoung ladies returns
Unclein a tone that keeps us quiet till Flo settles down to
enjoy the FLIRTATIONS OF CAPTAIN CAVENDISHand I have the scenery
all to myself.

Of course it rained when we got to Londonand there was
nothing to be seen but fog and umbrellas. We restedunpacked
and shopped a little between the showers. Aunt Mary got me some
new thingsfor I came off in such a hurry I wasn't half ready.
A white hat and blue feathera muslin dress to matchand the
loveliest mantle you ever saw. Shopping in Regent Street is
perfectly splendid. Things seem so cheapnice ribbons only
sixpence a yard. I laid in a stockbut shall get my gloves
in Paris. Doesn't that sound sort of elegant and rich?

Flo and Ifor the fun of itordered a hansom cabwhile
Aunt and Uncle were outand went for a drivethough we learned
afterward that it wasn't the thing for young ladies to ride in
them alone. It was so droll! For when we were shut in by the
wooden apronthe man drove so fast that Flo was frightenedand
told me to stop him. but he was up outside behind somewhere
and I couldn't get at him. He didn't hear me callnor see me
flap my parasol in frontand there we werequite helpless
rattling awayand whirling around corners at a breakneck pace.
At lastin my despairI saw a little door in the roofand on
poking it opena red eye appearedand a beery voice said...

Nowthenmum?"

I gave my order as soberly as I couldand slamming down
the doorwith an "Ayeayemum the man made his horse walk
as if going to a funeral. I poked again and saidA little
faster then off he wenthelter-skelter as beforeand we
resigned ourselves to our fate.

Today was fairand we went to Hyde Parkclose byfor we
are more aristocratic than we look. The Duke of Devonshire lives
near. I often see his footmen lounging at the back gateand
the Duke of Wellington's house is not far off. Such sights as I
sawmy dear! It was as good as Punchfor there were fat dowagers
rolling about in their red and yellow coacheswith gorgeous
Jeameses in silk stockings and velvet coatsup behindand powdered
coachmen in front. Smart maidswith the rosiest children
I ever sawhandsome girlslooking half asleepdandies in queer
English hats and lavender kids lounging aboutand tall soldiers
in short red jackets and muffin caps stuck on one sidelooking


so funny I longed to sketch them.


Rotten Row means `Route de Roi'or the king's waybut
now it's more like a riding school than anything else. The
horses are splendidand the menespecially the groomsride
wellbut the women are stiffand bouncewhich isn't according
to our rules. I longed to show them a tearing American
gallopfor they trotted solemnly up and downin their scant
habits and high hatslooking like the women in a toy Noah's
Ark. Everyone rides--old menstout ladieslittle children--
and the young folks do a deal of flirting hereI say a pair
exchange rose budsfor it's the thing to wear one in the
button-holeand I thought it rather a nice little idea.


In the P.M. to Westminster Abbeybut don't expect me to
describe itthat's impossibleso I'll only say it was sublime!
This evening we are going to see Fechterwhich will be an appropriate
end to the happiest day of my life.


It's very latebut I can't let my letter go in the morning
without telling you what happened last evening. Who do
you think came inas we were at tea? Laurie's English friends
Fred and Frank Vaughn! I was so surprisedfor I shouldn't have
known them but for the cards. both are tall fellows with whiskers
Fred handsome in the English styleand Frank much better
for he only limps slightlyand uses no crutches. They had heard
from Laurie where we were to beand came to ask us to their
housebut Uncle won't goso we shall return the calland see
them as we can. They went to the theater with usand we did
have such a good timefor Frank devoted himself to Floand
Fred and I talked over pastpresentand future fun as if we
had know each other all our days. Tell Beth Frank asked for her
and was sorry to hear of her ill health. Fred laughed when I
spoke of Joand sent his `respectful compliments to the big hat'.
Neither of them had forgotten Camp Laurenceor the fun we had
there. What ages ago it seemsdoesn't it?


Aunt is tapping on the wall for the third timeso I must
stop. I really feel like a dissipated London fine ladywriting
here so latewith my room full of pretty thingsand my head
a jumble of parkstheatersnew gownsand gallant creatures
who say Ah!" and twirl their blond mustaches with the true
English lordliness. I long to see you alland in spite of my
nonsense amas everyour loving...
AMY


PARIS


Dear girls


In my last I told you about our London visithow kind the
Vaughns wereand what pleasant parties they made for us. I enjoyed
the trips to Hampton Court and the Kensington Museum more than
anything elsefor at Hampton I saw Raphael's cartoonsand
at the Museumrooms full of pictures by TurnerLawrenceReynolds
Hogarthand the other great creatures. The day in Richmond
Park was charmingfor we had a regular English picnicand
I had more splendid oaks and groups of deer than I could copy
also heard a nightingaleand saw larks go up. We `did' London
to our heart's contentthanks to Fred and Frankand were sorry
to go awayfor though English people are slow to take you in
when they once make up their minds to do it they cannot be outdone
in hospitalityI think. The Vaughns hope to meet us in
Rome next winterand I shall be dreadfully disappointed if they



don'tfor Grace and I are great friendsand the boys very
nice fellowsespecially Fred.

Wellwe were hardly settled herewhen he turned up again
saying he had come for a holidayand was going to Switzerland.
Aunt looked sober at firstbut he was so cool about it she
couldn't say a word. And now we get on nicelyand are very
glad he camefor he speaks French like a nativeand I don't
know what we should do without him. Uncle doesn't know ten
wordsand insists on talking English very loudas if it
would make people understand him. Aunt's pronunciation is
old-fashionedand Flo and Ithough we flattered ourselves
that we knew a good dealfind we don'tand are very grateful
to have Fred do the `parley vooing'as Uncle calls it.

Such delightful times as we are having! Sight-seeing from
morning till nightstopping for nice lunches in the gay cafes
and meeting with all sorts of droll adventures. Rainy days I
spend in the Louvrerevelling in pictures. Jo would turn up
her naughty nose at some of the finestbecause she has no
soul for artbut I haveand I'm cultivation eye and taste
as fast as I can. She would like the relics of great people
betterfor I've seen her Napoleon's cocked hat and gray
coathis baby's cradle and his old toothbrushalso Marie
Antoinette's little shoethe ring of Saint DenisCharlemagne's
swordand many other interesting things. I'll talk for hours
about them when I comebut haven't time to write.

The Palais Royale is a heavenly placeso full of bijouterie
and lovely things that I'm nearly distracted because I can't
buy them. Fred wanted to get me somebut of course I didn't
allow it. Then the Bois and Champs Elysees are tres magnifique.
I've seen the imperial family several timesthe emperor an ugly
hard-looking manthe empress pale and prettybut dressed in
bad tasteI thought--purple dressgreen hatand yellow gloves.
Little Nap is a handsome boywho sits chatting to his tutor
and kissed his hand to the people as he passes in his four-horse
barouchewith postilions in red satin jackets and a mounted
guard before and behind.

We often walk in the Tuileries Gardensfor they are
lovelythough the antique Luxembourg Gardens suit me better.
Pere la Chaise is very curiousfor many of the tombs are
like small roomsand looking inone sees a tablewith
images or pictures of the deadand chairs for the mourners
to sit in when they come to lament. That is so Frenchy.

Our rooms are on the Rue de Rivoliand sitting on the
balconywe look up and down the longbrilliant street. It
is so pleasant that we spend our evenings talking there when
too tired with our day's work to go out. Fred is very entertaining
and is altogether the most agreeable young man I ever knew-except
Lauriewhose manners are more charming. I wish Fred
was darkfor I don't fancy light menhoweverthe Vaughns
are very rich and come of an excellent familyso I won't
find fault with their yellow hairas my own is yellower.

Next week we are off to Germany and Switzerlandand as
we shall travel fastI shall only be able to give you hasty
letters. I keep my diaryand try to `remember correctly and
describe clearly all that I see and admire'as Father advised.
It is good practice for meand with my sketchbook will give
you a better idea of my tour than these scribbles.


AdieuI embrace you tenderly.
VOTRE AMIE

HEIDELBERG

My dear Mamma

Having a quiet hour before we leave for BerneI'll try to
tell you what has happenedfor some of it is very important
as you will see.

The sail up the Rhine was perfectand I just sat and enjoyed
it with all my might. Get Father's old guidebooks and
read about it. I haven't words beautiful enough to describe it.
At Coblenz we had a lovely timefor some students from Bonn
with whom Fred got acquainted on the boatgave us a serenade.
It was a moonlight nightand about one o'clock Flo and I were
waked by the most delicious music under our windows. We flew up
and hid behind the curtainsbut sly peeps showed us Fred and
the students singing away down below. It was the most romantic
thing I ever saw--the riverthe bridge of boatsthe great fortress
oppositemoonlight everywhereand music fit to melt a heart of stone.

When they were done we threw down some flowersand saw
them scramble for themkiss their hands to the invisible ladies
and go laughing awayto smoke and drink beerI suppose. Next
morning Fred showed me one of the crumpled flowers in his vest
pocketand looked very sentimental. I laughed at himand said
I didn't throw itbut Flowhich seemed to disgust himfor he
tossed it out of the windowand turned sensible again. I'm
afraid I'm going to have trouble with that boyit begins to
look like it.

The baths at Nassau were very gayso was Baden-Baden
where Fred lost some moneyand I scolded him. He needs someone
to look after him when Frank is not with him. Kate said
once she hoped he'd marry soonand I quite agree with her
that it would be well for him. Frankfurt was delightful. I
saw Goeth's houseSchiller's statueand Dannecker's famous
Ariadne. It was very lovelybut I should have enjoyed it
more if I had known the story better. I didn't like to askas
everyone knew it or pretended they did. I wish Jo would tell
me all about it. I ought to have read morefor I find I don't
know anythingand it mortifies me.

Now comes the serious partfor it happened hereand Fred
has just gone. He has been so kind and jolly that we all got
quite fond of him. I never thought of anything but a traveling
friendship till the serenade night. Since then I've begun to
feel that the moonlight walksbalcony talksand daily adventures
were something more to him than fun. I haven't flirted
Mothertrulybut remembered what you said to meand have done
my very best. I can't help it if people like me. I don't try to
make themand it worries me if I don't care for themthough Jo
says I haven't got any heart. Now I know Mother will shake her
headand the girls sayOhthe mercenary little wretch!but
I've made up my mindand if Fred asks meI shall accept him
though I'm not madly in love. I like himand we get on comfortably
together. He is handsomeyoungclever enoughand very
rich--ever so much richer than the Laurences. I don't think his
family would objectand I should be very happyfor they are all
kindwell-bredgenerous peopleand they like me. Fredas the
eldest twinwill have the estateI supposeand such a splendid
one it is! A city house in a fashionable streetnot so showy


as our big housesbut twice as comfortable and full of solid
luxurysuch as English people believe in. I like itfor it's
genuine. I've seen the platethe family jewelsthe old servants
and pictures of the country placewith its parkgreat house
lovely groundsand fine horses. Ohit would be all I should
ask! And I'd rather have it than any title such as girls snap
up so readilyand find nothing behind. I may be mercenary
but I hate povertyand don't mean to bear it a minute longer
than I can help. One of us must marry well. Meg didn'tJo
won'tBeth can't yetso I shalland make everything okay all
round. I wouldn't marry a man I hated or despised. You may be
sure of thatand though Fred is not my model herohe does very
welland in time I should get fond enough of him if he was very
fond of meand let me do just as I liked. So I've been turning
the matter over in my mind the last weekfor it was impossible to
help seeing that Fred liked me. He said nothingbut little things
showed it. He never goes with Floalways gets on my side of the
carriagetableor promenadelooks sentimental when we are alone
and frowns at anyone else who ventures to speak tome. Yesterday
at dinnerwhen an Austrian officer stared at us and then said
something to his frienda rakish-looking baronabout `ein wonderschones
Blondchen'Fred looked as fierce as a lionand cut his meat
so savagely it nearly flew off his plate. He isn't one of the
coolstiff Englishmenbut is rather pepperyfor he has Scotch
blood in himas one might guess from his bonnie blue eyes.

Welllast evening we went up to the castle about sunsetat
least all of us but Fredwho was to meet us there after going to
the Post Restante for letters. We had a charming time poking
about the ruinsthe vaults where the monster tun isand the
beautiful gardens made by the elector long ago for his English
wife. I liked the great terrace bestfor the view was divine
so while the rest went to see the rooms insideI sat there trying
to sketch the gray stone lion's head on the wallwith scarlet
woodbine sprays hanging round it. I felt as if I'd got into a
romancesitting therewatching the Meckar rolling through the
valleylistening to the music of the Austrian band belowand
waiting for my loverlike a real storybook girl. I had a feeling
that something was going to happen and I was ready for it. I
didn't feel blushy or quakeybut quite cool and only a little
excited.

By-and-by I heard Fred's voiceand then he came hurrying
through the great arch to find me. He looked so troubled that I
forgot all about myselfand asked what the matter was. He said
he'd just got a letter begging him to come homefor Frank was
very ill. So he was going at once on the night train and only
had time to say good-by. I was very sorry for himand disappointed
for myselfbut only for a minute because he saidas he shook hands
and said it in a way that I could not mistakeI shall soon come back
you won't forget meAmy?

I didn't promisebut I looked at himand he seemed satisfied
and there was no time for anything but messages and good-byes
for he was off in an hourand we all miss him very much.
I know he wanted to speakbut I thinkfrom something he once
hintedthat he had promised his father not to do anything of
the sort yet a whilefor is is a rash boyand the old gentleman
dreads a foreign daughter-in-law. We shall soon meet in
Romeand thenif I don't change my mindI'll say "Yesthank
you when he says Will youplease?"

Of course this is all very privatebut I wished you to
know what was going on. Don't be anxious about meremember I


am your `prudent Amy'and be sure I will do nothing rashly.
Send me as much advice as you like. I'll use it if I can. I
wish I could see you for a good talkMarmee. Love and trust me.


Ever your AMY


CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO


JoI'm anxious about Beth.


WhyMothershe has seemed unusually well since the
babies came.


It's not her health that troubles me nowit's her spirits.
I'm sure there is something on her mindand I want you to discover
what it is.


What makes you think soMother?


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


Have you asked her about it?'


I have tried once or twicebut she either evaded my
questions or looked so distressed that I stopped. I never
force my children's confidenceand I seldom have to wait
for long."


Mrs. March glanced at Jo as she spokebut the face
opposite seemed quite unconscious of any secret disquietude
but Beth'sand after sewing thoughtfully for a minuteJo
saidI think she is growing upand so begins to dream dreams
and have hopes and fears and fidgetswithout knowing why or
being able to explain them. WhyMotherBeth's eighteenbut
we don't realize itand treat her like a childforgetting
she's a woman.


So she is. Dear hearthow fast you do grow upreturned
her mother with a sigh and a smile.


Can't be helpedMarmeeso you must resign yourself to
all sorts of worriesand let your birds hop out of the nest
one by one. I promise never to hop very farif that is any
comfort to you.


It's a great comfortJo. I always feel strong when you
are at homenow Meg is gone. Beth is too feeble and Amy too
young to depend uponbut when the tug comesyou are always
ready.


Whyyou know I don't mind hard jobs muchand there
must always be one scrub in a family. Amy is splendid in fine
works and I'm notbut I feel in my element when all the carpets
are to be taken upor half the family fall sick at once.
Amy is distinguishing herself abroadbut if anything is amiss
at homeI'm your man.


I leave Beth to your handsthenfor she will open her



tender little heart to her Jo sooner than to anyone else. Be
very kindand don't let her think anyone watches or talks
about; her. If she only would get quite strong and cheerful
againI shouldn't have a wish in the world.


Happy woman! I've got heaps.


My dearwhat are they?


I'll settle Bethy's troublesand then I'll tell you mine.
They are not very wearingso they'll keep.And Jo stitched away
with a wise nod which set her mother's heart at rest about her for
the present at least.


While apparently absorbed in her own affairsJo watched
Bethand after many conflicting conjecturesfinally settled
upon one which seemed to explain the change in her. A slight
incident gave Jo the clue to the mysteryshe thoughtand
lively fancyloving heart did the rest. She was affecting
to write busily one Saturday afternoonwhen she and Beth were
alone together. Yet as she scribbledshe kept her eye on her
sisterwho seemed unusually quiet. Sitting at the windowBeth's
work often dropped into her lapand she leaned her head upon her
handin a dejected attitudewhile her eyes rested on the dull
autumnal landscape. Suddenly some one passed belowwhistling
like an operatic blackbirdand a voice called outAll serene!
Coming in tonight.


Beth startedleaned forwardsmiled and noddedwatched the
passer-by till his quick tramp died awaythen said softly as if
to herselfHow strong and well and happy that dear boy looks.


Hum!said Jostill intent upon her sister's facefor the
bright color faded as quickly as it camethe smile vanishedand
presently a tear lay shining on the window ledge. Beth whisked
it offand in her half-averted face read a tender sorrow that
made her own eyes fill. Fearing to betray herselfshe slipped
awaymurmuring something about needing more paper.


Mercy on meBeth loves Laurie!she saidsitting down in
her own roompale with the shock of the discovery which she
believed she had just made. "I never dreamed of such a thing.
What will Mother say? I wonder if her..." there Jo stopped
and turned scarlet with a sudden thought. "If he shouldn't love
back againhow dreadful it would be. He must. I'll make him!"
And she shook her head threateningly at the picture of the mischievous-
looking boy laughing at her from the wall. "Oh dearwe are
growing up with a vengeance. Here's Meg married and a mamma
Amy flourishing away at Parisand Beth in love. I'm the only
one that has sense enough to keep out of mischief." Jo thought
intently for a minute with her eyes fixed on the picturethen
she smoothed out her wrinkled forehead and saidwith a decided
nod at the face oppositeNo thank yousiryou're very
charmingbut you've no more stability than a weathercock. So
you needn't write touching notes and smile in that insinuating
wayfor it won't do a bit of goodand I won't have it.


Then she sighedand fell into a reverie from which she
did not wake till the early twilight sent her down to take new
observationswhich only confirmed her suspicion. Though
Laurie flirted with Amy and joked with Johis manner to Beth
had always been peculiarly kind and gentlebut so was everybody's.
Thereforeno one thought of imagining that he cared more
for her than for the others. Indeeda general impression



had prevailed in the family of late that `our boy' was getting
fonder than ever of Jowhohoweverwouldn't hear a word upon
the subject and scolded violently if anyone dared to suggest it.
If they had known the various tender passages which had been
nipped in the budthey would have had the immense satisfaction
of sayingI told you so.But Jo hated `philandering'and
wouldn't allow italways having a joke or a smile ready at the
least sign of impending danger.
When Laurie first went to collegehe fell in love about
once a monthbut these small flames were as brief as ardent
did no damageand much amused Jowho took great interest in
the alternations of hopdespairand resignationwhich were
confided to her in their weekly conferences. But there came a
time when Laurie ceased to worship at many shrineshinted
darkly at one all-absorbing passionand indulged occasionally
in Byronic fits of gloom. Then he avoided the tender subject
altogetherwrote philosophical notes to Joturned studious
and gave out that he was going to `dig'intending to graduate
in a blaze of glory. This suited the young lady better than
twilight confidencestender pressures of the handand
eloquent glances of the eyefor with Jobrain developed
earlier than heartand she preferred imaginary heroes to
real onesbecause when tired of themthe former could be
shut up in the tin kitchen till called forand the latter
were less manageable.

Things were in this state when the grand discovery was
madeand Jo watched Laurie that night as she had never done
before. If she had not got the new idea into her headshe
would have seen nothing unusual in the fact that Beth was
very quietand Laurie very kind to her. But having given the
rein to her lively fancyit galloped away with her at a great
paceand common sensebeing rather weakened by a long course
or romance writingdid not come to the rescue. As usual Beth
lay on the sofa and Laurie sat in a low chair close byamusing
her with all sorts of gossipfor she depended on her weekly
`spin'and he never disappointed her. But that evening Jo
fancied that Beth's eyes rested on the livelydark face
beside her with peculiar pleasureand that she listened with
intense interest to an account of some exciting cricket match
though the phrases`caught off a tice'`stumped off his ground''
and `the leg hit for three'were as intelligible to her as
Sanskrit. She also fanciedhaving set her heart upon seeing it
that she saw a certain increase of gentleness in Laurie's manner
that he dropped his voice now and thenlaughed less than usual
was a little absent--mindedand settled the afghan over Beth's
feet with an assiduity that was really almost tender.

Who knows? Stranger things have happenedthought Jo
as she fussed about the room. "She will make quite an angel
of himand he will make life delightfully easy and pleasant
for the dearif they only love each other. I don't see how he
can help itand I do believe he would if the rest of us were out of
the way."

As everyone was out of the way but herselfJo began to
feel that she ought to dispose of herself with all speed. But
where should she go? And burning to lay herself upon the shrine
of sisterly devotionshe sat down to settle that point.

Nowthe old sofa was a regular patriarch of a sofa--long
broadwell-cushionedand lowa trifle shabbyas well it might
befor the girls had slept and sprawled on it as babies
fished over the backrode on the armsand had menageries


under it as childrenand rested tired headsdreamed dreams
and listened to tender talk on it as young women. They all loved
itfor it was a family refugeand one corner had always been
Jo's favorite lounging place. Among the many pillows that adorned
the venerable couch was onehardroundcovered with prickly
horsehairand furnished with a knobby button at each end. This
repulsive pillow was her especial propertybeing used as a weapon
of defensea barricadeor a stern preventive of too much slumber.

Laurie knew this pillow welland had cause to regard it with
deep aversionhaving been unmercifully pummeled with it in former
days when romping was allowedand now frequently debarred by it
from the seat he most coveted next ot Jo in the sofa corner. If
`the sausage' as the called itstood on endit was a sign that
he might approach and reposebut if it lay flat across the sofa
woe to manwomanor child who dared disturb it! That evening
Jo forgot to barricade her cornerand had not been in her seat
five minutesbefore a massive form appeared beside herand with
both arms spread over the sofa backboth long legs stretched out
before himLaurie exclaimedwith a sigh of satisfaction...

Nowthis is filling at the price.

No slangsnapped Joslamming down the pillow. But it was
too latethere was no room for itand coasting onto the floor
it disappeared in a most mysterious manner.

ComeJodon't be thorny. After studying himself to a
skeleton all the weeka fellow deserves petting and ought to get
it.

Beth will pet you. I'm busy.

Noshe's not to be bothered with mebut you like that sort
of thingunless you've suddenly lost your taste for it. Have you?
Do you hate your boyand want to fire pillows at him?

Anything more wheedlesome than that touching appeal was seldom
heardbut Jo quenched `her boy' by turning on him with a stern
queryHow many bouquets have you sent Miss Randal this week?

Not oneupon my word. She's engaged. Now then.

I'm glad of itthat's one of your foolish extravagances
sending flowers and things to girls for whom you don't care two
pinscontinued Jo reprovingly.

Sensible girls for whom I do care whole papers of pins won't
let me send them `flowers and things'so what can I do? My feelings
need a` vent'.

Mother doesn't approve of flirting even in funand you do
flirt desperatelyTeddy.

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

Wellit does look pleasantbut I can't learn how it's done.
I've triedbecause one feels awkward in company not to do as
everybody else id doingbut I don't seem to get onsaid Jo
forgetting to play mentor.

Take lessons of Amyshe has a regular talent for it.


Yesshe does it very prettilyand never seems to go too
far. I suppose it's natural to some people to please without
tryingand others to always say and do the wrong thing in the
wrong place.


I'm glad you can't flirt. It's really refreshing to see a
sensiblestraightforward girlwho can be jolly and kind without
making a fool of herself. Between ourselvesJosome of the
girls I know really do go on at such a rate I'm ashamed of them.
They don't mean any harmI'm surebut if they knew how we
fellows talked about them afterwardthey'd mend their waysI
fancy.


They do the sameand as their tongues are the sharpest
you fellows get the worst of itfor you are as silly as they
every bit. If you behaved properlythey wouldbut knowing
you like their nonsensethey keep it upand then you blame
them.


Much you know about itma'amsaid Laurie in a superior tone.
We don't like romps and flirtsthough we may act as if
we did sometimes. The prettymodest girls are never
talked aboutexcept respectfullyamong gentleman.
Bless your innocent soul! If you could be in my place
for a month you'd see things that would astonish you a trifle.
Upon my wordwhen I see one of those harum-scarum girls
I always want to say with our friend Cock Robin...


Out upon youfie upon you
Bold-faced jig!"


It was impossible to help laughing at the funny conflict
between Laurie's chivalrous reluctance to speak ill of womankind
and his very natural dislike of the unfeminine folly of
which fashionable society showed him many samples. Jo knew
that `young Laurence' was regarded as a most eligible parti
by worldly mamaswas much smiled upon by their daughters
and flattered enough by ladies of all ages to make a coxcomb
of himso she watched him rather jealouslyfearing
he would be spoiledand rejoiced more than she confessed
to find that he still believed in modest girls. Returning
suddenly to her admonitory toneshe saiddropping her
voiceIf you must have a `went'Teddygo and devote
yourself to one of the `prettymodest girls' whom you do
respectand not waste your time with the silly ones.


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


YesI dobut you'd better wait till you are through
collegeon the wholeand be fitting yourself for the place
meantime. You're not half good enough for--wellwhoever
the modest girl may be.And Jo looked a little queer likewise
for a name had almost escaped her.


That I'm not!acquiesced Lauriewith an expression of
humility quite new to himas he dropped his eyes and absently
wound Jo's apron tassel round his finger.


Mercy on usthis will never dothought Joadding
aloudGo and sing to me. I'm dying for some musicand



always like yours.

I'd rather stay herethank you.

Wellyou can'tthere isn't room. Go and make yourself
usefulsince you are too big to be ornamental. I thought you
hated to be tied to a woman's apron string?retorted Jo
quoting certain rebellious words of his own.

Ahthat depends on who wears the apron!and Laurie
gave an audacious tweak at the tassel.

Are you going?demanded Jodiving for the pillow.

He fled at onceand the minute it was wellUp with the
bonnets of bonnie Dundeeshe slipped away to return no more
till the young gentleman departed in high dudgeon.

Jo lay long awake that nightand was just dropping off
when the sound of a stifled sob made her fly to Beth's bedside
with the anxious inquiryWhat is itdear?

I thought you were asleepsobbed Beth.

Is it the old painmy precious?'

Noit's a new onebut I can bear it." And Beth tried
to check her tears.

Tell me all about itand let me cure it as I often did
the other.

You can'tthere is no cure.There Beth's voice gave
wayand clinging to her sistershe cried so despairingly
that Jo was frightened.

Where is it? Shall I call Mother?

Nonodon't call herdon't tell her. I shall be
better soon. Lie down here and `poor' my head. I'll be
quiet and go to sleepindeed I will.
Jo obeyedbut as her hand went softly to and fro across
Beth's hot forehead and wet eyelidsher heart was very full
and she longed to speak. But young as she wasJo had learned
that heartslike flowerscannot be rudely handledbut must
open naturallyso though she believed she knew the cause of
Beth's new painshe only saidin her tenderest toneDoes
anything trouble youdeary?

YesJoafter a long pause.

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

not nownot yet.

Then I won't askbut rememberBethythat Mother and
Jo are always glad to hear and help youif they can.

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

Is the pain better now?

Ohyesmuch betteryou are so comfortableJo.


Go to sleepdear. I'll stay with you.

So cheek to cheek they fell asleepand on the morrow
Beth seemed quite herself againfor at eighteen neither heads
nor hearts ache longand a loving word can medicine most ills.

But Jo had made up her mindand after pondering over a
project for some daysshe confided it to her mother.

You asked me the other day what my wishes were. I'll
tell you one of themMarmeeshe beganas they sat along
together. "I want to go away somewhere this winter for a
change."

WhyJo?And her mother looked up quicklyas if the
words suggested a double meaning.

With her eyes on her work Jo answered soberlyI want
something new. I feel restless and anxious to be seeing
doingand learning more than I am. I brood too much over
my own small affairsand need stirring upso as I can be
spared this winterI'd like to hop a little way and try my
wings.

Where will you hop?

To New York. I had a bright idea yesterdayand this is
it. You know Mrs. Kirke wrote to you for some respectable
young person to teach her children and sew. It's rather hard
to find just the thingbut I think I should suit if I tried.

My deargo out to service in that great boarding house!
And Mrs. March looked surprisedbut not displeased.

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

Nor I. But your writing?

All the better for the change. I shall see and hear new
thingsget new ideasand even if I haven't much time there
I shall bring home quantities of material for my rubbish.

I have no doubt of itbut are these your only reasons for
this sudden fancy?'

NoMother."

May I know the others?

Jo looked up and Jo looked downthen said slowlywith
sudden color in her cheeks. "It may be vain and wrong to
say itbut--I'm afraid--Laurie is getting too fond of me."

Then you don't care for him in the way it is evident he
begins to care for you?' And Mrs. March looked anxious as she
put the question.

Mercyno! I love the dear boyas I always haveand
am immensely proud of himbut as for anything moreit's out
of the question."


I'm glad of thatJo.

Whyplease?'

BecausedearI don't think you suited to one another. As
friends you are very happyand your frequent quarrels soon blow
overbut I fear you would both rebel if you were mated for life.
You are too much alike and too fond of freedomnot to mention
hot tempers and strong willsto get on happily togetherin a
relation which needs infinite patience and forbearanceas well
as love."

That's just the feeling I hadthough I couldn't express it.
I'm glad you think he is only beginning to care for me. It would
trouble me sadly to make him unhappyfor I couldn't fall in love
with the dear old fellow merely out of gratitudecould I?

You are sure of his feeling for you?

The color deepened in Jo's cheeks as she answeredwith
the look of mingled pleasureprideand pain which young
girls wear when speaking of first loversI'm afraid it is
soMother. He hasn't said anythingbut he looks a great deal.
I think I had better go away before it comes to anything.

I agree with youand if it can be managed you shall go.

Jo looked relievedand after a pausesaidsmilingHow
Mrs. Moffat would wonder at your want of managementif she
knewand how she will rejoice that Annie may still hope.

AHJomothers may differ in their managementbut the
hope is the same in all--the desire to see their children happy.
Meg is soand I am content with her success. You I leave to
enjoy your liberty till you tire of itfor only then will you
find that there is something sweeter. Amy is my chief care
nowbut her good sense will help ;her. For BethI indulge
no hopes except that she may be well. By the wayshe seems
brighter this last day or two. Have you spoken to her?'

Yesshe owned she had a troubleand promised to tell
me by-and-by. I said no morefor I think I know it And
Jo told her little story.

Mrs. March shook her headand did not take so romantic
a view of the casebut looked graveand repeated her opinion
that for Laurie's sake Jo should go away for a time.

Let us say nothing about it to him till the plan is settled
then I'll run away before he can collect his wits and be tragic.
Beth must think I'm going to please myselfas I amfor I can't
talk about Laurie to her. But she can pet and comfort him after
I'm goneand so cure him of this romantic notion. He's been
through so many little trials of the sorthe's used to itand
will soon get over his lovelornity."

Jo spoke hopefullybut could not rid herself of the foreboding
fear that this `little trial' would be harder than the others
and that Laurie would not get over his `lovelornity' as easily
as heretofore.

The plan was talked over in a family council and agreed
uponfor Mrs. Kirke gladly accepted Joand promised to


make a pleasant home for her. The teaching would render
her independentand such leisure as she got might be made
profitable by writingwhile the new scenes and society would
be both useful and agreeable. Jo liked the prospect and was
eager to be gonefor the home nest was growing too narrow
for her restless nature and adventurous spirit. When all was
settledwith fear and trembling she told Lauriebut to her
surprise he took it very quietly. He had been graver than
usual of latebut very pleasantand when jokingly accused
of turning over a new leafhe answered soberlySo I am
and I mean this one shall stay turned.


Jo was very much relieved that one of his virtuous fits
should come on just thenand made her preparations with a
lightened heartfor Beth seemed more cheerfuland hoped
she was doing the best for all.


One thing I leave in your especial careshe saidthe
night before she left.


You mean your papers?asked Beth.
Nomy boy. Be very good to himwon't you?


Of course I willbut I can't fill your placeand he'll
miss you sadly.


It won't hurt himso rememberI leave him in your
chargeto plaguepetand keep in order.


I'll do my bestfor your sakepromised Bethwondering
why Jo looked at her so queerly.


When Laurie said good-byhe whispered significantlyIt
won't do a bit of goodJo. My eye is on youso mind what you
door I'll come and bring you home.


CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE


New YorkNovember


Dear Marmee and Beth


I'm going to write you a regular volumefor I've got heaps
to tellthough I'm not a fine young lady traveling on the continent.
When I lost sight of Father's dear old faceI felt a
trifle blueand might have shed a briny drop or twoif an
Irish lady with four small childrenall crying more or less
hadn't diverted my mindfor I amused myself by dropping gingerbread
nuts over the seat every time they opened their mouths to roar.


Soon the sun came outand taking it as a good omenI
cleared up likewise and enjoyed my journey with all my heart.


Mrs. Kirke welcomed me so kindly I felt at home at once
even in that big house full of strangers. She gave me a funny
little sky parlor--all she hadbut there is a stove in itand a
nice table in a sunny windowso I can sit here and write whenever
I like. A fine view and a church tower opposite atone for
the many stairsand I took a fancy to my den on the spot.
The nurserywhere I am to teach and sewis a pleasant room next
Mrs. Kirke's private parlorand the two little girls are pretty
childrenrather spoiledI fancybut they took to me after



telling them The Seven Bad Pigsand I've no doubt I shall make
a model governess.

I am to have my meals with the childrenif I prefer it to
the great tableand for the present I dofor I am bashful
though no one will believe it.

Nowmy dearmake yourself at homesaid Mrs. K. in her
motherly wayI'm on the drive from morning to nightas you
may suppose with such a familybut a great anxiety will be off
my mind if I know the children are safe with you. My rooms are
always open to youand your own shall be as comfortable as I
can make it. There are some pleasant people in the house if you
feel sociableand your evenings are always free. Come to me
if anything goes wrongand be as happy as you can. There's the
tea bellI must run and change my cap.And off she bustled
leaving me to settle myself in my new nest.

As I went downstairs soon afterI saw something I liked.
The flights are very long in this tall houseand as I stood
waiting at the head of the third one for a little servant girl
to lumber upI saw a gentleman come along behind hertake the
heavy hod of coal out of her handcarry it all the way upput
it down at a door near byand walk awaysayingwith a kind
nod and a foreign accentIt goes better so. The little back
is too young to haf such heaviness.

Wasn't it good of him? I like such thingsfor as Father
saystrifles show character. When I mentioned it to Mrs. K.
that eveningshe laughedand saidThat must have been
Professor Bhaerhe's always doing things of that sort.

Mrs. K. told me he was from Berlinvery learned and good
but poor as a church mouseand gives lessons to support himself
and two little orphan nephews whom he is educating hereaccording
to the wishes of his sisterwho married an American. Not
a very romantic storybut it interested meand I was glad to
hear that Mrs. K. lends him her parlor for some of his scholars.
There is a glass door between it and the nurseryand I mean to
peep at himand then I'll tell you how he looks. He's almost
fortyso it's no harmMarmee.

After tea and a go-to-bed romp with the little girlsI
attacked the big workbasketand had a quiet evening chatting
with my new friend. I shall keep a journal-letterand send it
once a weekso goodnightand more tomorrow.

Tuesday Eve

Had a lively time in my seminary this morningfor the
children acted like Sanchoand at one time I really thought I
should shake them all round. Some good angel inspired me to
try gymnasticsand I kept it up till they were glad to sit down
and keep still. After luncheonthe girl took them out for a
walkand I went to my needlework like little Mabel `with a
willing mind'. I was thanking my stars that I'd learned to
make nice buttonholeswhen the parlor door opened and shut
and someone began to humKennst Du Das Landlike a big bumblebee.
It was dreadfully improperI knowbut I couldn't
resist the temptationand lifting one end of the curtain
before the glass doorI peeped in. Professor Bhaer was there
and while he arranged his booksI took a good look at him. A
regular German--rather stoutwith brown hair tumbled all over
his heada bushy beardgood nosethe kindest eyes I ever


sawand a splendid big voice that does one's ears goodafter
our sharp or slipshod American gabble. His clothes were rusty
his hands were largeand he hadn't a really handsome feature
in his faceexcept his beautiful teethyet I liked himfor
he had a fine headhis linen was very niceand he looked
like a gentlemanthough two buttons were off his coat and
there was a patch on one shoe. He looked sober in spite of
his hummingtill he went to the window to turn the hyacinth
bulbs toward the sunand stroke the catwho received him
like an old friend. Then he smiledand when a tap came at
the doorcalled out in a loudbrisk toneHerein!

I was just going to runwhen I caught sight of a morsel of
a child carrying a big bookand stoppedto see what was going
on.

Me wants me Bhaersaid the miteslamming down her book
and running to meet him.

Thou shalt haf thy Bhaer. Comethenand take a goot
hug from himmy Tinasaid the Professorcatching her up
with a laughand holding her so high over his head that she
had to stoop her little face to kiss him.

Now me mus tuddy my lessinwent on the funny little
thing. So he put her up at the tableopened the great dictionary
she had broughtand gave her a paper and penciland
she scribbled awayturning a leaf now and thenand passing
her little fat finger down the pageas if finding a word
so soberly that I nearly betrayed myself by a laughwhile
Mr. Bhaer stood stroking her pretty hair with a fatherly look
that made me think she must be his ownthough she looked more
French than German.

Another knock and the appearance of two young ladies sent
me back to my workand there I virtuously remained through all
the noise and gabbling that went on next door. One of the girls
kept laughing affectedlyand sayingNow Professorin a
coquettish toneand the other pronounced her German with an
accent that must have made it hard for him to keep sober.

Both seemed to try his patience sorelyfor more than once
I heard him say emphaticallyNonoit is not soyou haf
not attend to what I sayand once there was a loud rapas
if he struck the table with his bookfollowed by the despairing
exclamationPrut! It all goes bad this day.

Poor manI pitied himand when the girls were gonetook
just one more peep to see if he survived it. He seemed to have
thrown himself back in his chairtired outand sat there with
his eyes shut till the clock struck twowhen he jumped upput
his books in his pocketas if ready for another lessonand
taking little Tina who had fallen asleep on the sofa in his
armshe carried her quietly away. I fancy he has a hard life
of it. Mrs. Kirke asked me if I wouldn't go down to the five
o'clock dinnerand feeling a little bit homesickI thought
I wouldjust to see what sort of people are under the same
roof with me. So I made myself respectable and tried to slip
in behind Mrs. Kirkebut as she is short and I'm tallmy
efforts at concealment were rather a failure. She gave me a
seat by herand after my face cooled offI plucked up courage
and looked about me. The long table was fulland every-one
intent on getting their dinnerthe gentlemen especially
who seemed to be eating on timefor they bolted in every


sense of the wordvanishing as soon as they were done. There
was the usual assortment of young men absorbed in themselves
young couples absorbed in each othermarried ladies in their
babiesand old gentlemen in politics. I don't think I shall
care to have much to do with any of themexcept one sweetfaced
maiden ladywho looks as if she had something in her.

Cast away at the very bottom of the table was the Professor
shouting answers to the questions of a very inquisitive
deaf old gentleman on one sideand talking philosophy with
a Frenchman on the other. If Amy had been hereshe'd have
turned her back on him forever becausesad to relatehe had
a great appetiteand shoveled in his dinner in a manner which
would have horrified `her ladyship'. I didn't mindfor I like
`to see folks eat with a relish'as Hannah saysand the poor
man must have needed a deal of food after teaching idiots all day.

As I went upstairs after dinnertwo of the young men
were settling their hats before the hall mirrorand I heard
one say low to the otherWho's the new party?

Governessor something of that sort.

What the deuce is she at our table for?

Friend of the old lady's.

Handsome headbut no style.

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

I felt angry at firstand then I didn't carefor a governess
is as good as a clerkand I've got senseif I haven't
stylewhich is more than some people havejudging from the
remarks of the elegant beings who clattered awaysmoking like
bad chimneys. I hate ordinary people!

Thursday

Yesterday was a quiet day spent in teachingsewingand
writing in my little roomwhich is very cozywith a light and
fire. I picked up a few bits of news and was introduced to the
Professor. It seems that Tina is the child of the Frenchwoman
who does the fine ironing in the laundry here. The little thing
has lost her heart to Mr. Bhaerand follows him about the house
like a dog whenever he is at homewhich delights himas he is
very fond of childrenthough a `bacheldore'. Kitty and Minnie
Kirk likewise regard him with affectionand tell all sorts of
stories about the plays he inventsthe presents he bringsand
the splendid tales he tells. The younger men quiz himit seems
call him Old FritzLager BeerUrsa Majorand make all manner
of jokes on his name. But he enjoys it like a boyMrs. Kirke
saysand takes it so good-naturedly that they all like him in
spite of his foreign ways.

The maiden lady is a Miss Nortonrichcultivatedand
kind. She spoke to me at dinner today (for I went to table
againit's such fun to watch people)and asked me to come
and see her at her room. She has fine books and pictures
knows interesting personsand seems friendlyso I shall make
myself agreeablefor I do want to get into good societyonly
it isn't the same sort that Amy likes.


I was in our parlor last evening when Mr. Bhaer came in
with some newspapers for Mrs. Kirke. She wasn't therebut
Minniewho is a little old womanintroduced me very prettily.
This is Mamma's friendMiss March.

Yesand she's jolly and we like her lotsadded Kitty
who is and `enfant terrible'.

We both bowedand then we laughedfor the prim introduction
and the blunt addition were rather a comical contrast.

AhyesI hear these naughty ones go to vex youMees
Marsch. If so againcall at me and I comehe saidwith a
threatening frown that delighted the little wretches.

I promised I wouldand he departedbut it seems as if I
was doomed to see a good deal of himfor today as I passed
his door on my way outby accident I knocked against it with
my umbrella. It flew openand there he stood in his dressing
gownwith a big blue sock on one hand and a darning needle
in the other. He didn't seem at all ashamed of itfor when
I explained and hurried onhe waved his handsock and all
saying in his loudcheerful way...

You haf a fine day to make your walk. Bon voyageMademoiselle.

I laughed all the way downstairsbut it was a little pathetic
also to think of the poor man having to mend his own clothes.
The German gentlemen embroiderI knowbut darning hose is
another thing and not so pretty.

Nothing has happened to write aboutexcept a call on Miss
Nortonwho has a room full of pretty thingsand who was very
charmingfor she showed me all her treasuresand asked me if
I would sometimes go with her to lectures and concertsas her
escortif I enjoyed them. She put it as a favorbut I'm sure
Mrs. Kirke has told her about usand she does it out of kindness
to me. I'm as proud as Luciferbut such favors from such
people don't burden meand I accepted gratefully.
When I got back to the nursery there was such an uproar
in the parlor that I looked inand there was Mr. Bhaer down
on his hands and kneeswith Tina on his backKitty leading
him with a jump ropeand Minnie feeding two small boys with
seedcakesas they roared and ramped in cages built of chairs.

We are playing nargerieexplained Kitty.

Dis is mine effalunt!added Tinaholding on by the
Professor's hair.

Mamma always allows us to do what we like Saturday afternoon
when Franz and Emil comedoesn't sheMr. Bhaer?
said Minnie.

The `effalunt' sat uplooking as much in earnest as any
of themand said soberly to meI gif you my wort it is so
if we make too large a noise you shall say Hush! to usand we
go more softly.

I promised to do sobut left the door open and enjoyed the
fun as much as they didfor a more glorious frolic I never
witnessed. They played tag and soldiersdanced and sang
and when it began to grow dark they all piled onto the sofa about
the Professorwhile he told charming fairy stories of the storks


on the chimney topsand the little `koblods'who ride the
snowflakes as they fall. I wish Americans were as simple and
natural as Germansdon't you?

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

P.S. On reading over my letterit strikes me as rather
Bhaerybut I am always interested in odd peopleand I really
had nothing else to write about. Bless you!
DECEMBER

My Precious Betsey

As this is to be a scribble-scrabble letterI direct it to
youfor it may amuse youand give you some idea of my goings
onfor though quietthey are rather amusingfor whichoh
be joyful! After what Amy would call Herculaneum effortsin
the way of mental and moral agriculturemy young ideas begin
to shoot and my little twigs to bend as I could wish. They are
not so interesting tome as Tina and the boysbut I do my duty
by themand they are fond of me. Franz and Emil are jolly
little ladsquite after my own heartfor the mixture of
German and American spirit in the produces a constant state of
effervescence. Saturday afternoons are riotous timeswhether
spent in the house or outfor on pleasant days they all go to
walklike a seminarywith the Professor and myself to keep
orderand then such fun!

We are very good friends nowand I've begun to take
lessons. I really couldn't help itand it all came about in
such a droll way that I must tell you. To begin at the beginning
Mrs. Kirke called to me one day as I passed Mr. Bhaer's room
where she was rummaging.

Did you ever see such a denmy dear? Just come and
help me put these books to rightsfor I've turned everything
upside downtrying to discover what he has done with the six
new handkerchiefs I gave him not long ago.

I went inand while we worked I looked about mefor it
was `a den' to be sure. Books and papers everywherea broken
meerschaumand an old flute over the mantlepiece as if done
witha ragged bird without any tail chirped on one window
seatand a box of white mice adorned the other. Half-finished
boats and bits of string lay among the manuscripts. Dirty
little boots stood drying before the fireand traces of the
dearly beloved boysfor whom he makes a slave of himself
were to be seen all over the room. After a grand rummage
three of the missing articles were foundone over the bird
cageone covered with inkand a third burned brownhaving
been used as a holder.

Such a man!laughed good-natured Mrs. K.as she put the
relics in the rag bay. "I suppose the others are torn up to
rig shipsbandage cut fingersor make kite tails. It's dreadful


but I can't scold him. He's so absent-minded and goodnatured
he lets those boys ride over him roughshod. I agreed to do
his washing and mendingbut he forgets to give out his things
and I forget to look them overso he comes to a sad pass sometimes."

Let me mend themsaid I. "I don't mind itand he needn't
know. I'd like tohe's so kind to me about bringing my letters
and lending books."

So I have got his things in orderand knit heels into two
pairs of the socksfor they were boggled out of shape with his
queer darns. Nothing was saidand I hoped he wouldn't find it
outbut one day last week he caught me at it. Hearing the
lessons he gives to others has interested and amused me so much
that I took a fancy to learfor Tina runs in and outleaving
the door openand I can hear. I had been sitting near this
doorfinishing off the last sockand trying to understand what
he said to a new scholarwho is as stupid as I am. The girl
had goneand I thought he had alsoit was so stilland I was
busily gabbling over a verband rocking to and fro in a most
absurd waywhen a little crow made me look upand there was
Mr. Bhaer looking and laughing quietlywhile he made signs to
Tina not to betray him.

So!he saidas I stopped and stared like a gooseyou
peep at meI peep at youand this is not badbut seeI am
not pleasanting when I sayhaf you a wish for German?

Yesbut you are too busy. I am too stupid to learnI
blundered outas red as a peony.

Prut! We will make the timeand we fail not to find the
sense. At efening I shall gif a little lesson with much gladness
for look youMees MarschI haf this debt to pay.And
he pointed to my work `Yes' they say to one anotherthese so
kind ladies`he is a stupid old fellowhe will see not what we
dohe will never observe that his sock heels go not in holes
any morehe will think his buttons grow out new when they fall
and believe that strings make theirselves.' "Ah! But I haf an
eyeand I see much. I haf a heartand I feel thanks for this.
Comea little lesson then and nowor no more good fairy works
for me and mine."

Of course I couldn't say anything after thatand as it
really is a splendid opportunityI made the bargainand we
began. I took four lessonsand then I stuck fast in a grammatical
bog. The Professor was very patient with mebut it must
have been torment to himand now and then he'd look at me
with such an expression of mild despair that it was a toss-up
with me whether to laugh or cry. I tried both waysand when
it came to a sniff or utter mortification and woehe just
threw the grammar on to the floor and marched out of the room.
I felt myself disgraced and deserted foreverbut didn't blame
him a particleand was scrambling my papers togethermeaning
to rush upstairs and shake myself hardwhen in he cameas
brisk and beaming as if I'd covered myself in glory.

Now we shall try a new way. You and I will read these
pleasant little MARCHEN togetherand dig no more in that dry
bookthat goes in the corner for making us trouble.

He spoke so kindlyand opened Hans Andersons's fairy
tales so invitingly before methat I was more ashamed than
everand went at my lesson in a neck-or-nothing style that


seemed to amuse him immensely. I forgot my bashfulnessand
pegged away (no other word will express it) with all my might
tumbling over long wordspronouncing according to inspiration
of the minuteand doing my very best. When I finished reading
my first pageand stopped for breathhe clapped his hands and
cried out in his hearty wayDas ist gut!' Now we go well! My
turn. I do him in Germangif me your ear.And away he went
rumbling out the words with his strong voice and a relish which
was good to see as well as hear. Fortunately the story was the
CONSTANT TIN SOLDIERwhich is drollyou knowso I could laugh
and I didthough I didn't understand half he readfor I couldn't
help ithe was so earnestI so excitedand the whole thing so
comical.
After that we got on betterand now I read my lessons
pretty wellfor this way of studying suits meand I can see
that the grammar gets tucked into the tales and poetry as one
gives pills in jelly. I like it very muchand he doesn't seem
tired of it yetwhich is very good of himisn't it? I mean
to give him something on Christmasfor I dare not offer money.
Tell me something niceMarmee.


I'm glad Laurie seems so happy and busythat he has given
up smoking and lets his hair grow. You see Beth manages him
better than I did. I'm not jealousdeardo your bestonly
don't make a saint of him. I'm afraid I couldn't like him
without a spice of human naughtiness. Read him bits of my
letters. I haven't time to write muchand that will do just
as well. Thank Heaven Beth continues so comfortable.


JANUARY


A Happy New Year to you allmy dearest familywhich of
course includes Mr. L. and a young man by the name of Teddy.
I can't tell you how much I enjoyed your Christmas bundle
for i didn't get it till night and had given up hoping. Your
letter came in the morningbut you said nothing about a
parcelmeaning it for a surpriseso I was disappointed
for I'd had a `kind of feeling' that you wouldn't forget me.
I felt a little low in my mind as I sat up in my room after
teaand when the bigmuddybattered-looking bundle was
brought to meI just hugged it and pranced. It was so
homey and refreshing that I sat down on the floor and read
and looked and ate and laughed and criedin my usual absurd
way. The things were just what I wantedand all the better
for being made instead of bought. Beth's new `ink bib' was
capitaland Hannah's box of hard gingerbread will be a
treasure. I'll be sure and wear the nice flannels you sent
Marmeeand read carefully the books Father has marked. Thank
you allheaps and heaps!


Speaking of books reminds me that I'm getting rich in that
linefor on New Year's Day Mr. Bhaer gave me a fine Shakespeare.
It is one he values muchand I've often admired it
set up in the place of honor with his German BiblePlato
Homerand Miltonso you may imagine how I felt when he brought
it downwithout its coverand showed me my own name in it
from my friend Friedrich Bhaer.


You say often you wish a library. Here I gif you onefor
between these lids (he meant covers) is many books in one. Read
him welland he will help you muchfor the study of character
in this book will help you to read it in the world and paint it
with your pen.



I thanked him as well as I couldand talk now about `my
library'as if I had a hundred books. I never knew how much
there was in Shakespeare beforebut then I never had a Bhaer
to explain it to me. Now don't laugh at his horrid name. It
isn't pronounced either Bear or Beeras people will say it
but something between the twoas only Germans can give it.
I'm glad you both like what I tell you about himand hope you
will know him some day. Mother would admire his warm heart
Father his wise head. I admire bothand feel rich in my new
`friend Friedrich Bhaer'.

Not having much moneyor knowing what he'd likeI got
several little thingsand put them about the roomwhere he
would find them unexpectedly. They were usefulprettyor
funnya new standish on his tablea little vase for his
flowerhe always has oneor a bit of green in a glassto
keep him freshhe saysand a holder for his blowerso
that he needn't burn up what Amy calls `mouchoirs'. I made
it like those Beth inventeda big butterfly with a fat body
and black and yellow wingsworsted feelersand bead eyes.
It took his fancy immenselyand he put it on his mantlepiece
as an article of virtueso it was rather a failure after all.
Poor as he ishe didn't forget a servant or a child in the
houseand not a soul herefrom the French laundrywoman to
Miss Norton forgot him. I was so glad of that.

They got up a masqueradeand had a gay time New Year's
Eve. I didn't mean to go downhaving no dress. But at the
last minuteMrs. Kirke remembered some old brocadesand Miss
Norton lent me lace and feathers. So I dressed up as Mrs.
Malapropand sailed in with a mask on. No one knew mefor I
disguised my voiceand no one dreamed of the silenthaughty
Miss March (for they think I am very stiff and coolmost of
themand so I am to whippersnappers) could dance and dress
and burst out into a `nice derangement of epitaphslike an
allegory on the banks of the Nile'. I enjoyed it very much
and when we unmasked it was fun to see them stare at me. I
heard one of the young men tell another that he knew I'd been
an actressin facthe thought he remembered seeing me at
one of the minor theaters. Meg will relish that joke. Mr.
Bhaer was Nick Bottomand Tina was Titaniaa perfect little
fairy in his arms. To see them dance was `quite a landscape'
to use a Teddyism.

I had a very happy New Yearafter alland when I thought
it over in my roomI felt as if I was getting on a little in
spite of my many failuresfor I'm cheerful all the time now
work with a willand take more interest in other people than
I used towhich is satisfactory. Bless you all! Ever your
loving... Jo

CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR

Though very happy in the social atmosphere about herand
very busy with the daily work that earned her bread and made it
sweeter for the effortJo still found time for literary labors.
The purpose which now took possession of her was a natural one
to a poor and ambitious girlbut the means she took to gain
her end were not the best. She saw that money conferred power
thereforeshe resolved to havenot to be used for herself alone
but for those whom she loved more than life.


The dream of filling home with comfortsgiving Beth everything
she wantedfrom strawberries in winter to an organ in her bedroom
going abroad herselfand always having more than enough
so that she might indulge in the luxury of charityhad been
for years Jo's most cherished castle in the air.

The prize-story experience had seemed to open a way which
mightafter long traveling and much uphill worklead to this
delightful chateau en Espagne. But the novel disaster quenched
her courage for a timefor public opinion is a giant which has
frightened stouter-hearted Jacks on bigger beanstalks than hers.
Like that immortal heroshe reposed awhile after the first
attemptwhich resulted in a tumble and the least lovely of the
giant's treasuresif I remember rightly. But the `up again
and take another' spirit was as strong in Jo as in Jackso
she scrambled up on the shady side this time and got more
bootybut nearly left behind her what was far more precious
than the moneybags.

She took to writing sensation storiesfor in those dark
ageseven all-perfect America read rubbish. She told no one
but concocted a `thrilling tale'and boldly carried it herself
to Mr. Dashwoodeditor of the Weekly Volcano. She had
never read Sartor Resartusbut she had a womanly instinct
that clothes possess an influence more powerful over many
than the worth of character or the magic of manners. So she
dressed herself in her bestand trying to persuade herself
that she was neither excited nor nervousbravely climbed two
pairs of dark and dirty stairs to find herself in a disorderly
rooma cloud of cigar smokeand the presence of three gentlemen
sitting with their heels rather higher than their hats
which articles of dress none of them took the trouble to remove
on her appearance. somewhat daunted by this receptionJo hesitated
on the thresholdmurmuring in much embarrassment...

Excuse meI was looking for the Weekly Volcano office.
I wished to see Mr. Dashwood.

Down went the highest pair of heelsup rose the smokiest
gentlemanand carefully cherishing his cigar between his
fingershe advanced with a nod and a countenance expressive
of nothing but sleep. Feeling that she must get through the
matter somehowJo produced her manuscript andblushing
redder and redder with each sentenceblundered out fragments
of the little speech carefully prepared for the occasion.

A friend of mine desired me to offer--a story--just as
an experiment--would like your opinion--be glad to write more
if this suits.

While she blushed and blunderedMr. Dashwood had taken
the manuscriptand was turning over the leaves with a pair
of rather dirty fingersand casting critical glances up and
down the neat pages.

Not a first attemptI take it?observing that the
pages were numberedcovered only on one sideand not tied
up with a ribbon--sure sign of a novice.

Nosir. She has had some experienceand got a prize
for a tale in the BLARNEYSTONE BANNER.

Ohdid she?And Mr. Dashwood gave JO a quick look
which seemed to take note of everything she had onfrom the


bow in her bonnet to the buttons on her boots. "Wellyou
can leave itif you like. We've more of this sort of thing
on hand than we know what to do with at presentbut I'll run
my eye over itand give you an answer next week."


NowJo did not like to leave itfor Mr. Dashwood didn't
suit her at allbutunder the circumstancesthere was nothing
for her to do but bow and walk awaylooking particularly tall
and dignifiedas she was apt to do when nettled or abashed.
Just then she was bothfor it was perfectly evident from the
knowing glances exchanged among the gentlemen that her little
fiction of `my friend' was considered a good jokeand a
laughproduced by some inaudible remark of the editoras
he closed the doorcompleted her discomfiture. Half resolving
never to returnshe went homeand worked off her
irritation by stitching pinafores vigorouslyand in an
hour or two was cool enough to laugh over the scene and long
for next week.


When she went againMr. Dashwood was alonewhereat she
rejoiced. Mr. Dashwood was much wider awake than before
which was agreeable and Mr. Dashwood was not too deeply absorbed
in a cigar to remember his mannersso the second
interview was much more comfortable than the first.


We'll take this (editors never say I)if you don't
object to a few alterations. It's too longbut omitting
the passages I've marked will make it just the right length
he saidin a businesslike tone.


Jo hardly knew her own MS againso crumpled and underscored
were its pages and paragraphsbut feeling as a tender
patent might on being asked to cut off her baby's legs in
order that it might fit into a new cradleshe looked at the
marked passages and was surprised to find that all the moral
reflections--which she had carefully put in as ballast for
much romance--had been stricken out.


ButSirI thought every story should have some sort of
a moralso I took care to have a few of my sinners repent.


Mr. Dashwoods's editorial gravity relaxed into a smilefor
Jo had forgotten her `friend'and spoken as only an author
could.


People want to be amusednot preached atyou know. Morals
don't sell nowadays.Which was not quite a correct statement
by the way.


You think it would do with these alterationsthen?


Yesit's a new plotand pretty well worked up--language
goodand so onwas Mr. Dashwood's affable reply.


What do you--that iswhat compensation--began Jonot
exactly knowing how to express herself.


Ohyeswellwe give from twenty-five to thirty for
things of this sort. Pay when it comes outreturned Mr. Dashwood
as if that point had escaped him. Such trifles do escape
the editorial mindit is said.


Very wellyou can have itsaid Johanding back the
story with a satisfied airfor after the dollar-a-column work



even twenty-five seemed good pay.


Shall I tell my friend you will take another if she has one
better than this?asked Jounconscious of her little slip of
the tongueand emboldened by her success.


Wellwe'll look at it. Can't promise to take it. Tell her
to make it short and spicyand never mind the moral. What name
would your friend like to put on it?in a careless tone.


None at allif you pleaseshe doesn't wish her name to
appear and has no nom de plumesaid Joblushing in spite of
herself.


Just as she likesof course. The tale will be out next week.
Will you call for the moneyor shall I send it?asked Mr. Dashwood
who felt a natural desire to know who his new contributor might be.


I'll call. Good morningSir.


As she departedMr. Dashwood put up his feetwith the graceful
remarkPoor and proudas usualbut she'll do.


Following Mr. Dashwood's directionsand making Mrs. Northbury
her modelJo rashly took a plunge into the frothy sea of sensational
literaturebut thanks to the life preserver thrown her by a friend
she came up again not much the worse for her ducking.


Like most young scribblersshe went abroad for her characters
and sceneryand banditticountsgypsiesnunsand duchesses
appeared upon her stageand played their parts with as
much accuracy and spirit as could be expected. Her readers
were not particular about such trifles as grammarpunctuation
and probabilityand Mr. Dashwood graciously permitted her to
fill his columns at the lowest pricesnot thinking it necessary
to tell her that the real cause of his hospitality was the
fact that one of his hackson being offered higher wageshad
basely left him in the lurch.


She soon became interested in her workfor her emaciated
purse grew stoutand the little hoard she was making to take
Beth to the mountains next summer grew slowly but surely as
the weeks passed. One thing disturbed her satisfactionand
that was that she did not tell them at home. She had a feeling
that Father and Mother would not approveand preferred to have
her own way firstand beg pardon afterward. It was easy to
keep her secretfor no name appeared with her stories. Mr.
Dashwood had of course found it out very soonbut promised
to be dumband for a wonder kept his word.


She thought it would do her no harmfor she sincerely
meant to write nothing of which she would be ashamedand
quieted all pricks of conscience by anticipations of the
happy minute when she should show her earnings and laugh over
her well-kept secret.


But Mr. Dashwood rejected any but thrilling talesand as
thrills could not be produced except by harrowing up the souls
of the readershistory and romanceland and seascience and
artpolice records and lunatic asylumshad to be ransacked
for the purpose. Jo soon found that her innocent experience
had given her but few glimpses of the tragic world which
underlies societyso regarding it in a business lightshe set
about supplying her deficiencies with characteristic energy.



Eager to find material for storiesand bent on making them
original in plotif not masterly in executionshe searched
newspapers for accidentsincidentsand crimes. She excited
the suspicions of public librarians by asking for works on
poisons. She studied faces in the streetand characters
goodbadand indifferentall about her. She delved in
the dust of ancient times for facts or fictions so old that
they were as good as newand introduced herself to follysin
and miseryas well as her limited opportunities allowed. She
thought she was prospering finelybut unconsciously she was
beginning to desecrate some of the womanliest attributes of a
woman's character. She was living in bad societyand imaginary
though it wasits influence affected herfor she was
feeding heart and fancy on dangerous and unsubstantial food
and was fast brushing the innocent bloom from her nature by
a premature acquaintance with the darker side of lifewhich
comes soon enough to all of us.

She was beginning to feel rather than see thisfor much
describing of other people's passions and feelings set her
to studying and speculating about her own. a morbid amusement
in which healthy young minds do not voluntarily indulge.
Wrongdoing always brings its own punishmentand when Jo
most needed hersshe got it.

I don't know whether the study of Shakespeare helped her
to read characteror the natural instinct of a woman for what
was honestbraveand strongbut while endowing her imaginary
heroes with every perfection under the sunJo was discovering
a live herowho interested her in spite of many human imperfections.
Mr. Bhaerin one of their conversationshad advised
her to study simpletrueand lovely characterswherever she
found themas good training for a writer. Jo took him at his
wordfor she coolly turned round and studied him--a proceeding
which would have much surprised himhad he know itfor the
worthy Professor was very humble in his own conceit.

Why everybody liked him was what puzzled Joat first. He
was neither rich nor greatyoung nor handsomein no respect
what is called fascinatingimposingor brilliantand yet
he was as attractive as a genial fireand people seemed to
gather about him as naturally as about a warm hearth. He was
pooryet always appeared to be giving something away; a
strangeryet everyone was his friend; no longer youngbut
as happy-hearted as a boy; plain and peculiaryet his face
looked beautiful to manyand his oddities were freely forgiven
for his sake. Jo often watched himtrying to discover
the charmand at last decided that it was benevolence which
worked the miracle. If he had any sorrow`it sat with its
head under its wing'and he turned only his sunny side to the
world. There were lines upon his foreheadbut Time seemed
to have touched him gentlyremembering how kind he was to
others. The pleasant curves about his mouth were the memorials
of many friendly words and cheery laughshis eyes were never
cold or hardand his big hand had a warmstrong grasp
that was more expressive than words.

His very clothes seemed to partake of the hospitable nature
of the wearer. They looked as if they were at easeand liked
to make him comfortable. His capacious waistcoat was suggestive
of a large heart underneath. His rusty coat had a social
airand the baggy pockets plainly proved that little hands
often went in empty and came out full. His very boots were
benevolentand his collars never stiff and raspy like other people's.


That's it!said Jo to herselfwhen she at length discovered
that genuine good will toward one's fellow men could beautify
and dignify even a stout German teacherwho shoveled in his dinner
darned his own socksand was burdened with the name of Bhaer.

Jo valued goodness highlybut she also possessed a most
feminine respect for intellectand a little discovery which
she made about the Professor added much to her regard for him.
He never spoke of himselfand no one ever knew that in his
native city he had been a man much honored and esteemed for
learning and integritytill a countryman came to see him.
He never spoke of himselfand in a conversation with Miss
Norton divulged the pleasing fact. From her Jo learned it
and liked it all the better because Mr. Bhaer had never told
it. She felt proud to know that he was an honored Professor
in Berlinthough only a poor language-master in America
and his homelyhard-working life was much beautified by the
spice of romance which this discovery gave it.
Another and a better gift than intellect was shown her in
a most unexpected manner. Miss Norton had the entree into
most societywhich Jo would have had no chance of seeing but
for her. The solitary woman felt an interest in the ambitious
girland kindly conferred many favors of this sort both on Jo
and the Professor. She took them with her one night to a select
symposiumheld in honor of several celebrities.

Jo went prepared to bow down and adore the mighty ones
whom she had worshiped with youthful enthusiasm afar off. But
her reverence for genius received a severe shock that night
and it took her some time to recover from the discovery that
the great creatures were only men and women after all. Imagine
her dismayon stealing a glance of timid admiration at the
poet whose lines suggested an ethereal being fed on `spirit
fireand dew'to behold him devouring his supper with an
ardor which flushed his intellectual countenance. Turning
as from a fallen idolshe made other discoveries which
rapidly dispelled her romantic illusions. The great novelist
vibrated between two decanters with the regularity of a pendulum;
the famous divine flirted openly with one of the
Madame de Staels of the agewho looked daggers at another
Corinnewho was amiably satirizing herafter outmaneuvering
her in efforts to absorb the profound philosopherwho imbibed
tea Johnsonianly and appeared to slumberthe loquacity of the
lady rendering speech impossible. The scientific celebrities
forgetting their mollusks and glacial periodsgossiped about
artwhile devoting themselves to oysters and ices with
characteristic energy; the young musicianwho was charming
the city like a second Orpheustalked horses; and the specimen
of the British nobility present happened to be the most ordinary
man of the party.

Before the evening was half overJo felt so completely
disillusionedthat she sat down in a corner to recover herself.
Mr. Bhaer soon joined herlooking rather out of his element
and presently several of the philosopherseach mounted on his
hobbycame ambling up to hold an intellectual tournament in
the recess. The conversations were miles beyond Jo's comprehension
but she enjoyed itthough Kant and Hegel were unknown
godsthe Subjective and Objective unintelligible termsand
the only thing `evolved from her inner consciousness' was a
bad headache after it was all over. It dawned upon her gradually
that the world was being picked to piecesand put together on
new andaccording to the talkerson infinitely better principles


than beforethat religion was in a fair way to be
reasoned into nothingnessand intellect was to be the only
God. Jo knew nothing about philosophy or metaphysics of any
sortbut a curious excitementhalf pleasurablehalf painful
came over her as she listened with a sense of being turned
adrift into time and spacelike a young balloon out on a holiday.

She looked round to see how the Professor liked itand
found him looking at her with the grimest expression she had
ever seen him wear. He shook his head and beckoned her to
come awaybut she was fascinated just then by the freedom
of Speculative Philosophyand kept her seattrying to find
out what the wise gentlemen intended to rely upon after
they had annihilated all the old beliefs.

NowMr. Bhaer was a diffident man and slow to offer his
own opinionsnot because they were unsettledbut too sincere
and earnest to be lightly spoken. As he glanced from Jo
to several other young peopleattracted by the brilliancy
of the philosophic pyrotechnicshe knit his brows and longed
to speakfearing that some inflammable young soul would be
led astray by the rocketsto find when the display was over
that they had only an empty stick or a scorched hand.

He bore it as long as he couldbut when he was appealed
to for an opinionhe blazed up with honest indignation and
defended religion with all the eloquence of truth--an eloquence
which made his broken English musical and his plain
face beautiful. He had a hard fightfor the wise men argued
wellbut he didn't know when he was beaten and stood to his
colors like a man. Somehowas he talkedthe world got
right again to Jo. The old beliefsthat had lasted so long
seemed better than the new. God was not a blind forceand
immortality was not a pretty fablebut a blessed fact. She
felt as if she had solid ground under her feet againand
when Mr. Bhaer pausedouttalked but not one whit convinced
Jo wanted to clap her hands and thank him.

She did neitherbut she remembered the sceneand gave
the Professor her heartiest respectfor she knew it cost him
an effort to speak out then and therebecause his conscience
would not let him be silent. She began to see that character
is a better possession than moneyrankintellector beauty
and to feel that if greatness is what a wise man has defined
it to be`truthreverenceand good will'then her friend
friedrich Bhaer was not only goodbut great.

This belief strengthened daily. She valued his esteem
she coveted his respectshe wanted to be worthy of his friendship
and just when the wish was sincerestshe came near to
losing everything. It all grew out of a cocked hatfor one
evening the Professor came in to give Jo her lesson with a
paper soldier cap on his headwhich Tina had put there and
he had forgotten to take off.

It's evident he doesn't look in his glass before coming
downthought Jowith a smileas he said "Goot efening
and sat soberly downquite unconscious of the ludicrous
contrast between his subject and his headgearfor he was
going to read her the Death of Wallenstein.

She said nothing at firstfor she liked to hear him laugh
out his bighearty laugh when anything funny happenedso she
left him to discover it for himselfand presently forgot all


about itfor to hear a German read Schiller is rather an absorbing
occupation. After the reading came the lessonwhich
was a lively onefor Jo was in a gay mood that nightand
the cocked hat kept her eyes dancing with merriment. The
Professor didn't know what to make of herand stopped at
last to ask with an air of mild surprise that was irresistible
...


Mees Marschfor what do you laugh in your master's face?
Haf you no respect for methat you go on so bad?"


How can I be respectfulSirwhen you forget to take
your hat off?said Jo.


Lifting his hand to his headthe absent-minded Professor
gravely felt and removed the little cocked hatlooked at it a
minuteand then threw back his head and laughed like a merry
bass viol.


Ah! I see him nowit is that imp Tina who makes me a
fool with my cap. Wellit is nothingbut see youif this
lesson goes not wellyou too shall wear him.


But the lesson did not go at all for a few minutes because
Mr. Bhaer caught sight of a picture on the hatand unfolding it
said with great disgustI wish these papers did not come in the house.
They are not for children to seenor young people to read.
It is not welland I haf no patience with those who make this harm.


Jo glanced at the sheet and saw a pleasing illustration
composed of a lunatica corpsea villianand a viper. She
did not like itbut the impulse that made her turn it over
was not one of displeasure but fearbecause for a minute
she fancied the paper was the Volcano. It was nothowever
and her panic subsided as she remembered that even if it
had been and one of her own tales in itthere would have
been no name to betray her. She had betrayed herselfhowever
by a look and a blushfor though an absent manthe
Professor saw a good deal more than people fancied. He
knew that Jo wroteand had met her down among the newspaper
offices more than oncebut as she never spoke of it
he asked no questions in spite of a strong desire to see her
work. Now it occurred to him that she was doing what she
was ashamed to ownand it troubled him. He did not say to
himselfIt is none of my business. I've no right to say
anythingas many people would have done. He only remembered
that she was young and poora girl far away from
mother's love and father's careand he was moved to help
her with an impulse as quick and natural as that which
would prompt him to put out his hand to save a baby from
a puddle. All this flashed through his mind in a minute
but not a trace of it appeared in his faceand by the
time the paper was turnedand Jo's needle threadedhe
was ready to say quite naturallybut very gravely...


Yesyou are right to put it from you. I do not think
that good young girls should see such things. They are made
pleasant to somebut I would more rather give my boys gunpowder
to play with than this bad trash.


All may not be badonly sillyyou knowand if there
is a demand for itI don't see any harm in supplying it.
Many very respectable people make an honest living out of
what are called sensation storiessaid Joscratching gathers



so energetically that a row of little slits followed her pin.


There is a demand for whiskybut I think you and I do
not care to sell it. If the respectable people knew what harm
they didthey would not feel that the living was honest. They
haf no right to put poison in the sugarplumand let the small
ones eat it. Nothey should think a littleand sweep mud in
the street before they do this thing.


Mr. Bhaer spoke warmlyand walked to the firecrumpling
the paper in his hands. Jo sat stilllooking as if the fire
had come to herfor her cheeks burned long after the cocked
hat had turned to smoke and gone harmlessly up the chimney.


I should like much to send all the rest after himmuttered
the Professorcoming back with a relieved air.


Jo thought what a blaze her pile of papers upstairs would
makeand her hard-earned money lay rather heavily on her conscience
at that minute. Then she thought consolingly to herself
Mine are not like thatthey are only sillynever bad
so I won't be worriedand taking up her bookshe said
with a studious faceShall we go onSir? I'll be very
good and proper now.


I shall hope sowas all he saidbut he meant more than
she imaginedand the gravekind look he gave her made her
feel as if the words Weekly Volcano were printed in large
type on her forehead.


As soon as she went to her roomshe got out her papers
and carefully reread every one of her stories. Being a little
shortsightedMr. Bhaer sometimes used eye glassesand Jo
had tried them oncesmiling to see how they magnified the
fine print of her book. Now she seemed to have on the Professor's
mental or moral spectacles alsofor the faults of these
poor stories glared at her dreadfully and filled her with dismay.


They are trashand will soon be worse trash if I go
onfor each is more sensational than the last. I've gone
blindly onhurting myself and other peoplefor the sake of
money. I know it's sofor I can't read this stuff in sober
earnest without being horribly ashamed of itand what should
I do if they were seen at home or Mr. Bhaer got hold of them?


Jo turned hot at the bare ideaand stuffed the whole bundle
into her stovenearly setting the chimney afire with the blaze.


Yesthat's the best place for such inflammable nonsense.
I'd better burn the house downI supposethan let other
people blow themselves up with my gunpowdershe thought as
she watched the Demon of the Jura whisk awaya little black
cinder with fiery eyes.


But when nothing remained of all her three month's work
except a heap of ashes and the money in her lapJo looked
soberas she sat on the floorwondering what she ought to
do about her wages.


I think I haven't done much harm yetand may keep this
to pay for my timeshe saidafter a long meditationadding
impatientlyI almost wish I hadn't any conscienceit's so
inconvenient. If I didn't care about doing rightand didn't
feel uncomfortable when doing wrongI should get on capitally.



I can't help wishing sometimesthat Mother and Father hadn't
been so particular about such things.

AhJoinstead of wishing thatthank God that `Father
and Mother were particular'. and pity from your heart those
who have no such guardians to hedge them round with principles
which may seem like prison walls to impatient youth
but which will prove sure foundations to build character upon
in womanhood.

Jo wrote no more sensational storiesdeciding that the
money did not pay for her share of the sensationbut going
to the other extremeas is the way with people of her stamp
she took a course of Mrs. SherwoodMiss Edgeworthand Hannah
Moreand then produced a tale which might have been more
properly called an essay or a sermonso intensely moral
was it. She had her doubts about it from the beginningfor
her lively fancy and girlish romance felt as ill at ease in the
new style as she would have done masquerading in the stiff
and cumbrous costume of the last century. She sent this didactic
gem to several marketsbut it found no purchaser
and she was inclined to agree with Mr. Dashwood that morals
didn't sell.

Then she tried a child's storywhich she could easily have
disposed of if she had not been mercenary enough to demand filthy
lucre for it. The only person who offered enough to make it
worth her while to try juvenile literature was a worthy gentleman
who felt it his mission to convert all the world to his
particular belief. But much as she liked to write for children
Jo could not consent to depict all her naughty boys as
being eaten by bears or tossed by mad bulls because they did
not go to a particular Sabbath schoolnor all the good infants
who did go as rewarded by every kind of blissfrom gilded
gingerbread to escorts of angels when they departed this life
with psalms or sermons on their lisping tongues. So nothing
came of these trialsland Jo corked up her inkstandand
said in a fit of very wholesome humility...

I don't know anything. I'll wait until I do before I try
againand meantime`sweep mud in the street' if I can't do
betterthat's honestat least.Which decision proved that
her second tumble down the beanstalk had done her some good.

While these internal revolutions were going onher external
life had been as busy and uneventful as usualand if she
sometimes looked serious or a little sad no one observed
it but Professor Bhaer. He did it so quietly that Jo never
knew he was watching to see if she would accept and profit by
his reproofbut she stood the testand he was satisfiedfor
though no words passed between themhe knew that she had
given up writing. Not only did he guess it by the fact that
the second finger of her right hand was no longer inkybut
she spent her evenings downstairs nowwas met no more among
newspaper officesand studied with a dogged patiencewhich
assured him that she was bent on occupying her mind with
something usefulif not pleasant.

He helped her in many waysproving himself a true friend
and Jo was happyfor while her pen lay idleshe was learning
other lessons besides Germanand laying a foundation for the
sensation story of her own life.

It was a pleasant winter and a long onefor she did not


leave Mrs. Kirke till June. Everyone seemed sorry when the time
came. The children were inconsolableand Mr. Bhaer's hair
stuck straight up all over his headfor he always rumpled it
wildly when disturbed in mind.

Going home? Ahyou are happy that you haf a home to go
inhe saidwhen she told himand sat silently pulling his
beard in the cornerwhile she held a little levee on that last
evening.

She was going earlyso she bade them all goodbye overnight
and when his turn cameshe said warmlyNowSiryou won't
forget to come and see usif you ever travel our waywill you?
I'll never forgive you if you dofor I want them all to know my
friend.

Do you? Shall I come?he askedlooking down at her with
an eager expression which she did not see.

Yescome next month. Laurie graduates thenand you'd
enjoy commencement as something new.

That is your best friendof whom you speak?he said in
an altered tone.

Yesmy boy Teddy. I'm very proud of him and should like
you to see him.

Jo looked up thenquite unconscious of anything but her
own pleasure in the prospect of showing them to one another.
Something in Mr. Bhaer's face suddenly recalled the fact that
she might find Laurie more than a `best friend'and simply
because she particularly wished not to look as if anything was
the mattershe involuntarily began to blushand the more she
tried not tothe redder she grew. If it had not been for Tina
on her knee. She didn't know what would have become of her.
Fortunately the child was moved to hug herso she managed to
hide her face an instanthoping the Professor did not see it.
But he didand his own changed again from that momentary anxiety
to its usual expressionas he said cordially...

I fear I shall not make the time for thatbut I wish the friend
much successand you all happiness. Gott bless you!And with that
he shook hands warmlyshouldered Tinaand went away.

But after the boys were abedhe sat long before his fire
with the tired look on his face and the `heimweh'or homesickness
lying heavy at his heart. Oncewhen he remembered
Jo as she sat with the little child in her lap and that new
softness in her facehe leaned his head on his hands a minute
and then roamed about the roomas if in search of something
that he could not find.

It is not for meI must not hope it nowhe said to himself
with a sigh that was almost a groan. Thenas if reproaching
himself for the longing that he could not represshe went
and kissed the two tousled heads upon the pillowtook down his
seldom-used meerschaumand opened his Plato.

He did his best and did it manfullybut I don't think he found
that a pair of rampant boysa pipeor even the divine Plato
were very satisfactory substitutes for wife and child at home.

Early as it washe was at the station next morning to see


Jo offand thanks to himshe began her solitary journey with
the pleasant memory of a familiar face smiling its farewella
bunch of violets to keep her companyand best of allthe happy
thoughtWellthe winter's goneand I've written no books
earned no fortunebut I've made a friend worth having and I'll
try to keep him all my life.

CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE

Whatever his motive might have beenLaurie studied to
some purpose that yearfor he graduated with honorand
gave the Latin oration with the grace of a Phillips and the
eloquence of a Demosthenesso his friends said. They were
all therehis grandfather--ohso proud--Mr. and Mrs. March
John and MegJo and Bethand all exulted over him with the
sincere admiration which boys make light of at the timebut
fail to win from the world by any after-triumphs.

I've got to stay for this confounded supperbut I shall
be home early tomorrow. You'll come and meet me as usual
girls?Laurie saidas he put the sisters into the carriage
after the joys of the day were over. He said `girls'but he
meant Jofor she was the only one who kept up the old custom.
She had not the heart to refuse her splendidsuccessful boy
anythingand answered warmly...

I'll comeTeddyrain or shineand march before you
playing `Hail the conquering hero comes' on a jew's-harp.

Laurie thanked her with a look that made her think in a
sudden panicOhdeary me! I know he'll say somethingand
then what shall I do?

Evening meditation and morning work somewhat allayed her
fearsand having decided that she wouldn't be vain enough
to think people were going to propose when she had given them
every reason to know what her answer would beshe set forth
at the appointed timehoping Teddy wouldn't do anything to
make her hurt his poor feelings. A call at Meg'sand a
refreshing sniff and sip at the Daisy and Demijohnstill
further fortified her for the tete-a-tetebut when she saw
a stalwart figure looming in the distanceshe had a strong
desire to turn about and run away.

Where's the jew's-harpJo?cried Laurieas soon as
he was within speaking distance.

I forgot it.And Jo took heart againfor that salutation
could not be called loverlike.

She always used to take his arm on these occasionsnow
she did notand he made no complaintwhich was a bad sign
but talked on rapidly about all sorts of faraway subjects
till they turned from the road into the little path that led
homeward through the grove. Then he walked more slowlysuddenly
lost his fine flow of languageand now and then a dreadful
pause occurred. To rescue the conversation from one of
the wells of silence into which it kept fallingJo said
hastilyNow you must have a good long holiday!

I intend to.


Something in his resolute tone made Jo look up quickly to
find him looking down at her with an expression that assured
her the dreaded moment had comeand made her put out her hand
with an imploringNoTeddy. Please don't!

I willand you must hear me. It's no useJowe've got
to have it outand the sooner the better for both of ushe
answeredgetting flushed and excited all at once.

Say what you like then. I'll listensaid Jowith a
desperate sort of patience.

Laurie was a young loverbut he was in earnestand meant
to `have it out'if he died in the attemptso he plunged into
the subject with characteristic impetuousitysaying in a voice
that would get choky now and thenin spite of manful efforts to
keep it steady . ..
I've loved you ever since I've known youJocouldn't help
ityou've been so good to me. I've tried to show itbut you
wouldn't let me. Now I'm going to make you hearand give me an
answerfor I can't go on so any longer.

I wanted to save you this. I thought you'd understand...
began Jofinding it a great deal harder than she expected.

I know you didbut the girls are so queer you never know
what they mean. They say no when they mean yesand drive a
man out of his wits just for the fun of it returned Laurie
entrenching himself behind an undeniable fact.

I don't. I never wanted to make you care for me soand
I went away to keep you from it if I could."

I thought so. It was like youbut it was no use. I
only loved you all the moreand I worked hard to please you
and I gave up billiards and everything you didn't likeand
waited and never complainedfor I hoped you'd love methough
I'm not half good enough...Here there was a choke that
couldn't be controlledso he decapitated buttercups while he
cleared his `confounded throat'.

Youyou areyou're a great deal too good for meand
I'm so grateful to youand so proud and fond of youI don't
know why I can't love you as you want me to. I've triedbut
I can't change the feelingand it would be a lie to say I do
when I don't.

ReallytrulyJo?

He stopped shortand caught both her hands as he put
his question with a look that she did not soon forget.

Reallytrulydear.

They were in the grove nowclose by the stileand when
the last words fell reluctantly from Jo's lipsLaurie dropped
her hands and turned as if to go onbut for once in his life
the fence was too much for him. So he just laid his head down
on the mossy postand stood so still that Jo was frightened.

OhTeddyI'm sorryso desperately sorryI could kill
myself if it would do any good! I wish you wouldn't take it
so hardI can't help it. You know it's impossible for people
to make themselves love other people if they don'tcried Jo


inelegantly but remorsefullyas she softly patted his shoulder
remembering the time when he had comforted her so long ago.


They do sometimessaid a muffled voice from the post.
I don't believe it's the right sort of loveand I'd
rather not try itwas the decided answer.


There was a long pausewhile a blackbird sung blithely on
the willow by the riverand the tall grass rustled in the wind.
Presently Jo said very soberlyas she sat down on the step of
the stileLaurieI want to tell you something.


He started as if he had been shotthrew up his headand
cried out in a fierce toneDon't tell me thatJoI can't bear
it now!


Tell what?she askedwondering at his violence.


That you love that old man.


What old man?demanded Jothinking he must mean his
grandfather.


That devilish Professor you were always writing about.
If you say you love himI know I shall do something desperate.
And he looked as if he would keep his wordas he clenched
his hands with a wrathful spark in his eyes.


Jo wanted to laughbut restrained herself and said warmly
for she toowas getting excited with all thisDon't swear
Teddy! He isn't oldnor anything badbut good and kindand
the best friend I've gotnext to you. Praydon't fly into
a passion. I want to be kindbut I know I shall get angry if
you abuse my Professor. I haven't the least idea of loving
him or anybody else.


But you will after a whileand then what will become of me?


You'll love someone else toolike a sensible boyand
forget all this trouble.


I can't love anyone elseand I'll never forget youJo
Never! Never!with a stamp to emphasize his passionate words.


What shall I do with him?sighed Jofinding that emotions
were more unmanagable than she expected. "You haven't heard
what I wanted to tell you. Sit down and listenfor indeed I
want to do right and make you happy she saidhoping to soothe
him with a little reasonwhich proved that she knew nothing
about love.


Seeing a ray of hope in that last speechLaurie threw himself
down on the grass at her feetleaned his arm on the lower
step of the stileand looked up at her with an expectant face.
Now that arrangement was not conducive to calm speech or clear
thought on Jo's partfor how could she say hard things to her
boy while he watched her with eyes full of love and longing
and lashes still wet with the bitter drop or two her hardness
of heart had wrung from him? She gently turned his head away
sayingas she stroked the wavy hair which had been allowed to
grow for her sake--how touching that wasto be sure!
I agree with Mother that you and I are not suited to each
otherbecause our quick tempers and strong wills would probably
make us very miserableif we were so foolish as to..."



Jo paused a little over the last wordbut Laurie uttered it
with a rapturous expression.

Marry--no we shouldn't! If you loved meJoI should
be a perfect saintfor you could make me anything you like.

NoI can't. I've tried and failedand I won't risk
our happiness by such a serious experiment. We don't agree and
we never shallso we'll be good friends all our livesbut we
won't go and do anything rash.

Yeswe will if we get the chancemuttered Laurie rebelliously.

Now do be reasonableand take a sensible view of the case
implored Joalmost at her wit's end.

I won't be reasonable. I don't want to take what you
call `a sensible view'. It won't help meand it only makes
it harder. I don't believe you've got any heart.

I wish I hadn't.

There was a little quiver in Jo's voiceand thinking it a
good omenLaurie turned roundbringing all his persuasive
powers to bear as he saidin the wheedlesome tone that had
never been so dangerously wheedlesome beforeDon't disappoint
usdear! Everyone expects it. Grandpa has set his heart upon
ityour people like itand I can't get on without you. Say
you willand let's be happy. Dodo!

Not until months afterward did Jo understand how she had
the strength of mind to hold fast to the resolution she had
made when she decided that she did not love her boyand
never could. It was very hard to dobut she did itknowing
that delay was both useless and cruel.

I can't say `yes' trulyso I won't say it at all. You'll
see that I'm rightby-and-byand thank me for it...she
began solemnly.

I'll be hanged if I do!And Laurie bounced up off the
grassburning with indignation at the very idea.

Yesyou will!persisted Jo. "You'll get over this after
a whileand find some lovely accomplished girlwho will adore
youand make a fine mistress for your fine house. I shouldn't.
I'm homely and awkward and odd and oldand you'd be ashamed
of meand we should quarrel--we can't help it even nowyou see-and
I shouldn't like elegant society and you wouldand you'd
hate my scribblingand I couldn't get on without itand we
should be unhappyand wish we hadn't done itand everything
would be horrid!"

Anything more?asked asked Lauriefinding it hard to
listen patiently to this prophetic burst.

Nothing moreexcept that I don't believe I shall ever
marry. I'm happy as I amand love my liberty too well to
be in a hurry to give it up for any mortal man.

I know better!broke in Laurie. "You think so now
but there'll come a time when you will care for somebodyand
you'll love him tremendouslyand live and die for him. I
know you willit's your wayand I shall have to stand by


and see it." And the despairing lover cast his hat upon the
ground with a gesture that would have seemed comicalif his
face had not been so tragic.

YesI will live and die for himif her ever comes and
makes me love him in spite of myselfand you must do the best
you can!cried Jolosing patience with poor Teddy. "I've
done my bestbut you won't be reasonableand it's selfish
of you to keep teasing for what I can't give. I shall always
be fond of youvery fond indeedas a friendbut I'll never
marry youand the sooner you believe it the better for both
of us--so now!"

That speech was like gunpowder. Laurie looked at her a
minute as if he did not quite know what to do with himself
then turned sharply awaysaying in a desperate sort of tone
You'll be sorry some dayJo.

Ohwhere are you going?she criedfor his face frightened her.

To the devil!was the consoling answer.

For a minute Jo's heart stood stillas he swung himself
down the bank toward the riverbut it takes much follysin
or misery to send a young man to a violent deathand Laurie
was not one of the weak sort who are conquered by a single
failure. He had no thought of a melodramatic plungebut
some blind instinct led him to fling hat and coat into his boat
and row away with all his mightmaking better time up the
river than he had done in any race. Jo drew a long breath and
unclasped her hands as she watched the poor fellow trying to
outstrip the trouble which he carried in his heart.

That will do him goodand he'll come home in such a
tenderpenitent state of mindthat I shan't dare to see him.
she saidaddingas she went slowly homefeeling as if she
had murdered some innocent thingand buried it under the
leaves. "Now I must go and prepare Mr. Laurence to be very
kind to my poor boy. I wish he'd love Bethperhaps he may
in timebut I begin to think I was mistaken about her. Oh
dear! How can girls like to have lovers and refuse them? I
think it's dreadful."
Being sure that no one could do it so well as herselfshe
went straight to Mr. Laurencetold the hard story bravely
throughand then broke downcrying so dismally over her own
insensibility that the kind old gentlemanthough sorely disappointed
did not utter a reproach. He found it difficult to understand
how any girl could help loving Laurieand hoped she would
change her mindbut he knew even better than Jo that love
cannot be forcedso he shook his head sadly and resolved
to carry his boy out of harm's wayfor Young Impetuosity's
parting words to Jo disturbed him more than he would confess.

When Laurie came homedead tired but quite composedhis
grandfather met him as if he knew nothingand kept up the
delusion very successfully for an hour or two. But when they
sat together in the twilightthe time they used to enjoy so
muchit was hard work for the old man to ramble on as usual
and harder still for the young one to listen to praises of
the last year's successwhich to him now seemed like love's
labor lost. He bore it as long as he couldthen went to
his piano and began to play. The window's were openand Jo
walking in the garden with Bethfor once understood music
better than her sisterfor he played the `SONATA PATHETIQUE'


and played it as he never did before.


That's very fineI dare saybut it's sad enough to make
one cry. Give us something gayerladsaid Mr. Laurence
whose kind old heart was full of sympathywhich he longed to
show but knew not how.


Laurie dashed into a livelier strainplayed stormily for
several minutesand would have got through bravelyif in a
momentary lull Mrs. March's voice had not been heard calling
Jodearcome in. I want you.


Just what Laurie longed to saywith a different meaning!
As he listenedhe lost his placethe music ended with a broken
chordand the musician sat silent in the dark.


I can't stand thismuttered the old gentleman. Up he
gotgroped his way to the pianolaid a kind hand on either
of the broad shouldersand saidas gently as a womanI
knowmy boyI know.


No answer for an instantthen Laurie asked sharplyWho
told you?


Jo herself.


Then there's an end of it!And he shook off his grandfather's
hands with an impatient motionfor though grateful
for the sympathyhis man's pride could not bear a man's pity.


Not quite. I want to say one thingand then there shall
be an end of itreturned Mr. Laurence with unusual mildness.
You won't care to stay at home nowperhaps?


I don't intend to run away from a girl. Jo can't prevent
my seeing herand I shall stay and do it as long as I like
interrupted Laurie in a defiant tone.


Not if you are the gentleman I think you. I'm disappointed
but the girl can't help itand the only thing left
for you to do is to go away for a time. Where will you go?


Anywhere. I don't care what becomes of me.And Laurie
got up with a reckless laugh that grated on his grandfather's
ear.


Take it like a manand don't do anything rashfor God's
sake. Why not go abroadas you plannedand forget it?


I can't.


But you've been wild to goand I promised you should
when you got through college.


Ahbut I didn't mean to go alone!And Laurie walked
fast through the room with an expression which it was well
his grandfather did not see.


I don't ask you to go alone. There's someone ready and
glad to go with youanywhere in the world.


WhoSir?' stopping to listen.


Myself."



Laurie came back as quickly as he wentand put out his
handsaying huskilyI'm a selfish brutebut--you know-Grandfather--


Lord help meyesI do knowfor I've been through it all
beforeonce in my own young daysand then with your father.
Nowmy dear boyjust sit quietly down and hear my plan. It's
all settledand can be carried out at oncesaid Mr. Laurence
keeping hold of the young manas if fearful that he would break
away as his father had done before him.


Wellsirwhat is it?And Laurie sat downwithout a
sign of interest in face or voice.


There is business in London that needs looking after. I
meant you should attend to itbut I can do it better myself
and things here will get on very well with Brooke to manage
them. My partners do almost everythingI'm merely holding
on until you take my placeand can be off at any time.


But you hate travelingSir. I can't ask it of you at
your agebegan Lauriewho was grateful for the sacrifice
but much preferred to go aloneif he went at all.
The old gentleman knew that perfectly welland particularly
desired to prevent itfor the mood in which he found his
grandson assured him that it would not be wise to leave him to
his own devices. Sostifling a natural regret at the thought
of the home comforts he would leave behind himhe said stoutly
Bless your soulI'm not superannuated yet. I quite enjoy the
idea. It will do me goodand my old bones won't sufferfor
traveling nowadays is almost as easy as sitting in a chair."


A restless movement from Laurie suggested that his chair
was not easyor that he did not like the planand made the
old man add hastilyI don't mean to be a marplot or a burden.
I go because I think you'd feel happier than if I was
left behind. I don't intend to gad about with youbut leave
you free to go where you likewhile I amuse myself in my own
way. I've friends in London and Parisand should like to
visit them. Meantime you can go to ItalyGermanySwitzerland
where you willand enjoy picturesmusicscenery
and adventures to your heart's content.


NowLaurie felt just then that his heart was entirely
broken and the world a howling wildernessbut at the sound
of certain words which the old gentleman artfully introduced
into his closing sentencethe broken heart gave an unexpected
leapand a green oasis or two suddenly appeared in the howling
wilderness. He sighedand then saidin a spiritless tone
Just as you likeSir. It doesn't matter where I go or what I do.


It does to meremember thatmy lad. I give you entire
libertybut I trust you to make an honest use of it. Promise
me thatLaurie.


Anything you likeSir.


Goodthought the old gentleman. "You don't care now
but there'll come a time when that promise will keep you out
of mischiefor I'm much mistaken."


Being an energetic individualMr. Laurence struck while
the iron was hotand before the blighted being recovered spirit
enough to rebelthey were off. During the time necessary for



preparationLaurie bore himself as young gentleman usually do
in such cases. He was moodyirritableand pensive by turns
lost his appetiteneglected his dress and devoted much time
to playing tempestuously on his pianoavoided Jobut consoled
himself by staring at her from his windowwith a tragic
face that haunted her dreams by night and oppressed her with a
heavy sense of guilt by day. Unlike some sufferershe never
spoke of his unrequited passionand would allow no onenot
even Mrs. Marchto attempt consolation or offer sympathy. On
some accountsthis was a relief to his friendsbut the weeks
before his departure were very uncomfortableand everyone rejoiced
that the `poordear fellow was going away to forget his
troubleand come home happy'. Of coursehe smiled darkly at
their delusionbut passed it by with the sad superiority of
one who knew that his fidelity like his love was unalterable.

When the parting came he affected high spiritsto conceal
certain inconvenient emotions which seemed inclined to assert
themselves. This gaiety did not impose upon anybodybut they
tried to look as if it did for his sakeand he got on very well
till Mrs. March kissed himwhit a whisper full of motherly
solicitude. Then feeling that he was going very fasthe hastily
embraced them all roundnot forgetting the afflicted Hannahand
ran downstairs as if for his life. Jo followed a minute after to
wave her hand to him if he looked round. He did look roundcame
backput his arms about her as she stood on the step above him
and looked up at her with a face that made his short appeal eloquent
and pathetic.

OhJocan't you?

TeddydearI wish I could!

That was allexcept a little pause. Then Laurie straightened
himself upsaidIt's all rightnever mindand went away without
another word. Ahbut it wasn't all rightand Jo did mindfor
while the curly head lay on her arm a minute after her hard answer
she felt as if she had stabbed her dearest friendand when he left
her without a look behind himshe knew that the boy Laurie never
would come again.

CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX

When Jo came home that springshe had been struck with
the change in Beth. No one spoke of it or seemed aware of it
for it had come too gradually to startle those who saw her
dailybut to eyes sharpened by absenceit was very plain and
a heavy weight fell on Jo's heart as she saw her sister's face.
It was no paler and but littler thinner than in the autumnyet
there was a strangetransparent look about itas if the mortal
was being slowly refined awayand the immortal shining through
the frail flesh with an indescribably pathetic beauty. Jo saw
and felt itbut said nothing at the timeand soon the first
impression lost much of its powerfor Beth seemed happyno
one appeared to doubt that she was betterand presently in
other cares Jo fora time forgot her fear.

But when Laurie was goneand peace prevailed againthe
vague anxiety returned and haunted her. She had confessed
her sins and been forgivenbut when she showed her savings
and proposed a mountain tripBeth had thanked her heartily
but begged not to go so far away from home. Another little


visit to the seashore would suit her betterand as Grandma
could not be prevailed upon to leave the babiesJo took Beth
down to the quiet placewhere she could live much in the
open airand let the fresh sea breezes blow a little color
into her pale cheeks.

It was not a fashionable placebut even among the pleasant
people therethe girls made few friendspreferring to live for
one another. Beth was too shy to enjoy societyand Jo too
wrapped up in her to care for anyone else. So they were all in
all to each otherand came and wentquite unconscious of the
interest they exited in those about themwho watched with sympathetic
eyes the strong sister and the feeble onealways
togetheras if they felt instinctively that a long separation
was not far away.

They did feel ityet neither spoke of itfor often between
ourselves and those nearest and dearest to us there exists a reserve
which it is very hard to overcome. Jo felt as if a veil
had fallen between her heart and Beth'sbut when she put out
her hand to lift it upthere seemed something sacred in the
silenceand she waited for Beth to speak. She wonderedand
was thankful alsothat her parents did not seem to see what
she sawand during the quiet weeks when the shadows grew so
plain to hershe said nothing of it to those at homebelieving
that it would tell itself when Beth came back no better.
She wondered still more if her sister really guessed the hard
truthand what thoughts were passing through her mind during
the long hours when she lay on the warm rocks with her head in
Jo's lapwhile the winds blew healthfully over her and the sea
made music at her feet.

One day Beth told her. Jo thought she was asleepshe lay
so stilland putting down her booksat looking at her with
wistful eyestrying to see signs of hope in the faint color on
Beth's cheeks. But she could not find enough to satisfy her
for the cheeks were very thinand the hands seemed too feeble
to hold even the rosy little shells they had been collecting.
It came to her then more bitterly than ever that Beth was
slowly drifting away form herand her arms instinctively
tightened their hold upon the dearest treasure she possessed.
For a minute her eyes were too dim for seeingand when they
clearedBeth was looking up at her so tenderly that there was
hardly any need for her to sayJodearI'm glad you know
it. I've tried to tell youbut I couldn't.

There was no answer except her sister's cheek against her
ownnot even tearsfor when most deeply movedJo did not
cry. She was the weaker thenland Beth tried to comfort and
sustain herwith her arms about her and the soothing words
she whispered in her ear.

I've known it for a good whiledearand now I'm used
to itit isn't hard to think of or to bear. Try to see it so
and don't be troubled about mebecause it's bestindeed it is.

Is this what made you so unhappy in the autumnBeth? You
did not feel it thenland keep it to yourself so longdid you?
asked Jorefusing to see or say that it was bestbut glad to
know that Laurie had no part in Beth's trouble.

YesI gave up hoping thenbut I didn't like to own it.
I tried to think it was a sick fancyand would not let it
trouble anyone. But when I saw you all so well and strong and


full of happy plansit was hard to feel that I could never be
like youand then I was miserableJo.

OhBethand you didn't tell medidn't let me comfort and
help you? How could you shut me outbear it all alone?

Jo's voice was full of tender reproachand her heart ached
to think of the solitary struggle that must have gone on while
Beth learned to say goodbye to healthloveand liveand take
up her cross so cheerfully.

Perhaps it was wrongbut I tried to do right. I wasn't sure
no one said anythingand I hoped I was mistaken. It would have
been selfish to frighten you all when Marmee was so anxious about
Megand Amy awayand you so happy with Laurie--at least I thought
so then.

And I thought you loved himBethand I went away because
I couldn'tcried Joglad to say all the truth.

Beth looked so amazed at the idea that Jo smiled in spite
of her painand added softlyThen you didn'tdearie? I was
afraid it was soand imagined your poor little heart full of
lovelornity all that while.

WhyJohow could Iwhen he was so fond of you?asked
Bethas innocently as a child. "I do love him dearly. He is
so good to mehow can I help It? But he could never be anything
to me but my brother. I hope he truly will besometime."

Not through mesaid Jo decidedly. "Amy is left for him
and they would suit excellentlybut I have no heart for such
thingsnow. I don't care what becomes of anybody but youBeth.
You must get well."

I want toohso much! I trybut every day I lose a little
and feel more sure that I shall never gain it back. It's like the
tideJowhen it turnsit goes slowlybut it can't be stopped..

It shall be stoppedyour tide must not turn so soonnineteen
is too youngBeth. I can't let you go. I'll work and pray
and fight against it. I'll keep you in spite of everything. There
must be waysit can't be too late. God won't be so cruel as to
take you from mecried poor Jo rebelliouslyfor her spirit was
far less piously submissive than Beth's.

Simplesincere people seldom speak much of their piety. It
shows itself in acts rather than in wordsand has more influence
than homilies or protestations. Beth could not reason upon or
explain the faith that gave her courage and patience to give up
lifeand cheerfully wait for death. Like a confiding childshe
asked no questionsbut left everything to God and natureFather
and Mother of us allfeeling sure that theyand they only
could teach and strengthen heart and spirit for this life and
the life to come. She did not rebuke Jo with saintly speeches
only loved her better for her passionate affectionand clung
more closely to the dear human lovefrom which our Father never
means us to be weanedbut through which He draws us closer to
Himself. She could not sayI'm glad to gofor life was very
sweet for her. She could only sob outI try to be willing
while she held fast to Joas the first bitter wave of this
great sorrow broke over them together.

By and by Beth saidwith recovered serenityYou'll tell


them this when we go home?

I think they will see it without wordssighed Jofor now
it seemed to her that Beth changed every day.

Perhaps not. I've heard that the people who love best are
often blindest to such things. If they don't see ityou will tell
them for me. I don't want any secretsand it's kinder to prepare
them. Meg has John and the babies to comfort herbut you must
stand by Father and Motherwon't you Jo?

If I can. ButBethI don't give up yet. I'm going to believe
that it is a sick fancyand not let you think it's true.
said Jotrying to speak cheerfully.

Beth lay a minute thinkingand then said in her quiet way
I don't know how to express myselfand shouldn't try to anyone
but youbecause I can't speak out except to my Jo. I only mean
to say that I have a feeling that it never was intended I should
live long. I'm not like the rest of you. I never made any plans
about what I'd do when I grew up. I never thought of being married
as you all did. I couldn't seem to imagine myself anything
but stupid little Bethtrotting about at homeof no use anywhere
but there. I never wanted to go awayand the hard part now is
the leaving you all. I'm not afraidbut it seems as if I should
be homesick for you even in heaven.

Jo could not speakand for several minutes there was no
sound but the sigh of the wind and the lapping of the tide. A
white-winged gull flew bywith the flash of sunshine on its
silvery breast. Beth watched it till it vanishedand her eyes
were full of sadness. A little gray-coated sand bird came tripping
over the beach `peeping' softly to itselfas if enjoying
the sun and sea. It came quite close to Bethand looked at her
with a friendly eye and sat upon a warm stonedressing its wet
feathersquite at home. Beth smiled and felt comfortedfor
the tiny thing seemed to offer its small friendship and remind
her that a pleasant world was still to be enjoyed.

Dear little bird! SeeJohow tame it is. I like peeps
better than the gulls. They are not so wild and handsomebut
they seem happyconfiding little things. I used to call them
my birds last summerand Mother said they reminded her of me
--busyquaker-colored creaturesalways near the shoreand
always chirping that contented little song of theirs. You are
the gullJostrong and wildfond of the storm and the wind
flying far out to seaand happy all alone. Meg is the turtledove
and Amy is like the lark she write abouttrying to get
up among the cloudsbut always dropping down into its nest
again. Dear little girl! She's so ambitiousbut her heart is
good and tenderand no matter how high she fliesshe never
will forget home. I hope I shall see her againbut she seems
so far away.

She is coming in the springand I mean that you shall be
all ready to see and enjoy her. I'm going to have you well and
rosy by that time.began Jofeeling that of all the changes
in Beththe talking change was the greatestfor it seemed to
cost no effort nowand she thought aloud in a way quite unlike
bashful Beth.

Jodeardon't hope any more. It won't do any good. I'm
sure of that. We won't be miserablebut enjoy being together
while we wait. We'll have happy timesfor I don't suffer much


and I think the tide will go out easilyif you help me.

Jo leaned down to kiss the tranquil faceand with that
silent kissshe dedicated herself soul and body to Beth.

She was right. There was no need of any words when they
got homefor Father and Mother saw plainly now what they had
prayed to be saved from seeing. Tired with her short journey
Beth went at once to bedsaying how glad she was to be home
and when Jo went downshe found that she would be spared the
hard task of telling Beth's secret. Her father stood leaning
his head on the mantelpiece and did not turn as she came in
but her mother stretched out her arms as if for helpand Jo
went to comfort her without a word.

CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN

At three o'clock in the afternoonall the fashionable world
at Nice may be seen on the Promenade des Anglais--a charming place
for the wide walkbordered with palmsflowersand tropical shrubs
is bounded on one side by the seaon the other by the grand drive
lined with hotels and villaswhile beyond lie orange orchards and
the hills. Many nations are representedmany languages spokenmany
costumes wornand on a sunny day the spectacle is as gay and brilliant
as a carnival. Haughty Englishlively Frenchsober Germans
handsome Spaniardsugly Russiansmeek Jewsfree-and-easy Americans
all drivesitor saunter herechatting over the newsand criticzing
the latest celebrity who has arrived--Ristori or DickensVictor
Emmanuel or the Queen of the Sandwich Islands. The equipages are as
varied as the company and attract as much attentionespecially the
low basket barouches in which ladies drive themselveswith a pair
of dashing poniesgay nets to keep their voluminous flounces from
overflowing the diminutive vehiclesand little grooms on the perch
behind.

Along this walkon Christmas Daya tall young man walked
slowlywith his hands behind himand a somewhat absent expression
of countenance. He looked like an Italianwas dressed like an
Englishmanand had the independent air of an American--a combination
which caused sundry pairs of feminine eyes to look approvingly
after himand sundry dandies in black velvet suitswith
rose-colored necktiesbuff glovesand orange flowers in their
buttonholesto shrug their shouldersand then envy him his inches.
There were plenty of pretty faces to admirebut the young man took
little notice of themexcept to glance now and then at some blonde
girl in blue. Presently he strolled out of the promenade and
stood a moment at the crossingas if undecided whether to go and
listen to the band in the Jardin Publiqueor to wander along the
beach toward Castle Hill. The quick trot of ponies feet made him
look upas one of the little carriagescontaining a single
young ladycame rapidly down the street. The lady was young
blondeand dressed in blue. He stared a minutethen his whole
face woke upandwaving his hat like a boyhe hurried forward
to meet her.

OhLaurieis it really you? I thought you'd never come!
cried Amydropping the reins and holding out both handsto the
great scandalization of a French mammawho hastened her daughter's
stepslest she should be demoralized by beholding the free manners
of these `mad English'.

I was detained by the waybut I promised to spend Christmas


with youand here I am.


How is your grandfather? When did you come? Where are you
staying?


Very well--last night--at the Chauvain. I called at your
hotelbut you were out.


I have so much to sayI don't know where to begin! Get
in and we can talk at our ease. I was going for a drive and
longing for company. Flo's saving up for tonight.


What happens thena ball?


A Christmas party at out hotel. There are many Americans
thereand they give it in honor of the day. You'll go with us
of course? Aunt will be charmed.


Thank you. Where now?asked Laurieleaning back and
folding his armsa proceeding which suited Amywho preferred
to drivefor her parasol whip and blue reins over the white
ponies backs afforded her infinite satisfaction.


I'm going to the bankers first for lettersand then to
Castle Hill. The view is so lovelyand I like to feed the peacocks.
Have you ever been there?


Oftenyears agobut I don't mind having a look at it.


Now tell me all about yourself. The last I heard of you
your grandfather wrote that he expected you from Berlin.
YesI spent a month there and then joined him in Paris
where he has settled for the winter. He has friends there and
finds plenty to amuse himso I go and comeand we got on capitally.


That's a sociable arrangementsaid Amymissing something
in Laurie's mannerthough she couldn't tell what.


Whyyou seehe hates to traveland I hate to keep still
so we each suit ourselvesand there is no trouble. I am often
with himand he enjoys my adventureswhile I like to feel that
someone is glad to see me when I get back from my wanderings. Dirty
old holeisn't it?he addedwith a look of disgust as they drove
along the boulevard to the Place Napoleon in the old city.


The dirt is picturesqueso I don't mind. The river and the
hills are deliciousand these glimpses of the narrow cross streets
are my delight. Now we shall have to wait for that procession to
pass. It's going to the Church of St. John.


While Laurie listlessly watched the procession of priests
under their canopieswhite-veiled nuns bearing lighted tapers
and some brotherhood in blue chanting as they walkedAmy watched
himand felt a new sort of shyness steal over herfor he was
changedand she could not find the merry-faced boy she left in
the moody-looking man beside her. He was handsomer than ever and
greatly improvedshe thoughtbut now that the flush of pleasure
at meeting her was overhe looked tired and spiritless--not sick
nor exactly unhappybut older and graver than a year or two of
prosperous life should have made him. She couldn't understand it
and did not venture to ask questionsso she shook her head and
touched up her poniesas the procession wound away across the
arches of the Paglioni bridge and vanished in the church.



Que pensez-vous?she saidairing her Frenchwhich had
improved in quantityif not in qualitysince she came abroad.

That mademoiselle has made good use of her timeand the
result is charmingreplied Lauriebowing with his hand on
his heart and an admiring look.

She blushed with pleasurebut somehow the compliment did
not satisfy her like the blunt praises he used to give her at
homewhen he promenaded round her on festival occasionsand
tole her she was `altogether jolly'with a hearty smile and an
approving pat on the head. She didn't like the new tonefor
though not blaseit sounded indifferent in spite of the look.

If that's the way he's going to grow upI wish he's stay
a boyshe thoughtwith a curious sense of disappointment and
discomforttrying meantime to seem quite easy and gay.

At Avigdor's she found the precious home letters andgiving
the reins to Laurieread them luxuriously as they wound up the
shady road between green hedgeswhere tea roses bloomed as freshly
as in June.

Beth is very poorlyMother says. I often think I ought to
go homebut they all say `stay'. So I dofor I shall never have
another chance like thissaid Amylooking sober over one page.

I think you are rightthere. You could do nothing at home
and it is a great comfort to them to know that you are well and
happyand enjoying so muchmy dear.

He drew a little nearerand looked more like his old self as
he said thatand the fear that sometimes weighed on Amy's heart
was lightenedfor the lookthe actthe brotherly `my dear'
seemed to assure her that if any trouble did comeshe would not
be alone in a strange land. Presently she laughed and showed him
a small sketch of Jo in her scribbling suitwith the bow rampantly
erect upon her capand issuing from her mouth the words`Genius
burns!'.

Laurie smiledtook itput it in his vest pocket `to keep it
from blowing away'and listened with interest to the lively letter
Amy read him.

This will be a regularly merry Christmas to mewith presents
in the morningyou and letters in the afternoonand a party at
nightsaid Amyas they alighted among the ruins of the old fort
and a flock of splendid peacocks came trooping about themtamely
waiting to be fed. While Amy stood laughing on the bank above him
as she scattered crumbs to the brilliant birdsLaurie looked at her
as she had looked at himwith a natural curiosity to see what
changes time and absence had wrought. He found nothing to perplex
or disappointmuch to admire and approvefor overlooking a few
little affectations of speech and mannershe was as sprightly and
graceful as everwith the addition of that indescribable something
in dress and bearing which we call elegance. Always mature for her
ageshe had gained a certain aplomb in both carriage and conversation
which made her seem more of a woman of the world than she wasbut
her old petulance now and then showed itselfher strong will still
held its ownand her native frankness was unspoiled by foreign
polish.

Laurie did not read all this while he watched her feed the peacocks
but he saw enough to satisfy and interest himand carried


away a pretty little picture of a bright-faced girl standing in the
sunshinewhich brought out the soft hue of her dressthe fresh
color of her cheeksthe golden gloss of her hairand made her a
prominent figure in the pleasant scene.

As they came up onto the stone plateau that crowns the hill
Amy waved her hand as if welcoming him to her favorite hauntand
saidpointing here and thereDo you remember the Cathedral and
the Corsothe fishermen dragging their nets in the bayand the
lovely road to Villa FrancaSchubert's Towerjust belowand best
of allthat speck far out to sea which they say ils Corsica?

I remember. It's not much changedhe answered without
enthusiasm.

What Jo would give for a sight of that famous speck!said
Amyfeeling in good spirits and anxious to see him so also.

Yeswas all he saidbut he turned and strained his eyes to
see the island which a greater usurper than even Napoleon now made
interesting in his sight.

Take a good look at it for her sakeand then come and tell
me what you have been doing with yourself all this whilesaid
Amyseating herselfready for a good talk.

But she did not get itfor though he joined her and answered
all her questions freelyshe could only learn that he had roved
about the Continent and been to Greece. So after idling away an
hourthey drove home againand having paid his respects to Mrs.
CarrolLaurie left thempromising to return in the evening.

It must be recorded of Amy that she deliberately prinked that
night. Time and absence had done its work on both the young people.
She had seen her old friend in a new lightnot as `our boy'but as
a handsome and agreeable manand she was conscious of a very natural
desire to find favor in his sight. Amy knew her good pointsand
made the most of them with the taste and skill which is a fortune to
a poor and pretty woman.

Tarlatan and tulle were cheap at Niceso she enveloped herself
in them on such occasionsand following the sensible English fashion
of simple dress for young girlsgot up charming little toilettes
with fresh flowersa few trinketsand all manner of dainty devices
which were both inexpensive and effective. It must be confessed
that the artist sometimes got possession of the womanand indulged
in antique coiffuresstatuesque attitudesand classic draperies.
Butdear heartwe all have out little weaknessesand find it
easy to pardon such in the youngwho satisfy our eyes with their
comelinessand keep our hearts merry with their artless vanities.

I do want him to think I look welland tell them so at home
said Amy to herselfas she put on Flo's old white silk ball dress
and covered it with a cloud of fresh illusionout of which her
white shoulders and golden head emerged with a most artistic effect.
Her hair she had the sense to let aloneafter gathering up the
thick waves and curls into a Hebe-like knot at the back of her head.

It's not the fashionbut it's becomingand I can't afford to
make a fright of myselfshe used to saywhen advised to frizzle
puffor braidas the latest style commanded.

Having no ornaments fine enough for this important occasion
Amy looped her fleecy skirts with rosy clusters of azaleaand


framed the white shoulders in delicate green vines. Remembering
the painted bootsshe surveyed her white satin slippers with
girlish satisfactionand chassed down the roomadmiring her
aristocratic feet all by herself.


My new fan just matches my flowersmy gloves fit to a charm
and the real lace on Aunt's mouchoir gives an air to my whole dress.
If I only had a classical nose and mouth I should be perfectly happy
she saidsurveying herself with a critical eye and a candle in
each hand.


In spite of this afflictionshe looked unusually gay and
graceful as she glided away. She seldom ran--it did not suit her
styleshe thoughtfor being tallthe stately and Junoesque was
more appropriate than the sportive or piquante. She walked up and
down the long saloon while waiting for Laurieand once arranged
herself under the chandelierwhich had a good effect upon her
hairthen she thought better of itand went away to the other
end of the roomas if ashamed of the girlish desire to have the
first view a propitious one. It so happened that she could not
have done a better thingfor Laurie came in so quietly she
did not hear himand as she stood at the distant windowwith
her head half turned and one hand gathering up her dressthe
slenderwhite figure against the red curtains was as effective
as a well-placed statue.


Good eveningDiana!said Lauriewith the look of satisfaction
she liked to see in his eyes when they rested on her.


Good eveningApollo!she answeredsmiling back at him
for he too looked unusually debonairand the thought of
entering the ballroom on the arm of such a personable man
caused Amy to pity the four plain Misses Davis from the bottom
of her heart.


Here are your flowers. I arranged them myselfremembering
that you didn't like what Hannah calls a `sot-bookay'said
Lauriehanding her a delicate nosegayin a holder that she
had long coveted as she daily passed it in Cardiglia's window.


How kind you are!" she exclaimed gratefully. "If I'd
known you were coming I'd have had something ready for you today
though not as pretty as thisI'm afraid."


Thank you. It isn't what it should bebut you have improved it
he addedas she snapped the silver bracelet on her wrist.


Please don't.


I thought you liked that sort of thing.


Not from youit doesn't sound naturaland I like your
old bluntness better.


I'm glad of ithe answeredwith a look of reliefthen
buttoned her gloves for herand asked if his tie was straight
just as he used to do when they went to parties together at home.


The company assembled in the long salle a manger that
evening was such as one sees nowhere but on the Continent. The
hospitable Americans had invited every acquaintance they had
in Niceand having no prejudice against titlessecured a few
to add luster to their Christmas ball.



A Russian prince condescended to sit in a corner for an
hour and talk with a massive ladydressed like Hamlet's mother
in black velvet with a pearl bridle under her chin. A Polish
countaged eighteendevoted himself to the ladieswho pronounced
him`a fascinating dear'and a German Serene Something
having come to supper aloneroamed vaguely aboutseeking what
he might devour. Baron Rothschild's private secretarya largenosed
Jew in tight bootsaffably beamed upon the worldas if
his master's name crowned him with a golden halo. A stout
Frenchmanwho knew the Emperorcame to indulge his mania for
dancingand Lady de Jonesa British matronadorned the scene
with her little family of eight. Of coursethere were many
light-footedshrill-voiced American girlshandsomelifeless-looking
English dittoand a few plain but piquante French demoiselles
likewise the usual set of traveling young gentlemen
who disported themselves gailywhile mammas of all nations
lined the walls and smiled upon them benignly when they danced
with their daughters.


Any young girl can imagine Amy's state of mind when she
`took the stage' that nightleaning on Laurie's arm. She
knew she looked wellshe loved to danceshe felt that her
foot was on her native heath in a ballroomand enjoyed the
delightful sense of power which comes when young girls first
discover the new and lovely kingdom they are born to rule by
virtue of beautyyouthand womanhood. She did pity the
Davis girlswho were awkwardplainand destitute of escort
except a grim papa and three grimmer maiden auntsand she
bowed to them in her friendliest manner as she passedwhich
was good of heras it permitted them to see her dressand
burn with curiosity to know who her distinguished-looking
friend might be. With the first burst of the bandAmy's
color roseher eyes began to sparkleand her feet to tap the
floor impatientlyfor she danced well and wanted Laurie to
know it. Therefore the shock she received can better be
imagined than describedwhen he said in a perfectly tranquil
toneDo you care to dance?


One usually does at a ball.


Her amazed look and quick answer caused Laurie to repair
his error as fast as possible.


I meant the first dance. May I have the honor?


I can give you one if I put off the Count. He dances
devinelybut he will excuse meas you are an old friendsaid
Amyhoping that the name would have a good effectand show
Laurie that she was not to be trifled with.


Nice little boybut rather a short Pole to support . ..
A daughter of the gods
Devinely talland most devinely fair


was all the satisfaction she gothowever.


The set in which they found themselves was composed of
Englishand Amy was compelled to walk decorously through a
cotillionfeeling all the while as if she could dance the
tarantella with relish. Laurie resigned her to the `nice little
boy'and went to do his duty to Flowithout securing Amy for
the joys to comewhich reprehensible want of forethought was
properly punishedfor she immediately engaged herself till
suppermeaning to relent if he then gave any signs penitence.



She showed him her ball book with demure satisfaction when he
strolled instead of rushed up to claim her for the nexta
glorious polka redowa. But his polite regrets didn't impose
upon herand when she galloped away with the Countshe saw
Laurie sit down by her aunt with an actual expression of relief.

That was unpardonableand Amy took no more notice of him
for a long whileexcept a word now and then when she came to
her chaperon between the dances for a necessary pin or a
moment's rest. Her anger had a good effecthoweverfor she
hid it under a smiling faceand seemed unusually blithe and
brilliant. Laurie's eyes followed her with pleasurefor she
neither romped nor saunteredbut danced with spirit and
gracemaking the delightsome pastime what it should be. He
very naturally fell to studying her from this new point of
viewand before the evening was half overhad decided that
`little Amy was going to make a very charming woman'.

It was a lively scenefor soon the spirit of the social
season took possession of everyoneand Christmas merriment made
all faces shinehearts happyand heels light. The musicians
fiddledtootedand banged as if they enjoyed iteverybody
danced who couldand those who couldn't admired their
neighbors with uncommon warmth. The air was dark with Davises
and many Jones gamboled like a flock of young giraffes. The
golden secretary darted through the room like a meteor with
a dashing frenchwoman who carped the floor with her pink satin
train. The serene Teuton found the supper table and was happy
eating steadily through the bill of fareand dismayed the
garcons by the ravages he committed. But the Emperor's friend
covered himself with gloryfor he danced everythingwhether
he knew it or notand introduced impromptu pirouettes when the
figures bewildered him. The boyish abandon of that stout man
was charming to beholdfor though he `carried weight'he
danced like an India-rubber ball. He ranhe flewhe pranced
his face glowedhis bald head shownhis coattails waved wildly
his pumps actually twinkled in the airand when the music
stoppedhe wiped the drops from his browand beamed upon his
fellow men like a French Pickwick without glasses.

Amy and her Pole distinguished themselves by equal enthusiasm
but more graceful agilityand Laurie found himself
involuntarily keeping time to the rhythmic rise and fall of the
white slippers as they flew by as indefatigably as if winged.
When little Vladimir finally relinquished herwith assurances
that he was `desolated to leave so early'she was ready to
restand see how her recreant knight had borne his punishment.

It had been successfulfor at three-and-twentyblighted
affections find a balm in friendly societyand young nerves
will thrillyoung blood danceand healthy young spirits rise
when subjected to the enchantment of beautylightmusicand
motion. Laurie had a waked-up look as he rose to give her his
seatand when he hurried away to bring her some suppershe
said to herselfwith a satisfied smileAhI thought that
would do him good!

You look like Balzac's `FEMME PEINTE PAR ELLE-NENE'
he saidas he fanned her with one hand and held her coffee
cup in the other.

My rouge won't come off.And Amy rubbed her brilliant
cheekand showed him her white glove with a sober simplicity
that made him laugh outright.


What do you call this stuff?he askedtouching a fold
of her dress that had blown over his knee.

Illusion.

Good name for it. It's very pretty--new thingisn't it?

It's as old as the hills. You have seen it on dozens of
girlsand you never found out that it was pretty till now?
Stupide!

I never saw it on you beforewhich accounts for the mistake
you see.

None of thatit is forbidden. I'd rather take coffee
than compliments just now. Nodon't loungeit makes me nervous.

Laurie sat bold uprightand meekly took her empty plate
feeling an odd sort of pleasure in having `little Amy' order
him aboutfor she had lost her shyness nowand felt an
irrestible desire to trample on himas girls have a delightful
way of doing when lords of creation show any signs of subjection.

Where did you learn all this sort of thing?he asked with
a quizzical look.

As `this sort of thing' is rather a vague expressionwould
you kindly explain?returned Amyknowing perfectly well what he
meantbut wickedly leaving him to describe what is indescribable.

Well--the general airthe stylethe self-possessionthe-the--
illusion--you knowlaughed Lauriebreaking down and helping
himself out of his quandary with the new word.

Amy was gratifiedbut of course didn't show itand demurely
answeredForeign life polishes one in spite of one's self. I
study as well as playand as for this--with a little gesture
toward her dress--"whytulle is cheapposies to be had for
nothingand I am used to making the most of my poor little things."

Amy rather regretted that last sentencefearing it wasn't in
good tastebut Laurie liked her better for itand found himself
both admiring and respecting the brave patience that made the most
of opportunityand the cheerful spirit that covered poverty with
flowers. Amy did not know why he looked at her so kindlynow
why he filled up her book with his own nameand devoted himself
to her for the rest of the evening in the most delightful manner
but the impulse that wrought this agreeable change was the result
of one of the new impressions which both of them were unconsciously
giving and receiving.

CHAPTER THIRTY-EIGHT

In France the young girls have a dull time of it till they are
marriedwhen `Vive la liberte!' becomes their motto. In America
as everyone knowsgirls early sign the declaration of independence
and enjoy their freedom with republican zestbut the young matrons
usually abdicate with the first heir to the throne and go into a
seclusion almost as close as a French nunnerythough by no means
as quiet. Whether they like it or notthey are virtually put
upon the shelf as soon as the wedding excitement is overand most


of them might exclaimas did a very pretty woman the other day
I'm as handsome as everbut no one takes any notice of me because
I'm married.

Not being a belle or even a fashionable ladyMeg did not
experience this affliction till her babies were a year old
for in her little world primitive customs prevailedand she
found herself more admired and beloved than ever.

As she was a womanly little womanthe maternal instinct
was very strongand she was entirely absorbed in her children
to the utter exclusion of everything and everybody else. Day
and night she brooded over them with tireless devotion and
anxietyleaving John to the tender mercies of the helpfor
an Irish lady now presided over the kitchen department. Being
a domestic manJohn decidedly missed the wifely attentions he
had been accustomed to receivebut as he adored his babieshe
cheerfully relinquished his comfort for a timesupposing with
masculine ignorance that peace would soon be restored. But
three months passedand there was no return of repose. Meg
looked worn and nervousthe babies absorbed every minute of
her timethe house was neglectedand Kittythe cookwho took
life `aisy'kept him on short commons. When he went out in
the morning he was bewildered by small commissions for the captive
mammaif he came gaily in at nighteager to embrace his
familyhe was quenched by a "Hush! They are just asleep after
worrying all day." If he proposed a little amusement at home
Noit would disturb the babies.If he hinted at a lecture
or a concerthe was answered with a reproachful lookand a
decided "Leave my children for pleasurenever!" His sleep was
broken by infant wails and visions of a phantom figure pacing
noiselessly to and fro in the watches of the night. His meals
were interrupted by the frequent flight of the presiding genius
who deserted himhalf-helpedif a muffled chirp sounded from
the nest above. And when he read his paper of an evening
Demi's colic got into the shipping list and Daisy's fall affected
the price of stocksfor Mrs. Brooke was only interested in domestic news.

The poor man was very uncomfortablefor the children had
bereft him of his wifehome was merely a nursery and the perpetual
`hushing' made him feel like a brutal intruder whenever
he entered the sacred precincts of Babyland. He bore it very
patiently for six monthsand when no signs of amendment appeared
he did what other paternal exiles do--tried to get a little comfort
elsewhere. Scott had married and gone to housekeeping not
far offand John fell into the way of running over for an hour
or two of an eveningwhen his own parlor was emptyand his
own wife singing lullabies that seemed to have no end. Mrs.
Scott was a livelypretty girlwith nothing to do but be
agreeableand she performed her mission most successfully. The
parlor was always bright and attractivethe chessboard ready
the piano in tuneplenty of gay gossipand a nice little supper
set forth in tempting style.

John would have preferred his own fireside if it had not
been so lonelybut as it was he gratefully took the next best
thing and enjoyed his neighbor's society.

Meg rather approved of the new arrangement at firstand
found it a relief to know that John was having a good time
instead of dozing in the parloror tramping about the house
and waking the children. But by-and-bywhen the teething
worry was over and the idols went to sleep at proper hours
leaving Mamma time to restshe began to miss Johnand find


her workbasket dull companywhen he was not sitting opposite
in his old dressing gowncomfortably scorching his slippers
on the fender. She would not ask him to stay at homebut felt
injured because he did not know that she wanted him without
being toldentirely forgetting the many evenings he had waited
for her in vain. She was nervous and worn out with watching
and worryand in that unreasonable frame of mind which the best
of mothers occasionally experience when domestic cares oppress
them. Want of exercise robs them of cheerfulnessand too much
devotion to that idol of American womenthe teapotmakes them
feel as if they were all nerve and no muscle.

Yesshe would saylooking in the glassI'm getting
old and ugly. John doesn't find me interesting any longerso
he leaves his faded wife and goes to see his pretty neighbor
who has no incumbrances. Wellthe babies love methey don't
care if I am thin and pale and haven't time to crimp my hair
they are my comfortand some day John will see what I've
gladly sacrificed for themwon't hemy precious?

To which pathetic appeal daisy would answer with a coo
or Demi with a crowand Meg would put by her lamentations for
a maternal revelwhich soothed her solitude for the time being.
But the pain increased as politics absorbed Johnwho was always
running over to discuss interesting points with Scottquite
unconscious that Meg missed him. Not a word did she sayhowever
till her mother found her in tears one dayand insisted
on knowing what the matter wasfor Meg's drooping spirits had
not escaped her observation.

I wouldn't tell anyone except youMotherbut I really
do need advicefor if John goes on much longer I might as well
be widowedreplied Mrs. Brookedrying her tears on Daisy's
bib with an injured air.

Goes on howmy dear?asked her mother anxiously.

He's away all dayand at night when I want to see him
he is continually going over to the Scotts'. It isn't fair
that I should have the hardest workand never any amusement.
Men are very selfisheven the best of them.

So are women. Don't blame John till you see where you
are wrong yourself.

But it can't be right for him to neglect me.

Don't you neglect him?

WhyMotherI thought you'd take my part!

So I doas far as sympathizing goesbut I think the fault
is yoursMeg.

I don't see how.

Let me show you. Did John ever neglect youas you call it
while you made it a point to give him your society of an evening
his only leisure time?

Nobut I can't do it nowwith two babies to tend.

I think you coulddearand I think you ought. May I
speak quite freelyand will you remember that it's Mother who


blames as well as Mother who sympathizes?


Indeed I will! Speak to me as if I were little Meg again.
I often feel as if I needed teaching more than ever since these
babies look to me for everything.


Meg drew her low chair beside her mother'sand with a little
interruption in either lapthe two women rocked and talked lovingly
togetherfeeling that the tie of motherhood made them more one
than ever.


You have only made the mistake that most young wives make-forgotten
your duty to your husband in your love for your children.
A very natural and forgivable mistakeMegbut one that
had better be remedied before you take to different waysfor
children should draw you nearer than evernot separate youas
if they were all yoursand John had nothing to do but support
them. I've seen it for some weeksbut have not spokenfeeling
sure it would come right in time.


I'm afraid it won't. If I ask him to stayhe'll think I'm
jealousand I wouldn't insult him by such an idea. He doesn't
see that I want himand I don't know how to tell him without
words.


Make it so pleasant he won't want to go away. My dear
he's longing for his little homebut it isn't home without you
and you are always in the nursery.


Oughtn't I to be there?


Not all the timetoo much confinement makes you nervous
and then you are unfitted for everything. Besidesyou owe
something to John as well as to the babies. Don't neglect husband
for childrendon't shut him out of the nurserybut teach
him how to help in it. His place is there as well as yoursand
the children need him. Let him feel that he has a part to doand
he will do it gladly and faithfullyand it will be better for you
all.


You really think soMother?


I know itMegfor I've tried itand I seldom give advice
unless I've proved its practicability. When you and Jo were little
I went on just as you arefeeling as if I didn't do my duty unless
I devoted myself wholly to you. Poor Father took to his books
after I had refused all offers of helpand left me to try my experiment
alone. I struggled along as well as I couldbut Jo was
too much for me. I nearly spoiled her by indulgence. You were
poorlyand I worried about you till I fell sick myself. Then
Father came to the rescuequietly managed everythingand made
himself so helpful that I saw my mistakeand never have been able
to got on without him since. That is the secret of our home happiness.
He does not let business wean him from the little cares
and duties that affect us alland I try not to let domestic worries
destroy my interest in his pursuits. Each do our part alone in
many thingsbut at home we work togetheralways.


It is soMotherand my great wish is to be to my husband
and children what you have been to yours. Show me howI'll do
anything you say.


You were always my docile daughter. Welldearif I were
youI'd let John have more to do with the management of Demi



for the boy needs trainingand it's none too soon to begin.
Then I'd do what I have often proposedlet Hannah come and
help you. She is a capital nurseand you may trust the precious
babies to her while you do more housework. You need the exercise
Hannah would enjoy the restand John would find his wife again.
Go out morekeep cheerful as well as busyfor you are the
sunshine-maker of the familyand if you get dismal there is no
fair weather. Then I'd try to take an interest in whatever John
likes--talk with himlet him read to youexchange ideasand
help each other in that way. Don't shut yourself up in a bandbox
because you are a womanbut understand what is going onand
educate yourself to take your part in the world's workfor it
all affects you and yours.

John is so sensibleI'm afraid he will think I'm stupid if
I ask questions about politics and things.

I don't believe he would. Love covers a multitude of sins
and of whom could you ask more freely than of him? Try itand
see if he doesn't find your society far more agreeable than Mrs.
Scott's suppers.

I will. Poor John! I'm afraid I have neglected him sadly
but I thought I was rightand he never said anything.

He tried not to be selfishbut he has felt rather forlorn
I fancy. This is just the timeMegwhen young married people
are apt to grow apartand the very time when they ought to be
most togetherfor the first tenderness soon wears offunless
care is taken to preserve it. And no time is so beautiful and
precious to parents as the first years of the little lives
given to them to train. Don't let John be a stranger to the
babiesfor they will do more to keep him safe and happy in
this world of trial and temptation than anything elseand
through them you will learn to know and love one another as
you should. Nowdeargood-by. Think over Mother's preachment
act upon it if it seems goodand God bless you all.

Meg did think it overfound it goodand acted upon it
though the first attempt was not made exactly as she planned
to have it. Of course the children tyrannized over herand
ruled the house as soon as they found out that kicking and
squalling brought them whatever they wanted. Mamma was an
abject slave to their capricesbut Papa was not so easily
subjugatedand occasionally afflicted his tender spouse by
an attempt at paternal discipline with his obstreperous son.
For Demi inherited a trifle of his sire's firmness of character
we won't call it obstinacyand when he made up his
little to have or to do anythingall the king's horses and
all the king's men could not change that pertinacious little
mind. Mamma thought the dear too young to be taught to conquer
his prejudicesbut Papa believed that it never was too
soon to learn obedience. So Master Demi early discovered that
when he undertook to `wrastle' with `Parpar'he always got
the worst of ityet like the Englishmanbaby respected the
man who conquered himand loved the father whose grave "No
no was more impressive than all Mamma's love pats.
A few days after the talk with her motherMeg resolved
to try a social evening with Johnso she ordered a nice
supperset the parlor in orderdressed herself prettilyand
put the children to bed earlythat nothing should interfere
with her experiment. But unfortunately Demi's most unconquerable
prejudice was against going to bedand that night he decided
to go on a rampage. So poor Meg sang and rocked


told stories and tried every sleep-prevoking wile she could
devisebut all in vainthe big eyes wouldn't shutand long
after Daisy had gone to byelowlike the chubby little bunch
of good nature she wasnaughty Demi lay staring at the light
with the most discouragingly wide-awake expression of countenance.

Will Demi lie still like a good boywhile Mamma runs
down and gives poor Papa his tea?" asked Megas the hall
door softly closedand the well-known step went tip-toeing
into the dining room.

Me has tea!said Demipreparing to join in the revel.

Nobut I'll save you some little cakies for breakfast
if you'll go bye-by like Daisy. Will youlovey?

Iss!and Demi shut his eyes tightas if to catch sleep
and hurry the desired day.

Taking advantage of the propitious momentMeg slipped
away and ran down to greet her husband with a smiling face
and the little blue bow in her hair which was his especial
admiration. He saw it at once and said with pleased surprise
Whylittle motherhow gay we are tonight. Do you expect
company?

Only youdear.

NoI'm tired of being dowdyso I dressed up as a
change. You always make yourself nice for tableno matter
how tired you areso why shouldn't I when I have the time?'

I do it out of respect for youmy dear said old-fashioned John.

DittodittoMr. Brooke laughed Meglooking young
and pretty againas she nodded to him over the teapot.

Wellit's altogether delightfuland like old times. This
tastes right. I drink your healthdear." And John sipped his
tea with an air of reposeful rapturewhich was of very short
duration howeverfor as he put down his cupthe door handle
rattled mysteriouslyand a little voice was heardsaying impatiently
...

Opy doy. Me's tummin!

It's that naughty boy. I told him to go to sleep alone
and here he isdownstairsgetting his death a-cold pattering
over that canvassaid Meganswering the call.

Mornin' nowannounced Demi in joyful tone as he entered
with his long nightgown gracefully festooned over his arm and
every curl bobbing gayly as he pranced about the tableeyeing
the `cakies' with loving glances.

Noit isn't morning yet. You must go to bedand not
trouble poor Mamma. Then you can have the little cake with
sugar on it.

Me loves Parparsaid the artful onepreparing to climb
the paternal knee and revel in forbidden joys. But John shook
his headand said to Meg...

If you told him to stay up thereand go to sleep alone


make him do itor he will never learn to mind you.

Yesof course. ComeDemi.And Meg led her son away
feeling a strong desire to spank the little marplot who hopped
beside herlaboring under the delusion that the bribe was to
be administered as soon as they reached the nursery.

Nor was he disappointedfor that shortsighted woman
actually gave him a lump of sugartucked him into his bed
and forbade any more promenades till morning.

Iss!said Demi the perjuredblissfully sucking his sugar
and regarding his first attempt as eminently successful.

Meg returned to her placeand supper was progressing
pleasantlywhen the little ghost walked again and exposed
the maternal delinquencies by boldly demandingMore sudar
Marmar.

Now this won't dosaid Johnhardening his heart against
the engaging little sinner. "We shall never know any peace till
that child learns togo to bed properly. You have made a slave of
yourself long enough. Give him one lessonand then there will
be an end of it. Put him in his bed and leave himMeg."

He won't stay therehe never does unless I sit by him.

I'll manage him. Demigo upstairsand get into your bed
as Mamma bids you.

S'ant!replied the young rebelhelping himself to the
coveted `cakie'and beginning to eat the same with calm audacity.

You must never say that to Papa. I shall carry you if you
don't go yourself.

Go 'wayme don't love Parpar.And Demi retired to his
mother's skirts for protection.

But even that refuge proved unavailingfor he was delivered
over to the enemywith a "Be gentle with himJohn
which struck the culprit with dismayfor when Mamma deserted
himthen the judgment day was at hand. Bereft of his cake
defrauded of his frolicand borne away by a strong hand to
that detested bedpoor Demi could not restrain his wrathbut
openly defied Papaand kicked and screamed lustily all the
way upstairs. The minute he was put into bed on one sidehe
rolled out on the otherand made for the dooronly to be
ignominiously caught up by the tail of his little toga and
put back againwhich lively performance was kept up till the
young man's strength gave outwhen he devoted himself to
roaring at the top of his voice. This vocal exercise usually
conquered Megbut John sat as unmoved as the post which is
popularly believed to be deaf. No coaxingno sugarno
lullabyno storyeven the light was put out and only the
red glow of the fire enlivened the `big dark' which Demi
regarded with curiosity rather than fear. This new order
of things disgusted himand he howled dismally for `Marmar'
as his angry passions subsidedand recollections of his
tender bondwoman returned to the captive autocrat. The
plaintive wail which succeeded the passionate roar went to
Meg's heartand she ran up to say beseechingly...

Let me stay with himhe'll be good nowJohn."


Nomy dear. I've told him he must go to sleepas you
bid himand he mustif I stay here all night.


But he'll cry himself sickpleaded Megreproaching herself
for deserting her boy.


Nohe won'the's so tired he will soon drop off and then
the matter is settledfor he will understand that he has got to
mind. Don't interfereI'll manage him.


He's my childand I can't have his spirit broken by harshness.


He's my childand I won't have his temper spoiled by
indulgence. Go downmy dearand leave the boy to me.


When John spoke in that masterful toneMeg always obeyed
and never regretted her docility.


Please let me kiss him onceJohn?


Certainly. Demisay good night to Mammaand let her go and rest
for she is very tired with taking care of you all day.


Meg always insisted upon it that the kiss won the victory
for after it was givenDemi sobbed more quietlyand lay quite
still at the bottom of the bedwhither he had wriggled in his
anguish of mind.


Poor little manhe's worn out with sleep and crying. I'll
cover him upand then go and set Meg's heart at rest.thought
Johncreeping to the bedsidehoping to find his rebellious
heir asleep.


But he wasn'tfor the moment his father peeped at him
Demi's eyes openedhis little chin began to quiverand he put
up his armssaying with a penitent hiccoughMe's doodnow.


Sitting on the stairs outside Meg wondered at the long
silence which followed the uproarand after imagining all
sorts of impossible accidentsshe slipped into the room to
set her fears at rest. Demi lay fast asleepnot in his usual
spreadeagle attitudebut in a subdued bunchcuddled close in
the circle of his father's arm and holding his father's finger
as if he felt that justice was tempered with mercyand had
gone to sleep a sadder and wiser baby. So heldJohn had waited
with a womanly patience till the little hand relaxed its hold
and while waiting had fallen asleepmore tired by that tussle
with his son than with his whole day's work.


As Meg stood watching the two faces on the pillowshe
smiled to herselfand then slipped away againsaying in a
satisfied toneI never need fear that John will be too harsh
with my babies. He does know how to manage themand will be
a great helpfor Demi is getting too much for me.


When John came down at lastexpecting to find a pensive
or reproachful wifehe was agreeably surprised to find Meg
placidly trimming a bonnetand to be greeted with the request
to read something about the electionif he was not
too tired. John saw in a minute that a revolution of some
kind was going onbut wisely asked no questionsknowing
that Meg was such a transparent little personshe couldn't
keep a secret to save her lifeand therefore the clue would



soon appear. He read a long debate with the most amiable
readiness and then explained it in his most lucid manner
while Meg tried to look deeply interestedto ask intelligent
questionsand keep her thoughts from wandering from the
state of the nation to the state of her bonnet. In her secret
soulhowevershe decided that politics were as bad as mathematics
and the the mission of politicians seemed to be calling
each other namesbut she kept these feminine ideas to herself
and when John pausedshook her head and said with what she
thought diplomatic ambiguityWellI really don't see what
we are coming to.


John laughedand watched her for a minuteas she poised
a pretty little preparation of lace and flowers on her hand
and regarded it with the genuine interest which his harangue
had failed to waken.


She is trying to like politics for my sakeso I'll try and
like millinery for hersthat's only fairthought John the Just
adding aloudThat's very pretty. Is it what you call a breakfast cap?


My dear manit's a bonnet! My very best go-to-concert-and-theater bonnet.


I beg your pardonit was so smallI naturally mistook
it for one of the flyaway things you sometimes wear.
How do you keep it on?


These bits of lace are fastened under the chin with a rosebudso.
And Meg illustrated by putting on the bonnet and regarding
him with an air of calm satisfaction that was irresistible.


It's a love of a bonnetbut I prefer the face insidefor
it looks young and happy again.And John kissed the smiling
faceto the great detriment of the rosebud under the chin.


I'm glad you like itfor I want you to take me to one
of the new concerts some night. I really need some music to
put me in tune. Will youplease?


Of course I willwith all my heartor anywhere else you
like. You have been shut up so longit will do you no end of
goodand I shall enjoy itof all things. What put it into
your headlittle mother?


WellI had a talk with Marmee the other dayand told
her how nervous and cross and out of sorts I feltand she
said I needed change and less careso Hannah is to help me
with the childrenand I'm to see to things about the house more
and now and then have a little funjust to keep me from getting
to be a fidgetybroken-down old woman before my time. It's
only an experimentJohnand I want to try it for your sake
as much as for minebecause I've neglected you shamefully
latelyand I'm going to make home what it used to beif I
can. You don't objectI hope?


Never mind what John saidor what a very narrow escape
the little bonnet had from utter ruin. All that we have any
business to know is that John did not appear to objectjudging
from the changes which gradually took place in the house
and its inmates. It was not all Paradise by any meansbut
everyone was better for the division of labor system. The
children throve under the paternal rulefor accuratestedfast
John brought order and obedience into Babydomwhile Meg
recovered her spirits and composed her nerves by plenty of



wholesome exercisea little pleasureand much confidential
conversation with her sensible husband. Home grew homelike
againand John had no wish to leave itunless he took Meg
with him. The Scotts came to the Brookes' nowand everyone
found the little house a cheerful placefull of happiness
contentand family love. Even Sallie Moffatt liked to go
there. "It is always so quiet and pleasant hereit does me
goodMeg she used to saylooking about her with wistful
eyesas if trying to discover the charmthat she might use
it in her great housefull of splendid lonlinessfor there
were no riotoussunny-faced babies thereand Ned lived in
a world of lis ownwhere there was no place for her.

This household happiness did not come all at oncebut
John and Meg had found the key to itand each year of Married
life taught them how to use itunlocking the treasuries
of real home love and mutual helpfulnesswhich the poorest
may possessand the richest cannot buy. This is the sort
of shelf on which young wives and mothers may consent to be
laidsafe from the restless fret and fever of the world
finding loyal lovers in the little sons and daughters who
cling to themundaunted by sorrowpovertyor agewalking
side by sidethrough fair and stormy weatherwith a faithful
friendwho isin the true sense of the good old Saxon word
the `house-band'and learningas Meg learnedthat a woman's
happiest kingdom is homeher highest honor the art of ruling
it not as a queenbut as a wise wife and mother.

CHAPTER THIRTY-NINE

Laurie went to Nice intending to stay a weekand remained
a month. He was tired of wandering about aloneand Amy's
familiar presence seemed to give a homelike charm to the
foreign scenes in which she bore a part. He rather missed the
`petting' he used to receiveand enjoyed a taste of it again
for no attentionshowever flatteringfrom strangerswere half
so pleasant as the sisterly adoration of the girls at home. Amy
never would pet him like the othersbut she was very glad to
see him nowand quite clung to himfeeling that he was the
representative of the dear family for whom she longed more
than she would confess. They naturally took comfort in each
other's society and were much togetherridingwalkingdancing
or dawdlingfor at Nice no one can be very industrious during
the gay season. Butwhile apparently amusing themselves in
the most careless fashionthey were half-consciously making
discoveries and forming opinions about each other. Amy rose
daily in the estimation of her friendbut he sank in hers
and each felt the truth before a word was spoken. Amy tried
to pleaseand succeededfor she was grateful for the many
pleasures he gave herand repaid him with the little services
to which womanly women know how to lend an indescribable
charm. Laurie made no effort of any kindbut just let
himself drift along as comfortably as possibletrying to
forgetand feeling that all women owed him a kind word because
one had been cold to him. It cost him no effort to be
generousand he would have given Amy all the trinkets in
Nice if she would have taken thembut at the same time he
felt that he could not change the opinion she was forming of
himand he rather dreaded the keen blue eyes that seemed to
watch him with such half-sorrowfulhalf-scornful surprise.

All the rest have gone to Monaco for the day. I preferred


to stay at home and write letters. They are done now
and I am going to Valrosa to sketchwill you come?' said Amy
as she joined Laurie one lovely day when he lounged in as usual
about noon.

Wellyesbut isn't it rather warm for such a long walk?
he answered slowlyfor the shaded salon looked inviting after
the glare without.

I'm going to have the little carriageand Baptiste can
driveso you'll have nothing to do but hold your umbrella
and keep your gloves nicereturned Amywith a sarcastic
glance at the immaculate kidswhich were a weak point with
Laurie.

Then I'll go with pleasure.And he put out his hand for
her sketchbook. But she tucked it under her arm with a sharp...

Don't trouble yourself. It's no exertion to mebut you
don't look equal to it.

Laurie lifted his eyebrows and followed at a leisurely pace
as she ran downstairsbut when they got into the carriage he took
the reins himselfand left little Baptiste nothing to do but fold
his arms and fall asleep on his perch.

The two never quarreled. Amy was too well-bredand just now
Laurie was too lazyso in a minute he peeped under her hatbrim
with an inquiring air. She answered him with a smileand they
went on together in the most amicable manner.

It was a lovely drivealong winding roads rich in the picturesque
scenes that delight beauty-loving eyes. Here an ancient
monasterywhence the solemn chanting of the monks came down to
them. There a bare-legged shepherdin wooden shoespointed hat
and rough jacket over one shouldersat piping on a stone while
his goats skipped among the rocks or lay at his feet. Meek
mouse-colored donkeysladen with panniers of freshly cut grass
passed bywith a pretty girl in a capaline sitting between the
green pilesor an old woman spinning with a distaff as she went.
Brownsoft-eyed children ran out from the quaint stone hovels
to offer nosegaysor bunches of oranges still on the bough.
Gnarled olive trees covered the hills with their dusky foliage
fruit hung golden in the orchardand great scarlet anemones
fringed the roadsidewhile beyond green slopes and craggy heights
the Maritime Alps rose sharp and white against the blue Italian sky.

Valrosa well deserved its namefor in that climate of perpetual
summer roses blossomed everywhere. They overhung the
archwaythrust themselves between the bars of the great gate
with a sweet welcome to passers-byand lined the avenuewinding
through lemon trees and feathery palms up to the villa on the hill.
Every shadowy nookwhere seats invited one to stop and restwas
a mass of bloomevery cool grotto had its marble nymph smiling
from a veil of flowers and every fountain reflected crimsonwhite
or pale pink rosesleaning down to smile at their own beauty.
Roses covered the walls of the housedraped the cornicesclimbed
the pillarsand ran riot over the balustrade of the wide terrace
whence one looked down on the sunny Mediterraneanand the white-walled
city on its shore.

This is a regular honeymoon paradiseisn't it? Did you
ever see such roses?asked Amypausing on the terrace to enjoy
the viewand a luxurious whiff of perfume that came wandering by.


Nonor felt such thornsreturned Lauriewith his thumb
in his mouthafter a vain attempt to capture a solitary scarlet
flower that grew just beyond his reach.


Try lower downand pick those that have no thornssaid
Amygathering three of the tiny cream-colored ones that starred
the wall behind her. She put them in his buttonhole as a peace
offeringand he stood a minute looking down at them with a
curious expressionfor in the Italian part of his nature there
was a touch of superstitionand he was just then in that state
of half-sweethalf-bitter melancholywhen imaginative young
men find significance in trifles and food for romance everywhere.
He had thought of Jo in reaching after the thorny red rosefor
vivid flowers became herand she had often worn ones like that
from the greenhouse at home. The pale roses Amy gave him were
the sort that the Italians lay in dead handsnever in bridal
wreathsand for a moment he wondered if the omen was for Jo or
for himselfbut the next instant his American common sense got
the better of sentimentalityand he laughed a heartier laugh
than Amy had heard since he came.


It's good adviceyou'd better take it and save your fingers
she saidthinking her speech amused him.


Thank youI willhe answered in jestand a few months
later he did it in earnest.


Lauriewhen are you going to your grandfather?she asked
presentlyas she settled herself on a rustic seat.


Very soon.


You have said that a dozen times within the last three
weeks.


I dare sayshort answers save trouble.


He expects youand you really ought to go.


Hospitable creature! I know it.


Then why don't you do it?


Natural depravityI suppose.


Natural indolenceyou mean. It's really dreadful!
And Amy looked severe.


Not so bad as it seemsfor I should only plague him if I
wentso I might as well stay and plague you a little longer
you can bear it betterin fact I think it agrees with you excellently.
And Laurie composed himself for a lounge on the broad ledge of the balustrade.


Amy shook her head and opened her sketchbook with an
air of resignationbut she had made up her mind to lecture
`that boy' and in a minute she began again.


What are you doing just now?


Watching lizards.


Nono. I mean what do you intend and wish to do?



Smoke a cigaretteif you'll allow me.


How provoking you are! I don't approve of cigars and I will only allow
it on condition that you let me put you into my sketch. I need a figure.


With all the pleasure in life. How will you have mefull
length or three-quarterson my head or my heels? I should
respectfully suggest a recumbent posturethen put yourself
in also and call it `Dolce far niente'.


Stay as you areand go to sleep if you like. I intend to
work hardsaid Amy in her most energetic tone.


What delightful enthusiasm!And he leaned against a tall
urn with an ir of entire satisfaction.


What would Jo say if she saw you now?asked Amy impatiently
hoping to stir him up by the mention of her still more
energetic sister's name.


As usual`Go awayTeddy. I'm busy!'He laughed as he
spokebut the laugh was not naturaland a shade passed over
his facefor the utterance of the familiar name touched the
wound that was not healed yet. Both tone and shadow struck Amy
for she had seen and heard them beforeand now she looked up
in time to catch a new expression on Laurie's face--a hard bitter
lookfull of paindissatisfactionand regret. It was gone before
she could study it and the listless expression back again.
She watched him for a moment with artistic pleasurethinking
how like an Italian he lookedas he lay basking in the sun
with uncovered head and eyes full of southern dreaminessfor
he seemed to have forgotten her and fallen into a reverie.


You look like the effigy of a young knight asleep on his
tombshe saidcarefully tracing the well-cut profile defined
against the dark stone.


Wish I was!


That's a foolish wishunless you have spoiled your life.
You are so changedI sometimes think--There Amy stopped
with a half-timidhalf-wistful lookmore significant than her
unfinished speech.


Laurie saw and understood the affectionate anxiety which
she hesitated to expressand looking straight into her eyes
saidjust as he used to say it to her motherIt's all rightma'am.


That satisfied her and set at rest the doubts that had begun
to worry her lately. It also touched herand she showed
that it didby the cordial tone in which she said...


I'm glad of that! I didn't think you'd been a very bad
boybut I fancied you might have wasted money at that wicked
Baden-Badenlost your heart to some charming Frenchwoman
with a husbandor got into some of the scrapes that young men
seem to consider a necessary part of a foreign tour. Don't
stay out there in the suncome and lie on the grass here and
`let us be friendly'as Jo used to say when we got in the sofa
corner and told secrets.


Laurie obediently threw himself down on the turfand
began to amuse himself by sticking daisies into the ribbons of
Amy's hatthat lay there.



I'm all ready for the secrets.And he glanced up with
a decided expression of interest in his eyes.


I've none to tell. You may begin.


Haven't one to bless myself with. I thought perhaps you'd
had some news from home..


You have heard all that has come lately. Don't you hear
often? I fancied Jo would send you volumes.


She's very busy. I'm roving about soit's impossible to
be regularyou know. When do you begin your great work of art
Raphaella?' he asked. changing the subject abruptly after
another pausein which he had been wondering if Amy knew his
secret and wanted to talk about it.


Never she answeredwith a despondent but decided air.
Rome took all the vanity out of mefor after seeing the
wonders thereI felt too insignificant to live and gave up
all my foolish hopes in despair."


Why should youwith so much energy and talent?


That's just whybecause talent isn't geniusand no
amount of energy can make it so. I want to be greator nothing.
I won't be a common-place dauberso I don't intend to try any more.


And what are you going to do with yourself nowif I may ask?


Polish up my other talentsand be an ornament to society
if I get the chance.


It was a characteristic speechand sounded daringbut
audacity becomes young peopleand Amy's ambition had a good
foundation. Laurie smiledbut he liked the spirit with
which she took up a new purpose when a long-cherished one
diedand spent no time lamenting.


Good! And here is where Fred Vaughn comes inI fancy.


Amy preserved a discreet silencebut there was a conscious
look in her downcast face that made Laurie sit up and say gravely
Now I'm going to play brotherand ask questions. May I?


I don't promise to answer.


Your face willif your tongue won't. You aren't woman of
the world enough yet to hide your feelingsmy dear. I heard
rumors about Fred and you last yearand it's my private opinion
that if he had not been called home so suddenly and detained
so longsomething would have come of ithey?


That's not for me to saywas Amy's grim replybut her lips
would smileand there was a traitorous sparkle of the eye
which betrayed that she knew her power and enjoyed the knowledge.


You are not engagedI hope?And Laurie looked very
elder-brotherly and grave all of a sudden.


No.


But you will beif he comes back and goes properly down



on his kneeswon't you?

Very likely.

Then you are fond of old Fred?

I could beif I tried.

But you don't intend to try till the proper moment? Bless
my soulwhat unearthly prudence! He's a good fellowAmybut
not the man I fancied you'd like.

He is richa gentlemanand has delightful manners
began Amytrying to be quite cool and dignifiedbut feeling
a little ashamed of herselfin spite of the sincerity of her
intentions.

I understand. Queens of society can't get on without money
so you mean to make a good matchand start in that way? Quite
right and properas the world goesbut it sounds odd from the
lips of one of your mother's girls.

Truenevertheless.

A short speechbut the quiet decision with which it was
uttered contrasted curiously with the young speaker. Laurie
felt this instinctively and laid himself down againwith a
sense of disappointment which he could not explain. His look
and silenceas well as a certain inward self-disapproval
ruffled Amyand made her resolve to deliver her lecture
without delay.

I wish you'd do me the favor to rouse yourself a little
she said sharply.

Do it for methere's a dear girl.

I couldif I tried.And she looked as if she would like
doing it in the most summary style.

Trythen. I give you leavereturned Lauriewho enjoyed
having someone to teaseafter his long abstinence from
his favorite pastime.

You'd be angry in five minutes.

I'm never angry with you. It takes two flints to make a fire.
You are as cool and soft as snow.

You don't know what I can do. Snow produces a glow and a tingle
if applied rightly. Your indifference is half affectation
and a good stirring up would prove it.

Stir awayit won't hurt me and it may amuse youas the
big man said when his little wife beat him. Regard me in the
light of a husband or a carpetand beat till you are tired
if that sort of exercise agrees with you.

Being decidedly nettled herselfand longing to see him
shake off the apathy that so altered himAmy sharpened both
tongue and penciland began.

Flo and I have got a new name for you. It's Lazy Laurence.
How do you like it?


She thought it would annoy himbut he only folded his
arms under his headwith an imperturbableThat's not bad.
Thank youladies.


Do you want to know what I honestly think of you?


Pining to be told.


WellI despise you.
If she had even said `I hate you' in a petulant or coquettish
tonehe would have laughed and rather liked itbut
the gravealmost sadaccent in her voice made him open his
eyesand ask quickly...


Whyif you please?


Becausewith every chance for being goodusefuland
happyyou are faultylazyand miserable.


Strong languagemademoiselle.


If you like itI'll go on.


Pray doit's quite interesting.


I thought you'd find it so. Selfish people always like to
talk about themselves.


Am I selfish?The question slipped out involuntarily and
in a tone of surprisefor the one virtue on which he prided
himself was generosity.


Yesvery selfishcontinued Amyin a calmcool voice
twice as effective just then as an angry one. "I'll show you
howfor I've studied you while we were frolickingand I'm
not at all satisfied with you. Here you have been abroad
nearly six monthsand done nothing but waste time and money
and disappoint your friends."


Isn't a fellow to have any pleasure after a four-year
grind?


You don't look as if you'd had much. At any rateyou are
none the better for itas far as I can see. I said when we
first met that you had improved. Now I take it all backfor I
don't think you half so nice as when I left you at home. You
have grown abominably lazyyou like gossipand waste time on
frivolous thingsyou are contented to be petted and admired
by silly peopleinstead of being loved and respected by wise
ones. With moneytalentpositionhealthand beautyah
you like that old Vanity! But it's the truthso I can't help
saying itwith all these splendid things to use and enjoyyou
can find nothing to do but dawdleand instead of being the man
you ought to beyou are only...There she stoppedwith
a look that had both pain and pity in it.


Saint Laurence on a gridironadded Laurieblandly
finishing the sentence. But the lecture began to take effect
for there was a wide-awake sparkle in his eyes now and a
half-angryhalf-injured expression replaced the former indifference.


I supposed you'd take it so. You men tell us we are
angelsand say we can make you what we willbut the instant



we honestly try to do you goodyou laugh at us and won't
listenwhich proves how much your flattery is worth.Amy
spoke bitterlyand turned her back on the exasperating
martyr at her feet.

In a minute a hand came down over the pageso that she
could not drawand Laurie's voice saidwith a droll imitation
of a penitent childI will be goodohI will be good!

But Amy did not laughfor she was in earnestand tapping
on the outspread hand with her pencilsaid soberlyAren't
you ashamed of a hand like that? It's as soft and white as a
woman'sand looks as if it never did anything but wear Jouvin's
best gloves and pick flowers for ladies. You are not a dandy
thank Heavenso I'm glad to see there are no diamonds or big
seal rings on itonly the little old one Jo gave you so long
ago. Dear soulI wish she was here to help me!

So do I!

The hand vanished as suddenly as it cameand there was
energy enough in the echo of her wish to suit even Amy. She
glanced down at him with a new thought in her mindbut he
was lying with his hat half over his faceas if for shadeand
his mustache hid his mouth. She only saw his chest rise and
fallwith a long breath that might have been a sighand the
hand that wore the ring nestled down into the grassas if to
hide something too precious or too tender to be spoken of.
All in a minute various hints and trifles assumed shape and
significance in Amy's mindand told her what her sister never
had confided to her. She remembered that Laurie never spoke
voluntarily of Joshe recalled the shadow on his face just
nowthe change in his characterand the wearing of the little
old ring which was no ornament to a handsome hand. Girls are
quick to read such signs and feel their eloquence. Amy had
fancied that perhaps a love trouble was at the bottom of the
alterationand now she was sure of it. Her keen eyes filled
and when she spoke againit was in a voice that could be
beautifully soft and kind when she chose to make it so.

I know I have no right to talk so to youLaurieand if
you weren't the sweetest-tempered fellow in the worldyou'd be
very angry with me. But we are all so fond and proud of you
I couldn't bear to think they should be disappointed in you at
home as I have beenthoughperhaps they would understand
the change better than I do.

I think they wouldcame from under the hatin a grim
tonequite as touching as a broken one.

They ought to have told meand not let me go blundering
and scoldingwhen I should have been more kind and patient
than ever. I never did like that Miss Randal and now I hate
her!said artful Amywishing to be sure of her facts this time.

Hang Miss Randal!And Laurie knocked the hat off his
face with a look that left no doubt of his sentiments toward
that young lady.

I beg pardonI thought...And there she paused
diplomatically.

Noyou didn'tyou knew perfectly well I never cared for
anyone but JoLaurie said that in his oldimpetuous tone


and turned his face away as he spoke.

I did think sobut as they never said anything about it
and you came awayI supposed I was mistaken. And Jo wouldn't
be kind to you? WhyI was sure she loved you dearly.

She was kindbut not in the right wayand it's lucky for
her she didn't love meif I'm the good-for-nothing fellow you
think me. It's her fault thoughand you may tell her so.

The hardbitter look came back again as he said thatand
it troubled Amyfor she did not know what balm to apply.

I was wrongI didn't know. I'm very sorry I was so cross
but I can't help wishing you'd bear it betterTeddydear.

Don'tthat's her name for me!And Laurie put up his
hand with a quick gesture to stop the words spoken in Jo's
half-kindhalf-reproachful tone. "Wait till you've tried it
yourself he added in a low voiceas he pulled up the grass
by the handful.

I'd take it manfullyand be respected if i couldn't be
loved said Amywith the decision of one who knew nothing
about it.

NowLaurie flattered himself that he had borne it remarkably
wellmaking no moanasking no sympathyand taking his
trouble away to live it down alone. Amy's lecture put the
Matter in a new lightand for the first time it did look
weak and selfish to lose heart at the first failureand shut
himself up in moody indifference. He felt as if suddenly
shaken out of a pensive dream and found it impossible to go
to sleep again. Presently he sat up and asked slowlyDo
you think Jo would despise me as you do?"

Yesif she saw you now. She hates lazy people. Why don't
you do something splendidand make her love you?

I did my bestbut it was no use.

Graduating wellyou mean? That was no more than you
ought to have donefor your grandfather's sake. It would
have been shameful to fail after spending so much time and
moneywhen everyone knew that you could do well.

I did failsay what you willfor Jo wouldn't love me

began Laurieleaning his head on his hand in a despondent
attitude.

Noyou didn'tand you'll say so in the endfor it did
you goodand proved that you could do something if you tried.
If you'd only set about another task of some sortyou'd soon
be your heartyhappy self againand forget your trouble.

That's impossible.

Try it and see. You needn't shrug your shouldersand
think`Much she knows about such things'. I don't pretend
to be wisebut I am observingand I see a great deal more
than you'd imagine. I'm interested in other people's experiences
and inconsistenciesand though I can't explainI remember
and use them for my own benefit. Love Jo all your days


if you choosebut don't let it spoil youfor it's wicked
to throw away so many good gifts because you can't have the
one you want. ThereI won't lecture any morefor I know
you'll wake up and be a man in spite of that hardhearted girl.

Neither spoke for several minutes. Laurie sat turning
the little ring on his fingerand Amy put the last touches to
the hasty sketch she had been working at while she talked.
Presently she put it on his kneemerely sayingHow do you
like that?

He looked and then he smiledas he could not well help
doingfor it was capitally donethe longlazy figure on the
grasswith listless facehalf-shut eyesand one hand holding
a cigarfrom which came the little wreath of smoke that encircled
the dreamer's head.

How well you draw!he saidwith a genuine surprise
and pleasure at her skilladdingwith a half-laugh
Yesthat's me.

As you are. This is as you were.And Amy laid another
sketch beside the one he held.

It was not nearly so well donebut there was a life and
spirit in it which atoned for many faultsand it recalled the
past so vividly that a sudden change swept over the young
man's face as he looked. Only a rough sketch of Laurie taming
a horse. Hat and coat were offand every line of the active
figureresolute faceand commanding attitude was full of
energy and meaning. The handsome brutejust subduedstood
arching his neck under the tightly drawn reinwith one foot
impatiently pawing the groundand ears pricked up as if
listening for the voice that had mastered him. In the ruffled
mane. The rider's breezy hair and erect attitudethere was a
suggestion of suddenly arrested motionof strengthcourage
and youthful buoyancy that contrasted sharply with the supine
grace of the `DOLCE FAR NIENTE' sketch. Laurie said nothing
but as his eye went from one to the otherAmy say him flush
up and fold his lips together as if he read and accepted the
little lesson she had given him. That satisfied herand
without waiting for him to speakshe saidin her sprightly
way...

Don't you remember the day you played Rarey with Puck
and we all looked on? Meg and Beth were frightenedbut Jo
clapped and prancedand I sat on the fence and drew you. I
found that sketch in my portfolio the other daytouched it
upand kept it to show you.

Much obliged. You've improved immensely since then
and I congratulate you. May I venture to suggest in ` a
honeymoon paradise' that five o'clock is the dinner hour at
your hotel?

Laurie rose as he spokereturned the pictures with a smile
and a bow and looked at his watchas if to remind her that
even moral lectures should have an end. He tried to resume his
former easyindifferent airbut it was an affectation nowfor
the rousing had been more effacious than he would confess. Amy
felt the shade of coldness in his mannerand said to herself . ..

NowI've offended him. Wellif it does him goodI'm
gladif it makes him hate meI'm sorrybut it's trueand


I can't take back a word of it.


They laughed and chatted all the way homeand little
Baptistup behindthought that monsieur and madamoiselle
were in charming spirits. But both felt ill at ease. The
friendly frankness was disturbedthe sunshine had a shadow
over itand despite their apparent gaietythere was a secret
discontent in the heart of each.


Shall we see you this eveningmon frere?asked Amyas
they parted at her aunt's door.


Unfortunately I have an engagement. Au revoirmadamoiselle.
And Laurie bent as if to kiss her handin the foreign fashion
which became him better than many men. Something in his face
made Amy say quickly and warmly...


Nobe yourself with meLaurieand part in the good old way.
I'd rather have a hearty English handshake than all the
sentimental salutations in France.


Goodbyedear.And with these wordsuttered in the tone she liked
Laurie left herafter a handshake almost painful in its heartiness.


Next morninginstead of the usual callAmy received a
note which made her smile at the beginning and sigh at the end.


My Dear Mentor
Please make my adieux to your auntand exult within
yourselffor `Lazy Laurence' has gone to his grandpalike
the best of boys. A pleasant winter to youand may the gods
grant you a blissful honeymoon at Valrosa! I think Fred
would be benefited by a rouser. Tell him sowith my congratulations.


Yours gratefullyTelemachus


Good boy! I'm glad he's gonesaid Amywith an approving smile.
The next minute her face fell as she glanced about the empty room
addingwith an involuntary sighYesI am gladbut how I shall miss him.


CHAPTER FORTY


When the first bitterness was overthe family accepted
the inevitableand tried to bear it cheerfullyhelping one
another by the increased affection which comes to bind households
tenderly together in times of trouble. They put away their grief
and each did his or her part toward making that last year a happy one.


The pleasantest room in the house was set apart for Beth
and in it was gathered everything that she most lovedflowers
picturesher pianothe little worktableand the beloved
pussies. Father's best books found their way thereMother's
easy chairJo's deskAmy's finest sketchesand every day
Meg brought her babies on a loving pilgrimageto make sunshine
for Aunty Beth. John quietly set apart a little sumthat he
might enjoy the pleasure of keeping the invalid supplied with
the fruit she loved and longed for. Old Hannah never wearied
of concocting dainty dishes to tempt a capricious appetite
dropping tears as she workedand from across the sea came
little gifts and cheerful lettersseeming to bring breaths



of warmth and fragrance from lands that know no winter.

Herecherished like a household saint in its shrinesat
Bethtranquil and busy as everfor nothing could change the
sweetunselfish natureand even while preparing to leave
lifeshe tried to make it happier for those who should remain
behind. The feeble fingers were never idleand one of her
pleasures was to make little things for the school children
daily passing to and froto drop a pair of mittens from her
window for a pair of purple handsa needlebook for some small
mother of many dollspenwipers for young penmen toiling through
forests of pothooksscrapbooks for picture-loving eyesand
all manner of pleasant devicestill the reluctant climbers of
the ladder of learning found their way strewn with flowersas
it wereand came to regard the gentle giver as a sort of fairy
godmotherwho sat above thereand showered down gifts miraculously
suited to their tastes and needs. If Beth had wanted any
rewardshe found it in the bright little faces always turned up
to her windowwith nods and smilesand the droll little letters
which came to herfull of blots and gratitude.

The first few months were very happy onesand Beth often
used to look roundand say "How beautiful this is!" as they
all sat together in her sunny roomthe babies kicking and crowing
on the floormother and sisters working nearand father
readingin his pleasant voicefrom the wise old books which
seemed rich in good and comfortable wordsas applicable now as
when written centuries agoa little chapelwhere a paternal
priest taught his flock the hard lessons all must learntrying
to show them that hope can comfort loveand faith make resignation
possible. Simple sermonsthat went straight to the souls of
those who listenedfor the father's heart was in the minister's
religionand the frequent falter in the voice gave a double
eloquence to the words he spoke or read.

It was well for all that this peaceful time was given them
as preparation for the sad hours to comefor by-and-byBeth
said the needle was `so heavy'and put it down forever. Talking
wearied herfaces troubled herpain claimed her for its own
and her tranquil spirit was sorrowfully perturbed by the ills
that vexed her feeble flesh. Ah me! Such heavy dayssuch long
long nightssuch aching hearts and imploring prayerswhen those
who loved her best were forced to see the thin hands stretched out
to them beseechinglyto hear the bitter cryHelp mehelp me!
and to feel that there was no help. A sad eclipse of the serene
soula sharp struggle of the young life with deathbut both were
mercifully briefand then the natural rebellion overthe old peace
returned more beautiful than ever. With the wreck of her frail body
Beth's soul grew strongand though she said littlethose about her
felt that she was readysaw that the first pilgrim called was likewise
the fittestand waited with her on the shoretrying to see the
Shining Ones coming to receive her when she crossed the river.

Jo never left her for an hour since Beth had said "I feel
stronger when you are here." She slept on a couch in the room
waking often to renew the fireto feedliftor wait upon the
patient creature who seldom asked for anythingand `tried not to
be a trouble'. All day she haunted the roomjealous of any other
nurseand prouder of being chosen then than of any honor her life
ever brought her. Precious and helpful hours to Jofor now her
heart received the teaching that it needed. Lessons in patience
were so sweetly taught her that she could not fail to learn them
charity for allthe lovely spirit that can forgive and truly
forget unkindnessthe loyalty to duty that makes the hardest


easyand the sincere faith that fears nothingbut trusts undoubtingly.


Often when she woke Jo found Beth reading in her well-worn
little bookheard her singing softlyto beguile the sleepless
nightor saw her lean her face upon her handswhile slow tears
dropped through the transparent fingersand Jo would lie watching
her with thoughts too deep for tearsfeeling that Bethin
her simpleunselfish waywas trying to wean herself from the
dear old lifeand fit herself for the life to comeby sacred
words of comfortquiet prayersand the music she loved so well.


Seeing this did more for Jo than the wisest sermonsthe
saintliest hymnsthe most fervent prayers that any voice could
utter. For with eyes made clear by many tearsand a heart
softened by the tenderest sorrowshe recognized the beauty of
her sister's life--uneventfulunambitiousyet full of the
genuine virtues which `smell sweetand blossom in the dust'
the self-forgetfulness that makes the humblest on earth remembered
soonest in heaventhe true success which is possible to all.


One night when Beth looked among the books upon her table
to find something to make her forget the mortal weariness that
was almost as hard to bear as painas she turned the leaves of
her old favoritePilgrims's Progressshe found a little paper
scribbled over in Jo's hand. The name caught her eye and the
blurred look of the lines made her sure that tears had fallen
on it.


Poor Jo! She's fast asleepso I won't wake her to ask
leave. She shows me all her thingsand I don't think she'll
mind if I look at thisthought Bethwith a glance at her
sisterwho lay on the rugwith the tongs beside herready
to wake up the minute the log fell apart.


MY BETH


Sitting patient in the shadow
Till the blessed light shall come
A serene and saintly presence
Sanctifies our troubled home.
Earthly joys and hopes and sorrows
Break like ripples on the strand
Of the deep and solemn river
Where her willing feet now stand.


O my sisterpassing from me
Out of human care and strife
Leave meas a giftthose virtues
Which have beautified your life.
Dearbequeath me that great patience
Which has power to sustain
A cheerfuluncomplaining spirit
In its prison-house of pain.


Give mefor I need it sorely
Of that couragewise and sweet
Which has made the path of duty
Green beneath your willing feet.
Give me that unselfish nature
That with charity devine
Can pardon wrong for love's dear sake--
Meek heartforgive me mine!


Thus our parting daily loseth



Something of its bitter pain
And while learning this hard lesson
My great loss becomes my gain.
For the touch of grief will render
My wild nature more serene
Give to life new aspirations
A new trust in the unseen.


Henceforthsafe across the river
I shall see forever more
A belovedhousehold spirit
Waiting for me on the shore.
Hope and faithborn of my sorrow
Guardian angels shall become
And the sister gone before me
By their hands shall lead me home.


Blurred and blottedfaulty and feeble as the lines werethey
brought a look of inexpressible comfort to Beth's facefor her one
regret had been that she had done so littleand this seemed to assure
her that her life had not been uselessthat her death would not bring
the despair she feared. As she sat with the paper folded between her
handsthe charred log fell asunder. Jo started uprevived the blaze
and crept to the bedsidehoping Beth slept.


Not asleepbut so happydear. SeeI found this and read it.
I knew you wouldn't care. Have I been all that to youJo?she
askedwith wistfulhumble earnestness.


OHBethso muchso much!And Jo's head went down upon the
pillow beside her sister's.


Then I don't feel as if I'd wasted my life. I'm not so good
as you make mebut I have tried to do right. And nowwhen it's
too late to begin even to do betterit's such a comfort to know
that someone loves me so muchand feels as if I'd helped them.


More than any one in the worldBeth. I used to think I
couldn't let you gobut I'm learning to feel that I don't lose
youthat you'll be more to me than everand death can't part
usthough it seems to.


I know it cannotand I don't fear it any longerfor I'm
sure I shall be your Beth stillto love and help you more than
ever. You must take my placeJoand be everything to Father
and Mother when I'm gone. They will turn to youdon't fail
themand if it's hard to work aloneremember that I don't
forget youand that you'll be happier in doing that than writing
splendid books or seeing all the worldfor love is the only thing
that we can carry with us when we goand it makes the go easy.


I'll tryBeth.And then and there Jo renounced her old
ambitionpledged herself to a new and better oneacknowledging
the poverty of other desiresand feeling the blessed solace of
a belief in the immortality of love.


So the spring days came and wentthe sky grew clearerthe
earth greenerthe flowers were up fairly earlyand the birds
came back in time to say goodbye to Bethwholike a tired but
trustful childclung to the hands that had led her all her life
as Father and Mother guided her tenderly through the Valley of
the Shadowand gave her up to God.


Seldom except in books do the dying utter memorable words



see visionsor depart with beatified countenancesand those
who have sped many parting souls know that to most the end
comes as naturally and simply as sleep. As Beth had hopedthe
`tide went out easily'and in the dark hour before dawnon
the bosom where she had drawn her first breathshe quietly
drew her lastwith no farewell but one loving lookone little
sigh.

With tears and prayers and tender handsMother and sisters
made her ready for the long sleep that pain would never mar again
seeing with grateful eyes the beautiful serenity that soon replaced
the pathetic patience that had wrung their hearts so longand
feeling with reverent joy that to their darling death was a
benignant angelnot a phantom full of dread.

When morning camefor the first time in many months the
fire was outJo's place was emptyand the room was very still.
But a bird sang blithely on a budding boughclose bythe snowdrops
blossomed freshly at the windowand the spring sunshine streamed
in like a benediction over the placid face upon the pillow
a face so full of painless peace that those who loved it best
smiled through their tearsand thanked God that Beth was well at last.

CHAPTER FORTY-ONE

Amy's lecture did Laurie goodthoughof coursehe did
not own it till long afterward. Men seldom dofor when women
are the advisersthe lords of creation don't take the advice
till they have persuaded themselves that it is just what they
intended to do. Then they act upon itandif it succeeds
they give the weaker vessel half the credit of it. If it
failsthey generously give her the whole. Laurie went back
to his grandfatherand was so dutifully devoted for several
weeks that the old gentleman declared the climate of Nice had
improved him wonderfullyand he had better try it again.
There was nothing the young gentleman would have liked better
but elephants could not have dragged him back after the scolding
he had received. Pride forbidand whenever the longing
grew very stronghe fortified his resolution by repeating
the words that had made the deepest impressionI despise you.
Go and do something splendid that will make her love you.

Laurie turned the matter over in his mind so often that he soon
brought himself to confess that he had been selfish and lazy
but then when a man has a great sorrowhe should be indulged
in all sorts of vagaries till he has lived it down. He felt
that his blighted affections were quite dead nowand though
he should never cease to be a faithful mournerthere was
no occasion to wear his weeds ostentatiously. Jo wouldn't
love himbut he might make her respect and admire him by doing
something which should prove that a girl's no had not spoiled
his life. He had always meant to do somethingand Amy's
advice was quite unnecessary. He had only been waiting till
the aforesaid blighted affections were decently interred.
That being donehe felt that he was ready to `hide his
stricken heartand still toil on'.

As Goethewhen he had a joy or a griefput it into a song
so Laurie resolved to embalm his love sorrow in musicand to
compose a Requiem which should harrow up Jo's soul and melt the
heart of every hearer. Therefore the next time the old gentleman
found him getting restless and moody and ordered him off


he went to Viennawhere he had musical friendsand fell to
work with the firm determination to distinguish himself. But
whether the sorrow was too vast to be embodied in musicor
music too ethereal to uplift a mortal woehe soon discovered
that the Requiem was beyond him just at present. It was evident
that his mind was not in working order yetand his ideas
needed clarifyingfor often in the middle of a plaintive strain
he would find himself humming a dancing tune that vividly recalled
the Christmas ball at Niceespecially the stout Frenchman
and put an effectual stop to tragic composition for the time being.

Then he tried an operafor nothing seemed impossible in
the beginningbut here again unforeseen difficulties beset
him. He wanted Jo for his heroineand called upon his memory
to supply him with tender recollections and romantic visions
of his love. But memory turned traitorand as if possessed
by the perverse spirit of the girlwould only recall Jo's
odditiesfaultsand freakswould only show her in the most
unsentimental aspects--beating mats with her head tied up in
a bandanabarricading herself with the sofa pillowor throwing
cold water over his passion a la Gummidge--and an irresistable
laugh spoiled the pensive picture he was endeavoring to
paint. Jo wouldn't be put into the opera at any priceand he
had to give her up with a "Bless that girlwhat a torment she is!"
and a clutch at his hairas became a distracted composer.

When he looked about him for another and a less intractable
damsel to immortalize in melodymemory produced one with the
most obliging readiness. This phantom wore many facesbut it
always had golden hairwas enveloped in a diaphanous cloudand
floated airily before his mind's eye in a pleasing chaos of roses
peacockswhite poniesand blue ribbons. He did not give the
complacent wraith any namebut he took her for his heroine and
grew quite fond of heras well he mightfor he gifted her with
every gift and grace under the sunand escorted herunscathed
through trials which would have annihilated any mortal woman.

Thanks to this inspirationhe got on swimmingly for a time
but gradually the work lost its charmand he forgot to compose
while he sat musingpen in handor roamed about the gay city
to get some new ideas and refresh his mindwhich seemed to be
in a somewhat unsettled state that winter. He did not do much
but he thought a great deal and was conscious of a change of
some sort going on in spite of himself. "It's genius simmering
perhaps. I'll let it simmerand see what comes of it he said
with a secret suspicion all the while that it wasn't geniusbut
something far more common. Whatever it wasit simmered to
some purposefor he grew more and more discontented with his
desultory lifebegan to long for some real and earnest work
to go atsoul and bodyand finally came to the wise conclusion
that everyone who loved music was not a composer. Returning
from one of Mozart's grand operassplendidly performed at
the Royal Theatrehe looked over his ownplayed a few of the
best partssat staring at the busts of MendelssohnBeethoven
and bachwho stared benignly back again. Then suddenly he
tore up his music sheetsone by oneand as the last fluttered
out of his handhe said soberly to himself...

She is right! Talent isn't geniusand you can't make it
so. That music has taken the vanity out of my as Rome took it
out of herand I won't be a humbug any longer. Now what shall
I do?"

That seemed a hard question to answerand Laurie began to


wish he had to work for his daily bread. Now if everoccurred
an eligible opportunity for `going to the devil'as he once
forcibly expressed itfor he had plenty of money and nothing
to doand Satan is proverbially fond of providing employment
for full and idle hands. The poor fellow had temptations
enough from without and from withinbut he withstood them
pretty wellfor much as he valued libertyhe valued good
faith and confidence moreso his promise to his grandfather
and his desire to be able to look honestly into the eyes of
the women who loved himand say "All's well kept him safe
and steady.

Very likely some Mrs. Grundy will observeI don't believe it
boys will be boysyoung men must sow their wild oats
and women must not expect miracles." I dare say you don't
Mrs. Grundybut it's true nevertheless. Women work
a good many miraclesand I have a persuasion that they may
perform even that of raising the standard of manhood by
refusing to echo such sayings. Let the boys be boysthe
longer the betterand let the young men sow their wild oats
if they must. But motherssistersand friends may help to
make the crop a small oneand keep many tares from spoiling
the harvestby believingand showing that they believein
the possibility of loyalty to the virtues which make men manliest
in good women's eyes. If it is a feminine delusionleave us
to enjoy it while we mayfor without it half the beauty and
the romance of life is lostand sorrowful forebodings would
embitter all our hopes of the bravetenderhearted little lads
who still love their mothers better than themselves and are
not ashamed to own it.

Laurie thought that the task of forgetting his love for Jo
would absorb all his powers for yearsbut to his great surprise
he discovered it grew easier every day. He refused to believe
it at firstgot angry with himselfand couldn't understand it
but these hearts of ours are curious and contrary thingsand
time and nature work their will in spite of us. Laurie's heart
wouldn't ache. The wound persisted in healing with a rapidity
that astonished himand instead of trying to forgethe found
himself trying to remember. He had not foreseen this turn of
affairsand was not prepared for it. He was disgusted with
himselfsurprised at his own ficklenessand full of a
queer mixture of disappointment and relief that he could
recover from such a tremendous blow so soon. He carefully
stirred up the embers of his lost lovebut they refused to
burst into a blaze. There was only a comfortable glow that
warmed and did him good without putting him into a fever
and he was reluctantly obliged to confess that the boyish
passion was slowly subbsiding into a more tranquil sentiment
very tendera little sad and resentful stillbut that was
sure to pass away in timeleaving a brotherly affection
which would last unbroken to the end.

As the word `brotherly' passed through his mind in one
of his reverieshe smiledand glanced up at the picture of
Mozart that was before him...

Wellhe was a great manand when he couldn't have
one sister he took the otherand was happy.

Laurie did not utter the wordsbut he thought themand
the next instant kissed the little old ringsaying to himself
NoI won't! I haven't forgottenI never can. I'll try again
and if that failswhy then...


Leaving his sentence unfinishedhe seized pen and paper
and wrote to Jotelling her that he could not settle to anything
while there was the least hope of her changing her mind.
Couldn't shewouldn't sheand let him come home and be happy?
While waiting for an answer he did nothingbut he did it
energeticallyfor he was in a fever of impatience. It came
at lastand settled his mind effectually on one pointfor Jo
decidedly couldn't and wouldn't. She was wrapped up in Beth
and never wished to hear the word love again. Then she begged
him to be happy with somebody elsebut always keep a little
corner of his ghart for his loving sister Jo. In a postscript
she desired him not to tell Amy that Beth was worseshe was
coming home in the spring and there was no need of saddening
the remainder of her stay. That would be time enoughplease
Godbut Laurie must write to her oftenand not let her feel
lonelyhomesick or anxious.

So I willat once. Poor little girlit will be a sad
going home for herI'm afraid." And Laurie opened his desk
as if writing to Amy had been the proper conclusion of the
sentence left unfinished some weeks before.

But he did not write the letter that dayfor as he rummaged
out his best paperhe came across something which
changed his purpose. Tumbling about in one part of the desk
among billspassportsand business documents of various kinds
were several of Jo's lettersand in another compartment were
three notes from Amycarefully tied up with one of her blue
ribbons and sweetly suggestive of the little dead roses put
away inside. with a half-repentanthalf-amused expression
Laurie gathered up all Jo's letterssmoothedfoldedand put
them neatly into a small drawer of the deskstood a minute
turning the ring thoughtfully on his fingerthen slowly drew
it offlaid it with the letterslocked the drawerand went
out to hear High Mass at Saint Stefan'sfeeling as if there
had been a funeraland though not overwhelmed with affliction
this seemed a more proper way to spend the rest of the day than
in writing letters to charming young ladies.

The letter went very soonhoweverand was promptly answered
for Amy was homesickand confessed it in the most
delightfully confiding manner. The correspondence flourished
famouslyand letters flew to and fro with unfailing regularity
all through the early spring. Laurie sold his bustsmade
allumettes of his operaand went back to Parishoping somebody
would arrive before long. He wanted desperately to go
to Nicebut would not till he was askedand Amy would not
ask himfor just then she was having little experiences of
her ownwhich made her rather wish to avoid the quizzical
eyes of `out boy'.

Fred Vaughn had returnedand put the question to which
she had once decided to answerYesthank youbut now she
saidNothank youkindly but steadilyfor when the time
cameher courage failed herand she found that something
more than money and position was needed to satisfy the new
longing that filled her heart so full of tender hopes and
fears. The wordsFred is a good fellowbut not at all
the man I fancied you would ever likeand Laurie's face
when he uttered themkept returning to her as pertinaciously
as her own did when she said in lookif not in wordsI
shall marry for money.It troubled her to remember that
nowshe wished she could take it backit sounded so unwomanly.


She didn't want Laurie to think her a heartlessworldly
creature. She didn't care to be a queen of society now
half so much as she did to be a lovable woman. She was
so glad he didn't hate her for the dreadful things she said
but took them so beautifully and was kinder than ever. His
letters were such a comfortfor the home letters were very
irregular and not half so satisfactory as his when they did
come. It was not only a pleasurebut a duty to answer them
for the poor fellow was forlornand needed pettingsince Jo
persisted in being stonyhearted. She ought to have made an
effort and tried to love him. It couldn't be very hard
many people would be proud and glad to have such a dear boy
care for them. But Jo never would act like other girlsso
there was nothing to do but be very kind and treat him like
a brother.

If all brothers were treated as well as Laurie was at
this periodthey would be a much happier race of beings than
they are. Amy never lectured now. She asked his opinion on
all subjectsshe was interested in everything he didmade
charming little presents for himand sent him two letters
a weekfull of lively gossipsisterly confidencesand
captivating sketches of the lovely scenes about her. As few
brothers are complimented by having their letters carried
about in their sister's pocketsread and reread diligently
cried over when shortkissed when longand treasured carefully
we will not hint that Amy did any of these fond and
foolish things. But she certainly did grow a little pale
and pensive that springlost much of her relish for society
and went out sketching alone a good deal. She never had much
to show when she came homebut was studying natureI dare
saywhile she sat for hourswith her hands foldedon the
terrace at Valrosaor absently sketched any fancy that
occurred to hera stalwart knight carved on a tomba young
man asleep in the grasswith his hat over his eyesor a curly
haired girl in gorgeous arraypromenading down a ballroom on
the arm of a tall gentlemanboth faces being left a blur
according to the last fashion in artwhich was safe but not
altogether satisfactory.

Her aunt thought that she regretted her answer to Fred
and finding denials useless and explanations impossibleAmy
left her to think what she likedtaking care that Laurie
should know that Fred had gone to Egypt. That was allbut
he understood itand looked relievedas he said to himself
with a venerable air . ..

I was sure she would think better of it. Poor old fellow!
I've been through it alland I can sympathize.

With that he heaved a great sighand thenas if he had
discharged his duty to the pastput his feet up on the sofa
and enjoyed Amy's letter luxuriously.

While these changes were going on abroadtrouble had
come at home. But the letter telling that Beth was failing
never reached Amyand when the next found her at Vevayfor
the heat had driven them from Nice in Mayand they had travelled
slowly to Switzerlandby way of Genoa and the Italian
lakes. She bore it very welland quietly submitted to the
family decree that she should not shorten her visitfor
since it was too late to say goodbye to Bethshe had better
stayand let absence soften her sorrow. But her heart was
very heavyshe longed to be at homeand every day looked


wistfully across the lakewaiting for Laurie to come and
comfort her.

He did come very soonfor the same mail brought letters
to them bothbut he was in Germanyand it took some days to
reach him. The moment he read ithe packed his knapsack
bade adieu to his fellow pedestriansand was off to keep his
promisewith a heart full of joy and sorrowhope and suspense.

He knew Vevay welland as soon as the boat touched the
little quayhe hurried along the shore to La Tourwhere the
Carrols were living en pension. The garcon was in despair
that the whole family had gone to take a promenade on the
lakebut nothe blonde mademoiselle might be in the chateau
garden. If monsier would give himself the pain of sitting
downa flash of time should present her. But monsieur could
not wait even a `flash of time'and in the middle of the
speech departed to find mademoiselle himself.

A pleasant old garden on the borders of the lovely lake
with chestnuts rustling overheadivy climbing everywhereand
the black shadow of the tower falling far across the sunny
water. At one corner of the widelow wall was a seatand here
Amy often came to read or workor console herself with the
beauty all about her. She was sitting here that dayleaning
her head on her handwith a homesick heart and heavy eyes
thinking of Beth and wondering why Laurie did not come. She
did not hear him cross the courtyard beyondnor see him pause
in the archway that led from the subterranean path into the
garden. He stood a minute looking at her with new eyesseeing
what no one had ever seen beforethe tender side of Amy's character.
Everything about her mutely suggested love and sorrow
the blotted letters in her lapthe black ribbon that tied up
her hairthe womanly pain and patience in her faceeven the
little ebony cross at her throat seemed pathetic to Laurie
for he had given it to herand she wore it as her only ornament.
If he had any doubts about the reception she would give
himthey were set at rest the minute she looked up and saw
himfor dropping everythingshe ran to himexclaiming in a
tone of unmistakable love and longing...

OhLaurieLaurieI knew you'd come to me!

I think everything was said and settled thenfor as they
stood together quite silent for a momentwith the dark head
bent down protectingly over the light oneAmy felt that no
one could comfort and sustain her so well as Laurieand
Laurie decided that Amy was the only woman in the world who
could fill Jo's place and make him happy. He did not tell her
sobut she was not disappointedfor both felt the truth
were satisfiedand gladly left the rest to silence.

In a minute Amy went back to her placeand while she
dried her tearsLaurie gathered up the scattered papers
finding in the sight of sundry well-worn letters and suggestive
sketches good omens for the future. As he sat down beside her
amy felt shy againand turned rosy red at the recollection of
her impulsive greeting.

I couldn't help itI felt so lonely and sadand was so
very glad to see you. It was such a surprise to look up and find
youjust as I was beginning to fear you wouldn't comeshe said
trying in vain to speak quite naturally.


I came the minute I heard. I wish I could say something
to comfort you for the loss of dear little Bethbut I can only
feeland...He could not get any furtherfor her too
turned bashful all of a suddenand did not quite know what to
say. He longed to lay Amy's head down on his shoulderand tell
her to have a good crybut he did not dareso took her hand
insteadand gave it a sympathetic squeeze that was better than
words.

You needn't say anythingthis comforts meshe said
softly. "Beth is well and happyand I mustn't wish her back
but I dread the going homemuch as I long to see them all.
We won't talk about it nowfor it makes me cryand I want
to enjoy you while you stay. You needn't go right backneed
you?"

Not if you want medear.

I doso much. Aunt and Flo are very kindbut you
seem like one of the familyand it would be so comfortable to
have you for a little while.

Amy spoke and looked so like a homesick child whose heart
was full that Laurie forgot his bashfulness all at onceand
gave her just what she wanted--the petting she was used to and
the cheerful conversation she needed.

Poor little soulyou look as if you'd grieved yourself
half sick! I'm going to take care of youso don't cry any
morebut come and walk about with methe wind is too chilly
for you to sit stillhe saidin the half-caressing
half-commanding way that Amy likedas he tied on her hat
drew her arm through hisand began to pace up and down the
sunny walk under the new-leaved chestnuts. He felt more at
ease upon his legsand Amy found it pleasant to have a strong
arm to lean upona familiar face to smile at herand a kind
voice to talk delightfully for her alone.

The quaint old garden had sheltered many pairs of lovers
and seemed expressly made for themso sunny and secluded was
itwith nothing but the tower to overlook themand the wide
lake to carry away the echo of their wordsas it rippled by
below. For an hour this new pair walked and talkedor rested
on the wallenjoying the sweet influences which gave such a
charm to time and placeand when an unromantic dinner bell
warned them awayAmy felt as if she left her burden of
lonliness and sorrow behind her in the chateau garden.

The moment Mrs. Carrol saw the girl's altered faceshe
was illuminated with a new ideaand exclaimed to herself
Now I understand it all--the child has been pining for young
Laurence. Bless my heartI never thought of such a thing!

With praiseworthy discretionthe good lady said nothing
and betrayed no sign of enlightenmentbut cordially urged
Laurie to stay and begged Amy to enjoy his societyfor it
would do her more good than so much solitude. Amy was a
model of docilityand as her aunt was a good deal occupied
with Floshe was left to entertain her friendand did it
with more than her usual success.

At NiceLaurie had lounged and Amy had scolded. At
VevayLaurie was never idlebut always walkingriding
boatingor studying in the most energetic mannerwhile


Amy admired everything he did and followed his example as
far and as fast as she could. He said the change was owing
to the climateand she did not contradict himbeing glad
of a like excuse for her own recovered health and spirits.

The invigorating air did them both goodand much exercise
worked wholesome changes in minds as well as bodies.
They seemed to get clearer views of life and duty up there
among the everlasting hills. The fresh winds blew away
desponding doubtsdelusive fanciesand moody mists. The
warm spring sunshine brought out all sorts of aspiring ideas
tender hopesand happy thoughts. The lake seemed to wash
away the troubles of the pastand the grand old mountains
to look benignly down upon them sayingLittle children
love one another.

In spite of the new sorrowit was a very happy timeso
happy that Laurie could not bear to disturb it by a word. It
took him a little while to recover from his surprise at the
cure of his firstand as he had firmly believedhis last
and only love. He consoled himself for the seeming disloyalty
by the thought that Jo's sister was almost the same as Jo's
selfand the conviction that it would have been impossible
to love any other woman but Amy so soon and so well. His first
wooing had been of the tempestuous orderand he looked back
upon ;it as if through a long vista of years with a feeling of
compassion blended with regret. He was not ashamed of it
but put it away as one of the bitter-sweet experiences of his
lifefor which he could be grateful when the pain was over.
His second wooinghe resolvedshould be as calm and simple
as possible. There was no need of having a scenehardly
any need of telling Amy that he loved hershe knew it without
words and had given him his answer long ago. It all came
about so naturally that no one could complainand he knew that
everybody would be pleasedeven Jo. But when our first little
passion has been crushedwe are apt to be wary and slow in making
a second trialso Laurie let the days passenjoying every hour
and leaving to chance the utterance of the word that would
put an end to the first and sweetest part of his new romance.

He had rather imagined that the denoument would take place
in the chateau garden by moonlightand in the most graceful and
decorus mannerbut it turned out exactly the reversefor the
matter was settled on the lake at noonday in a few blunt words.
They had been floating about all the morningfrom gloomy
St. Gingolf to sunny Montreuxwith the Alps of Savoy on one side
Mont St. Bernard and the Dent du Midi on the otherpretty Vevay in
the valleyand Lausanne upon the hill beyonda cloudless blue
sky overheadand the bluer lake belowdotted with the picturesque
boats that look like white-winged gulls.

They had been talking of Bonnivardas they glided past
Chillonand of Rousseauas they looked up at Clarenswhere he
wrote his Heloise. Neither had read itbut they knew it was a
love storyand each privately wondered if it was half as interesting
as their own. Amy had been dabbling her hand in the water
during the little pause that fell between themand when she looked
upLaurie was leaning on his oars with an expression in his eyes
that made her say hastilymerely for the sake of saying something . .

You must be tired. Rest a littleand let me row. It will do me good
for since you came I have been altogether lazy and luxurious.

I'm not tiredbut you may take an oarif you like. There's


room enoughthough I have to sit nearly in the middleelse the
boat won't trimreturned Laurieas if he rather liked the arrangment.

Feeling that she had not mended matters muchAmy took the
offered third of a seatshook her hair over her faceand accepted
an oar. She rowed as well as she did many other thingsand though
she used both handsand Laurie but onethe oars kept timeand
the boat went smoothly through the water.

How well we pull togetherdon't we?said Amywho objected
to silence just then.

So well that I wish we might always pull in the same boat.
Will youAmy?very tenderly.

YesLaurievery low.

Then they both stopped rowingand unconsciously added a
pretty little tableau of human love and happiness to the dissolving
views reflected in the lake.

CHAPTER FORTY-TWO

It was easy to promise self-abnegation when self was
wrapped up in anotherand heart and soul were purified by a
sweet example. But when the helpful voice was silentthe
daily lesson overthe beloved presence goneand nothing remained
but lonliness and griefthen Jo found her promise very
hard to keep. How could she `comfort Father and Mother' when
her own heart ached with a ceaseless longing for her sister
how could she `make the house cheerful' when all its light and
warmth and beauty seemed to have deserted it when Beth left the
old home for the newand where in all the world could she `find
some usefulhappy work to do'that would take the place of the
loving service which had been its own reward? She tried in a
blindhopeless way to do her dutysecretly rebelling against
it all the whilefor it seemed unjust that her few joys should
be lessenedher burdens made heavierand life get harder and
harder as she toiled along. Some people seemed to get all sunshine
and some all shadow. It was not fairfor she tried more
than Amy to be goodbut never got any rewardonly disappointment
trouble and hard work.

Poor Jothese were dark days to herfor something like
despair came over her when she thought of spending all her life
in that quiet housedevoted to humdrum caresa few small pleasures
and the duty that never seemed to grow any easier. "I can't do it.
I wasn't meant for a life like thisand I know I shall break away
and do something desperate if somebody doesn't come and help me
she said to herselfwhen her first efforts failed and she fell
into the moodymiserable state of mind which often comes when
strong wills have to yield to the inevitable.

But someone did come and help herthough Jo did not recognize
her good angels at once because they wore familiar shapes and used
the simple spells best fitted to poor humanity. Often she started
up at nightthinking Beth called herand when the sight of the
little empty bed made her cry with the bitter cry of unsubmissive
sorrowOhBethcome back! Come back!" she did not stretch out
her yearning arms in vain. Foras quick to hear her sobbing as
she had been to hear her sister's faintest whisperher mother came
to comfort hernot with words onlybut the patient tenderness


that soothes by a touchtears that were mute reminders of a greater
grief than Jo'sand broken whispersmore eloquent than prayers
because hopeful resignation went hand-in-hand with natural sorrow.
Sacred momentswhen heart talked to heart in the silence of the
nightturning affliction to a blessingwhich chastened grief and
strengthned love. Feeling thisJo's burden seemed easier to bear
duty grew sweeterand life looked more endurableseen from the
safe shelter of her mother's arms.

When aching heart was a little comfortedtroubled mind likewise
found helpfor one day she went to the studyand leaning
over the good gray head lifted to welcome her with a tranquil smile
she said very humblyFathertalk to me as you did to Beth. I
need it more than she didfor I'm all wrong.

My dearnothing can comfort me like thishe answered
with a falter in his voiceand both arms round heras if he too
needed helpand did not fear to ask for it.

Thensitting in Beth's little chair close beside himJo told
her troublesthe resentful sorrow for her lossthe fruitless
efforts that discouraged herthe want of faith that made life look
so darkand all the sad bewilderment which we call despair. She
gave him entire confidencehe gave her the help she neededand
both found consolation in the act. For the time had come when they
could talk together not only as father and daughterbut as man and
womanable and glad to serve each other with mutual sympathy as well
as mutual love. Happythoughtful times there in the old study which
Jo called `the church of one member'and from which she came with
fresh couragerecovered cheerfulnessand a more submissive spirit.
For the parents who had taught one child to meet death without fear
were trying now to teach another to accept life without despondency
or distrustand to use its beautiful opportunities with gratitude
and power.

Other helps had Jo--humblewholesome duties and delights that
would not be denied their part in serving herand which she slowly
learned to see and value. Brooms and dishcloths never could
be as distasteful as they once had beenfor Beth had presided
over bothand something of her housewifely spirit seemed to
linger around the little mop and the old brushnever thrown
away. As she used themJo found herself humming the songs
Beth used to humimitating Beth's orderly waysand giving the
little touches here and there that kept everything fresh and
cozywhich was the first step toward making home happythough
she didn't know it till Hannah said with an approving squeeze
of the hand...

You thoughtful creeteryou're determined we shan't miss
that dear lamb ef you can help it. We don't say muchbut we
see itand the Lord will bless you for'tsee ef He don't.

As they sat sewing togetherJo discovered how much improved
her sister Meg washow well she could talkhow much she knew
about goodwomanly impulsesthoughtsand feelingshow happy
she was in husband and childrenand how much they were all doing
for each other.

Marriage is an excellent thingafter all. I wonder if I
should blossom out half as well as you haveif I tried it?said
Joas she constructed a kite for Demi in the topsy-turvy nursery.

It's just what you need to bring out the tender womanly half
of your natureJo. You are like a chestnut burrprickly outside


but silky-soft withinand a sweet kernalif one can only get at
it. Love will make you show your heart one dayand then the rough
burr will fall off.


Frost opens chestnut burrsma`amand it takes a good shake
to bring them down. Boys go nuttingand I don't care to be bagged
by themreturned Jopasting away at the kite which no wind that
blows would ever carry upfor Daisy had tied herself on as a bob.


Meg laughedfor she was glad to see a glimmer of Jo's old
spiritbut she felt it her duty to enforce her opinion by every
argument in her powerand the sisterly chats were not wastedespecially
as two of Meg's most effective arguments were the babies
whom Jo loved tenderly. Grief is the best opener of some hearts
and Jo's was nearly ready for the bag. A little more sunshine to
ripen the nutthennot a boy's impatient shakebut a man's hand
reached up to pick it gently from the burrand find the kernal
sound and sweet. If she suspected thisshe would have shut up
tightand been more prickly than everfortunately she wasn't
thinking about herselfso when the time camedown she dropped.


Nowif she had been the heroine of a moral storybookshe
ought at this period of her life to have become quite saintly
renounced the worldand gone about doing good in a mortified
bonnetwith tracts in her pocket. Butyou seeJo wasn't a
heroineshe was only a struggling human girl like hundreds of
othersand she just acted out her naturebeing sadcrosslistless
or energeticas the mood suggested. It's highly virtuous
to say we'll be goodbut we can't do it all at onceand it takes
a long pulla strong pulland a pull all together before some
of us even get our feet set in the right way. Jo had got so far
she was learning to do her dutyand to feel unhappy if she did
notbut to do it cheerfullyahthat was another thing! She
had often said she wanted to do something splendidno matter how
hardand now she had her wishfor what could be more beautiful
than to devote her life to Father and Mothertrying to make home
as happy to them as they had to her? And if difficulties were
necessary to increase the splendor of the effortwhat could be
harder for a restlessambitious girl than to give up her own
hopesplansand desiresand cheerfully live for others?


Providence had taken her at her word. Here was the tasknot
what she had expectedbut better because self had no part in it.
Nowcould she do it? She decided that she would tryand in her
first attempt she found the helps I have suggested. Still another
was given herand she took itnot as a rewardbut as a comfort
as Christian took the refreshment afforded by the little arbor
where he restedas he climbed the hill called Difficulty.


Why don't you write? That always used to make you happy
said her mother oncewhen the desponding fit over-shadowed Jo.


I've no heart to writeand if I hadnobody cares for my
things.


We do. Write something for usand never mind the rest of
the world. Try itdear. I'm sure it would do you goodand
please us very much.


Don't believe I can.But Jo got out her desk and began to
overhaul her half-finished manuscripts.


An hour afterward her mother peeped in and there she was
scratching awaywith her black pinafore onand an absorbed expression



which caused Mrs. March to smile and slip awaywell pleased
with the success of her suggestion. Jo never knew how it
happenedbut something got into that story that went straight to
the hearts of those who read itfor when her family had laughed
and cried over ither father sent itmuch against her willto
one of the popular magazinesand to her utter surpriseit was
not only paid forbut others requested. Letters from several
personswhose praise was honorfollowed the appearance of the
little storynewspapers copied itand strangers as well as friends
admired it. For a small thing it was a great successand Jo was
more astonished than when her novel was commended and condemned
all at once.


I don't understand it. What can there be in a simple little
story like that to make people praise it so?she saidquite bewildered.


There is truth in itJothat's the secret. Humor and pathos
make it aliveand you have found your style at last. You wrote
with not thoughts of fame and moneyand put your heart into it
my daughter. You have had the bitternow comes the sweet. Do
your bestand grow as happy as we are in your success.


If there is anything good or true in what I writeit isn't
mine. I owe it all to you and Mother and Bethsaid Jomore
touched by her father's words than by any amount of praise from
the world.


So taught by love and sorrowJo wrote her little stories
and sent them away to make friends for themselves and herfinding
it a very charitable world to such humble wanderersfor they were
kindly welcomedand sent home comfortable tokens to their mother
like dutiful children whom good fortune overtakes.


When Amy and Laurie wrote of their engagementMrs. March
feared that Jo would find it difficult to rejoice over itbut
her fears were soon set at restfor thought Jo looked grave at
firstshe took it very quietlyand was full of hopes and plans
for `the children' before she read the letter twice. It was a
sort of written duetwherein each glorified the other in loverlike
fashionvery pleasant to read and satisfactory to think of
for no one had any objection to make.


You like itMother?said Joas they laid down the closely
written sheets and looked at one another.


YesI hoped it would be soever since Amy wrote that she
had refused Fred. I felt sure then that something better than
what you call the `mercenary spirit' had come over herand a
hint here and there in her letters made me suspect that love
and Laurie would win the day.


How sharp you areMarmeeand how silent! You never said
a worked to me.


Mothers have need of sharp eyes and discreet tongues when
they have girls to manage. I was half afraid to put the idea
into your headlest you should write and congratulate them before
the thing was settled.


I'm not the scatterbrain I was. You may trust me. I'm
sober and sensible enough for anyone's confidante now.


So you aremy dearand I should have made you mine
only I fancied it might pain you to learn that your Teddy loved



someone else.

NowMotherdid you really think I could be so silly and
selfishafter I'd refused his lovewhen it was freshestif not
best?

I knew you were sincere thenJobut lately I have thought
that if he came backand asked againyou might perhapsfeel like
giving another answer. Forgive medearI can't help seeing that
you are very lonelyand sometimes there is a hungry look in your
eyes that goes to my heart. So I fancied that your boy might fill
the empty place if he tried now.

NoMotherit is better as it iaand I'm glad Amy has learned
to love him. But you are right in one thing. I am lonelyand perhaps
if Teddy had tried againI might have said `Yes'not because
I love him any morebut because I care more to be loved than when
he went away.

I'm glad of thatJofor it shows that you are getting on.
There are plenty to love youso try to be satisfied with Father
and Mothersisters and brothersfriends and babiestill the
best lover of all comes to give you your reward.

Mothers are the best lovers in the worldbut I don't mind
whispering to Marmee that I'd like to try all kinds. It's very
curiousbut the more I try to satisfy myself with all sorts of
natural affectionsthe more I seem to want. I'd no idea hearts
could take in so many. Mine is so elasticit never seems full
nowand I used to be quite contented with my family. I don't
understand it.

I do.And Mrs. March smiled her wise smileas Jo turned
back the leaves to read what Amy said of Laurie.

It is so beautiful to be loved as Laurie loves me. He isn't
sentimentaldoesn't say much about itbut I see and feel it in
all he says and doesand it makes me so happy and so humble that
I don't seem to be the same girl I was. I never knew how good and
generous and tender he was till nowfor he lets me read his heart
and I find it full of noble impulses and hopes and purposesand
am so proud to know it's mine. He says he feels as if he `could
make a prosperous voyage now with me aboard as mateand lots of
love for ballast'. I pray he mayand try to be all he believes
mefor I love my gallant captain with all my heart and soul and
mightand never will desert himwhile God lets us be together.
OhMotherI never knew how much like heaven this world could be
when two people love and live for one another!

And that's our coolreservedand worldly Amy! Trulylove
does work miracles. How veryvery happy they must be!And Jo
laid the rustling sheets together with a careful handas one
might shut the covers of a lovely romancewhich holds the reader
fast till the end comesand he finds himself alone in the workaday
world again.

By-and-by Jo roamed away upstairsfor it was rainyand she
could not walk. A restless spirit possessed herand the old
feeling came againnot bitter as it once wasbut a sorrowfully
patient wonder why one sister should have all she askedthe other
nothing. It was not trueshe knew that and tried to put it away
but the natural craving for affection was strongand Amy's happiness
woke the hungry longing for someone to `love with heart
and souland cling to while God let them be together'.


Up in the garretwhere Jo's unquiet wanderings ended stood
four little wooden chests in a roweach marked with its owners
nameand each filled with relics of the childhood and girlhood
ended now for all. Jo glanced into themand when she came to
her ownleaned her chin on the edgeand stared absently at the
chaotic collectiontill a bundle of old exercise books caught
her eye. She drew them outturned them overand relived that
pleasant winter at kind Mrs. Kirke's. She had smiled at first
then she looked thoughtfulnext sadand when she came to a
little message written in the Professor's handher lips began
to tremblethe books slid out of her lapand she sat looking
at the friendly wordsas they took a new meaningand touched
a tender spot in her heart.

Wait for memy friend. I may be a little latebut I shall
surely come.

Ohif he only would! So kineso goodso patient with me
alwaysmy dear old Fritz. I didn't value him half enough when I
had himbut now how I should love to see himfor everyone seems
going away from meand I'm all alone.

And holding the little paper fastas if it were a promise
yet to be fulfilledJo laid her head down on a comfortable rag
bagand criedas if in opposition to the rain pattering on the
roof.

Was it all self-pitylonelinessor low spirits? Or was it
the waking up of a sentiment which had bided its time as patiently
as its inspirer? Who shall say?

CHAPTER FORTY-THREE

Jo was alone in the twilightlying on the old sofalooking
at the fireand thinking. It was her favorite way of spending
the hour of dusk. No one disturbed herand she used to lie
there on Beth's little red pillowplanning storiesdreaming
dreamsor thinking tender thoughts of the sister who never seemed
far away. Her face looked tiredgraveand rather sadfor tomorrow
was her birthdayand she was thinking how fast the years
went byhow old she was gettingand how little she seemed to
have accomplished. Almost twenty-fiveand nothing to show for
it. Jo was mistaken in that. There was a good deal to show
and by-and-by she sawand was grateful for it.

An old maidthat's what I'm to be. A literary spinster
with a pen for a spousea family of stories for childrenand
twenty years hence a morsel of fameperhapswhenlike poor
JohnsonI'm old and can't enjoy itsolitaryand can't share
itindependentand don't need it. WellI needn't be a sour
saint nor a selfish sinnerandI dare sayold maids are very
comfortable when they get used to itbut...And there Jo
sighedas if the prospect was not inviting.

It seldom isat firstand thirty seems the end of all things
to five-and-twenty. But it's not as bad as it looksand one can
get on quite happily if one has something in one's self to fall
back upon. At twenty-fivegirls begin to talk about being old
maidsbut secretly resolve that they never will be. At thirty
they say nothing about itbut quietly accept the factand if
sensibleconsole themselves by remembering that they have twenty
more usefulhappy yearsin which they may be learning to grow


old gracefully. Don't laugh at the spinstersdear girlsfor
often very tendertragic romances are hidden away in the hearts
that beat so quietly under the sober gownsand many silent sacrifices
of youthhealthambitionlove itselfmake the faded faces
beautiful in God's sight. Even the sadsour sisters should
be kindly dealt withbecause they have missed the sweetest
part of lifeif for no other reason. And looking at them
with compassionnot contemptgirls in their bloom should remember
that they too may miss the blossom time. That rosy cheeks
don't last foreverthat silver threads will come in the bonnie
brown hairand thatby-and-bykindness and respect will be as
sweet as love and admiration now.


Gentlemenwhich means boysbe courteous to the old maids
no matter how poor and plain and primfor the only chivalry
worth having is that which is the readiest to pay deference to
the oldprotect the feebleand serve womankindregardless of
rankageor color. Just recollect the good aunts who have not
only lectured and fussedbut nursed and pettedtoo often without
thanksthe scrapes they have helped you out ofthe tips
they have given you from their small storethe stitches the
patient old fingers have set for youthe steps the willing old
feet have takenand gratefully pay the dear old ladies the little
attentions that women love to receive as long as they live. The
bright-eyed girls are quick to see such traitsand will like you
all the better for themand if deathalmost the only power that
can part mother and sonshould rob you of yoursyou will be sure
to find a tender welcome and maternal cherishing from some Aunt
Priscillawho has kept the warmest corner of her lonely old heart
for `the best nevvy in the world'.


Jo must have fallen asleep (as I dare say my reader has during
this little homily)for suddenly Laurie's ghost seemed to
stand before hera substantiallifelike ghostleaning over her
with the very look he used to wear when he felt a good deal and
didn't like to show it. Butlike Jenny in the ballad...


She could not think it he


and lay staring up at him in startled silencetill he stooped
and kissed her. Then she knew himand flew upcrying joyfully . ..


Oh my Teddy! Oh my Teddy!


Dear Joyou are glad to see methen?


Glad! My blessed boywords can't express my gladness.
Where's Amy?
Your mother has got her down at Meg's. We stopped there by
the wayand there was no getting my wife out of their clutches.


Your what?cried Jofor Laurie uttered those two words
with an unconscious pride and satisfaction which betrayed him.


Ohthe dickens! Now I've done it.And he looked so
guilty that Jo was down on him like a flash.


You've gone and got married!


Yespleasebut I never will again.And he went down
upon his kneeswith a penitent clasping of handsand a face
full of mischiefmirthand triumph.


Actually married?



Very much sothank you.

Mercy on us. What dreadful thing will you do next?And
Jo fell into her seat with a gasp.

A characteristicbut not exactly complimentarycongratulation
returned Lauriestill in an abject attitudebut beaming
with satisfaction.

What can you expectwhen you take one's breath awaycreeping
in like a burglarand letting cats out of bags like that? Get
upyou ridiculous boyand tell me all about it.

Not a wordunless you let me come in my old placeand
promise not to barricade.

Jo laughed at that as she had not done for many a long day
and patted the sofa invitinglyas she said in a cordial tone
The old pillow is up garretand we don't need it now. Socome
and fessTeddy.

How good it sounds to hear you say `Teddy'! No one ever calls
me that but you.And Laurie sat down with an air of great content.

What does Amy call you?

My lord.

That's like her. Wellyou look it.And Jo's eye plainly
betrayed that she found her boy comelier than ever.

The pillow was gonebut there was a barricadenevertheless
a natural oneraised by time absenceand change of heart. Both
felt itand for a minute looked at one another as if that invisible
barrier cast a little shadow over them. It was gone directly
howeverfor Laurie saidwith a vain attempt at dignity...

Don't I look like a married man and the head of a family?
Not a bitand you never will. You've grown bigger and
bonnierbut you are the same scapegrace as ever.

Now reallyJoyou ought to treat me with more respect
began Lauriewho enjoyed it all immensely.

How can Iwhen the mere idea of youmarried and settled
is so irresistibly funny that I can't keep sober!answered Jo
smiling all over her faceso infectiously that they had another
laughand then settled down for a good talkquite in the pleasant
old fashion.

It's no use your going out in the cold to get Amyfor
they are all coming up presently. I couldn't wait. I wanted to
be the one to tell you the grand surpriseand have `first skim'
as we used to say when we squabbled about the cream.

Of course you didand spoiled your story by beginning at
the wrong end. Nowstart rightand tell me how it all happened.
I'm pining to know.

WellI did it to please Amybegan Lauriewith a twinkle
that made Jo exclaim...

Fib number one. Amy did it to please you. Go onand tell


the truthif you cansir.

Now she's beginning to marm it. Isn't it jolly to hear her?
said Laurie to the fireand the fire glowed and sparkled as if it
quite agreed. "It's all the sameyou knowshe and I being one.
We planned to come home with the Carrolsa month or more agobut
they suddenly changed their mindsand decided to pass another
winter in Paris. But Grandpa wanted to come home. He went to please
meand I couldn't let him go alongneither could I leave Amyand
Mrs. Carrol had got English notions about chaperons and such nonsense
and wouldn't let Amy come with us. So I just settled the difficulty
by saying`Let's be marriedand then we can do as we like'."

Of course you did. You always have things to suit you.

Not always.And something in Laurie's voice made Jo say
hastily...

How did you ever get Aunt to agree?

It was hard workbut between uswe talked her overfor we
had heaps of good reasons on our side. There wasn't time to write
and ask leavebut you all liked ithad consented to it by-and-by
and it was only `taking time by the fetlock'as my wife says.

Aren't we proud of those two wordand don't we like to say
them?interrupted Joaddressing the fire in her turnand watching
with delight the happy light it seemed to kindle in the eyes
that had been so tragically gloomy when she saw them last.
A trifleperhapsshe's such a captivating little woman I
can't help being proud of her. Wellthen Uncle and Aunt were
there to play propriety. We were so absorbed in one another we
were of no mortal use apartand that charming arrangement would
make everything easy all roundso we did it.

Whenwherehow?asked Join a fever of feminine interest
and curiosityfor she could not realize it a particle.

Six weeks agoat the American consul'sin Parisa very
quiet wedding of coursefor even in our happiness we didn't forget
dear little Beth.

Jo put her hand in his as he said thatand Laurie gently
smoothed the little red pillowwhich he remembered well.

Why didn't you let us know afterward?asked Join a
quieter tonewhen they had sat quite still a minute.

We wanted to surprise you. We thought we were coming
directly homeat firstbut the dear old gentlemanas soon as
we were marriedfound he couldn't be ready under a monthat
leastand sent us off to spend our honeymoon wherever we liked.
Amy had once called Valrosa a regular honeymoon homeso we went
thereand were as happy as people are but once in their lives.
My faith! Wasn't it love among the roses!

Laurie seemed to forget Jo for a minuteand Jo was glad of
itfor the fact that he told her these things so freely and so
naturally assured her that he had quite forgiven and forgotten.
She tried to draw away her handbut as if he guessed the thought
that prompted the half-involuntary impulseLaurie held it fast
and saidwith a manly gravity she had never seen in him before...

JodearI want to say one thingand then we'll put it by


forever. As I told you in my letter when I wrote that Amy had
been so kind to meI never shall stop loving youbut the love
is alteredand I have learned to see that it is better as it is.
Amy and you changed places in my heartthat's all. I think it
was meant to be soand would have come about naturallyif I had
waitedas you tried to make mebut I never could be patientand
so I got a heartache. I was a boy thenheadstrong and violent
and it took a hard lesson to show me my mistake. For it was one
Joas you saidand I found it outafter making a fool of myself.
Upon my wordI was so tumbled up in my mindat one timethat I
didn't know which I loved bestyou or Amyand tried to love you
both alike. But I couldn'tand when I saw her in Switzerland
everything seemed to clear up all at once. You both got into
your right placesand I felt sure that it was well off with the
old love before it was on with the newthat I could honestly
share my heart between sister Jo and wife Amyand love them dearly.
Will you believe itand go back to the happy old times when we
first knew one another?


I'll believe itwith all my heartbutTeddywe never can
be boy and girl again. The happy old times can't come backand we
mustn't expect it. We are man and woman nowwith sober work to do
for playtime is overand we must give up frolicking. I'm sure you
feel this. I see the change in youand you'll find it in me. I
shall miss my boybut I shall love the man as muchand admire
him morebecause he means to be what I hoped he would. We can't
be little playmates any longerbut we will be brother and sister
to love and help one another all our liveswon't weLaurie?


He did not say a wordbut took the hand she offered himand
laid his face down on it for a minutefeeling that out of the
grave of a boyish passionthere had risen a beautifulstrong
friendship to bless them both. Presently Jo said cheerfullyfor
she didn't the coming home to be a sad oneI can't make it true
that you children are really married and going to set up housekeeping.
Whyit seems only yesterday that I was buttoning Amy's pinafore
and pulling your hair when you teased. Mercy mehow time does fly!


As one of the children is older than yourselfyou needn't
talk so like a grandma. I flatter myself I'm a `gentleman growed'
as Peggotty said of Davidand when you see Amyyou'll find her
rather a precocious infantsaid Laurielooking amused at her
maternal air.


You may be a little older in yearsbut I'm ever so much
older in feelingTeddy. Women always areand this last year has
been such a hard one that I feel forty.


Poor Jo! We left you to bear it alonewhile we went pleasuring.
You are older. Here's a lineand there's another. Unless you smile
your eyes look sadand when I touched the cushionjust now
I found a tear on it. You've had a great deal to bear
and had to bear it all alone. What a selfish beast I've been!
And Laurie pulled his own hairwith a remorseful look.


But Jo only turned over the traitorous pillowand answered
in a tone which she tried to make more cheerfulNoI had Father
and Mother to help meand the dear babies to comfort meand the
thought that you and Amy were safe and happyto make the troubles
here easier to bear. I am lonelysometimesbut I dare say it's
good for meand...


You never shall be againbroke in Laurieputting his arm
about heras if to fence out every human ill. "Amy and I can't



get on without youso you must come and teach `the children' to
keep houseand go halves in everythingjust as we used to do
and let us pet youand all be blissfully happy and friendly
together."

If I shouldn't be in the wayit would be very pleasant. I
begin to feel quite young alreadyfor somehow all my troubles
seemed to fly away when you came. You always were a comfortTeddy.
And Jo leaned her head on his shoulderjust as she did years ago
when Beth lay ill and Laurie told her to hold on to him.

He looked down at herwondering if she remembered the time
but Jo was smiling to herselfas if in truth her troubles had
all vanished at his coming.

You are the same Jo stilldropping tears about one minute
and laughing the next. You look a little wicked now. What is it
Grandma?

I was wondering how you and Amy get on together.

Like angels!

Yesof coursebut which rules?

I don't mind telling you that she does nowat least I let
her think soit pleases heryou know. By-and-by we shall take
turnsfor marriagethey sayhalves one's rights and doubles
one's duties.

You'll go on as you beginand Amy will rule you all the
days of your life.

Wellshe does it so imperceptibly that I don't think I shall
mind much. She is the sort of woman who knows how to rule well. In
factI rather like itfor she winds one round her finger as softly
and prettily as a skein of silkand makes you feel as if she was
doing you a favor all the while.

That ever I should live to see you a henpecked husband and
enjoying it!cried Jowith uplifted hands.

It was good to see Laurie square his shouldersand smile with
masculine scorn at that insinuationas he repliedwith his "high
and mighty" airAmy is too well-bred for thatand I am not the
sort of man to submit to it. My wife and I respect ourselves and
one another too much ever to tyrannize or quarrel.

Jo like thatand thought the new dignity very becomingbut
the boy seemed changing very fast into the manand regret mingled
with her pleasure.

I am sure of that. Amy and you never did quarrel as we used to.
She is the sun and I the windin the fableand the sun managed
the man bestyou remember.

She can blow him up as well as shine on himlaughed Laurie.
such a lecture as I got at Nice! I give you my word it was a deal
worse than any or your scoldingsa regular rouser. I'll tell you
all about it sometimeshe never willbecause after telling me that
she despised and was ashamed of meshe lost her heart to the despicable
party and married the good-for-nothing.

What baseness! Wellif she abuses youcome to meand I'll


defend you.


I look as if I needed itdon't I?said Lauriegetting up
and striking an attitude which suddenly changed from the imposing
to the rapturousas Amy's voice was heard callingWhere is she?
Where's my dear old Jo?


In trooped the whole familyand everyone was hugged and kissed
all over againand after several vain attemptsthe three wanderers
were set down to be looked at and exulted over. Mr. Laurencehale
and hearty as everwas quite as much improved as the others by his
foreign tourfor the crustiness seemed to be nearly goneand the
old-fashioned courtliness had received a polish which made it kindlier
than ever. It was good to see him beam at `my children'as he
called the young pair. It was better still to see Amy pay him
the daughterly duty and affection which completely won his old heart
and best of allto watch Laurie revolve about the twoas if never
tired of enjoying the pretty picture they made.


The minute she put her eyes upon AmyMeg became conscious that
her own dress hadn't a Parisian airthat young Mrs. Mofffat would be
entirely eclipsed by young Mrs. Laurenceand that `her ladyship' was
altogether a most elegant and graceful woman. Jo thoughtas she
watched the pairHow well they look together! I was rightand
Laurie has found the beautifulaccomplished girl who will become
his home better than clumsy old Joand be a pridenot a torment to
him.Mrs. March and her husband smiled and nodded at each other
with happy facesfor they saw that their youngest had done well
not only in worldly thingsbut the better wealth of loveconfidence
and happiness.


For Amy's face was full of the soft brightness which betokens
a peaceful hearther voice had a new tenderness in itand the cool
prim carriage was changed to a gentle dignityboth womanly and winning.
No little affectations marred itand the cordial sweetness
of her manner was more charming than the new beauty or the old grace
for it stamped her at once with the unmistakable sign of the true
gentlewoman she had hoped to become.


Love has done much for our little girlsaid her mother softly.


She has had a good example before her all her lifemy dear
Mr. March whispered backwith a loving look at the worn face and gray
head beside him.


Daisy found it impossible to keep her eyes off her `pitty aunty'
but attached herself like a lap dog to the wonderful chatelaine full
of delightful charms. Demi paused to consider the new relationship
before he compromised himself by the rash acceptance of a bribewhich
took the tempting form of a family of wooden bears from Berne. A flank
movement produced an unconditional surrenderhoweverfor Laurie knew
where to have him.


Young manwhen I first had the honor of making your acquaintance
you hit me in the face. Now I demand the satisfaction of a gentleman
and with that the tall uncle proceeded to toss and tousle the small nephew
in a way that damaged his philosophical dignity as much as it delighted
his boyish soul.


Blest if she ain't in silk from head to foot? Ain't it a relishin'
sight to see her settin' there as fine as a fiddleanch a happy
procession as filed away into the little dining room! Mr. March
proudly escorted Mrs. Laurence. Mrs. March as proudly leaned on
the arm of `my son'. The old gentleman took Jowith a whispered



You must be my girl now and a glance at the empty corner by the
firethat made Jo whisper backI'll try to fill her placesir.

The twins pranced behindfeeling that the millennium was at
handfor everyone was so busy with the newcomers that they were
left to revel at their own sweet willand you may be sure they
made the most of the opportunity. Didn't they steal sips of tea
stuff gingerbread ad libitumget a hot biscuit apieceand as a
crowning trespassdidn't they each whisk a captivating little tart
into their tiny pocketsthere to stick and crumble treacherously
teaching them that both human nature and a pastry are frail?
Burdened with the guilty consciousness of the sequestered tarts
and fearing that Dodo's sharp eyes would pierce the thin disguise of
cambric and merino which hid their bootythe little sinners
attached themselves to `Dranpa'who hadn't his spectacles on. Amy
who was handed about like refreshmentsreturned to the parlor on
Father Laurence's arm. The others paired off as beforeand this
arrangement left Jo companionless. She did not mind it at the
minutefor she lingered to answer Hannah's eager inquiry.

Will Miss Amy ride in her coop (coupe)and use all them
lovely silver dishes that's stored away over yander?

Shouldn't wonder if she drove six white horsesate off gold
plateand wore diamonds and point lace every day. Teddy thinks
nothing too good for herreturned Jo with infinite satisfaction.

No more there is! Will you have hash or fishballs for breakfast?
asked Hannahwho wisely mingled poetry and prose.

I don't care.And Jo shut the doorfeeling that food was an
uncongenial topic just then. She stood a minute looking at the
party vanishing aboveand as Demi's short plaid legs toiled up the
last staira sudden sense of lonliness came over her so strongly
that she looked about her with dim eyesas if to find something to
lean uponfor even Teddy had deserted her. If she had known what
birthday gift was coming every minute nearer and nearershe would
not have said to herselfI'll weep a little weep when I go to bed.
It won't do to be dismal now.Then she drew her hand over her eyes
for one of her boyish habits was never to know where her
handkerchief wasand had just managed to call up a smile when
there came a knock at the porch door.

She opened with hospitable hasteand started as if another
ghost had come to surprise herfor there stood a tall bearded
gentlemanbeaming on her from the darkness like a midnight sun.

OhMr. BhaerI am so glad to see you!cried Jowith a
clutchas if she feared the night would swallow him up before
she could get him in.

And I to see Miss Marschbut noyou haf a partyand the
Professor paused as the sound of voices and the tap of dancing
feet came down to them.

Nowe haven'tonly the family. My sister and friends
have just come homeand we are all very happy. Come inand
make one of us.

Though a very social manI think Mr. Bhaer would have gone
decorously awayand come again another daybut how could he
when Jo shut the door behind himand bereft him of his hat?
Perhaps her face had something to do with itfor she forgot
to hide her joy at seeing himand showed it with a frankness


that proved irresistible to the solitary manwhose welcome far
exceeded his boldest hopes.

If I shall not be Monsieur de TropI will so gladly see
them all. You haf been illmy friend?

He put the question abruptlyforas Jo hung up his coat
the light fell on her faceand he saw a change in it.

Not illbut tired and sorrowful. We have had trouble
since I saw you last.

AhyesI know. My heart was sore for you when I heard
thatAnd he shook hands againwith such a sympathetic face
that Jo felt as if no comfort could equal the look of the kind
eyesthe grasp of the bigwarm hand.

FatherMotherthis is my friendProfessor Bhaershe
saidwith a face and tone of such irrepressible pride and
pleasure that she might as well have blown a trumpet and opened
the door with a flourish.

If the stranger had any doubts about his receptionthey
were set at rest in a minute by the cordial welcome he received.
Everyone greeted him kindlyfor Jo's sake at firstbut very
soon they liked him for his own. They could not help itfor
he carried the talisman that opens all heartsand these simple
people warmed to him at oncefeeling even the more friendly
because he was poor. For poverty enriches those who live above
itand is a sure passport to truly hospitable spirits. Mr.
Bhaer sat looking about him with the air of a traveler who
knocks at a strange doorand when it opensfinds himself at
home. The children went to him like bees to a honeypotand
establishing themselves on each kneeproceeded to captivate him
by rifling his pocketspulling his beardand investigating his
watchwith juvenile audacity. The women telegraphed their
approval to one anotherand Mr. Marchfeeling that he had got
a kindred spiritopened his choicest stores for his guest's
benefitwhile silent John listened and enjoyed the talkbut
said not a wordand Mr. Laurence found it impossible to go to
sleep.

If Jo had not been otherwise engagedLaurie's behavior
would have amused herfor a faint twingenot of jealousybut
something like suspicioncaused that gentleman to stand aloof
at firstand observe the newcomer with brotherly circumspection.
But it did not last long. He got interested in spite of himself
and before he knew itwas drawn into the circle. For Mr. Bhaer
talked well in this genial atmosphereand did himself justice.
He seldom spoke to Lauriebut he looked at him oftenand a
shadow would pass across his faceas if regretting his own lost
youthas he watched the young man in his prime. Then his eyes
would turn to Jo so wistfully that she would have surely answered
the mute inquiry if she had seen it. But Jo had her own eyes to
take care ofand feeling that they could not be trustedshe
prudently kept them on the little sock she was knittinglike a
model maiden aunt.

A stealthy glance now and then refreshed her like sips of
fresh water after a dusty walkfor the sidelong peeps showed
her several propitious omens. Mr. Bhaer's face had lost the
absent-minded expressionand looked all alive with interest in
the present momentactually young and handsomeshe thought
forgetting to compare him with Laurieas she usually did strange


mento their great detriment. Then he seemed quite inspired
though the burial customs of the ancientsto which the conversation
had strayedmight not be considered an exhilarating topic.
Jo quite glowed with triumph when Teddy got quenched in
an argumentand thought to herselfas she watched her father's
absorbed faceHow he would enjoy having such a man as my Professor
to talk with every day!LastlyMr. Bhaer was dressed
in a new suit of blackwhich made him look more like a gentleman
than ever. His bushy hair had been cut and smoothly brushedbut
didn't stay in order longfor in exciting momentshe rumpled
it up in the droll way he used to doand Jo liked it rampantly
erect better than flatbecause she thought it gave his fine
forehead a Jove-like aspect. Poor Johow she did glorify that
plain manas she sat knitting away so quietlyyet letting
nothing escape hernot even the fact that Mr. Bhaer actually
had gold sleeve-buttons in his immaculate wristbands.

Dear old fellow! He couldn't have got himself up with
more care if he'd been going a-wooingsaid Jo to herselfand
then a sudden thought born of the words made her blush so dreadfully
that she had to drop her balland go down after it to hide her face.

The maneuver did not succeed as well as she expectedhowever
for though just in the act of setting fire to a funeral
pyrethe Professor dropped his torchmetaphorically speaking
and made a dive after the little blue ball. Of course they
bumped their heads smartly togethersaw starsand both came
up flushed and laughingwithout the ballto resume their seats
wishing they had not left them.

Nobody knew where the evening went tofor Hannah skillfully
abstracted the babies at an early hournodding like two rosy
poppiesand Mr. Laurence went home to rest. The others sat
round the firetalking awayutterly regardless of the lapse
of timetill Megwhose maternal was impressed with a firm conviction
that Daisy had tumbled out of beand Demi set his nightgown
afire studying the structure of matchesmade a move to go.

We must have our singin the good old wayfor we are all
together again once moresaid Jofeeling that a good shout
would be a safe and pleasant vent for the jubilant emotions of
her soul.

They were not all there. But no one found the words thougtless
or untruefor Beth still seemed among thema peaceful presence
invisiblebut dearer than eversince death could not break
the household league that love made disoluble. The little
chair stood in its old place. The tidy basketwith the bit of
work she left unfinished when the needle grew `so heavy'was
still on its accustomed shelf. The beloved instrumentseldom
touched now had not been movedand above it Beth's faceserene
and smilingas in the early dayslooked down upon themseeming
to sayBe happy. I am here.

Play somethingAmy. Let them hear how much you have improved
said Lauriewith pardonable pride in his promising pupil.

But Amy whisperedwith full eyesas she twirled the faded
stoolNot tonightdear. I can't show off tonight.

But she did show something better than brilliancy or skill
for she sang Beth's songs with a tender music in her voice which
the best master could not have taughtand touched the listener's
hearts with a sweeter power than any other inspiration could have


given her. The room was very stillwhen the clear voice failed
suddenly at the last line of Beth's favorite hymn. It was hard
to say...

Earth hath no sorrow that heaven cannot heal;

and Amy leaned against her husbandwho stood behind herfeeling
that her welcome home was not quite perfect without Beth's kiss.

Nowwe must finish with Mignon's songfor Mr. Bhaer sings
thatsaid Jobefore the pause grew painful. And Mr. Bhaer
cleared his throat with a gratified "Hem!" as he stepped into the
corner where Jo stoodsaying...

You will sing with me? We go excellently well together.

A pleasing fictionby the wayfor Jo had no more idea of
music than a grasshopper. But she would have consented if he had
proposed to sing a whole operaand warbled awayblissfully regardless
of time and tune. It didn't much matterfor Mr. Bhaer
sang like a true Germanheartily and welland Jo soon subsided
into a subdued humthat she might listen to the mellow voice that
seemed to sing for her alone.
Know'st thou the land where the citron blooms

used to be the Professor's favorite linefor `das land' meant
Germany to himbut now he seemed to dwellwith peculiar warmth
and melodyupon the words...

Thereoh theremight I with thee
Omy belovedgo

and one listener was so thrilled by the tender invitation that she
longed to say she did know the landand would joyfully depart
thither whenever he liked
The song was considered a great successand the singer retired
covered with laurels. But a few minutes afterwardhe forgot his
manners entirelyand stared at Amy putting on her bonnetfor she
had been introduced simply as `my sister'and on one had called
her by her new name since her came. He forgot himself still further
when Laurie saidin his most gracious mannerat parting...

My wife and I are very glad to meet yousir. Please remember
that there is always a welcome waiting for you over the way.

Then the Professor thanked him so heartilyand looked so
suddenly illuminated with satisfactionthat Laurie thought him
the most delightfully demonstrative old fellow he ever met.

I too shall gobut I shall gladly come againif you will
gif me leavedear madamefor a little business in the city will
keep me here some days.

He spoke to Mrs. Marchbut he looked at Joand the mother's
voice gave as cordial an assent as did the daughter's eyesfor
Mrs. March was not so blind to her children's interest as Mrs.
Moffat supposed.

I suspect that is a wise manremarked Mr. Marchwith
placid satisfactionfrom the hearthrugafter the last guest had
gone.

I know he is a good oneadded Mrs. Marchwith decided
approvalas she wound up the clock.


I thought you'd like himwas all Jo saidas she slipped
away to her bed.

She wondered what the business was that brought Mr. Bhaer to
the cityand finally decided that he had been appointed to some
great honorsomewherebut had been too modest to mention the
fact. If she had seen his face whensafe in his own roomhe
looked at the picture of a severe and rigid young ladywith a
good deal of hairwho appeared to be gazing darkly into futurity
it might have thrown some light upon the subjectespecially when
he turned off the gasand kissed the picture in the dark.

CHAPTER FORTY-FOUR

PleaseMadam Mothercould you lend me my wife for half
an hour? The luggage has comeand I've been making hay of
Amy's Paris finerytrying to find some things I wantsaid
Lauriecoming in the next day to find Mrs. Laurence sitting
in her mother's lapas if being made `the baby' again.

Certainly. GodearI forgot that you have any home but
this.And Mrs. March pressed the white hand that wore the wedding
ringas if asking pardon for her maternal covetousness.

I shouldn't have come over if I could have helped itbut
I can't get on without my little woman any more than a...

Weathercock can without the windsuggested Joas he
paused for a simile. Jo had grown quite her own saucy self
again since Teddy came home.

Exactlyfor Amy keeps me pointing due west most of the
timewith only an occasional whiffle round to the southand
I haven't had an easterly spell since I was married. Don't know
anything about the northbut am altogether salubrious and balmy
heymy lady?

Lovely weather so far. I don't know how long it will last
but I'm not afraid of stormsfor I'm learning how to sail my
ship. Come homedearand I'll find your bootjack. I suppose
that's what you are rummaging after among my things. Men are so
helplessMothersaid Amywith a matronly airwhich delighted
her husband.

What are you going to do with yourselves after you get settled?
asked Jobuttoning Amy's cloak as she used to button her pinafores.

We have our plans. We don't mean to say much about them
yetbecause we are such very new broomsbut we don't intend to
be idle. I'm going into business with a devotion that shall delight
Grandfatherand prove to him that I'm not spoiled. I need
something of the sort to keep me steady. I'm tired of dawdling
and mean to work like a man.

And Amywhat is she going to do?asked Mrs. Marchwell
pleased at Laurie's decision and the energy with which he spoke.

After doing the civil all roundand airing our best bonnet
we shall astonish you by the elegant hospitalities of our mansion
the brilliant society we shall draw about usand the beneficial
influence we shall exert over the world at large. That's about


itisn't itMadame Recamier?asked Laurie with a quizzical
look at Amy.


Time will show. Come awayImpertinenceand don't shock
my family by calling me names before their facesanswered Amy
resolving that there should be a home with a good wife in it
before she set up a salon as a queen of society.


How happy those children seem together!observed Mr. March
finding it difficult to become absorbed in his Aristotle after
the young couple had gone.


Yesand I think it will lastadded Mrs. Marchwith the
restful expression of a pilot who has brought a ship safely into
port.


I know it will. Happy Amy!And Jo sighedthen smiled
brightly as Professor Bhaer opened the gate with an impatient
push.


Later in the eveningwhen his mind had been set at rest
about the bootjackLaurie said suddenly to his wifeMrs.
Laurence.


My Lord!


That man intends to marry our Jo!


I hope sodon't youdear?


Wellmy loveI consider him a trumpin the fullest sense
of that expressive wordbut I do wish he was a little younger
and a good deal richer.


NowLauriedon't be too fastidious and worldly-minded.
If they love one another it doesn't matter a particle how old
they are nor how poor. Women never should marry for money...
Amy caught herself up short as the words escaped herand looked
at her husbandwho repliedwith malicious gravity...


Certainly notthough you do hear charming girls say that
they intend to do it sometimes. If my memory serves meyou
once thought it your duty to make a rich match. That accounts
perhapsfor your marrying a good-for-nothing like me.


Ohmy dearest boydon'tdon't say that! I forgot you
were rich when I said `Yes'. I'd have married you if you hadn't
a pennyand I sometimes wish you were poor that I might show
how much I love you.And Amywho was very dignified in public
and very fond in privategave convincing proofs of the truth of
her words.


You don't really think I am such a mercenary creature as
I tried to be oncedo you? It would break my heart if you
didn't believe that I'd gladly pull in the same boat with you
even if you had to get your living by rowing on the lake.2


Am I an idiot and a brute? How could I think sowhen
you refused a richer man for meand won't let me give you half
I want to nowwhen I have the right? Girls do it every day
poor thingsand are taught to think it is their only salvation
but you had better lessonsand though I trembled for you at
one timeI was not disappointedfor the daughter was true to
the mother's teaching. I told Mamma so yesterdayand she



looked as glad and grateful as if I'd given her a check for a
millionto be spent in charity. You are not listening to my
moral remarksMrs. Laurence.And Laurie pausedfor Amy's
eyes had an absent lookthough fixed upon his face.

YesI amand admiring the mple in your chin at the
same time. I don't wish to make you vainbut I must confess
that I'm prouder of my handsome husband than of all his money.
Don't laughbut your nose is such a comfort to me.And Amy
softly caressed the well-cut feature with artistic satisfaction.

Laurie had received many compliments in his lifebut never
one that suited him betteras he plainly showed though he did
laugh at his wife's peculiar tastewhile she said slowlyMay
I ask you a questiondear?

Of courseyou may.

Shall you care if Jo does marry Mr. Bhaer?

Ohthat's the trouble is it? I thought there was something
in the dimple that didn't quite suit you. Not being a dog in the
mangerbut the happiest fellow aliveI assure you I can dance
at Jo's wedding with a heart as light as my heels. Do you doubt
itmy darling?

Amy looked up at himand was satisfied. Her little jealous
fear vanished foreverand she thanked himwith a face full of
love and confidence.

I wish we could do something for that capital old Professor.
Couldn't we invent a rich relationwho shall obligingly die out
there in Germanyand leave him a tidy little fortune?said Laurie
when they began to pace up and down the long drawing roomarm in
armas they were fond of doingin memory of the chateau garden.

Jo would find us outand spoil it all. She is very proud
of himjust as he isand said yesterday that she thought poverty
was a beautiful thing.

Bless her dear heart! She won't think so when she has a
literary husbandand a dozen little professors and professorins
to support. We won't interfere nowbut watch our chanceand
do them a good turn in spite of themselves. I owe Jo for a part
of my educationand she believes in people's paying their honest
debtsso I'll get round her in that way.

How delightful it is to be able to help othersisn't it?
That was always one of my dreamsto have the power of giving
freelyand thanks to youthe dream has come true.

Ahwe'll do quantities of goodwon't we? There's one
sort of poverty that I particularly like to help. Out-and-out
beggars get taken care ofbut poor gentle folks fare badly
because they won't askand people don't dare to offer charity.
Yet there are a thousand ways of helping themif one only
knows how to do it so delicately that it does not offend. I
must sayI like to serve a decayed gentleman better than a
blarnerying beggar. I suppose it's wrongbut I dothough it
is harder.

Because it takes a gentleman to do itadded the other
member of the domestic admiration society.


Thank youI'm afraid I don't deserve that pretty compliment.
But I was going to say that while I was dawdling about abroadI
saw a good many talented young fellows making all sorts of sacrifices
and enduring real hardshipsthat they might realize their dreams.
Splendid fellowssome of themworking like herospoor
and friendlessbut so full of couragepatienceand ambition
that I was ashamed of myselfand longed to give them a right
good lift. Those are people whom it's a satisfaction to help
for if they've got geniusit's an honor to be allowed to
serve themand not let it be lost or delayed for want of fuel
to keep the pot boiling. If they haven'tit's a pleasure to
comfort the poor soulsand keep them from despair when they find
it out.

Yesindeedand there's another class who can't askand
who suffer in silence. I know something of itfor I belonged to
it before you made a princess of meas the king does the beggarmaid
in the old story. Ambitious girls have a hard timeLaurie
and often have to see youthhealthand precious opportunities
go byjust for want of a little help at the right minute. People
have been very kind to meand whenever I see girls struggling
alongas we used to doI want to put out my hand and help them
as I was helped.

And so you shalllike an angel as you are!cried Laurie
resolvingwith a glow of philanthropic zealto found and endow
an institution for the express benefit of young women with
artistic tendencies. "Rich people have no right to sit down
and enjoy themselvesor let their money accumulate for others
to waste. It's not half so sensible to leave legacies when one
dies as it is to use the money wisely while aliveand enjoy
making one's fellow creatures happy with it. We'll have a good
time ourselvesand add an extra relish to our own pleasure by
giving other people a generous taste. Will you be a little
Dorcalgoing about emptying a big basket of comfortsand
filling it up with good deeds?"

With all my heartif you will be a brave St. Martin
stopping as you ride gallantly through the world to share your
cloak with the beggar.

It's a bargainand we shall get the best of it!

So the young pair shook hands upon itand then paced
happily on againfeeling that their pleasant home was more
homelike because they hoped to brighten other homesbelieving
that their own feet would walk more uprightly along the flowery
path before themif they smoothed rough ways for other feet
and feeling that their hearts were more closely knit together
by a love which could tenderly remember those less blest than they.

CHAPTER FORTY-FIVE

I cannot feel that I have done my duty as humble historian
of the March familywithout devoting at least one chapter to
the two most precious and important members of it. Daisy and
Demi had now arrived at years of discretionfor in this fast
age babies of three or four assert their rightsand get them
toowhich is more than many of their elders do. If there
ever were a pair of twins in danger of being utterly spoiled
by adorationit was these prattling Brookes. Of course they
were the most remarkable children ever bornas will be shown


when I mention that they walked at eight monthstalked fluently
at twelve monthsand at two years they took their places
at tableand behaved with a propriety which charmed all beholders.
At threeDaisy demanded a `needler'and actually made
a bag with four stitches in it. She likewise set up
housekeeping in the sideboardand managed a microscopic cooking
stove with a skill that brought tears of pride to Hannah's
eyeswhile Demi learned his letters with his grandfatherwho
invented a new mode of teaching the alphabet by forming letters
with his arms and legsthus uniting gymnastics for head and
heels. The boy early developed a mechanical genius which delighted
his father and distracted his motherfor he tried to
imitate every machine he sawand kept the nursery in a chaotic
conditionwith his `sewinsheen'a mysterious structure of
stringchairsclothespinsand spoolsfor wheels to go
`wound and wound'. Also a basket hung over the back of a chair
in which he vainly tried to hoist his too confiding sisterwho
with feminine devotionallowed her little head to be bumped till
rescuedwhen the young inventor indignantly remarkedWhy
Marmardat's my lellywaiterand me's trying to pull her up.

Though utterly unlike in characterthe twins got on remarkably
well togetherand seldom quarreled more than thrice
a day. Of courseDemi tyrannized over Daisyand gallantly
defended her from every other aggressorwhile Daisy made a
galley slave of herselfand adored her brother as the one perfect
being in the world. A rosychubbysunshiny little soul
was Daisywho found her way to everybody's heartand nestled
there. One of the captivating childrenwho seem made to be
kissed and cuddledadorned and adored like little goddesses
and produced for general approval on all festive occasions.
Her small virtues were so sweet that she would have been quite
angelic if a few small naughtinesses had not kept her delightfully
human. It was all fair weather in her worldand every
morning she scrambled up to the window in her little nightgown
to look ourand sayno matter whether it rained or shone
Ohpitty dayohpitty day!Everyone was a friendand she
offered kisses to a stranger so confidingly that the most inveterate
bachelor relentedand baby-lovers became faithful
worshipers.

Me loves evvybodyshe once saidopening her armswith
her spoon in one handand her mug in the otheras if eager to
embrace and nourish the whole world.

As she grewher mother began to feel that the Dovecote
would be blessed by the presence of an inmate as serene and loving
as that which had helped to make the old house homeand to
pray that she might be spared a loss like that which had lately
taught them how long they had entertained an angel unawares. Her
grandfather often called her `Beth'and her grandmother watched
over her with untiring devotionas if trying to atone for some
past mistakewhich no eye but her own could see.

Demilike a true Yankeewas of an inquiring turnwanting
to know everythingand often getting much disturbed because he
could not get satisfactory answers to his perpetual "What for?"

He also possessed a philosophic bentto the great delight of
his grandfatherwho used to hold Socratic conversations with him
in which the precocious pupil occasionally posed his teacherto
the undisguised satisfaction of the womenfolk.

What makes my legs goDranpa?asked the young philosopher


surveying those active portions of his frame with a meditative air
while resting after a go-to-bed frolic one night.

It's your little mindDemireplied the sagestroking the
yellow head respectfully.

What is a little mine?

It is something which makes your body moveas the spring
made the wheels go in my watch when I showed it to you.

Open me. I want to see it go wound.

I can't do that any more than you could open the watch. God
winds you upand you go till He stops you.

Does I?And Demi's brown eyes grew big and bright as he
took in the new thought. "Is I wounded up like the watch?"

Yesbut I can't show you howfor it is done when we don't see.

Demi felt his backas if expecting to find it like that of
the watchand then gravely remarkedI dess Dod does it when
I's asleep.

A careful explanation followedto which he listened so attentively
that his anxious grandmother saidMy deardo you think it wise
to talk about such things to that baby? He's getting great bumps
over his eyesand learning to ask the most unanswerable questions.

If he is old enough to ask the question he is old enough to
receive true answers. I am not putting the thoughts into his
headbut helping him unfold those already there. These children
are wiser than we areand I have no doubt the boy understands
every word I have said to him. NowDemitell me where you keep
your mind.

If the boy had replied like AlcibiadesBy the godsSocrates
I cannot tellhis grandfather would not have been surprisedbut
whenafter standing a moment on one leglike a meditative young
storkhe answeredin a tone of calm convictionIn my little
bellythe old gentleman could only join in Grandma's laughand
dismiss the class in metaphysics.

There might have been cause for maternal anxietyif Demi had
not given convincing proofs that he was a true boyas well as a
budding philosopherfor oftenafter a discussion which caused
Hannah to prophesywith ominous nodsThat child ain't long for
this worldhe would turn about and set her fears at rest by
some of the pranks with which deardirtynaughty little rascals
distract and delight their parent's souls.

Meg made many moral rulesand tried to keep thembut what
mother was ever proof against the winning wilesthe ingenious
evasionsor the tranquil audacity of the miniature men and women
who so early show themselves accomplished Artful Dodgers?

No more raisinsDemi. They'll make you sicksays Mamma
to the young person who offers his services in the kitchen with
unfailing regularity on plum-pudding day.

Me likes to be sick.

I don't want to have youso run away and help Daisy make patty cakes.


He reluctantly departsbut his wrongs weigh upon his spirit
and by-and-by when an opportunity comes to redress themhe outwits
Mamma by a shrewd bargain.

Now you have been good childrenand I'll play anything you
likesays Megas she leads her assistant cooks upstairswhen
the pudding is safely bouncing in the pot.

TrulyMarmar?asks Demiwith a brilliant idea in his well-powdered head.

Yestruly. Anything you sayreplies the shortsighted parent
preparing herself to singThe Three Little Kittenshalf a
dozen times overor to take her family to "Buy a penny bun regardless
of wind or limb. But Demi corners her by the cool reply...

Then we'll go and eat up all the raisins."

Aunt Dodo was chief playmate and confidante of both children
and the trio turned the little house topsy-turvy. Aunt Amy was as
yet only a name to themAunt Beth soon faded into a pleasantly
vague memorybut Aunt Dodo was a living realityand they made the
most of herfor which compliment she was deeply grateful. But
when Mr. Bhaer cameJo neglected her playfellowsand dismay and
desolation fell upon their little souls. Daisywho was fond of
going about peddling kisseslost her best customer and became
bankrupt. Demiwith infantile penetrationsoon discovered that
Dodo like to play with `the bear-man' better than she did him
but though hurthe concealed his anguishfor he hadn't the
heart to insult a rival who kept a mine of chocolate drops in
his waistcoat pocketand a watch that could be taken out of its
case and freely shaken by ardent admirers.

Some persons might have considered these pleasing liberties
as bribesbut Demi didn't see it in that lightand continued to
patronize the `the bear-man' with pensive affabilitywhile Daisy
bestowed her small affections upon him at the third calland
considered his shoulder her thronehis arm her refugehis gifts
treasures surpassing worth.

Gentlemen are sometimes seized with sudden fits of admiration
for the young relatives of ladies whom they honor with their regard
but this counterfeit philoprogenitiveness sits uneasily upon them
and does not deceive anybody a particle. Mr. Bhaer's devotion was
sincerehowever likewise effective--for honesty is the best policy
in love as in law. He was one of the men who are at home with children
and looked particularly well when little faces made a pleasant
contrast with his manly one. His businesswhatever it wasdetained
him from day to daybut evening seldom failed to bring him out to
see--wellhe always asked for Mr. Marchso I suppose he was the
attraction. The excellent papa labored under the delusion that he
wasand reveled in long discussions with the kindred spirittill
a chance remark of his more observing grandson suddenly enlightened him.

Mr. Bhaer came in one evening to pause on the threshold of the
studyastonished by the spectacle that met his eye. Prone upon
the floor lay Mr. Marchwith his respectable legs in the airand
beside himlikewise pronewas Demitrying to imitate the attitude
with his own shortscarlet-stockinged legsboth grovelers
so seriously absorbed that they were unconscious of spectators
till Mr. Bhaer laughed his sonorous laughand Jo cried outwith
a scandalized face...

FatherFatherhere's the Professor!


Down went the black legs and up came the gray headas the
preceptor saidwith undisturbed dignityGood eveningMr. Bhaer.
Excuse me for a moment. We are just finishing our lesson. NowDemi
make the letter and tell its name.


I knows him!Andafter a few convulsive effortsthe red
legs tok the shape of a pair of compassesand the intelligent
pupil triumphantly shoutedIt's a WeDranpait's a We!


He's a born Wellerlaughed Joas her parent gathered himself
upand her nephew tried to stand on his headas the only
mode of expressing his satisfaction that school was over.


What have you been at todaybubchen?asked Mr. Bhaer
picking up the gymnast.


Me went to see little Mary.


And what did you there?


I kissed herbegan Demiwith artless frankness.
Prut! Thou beginnest early. What did the little Mary say
to that?asked Mr. Bhaercontinuing to confess the young sinner
who stood upon the kneeexploring the waistcoat pocket.


Ohshe liked itand she kissed meand I liked it. Don't
little boys like little girls?asked Demiwith his mouth full
and an air of bland satisfaction.


You precious chick! Who put that into your head?said Jo
enjoying the innocent revelation as much as the Professor.


`Tisn't in mine headit's in mine moufanswered literal
Demiputting out his tonguewith a chocolate drop on itthinking
she alluded to confectionerynot ideas.


Thou shouldst save some for the little friend. Sweets to
the sweetmannling.And Mr. Bhaer offered Jo somewith a look
that made her wonder if chocolate was not the nectar drunk by the
gods. Demi also saw the smilewas impressed by itand artlessy
inquired. ..


Do great boys like great girlsto'Fessor?


Like young WashingtonMr. Bhaer `couldn't tell a lie'so
he gave the somewhat vague reply that he believed they did sometimes
in a tone that made Mr. March put down his clothesbrush
glance at Jo's retiring faceand then sink into his chairlooking
as if the `precocious chick' had put an idea into his head
that was both sweet and sour.


Why Dodowhen she caught him in the china closet half an
hour afterwardnearly squeezed the breath out of his little body
with a tender embraceinstead of shaking him for being there
and why she followed up this novel performance by the unexpected
gift of a big slice of bread and jellyremained one of the problems
over which Demi puzzled his small witsand was forced to
leave unsolved forever.


CHAPTER FORTY-SIX



While Laurie and Amy were taking conjugal strolls over velvet
carpetsas they set their house in orderand planned a blissful
futureMr. Bhaer and Jo were enjoying promenades of a different
sortalong muddy roads and sodden fields.

I always do take a walk toward eveningand I don't know
why I should give it upjust because I happen to meet the Professor
on his way outsaid Jo to herselfafter two or three
encountersfor though there were two paths to Meg's whichever
one she took she was sure to meet him.either going or returning.
He was always walking rapidlyand never seemed to see her
until quite closewhen he would look as if his short-sighted
eyes had failed to recognize the approaching lady till that
moment. Thenif she was going to Meg's he always had something
for the babies. If her face was turned homewardhe had merely
strolled down to see the riverand was just returningunless
they were tired of his frequent calls.

Under the circumstanceswhat could Jo do but greet him
civillyand invite him in? If she was tired of his visitsshe
concealed her weariness with perfect skilland took care that
there should be coffee for supperas Friedrich--I mean Mr.
Bhaer--doesn't like tea.

By the second weekeveryone knew perfectly well what was
going onyet everyone tried to look as if they were stone-blind
to the changes in Jo's face. They never asked why she sang about
her workdid up her hair three times a dayand got so blooming
with her evening exercise. And no one seemed to have the slightest
suspicion that Professor Bhaerwhile talking philosophy with
the fatherwas giving the daughter lessons in love.

Jo couldn't even lose her heart in a decorous mannerbut
sternly tried to quench her feelingsand failing to do soled
a somewhat agitated life. She was mortally afraid of being laughed
at for surrenderingafter her many and vehement declarations of
independence. Laurie was her especial dreadbut thanks to the
new managerhe behaved with praiseworthy proprietynever called
Mr. Bhaer `a capital old fellow' in publicnever alludedin the
remotest mannerto Jo's improved appearanceor expressed the
least surprise at seeing the Professor's hat on the Marches' table
nearly every evening. But he exulted in private and longed for
the time to come when he could give Jo a piece of platewith a
bear and a ragged staff on it as an appropriate coat of arms.

For a fortnightthe Professor came and went with lover-like
regularity. Then he stayed away for three whole daysand made
no signa proceeding which caused everybody to look soberand
Jo to become pensiveat firstand then--alas for romance--very
cross.

DisgustedI dare sayand gone home as suddenly as he came.
It's nothing tomeof coursebut I should think he would have
come and bid us goodbye like a gentlemanshe said to herself
with a despairing look at the gateas she put on her things for
the customary walk one dull afternoon.

You'd better take the little umbrelladear. It looks like
rainsaid her motherobserving that she had on her new bonnet
but not alluding to the fact.
YesMarmeedo you want anything in town? I've got to
run in and get some paperreturned Jopulling out the bow
under her chin before the glass as an excuse for not looking at
her mother.


YesI want some twilled silesiaa paper of number nine
needlesand two yards of narrow lavender ribbon. Have you got
your thick boots onand something warm under your cloak?

I believe soanswered Jo absently.

If you happen to meet Mr. Bhaerbring him home to tea.
I quite long to see the dear manadded Mrs. March.

Jo heard thatbut made no answerexcept to kiss her mother
and walk rapidly awaythinking with a glow of gratitudein spite
of her heartacheHow good she is to me! What do girls do who
haven't any mothers to help them through their troubles?

The dry-goods stores were not down among the counting-houses
banksand wholesale wareroomswhere gentlemen most do congregate
but Jo found herself in that part of the city before she did a
single errandloitering along as if waiting for someoneexamining
engineering instruments in one window and samples of wool in
anotherwith most unfeminine interesttumbling over barrels
being half-smothered by descending balesand hustled unceremoniously
by busy men who looked as if they wondered `how the deuce
she got there'. A drop of rain on her cheek recalled her thoughts
from baffled hopes to ruined ribbons. For the drops continued to
falland being a woman as well as a lovershe felt thatthough
it was too late to save her heartshe might her bonnet. Now she
remembered the little umbrellawhich she had forgotten to take
in her hurry to be offbut regret was unavailingand nothing
could be done but borrow one or submit to to a drenching. She
looked up at the lowering skydown at the crimson bow already
flecked with blackforward along the muddy streetthen one
longlingering look behindat a certain grimy warehousewith
`HoffmannSwartz& Co.' over the doorand said to herself
with a sternly reproachful air...

It serves me right! what business had I to put on all my
best things and come philandering down herehoping to see the
Professor? JoI'm ashamed of you! Noyou shall not go there
to borrow an umbrellaor find out where he isfrom his friends.
You shall trudge awayand do your errands in the rainand if
you catch your death and ruin your bonnetit's no more than
you deserve. Now then!

With that she rushed across the street so impetuously that she
narrowly escaped annihilation from a passing truckand precipitated
herself into the arms of a stately old gentlemanwho said
I beg pardonma'amand looked mortally offended. Somewhat
dauntedJo righted herselfspread her handkerchief over
the devoted ribbonsand putting temptation behind herhurried on
with increasing dampness about the anklesand much clashing of
umbrellas overhead. The fact that a somewhat dilapidated blue
one remained stationary above the unprotected bonnet attracted
her attentionand looking upshe saw Mr. Bhaer looking down.

I feel to know the strong-minded lady who goes so bravely
under many horse nosesand so fast through much mus. What do
you down heremy friend?

I'm shopping.

Mr. Bhaer smiledas he glanced from the pickle factory on
one side to the wholesale hide and leather concern on the other
but her only said politelyYou haf no umbrella. May I go also


and take for you the bundles?

Yesthank you.

Jo's cheeks were as red as her ribbonand she wondered what
he thought of herbut she didn't carefor in a minute she found
herself walking away arm in arm with her Professorfeeling as if
the sun had suddenly burst out with uncommon brilliancythat
the world was all right againand that one thoroughly happy woman
was paddling through the wet that day.

We thought you had gonesaid Jo hastilyfor she knew he
was looking at her. Her bonnet wasn't big enough to hide her face
and she feared he might think the joy it betrayed unmaidenly.

Did you believe that I should go with no farewell to those
who haf been so heavenly kind tome?he asked so reproachfully
that she felt as if she had insulted him by the suggestionand
answered heartily...

NoI didn't. I knew you were busy about your own affairs
but we rather missed youFather and Mother especially.

And you?

I'm always glad to see yousir.

In her anxiety to keep her voice quite calmJo made it rather
cooland the frosty little monosyllable at the end seemed to chill
the Professorfor his smile vanishedas he said gravely...

I thank youand come one more time before I go.

You are goingthen?

I haf no longer any business hereit is done.

SuccessfullyI hope?said Jofor the bitterness of disappointment
was in that short reply of his.

I ought to think sofor I haf a way opened to me by which
I can make my bread and gif my Junglings much help.

Tell meplease! I like to know all about the--the boys

said Jo eagerly.

That is so kindI gladly tell you. My friends find for me
a place in a collegewhere I teach as at homeand earn enough
to make the way smooth for Franz and Emil. For this I should be
gratefulshould I not?

Indeed you should. How splendid it will be to have you
doing what you likeand be able to see you oftenand the boys!
cried Joclinging to the lads as an excuse for the satisfaction
she could not help betraying.

Ah! But we shall not meet oftenI fearthis place is at
the West.

So far away!And Jo left her skirts to their fateas if
it didn't matter now what became of her clothes or herself.

Mr. Bhaer could read several languagesbut he had not


learned to read women yet. He flattered himself that he knew
Jo pretty welland wasthereforemuch amazed by the contradictions
of voicefaceand mannerwhich she showed him in rapid
succession that dayfor she was in half a dozen different
moods in the course of half an hour. When she met him she looked
surprisedthough it was impossible to help suspecting that she
had come for that express purpose. When he offered her his arm
she took it with a look that filled him with delightbut when
he asked if she missed himshe gave such a chillyformal reply
that despair fell upon him. On learning his good fortune she
almost clapped her hands. Was the joy all for the boys? Then
on hearing his destinationshe saidSo far away!in a tone
of despair that lifted him on to a pinnacle of hopebut the
next minute she tumbled him down again by observinglike one
entirely absorbed in the matter...

Here's the place for my errands. Will you come in? It
won't take long.

Jo rather prided herself upon her shopping capabilities
and particularly wished to impress her escort with the neatness
and dispatch with which she would accomplish the business.
But owing to the flutter she was ineverything went amiss.
She upset the tray of needlesforgot the silesia was to be
`twilled' till it was cut offgave the wrong changeand
covered herself with confusion by asking for lavender ribbon
at the calico counter. Mr. Bhaer stood bywatching her blush
and blunderand as he watchedhis own bewilderment seemed to
subsidefor he was beginning to see that on some occasions
womenlike dreamsgo by contraries.

When they came outhe put the parcel under his arm with
a more cheerful aspectand splashed through the puddles as if
he rather enjoyed it on the whole.

Should we no do a little what you call shopping for the
babiesand haf a farewell feast tonight if I go for my last
call at your so pleasant home?he askedstopping before a
window full of fruit and flowers.

What will we buy?asked Joignoring the latter part of
his speechand sniffing the mingled odors with an affectation
of delight as they went in.

May they haf oranges and figs?asked Mr. Bhaerwith a
paternal air.

They eat them when they can get them.
Do you care for nuts?

Like a squirrel.

Hamburg grapes. Yeswe shall drink to the Fatherland in
those?

Jo frowned upon that piece of extravaganceand asked why
he didn't buy a frail of dateda cask of raisinsand a bag of
almondsand be done with it? Whereat Mr. Bhaer confiscated her
purseproduced his ownand finished the marketing by buying
several pounds of grapesa pot of rosy daisiesand a pretty
jar of honeyto be regarded in the light of a demijohn. Then
distorting his pockets with knobby bundlesand giving her the
flowers to holdhe put up the old umbrellaand they traveled
on again.


Miss MarschI haf a great favor to ask of youbegan the
Professorafter a moist promenade of half a block.


Yessir.And Jo's heart began to beat so hard she was
afraid he would hear it.


I am bold to say it in spite of the rainbecause so short
a time remains to me.


Yessir.And Jo nearly crushed the small flowerpot with
the sudden squeeze she gave it.


I wish to get a little dress for my Tinaand I am too stupid
to go alone. Will you kindly gif me a word of taste and help?


Yessir.And JO felt as calm and cool all of a sudden as if
she had stepped into a refrigerator.


Perhaps also a shawl for Tina's mothershe is so poor and sick
and the husband is such a care. Yesyesa thickwarm shawl
would be a friendly thing to take the little mother.


I'll do it with pleasureMr. Bhaer. I'm going very fast
and he's getting dearer every minuteadded Jo to herselfthen
with a mental shake she entered into the business with an energy
that was pleasant to behold.
Mr. Bhaer left it all to herso she chose a pretty gown for
Tinaand then ordered out the shawls. The clerkbeing a married
mancondescended to take an interest in the couplewho appeared
to be shopping for their family.


Your lady may prefer this. It's a superior articlea most
desirable colorquite chaste and genteelhe saidshaking out
a comfortable gray shawland throwing it over Jo's shoulders.


Does this suit youMr. Bhaer?she askedturning her
back to himand feeling deeply grateful for the chance of hiding
her face.
Excellently wellwe will haf itanswered the Professor
smiling to himself as he paid for itwhile Jo continued to
rummage the counters like a confirmed bargain-hunter.


Now shall we go home?he askedas if the words were
very pleasant to him.


Yesit's lateand I'm so tired.Jo's voice was more
pathetic than she knew. For now the sun seemed to have gone
in as suddenly as it came outand the world grew muddy and
miserable againand for the first time she discovered that her
feet were coldher head achedand that her heart was colder
than the formerfuller of pain than the latter. Mr. Bhaer
was going awayhe only cared for her as a friendit was all
a mistakeand the sooner it was over the better. With this
idea in her headshe hailed an approaching omnibus with such
a hasty gesture that the daisies flew out of the pot and were
badly damaged.


This is not our omniboossaid the Professorwaving the
loaded vehicle awayand stopping to pick up the poor little
flowers.


I beg your pardon. I didn't see the name distinctly. Never
mindI can walk. I'm used to plodding in the mudreturned Jo



winking hardbecause she would have died rather than openly
wipe her eyes.
Mr. Bhaer saw the drops on her cheeksthough she turned her
head away. The sight seemed to touch him very muchfor suddenly
stooping downhe asked in a tone that meant a great dealHeart's
dearestwhy do you cry?

Nowif Jo had not been new to this sort of thing she would
have said she wasn't cryinghad a cold in her heador told
any other feminine fib proper to the occasion. Instead of which
that undignified creature answeredwith an irrepressible sob
Because you are going away.

Achmein Gottthat is so good!cried Mr. Bhaermanaging
to clasp his hands in spite of the umbrella and the bundles
JoI haf nothing but much love to gif you. I came to see if
you could care for itand I waited to be sure that I was something
more than a friend. Am I? Can you make a little place in your
heart for old Fritz?he addedall in one breath.

Ohyes!said Joand he was quite satisfiedfor she
folded both hands over his areand looked up at him with an
expression that plainly showed how happy she would be to walk
through life beside himeven though she had no better shelter
than the old umbrellaif he carried it.

It was certainly proposing under difficultiesfor even if
he had desired to do soMr. Bhaer could not go down upon his
kneeson account of the mud. Neither could he offer Jo his
handexcept figurativelyfor both were full. Much less could
he indulge in tender remonstrations in the open streetthough
he was near it. So the only way in which he could express his
rapture was to look at herwith an expression which glorified
his face to such a degree that there actually seemed to be
little rainbows in the drops that sparkled on his beard. If
he had not loved Jo very muchI don't think he could have done
it thenfor she looked far from lovelywith her skirts in a
deplorable stateher rubber boots splashed to the ankleand
her bonnet a ruin. FortunatelyMr. Bhaer considered her the
most beautiful woman livingand she found him more `Jove-like"
than everthough his hatbrim was quite limp with the little
rills trickling thence upon his shoulders (for he held the
umbrella all over Jo)and every finger of his gloves needed
mending.

Passers-by probably thought them a pair of harmless lunatics
for they entirely forgot to hail a busand strolled
leisurely alongoblivious of deepening dusk and fog. Little
they cared what anybody thoughtfor they were enjoying the
happy hour that seldom comes but once in any lifethe magical
moment which bestows youth on the oldbeauty on the plain
wealth on the poorand gives human hearts a foretaste of heaven.
The Professor looked as if he had conquered a kingdomand the
world had nothing more to offer him in the way of bliss. While
Jo trudged beside himfeeling as if her place had always been
thereand wondering how she ever could have chosen any other
lot. Of courseshe was the first to speak--intelligiblyI
meanfor the emotional remarks which followed her impetuous
Ohyes!were not of a coherent or reportable character.

Friedrichwhy didn't you...

Ahheavenshe gifs me the name that no one speaks since
Minna died!cried the Professorpausing in a puddle to regard


her with grateful delight.


I always call you so to myself--I forgotbut I won't unless
you like it.


Like it? It is more sweet to me than I can tell. Say `thou'
alsoand I shall say your language is almost as beautiful as mine.


Isn't `thou' a little sentimental?asked Joprivately thinking
it a lovely monosyllable.


Sentimental? Yes. Thank Gottwe Germans believe in sentiment
and keep ourselves young mit it. Your English `you' is so coldsay
`thou'heart's dearestit means so much to mepleaded Mr. Bhaer
more like a romantic student than a grave professor.


Wellthenwhy didn't thou tell me all this sooner?asked
Jo bashfully.


Now I shall haf to show thee all my heartand I so gladly
willbecause thou must take care of it hereafter. Seethenmy
Jo--ahthe dearfunny little name--I had a wish to tell something
the day I said goodbye in New Yorkbut I thought the handsome
friend was betrothed to theeand so I spoke not. Wouldst thou
have said `Yes'thenif I had spoken?


I don't know. I'm afraid notfor I didn't have any heart just then.


Prut! That I do not believe. It was asleep till the fairy prince
came through the woodand waked it up. Ahwell`Die erste Liebe
ist die beste'but that I should not expect.


Yesthe first love is the bestbut be so contentedfor I
never had another. Teddy was only a boyand soon got over his
little fancysaid Joanxious to correct the Professor's mistake.


Good! Then I shall rest happyand be sure that thou givest
me all. I haf waited so longI am grown selfishas thou wilt
findProfessorin.


I like thatcried Jodelighted with her new name. "Now
tell me what brought youat lastjust when I wanted you?"


This.And Mr. Bhaer took a little worn paper out of his
waistcoat pocket.


Jo unfolded itand looked much abashedfor it was one of
her own contributions to a paper that paid for poetrywhich
accounted for her sending it an occasional attempt.


How could that bring you?she askedwondering what he
meant.


I found it by chance. I knew it by the names and the
initialsand in it there was one little verse that seemed to
call me. Read and find him. I will see that you go not in
the wet.


IN THE GARRET
Four little chests all in a row
Dim with dustand worn by time
All fashioned and filledlong ago
By children now in their prime.



Four little keys hung side by side
With faded ribbonsbrave and gay
When fastened therewith childish pride
Long agoon a rainy day.
Four little namesone on each lid
Carved out by a boyish hand
And underneath there lieth hid
Histories of the happpy band
Once playing hereand pausing oft
To hear the sweet refrain
That came and went on the roof aloft
In the falling summer rain.


Megon the first lidsmooth and fair.
I look in with loving eyes
For folded herewith well-known care
A goodly gathering lies
The record of a peaceful life--
Gifts to gentle child and girl
A bridal gownlines to a wife
A tiny shoea baby curl.
No toys in this first chest remain
For all are carried away
In their old ageto join again
In another small Meg's play.
Ahhappy mother! Well I know
You hearlike a sweet refrain
Lullabies ever soft and low
In the falling summer rain.


Joon the next lidscratched and worn
And within a motley store
Of headlessdollsof schoolbooks torn
Birds and beasts that speak no more
Spoils brought home from the fairy ground
Only trod by youthful feet
Dreams of a future never found
Memories of a past still sweet
Half-writ poemsstories wild
April letterswarm and cold
Diaries of a wilful child
Hints of a woman early old
A woman in a lonely home
Hearinglike a sad refrain--
Be worthyloveand love will come
In the falling summer rain.


My Beth! the dust is always swept
From the lid that bears your name
As if by loving eyes that wept
By careful hands that often came.
Death cannonized for us one saint
Ever less human than divine
And still we laywith tender plaint
Relics in this household shrine--
The silver bellso seldom rung
The little cap which last she wore
The fairdead Catherine that hung
By angels borne above her door.
The songs she sangwithout lament
In her prison-house of pain
Forever are they sweetly blent
With the falling summer rain.



Upon the last lid's polished field--
Legend now both fair and true
A gallant knight bears on his shield
Amyin letters gold and blue.
Within lie snoods that bound her hair
Slippers that have danced their last
Faded flowers laid by with care
Fans whose airy toils are past
Gay valentinesall ardent flames
Trifles that have borne their part
In girlish hopes and fears and shames
The record of a maiden heart
Now learning fairertruer spells
Hearinglike a blithe refrain
The silver sound of bridal bells
In the falling summer rain.


Four little chests all in a row
Dim with dustand worn by time
Four womentaught by weal and woe
To love and labor in their prime.
Four sistersparted for an hour
None lostone only gone before
Made by love's immortal power
Nearest and dearest evermore.
Ohwhen these hidden stores of ours
Lie open to the Father's sight
May they be rich in golden hours
Deeds that show fairer for the light
Lives whose brave music long shall ring
Like a spirit-stirring strain
Souls that shall gladly soar and sing
In the long sunshine after rain.


It's very bad poetrybut I felt it when I wrote itone day
when I was very lonelyand had a good cry on a rag bag. I never
thought it would go where it could tell talessaid Jotearing
up the verses the Professor had treasured so long.


Let it goit has done it's dutyand I will haf a fresh one
when I read all the brown book in which she keeps her little
secretssaid Mr. Bhaer with a smile as he watched the fragments
fly away on the wind. "Yes he added earnestlyI read that
and I think to myselfShe has a sorrowshe is lonelyshe would
find comfort in true love. I haf a heart fullfull for her. Shall
I not go and sayIf this is not too poor a thing to gif for what
I shall hope to receivetake it in Gott's name?


And so you came to find that it was not too poorbut the one
precious thing I neededwhispered Jo.


I had no courage to think that at firstheavenly kind as was
your welcome to me. But soon I began to hopeand then I said
`I will haf her if I die for it' and so I will!cried Mr. Bhaer
with a defiant nodas if the walls of mist closing round them were
barriers which he was to surmount or valiantly knock down.


Jo thought that was splendidand resolved to be worthy of her knight
though he did not come prancing on a charger in gorgeous array.


What made you stay away so long?she asked presentlyfinding
it so pleasant to ask confidential questions and get delightful
answers that she could not keep silent.



It was not easybut I could not find the heart to take you
from that so happy home until I could haf a prospect of one to
gif youafter much timeperhapsand hard work. How could I ask
you to gif up so much for a poor old fellowwho has no fortune
but a little learning?


I'm glad you are poor. I couldn't bear a rich husband
said Jo decidedlyadding in a softer toneDon't fear poverty.
I've known it long enough to lose my dread and be happy working
for those I loveand don't call yourself old--forty is the prime
of life. I couldn't help loving you if you were seventy!


The Professor found that so touching that he would have been
glad of his handkerchiefif he could have got at it. As her
couldn'tJo wiped his eyes for himand saidlaughingas she
took away a bundle or two...


I may be strong-mindedbut no one can say I'm out of my
sphere nowfor woman's special mission is supposed to be drying
tears and bearing burdens. I'm to carry my shareFriedrich
and help to earn the home. Make up your mind to thator I'll
never goshe added resolutelyas he tried to reclaim his load.


We shall see. Haf you patience to wait a long timeJo?
I must go away and do my work alone. I must help my boys first
becauseeven for youI may not break my word to Minna. Can
you forgif thatand be happy while we hope and wait?


YesI know I canfor we love one anotherand that makes
all the rest easy to bear. I have my dutyalsoand my work.
I couldn't enjoy myself if I neglected them even for youso
there's no need of hurry or impatience. You can do your part
out WestI can do mine hereand both be happy hoping for the
bestand leaving the future to be as God wills.


Ah! Thou gifest me such hope and courageand I haf nothing
to gif back but a full heart and these empty handscried the
Professorquite overcome.


Jo nevernever would learn to be properfor when he said
that as they stood upon the stepsshe just put both hands into
hiswhispering tenderlyNot empty nowand stooping down
kissed her Friedrich under the umbrella. It was dreadfulbut
she would have done it if the flock of draggle-tailed sparrows
on the hedge had been human beingsfor she was very far gone
indeedand quite regardless of everything but her own happiness.
Though it came in such a very simple guisethat was the crowning
moment of both their liveswhenturning from the night and
storm and loneliness to the household light and warmth and peace
waiting to receive themwith a glad "Welcome home!" Jo led her
lover inand shut the door.


CHAPTER FORTY-SEVEN


For a year Jo and her Professor worked and waitedhoped
and lovedmet occasionallyand wrote such voluminous letters
that the rise in the price of paper was accounted forLaurie
said. The second year began rather soberlyfor their prospects
did not brightenand Aunt March died suddenly. But when their
first sorrow was over--for they loved the old lady in spite
of her sharp tongue--they found they had cause for rejoicing
for she had left Plumfield to Jowhich made all sorts of joyful



things possible.


It's a fine old placeand will bring a handsome sumfor
of course you intend to sell itsaid Laurieas they were all
talking the matter over some weeks later.


NoI don'twas Jo's decided answeras she petted the
fat poodlewhom she had adoptedout of respect to his former
mistress.


You don't mean to live there?


YesI do.


Butmy dear girlit's an immense houseand will take a
power of money to keep it in order. The garden and orchard alone
need two or three menand farming isn't in Bhaer's lineI take
it.


He'll try his hand at it thereif I propose it.


And you expect to live on the produce of the place? Well
that sounds paradisiacalbut you'll find it desperate hard work.


The crop we are going to raise is a profitable oneAnd
Jo laughed.


Of what is this fine crop to consistma'am?


Boys. I want to open a school for little lads--a good
happyhomelike schoolwith me to take care of them and Fritz
to teach them.
That's a truly Joian plan for you! Isn't that just like
her?cried Laurieappealing to the familywho looked as much
surprised as he.


I like itsaid Mrs. March decidedly.


So do Iadded her husbandwho welcomed the thought of
a chance for trying the Socratic method of education on modern
youth.


It will be an immense care for Josaid Megstroking
the head or her one all-absorbing son.


Jo can do itand be happy in it. It's a splendid idea.
Tell us all about itcried Mr. Laurencewho had been longing
to lend the lovers a handbut knew that they would refuse his
help.


I knew you'd stand by mesir. Amy does too--I see it in
her eyesthough she prudently waits to turn it over in her mind
before she speaks. Nowmy dear peoplecontinued Jo earnestly
just understand that this isn't a new idea of minebut a long
cherished plan. Before my Fritz cameI used to think howwhen
I'd made my fortuneand no one needed me at homeI'd hire a
big houseand pick up some poorforlorn little lads who hadn't
any mothersand take care of themand make life jolly for them
before it was too late. I see so many going to ruin for want of
help at the right minuteI love so to do anything for themI
seem to feel their wantsand sympathize with their troublesand
ohI should so like to be a mother to them!


Mrs. March held out her hand to Jowho took itsmiling



with tears in her eyesand went on in the old enthusiastic way
which they had not seen for a long while.

I told my plan to Fritz onceand he said it was just what
he would likeand agreed to try it when we got rich. Bless his
dear hearthe's been doing it all his life--helping poor boysI
meannot getting richthat he'll never be. Money doesn't stay
in his pocket long enough to lay up any. But nowthanks to my
good old auntwho loved me better than I ever deservedI'm rich
at least I feel soand we can live at Plumfield perfectly well
if we have a flourishing school. It's just the place for boys
the house is bigand the furniture strong and plain. There's
plenty of room for dozens insideand splendid grounds outside.
They could help in the garden and orchard. Such work is healthy
isn't itsir? Then Fritz could train and teach in his own way
and Father will help him. I can feed and nurse and pet and scold
themand Mother will be my stand-by. I've always longed for lots
of boysand never had enoughnow I can fill the house full and
revel in the little dears to my heart's content. Think what luxury--
Plumfield my ownand a wilderness of boys to enjoy it with me.

As Jo waved her hands and gave a sigh of rapturethe family
went off into a gale of merrimentand Mr. Laurence laughed till
they thought he'd have an apoplectic fit.

I don't see anything funnyshe said gravelywhen she
could be heard. "Nothing could be more natural and proper than
for my Professor to open a schooland for me to prefer to reside
in my own estate."

She is putting on airs alreadysaid Lauriewho regarded
the idea in the light of a capital joke. "But may I inquire how
you intend to support the establishment? If all the pupils are
little ragamuffinsI'm afraid your crop won't be profitable in
a worldly senseMr. Bhaer."

Now don't be a wet-blanketTeddy. Of course I shall have
rich pupilsalso--perhaps begin with such altogether. Then
when I've got a startI can take in a ragamuffin or twojust
for a relish. Rich people's children often need care and comfort
as well as poor. I've seen unfortunate little creatures left to
servantsor backward ones pushed forwardwhen it's real cruelty.
Some are naughty through mismanagment or neglectand some lose
their mothers. Besidesthe best have to get through the hobbledehoy
ageand that's the very time they need most patience and kindness.
People laugh at themand hustle them abouttry to keep them
out of sightand expect them to turn all at once from pretty
children into fine young men. They don't complain much-plucky
little souls--but they feel it. I've been through something
of itand I know all about it. I've a special interest
in such young bearsand like to show them that I see the warm
honestwell-meaning boys' heartsin spite of the clumsy arms
and legs and the topsy-turvy heads. I've had experiencetoo
for haven't I brought up one boy to be a pride and honor to his family?

I'll testify that you tried to do itsaid Laurie with a grateful look.

And I've succeeded beyond my hopesfor here you area
steadysensible businessmandoing heaps of good with your
moneyand laying up the blessings of the poorinstead of dollars.
But you are not merely a businessmanyou love good and beautiful
thingsenjoy them yourselfand let others go halvesas you
always did in the old times. I am proud of youTeddyfor you
get better every yearand everyone feels itthough you won't


let them say so. Yesand when I have my flockI'll just point
to youand say `There's your modelmy lads'.

Poor Laurie didn't know where to lookforman though he
wassomething of the old bashfulness came over him as this burst
of praise made all faces turn approvingly upon him.

I sayJothat's rather too muchhe beganjust in his
old boyish way. "You have all done more for me than I can ever
thank you forexcept by doing my best not to disapoint you. You
have rather cast me off latelyJobut I've had the best of help
nevertheless. Soif I've got on at allyou may thank these two
for it." And he laid one hand gently on his grandfather's head
and the other on Amy's golden onefor the three were never far
apart.

I do think that families are the most beautiful things in
all the world!burst out Jowho was in an unusually up-lifted
frame of mind just then. "When I have one of my ownI hope it
will be as happy as the three I know and love the best. If John
and my Fritz were only hereit would be quite a little heaven
on earth she added more quietly. And that night when she went
to her room after a blissful evening of family counselshopes
and plansher heart was so full of happiness that she could only
calm it by kneeling beside the empty bed always near her ownand
thinking tender thoughts of Beth.
It was a very astonishing year altogetherfor things seemed
to happen in an unusually rapid and delightful manner. Almost
before she knew where she wasJo found herself married and settled
at Plumfield. Then a family of six or seven boys sprung up
like mushroomsand flourished surprisinglypoor boys as well as
richfor Mr. Laurence was continually finding some touching case
of destitutionand begging the Bhaers to take pity on the child
and he would gladly pay a trifle for its support. In this way
the sly old gentleman got round proud Joand furnished her with
the style of boy in which she most delighted.

Of course it was uphill work at firstand Jo made queer
mistakesbut the wise Professor steered her safely into calmer
watersand the most rampant ragamuffin was conquered in the end.
How Jo did enjoy her `wilderness of boys'and how poordear
Aunt March would have lamented had she been there to see the
sacred precincts of primwell-ordered Plumfield overrun with
TomsDicksand Harrys! There was a sort of poetic justice
about itafter allfor the old lady had been the terror of the boys
for miles aroundand now the exiles feasted freely on forbidden
plumskicked up the gravel with profane boots unreproved
and played cricket in the big field where the irritable
`cow with a crumpled horn' used to invite rash youths to come and
be tossed. It became a sort of boys' paradiseand Laurie suggested
that it should be called the `Bhaer-garten'as a compliment
to its master and appropriate to its inhabitants.

It never was a fashionable schooland the Professor did not
lay up a fortunebut it was just what Jo intended it to be-`
a happyhomelike place for boyswho needed teachingcareand
kindness'. Every room in the big house was soon full. Every
little plot in the garden soon had its owner. A regular menagerie
appeared in barn and shedfor pet animals were allowed.
And three times a dayJo smiled at her Fritz from the head of
a long table lined on either side with rows of happy young faces
which all turned to her with affectionate eyesconfiding words
and grateful heartsfull of love for `Mother Bhaer'. She had
boys enough nowand did not tire of themthough they were not


angelsby any meansand some of them caused both Professor and
Professorin much trouble and anxiety. But her faith in the good
spot which exists in the heart of the naughtiestsauciestmost
tantalizing little ragamuffin gave her patienceskilland in
time successfor no mortal boy could hold out long with Father
Bhaer shining on him as benevolently as the sunand Mother Bhaer
forgiving him seventy times seven. Very precious to Jo was the
friendship of the ladstheir penitent sniffs and whispers after
wrongdoingtheir droll or touching little confidencestheir
pleasant enthusiasmshopesand planseven their misfortunes
for they only endeared them to her all the more. There were slow
boys and bashful boysfeeble boys and riotous boysboys that
lisped and boys that stutteredone or two lame onesand a
merry little quadroonwho could not be taken in elsewherebut
who was welcome to the `Bhaer-garten'though some people predicted
that his admission would ruin the school.

YesJo was a very happy woman therein spite of hard work
much anxietyand a perpetual racket. She enjoyed it heartily and
found the applause of her boys more satisfying than any praise of
the worldfor now she told no stories except to her flock of
enthusiastic believers and admirers. As the years went ontwo
little lads of her own came to increase her happiness--Rob
named for Grandpaand Teddya happy-go-lucky babywho seemed
to have inherited his papa's sunshiny temper as well as his
mother's lively spirit. How they ever grew up alive in that
whirlpool of boys was a mystery to their grandma and auntsbut
they flourished like dandelions in springand their rough
nurses loved and served them well.

There were a great many holidays at Plumfieldand one of
the most delightful was the yearly apple-picking. For then the
MarchesLaurencesBrookes. And Bhaers turned out in full force
and made a day of it. Five years after Jo's weddingone of these
fruitful festivals occurreda mellow October daywhen the air
was full of an exhilarating freshness which made the spirits rise
and the blood dance healthily in the veins. The old orchard wore
its holiday attire. Goldenrod and asters fringed the mossy walls.
Grasshoppers skipped briskly in the sere grassand crickets chirped
like fairy pipers at a feast. Squirrels were busy with their
small harvesting. Birds twittered their adieux from the alders
in the laneand every tree stood ready to send down its shower
of red or yellow apples at the first shake. Everybody was there.
Everybody laughed and sangclimbed up and tumbled down. Everybody
declared that there never had been such a perfect day or such
a jolly set to enjoy itand everyone gave themselves up to
the simple pleasures of the hour as freely as if there were no
such things as care or sorrow in the world.

Mr. March strolled placidly aboutquoting TusserCowley
and Columella to Mr. Laurencewhile enjoying...

The gentle apple's winey juice.

The Professor charged up and down the green aisles like a stout
Teutonic knightwith a pole for a lanceleading on the boys
who made a hook and ladder company of themselvesand performed
wonders in the way of ground and lofty tumbling. Laurie devoted
himself to the little onesrode his small daughter in a bushel-basket
took Daisy up among the bird's nestsand kept adventurous
Rob from breaking his neck. Mrs. March and Meg sat among
the apple piles like a pair of Pomonassorting the contributions
that kept pouring inwhile Amy with a beautiful motherly expression
in her face sketched the various groupsand watched over one


pale ladwho sat adoring her with his little crutch beside him.

Jo was in her element that dayand rushed aboutwith her
gown pinned upand her hat anywhere but on her headand her
baby tucked under her armready for any lively adventure which
might turn up. Little Teddy bore a charmed lifefor nothing
ever happened to himand Jo never felt any anxiety when he was
whisked up into a tree by one ladgalloped off on the back of
anotheror supplied with sour russets by his indulgent papa
who labored under the Germanic delusion that babies could digest
anythingfrom pickled cabbage to buttonsnailsand their own
small shoes. She knew that little Ted would turn up again in
timesafe and rosydirty and sereneand she always received
him back with a hearty welcomefor Jo loved her babies tenderly.

At four o'clock a lull took placeand baskets remained
emptywhile the apple pickers rested and compared rents and
bruises. Then Jo and Megwith a detachment of the bigger boys
set forth the supper on the grassfor an out-of-door tea was
always the crowning joy of the day. The land literally flowed
with milk and honey on such occasionsfor the lads were not
required to sit at tablebut allowed to partake of refreshment
as they liked--freedom being the sauce best beloved by the boyish
soul. They availed themselves of the rare privilege to the
fullest extentfor some tried the pleasing experiment of drinking
mild while standing on their headsothers lent a charm to
leapfrog by eating pie in the pauses of the gamecookies were
sown broadcast over the fieldand apple turnovers roosted in
the trees like a new style of bird. The little girls had a
private tea partyand Ted roved among the edibles at his own
sweet will.

When no one could eat any morethe Professor proposed the
first regular toastwhich was always drunk at such times--Aunt
MarchGod bless her!" A toast heartily given by the good man
who never forgot how much he owed herand quietly drunk by the
boyswho had been taught to keep her memory green.

NowGrandma's sixtieth birthday! Long life to herwith
three times three!

That was given with a willas you may well believeand
the cheering once begunit was hard to stop it. Everybody's
health was proposedform Mr. Laurencewho was considered their
special patronto the astonished guinea pigwho had strayed
from its proper sphere in search of its young master. Demias
the oldest grandchildthen presented the queen of the day with
various giftsso numerous that they were transported to the
festive scene in a wheelbarrow. Funny presentssome of them
but what would have been defects to other eyes were ornaments
to Grandma's--for the children's gifts were all their own. Every
stitch Daisy's patient little fingers had put into the handkerchiefs
she hemmed was better than embroidery to Mrs. March. Demi's
miracle of mechanical skillthough the cover wouldn't shutRob's
footstool had a wiggle in its uneven legs that she declared was
soothingand no page of the costly book Amy's child gave her was
so fair as that on which appeared in tipsy capitalsthe words-"
To dear Grandmafrom her little Beth."

During the ceremony the boys had mysteriously disappeared
and when Mrs. March had tried to thank her childrenand broken
downwhile Teddy wiped her eyes on his pinaforethe Professor
suddenly began to sing. Thenfrom above himvoice after voice
took up the wordsand from tree to tree echoed the music of the


unseen choiras the boys sang with all their hearts the little
song that Jo had writtenLaurie set to musicand the Professor
trained his lads to give with the best effect. This was something
altogether newand it proved a grand successfor Mrs. March
couldn't get over her surpriseand insisted on shaking hands
with every one of the featherless birdsfrom tall Franz and
Emil to the little quadroonwho had the sweetest voice of all.


After thisthe boys dispersed for a final larkleaving Mrs.
March and her daughters under the festival tree.


I don't think I ever ought to call myself `unlucky Jo' again
when my greatest wish has been so beautifully gratifiedsaid Mrs.
Bhaertaking Teddy's little fist out of the milk pitcherin which
he was rapturously churning.


And yet your life is very different from the one you pictured
so long ago. Do you remember our castles in the air?asked Amy
smiling as she watched Laurie and John playing cricket with the boys.


Dear fellows! It does my heart good to see them forget business
and frolic for a dayanswered Jowho now spoke in a maternal
way of all mankind. "YesI rememberbut the life I wanted then
seems selfishlonelyand cold to me now. I haven't given up the
hope that I may write a good book yetbut I can waitand I'm
sure it will be all the better for such experiences and illustrations
as these." And Jo pointed from the lively lads in the
distance to her fatherleaning on the Professor's armas they
walked to and fro in the sunshinedeep in one of the conversations
which both enjoyed so muchand then to her mothersitting enthroned
among her daughterswith their children in her lap and at
her feetas if all found help and happiness in the face which
never could grow old to them.


My castle was the most nearly realized of all. I asked for
splendid thingsto be surebut in my heart I knew I should be
satisfiedif I had a little homeand Johnand some dear children
like these. I've got them allthank Godand am the
happiest woman in the world.And Meg laid her hand on her tall
boy's headwith a face full of tender and devout content.


My castle is very different from what I plannedbut I would
not alter itthoughlike JoI don't relinquish all my artistic
hopesor confine myself to helping others fulfill their dreams of
beauty. I've begun to model a figure of babyand Laurie says it
is the best thing I've ever done. I think somyselfand mean
to do it in marbleso thatwhatever happensI may at least keep
the image of my little angel.


As Amy spokea great tear dropped on the golden hair of the
sleeping child in her armsfor her one well-beloved daughter was
a frail little creature and the dread of losing her was the shadow
over Amy's sunshine. This cross was doing much for both father
and motherfor one love and sorrow bound them closely together.
Amy's nature was growing sweeterdeeperand more tender. Laurie
was growing more seriousstrongand firmand both were learning
that beautyyouthgood fortuneeven love itselfcannot keep
care and painloss and sorrowfrom the most blessed for ...


Into each life some rain must fall
Some days must be dark and sad and dreary.



She is growing betterI am sure of itmy dear. Don't
despondbut hope and keep happysaid Mrs. Marchas tenderhearted
Daisy stooped from her knee to lay her rosy cheek against
her little cousin's pale one.

I never ought towhile I have you to cheer me upMarmee
and Laurie to take more than half of every burdenreplied Amy
warmly. "He never lets me see his anxietybut is so sweet and
patient with meso devoted to Bethand such a stay and comfort
to me always that I can't love him enough. Soin spite of my
one crossI can say with Meg`Thank GodI'm a happy woman.'"

There's no need for me to say itfor everyone can see
that I'm far happier than I deserveadded Joglancing from
her good husband to her chubby childrentumbling on the grass
beside her. "Fritz is getting gray and stout. I'm growing as
thin as a shadowand am thirty. We never shall be richand
Plumfield may burn up any nightfor that incorrigible Tommy
Bangs will smoke sweet-fern cigars under the bed-clothes
though he's set himself afire three times already. But in
spite of these unromantic factsI have nothing to complain
ofand never was so jolly in my life. Excuse the remarkbut
living among boysI can't help using their expressions now
and then."

YesJoI think your harvest will be a good onebegan
Mrs. Marchfrightening away a big black cricket that was
staring Teddy out of countenance.

Not half so good as yoursMother. Here it isand we
never can thank you enough for the patient sowing and reaping
you have donecried Jowith the loving impetuosity which
she never would outgrow.

I hope there will be more wheat and fewer tares every
yearsaid Amy softly.

A large sheafbut I know there's room in your heart for
itMarmee dearadded Meg's tender voice.

Touched to the heartMrs. March could only stretch out
her armsas if to gather children and grandchildren to herself
and saywith face and voice full of motherly lovegratitude
and humility...

Ohmy girlshowever long you may liveI never can
wish you a greater happiness than this!