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Click here to flash read.

o wait for John to come and be
forgiven.

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

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

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

John was a little disappointed not to find a tender Niobe, but feeling
that his dignity demanded the first apology, he made none, only came
leisurely in and laid himself upon the sofa with the singularly
relevant remark, “We are going to have a new moon, my dear.”

“I’ve no objection,” was Meg’s equally soothing remark. A few other
topics of general interest were introduced by Mr. Brooke and
wet-blanketed by Mrs. Brooke, and conversation languished. John went to
one window, unfolded his paper, and wrapped himself in it, figuratively
speaking. Meg went to the other window, and 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.

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

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

These words came back to Meg, as she sat sewing in the sunset,
especially the last. This was the first serious disagreement, her own
hasty speeches sounded both silly and unkind, as she recalled them, her
own anger looked childish now, and thoughts of poor John coming home to
such a scene quite melted her heart. She glanced at him with tears in
her eyes, but he did not see them. She put down her work and got up,
thinking, “I will be the first to say, ‘Forgive me’”, but he did not
seem to hear her. She went very slowly across the room, for pride was
hard to swallow, and stood by him, but he did not turn his head. For a
minute she felt as if she really couldn’t do it, then came the thought,
“This is the beginning. I’ll do my part, and have nothing to reproach
myself with,” and stooping down, she softly kissed her husband on the
forehead. Of course that settled it. The penitent kiss was better than
a world of words, and John had her on his knee in a minute, saying
tenderly...

“It was too bad to laugh at the poor little jelly pots. Forgive me,
dear. I never will again!”

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

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

In the autumn, new trials and experiences came to Meg. Sallie Moffat
renewed her friendship, was always running out for a dish of gossip at
the little house, or inviting ‘that poor dear’ to come in and spend the
day at the big house. It was pleasant, for in dull weather Meg often
felt lonely. All were busy at home, John absent till night, and nothing
to do but sew, or read, or potter about. So it naturally fell out that
Meg got into the way of gadding and gossiping with her friend. Seeing
Sallie’s pretty things made her long for such, and pity herself because
she had not got them. Sallie was very kind, and often offered her the
coveted trifles, but Meg declined them, knowing that John wouldn’t like
it, and then this foolish little woman went and did what John disliked
even worse.

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

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

When she got home, she tried to assuage the pangs of remorse by
spreading forth the lovely silk, but it looked less silvery now, didn’t
become her, after all, and the words ‘fifty dollars’ seemed stamped
like a pattern down each breadth. She put it away, but it haunted her,
not delightfully as a new dress should, but dreadfully like the ghost
of a folly that was not easily laid. When John got out his books that
night, Meg’s heart sank, and for the first time in her married life,
she was afraid of her husband. The kind, brown eyes looked as if they
could be stern, and though he was unusually merry, she fancied he had
found her out, but didn’t mean to let her know it. The house bills were
all paid, the books all in order. John had praised her, and was undoing
the old pocketbook which they called the ‘bank’, when Meg, knowing that
it was quite empty, stopped his hand, saying nervously...

“You haven’t seen my private expense book yet.”

John never asked to see it, but she always insisted on his doing so,
and used to enjoy his masculine amazement at the queer things women
wanted, and made him guess what piping was, demand fiercely the meaning
of a hug-me-tight, or wonder how a little thing composed of three
rosebuds, a bit of velvet, and a pair of strings, could possibly be a
bonnet, and 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
extravagance, as he often did, being particularly proud of his prudent
wife.

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

“John, dear, I’m ashamed to show you my book, for I’ve really been
dreadfully extravagant lately. I go about so much I must have things,
you know, and Sallie advised my getting it, so I did, and my New Year’s
money will partly pay for it, but I was sorry after I had done it, for
I knew you’d think it wrong in me.”

John laughed, and drew her round beside him, saying 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 feet, and don’t mind if she does
pay eight or nine dollars for her boots, if they are good ones.”

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

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

“Well, dear, what is the ‘dem’d total’, as Mr. Mantalini says?”

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

“Well, I don’t know that fifty is much for a dress, with all the
furbelows and notions you have to have to finish it off these days.”

“It isn’t made or trimmed,” sighed Meg, faintly, for a sudden
recollection of the cost still to be incurred quite overwhelmed her.

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

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

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

He was very kind, forgave her readily, and did not utter one reproach,
but Meg knew that she had done and said a thing which would not be
forgotten soon, although he might never allude to it again. She had
promised to love him for better or worse, and then she, his wife, had
reproached him with his poverty, after spending his earnings
recklessly. It was dreadful, and the worst of it was John went on so
quietly afterward, just as if nothing had happened, except that he
stayed in town later, and worked at night when she had gone to cry
herself to sleep. A week of remorse nearly made Meg sick, and the
discovery that John had countermanded the order for his new greatcoat
reduced her to a state of despair which was pathetic to behold. He had
simply said, in answer to her surprised inquiries as to the change, “I
can’t afford it, my dear.”

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

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

Next day she put her pride in her pocket, went to Sallie, told the
truth, and asked her to buy the silk as a favor. The good-natured Mrs.
Moffat willingly did so, and had the delicacy not to make her a present
of it immediately afterward. Then Meg ordered home the greatcoat, and
when John arrived, she put it on, and asked him how he liked her new
silk gown. One can imagine what answer he made, how he received his
present, and what a blissful state of things ensued. John came home
early, Meg gadded no more, and that greatcoat was put on in the morning
by a very happy husband, and taken off at night by a most devoted
little wife. So the year rolled round, and at 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 Saturday,
with an excited face, and was received with the clash of cymbals, for
Hannah clapped her hands with a saucepan in one and the cover in the
other.

“How’s the little mamma? Where is everybody? Why didn’t you tell me
before I came home?” began Laurie in a loud whisper.

“Happy as a queen, the dear! Every soul of ’em is upstairs a
worshipin’. We didn’t want no hurrycanes round. Now you go into the
parlor, and I’ll send ’em down to you,” with which somewhat involved
reply Hannah vanished, chuckling ecstatically.

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

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

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

“Then you shan’t see your nevvy,” said Jo decidedly, turning as if to
go.

“I will, I will! Only you must be responsible for damages.” and obeying
orders, Laurie heroically shut his eyes while something was put into
his arms. A peal of laughter from Jo, Amy, Mrs. March, Hannah, and John
caused him to open them the next minute, to find himself invested with
two babies instead of one.

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

“Twins, by Jupiter!” was all he said for a minute, then turning to the
women with an appealing look that was comically piteous, he added,
“Take ’em quick, somebody! I’m going to laugh, and I shall drop ’em.”

Jo rescued his babies, and marched up and down, with one on each arm,
as 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 season, isn’t it? I wouldn’t have told you,
for I set my heart on surprising you, and I flatter myself I’ve done
it,” said Jo, when she got her breath.

“I never was more staggered in my life. Isn’t it fun? Are they boys?
What are you going to name them? Let’s have another look. Hold me up,
Jo, for upon my life it’s one too many for me,” returned Laurie,
regarding the infants with the air of a big, benevolent Newfoundland
looking at a pair of 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
fashion, so you can always tell. Besides, one has blue eyes and one
brown. Kiss them, Uncle Teddy,” said wicked Jo.

“I’m afraid they mightn’t like it,” began Laurie, with unusual timidity
in such matters.

“Of course they will, they are used to it now. Do it this minute, sir!”
commanded Jo, fearing he might propose a proxy.

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

“There, I knew they didn’t like it! That’s the boy, see him kick, he
hits out with his fists like a good one. Now then, young Brooke, pitch
into a man of your own size, will you?” cried Laurie, delighted with a
poke in the face from a tiny fist, flapping aimlessly about.

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

“Name him Demijohn, and call him Demi for short,” said Laurie.

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

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

CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE
CALLS

“Come, Jo, it’s time.”

“For what?”

“You don’t mean to say you have forgotten that you promised to make
half a dozen calls with me 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 day, when
a single one upsets me for a week.”

“Yes, you did, it was a bargain between us. I was to finish the crayon
of Beth for you, and you were to go properly with me, and return our
neighbors’ visits.”

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

“Now, that’s shirking. It’s a lovely day, no prospect of rain, and you
pride yourself on keeping promises, so be honorable, come and do your
duty, and then be at peace for another six months.”

At that minute Jo was particularly absorbed in dressmaking, for she was
mantua-maker general to the family, and took especial credit to herself
because she could use a needle as well as a pen. It was very provoking
to be arrested in the act of a first trying-on, and ordered out to make
calls in her best array on a warm July day. She hated calls of the
formal sort, and never made any till Amy compelled her with a bargain,
bribe, or promise. In the present instance there was no escape, and
having clashed her scissors rebelliously, while protesting that she
smelled thunder, she gave in, put away her work, and taking up her hat
and gloves with an air of resignation, told Amy the victim was ready.

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

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

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

“You’re an artful little puss to flatter and wheedle your cross old
sister in that way. The idea of my being aristocratic and well-bred,
and your being afraid to go anywhere alone! I don’t know which is the
most absurd. Well, I’ll go if I must, and do my best. You shall be
commander of the expedition, and I’ll obey blindly, will that satisfy
you?” said Jo, with a sudden change from perversity to lamblike
submission.

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

While Amy dressed, she issued her orders, and Jo obeyed them, not
without entering her protest, however, for she sighed as she rustled
into her new organdie, frowned darkly at herself as she tied her bonnet
strings in an irreproachable bow, wrestled viciously with pins as she
put on her collar, wrinkled up her features generally as she shook out
the handkerchief, whose embroidery was as irritating to her nose as the
present mission was to her feelings, and when she had squeezed her
hands into tight gloves with three buttons and a tassel, as the last
touch of elegance, she turned to Amy with an imbecile expression of
countenance, saying meekly...

“I’m perfectly miserable, but if you consider me presentable, I die
happy.”

“You’re highly satisfactory. Turn slowly round, and let me get a
careful view.” Jo revolved, and Amy gave a touch here and there, then
fell back, with her head on one side, observing graciously, “Yes,
you’ll do. Your head is all I could ask, for that white bonnet with the
rose is quite ravishing. Hold back your shoulders, and carry your hands
easily, no matter if your gloves do pinch. There’s one thing you can do
well, Jo, that is, wear a shawl. I can’t, but it’s very nice to see
you, and I’m so glad Aunt March gave you that lovely one. It’s simple,
but handsome, and those folds over the arm are really artistic. Is the
point of my mantle in the middle, and have I looped my dress evenly? I
like to show my boots, for my feet are pretty, though my nose isn’t.”

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

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

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

“Now, Jo dear, the Chesters consider themselves very elegant people, so
I want you to put on your best deportment. Don’t make any of your
abrupt remarks, or do anything odd, will you? Just be calm, cool, and
quiet, that’s safe and ladylike, and you can easily do it for fifteen
minutes,” said Amy, as they approached the first place, having borrowed
the white parasol and been inspected by Meg, with a baby on each arm.

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

Amy looked relieved, but naughty Jo took her at her word, for during
the first call she sat with every limb gracefully composed, every fold
correctly draped, calm as a summer sea, cool as a snowbank, and as
silent as the sphinx. In vain Mrs. Chester alluded to her ‘charming
novel’, and the Misses Chester introduced parties, picnics, the opera,
and the fashions. Each and all were answered by a smile, a bow, and a
demure “Yes” or “No” with the chill on. In vain Amy telegraphed the
word ‘talk’, tried to draw her out, and administered covert pokes with
her foot. Jo sat as if blandly unconscious of it all, with deportment
like Maud’s face, ‘icily regular, splendidly null’.

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

“How could you mistake me so? I merely meant you to be properly
dignified and composed, and you made yourself a perfect stock and
stone. Try to be sociable at the Lambs’. Gossip as other girls do, and
be interested in dress and flirtations and whatever nonsense comes up.
They move in the best society, are valuable persons for us to know, and
I wouldn’t fail to make a good impression there for anything.”

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

Amy felt anxious, as well she might, for when Jo turned freakish there
was no knowing where she would stop. Amy’s face was a study when she
saw her sister skim into the next drawing room, kiss all the young
ladies with effusion, beam graciously upon the young gentlemen, and
join in the chat with a spirit which amazed the beholder. Amy was taken
possession of by Mrs. Lamb, with whom she was a favorite, and forced to
hear a long account of Lucretia’s last attack, while three delightful
young gentlemen hovered near, waiting for a pause when they might rush
in and rescue her. So situated, she was powerless to check Jo, who
seemed possessed by a spirit of mischief, and talked away as volubly as
the lady. A knot of heads gathered about her, and Amy strained her ears
to hear what was going on, for broken sentences filled her with
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 mounting, holding the reins, and sitting
straight on an old saddle in a tree. Now she rides anything, for she
doesn’t know what fear is, and the stableman lets her have horses cheap
because she trains them to carry ladies so well. She has such a passion
for it, I often tell her if everything else fails, she can be a
horsebreaker, and get her living so.”

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

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

“Which did she choose?” asked one of the laughing gentlemen, who
enjoyed the subject.

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

“Did she ride the horse?”

“Of course she did, and had a capital time. I expected to see her
brought home in fragments, but she managed him perfectly, and was the
life of the party.”

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

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

“Isn’t that an original idea?” cried Miss Lamb, who found Jo great fun.

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

“We read a story of yours the other day, and enjoyed it very much,”
observed the elder Miss Lamb, wishing to compliment the literary lady,
who did not look the character just then, it must be confessed.

Any mention of her ‘works’ always had a bad effect upon Jo, who either
grew rigid and looked offended, or changed the subject with a brusque
remark, as now. “Sorry you could find nothing better to read. I write
that rubbish because it sells, and ordinary people like it. Are you
going to New York this winter?”

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

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

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

“Didn’t I do well?” asked Jo, with a satisfied air as they walked away.

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

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

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

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

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

“Just as you please. I wash my hands of you,” was Amy’s short answer.

“Then I’ll enjoy myself. The boys are at home, and we’ll have a
comfortable time. Goodness knows I need a little change, for elegance
has a bad effect upon my constitution,” returned Jo gruffly, being
disturbed by her failure to suit.

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

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

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

“Capital boys, aren’t they? I feel quite young and brisk again after
that.” said Jo, strolling along with her hands behind her, partly from
habit, partly to conceal the bespattered parasol.

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

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

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

“No, it wouldn’t,” returned Jo, “I neither like, respect, nor admire
Tudor, though 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 him, and like to show that I do, for he is a gentleman in
spite of the brown paper parcels.”

“It’s no use trying to argue with you,” began Amy.

“Not the least, my dear,” interrupted Jo, “so let us look amiable, and
drop a card here, as the Kings are evidently out, for which I’m deeply
grateful.”

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

“Now let us go home, and never mind Aunt March today. We can run down
there any time, and it’s really a pity to trail through the dust in our
best bibs and tuckers, when we are tired and cross.”

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

“What a good girl you are, Amy!” said Jo, with a repentant glance from
her own damaged costume to that of her sister, which was fresh and
spotless still. “I wish it was as easy for me to do little things to
please people as it is for you. I think of them, but it takes too much
time to do them, so I wait for a chance to confer a great favor, and
let the small ones slip, but they tell best in the end, I fancy.”

Amy smiled and was mollified at once, saying with a maternal air,
“Women should learn to be agreeable, particularly poor ones, for they
have no other way of repaying the kindnesses they receive. If you’d
remember that, and practice it, you’d be better liked than I am,
because there is more of you.”

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

“It’s a greater not to be able to hide them. I don’t mind saying that I
don’t approve of Tudor any more than you do, but I’m not called upon to
tell him so. Neither are you, and there is no use in making yourself
disagreeable because he is.”

“But I think girls ought to show when they disapprove of young men, and
how can they do it except by their manners? Preaching does not do any
good, as I know to my sorrow, since I’ve had Teddie to manage. But
there are many little ways in which I can influence him without a word,
and I say we ought to do it to others if we can.”

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

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

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

“I do like them, and I shall be one if I can, for in spite of the
laughing the world would never get on without them. We can’t agree
about that, for you belong to the old set, and I to the new. You will
get on the best, but I shall have the liveliest time of it. I should
rather enjoy the brickbats and hooting, I think.”

“Well, compose yourself now, and don’t worry Aunt with your new ideas.”

“I’ll try not to, but I’m always possessed to burst out with some
particularly blunt speech or revolutionary sentiment before her. It’s
my doom, and I can’t help it.”

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

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

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

“I’m not,” put in Jo decidedly. “I hate to be patronized, and the
Chesters think it’s a great favor to allow us to help with their highly
connected fair. I wonder you consented, Amy, they only want you to
work.”

“I am willing to work. It’s for the freedmen as well as the Chesters,
and 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 spirit, my dear. It’s a
pleasure to help people who appreciate our efforts. Some do not, and
that is trying,” observed Aunt March, looking over her spectacles at
Jo, who sat apart, rocking herself, with a somewhat morose expression.

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

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

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

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

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

“Do you speak French, dear?” asked Mrs. Carrol, laying a hand on Amy’s.

“Pretty well, thanks to Aunt March, who lets Esther talk to me as often
as I like,” replied Amy, with a grateful look, which 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
French, it’s such a slippery, silly sort of language,” was the brusque
reply.

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

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

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

Crosspatch, draw the latch,
Sit by the fire and spin,

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

“Most observing bird,” said the old lady.

“Come and take a walk, my dear?” cried Polly, hopping toward the china
closet, with a look suggestive of a lump of sugar.

“Thank you, I will. Come Amy.” and Jo brought the visit to an end,
feeling more strongly than ever that calls did have a bad effect upon
her constitution. She shook hands in a gentlemanly manner, but Amy
kissed both the aunts, and the girls departed, leaving behind them the
impression of shadow and sunshine, which impression caused Aunt March
to say, as they vanished...

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

CHAPTER THIRTY
CONSEQUENCES

Mrs. Chester’s fair was so very elegant and select that it was
considered a great honor by the young ladies of the neighborhood to be
invited to take a table, and everyone was much interested in the
matter. Amy was asked, but Jo was not, which was fortunate for all
parties, as her elbows were decidedly akimbo at this period of her
life, and it took a good many hard knocks to teach her how to get on
easily. The ‘haughty, uninteresting creature’ was let severely alone,
but Amy’s talent and taste were duly complimented by the offer of the
art table, and she exerted herself to prepare and secure appropriate
and valuable contributions to it.

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

May Chester was rather jealous of Amy because the latter was a greater
favorite than herself, and just at this time several trifling
circumstances 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 soul, and gave an excuse for her
unfriendly conduct, was a rumor which some obliging gossip had
whispered to her, that the March girls had made fun of her at the
Lambs’. All the blame of this should have fallen upon Jo, for her
naughty imitation had been too lifelike to escape detection, and the
frolicsome Lambs had permitted the joke to escape. No hint of this had
reached the culprits, however, and Amy’s dismay can be imagined, when,
the very evening before the fair, as she was putting the last touches
to her pretty table, Mrs. Chester, who, of course, resented the
supposed ridicule of her daughter, said, in a bland tone, but with a
cold look...

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

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

Amy felt that there was something behind this, but could not guess
what, and said quietly, feeling hurt, and showing that she did,
“Perhaps you had rather I took no table at all?”

“Now, my dear, don’t have any ill feeling, I beg. It’s merely a matter
of expediency, you see, my girls will naturally take the lead, and this
table is considered their proper place. I think it very appropriate to
you, and feel very grateful for your efforts to make it so pretty, but
we must give up our private wishes, of course, and I will see that you
have a good place elsewhere. Wouldn’t you like the flower table? The
little girls undertook it, but they are discouraged. You could make a
charming thing of it, and the flower table is always attractive you
know.”

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

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

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

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

“Now she’s mad. Oh, dear, I wish I hadn’t asked you to speak, Mama,”
said May, looking disconsolately at the empty spaces on her table.

“Girls’ quarrels are soon over,” returned her mother, feeling a trifle
ashamed of her own part in this one, as well she might.

The little girls hailed Amy and her treasures with delight, which
cordial reception somewhat soothed her perturbed spirit, and she fell
to work, determined to succeed florally, if she could not artistically.
But everything seemed against her. It was late, and she was tired.
Everyone was too busy with their own affairs to help her, and the
little girls were only hindrances, for the dears fussed and chattered
like so many magpies, making a great deal of confusion in their artless
efforts to preserve the most perfect order. The evergreen arch wouldn’t
stay firm after she got it up, but wiggled and threatened to tumble
down on her head when the hanging baskets were filled. Her best tile
got a splash of water, which left a sepia tear on the Cupid’s cheek.
She bruised her hands with hammering, and got cold working in a draft,
which 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 shame, but 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
things, and though I think I’ve a right to be hurt, I don’t intend to
show it. They will feel that more than angry speeches or huffy actions,
won’t they, Marmee?”

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

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

“I ought, but I don’t,” thought Amy, as her eye went from the bright
page to May’s discontented face behind the big vases, that could not
hide the vacancies her pretty work had once filled. Amy stood a minute,
turning the leaves in her hand, reading 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 street,
school, office, or home. Even a fair table may become a pulpit, if it
can offer the good and helpful words which are never out of season.
Amy’s conscience preached her a little sermon from that text, then and
there, and she did what many of us do not always do, took the sermon to
heart, and straightway put it in practice.

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

“It’s too bad, for there is no time to make other things, and I don’t
want to fill up with odds and ends. The table was just complete then.
Now it’s spoiled.”

“I dare say she’d put them back if you asked her,” suggested someone.

“How could I after all the fuss?” began May, but she did not finish,
for Amy’s voice came across the hall, saying pleasantly...

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

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

“Now, I call that lovely of her, don’t you?” cried one girl.

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

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

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

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

She did not go home till night, and then she looked so pale and quiet
that they knew the day had been a hard one, though she made no
complaint, and did not even tell what she had done. Her mother gave her
an extra cordial cup of tea. Beth helped her dress, and made a charming
little wreath for her hair, while Jo astonished her family by getting
herself up with unusual care, and hinting darkly that the tables were
about to be turned.

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

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

“Is that my boy?”

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

“Oh, Teddy, such doings!” and Jo told Amy’s wrongs with sisterly zeal.

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

“The flowers are not at all nice, Amy says, and the fresh ones may not
arrive in time. I don’t wish to be unjust or suspicious, but I
shouldn’t wonder if they never came at all. When people do one mean
thing they are very likely to do another,” observed Jo in a disgusted
tone.

“Didn’t Hayes give you the best out of our gardens? I told him to.”

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

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

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

“Couldn’t you do it now?” asked Laurie, so suggestively that Jo shut
the gate in his face with inhospitable haste, and called through the
bars, “Go away, Teddy, I’m busy.”

Thanks to the conspirators, the tables were turned that night, for
Hayes sent up a wilderness of flowers, with a lovely basket arranged in
his best manner for a centerpiece. Then the March family turned out en
masse, and Jo exerted herself to some purpose, for people not only
came, but stayed, laughing at her nonsense, admiring Amy’s taste, and
apparently enjoying themselves very much. Laurie and his friends
gallantly threw themselves into the breach, bought up the bouquets,
encamped before the table, and made that corner the liveliest spot in
the room. Amy was in her element now, and out of gratitude, if nothing
more, was as spritely and gracious as possible, coming to the
conclusion, about that time, that virtue was its own reward, after all.

Jo behaved herself with exemplary propriety, and when Amy was happily
surrounded by her guard of honor, Jo circulated about the Hall, picking
up various bits of gossip, which enlightened her upon the subject of
the Chester change of base. She 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 morning, and
considered her a model of magnanimity. As she passed the art table, she
glanced over it for her sister’s things, but saw no sign of them.
“Tucked away out of sight, I dare say,” thought Jo, who could forgive
her own wrongs, but hotly resented any insult offered her family.

“Good evening, Miss Jo. How does Amy get on?” asked May with a
conciliatory air, for she wanted to show that she also could be
generous.

“She has sold everything she had that was worth selling, and now she is
enjoying herself. The flower table is always attractive, you know,
‘especially to gentlemen’.” Jo couldn’t resist giving that little slap,
but May took it so meekly she regretted it a minute after, and fell to
praising the great vases, which still remained unsold.

“Is Amy’s illumination anywhere about? I took a fancy to buy that for
Father,” said Jo, very anxious to learn the fate of her sister’s work.

“Everything of Amy’s sold long ago. I took care that the right people
saw them, and they made a nice little sum of money for us,” returned
May, who had overcome sundry small temptations, as well as Amy had,
that day.

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

“Now, gentlemen, I want you to go and do your duty by the other tables
as generously as you have by mine, especially the art table,” she said,
ordering out ‘Teddy’s own’, as the girls called the college friends.

“‘Charge, Chester, charge!’ is the motto for that table, but do your
duty like men, and you’ll get your money’s worth of art in every sense
of the word,” said the irrepressible Jo, as the devoted phalanx
prepared to take the field.

“To hear is to obey, but March is fairer far than May,” said little
Parker, making a frantic effort to be both witty and tender, and
getting promptly quenched by Laurie, who said...

“Very well, my son, for a small boy!” and walked him off, with a
paternal pat on the head.

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

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

Aunt Carrol was there, heard the story, looked pleased, and said
something to Mrs. March in a corner, which made the latter lady beam
with satisfaction, and watch Amy with a face full of mingled pride and
anxiety, though she did not betray the cause of her pleasure till
several days later.

The fair was pronounced a success, and when May bade Amy goodnight, she
did not gush as usual, but gave her an affectionate kiss, and a look
which said ‘forgive and forget’. That satisfied Amy, and when she got
home she found the vases paraded on the parlor chimney piece with a
great bouquet in each. “The reward of merit for a magnanimous March,”
as Laurie announced with a flourish.

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

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

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

Amy spoke earnestly, and Jo said, with a cordial hug, “I understand now
what you mean, and I’ll never laugh at you again. You are getting on
faster than you think, and I’ll take lessons of you in true politeness,
for you’ve learned the secret, I believe. Try away, deary, you’ll get
your reward some day, and no one will be more delighted than I shall.”

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

“Aunt Carrol is going abroad next month, and wants...”

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

“No, dear, not you. It’s Amy.”

“Oh, Mother! She’s too young, it’s my turn first. I’ve wanted it so
long. It would do me so much good, and be so altogether splendid. I
must go!”

“I’m afraid it’s impossible, Jo. Aunt says Amy, decidedly, and it is
not for us to dictate when she offers such a favor.”

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

“I’m afraid it’s partly your own fault, dear. When Aunt spoke to me the
other day, she regretted your blunt manners and too independent spirit,
and here she writes, as if quoting something you had said—‘I planned at
first to ask Jo, but as ‘favors burden her’, and she ‘hates French’, I
think I won’t venture to invite her. Amy is more docile, will make a
good companion for Flo, and receive gratefully any help the trip may
give her.”

“Oh, my tongue, my abominable tongue! Why can’t I learn to keep it
quiet?” groaned Jo, remembering words which had been her undoing. When
she had heard the explanation of the quoted phrases, Mrs. March said
sorrowfully...

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

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

“Jo, dear, I’m very selfish, but I couldn’t spare you, and I’m glad you
are not going quite yet,” whispered Beth, embracing her, basket and
all, with 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 ears,
and humbly beg Aunt Carrol to burden her with this favor, and see how
gratefully she would bear it.

By the time Amy came in, Jo was able to take her part in the family
jubilation, not quite as heartily as usual, perhaps, but without
repinings at Amy’s good fortune. The young lady herself received the
news as tidings of great joy, went about in a solemn sort of rapture,
and began to sort her colors and pack her pencils that evening, leaving
such trifles as clothes, money, and passports to those less absorbed in
visions of art than herself.

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

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

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

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

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

“Hum!” said Jo, with a sigh. “If you wish it you’ll have it, for your
wishes are always granted—mine never.”

“Would you like to go?” asked Amy, thoughtfully patting her nose with
her knife.

“Rather!”

“Well, in a year or two I’ll send for you, and we’ll dig in the Forum
for relics, and carry out all the plans we’ve made so many times.”

“Thank you. I’ll remind you of your promise when that joyful day comes,
if it ever does,” returned Jo, accepting the vague but magnificent
offer as gratefully as she could.

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

“Oh, take care of them for me, and if anything should happen...”

“I will, dear, I will, and if anything happens, I’ll come and comfort
you,” whispered Laurie, little dreaming that he would be called upon to
keep his word.

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

CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE
OUR FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT

London

Dearest People, Here I really sit at a front window of the Bath Hotel,
Piccadilly. It’s not a fashionable place, but Uncle stopped here years
ago, and won’t go anywhere else. However, we don’t mean to stay long,
so it’s no great matter. Oh, I can’t begin to tell you how I enjoy it
all! I never can, so I’ll only give you bits out of my notebook, for
I’ve done nothing but sketch and scribble since I started.

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

Aunt and Flo were poorly all the way, and liked to be let alone, so
when I had done what I could for them, I went and enjoyed myself. Such
walks on deck, such sunsets, such splendid air and waves! It was almost
as exciting as riding a fast horse, when we went rushing on so grandly.
I wish Beth could have come, it would have done her so much good. As
for Jo, she would have gone up and sat on the maintop jib, or whatever
the high thing is called, made friends with the engineers, and tooted
on the captain’s speaking trumpet, she’d have been in such a state of
rapture.

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

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

“Oh, have you e’er heard of Kate Kearney?
She lives on the banks of Killarney;
From the glance of her eye,
Shun danger and fly,
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 place,
and I was glad to leave it. Uncle rushed out and bought a pair of
dogskin gloves, some ugly, thick shoes, and an umbrella, and got shaved
_à la_ mutton chop, the first thing. Then he flattered himself that he
looked like a true Briton, but the first time he had the mud cleaned
off his shoes, the little bootblack knew that an American stood in
them, and said, with a grin, “There yer har, sir. I’ve given ’em the
latest Yankee shine.” It amused Uncle immensely. Oh, I must tell you
what that absurd Lennox did! He got his friend Ward, who came on with
us, to order a bouquet for me, and the first thing I saw in my room was
a lovely one, with “Robert Lennox’s compliments,” on the card. Wasn’t
that fun, girls? I like traveling.

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

A pause—then Flo cried out, “Bless me, there’s a gallows and a man
going up.” “Where, where?” shrieks Amy, staring out at two tall posts
with a crossbeam and some dangling chains. “A colliery,” remarks Uncle,
with a twinkle of the eye. “Here’s a lovely flock of lambs all lying
down,” says Amy. “See, Papa, aren’t they pretty?” added Flo
sentimentally. “Geese, young ladies,” returns Uncle, in a tone that
keeps us quiet till Flo settles down to enjoy the _Flirtations of
Captain Cavendish_, and I have the scenery all to myself.

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

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

“Now, then, mum?”

I gave my order as soberly as I could, and slamming down the door, with
an “Aye, aye, mum,” the man made his horse walk, as if going to a
funeral. I poked again and said, “A little faster,” then off he went,
helter-skelter as before, and we resigned ourselves to our fate.

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

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

In the P.M. to Westminster Abbey, but don’t expect me to describe it,
that’s impossible, so I’ll only say it was sublime! This evening we are
going to see Fechter, which will be an appropriate end to the happiest
day of my life.

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

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

AMY

PARIS

Dear girls,

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

Well, we were hardly settled here, when he turned up again, saying he
had come for a holiday, and was going to Switzerland. Aunt looked sober
at first, but he was so cool about it she couldn’t say a word. And now
we get on nicely, and are very glad he came, for he speaks French like
a native, and I don’t know what we should do without him. Uncle doesn’t
know ten words, and insists on talking English very loud, as if it
would make people understand him. Aunt’s pronunciation is
old-fashioned, and Flo and I, though we flattered ourselves that we
knew a good deal, find we don’t, and 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
night, stopping for nice lunches in the gay _cafes_, and meeting with
all sorts of droll adventures. Rainy days I spend in the Louvre,
revelling in pictures. Jo would turn up her naughty nose at some of the
finest, because she has no soul for art, but I have, and I’m
cultivating eye and taste as fast as I can. She would like the relics
of great people better, for I’ve seen her Napoleon’s cocked hat and
gray coat, his baby’s cradle and his old toothbrush, also Marie
Antoinette’s little shoe, the ring of Saint Denis, Charlemagne’s sword,
and many other interesting things. I’ll talk for hours about them when
I come, but haven’t time to write.

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

We often walk in the Tuileries Gardens, for they are lovely, though the
antique Luxembourg Gardens suit me better. Pere la Chaise is very
curious, for many of the tombs are like small rooms, and looking in,
one sees a table, with images or pictures of the dead, and chairs for
the mourners to sit in when they come to lament. That is so Frenchy.

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

Next week we are off to Germany and Switzerland, and as we shall travel
fast, I shall only be able to give you hasty letters. I keep my diary,
and try to ‘remember correctly and describe clearly all that I see and
admire’, as Father advised. It is good practice for me, and with my
sketchbook will give you a better idea of my tour than these scribbles.

Adieu, I embrace you tenderly. _“Votre Amie.”_

HEIDELBERG

My dear Mamma,

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

The sail up the Rhine was perfect, and I just sat and enjoyed it with
all my might. Get Father’s old guidebooks and read about it. I haven’t
words beautiful enough to describe it. At Coblentz we had a lovely
time, for some students from Bonn, with whom Fred got acquainted on the
boat, gave us a serenade. It was a moonlight night, and about one
o’clock Flo and I were waked by the most delicious music under our
windows. We flew up, and hid behind the curtains, but sly peeps showed
us Fred and the students singing away down below. It was the most
romantic thing I ever saw—the river, the bridge of boats, the great
fortress opposite, moonlight everywhere, and music fit to melt a heart
of stone.

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

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

Now comes the serious part, for it happened here, and 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 walks,
balcony talks, and daily adventures were something more to him than
fun. I haven’t flirted, Mother, truly, but remembered what you said to
me, and have done my very best. I can’t help it if people like me. I
don’t try to make them, and it worries me if I don’t care for them,
though Jo says I haven’t got any heart. Now I know Mother will shake
her head, and the girls say, “Oh, the mercenary little wretch!”, but
I’ve made up my mind, and if Fred asks me, I shall accept him, though
I’m not madly in love. I like him, and we get on comfortably together.
He is handsome, young, clever enough, and very rich—ever so much richer
than the Laurences. I don’t think his family would object, and I should
be very happy, for they are all kind, well-bred, generous people, and
they like me. Fred, as the eldest twin, will have the estate, I
suppose, and such a splendid one it is! A city house in a fashionable
street, not so showy as our big houses, but twice as comfortable and
full of solid luxury, such as English people believe in. I like it, for
it’s genuine. I’ve seen the plate, the family jewels, the old servants,
and pictures of the country place, with its park, great house, lovely
grounds, and fine horses. Oh, it would be all I should ask! And I’d
rather have it than any title such as girls snap up so readily, and
find nothing behind. I may be mercenary, but I hate poverty, and don’t
mean to bear it a minute longer than I can help. One of us _must_ marry
well. Meg didn’t, Jo won’t, Beth can’t yet, so I shall, and make
everything okay all round. I wouldn’t marry a man I hated or despised.
You may be sure of that, and though Fred is not my model hero, he does
very well, and in time I should get fond enough of him if he was very
fond of me, and let me do just as I liked. So I’ve been turning the
matter over in my mind the last week, for it was impossible to help
seeing that Fred liked me. He said nothing, but little things showed
it. He never goes with Flo, always gets on my side of the carriage,
table, or promenade, looks sentimental when we are alone, and frowns at
anyone else who ventures to speak to me. Yesterday at dinner, when an
Austrian officer stared at us and then said something to his friend, a
rakish-looking baron, about ‘_ein wonderschones Blondchen’_, Fred
looked as fierce as a lion, and cut his meat so savagely it nearly flew
off his plate. He isn’t one of the cool, stiff Englishmen, but is
rather peppery, for he has Scotch blood in him, as one might guess from
his bonnie blue eyes.

Well, last evening we went up to the castle about sunset, at least all
of us but Fred, who was to meet us there after going to the Post
Restante for letters. We had a charming time poking about the ruins,
the vaults where the monster tun is, and the beautiful gardens made by
the elector long ago for his English wife. I liked the great terrace
best, for the view was divine, so while the rest went to see the rooms
inside, I sat there trying to sketch the gray stone lion’s head on the
wall, with scarlet woodbine sprays hanging round it. I felt as if I’d
got into a romance, sitting there, watching the Neckar rolling through
the valley, listening to the music of the Austrian band below, and
waiting for my lover, like a real storybook girl. I had a feeling that
something was going to happen and I was ready for it. I didn’t feel
blushy or quakey, but quite cool and only a little excited.

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

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

Of course this is all _very private_, but I wished you to know what was
going on. Don’t be anxious about me, remember I am your ‘prudent Amy’,
and be sure I will do nothing rashly. Send me as much advice as you
like. I’ll use it if I can. I wish I could see you for a good talk,
Marmee. Love and trust me.

Ever your AMY

CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO
TENDER TROUBLES

“Jo, I’m anxious about Beth.”

“Why, Mother, she has seemed unusually well since the babies came.”

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

“What makes you think so, Mother?”

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

“Have you asked her about it?”

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

Mrs. March glanced at Jo as she spoke, but the face opposite seemed
quite unconscious of any secret disquietude but Beth’s, and after
sewing thoughtfully for a minute, Jo said, “I think she is growing up,
and so begins to dream dreams, and have hopes and fears and fidgets,
without knowing why or being able to explain them. Why, Mother, Beth’s
eighteen, but we don’t realize it, and treat her like a child,
forgetting she’s a woman.”

“So she is. Dear heart, how fast you do grow up,” returned her mother
with a sigh and a smile.

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

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

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

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

“Happy woman! I’ve got heaps.”

“My dear, what are they?”

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

While apparently absorbed in her own affairs, Jo watched Beth, and
after many conflicting conjectures, finally settled upon one which
seemed to explain the change in her. A slight incident gave Jo the clue
to the mystery, she thought, and lively fancy, loving heart did the
rest. She was affecting to write busily one Saturday afternoon, when
she and Beth were alone together. Yet as she scribbled, she kept her
eye on her sister, who seemed unusually quiet. Sitting at the window,
Beth’s work often dropped into her lap, and she leaned her head upon
her hand, in a dejected attitude, while her eyes rested on the dull,
autumnal landscape. Suddenly some one passed below, whistling like an
operatic blackbird, and a voice called out, “All serene! Coming in
tonight.”

Beth started, leaned forward, smiled and nodded, watched the passer-by
till his quick tramp died away, then said softly as if to herself, “How
strong and well and happy that dear boy looks.”

“Hum!” said Jo, still intent upon her sister’s face, for the bright
color faded as quickly as it came, the smile vanished, and presently a
tear lay shining on the window ledge. Beth whisked it off, and in her
half-averted face read a tender sorrow that made her own eyes fill.
Fearing to betray herself, she slipped away, murmuring something about
needing more paper.

“Mercy on me, Beth loves Laurie!” she said, sitting down in her own
room, pale 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 again, how dreadful it would be. He
must. I’ll make him!” and she shook her head threateningly at the
picture of the mischievous-looking boy laughing at her from the wall.
“Oh dear, we are growing up with a vengeance. Here’s Meg married and a
mamma, Amy flourishing away at Paris, and Beth in love. I’m the only
one that has sense enough to keep out of mischief.” Jo thought intently
for a minute with her eyes fixed on the picture, then she smoothed out
her wrinkled forehead and said, with a decided nod at the face
opposite, “No thank you, sir, you’re very charming, but you’ve no more
stability than a weathercock. So you needn’t write touching notes and
smile in that insinuating way, for it won’t do a bit of good, and I
won’t have it.”

Then she sighed, and fell into a reverie from which she did not wake
till the early twilight sent her down to take new observations, which
only confirmed her suspicion. Though Laurie flirted with Amy and joked
with Jo, his manner to Beth had always been peculiarly kind and gentle,
but so was everybody’s. Therefore, no one thought of imagining that he
cared more for her than for the others. Indeed, a general impression
had prevailed in the family of late that ‘our boy’ was getting fonder
than ever of Jo, who, however, wouldn’t hear a word upon the subject
and scolded violently if anyone dared to suggest it. If they had known
the various tender passages which had been nipped in the bud, they
would have had the immense satisfaction of saying, “I told you so.” But
Jo hated ‘philandering’, and wouldn’t allow it, always having a joke or
a smile ready at the least sign of impending danger.

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

Things were in this state when the grand discovery was made, and Jo
watched Laurie that night as she had never done before. If she had not
got the new idea into her head, she would have seen nothing unusual in
the fact that Beth was very quiet, and Laurie very kind to her. But
having given the rein to her lively fancy, it galloped away with her at
a great pace, and common sense, being rather weakened by a long course
of romance writing, did not come to the rescue. As usual Beth lay on
the sofa and Laurie sat in a low chair close by, amusing her with all
sorts of gossip, for she depended on her weekly ‘spin’, and he never
disappointed her. But that evening Jo fancied that Beth’s eyes rested
on the lively, dark face beside her with peculiar pleasure, and that
she listened with intense interest to an 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 fancied, having 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 then, laughed less than usual, was a
little absent-minded, and settled the afghan over Beth’s feet with an
assiduity that was really almost tender.

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

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

Now, the old sofa was a regular patriarch of a sofa—long, broad,
well-cushioned, and low, a trifle shabby, as well it might be, for the
girls had slept and sprawled on it as babies, fished over the back,
rode on the arms, and had menageries under it as children, and rested
tired heads, dreamed dreams, and listened to tender talk on it as young
women. They all loved it, for it was a family refuge, and one corner
had always been Jo’s favorite lounging place. Among the many pillows
that adorned the venerable couch was one, hard, round, covered with
prickly horsehair, and furnished with a knobby button at each end. This
repulsive pillow was her especial property, being used as a weapon of
defense, a barricade, or a stern preventive of too much slumber.

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

“Now, this is filling at the price.”

“No slang,” snapped Jo, slamming down the pillow. But it was too late,
there was no room for it, and coasting onto the floor, it disappeared
in a most mysterious manner.

“Come, Jo, don’t be thorny. After studying himself to a skeleton all
the week, a fellow deserves petting and ought to get it.”

“Beth will pet you. I’m busy.”

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

Anything more wheedlesome than that touching appeal was seldom heard,
but Jo quenched ‘her boy’ by turning on him with a stern query, “How
many bouquets have you sent Miss Randal this week?”

“Not one, upon my word. She’s engaged. Now then.”

“I’m glad of it, that’s one of your foolish extravagances, sending
flowers and things to girls for whom you don’t care two pins,”
continued Jo reprovingly.

“Sensible girls for whom I do care whole papers of pins won’t let me
send them ‘flowers and things’, so what can I do? My feelings need a
‘vent’.”

“Mother doesn’t approve of flirting even in fun, and you do flirt
desperately, Teddy.”

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

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

“Take lessons of Amy, she has a regular talent for it.”

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

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

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

“Much you know about it, ma’am,” said Laurie in a superior tone. “We
don’t like romps and flirts, though we may act as if we did sometimes.
The pretty, modest girls are never talked about, except respectfully,
among 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
word, when I see one of those harum-scarum girls, I always want to say
with our friend Cock Robin...

“Out upon you, fie upon you,
Bold-faced jig!”

It was impossible to help laughing at the funny conflict between
Laurie’s chivalrous reluctance to speak ill of womankind, and his very
natural dislike of the unfeminine folly of which fashionable society
showed him many samples. Jo knew that ‘young Laurence’ was regarded as
a most eligible parti by worldly mamas, was much smiled upon by their
daughters, and flattered enough by ladies of all ages to make a coxcomb
of him, so she watched him rather jealously, fearing he would be
spoiled, and rejoiced more than she confessed to find that he still
believed in modest girls. Returning suddenly to her admonitory tone,
she said, dropping her voice, “If you must have a ‘vent’, Teddy, go and
devote yourself to one of the ‘pretty, modest girls’ whom you do
respect, and not waste your time with the silly ones.”

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

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

“That I’m not!” acquiesced Laurie, with an expression of humility quite
new to him, as he dropped his eyes and absently wound Jo’s apron tassel
round his finger.

“Mercy on us, this will never do,” thought Jo, adding aloud, “Go and
sing to me. I’m dying for some music, and always like yours.”

“I’d rather stay here, thank you.”

“Well, you can’t, there isn’t room. Go and make yourself useful, since
you are too big to be ornamental. I thought you hated to be tied to a
woman’s apron string?” retorted Jo, quoting certain rebellious words of
his own.

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

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

He fled at once, and the minute it was well, “Up with the bonnets of
bonnie Dundee,” she slipped away to return no more till the young
gentleman departed in high dudgeon.

Jo lay long awake that night, and was just dropping off when the sound
of a stifled sob made her fly to Beth’s bedside, with the anxious
inquiry, “What is it, dear?”

“I thought you were asleep,” sobbed Beth.

“Is it the old pain, my precious?”

“No, it’s a new one, but I can bear it,” and Beth tried to check her
tears.

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

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

“Where is it? Shall I call Mother?”

“No, no, don’t call her, don’t tell her. I shall be better soon. Lie
down here and ‘poor’ my head. I’ll be quiet and go to sleep, indeed I
will.”

Jo obeyed, but as her hand went softly to and fro across Beth’s hot
forehead and wet eyelids, her heart was very full and she longed to
speak. But young as she was, Jo had learned that hearts, like flowers,
cannot be rudely handled, but must open naturally, so though she
believed she knew the cause of Beth’s new pain, she only said, in her
tenderest tone, “Does anything trouble you, deary?”

“Yes, Jo,” after a long pause.

“Wouldn’t it comfort you to tell me what it is?”

“Not now, not yet.”

“Then I won’t ask, but remember, Bethy, that Mother and Jo are always
glad to hear and help you, if they can.”

“I know it. I’ll tell you by-and-by.”

“Is the pain better now?”

“Oh, yes, much better, you are so comfortable, Jo.”

“Go to sleep, dear. I’ll stay with you.”

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

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

“You asked me the other day what my wishes were. I’ll tell you one of
them, Marmee,” she began, as they sat along together. “I want to go
away somewhere this winter for a change.”

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

With her eyes on her work Jo answered soberly, “I want something new. I
feel restless and anxious to be seeing, doing, and learning more than I
am. I brood too much over my own small affairs, and need stirring up,
so as I can be spared this winter, I’d like to hop a little way and try
my wings.”

“Where will you hop?”

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

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

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

“Nor I. But your writing?”

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

“I have no doubt of it, but are these your only reasons for this sudden
fancy?”

“No, Mother.”

“May I know the others?”

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

“Then you don’t care for him in the way it is evident he begins to care
for you?” and Mrs. March looked anxious as she put the question.

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

“I’m glad of that, Jo.”

“Why, please?”

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

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

“You are sure of his feeling for you?”

The color deepened in Jo’s cheeks as she answered, with the look of
mingled pleasure, pride, and pain which young girls wear when speaking
of first lovers, “I’m afraid it is so, Mother. He hasn’t said anything,
but he looks a great deal. I think I had better go away before it comes
to anything.”

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

Jo looked relieved, and after a pause, said, smiling, “How Mrs. Moffat
would wonder at your want of management, if she knew, and how she will
rejoice that Annie may still hope.”

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

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

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

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

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

The plan was talked over in a family council and agreed upon, for Mrs.
Kirke gladly accepted Jo, and promised to make a pleasant home for her.
The teaching would render her independent, and such leisure as she got
might be made profitable by writing, while the new scenes and society
would be both useful and agreeable. Jo liked the prospect and was eager
to be gone, for the home nest was growing too narrow for her restless
nature and adventurous spirit. When all was settled, with fear and
trembling she told Laurie, but to her surprise he took it very quietly.
He had been graver than usual of late, but very pleasant, and when
jokingly accused of turning over a new leaf, he answered soberly, “So 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 then, and made her preparations with a lightened heart, for Beth
seemed more cheerful, and hoped she was doing the best for all.

“One thing I leave in your especial care,” she said, the night before
she left.

“You mean your papers?” asked Beth.

“No, my boy. Be very good to him, won’t you?”

“Of course I will, but I can’t fill your place, and he’ll miss you
sadly.”

“It won’t hurt him, so remember, I leave him in your charge, to plague,
pet, and keep in order.”

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

When Laurie said good-by, he whispered significantly, “It won’t do a
bit of good, Jo. My eye is on you, so mind what you do, or I’ll come
and bring you home.”

CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE
JO’S JOURNAL

New York, November

Dear Marmee and Beth,

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

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

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

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

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

As I went downstairs soon after, I saw something I liked. The flights
are very long in this tall house, and as I stood waiting at the head of
the third one for a little servant girl to lumber up, I saw a gentleman
come along behind her, take the heavy hod of coal out of her hand,
carry it all the way up, put it down at a door near by, and walk away,
saying, with a kind nod and a foreign accent, “It goes better so. The
little back is too young to haf such heaviness.”

Wasn’t it good of him? I like such things, for as Father says, trifles
show character. When I mentioned it to Mrs. K., that evening, she
laughed, and said, “That must have been Professor Bhaer, he’s always
doing things of that sort.”

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

After tea and a go-to-bed romp with the little girls, I attacked the
big workbasket, and had a quiet evening chatting with my new friend. I
shall keep a journal-letter, and send it once a week, so goodnight, and
more tomorrow.

Tuesday Eve

Had a lively time in my seminary this morning, for the children acted
like Sancho, and at one time I really thought I should shake them all
round. Some good angel inspired me to try gymnastics, and I kept it up
till they were glad to sit down and keep still. After luncheon, the
girl took them out for a walk, and I went to my needlework like little
Mabel ‘with a willing mind’. I was thanking my stars that I’d learned
to make nice buttonholes, when the parlor door opened and shut, and
someone began to hum, Kennst Du Das Land, like a big bumblebee. It was
dreadfully improper, I know, but I couldn’t resist the temptation, and
lifting one end of the curtain before the glass door, I peeped in.
Professor Bhaer was there, and while he arranged his books, I took a
good look at him. A regular German—rather stout, with brown hair
tumbled all over his head, a bushy beard, good nose, the kindest eyes I
ever saw, and a splendid big voice that does one’s ears good, after our
sharp or slipshod American gabble. His clothes were rusty, his hands
were large, and he hadn’t a really handsome feature in his face, except
his beautiful teeth, yet I liked him, for he had a fine head, his linen
was very nice, and he looked like a gentleman, though two buttons were
off his coat and there was a patch on one shoe. He looked sober in
spite of his humming, till he went to the window to turn the hyacinth
bulbs toward the sun, and stroke the cat, who received him like an old
friend. Then he smiled, and when a tap came at the door, called out in
a loud, brisk tone, “Herein!”

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

“Me wants me Bhaer,” said the mite, slamming down her book and running
to meet him.

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

“Now me mus tuddy my lessin,” went on the funny little thing. So he put
her up at the table, opened the great dictionary she had brought, and
gave her a paper and pencil, and she scribbled away, turning a leaf now
and then, and passing her little fat finger down the page, as if
finding a word, so soberly that I nearly betrayed myself by a laugh,
while Mr. Bhaer stood stroking her pretty hair with a fatherly look
that made me think she must be his own, though she looked more French
than German.

Another knock and the appearance of two young ladies sent me back to my
work, and there I virtuously remained through all the noise and
gabbling that went on next door. One of the girls kept laughing
affectedly, and saying, “Now Professor,” in a coquettish tone, and the
other pronounced her German with an accent that must have made it hard
for him to keep sober.

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

Poor man, I pitied him, and when the girls were gone, took just one
more peep to see if he survived it. He seemed to have thrown himself
back in his chair, tired out, and sat there with his eyes shut till the
clock struck two, when he jumped up, put his books in his pocket, as if
ready for another lesson, and taking little Tina who had fallen asleep
on the sofa in his arms, he carried her quietly away. I fancy he has a
hard life of it. Mrs. Kirke asked me if I wouldn’t go down to the five
o’clock dinner, and feeling a little bit homesick, I thought I would,
just to see what sort of people are under the same roof with me. So I
made myself respectable and tried to slip in behind Mrs. Kirke, but as
she is short and I’m tall, my efforts at concealment were rather a
failure. She gave me a seat by her, and after my face cooled off, I
plucked up courage and looked about me. The long table was full, and
every one intent on getting their dinner, the gentlemen especially, who
seemed to be eating on time, for they bolted in every sense of the
word, vanishing as soon as they were done. There was the usual
assortment of young men absorbed in themselves, young couples absorbed
in each other, married ladies in their babies, and old gentlemen in
politics. I don’t think I shall care to have much to do with any of
them, except one sweetfaced maiden lady, who looks as if she had
something in her.

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

As I went upstairs after dinner, two of the young men were settling
their hats before the hall mirror, and I heard one say low to the
other, “Who’s the new party?”

“Governess, or something of that sort.”

“What the deuce is she at our table for?”

“Friend of the old lady’s.”

“Handsome head, but no style.”

“Not a bit of it. Give us a light and come on.”

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

Thursday

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

The maiden lady is a Miss Norton, rich, cultivated, and kind. She spoke
to me at dinner today (for I went to table again, it’s such fun to
watch people), and asked me to come and see her at her room. She has
fine books and pictures, knows interesting persons, and seems friendly,
so I shall make myself agreeable, for I do want to get into good
society, only it isn’t the same sort that Amy likes.

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

“Yes, and she’s jolly and we like her lots,” added Kitty, who is an
‘enfant terrible’.

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

“Ah, yes, I hear these naughty ones go to vex you, Mees Marsch. If so
again, call at me and I come,” he said, with a threatening frown that
delighted the little wretches.

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

“You haf a fine day to make your walk. Bon voyage, Mademoiselle.”

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

Saturday

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

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

“We are playing nargerie,” explained Kitty.

“Dis is mine effalunt!” added Tina, holding on by the Professor’s hair.

“Mamma always allows us to do what we like Saturday afternoon, when
Franz and Emil come, doesn’t she, Mr. Bhaer?” said Minnie.

The ‘effalunt’ sat up, looking as much in earnest as any of them, and
said soberly to me, “I gif you my wort it is so, if we make too large a
noise you shall say Hush! to us, and we go more softly.”

I promised to do so, but left the door open and enjoyed the fun as much
as they did, for a more glorious frolic I never witnessed. They played
tag and soldiers, danced and sang, and when it began to grow dark they
all piled onto the sofa about the Professor, while he told charming
fairy stories of the storks on the chimney tops, and the little
‘koblods’, who ride the snowflakes as they fall. I wish Americans were
as simple and natural as Germans, don’t you?

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

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

DECEMBER

My Precious Betsey,

As this is to be a scribble-scrabble letter, I direct it to you, for it
may amuse you, and give you some idea of my goings on, for though
quiet, they are rather amusing, for which, oh, be joyful! After what
Amy would call Herculaneum efforts, in the way of mental and moral
agriculture, my young ideas begin to shoot and my little twigs to bend
as I could wish. They are not so interesting to me as Tina and the
boys, but I do my duty by them, and they are fond of me. Franz and Emil
are jolly little lads, quite after my own heart, for the mixture of
German and American spirit in them produces a constant state of
effervescence. Saturday afternoons are riotous times, whether spent in
the house or out, for on pleasant days they all go to walk, like a
seminary, with the Professor and myself to keep order, and then such
fun!

We are very good friends now, and I’ve begun to take lessons. I really
couldn’t help it, and 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 den, my dear? Just come and help me put these
books to rights, for I’ve turned everything upside down, trying to
discover what he has done with the six new handkerchiefs I gave him not
long ago.”

I went in, and while we worked I looked about me, for it was ‘a den’ to
be sure. Books and papers everywhere, a broken meerschaum, and an old
flute over the mantlepiece as if done with, a ragged bird without any
tail chirped on one window seat, and a box of white mice adorned the
other. Half-finished boats and bits of string lay among the
manuscripts. Dirty little boots stood drying before the fire, and
traces of the dearly beloved boys, for whom he makes a slave of
himself, were to be seen all over the room. After a grand rummage three
of the missing articles were found, one over the bird cage, one covered
with ink, and a third burned brown, having been used as a holder.

“Such a man!” laughed good-natured Mrs. K., as she put the relics in
the rag bag. “I suppose the others are torn up to rig ships, bandage
cut fingers, or make kite tails. It’s dreadful, but I can’t scold him.
He’s so absent-minded and goodnatured, he lets those boys ride over him
roughshod. I agreed to do his washing and mending, but he forgets to
give out his things and I forget to look them over, so he comes to a
sad pass sometimes.”

“Let me mend them,” said I. “I don’t mind it, and he needn’t know. I’d
like to, he’s so kind to me about bringing my letters and lending
books.”

So I have got his things in order, and knit heels into two pairs of the
socks, for they were boggled out of shape with his queer darns. Nothing
was said, and I hoped he wouldn’t find it out, but one day last week he
caught me at it. Hearing the lessons he gives to others has interested
and amused me so much that I took a fancy to learn, for Tina runs in
and out, leaving the door open, and I can hear. I had been sitting near
this door, finishing off the last sock, and trying to understand what
he said to a new scholar, who is as stupid as I am. The girl had gone,
and I thought he had also, it was so still, and I was busily gabbling
over a verb, and rocking to and fro in a most absurd way, when a little
crow made me look up, and there was Mr. Bhaer looking and laughing
quietly, while he made signs to Tina not to betray him.

“So!” he said, as I stopped and stared like a goose, “you peep at me, I
peep at you, and this is not bad, but see, I am not pleasanting when I
say, haf you a wish for German?”

“Yes, but you are too busy. I am too stupid to learn,” I blundered out,
as red as a peony.

“Prut! We will make the time, and we fail not to find the sense. At
efening I shall gif a little lesson with much gladness, for look you,
Mees Marsch, I haf this debt to pay.” And he pointed to my work ‘Yes,’
they say to one another, these so kind ladies, ‘he is a stupid old
fellow, he will see not what we do, he will never observe that his sock
heels go not in holes any more, he will think his buttons grow out new
when they fall, and believe that strings make theirselves.’ “Ah! But I
haf an eye, and I see much. I haf a heart, and I feel thanks for this.
Come, a little lesson then and now, or—no more good fairy works for me
and mine.”

Of course I couldn’t say anything after that, and as it really is a
splendid opportunity, I made the bargain, and we began. I took four
lessons, and then I stuck fast in a grammatical bog. The Professor was
very patient with me, but it must have been torment to him, and now and
then he’d look at me with such an expression of mild despair that it
was a toss-up with me whether to laugh or cry. I tried both ways, and
when it came to a sniff or utter mortification and woe, he just threw
the grammar on to the floor and marched out of the room. I felt myself
disgraced and deserted forever, but didn’t blame him a particle, and
was scrambling my papers together, meaning to rush upstairs and shake
myself hard, when in he came, as 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_ together, and dig no more in that dry book, that goes in the
corner for making us trouble.”

He spoke so kindly, and opened Hans Anderson’s fairy tales so
invitingly before me, that I was more ashamed than ever, and went at my
lesson in a neck-or-nothing style that seemed to amuse him immensely. I
forgot my bashfulness, and pegged away (no other word will express it)
with all my might, tumbling over long words, pronouncing according to
inspiration of the minute, and doing my very best. When I finished
reading my first page, and stopped for breath, he clapped his hands and
cried out in his hearty way, “Das ist gut! Now we go well! My turn. I
do him in German, gif me your ear.” And away he went, rumbling out the
words with his strong voice and a relish which was good to see as well
as hear. Fortunately the story was _The Constant Tin Soldier_, which is
droll, you know, so I could laugh, and I did, though I didn’t
understand half he read, for I couldn’t help it, he was so earnest, I
so excited, and the whole thing so comical.

After that we got on better, and now I read my lessons pretty well, for
this way of studying suits me, and I can see that the grammar gets
tucked into the tales and poetry as one gives pills in jelly. I like it
very much, and he doesn’t seem tired of it yet, which is very good of
him, isn’t it? I mean to give him something on Christmas, for I dare
not offer money. Tell me something nice, Marmee.

I’m glad Laurie seems so happy and busy, that he has given up smoking
and lets his hair grow. You see Beth manages him better than I did. I’m
not jealous, dear, do your best, only don’t make a saint of him. I’m
afraid I couldn’t like him without a spice of human naughtiness. Read
him bits of my letters. I haven’t time to write much, and that will do
just as well. Thank Heaven Beth continues so comfortable.

JANUARY

A Happy New Year to you all, my dearest family, which of course
includes Mr. L. and a young man by the name of Teddy. I can’t tell you
how much I enjoyed your Christmas bundle, for I didn’t get it till
night and had given up hoping. Your letter came in the morning, but you
said nothing about a parcel, meaning it for a surprise, so I was
disappointed, for I’d had a ‘kind of feeling’ that you wouldn’t forget
me. I felt a little low in my mind as I sat up in my room after tea,
and when the big, muddy, battered-looking bundle was brought to me, I
just hugged it and pranced. It was so homey and refreshing that I sat
down on the floor and read and looked and ate and laughed and cried, in
my usual absurd way. The things were just what I wanted, and all the
better for being made instead of bought. Beth’s new ‘ink bib’ was
capital, and Hannah’s box of hard gingerbread will be a treasure. I’ll
be sure and wear the nice flannels you sent, Marmee, and read carefully
the books Father has marked. Thank you all, heaps and heaps!

Speaking of books reminds me that I’m getting rich in that line, for on
New Year’s Day Mr. Bhaer gave me a fine Shakespeare. It is one he
values much, and I’ve often admired it, set up in the place of honor
with his German Bible, Plato, Homer, and Milton, so you may imagine how
I felt when he brought it down, without its cover, and showed me my own
name in it, “from my friend Friedrich Bhaer”.

“You say often you wish a library. Here I gif you one, for between
these lids (he meant covers) is many books in one. Read him well, and
he will help you much, for the study of character in this book will
help you to read it in the world and paint it with your pen.”

I thanked him as well as I could, and talk now about ‘my library’, as
if I had a hundred books. I never knew how much there was in
Shakespeare before, but then I never had a Bhaer to explain it to me.
Now don’t laugh at his horrid name. It isn’t pronounced either Bear or
Beer, as people will say it, but something between the two, as only
Germans can give it. I’m glad you both like what I tell you about him,
and hope you will know him some day. Mother would admire his warm
heart, Father his wise head. I admire both, and feel rich in my new
‘friend Friedrich Bhaer’.

Not having much money, or knowing what he’d like, I got several little
things, and put them about the room, where he would find them
unexpectedly. They were useful, pretty, or funny, a new standish on his
table, a little vase for his flower, he always has one, or a bit of
green in a glass, to keep him fresh, he says, and a holder for his
blower, so that he needn’t burn up what Amy calls ‘mouchoirs’. I made
it like those Beth invented, a big butterfly with a fat body, and black
and yellow wings, worsted feelers, and bead eyes. It took his fancy
immensely, and he put it on his mantlepiece as an article of virtue, so
it was rather a failure after all. Poor as he is, he didn’t forget a
servant or a child in the house, and not a soul here, from the French
laundrywoman to Miss Norton forgot him. I was so glad of that.

They got up a masquerade, and had a gay time New Year’s Eve. I didn’t
mean to go down, having no dress. But at the last minute, Mrs. Kirke
remembered some old brocades, and Miss Norton lent me lace and
feathers. So I dressed up as Mrs. Malaprop, and sailed in with a mask
on. No one knew me, for I disguised my voice, and no one dreamed of the
silent, haughty Miss March (for they think I am very stiff and cool,
most of them, and so I am to whippersnappers) could dance and dress,
and burst out into a ‘nice derangement of epitaphs, like an allegory on
the banks of the Nile’. I enjoyed it very much, and when we unmasked it
was fun to see them stare at me. I heard one of the young men tell
another that he knew I’d been an actress, in fact, he thought he
remembered seeing me at one of the minor theaters. Meg will relish that
joke. Mr. Bhaer was Nick Bottom, and Tina was Titania, a perfect little
fairy in his arms. To see them dance was ‘quite a landscape’, to use a
Teddyism.

I had a very happy New Year, after all, and when I thought it over in
my room, I felt as if I was getting on a little in spite of my many
failures, for I’m cheerful all the time now, work with a will, and take
more interest in other people than I used to, which is satisfactory.
Bless you all! Ever your loving... Jo

CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR
FRIEND

Though very happy in the social atmosphere about her, and very busy
with the daily work that earned her bread and made it sweeter for the
effort, Jo still found time for literary labors. The purpose which now
took possession of her was a natural one to a poor and ambitious girl,
but the means she took to gain her end were not the best. She saw that
money conferred power, money and power, therefore, she resolved to
have, not to be used for herself alone, but for those whom she loved
more than life. The dream of filling home with comforts, giving Beth
everything she wanted, from strawberries in winter to an organ in her
bedroom, going abroad herself, and always having more than enough, so
that she might indulge in the luxury of charity, had been for years
Jo’s most cherished castle in the air.

The prize-story experience had seemed to open a way which might, after
long traveling and much uphill work, lead to this delightful chateau en
Espagne. But the novel disaster quenched her courage for a time, for
public opinion is a giant which has frightened stouter-hearted Jacks on
bigger beanstalks than hers. Like that immortal hero, she reposed
awhile after the fi

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