Tantissimi classici della letteratura e della cultura politica,
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Abbe Prevost - MANON LESCAUT
Alcott, Louisa M. - AN OLDFASHIONED GIRL
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE MEN
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE WOMEN
Alcott, Louisa May - JACK AND JILL
Alcott, Louisa May - LIFE LETTERS AND JOURNALS
Andersen, Hans Christian - FAIRY TALES
Anonimo - BEOWULF
Ariosto, Ludovico - ORLANDO ENRAGED
Aurelius, Marcus - MEDITATIONS
Austen, Jane - EMMA
Austen, Jane - MANSFIELD PARK
Austen, Jane - NORTHANGER ABBEY
Austen, Jane - PERSUASION
Austen, Jane - PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Austen, Jane - SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
Authors, Various - LETTERS OF ABELARD AND HELOISE
Authors, Various - SELECTED ENGLISH LETTERS
Autori Vari - THE WORLD ENGLISH BIBLE
Bacon, Francis - THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING
Balzac, Honore de - EUGENIE GRANDET
Balzac, Honore de - FATHER GORIOT
Baroness Orczy - THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
Barrie, J. M. - PETER AND WENDY
Barrie, James M. - PETER PAN
Bierce, Ambrose - THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY
Blake, William - SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE
Boccaccio, Giovanni - DECAMERONE
Brent, Linda - INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL
Bronte, Charlotte - JANE EYRE
Bronte, Charlotte - VILLETTE
Buchan, John - GREENMANTLE
Buchan, John - MR STANDFAST
Buchan, John - THE 39 STEPS
Bunyan, John - THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS
Burckhardt, Jacob - THE CIVILIZATION OF THE RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
Burnett, Frances H. - A LITTLE PRINCESS
Burnett, Frances H. - LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY
Burnett, Frances H. - THE SECRET GARDEN
Butler, Samuel - EREWHON
Carlyle, Thomas - PAST AND PRESENT
Carlyle, Thomas - THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
Cellini, Benvenuto - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Cervantes - DON QUIXOTE
Chaucer, Geoffrey - THE CANTERBURY TALES
Chesterton, G. K. - A SHORT HISTORY OF ENGLAND
Chesterton, G. K. - THE BALLAD OF THE WHITE HORSE
Chesterton, G. K. - THE INNOCENCE OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY
Chesterton, G. K. - THE WISDOM OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - TWELVE TYPES
Chesterton, G. K. - WHAT I SAW IN AMERICA
Chesterton, Gilbert K. - HERETICS
Chopin, Kate - AT FAULT
Chopin, Kate - BAYOU FOLK
Chopin, Kate - THE AWAKENING AND SELECTED SHORT STORIES
Clark Hall, John R. - A CONCISE ANGLOSAXON DICTIONARY
Clarkson, Thomas - AN ESSAY ON THE SLAVERY AND COMMERCE OF THE HUMAN SPECIES
Clausewitz, Carl von - ON WAR
Coleridge, Herbert - A DICTIONARY OF THE FIRST OR OLDEST WORDS IN THE ENGLISH
Coleridge, S. T. - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Coleridge, S. T. - HINTS TOWARDS THE FORMATION OF A MORE COMPREHENSIVE THEORY
Coleridge, S. T. - THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER
Collins, Wilkie - THE MOONSTONE
Collodi - PINOCCHIO
Conan Doyle, Arthur - A STUDY IN SCARLET
Conan Doyle, Arthur - MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE SIGN OF THE FOUR
Conrad, Joseph - HEART OF DARKNESS
Conrad, Joseph - LORD JIM
Conrad, Joseph - NOSTROMO
Conrad, Joseph - THE NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS
Conrad, Joseph - TYPHOON
Crane, Stephen - LAST WORDS
Crane, Stephen - MAGGIE
Crane, Stephen - THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE
Crane, Stephen - WOUNDS IN THE RAIN
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: HELL
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PARADISE
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PURGATORY
Darwin, Charles - THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CHARLES DARWIN
Darwin, Charles - THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES
Defoe, Daniel - A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE PYRATES
Defoe, Daniel - A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR
Defoe, Daniel - CAPTAIN SINGLETON
Defoe, Daniel - MOLL FLANDERS
Defoe, Daniel - ROBINSON CRUSOE
Defoe, Daniel - THE COMPLETE ENGLISH TRADESMAN
Defoe, Daniel - THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE
Deledda, Grazia - AFTER THE DIVORCE
Dickens, Charles - A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Dickens, Charles - A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Dickens, Charles - BLEAK HOUSE
Dickens, Charles - DAVID COPPERFIELD
Dickens, Charles - DONBEY AND SON
Dickens, Charles - GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Dickens, Charles - HARD TIMES
Dickens, Charles - LETTERS VOLUME 1
Dickens, Charles - LITTLE DORRIT
Dickens, Charles - MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT
Dickens, Charles - NICHOLAS NICKLEBY
Dickens, Charles - OLIVER TWIST
Dickens, Charles - OUR MUTUAL FRIEND
Dickens, Charles - PICTURES FROM ITALY
Dickens, Charles - THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD
Dickens, Charles - THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Dickens, Charles - THE PICKWICK PAPERS
Dickinson, Emily - POEMS
Dostoevsky, Fyodor - CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV
Du Maurier, George - TRILBY
Dumas, Alexandre - THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
Dumas, Alexandre - THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK
Dumas, Alexandre - THE THREE MUSKETEERS
Eliot, George - DANIEL DERONDA
Eliot, George - MIDDLEMARCH
Eliot, George - SILAS MARNER
Eliot, George - THE MILL ON THE FLOSS
Engels, Frederick - THE CONDITION OF THE WORKING-CLASS IN ENGLAND IN 1844
Equiano - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Esopo - FABLES
Fenimore Cooper, James - THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
Fielding, Henry - TOM JONES
France, Anatole - THAIS
France, Anatole - THE GODS ARE ATHIRST
France, Anatole - THE LIFE OF JOAN OF ARC
France, Anatole - THE SEVEN WIVES OF BLUEBEARD
Frank Baum, L. - THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ
Frank Baum, L. - THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
Franklin, Benjamin - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Frazer, James George - THE GOLDEN BOUGH
Freud, Sigmund - DREAM PSYCHOLOGY
Galsworthy, John - COMPLETE PLAYS
Galsworthy, John - STRIFE
Galsworthy, John - STUDIES AND ESSAYS
Galsworthy, John - THE FIRST AND THE LAST
Galsworthy, John - THE FORSYTE SAGA
Galsworthy, John - THE LITTLE MAN
Galsworthy, John - THE SILVER BOX
Galsworthy, John - THE SKIN GAME
Gaskell, Elizabeth - CRANFORD
Gaskell, Elizabeth - MARY BARTON
Gaskell, Elizabeth - NORTH AND SOUTH
Gaskell, Elizabeth - THE LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE
Gay, John - THE BEGGAR'S OPERA
Gentile, Maria - THE ITALIAN COOK BOOK
Gilbert and Sullivan - PLAYS
Goethe - FAUST
Gogol - DEAD SOULS
Goldsmith, Oliver - SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER
Goldsmith, Oliver - THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD
Grahame, Kenneth - THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Grimm, Brothers - FAIRY TALES
Harding, A. R. - GINSENG AND OTHER MEDICINAL PLANTS
Hardy, Thomas - A CHANGED MAN AND OTHER TALES
Hardy, Thomas - FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
Hardy, Thomas - JUDE THE OBSCURE
Hardy, Thomas - TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES
Hardy, Thomas - THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE
Hartley, Cecil B. - THE GENTLEMEN'S BOOK OF ETIQUETTE
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - LITTLE MASTERPIECES
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - THE SCARLET LETTER
Henry VIII - LOVE LETTERS TO ANNE BOLEYN
Henry, O. - CABBAGES AND KINGS
Henry, O. - SIXES AND SEVENS
Henry, O. - THE FOUR MILLION
Henry, O. - THE TRIMMED LAMP
Henry, O. - WHIRLIGIGS
Hindman Miller, Gustavus - TEN THOUSAND DREAMS INTERPRETED
Hobbes, Thomas - LEVIATHAN
Homer - THE ILIAD
Homer - THE ODYSSEY
Hornaday, William T. - THE EXTERMINATION OF THE AMERICAN BISON
Hume, David - A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE
Hume, David - AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING
Hume, David - DIALOGUES CONCERNING NATURAL RELIGION
Ibsen, Henrik - A DOLL'S HOUSE
Ibsen, Henrik - AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE
Ibsen, Henrik - GHOSTS
Ibsen, Henrik - HEDDA GABLER
Ibsen, Henrik - JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN
Ibsen, Henrik - ROSMERHOLM
Ibsen, Henrik - THE LADY FROM THE SEA
Ibsen, Henrik - THE MASTER BUILDER
Ibsen, Henrik - WHEN WE DEAD AWAKEN
Irving, Washington - THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
James, Henry - ITALIAN HOURS
James, Henry - THE ASPERN PAPERS
James, Henry - THE BOSTONIANS
James, Henry - THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY
James, Henry - THE TURN OF THE SCREW
James, Henry - WASHINGTON SQUARE
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN IN A BOAT
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN ON THE BUMMEL
Jevons, Stanley - POLITICAL ECONOMY
Johnson, Samuel - A GRAMMAR OF THE ENGLISH TONGUE
Jonson, Ben - THE ALCHEMIST
Jonson, Ben - VOLPONE
Joyce, James - A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN
Joyce, James - CHAMBER MUSIC
Joyce, James - DUBLINERS
Joyce, James - ULYSSES
Keats, John - ENDYMION
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1817
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1820
King James - THE BIBLE
Kipling, Rudyard - CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS
Kipling, Rudyard - INDIAN TALES
Kipling, Rudyard - JUST SO STORIES
Kipling, Rudyard - KIM
Kipling, Rudyard - THE JUNGLE BOOK
Kipling, Rudyard - THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
Kipling, Rudyard - THE SECOND JUNGLE BOOK
Lawrence, D. H - THE RAINBOW
Lawrence, D. H - THE WHITE PEACOCK
Lawrence, D. H - TWILIGHT IN ITALY
Lawrence, D. H. - AARON'S ROD
Lawrence, D. H. - SONS AND LOVERS
Lawrence, D. H. - THE LOST GIRL
Lawrence, D. H. - WOMEN IN LOVE
Lear, Edward - BOOK OF NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - LAUGHABLE LYRICS
Lear, Edward - MORE NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - NONSENSE SONG
Leblanc, Maurice - ARSENE LUPIN VS SHERLOCK HOLMES
Leblanc, Maurice - THE ADVENTURES OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE CONFESSIONS OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE HOLLOW NEEDLE
Leblanc, Maurice - THE RETURN OF ARSENE LUPIN
Lehmann, Lilli - HOW TO SING
Leroux, Gaston - THE MAN WITH THE BLACK FEATHER
Leroux, Gaston - THE MYSTERY OF THE YELLOW ROOM
Leroux, Gaston - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
London, Jack - MARTIN EDEN
London, Jack - THE CALL OF THE WILD
London, Jack - WHITE FANG
Machiavelli, Nicolo' - THE PRINCE
Malthus, Thomas - PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION
Mansfield, Katherine - THE GARDEN PARTY AND OTHER STORIES
Marlowe, Christopher - THE JEW OF MALTA
Marryat, Captain - THE CHILDREN OF THE NEW FOREST
Maupassant, Guy De - BEL AMI
Melville, Hermann - MOBY DICK
Melville, Hermann - TYPEE
Mill, John Stuart - PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY
Milton, John - PARADISE LOST
Mitra, S. M. - HINDU TALES FROM THE SANSKRIT
Montaigne, Michel de - ESSAYS
Montgomery, Lucy Maud - ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
More, Thomas - UTOPIA
Nesbit, E. - FIVE CHILDREN AND IT
Nesbit, E. - THE PHOENIX AND THE CARPET
Nesbit, E. - THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
Nesbit, E. - THE STORY OF THE AMULET
Newton, Isaac - OPTICKS
Nietsche, Friedrich - BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
Nietsche, Friedrich - THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA
Nightingale, Florence - NOTES ON NURSING
Owen, Wilfred - POEMS
Ozaki, Yei Theodora - JAPANESE FAIRY TALES
Pascal, Blaise - PENSEES
Pellico, Silvio - MY TEN YEARS IMPRISONMENT
Perrault, Charles - FAIRY TALES
Pirandello, Luigi - THREE PLAYS
Plato - THE REPUBLIC
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 1
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 2
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 3
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 4
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 5
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
Potter, Beatrix - THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT
Proust, Marcel - SWANN'S WAY
Radcliffe, Ann - A SICILIAN ROMANCE
Ricardo, David - ON THE PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY AND TAXATION
Richardson, Samuel - PAMELA
Rider Haggard, H. - ALLAN QUATERMAIN
Rider Haggard, H. - KING SOLOMON'S MINES
Rousseau, J. J. - THE ORIGIN AND FOUNDATION OF INEQUALITY AMONG MANKIND
Ruskin, John - THE SEVEN LAMPS OF ARCHITECTURE
Schiller, Friedrich - THE DEATH OF WALLENSTEIN
Schiller, Friedrich - THE PICCOLOMINI
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE ART OF CONTROVERSY
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE WISDOM OF LIFE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - FLAPPERS AND PHILOSOPHERS
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THIS SIDE OF PARADISE
Scott, Walter - IVANHOE
Scott, Walter - QUENTIN DURWARD
Scott, Walter - ROB ROY
Scott, Walter - THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR
Scott, Walter - WAVERLEY
Sedgwick, Anne Douglas - THE THIRD WINDOW
Sewell, Anna - BLACK BEAUTY
Shakespeare, William - COMPLETE WORKS
Shakespeare, William - HAMLET
Shakespeare, William - OTHELLO
Shakespeare, William - ROMEO AND JULIET
Shelley, Mary - FRANKENSTEIN
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - A DEFENCE OF POETRY AND OTHER ESSAYS
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Sheridan, Richard B. - THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
Sienkiewicz, Henryk - QUO VADIS
Smith, Adam - THE WEALTH OF NATIONS
Smollett, Tobias - TRAVELS THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY
Spencer, Herbert - ESSAYS ON EDUCATION AND KINDRED SUBJECTS
Spyri, Johanna - HEIDI
Sterne, Laurence - A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY
Sterne, Laurence - TRISTRAM SHANDY
Stevenson, Robert Louis - A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES
Stevenson, Robert Louis - ESSAYS IN THE ART OF WRITING
Stevenson, Robert Louis - KIDNAPPED
Stevenson, Robert Louis - NEW ARABIAN NIGHTS
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE BLACK ARROW
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
Stevenson, Robert Louis - TREASURE ISLAND
Stoker, Bram - DRACULA
Strindberg, August - LUCKY PEHR
Strindberg, August - MASTER OLOF
Strindberg, August - THE RED ROOM
Strindberg, August - THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS
Strindberg, August - THERE ARE CRIMES AND CRIMES
Swift, Jonathan - A MODEST PROPOSAL
Swift, Jonathan - A TALE OF A TUB
Swift, Jonathan - GULLIVER'S TRAVELS
Swift, Jonathan - THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS AND OTHER SHORT PIECES
Tagore, Rabindranath - FRUIT GATHERING
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE GARDENER
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE HUNGRY STONES AND OTHER STORIES
Thackeray, William - BARRY LYNDON
Thackeray, William - VANITY FAIR
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE BOOK OF SNOBS
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE ROSE AND THE RING
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE VIRGINIANS
Thoreau, Henry David - WALDEN
Tolstoi, Leo - A LETTER TO A HINDU
Tolstoy, Lev - ANNA KARENINA
Tolstoy, Lev - WAR AND PEACE
Trollope, Anthony - AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Trollope, Anthony - BARCHESTER TOWERS
Trollope, Anthony - FRAMLEY PARSONAGE
Trollope, Anthony - THE EUSTACE DIAMONDS
Trollope, Anthony - THE MAN WHO KEPT HIS MONEY IN A BOX
Trollope, Anthony - THE WARDEN
Trollope, Anthony - THE WAY WE LIVE NOW
Twain, Mark - LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI
Twain, Mark - SPEECHES
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
Twain, Mark - THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER
Vari, Autori - THE MAGNA CARTA
Verga, Giovanni - SICILIAN STORIES
Verne, Jules - 20000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEAS
Verne, Jules - A JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH
Verne, Jules - ALL AROUND THE MOON
Verne, Jules - AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
Verne, Jules - FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON
Verne, Jules - FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON
Verne, Jules - MICHAEL STROGOFF
Verne, Jules - THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
Voltaire - PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY
Vyasa - MAHABHARATA
Wallace, Edgar - SANDERS OF THE RIVER
Wallace, Edgar - THE DAFFODIL MYSTERY
Wallace, Lew - BEN HUR
Webster, Jean - DADDY LONG LEGS
Wedekind, Franz - THE AWAKENING OF SPRING
Wells, H. G. - KIPPS
Wells, H. G. - THE INVISIBLE MAN
Wells, H. G. - THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU
Wells, H. G. - THE STOLEN BACILLUS AND OTHER INCIDENTS
Wells, H. G. - THE TIME MACHINE
Wells, H. G. - THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
Wells, H. G. - WHAT IS COMING
Wharton, Edith - THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
White, Andrew Dickson - FIAT MONEY INFLATION IN FRANCE
Wilde, Oscar - A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
Wilde, Oscar - AN IDEAL HUSBAND
Wilde, Oscar - DE PROFUNDIS
Wilde, Oscar - LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN
Wilde, Oscar - SALOME
Wilde, Oscar - SELECTED POEMS
Wilde, Oscar - THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL
Wilde, Oscar - THE CANTERVILLE GHOST
Wilde, Oscar - THE HAPPY PRINCE AND OTHER TALES
Wilde, Oscar - THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
Wilde, Oscar - THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY
Wilde, Oscar - THE SOUL OF MAN
Wilson, Epiphanius - SACRED BOOKS OF THE EAST
Wollstonecraft, Mary - A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN
Woolf, Virgina - NIGHT AND DAY
Woolf, Virgina - THE VOYAGE OUT
Woolf, Virginia - JACOB'S ROOM
Woolf, Virginia - MONDAY OR TUESDAY
Wordsworth, William - POEMS
Wordsworth, William - PROSE WORKS
Zola, Emile - THERESE RAQUIN
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ISTRUZIONI D'USO DETTAGLIATE
by Louisa May Alcott.
"Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents," grumbled Jo, lying
on the rug.
"It's so dreadful to be poor!" sighed Meg, looking down at her old
"I don't think it's fair for some girls to have plenty of pretty
things, and other girls nothing at all," added little Amy, with an
"We've got Father and Mother, and each other," said Beth contentedly
from her corner.
The four young faces on which the firelight shone brightened at the
cheerful words, but darkened again as Jo said sadly, "We haven't got
Father, and shall not have him for a long time." She didn't say
"perhaps never," but each silently added it, thinking of Father far
away, where the fighting was.
Nobody spoke for a minute; then Meg said in an altered tone, "You know
the reason Mother proposed not having any presents this Christmas was
because it is going to be a hard winter for everyone; and she thinks we
ought not to spend money for pleasure, when our men are suffering so in
the army. We can't do much, but we can make our little sacrifices, and
ought to do it gladly. But I am afraid I don't," and Meg shook her
head, as she thought regretfully of all the pretty things she wanted.
"But I don't think the little we should spend would do any good. We've
each got a dollar, and the army wouldn't be much helped by our giving
that. I agree not to expect anything from Mother or you, but I do want
to buy "Undine and Sintran" for myself. I've wanted it so long," said
Jo, who was a bookworm.
"I planned to spend mine in new music," said Beth, with a little sigh,
which no one heard but the hearth brush and kettle-holder.
"I shall get a nice box of Faber's drawing pencils; I really need
them," said Amy decidedly.
"Mother didn't say anything about our money, and she won't wish us to
give up everything. Let's each buy what we want, and have a little
fun; I'm sure we work hard enough to earn it," cried Jo, examining the
heels of her shoes in a gentlemanly manner.
"I know I do--teaching those tiresome children nearly all day, when I'm
longing to enjoy myself at home," began Meg, in the complaining tone
"You don't have half such a hard time as I do," said Jo. "How would you
like to be shut up for hours with a nervous, fussy old lady, who keeps
you trotting, is never satisfied, and worries you till you're ready to
fly out the window or cry?"
"It's naughty to fret, but I do think washing dishes and keeping things
tidy is the worst work in the world. It makes me cross, and my hands
get so stiff, I can't practice well at all." And Beth looked at her
rough hands with a sigh that any one could hear that time.
"I don't believe any of you suffer as I do," cried Amy, "for you don't
have to go to school with impertinent girls, who plague you if you
don't know your lessons, and laugh at your dresses, and label your
father if he isn't rich, and insult you when your nose isn't nice."
"If you mean libel, I'd say so, and not talk about labels, as if Papa
was a pickle bottle," advised Jo, laughing.
"I know what I mean, and you needn't be statirical about it. It's
proper to use good words, and improve your vocabilary," returned Amy,
"Don't peck at one another, children. Don't you wish we had the money
Papa lost when we were little, Jo? Dear me! How happy and good we'd
be, if we had no worries!" said Meg, who could remember better times.
"You said the other day you thought we were a deal happier than the
King children, for they were fighting and fretting all the time, in
spite of their money."
"So I did, Beth. Well, I think we are. For though we do have to work,
we make fun of ourselves, and are a pretty jolly set, as Jo would say."
"Jo does use such slang words!" observed Amy, with a reproving look at
the long figure stretched on the rug.
Jo immediately sat up, put her hands in her pockets, and began to
"Don't, Jo. It's so boyish!"
"That's why I do it."
"I detest rude, unladylike girls!"
"I hate affected, niminy-piminy chits!"
"Birds in their little nests agree," sang Beth, the peacemaker, with
such a funny face that both sharp voices softened to a laugh, and the
"pecking" ended for that time.
"Really, girls, you are both to be blamed," said Meg, beginning to
lecture in her elder-sisterly fashion. "You are old enough to leave off
boyish tricks, and to behave better, Josephine. It didn't matter so
much when you were a little girl, but now you are so tall, and turn up
your hair, you should remember that you are a young lady."
"I'm not! And if turning up my hair makes me one, I'll wear it in two
tails till I'm twenty," cried Jo, pulling off her net, and shaking down
a chestnut mane. "I hate to think I've got to grow up, and be Miss
March, and wear long gowns, and look as prim as a China Aster! It's
bad enough to be a girl, anyway, when I like boy's games and work and
manners! I can't get over my disappointment in not being a boy. And
it's worse than ever now, for I'm dying to go and fight with Papa. And
I can only stay home and knit, like a poky old woman!"
And Jo shook the blue army sock till the needles rattled like
castanets, and her ball bounded across the room.
"Poor Jo! It's too bad, but it can't be helped. So you must try to be
contented with making your name boyish, and playing brother to us
girls," said Beth, stroking the rough head with a hand that all the
dish washing and dusting in the world could not make ungentle in its
"As for you, Amy," continued Meg, "you are altogether too particular
and prim. Your airs are funny now, but you'll grow up an affected
little goose, if you don't take care. I like your nice manners and
refined ways of speaking, when you don't try to be elegant. But your
absurd words are as bad as Jo's slang."
"If Jo is a tomboy and Amy a goose, what am I, please?" asked Beth,
ready to share the lecture.
"You're a dear, and nothing else," answered Meg warmly, and no one
contradicted her, for the 'Mouse' was the pet of the family.
As young readers like to know 'how people look', we will take this
moment to give them a little sketch of the four sisters, who sat
knitting away in the twilight, while the December snow fell quietly
without, and the fire crackled cheerfully within. It was a comfortable
room, though the carpet was faded and the furniture very plain, for a
good picture or two hung on the walls, books filled the recesses,
chrysanthemums and Christmas roses bloomed in the windows, and a
pleasant atmosphere of home peace pervaded it.
Margaret, the eldest of the four, was sixteen, and very pretty, being
plump and fair, with large eyes, plenty of soft brown hair, a sweet
mouth, and white hands, of which she was rather vain. Fifteen-year-old
Jo was very tall, thin, and brown, and reminded one of a colt, for she
never seemed to know what to do with her long limbs, which were very
much in her way. She had a decided mouth, a comical nose, and sharp,
gray eyes, which appeared to see everything, and were by turns fierce,
funny, or thoughtful. Her long, thick hair was her one beauty, but it
was usually bundled into a net, to be out of her way. Round shoulders
had Jo, big hands and feet, a flyaway look to her clothes, and the
uncomfortable appearance of a girl who was rapidly shooting up into a
woman and didn't like it. Elizabeth, or Beth, as everyone called her,
was a rosy, smooth-haired, bright-eyed girl of thirteen, with a shy
manner, a timid voice, and a peaceful expression which was seldom
disturbed. Her father called her 'Little Miss Tranquility', and the
name suited her excellently, for she seemed to live in a happy world of
her own, only venturing out to meet the few whom she trusted and loved.
Amy, though the youngest, was a most important person, in her own
opinion at least. A regular snow maiden, with blue eyes, and yellow
hair curling on her shoulders, pale and slender, and always carrying
herself like a young lady mindful of her manners. What the characters
of the four sisters were we will leave to be found out.
The clock struck six and, having swept up the hearth, Beth put a pair
of slippers down to warm. Somehow the sight of the old shoes had a
good effect upon the girls, for Mother was coming, and everyone
brightened to welcome her. Meg stopped lecturing, and lighted the
lamp, Amy got out of the easy chair without being asked, and Jo forgot
how tired she was as she sat up to hold the slippers nearer to the
"They are quite worn out. Marmee must have a new pair."
"I thought I'd get her some with my dollar," said Beth.
"No, I shall!" cried Amy.
"I'm the oldest," began Meg, but Jo cut in with a decided, "I'm the man
of the family now Papa is away, and I shall provide the slippers, for
he told me to take special care of Mother while he was gone."
"I'll tell you what we'll do," said Beth, "let's each get her something
for Christmas, and not get anything for ourselves."
"That's like you, dear! What will we get?" exclaimed Jo.
Everyone thought soberly for a minute, then Meg announced, as if the
idea was suggested by the sight of her own pretty hands, "I shall give
her a nice pair of gloves."
"Army shoes, best to be had," cried Jo.
"Some handkerchiefs, all hemmed," said Beth.
"I'll get a little bottle of cologne. She likes it, and it won't cost
much, so I'll have some left to buy my pencils," added Amy.
"How will we give the things?" asked Meg.
"Put them on the table, and bring her in and see her open the bundles.
Don't you remember how we used to do on our birthdays?" answered Jo.
"I used to be so frightened when it was my turn to sit in the chair
with the crown on, and see you all come marching round to give the
presents, with a kiss. I liked the things and the kisses, but it was
dreadful to have you sit looking at me while I opened the bundles,"
said Beth, who was toasting her face and the bread for tea at the same
"Let Marmee think we are getting things for ourselves, and then
surprise her. We must go shopping tomorrow afternoon, Meg. There is so
much to do about the play for Christmas night," said Jo, marching up
and down, with her hands behind her back, and her nose in the air.
"I don't mean to act any more after this time. I'm getting too old for
such things," observed Meg, who was as much a child as ever about
"You won't stop, I know, as long as you can trail round in a white gown
with your hair down, and wear gold-paper jewelry. You are the best
actress we've got, and there'll be an end of everything if you quit the
boards," said Jo. "We ought to rehearse tonight. Come here, Amy, and
do the fainting scene, for you are as stiff as a poker in that."
"I can't help it. I never saw anyone faint, and I don't choose to make
myself all black and blue, tumbling flat as you do. If I can go down
easily, I'll drop. If I can't, I shall fall into a chair and be
graceful. I don't care if Hugo does come at me with a pistol,"
returned Amy, who was not gifted with dramatic power, but was chosen
because she was small enough to be borne out shrieking by the villain
of the piece.
"Do it this way. Clasp your hands so, and stagger across the room,
crying frantically, 'Roderigo! Save me! Save me!'" and away went Jo,
with a melodramatic scream which was truly thrilling.
Amy followed, but she poked her hands out stiffly before her, and
jerked herself along as if she went by machinery, and her "Ow!" was
more suggestive of pins being run into her than of fear and anguish.
Jo gave a despairing groan, and Meg laughed outright, while Beth let
her bread burn as she watched the fun with interest. "It's no use! Do
the best you can when the time comes, and if the audience laughs, don't
blame me. Come on, Meg."
Then things went smoothly, for Don Pedro defied the world in a speech
of two pages without a single break. Hagar, the witch, chanted an
awful incantation over her kettleful of simmering toads, with weird
effect. Roderigo rent his chains asunder manfully, and Hugo died in
agonies of remorse and arsenic, with a wild, "Ha! Ha!"
"It's the best we've had yet," said Meg, as the dead villain sat up and
rubbed his elbows.
"I don't see how you can write and act such splendid things, Jo.
You're a regular Shakespeare!" exclaimed Beth, who firmly believed that
her sisters were gifted with wonderful genius in all things.
"Not quite," replied Jo modestly. "I do think "The Witches Curse, an
Operatic Tragedy" is rather a nice thing, but I'd like to try
"Macbeth", if we only had a trapdoor for Banquo. I always wanted to do
the killing part. 'Is that a dagger that I see before me?" muttered
Jo, rolling her eyes and clutching at the air, as she had seen a famous
"No, it's the toasting fork, with Mother's shoe on it instead of the
bread. Beth's stage-struck!" cried Meg, and the rehearsal ended in a
general burst of laughter.
"Glad to find you so merry, my girls," said a cheery voice at the door,
and actors and audience turned to welcome a tall, motherly lady with a
'can I help you' look about her which was truly delightful. She was not
elegantly dressed, but a noble-looking woman, and the girls thought the
gray cloak and unfashionable bonnet covered the most splendid mother in
"Well, dearies, how have you got on today? There was so much to do,
getting the boxes ready to go tomorrow, that I didn't come home to
dinner. Has anyone called, Beth? How is your cold, Meg? Jo, you look
tired to death. Come and kiss me, baby."
While making these maternal inquiries Mrs. March got her wet things
off, her warm slippers on, and sitting down in the easy chair, drew Amy
to her lap, preparing to enjoy the happiest hour of her busy day. The
girls flew about, trying to make things comfortable, each in her own
way. Meg arranged the tea table, Jo brought wood and set chairs,
dropping, over-turning, and clattering everything she touched. Beth
trotted to and fro between parlor kitchen, quiet and busy, while Amy
gave directions to everyone, as she sat with her hands folded.
As they gathered about the table, Mrs. March said, with a particularly
happy face, "I've got a treat for you after supper."
A quick, bright smile went round like a streak of sunshine. Beth
clapped her hands, regardless of the biscuit she held, and Jo tossed up
her napkin, crying, "A letter! A letter! Three cheers for Father!"
"Yes, a nice long letter. He is well, and thinks he shall get through
the cold season better than we feared. He sends all sorts of loving
wishes for Christmas, and an especial message to you girls," said Mrs.
March, patting her pocket as if she had got a treasure there.
"Hurry and get done! Don't stop to quirk your little finger and simper
over your plate, Amy," cried Jo, choking on her tea and dropping her
bread, butter side down, on the carpet in her haste to get at the treat.
Beth ate no more, but crept away to sit in her shadowy corner and brood
over the delight to come, till the others were ready.
"I think it was so splendid in Father to go as chaplain when he was too
old to be drafted, and not strong enough for a soldier," said Meg
"Don't I wish I could go as a drummer, a vivan--what's its name? Or a
nurse, so I could be near him and help him," exclaimed Jo, with a groan.
"It must be very disagreeable to sleep in a tent, and eat all sorts of
bad-tasting things, and drink out of a tin mug," sighed Amy.
"When will he come home, Marmee?" asked Beth, with a little quiver in
"Not for many months, dear, unless he is sick. He will stay and do his
work faithfully as long as he can, and we won't ask for him back a
minute sooner than he can be spared. Now come and hear the letter."
They all drew to the fire, Mother in the big chair with Beth at her
feet, Meg and Amy perched on either arm of the chair, and Jo leaning on
the back, where no one would see any sign of emotion if the letter
should happen to be touching. Very few letters were written in those
hard times that were not touching, especially those which fathers sent
home. In this one little was said of the hardships endured, the
dangers faced, or the homesickness conquered. It was a cheerful,
hopeful letter, full of lively descriptions of camp life, marches, and
military news, and only at the end did the writer's heart over-flow
with fatherly love and longing for the little girls at home.
"Give them all of my dear love and a kiss. Tell them I think of them
by day, pray for them by night, and find my best comfort in their
affection at all times. A year seems very long to wait before I see
them, but remind them that while we wait we may all work, so that these
hard days need not be wasted. I know they will remember all I said to
them, that they will be loving children to you, will do their duty
faithfully, fight their bosom enemies bravely, and conquer themselves
so beautifully that when I come back to them I may be fonder and
prouder than ever of my little women." Everybody sniffed when they came
to that part. Jo wasn't ashamed of the great tear that dropped off the
end of her nose, and Amy never minded the rumpling of her curls as she
hid her face on her mother's shoulder and sobbed out, "I am a selfish
girl! But I'll truly try to be better, so he mayn't be disappointed in
"We all will," cried Meg. "I think too much of my looks and hate to
work, but won't any more, if I can help it."
"I'll try and be what he loves to call me, 'a little woman' and not be
rough and wild, but do my duty here instead of wanting to be somewhere
else," said Jo, thinking that keeping her temper at home was a much
harder task than facing a rebel or two down South.
Beth said nothing, but wiped away her tears with the blue army sock and
began to knit with all her might, losing no time in doing the duty that
lay nearest her, while she resolved in her quiet little soul to be all
that Father hoped to find her when the year brought round the happy
Mrs. March broke the silence that followed Jo's words, by saying in her
cheery voice, "Do you remember how you used to play Pilgrims Progress
when you were little things? Nothing delighted you more than to have
me tie my piece bags on your backs for burdens, give you hats and
sticks and rolls of paper, and let you travel through the house from
the cellar, which was the City of Destruction, up, up, to the housetop,
where you had all the lovely things you could collect to make a
"What fun it was, especially going by the lions, fighting Apollyon, and
passing through the valley where the hob-goblins were," said Jo.
"I liked the place where the bundles fell off and tumbled downstairs,"
"I don't remember much about it, except that I was afraid of the cellar
and the dark entry, and always liked the cake and milk we had up at the
top. If I wasn't too old for such things, I'd rather like to play it
over again," said Amy, who began to talk of renouncing childish things
at the mature age of twelve.
"We never are too old for this, my dear, because it is a play we are
playing all the time in one way or another. Our burdens are here, our
road is before us, and the longing for goodness and happiness is the
guide that leads us through many troubles and mistakes to the peace
which is a true Celestial City. Now, my little pilgrims, suppose you
begin again, not in play, but in earnest, and see how far on you can
get before Father comes home."
"Really, Mother? Where are our bundles?" asked Amy, who was a very
literal young lady.
"Each of you told what your burden was just now, except Beth. I rather
think she hasn't got any," said her mother.
"Yes, I have. Mine is dishes and dusters, and envying girls with nice
pianos, and being afraid of people."
Beth's bundle was such a funny one that everybody wanted to laugh, but
nobody did, for it would have hurt her feelings very much.
"Let us do it," said Meg thoughtfully. "It is only another name for
trying to be good, and the story may help us, for though we do want to
be good, it's hard work and we forget, and don't do our best."
"We were in the Slough of Despond tonight, and Mother came and pulled
us out as Help did in the book. We ought to have our roll of
directions, like Christian. What shall we do about that?" asked Jo,
delighted with the fancy which lent a little romance to the very dull
task of doing her duty.
"Look under your pillows Christmas morning, and you will find your
guidebook," replied Mrs. March.
They talked over the new plan while old Hannah cleared the table, then
out came the four little work baskets, and the needles flew as the
girls made sheets for Aunt March. It was uninteresting sewing, but
tonight no one grumbled. They adopted Jo's plan of dividing the long
seams into four parts, and calling the quarters Europe, Asia, Africa,
and America, and in that way got on capitally, especially when they
talked about the different countries as they stitched their way through
At nine they stopped work, and sang, as usual, before they went to bed.
No one but Beth could get much music out of the old piano, but she had
a way of softly touching the yellow keys and making a pleasant
accompaniment to the simple songs they sang. Meg had a voice like a
flute, and she and her mother led the little choir. Amy chirped like a
cricket, and Jo wandered through the airs at her own sweet will, always
coming out at the wrong place with a croak or a quaver that spoiled the
most pensive tune. They had always done this from the time they could
Crinkle, crinkle, 'ittle 'tar,
and it had become a household custom, for the mother was a born singer.
The first sound in the morning was her voice as she went about the
house singing like a lark, and the last sound at night was the same
cheery sound, for the girls never grew too old for that familiar
A MERRY CHRISTMAS
Jo was the first to wake in the gray dawn of Christmas morning. No
stockings hung at the fireplace, and for a moment she felt as much
disappointed as she did long ago, when her little sock fell down
because it was crammed so full of goodies. Then she remembered her
mother's promise and, slipping her hand under her pillow, drew out a
little crimson-covered book. She knew it very well, for it was that
beautiful old story of the best life ever lived, and Jo felt that it
was a true guidebook for any pilgrim going on a long journey. She woke
Meg with a "Merry Christmas," and bade her see what was under her
pillow. A green-covered book appeared, with the same picture inside,
and a few words written by their mother, which made their one present
very precious in their eyes. Presently Beth and Amy woke to rummage
and find their little books also, one dove-colored, the other blue, and
all sat looking at and talking about them, while the east grew rosy
with the coming day.
In spite of her small vanities, Margaret had a sweet and pious nature,
which unconsciously influenced her sisters, especially Jo, who loved
her very tenderly, and obeyed her because her advice was so gently
"Girls," said Meg seriously, looking from the tumbled head beside her
to the two little night-capped ones in the room beyond, "Mother wants
us to read and love and mind these books, and we must begin at once.
We used to be faithful about it, but since Father went away and all
this war trouble unsettled us, we have neglected many things. You can
do as you please, but I shall keep my book on the table here and read a
little every morning as soon as I wake, for I know it will do me good
and help me through the day."
Then she opened her new book and began to read. Jo put her arm round
her and, leaning cheek to cheek, read also, with the quiet expression
so seldom seen on her restless face.
"How good Meg is! Come, Amy, let's do as they do. I'll help you with
the hard words, and they'll explain things if we don't understand,"
whispered Beth, very much impressed by the pretty books and her
"I'm glad mine is blue," said Amy. and then the rooms were very still
while the pages were softly turned, and the winter sunshine crept in to
touch the bright heads and serious faces with a Christmas greeting.
"Where is Mother?" asked Meg, as she and Jo ran down to thank her for
their gifts, half an hour later.
"Goodness only knows. Some poor creeter came a-beggin', and your ma
went straight off to see what was needed. There never was such a woman
for givin' away vittles and drink, clothes and firin'," replied Hannah,
who had lived with the family since Meg was born, and was considered by
them all more as a friend than a servant.
"She will be back soon, I think, so fry your cakes, and have everything
ready," said Meg, looking over the presents which were collected in a
basket and kept under the sofa, ready to be produced at the proper
time. "Why, where is Amy's bottle of cologne?" she added, as the
little flask did not appear.
"She took it out a minute ago, and went off with it to put a ribbon on
it, or some such notion," replied Jo, dancing about the room to take
the first stiffness off the new army slippers.
"How nice my handkerchiefs look, don't they? Hannah washed and ironed
them for me, and I marked them all myself," said Beth, looking proudly
at the somewhat uneven letters which had cost her such labor.
"Bless the child! She's gone and put 'Mother' on them instead of 'M.
March'. How funny!" cried Jo, taking one up.
"Isn't that right? I thought it was better to do it so, because Meg's
initials are M.M., and I don't want anyone to use these but Marmee,"
said Beth, looking troubled.
"It's all right, dear, and a very pretty idea, quite sensible too, for
no one can ever mistake now. It will please her very much, I know,"
said Meg, with a frown for Jo and a smile for Beth.
"There's Mother. Hide the basket, quick!" cried Jo, as a door slammed
and steps sounded in the hall.
Amy came in hastily, and looked rather abashed when she saw her sisters
all waiting for her.
"Where have you been, and what are you hiding behind you?" asked Meg,
surprised to see, by her hood and cloak, that lazy Amy had been out so
"Don't laugh at me, Jo! I didn't mean anyone should know till the time
came. I only meant to change the little bottle for a big one, and I
gave all my money to get it, and I'm truly trying not to be selfish any
As she spoke, Amy showed the handsome flask which replaced the cheap
one, and looked so earnest and humble in her little effort to forget
herself that Meg hugged her on the spot, and Jo pronounced her 'a
trump', while Beth ran to the window, and picked her finest rose to
ornament the stately bottle.
"You see I felt ashamed of my present, after reading and talking about
being good this morning, so I ran round the corner and changed it the
minute I was up, and I'm so glad, for mine is the handsomest now."
Another bang of the street door sent the basket under the sofa, and the
girls to the table, eager for breakfast.
"Merry Christmas, Marmee! Many of them! Thank you for our books. We
read some, and mean to every day," they all cried in chorus.
"Merry Christmas, little daughters! I'm glad you began at once, and
hope you will keep on. But I want to say one word before we sit down.
Not far away from here lies a poor woman with a little newborn baby.
Six children are huddled into one bed to keep from freezing, for they
have no fire. There is nothing to eat over there, and the oldest boy
came to tell me they were suffering hunger and cold. My girls, will
you give them your breakfast as a Christmas present?"
They were all unusually hungry, having waited nearly an hour, and for a
minute no one spoke, only a minute, for Jo exclaimed impetuously, "I'm
so glad you came before we began!"
"May I go and help carry the things to the poor little children?" asked
"I shall take the cream and the muffings," added Amy, heroically giving
up the article she most liked.
Meg was already covering the buckwheats, and piling the bread into one
"I thought you'd do it," said Mrs. March, smiling as if satisfied. "You
shall all go and help me, and when we come back we will have bread and
milk for breakfast, and make it up at dinnertime."
They were soon ready, and the procession set out. Fortunately it was
early, and they went through back streets, so few people saw them, and
no one laughed at the queer party.
A poor, bare, miserable room it was, with broken windows, no fire,
ragged bedclothes, a sick mother, wailing baby, and a group of pale,
hungry children cuddled under one old quilt, trying to keep warm.
How the big eyes stared and the blue lips smiled as the girls went in.
"Ach, mein Gott! It is good angels come to us!" said the poor woman,
crying for joy.
"Funny angels in hoods and mittens," said Jo, and set them to laughing.
In a few minutes it really did seem as if kind spirits had been at work
there. Hannah, who had carried wood, made a fire, and stopped up the
broken panes with old hats and her own cloak. Mrs. March gave the
mother tea and gruel, and comforted her with promises of help, while
she dressed the little baby as tenderly as if it had been her own. The
girls meantime spread the table, set the children round the fire, and
fed them like so many hungry birds, laughing, talking, and trying to
understand the funny broken English.
"Das ist gut!" "Die Engel-kinder!" cried the poor things as they ate
and warmed their purple hands at the comfortable blaze. The girls had
never been called angel children before, and thought it very agreeable,
especially Jo, who had been considered a 'Sancho' ever since she was
born. That was a very happy breakfast, though they didn't get any of
it. And when they went away, leaving comfort behind, I think there
were not in all the city four merrier people than the hungry little
girls who gave away their breakfasts and contented themselves with
bread and milk on Christmas morning.
"That's loving our neighbor better than ourselves, and I like it," said
Meg, as they set out their presents while their mother was upstairs
collecting clothes for the poor Hummels.
Not a very splendid show, but there was a great deal of love done up in
the few little bundles, and the tall vase of red roses, white
chrysanthemums, and trailing vines, which stood in the middle, gave
quite an elegant air to the table.
"She's coming! Strike up, Beth! Open the door, Amy! Three cheers for
Marmee!" cried Jo, prancing about while Meg went to conduct Mother to
the seat of honor.
Beth played her gayest march, Amy threw open the door, and Meg enacted
escort with great dignity. Mrs. March was both surprised and touched,
and smiled with her eyes full as she examined her presents and read the
little notes which accompanied them. The slippers went on at once, a
new handkerchief was slipped into her pocket, well scented with Amy's
cologne, the rose was fastened in her bosom, and the nice gloves were
pronounced a perfect fit.
There was a good deal of laughing and kissing and explaining, in the
simple, loving fashion which makes these home festivals so pleasant at
the time, so sweet to remember long afterward, and then all fell to
The morning charities and ceremonies took so much time that the rest of
the day was devoted to preparations for the evening festivities. Being
still too young to go often to the theater, and not rich enough to
afford any great outlay for private performances, the girls put their
wits to work, and necessity being the mother of invention, made
whatever they needed. Very clever were some of their productions,
pasteboard guitars, antique lamps made of old-fashioned butter boats
covered with silver paper, gorgeous robes of old cotton, glittering
with tin spangles from a pickle factory, and armor covered with the
same useful diamond shaped bits left in sheets when the lids of
preserve pots were cut out. The big chamber was the scene of many
No gentleman were admitted, so Jo played male parts to her heart's
content and took immense satisfaction in a pair of russet leather boots
given her by a friend, who knew a lady who knew an actor. These boots,
an old foil, and a slashed doublet once used by an artist for some
picture, were Jo's chief treasures and appeared on all occasions. The
smallness of the company made it necessary for the two principal actors
to take several parts apiece, and they certainly deserved some credit
for the hard work they did in learning three or four different parts,
whisking in and out of various costumes, and managing the stage
besides. It was excellent drill for their memories, a harmless
amusement, and employed many hours which otherwise would have been
idle, lonely, or spent in less profitable society.
On christmas night, a dozen girls piled onto the bed which was the
dress circle, and sat before the blue and yellow chintz curtains in a
most flattering state of expectancy. There was a good deal of rustling
and whispering behind the curtain, a trifle of lamp smoke, and an
occasional giggle from Amy, who was apt to get hysterical in the
excitement of the moment. Presently a bell sounded, the curtains flew
apart, and the "operatic tragedy" began.
"A gloomy wood," according to the one playbill, was represented by a
few shrubs in pots, green baize on the floor, and a cave in the
distance. This cave was made with a clothes horse for a roof, bureaus
for walls, and in it was a small furnace in full blast, with a black
pot on it and an old witch bending over it. The stage was dark and the
glow of the furnace had a fine effect, especially as real steam issued
from the kettle when the witch took off the cover. A moment was
allowed for the first thrill to subside, then Hugo, the villain,
stalked in with a clanking sword at his side, a slouching hat, black
beard, mysterious cloak, and the boots. After pacing to and fro in
much agitation, he struck his forehead, and burst out in a wild strain,
singing of his hatred for Roderigo, his love for Zara, and his pleasing
resolution to kill the one and win the other. The gruff tones of Hugo's
voice, with an occasional shout when his feelings overcame him, were
very impressive, and the audience applauded the moment he paused for
breath. Bowing with the air of one accustomed to public praise, he
stole to the cavern and ordered Hagar to come forth with a commanding,
"What ho, minion! I need thee!"
Out came Meg, with gray horsehair hanging about her face, a red and
black robe, a staff, and cabalistic signs upon her cloak. Hugo
demanded a potion to make Zara adore him, and one to destroy Roderigo.
Hagar, in a fine dramatic melody, promised both, and proceeded to call
up the spirit who would bring the love philter.
Hither, hither, from thy home,
Airy sprite, I bid thee come!
Born of roses, fed on dew,
Charms and potions canst thou brew?
Bring me here, with elfin speed,
The fragrant philter which I need.
Make it sweet and swift and strong,
Spirit, answer now my song!
A soft strain of music sounded, and then at the back of the cave
appeared a little figure in cloudy white, with glittering wings, golden
hair, and a garland of roses on its head. Waving a wand, it sang...
Hither I come,
From my airy home,
Afar in the silver moon.
Take the magic spell,
And use it well,
Or its power will vanish soon!
And dropping a small, gilded bottle at the witch's feet, the spirit
vanished. Another chant from Hagar produced another apparition, not a
lovely one, for with a bang an ugly black imp appeared and, having
croaked a reply, tossed a dark bottle at Hugo and disappeared with a
mocking laugh. Having warbled his thanks and put the potions in his
boots, Hugo departed, and Hagar informed the audience that as he had
killed a few of her friends in times past, she had cursed him, and
intends to thwart his plans, and be revenged on him. Then the curtain
fell, and the audience reposed and ate candy while discussing the
merits of the play.
A good deal of hammering went on before the curtain rose again, but
when it became evident what a masterpiece of stage carpentery had been
got up, no one murmured at the delay. It was truly superb. A tower
rose to the ceiling, halfway up appeared a window with a lamp burning
in it, and behind the white curtain appeared Zara in a lovely blue and
silver dress, waiting for Roderigo. He came in gorgeous array, with
plumed cap, red cloak, chestnut lovelocks, a guitar, and the boots, of
course. Kneeling at the foot of the tower, he sang a serenade in
melting tones. Zara replied and, after a musical dialogue, consented
to fly. Then came the grand effect of the play. Roderigo produced a
rope ladder, with five steps to it, threw up one end, and invited Zara
to descend. Timidly she crept from her lattice, put her hand on
Roderigo's shoulder, and was about to leap gracefully down when "Alas!
Alas for Zara!" she forgot her train. It caught in the window, the
tower tottered, leaned forward, fell with a crash, and buried the
unhappy lovers in the ruins.
A universal shriek arose as the russet boots waved wildly from the
wreck and a golden head emerged, exclaiming, "I told you so! I told
you so!" With wonderful presence of mind, Don Pedro, the cruel sire,
rushed in, dragged out his daughter, with a hasty aside...
"Don't laugh! Act as if it was all right!" and, ordering Roderigo up,
banished him from the kingdom with wrath and scorn. Though decidedly
shaken by the fall from the tower upon him, Roderigo defied the old
gentleman and refused to stir. This dauntless example fired Zara. She
also defied her sire, and he ordered them both to the deepest dungeons
of the castle. A stout little retainer came in with chains and led
them away, looking very much frightened and evidently forgetting the
speech he ought to have made.
Act third was the castle hall, and here Hagar appeared, having come to
free the lovers and finish Hugo. She hears him coming and hides, sees
him put the potions into two cups of wine and bid the timid little
servant, "Bear them to the captives in their cells, and tell them I
shall come anon." The servant takes Hugo aside to tell him something,
and Hagar changes the cups for two others which are harmless.
Ferdinando, the 'minion', carries them away, and Hagar puts back the
cup which holds the poison meant for Roderigo. Hugo, getting thirsty
after a long warble, drinks it, loses his wits, and after a good deal
of clutching and stamping, falls flat and dies, while Hagar informs him
what she has done in a song of exquisite power and melody.
This was a truly thrilling scene, though some persons might have
thought that the sudden tumbling down of a quantity of long red hair
rather marred the effect of the villain's death. He was called before
the curtain, and with great propriety appeared, leading Hagar, whose
singing was considered more wonderful than all the rest of the
performance put together.
Act fourth displayed the despairing Roderigo on the point of stabbing
himself because he has been told that Zara has deserted him. Just as
the dagger is at his heart, a lovely song is sung under his window,
informing him that Zara is true but in danger, and he can save her if
he will. A key is thrown in, which unlocks the door, and in a spasm of
rapture he tears off his chains and rushes away to find and rescue his
Act fifth opened with a stormy scene between Zara and Don Pedro. He
wishes her to go into a convent, but she won't hear of it, and after a
touching appeal, is about to faint when Roderigo dashes in and demands
her hand. Don Pedro refuses, because he is not rich. They shout and
gesticulate tremendously but cannot agree, and Rodrigo is about to bear
away the exhausted Zara, when the timid servant enters with a letter
and a bag from Hagar, who has mysteriously disappeared. The latter
informs the party that she bequeaths untold wealth to the young pair
and an awful doom to Don Pedro, if he doesn't make them happy. The bag
is opened, and several quarts of tin money shower down upon the stage
till it is quite glorified with the glitter. This entirely softens the
stern sire. He consents without a murmur, all join in a joyful chorus,
and the curtain falls upon the lovers kneeling to receive Don Pedro's
blessing in attitudes of the most romantic grace.
Tumultuous applause followed but received an unexpected check, for the
cot bed, on which the dress circle was built, suddenly shut up and
extinguished the enthusiastic audience. Roderigo and Don Pedro flew to
the rescue, and all were taken out unhurt, though many were speechless
with laughter. The excitement had hardly subsided when Hannah
appeared, with "Mrs. March's compliments, and would the ladies walk
down to supper."
This was a surprise even to the actors, and when they saw the table,
they looked at one another in rapturous amazement. It was like Marmee
to get up a little treat for them, but anything so fine as this was
unheard of since the departed days of plenty. There was ice cream,
actually two dishes of it, pink and white, and cake and fruit and
distracting french bonbons and, in the middle of the table, four great
bouquets of hot house flowers.
It quite took their breath away, and they stared first at the table and
then at their mother, who looked as if she enjoyed it immensely.
"Is it fairies?" asked Amy.
"Santa Claus," said Beth.
"Mother did it." And Meg smiled her sweetest, in spite of her gray
beard and white eyebrows.
"Aunt March had a good fit and sent the supper," cried Jo, with a
"All wrong. Old Mr. Laurence sent it," replied Mrs. March.
"The Laurence boy's grandfather! What in the world put such a thing
into his head? We don't know him!" exclaimed Meg.
"Hannah told one of his servants about your breakfast party. He is an
odd old gentleman, but that pleased him. He knew my father years ago,
and he sent me a polite note this afternoon, saying he hoped I would
allow him to express his friendly feeling toward my children by sending
them a few trifles in honor of the day. I could not refuse, and so you
have a little feast at night to make up for the bread-and-milk
"That boy put it into his head, I know he did! He's a capital fellow,
and I wish we could get acquainted. He looks as if he'd like to know
us but he's bashful, and Meg is so prim she won't let me speak to him
when we pass," said Jo, as the plates went round, and the ice began to
melt out of sight, with ohs and ahs of satisfaction.
"You mean the people who live in the big house next door, don't you?"
asked one of the girls. "My mother knows old Mr. Laurence, but says
he's very proud and doesn't like to mix with his neighbors. He keeps
his grandson shut up, when he isn't riding or walking with his tutor,
and makes him study very hard. We invited him to our party, but he
didn't come. Mother says he's very nice, though he never speaks to us
"Our cat ran away once, and he brought her back, and we talked over the
fence, and were getting on capitally, all about cricket, and so on,
when he saw Meg coming, and walked off. I mean to know him some day,
for he needs fun, I'm sure he does," said Jo decidedly.
"I like his manners, and he looks like a little gentleman, so I've no
objection to your knowing him, if a proper opportunity comes. He
brought the flowers himself, and I should have asked him in, if I had
been sure what was going on upstairs. He looked so wistful as he went
away, hearing the frolic and evidently having none of his own."
"It's a mercy you didn't, Mother!" laughed Jo, looking at her boots.
"But we'll have another play sometime that he can see. Perhaps he'll
help act. Wouldn't that be jolly?"
"I never had such a fine bouquet before! How pretty it is!" And Meg
examined her flowers with great interest.
"They are lovely. But Beth's roses are sweeter to me," said Mrs.
March, smelling the half-dead posy in her belt.
Beth nestled up to her, and whispered softly, "I wish I could send my
bunch to Father. I'm afraid he isn't having such a merry Christmas as
THE LAURENCE BOY
"Jo! Jo! Where are you?" cried Meg at the foot of the garret stairs.
"Here!" answered a husky voice from above, and, running up, Meg found
her sister eating apples and crying over the Heir of Redclyffe, wrapped
up in a comforter on an old three-legged sofa by the sunny window.
This was Jo's favorite refuge, and here she loved to retire with half a
dozen russets and a nice book, to enjoy the quiet and the society of a
pet rat who lived near by and didn't mind her a particle. As Meg
appeared, Scrabble whisked into his hole. Jo shook the tears off her
cheeks and waited to hear the news.
"Such fun! Only see! A regular note of invitation from Mrs. Gardiner
for tomorrow night!" cried Meg, waving the precious paper and then
proceeding to read it with girlish delight.
"'Mrs. Gardiner would be happy to see Miss March and Miss Josephine at
a little dance on New Year's Eve.' Marmee is willing we should go, now
what shall we wear?"
"What's the use of asking that, when you know we shall wear our
poplins, because we haven't got anything else?" answered Jo with her
"If I only had a silk!" sighed Meg. "Mother says I may when I'm
eighteen perhaps, but two years is an everlasting time to wait."
"I'm sure our pops look like silk, and they are nice enough for us.
Yours is as good as new, but I forgot the burn and the tear in mine.
Whatever shall I do? The burn shows badly, and I can't take any out."
"You must sit still all you can and keep your back out of sight. The
front is all right. I shall have a new ribbon for my hair, and Marmee
will lend me her little pearl pin, and my new slippers are lovely, and
my gloves will do, though they aren't as nice as I'd like."
"Mine are spoiled with lemonade, and I can't get any new ones, so I
shall have to go without," said Jo, who never troubled herself much
"You must have gloves, or I won't go," cried Meg decidedly. "Gloves are
more important than anything else. You can't dance without them, and
if you don't I should be so mortified."
"Then I'll stay still. I don't care much for company dancing. It's no
fun to go sailing round. I like to fly about and cut capers."
"You can't ask Mother for new ones, they are so expensive, and you are
so careless. She said when you spoiled the others that she shouldn't
get you any more this winter. Can't you make them do?"
"I can hold them crumpled up in my hand, so no one will know how
stained they are. That's all I can do. No! I'll tell you how we can
manage, each wear one good one and carry a bad one. Don't you see?"
"Your hands are bigger than mine, and you will stretch my glove
dreadfully," began Meg, whose gloves were a tender point with her.
"Then I'll go without. I don't care what people say!" cried Jo, taking
up her book.
"You may have it, you may! Only don't stain it, and do behave nicely.
Don't put your hands behind you, or stare, or say 'Christopher
Columbus!' will you?"
"Don't worry about me. I'll be as prim as I can and not get into any
scrapes, if I can help it. Now go and answer your note, and let me
finish this splendid story."
So Meg went away to 'accept with thanks', look over her dress, and sing
blithely as she did up her one real lace frill, while Jo finished her
story, her four apples, and had a game of romps with Scrabble.
On New Year's Eve the parlor was deserted, for the two younger girls
played dressing maids and the two elder were absorbed in the
all-important business of 'getting ready for the party'. Simple as the
toilets were, there was a great deal of running up and down, laughing
and talking, and at one time a strong smell of burned hair pervaded the
house. Meg wanted a few curls about her face, and Jo undertook to
pinch the papered locks with a pair of hot tongs.
"Ought they to smoke like that?" asked Beth from her perch on the bed.
"It's the dampness drying," replied Jo.
"What a queer smell! It's like burned feathers," observed Amy,
smoothing her own pretty curls with a superior air.
"There, now I'll take off the papers and you'll see a cloud of little
ringlets," said Jo, putting down the tongs.
She did take off the papers, but no cloud of ringlets appeared, for the
hair came with the papers, and the horrified hairdresser laid a row of
little scorched bundles on the bureau before her victim.
"Oh, oh, oh! What have you done? I'm spoiled! I can't go! My hair,
oh, my hair!" wailed Meg, looking with despair at the uneven frizzle on
"Just my luck! You shouldn't have asked me to do it. I always spoil
everything. I'm so sorry, but the tongs were too hot, and so I've made
a mess," groaned poor Jo, regarding the little black pancakes with
tears of regret.
"It isn't spoiled. Just frizzle it, and tie your ribbon so the ends
come on your forehead a bit, and it will look like the last fashion.
I've seen many girls do it so," said Amy consolingly.
"Serves me right for trying to be fine. I wish I'd let my hair alone,"
cried Meg petulantly.
"So do I, it was so smooth and pretty. But it will soon grow out
again," said Beth, coming to kiss and comfort the shorn sheep.
After various lesser mishaps, Meg was finished at last, and by the
united exertions of the entire family Jo's hair was got up and her
dress on. They looked very well in their simple suits, Meg's in
silvery drab, with a blue velvet snood, lace frills, and the pearl pin.
Jo in maroon, with a stiff, gentlemanly linen collar, and a white
chrysanthemum or two for her only ornament. Each put on one nice light
glove, and carried one soiled one, and all pronounced the effect "quite
easy and fine". Meg's high-heeled slippers were very tight and hurt
her, though she would not own it, and Jo's nineteen hairpins all seemed
stuck straight into her head, which was not exactly comfortable, but,
dear me, let us be elegant or die.
"Have a good time, dearies!" said Mrs. March, as the sisters went
daintily down the walk. "Don't eat much supper, and come away at
eleven when I send Hannah for you." As the gate clashed behind them, a
voice cried from a window...
"Girls, girls! Have you you both got nice pocket handkerchiefs?"
"Yes, yes, spandy nice, and Meg has cologne on hers," cried Jo, adding
with a laugh as they went on, "I do believe Marmee would ask that if we
were all running away from an earthquake."
"It is one of her aristocratic tastes, and quite proper, for a real
lady is always known by neat boots, gloves, and handkerchief," replied
Meg, who had a good many little 'aristocratic tastes' of her own.
"Now don't forget to keep the bad breadth out of sight, Jo. Is my sash
right? And does my hair look very bad?" said Meg, as she turned from
the glass in Mrs. Gardiner's dressing room after a prolonged prink.
"I know I shall forget. If you see me doing anything wrong, just
remind me by a wink, will you?" returned Jo, giving her collar a twitch
and her head a hasty brush.
"No, winking isn't ladylike. I'll lift my eyebrows if any thing is
wrong, and nod if you are all right. Now hold your shoulder straight,
and take short steps, and don't shake hands if you are introduced to
anyone. It isn't the thing."
"How do you learn all the proper ways? I never can. Isn't that music
Down they went, feeling a trifle timid, for they seldom went to
parties, and informal as this little gathering was, it was an event to
them. Mrs. Gardiner, a stately old lady, greeted them kindly and
handed them over to the eldest of her six daughters. Meg knew Sallie
and was at her ease very soon, but Jo, who didn't care much for girls
or girlish gossip, stood about, with her back carefully against the
wall, and felt as much out of place as a colt in a flower garden. Half
a dozen jovial lads were talking about skates in another part of the
room, and she longed to go and join them, for skating was one of the
joys of her life. She telegraphed her wish to Meg, but the eyebrows
went up so alarmingly that she dared not stir. No one came to talk to
her, and one by one the group dwindled away till she was left alone.
She could not roam about and amuse herself, for the burned breadth
would show, so she stared at people rather forlornly till the dancing
began. Meg was asked at once, and the tight slippers tripped about so
briskly that none would have guessed the pain their wearer suffered
smilingly. Jo saw a big red headed youth approaching her corner, and
fearing he meant to engage her, she slipped into a curtained recess,
intending to peep and enjoy herself in peace. Unfortunately, another
bashful person had chosen the same refuge, for, as the curtain fell
behind her, she found herself face to face with the 'Laurence boy'.
"Dear me, I didn't know anyone was here!" stammered Jo, preparing to
back out as speedily as she had bounced in.
But the boy laughed and said pleasantly, though he looked a little
startled, "Don't mind me, stay if you like."
"Shan't I disturb you?"
"Not a bit. I only came here because I don't know many people and felt
rather strange at first, you know."
"So did I. Don't go away, please, unless you'd rather."
The boy sat down again and looked at his pumps, till Jo said, trying to
be polite and easy, "I think I've had the pleasure of seeing you
before. You live near us, don't you?"
"Next door." And he looked up and laughed outright, for Jo's prim
manner was rather funny when he remembered how they had chatted about
cricket when he brought the cat home.
That put Jo at her ease and she laughed too, as she said, in her
heartiest way, "We did have such a good time over your nice Christmas
"Grandpa sent it."
"But you put it into his head, didn't you, now?"
"How is your cat, Miss March?" asked the boy, trying to look sober
while his black eyes shone with fun.
"Nicely, thank you, Mr. Laurence. But I am not Miss March, I'm only
Jo," returned the young lady.
"I'm not Mr. Laurence, I'm only Laurie."
"Laurie Laurence, what an odd name."
"My first name is Theodore, but I don't like it, for the fellows called
me Dora, so I made them say Laurie instead."
"I hate my name, too, so sentimental! I wish every one would say Jo
instead of Josephine. How did you make the boys stop calling you Dora?"
"I thrashed 'em."
"I can't thrash Aunt March, so I suppose I shall have to bear it." And
Jo resigned herself with a sigh.
"Don't you like to dance, Miss Jo?" asked Laurie, looking as if he
thought the name suited her.
"I like it well enough if there is plenty of room, and everyone is
lively. In a place like this I'm sure to upset something, tread on
people's toes, or do something dreadful, so I keep out of mischief and
let Meg sail about. Don't you dance?"
"Sometimes. You see I've been abroad a good many years, and haven't
been into company enough yet to know how you do things here."
"Abroad!" cried Jo. "Oh, tell me about it! I love dearly to hear
people describe their travels."
Laurie didn't seem to know where to begin, but Jo's eager questions
soon set him going, and he told her how he had been at school in Vevay,
where the boys never wore hats and had a fleet of boats on the lake,
and for holiday fun went on walking trips about Switzerland with their
"Don't I wish I'd been there!" cried Jo. "Did you go to Paris?"
"We spent last winter there."
"Can you talk French?"
"We were not allowed to speak anything else at Vevay."
"Do say some! I can read it, but can't pronounce."
"Quel nom a cette jeune demoiselle en les pantoufles jolis?"
"How nicely you do it! Let me see ... you said, 'Who is the young lady
in the pretty slippers', didn't you?"
"It's my sister Margaret, and you knew it was! Do you think she is
"Yes, she makes me think of the German girls, she looks so fresh and
quiet, and dances like a lady."
Jo quite glowed with pleasure at this boyish praise of her sister, and
stored it up to repeat to Meg. Both peeped and critisized and chatted
till they felt like old acquaintances. Laurie's bashfulness soon wore
off, for Jo's gentlemanly demeanor amused and set him at his ease, and
Jo was her merry self again, because her dress was forgotten and nobody
lifted their eyebrows at her. She liked the 'Laurence boy' better than
ever and took several good looks at him, so that she might describe him
to the girls, for they had no brothers, very few male cousins, and boys
were almost unknown creatures to them.
"Curly black hair, brown skin, big black eyes, handsome nose, fine
teeth, small hands and feet, taller than I am, very polite, for a boy,
and altogether jolly. Wonder how old he is?"
It was on the tip of Jo's tongue to ask, but she checked herself in
time and, with unusual tact, tried to find out in a round-about way.
"I suppose you are going to college soon? I see you pegging away at
your books, no, I mean studying hard." And Jo blushed at the dreadful
'pegging' which had escaped her.
Laurie smiled but didn't seem shocked, and answered with a shrug. "Not
for a year or two. I won't go before seventeen, anyway."
"Aren't you but fifteen?" asked Jo, looking at the tall lad, whom she
had imagined seventeen already.
"Sixteen, next month."
"How I wish I was going to college! You don't look as if you liked it."
"I hate it! Nothing but grinding or skylarking. And I don't like the
way fellows do either, in this country."
"What do you like?"
"To live in Italy, and to enjoy myself in my own way."
Jo wanted very much to ask what his own way was, but his black brows
looked rather threatening as he knit them, so she changed the subject
by saying, as her foot kept time, "That's a splendid polka! Why don't
you go and try it?"
"If you will come too," he answered, with a gallant little bow.
"I can't, for I told Meg I wouldn't, because..." There Jo stopped, and
looked undecided whether to tell or to laugh.
"You won't tell?"
"Well, I have a bad trick of standing before the fire, and so I burn my
frocks, and I scorched this one, and though it's nicely mended, it
shows, and Meg told me to keep still so no one would see it. You may
laugh, if you want to. It is funny, I know."
But Laurie didn't laugh. He only looked down a minute, and the
expression of his face puzzled Jo when he said very gently, "Never mind
that. I'll tell you how we can manage. There's a long hall out there,
and we can dance grandly, and no one will see us. Please come."
Jo thanked him and gladly went, wishing she had two neat gloves when
she saw the nice, pearl-colored ones her partner wore. The hall was
empty, and they had a grand polka, for Laurie danced well, and taught
her the German step, which delighted Jo, being full of swing and
spring. When the music stopped, they sat down on the stairs to get
their breath, and Laurie was in the midst of an account of a students'
festival at Heidelberg when Meg appeared in search of her sister. She
beckoned, and Jo reluctantly followed her into a side room, where she
found her on a sofa, holding her foot, and looking pale.
"I've sprained my ankle. That stupid high heel turned and gave me a
sad wrench. It aches so, I can hardly stand, and I don't know how I'm
ever going to get home," she said, rocking to and fro in pain.
"I knew you'd hurt your feet with those silly shoes. I'm sorry. But I
don't see what you can do, except get a carriage, or stay here all
night," answered Jo, softly rubbing the poor ankle as she spoke.
"I can't have a carriage without its costing ever so much. I dare say
I can't get one at all, for most people come in their own, and it's a
long way to the stable, and no one to send."
"No, indeed! It's past nine, and dark as Egypt. I can't stop here,
for the house is full. Sallie has some girls staying with her. I'll
rest till Hannah comes, and then do the best I can."
"I'll ask Laurie. He will go," said Jo, looking relieved as the idea
occurred to her.
"Mercy, no! Don't ask or tell anyone. Get me my rubbers, and put
these slippers with our things. I can't dance anymore, but as soon as
supper is over, watch for Hannah and tell me the minute she comes."
"They are going out to supper now. I'll stay with you. I'd rather."
"No, dear, run along, and bring me some coffee. I'm so tired I can't
So Meg reclined, with rubbers well hidden, and Jo went blundering away
to the dining room, which she found after going into a china closet,
and opening the door of a room where old Mr. Gardiner was taking a
little private refreshment. Making a dart at the table, she secured
the coffee, which she immediately spilled, thereby making the front of
her dress as bad as the back.
"Oh, dear, what a blunderbuss I am!" exclaimed Jo, finishing Meg's
glove by scrubbing her gown with it.
"Can I help you?" said a friendly voice. And there was Laurie, with a
full cup in one hand and a plate of ice in the other.
"I was trying to get something for Meg, who is very tired, and someone
shook me, and here I am in a nice state," answered Jo, glancing
dismally from the stained skirt to the coffee-colored glove.
"Too bad! I was looking for someone to give this to. May I take it
to your sister?"
"Oh, thank you! I'll show you where she is. I don't offer to take it
myself, for I should only get into another scrape if I did."
Jo led the way, and as if used to waiting on ladies, Laurie drew up a
little table, brought a second installment of coffee and ice for Jo,
and was so obliging that even particular Meg pronounced him a 'nice
boy'. They had a merry time over the bonbons and mottoes, and were in
the midst of a quiet game of "Buzz", with two or three other young
people who had strayed in, when Hannah appeared. Meg forgot her foot
and rose so quickly that she was forced to catch hold of Jo, with an
exclamation of pain.
"Hush! Don't say anything," she whispered, adding aloud, "It's
nothing. I turned my foot a little, that's all," and limped upstairs
to put her things on.
Hannah scolded, Meg cried, and Jo was at her wits' end, till she
decided to take things into her own hands. Slipping out, she ran down
and, finding a servant, asked if he could get her a carriage. It
happened to be a hired waiter who knew nothing about the neighborhood
and Jo was looking round for help when Laurie, who had heard what she
said, came up and offered his grandfather's carriage, which had just
come for him, he said.
"It's so early! You can't mean to go yet?" began Jo, looking relieved
but hesitating to accept the offer.
"I always go early, I do, truly! Please let me take you home. It's all
on my way, you know, and it rains, they say."
That settled it, and telling him of Meg's mishap, Jo gratefully
accepted and rushed up to bring down the rest of the party. Hannah
hated rain as much as a cat does so she made no trouble, and they
rolled away in the luxurious close carriage, feeling very festive and
elegant. Laurie went on the box so Meg could keep her foot up, and the
girls talked over their party in freedom.
"I had a capital time. Did you?" asked Jo, rumpling up her hair, and
making herself comfortable.
"Yes, till I hurt myself. Sallie's friend, Annie Moffat, took a fancy
to me, and asked me to come and spend a week with her when Sallie does.
She is going in the spring when the opera comes, and it will be
perfectly splendid, if Mother only lets me go," answered Meg, cheering
up at the thought.
"I saw you dancing with the red headed man I ran away from. Was he
"Oh, very! His hair is auburn, not red, and he was very polite, and I
had a delicious redowa with him."
"He looked like a grasshopper in a fit when he did the new step. Laurie
and I couldn't help laughing. Did you hear us?"
"No, but it was very rude. What were you about all that time, hidden
Jo told her adventures, and by the time she had finished they were at
home. With many thanks, they said good night and crept in, hoping to
disturb no one, but the instant their door creaked, two little
nightcaps bobbed up, and two sleepy but eager voices cried out...
"Tell about the party! Tell about the party!"
With what Meg called 'a great want of manners' Jo had saved some
bonbons for the little girls, and they soon subsided, after hearing the
most thrilling events of the evening.
"I declare, it really seems like being a fine young lady, to come home
from the party in a carriage and sit in my dressing gown with a maid to
wait on me," said Meg, as Jo bound up her foot with arnica and brushed
"I don't believe fine young ladies enjoy themselves a bit more than we
do, in spite of our burned hair, old gowns, one glove apiece and tight
slippers that sprain our ankles when we are silly enough to wear them."
And I think Jo was quite right.
"Oh, dear, how hard it does seem to take up our packs and go on,"
sighed Meg the morning after the party, for now the holidays were over,
the week of merrymaking did not fit her for going on easily with the
task she never liked.
"I wish it was Christmas or New Year's all the time. Wouldn't it be
fun?" answered Jo, yawning dismally.
"We shouldn't enjoy ourselves half so much as we do now. But it does
seem so nice to have little suppers and bouquets, and go to parties,
and drive home, and read and rest, and not work. It's like other
people, you know, and I always envy girls who do such things, I'm so
fond of luxury," said Meg, trying to decide which of two shabby gowns
was the least shabby.
"Well, we can't have it, so don't let us grumble but shoulder our
bundles and trudge along as cheerfully as Marmee does. I'm sure Aunt
March is a regular Old Man of the Sea to me, but I suppose when I've
learned to carry her without complaining, she will tumble off, or get
so light that I shan't mind her."
This idea tickled Jo's fancy and put her in good spirits, but Meg
didn't brighten, for her burden, consisting of four spoiled children,
seemed heavier than ever. She had not heart enough even to make herself
pretty as usual by putting on a blue neck ribbon and dressing her hair
in the most becoming way.
"Where's the use of looking nice, when no one sees me but those cross
midgets, and no one cares whether I'm pretty or not?" she muttered,
shutting her drawer with a jerk. "I shall have to toil and moil all my
days, with only little bits of fun now and then, and get old and ugly
and sour, because I'm poor and can't enjoy my life as other girls do.
It's a shame!"
So Meg went down, wearing an injured look, and wasn't at all agreeable
at breakfast time. Everyone seemed rather out of sorts and inclined to
Beth had a headache and lay on the sofa, trying to comfort herself with
the cat and three kittens. Amy was fretting because her lessons were
not learned, and she couldn't find her rubbers. Jo would whistle and
make a great racket getting ready.
Mrs. March was very busy trying to finish a letter, which must go at
once, and Hannah had the grumps, for being up late didn't suit her.
"There never was such a cross family!" cried Jo, losing her temper when
she had upset an inkstand, broken both boot lacings, and sat down upon
"You're the crossest person in it!" returned Amy, washing out the sum
that was all wrong with the tears that had fallen on her slate.
"Beth, if you don't keep these horrid cats down cellar I'll have them
drowned," exclaimed Meg angrily as she tried to get rid of the kitten
which had scrambled up her back and stuck like a burr just out of reach.
Jo laughed, Meg scolded, Beth implored, and Amy wailed because she
couldn't remember how much nine times twelve was.
"Girls, girls, do be quiet one minute! I must get this off by the
early mail, and you drive me distracted with your worry," cried Mrs.
March, crossing out the third spoiled sentence in her letter.
There was a momentary lull, broken by Hannah, who stalked in, laid two
hot turnovers on the table, and stalked out again. These turnovers were
an institution, and the girls called them 'muffs', for they had no
others and found the hot pies very comforting to their hands on cold
Hannah never forgot to make them, no matter how busy or grumpy she
might be, for the walk was long and bleak. The poor things got no other
lunch and were seldom home before two.
"Cuddle your cats and get over your headache, Bethy. Goodbye, Marmee.
We are a set of rascals this morning, but we'll come home regular
angels. Now then, Meg!" And Jo tramped away, feeling that the
pilgrims were not setting out as they ought to do.
They always looked back before turning the corner, for their mother was
always at the window to nod and smile, and wave her hand to them.
Somehow it seemed as if they couldn't have got through the day without
that, for whatever their mood might be, the last glimpse of that
motherly face was sure to affect them like sunshine.
"If Marmee shook her fist instead of kissing her hand to us, it would
serve us right, for more ungrateful wretches than we are were never
seen," cried Jo, taking a remorseful satisfaction in the snowy walk and
"Don't use such dreadful expressions," replied Meg from the depths of
the veil in which she had shrouded herself like a nun sick of the world.
"I like good strong words that mean something," replied Jo, catching
her hat as it took a leap off her head preparatory to flying away
"Call yourself any names you like, but I am neither a rascal nor a
wretch and I don't choose to be called so."
"You're a blighted being, and decidedly cross today because you can't
sit in the lap of luxury all the time. Poor dear, just wait till I
make my fortune, and you shall revel in carriages and ice cream and
high-heeled slippers, and posies, and red-headed boys to dance with."
"How ridiculous you are, Jo!" But Meg laughed at the nonsense and felt
better in spite of herself.
"Lucky for you I am, for if I put on crushed airs and tried to be
dismal, as you do, we should be in a nice state. Thank goodness, I can
always find something funny to keep me up. Don't croak any more, but
come home jolly, there's a dear."
Jo gave her sister an encouraging pat on the shoulder as they parted
for the day, each going a different way, each hugging her little warm
turnover, and each trying to be cheerful in spite of wintry weather,
hard work, and the unsatisfied desires of pleasure-loving youth.
When Mr. March lost his property in trying to help an unfortunate
friend, the two oldest girls begged to be allowed to do something
toward their own support, at least. Believing that they could not
begin too early to cultivate energy, industry, and independence, their
parents consented, and both fell to work with the hearty good will
which in spite of all obstacles is sure to succeed at last.
Margaret found a place as nursery governess and felt rich with her
small salary. As she said, she was 'fond of luxury', and her chief
trouble was poverty. She found it harder to bear than the others
because she could remember a time when home was beautiful, life full of
ease and pleasure, and want of any kind unknown. She tried not to be
envious or discontented, but it was very natural that the young girl
should long for pretty things, gay friends, accomplishments, and a
happy life. At the Kings' she daily saw all she wanted, for the
children's older sisters were just out, and Meg caught frequent
glimpses of dainty ball dresses and bouquets, heard lively gossip about
theaters, concerts, sleighing parties, and merrymakings of all kinds,
and saw money lavished on trifles which would have been so precious to
her. Poor Meg seldom complained, but a sense of injustice made her
feel bitter toward everyone sometimes, for she had not yet learned to
know how rich she was in the blessings which alone can make life happy.
Jo happened to suit Aunt March, who was lame and needed an active
person to wait upon her. The childless old lady had offered to adopt
one of the girls when the troubles came, and was much offended because
her offer was declined. Other friends told the Marches that they had
lost all chance of being remembered in the rich old lady's will, but
the unworldly Marches only said...
"We can't give up our girls for a dozen fortunes. Rich or poor, we
will keep together and be happy in one another."
The old lady wouldn't speak to them for a time, but happening to meet
Jo at a friend's, something in her comical face and blunt manners
struck the old lady's fancy, and she proposed to take her for a
companion. This did not suit Jo at all, but she accepted the place
since nothing better appeared and, to every one's surprise, got on
remarkably well with her irascible relative. There was an occasional
tempest, and once Jo marched home, declaring she couldn't bear it
longer, but Aunt March always cleared up quickly, and sent for her to
come back again with such urgency that she could not refuse, for in her
heart she rather liked the peppery old lady.
I suspect that the real attraction was a large library of fine books,
which was left to dust and spiders since Uncle March died. Jo
remembered the kind old gentleman, who used to let her build railroads
and bridges with his big dictionaries, tell her stories about queer
pictures in his Latin books, and buy her cards of gingerbread whenever
he met her in the street. The dim, dusty room, with the busts staring
down from the tall bookcases, the cozy chairs, the globes, and best of
all, the wilderness of books in which she could wander where she liked,
made the library a region of bliss to her.
The moment Aunt March took her nap, or was busy with company, Jo
hurried to this quiet place, and curling herself up in the easy chair,
devoured poetry, romance, history, travels, and pictures like a regular
bookworm. But, like all happiness, it did not last long, for as sure
as she had just reached the heart of the story, the sweetest verse of a
song, or the most perilous adventure of her traveler, a shrill voice
called, "Josy-phine! Josy-phine!" and she had to leave her paradise to
wind yarn, wash the poodle, or read Belsham's Essays by the hour
Jo's ambition was to do something very splendid. What it was, she had
no idea as yet, but left it for time to tell her, and meanwhile, found
her greatest affliction in the fact that she couldn't read, run, and
ride as much as she liked. A quick temper, sharp tongue, and restless
spirit were always getting her into scrapes, and her life was a series
of ups and downs, which were both comic and pathetic. But the training
she received at Aunt March's was just what she needed, and the thought
that she was doing something to support herself made her happy in spite
of the perpetual "Josy-phine!"
Beth was too bashful to go to school. It had been tried, but she
suffered so much that it was given up, and she did her lessons at home
with her father. Even when he went away, and her mother was called to
devote her skill and energy to Soldiers' Aid Societies, Beth went
faithfully on by herself and did the best she could. She was a
housewifely little creature, and helped Hannah keep home neat and
comfortable for the workers, never thinking of any reward but to be
loved. Long, quiet days she spent, not lonely nor idle, for her little
world was peopled with imaginary friends, and she was by nature a busy
bee. There were six dolls to be taken up and dressed every morning,
for Beth was a child still and loved her pets as well as ever. Not one
whole or handsome one among them, all were outcasts till Beth took them
in, for when her sisters outgrew these idols, they passed to her
because Amy would have nothing old or ugly. Beth cherished them all the
more tenderly for that very reason, and set up a hospital for infirm
dolls. No pins were ever stuck into their cotton vitals, no harsh
words or blows were ever given them, no neglect ever saddened the heart
of the most repulsive, but all were fed and clothed, nursed and
caressed with an affection which never failed. One forlorn fragment of
dollanity had belonged to Jo and, having led a tempestuous life, was
left a wreck in the rag bag, from which dreary poorhouse it was rescued
by Beth and taken to her refuge. Having no top to its head, she tied
on a neat little cap, and as both arms and legs were gone, she hid
these deficiencies by folding it in a blanket and devoting her best bed
to this chronic invalid. If anyone had known the care lavished on that
dolly, I think it would have touched their hearts, even while they
laughed. She brought it bits of bouquets, she read to it, took it out
to breathe fresh air, hidden under her coat, she sang it lullabies and
never went to bed without kissing its dirty face and whispering
tenderly, "I hope you'll have a good night, my poor dear."
Beth had her troubles as well as the others, and not being an angel but
a very human little girl, she often 'wept a little weep' as Jo said,
because she couldn't take music lessons and have a fine piano. She
loved music so dearly, tried so hard to learn, and practiced away so
patiently at the jingling old instrument, that it did seem as if
someone (not to hint Aunt March) ought to help her. Nobody did,
however, and nobody saw Beth wipe the tears off the yellow keys, that
wouldn't keep in tune, when she was all alone. She sang like a little
lark about her work, never was too tired for Marmee and the girls, and
day after day said hopefully to herself, "I know I'll get my music some
time, if I'm good."
There are many Beths in the world, shy and quiet, sitting in corners
till needed, and living for others so cheerfully that no one sees the
sacrifices till the little cricket on the hearth stops chirping, and
the sweet, sunshiny presence vanishes, leaving silence and shadow
If anybody had asked Amy what the greatest trial of her life was, she
would have answered at once, "My nose." When she was a baby, Jo had
accidently dropped her into the coal hod, and Amy insisted that the
fall had ruined her nose forever. It was not big nor red, like poor
'Petrea's', it was only rather flat, and all the pinching in the world
could not give it an aristocratic point. No one minded it but herself,
and it was doing its best to grow, but Amy felt deeply the want of a
Grecian nose, and drew whole sheets of handsome ones to console herself.
"Little Raphael," as her sisters called her, had a decided talent for
drawing, and was never so happy as when copying flowers, designing
fairies, or illustrating stories with queer specimens of art. Her
teachers complained that instead of doing her sums she covered her
slate with animals, the blank pages of her atlas were used to copy maps
on, and caricatures of the most ludicrous description came fluttering
out of all her books at unlucky moments. She got through her lessons
as well as she could, and managed to escape reprimands by being a model
of deportment. She was a great favorite with her mates, being
good-tempered and possessing the happy art of pleasing without effort.
Her little airs and graces were much admired, so were her
accomplishments, for besides her drawing, she could play twelve tunes,
crochet, and read French without mispronouncing more than two-thirds of
the words. She had a plaintive way of saying, "When Papa was rich we
did so-and-so," which was very touching, and her long words were
considered 'perfectly elegant' by the girls.
Amy was in a fair way to be spoiled, for everyone petted her, and her
small vanities and selfishnesses were growing nicely. One thing,
however, rather quenched the vanities. She had to wear her cousin's
clothes. Now Florence's mama hadn't a particle of taste, and Amy
suffered deeply at having to wear a red instead of a blue bonnet,
unbecoming gowns, and fussy aprons that did not fit. Everything was
good, well made, and little worn, but Amy's artistic eyes were much
afflicted, especially this winter, when her school dress was a dull
purple with yellow dots and no trimming.
"My only comfort," she said to Meg, with tears in her eyes, "is that
Mother doesn't take tucks in my dresses whenever I'm naughty, as Maria
Parks's mother does. My dear, it's really dreadful, for sometimes she
is so bad her frock is up to her knees, and she can't come to school.
When I think of this deggerredation, I feegorcer I can bear even my
flat nose and purple gown with yellow skyrockets on it."
Meg was Amy's confidant and monitor, and by some strange attraction of
opposites Jo was gentle Beth's. To Jo alone did the shy child tell her
thoughts, and over her big harum-scarum sister Beth unconsciously
exercised more influence than anyone in the family. The two older
girls were a great deal to one another, but each took one of the
younger sisters into her keeping and watched over her in her own way,
'playing mother' they called it, and put their sisters in the places of
discarded dolls with the maternal instinct of little women.
"Has anybody got anything to tell? It's been such a dismal day I'm
really dying for some amusement," said Meg, as they sat sewing together
"I had a queer time with Aunt today, and, as I got the best of it, I'll
tell you about it," began Jo, who dearly loved to tell stories. "I was
reading that everlasting Belsham, and droning away as I always do, for
Aunt soon drops off, and then I take out some nice book, and read like
fury till she wakes up. I actually made myself sleepy, and before she
began to nod, I gave such a gape that she asked me what I meant by
opening my mouth wide enough to take the whole book in at once."
"I wish I could, and be done with it," said I, trying not to be saucy.
"Then she gave me a long lecture on my sins, and told me to sit and
think them over while she just 'lost' herself for a moment. She never
finds herself very soon, so the minute her cap began to bob like a
top-heavy dahlia, I whipped the "Vicar of Wakefield" out of my pocket,
and read away, with one eye on him and one on Aunt. I'd just got to
where they all tumbled into the water when I forgot and laughed out
loud. Aunt woke up and, being more good-natured after her nap, told me
to read a bit and show what frivolous work I preferred to the worthy
and instructive Belsham. I did my very best, and she liked it, though
she only said...
"'I don't understand what it's all about. Go back and begin it,
"Back I went, and made the Primroses as interesting as ever I could.
Once I was wicked enough to stop in a thrilling place, and say meekly,
'I'm afraid it tires you, ma'am. Shan't I stop now?'"
"She caught up her knitting, which had dropped out of her hands, gave
me a sharp look through her specs, and said, in her short way, 'Finish
the chapter, and don't be impertinent, miss'."
"Did she own she liked it?" asked Meg.
"Oh, bless you, no! But she let old Belsham rest, and when I ran back
after my gloves this afternoon, there she was, so hard at the Vicar
that she didn't hear me laugh as I danced a jig in the hall because of
the good time coming. What a pleasant life she might have if only she
chose! I don't envy her much, in spite of her money, for after all
rich people have about as many worries as poor ones, I think," added Jo.
"That reminds me," said Meg, "that I've got something to tell. It isn't
funny, like Jo's story, but I thought about it a good deal as I came
home. At the Kings' today I found everybody in a flurry, and one of
the children said that her oldest brother had done something dreadful,
and Papa had sent him away. I heard Mrs. King crying and Mr. King
talking very loud, and Grace and Ellen turned away their faces when
they passed me, so I shouldn't see how red and swollen their eyes were.
I didn't ask any questions, of course, but I felt so sorry for them and
was rather glad I hadn't any wild brothers to do wicked things and
disgrace the family."
"I think being disgraced in school is a great deal tryinger than
anything bad boys can do," said Amy, shaking her head, as if her
experience of life had been a deep one. "Susie Perkins came to school
today with a lovely red carnelian ring. I wanted it dreadfully, and
wished I was her with all my might. Well, she drew a picture of Mr.
Davis, with a monstrous nose and a hump, and the words, 'Young ladies,
my eye is upon you!' coming out of his mouth in a balloon thing. We
were laughing over it when all of a sudden his eye was on us, and he
ordered Susie to bring up her slate. She was parrylized with fright,
but she went, and oh, what do you think he did? He took her by the
ear--the ear! Just fancy how horrid!--and led her to the recitation
platform, and made her stand there half an hour, holding the slate so
everyone could see."
"Didn't the girls laugh at the picture?" asked Jo, who relished the
"Laugh? Not one! They sat still as mice, and Susie cried quarts, I know
she did. I didn't envy her then, for I felt that millions of carnelian
rings wouldn't have made me happy after that. I never, never should
have got over such a agonizing mortification." And Amy went on with her
work, in the proud consciousness of virtue and the successful utterance
of two long words in a breath.
"I saw something I liked this morning, and I meant to tell it at
dinner, but I forgot," said Beth, putting Jo's topsy-turvy basket in
order as she talked. "When I went to get some oysters for Hannah, Mr.
Laurence was in the fish shop, but he didn't see me, for I kept behind
the fish barrel, and he was busy with Mr. Cutter the fishman. A poor
woman came in with a pail and a mop, and asked Mr. Cutter if he would
let her do some scrubbing for a bit of fish, because she hadn't any
dinner for her children, and had been disappointed of a day's work.
Mr. Cutter was in a hurry and said 'No', rather crossly, so she was
going away, looking hungry and sorry, when Mr. Laurence hooked up a big
fish with the crooked end of his cane and held it out to her. She was
so glad and surprised she took it right into her arms, and thanked him
over and over. He told her to 'go along and cook it', and she hurried
off, so happy! Wasn't it good of him? Oh, she did look so funny,
hugging the big, slippery fish, and hoping Mr. Laurence's bed in heaven
would be 'aisy'."
When they had laughed at Beth's story, they asked their mother for one,
and after a moments thought, she said soberly, "As I sat cutting out
blue flannel jackets today at the rooms, I felt very anxious about
Father, and thought how lonely and helpless we should be, if anything
happened to him. It was not a wise thing to do, but I kept on worrying
till an old man came in with an order for some clothes. He sat down
near me, and I began to talk to him, for he looked poor and tired and
"'Have you sons in the army?' I asked, for the note he brought was not
"Yes, ma'am. I had four, but two were killed, one is a prisoner, and
I'm going to the other, who is very sick in a Washington hospital.' he
"'You have done a great deal for your country, sir,' I said, feeling
respect now, instead of pity."
"'Not a mite more than I ought, ma'am. I'd go myself, if I was any
use. As I ain't, I give my boys, and give 'em free.'"
"He spoke so cheerfully, looked so sincere, and seemed so glad to give
his all, that I was ashamed of myself. I'd given one man and thought
it too much, while he gave four without grudging them. I had all my
girls to comfort me at home, and his last son was waiting, miles away,
to say good-by to him, perhaps! I felt so rich, so happy thinking of
my blessings, that I made him a nice bundle, gave him some money, and
thanked him heartily for the lesson he had taught me."
"Tell another story, Mother, one with a moral to it, like this. I like
to think about them afterward, if they are real and not too preachy,"
said Jo, after a minute's silence.
Mrs. March smiled and began at once, for she had told stories to this
little audience for many years, and knew how to please them.
"Once upon a time, there were four girls, who had enough to eat and
drink and wear, a good many comforts and pleasures, kind friends and
parents who loved them dearly, and yet they were not contented." (Here
the listeners stole sly looks at one another, and began to sew
diligently.) "These girls were anxious to be good and made many
excellent resolutions, but they did not keep them very well, and were
constantly saying, 'If only we had this,' or 'If we could only do
that,' quite forgetting how much they already had, and how many things
they actually could do. So they asked an old woman what spell they
could use to make them happy, and she said, 'When you feel
discontented, think over your blessings, and be grateful.'" (Here Jo
looked up quickly, as if about to speak, but changed her mind, seeing
that the story was not done yet.)
"Being sensible girls, they decided to try her advice, and soon were
surprised to see how well off they were. One discovered that money
couldn't keep shame and sorrow out of rich people's houses, another
that, though she was poor, she was a great deal happier, with her
youth, health, and good spirits, than a certain fretful, feeble old
lady who couldn't enjoy her comforts, a third that, disagreeable as it
was to help get dinner, it was harder still to go begging for it and
the fourth, that even carnelian rings were not so valuable as good
behavior. So they agreed to stop complaining, to enjoy the blessings
already possessed, and try to deserve them, lest they should be taken
away entirely, instead of increased, and I believe they were never
disappointed or sorry that they took the old woman's advice."
"Now, Marmee, that is very cunning of you to turn our own stories
against us, and give us a sermon instead of a romance!" cried Meg.
"I like that kind of sermon. It's the sort Father used to tell us,"
said Beth thoughtfully, putting the needles straight on Jo's cushion.
"I don't complain near as much as the others do, and I shall be more
careful than ever now, for I've had warning from Susie's downfall,"
said Amy morally.
"We needed that lesson, and we won't forget it. If we do so, you just
say to us, as old Chloe did in "Uncle Tom", 'Tink ob yer marcies,
chillen!' 'Tink ob yer marcies!'" added Jo, who could not, for the life
of her, help getting a morsel of fun out of the little sermon, though
she took it to heart as much as any of them.
"What in the world are you going to do now, Jo?" asked Meg one snowy
afternoon, as her sister came tramping through the hall, in rubber
boots, old sack, and hood, with a broom in one hand and a shovel in the
"Going out for exercise," answered Jo with a mischievous twinkle in her
"I should think two long walks this morning would have been enough!
It's cold and dull out, and I advise you to stay warm and dry by the
fire, as I do," said Meg with a shiver.
"Never take advice! Can't keep still all day, and not being a
pussycat, I don't like to doze by the fire. I like adventures, and I'm
going to find some."
Meg went back to toast her feet and read "Ivanhoe", and Jo began to dig
paths with great energy. The snow was light, and with her broom she
soon swept a path all round the garden, for Beth to walk in when the
sun came out and the invalid dolls needed air. Now, the garden
separated the Marches' house from that of Mr. Laurence. Both stood in
a suburb of the city, which was still countrylike, with groves and
lawns, large gardens, and quiet streets. A low hedge parted the two
estates. On one side was an old, brown house, looking rather bare and
shabby, robbed of the vines that in summer covered its walls and the
flowers, which then surrounded it. On the other side was a stately
stone mansion, plainly betokening every sort of comfort and luxury,
from the big coach house and well-kept grounds to the conservatory and
the glimpses of lovely things one caught between the rich curtains.
Yet it seemed a lonely, lifeless sort of house, for no children
frolicked on the lawn, no motherly face ever smiled at the windows, and
few people went in and out, except the old gentleman and his grandson.
To Jo's lively fancy, this fine house seemed a kind of enchanted
palace, full of splendors and delights which no one enjoyed. She had
long wanted to behold these hidden glories, and to know the Laurence
boy, who looked as if he would like to be known, if he only knew how to
begin. Since the party, she had been more eager than ever, and had
planned many ways of making friends with him, but he had not been seen
lately, and Jo began to think he had gone away, when she one day spied
a brown face at an upper window, looking wistfully down into their
garden, where Beth and Amy were snow-balling one another.
"That boy is suffering for society and fun," she said to herself. "His
grandpa does not know what's good for him, and keeps him shut up all
alone. He needs a party of jolly boys to play with, or somebody young
and lively. I've a great mind to go over and tell the old gentleman
The idea amused Jo, who liked to do daring things and was always
scandalizing Meg by her queer performances. The plan of 'going over'
was not forgotten. And when the snowy afternoon came, Jo resolved to
try what could be done. She saw Mr. Lawrence drive off, and then
sallied out to dig her way down to the hedge, where she paused and took
a survey. All quiet, curtains down at the lower windows, servants out
of sight, and nothing human visible but a curly black head leaning on a
thin hand at the upper window.
"There he is," thought Jo, "Poor boy! All alone and sick this dismal
day. It's a shame! I'll toss up a snowball and make him look out, and
then say a kind word to him."
Up went a handful of soft snow, and the head turned at once, showing a
face which lost its listless look in a minute, as the big eyes
brightened and the mouth began to smile. Jo nodded and laughed, and
flourished her broom as she called out...
"How do you do? Are you sick?"
Laurie opened the window, and croaked out as hoarsely as a raven...
"Better, thank you. I've had a bad cold, and been shut up a week."
"I'm sorry. What do you amuse yourself with?"
"Nothing. It's dull as tombs up here."
"Don't you read?"
"Not much. They won't let me."
"Can't somebody read to you?"
"Grandpa does sometimes, but my books don't interest him, and I hate to
ask Brooke all the time."
"Have someone come and see you then."
"There isn't anyone I'd like to see. Boys make such a row, and my head
"Isn't there some nice girl who'd read and amuse you? Girls are quiet
and like to play nurse."
"Don't know any."
"You know us," began Jo, then laughed and stopped.
"So I do! Will you come, please?" cried Laurie.
"I'm not quiet and nice, but I'll come, if Mother will let me. I'll go
ask her. Shut the window, like a good boy, and wait till I come."
With that, Jo shouldered her broom and marched into the house,
wondering what they would all say to her. Laurie was in a flutter of
excitement at the idea of having company, and flew about to get ready,
for as Mrs. March said, he was 'a little gentleman', and did honor to
the coming guest by brushing his curly pate, putting on a fresh color,
and trying to tidy up the room, which in spite of half a dozen
servants, was anything but neat. Presently there came a loud ring,
than a decided voice, asking for 'Mr. Laurie', and a surprised-looking
servant came running up to announce a young lady.
"All right, show her up, it's Miss Jo," said Laurie, going to the door
of his little parlor to meet Jo, who appeared, looking rosy and quite
at her ease, with a covered dish in one hand and Beth's three kittens
in the other.
"Here I am, bag and baggage," she said briskly. "Mother sent her love,
and was glad if I could do anything for you. Meg wanted me to bring
some of her blanc mange, she makes it very nicely, and Beth thought her
cats would be comforting. I knew you'd laugh at them, but I couldn't
refuse, she was so anxious to do something."
It so happened that Beth's funny loan was just the thing, for in
laughing over the kits, Laurie forgot his bashfulness, and grew
sociable at once.
"That looks too pretty to eat," he said, smiling with pleasure, as Jo
uncovered the dish, and showed the blanc mange, surrounded by a garland
of green leaves, and the scarlet flowers of Amy's pet geranium.
"It isn't anything, only they all felt kindly and wanted to show it.
Tell the girl to put it away for your tea. It's so simple you can eat
it, and being soft, it will slip down without hurting your sore throat.
What a cozy room this is!"
"It might be if it was kept nice, but the maids are lazy, and I don't
know how to make them mind. It worries me though."
"I'll right it up in two minutes, for it only needs to have the hearth
brushed, so--and the things made straight on the mantelpiece, so--and
the books put here, and the bottles there, and your sofa turned from
the light, and the pillows plumped up a bit. Now then, you're fixed."
And so he was, for, as she laughed and talked, Jo had whisked things
into place and given quite a different air to the room. Laurie watched
her in respectful silence, and when she beckoned him to his sofa, he
sat down with a sigh of satisfaction, saying gratefully...
"How kind you are! Yes, that's what it wanted. Now please take the
big chair and let me do something to amuse my company."
"No, I came to amuse you. Shall I read aloud?" and Jo looked
affectionately toward some inviting books near by.
"Thank you! I've read all those, and if you don't mind, I'd rather
talk," answered Laurie.
"Not a bit. I'll talk all day if you'll only set me going. Beth says I
never know when to stop."
"Is Beth the rosy one, who stays at home good deal and sometimes goes
out with a little basket?" asked Laurie with interest.
"Yes, that's Beth. She's my girl, and a regular good one she is, too."
"The pretty one is Meg, and the curly-haired one is Amy, I believe?"
"How did you find that out?"
Laurie colored up, but answered frankly, "Why, you see I often hear you
calling to one another, and when I'm alone up here, I can't help
looking over at your house, you always seem to be having such good
times. I beg your pardon for being so rude, but sometimes you forget
to put down the curtain at the window where the flowers are. And when
the lamps are lighted, it's like looking at a picture to see the fire,
and you all around the table with your mother. Her face is right
opposite, and it looks so sweet behind the flowers, I can't help
watching it. I haven't got any mother, you know." And Laurie poked the
fire to hide a little twitching of the lips that he could not control.
The solitary, hungry look in his eyes went straight to Jo's warm heart.
She had been so simply taught that there was no nonsense in her head,
and at fifteen she was as innocent and frank as any child. Laurie was
sick and lonely, and feeling how rich she was in home and happiness,
she gladly tried to share it with him. Her face was very friendly and
her sharp voice unusually gentle as she said...
"We'll never draw that curtain any more, and I give you leave to look
as much as you like. I just wish, though, instead of peeping, you'd
come over and see us. Mother is so splendid, she'd do you heaps of
good, and Beth would sing to you if I begged her to, and Amy would
dance. Meg and I would make you laugh over our funny stage properties,
and we'd have jolly times. Wouldn't your grandpa let you?"
"I think he would, if your mother asked him. He's very kind, though he
does not look so, and he lets me do what I like, pretty much, only he's
afraid I might be a bother to strangers," began Laurie, brightening
more and more.
"We are not strangers, we are neighbors, and you needn't think you'd be
a bother. We want to know you, and I've been trying to do it this ever
so long. We haven't been here a great while, you know, but we have got
acquainted with all our neighbors but you."
"You see, Grandpa lives among his books, and doesn't mind much what
happens outside. Mr. Brooke, my tutor, doesn't stay here, you know,
and I have no one to go about with me, so I just stop at home and get
on as I can."
"That's bad. You ought to make an effort and go visiting everywhere
you are asked, then you'll have plenty of friends, and pleasant places
to go to. Never mind being bashful. It won't last long if you keep
Laurie turned red again, but wasn't offended at being accused of
bashfulness, for there was so much good will in Jo it was impossible
not to take her blunt speeches as kindly as they were meant.
"Do you like your school?" asked the boy, changing the subject, after a
little pause, during which he stared at the fire and Jo looked about
her, well pleased.
"Don't go to school, I'm a businessman--girl, I mean. I go to wait on
my great-aunt, and a dear, cross old soul she is, too," answered Jo.
Laurie opened his mouth to ask another question, but remembering just
in time that it wasn't manners to make too many inquiries into people's
affairs, he shut it again, and looked uncomfortable.
Jo liked his good breeding, and didn't mind having a laugh at Aunt
March, so she gave him a lively description of the fidgety old lady,
her fat poodle, the parrot that talked Spanish, and the library where
Laurie enjoyed that immensely, and when she told about the prim old
gentleman who came once to woo Aunt March, and in the middle of a fine
speech, how Poll had tweaked his wig off to his great dismay, the boy
lay back and laughed till the tears ran down his cheeks, and a maid
popped her head in to see what was the matter.
"Oh! That does me no end of good. Tell on, please," he said, taking
his face out of the sofa cushion, red and shining with merriment.
Much elated with her success, Jo did 'tell on', all about their plays
and plans, their hopes and fears for Father, and the most interesting
events of the little world in which the sisters lived. Then they got
to talking about books, and to Jo's delight, she found that Laurie
loved them as well as she did, and had read even more than herself.
"If you like them so much, come down and see ours. Grandfather is out,
so you needn't be afraid," said Laurie, getting up.
"I'm not afraid of anything," returned Jo, with a toss of the head.
"I don't believe you are!" exclaimed the boy, looking at her with much
admiration, though he privately thought she would have good reason to
be a trifle afraid of the old gentleman, if she met him in some of his
The atmosphere of the whole house being summerlike, Laurie led the way
from room to room, letting Jo stop to examine whatever struck her
fancy. And so, at last they came to the library, where she clapped her
hands and pranced, as she always did when especially delighted. It was
lined with books, and there were pictures and statues, and distracting
little cabinets full of coins and curiosities, and Sleepy Hollow
chairs, and queer tables, and bronzes, and best of all, a great open
fireplace with quaint tiles all round it.
"What richness!" sighed Jo, sinking into the depth of a velour chair
and gazing about her with an air of intense satisfaction. "Theodore
Laurence, you ought to be the happiest boy in the world," she added
"A fellow can't live on books," said Laurie, shaking his head as he
perched on a table opposite.
Before he could more, a bell rang, and Jo flew up, exclaiming with
alarm, "Mercy me! It's your grandpa!"
"Well, what if it is? You are not afraid of anything, you know,"
returned the boy, looking wicked.
"I think I am a little bit afraid of him, but I don't know why I should
be. Marmee said I might come, and I don't think you're any the worse
for it," said Jo, composing herself, though she kept her eyes on the
"I'm a great deal better for it, and ever so much obliged. I'm only
afraid you are very tired of talking to me. It was so pleasant, I
couldn't bear to stop," said Laurie gratefully.
"The doctor to see you, sir," and the maid beckoned as she spoke.
"Would you mind if I left you for a minute? I suppose I must see him,"
"Don't mind me. I'm happy as a cricket here," answered Jo.
Laurie went away, and his guest amused herself in her own way. She was
standing before a fine portrait of the old gentleman when the door
opened again, and without turning, she said decidedly, "I'm sure now
that I shouldn't be afraid of him, for he's got kind eyes, though his
mouth is grim, and he looks as if he had a tremendous will of his own.
He isn't as handsome as my grandfather, but I like him."
"Thank you, ma'am," said a gruff voice behind her, and there, to her
great dismay, stood old Mr. Laurence.
Poor Jo blushed till she couldn't blush any redder, and her heart began
to beat uncomfortably fast as she thought what she had said. For a
minute a wild desire to run away possessed her, but that was cowardly,
and the girls would laugh at her, so she resolved to stay and get out
of the scrape as she could. A second look showed her that the living
eyes, under the bushy eyebrows, were kinder even than the painted ones,
and there was a sly twinkle in them, which lessened her fear a good
deal. The gruff voice was gruffer than ever, as the old gentleman said
abruptly, after the dreadful pause, "So you're not afraid of me, hey?"
"Not much, sir."
"And you don't think me as handsome as your grandfather?"
"Not quite, sir."
"And I've got a tremendous will, have I?"
"I only said I thought so."
"But you like me in spite of it?"
"Yes, I do, sir."
That answer pleased the old gentleman. He gave a short laugh, shook
hands with her, and, putting his finger under her chin, turned up her
face, examined it gravely, and let it go, saying with a nod, "You've
got your grandfather's spirit, if you haven't his face. He was a fine
man, my dear, but what is better, he was a brave and an honest one, and
I was proud to be his friend."
"Thank you, sir," And Jo was quite comfortable after that, for it
suited her exactly.
"What have you been doing to this boy of mine, hey?" was the next
question, sharply put.
"Only trying to be neighborly, sir." And Jo told how her visit came
"You think he needs cheering up a bit, do you?"
"Yes, sir, he seems a little lonely, and young folks would do him good
perhaps. We are only girls, but we should be glad to help if we could,
for we don't forget the splendid Christmas present you sent us," said
"Tut, tut, tut! That was the boy's affair. How is the poor woman?"
"Doing nicely, sir." And off went Jo, talking very fast, as she told
all about the Hummels, in whom her mother had interested richer friends
than they were.
"Just her father's way of doing good. I shall come and see your mother
some fine day. Tell her so. There's the tea bell, we have it early on
the boy's account. Come down and go on being neighborly."
"If you'd like to have me, sir."
"Shouldn't ask you, if I didn't." And Mr. Laurence offered her his arm
with old-fashioned courtesy.
"What would Meg say to this?" thought Jo, as she was marched away,
while her eyes danced with fun as she imagined herself telling the
story at home.
"Hey! Why, what the dickens has come to the fellow?" said the old
gentleman, as Laurie came running downstairs and brought up with a
start of surprise at the astounding sight of Jo arm in arm with his
"I didn't know you'd come, sir," he began, as Jo gave him a triumphant
"That's evident, by the way you racket downstairs. Come to your tea,
sir, and behave like a gentleman." And having pulled the boy's hair by
way of a caress, Mr. Laurence walked on, while Laurie went through a
series of comic evolutions behind their backs, which nearly produced an
explosion of laughter from Jo.
The old gentleman did not say much as he drank his four cups of tea,
but he watched the young people, who soon chatted away like old
friends, and the change in his grandson did not escape him. There was
color, light, and life in the boy's face now, vivacity in his manner,
and genuine merriment in his laugh.
"She's right, the lad is lonely. I'll see what these little girls can
do for him," thought Mr. Laurence, as he looked and listened. He liked
Jo, for her odd, blunt ways suited him, and she seemed to understand
the boy almost as well as if she had been one herself.
If the Laurences had been what Jo called 'prim and poky', she would not
have got on at all, for such people always made her shy and awkward.
But finding them free and easy, she was so herself, and made a good
impression. When they rose she proposed to go, but Laurie said he had
something more to show her, and took her away to the conservatory,
which had been lighted for her benefit. It seemed quite fairylike to
Jo, as she went up and down the walks, enjoying the blooming walls on
either side, the soft light, the damp sweet air, and the wonderful
vines and trees that hung about her, while her new friend cut the
finest flowers till his hands were full. Then he tied them up, saying,
with the happy look Jo liked to see, "Please give these to your mother,
and tell her I like the medicine she sent me very much."
They found Mr. Laurence standing before the fire in the great drawing
room, but Jo's attention was entirely absorbed by a grand piano, which
"Do you play?" she asked, turning to Laurie with a respectful
"Sometimes," he answered modestly.
"Please do now. I want to hear it, so I can tell Beth."
"Won't you first?"
"Don't know how. Too stupid to learn, but I love music dearly."
So Laurie played and Jo listened, with her nose luxuriously buried in
heliotrope and tea roses. Her respect and regard for the 'Laurence'
boy increased very much, for he played remarkably well and didn't put
on any airs. She wished Beth could hear him, but she did not say so,
only praised him till he was quite abashed, and his grandfather came to
"That will do, that will do, young lady. Too many sugarplums are not
good for him. His music isn't bad, but I hope he will do as well in
more important things. Going? well, I'm much obliged to you, and I
hope you'll come again. My respects to your mother. Good night, Doctor
He shook hands kindly, but looked as if something did not please him.
When they got into the hall, Jo asked Laurie if she had said something
amiss. He shook his head.
"No, it was me. He doesn't like to hear me play."
"I'll tell you some day. John is going home with you, as I can't."
"No need of that. I am not a young lady, and it's only a step. Take
care of yourself, won't you?"
"Yes, but you will come again, I hope?"
"If you promise to come and see us after you are well."
"Good night, Laurie!"
"Good night, Jo, good night!"
When all the afternoon's adventures had been told, the family felt
inclined to go visiting in a body, for each found something very
attractive in the big house on the other side of the hedge. Mrs. March
wanted to talk of her father with the old man who had not forgotten
him, Meg longed to walk in the conservatory, Beth sighed for the grand
piano, and Amy was eager to see the fine pictures and statues.
"Mother, why didn't Mr. Laurence like to have Laurie play?" asked Jo,
who was of an inquiring disposition.
"I am not sure, but I think it was because his son, Laurie's father,
married an Italian lady, a musician, which displeased the old man, who
is very proud. The lady was good and lovely and accomplished, but he
did not like her, and never saw his son after he married. They both
died when Laurie was a little child, and then his grandfather took him
home. I fancy the boy, who was born in Italy, is not very strong, and
the old man is afraid of losing him, which makes him so careful.
Laurie comes naturally by his love of music, for he is like his mother,
and I dare say his grandfather fears that he may want to be a musician.
At any rate, his skill reminds him of the woman he did not like, and so
he 'glowered' as Jo said."
"Dear me, how romantic!" exclaimed Meg.
"How silly!" said Jo. "Let him be a musician if he wants to, and not
plague his life out sending him to college, when he hates to go."
"That's why he has such handsome black eyes and pretty manners, I
suppose. Italians are always nice," said Meg, who was a little
"What do you know about his eyes and his manners? You never spoke to
him, hardly," cried Jo, who was not sentimental.
"I saw him at the party, and what you tell shows that he knows how to
behave. That was a nice little speech about the medicine Mother sent
"He meant the blanc mange, I suppose."
"How stupid you are, child! He meant you, of course."
"Did he?" And Jo opened her eyes as if it had never occurred to her
"I never saw such a girl! You don't know a compliment when you get
it," said Meg, with the air of a young lady who knew all about the
"I think they are great nonsense, and I'll thank you not to be silly
and spoil my fun. Laurie's a nice boy and I like him, and I won't have
any sentimental stuff about compliments and such rubbish. We'll all be
good to him because he hasn't got any mother, and he may come over and
see us, mayn't he, Marmee?"
"Yes, Jo, your little friend is very welcome, and I hope Meg will
remember that children should be children as long as they can."
"I don't call myself a child, and I'm not in my teens yet," observed
Amy. "What do you say, Beth?"
"I was thinking about our '"Pilgrim's Progress"'," answered Beth, who
had not heard a word. "How we got out of the Slough and through the
Wicket Gate by resolving to be good, and up the steep hill by trying,
and that maybe the house over there, full of splendid things, is going
to be our Palace Beautiful."
"We have got to get by the lions first," said Jo, as if she rather
liked the prospect.
BETH FINDS THE PALACE BEAUTIFUL
The big house did prove a Palace Beautiful, though it took some time
for all to get in, and Beth found it very hard to pass the lions. Old
Mr. Laurence was the biggest one, but after he had called, said
something funny or kind to each one of the girls, and talked over old
times with their mother, nobody felt much afraid of him, except timid
Beth. The other lion was the fact that they were poor and Laurie rich,
for this made them shy of accepting favors which they could not return.
But, after a while, they found that he considered them the benefactors,
and could not do enough to show how grateful he was for Mrs. March's
motherly welcome, their cheerful society, and the comfort he took in
that humble home of theirs. So they soon forgot their pride and
interchanged kindnesses without stopping to think which was the greater.
All sorts of pleasant things happened about that time, for the new
friendship flourished like grass in spring. Every one liked Laurie,
and he privately informed his tutor that "the Marches were regularly
splendid girls." With the delightful enthusiasm of youth, they took
the solitary boy into their midst and made much of him, and he found
something very charming in the innocent companionship of these
simple-hearted girls. Never having known mother or sisters, he was
quick to feel the influences they brought about him, and their busy,
lively ways made him ashamed of the indolent life he led. He was tired
of books, and found people so interesting now that Mr. Brooke was
obliged to make very unsatisfactory reports, for Laurie was always
playing truant and running over to the Marches'.
"Never mind, let him take a holiday, and make it up afterward," said
the old gentleman. "The good lady next door says he is studying too
hard and needs young society, amusement, and exercise. I suspect she
is right, and that I've been coddling the fellow as if I'd been his
grandmother. Let him do what he likes, as long as he is happy. He
can't get into mischief in that little nunnery over there, and Mrs.
March is doing more for him than we can."
What good times they had, to be sure. Such plays and tableaux, such
sleigh rides and skating frolics, such pleasant evenings in the old
parlor, and now and then such gay little parties at the great house.
Meg could walk in the conservatory whenever she liked and revel in
bouquets, Jo browsed over the new library voraciously, and convulsed
the old gentleman with her criticisms, Amy copied pictures and enjoyed
beauty to her heart's content, and Laurie played 'lord of the manor' in
the most delightful style.
But Beth, though yearning for the grand piano, could not pluck up
courage to go to the 'Mansion of Bliss', as Meg called it. She went
once with Jo, but the old gentleman, not being aware of her infirmity,
stared at her so hard from under his heavy eyebrows, and said "Hey!" so
loud, that he frightened her so much her 'feet chattered on the floor',
she never told her mother, and she ran away, declaring she would never
go there any more, not even for the dear piano. No persuasions or
enticements could overcome her fear, till, the fact coming to Mr.
Laurence's ear in some mysterious way, he set about mending matters.
During one of the brief calls he made, he artfully led the conversation
to music, and talked away about great singers whom he had seen, fine
organs he had heard, and told such charming anecdotes that Beth found
it impossible to stay in her distant corner, but crept nearer and
nearer, as if fascinated. At the back of his chair she stopped and
stood listening, with her great eyes wide open and her cheeks red with
excitement of this unusual performance. Taking no more notice of her
than if she had been a fly, Mr. Laurence talked on about Laurie's
lessons and teachers. And presently, as if the idea had just occurred
to him, he said to Mrs. March...
"The boy neglects his music now, and I'm glad of it, for he was getting
too fond of it. But the piano suffers for want of use. Wouldn't some
of your girls like to run over, and practice on it now and then, just
to keep it in tune, you know, ma'am?"
Beth took a step forward, and pressed her hands tightly together to
keep from clapping them, for this was an irresistible temptation, and
the thought of practicing on that splendid instrument quite took her
breath away. Before Mrs. March could reply, Mr. Laurence went on with
an odd little nod and smile...
"They needn't see or speak to anyone, but run in at any time. For I'm
shut up in my study at the other end of the house, Laurie is out a
great deal, and the servants are never near the drawing room after nine
Here he rose, as if going, and Beth made up her mind to speak, for that
last arrangement left nothing to be desired. "Please, tell the young
ladies what I say, and if they don't care to come, why, never mind."
Here a little hand slipped into his, and Beth looked up at him with a
face full of gratitude, as she said, in her earnest yet timid way...
"Oh sir, they do care, very very much!"
"Are you the musical girl?" he asked, without any startling "Hey!" as
he looked down at her very kindly.
"I'm Beth. I love it dearly, and I'll come, if you are quite sure
nobody will hear me, and be disturbed," she added, fearing to be rude,
and trembling at her own boldness as she spoke.
"Not a soul, my dear. The house is empty half the day, so come and
drum away as much as you like, and I shall be obliged to you."
"How kind you are, sir!"
Beth blushed like a rose under the friendly look he wore, but she was
not frightened now, and gave the hand a grateful squeeze because she
had no words to thank him for the precious gift he had given her. The
old gentleman softly stroked the hair off her forehead, and, stooping
down, he kissed her, saying, in a tone few people ever heard...
"I had a little girl once, with eyes like these. God bless you, my
dear! Good day, madam." And away he went, in a great hurry.
Beth had a rapture with her mother, and then rushed up to impart the
glorious news to her family of invalids, as the girls were not home.
How blithely she sang that evening, and how they all laughed at her
because she woke Amy in the night by playing the piano on her face in
her sleep. Next day, having seen both the old and young gentleman out
of the house, Beth, after two or three retreats, fairly got in at the
side door, and made her way as noiselessly as any mouse to the drawing
room where her idol stood. Quite by accident, of course, some pretty,
easy music lay on the piano, and with trembling fingers and frequent
stops to listen and look about, Beth at last touched the great
instrument, and straightway forgot her fear, herself, and everything
else but the unspeakable delight which the music gave her, for it was
like the voice of a beloved friend.
She stayed till Hannah came to take her home to dinner, but she had no
appetite, and could only sit and smile upon everyone in a general state
After that, the little brown hood slipped through the hedge nearly
every day, and the great drawing room was haunted by a tuneful spirit
that came and went unseen. She never knew that Mr. Laurence opened his
study door to hear the old-fashioned airs he liked. She never saw
Laurie mount guard in the hall to warn the servants away. She never
suspected that the exercise books and new songs which she found in the
rack were put there for her especial benefit, and when he talked to her
about music at home, she only thought how kind he was to tell things
that helped her so much. So she enjoyed herself heartily, and found,
what isn't always the case, that her granted wish was all she had
hoped. Perhaps it was because she was so grateful for this blessing
that a greater was given her. At any rate she deserved both.
"Mother, I'm going to work Mr. Laurence a pair of slippers. He is so
kind to me, I must thank him, and I don't know any other way. Can I do
it?" asked Beth, a few weeks after that eventful call of his.
"Yes, dear. It will please him very much, and be a nice way of
thanking him. The girls will help you about them, and I will pay for
the making up," replied Mrs. March, who took peculiar pleasure in
granting Beth's requests because she so seldom asked anything for
After many serious discussions with Meg and Jo, the pattern was chosen,
the materials bought, and the slippers begun. A cluster of grave yet
cheerful pansies on a deeper purple ground was pronounced very
appropriate and pretty, and Beth worked away early and late, with
occasional lifts over hard parts. She was a nimble little needlewoman,
and they were finished before anyone got tired of them. Then she wrote
a short, simple note, and with Laurie's help, got them smuggled onto
the study table one morning before the old gentleman was up.
When this excitement was over, Beth waited to see what would happen.
All day passed and a part of the next before any acknowledgement
arrived, and she was beginning to fear she had offended her crochety
friend. On the afternoon of the second day, she went out to do an
errand, and give poor Joanna, the invalid doll, her daily exercise. As
she came up the street, on her return, she saw three, yes, four heads
popping in and out of the parlor windows, and the moment they saw her,
several hands were waved, and several joyful voices screamed...
"Here's a letter from the old gentleman! Come quick, and read it!"
"Oh, Beth, he's sent you..." began Amy, gesticulating with unseemly
energy, but she got no further, for Jo quenched her by slamming down
Beth hurried on in a flutter of suspense. At the door her sisters
seized and bore her to the parlor in a triumphal procession, all
pointing and all saying at once, "Look there! Look there!" Beth did
look, and turned pale with delight and surprise, for there stood a
little cabinet piano, with a letter lying on the glossy lid, directed
like a sign board to "Miss Elizabeth March."
"For me?" gasped Beth, holding onto Jo and feeling as if she should
tumble down, it was such an overwhelming thing altogether.
"Yes, all for you, my precious! Isn't it splendid of him? Don't you
think he's the dearest old man in the world? Here's the key in the
letter. We didn't open it, but we are dying to know what he says,"
cried Jo, hugging her sister and offering the note.
"You read it! I can't, I feel so queer! Oh, it is too lovely!" and
Beth hid her face in Jo's apron, quite upset by her present.
Jo opened the paper and began to laugh, for the first words she saw
"Miss March: "Dear Madam--"
"How nice it sounds! I wish someone would write to me so!" said Amy,
who thought the old-fashioned address very elegant.
"'I have had many pairs of slippers in my life, but I never had any
that suited me so well as yours,'" continues Jo. "'Heartsease is my
favorite flower, and these will always remind me of the gentle giver.
I like to pay my debts, so I know you will allow 'the old gentleman' to
send you something which once belonged to the little grand daughter he
lost. With hearty thanks and best wishes, I remain "'Your grateful
friend and humble servant, 'JAMES LAURENCE'."
"There, Beth, that's an honor to be proud of, I'm sure! Laurie told me
how fond Mr. Laurence used to be of the child who died, and how he kept
all her little things carefully. Just think, he's given you her piano.
That comes of having big blue eyes and loving music," said Jo, trying
to soothe Beth, who trembled and looked more excited than she had ever
"See the cunning brackets to hold candles, and the nice green silk,
puckered up, with a gold rose in the middle, and the pretty rack and
stool, all complete," added Meg, opening the instrument and displaying
"'Your humble servant, James Laurence'. Only think of his writing that
to you. I'll tell the girls. They'll think it's splendid," said Amy,
much impressed by the note.
"Try it, honey. Let's hear the sound of the baby pianny," said Hannah,
who always took a share in the family joys and sorrows.
So Beth tried it, and everyone pronounced it the most remarkable piano
ever heard. It had evidently been newly tuned and put in apple-pie
order, but, perfect as it was, I think the real charm lay in the
happiest of all happy faces which leaned over it, as Beth lovingly
touched the beautiful black and white keys and pressed the bright
"You'll have to go and thank him," said Jo, by way of a joke, for the
idea of the child's really going never entered her head.
"Yes, I mean to. I guess I'll go now, before I get frightened thinking
about it." And, to the utter amazement of the assembled family, Beth
walked deliberately down the garden, through the hedge, and in at the
"Well, I wish I may die if it ain't the queerest thing I ever see! The
pianny has turned her head! She'd never have gone in her right mind,"
cried Hannah, staring after her, while the girls were rendered quite
speechless by the miracle.
They would have been still more amazed if they had seen what Beth did
afterward. If you will believe me, she went and knocked at the study
door before she gave herself time to think, and when a gruff voice
called out, "come in!" she did go in, right up to Mr. Laurence, who
looked quite taken aback, and held out her hand, saying, with only a
small quaver in her voice, "I came to thank you, sir, for..." But she
didn't finish, for he looked so friendly that she forgot her speech
and, only remembering that he had lost the little girl he loved, she
put both arms round his neck and kissed him.
If the roof of the house had suddenly flown off, the old gentleman
wouldn't have been more astonished. But he liked it. Oh, dear, yes, he
liked it amazingly! And was so touched and pleased by that confiding
little kiss that all his crustiness vanished, and he just set her on
his knee, and laid his wrinkled cheek against her rosy one, feeling as
if he had got his own little granddaughter back again. Beth ceased to
fear him from that moment, and sat there talking to him as cozily as if
she had known him all her life, for love casts out fear, and gratitude
can conquer pride. When she went home, he walked with her to her own
gate, shook hands cordially, and touched his hat as he marched back
again, looking very stately and erect, like a handsome, soldierly old
gentleman, as he was.
When the girls saw that performance, Jo began to dance a jig, by way of
expressing her satisfaction, Amy nearly fell out of the window in her
surprise, and Meg exclaimed, with up-lifted hands, "Well, I do believe
the world is coming to an end."
AMY'S VALLEY OF HUMILIATION
"That boy is a perfect cyclops, isn't he?" said Amy one day, as Laurie
clattered by on horseback, with a flourish of his whip as he passed.
"How dare you say so, when he's got both his eyes? And very handsome
ones they are, too," cried Jo, who resented any slighting remarks about
"I didn't say anything about his eyes, and I don't see why you need
fire up when I admire his riding."
"Oh, my goodness! That little goose means a centaur, and she called
him a Cyclops," exclaimed Jo, with a burst of laughter.
"You needn't be so rude, it's only a 'lapse of lingy', as Mr. Davis
says," retorted Amy, finishing Jo with her Latin. "I just wish I had a
little of the money Laurie spends on that horse," she added, as if to
herself, yet hoping her sisters would hear.
"Why?" asked Meg kindly, for Jo had gone off in another laugh at Amy's
"I need it so much. I'm dreadfully in debt, and it won't be my turn to
have the rag money for a month."
"In debt, Amy? What do you mean?" And Meg looked sober.
"Why, I owe at least a dozen pickled limes, and I can't pay them, you
know, till I have money, for Marmee forbade my having anything charged
at the shop."
"Tell me all about it. Are limes the fashion now? It used to be
pricking bits of rubber to make balls." And Meg tried to keep her
countenance, Amy looked so grave and important.
"Why, you see, the girls are always buying them, and unless you want to
be thought mean, you must do it too. It's nothing but limes now, for
everyone is sucking them in their desks in schooltime, and trading them
off for pencils, bead rings, paper dolls, or something else, at recess.
If one girl likes another, she gives her a lime. If she's mad with
her, she eats one before her face, and doesn't offer even a suck. They
treat by turns, and I've had ever so many but haven't returned them,
and I ought for they are debts of honor, you know."
"How much will pay them off and restore your credit?" asked Meg, taking
out her purse.
"A quarter would more than do it, and leave a few cents over for a
treat for you. Don't you like limes?"
"Not much. You may have my share. Here's the money. Make it last as
long as you can, for it isn't very plenty, you know."
"Oh, thank you! It must be so nice to have pocket money! I'll have a
grand feast, for I haven't tasted a lime this week. I felt delicate
about taking any, as I couldn't return them, and I'm actually suffering
Next day Amy was rather late at school, but could not resist the
temptation of displaying, with pardonable pride, a moist brown-paper
parcel, before she consigned it to the inmost recesses of her desk.
During the next few minutes the rumor that Amy March had got
twenty-four delicious limes (she ate one on the way) and was going to
treat circulated through her 'set', and the attentions of her friends
became quite overwhelming. Katy Brown invited her to her next party on
the spot. Mary Kinglsey insisted on lending her her watch till recess,
and Jenny Snow, a satirical young lady, who had basely twitted Amy upon
her limeless state, promptly buried the hatchet and offered to furnish
answers to certain appalling sums. But Amy had not forgotten Miss
Snow's cutting remarks about 'some persons whose noses were not too
flat to smell other people's limes, and stuck-up people who were not
too proud to ask for them', and she instantly crushed 'that Snow
girl's' hopes by the withering telegram, "You needn't be so polite all
of a sudden, for you won't get any."
A distinguished personage happened to visit the school that morning,
and Amy's beautifully drawn maps received praise, which honor to her
foe rankled in the soul of Miss Snow, and caused Miss March to assume
the airs of a studious young peacock. But, alas, alas! Pride goes
before a fall, and the revengeful Snow turned the tables with
disastrous success. No sooner had the guest paid the usual stale
compliments and bowed himself out, than Jenny, under pretense of asking
an important question, informed Mr. Davis, the teacher, that Amy March
had pickled limes in her desk.
Now Mr. Davis had declared limes a contraband article, and solemnly
vowed to publicly ferrule the first person who was found breaking the
law. This much-enduring man had succeeded in banishing chewing gum
after a long and stormy war, had made a bonfire of the confiscated
novels and newspapers, had suppressed a private post office, had
forbidden distortions of the face, nicknames, and caricatures, and done
all that one man could do to keep half a hundred rebellious girls in
order. Boys are trying enough to human patience, goodness knows, but
girls are infinitely more so, especially to nervous gentlemen with
tyrannical tempers and no more talent for teaching than Dr. Blimber.
Mr. Davis knew any quantity of Greek, Latin, algebra, and ologies of
all sorts so he was called a fine teacher, and manners, morals,
feelings, and examples were not considered of any particular
importance. It was a most unfortunate moment for denouncing Amy, and
Jenny knew it. Mr. Davis had evidently taken his coffee too strong
that morning, there was an east wind, which always affected his
neuralgia, and his pupils had not done him the credit which he felt he
deserved. Therefore, to use the expressive, if not elegant, language
of a schoolgirl, "He was as nervous as a witch and as cross as a bear".
The word 'limes' was like fire to powder, his yellow face flushed, and
he rapped on his desk with an energy which made Jenny skip to her seat
with unusual rapidity.
"Young ladies, attention, if you please!"
At the stern order the buzz ceased, and fifty pairs of blue, black,
gray, and brown eyes were obediently fixed upon his awful countenance.
"Miss March, come to the desk."
Amy rose to comply with outward composure, but a secret fear oppressed
her, for the limes weighed upon her conscience.
"Bring with you the limes you have in your desk," was the unexpected
command which arrested her before she got out of her seat.
"Don't take all." whispered her neighbor, a young lady of great
presence of mind.
Amy hastily shook out half a dozen and laid the rest down before Mr.
Davis, feeling that any man possessing a human heart would relent when
that delicious perfume met his nose. Unfortunately, Mr. Davis
particularly detested the odor of the fashionable pickle, and disgust
added to his wrath.
"Is that all?"
"Not quite," stammered Amy.
"Bring the rest immediately."
With a despairing glance at her set, she obeyed.
"You are sure there are no more?"
"I never lie, sir."
"So I see. Now take these disgusting things two by two, and throw them
out of the window."
There was a simultaneous sigh, which created quite a little gust, as
the last hope fled, and the treat was ravished from their longing lips.
Scarlet with shame and anger, Amy went to and fro six dreadful times,
and as each doomed couple, looking oh, so plump and juicy, fell from
her reluctant hands, a shout from the street completed the anguish of
the girls, for it told them that their feast was being exulted over by
the little Irish children, who were their sworn foes. This--this was
too much. All flashed indignant or appealing glances at the inexorable
Davis, and one passionate lime lover burst into tears.
As Amy returned from her last trip, Mr. Davis gave a portentous "Hem!"
and said, in his most impressive manner...
"Young ladies, you remember what I said to you a week ago. I am sorry
this has happened, but I never allow my rules to be infringed, and I
never break my word. Miss March, hold out your hand."
Amy started, and put both hands behind her, turning on him an imploring
look which pleaded for her better than the words she could not utter.
She was rather a favorite with 'old Davis', as, of course, he was
called, and it's my private belief that he would have broken his word
if the indignation of one irrepressible young lady had not found vent
in a hiss. That hiss, faint as it was, irritated the irascible
gentleman, and sealed the culprit's fate.
"Your hand, Miss March!" was the only answer her mute appeal received,
and too proud to cry or beseech, Amy set her teeth, threw back her head
defiantly, and bore without flinching several tingling blows on her
little palm. They were neither many nor heavy, but that made no
difference to her. For the first time in her life she had been struck,
and the disgrace, in her eyes, was as deep as if he had knocked her
"You will now stand on the platform till recess," said Mr. Davis,
resolved to do the thing thoroughly, since he had begun.
That was dreadful. It would have been bad enough to go to her seat,
and see the pitying faces of her friends, or the satisfied ones of her
few enemies, but to face the whole school, with that shame fresh upon
her, seemed impossible, and for a second she felt as if she could only
drop down where she stood, and break her heart with crying. A bitter
sense of wrong and the thought of Jenny Snow helped her to bear it,
and, taking the ignominious place, she fixed her eyes on the stove
funnel above what now seemed a sea of faces, and stood there, so
motionless and white that the girls found it hard to study with that
pathetic figure before them.
During the fifteen minutes that followed, the proud and sensitive
little girl suffered a shame and pain which she never forgot. To
others it might seem a ludicrous or trivial affair, but to her it was a
hard experience, for during the twelve years of her life she had been
governed by love alone, and a blow of that sort had never touched her
before. The smart of her hand and the ache of her heart were forgotten
in the sting of the thought, "I shall have to tell at home, and they
will be so disappointed in me!"
The fifteen minutes seemed an hour, but they came to an end at last,
and the word 'Recess!' had never seemed so welcome to her before.
"You can go, Miss March," said Mr. Davis, looking, as he felt,
He did not soon forget the reproachful glance Amy gave him, as she
went, without a word to anyone, straight into the anteroom, snatched
her things, and left the place "forever," as she passionately declared
to herself. She was in a sad state when she got home, and when the
older girls arrived, some time later, an indignation meeting was held
at once. Mrs. March did not say much but looked disturbed, and
comforted her afflicted little daughter in her tenderest manner. Meg
bathed the insulted hand with glycerine and tears, Beth felt that even
her beloved kittens would fail as a balm for griefs like this, Jo
wrathfully proposed that Mr. Davis be arrested without delay, and
Hannah shook her fist at the 'villain' and pounded potatoes for dinner
as if she had him under her pestle.
No notice was taken of Amy's flight, except by her mates, but the
sharp-eyed demoiselles discovered that Mr. Davis was quite benignant in
the afternoon, also unusually nervous. Just before school closed, Jo
appeared, wearing a grim expression as she stalked up to the desk, and
delivered a letter from her mother, then collected Amy's property, and
departed, carefully scraping the mud from her boots on the door mat, as
if she shook the dust of the place off her feet.
"Yes, you can have a vacation from school, but I want you to study a
little every day with Beth," said Mrs. March that evening. "I don't
approve of corporal punishment, especially for girls. I dislike Mr.
Davis's manner of teaching and don't think the girls you associate with
are doing you any good, so I shall ask your father's advice before I
send you anywhere else."
"That's good! I wish all the girls would leave, and spoil his old
school. It's perfectly maddening to think of those lovely limes,"
sighed Amy, with the air of a martyr.
"I am not sorry you lost them, for you broke the rules, and deserved
some punishment for disobedience," was the severe reply, which rather
disappointed the young lady, who expected nothing but sympathy.
"Do you mean you are glad I was disgraced before the whole school?"
"I should not have chosen that way of mending a fault," replied her
mother, "but I'm not sure that it won't do you more good than a bolder
method. You are getting to be rather conceited, my dear, and it is
quite time you set about correcting it. You have a good many little
gifts and virtues, but there is no need of parading them, for conceit
spoils the finest genius. There is not much danger that real talent or
goodness will be overlooked long, even if it is, the consciousness of
possessing and using it well should satisfy one, and the great charm of
all power is modesty."
"So it is!" cried Laurie, who was playing chess in a corner with Jo.
"I knew a girl once, who had a really remarkable talent for music, and
she didn't know it, never guessed what sweet little things she composed
when she was alone, and wouldn't have believed it if anyone had told
"I wish I'd known that nice girl. Maybe she would have helped me, I'm
so stupid," said Beth, who stood beside him, listening eagerly.
"You do know her, and she helps you better than anyone else could,"
answered Laurie, looking at her with such mischievous meaning in his
merry black eyes that Beth suddenly turned very red, and hid her face
in the sofa cushion, quite overcome by such an unexpected discovery.
Jo let Laurie win the game to pay for that praise of her Beth, who
could not be prevailed upon to play for them after her compliment. So
Laurie did his best, and sang delightfully, being in a particularly
lively humor, for to the Marches he seldom showed the moody side of his
character. When he was gone, Amy, who had been pensive all evening,
said suddenly, as if busy over some new idea, "Is Laurie an
"Yes, he has had an excellent education, and has much talent. He will
make a fine man, if not spoiled by petting," replied her mother.
"And he isn't conceited, is he?" asked Amy.
"Not in the least. That is why he is so charming and we all like him
"I see. It's nice to have accomplishments and be elegant, but not to
show off or get perked up," said Amy thoughtfully.
"These things are always seen and felt in a person's manner and
conversations, if modestly used, but it is not necessary to display
them," said Mrs. March.
"Any more than it's proper to wear all your bonnets and gowns and
ribbons at once, that folks may know you've got them," added Jo, and
the lecture ended in a laugh.
JO MEETS APOLLYON
"Girls, where are you going?" asked Amy, coming into their room one
Saturday afternoon, and finding them getting ready to go out with an
air of secrecy which excited her curiosity.
"Never mind. Little girls shouldn't ask questions," returned Jo
Now if there is anything mortifying to our feelings when we are young,
it is to be told that, and to be bidden to "run away, dear" is still
more trying to us. Amy bridled up at this insult, and determined to
find out the secret, if she teased for an hour. Turning to Meg, who
never refused her anything very long, she said coaxingly, "Do tell me!
I should think you might let me go, too, for Beth is fussing over her
piano, and I haven't got anything to do, and am so lonely."
"I can't, dear, because you aren't invited," began Meg, but Jo broke in
impatiently, "Now, Meg, be quiet or you will spoil it all. You can't
go, Amy, so don't be a baby and whine about it."
"You are going somewhere with Laurie, I know you are. You were
whispering and laughing together on the sofa last night, and you
stopped when I came in. Aren't you going with him?"
"Yes, we are. Now do be still, and stop bothering."
Amy held her tongue, but used her eyes, and saw Meg slip a fan into her
"I know! I know! You're going to the theater to see the "Seven
Castles!"" she cried, adding resolutely, "and I shall go, for Mother
said I might see it, and I've got my rag money, and it was mean not to
tell me in time."
"Just listen to me a minute, and be a good child," said Meg soothingly.
"Mother doesn't wish you to go this week, because your eyes are not
well enough yet to bear the light of this fairy piece. Next week you
can go with Beth and Hannah, and have a nice time."
"I don't like that half as well as going with you and Laurie. Please
let me. I've been sick with this cold so long, and shut up, I'm dying
for some fun. Do, Meg! I'll be ever so good," pleaded Amy, looking as
pathetic as she could.
"Suppose we take her. I don't believe Mother would mind, if we bundle
her up well," began Meg.
"If she goes I shan't, and if I don't, Laurie won't like it, and it
will be very rude, after he invited only us, to go and drag in Amy. I
should think she'd hate to poke herself where she isn't wanted," said
Jo crossly, for she disliked the trouble of overseeing a fidgety child
when she wanted to enjoy herself.
Her tone and manner angered Amy, who began to put her boots on, saying,
in her most aggravating way, "I shall go. Meg says I may, and if I pay
for myself, Laurie hasn't anything to do with it."
"You can't sit with us, for our seats are reserved, and you mustn't sit
alone, so Laurie will give you his place, and that will spoil our
pleasure. Or he'll get another seat for you, and that isn't proper
when you weren't asked. You shan't stir a step, so you may just stay
where you are," scolded Jo, crosser than ever, having just pricked her
finger in her hurry.
Sitting on the floor with one boot on, Amy began to cry and Meg to
reason with her, when Laurie called from below, and the two girls
hurried down, leaving their sister wailing. For now and then she
forgot her grown-up ways and acted like a spoiled child. Just as the
party was setting out, Amy called over the banisters in a threatening
tone, "You'll be sorry for this, Jo March, see if you ain't."
"Fiddlesticks!" returned Jo, slamming the door.
They had a charming time, for "The Seven Castles Of The Diamond Lake"
was as brilliant and wonderful as heart could wish. But in spite of the
comical red imps, sparkling elves, and the gorgeous princes and
princesses, Jo's pleasure had a drop of bitterness in it. The fairy
queen's yellow curls reminded her of Amy, and between the acts she
amused herself with wondering what her sister would do to make her
'sorry for it'. She and Amy had had many lively skirmishes in the
course of their lives, for both had quick tempers and were apt to be
violent when fairly roused. Amy teased Jo, and Jo irritated Amy, and
semioccasional explosions occurred, of which both were much ashamed
afterward. Although the oldest, Jo had the least self-control, and had
hard times trying to curb the fiery spirit which was continually
getting her into trouble. Her anger never lasted long, and having
humbly confessed her fault, she sincerely repented and tried to do
better. Her sisters used to say that they rather liked to get Jo into a
fury because she was such an angel afterward. Poor Jo tried
desperately to be good, but her bosom enemy was always ready to flame
up and defeat her, and it took years of patient effort to subdue it.
When they got home, they found Amy reading in the parlor. She assumed
an injured air as they came in, never lifted her eyes from her book, or
asked a single question. Perhaps curiosity might have conquered
resentment, if Beth had not been there to inquire and receive a glowing
description of the play. On going up to put away her best hat, Jo's
first look was toward the bureau, for in their last quarrel Amy had
soothed her feelings by turning Jo's top drawer upside down on the
floor. Everything was in its place, however, and after a hasty glance
into her various closets, bags, and boxes, Jo decided that Amy had
forgiven and forgotten her wrongs.
There Jo was mistaken, for next day she made a discovery which produced
a tempest. Meg, Beth, and Amy were sitting together, late in the
afternoon, when Jo burst into the room, looking excited and demanding
breathlessly, "Has anyone taken my book?"
Meg and Beth said, "No." at once, and looked surprised. Amy poked the
fire and said nothing. Jo saw her color rise and was down upon her in
"Amy, you've got it!"
"No, I haven't."
"You know where it is, then!"
"No, I don't."
"That's a fib!" cried Jo, taking her by the shoulders, and looking
fierce enough to frighten a much braver child than Amy.
"It isn't. I haven't got it, don't know where it is now, and don't
"You know something about it, and you'd better tell at once, or I'll
make you." And Jo gave her a slight shake.
"Scold as much as you like, you'll never see your silly old book
again," cried Amy, getting excited in her turn.
"I burned it up."
"What! My little book I was so fond of, and worked over, and meant to
finish before Father got home? Have you really burned it?" said Jo,
turning very pale, while her eyes kindled and her hands clutched Amy
"Yes, I did! I told you I'd make you pay for being so cross yesterday,
and I have, so..."
Amy got no farther, for Jo's hot temper mastered her, and she shook Amy
till her teeth chattered in her head, crying in a passion of grief and
"You wicked, wicked girl! I never can write it again, and I'll never
forgive you as long as I live."
Meg flew to rescue Amy, and Beth to pacify Jo, but Jo was quite beside
herself, and with a parting box on her sister's ear, she rushed out of
the room up to the old sofa in the garret, and finished her fight alone.
The storm cleared up below, for Mrs. March came home, and, having heard
the story, soon brought Amy to a sense of the wrong she had done her
sister. Jo's book was the pride of her heart, and was regarded by her
family as a literary sprout of great promise. It was only half a dozen
little fairy tales, but Jo had worked over them patiently, putting her
whole heart into her work, hoping to make something good enough to
print. She had just copied them with great care, and had destroyed the
old manuscript, so that Amy's bonfire had consumed the loving work of
several years. It seemed a small loss to others, but to Jo it was a
dreadful calamity, and she felt that it never could be made up to her.
Beth mourned as for a departed kitten, and Meg refused to defend her
pet. Mrs. March looked grave and grieved, and Amy felt that no one
would love her till she had asked pardon for the act which she now
regretted more than any of them.
When the tea bell rang, Jo appeared, looking so grim and unapproachable
that it took all Amy's courage to say meekly...
"Please forgive me, Jo. I'm very, very sorry."
"I never shall forgive you," was Jo's stern answer, and from that
moment she ignored Amy entirely.
No one spoke of the great trouble, not even Mrs. March, for all had
learned by experience that when Jo was in that mood words were wasted,
and the wisest course was to wait till some little accident, or her own
generous nature, softened Jo's resentment and healed the breach. It
was not a happy evening, for though they sewed as usual, while their
mother read aloud from Bremer, Scott, or Edgeworth, something was
wanting, and the sweet home peace was disturbed. They felt this most
when singing time came, for Beth could only play, Jo stood dumb as a
stone, and Amy broke down, so Meg and Mother sang alone. But in spite
of their efforts to be as cheery as larks, the flutelike voices did not
seem to chord as well as usual, and all felt out of tune.
As Jo received her good-night kiss, Mrs. March whispered gently, "My
dear, don't let the sun go down upon your anger. Forgive each other,
help each other, and begin again tomorrow."
Jo wanted to lay her head down on that motherly bosom, and cry her
grief and anger all away, but tears were an unmanly weakness, and she
felt so deeply injured that she really couldn't quite forgive yet. So
she winked hard, shook her head, and said gruffly because Amy was
listening, "It was an abominable thing, and she doesn't deserve to be
With that she marched off to bed, and there was no merry or
confidential gossip that night.
Amy was much offended that her overtures of peace had been repulsed,
and began to wish she had not humbled herself, to feel more injured
than ever, and to plume herself on her superior virtue in a way which
was particularly exasperating. Jo still looked like a thunder cloud,
and nothing went well all day. It was bitter cold in the morning, she
dropped her precious turnover in the gutter, Aunt March had an attack
of the fidgets, Meg was sensitive, Beth would look grieved and wistful
when she got home, and Amy kept making remarks about people who were
always talking about being good and yet wouldn't even try when other
people set them a virtuous example.
"Everybody is so hateful, I'll ask Laurie to go skating. He is always
kind and jolly, and will put me to rights, I know," said Jo to herself,
and off she went.
Amy heard the clash of skates, and looked out with an impatient
"There! She promised I should go next time, for this is the last ice
we shall have. But it's no use to ask such a crosspatch to take me."
"Don't say that. You were very naughty, and it is hard to forgive the
loss of her precious little book, but I think she might do it now, and
I guess she will, if you try her at the right minute," said Meg. "Go
after them. Don't say anything till Jo has got good-natured with
Laurie, than take a quiet minute and just kiss her, or do some kind
thing, and I'm sure she'll be friends again with all her heart."
"I'll try," said Amy, for the advice suited her, and after a flurry to
get ready, she ran after the friends, who were just disappearing over
It was not far to the river, but both were ready before Amy reached
them. Jo saw her coming, and turned her back. Laurie did not see, for
he was carefully skating along the shore, sounding the ice, for a warm
spell had preceded the cold snap.
"I'll go on to the first bend, and see if it's all right before we
begin to race," Amy heard him say, as he shot away, looking like a
young Russian in his fur-trimmed coat and cap.
Jo heard Amy panting after her run, stamping her feet and blowing on
her fingers as she tried to put her skates on, but Jo never turned and
went slowly zigzagging down the river, taking a bitter, unhappy sort of
satisfaction in her sister's troubles. She had cherished her anger till
it grew strong and took possession of her, as evil thoughts and
feelings always do unless cast out at once. As Laurie turned the bend,
he shouted back...
"Keep near the shore. It isn't safe in the middle." Jo heard, but Amy
was struggling to her feet and did not catch a word. Jo glanced over
her shoulder, and the little demon she was harboring said in her ear...
"No matter whether she heard or not, let her take care of herself."
Laurie had vanished round the bend, Jo was just at the turn, and Amy,
far behind, striking out toward the smoother ice in the middle of the
river. For a minute Jo stood still with a strange feeling in her
heart, then she resolved to go on, but something held and turned her
round, just in time to see Amy throw up her hands and go down, with a
sudden crash of rotten ice, the splash of water, and a cry that made
Jo's heart stand still with fear. She tried to call Laurie, but her
voice was gone. She tried to rush forward, but her feet seemed to have
no strength in them, and for a second, she could only stand motionless,
staring with a terror-stricken face at the little blue hood above the
black water. Something rushed swiftly by her, and Laurie's voice cried
"Bring a rail. Quick, quick!"
How she did it, she never knew, but for the next few minutes she worked
as if possessed, blindly obeying Laurie, who was quite self-possessed,
and lying flat, held Amy up by his arm and hockey stick till Jo dragged
a rail from the fence, and together they got the child out, more
frightened than hurt.
"Now then, we must walk her home as fast as we can. Pile our things on
her, while I get off these confounded skates," cried Laurie, wrapping
his coat round Amy, and tugging away at the straps which never seemed
so intricate before.
Shivering, dripping, and crying, they got Amy home, and after an
exciting time of it, she fell asleep, rolled in blankets before a hot
fire. During the bustle Jo had scarcely spoken but flown about,
looking pale and wild, with her things half off, her dress torn, and
her hands cut and bruised by ice and rails and refractory buckles. When
Amy was comfortably asleep, the house quiet, and Mrs. March sitting by
the bed, she called Jo to her and began to bind up the hurt hands.
"Are you sure she is safe?" whispered Jo, looking remorsefully at the
golden head, which might have been swept away from her sight forever
under the treacherous ice.
"Quite safe, dear. She is not hurt, and won't even take cold, I think,
you were so sensible in covering and getting her home quickly," replied
her mother cheerfully.
"Laurie did it all. I only let her go. Mother, if she should die, it
would be my fault." And Jo dropped down beside the bed in a passion of
penitent tears, telling all that had happened, bitterly condemning her
hardness of heart, and sobbing out her gratitude for being spared the
heavy punishment which might have come upon her.
"It's my dreadful temper! I try to cure it, I think I have, and then
it breaks out worse than ever. Oh, Mother, what shall I do? What
shall I do?" cried poor Jo, in despair.
"Watch and pray, dear, never get tired of trying, and never think it is
impossible to conquer your fault," said Mrs. March, drawing the blowzy
head to her shoulder and kissing the wet cheek so tenderly that Jo
cried even harder.
"You don't know, you can't guess how bad it is! It seems as if I could
do anything when I'm in a passion. I get so savage, I could hurt
anyone and enjoy it. I'm afraid I shall do something dreadful some
day, and spoil my life, and make everybody hate me. Oh, Mother, help
me, do help me!"
"I will, my child, I will. Don't cry so bitterly, but remember this
day, and resolve with all your soul that you will never know another
like it. Jo, dear, we all have our temptations, some far greater than
yours, and it often takes us all our lives to conquer them. You think
your temper is the worst in the world, but mine used to be just like
"Yours, Mother? Why, you are never angry!" And for the moment Jo
forgot remorse in surprise.
"I've been trying to cure it for forty years, and have only succeeded
in controlling it. I am angry nearly every day of my life, Jo, but I
have learned not to show it, and I still hope to learn not to feel it,
though it may take me another forty years to do so."
The patience and the humility of the face she loved so well was a
better lesson to Jo than the wisest lecture, the sharpest reproof. She
felt comforted at once by the sympathy and confidence given her. The
knowledge that her mother had a fault like hers, and tried to mend it,
made her own easier to bear and strengthened her resolution to cure it,
though forty years seemed rather a long time to watch and pray to a
girl of fifteen.
"Mother, are you angry when you fold your lips tight together and go
out of the room sometimes, when Aunt March scolds or people worry you?"
asked Jo, feeling nearer and dearer to her mother than ever before.
"Yes, I've learned to check the hasty words that rise to my lips, and
when I feel that they mean to break out against my will, I just go away
for a minute, and give myself a little shake for being so weak and
wicked," answered Mrs. March with a sigh and a smile, as she smoothed
and fastened up Jo's disheveled hair.
"How did you learn to keep still? That is what troubles me, for the
sharp words fly out before I know what I'm about, and the more I say
the worse I get, till it's a pleasure to hurt people's feelings and say
dreadful things. Tell me how you do it, Marmee dear."
"My good mother used to help me..."
"As you do us..." interrupted Jo, with a grateful kiss.
"But I lost her when I was a little older than you are, and for years
had to struggle on alone, for I was too proud to confess my weakness to
anyone else. I had a hard time, Jo, and shed a good many bitter tears
over my failures, for in spite of my efforts I never seemed to get on.
Then your father came, and I was so happy that I found it easy to be
good. But by-and-by, when I had four little daughters round me and we
were poor, then the old trouble began again, for I am not patient by
nature, and it tried me very much to see my children wanting anything."
"Poor Mother! What helped you then?"
"Your father, Jo. He never loses patience, never doubts or complains,
but always hopes, and works and waits so cheerfully that one is ashamed
to do otherwise before him. He helped and comforted me, and showed me
that I must try to practice all the virtues I would have my little
girls possess, for I was their example. It was easier to try for your
sakes than for my own. A startled or surprised look from one of you
when I spoke sharply rebuked me more than any words could have done,
and the love, respect, and confidence of my children was the sweetest
reward I could receive for my efforts to be the woman I would have them
"Oh, Mother, if I'm ever half as good as you, I shall be satisfied,"
cried Jo, much touched.
"I hope you will be a great deal better, dear, but you must keep watch
over your 'bosom enemy', as father calls it, or it may sadden, if not
spoil your life. You have had a warning. Remember it, and try with
heart and soul to master this quick temper, before it brings you
greater sorrow and regret than you have known today."
"I will try, Mother, I truly will. But you must help me, remind me,
and keep me from flying out. I used to see Father sometimes put his
finger on his lips, and look at you with a very kind but sober face,
and you always folded your lips tight and went away. Was he reminding
you then?" asked Jo softly.
"Yes. I asked him to help me so, and he never forgot it, but saved me
from many a sharp word by that little gesture and kind look."
Jo saw that her mother's eyes filled and her lips trembled as she
spoke, and fearing that she had said too much, she whispered anxiously,
"Was it wrong to watch you and to speak of it? I didn't mean to be
rude, but it's so comfortable to say all I think to you, and feel so
safe and happy here."
"My Jo, you may say anything to your mother, for it is my greatest
happiness and pride to feel that my girls confide in me and know how
much I love them."
"I thought I'd grieved you."
"No, dear, but speaking of Father reminded me how much I miss him, how
much I owe him, and how faithfully I should watch and work to keep his
little daughters safe and good for him."
"Yet you told him to go, Mother, and didn't cry when he went, and never
complain now, or seem as if you needed any help," said Jo, wondering.
"I gave my best to the country I love, and kept my tears till he was
gone. Why should I complain, when we both have merely done our duty
and will surely be the happier for it in the end? If I don't seem to
need help, it is because I have a better friend, even than Father, to
comfort and sustain me. My child, the troubles and temptations of your
life are beginning and may be many, but you can overcome and outlive
them all if you learn to feel the strength and tenderness of your
Heavenly Father as you do that of your earthly one. The more you love
and trust Him, the nearer you will feel to Him, and the less you will
depend on human power and wisdom. His love and care never tire or
change, can never be taken from you, but may become the source of
lifelong peace, happiness, and strength. Believe this heartily, and go
to God with all your little cares, and hopes, and sins, and sorrows, as
freely and confidingly as you come to your mother."
Jo's only answer was to hold her mother close, and in the silence which
followed the sincerest prayer she had ever prayed left her heart
without words. For in that sad yet happy hour, she had learned not
only the bitterness of remorse and despair, but the sweetness of
self-denial and self-control, and led by her mother's hand, she had
drawn nearer to the Friend who always welcomes every child with a love
stronger than that of any father, tenderer than that of any mother.
Amy stirred and sighed in her sleep, and as if eager to begin at once
to mend her fault, Jo looked up with an expression on her face which it
had never worn before.
"I let the sun go down on my anger. I wouldn't forgive her, and today,
if it hadn't been for Laurie, it might have been too late! How could I
be so wicked?" said Jo, half aloud, as she leaned over her sister
softly stroking the wet hair scattered on the pillow.
As if she heard, Amy opened her eyes, and held out her arms, with a
smile that went straight to Jo's heart. Neither said a word, but they
hugged one another close, in spite of the blankets, and everything was
forgiven and forgotten in one hearty kiss.
MEG GOES TO VANITY FAIR
"I do think it was the most fortunate thing in the world that those
children should have the measles just now," said Meg, one April day, as
she stood packing the 'go abroady' trunk in her room, surrounded by her
"And so nice of Annie Moffat not to forget her promise. A whole
fortnight of fun will be regularly splendid," replied Jo, looking like
a windmill as she folded skirts with her long arms.
"And such lovely weather, I'm so glad of that," added Beth, tidily
sorting neck and hair ribbons in her best box, lent for the great
"I wish I was going to have a fine time and wear all these nice
things," said Amy with her mouth full of pins, as she artistically
replenished her sister's cushion.
"I wish you were all going, but as you can't, I shall keep my
adventures to tell you when I come back. I'm sure it's the least I can
do when you have been so kind, lending me things and helping me get
ready," said Meg, glancing round the room at the very simple outfit,
which seemed nearly perfect in their eyes.
"What did Mother give you out of the treasure box?" asked Amy, who had
not been present at the opening of a certain cedar chest in which Mrs.
March kept a few relics of past splendor, as gifts for her girls when
the proper time came.
"A pair of silk stockings, that pretty carved fan, and a lovely blue
sash. I wanted the violet silk, but there isn't time to make it over,
so I must be contented with my old tarlaton."
"It will look nice over my new muslin skirt, and the sash will set it
off beautifully. I wish I hadn't smashed my coral bracelet, for you
might have had it," said Jo, who loved to give and lend, but whose
possessions were usually too dilapidated to be of much use.
"There is a lovely old-fashioned pearl set in the treasure chest, but
Mother said real flowers were the prettiest ornament for a young girl,
and Laurie promised to send me all I want," replied Meg. "Now, let me
see, there's my new gray walking suit, just curl up the feather in my
hat, Beth, then my poplin for Sunday and the small party, it looks
heavy for spring, doesn't it? The violet silk would be so nice. Oh,
"Never mind, you've got the tarlaton for the big party, and you always
look like an angel in white," said Amy, brooding over the little store
of finery in which her soul delighted.
"It isn't low-necked, and it doesn't sweep enough, but it will have to
do. My blue housedress looks so well, turned and freshly trimmed, that
I feel as if I'd got a new one. My silk sacque isn't a bit the
fashion, and my bonnet doesn't look like Sallie's. I didn't like to
say anything, but I was sadly disappointed in my umbrella. I told
Mother black with a white handle, but she forgot and bought a green one
with a yellowish handle. It's strong and neat, so I ought not to
complain, but I know I shall feel ashamed of it beside Annie's silk one
with a gold top," sighed Meg, surveying the little umbrella with great
"Change it," advised Jo.
"I won't be so silly, or hurt Marmee's feelings, when she took so much
pains to get my things. It's a nonsensical notion of mine, and I'm not
going to give up to it. My silk stockings and two pairs of new gloves
are my comfort. You are a dear to lend me yours, Jo. I feel so rich
and sort of elegant, with two new pairs, and the old ones cleaned up
for common." And Meg took a refreshing peep at her glove box.
"Annie Moffat has blue and pink bows on her nightcaps. Would you put
some on mine?" she asked, as Beth brought up a pile of snowy muslins,
fresh from Hannah's hands.
"No, I wouldn't, for the smart caps won't match the plain gowns without
any trimming on them. Poor folks shouldn't rig," said Jo decidedly.
"I wonder if I shall ever be happy enough to have real lace on my
clothes and bows on my caps?" said Meg impatiently.
"You said the other day that you'd be perfectly happy if you could only
go to Annie Moffat's," observed Beth in her quiet way.
"So I did! Well, I am happy, and I won't fret, but it does seem as if
the more one gets the more one wants, doesn't it? There now, the trays
are ready, and everything in but my ball dress, which I shall leave for
Mother to pack," said Meg, cheering up, as she glanced from the
half-filled trunk to the many times pressed and mended white tarlaton,
which she called her 'ball dress' with an important air.
The next day was fine, and Meg departed in style for a fortnight of
novelty and pleasure. Mrs. March had consented to the visit rather
reluctantly, fearing that Margaret would come back more discontented
than she went. But she begged so hard, and Sallie had promised to take
good care of her, and a little pleasure seemed so delightful after a
winter of irksome work that the mother yielded, and the daughter went
to take her first taste of fashionable life.
The Moffats were very fashionable, and simple Meg was rather daunted,
at first, by the splendor of the house and the elegance of its
occupants. But they were kindly people, in spite of the frivolous life
they led, and soon put their guest at her ease. Perhaps Meg felt,
without understanding why, that they were not particularly cultivated
or intelligent people, and that all their gilding could not quite
conceal the ordinary material of which they were made. It certainly
was agreeable to fare sumptuously, drive in a fine carriage, wear her
best frock every day, and do nothing but enjoy herself. It suited her
exactly, and soon she began to imitate the manners and conversation of
those about her, to put on little airs and graces, use French phrases,
crimp her hair, take in her dresses, and talk about the fashions as
well as she could. The more she saw of Annie Moffat's pretty things,
the more she envied her and sighed to be rich. Home now looked bare
and dismal as she thought of it, work grew harder than ever, and she
felt that she was a very destitute and much-injured girl, in spite of
the new gloves and silk stockings.
She had not much time for repining, however, for the three young girls
were busily employed in 'having a good time'. They shopped, walked,
rode, and called all day, went to theaters and operas or frolicked at
home in the evening, for Annie had many friends and knew how to
entertain them. Her older sisters were very fine young ladies, and one
was engaged, which was extremely interesting and romantic, Meg thought.
Mr. Moffat was a fat, jolly old gentleman, who knew her father, and
Mrs. Moffat, a fat, jolly old lady, who took as great a fancy to Meg as
her daughter had done. Everyone petted her, and 'Daisey', as they
called her, was in a fair way to have her head turned.
When the evening for the small party came, she found that the poplin
wouldn't do at all, for the other girls were putting on thin dresses
and making themselves very fine indeed. So out came the tarlatan,
looking older, limper, and shabbier than ever beside Sallie's crisp new
one. Meg saw the girls glance at it and then at one another, and her
cheeks began to burn, for with all her gentleness she was very proud.
No one said a word about it, but Sallie offered to dress her hair, and
Annie to tie her sash, and Belle, the engaged sister, praised her white
arms. But in their kindness Meg saw only pity for her poverty, and her
heart felt very heavy as she stood by herself, while the others
laughed, chattered, and flew about like gauzy butterflies. The hard,
bitter feeling was getting pretty bad, when the maid brought in a box
of flowers. Before she could speak, Annie had the cover off, and all
were exclaiming at the lovely roses, heath, and fern within.
"It's for Belle, of course, George always sends her some, but these are
altogether ravishing," cried Annie, with a great sniff.
"They are for Miss March, the man said. And here's a note," put in the
maid, holding it to Meg.
"What fun! Who are they from? Didn't know you had a lover," cried the
girls, fluttering about Meg in a high state of curiosity and surprise.
"The note is from Mother, and the flowers from Laurie," said Meg
simply, yet much gratified that he had not forgotten her.
"Oh, indeed!" said Annie with a funny look, as Meg slipped the note
into her pocket as a sort of talisman against envy, vanity, and false
pride, for the few loving words had done her good, and the flowers
cheered her up by their beauty.
Feeling almost happy again, she laid by a few ferns and roses for
herself, and quickly made up the rest in dainty bouquets for the
breasts, hair, or skirts of her friends, offering them so prettily that
Clara, the elder sister, told her she was 'the sweetest little thing
she ever saw', and they looked quite charmed with her small attention.
Somehow the kind act finished her despondency, and when all the rest
went to show themselves to Mrs. Moffat, she saw a happy, bright-eyed
face in the mirror, as she laid her ferns against her rippling hair and
fastened the roses in the dress that didn't strike her as so very
She enjoyed herself very much that evening, for she danced to her
heart's content. Everyone was very kind, and she had three
compliments. Annie made her sing, and some one said she had a
remarkably fine voice. Major Lincoln asked who 'the fresh little girl
with the beautiful eyes' was, and Mr. Moffat insisted on dancing with
her because she 'didn't dawdle, but had some spring in her', as he
gracefully expressed it. So altogether she had a very nice time, till
she overheard a bit of conversation, which disturbed her extremely.
She was sitting just inside the conservatory, waiting for her partner
to bring her an ice, when she heard a voice ask on the other side of
the flowery wall...
"How old is he?"
"Sixteen or seventeen, I should say," replied another voice.
"It would be a grand thing for one of those girls, wouldn't it? Sallie
says they are very intimate now, and the old man quite dotes on them."
"Mrs. M. has made her plans, I dare say, and will play her cards well,
early as it is. The girl evidently doesn't think of it yet," said Mrs.
"She told that fib about her momma, as if she did know, and colored up
when the flowers came quite prettily. Poor thing! She'd be so nice if
she was only got up in style. Do you think she'd be offended if we
offered to lend her a dress for Thursday?" asked another voice.
"She's proud, but I don't believe she'd mind, for that dowdy tarlaton
is all she has got. She may tear it tonight, and that will be a good
excuse for offering a decent one."
Here Meg's partner appeared, to find her looking much flushed and
rather agitated. She was proud, and her pride was useful just then,
for it helped her hide her mortification, anger, and disgust at what
she had just heard. For, innocent and unsuspicious as she was, she
could not help understanding the gossip of her friends. She tried to
forget it, but could not, and kept repeating to herself, "Mrs. M. has
made her plans," "that fib about her mamma," and "dowdy tarlaton," till
she was ready to cry and rush home to tell her troubles and ask for
advice. As that was impossible, she did her best to seem gay, and
being rather excited, she succeeded so well that no one dreamed what an
effort she was making. She was very glad when it was all over and she
was quiet in her bed, where she could think and wonder and fume till
her head ached and her hot cheeks were cooled by a few natural tears.
Those foolish, yet well meant words, had opened a new world to Meg, and
much disturbed the peace of the old one in which till now she had lived
as happily as a child. Her innocent friendship with Laurie was spoiled
by the silly speeches she had overheard. Her faith in her mother was a
little shaken by the worldly plans attributed to her by Mrs. Moffat,
who judged others by herself, and the sensible resolution to be
contented with the simple wardrobe which suited a poor man's daughter
was weakened by the unnecessary pity of girls who thought a shabby
dress one of the greatest calamities under heaven.
Poor Meg had a restless night, and got up heavy-eyed, unhappy, half
resentful toward her friends, and half ashamed of herself for not
speaking out frankly and setting everything right. Everybody dawdled
that morning, and it was noon before the girls found energy enough even
to take up their worsted work. Something in the manner of her friends
struck Meg at once. They treated her with more respect, she thought,
took quite a tender interest in what she said, and looked at her with
eyes that plainly betrayed curiosity. All this surprised and flattered
her, though she did not understand it till Miss Belle looked up from
her writing, and said, with a sentimental air...
"Daisy, dear, I've sent an invitation to your friend, Mr. Laurence, for
Thursday. We should like to know him, and it's only a proper
compliment to you."
Meg colored, but a mischievous fancy to tease the girls made her reply
demurely, "You are very kind, but I'm afraid he won't come."
"Why not, Cherie?" asked Miss Belle.
"He's too old."
"My child, what do you mean? What is his age, I beg to know!" cried
"Nearly seventy, I believe," answered Meg, counting stitches to hide
the merriment in her eyes.
"You sly creature! Of course we meant the young man," exclaimed Miss
"There isn't any, Laurie is only a little boy." And Meg laughed also
at the queer look which the sisters exchanged as she thus described her
"About your age," Nan said.
"Nearer my sister Jo's; I am seventeen in August," returned Meg,
tossing her head.
"It's very nice of him to send you flowers, isn't it?" said Annie,
looking wise about nothing.
"Yes, he often does, to all of us, for their house is full, and we are
so fond of them. My mother and old Mr. Laurence are friends, you know,
so it is quite natural that we children should play together," and Meg
hoped they would say no more.
"It's evident Daisy isn't out yet," said Miss Clara to Belle with a nod.
"Quite a pastoral state of innocence all round," returned Miss Belle
with a shrug.
"I'm going out to get some little matters for my girls. Can I do
anything for you, young ladies?" asked Mrs. Moffat, lumbering in like
an elephant in silk and lace.
"No, thank you, ma'am," replied Sallie. "I've got my new pink silk for
Thursday and don't want a thing."
"Nor I..." began Meg, but stopped because it occurred to her that she
did want several things and could not have them.
"What shall you wear?" asked Sallie.
"My old white one again, if I can mend it fit to be seen, it got sadly
torn last night," said Meg, trying to speak quite easily, but feeling
"Why don't you send home for another?" said Sallie, who was not an
observing young lady.
"I haven't got any other." It cost Meg an effort to say that, but
Sallie did not see it and exclaimed in amiable surprise, "Only that?
How funny..." She did not finish her speech, for Belle shook her head
at her and broke in, saying kindly...
"Not at all. Where is the use of having a lot of dresses when she
isn't out yet? There's no need of sending home, Daisy, even if you had
a dozen, for I've got a sweet blue silk laid away, which I've outgrown,
and you shall wear it to please me, won't you, dear?"
"You are very kind, but I don't mind my old dress if you don't, it does
well enough for a little girl like me," said Meg.
"Now do let me please myself by dressing you up in style. I admire to
do it, and you'd be a regular little beauty with a touch here and
there. I shan't let anyone see you till you are done, and then we'll
burst upon them like Cinderella and her godmother going to the ball,"
said Belle in her persuasive tone.
Meg couldn't refuse the offer so kindly made, for a desire to see if
she would be 'a little beauty' after touching up caused her to accept
and forget all her former uncomfortable feelings toward the Moffats.
On the Thursday evening, Belle shut herself up with her maid, and
between them they turned Meg into a fine lady. They crimped and curled
her hair, they polished her neck and arms with some fragrant powder,
touched her lips with coralline salve to make them redder, and Hortense
would have added 'a soupcon of rouge', if Meg had not rebelled. They
laced her into a sky-blue dress, which was so tight she could hardly
breathe and so low in the neck that modest Meg blushed at herself in
the mirror. A set of silver filagree was added, bracelets, necklace,
brooch, and even earrings, for Hortense tied them on with a bit of pink
silk which did not show. A cluster of tea-rose buds at the bosom, and
a ruche, reconciled Meg to the display of her pretty, white shoulders,
and a pair of high-heeled silk boots satisfied the last wish of her
heart. A lace handkerchief, a plumy fan, and a bouquet in a shoulder
holder finished her off, and Miss Belle surveyed her with the
satisfaction of a little girl with a newly dressed doll.
"Mademoiselle is charmante, tres jolie, is she not?" cried Hortense,
clasping her hands in an affected rapture.
"Come and show yourself," said Miss Belle, leading the way to the room
where the others were waiting.
As Meg went rustling after, with her long skirts trailing, her earrings
tinkling, her curls waving, and her heart beating, she felt as if her
fun had really begun at last, for the mirror had plainly told her that
she was 'a little beauty'. Her friends repeated the pleasing phrase
enthusiastically, and for several minutes she stood, like a jackdaw in
the fable, enjoying her borrowed plumes, while the rest chattered like
a party of magpies.
"While I dress, do you drill her, Nan, in the management of her skirt
and those French heels, or she will trip herself up. Take your silver
butterfly, and catch up that long curl on the left side of her head,
Clara, and don't any of you disturb the charming work of my hands,"
said Belle, as she hurried away, looking well pleased with her success.
"You don't look a bit like yourself, but you are very nice. I'm nowhere
beside you, for Belle has heaps of taste, and you're quite French, I
assure you. Let your flowers hang, don't be so careful of them, and be
sure you don't trip," returned Sallie, trying not to care that Meg was
prettier than herself.
Keeping that warning carefully in mind, Margaret got safely down stairs
and sailed into the drawing rooms where the Moffats and a few early
guests were assembled. She very soon discovered that there is a charm
about fine clothes which attracts a certain class of people and secures
their respect. Several young ladies, who had taken no notice of her
before, were very affectionate all of a sudden. Several young
gentlemen, who had only stared at her at the other party, now not only
stared, but asked to be introduced, and said all manner of foolish but
agreeable things to her, and several old ladies, who sat on the sofas,
and criticized the rest of the party, inquired who she was with an air
of interest. She heard Mrs. Moffat reply to one of them...
"Daisy March--father a colonel in the army--one of our first families,
but reverses of fortune, you know; intimate friends of the Laurences;
sweet creature, I assure you; my Ned is quite wild about her."
"Dear me!" said the old lady, putting up her glass for another
observation of Meg, who tried to look as if she had not heard and been
rather shocked at Mrs. Moffat's fibs. The 'queer feeling' did not pass
away, but she imagined herself acting the new part of fine lady and so
got on pretty well, though the tight dress gave her a side-ache, the
train kept getting under her feet, and she was in constant fear lest
her earrings should fly off and get lost or broken. She was flirting
her fan and laughing at the feeble jokes of a young gentleman who tried
to be witty, when she suddenly stopped laughing and looked confused,
for just opposite, she saw Laurie. He was staring at her with
undisguised surprise, and disapproval also, she thought, for though he
bowed and smiled, yet something in his honest eyes made her blush and
wish she had her old dress on. To complete her confusion, she saw Belle
nudge Annie, and both glance from her to Laurie, who, she was happy to
see, looked unusually boyish and shy.
"Silly creatures, to put such thoughts into my head. I won't care for
it, or let it change me a bit," thought Meg, and rustled across the
room to shake hands with her friend.
"I'm glad you came, I was afraid you wouldn't." she said, with her most
"Jo wanted me to come, and tell her how you looked, so I did," answered
Laurie, without turning his eyes upon her, though he half smiled at her
"What shall you tell her?" asked Meg, full of curiosity to know his
opinion of her, yet feeling ill at ease with him for the first time.
"I shall say I didn't know you, for you look so grown-up and unlike
yourself, I'm quite afraid of you," he said, fumbling at his glove
"How absurd of you! The girls dressed me up for fun, and I rather like
it. Wouldn't Jo stare if she saw me?" said Meg, bent on making him say
whether he thought her improved or not.
"Yes, I think she would," returned Laurie gravely.
"Don't you like me so?" asked Meg.
"No, I don't," was the blunt reply.
"Why not?" in an anxious tone.
He glanced at her frizzled head, bare shoulders, and fantastically
trimmed dress with an expression that abashed her more than his answer,
which had not a particle of his usual politeness in it.
"I don't like fuss and feathers."
That was altogether too much from a lad younger than herself, and Meg
walked away, saying petulantly, "You are the rudest boy I ever saw."
Feeling very much ruffled, she went and stood at a quiet window to cool
her cheeks, for the tight dress gave her an uncomfortably brilliant
color. As she stood there, Major Lincoln passed by, and a minute after
she heard him saying to his mother...
"They are making a fool of that little girl. I wanted you to see her,
but they have spoiled her entirely. She's nothing but a doll tonight."
"Oh, dear!" sighed Meg. "I wish I'd been sensible and worn my own
things, then I should not have disgusted other people, or felt so
uncomfortable and ashamed of myself."
She leaned her forehead on the cool pane, and stood half hidden by the
curtains, never minding that her favorite waltz had begun, till some
one touched her, and turning, she saw Laurie, looking penitent, as he
said, with his very best bow and his hand out...
"Please forgive my rudeness, and come and dance with me."
"I'm afraid it will be too disagreeable to you," said Meg, trying to
look offended and failing entirely.
"Not a bit of it, I'm dying to do it. Come, I'll be good. I don't like
your gown, but I do think you are just splendid." And he waved his
hands, as if words failed to express his admiration.
Meg smiled and relented, and whispered as they stood waiting to catch
the time, "Take care my skirt doesn't trip you up. It's the plague of
my life and I was a goose to wear it."
"Pin it round your neck, and then it will be useful," said Laurie,
looking down at the little blue boots, which he evidently approved of.
Away they went fleetly and gracefully, for having practiced at home,
they were well matched, and the blithe young couple were a pleasant
sight to see, as they twirled merrily round and round, feeling more
friendly than ever after their small tiff.
"Laurie, I want you to do me a favor, will you?" said Meg, as he stood
fanning her when her breath gave out, which it did very soon though she
would not own why.
"Won't I!" said Laurie, with alacrity.
"Please don't tell them at home about my dress tonight. They won't
understand the joke, and it will worry Mother."
"Then why did you do it?" said Laurie's eyes, so plainly that Meg
"I shall tell them myself all about it, and 'fess' to Mother how silly
I've been. But I'd rather do it myself. So you'll not tell, will you?"
"I give you my word I won't, only what shall I say when they ask me?"
"Just say I looked pretty well and was having a good time."
"I'll say the first with all my heart, but how about the other? You
don't look as if you were having a good time. Are you?" And Laurie
looked at her with an expression which made her answer in a whisper...
"No, not just now. Don't think I'm horrid. I only wanted a little
fun, but this sort doesn't pay, I find, and I'm getting tired of it."
"Here comes Ned Moffat. What does he want?" said Laurie, knitting his
black brows as if he did not regard his young host in the light of a
pleasant addition to the party.
"He put his name down for three dances, and I suppose he's coming for
them. What a bore!" said Meg, assuming a languid air which amused
He did not speak to her again till suppertime, when he saw her drinking
champagne with Ned and his friend Fisher, who were behaving 'like a
pair of fools', as Laurie said to himself, for he felt a brotherly sort
of right to watch over the Marches and fight their battles whenever a
defender was needed.
"You'll have a splitting headache tomorrow, if you drink much of that.
I wouldn't, Meg, your mother doesn't like it, you know," he whispered,
leaning over her chair, as Ned turned to refill her glass and Fisher
stooped to pick up her fan.
"I'm not Meg tonight, I'm 'a doll' who does all sorts of crazy things.
Tomorrow I shall put away my 'fuss and feathers' and be desperately
good again," she answered with an affected little laugh.
"Wish tomorrow was here, then," muttered Laurie, walking off,
ill-pleased at the change he saw in her.
Meg danced and flirted, chattered and giggled, as the other girls did.
After supper she undertook the German, and blundered through it, nearly
upsetting her partner with her long skirt, and romping in a way that
scandalized Laurie, who looked on and meditated a lecture. But he got
no chance to deliver it, for Meg kept away from him till he came to say
"Remember!" she said, trying to smile, for the splitting headache had
"Silence a la mort," replied Laurie, with a melodramatic flourish, as
he went away.
This little bit of byplay excited Annie's curiosity, but Meg was too
tired for gossip and went to bed, feeling as if she had been to a
masquerade and hadn't enjoyed herself as much as she expected. She was
sick all the next day, and on Saturday went home, quite used up with
her fortnight's fun and feeling that she had 'sat in the lap of luxury'
"It does seem pleasant to be quiet, and not have company manners on all
the time. Home is a nice place, though it isn't splendid," said Meg,
looking about her with a restful expression, as she sat with her mother
and Jo on the Sunday evening.
"I'm glad to hear you say so, dear, for I was afraid home would seem
dull and poor to you after your fine quarters," replied her mother, who
had given her many anxious looks that day. For motherly eyes are quick
to see any change in children's faces.
Meg had told her adventures gayly and said over and over what a
charming time she had had, but something still seemed to weigh upon her
spirits, and when the younger girls were gone to bed, she sat
thoughtfully staring at the fire, saying little and looking worried.
As the clock struck nine and Jo proposed bed, Meg suddenly left her
chair and, taking Beth's stool, leaned her elbows on her mother's knee,
"Marmee, I want to 'fess'."
"I thought so. What is it, dear?"
"Shall I go away?" asked Jo discreetly.
"Of course not. Don't I always tell you everything? I was ashamed to
speak of it before the younger children, but I want you to know all the
dreadful things I did at the Moffats'."
"We are prepared," said Mrs. March, smiling but looking a little
"I told you they dressed me up, but I didn't tell you that they
powdered and squeezed and frizzled, and made me look like a
fashion-plate. Laurie thought I wasn't proper. I know he did, though
he didn't say so, and one man called me 'a doll'. I knew it was silly,
but they flattered me and said I was a beauty, and quantities of
nonsense, so I let them make a fool of me."
"Is that all?" asked Jo, as Mrs. March looked silently at the downcast
face of her pretty daughter, and could not find it in her heart to
blame her little follies.
"No, I drank champagne and romped and tried to flirt, and was
altogether abominable," said Meg self-reproachfully.
"There is something more, I think." And Mrs. March smoothed the soft
cheek, which suddenly grew rosy as Meg answered slowly...
"Yes. It's very silly, but I want to tell it, because I hate to have
people say and think such things about us and Laurie."
Then she told the various bits of gossip she had heard at the Moffats',
and as she spoke, Jo saw her mother fold her lips tightly, as if ill
pleased that such ideas should be put into Meg's innocent mind.
"Well, if that isn't the greatest rubbish I ever heard," cried Jo
indignantly. "Why didn't you pop out and tell them so on the spot?"
"I couldn't, it was so embarrassing for me. I couldn't help hearing at
first, and then I was so angry and ashamed, I didn't remember that I
ought to go away."
"Just wait till I see Annie Moffat, and I'll show you how to settle
such ridiculous stuff. The idea of having 'plans' and being kind to
Laurie because he's rich and may marry us by-and-by! Won't he shout
when I tell him what those silly things say about us poor children?"
And Jo laughed, as if on second thoughts the thing struck her as a good
"If you tell Laurie, I'll never forgive you! She mustn't, must she,
Mother?" said Meg, looking distressed.
"No, never repeat that foolish gossip, and forget it as soon as you
can," said Mrs. March gravely. "I was very unwise to let you go among
people of whom I know so little, kind, I dare say, but worldly,
ill-bred, and full of these vulgar ideas about young people. I am more
sorry than I can express for the mischief this visit may have done you,
"Don't be sorry, I won't let it hurt me. I'll forget all the bad and
remember only the good, for I did enjoy a great deal, and thank you
very much for letting me go. I'll not be sentimental or dissatisfied,
Mother. I know I'm a silly little girl, and I'll stay with you till
I'm fit to take care of myself. But it is nice to be praised and
admired, and I can't help saying I like it," said Meg, looking half
ashamed of the confession.
"That is perfectly natural, and quite harmless, if the liking does not
become a passion and lead one to do foolish or unmaidenly things.
Learn to know and value the praise which is worth having, and to excite
the admiration of excellent people by being modest as well as pretty,
Margaret sat thinking a moment, while Jo stood with her hands behind
her, looking both interested and a little perplexed, for it was a new
thing to see Meg blushing and talking about admiration, lovers, and
things of that sort. And Jo felt as if during that fortnight her
sister had grown up amazingly, and was drifting away from her into a
world where she could not follow.
"Mother, do you have 'plans', as Mrs. Moffat said?" asked Meg bashfully.
"Yes, my dear, I have a great many, all mothers do, but mine differ
somewhat from Mrs. Moffat's, I suspect. I will tell you some of them,
for the time has come when a word may set this romantic little head and
heart of yours right, on a very serious subject. You are young, Meg,
but not too young to understand me, and mothers' lips are the fittest
to speak of such things to girls like you. Jo, your turn will come in
time, perhaps, so listen to my 'plans' and help me carry them out, if
they are good."
Jo went and sat on one arm of the chair, looking as if she thought they
were about to join in some very solemn affair. Holding a hand of each,
and watching the two young faces wistfully, Mrs. March said, in her
serious yet cheery way...
"I want my daughters to be beautiful, accomplished, and good. To be
admired, loved, and respected. To have a happy youth, to be well and
wisely married, and to lead useful, pleasant lives, with as little care
and sorrow to try them as God sees fit to send. To be loved and chosen
by a good man is the best and sweetest thing which can happen to a
woman, and I sincerely hope my girls may know this beautiful
experience. It is natural to think of it, Meg, right to hope and wait
for it, and wise to prepare for it, so that when the happy time comes,
you may feel ready for the duties and worthy of the joy. My dear
girls, I am ambitious for you, but not to have you make a dash in the
world, marry rich men merely because they are rich, or have splendid
houses, which are not homes because love is wanting. Money is a
needful and precious thing, and when well used, a noble thing, but I
never want you to think it is the first or only prize to strive for.
I'd rather see you poor men's wives, if you were happy, beloved,
contented, than queens on thrones, without self-respect and peace."
"Poor girls don't stand any chance, Belle says, unless they put
themselves forward," sighed Meg.
"Then we'll be old maids," said Jo stoutly.
"Right, Jo. Better be happy old maids than unhappy wives, or
unmaidenly girls, running about to find husbands," said Mrs. March
decidedly. "Don't be troubled, Meg, poverty seldom daunts a sincere
lover. Some of the best and most honored women I know were poor girls,
but so love-worthy that they were not allowed to be old maids. Leave
these things to time. Make this home happy, so that you may be fit for
homes of your own, if they are offered you, and contented here if they
are not. One thing remember, my girls. Mother is always ready to be
your confidant, Father to be your friend, and both of us hope and trust
that our daughters, whether married or single, will be the pride and
comfort of our lives."
"We will, Marmee, we will!" cried both, with all their hearts, as she
bade them good night.
THE P.C. AND P.O.
As spring came on, a new set of amusements became the fashion, and the
lengthening days gave long afternoons for work and play of all sorts.
The garden had to be put in order, and each sister had a quarter of the
little plot to do what she liked with. Hannah used to say, "I'd know
which each of them gardings belonged to, ef I see 'em in Chiny," and so
she might, for the girls' tastes differed as much as their characters.
Meg's had roses and heliotrope, myrtle, and a little orange tree in it.
Jo's bed was never alike two seasons, for she was always trying
experiments. This year it was to be a plantation of sun flowers, the
seeds of which cheerful land aspiring plant were to feed Aunt
Cockle-top and her family of chicks. Beth had old-fashioned fragrant
flowers in her garden, sweet peas and mignonette, larkspur, pinks,
pansies, and southernwood, with chickweed for the birds and catnip for
the pussies. Amy had a bower in hers, rather small and earwiggy, but
very pretty to look at, with honeysuckle and morning-glories hanging
their colored horns and bells in graceful wreaths all over it, tall
white lilies, delicate ferns, and as many brilliant, picturesque plants
as would consent to blossom there.
Gardening, walks, rows on the river, and flower hunts employed the fine
days, and for rainy ones, they had house diversions, some old, some
new, all more or less original. One of these was the 'P.C.', for as
secret societies were the fashion, it was thought proper to have one,
and as all of the girls admired Dickens, they called themselves the
Pickwick Club. With a few interruptions, they had kept this up for a
year, and met every Saturday evening in the big garret, on which
occasions the ceremonies were as follows: Three chairs were arranged
in a row before a table on which was a lamp, also four white badges,
with a big 'P.C.' in different colors on each, and the weekly newspaper
called, The Pickwick Portfolio, to which all contributed something,
while Jo, who reveled in pens and ink, was the editor. At seven
o'clock, the four members ascended to the clubroom, tied their badges
round their heads, and took their seats with great solemnity. Meg, as
the eldest, was Samuel Pickwick, Jo, being of a literary turn, Augustus
Snodgrass, Beth, because she was round and rosy, Tracy Tupman, and Amy,
who was always trying to do what she couldn't, was Nathaniel Winkle.
Pickwick, the president, read the paper, which was filled with original
tales, poetry, local news, funny advertisements, and hints, in which
they good-naturedly reminded each other of their faults and short
comings. On one occasion, Mr. Pickwick put on a pair of spectacles
without any glass, rapped upon the table, hemmed, and having stared
hard at Mr. Snodgrass, who was tilting back in his chair, till he
arranged himself properly, began to read:
"THE PICKWICK PORTFOLIO"
MAY 20, 18--
Again we meet to celebrate
With badge and solemn rite,
Our fifty-second anniversary,
In Pickwick Hall, tonight.
We all are here in perfect health,
None gone from our small band:
Again we see each well-known face,
And press each friendly hand.
Our Pickwick, always at his post,
With reverence we greet,
As, spectacles on nose, he reads
Our well-filled weekly sheet.
Although he suffers from a cold,
We joy to hear him speak,
For words of wisdom from him fall,
In spite of croak or squeak.
Old six-foot Snodgrass looms on high,
With elephantine grace,
And beams upon the company,
With brown and jovial face.
Poetic fire lights up his eye,
He struggles 'gainst his lot.
Behold ambition on his brow,
And on his nose, a blot.
Next our peaceful Tupman comes,
So rosy, plump, and sweet,
Who chokes with laughter at the puns,
And tumbles off his seat.
Prim little Winkle too is here,
With every hair in place,
A model of propriety,
Though he hates to wash his face.
The year is gone, we still unite
To joke and laugh and read,
And tread the path of literature
That doth to glory lead.
Long may our paper prosper well,
Our club unbroken be,
And coming years their blessings pour
On the useful, gay 'P. C.'.
THE MASKED MARRIAGE
(A Tale Of Venice)
Gondola after gondola swept up to the marble
steps, and left its lovely load to swell the
brilliant throng that filled the stately halls of Count
Adelon. Knights and ladies, elves and pages, monks
and flower girls, all mingled gaily in the dance.
Sweet voices and rich melody filled the air, and so
with mirth and music the masquerade went on.
"Has your Highness seen the Lady Viola tonight?"
asked a gallant troubadour of the fairy queen who
floated down the hall upon his arm.
"Yes, is she not lovely, though so sad! Her
dress is well chosen, too, for in a week she weds
Count Antonio, whom she passionately hates."
"By my faith, I envy him. Yonder he comes,
arrayed like a bridegroom, except the black mask.
When that is off we shall see how he regards the
fair maid whose heart he cannot win, though her
stern father bestows her hand," returned the troubadour.
"Tis whispered that she loves the young English
artist who haunts her steps, and is spurned by the
old Count," said the lady, as they joined the dance.
The revel was at its height when a priest
appeared, and withdrawing the young pair to an alcove,
hung with purple velvet, he motioned them to kneel.
Instant silence fell on the gay throng, and not a
sound, but the dash of fountains or the rustle of
orange groves sleeping in the moonlight, broke the
hush, as Count de Adelon spoke thus:
"My lords and ladies, pardon the ruse by which
I have gathered you here to witness the marriage of
my daughter. Father, we wait your services."
All eyes turned toward the bridal party, and a
murmur of amazement went through the throng, for
neither bride nor groom removed their masks. Curiosity
and wonder possessed all hearts, but respect restrained
all tongues till the holy rite was over. Then the
eager spectators gathered round the count, demanding
"Gladly would I give it if I could, but I only
know that it was the whim of my timid Viola, and I
yielded to it. Now, my children, let the play end.
Unmask and receive my blessing."
But neither bent the knee, for the young bridegroom
replied in a tone that startled all listeners
as the mask fell, disclosing the noble face of Ferdinand
Devereux, the artist lover, and leaning on the
breast where now flashed the star of an English earl
was the lovely Viola, radiant with joy and beauty.
"My lord, you scornfully bade me claim your
daughter when I could boast as high a name and vast a
fortune as the Count Antonio. I can do more, for even
your ambitious soul cannot refuse the Earl of Devereux
and De Vere, when he gives his ancient name and boundless
wealth in return for the beloved hand of this fair lady,
now my wife."
The count stood like one changed to stone, and
turning to the bewildered crowd, Ferdinand added, with
a gay smile of triumph, "To you, my gallant friends, I
can only wish that your wooing may prosper as mine has
done, and that you may all win as fair a bride as I have
by this masked marriage."
Why is the P. C. like the Tower of Babel?
It is full of unruly members.
THE HISTORY OF A SQUASH
Once upon a time a farmer planted a little seed
in his garden, and after a while it sprouted and became
a vine and bore many squashes. One day in October,
when they were ripe, he picked one and took it
to market. A gorcerman bought and put it in his shop.
That same morning, a little girl in a brown hat
and blue dress, with a round face and snub nose, went
and bought it for her mother. She lugged it home, cut
it up, and boiled it in the big pot, mashed some of it
with salt and butter, for dinner. And to the rest she added
a pint of milk, two eggs, four spoons of sugar, nutmeg,
and some crackers, put it in a deep dish, and baked it
till it was brown and nice, and next day it was eaten
by a family named March.
Mr. Pickwick, Sir:--
I address you upon the subject of sin the sinner
I mean is a man named Winkle who makes trouble in his
club by laughing and sometimes won't write his piece in
this fine paper I hope you will pardon his badness and
let him send a French fable because he can't write out
of his head as he has so many lessons to do and no brains
in future I will try to take time by the fetlock and
prepare some work which will be all commy la fo that
means all right I am in haste as it is nearly school
[The above is a manly and handsome aknowledgment of past
misdemeanors. If our young friend studied punctuation, it
would be well.]
A SAD ACCIDENT
On Friday last, we were startled by a violent shock
in our basement, followed by cries of distress.
On rushing in a body to the cellar, we discovered our beloved
President prostrate upon the floor, having tripped and
fallen while getting wood for domestic purposes. A perfect
scene of ruin met our eyes, for in his fall Mr. Pickwick
had plunged his head and shoulders into a tub of water,
upset a keg of soft soap upon his manly form, and torn
his garments badly. On being removed from this perilous
situation, it was discovered that he had suffered
no injury but several bruises, and we are happy to add,
is now doing well.
THE PUBLIC BEREAVEMENT
It is our painful duty to record the sudden and
mysterious disappearance of our cherished friend, Mrs.
Snowball Pat Paw. This lovely and beloved cat was the
pet of a large circle of warm and admiring friends; for
her beauty attracted all eyes, her graces and virtues
endeared her to all hearts, and her loss is deeply felt
by the whole community.
When last seen, she was sitting at the gate, watching
the butcher's cart, and it is feared that some villain,
tempted by her charms, basely stole her. Weeks have passed,
but no trace of her has been discovered, and we relinquish
all hope, tie a black ribbon to her basket, set aside her
dish, and weep for her as one lost to us forever.
A sympathizing friend sends the following gem:
(FOR S. B. PAT PAW)
We mourn the loss of our little pet,
And sigh o'er her hapless fate,
For never more by the fire she'll sit,
Nor play by the old green gate.
The little grave where her infant sleeps
Is 'neath the chestnut tree.
But o'er her grave we may not weep,
We know not where it may be.
Her empty bed, her idle ball,
Will never see her more;
No gentle tap, no loving purr
Is heard at the parlor door.
Another cat comes after her mice,
A cat with a dirty face,
But she does not hunt as our darling did,
Nor play with her airy grace.
Her stealthy paws tread the very hall
Where Snowball used to play,
But she only spits at the dogs our pet
So gallantly drove away.
She is useful and mild, and does her best,
But she is not fair to see,
And we cannot give her your place dear,
Nor worship her as we worship thee.
MISS ORANTHY BLUGGAGE, the accomplished
strong-minded lecturer, will deliver her
famous lecture on "WOMAN AND HER POSITION"
at Pickwick Hall, next Saturday Evening,
after the usual performances.
A WEEKLY MEETING will be held at Kitchen
Place, to teach young ladies how to cook.
Hannah Brown will preside, and all are
invited to attend.
The DUSTPAN SOCIETY will meet on Wednesday
next, and parade in the upper story of the
Club House. All members to appear in uniform
and shoulder their brooms at nine precisely.
Mrs. BETH BOUNCER will open her new
assortment of Doll's Millinery next week.
The latest Paris fashions have arrived,
and orders are respectfully solicited.
A NEW PLAY will appear at the Barnville
Theatre, in the course of a few weeks, which
will surpass anything ever seen on the American stage.
"The Greek Slave, or Constantine the Avenger," is the name
of this thrilling drama!!!
If S.P. didn't use so much soap on his hands,
he wouldn't always be late at breakfast. A.S.
is requested not to whistle in the street. T.T
please don't forget Amy's napkin. N.W. must
not fret because his dress has not nine tucks.
As the President finished reading the paper (which I beg leave to
assure my readers is a bona fide copy of one written by bona fide girls
once upon a time), a round of applause followed, and then Mr. Snodgrass
rose to make a proposition.
"Mr. President and gentlemen," he began, assuming a parliamentary
attitude and tone, "I wish to propose the admission of a new
member--one who highly deserves the honor, would be deeply grateful for
it, and would add immensely to the spirit of the club, the literary
value of the paper, and be no end jolly and nice. I propose Mr.
Theodore Laurence as an honorary member of the P. C. Come now, do
Jo's sudden change of tone made the girls laugh, but all looked rather
anxious, and no one said a word as Snodgrass took his seat.
"We'll put it to a vote," said the President. "All in favor of this
motion please to manifest it by saying, 'Aye'."
A loud response from Snodgrass, followed, to everybody's surprise, by a
timid one from Beth.
"Contrary-minded say, 'No'."
Meg and Amy were contrary-minded, and Mr. Winkle rose to say with great
elegance, "We don't wish any boys, they only joke and bounce about.
This is a ladies' club, and we wish to be private and proper."
"I'm afraid he'll laugh at our paper, and make fun of us afterward,"
observed Pickwick, pulling the little curl on her forehead, as she
always did when doubtful.
Up rose Snodgrass, very much in earnest. "Sir, I give you my word as a
gentleman, Laurie won't do anything of the sort. He likes to write,
and he'll give a tone to our contributions and keep us from being
sentimental, don't you see? We can do so little for him, and he does
so much for us, I think the least we can do is to offer him a place
here, and make him welcome if he comes."
This artful allusion to benefits conferred brought Tupman to his feet,
looking as if he had quite made up his mind.
"Yes; we ought to do it, even if we are afraid. I say he may come, and
his grandpa, too, if he likes."
This spirited burst from Beth electrified the club, and Jo left her
seat to shake hands approvingly. "Now then, vote again. Everybody
remember it's our Laurie, and say, 'Aye!'" cried Snodgrass excitedly.
"Aye! Aye! Aye!" replied three voices at once.
"Good! Bless you! Now, as there's nothing like 'taking time by the
fetlock', as Winkle characteristically observes, allow me to present
the new member." And, to the dismay of the rest of the club, Jo threw
open the door of the closet, and displayed Laurie sitting on a rag bag,
flushed and twinkling with suppressed laughter.
"You rogue! You traitor! Jo, how could you?" cried the three girls,
as Snodgrass led her friend triumphantly forth, and producing both a
chair and a badge, installed him in a jiffy.
"The coolness of you two rascals is amazing," began Mr. Pickwick,
trying to get up an awful frown and only succeeding in producing an
amiable smile. But the new member was equal to the occasion, and
rising, with a grateful salutation to the Chair, said in the most
engaging manner, "Mr. President and ladies--I beg pardon,
gentlemen--allow me to introduce myself as Sam Weller, the very humble
servant of the club."
"Good! Good!" cried Jo, pounding with the handle of the old warming
pan on which she leaned.
"My faithful friend and noble patron," continued Laurie with a wave of
the hand, "who has so flatteringly presented me, is not to be blamed
for the base stratagem of tonight. I planned it, and she only gave in
after lots of teasing."
"Come now, don't lay it all on yourself. You know I proposed the
cupboard," broke in Snodgrass, who was enjoying the joke amazingly.
"Never mind what she says. I'm the wretch that did it, sir," said the
new member, with a Welleresque nod to Mr. Pickwick. "But on my honor,
I never will do so again, and henceforth devote myself to the interest
of this immortal club."
"Hear! Hear!" cried Jo, clashing the lid of the warming pan like a
"Go on, go on!" added Winkle and Tupman, while the President bowed
"I merely wish to say, that as a slight token of my gratitude for the
honor done me, and as a means of promoting friendly relations between
adjoining nations, I have set up a post office in the hedge in the
lower corner of the garden, a fine, spacious building with padlocks on
the doors and every convenience for the mails, also the females, if I
may be allowed the expression. It's the old martin house, but I've
stopped up the door and made the roof open, so it will hold all sorts
of things, and save our valuable time. Letters, manuscripts, books,
and bundles can be passed in there, and as each nation has a key, it
will be uncommonly nice, I fancy. Allow me to present the club key,
and with many thanks for your favor, take my seat."
Great applause as Mr. Weller deposited a little key on the table and
subsided, the warming pan clashed and waved wildly, and it was some
time before order could be restored. A long discussion followed, and
everyone came out surprising, for everyone did her best. So it was an
unusually lively meeting, and did not adjourn till a late hour, when it
broke up with three shrill cheers for the new member.
No one ever regretted the admittance of Sam Weller, for a more devoted,
well-behaved, and jovial member no club could have. He certainly did
add 'spirit' to the meetings, and 'a tone' to the paper, for his
orations convulsed his hearers and his contributions were excellent,
being patriotic, classical, comical, or dramatic, but never
sentimental. Jo regarded them as worthy of Bacon, Milton, or
Shakespeare, and remodeled her own works with good effect, she thought.
The P. O. was a capital little institution, and flourished
wonderfully, for nearly as many queer things passed through it as
through the real post office. Tragedies and cravats, poetry and
pickles, garden seeds and long letters, music and gingerbread, rubbers,
invitations, scoldings, and puppies. The old gentleman liked the fun,
and amused himself by sending odd bundles, mysterious messages, and
funny telegrams, and his gardener, who was smitten with Hannah's
charms, actually sent a love letter to Jo's care. How they laughed
when the secret came out, never dreaming how many love letters that
little post office would hold in the years to come.
"The first of June! The Kings are off to the seashore tomorrow, and
I'm free. Three months' vacation--how I shall enjoy it!" exclaimed
Meg, coming home one warm day to find Jo laid upon the sofa in an
unusual state of exhaustion, while Beth took off her dusty boots, and
Amy made lemonade for the refreshment of the whole party.
"Aunt March went today, for which, oh, be joyful!" said Jo. "I was
mortally afraid she'd ask me to go with her. If she had, I should have
felt as if I ought to do it, but Plumfield is about as gay as a
churchyard, you know, and I'd rather be excused. We had a flurry
getting the old lady off, and I had a fright every time she spoke to
me, for I was in such a hurry to be through that I was uncommonly
helpful and sweet, and feared she'd find it impossible to part from me.
I quaked till she was fairly in the carriage, and had a final fright,
for as it drove of, she popped out her head, saying, 'Josyphine, won't
you--?' I didn't hear any more, for I basely turned and fled. I did
actually run, and whisked round the corner where I felt safe."
"Poor old Jo! She came in looking as if bears were after her," said
Beth, as she cuddled her sister's feet with a motherly air.
"Aunt March is a regular samphire, is she not?" observed Amy, tasting
her mixture critically.
"She means vampire, not seaweed, but it doesn't matter. It's too warm
to be particular about one's parts of speech," murmured Jo.
"What shall you do all your vacation?" asked Amy, changing the subject
"I shall lie abed late, and do nothing," replied Meg, from the depths
of the rocking chair. "I've been routed up early all winter and had to
spend my days working for other people, so now I'm going to rest and
revel to my heart's content."
"No," said Jo, "that dozy way wouldn't suit me. I've laid in a heap of
books, and I'm going to improve my shining hours reading on my perch in
the old apple tree, when I'm not having l----"
"Don't say 'larks!'" implored Amy, as a return snub for the 'samphire'
"I'll say 'nightingales' then, with Laurie. That's proper and
appropriate, since he's a warbler."
"Don't let us do any lessons, Beth, for a while, but play all the time
and rest, as the girls mean to," proposed Amy.
"Well, I will, if Mother doesn't mind. I want to learn some new songs,
and my children need fitting up for the summer. They are dreadfully
out of order and really suffering for clothes."
"May we, Mother?" asked Meg, turning to Mrs. March, who sat sewing in
what they called 'Marmee's corner'.
"You may try your experiment for a week and see how you like it. I
think by Saturday night you will find that all play and no work is as
bad as all work and no play."
"Oh, dear, no! It will be delicious, I'm sure," said Meg complacently.
"I now propose a toast, as my 'friend and pardner, Sairy Gamp', says.
Fun forever, and no grubbing!" cried Jo, rising, glass in hand, as the
lemonade went round.
They all drank it merrily, and began the experiment by lounging for the
rest of the day. Next morning, Meg did not appear till ten o'clock.
Her solitary breakfast did not taste good, and the room seemed lonely
and untidy, for Jo had not filled the vases, Beth had not dusted, and
Amy's books lay scattered about. Nothing was neat and pleasant but
'Marmee's corner', which looked as usual. And there Meg sat, to 'rest
and read', which meant to yawn and imagine what pretty summer dresses
she would get with her salary. Jo spent the morning on the river with
Laurie and the afternoon reading and crying over "The Wide, Wide
World", up in the apple tree. Beth began by rummaging everything out
of the big closet where her family resided, but getting tired before
half done, she left her establishment topsy-turvy and went to her
music, rejoicing that she had no dishes to wash. Amy arranged her
bower, put on her best white frock, smoothed her curls, and sat down to
draw under the honeysuckle, hoping someone would see and inquire who
the young artist was. As no one appeared but an inquisitive
daddy-longlegs, who examined her work with interest, she went to walk,
got caught in a shower, and came home dripping.
At teatime they compared notes, and all agreed that it had been a
delightful, though unusually long day. Meg, who went shopping in the
afternoon and got a 'sweet blue muslin', had discovered, after she had
cut the breadths off, that it wouldn't wash, which mishap made her
slightly cross. Jo had burned the skin off her nose boating, and got a
raging headache by reading too long. Beth was worried by the confusion
of her closet and the difficulty of learning three or four songs at
once, and Amy deeply regretted the damage done her frock, for Katy
Brown's party was to be the next day and now like Flora McFlimsey, she
had 'nothing to wear'. But these were mere trifles, and they assured
their mother that the experiment was working finely. She smiled, said
nothing, and with Hannah's help did their neglected work, keeping home
pleasant and the domestic machinery running smoothly. It was
astonishing what a peculiar and uncomfortable state of things was
produced by the 'resting and reveling' process. The days kept getting
longer and longer, the weather was unusually variable and so were
tempers; an unsettled feeling possessed everyone, and Satan found
plenty of mischief for the idle hands to do. As the height of luxury,
Meg put out some of her sewing, and then found time hang so heavily,
that she fell to snipping and spoiling her clothes in her attempts to
furbish them up a la Moffat. Jo read till her eyes gave out and she
was sick of books, got so fidgety that even good-natured Laurie had a
quarrel with her, and so reduced in spirits that she desperately wished
she had gone with Aunt March. Beth got on pretty well, for she was
constantly forgetting that it was to be all play and no work, and fell
back into her old ways now and then. But something in the air affected
her, and more than once her tranquility was much disturbed, so much so
that on one occasion she actually shook poor dear Joanna and told her
she was 'a fright'. Amy fared worst of all, for her resources were
small, and when her sisters left her to amuse herself, she soon found
that accomplished and important little self a great burden. She didn't
like dolls, fairy tales were childish, and one couldn't draw all the
time. Tea parties didn't amount to much, neither did picnics, unless
very well conducted. "If one could have a fine house, full of nice
girls, or go traveling, the summer would be delightful, but to stay at
home with three selfish sisters and a grown-up boy was enough to try
the patience of a Boaz," complained Miss Malaprop, after several days
devoted to pleasure, fretting, and ennui.
No one would own that they were tired of the experiment, but by Friday
night each acknowledged to herself that she was glad the week was
nearly done. Hoping to impress the lesson more deeply, Mrs. March, who
had a good deal of humor, resolved to finish off the trial in an
appropriate manner, so she gave Hannah a holiday and let the girls
enjoy the full effect of the play system.
When they got up on Saturday morning, there was no fire in the kitchen,
no breakfast in the dining room, and no mother anywhere to be seen.
"Mercy on us! What has happened?" cried Jo, staring about her in
Meg ran upstairs and soon came back again, looking relieved but rather
bewildered, and a little ashamed.
"Mother isn't sick, only very tired, and she says she is going to stay
quietly in her room all day and let us do the best we can. It's a very
queer thing for her to do, she doesn't act a bit like herself. But she
says it has been a hard week for her, so we mustn't grumble but take
care of ourselves."
"That's easy enough, and I like the idea, I'm aching for something to
do, that is, some new amusement, you know," added Jo quickly.
In fact it was an immense relief to them all to have a little work, and
they took hold with a will, but soon realized the truth of Hannah's
saying, "Housekeeping ain't no joke." There was plenty of food in the
larder, and while Beth and Amy set the table, Meg and Jo got breakfast,
wondering as they did why servants ever talked about hard work.
"I shall take some up to Mother, though she said we were not to think
of her, for she'd take care of herself," said Meg, who presided and
felt quite matronly behind the teapot.
So a tray was fitted out before anyone began, and taken up with the
cook's compliments. The boiled tea was very bitter, the omelet
scorched, and the biscuits speckled with saleratus, but Mrs. March
received her repast with thanks and laughed heartily over it after Jo
"Poor little souls, they will have a hard time, I'm afraid, but they
won't suffer, and it will do them good," she said, producing the more
palatable viands with which she had provided herself, and disposing of
the bad breakfast, so that their feelings might not be hurt, a motherly
little deception for which they were grateful.
Many were the complaints below, and great the chagrin of the head cook
at her failures. "Never mind, I'll get the dinner and be servant, you
be mistress, keep your hands nice, see company, and give orders," said
Jo, who knew still less than Meg about culinary affairs.
This obliging offer was gladly accepted, and Margaret retired to the
parlor, which she hastily put in order by whisking the litter under the
sofa and shutting the blinds to save the trouble of dusting. Jo, with
perfect faith in her own powers and a friendly desire to make up the
quarrel, immediately put a note in the office, inviting Laurie to
"You'd better see what you have got before you think of having
company," said Meg, when informed of the hospitable but rash act.
"Oh, there's corned beef and plenty of poatoes, and I shall get some
asparagus and a lobster, 'for a relish', as Hannah says. We'll have
lettuce and make a salad. I don't know how, but the book tells. I'll
have blanc mange and strawberries for dessert, and coffee too, if you
want to be elegant."
"Don't try too many messes, Jo, for you can't make anything but
gingerbread and molasses candy fit to eat. I wash my hands of the
dinner party, and since you have asked Laurie on your own
responsibility, you may just take care of him."
"I don't want you to do anything but be civil to him and help to the
pudding. You'll give me your advice if I get in a muddle, won't you?"
asked Jo, rather hurt.
"Yes, but I don't know much, except about bread and a few trifles. You
had better ask Mother's leave before you order anything," returned Meg
"Of course I shall. I'm not a fool." And Jo went off in a huff at the
doubts expressed of her powers.
"Get what you like, and don't disturb me. I'm going out to dinner and
can't worry about things at home," said Mrs. March, when Jo spoke to
her. "I never enjoyed housekeeping, and I'm going to take a vacation
today, and read, write, go visiting, and amuse myself."
The unusual spectacle of her busy mother rocking comfortably and
reading early in the morning made Jo feel as if some unnatural
phenomenon had occurred, for an eclipse, an earthquake, or a volcanic
eruption would hardly have seemed stranger.
"Everything is out of sorts, somehow," she said to herself, going
downstairs. "There's Beth crying, that's a sure sign that something is
wrong in this family. If Amy is bothering, I'll shake her."
Feeling very much out of sorts herself, Jo hurried into the parlor to
find Beth sobbing over Pip, the canary, who lay dead in the cage with
his little claws pathetically extended, as if imploring the food for
want of which he had died.
"It's all my fault, I forgot him, there isn't a seed or a drop left.
Oh, Pip! Oh, Pip! How could I be so cruel to you?" cried Beth, taking
the poor thing in her hands and trying to restore him.
Jo peeped into his half-open eye, felt his little heart, and finding
him stiff and cold, shook her head, and offered her domino box for a
"Put him in the oven, and maybe he will get warm and revive," said Amy
"He's been starved, and he shan't be baked now he's dead. I'll make
him a shroud, and he shall be buried in the garden, and I'll never have
another bird, never, my Pip! for I am too bad to own one," murmured
Beth, sitting on the floor with her pet folded in her hands.
"The funeral shall be this afternoon, and we will all go. Now, don't
cry, Bethy. It's a pity, but nothing goes right this week, and Pip has
had the worst of the experiment. Make the shroud, and lay him in my
box, and after the dinner party, we'll have a nice little funeral,"
said Jo, beginning to feel as if she had undertaken a good deal.
Leaving the others to console Beth, she departed to the kitchen, which
was in a most discouraging state of confusion. Putting on a big apron,
she fell to work and got the dishes piled up ready for washing, when
she discovered that the fire was out.
"Here's a sweet prospect!" muttered Jo, slamming the stove door open,
and poking vigorously among the cinders.
Having rekindled the fire, she thought she would go to market while the
water heated. The walk revived her spirits, and flattering herself
that she had made good bargains, she trudged home again, after buying a
very young lobster, some very old asparagus, and two boxes of acid
strawberries. By the time she got cleared up, the dinner arrived and
the stove was red-hot. Hannah had left a pan of bread to rise, Meg had
worked it up early, set it on the hearth for a second rising, and
forgotten it. Meg was entertaining Sallie Gardiner in the parlor, when
the door flew open and a floury, crocky, flushed, and disheveled figure
appeared, demanding tartly...
"I say, isn't bread 'riz' enough when it runs over the pans?"
Sallie began to laugh, but Meg nodded and lifted her eyebrows as high
as they would go, which caused the apparition to vanish and put the
sour bread into the oven without further delay. Mrs. March went out,
after peeping here and there to see how matters went, also saying a
word of comfort to Beth, who sat making a winding sheet, while the dear
departed lay in state in the domino box. A strange sense of
helplessness fell upon the girls as the gray bonnet vanished round the
corner, and despair seized them when a few minutes later Miss Crocker
appeared, and said she'd come to dinner. Now this lady was a thin,
yellow spinster, with a sharp nose and inquisitive eyes, who saw
everything and gossiped about all she saw. They disliked her, but had
been taught to be kind to her, simply because she was old and poor and
had few friends. So Meg gave her the easy chair and tried to entertain
her, while she asked questions, critsized everything, and told stories
of the people whom she knew.
Language cannot describe the anxieties, experiences, and exertions
which Jo underwent that morning, and the dinner she served up became a
standing joke. Fearing to ask any more advice, she did her best alone,
and discovered that something more than energy and good will is
necessary to make a cook. She boiled the asparagus for an hour and was
grieved to find the heads cooked off and the stalks harder than ever.
The bread burned black; for the salad dressing so aggravated her that
she could not make it fit to eat. The lobster was a scarlet mystery to
her, but she hammered and poked till it was unshelled and its meager
proportions concealed in a grove of lettuce leaves. The potatoes had
to be hurried, not to keep the asparagus waiting, and were not done at
the last. The blanc mange was lumpy, and the strawberries not as ripe
as they looked, having been skilfully 'deaconed'.
"Well, they can eat beef and bread and butter, if they are hungry, only
it's mortifying to have to spend your whole morning for nothing,"
thought Jo, as she rang the bell half an hour later than usual, and
stood, hot, tired, and dispirited, surveying the feast spread before
Laurie, accustomed to all sorts of elegance, and Miss Crocker, whose
tattling tongue would report them far and wide.
Poor Jo would gladly have gone under the table, as one thing after
another was tasted and left, while Amy giggled, Meg looked distressed,
Miss Crocker pursed her lips, and Laurie talked and laughed with all
his might to give a cheerful tone to the festive scene. Jo's one
strong point was the fruit, for she had sugared it well, and had a
pitcher of rich cream to eat with it. Her hot cheeks cooled a trifle,
and she drew a long breath as the pretty glass plates went round, and
everyone looked graciously at the little rosy islands floating in a sea
of cream. Miss Crocker tasted first, made a wry face, and drank some
water hastily. Jo, who refused, thinking there might not be enough,
for they dwindled sadly after the picking over, glanced at Laurie, but
he was eating away manfully, though there was a slight pucker about his
mouth and he kept his eye fixed on his plate. Amy, who was fond of
delicate fare, took a heaping spoonful, choked, hid her face in her
napkin, and left the table precipitately.
"Oh, what is it?" exclaimed Jo, trembling.
"Salt instead of sugar, and the cream is sour," replied Meg with a
Jo uttered a groan and fell back in her chair, remembering that she had
given a last hasty powdering to the berries out of one of the two boxes
on the kitchen table, and had neglected to put the milk in the
refrigerator. She turned scarlet and was on the verge of crying, when
she met Laurie's eyes, which would look merry in spite of his heroic
efforts. The comical side of the affair suddenly struck her, and she
laughed till the tears ran down her cheeks. So did everyone else, even
'Croaker' as the girls called the old lady, and the unfortunate dinner
ended gaily, with bread and butter, olives and fun.
"I haven't strength of mind enough to clear up now, so we will sober
ourselves with a funeral," said Jo, as they rose, and Miss Crocker made
ready to go, being eager to tell the new story at another friend's
They did sober themselves for Beth's sake. Laurie dug a grave under
the ferns in the grove, little Pip was laid in, with many tears by his
tender-hearted mistress, and covered with moss, while a wreath of
violets and chickweed was hung on the stone which bore his epitaph,
composed by Jo while she struggled with the dinner.
Here lies Pip March,
Who died the 7th of June;
Loved and lamented sore,
And not forgotten soon.
At the conclusion of the ceremonies, Beth retired to her room, overcome
with emotion and lobster, but there was no place of repose, for the
beds were not made, and she found her grief much assuaged by beating up
the pillows and putting things in order. Meg helped Jo clear away the
remains of the feast, which took half the afternoon and left them so
tired that they agreed to be contented with tea and toast for supper.
Laurie took Amy to drive, which was a deed of charity, for the sour
cream seemed to have had a bad effect upon her temper. Mrs. March came
home to find the three older girls hard at work in the middle of the
afternoon, and a glance at the closet gave her an idea of the success
of one part of the experiment.
Before the housewives could rest, several people called, and there was
a scramble to get ready to see them. Then tea must be got, errands
done, and one or two necessary bits of sewing neglected until the last
minute. As twilight fell, dewy and still, one by one they gathered on
the porch where the June roses were budding beautifully, and each
groaned or sighed as she sat down, as if tired or troubled.
"What a dreadful day this has been!" began Jo, usually the first to
"It has seemed shorter than usual, but so uncomfortable," said Meg.
"Not a bit like home," added Amy.
"It can't seem so without Marmee and little Pip," sighed Beth, glancing
with full eyes at the empty cage above her head.
"Here's Mother, dear, and you shall have another bird tomorrow, if you
As she spoke, Mrs. March came and took her place among them, looking as
if her holiday had not been much pleasanter than theirs.
"Are you satisfied with your experiment, girls, or do you want another
week of it?" she asked, as Beth nestled up to her and the rest turned
toward her with brightening faces, as flowers turn toward the sun.
"I don't!" cried Jo decidedly.
"Nor I," echoed the others.
"You think then, that it is better to have a few duties and live a
little for others, do you?"
"Lounging and larking doesn't pay," observed Jo, shaking her head. "I'm
tired of it and mean to go to work at something right off."
"Suppose you learn plain cooking. That's a useful accomplishment,
which no woman should be without," said Mrs. March, laughing inaudibly
at the recollection of Jo's dinner party, for she had met Miss Crocker
and heard her account of it.
"Mother, did you go away and let everything be, just to see how we'd
get on?" cried Meg, who had had suspicions all day.
"Yes, I wanted you to see how the comfort of all depends on each doing
her share faithfully. While Hannah and I did your work, you got on
pretty well, though I don't think you were very happy or amiable. So I
thought, as a little lesson, I would show you what happens when
everyone thinks only of herself. Don't you feel that it is pleasanter
to help one another, to have daily duties which make leisure sweet when
it comes, and to bear and forbear, that home may be comfortable and
lovely to us all?"
"We do, Mother, we do!" cried the girls.
"Then let me advise you to take up your little burdens again, for
though they seem heavy sometimes, they are good for us, and lighten as
we learn to carry them. Work is wholesome, and there is plenty for
everyone. It keeps us from ennui and mischief, is good for health and
spirits, and gives us a sense of power and independence better than
money or fashion."
"We'll work like bees, and love it too, see if we don't," said Jo.
"I'll learn plain cooking for my holiday task, and the next dinner
party I have shall be a success."
"I'll make the set of shirts for father, instead of letting you do it,
Marmee. I can and I will, though I'm not fond of sewing. That will be
better than fussing over my own things, which are plenty nice enough as
they are." said Meg.
"I'll do my lessons every day, and not spend so much time with my music
and dolls. I am a stupid thing, and ought to be studying, not
playing," was Beth's resolution, while Amy followed their example by
heroically declaring, "I shall learn to make buttonholes, and attend to
my parts of speech."
"Very good! Then I am quite satisfied with the experiment, and fancy
that we shall not have to repeat it, only don't go to the other extreme
and delve like slaves. Have regular hours for work and play, make each
day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth
of time by employing it well. Then youth will be delightful, old age
will bring few regrets, and life become a beautiful success, in spite
"We'll remember, Mother!" and they did.
Beth was postmistress, for, being most at home, she could attend to it
regularly, and dearly liked the daily task of unlocking the little door
and distributing the mail. One July day she came in with her hands
full, and went about the house leaving letters and parcels like the
"Here's your posy, Mother! Laurie never forgets that," she said,
putting the fresh nosegay in the vase that stood in 'Marmee's corner',
and was kept supplied by the affectionate boy.
"Miss Meg March, one letter and a glove," continued Beth, delivering
the articles to her sister, who sat near her mother, stitching
"Why, I left a pair over there, and here is only one," said Meg,
looking at the gray cotton glove. "Didn't you drop the other in the
"No, I'm sure I didn't, for there was only one in the office."
"I hate to have odd gloves! Never mind, the other may be found. My
letter is only a translation of the German song I wanted. I think Mr.
Brooke did it, for this isn't Laurie's writing."
Mrs. March glanced at Meg, who was looking very pretty in her gingham
morning gown, with the little curls blowing about her forehead, and
very womanly, as she sat sewing at her little worktable, full of tidy
white rolls, so unconscious of the thought in her mother's mind as she
sewed and sang, while her fingers flew and her thoughts were busied
with girlish fancies as innocent and fresh as the pansies in her belt,
that Mrs. March smiled and was satisfied.
"Two letters for Doctor Jo, a book, and a funny old hat, which covered
the whole post office and stuck outside," said Beth, laughing as she
went into the study where Jo sat writing.
"What a sly fellow Laurie is! I said I wished bigger hats were the
fashion, because I burn my face every hot day. He said, 'Why mind the
fashion? Wear a big hat, and be comfortable!' I said I would if I had
one, and he has sent me this, to try me. I'll wear it for fun, and
show him I don't care for the fashion." And hanging the antique
broad-brim on a bust of Plato, Jo read her letters.
One from her mother made her cheeks glow and her eyes fill, for it said
I write a little word to tell you with how much satisfaction I watch
your efforts to control your temper. You say nothing about your
trials, failures, or successes, and think, perhaps, that no one sees
them but the Friend whose help you daily ask, if I may trust the
well-worn cover of your guidebook. I, too, have seen them all, and
heartily believe in the sincerity of your resolution, since it begins
to bear fruit. Go on, dear, patiently and bravely, and always believe
that no one sympathizes more tenderly with you than your loving...
"That does me good! That's worth millions of money and pecks of
praise. Oh, Marmee, I do try! I will keep on trying, and not get
tired, since I have you to help me."
Laying her head on her arms, Jo wet her little romance with a few happy
tears, for she had thought that no one saw and appreciated her efforts
to be good, and this assurance was doubly precious, doubly encouraging,
because unexpected and from the person whose commendation she most
valued. Feeling stronger than ever to meet and subdue her Apollyon,
she pinned the note inside her frock, as a shield and a reminder, lest
she be taken unaware, and proceeded to open her other letter, quite
ready for either good or bad news. In a big, dashing hand, Laurie
Dear Jo, What ho!
Some english girls and boys are coming to see me tomorrow and I want to
have a jolly time. If it's fine, I'm going to pitch my tent in
Longmeadow, and row up the whole crew to lunch and croquet--have a
fire, make messes, gypsy fashion, and all sorts of larks. They are
nice people, and like such things. Brooke will go to keep us boys
steady, and Kate Vaughn will play propriety for the girls. I want you
all to come, can't let Beth off at any price, and nobody shall worry
her. Don't bother about rations, I'll see to that and everything else,
only do come, there's a good fellow!
In a tearing hurry, Yours ever, Laurie.
"Here's richness!" cried Jo, flying in to tell the news to Meg.
"Of course we can go, Mother? It will be such a help to Laurie, for I
can row, and Meg see to the lunch, and the children be useful in some
"I hope the Vaughns are not fine grown-up people. Do you know anything
about them, Jo?" asked Meg.
"Only that there are four of them. Kate is older than you, Fred and
Frank (twins) about my age, and a little girl (Grace), who is nine or
ten. Laurie knew them abroad, and liked the boys. I fancied, from the
way he primmed up his mouth in speaking of her, that he didn't admire
"I'm so glad my French print is clean, it's just the thing and so
becoming!" observed Meg complacently. "Have you anything decent, Jo?"
"Scarlet and gray boating suit, good enough for me. I shall row and
tramp about, so I don't want any starch to think of. You'll come,
"If you won't let any boys talk to me."
"Not a boy!"
"I like to please Laurie, and I'm not afraid of Mr. Brooke, he is so
kind. But I don't want to play, or sing, or say anything. I'll work
hard and not trouble anyone, and you'll take care of me, Jo, so I'll
"That's my good girl. You do try to fight off your shyness, and I love
you for it. Fighting faults isn't easy, as I know, and a cheery word
kind of gives a lift. Thank you, Mother," And Jo gave the thin cheek a
grateful kiss, more precious to Mrs. March than if it had given back
the rosy roundness of her youth.
"I had a box of chocolate drops, and the picture I wanted to copy,"
said Amy, showing her mail.
"And I got a note from Mr. Laurence, asking me to come over and play to
him tonight, before the lamps are lighted, and I shall go," added Beth,
whose friendship with the old gentleman prospered finely.
"Now let's fly round, and do double duty today, so that we can play
tomorrow with free minds," said Jo, preparing to replace her pen with a
When the sun peeped into the girls' room early next morning to promise
them a fine day, he saw a comical sight. Each had made such
preparation for the fete as seemed necessary and proper. Meg had an
extra row of little curlpapers across her forehead, Jo had copiously
anointed her afflicted face with cold cream, Beth had taken Joanna to
bed with her to atone for the approaching separation, and Amy had
capped the climax by putting a clothespin on her nose to uplift the
offending feature. It was one of the kind artists use to hold the
paper on their drawing boards, therefore quite appropriate and
effective for the purpose it was now being put. This funny spectacle
appeared to amuse the sun, for he burst out with such radiance that Jo
woke up and roused her sisters by a hearty laugh at Amy's ornament.
Sunshine and laughter were good omens for a pleasure party, and soon a
lively bustle began in both houses. Beth, who was ready first, kept
reporting what went on next door, and enlivened her sisters' toilets by
frequent telegrams from the window.
"There goes the man with the tent! I see Mrs. Barker doing up the
lunch in a hamper and a great basket. Now Mr. Laurence is looking up
at the sky and the weathercock. I wish he would go too. There's
Laurie, looking like a sailor, nice boy! Oh, mercy me! Here's a
carriage full of people, a tall lady, a little girl, and two dreadful
boys. One is lame, poor thing, he's got a crutch. Laurie didn't tell
us that. Be quick, girls! It's getting late. Why, there is Ned
Moffat, I do declare. Meg, isn't that the man who bowed to you one day
when we were shopping?"
"So it is. How queer that he should come. I thought he was at the
mountains. There is Sallie. I'm glad she got back in time. Am I all
right, Jo?" cried Meg in a flutter.
"A regular daisy. Hold up your dress and put your hat on straight, it
looks sentimental tipped that way and will fly off at the first puff.
Now then, come on!"
"Oh, Jo, you are not going to wear that awful hat? It's too absurd!
You shall not make a guy of yourself," remonstrated Meg, as Jo tied
down with a red ribbon the broad-brimmed, old-fashioned leghorn Laurie
had sent for a joke.
"I just will, though, for it's capital, so shady, light, and big. It
will make fun, and I don't mind being a guy if I'm comfortable." With
that Jo marched straight away and the rest followed, a bright little
band of sisters, all looking their best in summer suits, with happy
faces under the jaunty hatbrims.
Laurie ran to meet and present them to his friends in the most cordial
manner. The lawn was the reception room, and for several minutes a
lively scene was enacted there. Meg was grateful to see that Miss
Kate, though twenty, was dressed with a simplicity which American girls
would do well to imitate, and who was much flattered by Mr. Ned's
assurances that he came especially to see her. Jo understood why
Laurie 'primmed up his mouth' when speaking of Kate, for that young
lady had a standoff-don't-touch-me air, which contrasted strongly with
the free and easy demeanor of the other girls. Beth took an
observation of the new boys and decided that the lame one was not
'dreadful', but gentle and feeble, and she would be kind to him on that
account. Amy found Grace a well-mannered, merry, little person, and
after staring dumbly at one another for a few minutes, they suddenly
became very good friends.
Tents, lunch, and croquet utensils having been sent on beforehand, the
party was soon embarked, and the two boats pushed off together, leaving
Mr. Laurence waving his hat on the shore. Laurie and Jo rowed one
boat, Mr. Brooke and Ned the other, while Fred Vaughn, the riotous
twin, did his best to upset both by paddling about in a wherry like a
disturbed water bug. Jo's funny hat deserved a vote of thanks, for it
was of general utility. It broke the ice in the beginning by producing
a laugh, it created quite a refreshing breeze, flapping to and fro as
she rowed, and would make an excellent umbrella for the whole party, if
a shower came up, she said. Miss Kate decided that she was 'odd', but
rather clever, and smiled upon her from afar.
Meg, in the other boat, was delightfully situated, face to face with
the rowers, who both admired the prospect and feathered their oars with
uncommon 'skill and dexterity'. Mr. Brooke was a grave, silent young
man, with handsome brown eyes and a pleasant voice. Meg liked his
quiet manners and considered him a walking encyclopedia of useful
knowledge. He never talked to her much, but he looked at her a good
deal, and she felt sure that he did not regard her with aversion. Ned,
being in college, of course put on all the airs which freshmen think it
their bounden duty to assume. He was not very wise, but very
good-natured, and altogether an excellent person to carry on a picnic.
Sallie Gardiner was absorbed in keeping her white pique dress clean and
chattering with the ubiquitous Fred, who kept Beth in constant terror
by his pranks.
It was not far to Longmeadow, but the tent was pitched and the wickets
down by the time they arrived. A pleasant green field, with three
wide-spreading oaks in the middle and a smooth strip of turf for
"Welcome to Camp Laurence!" said the young host, as they landed with
exclamations of delight.
"Brooke is commander in chief, I am commissary general, the other
fellows are staff officers, and you, ladies, are company. The tent is
for your especial benefit and that oak is your drawing room, this is
the messroom and the third is the camp kitchen. Now, let's have a game
before it gets hot, and then we'll see about dinner."
Frank, Beth, Amy, and Grace sat down to watch the game played by the
other eight. Mr. Brooke chose Meg, Kate, and Fred. Laurie took Sallie,
Jo, and Ned. The English played well, but the Americans played better,
and contested every inch of the ground as strongly as if the spirit of
'76 inspired them. Jo and Fred had several skirmishes and once
narrowly escaped high words. Jo was through the last wicket and had
missed the stroke, which failure ruffled her a good deal. Fred was
close behind her and his turn came before hers. He gave a stroke, his
ball hit the wicket, and stopped an inch on the wrong side. No one was
very near, and running up to examine, he gave it a sly nudge with his
toe, which put it just an inch on the right side.
"I'm through! Now, Miss Jo, I'll settle you, and get in first," cried
the young gentleman, swinging his mallet for another blow.
"You pushed it. I saw you. It's my turn now," said Jo sharply.
"Upon my word, I didn't move it. It rolled a bit, perhaps, but that is
allowed. So, stand off please, and let me have a go at the stake."
"We don't cheat in America, but you can, if you choose," said Jo
"Yankees are a deal the most tricky, everybody knows. There you go!"
returned Fred, croqueting her ball far away.
Jo opened her lips to say something rude, but checked herself in time,
colored up to her forehead and stood a minute, hammering down a wicket
with all her might, while Fred hit the stake and declared himself out
with much exultation. She went off to get her ball, and was a long
time finding it among the bushes, but she came back, looking cool and
quiet, and waited her turn patiently. It took several strokes to
regain the place she had lost, and when she got there, the other side
had nearly won, for Kate's ball was the last but one and lay near the
"By George, it's all up with us! Goodbye, Kate. Miss Jo owes me one,
so you are finished," cried Fred excitedly, as they all drew near to
see the finish.
"Yankees have a trick of being generous to their enemies," said Jo,
with a look that made the lad redden, "especially when they beat them,"
she added, as, leaving Kate's ball untouched, she won the game by a
Laurie threw up his hat, then remembered that it wouldn't do to exult
over the defeat of his guests, and stopped in the middle of the cheer
to whisper to his friend, "Good for you, Jo! He did cheat, I saw him.
We can't tell him so, but he won't do it again, take my word for it."
Meg drew her aside, under pretense of pinning up a loose braid, and
said approvingly, "It was dreadfully provoking, but you kept your
temper, and I'm so glad, Jo."
"Don't praise me, Meg, for I could box his ears this minute. I should
certainly have boiled over if I hadn't stayed among the nettles till I
got my rage under control enough to hold my tongue. It's simmering now,
so I hope he'll keep out of my way," returned Jo, biting her lips as
she glowered at Fred from under her big hat.
"Time for lunch," said Mr. Brooke, looking at his watch. "Commissary
general, will you make the fire and get water, while Miss March, Miss
Sallie, and I spread the table? Who can make good coffee?"
"Jo can," said Meg, glad to recommend her sister. So Jo, feeling that
her late lessons in cookery were to do her honor, went to preside over
the coffeepot, while the children collected dry sticks, and the boys
made a fire and got water from a spring near by. Miss Kate sketched
and Frank talked to Beth, who was making little mats of braided rushes
to serve as plates.
The commander in chief and his aides soon spread the tablecloth with an
inviting array of eatables and drinkables, prettily decorated with
green leaves. Jo announced that the coffee was ready, and everyone
settled themselves to a hearty meal, for youth is seldom dyspeptic, and
exercise develops wholesome appetites. A very merry lunch it was, for
everything seemed fresh and funny, and frequent peals of laughter
startled a venerable horse who fed near by. There was a pleasing
inequality in the table, which produced many mishaps to cups and
plates, acorns dropped in the milk, little black ants partook of the
refreshments without being invited, and fuzzy caterpillars swung down
from the tree to see what was going on. Three white-headed children
peeped over the fence, and an objectionable dog barked at them from the
other side of the river with all his might and main.
"There's salt here," said Laurie, as he handed Jo a saucer of berries.
"Thank you, I prefer spiders," she replied, fishing up two unwary
little ones who had gone to a creamy death. "How dare you remind me of
that horrid dinner party, when yours is so nice in every way?" added
Jo, as they both laughed and ate out of one plate, the china having run
"I had an uncommonly good time that day, and haven't got over it yet.
This is no credit to me, you know, I don't do anything. It's you and
Meg and Brooke who make it all go, and I'm no end obliged to you. What
shall we do when we can't eat anymore?" asked Laurie, feeling that his
trump card had been played when lunch was over.
"Have games till it's cooler. I brought Authors, and I dare say Miss
Kate knows something new and nice. Go and ask her. She's company, and
you ought to stay with her more."
"Aren't you company too? I thought she'd suit Brooke, but he keeps
talking to Meg, and Kate just stares at them through that ridiculous
glass of hers. I'm going, so you needn't try to preach propriety, for
you can't do it, Jo."
Miss Kate did know several new games, and as the girls would not, and
the boys could not, eat any more, they all adjourned to the drawing
room to play Rig-marole.
"One person begins a story, any nonsense you like, and tells as long as
he pleases, only taking care to stop short at some exciting point, when
the next takes it up and does the same. It's very funny when well
done, and makes a perfect jumble of tragical comical stuff to laugh
over. Please start it, Mr. Brooke," said Kate, with a commanding air,
which surprised Meg, who treated the tutor with as much respect as any
Lying on the grass at the feet of the two young ladies, Mr. Brooke
obediently began the story, with the handsome brown eyes steadily fixed
upon the sunshiny river.
"Once on a time, a knight went out into the world to seek his fortune,
for he had nothing but his sword and his shield. He traveled a long
while, nearly eight-and-twenty years, and had a hard time of it, till
he came to the palace of a good old king, who had offered a reward to
anyone who could tame and train a fine but unbroken colt, of which he
was very fond. The knight agreed to try, and got on slowly but surely,
for the colt was a gallant fellow, and soon learned to love his new
master, though he was freakish and wild. Every day, when he gave his
lessons to this pet of the king's, the knight rode him through the
city, and as he rode, he looked everywhere for a certain beautiful
face, which he had seen many times in his dreams, but never found. One
day, as he went prancing down a quiet street, he saw at the window of a
ruinous castle the lovely face. He was delighted, inquired who lived
in this old castle, and was told that several captive princesses were
kept there by a spell, and spun all day to lay up money to buy their
liberty. The knight wished intensely that he could free them, but he
was poor and could only go by each day, watching for the sweet face and
longing to see it out in the sunshine. At last he resolved to get into
the castle and ask how he could help them. He went and knocked. The
great door flew open, and he beheld..."
"A ravishingly lovely lady, who exclaimed, with a cry of rapture, 'At
last! At last!'" continued Kate, who had read French novels, and
admired the style. "'Tis she!' cried Count Gustave, and fell at her
feet in an ecstasy of joy. 'Oh, rise!' she said, extending a hand of
marble fairness. 'Never! Till you tell me how I may rescue you,' swore
the knight, still kneeling. 'Alas, my cruel fate condemns me to remain
here till my tyrant is destroyed.' 'Where is the villain?' 'In the
mauve salon. Go, brave heart, and save me from despair.' 'I obey, and
return victorious or dead!' With these thrilling words he rushed away,
and flinging open the door of the mauve salon, was about to enter, when
"A stunning blow from the big Greek lexicon, which an old fellow in a
black gown fired at him," said Ned. "Instantly, Sir What's-his-name
recovered himself, pitched the tyrant out of the window, and turned to
join the lady, victorious, but with a bump on his brow, found the door
locked, tore up the curtains, made a rope ladder, got halfway down when
the ladder broke, and he went headfirst into the moat, sixty feet
below. Could swim like a duck, paddled round the castle till he came
to a little door guarded by two stout fellows, knocked their heads
together till they cracked like a couple of nuts, then, by a trifling
exertion of his prodigious strength, he smashed in the door, went up a
pair of stone steps covered with dust a foot thick, toads as big as
your fist, and spiders that would frighten you into hysterics, Miss
March. At the top of these steps he came plump upon a sight that took
his breath away and chilled his blood..."
"A tall figure, all in white with a veil over its face and a lamp in
its wasted hand," went on Meg. "It beckoned, gliding noiselessly
before him down a corridor as dark and cold as any tomb. Shadowy
effigies in armor stood on either side, a dead silence reigned, the
lamp burned blue, and the ghostly figure ever and anon turned its face
toward him, showing the glitter of awful eyes through its white veil.
They reached a curtained door, behind which sounded lovely music. He
sprang forward to enter, but the specter plucked him back, and waved
threateningly before him a..."
"Snuffbox," said Jo, in a sepulchral tone, which convulsed the
audience. "'Thankee,' said the knight politely, as he took a pinch and
sneezed seven times so violently that his head fell off. 'Ha! Ha!'
laughed the ghost, and having peeped through the keyhole at the
princesses spinning away for dear life, the evil spirit picked up her
victim and put him in a large tin box, where there were eleven other
knights packed together without their heads, like sardines, who all
rose and began to..."
"Dance a hornpipe," cut in Fred, as Jo paused for breath, "and, as they
danced, the rubbishy old castle turned to a man-of-war in full sail.
'Up with the jib, reef the tops'l halliards, helm hard alee, and man
the guns!' roared the captain, as a Portuguese pirate hove in sight,
with a flag black as ink flying from her foremast. 'Go in and win, my
hearties!' says the captain, and a tremendous fight began. Of course
the British beat--they always do."
"No, they don't!" cried Jo, aside.
"Having taken the pirate captain prisoner, sailed slap over the
schooner, whose decks were piled high with dead and whose lee scuppers
ran blood, for the order had been 'Cutlasses, and die hard!' 'Bosun's
mate, take a bight of the flying-jib sheet, and start this villain if
he doesn't confess his sins double quick,' said the British captain.
The Portuguese held his tongue like a brick, and walked the plank,
while the jolly tars cheered like mad. But the sly dog dived, came up
under the man-of-war, scuttled her, and down she went, with all sail
set, 'To the bottom of the sea, sea, sea' where..."
"Oh, gracious! What shall I say?" cried Sallie, as Fred ended his
rigmarole, in which he had jumbled together pell-mell nautical phrases
and facts out of one of his favorite books. "Well, they went to the
bottom, and a nice mermaid welcomed them, but was much grieved on
finding the box of headless knights, and kindly pickled them in brine,
hoping to discover the mystery about them, for being a woman, she was
curious. By-and-by a diver came down, and the mermaid said, 'I'll give
you a box of pearls if you can take it up,' for she wanted to restore
the poor things to life, and couldn't raise the heavy load herself. So
the diver hoisted it up, and was much disappointed on opening it to
find no pearls. He left it in a great lonely field, where it was found
"Little goose girl, who kept a hundred fat geese in the field," said
Amy, when Sallie's invention gave out. "The little girl was sorry for
them, and asked an old woman what she should do to help them. 'Your
geese will tell you, they know everything.' said the old woman. So she
asked what she should use for new heads, since the old ones were lost,
and all the geese opened their hundred mouths and screamed..."
"'Cabbages!'" continued Laurie promptly. "'Just the thing,' said the
girl, and ran to get twelve fine ones from her garden. She put them on,
the knights revived at once, thanked her, and went on their way
rejoicing, never knowing the difference, for there were so many other
heads like them in the world that no one thought anything of it. The
knight in whom I'm interested went back to find the pretty face, and
learned that the princesses had spun themselves free and all gone and
married, but one. He was in a great state of mind at that, and
mounting the colt, who stood by him through thick and thin, rushed to
the castle to see which was left. Peeping over the hedge, he saw the
queen of his affections picking flowers in her garden. 'Will you give
me a rose?' said he. 'You must come and get it. I can't come to you,
it isn't proper,' said she, as sweet as honey. He tried to climb over
the hedge, but it seemed to grow higher and higher. Then he tried to
push through, but it grew thicker and thicker, and he was in despair.
So he patiently broke twig after twig till he had made a little hole
through which he peeped, saying imploringly, 'Let me in! Let me in!'
But the pretty princess did not seem to understand, for she picked her
roses quietly, and left him to fight his way in. Whether he did or
not, Frank will tell you."
"I can't. I'm not playing, I never do," said Frank, dismayed at the
sentimental predicament out of which he was to rescue the absurd
couple. Beth had disappeared behind Jo, and Grace was asleep.
"So the poor knight is to be left sticking in the hedge, is he?" asked
Mr. Brooke, still watching the river, and playing with the wild rose in
"I guess the princess gave him a posy, and opened the gate after a
while," said Laurie, smiling to himself, as he threw acorns at his
"What a piece of nonsense we have made! With practice we might do
something quite clever. Do you know Truth?"
"I hope so," said Meg soberly.
"The game, I mean?"
"What is it?" said Fred.
"Why, you pile up your hands, choose a number, and draw out in turn,
and the person who draws at the number has to answer truly any question
put by the rest. It's great fun."
"Let's try it," said Jo, who liked new experiments.
Miss Kate and Mr. Brooke, Meg, and Ned declined, but Fred, Sallie, Jo,
and Laurie piled and drew, and the lot fell to Laurie.
"Who are your heroes?" asked Jo.
"Grandfather and Napoleon."
"Which lady here do you think prettiest?" said Sallie.
"Which do you like best?" from Fred.
"Jo, of course."
"What silly questions you ask!" And Jo gave a disdainful shrug as the
rest laughed at Laurie's matter-of-fact tone.
"Try again. Truth isn't a bad game," said Fred.
"It's a very good one for you," retorted Jo in a low voice. Her turn
"What is your greatest fault?" asked Fred, by way of testing in her the
virtue he lacked himself.
"A quick temper."
"What do you most wish for?" said Laurie.
"A pair of boot lacings," returned Jo, guessing and defeating his
"Not a true answer. You must say what you really do want most."
"Genius. Don't you wish you could give it to me, Laurie?" And she
slyly smiled in his disappointed face.
"What virtues do you most admire in a man?" asked Sallie.
"Courage and honesty."
"Now my turn," said Fred, as his hand came last.
"Let's give it to him," whispered Laurie to Jo, who nodded and asked at
"Didn't you cheat at croquet?"
"Well, yes, a little bit."
"Good! Didn't you take your story out of "The Sea Lion?"" said Laurie.
"Don't you think the English nation perfect in every respect?" asked
"I should be ashamed of myself if I didn't."
"He's a true John Bull. Now, Miss Sallie, you shall have a chance
without waiting to draw. I'll harrrow up your feelings first by asking
if you don't think you are something of a flirt," said Laurie, as Jo
nodded to Fred as a sign that peace was declared.
"You impertinent boy! Of course I'm not," exclaimed Sallie, with an
air that proved the contrary.
"What do you hate most?" asked Fred.
"Spiders and rice pudding."
"What do you like best?" asked Jo.
"Dancing and French gloves."
"Well, I think Truth is a very silly play. Let's have a sensible game
of Authors to refresh our minds," proposed Jo.
Ned, Frank, and the little girls joined in this, and while it went on,
the three elders sat apart, talking. Miss Kate took out her sketch
again, and Margaret watched her, while Mr. Brooke lay on the grass with
a book, which he did not read.
"How beautifully you do it! I wish I could draw," said Meg, with
mingled admiration and regret in her voice.
"Why don't you learn? I should think you had taste and talent for it,"
replied Miss Kate graciously.
"I haven't time."
"Your mamma prefers other accomplishments, I fancy. So did mine, but I
proved to her that I had talent by taking a few lessons privately, and
then she was quite willing I should go on. Can't you do the same with
"I have none."
"I forgot young ladies in America go to school more than with us. Very
fine schools they are, too, Papa says. You go to a private one, I
"I don't go at all. I am a governess myself."
"Oh, indeed!" said Miss Kate, but she might as well have said, "Dear
me, how dreadful!" for her tone implied it, and something in her face
made Meg color, and wish she had not been so frank.
Mr. Brooke looked up and said quickly, "Young ladies in America love
independence as much as their ancestors did, and are admired and
respected for supporting themselves."
"Oh, yes, of course it's very nice and proper in them to do so. We
have many most respectable and worthy young women who do the same and
are employed by the nobility, because, being the daughters of
gentlemen, they are both well bred and accomplished, you know," said
Miss Kate in a patronizing tone that hurt Meg's pride, and made her
work seem not only more distasteful, but degrading.
"Did the German song suit, Miss March?" inquired Mr. Brooke, breaking
an awkward pause.
"Oh, yes! It was very sweet, and I'm much obliged to whoever
translated it for me." And Meg's downcast face brightened as she spoke.
"Don't you read German?" asked Miss Kate with a look of surprise.
"Not very well. My father, who taught me, is away, and I don't get on
very fast alone, for I've no one to correct my pronunciation."
"Try a little now. Here is Schiller's Mary Stuart and a tutor who
loves to teach." And Mr. Brooke laid his book on her lap with an
"It's so hard I'm afraid to try," said Meg, grateful, but bashful in
the presence of the accomplished young lady beside her.
"I'll read a bit to encourage you." And Miss Kate read one of the most
beautiful passages in a perfectly correct but perfectly expressionless
Mr. Brooke made no comment as she returned the book to Meg, who said
innocently, "I thought it was poetry."
"Some of it is. Try this passage."
There was a queer smile about Mr. Brooke's mouth as he opened at poor
Meg obediently following the long grass-blade which her new tutor used
to point with, read slowly and timidly, unconsciously making poetry of
the hard words by the soft intonation of her musical voice. Down the
page went the green guide, and presently, forgetting her listener in
the beauty of the sad scene, Meg read as if alone, giving a little
touch of tragedy to the words of the unhappy queen. If she had seen
the brown eyes then, she would have stopped short, but she never looked
up, and the lesson was not spoiled for her.
"Very well indeed!" said Mr. Brooke, as she paused, quite ignoring her
many mistakes, and looking as if he did indeed love to teach.
Miss Kate put up her glass, and, having taken a survey of the little
tableau before her, shut her sketch book, saying with condescension,
"You've a nice accent and in time will be a clever reader. I advise
you to learn, for German is a valuable accomplishment to teachers. I
must look after Grace, she is romping." And Miss Kate strolled away,
adding to herself with a shrug, "I didn't come to chaperone a
governess, though she is young and pretty. What odd people these
Yankees are. I'm afraid Laurie will be quite spoiled among them."
"I forgot that English people rather turn up their noses at governesses
and don't treat them as we do," said Meg, looking after the retreating
figure with an annoyed expression.
"Tutors also have rather a hard time of it there, as I know to my
sorrow. There's no place like America for us workers, Miss Margaret."
And Mr. Brooke looked so contented and cheerful that Meg was ashamed to
lament her hard lot.
"I'm glad I live in it then. I don't like my work, but I get a good
deal of satisfaction out of it after all, so I won't complain. I only
wished I liked teaching as you do."
"I think you would if you had Laurie for a pupil. I shall be very
sorry to lose him next year," said Mr. Brooke, busily punching holes in
"Going to college, I suppose?" Meg's lips asked the question, but her
eyes added, "And what becomes of you?"
"Yes, it's high time he went, for he is ready, and as soon as he is
off, I shall turn soldier. I am needed."
"I am glad of that!" exclaimed Meg. "I should think every young man
would want to go, though it is hard for the mothers and sisters who
stay at home," she added sorrowfully.
"I have neither, and very few friends to care whether I live or die,"
said Mr. Brooke rather bitterly as he absently put the dead rose in the
hole he had made and covered it up, like a little grave.
"Laurie and his grandfather would care a great deal, and we should all
be very sorry to have any harm happen to you," said Meg heartily.
"Thank you, that sounds pleasant," began Mr. Brooke, looking cheerful
again, but before he could finish his speech, Ned, mounted on the old
horse, came lumbering up to display his equestrian skill before the
young ladies, and there was no more quiet that day.
"Don't you love to ride?" asked Grace of Amy, as they stood resting
after a race round the field with the others, led by Ned.
"I dote upon it. My sister, Meg, used to ride when Papa was rich, but
we don't keep any horses now, except Ellen Tree," added Amy, laughing.
"Tell me about Ellen Tree. Is it a donkey?" asked Grace curiously.
"Why, you see, Jo is crazy about horses and so am I, but we've only got
an old sidesaddle and no horse. Out in our garden is an apple tree
that has a nice low branch, so Jo put the saddle on it, fixed some
reins on the part that turns up, and we bounce away on Ellen Tree
whenever we like."
"How funny!" laughed Grace. "I have a pony at home, and ride nearly
every day in the park with Fred and Kate. It's very nice, for my
friends go too, and the Row is full of ladies and gentlemen."
"Dear, how charming! I hope I shall go abroad some day, but I'd rather
go to Rome than the Row," said Amy, who had not the remotest idea what
the Row was and wouldn't have asked for the world.
Frank, sitting just behind the little girls, heard what they were
saying, and pushed his crutch away from him with an impatient gesture
as he watched the active lads going through all sorts of comical
gymnastics. Beth, who was collecting the scattered Author cards,
looked up and said, in her shy yet friendly way, "I'm afraid you are
tired. Can I do anything for you?"
"Talk to me, please. It's dull, sitting by myself," answered Frank,
who had evidently been used to being made much of at home.
If he asked her to deliver a Latin oration, it would not have seemed a
more impossible task to bashful Beth, but there was no place to run to,
no Jo to hide behind now, and the poor boy looked so wistfully at her
that she bravely resolved to try.
"What do you like to talk about?" she asked, fumbling over the cards
and dropping half as she tried to tie them up.
"Well, I like to hear about cricket and boating and hunting," said
Frank, who had not yet learned to suit his amusements to his strength.
My heart! What shall I do? I don't know anything about them, thought
Beth, and forgetting the boy's misfortune in her flurry, she said,
hoping to make him talk, "I never saw any hunting, but I suppose you
know all about it."
"I did once, but I can never hunt again, for I got hurt leaping a
confounded five-barred gate, so there are no more horses and hounds for
me," said Frank with a sigh that made Beth hate herself for her
"Your deer are much prettier than our ugly buffaloes," she said,
turning to the prairies for help and feeling glad that she had read one
of the boys' books in which Jo delighted.
Buffaloes proved soothing and satisfactory, and in her eagerness to
amuse another, Beth forgot herself, and was quite unconscious of her
sisters' surprise and delight at the unusual spectacle of Beth talking
away to one of the dreadful boys, against whom she had begged
"Bless her heart! She pities him, so she is good to him," said Jo,
beaming at her from the croquet ground.
"I always said she was a little saint," added Meg, as if there could be
no further doubt of it.
"I haven't heard Frank laugh so much for ever so long," said Grace to
Amy, as they sat discussing dolls and making tea sets out of the acorn
"My sister Beth is a very fastidious girl, when she likes to be," said
Amy, well pleased at Beth's success. She meant 'facinating', but as
Grace didn't know the exact meaning of either word, fastidious sounded
well and made a good impression.
An impromptu circus, fox and geese, and an amicable game of croquet
finished the afternoon. At sunset the tent was struck, hampers packed,
wickets pulled up, boats loaded, and the whole party floated down the
river, singing at the tops of their voices. Ned, getting sentimental,
warbled a serenade with the pensive refrain...
Alone, alone, ah! Woe, alone,
and at the lines...
We each are young, we each have a heart,
Oh, why should we stand thus coldly apart?
he looked at Meg with such a lackadiasical expression that she laughed
outright and spoiled his song.
"How can you be so cruel to me?" he whispered, under cover of a lively
chorus. "You've kept close to that starched-up Englishwoman all day,
and now you snub me."
"I didn't mean to, but you looked so funny I really couldn't help it,"
replied Meg, passing over the first part of his reproach, for it was
quite true that she had shunned him, remembering the Moffat party and
the talk after it.
Ned was offended and turned to Sallie for consolation, saying to her
rather pettishly, "There isn't a bit of flirt in that girl, is there?"
"Not a particle, but she's a dear," returned Sallie, defending her
friend even while confessing her shortcomings.
"She's not a stricken deer anyway," said Ned, trying to be witty, and
succeeding as well as very young gentlemen usually do.
On the lawn where it had gathered, the little party separated with
cordial good nights and good-bys, for the Vaughns were going to Canada.
As the four sisters went home through the garden, Miss Kate looked
after them, saying, without the patronizing tone in her voice, "In
spite of their demonstrative manners, American girls are very nice when
one knows them."
"I quite agree with you," said Mr. Brooke.
CASTLES IN THE AIR
Laurie lay luxuriously swinging to and fro in his hammock one warm
September afternoon, wondering what his neighbors were about, but too
lazy to go and find out. He was in one of his moods, for the day had
been both unprofitable and unsatisfactory, and he was wishing he could
live it over again. The hot weather made him indolent, and he had
shirked his studies, tried Mr. Brooke's patience to the utmost,
displeased his grandfather by practicing half the afternoon, frightened
the maidservants half out of their wits by mischievously hinting that
one of his dogs was going mad, and, after high words with the stableman
about some fancied neglect of his horse, he had flung himself into his
hammock to fume over the stupidity of the world in general, till the
peace of the lovely day quieted him in spite of himself. Staring up
into the green gloom of the horse-chestnut trees above him, he dreamed
dreams of all sorts, and was just imagining himself tossing on the
ocean in a voyage round the world, when the sound of voices brought him
ashore in a flash. Peeping through the meshes of the hammock, he saw
the Marches coming out, as if bound on some expedition.
"What in the world are those girls about now?" thought Laurie, opening
his sleepy eyes to take a good look, for there was something rather
peculiar in the appearance of his neighbors. Each wore a large,
flapping hat, a brown linen pouch slung over one shoulder, and carried
a long staff. Meg had a cushion, Jo a book, Beth a basket, and Amy a
portfolio. All walked quietly through the garden, out at the little
back gate, and began to climb the hill that lay between the house and
"Well, that's cool," said Laurie to himself, "to have a picnic and
never ask me! They can't be going in the boat, for they haven't got
the key. Perhaps they forgot it. I'll take it to them, and see what's
Though possessed of half a dozen hats, it took him some time to find
one, then there was a hunt for the key, which was at last discovered in
his pocket, so that the girls were quite out of sight when he leaped
the fence and ran after them. Taking the shortest way to the
boathouse, he waited for them to appear, but no one came, and he went
up the hill to take an observation. A grove of pines covered one part
of it, and from the heart of this green spot came a clearer sound than
the soft sigh of the pines or the drowsy chirp of the crickets.
"Here's a landscape!" thought Laurie, peeping through the bushes, and
looking wide-awake and good-natured already.
It was a rather pretty little picture, for the sisters sat together in
the shady nook, with sun and shadow flickering over them, the aromatic
wind lifting their hair and cooling their hot cheeks, and all the
little wood people going on with their affairs as if these were no
strangers but old friends. Meg sat upon her cushion, sewing daintily
with her white hands, and looking as fresh and sweet as a rose in her
pink dress among the green. Beth was sorting the cones that lay thick
under the hemlock near by, for she made pretty things with them. Amy
was sketching a group of ferns, and Jo was knitting as she read aloud.
A shadow passed over the boy's face as he watched them, feeling that he
ought to go away because uninvited; yet lingering because home seemed
very lonely and this quiet party in the woods most attractive to his
restless spirit. He stood so still that a squirrel, busy with its
harvesting, ran down a pine close beside him, saw him suddenly and
skipped back, scolding so shrilly that Beth looked up, espied the
wistful face behind the birches, and beckoned with a reassuring smile.
"May I come in, please? Or shall I be a bother?" he asked, advancing
Meg lifted her eyebrows, but Jo scowled at her defiantly and said at
once, "Of course you may. We should have asked you before, only we
thought you wouldn't care for such a girl's game as this."
"I always like your games, but if Meg doesn't want me, I'll go away."
"I've no objection, if you do something. It's against the rules to be
idle here," replied Meg gravely but graciously.
"Much obliged. I'll do anything if you'll let me stop a bit, for it's
as dull as the Desert of Sahara down there. Shall I sew, read, cone,
draw, or do all at once? Bring on your bears. I'm ready." And Laurie
sat down with a submissive expression delightful to behold.
"Finish this story while I set my heel," said Jo, handing him the book.
"Yes'm." was the meek answer, as he began, doing his best to prove his
gratitude for the favor of admission into the 'Busy Bee Society'.
The story was not a long one, and when it was finished, he ventured to
ask a few questions as a reward of merit.
"Please, ma'am, could I inquire if this highly instructive and charming
institution is a new one?"
"Would you tell him?" asked Meg of her sisters.
"He'll laugh," said Amy warningly.
"Who cares?" said Jo.
"I guess he'll like it," added Beth.
"Of course I shall! I give you my word I won't laugh. Tell away, Jo,
and don't be afraid."
"The idea of being afraid of you! Well, you see we used to play
Pilgrim's Progress, and we have been going on with it in earnest, all
winter and summer."
"Yes, I know," said Laurie, nodding wisely.
"Who told you?" demanded Jo.
"No, I did. I wanted to amuse him one night when you were all away,
and he was rather dismal. He did like it, so don't scold, Jo," said
"You can't keep a secret. Never mind, it saves trouble now."
"Go on, please," said Laurie, as Jo became absorbed in her work,
looking a trifle displeased.
"Oh, didn't she tell you about this new plan of ours? Well, we have
tried not to waste our holiday, but each has had a task and worked at
it with a will. The vacation is nearly over, the stints are all done,
and we are ever so glad that we didn't dawdle."
"Yes, I should think so," and Laurie thought regretfully of his own
"Mother likes to have us out-of-doors as much as possible, so we bring
our work here and have nice times. For the fun of it we bring our
things in these bags, wear the old hats, use poles to climb the hill,
and play pilgrims, as we used to do years ago. We call this hill the
Delectable Mountain, for we can look far away and see the country where
we hope to live some time."
Jo pointed, and Laurie sat up to examine, for through an opening in the
wood one could look cross the wide, blue river, the meadows on the
other side, far over the outskirts of the great city, to the green
hills that rose to meet the sky. The sun was low, and the heavens
glowed with the splendor of an autumn sunset. Gold and purple clouds
lay on the hilltops, and rising high into the ruddy light were silvery
white peaks that shone like the airy spires of some Celestial City.
"How beautiful that is!" said Laurie softly, for he was quick to see
and feel beauty of any kind.
"It's often so, and we like to watch it, for it is never the same, but
always splendid," replied Amy, wishing she could paint it.
"Jo talks about the country where we hope to live sometime--the real
country, she means, with pigs and chickens and haymaking. It would be
nice, but I wish the beautiful country up there was real, and we could
ever go to it," said Beth musingly.
"There is a lovelier country even than that, where we shall go,
by-and-by, when we are good enough," answered Meg with her sweetest
"It seems so long to wait, so hard to do. I want to fly away at once,
as those swallows fly, and go in at that splendid gate."
"You'll get there, Beth, sooner or later, no fear of that," said Jo.
"I'm the one that will have to fight and work, and climb and wait, and
maybe never get in after all."
"You'll have me for company, if that's any comfort. I shall have to do
a deal of traveling before I come in sight of your Celestial City. If
I arrive late, you'll say a good word for me, won't you, Beth?"
Something in the boy's face troubled his little friend, but she said
cheerfully, with her quiet eyes on the changing clouds, "If people
really want to go, and really try all their lives, I think they will
get in, for I don't believe there are any locks on that door or any
guards at the gate. I always imagine it is as it is in the picture,
where the shining ones stretch out their hands to welcome poor
Christian as he comes up from the river."
"Wouldn't it be fun if all the castles in the air which we make could
come true, and we could live in them?" said Jo, after a little pause.
"I've made such quantities it would be hard to choose which I'd have,"
said Laurie, lying flat and throwing cones at the squirrel who had
"You'd have to take your favorite one. What is it?" asked Meg.
"If I tell mine, will you tell yours?"
"Yes, if the girls will too."
"We will. Now, Laurie."
"After I'd seen as much of the world as I want to, I'd like to settle
in Germany and have just as much music as I choose. I'm to be a famous
musician myself, and all creation is to rush to hear me. And I'm never
to be bothered about money or business, but just enjoy myself and live
for what I like. That's my favorite castle. What's yours, Meg?"
Margaret seemed to find it a little hard to tell hers, and waved a
brake before her face, as if to disperse imaginary gnats, while she
said slowly, "I should like a lovely house, full of all sorts of
luxurious things--nice food, pretty clothes, handsome furniture,
pleasant people, and heaps of money. I am to be mistress of it, and
manage it as I like, with plenty of servants, so I never need work a
bit. How I should enjoy it! For I wouldn't be idle, but do good, and
make everyone love me dearly."
"Wouldn't you have a master for your castle in the air?" asked Laurie
"I said 'pleasant people', you know," and Meg carefully tied up her
shoe as she spoke, so that no one saw her face.
"Why don't you say you'd have a splendid, wise, good husband and some
angelic little children? You know your castle wouldn't be perfect
without," said blunt Jo, who had no tender fancies yet, and rather
scorned romance, except in books.
"You'd have nothing but horses, inkstands, and novels in yours,"
answered Meg petulantly.
"Wouldn't I though? I'd have a stable full of Arabian steeds, rooms
piled high with books, and I'd write out of a magic inkstand, so that
my works should be as famous as Laurie's music. I want to do something
splendid before I go into my castle, something heroic or wonderful that
won't be forgotten after I'm dead. I don't know what, but I'm on the
watch for it, and mean to astonish you all some day. I think I shall
write books, and get rich and famous, that would suit me, so that is my
"Mine is to stay at home safe with Father and Mother, and help take
care of the family," said Beth contentedly.
"Don't you wish for anything else?" asked Laurie.
"Since I had my little piano, I am perfectly satisfied. I only wish we
may all keep well and be together, nothing else."
"I have ever so many wishes, but the pet one is to be an artist, and go
to Rome, and do fine pictures, and be the best artist in the whole
world," was Amy's modest desire.
"We're an ambitious set, aren't we? Every one of us, but Beth, wants
to be rich and famous, and gorgeous in every respect. I do wonder if
any of us will ever get our wishes," said Laurie, chewing grass like a
"I've got the key to my castle in the air, but whether I can unlock the
door remains to be seen," observed Jo mysteriously.
"I've got the key to mine, but I'm not allowed to try it. Hang
college!" muttered Laurie with an impatient sigh.
"Here's mine!" and Amy waved her pencil.
"I haven't got any," said Meg forlornly.
"Yes, you have," said Laurie at once.
"In your face."
"Nonsense, that's of no use."
"Wait and see if it doesn't bring you something worth having," replied
the boy, laughing at the thought of a charming little secret which he
fancied he knew.
Meg colored behind the brake, but asked no questions and looked across
the river with the same expectant expression which Mr. Brooke had worn
when he told the story of the knight.
"If we are all alive ten years hence, let's meet, and see how many of
us have got our wishes, or how much nearer we are then than now," said
Jo, always ready with a plan.
"Bless me! How old I shall be, twenty-seven!" exclaimed Meg, who felt
grown up already, having just reached seventeen.
"You and I will be twenty-six, Teddy, Beth twenty-four, and Amy
twenty-two. What a venerable party!" said Jo.
"I hope I shall have done something to be proud of by that time, but
I'm such a lazy dog, I'm afraid I shall dawdle, Jo."
"You need a motive, Mother says, and when you get it, she is sure
you'll work splendidly."
"Is she? By Jupiter, I will, if I only get the chance!" cried Laurie,
sitting up with sudden energy. "I ought to be satisfied to please
Grandfather, and I do try, but it's working against the grain, you see,
and comes hard. He wants me to be an India merchant, as he was, and
I'd rather be shot. I hate tea and silk and spices, and every sort of
rubbish his old ships bring, and I don't care how soon they go to the
bottom when I own them. Going to college ought to satisfy him, for if
I give him four years he ought to let me off from the business. But
he's set, and I've got to do just as he did, unless I break away and
please myself, as my father did. If there was anyone left to stay with
the old gentleman, I'd do it tomorrow."
Laurie spoke excitedly, and looked ready to carry his threat into
execution on the slightest provocation, for he was growing up very fast
and, in spite of his indolent ways, had a young man's hatred of
subjection, a young man's restless longing to try the world for himself.
"I advise you to sail away in one of your ships, and never come home
again till you have tried your own way," said Jo, whose imagination was
fired by the thought of such a daring exploit, and whose sympathy was
excited by what she called 'Teddy's Wrongs'.
"That's not right, Jo. You mustn't talk in that way, and Laurie
mustn't take your bad advice. You should do just what your grandfather
wishes, my dear boy," said Meg in her most maternal tone. "Do your best
at college, and when he sees that you try to please him, I'm sure he
won't be hard on you or unjust to you. As you say, there is no one
else to stay with and love him, and you'd never forgive yourself if you
left him without his permission. Don't be dismal or fret, but do your
duty and you'll get your reward, as good Mr. Brooke has, by being
respected and loved."
"What do you know about him?" asked Laurie, grateful for the good
advice, but objecting to the lecture, and glad to turn the conversation
from himself after his unusual outbreak.
"Only what your grandpa told us about him, how he took good care of his
own mother till she died, and wouldn't go abroad as tutor to some nice
person because he wouldn't leave her. And how he provides now for an
old woman who nursed his mother, and never tells anyone, but is just as
generous and patient and good as he can be."
"So he is, dear old fellow!" said Laurie heartily, as Meg paused,
looking flushed and earnest with her story. "It's like Grandpa to find
out all about him without letting him know, and to tell all his
goodness to others, so that they might like him. Brooke couldn't
understand why your mother was so kind to him, asking him over with me
and treating him in her beautiful friendly way. He thought she was
just perfect, and talked about it for days and days, and went on about
you all in flaming style. If ever I do get my wish, you see what I'll
do for Brooke."
"Begin to do something now by not plaguing his life out," said Meg
"How do you know I do, Miss?"
"I can always tell by his face when he goes away. If you have been
good, he looks satisfied and walks briskly. If you have plagued him,
he's sober and walks slowly, as if he wanted to go back and do his work
"Well, I like that? So you keep an account of my good and bad marks in
Brooke's face, do you? I see him bow and smile as he passes your
window, but I didn't know you'd got up a telegraph."
"We haven't. Don't be angry, and oh, don't tell him I said anything!
It was only to show that I cared how you get on, and what is said here
is said in confidence, you know," cried Meg, much alarmed at the
thought of what might follow from her careless speech.
"I don't tell tales," replied Laurie, with his 'high and mighty' air,
as Jo called a certain expression which he occasionally wore. "Only if
Brooke is going to be a thermometer, I must mind and have fair weather
for him to report."
"Please don't be offended. I didn't mean to preach or tell tales or be
silly. I only thought Jo was encouraging you in a feeling which you'd
be sorry for by-and-by. You are so kind to us, we feel as if you were
our brother and say just what we think. Forgive me, I meant it kindly."
And Meg offered her hand with a gesture both affectionate and timid.
Ashamed of his momentary pique, Laurie squeezed the kind little hand,
and said frankly, "I'm the one to be forgiven. I'm cross and have been
out of sorts all day. I like to have you tell me my faults and be
sisterly, so don't mind if I am grumpy sometimes. I thank you all the
Bent on showing that he was not offended, he made himself as agreeable
as possible, wound cotton for Meg, recited poetry to please Jo, shook
down cones for Beth, and helped Amy with her ferns, proving himself a
fit person to belong to the 'Busy Bee Society'. In the midst of an
animated discussion on the domestic habits of turtles (one of those
amiable creatures having strolled up from the river), the faint sound
of a bell warned them that Hannah had put the tea 'to draw', and they
would just have time to get home to supper.
"May I come again?" asked Laurie.
"Yes, if you are good, and love your book, as the boys in the primer
are told to do," said Meg, smiling.
"Then you may come, and I'll teach you to knit as the Scotchmen do.
There's a demand for socks just now," added Jo, waving hers like a big
blue worsted banner as they parted at the gate
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