Louisa May Alcott
Part 11 out of 11
eyes, the grasp of the big, warm hand.
"Father, Mother, this is my friend, Professor Bhaer," she
said, with a face and tone of such irrepressible pride and
pleasure that she might as well have blown a trumpet and opened
the door with a flourish.
If the stranger had any doubts about his reception, they
were set at rest in a minute by the cordial welcome he received.
Everyone greeted him kindly, for Jo's sake at first, but very
soon they liked him for his own. They could not help it, for
he carried the talisman that opens all hearts, and these simple
people warmed to him at once, feeling even the more friendly
because he was poor. For poverty enriches those who live above
it, and is a sure passport to truly hospitable spirits. Mr.
Bhaer sat looking about him with the air of a traveler who
knocks at a strange door, and when it opens, finds himself at
home. The children went to him like bees to a honeypot, and
establishing themselves on each knee, proceeded to captivate him
by rifling his pockets, pulling his beard, and investigating his
watch, with juvenile audacity. The women telegraphed their
approval to one another, and Mr. March, feeling that he had got
a kindred spirit, opened his choicest stores for his guest's
benefit, while silent John listened and enjoyed the talk, but
said not a word, and Mr. Laurence found it impossible to go to
If Jo had not been otherwise engaged, Laurie's behavior
would have amused her, for a faint twinge, not of jealousy, but
something like suspicion, caused that gentleman to stand aloof
at first, and observe the newcomer with brotherly circumspection.
But it did not last long. He got interested in spite of himself,
and before he knew it, was drawn into the circle. For Mr. Bhaer
talked well in this genial atmosphere, and did himself justice.
He seldom spoke to Laurie, but he looked at him often, and a
shadow would pass across his face, as if regretting his own lost
youth, as he watched the young man in his prime. Then his eyes
would turn to Jo so wistfully that she would have surely answered
the mute inquiry if she had seen it. But Jo had her own eyes to
take care of, and feeling that they could not be trusted, she
prudently kept them on the little sock she was knitting, like a
model maiden aunt.
A stealthy glance now and then refreshed her like sips of
fresh water after a dusty walk, for the sidelong peeps showed
her several propitious omens. Mr. Bhaer's face had lost the
absent-minded expression, and looked all alive with interest in
the present moment, actually young and handsome, she thought,
forgetting to compare him with Laurie, as she usually did strange
men, to their great detriment. Then he seemed quite inspired,
though the burial customs of the ancients, to which the conversation
had strayed, might not be considered an exhilarating topic.
Jo quite glowed with triumph when Teddy got quenched in
an argument, and thought to herself, as she watched her father's
absorbed face, "How he would enjoy having such a man as my Professor
to talk with every day!" Lastly, Mr. Bhaer was dressed
in a new suit of black, which made him look more like a gentleman
than ever. His bushy hair had been cut and smoothly brushed, but
didn't stay in order long, for in exciting moments, he rumpled
it up in the droll way he used to do, and Jo liked it rampantly
erect better than flat, because she thought it gave his fine
forehead a Jove-like aspect. Poor Jo, how she did glorify that
plain man, as she sat knitting away so quietly, yet letting
nothing escape her, not even the fact that Mr. Bhaer actually
had gold sleeve-buttons in his immaculate wristbands.
"Dear old fellow! He couldn't have got himself up with more care if
he'd been going a-wooing," said Jo to herself, and then a sudden
thought born of the words made her blush so dreadfully that she had
to drop her ball, and go down after it to hide her face.
The maneuver did not succeed as well as she expected, however,
for though just in the act of setting fire to a funeral
pyre, the Professor dropped his torch, metaphorically speaking,
and made a dive after the little blue ball. Of course they
bumped their heads smartly together, saw stars, and both came
up flushed and laughing, without the ball, to resume their seats,
wishing they had not left them.
Nobody knew where the evening went to, for Hannah skillfully
abstracted the babies at an early hour, nodding like two rosy
poppies, and Mr. Laurence went home to rest. The others sat round
the fire, talking away, utterly regardless of the lapse of time,
till Meg, whose maternal mind was impressed with a firm conviction
that Daisy had tumbled out of bed, and Demi set his nightgown afire
studying the structure of matches, made a move to go.
"We must have our sing, in the good old way, for we are all
together again once more," said Jo, feeling that a good shout
would be a safe and pleasant vent for the jubilant emotions of
They were not all there. But no one found the words thougtless
or untrue, for Beth still seemed among them, a peaceful presence,
invisible, but dearer than ever, since death could not break
the household league that love made disoluble. The little
chair stood in its old place. The tidy basket, with the bit of
work she left unfinished when the needle grew 'so heavy', was
still on its accustomed shelf. The beloved instrument, seldom
touched now had not been moved, and above it Beth's face, serene
and smiling, as in the early days, looked down upon them, seeming
to say, "Be happy. I am here."
"Play something, Amy. Let them hear how much you have improved,"
said Laurie, with pardonable pride in his promising pupil.
But Amy whispered, with full eyes, as she twirled the faded
stool, "Not tonight, dear. I can't show off tonight."
But she did show something better than brilliancy or skill,
for she sang Beth's songs with a tender music in her voice which
the best master could not have taught, and touched the listener's
hearts with a sweeter power than any other inspiration could have
given her. The room was very still, when the clear voice failed
suddenly at the last line of Beth's favorite hymn. It was hard
to say . . .
Earth hath no sorrow that heaven cannot heal;
and Amy leaned against her husband, who stood behind her, feeling
that her welcome home was not quite perfect without Beth's kiss.
"Now, we must finish with Mignon's song, for Mr. Bhaer sings
that," said Jo, before the pause grew painful. And Mr. Bhaer
cleared his throat with a gratified "Hem!" as he stepped into the
corner where Jo stood, saying . . .
"You will sing with me? We go excellently well together."
A pleasing fiction, by the way, for Jo had no more idea of music
than a grasshopper. But she would have consented if he had proposed
to sing a whole opera, and warbled away, blissfully regardless of
time and tune. It didn't much matter, for Mr. Bhaer sang like a true
German, heartily and well, and Jo soon subsided into a subdued hum,
that she might listen to the mellow voice that seemed to sing for
Know'st thou the land where the citron blooms,
used to be the Professor's favorite line, for 'das land' meant
Germany to him, but now he seemed to dwell, with peculiar warmth
and melody, upon the words . . .
There, oh there, might I with thee,
O, my beloved, go
and one listener was so thrilled by the tender invitation that she
longed to say she did know the land, and would joyfully depart
thither whenever he liked.
The song was considered a great success, and the singer retired
covered with laurels. But a few minutes afterward, he forgot his
manners entirely, and stared at Amy putting on her bonnet, for she
had been introduced simply as 'my sister', and no one had called
her by her new name since he came. He forgot himself still further
when Laurie said, in his most gracious manner, at parting . . .
"My wife and I are very glad to meet you, sir. Please remember
that there is always a welcome waiting for you over the way."
Then the Professor thanked him so heartily, and looked so
suddenly illuminated with satisfaction, that Laurie thought him
the most delightfully demonstrative old fellow he ever met.
"I too shall go, but I shall gladly come again, if you will
gif me leave, dear madame, for a little business in the city will
keep me here some days."
He spoke to Mrs. March, but he looked at Jo, and the mother's
voice gave as cordial an assent as did the daughter's eyes, for
Mrs. March was not so blind to her children's interest as Mrs.
"I suspect that is a wise man," remarked Mr. March, with
placid satisfaction, from the hearthrug, after the last guest had
"I know he is a good one," added Mrs. March, with decided
approval, as she wound up the clock.
"I thought you'd like him," was all Jo said, as she slipped
away to her bed.
She wondered what the business was that brought Mr. Bhaer to
the city, and finally decided that he had been appointed to some
great honor, somewhere, but had been too modest to mention the
fact. If she had seen his face when, safe in his own room, he
looked at the picture of a severe and rigid young lady, with a
good deal of hair, who appeared to be gazing darkly into futurity,
it might have thrown some light upon the subject, especially when
he turned off the gas, and kissed the picture in the dark.
MY LORD AND LADY
"Please, Madam Mother, could you lend me my wife for half
an hour? The luggage has come, and I've been making hay of
Amy's Paris finery, trying to find some things I want," said
Laurie, coming in the next day to find Mrs. Laurence sitting
in her mother's lap, as if being made 'the baby' again.
"Certainly. Go, dear, I forgot that you have any home but
this," and Mrs. March pressed the white hand that wore the wedding
ring, as if asking pardon for her maternal covetousness.
"I shouldn't have come over if I could have helped it, but
I can't get on without my little woman any more than a . . ."
"Weathercock can without the wind," suggested Jo, as he
paused for a simile. Jo had grown quite her own saucy self
again since Teddy came home.
"Exactly, for Amy keeps me pointing due west most of the
time, with only an occasional whiffle round to the south, and
I haven't had an easterly spell since I was married. Don't know
anything about the north, but am altogether salubrious and balmy,
hey, my lady?"
"Lovely weather so far. I don't know how long it will last,
but I'm not afraid of storms, for I'm learning how to sail my
ship. Come home, dear, and I'll find your bootjack. I suppose
that's what you are rummaging after among my things. Men are so
helpless, Mother," said Amy, with a matronly air, which delighted
"What are you going to do with yourselves after you get settled?"
asked Jo, buttoning Amy's cloak as she used to button her pinafores.
"We have our plans. We don't mean to say much about them
yet, because we are such very new brooms, but we don't intend to
be idle. I'm going into business with a devotion that shall delight
Grandfather, and prove to him that I'm not spoiled. I need
something of the sort to keep me steady. I'm tired of dawdling,
and mean to work like a man."
"And Amy, what is she going to do?" asked Mrs. March, well
pleased at Laurie's decision and the energy with which he spoke.
"After doing the civil all round, and airing our best bonnet,
we shall astonish you by the elegant hospitalities of our mansion,
the brilliant society we shall draw about us, and the beneficial
influence we shall exert over the world at large. That's about
it, isn't it, Madame Recamier?" asked Laurie with a quizzical
look at Amy.
"Time will show. Come away, Impertinence, and don't shock
my family by calling me names before their faces," answered Amy,
resolving that there should be a home with a good wife in it
before she set up a salon as a queen of society.
"How happy those children seem together!" observed Mr. March,
finding it difficult to become absorbed in his Aristotle after
the young couple had gone.
"Yes, and I think it will last," added Mrs. March, with the
restful expression of a pilot who has brought a ship safely into
"I know it will. Happy Amy!" and Jo sighed, then smiled
brightly as Professor Bhaer opened the gate with an impatient
Later in the evening, when his mind had been set at rest
about the bootjack, Laurie said suddenly to his wife, "Mrs.
"That man intends to marry our Jo!"
"I hope so, don't you, dear?"
"Well, my love, I consider him a trump, in the fullest sense
of that expressive word, but I do wish he was a little younger
and a good deal richer."
"Now, Laurie, don't be too fastidious and worldly-minded.
If they love one another it doesn't matter a particle how old
they are nor how poor. Women never should marry for money . . ."
Amy caught herself up short as the words escaped her, and looked
at her husband, who replied, with malicious gravity . . .
"Certainly not, though you do hear charming girls say that
they intend to do it sometimes. If my memory serves me, you
once thought it your duty to make a rich match. That accounts,
perhaps, for your marrying a good-for-nothing like me."
"Oh, my dearest boy, don't, don't say that! I forgot you
were rich when I said 'Yes'. I'd have married you if you hadn't
a penny, and I sometimes wish you were poor that I might show
how much I love you." And Amy, who was very dignified in public
and very fond in private, gave convincing proofs of the truth of
"You don't really think I am such a mercenary creature as
I tried to be once, do you? It would break my heart if you
didn't believe that I'd gladly pull in the same boat with you,
even if you had to get your living by rowing on the lake."
"Am I an idiot and a brute? How could I think so, when
you refused a richer man for me, and won't let me give you half
I want to now, when I have the right? Girls do it every day,
poor things, and are taught to think it is their only salvation,
but you had better lessons, and though I trembled for you at
one time, I was not disappointed, for the daughter was true to
the mother's teaching. I told Mamma so yesterday, and she
looked as glad and grateful as if I'd given her a check for a
million, to be spent in charity. You are not listening to my
moral remarks, Mrs. Laurence," and Laurie paused, for Amy's
eyes had an absent look, though fixed upon his face.
"Yes, I am, and admiring the mole in your chin at the
same time. I don't wish to make you vain, but I must confess
that I'm prouder of my handsome husband than of all his money.
Don't laugh, but your nose is such a comfort to me," and Amy
softly caressed the well-cut feature with artistic satisfaction.
Laurie had received many compliments in his life, but never
one that suited him better, as he plainly showed though he did
laugh at his wife's peculiar taste, while she said slowly, "May
I ask you a question, dear?"
"Of course, you may."
"Shall you care if Jo does marry Mr. Bhaer?"
"Oh, that's the trouble is it? I thought there was something
in the dimple that didn't quite suit you. Not being a dog in the
manger, but the happiest fellow alive, I assure you I can dance
at Jo's wedding with a heart as light as my heels. Do you doubt
it, my darling?"
Amy looked up at him, and was satisfied. Her little jealous
fear vanished forever, and she thanked him, with a face full of
love and confidence.
"I wish we could do something for that capital old Professor.
Couldn't we invent a rich relation, who shall obligingly die out
there in Germany, and leave him a tidy little fortune?" said Laurie,
when they began to pace up and down the long drawing room, arm in
arm, as they were fond of doing, in memory of the chateau garden.
"Jo would find us out, and spoil it all. She is very proud
of him, just as he is, and said yesterday that she thought poverty
was a beautiful thing."
"Bless her dear heart! She won't think so when she has a
literary husband, and a dozen little professors and professorins
to support. We won't interfere now, but watch our chance, and
do them a good turn in spite of themselves. I owe Jo for a part
of my education, and she believes in people's paying their honest
debts, so I'll get round her in that way."
"How delightful it is to be able to help others, isn't it?
That was always one of my dreams, to have the power of giving
freely, and thanks to you, the dream has come true."
"Ah, we'll do quantities of good, won't we? There's one
sort of poverty that I particularly like to help. Out-and-out
beggars get taken care of, but poor gentle folks fare badly,
because they won't ask, and people don't dare to offer charity.
Yet there are a thousand ways of helping them, if one only
knows how to do it so delicately that it does not offend. I
must say, I like to serve a decayed gentleman better than a
blarnerying beggar. I suppose it's wrong, but I do, though it
"Because it takes a gentleman to do it," added the other
member of the domestic admiration society.
"Thank you, I'm afraid I don't deserve that pretty compliment.
But I was going to say that while I was dawdling about abroad, I
saw a good many talented young fellows making all sorts of sacrifices,
and enduring real hardships, that they might realize their dreams.
Splendid fellows, some of them, working like heros, poor
and friendless, but so full of courage, patience, and ambition
that I was ashamed of myself, and longed to give them a right
good lift. Those are people whom it's a satisfaction to help,
for if they've got genius, it's an honor to be allowed to
serve them, and not let it be lost or delayed for want of fuel
to keep the pot boiling. If they haven't, it's a pleasure to
comfort the poor souls, and keep them from despair when they find
"Yes, indeed, and there's another class who can't ask, and
who suffer in silence. I know something of it, for I belonged to
it before you made a princess of me, as the king does the beggarmaid
in the old story. Ambitious girls have a hard time, Laurie,
and often have to see youth, health, and precious opportunities
go by, just for want of a little help at the right minute. People
have been very kind to me, and whenever I see girls struggling
along, as we used to do, I want to put out my hand and help them,
as I was helped."
"And so you shall, like an angel as you are!" cried Laurie,
resolving, with a glow of philanthropic zeal, to found and endow
an institution for the express benefit of young women with
artistic tendencies. "Rich people have no right to sit down
and enjoy themselves, or let their money accumulate for others
to waste. It's not half so sensible to leave legacies when one
dies as it is to use the money wisely while alive, and enjoy
making one's fellow creatures happy with it. We'll have a good
time ourselves, and add an extra relish to our own pleasure by
giving other people a generous taste. Will you be a little
Dorcas, going about emptying a big basket of comforts, and
filling it up with good deeds?"
"With all my heart, if you will be a brave St. Martin,
stopping as you ride gallantly through the world to share your
cloak with the beggar."
"It's a bargain, and we shall get the best of it!"
So the young pair shook hands upon it, and then paced
happily on again, feeling that their pleasant home was more
homelike because they hoped to brighten other homes, believing
that their own feet would walk more uprightly along the flowery
path before them, if they smoothed rough ways for other feet,
and feeling that their hearts were more closely knit together
by a love which could tenderly remember those less blest than they.
DAISY AND DEMI
I cannot feel that I have done my duty as humble historian
of the March family, without devoting at least one chapter to
the two most precious and important members of it. Daisy and
Demi had now arrived at years of discretion, for in this fast
age babies of three or four assert their rights, and get them,
too, which is more than many of their elders do. If there
ever were a pair of twins in danger of being utterly spoiled
by adoration, it was these prattling Brookes. Of course they
were the most remarkable children ever born, as will be shown
when I mention that they walked at eight months, talked fluently
at twelve months, and at two years they took their places
at table, and behaved with a propriety which charmed all beholders.
At three, Daisy demanded a 'needler', and actually made
a bag with four stitches in it. She likewise set up
housekeeping in the sideboard, and managed a microscopic cooking
stove with a skill that brought tears of pride to Hannah's
eyes, while Demi learned his letters with his grandfather, who
invented a new mode of teaching the alphabet by forming letters
with his arms and legs, thus uniting gymnastics for head and
heels. The boy early developed a mechanical genius which delighted
his father and distracted his mother, for he tried to
imitate every machine he saw, and kept the nursery in a chaotic
condition, with his 'sewinsheen', a mysterious structure of
string, chairs, clothespins, and spools, for wheels to go
'wound and wound'. Also a basket hung over the back of a chair,
in which he vainly tried to hoist his too confiding sister, who,
with feminine devotion, allowed her little head to be bumped till
rescued, when the young inventor indignantly remarked, "Why,
Marmar, dat's my lellywaiter, and me's trying to pull her up."
Though utterly unlike in character, the twins got on remarkably
well together, and seldom quarreled more than thrice
a day. Of course, Demi tyrannized over Daisy, and gallantly
defended her from every other aggressor, while Daisy made a
galley slave of herself, and adored her brother as the one perfect
being in the world. A rosy, chubby, sunshiny little soul
was Daisy, who found her way to everybody's heart, and nestled
there. One of the captivating children, who seem made to be
kissed and cuddled, adorned and adored like little goddesses,
and produced for general approval on all festive occasions.
Her small virtues were so sweet that she would have been quite
angelic if a few small naughtinesses had not kept her delightfully
human. It was all fair weather in her world, and every
morning she scrambled up to the window in her little nightgown
to look out, and say, no matter whether it rained or shone,
"Oh, pitty day, oh, pitty day!" Everyone was a friend, and she
offered kisses to a stranger so confidingly that the most inveterate
bachelor relented, and baby-lovers became faithful worshipers.
"Me loves evvybody," she once said, opening her arms, with
her spoon in one hand, and her mug in the other, as if eager to
embrace and nourish the whole world.
As she grew, her mother began to feel that the Dovecote
would be blessed by the presence of an inmate as serene and loving
as that which had helped to make the old house home, and to
pray that she might be spared a loss like that which had lately
taught them how long they had entertained an angel unawares. Her
grandfather often called her 'Beth', and her grandmother watched
over her with untiring devotion, as if trying to atone for some
past mistake, which no eye but her own could see.
Demi, like a true Yankee, was of an inquiring turn, wanting
to know everything, and often getting much disturbed because he
could not get satisfactory answers to his perpetual "What for?"
He also possessed a philosophic bent, to the great delight of
his grandfather, who used to hold Socratic conversations with him,
in which the precocious pupil occasionally posed his teacher, to
the undisguised satisfaction of the womenfolk.
"What makes my legs go, Dranpa?" asked the young philosopher,
surveying those active portions of his frame with a meditative air,
while resting after a go-to-bed frolic one night.
"It's your little mind, Demi," replied the sage, stroking the
yellow head respectfully.
"What is a little mine?"
"It is something which makes your body move, as the spring
made the wheels go in my watch when I showed it to you."
"Open me. I want to see it go wound."
"I can't do that any more than you could open the watch. God
winds you up, and you go till He stops you."
"Does I?" and Demi's brown eyes grew big and bright as he
took in the new thought. "Is I wounded up like the watch?"
"Yes, but I can't show you how, for it is done when we don't see."
Demi felt his back, as if expecting to find it like that of
the watch, and then gravely remarked, "I dess Dod does it when
A careful explanation followed, to which he listened so attentively
that his anxious grandmother said, "My dear, do you think it wise
to talk about such things to that baby? He's getting great bumps
over his eyes, and learning to ask the most unanswerable questions."
"If he is old enough to ask the question he is old enough to
receive true answers. I am not putting the thoughts into his
head, but helping him unfold those already there. These children
are wiser than we are, and I have no doubt the boy understands
every word I have said to him. Now, Demi, tell me where you keep
If the boy had replied like Alcibiades, "By the gods, Socrates,
I cannot tell," his grandfather would not have been surprised, but
when, after standing a moment on one leg, like a meditative young
stork, he answered, in a tone of calm conviction, "In my little
belly," the old gentleman could only join in Grandma's laugh, and
dismiss the class in metaphysics.
There might have been cause for maternal anxiety, if Demi had
not given convincing proofs that he was a true boy, as well as a
budding philosopher, for often, after a discussion which caused
Hannah to prophesy, with ominous nods, "That child ain't long for
this world," he would turn about and set her fears at rest by
some of the pranks with which dear, dirty, naughty little rascals
distract and delight their parent's souls.
Meg made many moral rules, and tried to keep them, but what
mother was ever proof against the winning wiles, the ingenious
evasions, or the tranquil audacity of the miniature men and women
who so early show themselves accomplished Artful Dodgers?
"No more raisins, Demi. They'll make you sick," says Mamma
to the young person who offers his services in the kitchen with
unfailing regularity on plum-pudding day.
"Me likes to be sick."
"I don't want to have you, so run away and help Daisy make patty
He reluctantly departs, but his wrongs weigh upon his spirit,
and by-and-by when an opportunity comes to redress them, he outwits
Mamma by a shrewd bargain.
"Now you have been good children, and I'll play anything you
like," says Meg, as she leads her assistant cooks upstairs, when
the pudding is safely bouncing in the pot.
"Truly, Marmar?" asks Demi, with a brilliant idea in his
"Yes, truly. Anything you say," replies the shortsighted parent,
preparing herself to sing, "The Three Little Kittens" half a dozen
times over, or to take her family to "Buy a penny bun," regardless
of wind or limb. But Demi corners her by the cool reply . . .
"Then we'll go and eat up all the raisins."
Aunt Dodo was chief playmate and confidante of both children,
and the trio turned the little house topsy-turvy. Aunt Amy was as
yet only a name to them, Aunt Beth soon faded into a pleasantly
vague memory, but Aunt Dodo was a living reality, and they made the
most of her, for which compliment she was deeply grateful. But
when Mr. Bhaer came, Jo neglected her playfellows, and dismay and
desolation fell upon their little souls. Daisy, who was fond of
going about peddling kisses, lost her best customer and became
bankrupt. Demi, with infantile penetration, soon discovered that
Dodo like to play with 'the bear-man' better than she did him,
but though hurt, he concealed his anguish, for he hadn't the
heart to insult a rival who kept a mine of chocolate drops in
his waistcoat pocket, and a watch that could be taken out of its
case and freely shaken by ardent admirers.
Some persons might have considered these pleasing liberties
as bribes, but Demi didn't see it in that light, and continued to
patronize the 'the bear-man' with pensive affability, while Daisy
bestowed her small affections upon him at the third call, and
considered his shoulder her throne, his arm her refuge, his gifts
treasures surpassing worth.
Gentlemen are sometimes seized with sudden fits of admiration for
the young relatives of ladies whom they honor with their regard, but
this counterfeit philoprogenitiveness sits uneasily upon them, and
does not deceive anybody a particle. Mr. Bhaer's devotion was
sincere, however likewise effective--for honesty is the best policy
in love as in law. He was one of the men who are at home with
children, and looked particularly well when little faces made a
pleasant contrast with his manly one. His business, whatever it was,
detained him from day to day, but evening seldom failed to bring him
out to see--well, he always asked for Mr. March, so I suppose he was
the attraction. The excellent papa labored under the delusion that
he was, and reveled in long discussions with the kindred spirit,
till a chance remark of his more observing grandson suddenly
Mr. Bhaer came in one evening to pause on the threshold of the
study, astonished by the spectacle that met his eye. Prone upon
the floor lay Mr. March, with his respectable legs in the air, and
beside him, likewise prone, was Demi, trying to imitate the attitude
with his own short, scarlet-stockinged legs, both grovelers
so seriously absorbed that they were unconscious of spectators,
till Mr. Bhaer laughed his sonorous laugh, and Jo cried out, with
a scandalized face . . .
"Father, Father, here's the Professor!"
Down went the black legs and up came the gray head, as the
preceptor said, with undisturbed dignity, "Good evening, Mr. Bhaer.
Excuse me for a moment. We are just finishing our lesson. Now, Demi,
make the letter and tell its name."
"I knows him!" and, after a few convulsive efforts, the red
legs took the shape of a pair of compasses, and the intelligent
pupil triumphantly shouted, "It's a We, Dranpa, it's a We!"
"He's a born Weller," laughed Jo, as her parent gathered himself
up, and her nephew tried to stand on his head, as the only
mode of expressing his satisfaction that school was over.
"What have you been at today, bubchen?" asked Mr. Bhaer,
picking up the gymnast.
"Me went to see little Mary."
"And what did you there?"
"I kissed her," began Demi, with artless frankness.
"Prut! Thou beginnest early. What did the little Mary say
to that?" asked Mr. Bhaer, continuing to confess the young sinner,
who stood upon the knee, exploring the waistcoat pocket.
"Oh, she liked it, and she kissed me, and I liked it. Don't
little boys like little girls?" asked Demi, with his mouth full,
and an air of bland satisfaction.
"You precocious chick! Who put that into your head?" said Jo,
enjoying the innocent revelation as much as the Professor.
"'Tisn't in mine head, it's in mine mouf," answered literal
Demi, putting out his tongue, with a chocolate drop on it, thinking
she alluded to confectionery, not ideas.
"Thou shouldst save some for the little friend. Sweets to
the sweet, mannling," and Mr. Bhaer offered Jo some, with a look
that made her wonder if chocolate was not the nectar drunk by the
gods. Demi also saw the smile, was impressed by it, and artlessy
"Do great boys like great girls, to, 'Fessor?"
Like young Washington, Mr. Bhaer 'couldn't tell a lie', so
he gave the somewhat vague reply that he believed they did sometimes,
in a tone that made Mr. March put down his clothesbrush,
glance at Jo's retiring face, and then sink into his chair, looking
as if the 'precocious chick' had put an idea into his head
that was both sweet and sour.
Why Dodo, when she caught him in the china closet half an
hour afterward, nearly squeezed the breath out of his little body
with a tender embrace, instead of shaking him for being there,
and why she followed up this novel performance by the unexpected
gift of a big slice of bread and jelly, remained one of the problems
over which Demi puzzled his small wits, and was forced to
leave unsolved forever.
UNDER THE UNBRELLA
While Laurie and Amy were taking conjugal strolls over velvet
carpets, as they set their house in order, and planned a blissful
future, Mr. Bhaer and Jo were enjoying promenades of a different
sort, along muddy roads and sodden fields.
"I always do take a walk toward evening, and I don't know
why I should give it up, just because I happen to meet the Professor
on his way out," said Jo to herself, after two or three
encounters, for though there were two paths to Meg's whichever
one she took she was sure to meet him, either going or returning.
He was always walking rapidly, and never seemed to see her
until quite close, when he would look as if his short-sighted
eyes had failed to recognize the approaching lady till that
moment. Then, if she was going to Meg's he always had something
for the babies. If her face was turned homeward, he had merely
strolled down to see the river, and was just returning, unless
they were tired of his frequent calls.
Under the circumstances, what could Jo do but greet him
civilly, and invite him in? If she was tired of his visits, she
concealed her weariness with perfect skill, and took care that
there should be coffee for supper, "as Friedrich--I mean Mr.
Bhaer--doesn't like tea."
By the second week, everyone knew perfectly well what was
going on, yet everyone tried to look as if they were stone-blind
to the changes in Jo's face. They never asked why she sang about
her work, did up her hair three times a day, and got so blooming
with her evening exercise. And no one seemed to have the slightest
suspicion that Professor Bhaer, while talking philosophy with
the father, was giving the daughter lessons in love.
Jo couldn't even lose her heart in a decorous manner, but
sternly tried to quench her feelings, and failing to do so, led
a somewhat agitated life. She was mortally afraid of being laughed
at for surrendering, after her many and vehement declarations of
independence. Laurie was her especial dread, but thanks to the
new manager, he behaved with praiseworthy propriety, never called
Mr. Bhaer 'a capital old fellow' in public, never alluded, in the
remotest manner, to Jo's improved appearance, or expressed the
least surprise at seeing the Professor's hat on the Marches' table
nearly every evening. But he exulted in private and longed for
the time to come when he could give Jo a piece of plate, with a
bear and a ragged staff on it as an appropriate coat of arms.
For a fortnight, the Professor came and went with lover-like
regularity. Then he stayed away for three whole days, and made
no sign, a proceeding which caused everybody to look sober, and
Jo to become pensive, at first, and then--alas for romance--very
"Disgusted, I dare say, and gone home as suddenly as he came.
It's nothing to me, of course, but I should think he would have
come and bid us goodbye like a gentleman," she said to herself,
with a despairing look at the gate, as she put on her things for
the customary walk one dull afternoon.
"You'd better take the little umbrella, dear. It looks like
rain," said her mother, observing that she had on her new bonnet,
but not alluding to the fact.
"Yes, Marmee, do you want anything in town? I've got to
run in and get some paper," returned Jo, pulling out the bow
under her chin before the glass as an excuse for not looking at
"Yes, I want some twilled silesia, a paper of number nine
needles, and two yards of narrow lavender ribbon. Have you got
your thick boots on, and something warm under your cloak?"
"I believe so," answered Jo absently.
"If you happen to meet Mr. Bhaer, bring him home to tea.
I quite long to see the dear man," added Mrs. March.
Jo heard that, but made no answer, except to kiss her mother,
and walk rapidly away, thinking with a glow of gratitude, in spite
of her heartache, "How good she is to me! What do girls do who
haven't any mothers to help them through their troubles?"
The dry-goods stores were not down among the counting-houses,
banks, and wholesale warerooms, where gentlemen most do congregate,
but Jo found herself in that part of the city before she did a
single errand, loitering along as if waiting for someone, examining
engineering instruments in one window and samples of wool in
another, with most unfeminine interest, tumbling over barrels,
being half-smothered by descending bales, and hustled unceremoniously
by busy men who looked as if they wondered 'how the deuce
she got there'. A drop of rain on her cheek recalled her thoughts
from baffled hopes to ruined ribbons. For the drops continued to
fall, and being a woman as well as a lover, she felt that, though
it was too late to save her heart, she might her bonnet. Now she
remembered the little umbrella, which she had forgotten to take
in her hurry to be off, but regret was unavailing, and nothing
could be done but borrow one or submit to a drenching. She
looked up at the lowering sky, down at the crimson bow already
flecked with black, forward along the muddy street, then one
long, lingering look behind, at a certain grimy warehouse, with
'Hoffmann, Swartz, & Co.' over the door, and said to herself,
with a sternly reproachful air . . .
"It serves me right! what business had I to put on all my
best things and come philandering down here, hoping to see the
Professor? Jo, I'm ashamed of you! No, you shall not go there
to borrow an umbrella, or find out where he is, from his friends.
You shall trudge away, and do your errands in the rain, and if
you catch your death and ruin your bonnet, it's no more than
you deserve. Now then!"
With that she rushed across the street so impetuously that she
narrowly escaped annihilation from a passing truck, and precipitated
herself into the arms of a stately old gentleman, who said,
"I beg pardon, ma'am," and looked mortally offended. Somewhat
daunted, Jo righted herself, spread her handkerchief over
the devoted ribbons, and putting temptation behind her, hurried on,
with increasing dampness about the ankles, and much clashing of
umbrellas overhead. The fact that a somewhat dilapidated blue
one remained stationary above the unprotected bonnet attracted
her attention, and looking up, she saw Mr. Bhaer looking down.
"I feel to know the strong-minded lady who goes so bravely
under many horse noses, and so fast through much mud. What do
you down here, my friend?"
Mr. Bhaer smiled, as he glanced from the pickle factory on
one side to the wholesale hide and leather concern on the other,
but he only said politely, "You haf no umbrella. May I go also,
and take for you the bundles?"
"Yes, thank you."
Jo's cheeks were as red as her ribbon, and she wondered what
he thought of her, but she didn't care, for in a minute she found
herself walking away arm in arm with her Professor, feeling as if
the sun had suddenly burst out with uncommon brilliancy, that
the world was all right again, and that one thoroughly happy woman
was paddling through the wet that day.
"We thought you had gone," said Jo hastily, for she knew he
was looking at her. Her bonnet wasn't big enough to hide her face,
and she feared he might think the joy it betrayed unmaidenly.
"Did you believe that I should go with no farewell to those
who haf been so heavenly kind to me?" he asked so reproachfully
that she felt as if she had insulted him by the suggestion, and
answered heartily . . .
"No, I didn't. I knew you were busy about your own affairs,
but we rather missed you, Father and Mother especially."
"I'm always glad to see you, sir."
In her anxiety to keep her voice quite calm, Jo made it rather
cool, and the frosty little monosyllable at the end seemed to chill
the Professor, for his smile vanished, as he said gravely . . .
"I thank you, and come one more time before I go."
"You are going, then?"
"I haf no longer any business here, it is done."
"Successfully, I hope?" said Jo, for the bitterness of disappointment
was in that short reply of his.
"I ought to think so, for I haf a way opened to me by which
I can make my bread and gif my Junglings much help."
"Tell me, please! I like to know all about the--the boys,"
said Jo eagerly.
"That is so kind, I gladly tell you. My friends find for me
a place in a college, where I teach as at home, and earn enough
to make the way smooth for Franz and Emil. For this I should be
grateful, should I not?"
"Indeed you should. How splendid it will be to have you
doing what you like, and be able to see you often, and the boys!"
cried Jo, clinging to the lads as an excuse for the satisfaction
she could not help betraying.
"Ah! But we shall not meet often, I fear, this place is at
"So far away!" and Jo left her skirts to their fate, as if
it didn't matter now what became of her clothes or herself.
Mr. Bhaer could read several languages, but he had not learned to
read women yet. He flattered himself that he knew Jo pretty well,
and was, therefore, much amazed by the contradictions of voice,
face, and manner, which she showed him in rapid succession that day,
for she was in half a dozen different moods in the course of half an
hour. When she met him she looked surprised, though it was
impossible to help suspecting that she had come for that express
purpose. When he offered her his arm, she took it with a look that
filled him with delight, but when he asked if she missed him, she
gave such a chilly, formal reply that despair fell upon him. On
learning his good fortune she almost clapped her hands. Was the joy
all for the boys? Then on hearing his destination, she said, "So far
away!" in a tone of despair that lifted him on to a pinnacle of
hope, but the next minute she tumbled him down again by observing,
like one entirely absorbed in the matter . . .
"Here's the place for my errands. Will you come in? It
won't take long."
Jo rather prided herself upon her shopping capabilities,
and particularly wished to impress her escort with the neatness
and dispatch with which she would accomplish the business.
But owing to the flutter she was in, everything went amiss.
She upset the tray of needles, forgot the silesia was to be
'twilled' till it was cut off, gave the wrong change, and
covered herself with confusion by asking for lavender ribbon
at the calico counter. Mr. Bhaer stood by, watching her blush
and blunder, and as he watched, his own bewilderment seemed to
subside, for he was beginning to see that on some occasions,
women, like dreams, go by contraries.
When they came out, he put the parcel under his arm with
a more cheerful aspect, and splashed through the puddles as if
he rather enjoyed it on the whole.
"Should we no do a little what you call shopping for the
babies, and haf a farewell feast tonight if I go for my last
call at your so pleasant home?" he asked, stopping before a
window full of fruit and flowers.
"What will we buy?" asked Jo, ignoring the latter part of
his speech, and sniffing the mingled odors with an affectation
of delight as they went in.
"May they haf oranges and figs?" asked Mr. Bhaer, with a
"They eat them when they can get them."
"Do you care for nuts?"
"Like a squirrel."
"Hamburg grapes. Yes, we shall drink to the Fatherland in
Jo frowned upon that piece of extravagance, and asked why
he didn't buy a frail of dates, a cask of raisins, and a bag of
almonds, and be done with it? Whereat Mr. Bhaer confiscated her
purse, produced his own, and finished the marketing by buying
several pounds of grapes, a pot of rosy daisies, and a pretty
jar of honey, to be regarded in the light of a demijohn. Then
distorting his pockets with knobby bundles, and giving her the
flowers to hold, he put up the old umbrella, and they traveled
"Miss Marsch, I haf a great favor to ask of you," began the
Professor, after a moist promenade of half a block.
"Yes, sir?" and Jo's heart began to beat so hard she was
afraid he would hear it.
"I am bold to say it in spite of the rain, because so short
a time remains to me."
"Yes, sir," and Jo nearly crushed the small flowerpot with
the sudden squeeze she gave it.
"I wish to get a little dress for my Tina, and I am too stupid
to go alone. Will you kindly gif me a word of taste and help?"
"Yes, sir," and Jo felt as calm and cool all of a sudden as if
she had stepped into a refrigerator.
"Perhaps also a shawl for Tina's mother, she is so poor and sick,
and the husband is such a care. Yes, yes, a thick, warm shawl
would be a friendly thing to take the little mother."
"I'll do it with pleasure, Mr. Bhaer." "I'm going very fast,
and he's getting dearer every minute," added Jo to herself, then
with a mental shake she entered into the business with an energy
that was pleasant to behold.
Mr. Bhaer left it all to her, so she chose a pretty gown for
Tina, and then ordered out the shawls. The clerk, being a married
man, condescended to take an interest in the couple, who appeared
to be shopping for their family.
"Your lady may prefer this. It's a superior article, a most
desirable color, quite chaste and genteel," he said, shaking out
a comfortable gray shawl, and throwing it over Jo's shoulders.
"Does this suit you, Mr. Bhaer?" she asked, turning her
back to him, and feeling deeply grateful for the chance of hiding
"Excellently well, we will haf it," answered the Professor,
smiling to himself as he paid for it, while Jo continued to
rummage the counters like a confirmed bargain-hunter.
"Now shall we go home?" he asked, as if the words were
very pleasant to him.
"Yes, it's late, and I'm so tired." Jo's voice was more
pathetic than she knew. For now the sun seemed to have gone
in as suddenly as it came out, and the world grew muddy and
miserable again, and for the first time she discovered that her
feet were cold, her head ached, and that her heart was colder
than the former, fuller of pain than the latter. Mr. Bhaer
was going away, he only cared for her as a friend, it was all
a mistake, and the sooner it was over the better. With this
idea in her head, she hailed an approaching omnibus with such
a hasty gesture that the daisies flew out of the pot and were
"This is not our omniboos," said the Professor, waving the
loaded vehicle away, and stopping to pick up the poor little
"I beg your pardon. I didn't see the name distinctly. Never
mind, I can walk. I'm used to plodding in the mud," returned Jo,
winking hard, because she would have died rather than openly
wipe her eyes.
Mr. Bhaer saw the drops on her cheeks, though she turned her
head away. The sight seemed to touch him very much, for suddenly
stooping down, he asked in a tone that meant a great deal, "Heart's
dearest, why do you cry?"
Now, if Jo had not been new to this sort of thing she would
have said she wasn't crying, had a cold in her head, or told
any other feminine fib proper to the occasion. Instead of which,
that undignified creature answered, with an irrepressible sob,
"Because you are going away."
"Ach, mein Gott, that is so good!" cried Mr. Bhaer, managing
to clasp his hands in spite of the umbrella and the bundles,
"Jo, I haf nothing but much love to gif you. I came to see if
you could care for it, and I waited to be sure that I was something
more than a friend. Am I? Can you make a little place in your
heart for old Fritz?" he added, all in one breath.
"Oh, yes!" said Jo, and he was quite satisfied, for she
folded both hands over his arm, and looked up at him with an
expression that plainly showed how happy she would be to walk
through life beside him, even though she had no better shelter
than the old umbrella, if he carried it.
It was certainly proposing under difficulties, for even if
he had desired to do so, Mr. Bhaer could not go down upon his
knees, on account of the mud. Neither could he offer Jo his
hand, except figuratively, for both were full. Much less could
he indulge in tender remonstrations in the open street, though
he was near it. So the only way in which he could express his
rapture was to look at her, with an expression which glorified
his face to such a degree that there actually seemed to be
little rainbows in the drops that sparkled on his beard. If
he had not loved Jo very much, I don't think he could have done
it then, for she looked far from lovely, with her skirts in a
deplorable state, her rubber boots splashed to the ankle, and
her bonnet a ruin. Fortunately, Mr. Bhaer considered her the
most beautiful woman living, and she found him more "Jove-like"
than ever, though his hatbrim was quite limp with the little
rills trickling thence upon his shoulders (for he held the
umbrella all over Jo), and every finger of his gloves needed
Passers-by probably thought them a pair of harmless lunatics,
for they entirely forgot to hail a bus, and strolled
leisurely along, oblivious of deepening dusk and fog. Little
they cared what anybody thought, for they were enjoying the
happy hour that seldom comes but once in any life, the magical
moment which bestows youth on the old, beauty on the plain,
wealth on the poor, and gives human hearts a foretaste of heaven.
The Professor looked as if he had conquered a kingdom, and the
world had nothing more to offer him in the way of bliss. While
Jo trudged beside him, feeling as if her place had always been
there, and wondering how she ever could have chosen any other
lot. Of course, she was the first to speak--intelligibly, I
mean, for the emotional remarks which followed her impetuous
"Oh, yes!" were not of a coherent or reportable character.
"Friedrich, why didn't you . . ."
"Ah, heaven, she gifs me the name that no one speaks since
Minna died!" cried the Professor, pausing in a puddle to regard
her with grateful delight.
"I always call you so to myself--I forgot, but I won't unless
you like it."
"Like it? It is more sweet to me than I can tell. Say 'thou',
also, and I shall say your language is almost as beautiful as mine."
"Isn't 'thou' a little sentimental?" asked Jo, privately thinking
it a lovely monosyllable.
"Sentimental? Yes. Thank Gott, we Germans believe in sentiment,
and keep ourselves young mit it. Your English 'you' is so cold, say
'thou', heart's dearest, it means so much to me," pleaded Mr. Bhaer,
more like a romantic student than a grave professor.
"Well, then, why didn't thou tell me all this sooner?" asked
"Now I shall haf to show thee all my heart, and I so gladly
will, because thou must take care of it hereafter. See, then, my
Jo--ah, the dear, funny little name--I had a wish to tell something
the day I said goodbye in New York, but I thought the handsome
friend was betrothed to thee, and so I spoke not. Wouldst thou
have said 'Yes', then, if I had spoken?"
"I don't know. I'm afraid not, for I didn't have any heart just then."
"Prut! That I do not believe. It was asleep till the fairy prince
came through the wood, and waked it up. Ah, well, 'Die erste Liebe
ist die beste', but that I should not expect."
"Yes, the first love is the best, but be so contented, for I
never had another. Teddy was only a boy, and soon got over his
little fancy," said Jo, anxious to correct the Professor's mistake.
"Good! Then I shall rest happy, and be sure that thou givest
me all. I haf waited so long, I am grown selfish, as thou wilt
"I like that," cried Jo, delighted with her new name. "Now
tell me what brought you, at last, just when I wanted you?"
"This," and Mr. Bhaer took a little worn paper out of his
Jo unfolded it, and looked much abashed, for it was one of
her own contributions to a paper that paid for poetry, which
accounted for her sending it an occasional attempt.
"How could that bring you?" she asked, wondering what he
"I found it by chance. I knew it by the names and the
initials, and in it there was one little verse that seemed to
call me. Read and find him. I will see that you go not in
IN THE GARRET
Four little chests all in a row,
Dim with dust, and worn by time,
All fashioned and filled, long ago,
By children now in their prime.
Four little keys hung side by side,
With faded ribbons, brave and gay
When fastened there, with childish pride,
Long ago, on a rainy day.
Four little names, one on each lid,
Carved out by a boyish hand,
And underneath there lieth hid
Histories of the happpy band
Once playing here, and pausing oft
To hear the sweet refrain,
That came and went on the roof aloft,
In the falling summer rain.
"Meg" on the first lid, smooth and fair.
I look in with loving eyes,
For folded here, with well-known care,
A goodly gathering lies,
The record of a peaceful life--
Gifts to gentle child and girl,
A bridal gown, lines to a wife,
A tiny shoe, a baby curl.
No toys in this first chest remain,
For all are carried away,
In their old age, to join again
In another small Meg's play.
Ah, happy mother! Well I know
You hear, like a sweet refrain,
Lullabies ever soft and low
In the falling summer rain.
"Jo" on the next lid, scratched and worn,
And within a motley store
Of headless dolls, of schoolbooks torn,
Birds and beasts that speak no more,
Spoils brought home from the fairy ground
Only trod by youthful feet,
Dreams of a future never found,
Memories of a past still sweet,
Half-writ poems, stories wild,
April letters, warm and cold,
Diaries of a wilful child,
Hints of a woman early old,
A woman in a lonely home,
Hearing, like a sad refrain--
"Be worthy, love, and love will come,"
In the falling summer rain.
My Beth! the dust is always swept
From the lid that bears your name,
As if by loving eyes that wept,
By careful hands that often came.
Death cannonized for us one saint,
Ever less human than divine,
And still we lay, with tender plaint,
Relics in this household shrine--
The silver bell, so seldom rung,
The little cap which last she wore,
The fair, dead Catherine that hung
By angels borne above her door.
The songs she sang, without lament,
In her prison-house of pain,
Forever are they sweetly blent
With the falling summer rain.
Upon the last lid's polished field--
Legend now both fair and true
A gallant knight bears on his shield,
"Amy" in letters gold and blue.
Within lie snoods that bound her hair,
Slippers that have danced their last,
Faded flowers laid by with care,
Fans whose airy toils are past,
Gay valentines, all ardent flames,
Trifles that have borne their part
In girlish hopes and fears and shames,
The record of a maiden heart
Now learning fairer, truer spells,
Hearing, like a blithe refrain,
The silver sound of bridal bells
In the falling summer rain.
Four little chests all in a row,
Dim with dust, and worn by time,
Four women, taught by weal and woe
To love and labor in their prime.
Four sisters, parted for an hour,
None lost, one only gone before,
Made by love's immortal power,
Nearest and dearest evermore.
Oh, when these hidden stores of ours
Lie open to the Father's sight,
May they be rich in golden hours,
Deeds that show fairer for the light,
Lives whose brave music long shall ring,
Like a spirit-stirring strain,
Souls that shall gladly soar and sing
In the long sunshine after rain.
"It's very bad poetry, but I felt it when I wrote it, one day
when I was very lonely, and had a good cry on a rag bag. I never
thought it would go where it could tell tales," said Jo, tearing
up the verses the Professor had treasured so long.
"Let it go, it has done it's duty, and I will haf a fresh one
when I read all the brown book in which she keeps her little
secrets," said Mr. Bhaer with a smile as he watched the fragments
fly away on the wind. "Yes," he added earnestly, "I read that,
and I think to myself, She has a sorrow, she is lonely, she would
find comfort in true love. I haf a heart full, full for her. Shall
I not go and say, 'If this is not too poor a thing to gif for what
I shall hope to receive, take it in Gott's name?'"
"And so you came to find that it was not too poor, but the one
precious thing I needed," whispered Jo.
"I had no courage to think that at first, heavenly kind as was
your welcome to me. But soon I began to hope, and then I said,
'I will haf her if I die for it,' and so I will!" cried Mr. Bhaer,
with a defiant nod, as if the walls of mist closing round them were
barriers which he was to surmount or valiantly knock down.
Jo thought that was splendid, and resolved to be worthy of her knight,
though he did not come prancing on a charger in gorgeous array.
"What made you stay away so long?" she asked presently, finding
it so pleasant to ask confidential questions and get delightful
answers that she could not keep silent.
"It was not easy, but I could not find the heart to take you
from that so happy home until I could haf a prospect of one to
gif you, after much time, perhaps, and hard work. How could I ask
you to gif up so much for a poor old fellow, who has no fortune
but a little learning?"
"I'm glad you are poor. I couldn't bear a rich husband,"
said Jo decidedly, adding in a softer tone, "Don't fear poverty.
I've known it long enough to lose my dread and be happy working
for those I love, and don't call yourself old--forty is the prime
of life. I couldn't help loving you if you were seventy!"
The Professor found that so touching that he would have been
glad of his handkerchief, if he could have got at it. As he
couldn't, Jo wiped his eyes for him, and said, laughing, as she
took away a bundle or two . . .
"I may be strong-minded, but no one can say I'm out of my
sphere now, for woman's special mission is supposed to be drying
tears and bearing burdens. I'm to carry my share, Friedrich,
and help to earn the home. Make up your mind to that, or I'll
never go," she added resolutely, as he tried to reclaim his load.
"We shall see. Haf you patience to wait a long time, Jo?
I must go away and do my work alone. I must help my boys first,
because, even for you, I may not break my word to Minna. Can
you forgif that, and be happy while we hope and wait?"
"Yes, I know I can, for we love one another, and that makes
all the rest easy to bear. I have my duty, also, and my work.
I couldn't enjoy myself if I neglected them even for you, so
there's no need of hurry or impatience. You can do your part
out West, I can do mine here, and both be happy hoping for the
best, and leaving the future to be as God wills."
"Ah! Thou gifest me such hope and courage, and I haf nothing
to gif back but a full heart and these empty hands," cried the
Professor, quite overcome.
Jo never, never would learn to be proper, for when he said
that as they stood upon the steps, she just put both hands into
his, whispering tenderly, "Not empty now," and stooping down,
kissed her Friedrich under the umbrella. It was dreadful, but
she would have done it if the flock of draggle-tailed sparrows
on the hedge had been human beings, for she was very far gone
indeed, and quite regardless of everything but her own happiness.
Though it came in such a very simple guise, that was the crowning
moment of both their lives, when, turning from the night and
storm and loneliness to the household light and warmth and peace
waiting to receive them, with a glad "Welcome home!" Jo led her
lover in, and shut the door.
For a year Jo and her Professor worked and waited, hoped
and loved, met occasionally, and wrote such voluminous letters
that the rise in the price of paper was accounted for, Laurie
said. The second year began rather soberly, for their prospects
did not brighten, and Aunt March died suddenly. But when their
first sorrow was over--for they loved the old lady in spite
of her sharp tongue--they found they had cause for rejoicing,
for she had left Plumfield to Jo, which made all sorts of joyful
"It's a fine old place, and will bring a handsome sum, for
of course you intend to sell it," said Laurie, as they were all
talking the matter over some weeks later.
"No, I don't," was Jo's decided answer, as she petted the
fat poodle, whom she had adopted, out of respect to his former
"You don't mean to live there?"
"Yes, I do."
"But, my dear girl, it's an immense house, and will take a
power of money to keep it in order. The garden and orchard alone
need two or three men, and farming isn't in Bhaer's line, I take
"He'll try his hand at it there, if I propose it."
"And you expect to live on the produce of the place? Well,
that sounds paradisiacal, but you'll find it desperate hard work."
"The crop we are going to raise is a profitable one," and
"Of what is this fine crop to consist, ma'am?"
"Boys. I want to open a school for little lads--a good,
happy, homelike school, with me to take care of them and Fritz
to teach them."
"That's a truly Joian plan for you! Isn't that just like
her?" cried Laurie, appealing to the family, who looked as much
surprised as he.
"I like it," said Mrs. March decidedly.
"So do I," added her husband, who welcomed the thought of
a chance for trying the Socratic method of education on modern
"It will be an immense care for Jo," said Meg, stroking
the head of her one all-absorbing son.
"Jo can do it, and be happy in it. It's a splendid idea.
Tell us all about it," cried Mr. Laurence, who had been longing
to lend the lovers a hand, but knew that they would refuse his
"I knew you'd stand by me, sir. Amy does too--I see it in
her eyes, though she prudently waits to turn it over in her mind
before she speaks. Now, my dear people," continued Jo earnestly,
"just understand that this isn't a new idea of mine, but a long
cherished plan. Before my Fritz came, I used to think how, when
I'd made my fortune, and no one needed me at home, I'd hire a
big house, and pick up some poor, forlorn little lads who hadn't
any mothers, and take care of them, and make life jolly for them
before it was too late. I see so many going to ruin for want of
help at the right minute, I love so to do anything for them, I
seem to feel their wants, and sympathize with their troubles, and
oh, I should so like to be a mother to them!"
Mrs. March held out her hand to Jo, who took it, smiling,
with tears in her eyes, and went on in the old enthusiastic way,
which they had not seen for a long while.
"I told my plan to Fritz once, and he said it was just what
he would like, and agreed to try it when we got rich. Bless his
dear heart, he's been doing it all his life--helping poor boys, I
mean, not getting rich, that he'll never be. Money doesn't stay
in his pocket long enough to lay up any. But now, thanks to my
good old aunt, who loved me better than I ever deserved, I'm rich,
at least I feel so, and we can live at Plumfield perfectly well,
if we have a flourishing school. It's just the place for boys,
the house is big, and the furniture strong and plain. There's
plenty of room for dozens inside, and splendid grounds outside.
They could help in the garden and orchard. Such work is healthy,
isn't it, sir? Then Fritz could train and teach in his own way,
and Father will help him. I can feed and nurse and pet and scold
them, and Mother will be my stand-by. I've always longed for lots
of boys, and never had enough, now I can fill the house full and
revel in the little dears to my heart's content. Think what luxury--
Plumfield my own, and a wilderness of boys to enjoy it with me."
As Jo waved her hands and gave a sigh of rapture, the family
went off into a gale of merriment, and Mr. Laurence laughed till
they thought he'd have an apoplectic fit.
"I don't see anything funny," she said gravely, when she
could be heard. "Nothing could be more natural and proper than
for my Professor to open a school, and for me to prefer to reside
in my own estate."
"She is putting on airs already," said Laurie, who regarded
the idea in the light of a capital joke. "But may I inquire how
you intend to support the establishment? If all the pupils are
little ragamuffins, I'm afraid your crop won't be profitable in
a worldly sense, Mrs. Bhaer."
"Now don't be a wet-blanket, Teddy. Of course I shall have rich
pupils, also--perhaps begin with such altogether. Then, when I've
got a start, I can take in a ragamuffin or two, just for a relish.
Rich people's children often need care and comfort, as well as poor.
I've seen unfortunate little creatures left to servants, or backward
ones pushed forward, when it's real cruelty. Some are naughty
through mismanagment or neglect, and some lose their mothers.
Besides, the best have to get through the hobbledehoy age, and
that's the very time they need most patience and kindness. People
laugh at them, and hustle them about, try to keep them out of sight,
and expect them to turn all at once from pretty children into fine
young men. They don't complain much--plucky little souls--but they
feel it. I've been through something of it, and I know all about it.
I've a special interest in such young bears, and like to show them
that I see the warm, honest, well-meaning boys' hearts, in spite of
the clumsy arms and legs and the topsy-turvy heads. I've had
experience, too, for haven't I brought up one boy to be a pride and
honor to his family?"
"I'll testify that you tried to do it," said Laurie with a grateful
"And I've succeeded beyond my hopes, for here you are, a
steady, sensible businessman, doing heaps of good with your
money, and laying up the blessings of the poor, instead of dollars.
But you are not merely a businessman, you love good and beautiful
things, enjoy them yourself, and let others go halves, as you
always did in the old times. I am proud of you, Teddy, for you
get better every year, and everyone feels it, though you won't
let them say so. Yes, and when I have my flock, I'll just point
to you, and say 'There's your model, my lads'."
Poor Laurie didn't know where to look, for, man though he
was, something of the old bashfulness came over him as this burst
of praise made all faces turn approvingly upon him.
"I say, Jo, that's rather too much," he began, just in his
old boyish way. "You have all done more for me than I can ever
thank you for, except by doing my best not to disappoint you. You
have rather cast me off lately, Jo, but I've had the best of help,
nevertheless. So, if I've got on at all, you may thank these two
for it," and he laid one hand gently on his grandfather's head,
and the other on Amy's golden one, for the three were never far
"I do think that families are the most beautiful things in
all the world!" burst out Jo, who was in an unusually up-lifted
frame of mind just then. "When I have one of my own, I hope it
will be as happy as the three I know and love the best. If John
and my Fritz were only here, it would be quite a little heaven
on earth," she added more quietly. And that night when she went
to her room after a blissful evening of family counsels, hopes,
and plans, her heart was so full of happiness that she could only
calm it by kneeling beside the empty bed always near her own, and
thinking tender thoughts of Beth.
It was a very astonishing year altogether, for things seemed
to happen in an unusually rapid and delightful manner. Almost
before she knew where she was, Jo found herself married and settled
at Plumfield. Then a family of six or seven boys sprung up
like mushrooms, and flourished surprisingly, poor boys as well as
rich, for Mr. Laurence was continually finding some touching case
of destitution, and begging the Bhaers to take pity on the child,
and he would gladly pay a trifle for its support. In this way,
the sly old gentleman got round proud Jo, and furnished her with
the style of boy in which she most delighted.
Of course it was uphill work at first, and Jo made queer
mistakes, but the wise Professor steered her safely into calmer
waters, and the most rampant ragamuffin was conquered in the end.
How Jo did enjoy her 'wilderness of boys', and how poor, dear
Aunt March would have lamented had she been there to see the
sacred precincts of prim, well-ordered Plumfield overrun with
Toms, Dicks, and Harrys! There was a sort of poetic justice
about it, after all, for the old lady had been the terror of the boys
for miles around, and now the exiles feasted freely on forbidden
plums, kicked up the gravel with profane boots unreproved,
and played cricket in the big field where the irritable
'cow with a crumpled horn' used to invite rash youths to come and
be tossed. It became a sort of boys' paradise, and Laurie suggested
that it should be called the 'Bhaer-garten', as a compliment
to its master and appropriate to its inhabitants.
It never was a fashionable school, and the Professor did not
lay up a fortune, but it was just what Jo intended it to be--
'a happy, homelike place for boys, who needed teaching, care, and
kindness'. Every room in the big house was soon full. Every
little plot in the garden soon had its owner. A regular menagerie
appeared in barn and shed, for pet animals were allowed.
And three times a day, Jo smiled at her Fritz from the head of
a long table lined on either side with rows of happy young faces,
which all turned to her with affectionate eyes, confiding words,
and grateful hearts, full of love for 'Mother Bhaer'. She had
boys enough now, and did not tire of them, though they were not
angels, by any means, and some of them caused both Professor and
Professorin much trouble and anxiety. But her faith in the good
spot which exists in the heart of the naughtiest, sauciest, most
tantalizing little ragamuffin gave her patience, skill, and in
time success, for no mortal boy could hold out long with Father
Bhaer shining on him as benevolently as the sun, and Mother Bhaer
forgiving him seventy times seven. Very precious to Jo was the
friendship of the lads, their penitent sniffs and whispers after
wrongdoing, their droll or touching little confidences, their
pleasant enthusiasms, hopes, and plans, even their misfortunes,
for they only endeared them to her all the more. There were slow
boys and bashful boys, feeble boys and riotous boys, boys that
lisped and boys that stuttered, one or two lame ones, and a
merry little quadroon, who could not be taken in elsewhere, but
who was welcome to the 'Bhaer-garten', though some people predicted
that his admission would ruin the school.
Yes, Jo was a very happy woman there, in spite of hard work,
much anxiety, and a perpetual racket. She enjoyed it heartily and
found the applause of her boys more satisfying than any praise of
the world, for now she told no stories except to her flock of
enthusiastic believers and admirers. As the years went on, two
little lads of her own came to increase her happiness--Rob,
named for Grandpa, and Teddy, a happy-go-lucky baby, who seemed
to have inherited his papa's sunshiny temper as well as his
mother's lively spirit. How they ever grew up alive in that
whirlpool of boys was a mystery to their grandma and aunts, but
they flourished like dandelions in spring, and their rough
nurses loved and served them well.
There were a great many holidays at Plumfield, and one of
the most delightful was the yearly apple-picking. For then the
Marches, Laurences, Brookes and Bhaers turned out in full force
and made a day of it. Five years after Jo's wedding, one of these
fruitful festivals occurred, a mellow October day, when the air
was full of an exhilarating freshness which made the spirits rise
and the blood dance healthily in the veins. The old orchard wore
its holiday attire. Goldenrod and asters fringed the mossy walls.
Grasshoppers skipped briskly in the sere grass, and crickets chirped
like fairy pipers at a feast. Squirrels were busy with their
small harvesting. Birds twittered their adieux from the alders
in the lane, and every tree stood ready to send down its shower
of red or yellow apples at the first shake. Everybody was there.
Everybody laughed and sang, climbed up and tumbled down. Everybody
declared that there never had been such a perfect day or such
a jolly set to enjoy it, and everyone gave themselves up to
the simple pleasures of the hour as freely as if there were no
such things as care or sorrow in the world.
Mr. March strolled placidly about, quoting Tusser, Cowley,
and Columella to Mr. Laurence, while enjoying . . .
The gentle apple's winey juice.
The Professor charged up and down the green aisles like a stout
Teutonic knight, with a pole for a lance, leading on the boys,
who made a hook and ladder company of themselves, and performed
wonders in the way of ground and lofty tumbling. Laurie devoted
himself to the little ones, rode his small daughter in a bushel-basket,
took Daisy up among the bird's nests, and kept adventurous
Rob from breaking his neck. Mrs. March and Meg sat among
the apple piles like a pair of Pomonas, sorting the contributions
that kept pouring in, while Amy with a beautiful motherly expression
in her face sketched the various groups, and watched over one
pale lad, who sat adoring her with his little crutch beside him.
Jo was in her element that day, and rushed about, with her
gown pinned up, and her hat anywhere but on her head, and her
baby tucked under her arm, ready for any lively adventure which
might turn up. Little Teddy bore a charmed life, for nothing
ever happened to him, and Jo never felt any anxiety when he was
whisked up into a tree by one lad, galloped off on the back of
another, or supplied with sour russets by his indulgent papa,
who labored under the Germanic delusion that babies could digest
anything, from pickled cabbage to buttons, nails, and their own
small shoes. She knew that little Ted would turn up again in
time, safe and rosy, dirty and serene, and she always received
him back with a hearty welcome, for Jo loved her babies tenderly.
At four o'clock a lull took place, and baskets remained
empty, while the apple pickers rested and compared rents and
bruises. Then Jo and Meg, with a detachment of the bigger boys,
set forth the supper on the grass, for an out-of-door tea was
always the crowning joy of the day. The land literally flowed
with milk and honey on such occasions, for the lads were not
required to sit at table, but allowed to partake of refreshment
as they liked--freedom being the sauce best beloved by the boyish
soul. They availed themselves of the rare privilege to the
fullest extent, for some tried the pleasing experiment of drinking
milk while standing on their heads, others lent a charm to
leapfrog by eating pie in the pauses of the game, cookies were
sown broadcast over the field, and apple turnovers roosted in
the trees like a new style of bird. The little girls had a
private tea party, and Ted roved among the edibles at his own
When no one could eat any more, the Professor proposed the
first regular toast, which was always drunk at such times--"Aunt
March, God bless her!" A toast heartily given by the good man,
who never forgot how much he owed her, and quietly drunk by the
boys, who had been taught to keep her memory green.
"Now, Grandma's sixtieth birthday! Long life to her, with
three times three!"
That was given with a will, as you may well believe, and
the cheering once begun, it was hard to stop it. Everybody's
health was proposed, from Mr. Laurence, who was considered their
special patron, to the astonished guinea pig, who had strayed
from its proper sphere in search of its young master. Demi, as
the oldest grandchild, then presented the queen of the day with
various gifts, so numerous that they were transported to the
festive scene in a wheelbarrow. Funny presents, some of them,
but what would have been defects to other eyes were ornaments
to Grandma's--for the children's gifts were all their own. Every
stitch Daisy's patient little fingers had put into the handkerchiefs
she hemmed was better than embroidery to Mrs. March. Demi's
miracle of mechanical skill, though the cover wouldn't shut, Rob's
footstool had a wiggle in its uneven legs that she declared was
soothing, and no page of the costly book Amy's child gave her was
so fair as that on which appeared in tipsy capitals, the words--
"To dear Grandma, from her little Beth."
During the ceremony the boys had mysteriously disappeared,
and when Mrs. March had tried to thank her children, and broken
down, while Teddy wiped her eyes on his pinafore, the Professor
suddenly began to sing. Then, from above him, voice after voice
took up the words, and from tree to tree echoed the music of the
unseen choir, as the boys sang with all their hearts the little
song that Jo had written, Laurie set to music, and the Professor
trained his lads to give with the best effect. This was something
altogether new, and it proved a grand success, for Mrs. March
couldn't get over her surprise, and insisted on shaking hands
with every one of the featherless birds, from tall Franz and
Emil to the little quadroon, who had the sweetest voice of all.
After this, the boys dispersed for a final lark, leaving Mrs.
March and her daughters under the festival tree.
"I don't think I ever ought to call myself 'unlucky Jo' again,
when my greatest wish has been so beautifully gratified," said Mrs.
Bhaer, taking Teddy's little fist out of the milk pitcher, in which
he was rapturously churning.
"And yet your life is very different from the one you pictured
so long ago. Do you remember our castles in the air?" asked Amy,
smiling as she watched Laurie and John playing cricket with the boys.
"Dear fellows! It does my heart good to see them forget business
and frolic for a day," answered Jo, who now spoke in a maternal
way of all mankind. "Yes, I remember, but the life I wanted then
seems selfish, lonely, and cold to me now. I haven't given up the
hope that I may write a good book yet, but I can wait, and I'm
sure it will be all the better for such experiences and illustrations
as these," and Jo pointed from the lively lads in the
distance to her father, leaning on the Professor's arm, as they
walked to and fro in the sunshine, deep in one of the conversations
which both enjoyed so much, and then to her mother, sitting enthroned
among her daughters, with their children in her lap and at
her feet, as if all found help and happiness in the face which
never could grow old to them.
"My castle was the most nearly realized of all. I asked for
splendid things, to be sure, but in my heart I knew I should be
satisfied, if I had a little home, and John, and some dear children
like these. I've got them all, thank God, and am the
happiest woman in the world," and Meg laid her hand on her tall
boy's head, with a face full of tender and devout content.
"My castle is very different from what I planned, but I would
not alter it, though, like Jo, I don't relinquish all my artistic
hopes, or confine myself to helping others fulfill their dreams of
beauty. I've begun to model a figure of baby, and Laurie says it
is the best thing I've ever done. I think so, myself, and mean
to do it in marble, so that, whatever happens, I may at least keep
the image of my little angel."
As Amy spoke, a great tear dropped on the golden hair of the
sleeping child in her arms, for her one well-beloved daughter was
a frail little creature and the dread of losing her was the shadow
over Amy's sunshine. This cross was doing much for both father
and mother, for one love and sorrow bound them closely together.
Amy's nature was growing sweeter, deeper, and more tender. Laurie
was growing more serious, strong, and firm, and both were learning
that beauty, youth, good fortune, even love itself, cannot keep
care and pain, loss and sorrow, from the most blessed for . . .
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and sad and dreary.
"She is growing better, I am sure of it, my dear. Don't
despond, but hope and keep happy," said Mrs. March, as tenderhearted
Daisy stooped from her knee to lay her rosy cheek against
her little cousin's pale one.
"I never ought to, while I have you to cheer me up, Marmee,
and Laurie to take more than half of every burden," replied Amy
warmly. "He never lets me see his anxiety, but is so sweet and
patient with me, so devoted to Beth, and such a stay and comfort
to me always that I can't love him enough. So, in spite of my
one cross, I can say with Meg, 'Thank God, I'm a happy woman.'"
"There's no need for me to say it, for everyone can see
that I'm far happier than I deserve," added Jo, glancing from
her good husband to her chubby children, tumbling on the grass
beside her. "Fritz is getting gray and stout. I'm growing as
thin as a shadow, and am thirty. We never shall be rich, and
Plumfield may burn up any night, for that incorrigible Tommy
Bangs will smoke sweet-fern cigars under the bed-clothes,
though he's set himself afire three times already. But in
spite of these unromantic facts, I have nothing to complain
of, and never was so jolly in my life. Excuse the remark, but
living among boys, I can't help using their expressions now
"Yes, Jo, I think your harvest will be a good one," began
Mrs. March, frightening away a big black cricket that was
staring Teddy out of countenance.
"Not half so good as yours, Mother. Here it is, and we
never can thank you enough for the patient sowing and reaping
you have done," cried Jo, with the loving impetuosity which
she never would outgrow.
"I hope there will be more wheat and fewer tares every
year," said Amy softly.
"A large sheaf, but I know there's room in your heart for
it, Marmee dear," added Meg's tender voice.
Touched to the heart, Mrs. March could only stretch out
her arms, as if to gather children and grandchildren to herself,
and say, with face and voice full of motherly love, gratitude,
and humility . . .
"Oh, my girls, however long you may live, I never can
wish you a greater happiness than this!"
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