Louisa May Alcott
Part 2 out of 11
"Going out for exercise," answered Jo with a mischievous
twinkle in her eyes.
"I should think two long walks this morning would have
been enough! It's cold and dull out, and I advise you to
stay warm and dry by the fire, as I do," said Meg with a
"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
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
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
"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 is weak."
"Isn't there some nice girl who'd read and amuse you? Girls
are quiet and like to play nurse."
"Don't know any."
"You know 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
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,
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 going."
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
"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,"
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 she reveled.
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
"Oh! That does me no end of good. Tell on, please," he
said, taking his face out of the sofa cushion, red and shining
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
"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 moods.
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 impressively.
"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 door.
"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
"Would you mind if I left you for a minute? I suppose I
must see him," said Laurie.
"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
"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 Jo eagerly.
"Tut, tut, tut! That was the boy's affair. How is the poor
"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
"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 redoubtable grandfather.
"I didn't know you'd come, sir," he began, as Jo gave him a
triumphant little glance.
"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
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 stood open.
"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 his rescue.
"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 Jo."
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
"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
"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 him."
"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 before.
"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 matter.
"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,
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 o'clock."
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
"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 of beatitude.
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
"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 the window.
Beth hurried on in a flutter of suspense. At the door her
sisters seized and bore her to the parlor in a triumphal procession,
all pointing and all saying at 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 were . . .
"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,
"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 been before.
"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 its beauties.
"'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 Laurences' door.
"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
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 her friend.
"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 second blunder.
"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 for one."
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
"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
"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 down.
"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
"Do you mean you are glad I was disgraced before the whole
school?" cried Amy.
"I should not have chosen that way of mending a fault,"
replied her 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 her."
"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
"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 accomplished boy?"
"Yes, he has had an excellent education, and has much talent.
He will make a fine man, if not spoiled by petting," replied her
"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 so much."
"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
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 pocket.
"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
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 a minute.
"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
"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 nervously.
"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 anger . . .
"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 forgiven."
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 the hill.
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
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 out . . .
"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
"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 it."
"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
"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
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
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 sisters.
"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 occasion.
"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
"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
"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, dear!"
"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
"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
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
"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
"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 shabby
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. Moffat.
"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
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
"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 Miss Clara.
"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 Belle, laughing.
"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 supposed lover.
"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
"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 very uncomfortable.
"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 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
Back to Full Books