Louisa May Alcott
Part 3 out of 11
see if she would be 'a little beauty' after touching up caused
her to accept and forget all her former uncomfortable feelings
toward the Moffats.
On the Thursday evening, Belle shut herself up with her maid,
and between them they turned Meg into a fine lady. They crimped
and curled her hair, they polished her neck and arms with some
fragrant powder, touched her lips with coralline salve to make
them redder, and Hortense would have added 'a soupcon of rouge',
if Meg had not rebelled. They laced her into a sky-blue dress,
which was so tight she could hardly breathe and so low in the
neck that modest Meg blushed at herself in the mirror. A set
of silver filagree was added, bracelets, necklace, brooch, and
even earrings, for Hortense tied them on with a bit of pink
silk which did not show. A cluster of tea-rose buds at the
bosom, and a ruche, reconciled Meg to the display of her pretty,
white shoulders, and a pair of high-heeled silk boots satisfied
the last wish of her heart. A lace handkerchief, a plumy fan,
and a bouquet in a shoulder holder finished her off, and Miss
Belle surveyed her with the satisfaction of a little girl with
a newly dressed doll.
"Mademoiselle is charmante, tres jolie, is she not?" cried
Hortense, clasping her hands in an affected rapture.
"Come and show yourself," said Miss Belle, leading the way
to the room where the others were waiting.
As Meg went rustling after, with her long skirts trailing,
her earrings tinkling, her curls waving, and her heart beating,
she felt as if her fun had really begun at last, for the mirror
had plainly told her that she was 'a little beauty'. Her friends
repeated the pleasing phrase enthusiastically, and for several
minutes she stood, like a jackdaw in the fable, enjoying her
borrowed plumes, while the rest chattered like a party of magpies.
"While I dress, do you drill her, Nan, in the management of her
skirt and those French heels, or she will trip herself up. Take
your silver butterfly, and catch up that long curl on the left side
of her head, Clara, and don't any of you disturb the charming work
of my hands," said Belle, as she hurried away, looking well pleased
with her success.
"You don't look a bit like yourself, but you are very nice.
I'm nowhere beside you, for Belle has heaps of taste, and you're
quite French, I assure you. Let your flowers hang, don't be so
careful of them, and be sure you don't trip," returned Sallie, trying
not to care that Meg was prettier than herself.
Keeping that warning carefully in mind, Margaret got safely
down stairs and sailed into the drawing rooms where the Moffats and
a few early guests were assembled. She very soon discovered that
there is a charm about fine clothes which attracts a certain class
of people and secures their respect. Several young ladies, who
had taken no notice of her before, were very affectionate all of
a sudden. Several young gentlemen, who had only stared at her at
the other party, now not only stared, but asked to be introduced,
and said all manner of foolish but agreeable things to her, and
several old ladies, who sat on the sofas, and criticized the rest
of the party, inquired who she was with an air of interest. She
heard Mrs. Moffat reply to one of them . . .
"Daisy March--father a colonel in the army--one of our first
families, but reverses of fortune, you know; intimate friends of
the Laurences; sweet creature, I assure you; my Ned is quite wild
"Dear me!" said the old lady, putting up her glass for
another observation of Meg, who tried to look as if she had not
heard and been rather shocked at Mrs. Moffat's fibs.
The 'queer feeling' did not pass away, but she imagined
herself acting the new part of fine lady and so got on pretty
well, though the tight dress gave her a side-ache, the train kept
getting under her feet, and she was in constant fear lest her
earrings should fly off and get lost or broken. She was flirting
her fan and laughing at the feeble jokes of a young gentleman
who tried to be witty, when she suddenly stopped laughing and
looked confused, for just opposite, she saw Laurie. He was
staring at her with undisguised surprise, and disapproval also,
she thought, for though he bowed and smiled, yet something in
his honest eyes made her blush and wish she had her old dress on.
To complete her confusion, she saw Belle nudge Annie, and both
glance from her to Laurie, who, she was happy to see, looked
unusually boyish and shy.
"Silly creatures, to put such thoughts into my head. I won't
care for it, or let it change me a bit," thought Meg, and rustled
across the room to shake hands with her friend.
"I'm glad you came, I was afraid you wouldn't." she said,
with her most grown-up air.
"Jo wanted me to come, and tell her how you looked, so I
did," answered Laurie, without turning his eyes upon her, though
he half smiled at her maternal tone.
"What shall you tell her?" asked Meg, full of curiosity to
know his opinion of her, yet feeling ill at ease with him for the
"I shall say I didn't know you, for you look so grown-up and
unlike yourself, I'm quite afraid of you," he said, fumbling at
his glove button.
"How absurd of you! The girls dressed me up for fun, and I
rather like it. Wouldn't Jo stare if she saw me?" said Meg, bent
on making him say whether he thought her improved or not.
"Yes, I think she would," returned Laurie gravely.
"Don't you like me so?" asked Meg.
"No, I don't," was the blunt reply.
"Why not?" in an anxious tone.
He glanced at her frizzled head, bare shoulders, and fantastically
trimmed dress with an expression that abashed her more than
his answer, which had not a particle of his usual politeness in it.
"I don't like fuss and feathers."
That was altogether too much from a lad younger than herself,
and Meg walked away, saying petulantly, "You are the rudest boy I
Feeling very much ruffled, she went and stood at a quiet window
to cool her cheeks, for the tight dress gave her an uncomfortably
brilliant color. As she stood there, Major Lincoln passed by, and
a minute after she heard him saying to his mother . . .
"They are making a fool of that little girl. I wanted you
to see her, but they have spoiled her entirely. She's nothing
but a doll tonight."
"Oh, dear!" sighed Meg. "I wish I'd been sensible and worn
my own things, then I should not have disgusted other people, or
felt so uncomfortable and ashamed of myself."
She leaned her forehead on the cool pane, and stood half
hidden by the curtains, never minding that her favorite waltz
had begun, till some one touched her, and turning, she saw
Laurie, looking penitent, as he said, with his very best bow
and his hand out . . .
"Please forgive my rudeness, and come and dance with me."
"I'm afraid it will be too disagreeable to you," said Meg,
trying to look offended and failing entirely.
"Not a bit of it, I'm dying to do it. Come, I'll be good.
I don't like your gown, but I do think you are just splendid."
And he waved his hands, as if words failed to express his
Meg smiled and relented, and whispered as they stood waiting
to catch the time, "Take care my skirt doesn't trip you up. It's
the plague of my life and I was a goose to wear it."
"Pin it round your neck, and then it will be useful," said
Laurie, looking down at the little blue boots, which he evidently
Away they went fleetly and gracefully, for having practiced
at home, they were well matched, and the blithe young couple were
a pleasant sight to see, as they twirled merrily round and round,
feeling more friendly than ever after their small tiff.
"Laurie, I want you to do me a favor, will you?" said Meg,
as he stood fanning her when her breath gave out, which it did
very soon though she would not own why.
"Won't I!" said Laurie, with alacrity.
"Please don't tell them at home about my dress tonight.
They won't understand the joke, and it will worry Mother."
"Then why did you do it?" said Laurie's eyes, so plainly
that Meg hastily added . . .
"I shall tell them myself all about it, and 'fess' to Mother
how silly I've been. But I'd rather do it myself. So you'll not
tell, will you?"
"I give you my word I won't, only what shall I say when
they ask me?"
"Just say I looked pretty well and was having a good time."
"I'll say the first with all my heart, but how about the
other? You don't look as if you were having a good time. Are
you?" And Laurie looked at her with an expression which made her
answer in a whisper . . .
"No, not just now. Don't think I'm horrid. I only wanted
a little fun, but this sort doesn't pay, I find, and I'm getting
tired of it."
"Here comes Ned Moffat. What does he want?" said Laurie,
knitting his black brows as if he did not regard his young host
in the light of a pleasant addition to the party.
"He put his name down for three dances, and I suppose he's
coming for them. What a bore!" said Meg, assuming a languid air
which amused Laurie immensely.
He did not speak to her again till suppertime, when he saw
her drinking champagne with Ned and his friend Fisher, who were
behaving 'like a pair of fools', as Laurie said to himself, for
he felt a brotherly sort of right to watch over the Marches and
fight their battles whenever a defender was needed.
"You'll have a splitting headache tomorrow, if you drink
much of that. I wouldn't, Meg, your mother doesn't like it, you
know," he whispered, leaning over her chair, as Ned turned to
refill her glass and Fisher stooped to pick up her fan.
"I'm not Meg tonight, I'm 'a doll' who does all sorts of
crazy things. Tomorrow I shall put away my 'fuss and feathers'
and be desperately good again," she answered with an affected
"Wish tomorrow was here, then," muttered Laurie, walking off,
ill-pleased at the change he saw in her.
Meg danced and flirted, chattered and giggled, as the other
girls did. After supper she undertook the German, and blundered
through it, nearly upsetting her partner with her long skirt, and
romping in a way that scandalized Laurie, who looked on and meditated
a lecture. But he got no chance to deliver it, for Meg kept away
from him till he came to say good night.
"Remember!" she said, trying to smile, for the splitting
headache had already begun.
"Silence a la mort," replied Laurie, with a melodramatic
flourish, as he went away.
This little bit of byplay excited Annie's curiosity, but Meg
was too tired for gossip and went to bed, feeling as if she had
been to a masquerade and hadn't enjoyed herself as much as she
expected. She was sick all the next day, and on Saturday went home,
quite used up with her fortnight's fun and feeling that she had
'sat in the lap of luxury' long enough.
"It does seem pleasant to be quiet, and not have company
manners on all the time. Home is a nice place, though it isn't
splendid," said Meg, looking about her with a restful expression,
as she sat with her mother and Jo on the Sunday evening.
"I'm glad to hear you say so, dear, for I was afraid home
would seem dull and poor to you after your fine quarters," replied
her mother, who had given her many anxious looks that day. For
motherly eyes are quick to see any change in children's faces.
Meg had told her adventures gayly and said over and over what
a charming time she had had, but something still seemed to weigh
upon her spirits, and when the younger girls were gone to bed, she
sat thoughtfully staring at the fire, saying little and looking
worried. As the clock struck nine and Jo proposed bed, Meg
suddenly left her chair and, taking Beth's stool, leaned her elbows
on her mother's knee, saying bravely . . .
"Marmee, I want to 'fess'."
"I thought so. What is it, dear?"
"Shall I go away?" asked Jo discreetly.
"Of course not. Don't I always tell you everything? I was
ashamed to speak of it before the younger children, but I want you
to know all the dreadful things I did at the Moffats'."
"We are prepared," said Mrs. March, smiling but looking a
"I told you they dressed me up, but I didn't tell you that
they powdered and squeezed and frizzled, and made me look like a
fashion-plate. Laurie thought I wasn't proper. I know he did,
though he didn't say so, and one man called me 'a doll'. I knew
it was silly, but they flattered me and said I was a beauty, and
quantities of nonsense, so I let them make a fool of me."
"Is that all?" asked Jo, as Mrs. March looked silently at
the downcast face of her pretty daughter, and could not find it
in her heart to blame her little follies.
"No, I drank champagne and romped and tried to flirt, and
was altogether abominable," said Meg self-reproachfully.
"There is something more, I think." And Mrs. March smoothed
the soft cheek, which suddenly grew rosy as Meg answered slowly . . .
"Yes. It's very silly, but I want to tell it, because I hate
to have people say and think such things about us and Laurie."
Then she told the various bits of gossip she had heard at the
Moffats', and as she spoke, Jo saw her mother fold her lips tightly,
as if ill pleased that such ideas should be put into Meg's innocent
"Well, if that isn't the greatest rubbish I ever heard," cried
Jo indignantly. "Why didn't you pop out and tell them so on the
"I couldn't, it was so embarrassing for me. I couldn't help
hearing at first, and then I was so angry and ashamed, I didn't
remember that I ought to go away."
"Just wait till I see Annie Moffat, and I'll show you how to
settle such ridiculous stuff. The idea of having 'plans' and being
kind to Laurie because he's rich and may marry us by-and-by! Won't
he shout when I tell him what those silly things say about us poor
children?" And Jo laughed, as if on second thoughts the thing
struck her as a good joke.
"If you tell Laurie, I'll never forgive you! She mustn't,
must she, Mother?" said Meg, looking distressed.
"No, never repeat that foolish gossip, and forget it as soon
as you can," said Mrs. March gravely. "I was very unwise to let
you go among people of whom I know so little, kind, I dare say,
but worldly, ill-bred, and full of these vulgar ideas about young
people. I am more sorry than I can express for the mischief this
visit may have done you, Meg."
"Don't be sorry, I won't let it hurt me. I'll forget all the
bad and remember only the good, for I did enjoy a great deal, and
thank you very much for letting me go. I'll not be sentimental or
dissatisfied, Mother. I know I'm a silly little girl, and I'll
stay with you till I'm fit to take care of myself. But it is nice
to be praised and admired, and I can't help saying I like it," said
Meg, looking half ashamed of the confession.
"That is perfectly natural, and quite harmless, if the liking
does not become a passion and lead one to do foolish or unmaidenly
things. Learn to know and value the praise which is worth having,
and to excite the admiration of excellent people by being modest
as well as pretty, Meg."
Margaret sat thinking a moment, while Jo stood with her hands
behind her, looking both interested and a little perplexed, for it
was a new thing to see Meg blushing and talking about admiration,
lovers, and things of that sort. And Jo felt as if during that
fortnight her sister had grown up amazingly, and was drifting away
from her into a world where she could not follow.
"Mother, do you have 'plans', as Mrs. Moffat said?" asked Meg
"Yes, my dear, I have a great many, all mothers do, but mine
differ somewhat from Mrs. Moffat's, I suspect. I will tell you
some of them, for the time has come when a word may set this
romantic little head and heart of yours right, on a very serious
subject. You are young, Meg, but not too young to understand me,
and mothers' lips are the fittest to speak of such things to girls
like you. Jo, your turn will come in time, perhaps, so listen to
my 'plans' and help me carry them out, if they are good."
Jo went and sat on one arm of the chair, looking as if she
thought they were about to join in some very solemn affair.
Holding a hand of each, and watching the two young faces wistfully,
Mrs. March said, in her serious yet cheery way . . .
"I want my daughters to be beautiful, accomplished, and good.
To be admired, loved, and respected. To have a happy youth, to
be well and wisely married, and to lead useful, pleasant lives,
with as little care and sorrow to try them as God sees fit to send.
To be loved and chosen by a good man is the best and sweetest thing
which can happen to a woman, and I sincerely hope my girls may
know this beautiful experience. It is natural to think of it, Meg,
right to hope and wait for it, and wise to prepare for it, so that
when the happy time comes, you may feel ready for the duties and
worthy of the joy. My dear girls, I am ambitious for you, but not
to have you make a dash in the world, marry rich men merely because
they are rich, or have splendid houses, which are not homes because
love is wanting. Money is a needful and precious thing, and when
well used, a noble thing, but I never want you to think it is the
first or only prize to strive for. I'd rather see you poor men's
wives, if you were happy, beloved, contented, than queens on thrones,
without self-respect and peace."
"Poor girls don't stand any chance, Belle says, unless they
put themselves forward," sighed Meg.
"Then we'll be old maids," said Jo stoutly.
"Right, Jo. Better be happy old maids than unhappy wives, or
unmaidenly girls, running about to find husbands," said Mrs. March
decidedly. "Don't be troubled, Meg, poverty seldom daunts a sincere
lover. Some of the best and most honored women I know were poor
girls, but so love-worthy that they were not allowed to be old maids.
Leave these things to time. Make this home happy, so that you may
be fit for homes of your own, if they are offered you, and contented
here if they are not. One thing remember, my girls. Mother is
always ready to be your confidant, Father to be your friend, and
both of us hope and trust that our daughters, whether married or
single, will be the pride and comfort of our lives."
"We will, Marmee, we will!" cried both, with all their hearts,
as she bade them good night.
THE P.C. AND P.O.
As spring came on, a new set of amusements became the
fashion, and the lengthening days gave long afternoons for
work and play of all sorts. The garden had to be put in order,
and each sister had a quarter of the little plot to do what she
liked with. Hannah used to say, "I'd know which each of them
gardings belonged to, ef I see 'em in Chiny," and so she might,
for the girls' tastes differed as much as their characters. Meg's
had roses and heliotrope, myrtle, and a little orange tree in it.
Jo's bed was never alike two seasons, for she was always trying
experiments. This year it was to be a plantation of sun flowers,
the seeds of which cheerful land aspiring plant were to feed
Aunt Cockle-top and her family of chicks. Beth had old-fashioned
fragrant flowers in her garden, sweet peas and mignonette,
larkspur, pinks, pansies, and southernwood, with chickweed for
the birds and catnip for the pussies. Amy had a bower in hers,
rather small and earwiggy, but very pretty to look at, with
honeysuckle and morning-glories hanging their colored horns and
bells in graceful wreaths all over it, tall white lilies, delicate
ferns, and as many brilliant, picturesque plants as would consent
to blossom there.
Gardening, walks, rows on the river, and flower hunts employed
the fine days, and for rainy ones, they had house diversions,
some old, some new, all more or less original. One of these
was the 'P.C.', for as secret societies were the fashion,
it was thought proper to have one, and as all of the girls
admired Dickens, they called themselves the Pickwick Club. With
a few interruptions, they had kept this up for a year, and met
every Saturday evening in the big garret, on which occasions the
ceremonies were as follows: Three chairs were arranged in a row
before a table on which was a lamp, also four white badges, with
a big 'P.C.' in different colors on each, and the weekly
newspaper called, The Pickwick Portfolio, to which all contributed
something, while Jo, who reveled in pens and ink, was the editor.
At seven o'clock, the four members ascended to the clubroom,
tied their badges round their heads, and took their seats with
great solemnity. Meg, as the eldest, was Samuel Pickwick, Jo,
being of a literary turn, Augustus Snodgrass, Beth, because she
was round and rosy, Tracy Tupman, and Amy, who was always trying
to do what she couldn't, was Nathaniel Winkle. Pickwick, the
president, read the paper, which was filled with original tales,
poetry, local news, funny advertisements, and hints, in which
they good-naturedly reminded each other of their faults and
short comings. On one occasion, Mr. Pickwick put on a pair
of spectacles without any glass, rapped upon the table, hemmed,
and having stared hard at Mr. Snodgrass, who was tilting back
in his chair, till he arranged himself properly, began to read:
"THE PICKWICK PORTFOLIO"
MAY 20, 18---
Again we meet to celebrate
With badge and solemn rite,
Our fifty-second anniversary,
In Pickwick Hall, tonight.
We all are here in perfect health,
None gone from our small band:
Again we see each well-known face,
And press each friendly hand.
Our Pickwick, always at his post,
With reverence we greet,
As, spectacles on nose, he reads
Our well-filled weekly sheet.
Although he suffers from a cold,
We joy to hear him speak,
For words of wisdom from him fall,
In spite of croak or squeak.
Old six-foot Snodgrass looms on high,
With elephantine grace,
And beams upon the company,
With brown and jovial face.
Poetic fire lights up his eye,
He struggles 'gainst his lot.
Behold ambition on his brow,
And on his nose, a blot.
Next our peaceful Tupman comes,
So rosy, plump, and sweet,
Who chokes with laughter at the puns,
And tumbles off his seat.
Prim little Winkle too is here,
With every hair in place,
A model of propriety,
Though he hates to wash his face.
The year is gone, we still unite
To joke and laugh and read,
And tread the path of literature
That doth to glory lead.
Long may our paper prosper well,
Our club unbroken be,
And coming years their blessings pour
On the useful, gay 'P. C.'.
THE MASKED MARRIAGE
(A Tale Of Venice)
Gondola after gondola swept up to the marble
steps, and left its lovely load to swell the
brilliant throng that filled the stately halls of Count
Adelon. Knights and ladies, elves and pages, monks
and flower girls, all mingled gaily in the dance.
Sweet voices and rich melody filled the air, and so
with mirth and music the masquerade went on.
"Has your Highness seen the Lady Viola tonight?"
asked a gallant troubadour of the fairy queen who
floated down the hall upon his arm.
"Yes, is she not lovely, though so sad! Her
dress is well chosen, too, for in a week she weds
Count Antonio, whom she passionately hates."
"By my faith, I envy him. Yonder he comes,
arrayed like a bridegroom, except the black mask.
When that is off we shall see how he regards the
fair maid whose heart he cannot win, though her
stern father bestows her hand," returned the troubadour.
"Tis whispered that she loves the young English
artist who haunts her steps, and is spurned by the
old Count," said the lady, as they joined the dance.
The revel was at its height when a priest
appeared, and withdrawing the young pair to an alcove,
hung with purple velvet, he motioned them to kneel.
Instant silence fell on the gay throng, and not a
sound, but the dash of fountains or the rustle of
orange groves sleeping in the moonlight, broke the
hush, as Count de Adelon spoke thus:
"My lords and ladies, pardon the ruse by which
I have gathered you here to witness the marriage of
my daughter. Father, we wait your services."
All eyes turned toward the bridal party, and a
murmur of amazement went through the throng, for
neither bride nor groom removed their masks. Curiosity
and wonder possessed all hearts, but respect restrained
all tongues till the holy rite was over. Then the
eager spectators gathered round the count, demanding
"Gladly would I give it if I could, but I only
know that it was the whim of my timid Viola, and I
yielded to it. Now, my children, let the play end.
Unmask and receive my blessing."
But neither bent the knee, for the young bridegroom
replied in a tone that startled all listeners
as the mask fell, disclosing the noble face of Ferdinand
Devereux, the artist lover, and leaning on the
breast where now flashed the star of an English earl
was the lovely Viola, radiant with joy and beauty.
"My lord, you scornfully bade me claim your
daughter when I could boast as high a name and vast a
fortune as the Count Antonio. I can do more, for even
your ambitious soul cannot refuse the Earl of Devereux
and De Vere, when he gives his ancient name and boundless
wealth in return for the beloved hand of this fair lady,
now my wife."
The count stood like one changed to stone, and
turning to the bewildered crowd, Ferdinand added, with
a gay smile of triumph, "To you, my gallant friends, I
can only wish that your wooing may prosper as mine has
done, and that you may all win as fair a bride as I have
by this masked marriage."
Why is the P. C. like the Tower of Babel?
It is full of unruly members.
THE HISTORY OF A SQUASH
Once upon a time a farmer planted a little seed
in his garden, and after a while it sprouted and became
a vine and bore many squashes. One day in October,
when they were ripe, he picked one and took it
to market. A gorcerman bought and put it in his shop.
That same morning, a little girl in a brown hat
and blue dress, with a round face and snub nose, went
and bought it for her mother. She lugged it home, cut
it up, and boiled it in the big pot, mashed some of it
with salt and butter, for dinner. And to the rest she added
a pint of milk, two eggs, four spoons of sugar, nutmeg,
and some crackers, put it in a deep dish, and baked it
till it was brown and nice, and next day it was eaten
by a family named March.
Mr. Pickwick, Sir:--
I address you upon the subject of sin the sinner
I mean is a man named Winkle who makes trouble in his
club by laughing and sometimes won't write his piece in
this fine paper I hope you will pardon his badness and
let him send a French fable because he can't write out
of his head as he has so many lessons to do and no brains
in future I will try to take time by the fetlock and
prepare some work which will be all commy la fo that
means all right I am in haste as it is nearly school
[The above is a manly and handsome aknowledgment of past
misdemeanors. If our young friend studied punctuation, it
would be well.]
A SAD ACCIDENT
On Friday last, we were startled by a violent shock
in our basement, followed by cries of distress.
On rushing in a body to the cellar, we discovered our beloved
President prostrate upon the floor, having tripped and
fallen while getting wood for domestic purposes. A perfect
scene of ruin met our eyes, for in his fall Mr. Pickwick
had plunged his head and shoulders into a tub of water,
upset a keg of soft soap upon his manly form, and torn
his garments badly. On being removed from this perilous
situation, it was discovered that he had suffered
no injury but several bruises, and we are happy to add,
is now doing well.
THE PUBLIC BEREAVEMENT
It is our painful duty to record the sudden and
mysterious disappearance of our cherished friend, Mrs.
Snowball Pat Paw. This lovely and beloved cat was the
pet of a large circle of warm and admiring friends; for
her beauty attracted all eyes, her graces and virtues
endeared her to all hearts, and her loss is deeply felt
by the whole community.
When last seen, she was sitting at the gate, watching
the butcher's cart, and it is feared that some villain,
tempted by her charms, basely stole her. Weeks have passed,
but no trace of her has been discovered, and we relinquish
all hope, tie a black ribbon to her basket, set aside her
dish, and weep for her as one lost to us forever.
A sympathizing friend sends the following gem:
(FOR S. B. PAT PAW)
We mourn the loss of our little pet,
And sigh o'er her hapless fate,
For never more by the fire she'll sit,
Nor play by the old green gate.
The little grave where her infant sleeps
Is 'neath the chestnut tree.
But o'er her grave we may not weep,
We know not where it may be.
Her empty bed, her idle ball,
Will never see her more;
No gentle tap, no loving purr
Is heard at the parlor door.
Another cat comes after her mice,
A cat with a dirty face,
But she does not hunt as our darling did,
Nor play with her airy grace.
Her stealthy paws tread the very hall
Where Snowball used to play,
But she only spits at the dogs our pet
So gallantly drove away.
She is useful and mild, and does her best,
But she is not fair to see,
And we cannot give her your place dear,
Nor worship her as we worship thee.
MISS ORANTHY BLUGGAGE, the accomplished
strong-minded lecturer, will deliver her
famous lecture on "WOMAN AND HER POSITION"
at Pickwick Hall, next Saturday Evening,
after the usual performances.
A WEEKLY MEETING will be held at Kitchen
Place, to teach young ladies how to cook.
Hannah Brown will preside, and all are
invited to attend.
The DUSTPAN SOCIETY will meet on Wednesday
next, and parade in the upper story of the
Club House. All members to appear in uniform
and shoulder their brooms at nine precisely.
Mrs. BETH BOUNCER will open her new
assortment of Doll's Millinery next week.
The latest Paris fashions have arrived,
and orders are respectfully solicited.
A NEW PLAY will appear at the Barnville
Theatre, in the course of a few weeks, which
will surpass anything ever seen on the American stage.
"The Greek Slave, or Constantine the Avenger," is the name
of this thrilling drama!!!
If S.P. didn't use so much soap on his hands,
he wouldn't always be late at breakfast. A.S.
is requested not to whistle in the street. T.T
please don't forget Amy's napkin. N.W. must
not fret because his dress has not nine tucks.
As the President finished reading the paper (which I beg
leave to assure my readers is a bona fide copy of one written
by bona fide girls once upon a time), a round of applause
followed, and then Mr. Snodgrass rose to make a proposition.
"Mr. President and gentlemen," he began, assuming a
parliamentary attitude and tone, "I wish to propose the admission
of a new member--one who highly deserves the honor, would be
deeply grateful for it, and would add immensely to the spirit
of the club, the literary value of the paper, and be no end
jolly and nice. I propose Mr. Theodore Laurence as an honorary
member of the P. C. Come now, do have him."
Jo's sudden change of tone made the girls laugh, but all
looked rather anxious, and no one said a word as Snodgrass
took his seat.
"We'll put it to a vote," said the President. "All in
favor of this motion please to manifest it by saying, 'Aye'."
A loud response from Snodgrass, followed, to everybody's
surprise, by a timid one from Beth.
"Contrary-minded say, 'No'."
Meg and Amy were contrary-minded, and Mr. Winkle rose to
say with great elegance, "We don't wish any boys, they only
joke and bounce about. This is a ladies' club, and we wish to
be private and proper."
"I'm afraid he'll laugh at our paper, and make fun of us
afterward," observed Pickwick, pulling the little curl on her
forehead, as she always did when doubtful.
Up rose Snodgrass, very much in earnest. "Sir, I give you
my word as a gentleman, Laurie won't do anything of the sort. He
likes to write, and he'll give a tone to our contributions and
keep us from being sentimental, don't you see? We can do so little
for him, and he does so much for us, I think the least we can do
is to offer him a place here, and make him welcome if he comes."
This artful allusion to benefits conferred brought Tupman to
his feet, looking as if he had quite made up his mind.
"Yes; we ought to do it, even if we are afraid. I say he may
come, and his grandpa, too, if he likes."
This spirited burst from Beth electrified the club, and Jo
left her seat to shake hands approvingly. "Now then, vote again.
Everybody remember it's our Laurie, and say, 'Aye!'"
cried Snodgrass excitedly.
"Aye! Aye! Aye!" replied three voices at once.
"Good! Bless you! Now, as there's nothing like 'taking time
by the fetlock', as Winkle characteristically observes, allow me
to present the new member." And, to the dismay of the rest of the
club, Jo threw open the door of the closet, and displayed Laurie
sitting on a rag bag, flushed and twinkling with suppressed laughter.
"You rogue! You traitor! Jo, how could you?" cried the three
girls, as Snodgrass led her friend triumphantly forth, and producing
both a chair and a badge, installed him in a jiffy.
"The coolness of you two rascals is amazing," began Mr. Pickwick,
trying to get up an awful frown and only succeeding in producing
an amiable smile. But the new member was equal to the occasion,
and rising, with a grateful salutation to the Chair, said
in the most engaging manner, "Mr. President and ladies--I beg pardon,
gentlemen--allow me to introduce myself as Sam Weller, the very
humble servant of the club."
"Good! Good!" cried Jo, pounding with the handle of the old
warming pan on which she leaned.
"My faithful friend and noble patron," continued Laurie with
a wave of the hand, "who has so flatteringly presented me, is not
to be blamed for the base stratagem of tonight. I planned it, and
she only gave in after lots of teasing."
"Come now, don't lay it all on yourself. You know I proposed
the cupboard," broke in Snodgrass, who was enjoying the joke
"Never mind what she says. I'm the wretch that did it, sir,"
said the new member, with a Welleresque nod to Mr. Pickwick. "But
on my honor, I never will do so again, and henceforth devote myself
to the interest of this immortal club."
"Hear! Hear!" cried Jo, clashing the lid of the warming pan
like a cymbal.
"Go on, go on!" added Winkle and Tupman, while the President
"I merely wish to say, that as a slight token of my gratitude
for the honor done me, and as a means of promoting friendly relations
between adjoining nations, I have set up a post office in the hedge
in the lower corner of the garden, a fine, spacious building with
padlocks on the doors and every convenience for the mails, also the
females, if I may be allowed the expression. It's the old martin
house, but I've stopped up the door and made the roof open, so it
will hold all sorts of things, and save our valuable time. Letters,
manuscripts, books, and bundles can be passed in there, and as each
nation has a key, it will be uncommonly nice, I fancy. Allow me to
present the club key, and with many thanks for your favor, take my
Great applause as Mr. Weller deposited a little key on the
table and subsided, the warming pan clashed and waved wildly, and
it was some time before order could be restored. A long discussion
followed, and everyone came out surprising, for everyone did her
best. So it was an unusually lively meeting, and did not adjourn
till a late hour, when it broke up with three shrill cheers for the
No one ever regretted the admittance of Sam Weller, for
a more devoted, well-behaved, and jovial member no club could have.
He certainly did add 'spirit' to the meetings, and 'a tone' to the
paper, for his orations convulsed his hearers and his contributions
were excellent, being patriotic, classical, comical, or dramatic,
but never sentimental. Jo regarded them as worthy of Bacon, Milton,
or Shakespeare, and remodeled her own works with good effect, she
The P. O. was a capital little institution, and flourished
wonderfully, for nearly as many queer things passed through it as
through the real post office. Tragedies and cravats, poetry and
pickles, garden seeds and long letters, music and gingerbread,
rubbers, invitations, scoldings, and puppies. The old gentleman
liked the fun, and amused himself by sending odd bundles,
mysterious messages, and funny telegrams, and his gardener, who was
smitten with Hannah's charms, actually sent a love letter to Jo's
care. How they laughed when the secret came out, never dreaming
how many love letters that little post office would hold in the
years to come.
"The first of June! The Kings are off to the seashore tomorrow,
and I'm free. Three months' vacation--how I shall enjoy it!"
exclaimed Meg, coming home one warm day to find Jo laid
upon the sofa in an unusual state of exhaustion, while Beth took
off her dusty boots, and Amy made lemonade for the refreshment
of the whole party.
"Aunt March went today, for which, oh, be joyful!" said Jo.
"I was mortally afraid she'd ask me to go with her. If she
had, I should have felt as if I ought to do it, but Plumfield is
about as gay as a churchyard, you know, and I'd rather be excused.
We had a flurry getting the old lady off, and I had a fright every
time she spoke to me, for I was in such a hurry to be through that
I was uncommonly helpful and sweet, and feared she'd find it
impossible to part from me. I quaked till she was fairly in the
carriage, and had a final fright, for as it drove of, she popped
out her head, saying, 'Josyphine, won't you--?' I didn't hear any
more, for I basely turned and fled. I did actually run, and
whisked round the corner where I felt safe."
"Poor old Jo! She came in looking as if bears were after her,"
said Beth, as she cuddled her sister's feet with a motherly air.
"Aunt March is a regular samphire, is she not?" observed Amy,
tasting her mixture critically.
"She means vampire, not seaweed, but it doesn't matter. It's
too warm to be particular about one's parts of speech," murmured
"What shall you do all your vacation?" asked Amy, changing
the subject with tact.
"I shall lie abed late, and do nothing," replied Meg, from
the depths of the rocking chair. "I've been routed up early all
winter and had to spend my days working for other people, so now
I'm going to rest and revel to my heart's content."
"No," said Jo, "that dozy way wouldn't suit me. I've laid
in a heap of books, and I'm going to improve my shining hours
reading on my perch in the old apple tree, when I'm not having
"Don't say 'larks!'" implored Amy, as a return snub for the
"I'll say 'nightingales' then, with Laurie. That's proper
and appropriate, since he's a warbler."
"Don't let us do any lessons, Beth, for a while, but play
all the time and rest, as the girls mean to," proposed Amy.
"Well, I will, if Mother doesn't mind. I want to learn some
new songs, and my children need fitting up for the summer. They
are dreadfully out of order and really suffering for clothes."
"May we, Mother?" asked Meg, turning to Mrs. March, who
sat sewing in what they called 'Marmee's corner'.
"You may try your experiment for a week and see how you like
it. I think by Saturday night you will find that all play and no
work is as bad as all work and no play."
"Oh, dear, no! It will be delicious, I'm sure," said Meg
"I now propose a toast, as my 'friend and pardner,
Sairy Gamp', says. Fun forever, and no grubbing!" cried Jo, rising,
glass in hand, as the lemonade went round.
They all drank it merrily, and began the experiment by
lounging for the rest of the day. Next morning, Meg did not
appear till ten o'clock. Her solitary breakfast did not taste
good, and the room seemed lonely and untidy, for Jo had not
filled the vases, Beth had not dusted, and Amy's books lay
scattered about. Nothing was neat and pleasant but 'Marmee's
corner', which looked as usual. And there Meg sat, to 'rest and
read', which meant to yawn and imagine what pretty summer dresses
she would get with her salary. Jo spent the morning on the river
with Laurie and the afternoon reading and crying over _The Wide,
Wide World_, up in the apple tree. Beth began by rummaging everything
out of the big closet where her family resided, but getting
tired before half done, she left her establishment topsy-turvy
and went to her music, rejoicing that she had no dishes to wash.
Amy arranged her bower, put on her best white frock, smoothed her
curls, and sat down to draw under the honeysuckle, hoping someone
would see and inquire who the young artist was. As no one appeared
but an inquisitive daddy-longlegs, who examined her work with interest,
she went to walk, got caught in a shower, and came home dripping.
At teatime they compared notes, and all agreed that it had
been a delightful, though unusually long day. Meg, who went shopping
in the afternoon and got a 'sweet blue muslin', had discovered,
after she had cut the breadths off, that it wouldn't wash, which
mishap made her slightly cross. Jo had burned the skin off her
nose boating, and got a raging headache by reading too long. Beth
was worried by the confusion of her closet and the difficulty of
learning three or four songs at once, and Amy deeply regretted the
damage done her frock, for Katy Brown's party was to be the next
day and now like Flora McFlimsey, she had 'nothing to wear'. But
these were mere trifles, and they assured their mother that the
experiment was working finely. She smiled, said nothing, and with
Hannah's help did their neglected work, keeping home pleasant and
the domestic machinery running smoothly. It was astonishing what
a peculiar and uncomfortable state of things was produced by the
'resting and reveling' process. The days kept getting longer and
longer, the weather was unusually variable and so were tempers; an
unsettled feeling possessed everyone, and Satan found plenty of
mischief for the idle hands to do. As the height of luxury, Meg
put out some of her sewing, and then found time hang so heavily, that
she fell to snipping and spoiling her clothes in her attempts to
furbish them up a la Moffat. Jo read till her eyes gave out and
she was sick of books, got so fidgety that even good-natured Laurie
had a quarrel with her, and so reduced in spirits that she desperately
wished she had gone with Aunt March. Beth got on pretty well,
for she was constantly forgetting that it was to be all play and
no work, and fell back into her old ways now and then. But something
in the air affected her, and more than once her tranquility was much
disturbed, so much so that on one occasion she actually shook poor
dear Joanna and told her she was 'a fright'. Amy fared worst of all,
for her resources were small, and when her sisters left her to amuse
herself, she soon found that accomplished and important little self
a great burden. She didn't like dolls, fairy tales were childish,
and one couldn't draw all the time. Tea parties didn't amount to
much, neither did picnics, unless very well conducted. "If one could
have a fine house, full of nice girls, or go traveling, the summer
would be delightful, but to stay at home with three selfish sisters
and a grown-up boy was enough to try the patience of a Boaz,"
complained Miss Malaprop, after several days devoted to pleasure,
fretting, and ennui.
No one would own that they were tired of the experiment, but
by Friday night each acknowledged to herself that she was glad the
week was nearly done. Hoping to impress the lesson more deeply,
Mrs. March, who had a good deal of humor, resolved to finish off
the trial in an appropriate manner, so she gave Hannah a holiday and
let the girls enjoy the full effect of the play system.
When they got up on Saturday morning, there was no fire in
the kitchen, no breakfast in the dining room, and no mother
anywhere to be seen.
"Mercy on us! What has happened?" cried Jo, staring about
her in dismay.
Meg ran upstairs and soon came back again, looking relieved
but rather bewildered, and a little ashamed.
"Mother isn't sick, only very tired, and she says she is
going to stay quietly in her room all day and let us do the best
we can. It's a very queer thing for her to do, she doesn't act
a bit like herself. But she says it has been a hard week for
her, so we mustn't grumble but take care of ourselves."
"That's easy enough, and I like the idea, I'm aching for
something to do, that is, some new amusement, you know," added
In fact it was an immense relief to them all to have a little
work, and they took hold with a will, but soon realized the truth
of Hannah's saying, "Housekeeping ain't no joke." There was plenty
of food in the larder, and while Beth and Amy set the table, Meg and
Jo got breakfast, wondering as they did why servants ever talked
about hard work.
"I shall take some up to Mother, though she said we were not
to think of her, for she'd take care of herself," said Meg, who
presided and felt quite matronly behind the teapot.
So a tray was fitted out before anyone began, and taken up
with the cook's compliments. The boiled tea was very bitter, the
omelet scorched, and the biscuits speckled with saleratus, but
Mrs. March received her repast with thanks and laughed heartily
over it after Jo was gone.
"Poor little souls, they will have a hard time, I'm afraid,
but they won't suffer, and it will do them good," she said,
producing the more palatable viands with which she had provided
herself, and disposing of the bad breakfast, so that their
feelings might not be hurt, a motherly little deception for which
they were grateful.
Many were the complaints below, and great the chagrin of
the head cook at her failures. "Never mind, I'll get the dinner
and be servant, you be mistress, keep your hands nice, see
company, and give orders," said Jo, who knew still less than Meg
about culinary affairs.
This obliging offer was gladly accepted, and Margaret retired
to the parlor, which she hastily put in order by whisking the
litter under the sofa and shutting the blinds to save the trouble
of dusting. Jo, with perfect faith in her own powers and a
friendly desire to make up the quarrel, immediately put a note in
the office, inviting Laurie to dinner.
"You'd better see what you have got before you think of having
company," said Meg, when informed of the hospitable but rash act.
"Oh, there's corned beef and plenty of poatoes, and I shall
get some asparagus and a lobster, 'for a relish', as Hannah says.
We'll have lettuce and make a salad. I don't know how, but the
book tells. I'll have blanc mange and strawberries for dessert,
and coffee too, if you want to be elegant."
"Don't try too many messes, Jo, for you can't make anything
but gingerbread and molasses candy fit to eat. I wash my hands
of the dinner party, and since you have asked Laurie on your own
responsibility, you may just take care of him."
"I don't want you to do anything but be civil to him and help
to the pudding. You'll give me your advice if I get in a muddle,
won't you?" asked Jo, rather hurt.
"Yes, but I don't know much, except about bread and a few
trifles. You had better ask Mother's leave before you order
anything," returned Meg prudently.
"Of course I shall. I'm not a fool." And Jo went off in a
huff at the doubts expressed of her powers.
"Get what you like, and don't disturb me. I'm going out to
dinner and can't worry about things at home," said Mrs. March, when
Jo spoke to her. "I never enjoyed housekeeping, and I'm going to
take a vacation today, and read, write, go visiting, and amuse myself."
The unusual spectacle of her busy mother rocking comfortably
and reading early in the morning made Jo feel as if some unnatural
phenomenon had occurred, for an eclipse, an earthquake, or a
volcanic eruption would hardly have seemed stranger.
"Everything is out of sorts, somehow," she said to herself,
going downstairs. "There's Beth crying, that's a sure sign that
something is wrong in this family. If Amy is bothering, I'll
Feeling very much out of sorts herself, Jo hurried into the
parlor to find Beth sobbing over Pip, the canary, who lay dead in
the cage with his little claws pathetically extended, as if
imploring the food for want of which he had died.
"It's all my fault, I forgot him, there isn't a seed or a
drop left. Oh, Pip! Oh, Pip! How could I be so cruel to you?"
cried Beth, taking the poor thing in her hands and trying to
Jo peeped into his half-open eye, felt his little heart, and
finding him stiff and cold, shook her head, and offered her domino
box for a coffin.
"Put him in the oven, and maybe he will get warm and revive,"
said Amy hopefully.
"He's been starved, and he shan't be baked now he's dead. I'll
make him a shroud, and he shall be buried in the garden, and I'll
never have another bird, never, my Pip! for I am too bad to own
one," murmured Beth, sitting on the floor with her pet folded in
"The funeral shall be this afternoon, and we will all go. Now,
don't cry, Bethy. It's a pity, but nothing goes right this week,
and Pip has had the worst of the experiment. Make the shroud, and
lay him in my box, and after the dinner party, we'll have a nice
little funeral," said Jo, beginning to feel as if she had undertaken
a good deal.
Leaving the others to console Beth, she departed to the kitchen,
which was in a most discouraging state of confusion. Putting on a
big apron, she fell to work and got the dishes piled up ready for
washing, when she discovered that the fire was out.
"Here's a sweet prospect!" muttered Jo, slamming the stove
door open, and poking vigorously among the cinders.
Having rekindled the fire, she thought she would go to market
while the water heated. The walk revived her spirits, and flattering
herself that she had made good bargains, she trudged home again, after
buying a very young lobster, some very old asparagus, and two boxes
of acid strawberries. By the time she got cleared up, the dinner
arrived and the stove was red-hot. Hannah had left a pan of bread
to rise, Meg had worked it up early, set it on the hearth for a
second rising, and forgotten it. Meg was entertaining Sallie
Gardiner in the parlor, when the door flew open and a floury, crocky,
flushed, and disheveled figure appeared, demanding tartly . . .
"I say, isn't bread 'riz' enough when it runs over the pans?"
Sallie began to laugh, but Meg nodded and lifted her eyebrows
as high as they would go, which caused the apparition to vanish and
put the sour bread into the oven without further delay. Mrs. March
went out, after peeping here and there to see how matters went, also
saying a word of comfort to Beth, who sat making a winding sheet,
while the dear departed lay in state in the domino box. A strange
sense of helplessness fell upon the girls as the gray bonnet
vanished round the corner, and despair seized them when a few minutes
later Miss Crocker appeared, and said she'd come to dinner. Now
this lady was a thin, yellow spinster, with a sharp nose and
inquisitive eyes, who saw everything and gossiped about all she saw.
They disliked her, but had been taught to be kind to her, simply
because she was old and poor and had few friends. So Meg gave her
the easy chair and tried to entertain her, while she asked questions,
critsized everything, and told stories of the people whom she knew.
Language cannot describe the anxieties, experiences, and exertions
which Jo underwent that morning, and the dinner she served up became a
standing joke. Fearing to ask any more advice, she did her best alone,
and discovered that something more than energy and good will is
necessary to make a cook. She boiled the asparagus for an hour and was
grieved to find the heads cooked off and the stalks harder than ever.
The bread burned black; for the salad dressing so aggravated her that
she could not make it fit to eat. The lobster was a scarlet mystery to
her, but she hammered and poked till it was unshelled and its meager
proportions concealed in a grove of lettuce leaves. The potatoes had
to be hurried, not to keep the asparagus waiting, and were not done
at the last. The blanc mange was lumpy, and the strawberries not as
ripe as they looked, having been skilfully 'deaconed'.
"Well, they can eat beef and bread and butter, if they are
hungry, only it's mortifying to have to spend your whole morning for
nothing," thought Jo, as she rang the bell half an hour later than
usual, and stood, hot, tired, and dispirited, surveying the feast
spread before Laurie, accustomed to all sorts of elegance, and Miss
Crocker, whose tattling tongue would report them far and wide.
Poor Jo would gladly have gone under the table, as one thing
after another was tasted and left, while Amy giggled, Meg looked
distressed, Miss Crocker pursed her lips, and Laurie talked and
laughed with all his might to give a cheerful tone to the festive
scene. Jo's one strong point was the fruit, for she had sugared it
well, and had a pitcher of rich cream to eat with it. Her hot cheeks
cooled a trifle, and she drew a long breath as the pretty glass
plates went round, and everyone looked graciously at the little rosy
islands floating in a sea of cream. Miss Crocker tasted first, made
a wry face, and drank some water hastily. Jo, who refused, thinking
there might not be enough, for they dwindled sadly after the picking
over, glanced at Laurie, but he was eating away manfully, though there
was a slight pucker about his mouth and he kept his eye fixed on his
plate. Amy, who was fond of delicate fare, took a heaping spoonful,
choked, hid her face in her napkin, and left the table precipitately.
"Oh, what is it?" exclaimed Jo, trembling.
"Salt instead of sugar, and the cream is sour," replied Meg
with a tragic gesture.
Jo uttered a groan and fell back in her chair, remembering that
she had given a last hasty powdering to the berries out of one of
the two boxes on the kitchen table, and had neglected to put the
milk in the refrigerator. She turned scarlet and was on the verge
of crying, when she met Laurie's eyes, which would look merry in
spite of his heroic efforts. The comical side of the affair suddenly
struck her, and she laughed till the tears ran down her cheeks. So
did everyone else, even 'Croaker' as the girls called the old lady,
and the unfortunate dinner ended gaily, with bread and butter, olives
"I haven't strength of mind enough to clear up now, so we will
sober ourselves with a funeral," said Jo, as they rose, and Miss
Crocker made ready to go, being eager to tell the new story at
another friend's dinner table.
They did sober themselves for Beth's sake. Laurie dug a grave
under the ferns in the grove, little Pip was laid in, with many tears
by his tender-hearted mistress, and covered with moss, while a wreath
of violets and chickweed was hung on the stone which bore his epitaph,
composed by Jo while she struggled with the dinner.
Here lies Pip March,
Who died the 7th of June;
Loved and lamented sore,
And not forgotten soon.
At the conclusion of the ceremonies, Beth retired to her room,
overcome with emotion and lobster, but there was no place of repose,
for the beds were not made, and she found her grief much assuaged
by beating up the pillows and putting things in order. Meg helped
Jo clear away the remains of the feast, which took half the afternoon
and left them so tired that they agreed to be contented with tea and
toast for supper.
Laurie took Amy to drive, which was a deed of charity, for the
sour cream seemed to have had a bad effect upon her temper. Mrs.
March came home to find the three older girls hard at work in the
middle of the afternoon, and a glance at the closet gave her an idea
of the success of one part of the experiment.
Before the housewives could rest, several people called, and
there was a scramble to get ready to see them. Then tea must be got,
errands done, and one or two necessary bits of sewing neglected until
the last minute. As twilight fell, dewy and still, one by one they
gathered on the porch where the June roses were budding beautifully,
and each groaned or sighed as she sat down, as if tired or troubled.
"What a dreadful day this has been!" began Jo, usually the first
"It has seemed shorter than usual, but so uncomfortable," said Meg.
"Not a bit like home," added Amy.
"It can't seem so without Marmee and little Pip," sighed Beth,
glancing with full eyes at the empty cage above her head.
"Here's Mother, dear, and you shall have another bird tomorrow,
if you want it."
As she spoke, Mrs. March came and took her place among them,
looking as if her holiday had not been much pleasanter than theirs.
"Are you satisfied with your experiment, girls, or do you want
another week of it?" she asked, as Beth nestled up to her and the
rest turned toward her with brightening faces, as flowers turn
toward the sun.
"I don't!" cried Jo decidedly.
"Nor I," echoed the others.
"You think then, that it is better to have a few duties and
live a little for others, do you?"
"Lounging and larking doesn't pay," observed Jo, shaking her head.
"I'm tired of it and mean to go to work at something right off."
"Suppose you learn plain cooking. That's a useful accomplishment,
which no woman should be without," said Mrs. March, laughing
inaudibly at the recollection of Jo's dinner party, for she had
met Miss Crocker and heard her account of it.
"Mother, did you go away and let everything be, just to see how
we'd get on?" cried Meg, who had had suspicions all day.
"Yes, I wanted you to see how the comfort of all depends on
each doing her share faithfully. While Hannah and I did your work,
you got on pretty well, though I don't think you were very happy
or amiable. So I thought, as a little lesson, I would show you
what happens when everyone thinks only of herself. Don't you feel
that it is pleasanter to help one another, to have daily duties
which make leisure sweet when it comes, and to bear and forbear,
that home may be comfortable and lovely to us all?"
"We do, Mother, we do!" cried the girls.
"Then let me advise you to take up your little burdens again,
for though they seem heavy sometimes, they are good for us, and
lighten as we learn to carry them. Work is wholesome, and there
is plenty for everyone. It keeps us from ennui and mischief, is
good for health and spirits, and gives us a sense of power and
independence better than money or fashion."
"We'll work like bees, and love it too, see if we don't,"
said Jo. "I'll learn plain cooking for my holiday task, and
the next dinner party I have shall be a success."
"I'll make the set of shirts for father, instead of letting
you do it, Marmee. I can and I will, though I'm not fond of sewing.
That will be better than fussing over my own things, which are plenty
nice enough as they are." said Meg.
"I'll do my lessons every day, and not spend so much time with
my music and dolls. I am a stupid thing, and ought to be studying,
not playing," was Beth's resolution, while Amy followed their example
by heroically declaring, "I shall learn to make buttonholes, and
attend to my parts of speech."
"Very good! Then I am quite satisfied with the experiment, and
fancy that we shall not have to repeat it, only don't go to the other
extreme and delve like slaves. Have regular hours for work and play,
make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand
the worth of time by employing it well. Then youth will be delightful,
old age will bring few regrets, and life become a beautiful success,
in spite of poverty."
"We'll remember, Mother!" and they did.
Beth was postmistress, for, being most at home, she could
attend to it regularly, and dearly liked the daily task of
unlocking the little door and distributing the mail. One July
day she came in with her hands full, and went about the house
leaving letters and parcels like the penny post.
"Here's your posy, Mother! Laurie never forgets that," she
said, putting the fresh nosegay in the vase that stood in 'Marmee's
corner', and was kept supplied by the affectionate boy.
"Miss Meg March, one letter and a glove," continued Beth,
delivering the articles to her sister, who sat near her mother,
"Why, I left a pair over there, and here is only one," said
Meg, looking at the gray cotton glove. "Didn't you drop the
other in the garden?"
"No, I'm sure I didn't, for there was only one in the office."
"I hate to have odd gloves! Never mind, the other may be
found. My letter is only a translation of the German song I
wanted. I think Mr. Brooke did it, for this isn't Laurie's
Mrs. March glanced at Meg, who was looking very pretty in
her gingham morning gown, with the little curls blowing about her
forehead, and very womanly, as she sat sewing at her little worktable,
full of tidy white rolls, so unconscious of the thought in her
mother's mind as she sewed and sang, while her fingers flew
and her thoughts were busied with girlish fancies as innocent
and fresh as the pansies in her belt, that Mrs. March smiled and
"Two letters for Doctor Jo, a book, and a funny old hat,
which covered the whole post office and stuck outside," said
Beth, laughing as she went into the study where Jo sat writing.
"What a sly fellow Laurie is! I said I wished bigger hats
were the fashion, because I burn my face every hot day. He said,
'Why mind the fashion? Wear a big hat, and be comfortable!' I
said I would if I had one, and he has sent me this, to try me. I'll
wear it for fun, and show him I don't care for the fashion." And
hanging the antique broad-brim on a bust of Plato, Jo read her
One from her mother made her cheeks glow and her eyes fill,
for it said to her . . .
I write a little word to tell you with how much satisfaction
I watch your efforts to control your temper. You say nothing
about your trials, failures, or successes, and think, perhaps,
that no one sees them but the Friend whose help you daily ask,
if I may trust the well-worn cover of your guidebook. I, too,
have seen them all, and heartily believe in the sincerity of
your resolution, since it begins to bear fruit. Go on, dear,
patiently and bravely, and always believe that no one sympathizes
more tenderly with you than your loving . . .
"That does me good! That's worth millions of money and
pecks of praise. Oh, Marmee, I do try! I will keep on trying,
and not get tired, since I have you to help me."
Laying her head on her arms, Jo wet her little romance with
a few happy tears, for she had thought that no one saw and
appreciated her efforts to be good, and this assurance was doubly
precious, doubly encouraging, because unexpected and from the
person whose commendation she most valued. Feeling stronger than
ever to meet and subdue her Apollyon, she pinned the note inside her
frock, as a shield and a reminder, lest she be taken unaware, and
proceeded to open her other letter, quite ready for either good or
bad news. In a big, dashing hand, Laurie wrote . . .
Some english girls and boys are coming to see me tomorrow
and I want to have a jolly time. If it's fine, I'm going to pitch
my tent in Longmeadow, and row up the whole crew to lunch and
croquet--have a fire, make messes, gypsy fashion, and all sorts
of larks. They are nice people, and like such things. Brooke will
go to keep us boys steady, and Kate Vaughn will play propriety for
the girls. I want you all to come, can't let Beth off at any price,
and nobody shall worry her. Don't bother about rations, I'll see
to that and everything else, only do come, there's a good fellow!
In a tearing hurry,
Yours ever, Laurie.
"Here's richness!" cried Jo, flying in to tell the news to Meg.
"Of course we can go, Mother? It will be such a help to
Laurie, for I can row, and Meg see to the lunch, and the children
be useful in some way."
"I hope the Vaughns are not fine grown-up people. Do you
know anything about them, Jo?" asked Meg.
"Only that there are four of them. Kate is older than you,
Fred and Frank (twins) about my age, and a little girl (Grace), who
is nine or ten. Laurie knew them abroad, and liked the boys. I
fancied, from the way he primmed up his mouth in speaking of her,
that he didn't admire Kate much."
"I'm so glad my French print is clean, it's just the thing
and so becoming!" observed Meg complacently. "Have you anything
"Scarlet and gray boating suit, good enough for me. I shall
row and tramp about, so I don't want any starch to think of. You'll
"If you won't let any boys talk to me."
"Not a boy!"
"I like to please Laurie, and I'm not afraid of Mr. Brooke,
he is so kind. But I don't want to play, or sing, or say anything.
I'll work hard and not trouble anyone, and you'll take care of me,
Jo, so I'll go."
"That's my good girl. You do try to fight off your shyness,
and I love you for it. Fighting faults isn't easy, as I know, and
a cheery word kind of gives a lift. Thank you, Mother," And Jo
gave the thin cheek a grateful kiss, more precious to Mrs. March
than if it had given back the rosy roundness of her youth.
"I had a box of chocolate drops, and the picture I wanted to
copy," said Amy, showing her mail.
"And I got a note from Mr. Laurence, asking me to come over
and play to him tonight, before the lamps are lighted, and I shall
go," added Beth, whose friendship with the old gentleman prospered
"Now let's fly round, and do double duty today, so that we can
play tomorrow with free minds," said Jo, preparing to replace her
pen with a broom.
When the sun peeped into the girls' room early next morning
to promise them a fine day, he saw a comical sight. Each had
made such preparation for the fete as seemed necessary and proper.
Meg had an extra row of little curlpapers across her forehead, Jo
had copiously anointed her afflicted face with cold cream, Beth
had taken Joanna to bed with her to atone for the approaching
separation, and Amy had capped the climax by putting a colthespin
on her nose to uplift the offending feature. It was one of the
kind artists use to hold the paper on their drawing boards,
therefore quite appropriate and effective for the purpose it was now
being put. This funny spectacle appeared to amuse the sun, for
he burst out with such radiance that Jo woke up and roused her
sisters by a hearty laugh at Amy's ornament.
Sunshine and laughter were good omens for a pleasure party,
and soon a lively bustle began in both houses. Beth, who was
ready first, kept reporting what went on next door, and enlivened
her sisters' toilets by frequent telegrams from the window.
"There goes the man with the tent! I see Mrs. Barker doing
up the lunch in a hamper and a great basket. Now Mr. Laurence is
looking up at the sky and the weathercock. I wish he would go
too. There's Laurie, looking like a sailor, nice boy! Oh, mercy
me! Here's a carriage full of people, a tall lady, a little girl,
and two dreadful boys. One is lame, poor thing, he's got a crutch.
Laurie didn't tell us that. Be quick, girls! It's getting late.
Why, there is Ned Moffat, I do declare. Meg, isn't that the man
who bowed to you one day when we were shopping?"
"So it is. How queer that he should come. I thought he was
at the mountains. There is Sallie. I'm glad she got back in time.
Am I all right, Jo?" cried Meg in a flutter.
"A regular daisy. Hold up your dress and put your hat on
straight, it looks sentimental tipped that way and will fly off
at the first puff. Now then, come on!"
"Oh, Jo, you are not going to wear that awful hat? It's too
absurd! You shall not make a guy of yourself," remonstrated Meg,
as Jo tied down with a red ribbon the broad-brimmed, old-fashioned
leghorn Laurie had sent for a joke.
"I just will, though, for it's capital, so shady, light, and big.
It will make fun, and I don't mind being a guy if I'm comfortable."
With that Jo marched straight away and the rest followed,
a bright little band of sisters, all looking their best in summer
suits, with happy faces under the jaunty hatbrims.
Laurie ran to meet and present them to his friends in the
most cordial manner. The lawn was the reception room, and for
several minutes a lively scene was enacted there. Meg was
grateful to see that Miss Kate, though twenty, was dressed with
a simplicity which American girls would do well to imitate, and
who was much flattered by Mr. Ned's assurances that he came
especially to see her. Jo understood why Laurie 'primmed up
his mouth' when speaking of Kate, for that young lady had a
standoff-don't-touch-me air, which contrasted strongly with the
free and easy demeanor of the other girls. Beth took an observation
of the new boys and decided that the lame one was not 'dreadful',
but gentle and feeble, and she would be kind to him on that
account. Amy found Grace a well-mannered, merry, little person,
and after staring dumbly at one another for a few minutes, they
suddenly became very good friends.
Tents, lunch, and croquet utensils having been sent on
beforehand, the party was soon embarked, and the two boats
pushed off together, leaving Mr. Laurence waving his hat on the
shore. Laurie and Jo rowed one boat, Mr. Brooke and Ned the
other, while Fred Vaughn, the riotous twin, did his best to
upset both by paddling about in a wherry like a disturbed water
bug. Jo's funny hat deserved a vote of thanks, for it was of
general utility. It broke the ice in the beginning by producing
a laugh, it created quite a refreshing breeze, flapping to and
fro as she rowed, and would make an excellent umbrella for the
whole party, if a shower came up, she said. Miss Kate decided
that she was 'odd', but rather clever, and smiled upon her from
Meg, in the other boat, was delightfully situated, face to
face with the rowers, who both admired the prospect and feathered
their oars with uncommon 'skill and dexterity'. Mr. Brooke was
a grave, silent young man, with handsome brown eyes and a pleasant
voice. Meg liked his quiet manners and considered him a walking
encyclopedia of useful knowledge. He never talked to her much, but
he looked at her a good deal, and she felt sure that he did not
regard her with aversion. Ned, being in college, of course put
on all the airs which freshmen think it their bounden duty to
assume. He was not very wise, but very good-natured, and altogether
an excellent person to carry on a picnic. Sallie Gardiner was
absorbed in keeping her white pique dress clean and chattering with
the ubiquitous Fred, who kept Beth in constant terror by his pranks.
It was not far to Longmeadow, but the tent was pitched and
the wickets down by the time they arrived. A pleasant green field,
with three wide-spreading oaks in the middle and a smooth strip of
turf for croquet.
"Welcome to Camp Laurence!" said the young host, as they
landed with exclamations of delight.
"Brooke is commander in chief, I am commissary general, the
other fellows are staff officers, and you, ladies, are company.
The tent is for your especial benefit and that oak is your drawing
room, this is the messroom and the third is the camp kitchen. Now,
let's have a game before it gets hot, and then we'll see about
Frank, Beth, Amy, and Grace sat down to watch the game
played by the other eight. Mr. Brooke chose Meg, Kate, and Fred.
Laurie took Sallie, Jo, and Ned. The English played well, but
the Americans played better, and contested every inch of the
ground as strongly as if the spirit of '76 inspired them. Jo and
Fred had several skirmishes and once narrowly escaped high words.
Jo was through the last wicket and had missed the stroke, which
failure ruffled her a good deal. Fred was close behind her and
his turn came before hers. He gave a stroke, his ball hit the
wicket, and stopped an inch on the wrong side. No one was very
near, and running up to examine, he gave it a sly nudge with his
toe, which put it just an inch on the right side.
"I'm through! Now, Miss Jo, I'll settle you, and get in
first," cried the young gentleman, swinging his mallet for another
"You pushed it. I saw you. It's my turn now," said Jo
"Upon my word, I didn't move it. It rolled a bit, perhaps,
but that is allowed. So, stand off please, and let me have a go
at the stake."
"We don't cheat in America, but you can, if you choose," said
"Yankees are a deal the most tricky, everybody knows. There
you go!" returned Fred, croqueting her ball far away.
Jo opened her lips to say something rude, but checked herself
in time, colored up to her forehead and stood a minute, hammering
down a wicket with all her might, while Fred hit the stake and
declared himself out with much exultation. She went off to get her
ball, and was a long time finding it among the bushes, but she came
back, looking cool and quiet, and waited her turn patiently. It
took several strokes to regain the place she had lost, and when she
got there, the other side had nearly won, for Kate's ball was the
last but one and lay near the stake.
"By George, it's all up with us! Goodbye, Kate. Miss Jo
owes me one, so you are finished," cried Fred excitedly, as they
all drew near to see the finish.
"Yankees have a trick of being generous to their enemies,"
said Jo, with a look that made the lad redden, "especially when
they beat them," she added, as, leaving Kate's ball untouched, she
won the game by a clever stroke.
Laurie threw up his hat, then remembered that it wouldn't do
to exult over the defeat of his guests, and stopped in the middle
of the cheer to whisper to his friend, "Good for you, Jo! He did
cheat, I saw him. We can't tell him so, but he won't do it again,
take my word for it."
Meg drew her aside, under pretense of pinning up a loose
braid, and said approvingly, "It was dreadfully provoking, but you
kept your temper, and I'm so glad, Jo."
"Don't praise me, Meg, for I could box his ears this minute.
I should certainly have boiled over if I hadn't stayed among the
nettles till I got my rage under control enough to hold my tongue.
It's simmering now, so I hope he'll keep out of my way," returned
Jo, biting her lips as she glowered at Fred from under her big hat.
"Time for lunch," said Mr. Brooke, looking at his watch.
"Commissary general, will you make the fire and get water, while
Miss March, Miss Sallie, and I spread the table? Who can make good
"Jo can," said Meg, glad to recommend her sister. So Jo,
feeling that her late lessons in cookery were to do her honor, went
to preside over the coffeepot, while the children collected dry
sticks, and the boys made a fire and got water from a spring near
by. Miss Kate sketched and Frank talked to Beth, who was making
little mats of braided rushes to serve as plates.
The commander in chief and his aides soon spread the
tablecloth with an inviting array of eatables and drinkables,
prettily decorated with green leaves. Jo announced that the coffee
was ready, and everyone settled themselves to a hearty meal, for youth
is seldom dyspeptic, and exercise develops wholesome appetites.
A very merry lunch it was, for everything seemed fresh and funny, and
frequent peals of laughter startled a venerable horse who fed near
by. There was a pleasing inequality in the table, which produced
many mishaps to cups and plates, acorns dropped in the milk, little
black ants partook of the refreshments without being invited, and
fuzzy caterpillars swung down from the tree to see what was going
on. Three white-headed children peeped over the fence, and an
objectionable dog barked at them from the other side of the river
with all his might and main.
"There's salt here," said Laurie, as he handed Jo a saucer
"Thank you, I prefer spiders," she replied, fishing up two
unwary little ones who had gone to a creamy death. "How dare
you remind me of that horrid dinner party, when yours is so
nice in every way?" added Jo, as they both laughed and ate out
of one plate, the china having run short.
"I had an uncommonly good time that day, and haven't got
over it yet. This is no credit to me, you know, I don't do
anything. It's you and Meg and Brooke who make it all go, and
I'm no end obliged to you. What shall we do when we can't eat
anymore?" asked Laurie, feeling that his trump card had been
played when lunch was over.
"Have games till it's cooler. I brought Authors, and I dare
say Miss Kate knows something new and nice. Go and ask her. She's
company, and you ought to stay with her more."
"Aren't you company too? I thought she'd suit Brooke, but
he keeps talking to Meg, and Kate just stares at them through that
ridiculous glass of hers. I'm going, so you needn't try to preach
propriety, for you can't do it, Jo."
Miss Kate did know several new games, and as the girls would
not, and the boys could not, eat any more, they all adjourned to
the drawing room to play Rig-marole.
"One person begins a story, any nonsense you like, and tells
as long as he pleases, only taking care to stop short at some
exciting point, when the next takes it up and does the same. It's
very funny when well done, and makes a perfect jumble of tragical
comical stuff to laugh over. Please start it, Mr. Brooke," said
Kate, with a commanding air, which surprised Meg, who treated the
tutor with as much respect as any other gentleman.
Lying on the grass at the feet of the two young ladies, Mr.
Brooke obediently began the story, with the handsome brown eyes
steadily fixed upon the sunshiny river.
"Once on a time, a knight went out into the world to seek
his fortune, for he had nothing but his sword and his shield.
He traveled a long while, nearly eight-and-twenty years, and
had a hard time of it, till he came to the palace of a good old
king, who had offered a reward to anyone who could tame and train
a fine but unbroken colt, of which he was very fond. The knight
agreed to try, and got on slowly but surely, for the colt was a
gallant fellow, and soon learned to love his new master, though
he was freakish and wild. Every day, when he gave his lessons to
this pet of the king's, the knight rode him through the city, and
as he rode, he looked everywhere for a certain beautiful face,
which he had seen many times in his dreams, but never found. One
day, as he went prancing down a quiet street, he saw at the window
of a ruinous castle the lovely face. He was delighted, inquired
who lived in this old castle, and was told that several captive
princesses were kept there by a spell, and spun all day to lay
up money to buy their liberty. The knight wished intensely that
he could free them, but he was poor and could only go by each
day, watching for the sweet face and longing to see it out in
the sunshine. At last he resolved to get into the castle and
ask how he could help them. He went and knocked. The great
door flew open, and he beheld . . ."
"A ravishingly lovely lady, who exclaimed, with a cry of
rapture, 'At last! At last!'" continued Kate, who had read
French novels, and admired the style. "'Tis she!' cried Count
Gustave, and fell at her feet in an ecstasy of joy. 'Oh, rise!'
she said, extending a hand of marble fairness. 'Never! Till you
tell me how I may rescue you,' swore the knight, still kneeling.
'Alas, my cruel fate condemns me to remain here till my tyrant
is destroyed.' 'Where is the villain?' 'In the mauve salon. Go,
brave heart, and save me from despair.' 'I obey, and return
victorious or dead!' With these thrilling words he rushed away,
and flinging open the door of the mauve salon, was about to enter,
when he received . . ."
"A stunning blow from the big Greek lexicon, which an old
fellow in a black gown fired at him," said Ned. "Instantly, Sir
What's-his-name recovered himself, pitched the tyrant out of the
window, and turned to join the lady, victorious, but with a bump
on his brow, found the door locked, tore up the curtains, made a
rope ladder, got halfway down when the ladder broke, and he went
headfirst into the moat, sixty feet below. Could swim like a
duck, paddled round the castle till he came to a little door
guarded by two stout fellows, knocked their heads together till
they cracked like a couple of nuts, then, by a trifling exertion
of his prodigious strength, he smashed in the door, went up a
pair of stone steps covered with dust a foot thick, toads as big
as your fist, and spiders that would frighten you into hysterics,
Miss March. At the top of these steps he came plump upon a sight
that took his breath away and chilled his blood . . ."
"A tall figure, all in white with a veil over its face and a
lamp in its wasted hand," went on Meg. "It beckoned, gliding
noiselessly before him down a corridor as dark and cold as any
tomb. Shadowy effigies in armor stood on either side, a dead
silence reigned, the lamp burned blue, and the ghostly figure ever
and anon turned its face toward him, showing the glitter of awful
eyes through its white veil. They reached a curtained door, behind
which sounded lovely music. He sprang forward to enter, but the
specter plucked him back, and waved threateningly before him a . . ."
"Snuffbox," said Jo, in a sepulchral tone, which convulsed the
audience. "'Thankee,' said the knight politely, as he took a pinch
and sneezed seven times so violently that his head fell off. 'Ha!
Ha!' laughed the ghost, and having peeped through the keyhole at the
princesses spinning away for dear life, the evil spirit picked up
her victim and put him in a large tin box, where there were eleven
other knights packed together without their heads, like sardines,
who all rose and began to . . ."
"Dance a hornpipe," cut in Fred, as Jo paused for breath, "and,
as they danced, the rubbishy old castle turned to a man-of-war in
full sail. 'Up with the jib, reef the tops'l halliards, helm hard
alee, and man the guns!' roared the captain, as a Portuguese pirate
hove in sight, with a flag black as ink flying from her foremast.
'Go in and win, my hearties!' says the captain, and a tremendous
fight began. Of course the British beat--they always do."
"No, they don't!" cried Jo, aside.
"Having taken the pirate captain prisoner, sailed slap over
the schooner, whose decks were piled high with dead and whose
lee scuppers ran blood, for the order had been 'Cutlasses, and
die hard!' 'Bosun's mate, take a bight of the flying-jib sheet,
and start this villain if he doesn't confess his sins double
quick,' said the British captain. The Portuguese held his tongue
like a brick, and walked the plank, while the jolly tars cheered
like mad. But the sly dog dived, came up under the man-of-war,
scuttled her, and down she went, with all sail set, 'To the
bottom of the sea, sea, sea' where . . ."
"Oh, gracious! What shall I say?" cried Sallie, as Fred
ended his rigmarole, in which he had jumbled together pell-mell
nautical phrases and facts out of one of his favorite books.
"Well, they went to the bottom, and a nice mermaid welcomed them,
but was much grieved on finding the box of headless knights, and
kindly pickled them in brine, hoping to discover the mystery
about them, for being a woman, she was curious. By-and-by a diver
came down, and the mermaid said, 'I'll give you a box of pearls
if you can take it up,' for she wanted to restore the poor things
to life, and couldn't raise the heavy load herself. So the diver
hoisted it up, and was much disappointed on opening it to find
no pearls. He left it in a great lonely field, where it was
found by a . . ."
"Little goose girl, who kept a hundred fat geese in the field,"
said Amy, when Sallie's invention gave out. "The little girl was
sorry for them, and asked an old woman what she should do to help
them. 'Your geese will tell you, they know everything.' said the
old woman. So she asked what she should use for new heads, since
the old ones were lost, and all the geese opened their hundred
mouths and screamed . . ."
"'Cabbages!'" continued Laurie promptly. "'Just the thing,'
said the girl, and ran to get twelve fine ones from her garden.
She put them on, the knights revived at once, thanked her, and
went on their way rejoicing, never knowing the difference, for
there were so many other heads like them in the world that no one
thought anything of it. The knight in whom I'm interested went back
to find the pretty face, and learned that the princesses had spun
themselves free and all gone and married, but one. He was in a
great state of mind at that, and mounting the colt, who stood by
him through thick and thin, rushed to the castle to see which was
left. Peeping over the hedge, he saw the queen of his affections
picking flowers in her garden. 'Will you give me a rose?' said
he. 'You must come and get it. I can't come to you, it isn't
proper,' said she, as sweet as honey. He tried to climb over
the hedge, but it seemed to grow higher and higher. Then he
tried to push through, but it grew thicker and thicker, and he
was in despair. So he patiently broke twig after twig till he
had made a little hole through which he peeped, saying imploringly,
'Let me in! Let me in!' But the pretty princess did not seem
to understand, for she picked her roses quietly, and left him
to fight his way in. Whether he did or not, Frank will tell you."
"I can't. I'm not playing, I never do," said Frank, dismayed
at the sentimental predicament out of which he was to rescue the
absurd couple. Beth had disappeared behind Jo, and Grace was
"So the poor knight is to be left sticking in the hedge, is
he?" asked Mr. Brooke, still watching the river, and playing
with the wild rose in his buttonhole.
"I guess the princess gave him a posy, and opened the gate
after a while," said Laurie, smiling to himself, as he threw
acorns at his tutor.
"What a piece of nonsense we have made! With practice we
might do something quite clever. Do you know Truth?"
"I hope so," said Meg soberly.
"The game, I mean?"
"What is it?" said Fred.
"Why, you pile up your hands, choose a number, and draw out
in turn, and the person who draws at the number has to answer
truly any question put by the rest. It's great fun."
"Let's try it," said Jo, who liked new experiments.
Miss Kate and Mr. Brooke, Meg, and Ned declined, but Fred,
Sallie, Jo, and Laurie piled and drew, and the lot fell to Laurie.
"Who are your heroes?" asked Jo.
"Grandfather and Napoleon."
"Which lady here do you think prettiest?" said Sallie.
"Which do you like best?" from Fred.
"Jo, of course."
"What silly questions you ask!" And Jo gave a disdainful
shrug as the rest laughed at Laurie's matter-of-fact tone.
"Try again. Truth isn't a bad game," said Fred.
"It's a very good one for you," retorted Jo in a low voice.
Her turn came next.
"What is your greatest fault?" asked Fred, by way of testing
in her the virtue he lacked himself.
"A quick temper."
"What do you most wish for?" said Laurie.
"A pair of boot lacings," returned Jo, guessing and defeating his
"Not a true answer. You must say what you really do want most."
"Genius. Don't you wish you could give it to me, Laurie?"
And she slyly smiled in his disappointed face.
"What virtues do you most admire in a man?" asked Sallie.
"Courage and honesty."
"Now my turn," said Fred, as his hand came last.
"Let's give it to him," whispered Laurie to Jo, who nodded
and asked at once . . .
"Didn't you cheat at croquet?"
"Well, yes, a little bit."
"Good! Didn't you take your story out of _The Sea Lion?_"
"Don't you think the English nation perfect in every respect?"
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