Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Part 8 out of 11

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 1.3 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

known them but for the cards. Both are tall fellows with whiskers,
Fred handsome in the English style, and Frank much better,
for he only limps slightly, and uses no crutches. They had heard
from Laurie where we were to be, and came to ask us to their
house, but Uncle won't go, so we shall return the call, and see
them as we can. They went to the theater with us, and we did
have such a good time, for Frank devoted himself to Flo, and
Fred and I talked over past, present, and future fun as if we
had known each other all our days. Tell Beth Frank asked for her,
and was sorry to hear of her ill health. Fred laughed when I
spoke of Jo, and sent his 'respectful compliments to the big hat'.
Neither of them had forgotten Camp Laurence, or the fun we had
there. What ages ago it seems, doesn't it?

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



Dear girls,

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

Well, we were hardly settled here, when he turned up again,
saying he had come for a holiday, and was going to Switzerland.
Aunt looked sober at first, but he was so cool about it she
couldn't say a word. And now we get on nicely, and are very
glad he came, for he speaks French like a native, and I don't
know what we should do without him. Uncle doesn't know ten
words, and insists on talking English very loud, as if it
would make people understand him. Aunt's pronunciation is
old-fashioned, and Flo and I, though we flattered ourselves
that we knew a good deal, find we don't, and are very grateful
to have Fred do the '_parley vooing_', as Uncle calls it.

Such delightful times as we are having! Sight-seeing from
morning till night, stopping for nice lunches in the gay _cafes_,
and meeting with all sorts of droll adventures. Rainy days I
spend in the Louvre, revelling in pictures. Jo would turn up
her naughty nose at some of the finest, because she has no
soul for art, but I have, and I'm cultivating eye and taste
as fast as I can. She would like the relics of great people
better, for I've seen her Napoleon's cocked hat and gray
coat, his baby's cradle and his old toothbrush, also Marie
Antoinette's little shoe, the ring of Saint Denis, Charlemagne's
sword, and many other interesting things. I'll talk for hours
about them when I come, but haven't time to write.

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

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

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

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

Adieu, I embrace you tenderly.
_"Votre Amie.""_


My dear Mamma,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ever your AMY



"Jo, I'm anxious about Beth."

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

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

"What makes you think so, Mother?"

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

"Have you asked her about it?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Happy woman! I've got heaps."

"My dear, what are they?"

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

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

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

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

"Mercy on me, Beth loves Laurie!" she said, sitting down in
her own room, pale with the shock of the discovery which she
believed she had just made. "I never dreamed of such a thing.
What will Mother say? I wonder if her . . ." there Jo stopped
and turned scarlet with a sudden thought. "If he shouldn't love
back again, how dreadful it would be. He must. I'll make him!"
and she shook her head threateningly at the picture of the
mischievous-looking boy laughing at her from the wall. "Oh dear,
we are growing up with a vengeance. Here's Meg married and a
mamma, Amy flourishing away at Paris, and Beth in love. I'm the
only one that has sense enough to keep out of mischief." Jo
thought intently for a minute with her eyes fixed on the picture,
then she smoothed out her wrinkled forehead and said, with a
decided nod at the face opposite, "No thank you, sir, you're very
charming, but you've no more stability than a weathercock. So you
needn't write touching notes and smile in that insinuating way,
for it won't do a bit of good, and I won't have it."

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

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

Things were in this state when the grand discovery was
made, and Jo watched Laurie that night as she had never done
before. If she had not got the new idea into her head, she
would have seen nothing unusual in the fact that Beth was
very quiet, and Laurie very kind to her. But having given the
rein to her lively fancy, it galloped away with her at a great
pace, and common sense, being rather weakened by a long course
of romance writing, did not come to the rescue. As usual Beth
lay on the sofa and Laurie sat in a low chair close by, amusing
her with all sorts of gossip, for she depended on her weekly
'spin', and he never disappointed her. But that evening Jo
fancied that Beth's eyes rested on the lively, dark face
beside her with peculiar pleasure, and that she listened with
intense interest to an account of some exciting cricket match,
though the phrases, 'caught off a tice', 'stumped off his ground',
and 'the leg hit for three', were as intelligible to her as
Sanskrit. She also fancied, having set her heart upon seeing it,
that she saw a certain increase of gentleness in Laurie's manner,
that he dropped his voice now and then, laughed less than usual,
was a little absent-minded, and settled the afghan over Beth's
feet with an assiduity that was really almost tender.

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

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

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

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

"Now, this is filling at the price."

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

"Come, Jo, don't be thorny. After studying himself to a
skeleton all the week, a fellow deserves petting and ought to get

"Beth will pet you. I'm busy."

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

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

"Not one, upon my word. She's engaged. Now then."

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

"Sensible girls for whom I do care whole papers of pins won't let me
send them 'flowers and things', so what can I do? My feelings need a

"Mother doesn't approve of flirting even in fun, and you do
flirt desperately, Teddy."

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Much you know about it, ma'am," said Laurie in a superior tone.
"We don't like romps and flirts, though we may act as if
we did sometimes. The pretty, modest girls are never
talked about, except respectfully, among gentleman.
Bless your innocent soul! If you could be in my place
for a month you'd see things that would astonish you a trifle.
Upon my word, when I see one of those harum-scarum girls,
I always want to say with our friend Cock Robin . . .

"Out upon you, fie upon you,
Bold-faced jig!"

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

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

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

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

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

"I'd rather stay here, thank you."

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

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

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

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

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

"I thought you were asleep," sobbed Beth.

"Is it the old pain, my precious?"

"No, it's a new one, but I can bear it," and Beth tried
to check her tears.

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

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

"Where is it? Shall I call Mother?"

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

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

"Yes, Jo," after a long pause.

"Wouldn't it comfort you to tell me what it is?"

"Not now, not yet."

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

"I know it. I'll tell you by-and-by."

"Is the pain better now?"

"Oh, yes, much better, you are so comfortable, Jo."

"Go to sleep, dear. I'll stay with you."

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

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

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

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

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

"Where will you hop?"

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

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

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

"Nor I. But your writing?"

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

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

"No, Mother."

"May I know the others?"

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

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

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

"I'm glad of that, Jo."

"Why, please?"

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

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

"You are sure of his feeling for you?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jo was very much relieved that one of his virtuous fits
should come on just then, and made her preparations with a
lightened heart, for Beth seemed more cheerful, and hoped
she was doing the best for all.

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

"You mean your papers?" asked Beth.

"No, my boy. Be very good to him, won't you?"

"Of course I will, but I can't fill your place, and he'll
miss you sadly."

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

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

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



New York, November

Dear Marmee and Beth,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday Eve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Governess, or something of that sort."

"What the deuce is she at our table for?"

"Friend of the old lady's."

"Handsome head, but no style."

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

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


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

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

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

"Yes, and she's jolly and we like her lots," added Kitty,
who is an 'enfant terrible'.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

"We are playing nargerie," explained Kitty.

"Dis is mine effalunt!" added Tina, holding on by the
Professor's hair.

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

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

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

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

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


My Precious Betsey,

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

We are very good friends now, and I've begun to take
lessons. I really couldn't help it, and it all came about in
such a droll way that I must tell you. To begin at the beginning,
Mrs. Kirke called to me one day as I passed Mr. Bhaer's room
where she was rummaging.

"Did you ever see such a den, my dear? Just come and
help me put these books to rights, for I've turned everything
upside down, trying to discover what he has done with the six
new handkerchiefs I gave him not long ago."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of course I couldn't say anything after that, and as it
really is a splendid opportunity, I made the bargain, and we
began. I took four lessons, and then I stuck fast in a grammatical
bog. The Professor was very patient with me, but it must
have been torment to him, and now and then he'd look at me
with such an expression of mild despair that it was a toss-up
with me whether to laugh or cry. I tried both ways, and when
it came to a sniff or utter mortification and woe, he just
threw the grammar on to the floor and marched out of the room.
I felt myself disgraced and deserted forever, but didn't blame
him a particle, and was scrambling my papers together, meaning
to rush upstairs and shake myself hard, when in he came, as
brisk and beaming as if I'd covered myself in glory.

"Now we shall try a new way. You and I will read these
pleasant little _marchen_ together, and dig no more in that
dry book, that goes in the corner for making us trouble."

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

The prize-story experience had seemed to open a way which
might, after long traveling and much uphill work, lead to this
delightful chateau en Espagne. But the novel disaster quenched
her courage for a time, for public opinion is a giant which has
frightened stouter-hearted Jacks on bigger beanstalks than hers.
Like that immortal hero, she reposed awhile after the first
attempt, which resulted in a tumble and the least lovely of the
giant's treasures, if I remember rightly. But the 'up again
and take another' spirit was as strong in Jo as in Jack, so
she scrambled up on the shady side this time and got more
booty, but nearly left behind her what was far more precious
than the moneybags.

She took to writing sensation stories, for in those dark
ages, even all-perfect America read rubbish. She told no one,
but concocted a 'thrilling tale', and boldly carried it herself
to Mr. Dashwood, editor of the Weekly Volcano. She had
never read Sartor Resartus, but she had a womanly instinct
that clothes possess an influence more powerful over many
than the worth of character or the magic of manners. So she
dressed herself in her best, and trying to persuade herself
that she was neither excited nor nervous, bravely climbed two
pairs of dark and dirty stairs to find herself in a disorderly
room, a cloud of cigar smoke, and the presence of three gentlemen,
sitting with their heels rather higher than their hats,
which articles of dress none of them took the trouble to remove
on her appearance. Somewhat daunted by this reception, Jo hesitated
on the threshold, murmuring in much embarrassment . . .

"Excuse me, I was looking for the Weekly Volcano office.
I wished to see Mr. Dashwood."

Down went the highest pair of heels, up rose the smokiest
gentleman, and carefully cherishing his cigar between his
fingers, he advanced with a nod and a countenance expressive
of nothing but sleep. Feeling that she must get through the
matter somehow, Jo produced her manuscript and, blushing
redder and redder with each sentence, blundered out fragments
of the little speech carefully prepared for the occasion.

"A friend of mine desired me to offer--a story--just as
an experiment--would like your opinion--be glad to write more
if this suits."

While she blushed and blundered, Mr. Dashwood had taken
the manuscript, and was turning over the leaves with a pair
of rather dirty fingers, and casting critical glances up and
down the neat pages.

"Not a first attempt, I take it?" observing that the
pages were numbered, covered only on one side, and not tied
up with a ribbon--sure sign of a novice.

"No, sir. She has had some experience, and got a prize
for a tale in the _Blarneystone Banner_."

"Oh, did she?" and Mr. Dashwood gave Jo a quick look,
which seemed to take note of everything she had on, from the
bow in her bonnet to the buttons on her boots. "Well, you
can leave it, if you like. We've more of this sort of thing
on hand than we know what to do with at present, but I'll run
my eye over it, and give you an answer next week."

Now, Jo did _not_ like to leave it, for Mr. Dashwood didn't
suit her at all, but, under the circumstances, there was nothing
for her to do but bow and walk away, looking particularly tall
and dignified, as she was apt to do when nettled or abashed.
Just then she was both, for it was perfectly evident from the
knowing glances exchanged among the gentlemen that her little
fiction of 'my friend' was considered a good joke, and a
laugh, produced by some inaudible remark of the editor, as
he closed the door, completed her discomfiture. Half resolving
never to return, she went home, and worked off her
irritation by stitching pinafores vigorously, and in an
hour or two was cool enough to laugh over the scene and long
for next week.

When she went again, Mr. Dashwood was alone, whereat she
rejoiced. Mr. Dashwood was much wider awake than before,
which was agreeable, and Mr. Dashwood was not too deeply absorbed
in a cigar to remember his manners, so the second
interview was much more comfortable than the first.

"We'll take this (editors never say I), if you don't
object to a few alterations. It's too long, but omitting
the passages I've marked will make it just the right length,"
he said, in a businesslike tone.

Jo hardly knew her own MS. again, so crumpled and underscored
were its pages and paragraphs, but feeling as a tender
parent might on being asked to cut off her baby's legs in
order that it might fit into a new cradle, she looked at the
marked passages and was surprised to find that all the moral
reflections--which she had carefully put in as ballast for
much romance--had been stricken out.

"But, Sir, I thought every story should have some sort of
a moral, so I took care to have a few of my sinners repent."

Mr. Dashwoods's editorial gravity relaxed into a smile, for
Jo had forgotten her 'friend', and spoken as only an author

"People want to be amused, not preached at, you know. Morals
don't sell nowadays." Which was not quite a correct statement,
by the way.

"You think it would do with these alterations, then?"

"Yes, it's a new plot, and pretty well worked up--language
good, and so on," was Mr. Dashwood's affable reply.

"What do you--that is, what compensation--" began Jo, not
exactly knowing how to express herself.

"Oh, yes, well, we give from twenty-five to thirty for
things of this sort. Pay when it comes out," returned Mr. Dashwood,
as if that point had escaped him. Such trifles do escape
the editorial mind, it is said.

"Very well, you can have it," said Jo, handing back the
story with a satisfied air, for after the dollar-a-column work,
even twenty-five seemed good pay.

"Shall I tell my friend you will take another if she has one
better than this?" asked Jo, unconscious of her little slip of
the tongue, and emboldened by her success.

"Well, we'll look at it. Can't promise to take it. Tell her
to make it short and spicy, and never mind the moral. What name
would your friend like to put on it?" in a careless tone.

"None at all, if you please, she doesn't wish her name to
appear and has no nom de plume," said Jo, blushing in spite of

"Just as she likes, of course. The tale will be out next week.
Will you call for the money, or shall I send it?" asked Mr. Dashwood,
who felt a natural desire to know who his new contributor might be.

"I'll call. Good morning, Sir."

As she departed, Mr. Dashwood put up his feet, with the graceful
remark, "Poor and proud, as usual, but she'll do."

Following Mr. Dashwood's directions, and making Mrs. Northbury her
model, Jo rashly took a plunge into the frothy sea of sensational
literature, but thanks to the life preserver thrown her by a friend,
she came up again not much the worse for her ducking.

Like most young scribblers, she went abroad for her characters
and scenery, and banditti, counts, gypsies, nuns, and duchesses
appeared upon her stage, and played their parts with as
much accuracy and spirit as could be expected. Her readers
were not particular about such trifles as grammar, punctuation,
and probability, and Mr. Dashwood graciously permitted her to
fill his columns at the lowest prices, not thinking it necessary
to tell her that the real cause of his hospitality was the
fact that one of his hacks, on being offered higher wages, had
basely left him in the lurch.

She soon became interested in her work, for her emaciated
purse grew stout, and the little hoard she was making to take
Beth to the mountains next summer grew slowly but surely as
the weeks passed. One thing disturbed her satisfaction, and
that was that she did not tell them at home. She had a feeling
that Father and Mother would not approve, and preferred to have
her own way first, and beg pardon afterward. It was easy to
keep her secret, for no name appeared with her stories. Mr.
Dashwood had of course found it out very soon, but promised
to be dumb, and for a wonder kept his word.

She thought it would do her no harm, for she sincerely
meant to write nothing of which she would be ashamed, and
quieted all pricks of conscience by anticipations of the
happy minute when she should show her earnings and laugh over
her well-kept secret.

But Mr. Dashwood rejected any but thrilling tales, and as
thrills could not be produced except by harrowing up the souls
of the readers, history and romance, land and sea, science and
art, police records and lunatic asylums, had to be ransacked
for the purpose. Jo soon found that her innocent experience
had given her but few glimpses of the tragic world which
underlies society, so regarding it in a business light, she set
about supplying her deficiencies with characteristic energy.
Eager to find material for stories, and bent on making them
original in plot, if not masterly in execution, she searched
newspapers for accidents, incidents, and crimes. She excited
the suspicions of public librarians by asking for works on
poisons. She studied faces in the street, and characters,
good, bad, and indifferent, all about her. She delved in
the dust of ancient times for facts or fictions so old that
they were as good as new, and introduced herself to folly, sin,
and misery, as well as her limited opportunities allowed. She
thought she was prospering finely, but unconsciously she was
beginning to desecrate some of the womanliest attributes of a
woman's character. She was living in bad society, and imaginary
though it was, its influence affected her, for she was
feeding heart and fancy on dangerous and unsubstantial food,
and was fast brushing the innocent bloom from her nature by
a premature acquaintance with the darker side of life, which
comes soon enough to all of us.

She was beginning to feel rather than see this, for much
describing of other people's passions and feelings set her
to studying and speculating about her own, a morbid amusement
in which healthy young minds do not voluntarily indulge.
Wrongdoing always brings its own punishment, and when Jo
most needed hers, she got it.

I don't know whether the study of Shakespeare helped her to read
character, or the natural instinct of a woman for what was honest,
brave, and strong, but while endowing her imaginary heroes with
every perfection under the sun, Jo was discovering a live hero, who
interested her in spite of many human imperfections. Mr. Bhaer, in
one of their conversations, had advised her to study simple, true,
and lovely characters, wherever she found them, as good training for
a writer. Jo took him at his word, for she coolly turned round and
studied him--a proceeding which would have much surprised him, had
he known it, for the worthy Professor was very humble in his own

Why everybody liked him was what puzzled Jo, at first. He
was neither rich nor great, young nor handsome, in no respect
what is called fascinating, imposing, or brilliant, and yet
he was as attractive as a genial fire, and people seemed to
gather about him as naturally as about a warm hearth. He was
poor, yet always appeared to be giving something away; a
stranger, yet everyone was his friend; no longer young, but
as happy-hearted as a boy; plain and peculiar, yet his face
looked beautiful to many, and his oddities were freely forgiven
for his sake. Jo often watched him, trying to discover
the charm, and at last decided that it was benevolence which
worked the miracle. If he had any sorrow, 'it sat with its
head under its wing', and he turned only his sunny side to the
world. There were lines upon his forehead, but Time seemed
to have touched him gently, remembering how kind he was to
others. The pleasant curves about his mouth were the memorials
of many friendly words and cheery laughs, his eyes were never
cold or hard, and his big hand had a warm, strong grasp
that was more expressive than words.

His very clothes seemed to partake of the hospitable nature of the
wearer. They looked as if they were at ease, and liked to make him
comfortable. His capacious waistcoat was suggestive of a large heart
underneath. His rusty coat had a social air, and the baggy pockets
plainly proved that little hands often went in empty and came out
full. His very boots were benevolent, and his collars never stiff
and raspy like other people's.

"That's it!" said Jo to herself, when she at length discovered
that genuine good will toward one's fellow men could beautify
and dignify even a stout German teacher, who shoveled in his dinner,
darned his own socks, and was burdened with the name of Bhaer.

Jo valued goodness highly, but she also possessed a most
feminine respect for intellect, and a little discovery which
she made about the Professor added much to her regard for him.
He never spoke of himself, and no one ever knew that in his
native city he had been a man much honored and esteemed for
learning and integrity, till a countryman came to see him.
He never spoke of himself, and in a conversation with Miss
Norton divulged the pleasing fact. From her Jo learned it,
and liked it all the better because Mr. Bhaer had never told
it. She felt proud to know that he was an honored Professor
in Berlin, though only a poor language-master in America,
and his homely, hard-working life was much beautified by the
spice of romance which this discovery gave it.
Another and a better gift than intellect was shown her in
a most unexpected manner. Miss Norton had the entree into
most society, which Jo would have had no chance of seeing but
for her. The solitary woman felt an interest in the ambitious
girl, and kindly conferred many favors of this sort both on Jo
and the Professor. She took them with her one night to a select
symposium, held in honor of several celebrities.

Jo went prepared to bow down and adore the mighty ones
whom she had worshiped with youthful enthusiasm afar off. But
her reverence for genius received a severe shock that night,
and it took her some time to recover from the discovery that
the great creatures were only men and women after all. Imagine
her dismay, on stealing a glance of timid admiration at the
poet whose lines suggested an ethereal being fed on 'spirit,
fire, and dew', to behold him devouring his supper with an
ardor which flushed his intellectual countenance. Turning
as from a fallen idol, she made other discoveries which
rapidly dispelled her romantic illusions. The great novelist
vibrated between two decanters with the regularity of a pendulum;
the famous divine flirted openly with one of the
Madame de Staels of the age, who looked daggers at another
Corinne, who was amiably satirizing her, after outmaneuvering
her in efforts to absorb the profound philosopher, who imbibed
tea Johnsonianly and appeared to slumber, the loquacity of the
lady rendering speech impossible. The scientific celebrities,
forgetting their mollusks and glacial periods, gossiped about
art, while devoting themselves to oysters and ices with
characteristic energy; the young musician, who was charming
the city like a second Orpheus, talked horses; and the specimen
of the British nobility present happened to be the most ordinary
man of the party.

Before the evening was half over, Jo felt so completely
disillusioned, that she sat down in a corner to recover herself.
Mr. Bhaer soon joined her, looking rather out of his element,
and presently several of the philosophers, each mounted on his
hobby, came ambling up to hold an intellectual tournament in
the recess. The conversations were miles beyond Jo's comprehension,
but she enjoyed it, though Kant and Hegel were unknown
gods, the Subjective and Objective unintelligible terms, and
the only thing 'evolved from her inner consciousness' was a
bad headache after it was all over. It dawned upon her gradually
that the world was being picked to pieces, and put together on
new and, according to the talkers, on infinitely better principles
than before, that religion was in a fair way to be
reasoned into nothingness, and intellect was to be the only
God. Jo knew nothing about philosophy or metaphysics of any
sort, but a curious excitement, half pleasurable, half painful,
came over her as she listened with a sense of being turned
adrift into time and space, like a young balloon out on a holiday.

She looked round to see how the Professor liked it, and
found him looking at her with the grimmest expression she had
ever seen him wear. He shook his head and beckoned her to
come away, but she was fascinated just then by the freedom
of Speculative Philosophy, and kept her seat, trying to find
out what the wise gentlemen intended to rely upon after
they had annihilated all the old beliefs.

Now, Mr. Bhaer was a diffident man and slow to offer his
own opinions, not because they were unsettled, but too sincere
and earnest to be lightly spoken. As he glanced from Jo
to several other young people, attracted by the brilliancy
of the philosophic pyrotechnics, he knit his brows and longed
to speak, fearing that some inflammable young soul would be
led astray by the rockets, to find when the display was over
that they had only an empty stick or a scorched hand.

He bore it as long as he could, but when he was appealed
to for an opinion, he blazed up with honest indignation and
defended religion with all the eloquence of truth--an eloquence
which made his broken English musical and his plain
face beautiful. He had a hard fight, for the wise men argued
well, but he didn't know when he was beaten and stood to his
colors like a man. Somehow, as he talked, the world got
right again to Jo. The old beliefs, that had lasted so long,
seemed better than the new. God was not a blind force, and
immortality was not a pretty fable, but a blessed fact. She
felt as if she had solid ground under her feet again, and
when Mr. Bhaer paused, outtalked but not one whit convinced,
Jo wanted to clap her hands and thank him.

She did neither, but she remembered the scene, and gave
the Professor her heartiest respect, for she knew it cost him
an effort to speak out then and there, because his conscience
would not let him be silent. She began to see that character
is a better possession than money, rank, intellect, or beauty,
and to feel that if greatness is what a wise man has defined
it to be, 'truth, reverence, and good will', then her friend
Friedrich Bhaer was not only good, but great.

This belief strengthened daily. She valued his esteem,
she coveted his respect, she wanted to be worthy of his friendship,
and just when the wish was sincerest, she came near to
losing everything. It all grew out of a cocked hat, for one
evening the Professor came in to give Jo her lesson with a
paper soldier cap on his head, which Tina had put there and
he had forgotten to take off.

"It's evident he doesn't look in his glass before coming
down," thought Jo, with a smile, as he said "Goot efening,"
and sat soberly down, quite unconscious of the ludicrous
contrast between his subject and his headgear, for he was
going to read her the Death of Wallenstein.

She said nothing at first, for she liked to hear him laugh
out his big, hearty laugh when anything funny happened, so she
left him to discover it for himself, and presently forgot all
about it, for to hear a German read Schiller is rather an absorbing
occupation. After the reading came the lesson, which
was a lively one, for Jo was in a gay mood that night, and
the cocked hat kept her eyes dancing with merriment. The
Professor didn't know what to make of her, and stopped at
last to ask with an air of mild surprise that was irresistible. . .

"Mees Marsch, for what do you laugh in your master's face?
Haf you no respect for me, that you go on so bad?"

"How can I be respectful, Sir, when you forget to take
your hat off?" said Jo.

Lifting his hand to his head, the absent-minded Professor
gravely felt and removed the little cocked hat, looked at it a
minute, and then threw back his head and laughed like a merry
bass viol.

"Ah! I see him now, it is that imp Tina who makes me a
fool with my cap. Well, it is nothing, but see you, if this
lesson goes not well, you too shall wear him."

But the lesson did not go at all for a few minutes because
Mr. Bhaer caught sight of a picture on the hat, and unfolding it,
said with great disgust, "I wish these papers did not come in the
house. They are not for children to see, nor young people to read.
It is not well, and I haf no patience with those who make this harm."

Jo glanced at the sheet and saw a pleasing illustration
composed of a lunatic, a corpse, a villain, and a viper. She
did not like it, but the impulse that made her turn it over
was not one of displeasure but fear, because for a minute
she fancied the paper was the Volcano. It was not, however,
and her panic subsided as she remembered that even if it
had been and one of her own tales in it, there would have
been no name to betray her. She had betrayed herself, however,
by a look and a blush, for though an absent man, the
Professor saw a good deal more than people fancied. He
knew that Jo wrote, and had met her down among the newspaper
offices more than once, but as she never spoke of it,
he asked no questions in spite of a strong desire to see her
work. Now it occurred to him that she was doing what she
was ashamed to own, and it troubled him. He did not say to
himself, "It is none of my business. I've no right to say
anything," as many people would have done. He only remembered
that she was young and poor, a girl far away from
mother's love and father's care, and he was moved to help
her with an impulse as quick and natural as that which
would prompt him to put out his hand to save a baby from
a puddle. All this flashed through his mind in a minute,
but not a trace of it appeared in his face, and by the
time the paper was turned, and Jo's needle threaded, he
was ready to say quite naturally, but very gravely . . .

"Yes, you are right to put it from you. I do not think
that good young girls should see such things. They are made
pleasant to some, but I would more rather give my boys gunpowder
to play with than this bad trash."

"All may not be bad, only silly, you know, and if there
is a demand for it, I don't see any harm in supplying it.
Many very respectable people make an honest living out of
what are called sensation stories," said Jo, scratching gathers
so energetically that a row of little slits followed her pin.

"There is a demand for whisky, but I think you and I do
not care to sell it. If the respectable people knew what harm
they did, they would not feel that the living was honest. They
haf no right to put poison in the sugarplum, and let the small
ones eat it. No, they should think a little, and sweep mud in
the street before they do this thing."

Mr. Bhaer spoke warmly, and walked to the fire, crumpling
the paper in his hands. Jo sat still, looking as if the fire
had come to her, for her cheeks burned long after the cocked
hat had turned to smoke and gone harmlessly up the chimney.

"I should like much to send all the rest after him," muttered
the Professor, coming back with a relieved air.

Jo thought what a blaze her pile of papers upstairs would make, and
her hard-earned money lay rather heavily on her conscience at that
minute. Then she thought consolingly to herself, "Mine are not like
that, they are only silly, never bad, so I won't be worried," and
taking up her book, she said, with a studious face, "Shall we go on,
Sir? I'll be very good and proper now."

"I shall hope so," was all he said, but he meant more than
she imagined, and the grave, kind look he gave her made her
feel as if the words Weekly Volcano were printed in large
type on her forehead.

As soon as she went to her room, she got out her papers,
and carefully reread every one of her stories. Being a little
shortsighted, Mr. Bhaer sometimes used eye glasses, and Jo
had tried them once, smiling to see how they magnified the
fine print of her book. Now she seemed to have on the Professor's
mental or moral spectacles also, for the faults of these
poor stories glared at her dreadfully and filled her with dismay.

"They are trash, and will soon be worse trash if I go
on, for each is more sensational than the last. I've gone
blindly on, hurting myself and other people, for the sake of
money. I know it's so, for I can't read this stuff in sober
earnest without being horribly ashamed of it, and what should
I do if they were seen at home or Mr. Bhaer got hold of them?"

Jo turned hot at the bare idea, and stuffed the whole bundle
into her stove, nearly setting the chimney afire with the blaze.

"Yes, that's the best place for such inflammable nonsense.
I'd better burn the house down, I suppose, than let other
people blow themselves up with my gunpowder," she thought as
she watched the Demon of the Jura whisk away, a little black
cinder with fiery eyes.

But when nothing remained of all her three month's work
except a heap of ashes and the money in her lap, Jo looked
sober, as she sat on the floor, wondering what she ought to
do about her wages.

"I think I haven't done much harm yet, and may keep this
to pay for my time," she said, after a long meditation, adding
impatiently, "I almost wish I hadn't any conscience, it's so
inconvenient. If I didn't care about doing right, and didn't
feel uncomfortable when doing wrong, I should get on capitally.
I can't help wishing sometimes, that Mother and Father hadn't
been so particular about such things."

Ah, Jo, instead of wishing that, thank God that 'Father
and Mother were particular', and pity from your heart those
who have no such guardians to hedge them round with principles
which may seem like prison walls to impatient youth,
but which will prove sure foundations to build character upon
in womanhood.

Jo wrote no more sensational stories, deciding that the
money did not pay for her share of the sensation, but going
to the other extreme, as is the way with people of her stamp,
she took a course of Mrs. Sherwood, Miss Edgeworth, and Hannah
More, and then produced a tale which might have been more
properly called an essay or a sermon, so intensely moral
was it. She had her doubts about it from the beginning, for
her lively fancy and girlish romance felt as ill at ease in the
new style as she would have done masquerading in the stiff
and cumbrous costume of the last century. She sent this didactic
gem to several markets, but it found no purchaser,
and she was inclined to agree with Mr. Dashwood that morals
didn't sell.

Then she tried a child's story, which she could easily have
disposed of if she had not been mercenary enough to demand filthy
lucre for it. The only person who offered enough to make it
worth her while to try juvenile literature was a worthy gentleman
who felt it his mission to convert all the world to his
particular belief. But much as she liked to write for children,
Jo could not consent to depict all her naughty boys as
being eaten by bears or tossed by mad bulls because they did
not go to a particular Sabbath school, nor all the good infants
who did go as rewarded by every kind of bliss, from gilded
gingerbread to escorts of angels when they departed this life
with psalms or sermons on their lisping tongues. So nothing
came of these trials, and Jo corked up her inkstand, and
said in a fit of very wholesome humility . . .

"I don't know anything. I'll wait until I do before I try
again, and meantime, 'sweep mud in the street' if I can't do
better, that's honest, at least." Which decision proved that
her second tumble down the beanstalk had done her some good.

While these internal revolutions were going on, her external
life had been as busy and uneventful as usual, and if she
sometimes looked serious or a little sad no one observed
it but Professor Bhaer. He did it so quietly that Jo never
knew he was watching to see if she would accept and profit by
his reproof, but she stood the test, and he was satisfied, for
though no words passed between them, he knew that she had
given up writing. Not only did he guess it by the fact that
the second finger of her right hand was no longer inky, but
she spent her evenings downstairs now, was met no more among
newspaper offices, and studied with a dogged patience, which
assured him that she was bent on occupying her mind with
something useful, if not pleasant.

He helped her in many ways, proving himself a true friend,
and Jo was happy, for while her pen lay idle, she was learning
other lessons besides German, and laying a foundation for the
sensation story of her own life.

It was a pleasant winter and a long one, for she did not
leave Mrs. Kirke till June. Everyone seemed sorry when the time
came. The children were inconsolable, and Mr. Bhaer's hair
stuck straight up all over his head, for he always rumpled it
wildly when disturbed in mind.

"Going home? Ah, you are happy that you haf a home to go
in," he said, when she told him, and sat silently pulling his
beard in the corner, while she held a little levee on that last

She was going early, so she bade them all goodbye overnight,
and when his turn came, she said warmly, "Now, Sir, you won't
forget to come and see us, if you ever travel our way, will you?
I'll never forgive you if you do, for I want them all to know my

"Do you? Shall I come?" he asked, looking down at her with
an eager expression which she did not see.

"Yes, come next month. Laurie graduates then, and you'd
enjoy commencement as something new."

"That is your best friend, of whom you speak?" he said in
an altered tone.

"Yes, my boy Teddy. I'm very proud of him and should like
you to see him."

Jo looked up then, quite unconscious of anything but her
own pleasure in the prospect of showing them to one another.
Something in Mr. Bhaer's face suddenly recalled the fact that
she might find Laurie more than a 'best friend', and simply
because she particularly wished not to look as if anything was
the matter, she involuntarily began to blush, and the more she
tried not to, the redder she grew. If it had not been for Tina
on her knee. She didn't know what would have become of her.
Fortunately the child was moved to hug her, so she managed to
hide her face an instant, hoping the Professor did not see it.
But he did, and his own changed again from that momentary anxiety
to its usual expression, as he said cordially . . .

"I fear I shall not make the time for that, but I wish the friend
much success, and you all happiness. Gott bless you!" And with that,
he shook hands warmly, shouldered Tina, and went away.

But after the boys were abed, he sat long before his fire
with the tired look on his face and the 'heimweh', or homesickness,
lying heavy at his heart. Once, when he remembered
Jo as she sat with the little child in her lap and that new
softness in her face, he leaned his head on his hands a minute,
and then roamed about the room, as if in search of something
that he could not find.

"It is not for me, I must not hope it now," he said to himself,
with a sigh that was almost a groan. Then, as if reproaching
himself for the longing that he could not repress, he went
and kissed the two tousled heads upon the pillow, took down his
seldom-used meerschaum, and opened his Plato.

He did his best and did it manfully, but I don't think he found
that a pair of rampant boys, a pipe, or even the divine Plato,
were very satisfactory substitutes for wife and child at home.

Early as it was, he was at the station next morning to see
Jo off, and thanks to him, she began her solitary journey with
the pleasant memory of a familiar face smiling its farewell, a
bunch of violets to keep her company, and best of all, the happy
thought, "Well, the winter's gone, and I've written no books,
earned no fortune, but I've made a friend worth having and I'll
try to keep him all my life."



Whatever his motive might have been, Laurie studied to
some purpose that year, for he graduated with honor, and
gave the Latin oration with the grace of a Phillips and the
eloquence of a Demosthenes, so his friends said. They were
all there, his grandfather--oh, so proud--Mr. and Mrs. March,
John and Meg, Jo and Beth, and all exulted over him with the
sincere admiration which boys make light of at the time, but
fail to win from the world by any after-triumphs.

"I've got to stay for this confounded supper, but I shall
be home early tomorrow. You'll come and meet me as usual,
girls?" Laurie said, as he put the sisters into the carriage
after the joys of the day were over. He said 'girls', but he
meant Jo, for she was the only one who kept up the old custom.

Book of the day: