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  • 1871
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well, but, to their surprise, they heard a new and lovely melody, so softly, sweetly played, that they could hardly believe it could be Nat. It was one of those songs without words that touch the heart, and sing of all tender home-like hopes and joys, soothing and cheering those who listen to its simple music. Aunt Meg leaned her head on Demi’s shoulder, Grandmother wiped her eyes, and Mrs. Jo looked up at Mr. Laurie, saying, in a choky whisper,

“You composed that.”

“I wanted your boy to do you honor, and thank you in his own way,” answered Laurie, leaning down to answer her.

When Nat made his bow and was about to go, he was called back by many hands, and had to play again. He did so with such a happy face, that it was good to see him, for he did his best, and gave them the gay old tunes that set the feet to dancing, and made quietude impossible.

“Clear the floor!” cried Emil; and in a minute the chairs were pushed back, the older people put safely in corners and the children gathered on the stage.

“Show your manners!” called Emil; and the boys pranced up to the ladies, old and young; with polite invitations to “tread the mazy,” as dear Dick Swiveller has it. The small lads nearly came to blows for the Princess, but she chose Dick, like a kind, little gentlewoman as she was, and let him lead her proudly to her place. Mrs. Jo was not allowed to decline; and Aunt Amy filled Dan with unspeakable delight by refusing Franz and taking him. Of course Nan and Tommy, Nat and Daisy paired off, while Uncle Teddy went and got Asia, who was longing to “jig it,” and felt much elated by the honor done her. Silas and Mary Ann had a private dance in the hall; and for half-an-hour Plumfield was at its merriest.

The party wound up with a grand promenade of all the young folks, headed by the pumpkin-coach with the Princess and driver inside, and the rats in a wildly frisky state.

While the children enjoyed this final frolic, the elders sat in the parlor looking on as they talked together of the little people with the interest of parents and friends.

“What are you thinking of, all by yourself, with such a happy face, sister Jo?” asked Laurie, sitting down beside her on the sofa.

“My summer’s work, Teddy, and amusing myself by imagining the future of my boys,” she answered, smiling as she made room for him.

“They are all to be poets, painters, and statesmen, famous soldiers, or at least merchant princes, I suppose.”

“No, I am not as aspiring as I once was, and I shall be satisfied if they are honest men. But I will confess that I do expect a little glory and a career for some of them. Demi is not a common child, and I think he will blossom into something good and great in the best sense of the word. The others will do well, I hope, especially my last two boys, for, after hearing Nat play to-night, I really think he has genius.”

“Too soon to say; talent he certainly has, and there is no doubt that the boy can soon earn his bread by the work he loves. Build him up for another year or so, and then I will take him off your hands, and launch him properly.”

“That is such a pleasant prospect for poor Nat, who came to me six months ago so friendless and forlorn. Dan’s future is already plain to me. Mr. Hyde will want him soon, and I mean to give him a brave and faithful little servant. Dan is one who can serve well if the wages are love and confidence, and he has the energy to carve out his own future in his own way. Yes, I am very happy over our success with these boys one so weak, and one so wild; both so much better now, and so full of promise.”

“What magic did you use, Jo?”

“I only loved them, and let them see it. Fritz did the rest.”

“Dear soul! you look as if ‘only loving’ had been rather hard work sometimes,” said Laurie, stroking her thin cheek with a look of more tender admiration than he had ever given her as a girl.

“I’m a faded old woman, but I’m a very happy one; so don’t pity me, Teddy;” and she glanced about the room with eyes full of a sincere content.

“Yes, your plan seems to work better and better every year,” he said, with an emphatic nod of approval toward the cheery scene before him.

“How can it fail to work well when I have so much help from you all?” answered Mrs. Jo, looking gratefully at her most generous patron.

“It is the best joke of the family, this school of yours and its success. So unlike the future we planned for you, and yet so suited to you after all. It was a regular inspiration, Jo,” said Laurie, dodging her thanks as usual.

“Ah! but you laughed at it in the beginning, and still make all manner of fun of me and my inspirations. Didn’t you predict that having girls with the boys would be a dead failure? Now see how well it works;” and she pointed to the happy group of lads and lassies dancing, singing, and chattering together with every sign of kindly good fellowship.

“I give in, and when my Goldilocks is old enough I’ll send her to you. Can I say more than that?”

“I shall be so proud to have your little treasure trusted to me. But really, Teddy, the effect of these girls has been excellent. I know you will laugh at me, but I don’t mind, I’m used to it; so I’ll tell you that one of my favorite fancies is to look at my family as a small world, to watch the progress of my little men, and, lately, to see how well the influence of my little women works upon them. Daisy is the domestic element, and they all feel the charm of her quiet, womanly ways. Nan is the restless, energetic, strong-minded one; they admire her courage, and give her a fair chance to work out her will, seeing that she has sympathy as well as strength, and the power to do much in their small world. Your Bess is the lady, full of natural refinement, grace, and beauty. She polishes them unconsciously, and fills her place as any lovely woman may, using her gentle influence to lift and hold them above the coarse, rough things of life, and keep them gentlemen in the best sense of the fine old word.”

“It is not always the ladies who do that best, Jo. It is sometimes the strong brave woman who stirs up the boy and makes a man of him;” and Laurie bowed to her with a significant laugh.

“No; I think the graceful woman, whom the boy you allude to married, has done more for him than the wild Nan of his youth; or, better still, the wise, motherly woman who watched over him, as Daisy watches over Demi, did more to make him what he is;” and Jo turned toward her mother, who sat a little apart with Meg, looking so full of the sweet dignity and beauty of old age, that Laurie gave her a glance of filial respect and love as he replied, in serious earnest,

“All three did much for him, and I can understand how well these little girls will help your lads.”

“Not more than the lads help them; it is mutual, I assure you. Nat does much for Daisy with his music; Dan can manage Nan better than any of us; and Demi teaches your Goldilocks so easily and well that Fritz calls them Roger Ascham and Lady Jane Grey. Dear me! if men and women would only trust, understand, and help one another as my children do, what a capital place the world would be!” and Mrs. Jo’s eyes grew absent, as if she was looking at a new and charming state of society in which people lived as happily and innocently as her flock at Plumfield.

“You are doing your best to help on the good time, my dear. Continue to believe in it, to work for it, and to prove its possibility by the success of her small experiment,” said Mr. March, pausing as he passed to say an encouraging word, for the good man never lost his faith in humanity, and still hoped to see peace, good-will, and happiness reign upon the earth.

“I am not so ambitious as that, father. I only want to give these children a home in which they can be taught a few simple things which will help to make life less hard to them when they go out to fight their battles in the world. Honesty, courage, industry, faith in God, their fellow-creatures, and themselves; that is all I try for.”

“That is every thing. Give them these helps, then let them go to work out their life as men and women; and whatever their success or failure is, I think they will remember and bless your efforts, my good son and daughter.”

The Professor had joined them, and as Mr. March spoke he gave a hand to each, and left them with a look that was a blessing. As Jo and her husband stood together for a moment talking quietly, and feeling that their summer work had been well done if father approved, Mr. Laurie slipped into the hall, said a word to the children, and all of a sudden the whole flock pranced into the room, joined hands and danced about Father and Mother Bhaer, singing blithely

“Summer days are over,

Summer work is done;

Harvests have been gathered

Gayly one by one.

Now the feast is eaten,

Finished is the play;

But one rite remains for

Our Thanksgiving-day.

“Best of all the harvest

In the dear God’s sight,

Are the happy children

In the home to-night;

And we come to offer

Thanks where thanks are due,

With grateful hearts and voices,

Father, mother, unto you.”

With the last words the circle narrowed till the good Professor and his wife were taken prisoner by many arms, and half hidden by the bouquet of laughing young faces which surrounded them, proving that one plant had taken root and blossomed beautifully in all the little gardens. For love is a flower that grows in any soil, works its sweet miracles undaunted by autumn frost or winter snow, blooming fair and fragrant all the year, and blessing those who give and those who receive.